Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Electric Wizard - Time To Die (2014) review

Wake up children, it's Time to Die.

A track by track review of Electric Wizard's new album

Electric Wizard "Time To Die" (Spinefarm Records, 2014)

I don't give a fuck about anyone, or your society”, wails Jus Oborn in the first verse of Incense for the Damned, the opening track of the new Electric Wizard record, Time to Die. If anyone's being sincere about such a statement, it's these guys. They haven't been giving a fuck for over two decades now, and they're not about to start; this flare-bearing, SG-toting, dope-smoking, Lovecraft-worshipping outfit have never compromised their concept for any sort of commercial gain or mainstream acceptability. They've always been outsiders, and proud of it. In an age where rock 'n' roll is all too often watered down by marketing tactics, radio-friendly politically correct messages and a clean image, Electric Wizard are still loudly obsessing on vintage horror flicks, bad trips and murderers. This is, after all, the band that wrote the songs “We Hate You” and “Legalise Drugs and Murder”.... The only hits they're seeking are that of the bong. But their integrity and authenticity is what warrants them respect, and maybe that's why they're now finally achieving a broader level of recognition. They've become an integral part of any stoner-rocker's record collection; on the same shelf that is residence to Master of Reality and a grinder, is a Wizard album. They're a part of that scene, like Kyuss and Black Sabbath before them.... But it's gone further. Electric Wizard are now an iconic cult entity – shrouded in legend and mystique, they're the unashamedly dangerous, sleazy, outrageous ambassadors of the stoner underground, with a saga steeped in feuds, fallouts, bust-ups and injuries, all laced with acid, hazed with weed and drenched in booze. It's a stark and refreshing alternative to the bland, unoriginal, regurgitated product that can pass for good music in some circles these days.... but Electric Wizard are the real deal; a chaotic, aggressive, angry rock 'n' roll band.

Time to Die is the Wizard's eighth album. At just over 65 minutes long, it's their longest album to date, and the first to be released on their own label, Witchfinder Records. As the title would suggest, the theme of the album is death, and this may be the most violent release from the group yet; the entire album is an obsessive, relentless overdose of hatred, resignation and.... death. A recurring subject within the album is that of Ricky Kasso, a.k.a. “The Acid King”, an American teen who, in 1984, murdered his friend Gary Lauwers whilst tripping on acid. Samples extracted from a 20/20 documentary on Satanism are used extensively to convey the theme as the album progresses. The misanthropic strength of this album, however, may have a more personal undertone. The past year hasn't been smooth for the Wizard; turbulent line-up changes aside, the band have severed ties with former record label Rise Above. The parting wasn't pretty by any account, and seems to have sparked a bitter feud between both camps as much publicised in recent press articles and interviews, in which the band have spoken of the paranoia and resignation felt during the struggle to make the album. Those emotions are certainly well conveyed on Time to Die, which takes on an even darker twist once one takes into the account the band's recent history. It's an extremely morbid affair, but you know you're in for a tour de négatif when you buy an album by Electric Wizard, that's the whole point.

Immediately notable is the lineup; as well as cult leader Jus Oborn (“occult sciences, volume & drug dealer”) and accomplice Liz Buckingham (“feedback, riffs and Hand of Doom”), the bass is mysteriously credited to a “Count Orloff”, and, the album features for the first time in over a decade, original Wizard drummer Mark Greening (“violence & concussion”). It turns out that this reunion was ill-fated; Greening was out of the fold again by June, several months prior to this album's release, and the split was less than amicable. Nevertheless, Greening's [brief] return sparked a wave of excitement for some of the 'classic era' fans hoping, as per usual, for another Dopethrone, and it's certainly intriguing; whilst Liz Buckingham's membership in the group very much heralded the 'new dawn' of the band in 2003, Greening's membership represents the original lineup, two separate eras which are constantly compared an
d contrasted. The result is something fresh. Greening's busy drum work, alongside the dual axe assault, and the much welcomed growly, lead bass style of the mystery bass player gives this album a flavour of its own (as is the case with every Electric Wizard album thus far). It's a grand melding of the chaos of early Wizard, and the song craft of second era Wizard. Evident is conscious songwriting; structures and catchy hooks, but equally present is the 'raw' element that largely cemented the band's reputation in the 1990's.

The album kicks off with a sample of a trickling stream; a suitable juxtaposition for the following hour. A chaotic drum n' organ jam ensues, with news reports of the aforementioned Kasso case setting the basis of the story in which the theme of the album can be related to. This intro-to-an-intro, so to speak, is followed by a brief, bare bones progression that is definitive doom, until at two and a half minutes in, the track proper begins. Incense for the Damned is a corker from the get go; a highly groovy, nicely heavy riff really gets the album off to a good start, with a simple and catchy chorus to lure you in. With a bruising doom breakdown (featuring Oborn incessantly screaming 'DIE!'), and a mind-penetrating, continual chant of “We wanna get high before we die”, the track is a brutal but comparatively uptempo affair.

The album's namesake track is built around a typical Wizard riff. It's a strong track that again exhibits this band's perhaps surprising knack for writing memorable hooks and powerful, simple lyrical lines. There's some fantastic guitar work from Oborn and Buckingham here, full of both melody and suspense, especially during the ascending riff that haunts the chorus. As the track progresses, there's some balls-out psychedelic moments, largely invoked from Oborn maxing out the wah pedal, before the song reverts to the main riff.

I Am Nothing isn't the most memorable track on the album, but is nevertheless a well placed simple-and-solid number. It can feel like it's dragging out at points, as it dwells on a very basic riff, before things get more exciting in the second half, climaxing in a sonic onslaught greatly augmented by Greening's tribal rhythms.

As their 2012 Legalise Drugs and Murder EP proved, Wizard aren't afraid of shocking or offending with their song titles and lyrics. Such is the case with Destroy Those Who Love God. A highly atmospheric dabbling, the track would make a decent psychedelic horror score, featuring a brooding organ melody, and driving, busy percussion. The instrumentation is accompanied by samples sourced from the same 20/20 documentary used throughout the album, and continues the narrative of Ricky Kasso.

At this point, the album takes yet another unexpected turn, this time into the territory of aggressive garage rock. Funeral Of Your Mind is an exceptional track that wouldn't necessarily sound out of place on a Stooges or early Alice Cooper record, with an instantly catchy chorus and psychedelic lead guitar line, but the demonic verse riff firmly stamps the Wizard hallmark on this distinctive song.

Then it's straight back to potential Hammer-horror soundtracks in the form of We Love The Dead. A slow, morbid journey laden with suspense and an eerie vocal delivery from Oborn that becomes more powerful still at about four minutes in, as the weighty horror riff changes under the chorus line into a classic Wizard-style ascending riff.

Depending on whether or not you're familiar with Black Masses, Wizard's previous offering, SadioWitch is either a full-on, all valves blazing, piece of riff gold, or a track of self-plagiarism. It's true, there are certainly comparisons to be made between this song and Black Mass, owing to the similar base riff, and identical intro, but whether they should be accused of 'recycling riffs' or not is a different matter. It definitely stands as a good bridge between this album and the last, almost as a symbol of musical continuation, but the vocal content and structure is entirely different. Either way, it is a perfect example of 21st century Electric Wizard, and offers more riff meat than it's sister from the previous album. The lyrical content focuses on being enslaved by a dominant, evil woman. This fascination with sleaze is a crucial part of the Wizard concept, and recurs throughout the band's discography, as exhibited on previous tracks like Priestess of Mars and Venus In Furs.

The penultimate Lucifer's Slaves is firmly in Sabbath territory, where the foundations of this band's signature sound lies. Based around a grooved out Iommi-riff, this number boasts a catchy feel that's sure to lodge in the mind of the listener upon first play, with further instrumental venturing into atmospheric psychedelia, before melting into a chasm of sheer blood-curdling doom, finally resolving to the core riff. It's an unnerving song of resignation, and the Wizard's powerful misanthropic approach is lyrically at its strongest here, because “Losers got nothing to lose/We are sick of your abuse/The Chosen Few and The Living Dead/ We're all Lucifer's Slaves in the end.

The comedown of Saturn Dethroned is an unexpected but glorious sonic collision of stylistic chaotic drumming accompanied by an eerie melody from yet another appearance of the Hammer-style Hammond, both of which are dominated by overdriven but melodic bass work (possibly the best bass playing of any Wizard album), greatly reminiscent of the loose, busy and lead style of Lemmy during his Hawkwind tenure. It bears more similarity to Floyd on a bad trip than anything in the doom field. It's a great conclusion, and as crows caw and the music fades away, the trickling stream that greeted us as we came up fades back in to draw the album to a close, before a final sample, which continues the quote that appears on the band's third album. Dopethrone fanatics will know that “when you get into one of the these groups, there's only a couple of ways you can get out. One is death, the other is... mental institutions,” but it transpires, there is a third.... “you can't get out”. It's over.

This album is classic Electric Wizard. It's hatred, aggression and depression wreathed in dopesmoke and doom-laden riffage, but it's covering fresh ground, and it's addictive. It's a melding of the weight and grime of Dopethrone, with the song craft of Black Masses, but with added psychedelic edge, added groove and added anger. It should satisfy the die-hards who are nostalgic for the group's early output, and will strike again for the fans of their post millennia material, but, perhaps more importantly, this album may well serve purpose as a gateway drug for the non-converted. This is beyond the limitations of any genre.... It's a genuine, great rock 'n' roll record.

Review made by Haz Wheaton /2014
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Old Testament - Old Testament (2014) review

Old Testament “Old Testament” (Cardinal Fuzz / Evil Hoodoo, 2014)

Old Testament is a new quintet fronted by Dead Meadow singer/songwriter, Jason Simon. Unlike their riff-heavy fuzz monsters, Old Testament is more jangly Americana pop in the vein of Golden Smog, Dylan the Younger’s Wallflowers, and legendary 80’s desert dwellers, Green On Red, with a smidgeon of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s vintage swamp gas tossed in for good measure. ‘Skin and Bones’ gets you in the mood with some travelling music for a sunny afternoon with the AM radio blasting out of your shiny red convertible, but the swampy, bluesy snarl of ‘Trip Light” shows an affection for ol’ Neil Young and his Crazy Horse drinking buddies. Oak Munson’s wailing harp deserves special mention for adding the right amount of wrong to this appropriately trippy number.
                ‘Summer Grass’ suggests Simon’s been listening to a few of his Cracker records (right down to David Lowery’s trademark drawl), but it’s the ‘Smokestack Lightnin’’ riff that’ll grab your attention first and gnaw at you throughout. Nate Ryan’s revival-meeting organ grinding is at the heart of ‘Key To The Kingdom’, and I was all over the sleepy, drunken cowboy tale ‘Movin’ On’.
                Side Two offers more of the same, from the wah-wah, two-steppin’ ‘Dallas’ and the 99 bottles o’ beer on the wall singalong, ‘Let Me In’ to the train kept-a rollin’ chooglin’ of ‘Josephine’ and the lengthy (10 minute) bluesy shuffle of ‘Now As In Ancient Times’ that’ll prick up the ears of all you Canned Heaters and Brian Jonestown Massacreants out there.
So if you’re in the mood for some good ol’ sloppy, drunken, good-natured, good ol’ boys howling at the moon, then pull up a chair, take a swig of this here moonshine, and try not to fall into the campfire.

Review made by Jeff Penczak/2014
© Copyright

RIP Hunter Gatherer

Our dear friend and writer, Hunter passed away. We will miss you so much. Your articles will live on forever. I'm pretty much speechless right now. Happy Trails, Hunter. We love you!

Hunter's work for Psychedelic Baby.

Friday, October 17, 2014

It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine issue #1 review on Something Else Reviews

Something Else Reviews wrote a very positive review of our first issue. We are super happy! Thank you! 
"Flooded with enthusiasm, knowledge, and relentless affection for the music it lauds, It’s Psychedelic Baby — which is written in English — promises moments of pleasure. Having produced an ace debut issue, let’s hope more are in the works!"
- Something Else Reviews 
Order your copy here!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hot Knives - Hot Knives (2014) review

Hot Knives "Hot Knives"  (Got Kinda Lost Records {Limited Edition Bonus Pack}, 2014)

   Got Kinda Lost Records recently released a very well crafted release full of details and with an incredible liner notes about a less known folk-rock / power pop combo from San Francisco. In their time they only released two singles, but some time ago a friend label (Grown Up Wrong! Records) of aforementioned Got Kinda Lost Records found and prepared a CD release of Hot Knives' complete recorded works, which was discovered through an interview of one of their members.

   Hot Knives were a bit too late to catch original hippie train. Formation took place in San Francisco around 1972. Two singles were pressed, leaving a whole lot of material behind, buried for years to come. Their sound was influenced by early folk groups and later by lysergic West coast bands like Moby Grape. The band consists of co-vocalists Michael and Debra Houpt - brother and sister originally coming from New Town, Pennsylvania, where they were influenced by folk groups like Peter, Paul & Mary and others.
   In 1969 duo moved to San Francisco, where Houpt first came in contact with "Flamin' Groovies" and when '70s arrived Tim Lynch (guitar/vocals) and Danny Mihm (drums) of "Flamin Groovies" joined Houpt brother & sister and with addition of incredible bass player, Ed Wilson the band was formed and material started popping out, but only two singles were originally released, which are both included here. What we have on this compilation is a whole bunch of pretty intense material, which is mostly credited to Michael Houpt. People would say this is just another band, that were too late to be part of original "West coast sound" and are probably quite mediocre, but that's far from the truth.
   Hot Knives had members, whose influences and experiences varied and the result were Moby Grape/Jefferson Airplane inspired band with quite strange guitar work and absolutely crazy drumming, over the top there are vocals, which are perhaps the most prominent like Lynch once stated. I would say, there is something more to this songs, which I really can't describe with words. It's like major '60s characterized sound spiced with '70s and at times it also resembles to another lost psychedelic classic - Inside The Shadow by Anonymous. Got Kinda Lost Records also prepared a special limited edition vinyl bonus pack, which includes three 1.5" custom-made buttons in custom-packaging, and professionally-produced reproductions of original promo photos and flyers. I sometimes wonder when there will be a point where quality lost material won't see the light. That day might come, but not with Hot Knives release, not even close. I'm positively impressed by the strong material and have to give good points to Jeremy Cargill for his devotion and professional work on this vinyl release. Things like this keep us music freaks busy.

Review made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
© Copyright

The Roaring 420s interview

The Roaring 420s are one of those bands you will listen and re-check the recording date. Album is straight from the '67 and has everything we love about early psychedelic rock. Band is mixing surf rock with psychedelia and the result is wonderful release that came out a few months ago on Stoned Karma Records titled What Is Psych? They truly nailed it. 60s, summer, California, sitar and girls, that like to party!

How was the band formed?

Martin Zerrenner (bass) and I have known each other for a long time but it was in 2010 that he came up with the idea of forming a band together. I think this was right after we met Lulu (drums). I guess, if it wasn’t for her we would have probably ended up in an experimental poetry project or something because this is what we have been doing at that time. We did a lot of poetry shows together, sometimes arty stuff, exhibitions, happenings. But when Lulu said she wanted a rock’n’roll band, it was cool as well, it’s even better. Later Timo Eilert joined on guitar and Albrecht Schumann played keys but only for a short time. Timo has left the group last year and moved back to Hannover and Berk Gündogdu joined on guitar and keyboard. Lately, Stefan Koutzev plays rhythm guitar and Berk takes care of the keys.

© Doreen Siegmund

Were you in any other bands before?

We jumped on the bandwagon long time ago. Martin had a group called XistY back in his hometown which he ended up playing in for 15 years. I have another psychedelic rock’n’roll band called The Opium Theatre which I’m playing in for ten years now. And Lulu used to drum in a folk rock duo called Willa Mae. Berk and Stefan have also been working on other projects before.

Is there a certain creed behind the band?

I’d say there is but it’s hard to nail it. Of course we share a set of beliefs and a vision of the band in the way we feel obliged to it. Everyone wants to play shows, put out albums, create stuff that feels good. We also hang out together a lot, go to the same parties, get fucked up, it’s like a little family. We dig the same bands, same style of movies, books. After a while you’ll find out that a good friendship can be way more worth than playing skills.

How do you approach song writing? Can you please share a few words about making your album, that would be great!

It’s actually a very classic approach of sitting down and working things out. Sometimes there’s a jam that inspires a song, sometimes I come up with the lyrics and then try to put it into shape. Sometimes drugs can be helpful, sometimes not. I usually record everything and listen to it over and over again to see how things work together. When we’ve recorded “What is Psych?” we used our rehearsal room instead of a studio so that we were able to work day and night. Most of the arrangements have been created in the process. When the whole place was shut down and we had to move out, I took all the equipment to my apartment and finished the guitar tracks there.

How would you describe the local music scene where you’re currently located?

Vivid. Dresden is a good place for music of all kinds, there are so many artists around. Psychedelic and stoner rock is a thing here but electronic music is still huge as is hip hop. Some friends of ours run a string of psych parties which also featured bands like X-Ray Harpoons, Magnificent Brotherhood etc. I guess Dresden has a thing going on with rock music more than many other cities.

You recently released a split with Mind Flowers

Yes! They came up with the idea of releasing a 7” split on Levitation Records as they were putting out a bunch of singles at that time. We met them in April when we’ve been to Copenhagen and they took us to Christiania and showed us the mind flowers there. They’re pretty cool guys and I’m really looking forward to their forthcoming album.

You are probably very excited about the upcoming tour? Where all are you going?

It’s gonna be a looong trip this time. After a couple of shows in Germany we’re going to head out to Belgium, then France, Switzerland and Italy, then hop on a boat to Greece and from there back to Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia and Czech Republic. All in all it’s 34 shows. I’m glad The Blank Tapes are coming with us because they’re a cool band and people need to know. And it’s going to be a nice travel party of seven people packed in this nutshell of a bus. I bet after a week we’re going to smell like that but I read in a magazine that it’s good for your skin.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

The Roaring 420s, we’re travelling in one of these ridiculous sleeper busses and smoking cigars that we light up with the money we make at the shows. We’re wearing insanely expensive Versace clothing with parts ripped off to make it look ragged. We’d also have monkeys and cats for entertainment and a fat lawyer with slicked-back hair who’s driving. Maybe my mother would be there, too, because, y’know, it’s a dream…

To talk about influences would be too obvious, but maybe you can tell us some less known albums you like?

The Strange Boys with “… and Girls Club” is one of my favorites though you can basically take every album. We’ve played a beautiful show with them in 2012 but unfortunately they disbanded quite shortly thereafter. Ryan Sambol is still around making music and definitely worth checking out. Like is Tim Presley aka White Fence: he lately put out a new album called “For The Recently Found Innocent” which is also great. Then there are a lot of underrated gems from the 60s like Kaleidoscope’s “Side Trips”, the Dave-Axelrod-produced “Release of An Oath” that came out under the Electric Prunes moniker, Ultimate Spinach’s self-titled debut, the collected works of Italian composer Piero Umiliani (“Piero’s Pleasure”) etc etc…

Your album is released on vinyl and in these days when the vinyl is coming back very fast. What's your opinion about this format and do you collect records?

I think it’s the opposite trend to these huge media libraries people used to overload their hard drives with when they discovered torrent. Vinyl forces you to choose what you hear and to consciously listen to it. I think, this is because it’s not really a practical format. You can only listen to it at home and you have to get up after every five or six songs to flip the thing around. But it’s the best-looking medium of all. You wouldn’t eat pulp that tastes like steak when you can have a real looking steak even if it’s made out of pulp.

Thanks for taking your time. See you on tour. Last words are yours.

Come to the shows, support your local record store and the music scene and if someone says something isn’t good for the kids, then it’s probably awesome.

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
© Copyright

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nallo interview with Andrew Ranallo, Blake Pederson, Jac Cornelius and Patrick McCabe

There are bands that set out to try and sound retro, and there are bands where that just naturally happens.  Call them old souls, call them eclectic.  Call them what you will, but it comes seemingly effortlessly to some bands.  It’s easy to just crank the volume up, get a little fuzzy and play some jangly derivative mod crap.  It’s an entirely other thing to evoke a bygone era of a time when production was still in its infancy and there was a sense of exploration and discovery at every turn that seemed to bleed into the music, though.  Like an acid spike in the town well, the echo and reverberation of Nallo tickle and tease your brain, as the sounds permeate into your mind and cast a hazy cloaking fog over the contents.  Contemplative tempos flow along into frenzied walls of maddening distortion of echo and fuzz, forcing the listener into fits of alien limb syndrome like toe-tapping and spasmodic slow-motion head-banging.  There’s something warm and inviting about Nallo’s sound, something timeless that will virtually ensure that they’re never fully appreciated during their own time.  Nallo makes the kind of music people are going to dig out of a record store bin in fifteen years and wonder how the hell they’ve never heard of it before.  It’s the kind of music that’s obviously created from no other place than a basic need for self expression and creation, the kind of music that will leave a lasting impact on its listeners.  Nallo’s music comes from the gut, whether they’re getting a little rowdy adding some frolicking almost country-esque melodies to a contemporary psychedelic pallet, droning along in a world summoned from the immense soundscapes that they’re able to conjure at the flick of a wrist, or crooning in a sickly sweet twisted Syd Barret induced ballad of echo and reverberation.  They’ve self-released one full-length album, a cassingle and an amazing lathe-cut 7-inch at this point, and they’re in the studio hard at work on their second album as I write this.  While they were taking a break from shows to record a little, they graciously took time to fill all you lucky Psychedelic Baby readers in on the details of what’s happened thus far with Nallo, and give you all an idea of where they want to be headed from here.  Do yourself a favor, though, and even if you don’t read this piece, click the link, listen to some music and spread the gospel of Nallo ‘cause the world needs more music like this…

Listen while you read:

What’s the lineup in Nallo at this point?  Have you all gone through any lineup changes since you started or is this the original lineup?

Guitar/Vocals: Andrew Ranallo
Bass: Blake Pederson
Lead guitar/pedal steel: Jac Cornelius
Percussion: Patrick McCabe

Andrew:  Nallo began as a solo project of mine, but grew to a two-piece with a previous multi-instrumentalist, then a three piece, and then a four-piece.  Jac replaced our former guitarist Ronnie Lee in the winter of 2013.

Are any of you involved with any other active bands at this point or do you have any other side projects going on?  Have you released any music with anyone else in the past?  If so, can you tell us a bit about that?

Andrew:  We all have a pocket full of other projects going on at any given time.  Pat has a punk/hardcore background and plays with a local outfit called No Skin right now.  Jac has a country background and plays with a few alt-country bands in town.

How old are you and where are you originally from?

We’re all in our twenties and all from the Midwest.

What was the local music scene like where you grew up?  Did you see a lot of shows or get very involved in that scene?  Do you fee like it played a large role in shaping your musical tastes or the way that you perform at this point?

Andrew:  I felt like the music scene was very active where I grew up and it definitely exposed me to the idea of creative music.

Blake:  I did a lot of basement jamming with friends.

Jac:  Me too, yeah.

Pat:  It’s weird.  All I did was play with a couple of my best friends; pop punk, in a basement in St. Paul, with no outside influence from the local community.

What about your home when you were growing up?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or maybe just extremely interested or involved in music?

Jac:  My mom was a pianist who wanted me to play piano.  I wanted to play guitar instead, so I had to teach myself.

Andrew:  I have a musical family too, but not many active performers.  I have a few uncles in folk bands from years ago.

Blake:  My mom was a choir singer and was always playing The Sound of Music soundtrack at full volume, every morning.  So I know every word of that.  My dad was a huge fan of classic rock and exposed me to that at an early age.

Pat:  My father was directly involved in the Twin Cities music scene as a sound and lighting engineer.  I saw many performances around town at a very young age.  My dad also played guitar, but I never saw him when I was young.

What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?

Andrew:  I think it was my family.  My mom loved to sing.  I know lots of weird old songs from her.

Jac:  I had an uncle buy me my first real guitar and started playing blues with him.

Blake:  Watching Revenge Of The Nerds, and getting really attached to “Burning Down the House” by the Talking Heads.

Pat:  When I was four years old, I was exposed to the song “One” by Metallica and I was floored by the bridge section of the song.  That’s what got me interested.

If you were to pick a single moment that changed everything for you and seemed to open your eyes to the infinite possibilities that music presents, what would it be?

Jac:  Watching Stop Making Sense.

Blake and Andrew:  Yeah!

Pat:  I’ve never seen that.

Jac:  I’m excited for you.

When did you decide to start writing and performing your own music and what brought that decision about for you?

Andrew:  I started writing when I was about twelve, silly folk songs.  I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was in my twenties, but I wrote dozens of songs starting very young.

Jac:  I was fifteen, my brother was a drummer, I was a guitarist.  We started playing music at our parents’ house and wrote and recorded two albums together.

Blake:  I was probably fifteen or sixteen too.  Just for fun, something to do with friends.

Pat:  Maybe thirteen or fourteen, some buddies and I decided to start a band.  It was called Aliens Exist, or Alien Sexist; a Blink-182 reference.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

Andrew:  My first instrument was an acoustic guitar, it was my brother’s; a Yamaha.  Still sounds really good.

Blake:  A snare drum I got for school band.

Pat:  I begged my grandmother for a drum kit when I was thirteen, and she bought it for me for my birthday.

Jac:  My uncle gave me my first guitar.  It was almost a toy, but I still learned how to play my favorite songs from the radio on it.

How did the members of Nallo originally meet and when would that have been?

Andrew:  We all met playing music around the scene here.

When and what led to the formation of Nallo?

Andrew:  Nallo started as a solo project, folk music.  I played my own songs with various musicians for about six years.  In 2010 I met Ronnie Lee, our former guitarist and one of the hardest working musicians in Minneapolis, and he convinced me to psych it up, try an electric guitar and we started a two-piece where I’d sing and play rhythm and Ronnie would play a few drums, some guitar, and throw his voice through a bunch of vocal processors.  Blake eventually joined us on bass.  At the time, Pat was living in Arizona, but I told him if he ever came back to Minnesota, he’d have a place to play drums.  Once he moved back in the winter of 2011, he joined us on drums.  Ronnie eventually left to work on other projects and Jac started jamming with us this past winter.  The new lineup is working really well and we’re having a lot of fun.

I’ve done some thinking about the name and I just can’t put my finger on it. I know I’ve heard the term Nallo before, but outside of a reference to New Orleans I just can’t figure it out.  Then again, I’ve never been a clever man, ha-ha!  What does the name mean or refer to?  Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing it?  Were there any close seconds that you almost went with you can remember at this point?

Andrew:  This is going to be disappointing, but the name Nallo is an old nickname of mine.  That said, we stuck with it because it’s hard to pin down and doesn’t really sound like anything else.  Also, someone once said it sounds like a Euro chocolate company, which is alright.

Where’s Nallo located at these days?

Andrew:  South Minneapolis.

What’s the local music scene like where you’re at?

Blake:  It’s cool, very diverse.

Jac:  Eclectic is a good word.  Everyone has their niche.  Minneapolis has something for everyone; very healthy.

Blake:  Yep. Healthy, quality bands in every genre.

Andrew:  Even butt rock.

Do you feel very involved in the local scene where you’re at?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?

Andrew:  Yes. Yes, all the time.  It’s really all we do.

Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Nallo, or do you all think you would be doing that you’re doing and sound basically like you do regardless of your geographic location and stuff?

Andrew:  We’re all here.  So, it couldn’t really be anywhere else.

Jac:  There are a lot of good bands here, so it makes us work harder at what we do.

Are you involved in recording or releasing any music at all?  If you are, can you talk about that here for us briefly?

Andrew:  We’re currently working on a full-length release for November.  It’ll be a quick turnaround.  We’re headed into the studio tomorrow to start tracking and have done three rounds of demos.  We’re recording it with Ali Jafaar of Ecstattic Studio here in Minneapolis.

Who are some of your major musical influences?  You have a really interesting configuration of sounds going on in your music.  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Andrew:  I love all kinds of music, but I grew up on pop music, so that’s always there.  I was also formerly a folk musician, so I think that still bleeds into how I write songs.

Blake:  We all love Neil Young, Kraut Rock, and Deerhoof.

Pat:  Yeah, I’m on the same page, but my drumming influences are heavy rock.

Jac:  I started playing pedal steel so I could play 70’s country, but I think I’ve found a space for it in this project.

What’s the songwriting process for Nallo like?  Is there someone that usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea for a song to fine tune with the rest of your?  Or, do you all tackle that sort of stuff more as a unit kicking ideas back and forth when you get together until you come across something that you’re interested in working on and refining?

Andrew:  I usually have a skeleton of a song ready to show the band, but the songs change a lot from that point to the point where we’re playing them live.

What’s recording like for Nallo?  I’m a musician myself and I think that most of us can appreciate all the time and effort that goes into recording when you’re holding that finished product in your hands.  Getting to that point though, getting everything recorded and especially sounding the way that you want it to as a band can be extremely difficult to say the least.  What’s it like for Nallo?

Andrew:  Recording is hard.

Pat:  You have to plot it out, have a plan.

Jac:  It’s a slippery slope.  You have to pick the point where you’re going to stop the recording process and the search for perfection.  You can tweak little things forever and never release a record!

Andrew:  I agree with that, and I think moving on is better for the band as well, keeps us moving toward new songs by letting songs go.

Do you all like to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle most of the aspects of that on your own so you don’t have to work with or compromise on anything with anyone else?  Or do you all like to head into the studio and let someone else man that side of stuff so that you concentrate more on the songs and your performance?

Andrew:  Up until now, we’ve been almost completely DIY.  For this new album, we’re excited to work with someone who really knows how to run a board.  DIY is great, and very fun, and we will probably do more of it.  But that being said, working with a pro you trust is great because you can focus on your playing and leave the tech-side to them.  Ali is a close and trusted friend, so I have no worries about compromising or anything like that.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into figuring out every single part of a song and setting it in stone before you head in to record a song, or do you hit the record button with a basic skeletal idea of what a song’s going to sound like in your head, while allowing for some levels of change and variation during the recording process?

Andrew:  We rehearse a lot.  Our songs are pretty well cooked by the time we record.

Jac:  Sometimes, recordings capture a unique moment, but most of the time you need to be well prepared to end up with the end result you want.

Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Nallo?  People have been harnessing the mind altering states that those substances create for thousands of years and channeling them into art and I’m always extremely curious about its usage and application to the art that I personally enjoy.

Jac:  They’ve informed my world view, but I don’t think they have changed how I play music.

Andrew:  Agreed.

Let’s talk a little bit about your back catalog for a minute.  Now I know you released the Submarines single on cassette a year later, but as early as 2010 there were CDs that you were giving away to people.  I saw a picture of a couple of them and they were numbered out of twenty five copies.  What was on those “Giveaway CDs”?  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for that?  Was that material ever available outside of those CDs, digitally or anything?  Was that indeed limited to twenty five copies or were there more of those made?

Andrew:  The giveaway CDs were from my solo days, and there were 25 handpainted copies made in 2008.  As a band, you have our discography correct: 2011, Submarines Cassingle; 2012: Mechano and the Trees; 2013: Drugs for the Kids 7”.

As I mentioned, you all released the Submarines cassingle in 2011 on Cat People Records.  Was the recording of the two songs for Submarines very different than the earlier session(s)?  Who recorded that material and when would that have been?  Where was that recorded at?  What kind of equipment was used?  Is that limited to any certain amount of copies?

Andrew: The Cassingle was a DIY effort led by Mr. Ronnie Lee.  We recorded on his Macbook with GarageBand, in his basement in Northeast Minneapolis. Just a couple microphones, took two hours to record.  He did mixing, etcetera, after that; turned out really well.

2012 saw the birth of your first full-length album, Mechano And The Trees, which was self-released on both CD and cassette.  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all recording?  When and where was Mechano And The Trees recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used this time around?

Andrew:  Mechano And The Trees was another DIY effort.  I’ve actually recorded that album three times.  Once alone, once as a three-piece with Ronnie and Blake, and finally the version you hear online with the four-piece, before Jac joined.  We recorded it in our basement in South Minneapolis.  As is always the case, DIY recording is a real challenge.  It was, of course, pleasurable to finally have the songs out there, but the process itself was challenging.

Blake:  It was taxing.  I think that’s the reason why we’re most excited to work with Ali this time around.

Last year you all dropped the sick Drug for the Kids lathe-cut 7” single which was limited to only 50 copies and featured two brand-new tracks from you all.  Were those tracks written or recorded specifically for that single?  If so, can you tell us a little bit about the recording of “All Summer” and “Kin”? 

Andrew: Yes, those songs were one-offs for that single and we wanted it to mark a shift in our sound.  We recorded those at a house in the country in far northern Wisconsin over a few days of isolation.

When I talked to you all you mentioned that you were heading out to record for an upcoming full-length.  How’s that going at this point?  Have you guys wrapped recording or are you still working on that?  Is there any projected release date or title for that stuff at this point?

Andrew: We’re starting tracking tomorrow.  Very excited, aiming for November eleventh release.  As I said, it’ll be a quick turnaround.

Did you all try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for the upcoming full-length?  What can our readers expect from the new album when it does drop?

Andrew:  The biggest difference is Jac.  His work on guitar and the pedal steel adds a whole new feel to the tunes.  I’d say the songs are a little more mature, if I can say that?

Pat:  The way we rehearsed and assembled these songs was more of a group effort than before, section by section.

Jac:  I think we’re focused more on textures than what I’ve heard of the past material.
Blake:  We’ll be using the studio more extensively this time around.  We’re more focused on getting a particular sound.

Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff from?

With the insane international shipping rates that just seem to keep going up and up, I try and provide our readers with as many possible options for picking up stuff as I can.  Where’s the best place for our international and overseas readers to score your stuff?

Andrew:  Unfortunately, we don’t’ have international distribution, but we’re happy to work out shipping to anyone, anywhere.  Go to our Bandcamp page and get in touch.

Are there any major plans or goals that you’re looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or 2015?

Andrew:  First the album, that’s most important.  After that, we’re headed to CMJ in New York City for a week to play a few shows in and around Brooklyn between October 20th and 27th.  But, I’d love to see us tour in 2015.  We’re also planning another release for the winter/spring.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road touring or anything?  Do you like being out on the road?  What’s life like on tour for Nallo?

Andrew:  We’ve done almost no touring.  We’ve played around the Midwest, but I’d really love to see us get out to other cities this year.

Do you remember what the first song that Nallo ever played live was?  When and where was that?

Andrew:  So long ago.  No idea.  I know it was probably on an acoustic guitar and probably played sitting down.

Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the past few years?

Andrew:  Minneapolis is full of amazing bands and brilliant people to play with, lots of great people always shifting what they do in new and amazing ways.

Pat:  Lots of bands that I look up to in my scene, including Buildings, Gay Witch Abortion, In Defence, and Polica, Ben Ivascu is a drummer I really look up to, along with his solo project.

Jac:  One of my favorite memories from a previous band was opening for Trampled by Turtles sold-out CD release show.  Opening for Bloodshot Records artists Wayne “The Train” Hancock and Lydia Loveless was a dream come true.

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, album covers and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re trying to convey with your artwork?  Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to that kind of thing?

Andrew:  I think having imagery that matches your music is important.  It’s like fashion.  Not too much thought, but enough to make it feel right.  We’ve worked with local artist Alex Pederson quite a bit.  He designed and painted the cover for Mechano and the Trees and has done a few other things for us.

With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music?  If you do have a preference, can you tell us what it is and a little bit about why?

Andrew:  I’m still attached to releasing something physical.  Digital is the way everything is going, but vinyl, or cassettes, are still much more preferable to me for both releasing and consuming music.  I like something to look at in the real world.

Jac:  Also, for shows, we need something to sell.  Digital isn’t as enticing.

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Andrew:  We all have gigantic music collections.  Lots of variety.

I grew up around my dad’s enormous collection of music and he always really encouraged me to listen to anything that interested me.  More importantly though, he would take me around and buy me random stuff and I remember I would rush home, kick back with a set of headphones, read the liner notes, stare at the cover art and let the whole thing just carry me off on this trip.  Having something physical to hold and experience always made for a more complete listening experience for me, do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Andrew:  Certainly.  No doubt.

Like it or not, digital music is here in a big way.  The interesting thing to me though, is that digital music’s just the tip of the iceberg.  When you combine it with the internet, that’s when you have something really interesting on your hands.  Together they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded with, allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fans and eradicated geographic boundaries that would have crippled bands even a few years ago.  On the other hand though, while people may be exposed to more music than ever, there not necessarily interested in it and while people’s interaction and relationship with music is constant evolving and changing, I don’t think digital music has done anyone in favors in those regards.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Pat:  We don’t really have a choice.

Blake:  It’s a good way to get out there, but it’s not as good as analog.

Jac:  Things like Spotify are great for the listener, but not musicians.

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can, but there’s not enough time in the world to keep up with even one percent of the amazing stuff that’s going on out there!  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of?

Andrew:  Yes.  Honestly, too many to name.  Come hang out up here for a weekend.  Some of my favorites are Hollow Boys, Phantom Tails, Mrs., The Bombay Sweets, Velveteens, and Vats.

Blake:  Loudman, Weakwick, Miami Dolphins, Seawhores, and Teenage Moods.

Jac:  Zebulon Pike, Magic Castles, Flavor Crystals, and Prozac Rat.

Pat:  No Skin, Waveless, and Buildings.   

What about nationally and internationally?

Too many.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me so much about the band!  It was awesome learning so much about you all and I hope you all had some fun looking back on everything that you’ve managed to accomplish as a band.  Before we call it a day and sign off, is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about at this point?

Andrew:  Thanks for talking to us.  Keep an eye out for the new album in November.  If you’re in New York City come see us on October at CMJ, info on

© Laramie Carlson

(2010)  Nallo – Giveaway CDs – CDR – Self-Released (Limited to 25 copies?)
(2011)  Nallo – Submarines – Digital, Cassette Tape – Cat People Records
(2012)  Nallo – Mechano And The Trees – Digital, Cassette Tape, CD – Self-Released
(2013)  Nallo – Drugs for the Kids – lathe-cut 7” – Self-Released/2208 Records (Limited to 50 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Foxygen - … And Star Power (2014) review

Foxygen "… And Star Power" (Jagjaguwar 2014)

There’s a lot to take in here. There’s over 20 tracks that run in excess of 80 minutes. There’s a variety of styles and feels. There’s both gentle songcraft and bombastic noise. There’s times when the band appears to be out to create memorable warped pop, and other times when they’re just up to mischief and shenanigans.
                As I listen though the sprawling double album I hear snatches of Todd Rundgren, ELO, John Lennon’s White Album songs, Skip Spence from Oar, and when they do soft pop I’m reminded of Bergen White. There’s one selection on which it seems they’re trying to recreate Suicide. Some of the sillier tracks are things that I knew, after one listen, I never needed to hear again; but the eight or 10 best songs are gems that invite repeated listens.

                One thing I like about Foxygen is that their best stuff can somehow be both throwaway toss-offs yet utterly pleasurable. Also, they manage to be inventive while clearly referencing their influences.  As for this new album, while some of their fans will likely enjoy the more playful moments, I wish they had cut out the silliness and cut the album’s length in half. The best 35 or 40 minutes here, isolated from the rest of it, would constitute a candidate for a top five album of the year. 

Review made by Brian Greene/2014
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Psychedelic Attic #12