Show Preview

The funkmaestro of Vulfpeck on gaming Spotify, German pronunciation mishaps, and Google search optimization


By Jonathan Kirchner

Members of the band Vulfpeck describe themselves as a “half-Jewish German-American rhythm section.” Creators of severely catchy, mostly-instrumental grooves, the four-piece — who first met in a German literature class at the University of Michigan — have built a following with their quirky YouTube videos: Each album track is accompanied by a cleverly shot and edited video of its recording. The videos not only capture the band’s camaraderie, loose attitude, and sense of humor, but also their musical cohesion as a group. Each song is endlessly and effortlessly funky.

As we listened to their fourth EP, Fugue State, released last week, a passerby commented on how their music has a distinctly familiar quality. This makes sense, for a group modeled after the great rhythm sections of the ’60s and ’70s: tight-knit groups of studio players like those in Detroit (Motown), Memphis (Stax) and Muscle Shoals (Atlantic, Chess) that played on not only countless soul and R&B hits, but on classic pop and rock records as well.

The LA-based band created a bit of a stir earlier this year with their Sleepify album — a collection of 31-second-long silent tracks that they told their fans to stream on Spotify, on repeat, as they slept. (That’s the minimum song length after which the music streaming service pays bands a small fee.) The group promised to use the Spotify proceeds to fund a tour of free shows, booked around the cities where the album was streamed the most — and that’s just what they did, after raising about $20,000. (Spotify has since removed the album.)

We spoke over the phone with Jack Stratton, multi-instrumentalist, audio/video engineer, and mastermind for the band, ahead of their upcoming performance at Brick & Mortar Music Hall on Mon/15. It’s a free show, of course. Frequent Vulfpeck collaborator Joey Dosik opens.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Do you want to talk a little about Sleepify and how it came about?

Jack Stratton The first time we had talked about touring, we were trying to play live, because there’s somewhat of a demand from our fans of the YouTube videos. So we were just talking about ways to do that, and get information from other groups about what it costs, and it seemed like a losing-money venture.

So we were trying to think up ways for it to make sense, because really we enjoy playing live, and simultaneously we were talking about this demand-funded tour, where you say: If 100 people in any given place say they’ll go, we’ll show up. And we talk about Spotify all the time when we release stuff — whether it hurts sales or has no effect. It’s hard to judge. So all of those conversations kind of collided into this demand-funded Spotify tour.

SFBG Would you consider it a success so far?

JS Oh, absolutely, yeah. Especially since our last release, it’s hard to say how many fans came in from Sleepify. Probably the majority of people were just interested in the Sleepify part of it, but people did end up checking out the band and enjoying it. I think it almost doubled our fanbase since then, so there’s no way to spin it negative, really.

SFBG I know you’re based in LA. Are all the members there these days?

JS No, not right now; we’re all scattered.

SFBG How do you find time to get together and make music?

JS Vulfpeck is a strict Monday-through-Friday workweek, once a year. Our last album we did in a week in Ann Arbor, and definitely the eventual goal is to be doing that way more often, with other artists, like a classic rhythm section. That’s the vision.

SFBG Do you seek out freelance work backing up other singers? It seems like your records could serve as a great demo tape.

JS Yeah, we’ve done a little bit of that. That’s definitely the vision for it, because you can put out a lot more material. Like, you watch any documentary about [classic soul/R&B rhythm sections], and they played on so many hits. Because with any single artist, there’s just a limit to how much new material you want to hear in a year, [but a rhythm section] can just crank it out — and we’re very fast.

The larger concept to start a rhythm section was that — name a band. If you name any band, I could name their dramatic falling out, but all the rhythm sections, they just kinda do their thing. And then there’s a documentary 50 years later and they’re all still hanging out.

SFBG Fugue State is your fourth EP; how would you say the band’s sound has evolved?

JS Well, I’ve gotten better at mixing, we’ve all gotten better at playing, we’ve gotten better as an ensemble…so those are hard to quantify. The team is improving. We’ve had a mastering engineer since the second album, Devin Kerr, and that’s really helped the overall sound.

SFBG I saw that you and Devin released a Vulf compressor plugin for other musicians to use. Not a lot of bands can say that. How did that come about?

JS Yeah, I’m very excited about that. That was, man, a long time in the works. Not heavy duty work, but I was really into, at one point, this sound of Madlib and Flying Lotus and J Dilla. Whatever that sound was, that pumping, where the whole track pumps — I was like “What the hell is that?”

And I did some research, and the Internet is a magical thing, and I was directed to these late 90s/early 2000s digital samplers. And the compressors on those, certainly Madlib was using them, so I went to Devin and was like, “Check out these sounds I’m getting with these digital compressors.” And he was trying to replicate it with his plugins and he couldn’t do it at all, so he just did a ton of listening to these characteristics, that were not, I think, programmed.

SFBG Right, they might have been bugs or imperfections…

JS Yeah, and actually they were, because [the manufacturers] started phasing out certain effects that were classics. They just didn’t know. [Devin’s] a dangerous dude because he’s very good at DSP [Digital Single Processing] and he’s a mastering engineer, so he’s very musical and has this very technical side. So he did his thing and we would test it out and it was really thrilling. And then our friend Rob Stenson did the interface with Devin and now its in beta and eventually it’ll be out. 

SFBG Do you have a take on analog vs. digital recording?

JS We’re fans of both. We’ll do stuff to tape; we’ll use a nice mixing board and go into the computer or some funky cassette preamp. We’ll do it all — no hangups.

SFBG A lot of your videos are shot in living rooms and bedrooms and they look pretty impromptu. 

JS Yeah, I was kind of all about building a nice tricked-out studio for us. But Theo [Katzman, drummer-guitarist] mentioned part of the charm is all of these different locations and how rugged the setups are.

SFBG The last couple records have each featured a song with Antwaun Stanley [on vocals]. Do you envision more collaboration with him in the future?

JS Oh yeah, I mean, he rules. It’s really fun to work with him. Honestly, not many people could [with us]. It’s not just picking a good voice with us; the person has to be a really good improvisor, like Antwaun, because they have to make it happen on the spot, and there’s no overdubs or background vocals. It’s not just a nice timbre; you have to be a really talented singer and improvisor — a performer.

SFBG Did you write the lyrics or did he?

JS I wrote those. That is one of the greatest joys I wish everyone could experience is having Antwaun Stanley sing your lyrics. Because they go from, like, ridiculousness, to sounding like they were meant to be.

SFBG In general, do you write all of the parts for the band or is it more of a collaborative process as far as the arrangements go?

JS Depends on the tune. I like how versatile everyone is: We’ve done tunes where it’s completely arranged, we’ve done tunes where it’s like: “Do your thing.” Generally, one person comes in with the nugget and they’ll kind of be producer on that track and get to call the shots, but it’s collaborative within that.

SFBG You’ve got some multi-instrumentalists in the band. [Theo Katzman doubles on drums and guitar and Jack plays drums, various keyboards and guitar.] How do you choose who’s going to be on drums, and who’s on keys, etc., for each song?

JS It’s mostly a decision of who will be able to pick up the parts fastest, because it’s all on-the-spot — there’s no rehearsal. Theo’s got a really good ear harmonically. I don’t really, I can’t pick up tunes that quick. If I’ve written the tune on keyboards, I’ll play keyboards, but if it’s someone else’s tune and it’s difficult, he’ll play guitar [and I’ll play drums].

SFBG What does Vulfpeck mean?

JS That was kind of the earliest part of it: It’s “wolfpack,” pronounced by a German, but phonetically spelled out in English. So, if a German saw the word wolfpack, it would probably come out “vulf-pock,” which I screwed up at the time. I thought it would be “peck,” but apparently it’s “pock.”

But that’s the whole idea, and it’s endless joy, because I love the name and it’s great for the Internet, you know? Getting all the [web] addresses. I think there was one military dating profile — that was it — when I first Googled it. I was like “Alright, I think this is open.”

SFBG Search engine optimized…

JS Our Google splash page is — I mean you can’t control these things — but nice, man, it’s all us.

With Joey Dosik
9pm, free
Brick & Mortar Music Hall
1710 Mission, SF


Don’t call it retro


LEFT OF THE DIAL Musician Bart Davenport, Oakland native, LA resident, has one caveat for discussing his move two years ago. He might’ve broken a few hearts, but he wants to make it clear that he did not head for the southlands for the same reasons many fed-up, underfed Bay Area musicians are making the same trek these days.

“My story doesn’t have anything to do with the changes that have been happening in the Bay Area the past few years. And it really wasn’t a career move. It has to do with changes I needed to make happen within myself,” says the singer-songwriter-guitarist. “Besides, I don’t even stay away long enough to miss it — I’m up there at least once a month.”

Lucky for us, one of those trips will take place next weekend, when he helps kick off the Mission Creek Oakland Music & Arts Festival with a daylong block party Sept. 6. Davenport headlines an eclectic lineup of acts that also includes the psych-rock-folky sounds of The Blank Tapes, B. Hamilton, Foxtails Brigade, and more at this opener to the fifth incarnation of Oakland’s 10-day, 14-venue music fest, which began as an offshoot to San Francisco’s in 2009. (If there are any lingering questions about the East Bay’s music scene holding its own at this point, this is the kind of lineup that answers ’em.)

Davenport has had a pretty hectic touring schedule since his most recent LP, Physical World, dropped on Burger Records in March of this year. There were the adventures in Madrid, the opening slots for Echo & the Bunnymen at LA’s Orpheum Theatre. Last week, playing guitar in Marc & the Casuals, he co-hosted a special one-off soul music-comedy-storytelling night at The Chapel. The day after he plays the MCO Festival, he’ll be driving “like a madman” back to LA to catch a Burt Bacharach show (as an audience member). He’s gotten used to life on the road.

As a kid, though, he mostly moved back and forth between Berkeley and Oakland, where he grew up near Lake Merritt — across the street from the humble, Disneyland-inspiring wonder that is Children’s Fairyland, with its old-school talk boxes that have been narrating fairytales at the turn of a key since 1950. (He’s still enchanted by it, but — as this reporter has also discovered during some routine research — adults wanting to visit the park are required to bring a kid along.)

Nostalgia might seem to be an easy catch-all theme for someone prone to memories of kids’ amusement parks, especially someone whose most recent record conjures the synthy New Wave anthems of ’80s with almost eerie authenticity one moment, then veers backward toward Buddy Holly the next — with each song seemingly narrated by a different character named Bart Davenport, and all of it so shiny that you can never quite tell when he’s being tongue-in-cheek. Davenport’s known for clear changes in genre and sound from record to record, but the shift from 2008’s Palaces (a Harry Nilsson-esque affair with Kelley Stoltz’s fingerprints all over it) to the distinctly palm tree- and pink pollution sunset-scented Physical World (which is full of soul and jazz chord progressions, and where Davenport seems to be channeling, by turn, Hall & Oates, The Cars, New Order, and Morrisey) is probably his biggest departure yet.

The singer takes issue with critics who would simply call him “retro,” however — though it’s not because he finds the term offensive.

“I actually think it’s insulting to purist retroists, people like Nick Waterhouse, maybe, who’ve gone to great lengths to recreate certain sounds really exactingly,” says Davenport, who credits longtime collaborator Sam Flax with sending him in a New Wavey direction after producing his power-poppy 2012 single Someone2Dance.

“And I don’t even think of myself as a very nostalgic person. I think of [my influences] more like shopping at the thrift store, and finding gems that you want to repurpose to say something new,” he adds. “It’s also that I guess many people try to avoid arrangements that sound like the way things were being done 20 or 30 years ago, and I tend to not really think about anything but what I like, what I think sounds good. It’s not about taking you to 1984 or taking you to right now, it’s about taking you into your own little world. The little world of that particular song, for just three minutes.”

Reticence to talk up LA in the Bay Area press aside, Davenport will allow that one of his major influences was his newly adopted city.

“It’s definitely an LA album,” he says, noting that about two-thirds of the record was written there, and it was recorded in Alhambra, near East LA. “I think the constant sunlight breeds a kind of optimism in people. Then there’s the scenery, the palm trees, the long crazy streets. The taco trucks. Where I live, the majority of people are Latino. It’s just a different mix.” Angeleno bassist Jessica Espeleto telling him she’d play in his band if he moved down south was one thing he had in mind, as well, before making the leap.

And yet: There’s no place like home? “The entire Bay Area has great venues,” says Davenport, as we discuss the new crop of venues that have sprung up in the East Bay over the last few years. “And yeah, especially with the musicians getting priced out of San Francisco, I think it’s great that there’s the whole East Bay for them to go to. Really, thank God for Oakland.”



With The Blank Tapes, B. Hamilton, many others

Mission Creek Oakland Music & Arts Festival Block Party

Sat/6, noon-8pm, free (fest runs through Sept. 13)

25th Street at Telegraph, Oakl.

Locals Only: Tom Rhodes


There are artists who are known for being shy and reclusive — for producing their best work while holed up in their room, or in a cabin in the woods, or on a solo bender.

And then there are those who feed off the energy of an audience. The magic of a live performance is in the interaction, right? In the knowing that, though you’re just a face in a crowd at a venue like thousands of others across the country, the experience you’re having with a musician live on stage is unique to that evening; whether it’s a drum coming in a millisecond later than it did the previous night or banter that changes based on what the band drank backstage.

With Or Without, the fourth self-released album from East Bay singer-songwriter Tom Rhodes, has taken the concept of a live album — the attempt to capture that specific face-to-face, performer-audience magic — and distilled it like a fine whiskey. Created over the course of four separate live performances in November in front of intimate studio audiences at San Francisco’s own Coast Recorders, the resulting music sounds like you’ve been snuck into something secret and awesome: There’s a particularly liberated-sounding husk in Rhodes’ voice (one could guess he falls into the latter camp of artists), an excitingly un-tucked feeling behind pedal steel man Tim Marcus’ guitar, and the overall feeling of the band playing directly to you; this album would be particularly welcome on a solo road trip.

Perhaps relatedly, Rhodes has traveled extensively, and also swerved between genres a good deal. Ahead of his show with fellow local alt-country/folk heavyweights The Lady Crooners (who also appear on his album) and Kelly McFarling this Wednesday, Aug. 13 at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, we caught up with Rhodes to hear about the inspirations for this album and, of course, his favorite foods.

SF Bay Guardian How and when did you first start playing music? Who are the songwriters you look to for inspiration? What’s the first record you really remember loving?

Tom Rhodes I have been playing music for as long as I can remember. As a very young child I remember my mother teaching me piano, singing at home and at church; instruments were all over the house and I was never told that I was too young or clumsy to experiment with them. My mother is a classically trained singer and multi-instrumentalist (she played the oboe, clarinet, piano, and guitar) and my father is an incredibly passionate music collector. So I wound up in this perfect environment for creating a child who would grow up to be a musician: A kid in a house filled to the brim with instruments and parents who were constantly listening to music on top of the line stereos, and discussing that music with parents who really dove into it themselves. My dad’s record collection numbered in the thousands, we had a room that was filled with shelves of records and I would play them all the time. Then it was tapes, then CDs.

The music that I came of age to was so diverse that I can’t begin to list even my favorites…it’s everything…they all had pretty equal weight, but the first “songwriter” that I remember falling in love with lyrically and musically was (and still is) Paul Simon. It’s really a toss-up between him and the older Jackson Browne stuff for me when it comes to a benchmark that I have always tried to get close to. The first record that opened up huge doors in my head as far as songwriting goes was Paul Simon’s Graceland. It has this scope, and tenderness, and insight that continues to this day to have new and deeper meanings to me, and it was like nothing I had ever heard.

SFBG From your bio, it sounds like you’ve lived all over. Do you think your style has changed with geographic location? How are you influenced by the place you live? What led to the fuller band sound on this album?

TR Living in lots of places has definitely affected my style. Everywhere I go I try to find the music that makes that spot special and dig into it. In the Bahamas I would follow around the musicians in the Calypso bands trying to figure out how their crazy rhythms worked. In New Orleans I fell in love with Zydeco and Second Line…I played with local cats and tried to catch their vibe. I’ve busked everywhere I have lived, and I always check out the local buskers…they will tell you where the heart of the city is quicker than any overpriced bar. San Francisco is a bit different on its influence on me. It has been less musical and much more intellectual. For the first time in a long time I have had the social freedom to explore some concepts about humanity and myself by being surrounded by other people on a similar quest. San Francisco has such a diverse and transplanted population that it’s style seems to be more about what you’re saying than how you are saying it. That has rubbed off on me a bit. 

As far as the fuller sound on the album, that has come from the amazing musicians that I am surrounded by.  The musicianship in the Bay Area is top notch right now, and some very special stuff is going to start emerging from it very soon.  I look at SF as a town on the brink of being a center of music in the next 5-10 years.

SFBG Can you tell me a bit about how the way this album was recorded, using live sessions? How do you think it affects the overall sound/feel of a record?

TR This album was a concept before the first note was recorded. The concept was to create a record that would be the most real and honest piece of art I had ever made.

The record is self-financed, and even the crowd funding was done in a way that didn’t ask for donations but rather I asked people to hire me to do work with the knowledge that the money I made was going into making this album. I wanted to walk away from the process with a piece of art that I would pay $15,000 for, and I have it.

To create that we had to do everything the hard way (i.e. the right way). I brought in Charlie Wilson (SonicZen Records) to help me build a band around these songs that I had labored over for almost three years and record them live in a top shelf studio. We rented out Coast Recorders for four days, invited in a small audience each night, and played the album for them live. We took the best takes and that’s the record that you hear.

Recording live is very hard and very risky, so it is very rare to see artists attempting it these days, unless they are trying to make a record on the cheap.  There are so many variables that can go wrong (you can lose your voice, there can be technical issues that take up recording time, the band can make mistakes, some small thing can be out of tune) and if any of them happen, you wind up with a bad sounding album and no back-up plan.  Most records are tracked separately these days to avoid that, but to me it takes all of the real life out of it, and it tells me almost nothing about the person who recorded it.

Another thing is doing it in front of an audience. I am a live performer by trade really, I spend 90 percent of my time in music with a guitar strapped to my chest and singing to real, live, human beings (and sometimes my dog). Performing is what I do best, so why go into a studio and do anything other than that? I find tracking vocals in a booth takes all of the emotion out of it for me, and I have to put it back into the music in some fake kind of way. Why not just do it the right way and record it? (The answer most producers and engineers would tell you is that most people can’t do that. They make too many mistakes, don’t know their songs, it’s hard to isolate the voice and guitar from each other to edit them later.) One of the amazing things that Charlie Wilson did in this whole process was to not back down from those challenges.

So in the end we have this album.  It is exactly what I wanted.  It is a collection of songs that say exactly what I want them to say, and it doesn’t just sound like what we sound like when we play as a band… it IS us playing as a band.  Performing these songs with our hearts wide open.  But when someone hears the record I hope that they don’t hear that it’s live, I hope that they FEEL that it’s real.

SFBG How do you describe your genre, when forced to? (Sorry.) There have been some pretty real shifts from album to album — is that conscious/intentional/inspired by anything in particular?

TR I’m ok with this [question] now…This album is Americana. It’s a weird term, but it’s where this record sits, probably the last one too. The stylistic shifts aren’t just from album to album, they are from song to song inside of those albums. Those shifts aren’t actually purposeful (other than being strongly guided to have more of a rock record for “No Apologies”) as much as they are a byproduct of the way that I write. I don’t write music to fit a genre, I just write the songs that come to my mind in the most effective way that I can to get the idea across. Sometimes that requires a completely different feel than other songs that I write. Each song needs to be served to the best of my abilities, regardless of what sort of music is expected of me. I grew up listening to and learning such a diverse collection of music that I have a pretty broad pallet in my head to choose from. It’s actually pretty coincidental that this album has such a singular vibe that way. Even on this album there are some genre swings; “Dying is Easy” is what I would call an R&B tune, “Nobody’s Listening” is pretty poppy, but the band and the circumstances gave this record a much more specific vibe, and we recorded it live so we couldn’t go back later and alter that feel. Not that I would do that in a million years.

SFBG Plans for the coming year?

TR This year is all about trying to spread the word about this record. That is the absolute hardest part about being an independent musician, just getting in front of new eyes and ears.  There are some big shows lined up, some tours in the works, music videos to be released…hopefully I can find people who can help me with that. That is my goal for this year, find a team of people who can help to spread this music around. I think that this album has what it takes, now I just need to show it to the world.

SFBG Where in the Bay do you live? What’s the one Bay Area meal/food item you couldn’t live without?

TR I live in the East Bay, in the Emeryville/Oakland area. There is a Mexican place out here that has the best burritos in the area, called Chili Jalapeño. It’s a hole in the wall, but I honestly daydream about their food.

SFBG Other Bay Area bands you love?

TR I love The Lady Crooners (not just because they are on my album!). They have some of the best harmonies in the business, and they make me smile every time I see them. Con Brio is an absolute must-see if you like to dance. Quiles and Cloud destroy me with their tight two-part harmonies and dark beautiful songs. When it comes to local songwriters, Lia Rose, Andrew Blair, Kelly McFarling…there is an awesome scene in this city right now, it’s bubbling under the surface, and someone smart is going to come along and figure that out. When the top blows off of the kettle I just hope to be around to see it.

Tom Rhodes, Kelly McFarling and the Lady Crooners

Wednesday, Aug. 13, 8pm, $17

Freight & Salvage Coffehouse

2020 Addison, Berk.

Locals Only is our shout-out to the musicians who call the Bay Area home — a chance to spotlight an artist/band/music-maker with an upcoming show, album release, or general good news to share. To be considered, drop me a line at

Catching up with David Kilgour


A couple of years ago, on a warm summer evening in the city of Blue Lake, California, I stopped by my friend’s house after work. A man with a curly mop of hair was sitting in the front yard with his toes in the grass, strumming an acoustic guitar.

This isn’t unusual in Blue Lake. The unincorporated town hides among the Humboldt County redwoods and always seems to attract a steady flow of tone-deaf vagabonds. But it turned out the man was not at all tone-deaf and only partially transient. It turned out the guy on my friend’s lawn was David Kilgour of the New Zealand indie rock band The Clean.

The Clean is perhaps one of the most unsung legends of post-punk lo-fi in the ’80s and ’90s. The band is regularly cited as having influenced relatively more known titans, such as Yo La Tengo, Guided By Voices, and Pavement (in his college days, Stephen Malkmus is said to have played the Clean on his radio show). At its core, however, the Clean pioneered a sound characterized by trebly psychedelia and strident nonchalance — often dubbed “Kiwi rock.”

That night in Blue Lake, David Kilgour — along a couple of his collaborators, Steven Schayer (of California band the Black Watch) and Tony de Raad (of the Heavy Eights) — had come to play a show. It wasn’t as part of a tour, or because Blue Lake was on Kilgour’s list of places to visit, but simply because my friend had sent him a shot-in-the-dark request that he come play a gig.

But why? I later asked him. “The whole music thing now is just sort of an adventure,” he said. “It’s not about selling records or making it anymore — it’s about making music…and sometimes that takes you to interesting parts of the world.”

“It’s a lot like being at sea,” he continued. “Sometimes we feel like we’re pirates. We come into bay and take their gold and maybe their women and jump back on the boat and get the fuck out of town and sail to the next port.”

All pirate imagery aside, the fact that Kilgour even responded to my friend’s email — and followed through — really says a lot about him as a person. Merge Records, the label that produces his current solo project, David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights, describes him as “a guitar god for guitar athiests..he’s worthy of worship, but neither expects nor demands it.” The band plays the Rickshaw Stop Friday, Aug. 1.

At the Old Logger Bar in Blue Lake that night, Kilgour played to a crowd of roughly 30 people, who seemed almost suspicious of his talent. “Who is this guy?” one craggy old barfly whispered to me as Kilgour strummed the opening chords to “Anything Could Happen,” one of the Clean’s most classic tunes.

But in our recent conversation, Kilgour expressed that the Clean (which he consistently referred to as “The Clean thing”) is a thing of the past for him. He explained that, these days, the band doesn’t come up with new material, or even rehearse. “It’s just sort of a hobby now,” he said. 

These days, rather, the self-described “hippie pagan with punk undertones” is more engaged with his solo project. The Heavy Eights showcase Kilgour’s journey away from the angsty celebrations of the Clean, toward a more feeling-based sound of psychedelic good will, which has always seemed present — even in his earliest work.

“Let me put it this way,” he said. “I’ve always had a belief in the other-ness of life and I’ve had some incredible experiences with that other-ness…I just want to send out a good vibration, really, and I do want to help people, and if it does help people — bloody great — because it helps me.”

After the show, everyone went outside of the bar and watch Kilgour, Schayer, and de Raad roam the streets and jammed on old folk tunes outside. At one point the vibrations were so high, Schayer, still playing the guitar, splayed himself out in the middle of the street, causing a car to come to a screeching halt. These guys had the rock star mentality without the rock star pretension. That night, they were one of us, and that experience was truly “other.”

Kilgour is back is California, this time with a full band, and he will be release his new album, End Times Undone on Aug. 5. For those daring enough, he will return to the Logger Bar this Thursday, July 31 before heading to the Rickshaw Stop Friday, Aug. 1.

Push the Feeling party organizers launch Push the Feeling, the record label


If you’ve ever walked out of a dance party wishing you could take the party home with you, Push The Feeling has a solution to your problem. For the last two years, Kevin Meenan and Drew Marcogliese have hosted dance parties at the Lower Haight’s Underground SF nightclub under that name; they’ve hosted all manner of DJs, from local heroes like Giraffage to blogosphere faves like YACHT and Les Sins (aka Toro Y Moi).

But recently, they’ve expanded their endeavors into the field of recorded sound, launched a label under the Push the Feeling name. This week they released a 12-inch containing “Skulls,” a song by Marcogliese’s band Silver Hands, plus four remixes. Of course, the parties will go on: Most immediately, they’re hosting a release party for the 12-inch on Saturday, July 5 at Underground, featuring performances by Silver Hands, Marcogliese (as YR SKULL), and Meenan (as Epicsauce).

Of the remixers, three (Chautauqua, Woolfy, and YR SKULL) have performed at Push The Feeling. The fourth remix comes from Mike Simonetti, boss of the influential Italians Do It Better label; he hasn’t played yet, but according to Meenan, he’s “on our wishlist.”

Yet Push the Feeling doesn’t plan to release only party regulars. The two are fans of just about anything on the electronic spectrum, and as long as it has an electronic element, they’re game.

Meenan and Marcogliese said they had talked about starting a label for a long time, even before the parties. But the demands of the parties made it difficult to get the project off the ground.

“Every month, it was like ‘Okay, we’re done with this party, let’s focus on the label stuff,’ and then next thing we know we’re booking the next party,” said Meenan.  “Realistically, we’re about six months behind where we wanted to be about a year ago.”

But with the label off the ground, and the duo has no intention of slowing down. (The parties will continue at the same rate and will, the organizers promise, be just as wild as ever. If anything, the launch of the label is just another chance to party.)

Hosting a label carries a certain prestige, and it’s already brought them blogosphere recognition. The 12-inch has been featured on prominent blogs such as XLR8R, Lagasta, and Gorilla vs. Bear. But the parties will be just as cheap and accessible as ever: Admission to Push the Feeling event is rarely more than $6, and the duo plans to keep it that way.

“We go to clubs, but the reality is we’re more neighborhood bar-type guys,” Marcogliese said of the cheap, fun, accessible dance music scene he and Meenan have curated.  “We wanted to make it very laid-back, not like an in-your-face club with expensive drinks and cover. We focus on keeping it cheap, keeping it casual — keeping it a night we would both want to go to.”

PUSH THE FEELING: Silver Hands 12″ Release Party

With YR SKULL and Epicsauce DJs

Sat/5, 9pm, $6

Underground SF

424 Haight, SF

Fuck Buttons on their wildly visual live show, the writing process, and bringing “fuck” to the world stage


“I think I’ve heard of them before,” is the kind of spineless response you’ll never hear if you ask someone about Fuck Buttons.  If you’ve heard them, you’ll most definitely will remember.  With music that elicits feelings of wonder and rebellion, intense live shows, and of course an, err — catchy name, Benjamin John Power and Andrew Hung leave a lasting impression.

If you didn’t catch them when they played at The Independent last October, chances are you heard Fuck Buttons in 2012 when the band received arguably the most widespread kind of exposure — their tracks “Surf Solar” and “Olympians” were featured separately during the London Summer Olympics opening ceremony. Their self-produced third effort, Soft Focus, has earned the band a multitude of accolades, including an 8.7 and Best New Music honor from persnickety Pitchfork, as well as the #3 Dance Album Of The Year 2013 from Rolling Stone.

I got the opportunity to chat with Fuck Button Benjamin John Power about the process behind the band’s unique live performance set-up, as well as the AV show they’re bringing to the US for the first time.  The English experimental-electro duo are currently in the middle of a monthlong tour, coming back to The Independent this Fri/27.

San Francisco Bay Guardian So you just played North By Northeast. Taking some time off on the West Coast right now?

Benjamin John Power Yeah, that’s right.  Andy had to go home to a wedding so there is a slight break in the tour, but it’s cool.

SFBG I’m sure the time off to before the shows next week is welcomed.

BJP I get a week off in LA and my wife is coming out to join me for the time off. It’s nice to take a breather.

SFBG NXNE has such a diverse lineup, between all the acts and comedians.

BJP NXNE was great. Quick turnaround, but a really amazing crowd. I didn’t get a chance to see anyone else on the lineup, but I wish I could have seen Tim Hecker.

SFBG It’s funny you mention him. You’re familiar with Steve Hauschildt, yes?

BJP Yep, from Emeralds? I’m a fan.

SFBG I liken his and Tim Hecker’s music to your solo project, Blanck Mass. They form a genre I refer to as “lunar planning music.”

BJP Oh yeah? That’s a nice term.

SFBG I mean that in the best way possible.

BJP It is welcomed — fear not.

SFBG You recently played a show with Mount Kimbie that involved some some special visuals.  Can the stateside crowd expect anything like that?

BJP Yes, 100 percent. We have brought our full AV show with us this time — for the first time in the USA — so that’s totally in the cards. We wanted to make sure that the visual aspect wasn’t just a bunch of video loops, as a separate focus.  The visuals are interactive and in real time, so it’s a more interesting show and it’s working out really well.

SFBG Sounds great. I saw you last year at Primavera Sound, and your music translates really well on stage.

BJP Thank you. The live show and the recorded output go hand in hand, so when we write, we write in exactly the same way that we do when we play live — across the table from each other, with all the gadgets in front of us — so it translates easily into the live performance.

SFBG You also produced the last album (Soft Focus) yourselves — have other people been contacting you regarding production work?

BJP Yeah, a few people have.  We like to keep ourselves busy, and I think from working on the last record primarily by ourselves we have picked up some pretty helpful production tricks.

SFBG Last question — do you feel the word “fuck” is losing its potency?

BJP I don’t really think too much about the word fuck losing its potency. If anything, it probably makes my life easier, haha.

SFBG I can see that.  Being featured in the Olympics, you guys are like ambassadors of “fuck.”  Bringing “fuck” to the world stage.

BJP Yeah! Well, in those instances, everybody just seems to go with “F Buttons.” It’s really fine. What’s in a name anyway?

With Total Life
6/27, 9pm, $20
The Independent
628 Divisadero, SF


The pedestrian pop of Sylvan Esso


Upon first listen, Sylvan Esso kind of takes hold of you. Nick Sanborn’s melodic, layered, driving electronic beats pair perfectly with Amelia Meath’s blissful voice and artful lyrics. The way Sylvan Esso — the band’s self-titled debut album, which dropped May 13 — is wrapped together feels so intuitive, so ethereal, that it will likely bring you to your feet for an impromptu dance session.

“Hey Mami” will loop in your head; “Dress” will become your jam. And you’ll be in good company this Fri/6 at the Fillmore, when Sylvan Esso open for Oakland’s own tUnE-yArDs.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Meath from the Free Press Summer Festival in Houston on Sunday. She posted up in her trailer for our call after seeing Lauryn Hill’s performance – which, she assured me, was awesome.

So how did Sylvan Esso come to be? Well, for starters, lyricist Amelia Meath and electronic producer Nick Sanborn fortuitously found themselves playing on the same bill at the Cactus Club in Milwaukee one night. They became instant friends. When Meath needed a remix for “Play It Right” — a song she wrote and played with her indie folk trio, Mountain Man — she asked Sanborn to make it and was very pleased with the product.

After collaborating on “Play It Right,” Meath and Sanborn both felt like they should collaborate some more. And then, after some tweeting and planning, Sylvan Esso was born. “It almost feels like magic how good we are at working together,” Meath says.

When I first listened to Sylvan Esso, I felt hard-pressed to assign it a genre. Meath’s lyrics are deep and introspective, and Sanborn’s arrangements are incredibly inventive; but I think the undeniable catchiness of their songs makes Sylvan Esso, essentially, pop. Meath likes to call it “pedestrian pop”: pop music that illustrates universal human experiences and makes you “shake your butt” — and feel emotion — simultaneously.

Meath feels that electronic music has a marketed effect on people; she loves pairing her lyrics and melodies with Sanborn’s electronic arrangements. “I always wanted to make electronic music because I really like that electronic music shakes people; it actually vibrates people at the same rate at the same time,” Meath says.

The duo has many varied sound influences, such as They Might Be Giants, Aliyah, John Lurie/Marvin Pontiac, and Stina Nordenstam. Meath also looked to pop goddesses like Beyoncé and Rihanna while writing the lyrics to Sylvan Esso. “When you write a pop song, you’re trying to make something that’s going to sink into the brain of someone and stay with them after hearing it once,” Meath says.

The duo will be opening for tUnE-yArDs at the Fillmore on Friday, June 6. (They’re in the Bay Area for one night only.) Meath is no stranger to San Francisco, as she used to spend summers here during her teens while training with a Chinese contortionist. (Yes, Meath also happens to be a badass.)

“We have to be in Pasadena the next morning,” Meath says, “but if I were going to be in San Francisco for the weekend, I would walk up Russian Hill, and eat some really delicious food — that’s for sure! Oh, I also always really like to go to Tartine, and then I go to Bi-Rite and spend way too much money on groceries, and then sit in Dolores Park all day long!” She’s an honorary San Franciscan for sure.

When asked what she enjoys most about performing, Meath stressed the communal aspect of live music. “My favorite thing about performing is that you get to be the hinge for the whole room to become a small community,” Meath says.

Sylvan Esso opening for tUnE-yArDs on Fri/6
9 pm, $26
The Fillmore
1805 Geary, SF

The Damned on playing small venues, headgear that protects you from spit, and why they won’t stop ’til the Stones do


For nearly four decades now, legendary British rockers The Damned have been haunting stages around the world with their brand of gothic-inspired punk.

Since storming onto the London punk scene in 1976, the band has evolved and survived multiple line-up changes over the years, with the group now led by founding members Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible, who are keeping the original spirit of The Damned alive and well.

Today, Vanian’s punk-meets-rockabilly crooner vocals and Sensible’s wildly blistering guitar are backed up by the jackhammer rhythm section of drummer Pinch and bassist Stu West, along with keyboardist Monty Oxy Moron, who often looks like a possessed version of Beethoven, his hands flailing wildly about when not pounding the keys.

Bay Area fans are in for a treat this week as The Damned play two shows in Northern California ahead of their appearance at the Ink-N-Iron festival in Long Beach — and these are the only U.S. gigs on the books for the year.

“I love visiting San Francisco, it’s the most European city in North America and a vegetarian’s paradise. My home is in Brighton, the gay capital of the UK and a lot of the relaxed liberal attitude we have there is over here too,” says Captain Sensible, via email. “I like the way the Bay Area is a collection of villages all with their different vibe, but mainly it’s the smart, friendly people here that make a visit such fun.”

Looking back over almost 40 years of on and off history as a band, Sensible offers a candid assessment of what life has been like as a member of The Damned.

“I’m not one for regrets, we’ve had a splendid crack as a band. A lot of things that went pear shaped was our own stupid fault — and how we survived the mania of the 70s / 80s without anyone dropping dead I’ve no idea. But as you can imagine it was bloody good fun in a time when bands could pretty much do what ever they wanted in the studio without label types breathing down our necks; in fact, when they did turn up we always put on a little show for them, band splitting up, drummer climbing in a grand piano to add nonsensical avant-garde overdubs on a straightforward punk tune, food fights. They got the idea in the end and left us alone, and we actually made a few decent records despite all the chaos.”

The Damned were the first punk band from the UK to release a single — “New Rose” — and an album, Damned Damned Damned.

They also broke ground as the first to cross the pond and tour the United States, a jaunt that saw them play the infamous Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco back in 1977.

“It’s all a blur as you can imagine, but we met loads of young upstarts who told us they were getting their bands together. It was a great time, a clean slate if you like. And it felt good to give the jaded stadium rock stars of the time a kick up the arse.”

“I also remember American beer being universally appalling. In fact I would cram my suitcase with as much booze as possible, if you can believe that. Now, of course Californian craft beer is the cutting edge of brewing and we intend to visit a few breweries this trip.”

As for Sensible’s now-signature stage attire — a red beret and crazy sunglasses — it turns out it had nothing to do with trying to make a fashion statement: It was born from the environment that came to epitomize live shows in the early days of the punk movement.

“The truth is that at first I only wore a beret to stop the ‘gob’ (spit) getting in my hair. After Johnny Rotten and Rat Scabies had their famous spitting incident at a Pistols gig in ’76 it became part of the punk scene for a year or so. The problem was the hot stage lights baked the gob in your hair and it was almost impossible to remove the hard lumps afterwards, so I wore a beret and sunglasses to stop it getting into my eyes. That’s the true story, it wasn’t fashion — it was self preservation!”

Fans will be able to hear all sorts of first-hand accounts and behind the scenes stories in the near future when a documentary film about The Damned is released, made by Wes Orshoski, the filmmaker behind “Lemmy,” the award-winning portrait of the iconic Motorhead frontman.

“I took Wes to do an interview outside the former home of my parents — where I spent my school years — and no sooner was the camera rolling than a drug crazed mugger made a grab for it and a good old fashioned punch up ensued in which $50,000 worth of film equipment got completely trashed. Wes ended up being rushed to hospital. He probably needed a rabies antidote,” says Sensible.

“I should have mentioned to him that I was born and raised in the roughest part of South London — where one person’s posh movie gear is someone else’s years supply of crack cocaine.”

Despite difficulties such as that jarring incident, Sensible says that the rest of the project has been proceeding along well.

“He’s captured some very funny footage already as the Damned are quite a strange bunch these days. People think they know us, but I reckon there will be a few surprised faces when the film is released.”

One fact that casual fans of The Damned might not know is that Captain Sensible is a huge train buff — he’s driven steam engines in England, and even had a diesel locomotive named after him.

“There was a company that had a punk fan as boss and he named his locos after his heroes. John Peel, Joe Strummer — mine was originally going to be called Morrissey but it came to the guy’s attention that he made a point NEVER to travel by train. Whereas I do all the time, so I got it instead!”

Unfortunately, Cotswold Rail went out of business a few years ago, and when the engine was sold, a disgruntled employee that was owed money stole the nameplates.

“I’d maybe buy ‘em if he offered, gotta be worth a fiver, eh?” says Sensible.

While the Damned often perform at large music festivals around the world these days, Sensible still favors smaller shows, like the one the band will play at Slim’s on Wed/4.

“I prefer the club gigs, the closeness to the audience. And when I see bands, that’s also the environment I prefer. Festivals with screens and the musicians half a mile away on a distant stage is not great is it? The problem is that now we are a certain age, and there’s not likely to be another club tour as it’s a bit knackering.”

Although Sensible mentions that the members of The Damned aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore, he’s adamant that they have no intention of hanging it up anytime soon.
“The Damned ain’t going to quit while the Stones are still lurching on,” he says. “We’re not gonna be beat by a bunch of old Tories.”

The Damned, with Koffin Kats and Stellar Corpses
Wednesday, June 4
8pm, $30
333 11th St., SF
(415) 255-0333

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger on going electric and the timeless combination of marijuana and Pink Floyd


By Rebecca Huval

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is out to topple everyone’s expectations. The two-piece band has rather public identities to overcome: Sean Lennon is the only child of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl is a world-class model who was the youngest covergirl on Britain’s Harper’s Bazaar.

With their latest release, Midnight Sun, Kemp Muhl has shown she has the pipes and songwriting chops to be taken seriously as a musician, and Lennon has proved he’s more than just his father’s ghost — rather, he’s the inimitable frontman of The GOASTT.

In the trajectory of Sean Lennon’s solo career and The GOASTT’s six-year history, Midnight Sun is their going-electric moment. Sean Lennon’s subdued and minimalist solo music paved the way for The GOASTT’s initial albums to be acoustic and saccharine in what Kemp Muhl now describes as “nerdy folk music.” This April’s album is oh-so-different. Inherited Beatlesque psychedelica meshes with modern-day indie à la Tame Impala and Deerhunter. Midnight Sun rocks in full-fledged electric, with synthy splashes and warped vocal reverb. The album ranges from trippy tracks such as “Devil You Know,” with prismatic texture and thick percussion, to thoughtfully orchestrated ballads such as “Don’t Look Back Orpheus” and Kemp Muhl’s graceful solo, “Johannesburg.”

Ahead of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger’s show at Great American Music Hall on Tue/20, I spoke with Charlotte Kemp Muhl about meeting Lennon at Coachella, the aha moment listening to Pink Floyd that triggered the band’s psychedelic shift, and how she balances jet-setting modeling and music careers.

San Francisco Bay Guardian You met Sean at Coachella in 2006. How did you strike up a conversation?

Charlotte Kemp Muhl I don’t remember which one of us struck up the conversation, but we were magnetized to each other. We were talking about things like Stephen Hawking, whatever random thing we’d read that week, and claymation. I just thought he was so eccentric and wearing this suit in the middle of the desert. He was with his friend Vincent Gallo, who told him, “Don’t go for that girl, she’s crazy.” I just remember he was really enthusiastic about things and unusual and childlike, even though he was much older than me [30 years old]. I was 17 at the time. We connected immediately.

SFBG Have you put a pause on your modeling career to concentrate on music?

CKM Kind of, it tag-teams. I have to do modeling to support doing music. I would never be able to afford collecting instruments, and unfortunately, it’s really hard to make money as a musician. You don’t! I have to do modeling to do music, but I can’t wait until I can retire and just concentrate on music. In a way the two careers are complementary. Fashion and music are connected like Siamese twins. In the sense that rock n’ roll has been influencing fashion and fashion, rock n’ roll for a long time. They’re incestuous industries.

SFBG Who are some of your musical role models?

CKM Hendrix, Syd Barret, and Bach.

SFBG What have you learned about music from working with Sean?

CKM The area in which I’ve most grown is rhythmically. He’s taught me a lot about being funky and syncopation. He’s an amazing drummer, and I’ve been teaching myself how to play drums by watching him. I learned a lot about arranging. We’ve both influenced each other a lot. It’s been fun.

SFBG Why did you wait until a year after you were dating to share your musical talents with Sean?

CKM I was shy. Everyday someone comes up to him with a demo CD. I didn’t want to be like that. I never thought we’d work together. I thought he’d do his solo career. I showed him one of the childhood songs I wrote, and he loved the melody and insisted that we work together. He quit his solo career to work with his mom and work with me. I hope he goes back to his solo career, fingers crossed for that, but he’s very shy. It’s been fun doing heavier rock music because it’s forcing him to be more of a frontman. We’re not just doing Sonny & Cher melodies. I really want him to be a frontman. He spent so much of his life being a sideman.

SFBG As a solo artist, Sean seemed very minimal and moody. Then, it seemed like The GOASTT started out very sweetly and softly with your acoustic album. Now, The GOASTT is more edgy, percussive, and textured. What do you contribute to his sound?

CKM I pushed us even further into a Pink Floyd, psychedelic direction. When we were doing a tour in France, I discovered the pairing of marijuana and [Pink Floyd’s] Live at Pompeii. We were at some cheap hotel in France, and it was freezing cold. Something just clicked in my mind, and I wanted to be doing psychedelic music and not nerdy folk music. Sean had always been into that shit so he was into that direction. That’s the ultimate cliche, marijuana and Pink Floyd, but it worked! We were opening up for Johnny Hallyday and Matthieu Chedid. He’s huge in France, like the Michael Jackson.

SFBG What was at like playing at Occupy Wall Street?

CKM It was fun. A lot of our friends were doing that at the time, and we were excited that people were getting together to protest because people are placated by their gadgets and they rarely show interest and support. We just came to support anti-fracking and we didn’t even think Sean would get flack for supporting OWS. People online were saying he’s the one percent, which is ridiculous, he’s not in the one percent. I mean technically, anyone with a color TV is in the one percent of the world. We performed a bluegrass version of “Material Girl,” by Madonna. It was supposed to be ironic.

SFBG Have you collaborated with Yoko Ono? What is like working with her?

CKM I played bass for her for a while for her festivals and her shows. We’re around a lot. She doesn’t really collaborate with people, she’s like a singular, visionary person. Sean is much more into collaborating and working with people. She’s more of a leader of an army. She’s like a visionary. You just do what she says kind of a thing.

SFBG What has been your favorite part of working with Sean?

CKM I’ve been working with other musicians without him around. Sean plays every instrument like a virtuoso. In the studio, it’s like a super weapon. I send him in to overdub instrument ideas, and then I’ll edit them all together. We can cover a lot of ground that way. I’ve noticed with other musicians, they’re very limited. They only play one of two instruments, and don’t have a bird’s eye view of songwriting. Sean always have great ideas about rhythm and harmony. We both have a million ideas, and it’s frustrating when you work with someone who’s not that inspired.

SFBG I know you’re a multi-instrumentalist: What instruments do you play on Midnight Sun?

CKM On the record, I play bass, keyboard parts, guitar, percussion, and arranged harmonies. The main instrument I play is Pro Tools. I do all the editing and all that stuff.

SFBG It seems like the album switches between different settings: Xanadu, a missed flight to Johannesburg, traveling to the underworld with Orpheus. Where were you when you wrote these songs? What was your process for collaborating?

CKM I wrote the words for Johannesburg when I was in Johannesburg with a Pirelli shoot for Peter Beard. “Xanadu” and “[Don’t Look Back] Orpheus” we wrote upstate on his farm. We would stay up all night writing acoustic songs in his bed. We would walk down to his studio, which is by a lake, and jam it. Other than “Johannesburg,” I write a part and then he writes a part. It’s like one of those drawings when you fold up a napkin and each of you draw part of a monster.

With Syd Arthur
Tue/20, 8pm, $15
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF

Kitten Grenade on why you shouldn’t underestimate the ukulele


By Rebecca Huval

Kitten Grenade takes the ukulele seriously. Katelyn Sullivan picked up the instrument when she was lonely and unhappy in Los Angeles, jonesing to be back in San Francisco. Now the instrument adds chiaroscuro to her self-titled debut EP released this January: the lilting chords contrast her brassy voice and its message of heartbreak.

“It’s got a deep soul, the ukulele,” she says ahead of her Friday, May 2nd show at the DNA Lounge. People unfairly pick on the instrument for being silly, Sullivan says, and she laughs when she reveals that she now has eight of them. Like a defensive cat lady, she says, “Each one has a different sound and personality.”

Her band, started in January 2013, is built on the idea of contrast. She named it Kitten Grenade after her art illustration thesis about juxtaposition: “Something cute and fuzzy, and something destructive. That idea captures a lot that’s in the music and my life.”

Even though Sullivan is engaged to her boyfriend of eight years, she says she’s dealt with her share of tragedies and unrequited loves that have wormed their way into her lyrics. Just recently, Sullivan has been coping with the death of her fiance’s 24-year-old brother, who fell off a balcony. Grief enters her songs through a “heartbreak filter.” In the first track on her EP, “Anomaly,” she sings about a lovers’ quarrel: “Touching fingers, eyes linger everywhere they’re not supposed to be/Said I’m sorry, no you hurt me, or were you not listening.” Her minimal orchestration, with mournful harmonies and light percussion, set the stage for her clarion voice to deliver these confessional lyrics.

Not every track is a tear-jerker. The surprisingly upbeat “Death Song” uses catchy, syncopated ukulele strumming to accompany Sullivan’s dreamy melody. The song begins quietly, “We started out without our lungs and somehow learned to breathe,” and builds to a shout, “the dust that we create is all that’s left of our dreams.” Her track “Gray,” with some vaudevillian-tinged vocals, uses ethereal background singing and the higher registers of the ukulele to seem reminiscent of Yael Naim. With musical role models from Fiona Apple to tUnE-yArDs, Sullivan reflects the range of their difference in her broad palette of styles.

Her lyrics are uniquely San Franciscan as Karl enters: “Oh these starry eyes get misty, fog rolls in and hides the misery.” Originally from Maryland, Sullivan has lived in San Francisco for 10 years. She adores the music scene here and playing with fellow band Halcyonaire, “the freaking sweetest guys.” But given the recent tech boom, she advocates that music supporters see shows regularly to keep artists from leaving the city. “I make that a goal to make a band’s week by seeing their Wednesday 11 o’clock show. It means a lot to me, so you have to pass it forward.”

She’s seen San Francisco from both sides: before as a retailer on 16th and Valencia Streets, and now as a tech worker for the karaoke app StarMaker. “I get to sing all the time,” she says. “I love my company — they’re down-to-earth and they’re all about getting people to sing.”

Sullivan herself needed some coaxing before singing in public. She started her musical life in middle school through opera and musical theatre, and her training shows up today in her voice’s creaminess and smooth projection. But she went through a period in high school when she was too shy to sing. She abandoned music for art school, where she met her current fiance.

“He helped me find my confidence,” she says. “If I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t have the confidence to go up on stage and sing these personal songs. The path of life is so interesting. If I hadn’t lost my confidence, I wouldn’t have gotten into art and illustration, I wouldn’t have met my fiance, and that’s how I regained my confidence. Life wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t had that hiatus.” Contrasts formed Kitten Grenade and continue to give it a full-bodied sound, with ukulele playing that is both sweet and seriously soulful.

Kitten Grenade

With Electric Strawberry and The Stand Out State
Friday, May 2
7pm, $10
DNA Lounge
375 11th St, SF
(415) 626-1409

Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order altered the course of pop music, go see him live


Three decades after its initial release, New Order’s Power, Corruption, & Lies (1982) might sound deceptively ordinary. From the early ’90s successes of Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses, to more recent outfits like LCD Soundsystem and Cut Copy, it’s easy to take for granted just how completely the Manchester band’s hybrid of guitar rock and sequenced dance music has permeated the modern musical landscape. Yet, as bassist and co-songwriter Peter Hook would have you believe, that fateful LP was the moment that started it all.

“New Order [was] one of the first rock bands that used dance elements, and now everybody does it,” Hook tells the Bay Guardian over the phone from a hotel room in Vancouver.

In continuation of a recent tour that featured song-for-song replications of both Unknown Pleasures (1979) and Closer (1980) by Hook’s previous band, the equally revelatory post-punk outfit Joy Division, his current ensemble, Peter Hook & the Light, is set to grace the Mezzanine stage on Fri/27 with front-to-back covers of New Order’s first two LPs, 1981’s Movement, and of course, Power, Corruption, & Lies.

Citing fellow Manchester band Primal Scream’s recent tour of its seminal 1991 LP, Screamadelica as inspiration,Hook waxed enthusiastic about the potential of front-to-back interpretations of records in the live setting.

“The idea for playing the LPs in full — which these days is a very underrated art-form, especially amongst the young — came from [Primal Scream bandleader] Bobby Gillespie… [who] simply said the reason they were playing Screamadelica in full, was because he felt that over the path of his career, he had ignored songs that were fantastic, because they were of a different mood on the album than how they played them live,” Hook explains.

“It comes down to the fact that when you play an album live, it is more challenging to listen to than a greatest hits set. I must admit, like picking at a scab on your arm or on your knee, it appeals to you for an insane reason.”

However, while many musicians revisit their back-catalogues with the intention of embellishing or refining their past work, Hook seems intent on replicating his formative LPs as faithfully as possible, right down to the production sound of Factory Records legend Martin Hannett, whose esteemed work on Unknown Pleasures, Closer, and finally Movement, bridged Joy Division and New Order as significantly as any official member of either band.

“The interesting thing about the Joy Division recordings and the first New Order recording,” Hook contends, “is that Martin Hannett actually had a lot of input on the sound and the ambience and the feel, shall we say, of the music… I [strive to be] truthful to the way the records were put together, and the little tricks that Martin used, and the sound that Martin used to immortalize those records.”

Hannett’s radical use of reverb, echo, and empty space, equally suggestive of Lee “Scratch” Perry and Berlin-era David Bowie, saturated “I.C.B,” “Senses,” and other tracks on Movement with the same sense of brittle gloom that defined signature Joy Division cuts like “She’s Lost Control,” and “Disorder.” Yet, Joy Division bandleader Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980 (whose death motivated bandmates Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris to reform under the New Order moniker) left the band in a state of crisis, unable to escape Curtis’ shadow, but desperate to move on.

Movement, to me, seems like a Joy Division musical record, with New Order vocals,” Hook observes. “There is a struggle on that record, between the two bands. Now unfortunately, the biggest struggle was with Martin Hannett, [who] was very badly affected by Ian’s death, and I think the music reminded him of what he’d lost… When we came to sing, he fucking hated it. It was a real frustration for him, to have this wonderful music, and yet these… in his words, these three idiots singing.” Hook laughs.

“Because it had coincided with a rather heavy drug addiction, it was a pretty bad time for Martin, and Bernard and I did make the conscious decision that we would have to get rid of him, or he was going to have to get out on his own. That was the feeling. But, because of those feelings, and because of Martin’s attitude, the vocals on Movement were really removed, and sound very shy, very reluctant, and very distant. And that’s one thing that’s very nice about playing the album now, is that finally, you’re able to relish the music, to give the vocal a bit of oomph that only 30 years’ experience can get you.”

Aching to start afresh, Hook, Sumner, and Morris fired Hannett, whose reputation began to wane once the Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio, and other bands on the Factory Records roster opted to self-produce as well. This shakeup, introduced on Power, Corruption, & Lies would result in New Order establishing its identity and purpose, as Sumner and Morris’ affinity for electronics and Hook’s penchant for rock conventions would coincide to irreversibly alter the course of pop music.

“There was a certain confidence in us [on Power, Corruption, & Lies.],” Hook says. “Bernard and Steven, in particular, threw themselves into the drum machines and the sequencers with great aplomb, and really did take it as far as they possibly could go. Them two were like kids in a toy shop. I can’t say that the approval was 100 percent on my part, because I preferred to be in a group that rocked…as opposed to waiting for the ‘click, click, click’ of the sequencers to begin. So, there was a battle between us all, but that battle actually resulted in you getting that perfect melding of rock and sequencers that now is taken for absolute granted in music.”

“Age of Consent,” “The Village,” and “Blue Monday,” (still the UK’s bestselling 12″ single of all time) rejected Hannett’s creative influence, with their seminal blend of candy pop hooks and the relentless drive of club music, while Sumner’s introduction as lead singer abandoned Curtis’ doomy, gloomy lyrics and vocal stylings in favor of a sunnier, more optimistic approach.

“The whole feel of life, after you got over the grief of Ian dying… the ’80s were much more optimistic, a much lighter period than the ’70s. And, I think you can hear that in our approach to the lyrics,” Hook says. “Other than that, Ian’s [voice] is a baritone, and it sort of leads to gravity, whereas Bernard is much more of an alto, which leads to levity.”

Livelier by nature than Joy Division, New Order’s records would find a devoted following of musicians, rock fans, and ravers alike. Yet, the band arguably made a deeper cultural impact with its creative and financial support of Factory Records’ Manchester nightclub, the Haçienda, and its subsequent curation of UK club culture.

“The Haçienda became, in itself, a marriage of rock, with very many live groups performing, and dance in the way that you started to see the rise of the DJ, and the rise of sequenced dance music. So, we were in the right place, in I suppose you have to say the right time,” Hook says. “People of Manchester responded very well. The gigs were very well attended. But, once ecstasy and acid house hit in ’87, you had a completely different complexion, and then the Haçienda became the most important place in Manchester.”

Inspired by New Order’s brand of sequenced pop, as well as the sexy, druggy hedonism of rave culture, bands like Primal Scream and Happy Mondays emerged in the late ’80s and early ’90s to form the Madchester scene, resulting in a more ecstatic synthesis of rock and electronic elements than ever before.

“Madchester was the bastard offspring, shall we say, of what do they call it… a one night stand New Order had with [club culture.] I just might put that in my book,” Hook says, with a hearty laugh.
After 25 years as a band, having continued its trajectory on records like 1985’s Lowlife and 1986’s Brotherhood (both of which Hook plans to tackle on his next tour), New Order’s balance of rock and electronic elements began to veer further into sequencer territory, resulting in personal and creative differences that would lead to the group’s disbandment in 2006. Tensions reached an all-time high, though, in 2011, when Sumner and Morris reunited under the New Order moniker, leaving Hook behind.

While he denied forming Peter Hook & the Light as a response to his bandmates’ betrayal, Hook was quick to criticize New-Order-circa-2013’s “greatest hits” treatment of the group’s back catalogue, scorning the new lineup with the dreaded “tribute band” tag, and making the case for his full-album method as a better approach.

“I think playing albums live brings with it its own set of difficulties,” Hook says. “In albums, you put light and shade quite a lot, and the mood is constructed like someone would construct a piece of art, like a painting, where you put shadows in the corner, and something bright in the middle. Whereas, when normal bands play, if we’re gonna reference it to, say, New Order, you just play the hits, so that you get a sugar high.

“If I just went onstage and played ‘Bizarre Love Triangle,’ ‘Krafty,’ ‘Round & Round,’ ‘True Faith,’ ‘Blue Monday,’ and ‘Temptation,’ everyone would just go mental at the start and mental at the end. But, I don’t think it would’ve satisfied me. I think I would’ve found that too easy.”

In opposition to nu-New Order’s mishmashed approach to the band’s repertoire, Peter Hook & the Light (whose lineup consists of Hook’s son, Jack Bates, on bass, in addition to several members of his retired Monaco project) seek to focus on one specified chunk of the discography at a time; Movement and Power, Corruption, & Lies arguably present the most revealing succession of albums in the New Order catalogue, offering Friday’s audience a glimpse into the creative and emotional process that transformed a sullen, introverted post-punk outfit into an effervescent explosion of guitars and sequencers.

“It actually appeals to me that we’re going through a list, ticking everything off,” Hook says. “Maybe Bernard’s aim is to throw legal letters at me, as my aim in life would be to play every track that I’d ever written and recorded, once, before I go and shuffle off this mortal coil.”

Peter Hook & the Light
With Slaves of Venus, DJ Omar
Fri/27, 9pm, $25
444 Jessie, SF
(415) 625-8880

Oakland’s Negative Standards support future punks


The band Negative Standards is essentially a crust art project.

While maintaining d-beat chords and sludge-like breakdowns, the Oakland-based group makes use of non-instrumental noise and videos created by the band’s bassist, Will, during shows.

And as a quartet that blends elements of crust, doom metal, and noise; Negative Standards sticks out like a sore thumb in the endless sea of fellow crusty brethren and fuzzy lo-fi that exists in the East Bay.

Anonymity is key for the band. Negative Standards sticks to Roman numerals in place of song titles and prefers not to have band members names attached to the project. While being interviewed, the guys chose to keep it on a first-name basis.

So, for housekeeping purposes, the band is as follows: Al on guitar, Will on bass/video, Max on drums and noise, and Will — who wasn’t interviewed — on vocals and non-instrumental noise.

According to Will, the choice to maintain anonymity is to let the music speak for itself.

“From the beginning, the idea was to present each recording as a coherent whole, rather than just a collection of unrelated songs, and doing it this way somewhat anonymizes the individual components,” Will says. “Another effect is that the lyrics, music and samples have to speak for themselves, not having been distilled into a name or a slogan.”

The band makes the conscious decision to only play all-ages shows to battle the age-old problem of gentrification in the Bay Area.

Drummer and non-instrumental noise creator, Max, expands on this idea: “Gentrification and the attendant cultural colonialism of bars and ‘the underground’ is threatening the existence of DIY all ages spaces in the East Bay more with each passing year,” Max says. “It makes sense that, as a band, we would want to resist the destruction of the cultural environment that has made our existence possible.”

Guitarist Al recalls going to Berkeley’s world-famous all-ages punk venue, 924 Gilman when he was growing up. Al believes that without all-ages venues such as the Gilman, bands like theirs would not exist. Everybody has a starting point, and Al credits the Gilman as his.

“If it weren’t for this place, I wouldn’t know most any of my current good friends, let alone be in this band,” Al says. “I think it’s important to support the future punks instead of shutting them out because you want to drink.”

The band credits the Bay Area for having a thriving scene with the likes of fellow bands such as Noothgrush,Permanent Ruin, Ordstro and Vaccuum. But like most to all existing punk scenes, there exists various isms.

“Seeing the amount of misogyny, transphobia, and racism that goes totally unchecked within some corners of our supposedly ‘radical’ scene can be pretty disheartening, but there’s also some incredible people working against those normative tides,” says Will.

Negative Standards, however, is leaving the sub-cultural hub of Oakland to embark on a European tour, playing with the likes of European punks Bacchus and Throwers.

“Vendetta Records from Germany put out our LP and hooked us up with Timo from Alerta Antifacista Records, who busted his ass to put this tour together for us,” Al  says. “I’m incredibly excited. I’ve never travelled in Europe before and am looking forward to it greatly.”

The band also has a split LP with doom band Whitehorse coming out on Vendetta Records in October.

Most of the band remains extremely cordial and modest, lauding other bands and the proverbial scene at large (for the most part). But as mentioned before, this band sticks out amongst others and Max is sure to break the tide.

“Fuck this false modesty,” Max says. “I defy you to name another local band that has both a totally gnarly wolf AND an outlandishly colored manatee on their van’s dashboard.”

You can catch this band at its upcoming going away show at the Oakland Metro. As the Oakland Metro site states, “no turds allowed.”

Negative Standards
With Ordstro, Sutekh Hexen, Filthchain, Xenotaph
Thu/26, 7pm, $7
Oakland Metro
630 3rd Street, Oakland
(510) 763-1146

Q&A: Blouse on the Dream Syndicate, forest life, and going synth-less


Blouse, may have ditched the synths and drum machines of its 2011 debut self-titled album with new Captured Tracks full-length, Imperium, but the sound remains as hazy and dreamy as ever. Now it’s just backed by rippling reverb and distortion.

The misty Portland, Ore. dreampop trio makes siren calls that would entice a shipwrecked sailor, floating endlessly in a gurgling oceanic abyss. See? Wistful. Check first single, “A Feeling Like This” or next track “No Shelter” for that particular mental imagery. It’s all there, the swashing of fuzz, the wide open minimalism à la xx, the delicate, teetering vocal tracks, and an uneasy feeling of isolation.

I asked Blouse frontperson Charlie Hilton about the band’s new album, the local Portland music scene, going synth-less, and the albums they bonded over:

SFBG How did Blouse first come together?

CH Three years ago, I moved to Portland from LA and met Patrick in an intro design class at PSU. We became friends almost immediately and he started giving me rides home from school. We were always talking about music, about the bands we’d been involved in, about what we liked. Eventually we decided to play together in my living room a few nights a week.

I’d been writing since middle school, so I shared some of my recent work with him. We also worked on new songs, recording them on Garageband as we went, until his friend Jake heard the demos and thought we should all record together. Jake had produced some really great records, and he and Patrick had been in bands together in the past.

We felt a weird kind of urgency to do something together, so we went to a place called Jackpot Studios for two days, hung out, and worked on the songs. We decided on a band name, finished two tracks, and posted them on the Internet. It was only a couple of months later that we signed with Captured Tracks.
SFBG What songs or albums by other artists have you bonded over as a group?

CH The Dream Syndicate, Days of Wine and Roses. I had never met anyone who loved that record like I did, and then I saw it propped up at their house. It’s funny how that can make you trust a person.
SFBG Why the shift from synths to a more guitar-focused sound on new album, Imperium?

CH We like guitars a lot and it was fun to see what we sounded like without the synths, to see whether or not we could remain ourselves.
SFBG Can you tell me about writing the song “No Shelter” off Imperium?

CH I was feeling really terrible at the time, for no reason. My husband and I had just bought a cabin in the mountains, and all I wanted to do was be there, away from everything and everybody. I was getting very addicted to this place in the forest, and I realized that I was using it to escape the dread inside me. Writing that song was just about coming to terms with that feeling, recognizing that it was there and that I couldn’t really get away from it.
SFBG What inspired first single “A Feeling Like This?”

CH A mushroom trip in a white room.
SFBG Do you feel part of a Portland music community? Who are your closest contemporaries music-wise, in Portland and beyond?

CH Yes. I have so many friends in bands that I love. Wampire, WL, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Industrial Park, Hausu, Vice Device, Concrete Floor, Litanic Mask — just to name a few.
SFBG What’s the most common misconception about Blouse?

CH That we all live together in the warehouse where we record music. I don’t mind if people keep thinking that. It sounds fun. But no, we don’t really. There’s no shower.
SFBG Anything you’re looking forward to on this West Coast tour?

CH I’m from LA so I always love going home to play Part Time Punks. Michael Stock was my favorite DJ when I lived there, so it was an absolute pleasure to meet him and do a session with KXLU last year. We’ll be doing another one this time. I’m excited.
SFBG Is there anything else you’d like people to know about your band?

CH We’re very Polish.

With Social Studies, Feathers
Sat/21, 9:30pm, $12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF
(415) 626-4455

Grouplove talks Haight love, the Seesaw Tour, and spreading rumors


Grouplove’s existence is a strong argument for fate. In 2009, Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi met on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Feeling an instant connection, Hooper invited Zucconi to an artist residency in Greece on the island of Crete, which she was heading to just a few days later, and he said yes. At this residency, in a remote mountain village, the pair formed a fast friendship with three other musicians. Within the year, Grouplove was formed.

Two years after that, the band exploded into the music scene with its cheekily titled, megacatchy album Never Trust a Happy Song. Touring constantly since its inception, Grouplove is still going at full sprint, with its second album, Spreading Rumors, coming out Sept. 17, accompanied by the ambitious Seesaw Tour, in which the band will spend two nights in every city at intimate venues, playing one electric and one acoustic show.

I caught up with Hooper during one of her rare moments of semi-downtime (if that’s what you call standing on a busy street corner waiting for Zucconi) to chat about hometown shows, Haight Street, and (group)love:
SF Bay Guardian I saw you play in San Francisco almost exactly two years ago to a nearly empty Bimbo’s, and it was an absolutely amazing show. There was this incredible energy and because there was a sparse audience, it felt truly special to be there. Now you’re playing to much bigger audiences and selling out two nights in a row in SF. How do you feel about this change in dynamics?
Hannah Hooper It’s really exciting! It’s kind of surreal in a lot of ways. When we get to play a show we’re excited no matter what, so the scale of it blows our minds. With the Seesaw Tour, we’re kind of underplaying and getting to actually see our fans again. And we’re playing the Independent, which is one of the first venues we played in SF.

We personally love playing any size, but there’s a level of intimacy that’s hard to capture [in a bigger venue]. It’s a very special thing. As a fan, I love to see high-energy bands in small venues. That’s what we want to do before we gear up to do a bigger tour.
SFBG How did you come up with the idea for the Seesaw Tour? Why this format?
HH We were talking about bands. I love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I’m a big fan, but I’ve never had the opportunity to get close to them. I’m always in the back behind like thousands of people. I had this vision of how cool it would be to see them play one night electric and one night acoustic.
It will be a challenge for us because we’re definitively an electric band.
SFBG Grouplove has a very vigorous touring schedule. How do you keep from getting burned-out?
HH That’s a good question! We stopped to record our album that’s about to come out, which is really the first time we’ve stopped touring in three years. But recording is not that different from touring — we still are living in tight quarters and spending all our time together.

If you stay in motion you don’t notice how exhausted you are. Even when you’ve traveled halfway around the world and you’re like, “are we going to be able to do this?” When you get up on stage, you just respond to the audience. It’s a back and forth. When you see people there screaming your name, you just have to bring it. It’s so fulfilling to give all that you have every time you get on stage. We just get into a trance friendship mode.
SFBG Do you all really love each other as much as your name and your live show suggests?
HH We do! We really love each other. We have this ability to share this crazy experience together; we’re vulnerable and we’re funny together; we’re stronger together than we are separate. It really works.

There was a freedom when we first got together because we didn’t know each other. We all got to be exactly who we are. We met at a really special time and our friendship really shows that. We write a lot of songs on the road and we genuinely go out together…You have to want to make it work. This is our dream, this is what we want to do. It’s an outlook that we all quietly agreed to have.
SFBG There is a unique pressure associated with sophomore albums. Have you felt a need to prove that you’re not a one hit wonder with this record?
HH Coming from a painter background I didn’t really realize the “pressure of the second album.” We had this catalogue of songs we had written on the road and we basically drew straws to see which songs made the album. We’re really lucky. We make a point never to combine fear of success with making artwork and writing songs. There’s nothing you can do — you can’t predict whether people will like the songs. All you can really do is be genuine.
SFBG What does the title of the album Spreading Rumors mean?
HH We’re kind of bringing it back to the way that people used to talk about bands and spread the word before the Internet. Despite all of the Internet attention we got for [2011 single] “Tongue Tied,” people were also telling their friends about us and our live shows. The rumor that keeps spreading…we really are this crazy bunch of wild animals let loose.
SFBG Since you’re playing two nights in a row here, you’ll have some time to spend in the city. Any special SF plans?
HH Well, my brother, sister, mom, and dad live here. I grew up in Upper Haight. I really miss SF. I just like walking down Haight Street. Thrift stores in SF are the best. I can’t tell you how much I love San Francisco.

[Playing here is] like playing a hometown show which is always secretly the most nerve-wracking. It’s always funny to see people you’ve known your whole life in the audience. You really get a sense of how far we’ve come. I’ll probably get emotional up there.
SFBG Anything else you feel that people need to know about Grouplove? Any parting words?
HH [I’ve learned] through all this touring and meeting all these bands that everyone has their own flavor. We have love, heart, honesty, and passion. Our goal is to have people see that there’s no bullshit up there [on stage] and leave feeling happy. We’re not trying to be cool or sexy. We want to inspire kids to not to care what they look like or whether they’re cool and just be themselves.
With the Rubens
Sat/14, 9pm, $20
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421

Grouplove (acoustic)
Sun/15, 9pm, $22
777 Valencia, SF
(415) 551-5157

Bomb the Music Industry!’s Jeff Rosenstock: Poster boy for manic depression in DIY rock’n’roll


To get a feel for why Jeff Rosenstock plays the way he does, you have to go back almost a decade to the sweaty, now-defunct scene in New Jersey and Long Island that caught the tail-end of the big ska-punk boom and the beginning of the emo explosion.

In the late ‘90s-early 2000s, word-of-mouth was still king in that local music scene. Many bands, like Rosenstock’s pre-Bomb the Music Industry! group, the Arrogant Sons of Bitches, entertained consistently at all-age, low-budget shows. It got to a point where kids in nearly every skank pit in the area knew the band’s songs by heart. They had no real radio play, and were seen mostly on shaky handheld video camera footage from Bloomfield Ave Cafe or the like, but still were on tour forever, had discernable sing-along singles, and (almost) released a split in Japan.

Personally, I remember coming home from their shows realizing I knew all the words to a song that wasn’t on any of the albums I owned. They had a frenetic, punkish wall-of-sound that required so many members that climbing on stage for a dive almost guaranteed you a chance to snag a microphone. Hell, they encouraged it.

As Rosenstock recalls, the end of Arrogant Sons of Bitches was not easy. “We all just really wanted different things from life but were really steadfast on keeping this band together. It all ended in a big band fight. I just shouted ‘I don’t even want to press records! I’m sick of t-shirts and shit, I hate this!’ and [other band members] were like ‘but that’s what we should do because we’re a band!’”

So when ASOB did finally break up in 2005, Jeff immediately formed Bomb the Music Industry! Instead of pressing merch, he’d bring a printer to shows and encourage fans to attend with blank shirts. And he opened up Quote Unquote records to release his music for free online and host the music of his friends on a donation-based Paypal system.

The uncertainty surrounding his own abilities to breakthrough with this new collective — after 10 years in ASOB — enveloped the first few bedroom EPs that Rosenstock released as BTMI! These were snotty songs about losing a band and trying to self-righteously save one’s foothold in a music scene while battling depression. Many of the tracks had to do with still drunkenly chasing the dream of rock stardom over day jobs while his friends were either succeeding at their musical ends or working their own dead-end jobs.

Rosenstock took the manic, convoluted ska-punk sound of ASOB and flipped it new wave with intricately synthesized backing tracks layered thick over his guitar, horns, and vocals. Check out “It Ceases To Be ‘Whining’ If You Stop ‘Shitting Blood’” on 2006’s Album Without Band. According to the diary-like song explanations, which used to accompany Rosenstock’s releases, this one was “about all the pressures of being in a band that is about to break and feeling like if you DON’T break, you’re personally responsible for all of it. It’s also about the machine that a band creates when it decided to buy a van, sell merch, put out records, et cetera.”

The year 2005 also saw the beginning of BTMI! as a live band.

“I called up a few friends to see if they wanted to play [shows],” Rosenstock says. “ASOB, at some point, had 12 to 15 people in it —  we all grew up playing music together. It would have been pretty hard [not to play with] anybody from that band. Then everybody couldn’t go on tour for a while, that’s when I had those one-man tours. Anyone who showed up would go ‘oh, it’s just you and an iPod.’ I didn’t want to bum anyone out.”

But bumming people out, especially through verbose confessions of desolation and broken friendships, is a core tenant of Rosenstock’s music.

The album Scrambles (2009) found Rosenstock in New York City, up to his eyeballs in debt and living in a van after grabbing an assortment of musicians and moving to Athens, Ga. to write a concept album chronicling the experience. The resulting album, Get Warmer, was the first BTMI! album recorded with a live band — not just Rosenstock on his computer.

Scrambles hits a high note with the piano-driven, almost Andrew WK-esque rocker “Fresh Attitude, Young Body.” With his voice cracking amid what sounds too resigned to be a full-on panic attack, Rosenstock shouts “You’re alone and you’re wet in a hospital bed and your family and friends will inherit your debt as you breathe from machines/Yeah, I know it sounds mean but you’re probably gonna die alone.”

BTMI!’s music is the nagging voice in the back of your head that just won’t allow you to forget your hangups and have a good time. People relate to Rosenstock and there is a slew of YouTube fan videos from around the world to prove it.

“I’m just like ‘holy shit, I can return the favor!’” Rosenstock tells me. “Because growing up, if I didn’t have Operation Ivy records, I would have gone completely insane. At the same time, it’s interesting because the songs I write go into a lot of stuff in my life but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m good at talking about it. When people come up to me at shows I’m just like ‘okay, uh, cool!’”

His albums are like an ongoing journal, which chronicles his journey from teenage singer in a regionally successful ska-punk band to doing dishes in a car during New York winters, and taunting slumlords. “I ain’t giving you shit, I ain’t paying my rent til I got hot water and my toilet’s fixed. I don’t care. Try to kick me out if you want to” he says in a track off 2010’s Adults!!!: Smart!!! Shithammered!!! and Excited By Nothing!!!!!!!

“Maybe I’m just not that good at writing about other people. Maybe I’m just too self-centered to figure that out, I don’t know” he says. “I get stressed out about just about everything, [writing songs] is a way to help me vent about all the little minutiae that gets to you in your day.”

He adds, “I end up writing songs about really specific stuff. [But right now] I have my home situation on lock. It took a while. I wouldn’t happily go back to living out of a van with my girlfriend and staying at people’s houses every night, getting dressed in a van and trying to somehow work up the courage to go into a job interview when you look like shit, feel like shit, and smell terrible.”

When I ask about the recent breakup of Bomb the Music Industry!, Jeff says that what started as a collective gained enough momentum and support that members became irreplaceable. “Bomb has always taken up all my energy and all my focus. So to have that be a once a year kind of thing [to accommodate irreplaceable members moving out-of-country] didn’t really feel right.”

Jeff Rosenstock
With Sean Bonnette (Andrew Jackson Jihad), Dog Party, Hard Girls
Aug. 13, 9pm, $10
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th Street SF

Lia Rose lets go on new album ‘Bricks and Bones’


Bay Area country-folk artist Lia Rose is a ball of sunshine both on stage and off. But if you listened to her songs, you’d know it’s not because life’s been easy, it’s just that she’s chosen to face its struggles head on, chin up.

Rose played the Great American Music Hall with Blame Sally in early May and performed on NPR’s West Coast Live in April, where she met author Ruth Ozeki, with whom she’s currently collaborating on a song. Her second full-length solo album Bricks and Bones will be released this Sat/20, the night of her record-release party at the Chapel in San Francisco. In short, the bubbly, talented musician is doing quite well.

After listening to an early preview of Bricks and Bones, I noticed quite a few differences from her first two albums When You Need Me Most (self-released, 2011) and Conspire (self-released, 2012). Most obvious of these changes is an overall sunnier sound. Though there are darker toned tracks, like “Mary Edith Barnes” and “Jesse Got Trapped in a Coal Mine,” Rose has emerged more self-informed and in control than ever before, and paradoxically, it was when she let go and let others in to her process.

When the graceful singer walked into Haus Coffee, a café in the Mission on 24th Street, to meet me with a broad smile, I wanted to hear from her firsthand how these differences came about.

She’s certainly changed things around both with the new album and in her live performances.

“I don’t want every show to be the same,” Rose told me in between bites of a veggie galette and sips of green tea. “I tend to just keep my options open and play with quite a lot of folks. I like to adapt the show to the particular audience.”

This album has been a big opportunity for her to not only evolve as an artist, but also to collaborate – something that wasn’t so simple for her in the past.

On Bricks and Bones, though, Gawain Mathews assisted Rose with recording, and contributed acoustic guitar, piano, and bass lines, Charlie Wilson and John Kirchner with engineering, Michael Fecskes on cello, and Kelly McFarling with harmonies. And Rose couldn’t be happier with her decision to broaden her horizon.

“I started to do a lot of coproducing and co-writing, and that has been awesome because I think it becomes way better than anything I could have done on my own. And that’s the case for sure on this album because I got to work with Gawain Mathews.” 

For the artist whose first musical memory is of jumping on the bed at the age of 3, screaming Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” at the top of her lungs, music has long been an integral part of life. This is why it took her a while to work up the courage to let others in on her creative process.

“It takes a lot of trust – a lot of letting go of what you think it’s supposed to be.”

Rose has tried being the only captain on the ship before, and it’s turned out alright, according to her. But that wasn’t what she was looking for this time around.

“If I stayed control freak on the whole project, which I’ve done in the past – which I can do – it’ll turn out fine. But it won’t be the magic. The magic comes, I think, when you can let go of that control and surround yourself with folks who you love the paint that they throw. And letting go and letting it be something that maybe doesn’t sound right to you right away.”

To me, Bricks and Bones sounded great upon first listen, but even better upon second. Filled with lively, acoustic-heavy twang and stomp, and spitting lyrics – that prove there may just be some fire in this graceful being after all.

“I’m like a loaded mousetrap or a hairpin trigger/I will bite, I will scratch/There’s no tellin’ what I’ll do/It’s a bad state I’m in,” sings Rose in “Trainwreck Tuesday,” letting us know there’s more to her than the soft, gentle side you’ll likely see if you meet her.

Rose seems to have come even more into her own on these tracks, singing of facing down her fears (“Snake in the Water”) and simple straightforward romance (“Secret Stories”).

It’s true, this album is a natural evolution for Rose, but there is one constant – the quality. Her vocals have never been so pure and the dreamy melodies are still present on Bricks and Bones.

Though her album’s title implies a solid, unmoving structure, Rose’s sound is anything but rigid.

“I feel like you’ve got to be able to bend, otherwise you’ll break,” she said.

This is the way the album plays out – it’s quite flexible.

It moves through the angry steam of “Trainwreck Tuesday,” to a cover of “Jesse Got Trapped in a Coal Mine,” a haunting folk tune written by Avi Vinocur of band Goodnight, Texas about a man who met death before his wedding.

You can hear the progression for yourself on Bricks and Bones and even celebrate with her at her live show at the Chapel on July 20. Listen to the angelic vocals of Lia Rose, get lost in her rich acoustic melodies. But don’t expect it to be all lollipops and rainbows. She will bite.

Lia Rose
With We Became Owls, Annie Lynch, Michaela Anne
Sat/20, 9pm, $15
777 Valencia, SF
(415) 551-5157

Flip on the Night Light: free show alert


We’ve been hearing a lot about the Night Light thanks to its hosting of quality local shows; in the past year there have been performances by Warm Soda, Burnt Ones, Religious Girls, Jaberi and Deutsch, and the like. This Saturday, to celebrate 12 months of life, the bar-venue is hosting a free party, and there’ll be eight bands, seven DJs, and three comedians to check out throughout the night. Yes, all free.

First off, a little background. The Night Light is split-level Jack London Square area building with a bar on the bottom level, and a show venue up top. I’ll let the flowery press release give you the rest: “The decor is influenced by Speakeasy era bars, with flocked velvet wall paper, leather couches, and a darkly stained interior. The alcohol inventory focuses heavily on providing a wide selection of whiskies, and the cocktail menu offers new twists on Prohibition fare.” Doesn’t that cozy?

Here’s the good stuff: to celebrate the one-year anniversary, owners Doug Kinsey and Johnny “Scobey” Nackley (see interview above) are offering all-night happy hour, and a complimentary midnight champagne toast – might as well be New Years.

The performances: DJs Delgado and Odiaka from Fresh Jamz and Miggy Stardust will spin downstairs, beginning at 7pm. In the venue section upstairs, there’ll be sets by live bands Clipd Beaks, Spaceburn, Mahgeetah, Bam! Bam!, Old and Gray, Frankie and the Aztecs, Lessons, and Tastyville; DJs Protoghost, Inti Inti, and Rick Moranis (aw, nice to see that name again, even it’s in a different context), along with live comedy by Clark O’Kane, Joey Devine, and Sean Keane.

Night Light Anniversary Party
With Clipd Beaks, Spaceburn, Mahgeetah, and more
Sat/9, 7pm, free
Night Light
311 Broadway, Oakl.

Dark side of the Dude


More than a year ago, in his rundown on “top substances that have influenced music,” promoter-DJ Marco De La Vega said this: “I…raid my own medicine cabinet, take a couple Vicodin, and listen to a stack of records including [Girls],Tamaryn, King Dude, Chelsea Wolfe, and Zola Jesus.”

Already a fan of the others mentioned in that paragraph, I sought out King Dude (a.k.a T.J. Cowgill) and found that I’d already known his previous work, intimately. I’d seen his black metal band Teen Cthulhu in high school, and for many years had the band’s sticker plastered on my black Nissan Maxima, later discovering his band that rose from the ashes of Teen Cthulhu: Book of Black Earth.

It was his turns as founder-creative director of his own clothing label, Actual Pain (Kanye has worn it, OK?), and solo “darkly spiritual acoustic-folk” singer-songwriter that have been the most surprising. Like previous King Dude releases, 2012’s Burning Daylight (Dais) is a desolate affair, with subtle plucking and Cowgill’s darkly raspy vocals meditating on death, murder, spirituality, and love – or as I wrote in this week’s Tofu and Whiskey print music column (Jan. 9 issue), it sounds like “a gravelly demon inside, clawing to get out.”

Yet, behind that gloomy facade, Cowgill was friendly as hell during our phone call, even in the face of adversity. While his beloved dog was going through tests at the vet, he chatted about the occult, personal influences (John Lomax, prison songs, Death in June), his musical relationship with tour-mate Chelsea Wolfe (they arrive at the Great American Music Hall this Fri/11), the differences between his many bands, and deep-seated psychological fears:

San Francisco Bay Guardian Where are you right now?

T.J. Cowgill  I’m at the vet with my dog, everything’s OK. She’s been dog aggressive a little lately, so we’re just making sure. Dogs don’t have a way to tell you when they’re sick. My dog is really nice. She’s a big black lab, and she’s usually nice but she tried to bite a dog yesterday. She’s seven, and hasn’t been to the vet in a long time, but I’m about to leave on tour, so I want to make sure she’s OK before I go.

SFBG What’s her name?

Cowgill Her name’s Pagan.

SFBG OK, so that leads into my first real question: where did you find this interest in the occult?

Cowgill It’s just how I was raised. My dad and his wife were Born Again Christians – they got saved at this church in a small town in Oregon, and that was probably when I was six or seven. Before that they were basically atheists. My mom though has always been a neo-Pagan Witch, her own breed or religion. She would teach me how to meditate, she had healing crystals. So my mother taught me that stuff sometimes out of the year, and then my dad would be telling me that it’s all devil worship. It was back and forth.

I just had to figure out why all these adults in my life were crazy. And I just had a profound interest in the history of religion in general, because of it. Where do these beliefs come from? How are people so fractured when it comes to spirituality?

SFBG Can you tell me about the process for ‘Burning Daylight?’ What was influencing you at the time you were making it?

Cowgill That record in particular, I was listening to a bunch of early field recordings, by like, John Lomax, a lot of prison songs, and a lot of early American country-blues. But it’s across the board; some of it is influenced by country stars like Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. John Lee Hooker, a lot of his guitar playing influenced how I played guitar on that record. In all, I was just going for an early American, turn of the century vibe. An alternate score to maybe There Will Be Blood.

SFBG It does have a little bit of a darker feel to it…

Cowgill Totally, it’s really dark. I thought when I recorded like, ‘this isn’t that dark.’ But then I play it and some songs are the darkest, most depressing shit. When I was writing it, it didn’t feel like that at all. Then of course you send it off to press, to the labels, and you don’t think about it anymore, because you’re sick [of hearing it]..I record, mix, and master everything that I release, or I have so far. And so it’s like, I don’t want to hear those fucking songs for a good amount of time. It was almost three months before I listened to it again, and I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, this is the darkest fucking record.’ Who wants to sit around and listen to this?

SFBG People are drawn to the darker stuff.

Cowgill Definitely. It represents a side of every single human being. The themes were like, love causing people to murder, the need to accomplish something, preventing your own death by any means necessary. And while working on the record, I was going to this incredibly dark place. My wife noticed, everybody noticed. I would get into arguments with people, or fistfights, I got arrested, you know? I’m like, how bad am I trying to get myself into trouble to understand this, or to get this narrative correct. I’m not normally like that.

SFBG Each song does feel like its own narrative, a vignette with a scene of specific characters, like in ‘Barbara Ann,’ there’s a story of murdering for love, but is it really a love song?

Cowgill I think it’s probably the best love song I’ve ever written. Just simply because it is this character, this young kid. It’s from the perspective of this 12-year-old kid singing to another 12-year-old, this girl Barbara Anne. In my mind it takes place in a small town in the ’40s and it’s this kid who’s wildly in love but doesn’t really even know what love is.

He’s more in love than anybody has been in love before, and is willing to do anything for Barbara Anne, who’s not even a bad person but she has had some bad things happen to her in the town. So the kid is like: I’ll kill everybody in the town for you, if that’s alright with you. That’s the most loving thing I think anybody can say for somebody else.

To get into a character, if you’re trying to tell a story – and all my songs have a fairly strong narrative – it helps to give some life to the characters that you might not even talk about in the song.

SFBG How different is that from the way you’d write for your other bands like Teen Cthulhu and Book of Black Earth?

Cowgill Completely different. I have to take into consideration the feelings and religious or political stances of the people I’m in a band with. I don’t feel, in the past, that I’ve ever been able to just write whatever I wanted; there was a bit of a filter – and it’s not like they were asking me, don’t write songs about this or censoring, but I was sort of self-censoring, to not associate them with something they didn’t want to affiliate with.

SFBG Is this the first time then that you’ve really been able to write exactly how you wanted?

Cowgill Exactly. I realized early on the power of that for me, and how much I liked it. I love it. My creativity or output is much higher than it is in other bands. It’s a far more difficult process with a band. I’m in another band called CROSS with Travis [Namamura] from Teen Cthulhu and my friend Larry [Perrigo], who was in Wormwood, and that’s a collaborative band. It’ll take us months to write a single song and with King Dude, I could do a song a day.

Granted, the songs are completely fucking different. My songs are blues and folk-influenced, so the framework’s already there. In CROSS, it’s inspired a lot by Finnish black metal, so it’s a weirder process. Everybody in that band CROSS looks at it as a different band. I look at it as complete Bathory worship as a guitar player, the bass player [Perrigo] listens to Finnish Black Metal, and then [drummer Namamura] listens to hardcore and heavy metal. 

SFBG So how did you choose folk and blues as the direction for your personal project?

Cowgill It just kind of came out that way, I think. I have a strange guitar tuning I use, it’s just a little different than a normal tuning and it forces everything into a minor key, and it makes the song sound sadder, somber, with a sense of longing. When you strum an acoustic guitar with a C chord, it just sounds kind of folky.

Plus I was listening to like, a lot of British folk at the time when I started it. I listened to bands like Trees and Fairport Convention and even Krautrock too. Death in June obviously, and all the neofolk stuff was greatly influential on me.

Although, I didn’t ever really consider myself part of that scene, I just knew a little bit about. I just started discovering it around that time. Actually, I started King Dude before I heard Death in June. My friend Mary – who is a lifelong goth [laughs] –  heard the recording I did and said, ‘This sounds like Current 93 and Death in June.’ And I was like, ‘what are those bands?’ And just dived in and fell in love with both of those bands and it really influenced what I was writing.

SFBG How did you end up working with Chelsea Wolfe? This is your first tour together, but you’ve also recorded together in the past?

Cowgill We recorded a split seven-inch, we wrote two songs together and performed on each other’s material. My wife, Emily, played drums on both of the songs. And Ben Chisholm, her boyfriend who plays bass in the band, played on both songs. So it was very collaborative. That was a year and a half or two years ago. We’ve only done a couple of shows together in our lives. That’s so weird, I’ve known them for so long.

SFBG How did you first meet?

Cowgill There’s this guy Todd Pendu, Pendu Sound Recordings. He put out her early stuff. He also was a big King Dude fan. He thought I should met Chelsea and that we should do a split together. It was weird, meeting Chelsea with a pretense. It was that awkward moment when your friend is trying to set you up with someone.

I was like, I don’t know if she’s an asshole, I don’t know if she’s on heroin. I don’t know anything about her. There’s all kinds of things that would make me not want to work with someone. But as luck would have it, we got on like a house on fire. We’re similar in a lot of aesthetics and things, and Tom was right.

SFBG For the record, she’s not an asshole or a heroin addict...

Cowgill It’s really good that’s she’s not. It’s beyond just, ‘oh she’s cool.’ We’re friends. Ben wrote the intro for my last record, Love. We share music with each other before it comes out. It’s a great friendship. We’re really stoked [for the tour].

SFBG What else do you have planned for 2013?

Cowgill I have a record called Fear. It’s a lot different than Burning Daylight. The songs are a lot more ’60s pop rock, British Invasion type of stuff. But lyrically it’s much much darker.

Burning Daylight is about death, an angry emotion, but Fear is about your deepest, darkest fears – the things that keep you awake at night; I’m exploring deep-seated psychological stuff. It’s been enlightening. The lyrics are more personal, maybe not such fictional characters. So that’s a huge step for me, I’ve never done that before. Lyrically and musically, I think it’s the best stuff I’ve written.

I’m about to tour for two months, so it’ll probably be a fall release. About a record a year is what I aim for.

SFBG And you’re still doing the Actual Pain [clothing line]?

Cowgill That’s a full-time operation as well. Luckily, [Emily] helps so much. We’re partners in the business as well as in life. And we have a couple of employees now. So it’s a little easier for me to leave and tour. For the past couple of years, it’s been too hard for me to leave for more than a week. Actual Pain is doing really well and growing a lot, and in that growth I experience a little more freedom.

King Dude
With Chelsea Wolfe
Fri/11, 9pm, $15
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF

Will John C. Reilly be the secret guest at Lavender Diamond’s Chapel show?


You know Lavender Diamond, right? The whimsical LA-based electro-folk band fronted by crystal-clear vocalist/tree fairy Becky Stark? The group plays SF’s newest venue, the Chapel, Tues/11. Turns out, there’s a super-secret surprise guest set to appear, and I’ve got a solid guess now we can announce who it is: John C. Reilly.

The rumored surprise guest (Reilly) is, of course, best known as the curly-haired character actor with a wide range (Magnolia to Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, Boogie Nights to Chicago to Step-Brothers). But he’s also a pretty solid singer and musician, who played Bimbo’s earlier this year alongside Lavender Diamond’s Stark as John Reilly and Friends.

The duo previously collaborated on a duet covering  “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me),” made famous by Ray Price, for Jack White’s Third Man Records, and have played together since. Reilly and Friends also popped up at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass this year.

If you hadn’t already guessed, we’re big fans of the actor-musician.

But we’re also fans of Lavender Diamond, so either way, the show should be a good one. The band released its second full-length, Incorruptible Heart, in September, and a small batch was pressed on lavender vinyl. Amazing. It’s a lush break-up record full of subtle melancholy, torch songs, and chamber pop, with contributions from M. Ward and the Calder Quartet on strings.

Plus, local wonder Jessica Pratt was recently added to the bill.

Alright, here’s one more of Stark and John C. Reilly together from when Reilly recently stopped by Stark’s web series, We Can Do It.

Again, it’s rumored he’ll show up. Oh, he’ll be there!

Lavender Diamond
With Jessica Pratt
Tue/11, 9pm, $10-$12
777 Valencia, SF

The Grannies flaunt their finest digs for a good cause


The Grannies know how to have fun. After over a decade of raucous good times, including two European tours and years of stage antics, the six remaining members of the local punk band are back, playing in Oakland Fri/22 with Midnight Bombers and the Ardent Sons.

Yet this show extends past the chaotic atmospheres of a typical Grannies show. This show is a benefit for the son of founder and lead guitarist Sluggo Cawley.

Cawley’s four-year-old son Blixa was recently diagnosed with acute leukemia, and he’ll be undergoing treatment for the next four years. The Uptown is accepting donations above the door cover.

“My son is doing well,” says Cawley. “The initial shock is the most horrible. We went into the hospital for a regular checkup, and hearing that news was way out of our scope of reality. But there has been an outpouring of love and money; people offering help in any way that they can.”

Adding, “I used to be kind of a ‘people suck’ kind of person, but I have been proven wrong in the last couple months!”

He says total strangers having been sending in assistance. A punk band in Germany sent over a thousand Euros.

“We do have a lot of expenses, it will add up. I am not super religious, but if people offer us prayers and I appreciate it, every kind of good vibe or feeling helps.”

Usually, Cawley can turn to his bandmates for those good vibes — the Grannies is made up of Granimal, Granzig, Stagger G, Bjorn Toulouse and Drool Cup, who all rock out in full dresses and wigs, classic if outdated grandma-ware.

The group’s online persona is just as amusing. The San Francisco punk band, founded in 1999, notes in various online sites that its interests include knitting, reclining, drinking, burning, rocking, and sleeping. And the musicians’ cynical and ironic sense of humor comes across in songs such as “Denture Breath” and similarly silly album names like Taste the Walker.

Those musicians are excited to play the benefit tonight at the Uptown.

 “The Uptown is a really awesome club,” Cawley says. “[It was] the first venue to offer a benefit show, and for a Friday night, too!”

There’ll be an auction at the show as well, including the poster by well-known artist Gregg Gordon, who has worked on the graphics for Live 105 and its BFD show.

“After original horrible diagnosis, we feel really, really lucky that people have come to help,” Cawley says. “He is a beautiful blonde haired, blue-eyed kid. Right now he looks like a little old man, he has lost all his hair, but it doesn’t bother him. In 10 years it will all be behind him, he will be a normal teenager by then. Any adult in his situation would be worrying and complaining, I would be.”

“He is pretty awesome, I mean even when he had a bad fever for four days, he would still give you a smile.”

The Grannies
With Midnight Bombers, Ardent Sons
Fri/22, 9pm, $10
1928 Telegraph, Oakl.
(510) 451-8100

Danzig on Doyle, his fans, Verotik, and that Metallica anniversary


Glenn Danzig has spawned a cult following with his dark and brooding voice, and the sinisterly seductive imagery of his lyrics. From the early days – some 35 years back – as front person for horror punk icons the Misfits, to metal-infused Samhain, and finally to the eponymous Danzig, where he achieved a degree of mainstream success, he has taken macabre themes, blasted them with an obsessive sheen, and come up with some of the most hauntingly memorable songs this side of hell.

Danzig comes to the Warfield on Sunday night on the second stop of a brief two-week tour that finds the 56-year-old icon reuniting with Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein. Doyle comes as a special guest for a handful of concerts that promise to feature a set of classic tunes with his old band mate.

Speaking over the phone from Los Angeles, the man who has made a living bellowing songs like “All Hell Breaks Loose,” “Skulls,” “Twist of Cain,” “Mother” and countless others is for the most part fairly soft-spoken, and keeps his responses short and to the point.

When first asked about the upcoming show with Doyle, he simply said, “We do a Danzig set, and then about two-thirds of the way in we bring out Doyle and do a bunch of old stuff.”

Later on though, Danzig did agree that the music he’s made has had a lasting impact on those who grew up listening to it, along with kids today just now discovering the Misfits and Samhain, or even newer solo releases such as 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth.

“That’s the great part, because no one sees all the bullshit you have to go through, so when people come up and tell you what your stuff means to them, it’s pretty cool.”

Danzig was in San Francisco most recently last December, when he was a special guest at Metallica’s 30th anniversary run at the Fillmore, singing “Die Die, My Darling” and “Last Caress,” two Misfits tunes that Metallica covered in their early days as a band.

“I hadn’t seen those guys in a while, and James called me up, and was telling me that the kids were getting to see it for $19.81 total — they were doing it for all the right reasons. I think they just wanted to let fans have a great time, and it was a lot of fun, I got to see a lot of old friends.”

Speaking of covers, Danzig himself is currently finishing up work on an as-yet-untitled album of cover songs, the first of which, “Devils Angels,” is available to listen to on his website. The record, which is due out in the late summer or early fall, is one of many projects that the singer has on his plate at the moment, or hopes to in the near future.

Once the covers album is completed and released, Danzig plans to record Black Aria III, the latest in a series of classical solo projects, and then set about working on the next Danzig record.

In addition to making music, Danzig has been writing several different horror and fantasy-themed comic books over the years, published by his own company, Verotik. One of his titles, Ge Rouge, has been in the development stages of being made into a film for several years, but has run into differing problems.

“We had it going with one production company, but we had to yank it because it just wasn’t going anywhere with them — eventually you get tired of doing all these re-writes on it, and you just say, ‘Look man, either you’re doing this or you’re not doing it!’” says Danzig.

“We had a bunch of other people that wanted to see it, but we couldn’t show it to them because we had a contract – once we’re out of the contract we can start showing it to other people. And I’m always writing scripts, so…we’ll see,” he laughs.

Sun/27, 8pm, $35-$38
982 Market St, SF

SF duo Tidelands returns with even more flugelhorn


We’ve Got a Map boasts the title of experimental folk band Tidelands’ upcoming sophomore album – and do they ever. You may remember seeing Tidelands’ stunning animated music video for their song “Holy Grail” last summer off debut album If….

Well Gabriel Montana Leis and Mie Araki are back this summer, with a relatively minimalistic follow-up to that orchestral introduction. And a show this week at Bottom of the Hill.

For the new album, which drops Aug. 7 (check track “The New Black” now on Bandcamp), Leis and Araki decided to play more of the instrumentation themselves, so they wouldn’t have to depend on a big backing band this time around. They wanted to conjure those immense sounds on their own. This gave them a chance to experiment with learning new instruments and therefore expand their creative endeavors.

Leis’ voice has the deep and theatrically clear pronunciations that bring to mind Colin Meloy of the Decemberists. Araki is a badass drummer from Osaka, Japan. A classically trained pianist and percussionist, she also plays the Moog synthesizers for Tidelands. Their music is certainly elaborate, but their newest album offers more simplicity. While their sound is still intricate, the two artists have taken it upon themselves to treat our ears to exotic sounds and old favorites such as the flugelhorn.

Beyond that stunning animated video, you may have heard the name Tidelands due to their collaboration with Magik*Magik Orchestra. The SF-based Magik*Magik Orchestra – currently on a world tour supporting Death Cab for Cutie – joined Tidelands for three songs on the new album, along with producing and arranging one of the tracks, “Twin Lakes.”

I wanted to find out just how the tides were rising for this local duo as their late summer album release approaches, so I spoke with them over a cup of tea at Revolution Cafe in the Mission this week prior to the show:

SFBG Has learning to play different instruments always been a strength for both of you?

Gabriel Montana Leis I have fallen in love with the flugelhorn – it would be easier to not do it, it is a physically challenging instrument, but I just can’t stop. I want to be better. I do have plans for improving my basic knowledge of other instruments, I would love to explore them more fully.

Mie Araki I would like to put a huge explanation mark, and underline to this point – it definitely helps to play other instruments. Leis has become way better than before, it comes from playing flugelhorn. We spend more time thinking, feeling what is going on. When I play classical instruments, there is not enough time to practice, because there are so many different styles and it gets confusing, but it does help you to learn more as a musician.

SFBG I read that Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead provided you with his first guitar, can you elaborate?

GML My dad was a friend and business acquaintance of Weir’s. He was someone that was around, who I knew. If I saw him we would certainly say hi and have a conversation.

SFBG Who are some of your inspirations and why?

MA Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, those are the guys [I grew up with]. Then I began to know the MTV people – Michael Jackson – the pop musicians. I also studied jazz – John Coltrane, Miles Davis, they are huge inspirations to me. Sigur Ros, Wilco, and M83 are current influences, so I have a lot of old and new inspirations.

GML Even our inspirations from when we were teenagers affects who we are now. Kurt Vile is a huge inspiration to us, as well as a Danish musician by the name of Efterklang. Their use of horns has really informed our work – it’s grandiose and glorious sounding, with happy choruses. St. Vincent is amazing too.

SFBG Did Death Cab’s tour with Magik*Magik Orchestra lead you to consider who you would like to collaborate with, if you could choose from any musician?

MA It would be our dream to have [Magik*Magik Orchestra tour] with us actually. We know them through John Vanderslice and his Tiny Telephone Studios in SF that we record in. It would be amazing to play at a venue like the Fox Theater, with a full orchestra like Death Cab did – that was a great show! We have a lot of people around the Bay Area that we would love to work with for collaborations, if we have that chance.

GML Minna Choi of Magik*Magik is part of Vanderslice’s world, his success is that he brings people together. With Choi, we understand each other musically really well.

SFBG Where did the inspiration for the album title come from?

GML We pulled the line We’ve Got a Map from one of the songs. It is about searching for a meaning, and the feelings surrounding it. It makes a statement for where we are at, what we are trying to achieve.

SFBG You mentioned that when you initially recorded the songs, you did not know how you were going to perform them live, what was the process of figuring that out like?

MA We start with a segment, phrase, motif and then Leis adds layers.

GML We actually did that at the recording studio this time, but we will take hours just figuring it out. It’s trial and error, and takes time, you just get better through effort and force of will.

MA  It’s tricky, it is an orchestration, a choreography. Sometimes the music comes first: but then we have to figure out how will we make it happen.

With Voxhaul Broadcast, Bad Veins
Thu/24, 9pm, $10
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th, SF
(415) 626-4455