Q&A with Oh Pep! at the Pitch

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For the benefit of anyone drawn into the hotel room by the charming music, the band’s name was spelled in wooden letters on the floor. This was the 2015 Folk Alliance International conference, and the musicians who’d made this endearing gesture had come a long way: Oh Pep, of Melbourne, Australia. Oh Pep is primarily the work Olivia Hally (the Oh) and Pepita Emmerichs (the Pep), who released their debut LP, Stadium Cake, on the Dualtone label this past summer. I spoke with Hally and Emmerichs via Skype about writing and producing the record.
Read the full interview at the Pitch. Published 9/29/16

August Cine Local at the Pitch

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If you've read this week's issue, you're obviously aware there are tons of great local releases out now. And now, if you watch your way through all of these videos, you'll know all about the releases coming out in the next couple of months. Whether you like Keef Mountain's stoner doom, Various Blonde's genre-breaking beats, the heartbreaking pop of Heidi Lynn Gluck, or Berwanger's glam power-pop, there's something to catch your eyes and ears. We even have some classic footage from the Wilmas in this month's Cine Local.
View all the videos at the Pitch. Published 9/1/16

Q&A with Mikey Erg at Modern Vinyl

Ever since the breakup of beloved pop-punk trio the Ergs in 2008, drummer and singer Mikey Erg (né Mike Yannich) has been busy…insanely busy. He’s played drums for nearly every pop-punk act on the East Coast, he’s toured constantly, and all the while he’s been the drummer for the LLC, the house band for Fusion’s The Chris Gethard Show. However, musical output focusing solely on Yannich’s distinctive songwriting has been frustratingly scarce. While he’s been making music pretty constantly, hearing that voice has been limited to less than a handful of singles and splits. That thankfully came to an end with the release of his debut solo LP, Tentative Decisions, on Don Giovanni at the end of June.
Read the complete interview at Modern Vinyl. Published 8/17/16

Josh Berwanger on his new split with Dwight Twilley

[caption id="attachment_4776" align="aligncenter" width="560"]Berwanger Berwanger[/caption] At this point, the output of the Josh Berwanger Band is starting to rival that of the bands for which Berwanger was formerly best-know, the Anniversary and Only Children. The band's just finished recording their second LP, and just release their third single -- a split with power-pop idol Dwight Twilley -- on Good Land Records. We asked Berwanger a few questions via e-mail about the split and his upcoming plans. The Josh Berwanger Band seems to follow an older release model: several singles, then an LP. What's the rationale behind that? I want to consistently have something coming out on a format to keep people interested until the next LP comes out. Back in the day, bands were able to put out a record a year and still be relevant. Nowadays, from recording the record to the time a label needs to set it up properly it takes nearly a year. cover - berwanger twilley split sinleWhose idea was it to do a split with Dwight Twilley? This was something I was talking to Jonny Phillip of Good Land Records about one day. We often talk on the phone about what albums we've been listening to, and then I mentioned how much I love Twilley's Jungle LP. Then from there the idea of doing a split with him spawned. Where does "Some Other Guy" come from -- was it recorded for this split, or a leftover from something else? We were in rehearsals for an upcoming tour, and in-between songs in our setlist Ricky started playing "Crazy Horses" by The Osmonds. After 15 minutes of jamming on it, we had the song down. The first day on tour, I thought when we get back we should record "Crazy Horses" at Element Studios. I booked the studio. As we were on the road we started listening to all the layers that song had and thought to do it right, we would need more then a day. So, we ended up recording "Some Other Guy" instead. When's the next album coming out? It's done. No word on when its coming out yet. The plan now is to play all new songs at SXSW and then we have a tour with Field Mouse and Lithuania (a Dr. Dog side band) in May and June. In that time, there should be a better idea on the release date. How did you come to work with Jay Shaw for all your releases? I've been a huge fan of Jay's work for some years now. When I was halfway done recording Strange Stains, I sent him an email with some songs as well as some images of early Eastern European movie poster art that I love. I figured he wouldn't respond or not have the time to work with me. But he wrote back and said he dug the tunes and also loved those posters, as well. We just kept talking and from there have developed a great friendship. It's very true: if you don't ask, the answer is always no. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6oMHHmm_Pw[/embed] The Josh Berwanger Band plays an electric, full band set and Dwight Twilley plays acoustic as part of the release party for their split 7-inch this Saturday, March 7, at Love Garen Sounds in Lawrence. You can also purchase the Twilley / Berwanger split from Good Land Records on some gorgeous splatter vinyl, limited to 100 copies.

Vacation Club, “Heaven Is Too High” LP

cover - vacation club heaven is too highThe first full-length from Indiana's Vacation Club, Heaven Is Too High, took a couple listens to really work its way into rotation. Samuel James' vocals are an acquired taste -- they're high, they're snotty, and they're fairly monotonic. It took picking the LP up after a little time away from it, putting it on the turntable, and hearing the opening strains of "Gas Station" to get what Vacation Club's doing -- this is a trimmed-down, lo-fi version of something like the Sweet or Slade. The stomp's all there, along with the bubblegum catchiness. It's 100% pop, despite the echoing vocals and pretty basic song structures. "Hound" will instantly remind you of something like the Dave Clark Five's "Anyway You Want It," and much like that stomping bit of circular pop joy, you'll want to get the hell up out of your seat and dance. This is sugary-sweet, like Vacation Club distilled oldies radio into a syrup you pour directly into your ears. It'll go straight from your ears to your brain to your hands and feet. Dancing will happen, your teeth will rot, and your cavity-riddled mouth will be fixed with shiny metal fillings. That metal will, in turn, start picking up radio stations. Radio stations that only play the Association, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, and on and on and on ... until your brain will accept only the finest sugary choruses. At that point, you'll be hit with "Boiled," your face will melt in the face of its psychedelic madness, and you won't know what to expect. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/styrofoamdrone/vacation-club-oh-patty[/embed] Vacation Club's Heaven Is Too High is out now from Magnetic South Recordings, and comes in a pressing of 500 LPs on black vinyl. You should really go buy a copy. The cut-and-paste, Xeroxed aesthetic of the cover extends to the back, the insert, and even the LP labels. It's a cool-looking package.

Josh Berwanger, “Oh Bis!” 7-inch

cover - berwanger too much rockKids! Kidskidskidskids! Guess what? Josh Berwanger put out a new single! And it's part of the too Much Rock single series! And it has a cover of the Jags' "Back of My Hand" on the b-side! I literally responded to the initial news of this with a linked article on Facebook and something along the lines of "THE FUCKING JAGS?!?!" But, really, everybody: I'm a huge fan of Josh berwanger as a musician and just a guy to chat with in general, and this might be my favorite thing he's thus far done. "Oh Bis!" has been part of Bernwager's live sets for a while now, and the fact that he uses the word "bozos" has always endeared the song to me. I also really like the fact that the song flips the usual pop song narrative, working in a certain element of self-awareness, wherein Berwanger's singing about how "he could never love you like he does," rather than railing about how he could do so much better. It's a clever bit of mirroring, and the lyrics give lie to the postivity of the music. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/sidmuchrock/josh-berwanger-oh-bis[/embed] The flipside, a cover of the Jags' "Back of My Hand," is pretty much perfect. The addition of Heidi Gluck on backing vocals is always a welcome addition -- her work on Berwanger's album, Strange Stains, resulted in some of that record's highlights. The cover's pretty straightforward, but fits in nicely with the band's previous cuts. The single's out tomorrow, and can be found at Lawrence's Love Garden Sounds, as well as Kansas City's Mills Record Comapny, who will play host to a release show for the single on Thursday, June 5. If you're not able to get to either shop, you can buy it from Josh Berwanger's online store (which, in the interest of full disclosure, is my day job). You've your choice of black vinyl (a pressing of 416) or random color (a pressing of 109, which includes blue, turquoise, purple, and red, amongst others). Additionally, the Jay Shaw artwork lends a bit of continuity to the look of Berwanger's releases. Nice job on the reto picture sleeve. This sucker looks straight out of 1981.

Rev Gusto, “Still There” 7-inch

rev gusto header With the second installment of the Too Much Rock single series, we have the first-ever physical release from Kansas City power-pop group Rev Gusto. As longtime readers will recall, we were super-hyped on their first EP when it was released digitally. It's good to see that the band has managed to both retain their loose, shimmery tones, as well as tightening up their melodies and harmonies. The a-side is an original, "Still There," which balances that shimmering guitar with tight drums and bass, resulting in a song that bridges the gap between slightly psychedelic '60s and early '80s power-pop. The cover of Graham Parker's "Local Girls" on the flip only makes that comparison more accurate. I'd not heard Parker's original in years (it's not like anything along those lines except Marshall Crenshaw's "Someday Someway" ever makes it on the radio anymore), and it was interesting to revisit the song after hearing Rev Gusto's take. They do a lovely job of energizing the slightly-lethargic original, in the process rendering it less morose, and more snotty. The band's goddamn catchy and everyone who sees or hears them just can't help but fall in love with these guys. Here's to hoping some of you pick up the single and do the same. It's a delightfully catchy pair of songs, just in time for summer. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/sidmuchrock/rev-gusto-still-there[/embed] More info on the single series can be found at Too Much Rock.

“A Man Called Destruction” flatly documents the life of Big Star’s Alex Chilton

book cover - a man called destructionIt seems that Alex Chilton and Big Star are in the midst of a revival. It started with 2009's Keep an Eye on the Sky, a box set that compiled music from all eras of Big Star's existence and continued with last year's Nothing Can Hurt Me documentary. Now we finally have the literary companion in Holly George-Warren's Chilton biography, A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man, out March 20 from Viking. It's a thoroughly comprehensive book. My big complaint with Nothing Can Hurt Me is that it seemed awfully rushed, fitting far too much into a short running time. However, as thorough as the book is -- going all the way back to the Chilton family's European roots -- A Man Called Destruction completely lacks any sort of emotional core. In order to document such a mercurial figure as Chilton, one would expect to demonstrate something other than the flat, factual tone that permeates George-Warren's book. The most telling example comes at the start of the chapter "3rd," which opens with the tale of a savage beating Chilton received at the hands of the Memphis police. That tale is abandoned barely a page later when the chapter turns to concerns regarding fiscal issues. While one can understand wanting to keep a journalistic detachment from one's subject, writing about a beating and financial problems in the same tone makes for a book wherein it's difficult to to determine what really matters and what doesn't. I mean, I'm super-excited to finally see some ink given to Tav Falco and the Panther Burns, but repeated quotes from Ross Johnson and not one sentence from Chilton's son, Timothy, seems a bit of a strange authorial decision. Essentially, George-Warren lacks the standard storytelling aspect of showing, not telling. A Man Called Destruction is long on facts, but short on narrative, or at the very least narrative that's not statistical or relating some set list or show review. If you get the book, you'll learn a lot regarding the life of Alex Chilton, but for those looking to gain insights into aspects of his life not already on record, you'll be sorely disappointed.

Podcast #107, “Rush to Judgment”

scales of judgmentRecording this podcast, I was all kinds of excited about getting it done, doing a phone interview, and then heading out to enjoy some sunshine. The sunshine disappeared, some support screws sheared off on our bed frame, and I spent an hour and a half at the hardware store and kneeling in our bedroom with a drill. Sometimes, you should just be happy for what you've accomplished -- namely, putting together a really poppy, upbeat podcast that runs the gamut from nerd rock to stoner jams. It's a blast and a half this episode, despite everything that followed. Podcast #107, "Rush to Judgment" They Might Be Giants, "(She Was A) Hotel Detective" (They Might Be Giants) Talking Heads, "Girlfriend Is Better" (Speaking In Tongues) Ski Lodge, "Just To Be Like You" (Ski Lodge) The Selector, "Missing Words" (Too Much Pressure) --- The Fleshtones, "Right Side of a Good Thing" (Hexbreaker) Dwight Twilley Band, "Looking for the Magic" (Twilley Don't Mind) The Sights, "I Wanna Fuck Your Sister (demo)" (Twelve In the Bar) 4 Out of 5 Doctors, "Waiting For A Change" (4 Out of 5 Doctors) --- Boris the Sprinkler, "(Do You Wanna) Grilled Cheese" (Saucer to Saturn) The Bouncing Souls, "The Day I Turned My Back On You" (Anchors Aweigh) Adrenalin OD, "Twenty Dollar Bill" (Ishtar) Teenage Bottlerocket, "Bloodbath at Burger King" (Total) --- UK Subs, "Living Dead" (Endangered Species) Joint D, "Never Elaborate" (Satan Is Real Again, Again) The Bubble Boys, "Procrastination" (The Mortal Micronotz Tribute Album) Torche, "Out Again" (Songs For Singles)

Save Ends, “Warm Hearts, Cold Hands” LP

cover - save endsFun times with indie-pop from Boston's Save Ends. Their debut full-length after several years of EPs, Warm Hearts, Cold Hands is a harder-edged Dollyrots or Mixtapes. It's super-poppy, and the whole album is pretty much "Harmonies! Energy! Riffs!" for its entirety. Save Ends really aim for energetic songs, but the lyrics drag everything down. It's not that the music isn't good -- the riffs are catchy, the keys are nice when they come through, and the bass and drums make for a head-nodding beat. It's more that the songs contain lyrics talking about falling down, blood draining from arms, things breaking down, and feeling alone. Granted, the songs try to aim for a positive outlook, but the optimism doesn't come through nearly as clearly as it should. "Skeptical Sons/Curious Daughters" works that balance pretty well, but everything else seems to get mired in the darkness, finding it difficult to look toward a sunnier horizon. Additionally, the keys really don't come through in the mix as much as I'd like them to. "A Life They Wrote" and "Kurzweil" have them in there, somewhere, but it's almost like they're more hinted-at than actually acknowledged. Maybe I want the band to be more Anniversary than Get Up Kids. Hell, I'd be happy if they were "Mass Pike," but it seems they're aiming for more "Ten Minutes."
You can buy Save Ends' Warm Hearts, Cold Hands from the Tiny Engines store on vinyl. First pressing info is as follows: 105 Blue with White + Green Starburst, 130 Transparent Fiery Orange, 150 Transparent Light Blue, and 215 Opaque Gray. The opaque grey's kind of marbled, FYI.