Category Archives: music

INTERVIEW: DIKEMBE

A couple of months ago Dikembe, the band whose name I recently realised that I have no idea how to say out loud, made an emphatic return with their sophomore record, ‘Mediumship’. Their debut record, ‘Broad Shoulders’ got a lot of love from this blog and I’ve been wanting to write about how great their new record is since I first heard it. But instead of listening to me badger on for 700 words about how their subtle grunge influences coupled with the bands innate ability to write moody but very infectious melodies make for one of this years must hear records, I thought it would be a much better idea to get Dikembe to agree to an interview. As luck would have it they did, so here it is. Answering the questions is drummer David Bell.

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Is this thing on? – Hi. You have a new record out, how did you go about writing and recording this time round?

Dikembe – Our last record, Broad Shoulders, was written and recorded on the fly, so much so that there were a couple songs we had to learn to play together after the album was sent for mastering. We wanted to avoid that situation this time around. New songs were pushed into our live set as often as possible so that we could get a sense of how the tracks felt to play. If something felt weird we would bring it up during our next practice and try to make it feel better. When it came time to track the record we decided to track everything live, which saved us a lot of time and reaffirmed for ourselves how comfortable we would be to tour with these new songs.

ITTO? – The songs are recognizably Dikembe but there seems to be a progression in the sound from your previous records, has this evolved naturally or have you made a conscious effort to change your sound?

Dikembe – I would say we made a conscious effort to go with our gut and give little to no thought on the expectations of others. We just focused on writing and recording a group of songs we knew we’d all enjoy playing live and not worry about whether or not elements fit a predetermined genre or sound.

ITTO? – I love this record but found it to be a grower. Sticking with it has paid off really well, how has the reaction been to the record? Have you been nervous about how this record will be received compared to your previous records?

Dikembe- Feedback about the album has seemed pretty positive. I don’t think we were too worried going into the release. We were just excited for people to hear the jams we were having fun with during our live sets, especially since it felt like a lifetime since we finished our first album. I think Steven was the most nervous about Mediumship’s general reception, but we were on tour when it dropped and it wasn’t too hard to distract him from the twitters and such.

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ITTO? – I’ve noticed a grunge influence to the record with some of the riffs used and the loud/quiet/loud pattern on some songs. What have you been listening to recently and what has influenced your writing this time round?

Dikembe – Steven had the sudden realization that Pearl Jam’s Ten is an amazing album about two years ago. He has also been claiming that Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days” is his favorite song ever. Most of the musical elements to Mediumship were developed during practices, so I think this album displays more of the group’s collective tastes than our previous releases. Randy and I grew up heavily influenced by our fathers’ CD collections, which they probably attained through some sort of Columbia House Record Club style subscription. Late 80’s, early 90’s “alternative rock” feels very familiar to our ears, and it probably seeps into our song production style.

ITTO? – Steven Gray’s voice does weird things to me, it melts my heart like an emo Eddie Vedder. What vocalists have this kind of effect on yourselves?

Dikembe – Jeff Buckley’s voice in “Hallelujah” gives me goosebumps every single time. It’s disturbing.

ITTO? – You recently put out a split with veterans the Jazz June, how did that come about? Any other bands you’d love to do splits with?

Dikembe – I believe they contacted us in some way and pitched the idea about a year ago. We were blown away by the idea that they had heard our music, let alone dug it enough to let us be part of their long-awaited return.

Randy says a split with Creepoid would be cool.

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ITTO? – Are you guys able to commit to the band full-time or do you have to fit everything in (touring/recording etc.) around your regular lives?

Dikembe – As much as we would love to commit our full-time to life on the road and in the studio, Steven has a big-boy job teaching middle school kids and Ryan just produced a real-life baby human. We practice maybe once every two or three months because Steven lives in Orlando, a two-hour drive from the rest of us in Gainesville. It’s astonishing how much we’ve been able to do and how often we’ve toured given how little time we commit to this band as a whole.

ITTO? – What would have to happen for you guys to come and tour the uk?

Dikembe – We’ve gotten close, but scheduling issues continue to kill off plans. We would need a UK band to agree to a summer tour, let us squeeze into their van, and allow us to use all of their gear every night. I don’t think we can afford to fly over, rent gear, and rent a vehicle with our own finances.

ITTO? – Bands keep getting robbed on the road, seems to be an everyday occurrence at the mo. Have you had bad experiences yourselves? Does it put you off going on the road? What security tips can you give aspiring bands?

Dikembe – Thankfully, we have not had any bad experiences on the road so far. It helps that we tour in a 2013 Dodge Caravan that features an alarm system, slightly tinted windows, and an overall look that suggests it carries a family of six around instead of hundreds of dollars in musical equipment. Nevertheless, we still are very careful about where we park it. There are only two things I can think to suggest for a band going on the road in a 15-passenger van:

Get an alarm system installed or insurance on your gear. It’s obviously an investment, but you don’t want to have to rely on internet donations if the worst happens. Plus, it would really suck to have to cut a tour short because someone popped a lock off your van door with a screw driver.

If you can’t throw down that kind of money, invest in making your van look like a difficult job. Buy a fake alarm system with a flashing LED light on the dashboard, or get some tint on the back windows so that the value of heist is less defined. Carjackers and thieves look for easy wins, not possibly complicated scenarios.

ITTO? – Since the World Cup, we’re told that America has fallen in love with football (soccer) and football (soccer) is about to surpass regular American sports, such as basketball, as the national sport. can we now expect a Dikembe football (soccer) themed EP?

Dikembe – The United States’ love for football is as transient as it’s love for the Olympics. We’re just big fans of the concept of national pride. I’ll believe soccer is reaching the hearts of Americans when I can watch an MLS game on basic cable. I think Steven and I are the only members in the band that have any interest in professional sports, and that is solely reserved for the NBA.

ITTO? – Everyone says the UK is always a year or two behind America. What is the next big thing (TV, music, fad) sweeping America we can expect here in a years time?

TV personalities taking selfies while on the air and constantly mentioning their twitter handles. Be prepared, it’s awful.

ITTO? – Sounds awful. Thanks for talking to us!

You can buy ‘Mediumship’ on vinyl in the UK from Monkey Boy Records HERE

Or you can stream/download it HERE

Thanks for reading. Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto on twitter or ittoblog@gmail.com

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TheLastWordIsRejoice: A Tribute To Mineral

You can’t possibly have missed the fact that Mineral are BACK and playing live again. Even though I bought my first Mineral album 15 years ago, I, like many other fans desperately excited to see them play live, had gotten into them when it was too late. They had already broken up by that point. In 1999 I completely fell in love with Mineral. I took the train on my own to London at some time that year with a weeks wages in my pocket with the sole purpose to find CDs I couldn’t find locally, I found ‘EndSerenading’ in the alternative section of Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. I had heard of them but had never actually heard them, that was until the train ride home when I unwrapped the case, put the cd in my discman, put my headphones on, pressed play and shut my eyes. I was totally sold from the first note plucked on the guitar. ‘EndSerenading’ became one of my favourite records of all time, with ‘&Serenading’ my favourite song. It was hard, at the time, to find out much information about the band, the cover sleeve gave nothing away and I was gutted to find out from friends that they had split up already.
At the age of 19 I never would have believed you if you had told me that at age 34 I would have tickets to see them play, and yet here I am aged 34 with tickets to see them play live twice next February (February!! How perfect is that?) when they come to the UK for the first time ever.

I wanted to do something on the blog as a tribute to this legendary band and try and share with them the outpouring of love that has emanated since their reunion. This is a collection of writing containing the memories and feelings towards the band from friends, fellow blog writers, musicians and label owners.

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Tom Mullen (Washed Up Emo)

I was introduced to Mineral thanks to a giveaway bin at the college radio station my freshman year. My first week I had signed up for a show and went to hang with the music director to find out what he was into and talk about the hardcore show I wanted to do. During that meeting, there was a box in his office that was labeled for giveaway. I caught out of the corner of my eye “Static Prevails” on vinyl and perked up to ask if I could pick through it. He said, by all means, that stuff was going to be given out at the next radio station meeting. In that box, among a treasure trove of emo goodness, was the first Mineral album. I was floored by this album and still are to this day. I never saw the band as I missed a show they played near my college by a month or two back when message boards and flyers were the way to promote a show. This band always left before saying goodbye and now we’re lucky enough to be around to see this band come back and play for those that never got to see them. Mineral may have been typecast into the emo genre, but if it’s a band people mention every time, I won’t be mad. They’re the true definition of the loud/soft, heartfelt and loud sound I miss when most of the “emo revival” is derived from the midwest. Mineral’s impact and influence will still be intact regardless of this tour and what’s next. It’s right for them to reform, so it should be right for us to show respect to a band that for many thought would never reunite. For myself, I’ll be screaming along right next to you and smiling every second.

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Oliver Craven (Crash Of Rhinos)

I’m not usually the guy from our band that does this sort of thing, but when asked to write a few words about Mineral I felt I had to. Through my teens, twenties and now into my thirties, they probably mean more to me now than even then.

A lot of people have come and gone in the time since I first heard Mineral. Family, friends, girlfriends, bands.
leaving school in 1999 and wanting to do nothing else except smash the fuck out of a drum kit and skate, I ended up meeting like-minded people through record shops and rock clubs.
I’m still close friends with most of these people now. Four of them were in Crash of Rhinos. It didn’t seem to matter back then that none of us really gave a shit about much else except jamming and skating. There’s a sense of freedom from that age that you don’t really get again. Mineral was the soundtrack to pretty much all of it.

Times like that are rare, bands like Mineral are rare, and kinda should be.
Makes it all the better.

A lot of those people will be back together for the first time in a long time the night Mineral play Nottingham in February. We’ve all changed a fair bit over the years, but I’m pretty confident as soon as Scott McCarver plugs in and the feedback starts wailing, it’s not gonna seem like it.

Favourite song then: A Letter
Favourite song now: A Letter

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Lindsay Minton (Football, Etc)

I’m not totally sure, but I think I found out about Mineral on a message board the summer before I started high school. The song “Slower” became my anthem of the next 4 years. I somehow managed to put Zookeeper on in a basement in New Brunswick in 2007. Not only was Chris Simpson in the room, but also Kyle Fischer from Rainer Maria (playing lapsteel in the band Balthrop, Alabama). What an impact playing a show with my two biggest influences was for me…
Last Friday, I saw Mineral play their first show in 16 years. It was a smallish venue (capacity at 180). It’s kind of hard to describe it– but it was perfect. A bunch of mid-twenty to thirty-somethings standing around with their arms crossed, singing along to themselves. Hearing Mineral come from the stage, instead of the various sets of speakers and headphones I have heard them from over the years was absolutely refreshing. It was something my 14-year-old self never thought I’d be able to experience.

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Glen Bushell (Punktastic)

I was a bit of a latecomer to Mineral if I’m honest. I only cared about punk, grunge and metal pre-2000, until I saw At The Drive-In at Reading 2000 and it changed my life forever and opened my world up to a whole new area of music. After that I started to go to emo and hardcore shows in Margate and Canterbury, and I picked up the Mineral/Jimmy Eat World/Sense field split because I had just started getting into Jimmy Eat World, and I really enjoyed Mineral’s cover of Crazy. I picked up Endserenading after that, and it blew my mind. It was raw, impassioned, and very honest. It embodied every feeling I was going through turning from a teenager into an adult. From then on I forever compared every emo band to them, and even now in my 30’s when I need to find solace in a record, Endserenading, and also Power Of Failing are still my go to records. Finally getting to see them in the UK next year will be the end result of 15 years waiting and wishing to see them, and I’ll be honest, I may shed a tear or two with no shame during Walking To Winter, which is still my favourite song.

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Frank Turner (Kneejerk/Million Dead/Mongol Horde/Frank turner)

I first heard Mineral rifling through a friend’s record collection in 1998 or so, about a year after they broke up. I fell in love pretty quickly, and they became one of my foundational bands musically – I think I subconsciously still try to write and sing like Chris, and the production is pretty perfect for me as well. When I found out they were reuniting this year I lost my mind, booked my flights, and ended up playing an opening slot at the Brooklyn show, which was a dream come true.

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Ray Harkins (100 words or less podcast)

My exposure to Mineral was a complete blur. When you are 16 years old and shoving a bunch of music in your head, it’s hard to discern exactly when/where you heard something but Mineral immediately stuck out. I had begun the process of accepting that “non-screaming” music was okay and I was allowed to listen to it after my initial punk & hardcore blitzkrieg. “Gloria” was placed on the stereo by the guitarist of my band at the time and it was loud, fast but had these things that I later called “dynamics” that I wasn’t used to. It felt good to have a moment to reflect on the song, while it was still going on. This was 1996 and ever since that small exposure, Mineral loomed large in my life. I do remember that I specifically ordered the LP because I had HEARD that it included a lyric sheet (which the CD version did not). I was ecstatic to receive the LP (before I was a full fledged collector) and poured over the lyrics all night. Long live Mineral.

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Paul Waller (OHHMS)

I don’t remember how I came across Mineral but I do know that I was listening to Sunny Day Real Estate, Boy Sets Fire and the UK’s very own Sunfactor and Spy Vs Spy before I got wind of them. Somewhere along a very fuzzy line I had bought ‘End Serenading’ and just fell in love with it straight away. My initial reaction was that I really dug the vocals. It was slow to mid paced pop music with this askew melancholic edge that kept pulling me in. But that voice, this guy was so obviously upset about something… I don’t know his name and I don’t need to but that singer guy, he was the real deal, he had almost as great a voice as Jeremy Enigk from SDRE but there was far more passion in the vocal delivery. I wanted to give him a cuddle.

A big plus with ‘End Serenading’ was that the bass lines were pretty easy to learn. I remember spending a night on my own figuring out each song track by track until I could play all of side one and then doing the same for the flip side. Don’t know why I did that. I’m not a bass player, but if I could do it then anyone could.

Every now and again somebody asks me what I think of their first album? They say it’s better, harder, even more emo. Well, I do have a copy of it but I never listen to it. The front cover is so awful that I refuse to give it a chance. If a band is going to take so little care about the way in which they present a record then I dread to think what the actual music is like.

‘End Serenading’ is the only emo album I still regularly listen to.

I can’t wait to see them play some of it live next year.

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Lewie Peckham (Bearded magazine/Is this thing on?)

I first heard Mineral through a Pop Unknown track on the second Emo Diaries compilation ‘A Million Miles Away’ (those titles) in ’98 and the sombre pace of ‘Writing it Down For You’ reminded me of Red House Painters (A favourite at the time and pretty much still to this day). I saw that Pop Unknown had ‘Ex-members of Mineral’ printed in the little catalog you got with every Deep Elm release and took a chance on a mail ordered copy of The Power of Falling and was hooked from the opening notes of ‘Five, Eight and Ten’ and by the time ‘Parking Lot’ faded out in a screech of feedback i was a devoted wreck and i still am 16 years later.

I can never listen to Mineral in the summer. Much like American Football I know when to break out The Power of Falling and EndSerenading and it’s not during July and august, save that for Something to Write Home About and Clarity. When that first hint of autumn hits you, be it a slight chill in the air that stays there all day or a walk through a park with its grass obscured by fallen brown leaves. That’s when you can find Mineral filling my ears, their songs tightly held in place by my headphones and just for me only, an exclusive club for one.

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Kristy Diaz (www.recordnotcommodity.co.uk)

When The Power of Failing was recorded in 1995, I lived in Austin, TX. Just 11 miles away from Music Lane Recording Studios, in fact. However, the first time I heard that record, like many Mineral fans I imagine, was around 10 years after its release. I mean, it’s probably for the best, I wouldn’t have ‘got’ it when I was 8. My main concern was looking for snakes in the front yard.
I don’t recall anyone introducing me to them, but I was listening to a lot of Sunny Day Real Estate that year so I guess it was just association. I have a bias toward the urgency and imperfection that comes with a band’s first record, so whilst EndSerenading was great in its own right, The Power of Failing was, and still is, my favourite. In terms of highlights, it would be hard not to mention the guitars in If I Could and the intro to Take The Picture Now, but, perhaps predictably, Gloria always stood out.
To be a dick and choose a song that they didn’t actually write as a favourite, I was always super into their cover of Crazy, from the split 7” with Jimmy Eat World and Sense Field. The guitars are interchangeably gorgeous and infuriating, but mostly I love it because it’s a bit silly, too.

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Kevin Duquette (Topshelf Records)

My earliest Mineral-related memory is having a bunch of records recommended to me after I had just recently discovered toe, Pele, Jimmy Eat World and American Football in high school. Mineral was in that bunch and I never quite made it to listening to it because — as a designer — I thought the album cover art was pretty awful (“The Power of Failing”) and chose to try many of the others first, eventually forgetting that one altogether. I went on a road trip that summer and a friend was DJing from the passenger seat, playing their albums over the car speakers. I eventually asked what it was we were listening to and realized I’d overlooked a pretty important band. I quickly remedied that when we got home.

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Morten Andre Samdal (Youth Pictures Of Florence Henderson)

I grew up being a skatepunkdude in the mid 90s (still am!), and me and my friends had this band. While the others listened to mostly fast punkrock, I looked for something a bit different. I tried my way through britpop, grunge and some other straight forward rock bands, but nothing really hit as hard as the fast paced melodic punkrock I loved. Not until I bought a bunch of records, with bands like Hot Water Music, Mineral, Alkaline Trio, Christie Front Drive and Jimmy Eat World, if I remember it correctly. Mineral was life changing. The record I first got was The Power of failing, and it hit me in the guts. The tender melodies wrapped in distorted raw guitars, and the way Chris Simpson dragged the words much longer than I ever thought was possible – I’d never heard anything like it. I got the other guys in the band to give it a listen, but they just laughed and said it was music for pussies. Not long after my band parted ways, and I started an emo-band. Mostly because of Mineral, I guess!
While bands like JEW, HWM and Alkaline Trio just got worse and worse over the years, Mineral and CFD were smart and disbanded, like a real emo band should do ;) To this day, these two are my favourite 2nd generation emo bands, and I still listen to them regularly. I am so coming to London in February (hope they play that song).

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James Benwell (Fan)

I found Mineral through The Gloria Record and I found TGR through the guy working downstairs at Tempest Records (R.I.P) in Birmingham. It’s been a 15 year love affair that hasn’t faded. The rawness of The Power of Failing still sounds as visceral as ever and EndSerenading became the soundtrack to my winter nights, and made me wish it was winter the rest of the year round.
They’ve always touched a chord lyrically. Stories of love, the beauty in the world around us, and then songs like MD, perhaps a precursor to the likes of the latest Empire! Empire! album; so personal, so simple, yet so heart wrenchingly beautiful when told over a soundtrack that can make you feel like you want to tell everyone you know that you love them, or to fall in love just so you can find some words of your own.
I never thanked the guy at Tempest, I wish that I had. He’s the reason that I’m not deaf at 31 to the sound of the greatest band that i’ll ever got to hear.

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Gary Sleith (Good post day records)

I first heard Mineral thanks to the (Don’t Forget To) Breathe compilation CD. I bought it from Amazon, and at the time I was heavily into a few of the bands on it, bands like Promise Ring, Knapsack, Hot Water Music & Fireside, but I had never heard of Mineral. For me, their track on the record, ‘Rubber Legs’ was a real Jerry Maguire ‘You had me at hello’ moment…5 seconds in I was hooked and by the time Chris Simpson sings “your boy is all alone tonight but i will never forget how you taught me to stand on these rubber legs and fight.” at the end I was head over heels. I bought EndSerenading online immediately and connected with it in a way that I had only done with one record up to that point; Clarity. My favourite song on it initially was ForIvadell but when I listen to it today, I’m always blown away by &Serenading(probably the influence of Alex!) but if I had to pick a favourite Mineral song, I would have to go with ‘February’ from their self-titled 7”. For me, that track perfectly encapsulates Mineral despite being perhaps one of their, for want of a better word, “heavier” tracks and to this day I use it as a benchmark for truly great emo music, up there with songs like ‘E. Texas Avenue’ ‘For Me This Is Heaven’ & ‘Never Meant’

Thank you so much for reading xx

Contact us: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com, twitter @alex_itto @BonersaurJR

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Review: Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

Band – Joyce Manor

Album – Never Hungover Again

Label -Epitaph

By Lewie Peckham

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One of the most divisive arguments that follows Torrence, California indie-punks Joyce Manor around is about the shortness of most of their recorded output. Some listeners feel cheated that many of the bands songs rarely exceed the 2 minute mark and albums can be finished in as much time as it takes to watch an episode of Seinfeld (or insert any U.S sitcom in its place..you get the idea). The other side of this debate is that Joyce Manor are the masters of concise punk rock songwriting, trimming the fat of their songs until perfect blasts of hook-laden Indie/Emo/Punk/Whatever you want to call it remain.

Never Hungover Again lasts for about 19 minutes (give or take a couple of seconds) but in that time Joyce Manor have found enough space to make their most musically ambitious album yet. The usual hallmarks of their sound remain, Barry Johnson’s impassioned vocals over gritty Pinkerton-era Weezer and Jawbreaker guitars and Guided By Voices melodic exuberance, but now with added instrumental depth and influences excavated from outside their usual sound.

The swells of gorgeous synths that appear in sublime highlight ‘Falling in love again’ recall the wistfulness of The Psychedelic Furs and the dual guitar lines that arrive in the middle of ‘Schley’ could have been lifted from seminal Ohio art-punks Pere Ubu’s most accessible record (1989’s Cloudland). It’s a testament to Joyce Manors songs that these nods to their record collection never throw the album off track or leave it scrambling to get back on its path. It’s the subtle compliments that make you realise that you are hearing something very special.

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There are still the usual blasts of pop-punk that will appeal to even the most casual fan of the band. The lovelorn ‘Victoria’ and self-deprecation of ‘Heart Tattoo’ are glorious, fuzzy gems that once again are the best examples of Joyce Manors sharp, concise song craft. The ambiguous amped-up Smiths riffage of ‘In The Army Now’ and Jangle-pop of ‘Heated Swimming Pool’ show the different and exiting musical paths the band may choose on future releases and how adept they are at incorporating these into Joyce Manors existing sound. Never Hungover Again is probably one of the most rewarding listens of 2014 and will, quite rightly, find itself lavished with repeated listens and justified acclaim.

Proving that there is still life in a genre that can sometimes feel stodgy and overladen with mediocre bands, Joyce Manor are one of the better examples of what heartfelt, interesting music can be made within the shortest bursts of noise.

Thanks for reading. Get in touch. ittoblog@gmail.com, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter – @alex_itto, @BonersaurJR

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REVIEW: EMPIRE! EMPIRE! (I WAS A LONELY ESTATE) – YOU WILL EVENTUALLY BE FORGOTTEN

Band – Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)

Album – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Label – Count Your Lucky Stars/Topshelf Records

The first two songs of ‘You will eventually be forgotten’, the second full length album by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), each tell the story of how both the members of the band were separately involved in near fatal car accidents. Thankfully they lived to tell the tale but imagine for a second if things had turned out differently. Keith and Cathy Latinen, the husband and wife duo that make up Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate), are more responsible than most, both as this band and as owners of the Count Your Lucky Stars record label, for reigniting the fire in this once almost forgotten genre. Their tireless output, with their own bands countless splits/e.p’s & debut full length and the consistently brilliant records their label has released, has brought a lot of credibility to the current wave of emo, making it as popular as it is today. Without these two would I even be listening to any albums recorded after 2002?

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Which segues nicely into giving a nod to the guest vocalists that are featured on this record. One of the biggest bonuses from bands playing this type of music again is proving to some of the legendary bands from back in the day there is still a loyal, devoted audience out there for them. You can’t have missed that Mineral are about to embark on a massive reunion tour and I hope you haven’t missed that Braid have come back this year with an incredible new record. Both Bob Nanna of Braid and Chris Simpson of Mineral make an appearance here and with these comes a sense of triumphant togetherness. We die-hard emo fans have found each other and our reward? One hell of a beautiful new record by Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate).

The weather is changing, it’s getting colder and the nights are drawing in, autumn is coming. And what an album ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is to soundtrack this change in seasons. I always feel reflective at this time of year which has made me feel an instant connection with this record. The autobiographical nature of Keith Latinen’s lyrics, telling coming of age stories from his youth as well as asking questions about his own mortality really speak out to me as someone who, ever since turning 30, has started to question everything in life, constantly looking back at big turning points in my life wondering what could have been. All 11 songs here take on a linear approach, eschewing familiar verse/chorus/verse structures and preferring to take the listener on a journey propelled by the powerful story telling of the lyrics. Poetic tales of love, friendship, youth and companionship are told with such an attention to detail that I know feel, after numerous repeat listens, that I really know both members of the band personally. The album is the musical equivalent of those magical nights at the start of a relationship when you stay up all night talking to someone and in the morning you feel like you’ve known the person all your life.

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The lyrics to each song had been posted online in the weeks leading up to the album’s release, being a musician I normally find it takes me time to find a connection to the lyrical content of a song, usually long after I’ve fallen in love with the music. But in this case, the lyrics are strong enough to stand alone without already knowing the melody as a piece of work in their own right. So it was really nice to get to know the songs before actually being able to listen to them. Don’t let me take anything away from the music though, because musically Empire! Empire! are as strong here as anything they have ever released before. Gorgeous guitar tones and big thick drums compliment the vocals throughout, clearly the whole production here has been meticulously worked out with the band knowing when to hold back and when to let the feedback take over for added drama. Echoes of Sunny Day Real Estate’s ‘How it feels to be something on’ and Appleseed Cast, mixed in with Empire! Empire!’s own inimitable style make this a record to truly behold.

With the many songs Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) have put out in the 5 years since their last full length, it would’ve been really easy for them to cobble together enough for a follow-up album. I’m really happy they have waited until they had the time to commit to making something completely new with the sole focus of making a new record. ‘You will eventually be forgotten’ is a concept album of sorts, using moments in their lives to ask big questions about life and what is the real point of it all. Keith Latinen has experienced near death but not had any great epiphanies about what it all means (“My life did not flash before my eyes”), he has witnessed two people who, after a lifetime of devotion to each other, became so entwined that they passed away at the same time, even though they died 2 years apart (“It took 2 whole years to convince his body”) and is left to wonder if what he is doing is really worth it.

How do we ever know that? We can always look back, and consider what would have happened if we had done things differently but it won’t make any difference. As long as we do what we think is the right thing to do in the present tense then there shouldn’t be any regrets. There is a lot of love on display here for each other and the vast amount of love about to be showered on these two after the release of this perfectly amazing album should at least let them know that they are currently doing everything completely right.

Please don’t hesitate to listen to this truly INCREDIBLE record!!

You can stream/download/order the record HERE

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This is me with Keith and Cathy after their amazing set in Brighton, November 2012

Thanks for reading. xx

Get in touch. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

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THE VAN PELT CAME TO LONDON, I WAS NOWHERE TO BE SEEN

This blog post wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had worked it out in my head completely different, in my head there was a happy ending. But things haven’t gone to plan, so, instead of Is This Thing on? Blogs 100th post being one of celebration, it is now one of utter disappointment and frustration.

Today, (16/08/2014), was supposed to be spent at the Excel centre in London at All Tomorrow’s Parties Jabberwocky festival, you may have seen (not that you could really miss) the fact that the festival was cancelled just 3 days before it was due to take place. I had bought my ticket earlier this year in March, primarily because of one band, The Van Pelt.

I couldn’t quite believe the poster for the event when I first saw it. It was a great line up with plenty of other bands that I would be really excited to see play live (Cloud Nothings, Metz, Pissed Jeans etc..), but the fact that the Van Pelt were named on there too made my jaw hit the ground. In fact, I was so surprised to see their name on the bill that I had to google them to make sure it was really THE Van Pelt playing and not some indie upstarts who had stolen their band name. As soon as I had confirmed enough to satisfy my suspicions that it was actually them, I bought my ticket. The price for the day ticket that I was about to purchase was a nice surprise too, £38.50 for the day! I would have been willing and was expecting to pay more, I bet I wasn’t the only one who thought this. At the time I thought I was getting a bargain, in hindsight it seems like a big error of judgement on behalf of the promoters.

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After weeks of exchanging excited texts and messages with friends who were going and telling anyone who would listen that I was going, it came as a shock to find out ATP were pulling the plug. Jabberwocky was cancelled. Initial disbelief quickly turned to anger and frustration, which was mainly aimed at ATP themselves. How could this happen? How could they operate with this level of incompetency?? Why hadn’t this decision been made weeks ago?? The line up was stellar, unrivalled by other festivals this year so how could they fail to deliver?????!!!

What followed the statement from ATP was really bizarre to be caught in the middle of. The fallout from the announcement went in 2 directions, a massive argument about who was responsible to refund everyone and also a mad dash to find out if the bands booked to play Jabberwocky would still be coming over and playing somewhere. Pretty quickly a facebook group and website started up with the sole purpose to salvage something from this weekend. With the cancellation of the event being so close to the date it was supposed to take place, it made sense that most of the bands would already have their travel arrangements in place and were either in the UK or on their way here. If bands are coming then let’s get them shows to play and get them an audience to attend. When I joined the Jabberwocky fallout rumours Facebook group it was already a few hundred people strong and it was thrilling to see what was happening. The members of this group were disappointed ticket holders taking things into their own hands, sharing information about whatever they could find out trying to ensure that even if the event was cancelled, we weren’t about to miss out. The number of members of this group grew with lightning speed and didn’t take long to realise that things weren’t going to work out well.

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I scoured the page for news of a Van Pelt replacement show. It was quite nice to find out that this was a hot topic of conversation. People seemed desperate to see The Van Pelt, a lot more so than the other bands and combining this with the knowledge that they were already in Europe meant that a replacement show was inevitable. Taking my eye off the ball for a brief moment made me miss the announcement that they were going to play with Metz at The Shacklewell Arms for free. By the time I clicked on the link for the free tickets I wasn’t surprised to see they were all gone. As it turned out, they were taken off the bill for this show and rumours flung round that ATP had used a contractual obligation to not let them play (something which ATP have said is completely false). Instead they were now going to play on the Friday night at the Ace hotel at the cost of £11 a ticket. It wasn’t just the fact that by the time I found out about this that it had sold out that left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It felt like my opportunity to see a band I thought I would never get to see play live had been snatched away from me. I had secured my place at the festival to see the Van Pelt 5 months ago and now they were going to play exclusively for those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, some of whom you just know weren’t original Jabberwocky ticket holders.

Meanwhile, a very public argument had started regarding who was responsible to refund everyone who had bought a ticket. In the original ATP statement they advised punters that a full refund would be given from the point of sale, for many of us it was Dash tickets. Dash Tickets were very quick to respond to my email and to state publicly that they would not be responsible for the refunds as they had only offered software for ATP to use to sell tickets and that all money brought in from ticket sales had already been passed to ATP. Dash also wanted it known that they were looking at taking legal action against ATP for the handling of this. When Dash emailed me they included some terms and conditions that looked to prove that they would not ever be responsible for refunds, ATP have since come out to say that these terms and conditions were changed without their prior knowledge after the tickets went on sale and that they had not received any money from Dash for over 2 months.

Like most of the other disappointed ticket holders I vented my frustrations on various social media platforms and vowed to never buy tickets for an ATP event again. Since their last statement I have calmed down a bit and now don’t really know what to think and who, if anyone, to blame. ATP seem pretty genuine, even if they do have past form in allegedly not paying out and mishandling events. It’s not really in my nature to hate independent companies trying to organise really interesting events in the current economic climate. To be fair as well to ATP they have continued to release statements with advice about refunds, my last email from Dash had the heading ‘Your request has been deemed solved’. Things will probably blow over for them and I hope they do so. Look at Hevy fest for example, last year they were the complete laughing-stock of the festival circuit after cancelling last years festival because, even though they had been selling tickets for a number of months, they had never actually secured a venue for the festival. A lot of anger and hate was directed at them but as I type this, Hevy 2014 is taking place. People put their faith in them and seem to have been rewarded with 2 days punk and metal bands.

(The second statement from ATP can be read HERE)

As it turned out, The Van Pelt did play the show at the Shacklewell Arms this afternoon that had been originally announced the day after the festival was cancelled. So that’s twice they played in London within 24 hours and I was nowhere to be seen. Apparently the shows were insane. A friend of mine managed to get into the Friday night show and said the atmosphere inside the venue was ‘bordering on mania’, and the set was filled with classics such as ‘The Speeding Train’, ‘ABCD’s of Facism’ and ‘Yamato (where people really die)’. My friend said that on ‘Yamato…’ ‘the crowd sung the “aaaaah” backing vocals and the band seemed to love that!’ It sounds like it was an amazing show to be at.

The Van Pelt are a really special band, I have never once listened to them and not found something new or interesting about their songs and the way they sound. Their original two albums haven’t dated whatsoever. And their “new” record, ‘The Imaginary Third’, which was released on the Spanish label La Castanya earlier this year to coincide with record store day, sounds as current and relevant as anything else I’ve heard this year. I say new, the album was recorded when the band were originally together in the late 90’s and is made up of 5 songs that ended up on the Lapse’s first record and the ‘Speeding Train’ 7″. They are a band I first got into as a teenager that I haven’t stopped listening to now long in to my thirties. A band I thought I would never get the chance to see play live and now, as it turns out, seems to be correct. Although there is a rumour they might come back next year, they mentioned on a reply to a comment I left on one of their Instagram pictures that they were at least considering it. I can at least hold on to this hope.

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If they don’t my only encounter with Chris Leo (singer/guitarist The Van Pelt), as mentioned a couple of years back on this blog, will be when he shouted at me because beer got spilled on his amp at a The Lapse show in Germany. At least I have the memory of that night though, and a funny story I can always bore my children with.

The Van Pelt playing ‘Yamato (where people really die) in 1996

Thanks for reading.

Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com xx

 

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120 Minutes (Give or take a few)

Back in the autumn of 1991 my Dad climbed up on our roof and installed the satellite dish that came free with the washing machine him and my mum had just recently purchased and in doing so opened our family up to a whole new world of television. One of the many new channels in particular had a major impact on me as an impressionable 11-year-old, MTV. MTV then isn’t like what MTV is now, back then it really was music television. Hours of back to back music videos interspersed with shows about music, none of this reality tv rubbish (except for maybe the Real World, but that was pretty great. Remember Puck??). I would spend, what would seem like, whole days watching, absorbing all that was brilliant about music at this time. My favourite shows were obviously the ones that focused on alternative music, being Headbangers Ball to start with and moving on to Alternative Nation and 120 minutes as my tastes changed.

120 Minutes/Alternative Nation turned me on to so many different bands that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. They played amazing, interesting and exotic videos that covered a broad spectrum of alternative music. And because it was on late at night this seemed to add an extra intrigue and danger to the videos. I would record the shows and watch back on VHS over the following few days, there was something about watching it this way as an early teen that added excitement and intrigue and made the music all the better for it. These were shown past my bedtime, they weren’t for me and yet there I would be lapping them up.

I would fantasise a lot about being in a band as a teenager and one fantasy would be that I would get to present one of these shows and choose the videos. None of the bands I’ve been in got anywhere so I never got to fulfil this ambition, but here’s the next best thing. A selection of videos below that I would’ve chosen if it were up to me, from that time that I remember, ones from back then that I’ve discovered since and some new ones. Hope you enjoy!!

1. Rainer Maria – Catastrophe

I don’t write enough about Rainer Maria and the more I listen to them the more I’m convinced they’re one of the all time great emo bands. This video is of course awesome, I like the silhouette coming to life effect but I can’t really condone standing in a paddling pool with a plugged in toaster, don’t try it at home kids!!

2. Jawbox – Cornflake Girl

It still amazes me that this exists! I really loved Tori Amos as a teenager which was a direct result of ‘Silent all these years’ being repeated every hour on MTV and ‘Cornflake Girl’ is a classic, I came to be a fan of Jawbox later on and was blown away when I discovered that they had done this cover. Although I don’t recall seeing it, this is exactly the kind of video you would see late at night on Alternative Nation etc.. In a tired state, staying u past your bedtime you’d sit thinking ‘Does this really exist? Am I dreaming?’ And it does!!!!!!

3. Sunny Day Real Estate – In Circles (Live on 120 Minutes)

Introduced by who else but Iggy Pop (??), this is Sunny Day performing ‘In Circles’ live in the studio in 1994 and everything about it is brilliant from the massive font MTV used to use to say who was talking to the short interview at the start where William Goldsmith tries to give excuses as to why they might not sound great on TV. Which is crazy, they sound incredible, super loud and proper powerful.

4. Maritime – Paraphernalia

I hope they got all the shots for this video in one take, the band performing in a blizzard looks pretty but it don’t look fun. The director probably convinced them it was a great idea and they probably agreed that, on paper, it sounds cool but in reality they don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves. As I said, it does look good and the song is great so it probably all worked out for the best.

5. Knapsack – Cellophane

This video is so gloriously 90’s it hurts. From seeing the band primarily through a viewmaster, watching the band drive around in a car to seeing them perform in a room usually to small to fit a band in. Combine this with close up shots of their guitars and the amazing song then you’ve got all components for the quintessential 90’s alternative band video.

6. Juliana Hatfield – What A Life

This song reminds me so much of being 15 and standing, completely hung over, in the front row of the main stage at the 1995 Reading Festival. Juliana was one of the early afternoon acts and did a wonderful job of lifting my mood after a night of excess that I instantly regretted. All I remember from the night before was throwing up on my sleeping bag, turning it over then getting in it and passing out. When I emerged from my tent in the morning, loads of people I didn’t recognise were saying hi to me and they weirdly all knew my name, what had happened in the night I dread to think. It was a great festival despite feeling rough for the rest of the weekend.

7. Papayer – Heated

This is probably my favourite song of this year so far, I have been trying to get an interview with these guys but my email is letting me down which is more than a damn shame. This video is genius in its simplicity, a prime example that you don’t need the budget of ‘Thriller’ to make a brilliant video that will last long in your memory. I could watch this all day!!

8. Cancer Bats – Sabotage

I love this video and, in theory, I guess it shouldn’t work. Everyone knows that the original Beastie Boys version and Spike Jonze’s video for it is one of the all time greatest music videos, of all time!! But Cancer Bats, number one, nailed the cover and, number two, found a way to pay homage to the original but give enough of themselves to make it different. Their constantly mistaking people dressed as the Beastie Boys cracks me up. Enjoy!

9. Snowden – Anti Anti

Seeing this on MTV lead me to buying the album as soon as I could find it and although the album didn’t win me over, I still think this song is terrific. The use of the lights as the band members gives it a feel similar to the White Stripes lego video but I prefer this. Probably because the song is a billion times better and the video is really well made.

10. Piebald – Just A Simple Plan

I saw Piebald play live once, when they opened up for the Movielife at the LA2 in London. I missed their last song because they had asked onstage if anyone could put them up for the night. I rushed to the merch stand to offer the floor of my flat, bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a long time doing the same thing and whilst we were chatting someone got there first. I still tried to get them to stay over but I was competing against 2 girls who were from the same state as them and had a place down the road from the venue, I was never going to win. This song/album took over our lives for a whole summer, it is that bloomin’ catchy.

11. Rollins Band – Liar

This video takes me right back, we were too young for Black Flag so to me and my friends in the early 90’s Henry Rollins was the crazy guy who made video’s like this and popped up in films with Charlie Sheen. There was a countdown of the best alternative music videos on MTV at some point in the 90’s that was hosted by Henry Rollins in which he completely ripped it out of several bands, namely Depeche Mode. We watched this on repeat and would quote him all the time if someone mentioned one the bands he had torn apart with his wry delivery. This video looks just as good now as it did back then.

12. This Beautiful Mess – Don’t Go There

These guys played Margate sometime around 2004 and I became obsessed with this album and especially this song. Annoyingly cut short for the video as opposed to the album version at least this video ticks the box for having a band play moodily in a dark forest. Great use of trumpets too.

13. Built To Spill – In The Morning

When I was at drama school in the early 00’s my friends would always make fun of the music I listened to. One day when I was listening to ‘There’s nothing wrong with love’ on my discman some of them invented a game where they would put my headphones on, press play and watch people hanging out during their lunch hour. The music playing would instantly turn the mundane in to an American high school movie or an episode of Dawson’s Creek and they would take turns in putting the headphones on and then fall about laughing. I guess it was a pretty funny game, they never got what a genius album this was though, the bloody fools.

14. Death Cab For Cutie – The Sound Of Settling

One of the most infectious indie emo songs ever written with a nice video to back it up. What more do you need to say?? It’s only 2 minutes long so not much I guess. Just give it a watch.

15. Sick of it all – Step Down

What a classic! This video taught me all my dance moves, I still do ‘pickin’ up change’ to this day (back pain permitting). You would always see this video on Headbangers Ball or Alternative Nation back in the day, it is a brilliant use of the fake news report style and just people going nuts in a New York basement. They totally nailed us with ‘emo style’ too, hilarious that as a young teen, out of all the dance moves they showcase in this video, it’s the one they are taking the piss out of that I would end up doing the most. haha

Thanks for watching.

Get in touch: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: Braid – No Coast

Band – Braid

Album – No Coast

Label – Topshelf Records

Last year on my birthday I got to see Braid play live for the first time ever. Today I wore the Braid t-shirt I bought at that show but had no idea that when I had randomly got it out of the drawer to wear for the day that this would be the day I would get to hear Braid’s brand new album, their first studio album in 16 years. It’s weird, a lot of bands have reformed in the last few years, some of which you are willing them to make new music and some you just wish they’d stick to playing the old stuff. Braid broke up at the peak of their career, they had just released the classic, genre defining album ‘Frame & Canvas’ and had barely had chance to bask in the adulation that creating such a masterpiece would reward them with before they went their separate ways. ‘Frame and canvas’ deserved a follow-up record and not just compilation albums, Hey Mercedes certainly did well to fill the void that Braid left but it was never quite the same so thank goodness Braid decided to give it another go and let us be even more thankful that the new album is really, really good.

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If you’ve ever wanted Braid to make a new album then ‘No Coast’ is definitely the album you were looking for, it’s Braid all over. It ticks all the boxes that you had in your head when you were thinking what a new Braid album should be like. Big riffs, check. Brilliant duel vocals, check. Huge sound, check. And plenty more besides. The only real surprise with this record is how fresh it sounds. 90s emo bands have been referenced to death over the last few years, so much so that if you see a new band listing American Football as their main influence it starts to put you off. But no one has come close to emulating Braid meaning that the trademark big emo sound that Braid have made their own remains as exciting and interesting as it did at the end of the last century.

‘No Coast’ eases you in gently with the slow burner ‘Bang’ but really takes off with the catchy-as-hell second track ‘East end hollows’. My ears really pricked up as soon as this song started, I really didn’t know what to expect with this record as I’ve learned from past experience not to build my hopes up too high with comeback records but ‘East end hollows’ really put me at ease. And from here on in you find that Braid have made a really brilliant record that can stand proudly next to its predecessor. The 3rd song and title track ‘No Coast’ is classic Braid, the vocals intertwine as the song strays between a staccato verse to a more upbeat chorus and then with what comes next, ‘Damages’, you not only have a song you’ll wanna hear again and again but you’re also now desperate for them to come back on tour so you can see them play these songs live at full volume. When Chris Broach screams ‘It’s a call to arms’ I want to be flailing my arms crazily around screaming the lyrics back at him from the pit below.

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‘No Coast’ is an album of real quality right to the very end, the songs released earlier from the split with Balance and Composure sit perfectly amongst some really enjoyable new songs. Although this is instantly recognisable as a Braid record, there are some differences I’ve noticed on the several listens I’ve already had. The biggest being that the lead vocal duties seem to be more equally split between Bob Nanna and Chris Broach, I think this works really nicely, they both sound great separately and even better when they sing together. Other things you hear on this record that you may not have seen on previous efforts include the sublimely grunge ending to ‘Climber new entry’ and the Jimmy Eat World-esque ‘Pre evergreen’

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The album closes in an epic rock fashion, with a mid tempo head nodder and the kind of song you’d expect Smashing Pumpkins or Foo Fighters to end a record with when they were in their heyday. The record drifts off with the refrain ‘This is not a revolution’ and while the same can be said with this record we weren’t looking for Braid to reinvent the wheel. We wanted a classic Braid record that we could fall in love with and that’s exactly what they have delivered. I am blown away with how much I like this record, I hope you will be too.

You can stream/download/buy the record HERE

Thanks for reading, as always get in touch here. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto on twitter and ittoblog@gmail.com

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