Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ra Ra Rasputin Mixtape Vol.1

There are few things better than discovering a song for the first time. Playing music is the closest we've come to duplicating that feeling of discovery. These songs may seem all over the map, but for us, they all speak to the sincerity in the wild and exploratory process of making music. We risk it by putting it out there. Sometimes it's distorted and quiet, other times it's pulsing and frenetic. That's the kind of music we're always working to make and love listening to.
-Ra Ra Rasputin, January 2011

More information about each song after the jump...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tennis System "The Future of Our History"

Washington DC's Tennis System have gained a certain amount of notoriety for their visually intense, high volume shows. While touring their way down to Austin for this year’s South by Southwest festival, two of their shows were shut down by local cops because of noise complaints. But stories of police intervention and hysterical sound engineers don’t serve as a solid foundation for establishing a band’s reputation. And while Tennis System concerts are wonderful experiments in sensory overload, it’s on record that the band really shines. Nowhere is this more evident than on the group’s debut full-length, “The Future of Our History.”

Unlike many musicians these days, Tennis System are not afraid of searching for “the sound.” A quick listen to the first few tracks reveals a group of young men who’ve spent countless hours coaxing the right tones and sounds out of their instruments. Yes, this is a very loud record. But there’s sonic dynamism that makes “The Future of Our History” stand out from other “nu-gaze” records. Guitarists Matty Taylor and Drake Eidson’s guitars shimmer, scream and shine across every song. And while the influence of a certain Anglo-Irish combo is certainly evident, Matty and Drake never let their love of Kevin Shields & co. oversaturate their sound. In fact, I’d say that Tennis System have a lot more in common with Ride or Pale Saints (and at times Swervedriver). But the most surprising aspect of this record is the strong presence of Tennis System’s rhythm section. Drummer Brad Fullilove and bassist Clinton Cool are never reduced to “drum machine & bass throb” status. Nor do they muck up the sound by being too flashy. In their playing you can hear the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer and and even go-go (Washington DC’s official sound, for those of you who aren’t in the urrrrrrrrrrrea)!

As I mentioned above, this band has no problem turning the volume up to 11. But at times, their love of noise can undermine the power of the songs. Interestingly, in the last few months, Tennis System have started to turned down a bit! They are still louder than most bands, but the decrease in volume has resulted in a much fuller and more dynamic sound. In venues with a decent PA and competent staff, they‘re a real pleasure to see. But in places where the sound guy is screaming at everyone or half asleep, things can get kind of hairy. Either way, you won't go home disappointed. Check them out, as they've got a very busy schedule planned for this summer.

*Saturday May 8 Comet Ping Pong with (the sounds of) Kaleidoscope Washington, DC
*Saturday May 15 9:00P ESOTERIC VIDEO SHOOT Washington, DC
*Saturday Jun 12 8:00P Velvet Lounge with Asteroid No. 4 Washington, DC

Recommended tracks: Beautiful Mistake, FS, Demonator, Here’s a Thought

"Here’s a Thought”, live at Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY 2010

"FS" live at Done&Done, 2010 in Queens, NY

“Esoteric” live at For the Love of DC, December 2009

Matty and the author performing Spacemen 3’s “Walking with Jesus”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Detox Retox, Dum Dum Girls and Male Bonding at DC9

Over the last year or so, DC9 has become THE spot for catching up-and-coming bands before they make the leap to bigger venues. The club’s intimate layout, good sound and convenient location makes it one of the best places to see artists before they sell out the 930 Club or Black Cat. So when the opportunity to see Sub Pop rising stars Male Bonding and Dum Dum Girls came along, I figured “Eh, Why not.”

To conservative concertgoers, local openers Detox Retox could be seen as an odd fit on this bill. In my opinion, however, it would’ve been boring to see three bands that all looked and sounded the same. Detox play punk-pop that sounds like a mix between Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party meets the Police before everyone’s egos went out of control. Toss in a few flourishes of power-pop and the occasional gang vocal breakdowns and you get the kind of musical tension that guarantees that no two songs sound alike. Thursday night’s performance seemed very “on” for the lads, as they were all smiling and filled with energy. Singer Michael Parker was unusually charming, despite the fact that he’d been puking outside the club before load-in. The band is set to return to the studio in May,and I'm looking forward to hearing what they come out with next.

Dum Dum Girls came on stage around 9:50pm and begin their set with a haunting cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Play with Fire.” But from there, things began to go downhill. A quick scan of the stage revealed no less than two Holy Grail pedals being used to wash the vocals in a sea of reverb. This misguided attempt to recreate 60’s studio techniques actually rendered the vocals inaudible. Even more tragic was the girls' paint by numbers approach to being a gang of late 1950s bad girls. Matching Silvertone 1448 guitars? Check. Super short skirts and ripped tights? Check. Frosty ‘tude towards the crowd? Double check. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the wholesale appropriation of a certain look or being slightly detached on stage. But Dum Dum Girls lacked the songs and the chemistry to come off as really memorable. When they left the stage, I didn't feel anything. It was though I’d just attended some miserable excuse for a tribute show. Why this group is as feted as they are, I haven’t the faintest idea.

Male Bonding proved to be even more frustrating. Again, here was a blog buzz group wearing “cool” clothes and group playing nice looking gear (points for the vintage Fender Mustang Bass). But the overuse of reverb and lack of memorable melodies sabotaged any enjoyment that could’ve been drawn from Male Bonding’s performance. If you didn’t know anything about Sub Pop(or Rough Trade during the early to mid 80s), Male Bonding could maybe come off as a pretty cool band. But knowing what we know about the history of underground pop-music, Male Bonding (or Bondage, as the Dum Dums insisted on calling them) come off as painfully unoriginal. See here, lads, messthetics are bullshit if you don’t stand for anything. And there are few things more irritating than a trio of Englishmen with nothing to say. Shame on USCIS on approving these guys for P-Visas and letting them into the country!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Interview with Byrds of Paradise

Born and raised in suburban New Jersey, Kenny Brown moved to Washington, DC to attend university. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he was in and out of bands during his tenure in DC. But for one reason or another, none of these projects ever got off the ground. A harrowing bicycle accident in spring 2009 forced him to re-evaluate his approach. While recuperating during the long hot summer, Brown began to write and record songs under the name Byrds of Paradise. Two of his songs, "Rosebud" and "Rowena," were recently featured on Pitchfork's Forkcast.


First off, what got you into playing music?
My friend Jack got a guitar when he was like 11, and he got me into everything. I remember we used to have epic sleepovers and he taught me how to play Green Day's “Brain Stew.” I was hooked from there. I played all day, and then the following Christmas I got a drum set. I played every day from then until the end of high school. I never took any lessons.

And where did you grow up?
I grew up in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. It's a small town about 45 minutes west of New York City; full of a bunch of dickheads. I honestly don't know who I'd be or what I'd be doing if it wasn't for the scene I came into.

What was it like being in Jersey when the local hardcore/punk scene was at it's peak in the late 90s, early 00s?
Growing up in that scene was awesome, because that's how I met my best friends, not the shitheads from my high school. I mean, I started going to ska and pop-punk shows when I was 11, and didn't really realize how privileged I was to see some of the bands I was seeing at the time. Laugh if you want, but I went to Midtown's first show. I saw At the Drive-In before I hit puberty. I've seen Saves the Day probably more than any other band. I was there for all of it.

There were two shows that had a really big effect on my musical taste when I was younger. The first was Jimmy Eat World at the Wayne firehouse, when I was 13. Gabe from Midtown and Cobra Starship's brother, Ricky, would throw these awesome shows at the firehouse. I think it was in 2000, so Jimmy Eat World were probably doing their Clarity tour. I was in 8th grade, rocking cargo pants and hoodies, and I didn't know what to expect. It was unbelievable. We pushed to the front because we were the youngest and shortest ones there. I have never seen a band to this day play as tight and as powerful as they did. That whole year after that I was all about turtlenecks and messenger bags.

The other show was Converge at Club Krome. That’s another band that still blows my mind with each release; I've seen them probably 4 or 5 times now, but that first time was unbelievable. That's what really got me into harder stuff.

So after all this, how did Byrds of Paradise come out?

Well I've always wanted to do a band, but just didn’t have the right resources. Since coming to DC, I couldn’t find people who were dedicated enough, able to practice, or had the same vision as me. I was jamming with Mike Mimoun, from Family Portrait, for a while and we were calling it the Council of Cool. It was fun and all but we weren't really doing anything and obviously he had his loyalty and priorities to Family Portrait, which makes sense because they're doing big things and are good. After that we added you and my roommate, Forgan, and started doing that Sperry Boys project, which was going well; it had a Britpop vibe and the songs were tight and executed well. Of course, you had your priority to Ra Ra Rasputin, Mimoun with Family Portrait, etc, etc.

I was stuck in a rut and getting real frustrated. At that point I was like, "fuck it, I play everything anyway, I'll do it on my own". My only problem is that I can't sing for shit.

This was all in April. Then I took a nasty spill in a biking incident and broke my leg pretty bad. I went home to Jersey for a month and then came back in the summer. Everyone was working during the day, except for Ari (Stern, of Family Portrait). I'd crutch over there every day and just chill with him. That's how "Rosebud" came about. I'd bug him all day to record me when he wasn't busy packaging and shipping records. I said "Ari, I wrote this song for you" and I played it for him and he wasn’t into it. One day I was dicking around on the guitar and played two chords in the style of "In a Big Country" by Big Country and he’s like, “Wait a second, I like that.” We wrote and recorded it off those two chords in about three hours. It was sent to Brody (also of Family Portrait) and he put the words down and I got it back like a month and a half later. Three days later it was on Pitchfork. After that, I bought my own Tascam 8 track and moved back to my parents’ house in Jersey and recorded with Jared and Alan. Now the HEARTS OF PALM cassette is almost complete!


Just out of curiosity, where’d you get the name from?
I got the name Byrds of Paradise from Planet Earth, actually. I used to watch it every night when I went to sleep, putting it on mute and giving it a personal soundtrack. My favorite was the rainforest one. The birds of paradise use different forms of dancing, flashy colors, and calls to attract their female counterparts; humans do the same thing. But we call it STUNTIN hahahaha.

It must’ve been a bit of a mindfuck seeing “Rosebud,” and later “Rowena,” posted on Pitchfork, huh?
It was pretty satisfying. I always felt like I was overlooked because no one was stoked on my music the way I was. I've been writing songs since I was 12, and I'm pretty confident in my writing, but no one's ever wanted to take it a step further with me. Maybe I'm just an asshole (laughs).

Either way, I feel like this is a step in the right direction that the Byrds of Paradise can keep going. Getting on Pitchfork was pretty unbelievable too. I'm glad to know there are people all over that are listening and anticipating what's coming next. We actually already got offers to release some singles, so my mind really is pretty fucking blown. It makes not being able to find a job a little softer around the edges.

In the last couple of months, you recruited a couple of new members to help flesh out the band’s sound. Tell me about these dudes and how y’all know each other.
Yeah, I did add some new members. Alan and Jared are friends of mine from way back. We met through shows and such, fell out of touch a little bit, but now I'm back and it's like nothing changed. We’re all a bit taller and older, it's weird. We also grew musically into the same type of niche. Everything fit together, like pieces of a puzzle. I can't sing, and I'm an alright drummer; Jared has surprised me with every recording we've done, and Alan just KILLS the drums! It's awesome I can write these songs and get an outside perspective to work with that fits within the same vision. I hate recording by myself: it feels more like an errand, than a good time.

Who are some of your favorite groups right now?
There's a lot of sick hardcore going on in DC. Check out this new band called D.O.C. (Disciples of Christ). Nolan shreds on guitar so hard, and Chris Moore is probably one of the best drummers I've ever seen. I feel like Police & Thieves is underrated too.
In New York, there's so much shit going on. I just got back, so I don't even know what to look for.
In terms of hardcore, I think that New Jersey is killing it. All the kids that I grew up with are still doing big things and that's awesome. It's like I never left for DC. Check out Mount McKinley, Will Stratton, and Pow Wow. Mount McKinley is fucking AWESOME, Will has a new album out, and Pow Wow is playing some great shows.

So what do you think of the scene(s) down here in DC? How has it changed? How has it stayed the same?
This question is loaded for me, and you know that, hah! It's too small. Not enough people doing enough things for me. Brightest Young Things is cool and all, but the whole city can't rely on that for music and culture. That's what I think is cool about DC hardcore, which I was never a part of but got to see from the outside: it's tight knit, communal, yet welcoming to outsiders, and self-inspired to host shows with new bands, find new venues, and keep DIY alive. (Instead) it's the same bands playing the Black Cat, the Velvet Lounge, and the same DJ's spinning at Wonderland.
Don't get me wrong, I still read Brightest Young Things. But I wish that it wasn't the big fish in a small pond, you know? I wish more new faces would be at more shows, and that people would go to different things even if it wasn't featured on the website.

Strong words. But, could you ever picture yourself returning to DC to play music?
As a musician, I don't know if I could make it back to DC. As I said, there's not enough going on for me like that. Playing with the same bands to the same people isn't going to get me anywhere, there aren't any labels really to rely on, and there's no real motivation. The bands are good, but they only want to go so far; that's the difference with New York City. In New York, if you can get it up there, you can make it work mostly anywhere.

Byrds of Paradise "Rosebud"
Byrds of Paradise "Rowena"


Monday, October 5, 2009

Wavves, Ganglians and Tennis System @ Rock & Roll Hotel 10.1.2009

I woke up from my nap around 7:45 PM and realized that I had about 20 minutes to shower, get dressed and make moves to the Rock and Roll Hotel. With the onset of fall, I no longer have the luxury of making night moves at a leisurely pace. In other words, the colder it gets, the more hurried my life becomes.

When I arrived at the Rock and Roll Hotel around 8:30pm, Tennis System were still doing soundcheck. To pass the time, I decided to head upstairs and read a newspaper. From my seat at the bar, I could feel the vibrations of the music from downstairs. Apparently Matt, Drake, Clinton and Brad were living up to their reputation as DC’s loudest band before the doors had even opened.

There are few things I love more than when a band begins their set with the song I really want to hear. Tennis System started the evening right by opening with a searing vesrion of “FS.” Despite the fact that they’ve only been playing out for about a year, this band is definitely making a mark on the DC scene. Their set featured Mogwai influenced freak-outs and jangly psychedelic numbers that were reminiscent of early Ride - the ideal combination, if you ask me. Their LOUDquietLOUD antics, combined with the use of moody and sometimes disorienting lighting, make for an intense live experience. Assuming they find a way to keep local soundguys from tearing their hair out, I see a very bright future for these lads.

Next up were Ganglians, a Sacramento based quartet who are currently on tour with Wavves. I expected them to be yet another middling fuzzed out indie pop group, but boy was I wrong. They kinda sounded like a rock version of DC’s Exactly. The vocals and guitars were washed out in delay and reverb, while the drums and bass throbbed like a speed freak’s heart. Even when they slowed down for keyboards based tracks (note: keyboard being a little Casio CZ series), there was still an air of menace. While I thought these guys were excellent performers, I would’ve preferred to see them in a smaller, slightly sweatier venue.

Now a lot of people have written a lot of things about Wavves in the last four months. Nathan Williams’ “meltdown” at Primavera Soundsystem earlier this year had a lot of people pointing and laughing. And a recent altercation with Jared from Black Lips was touted as a lo-fi version of the 1990s hip-hop wars. It could be argued that a number of people in the audience were there to see if the whole thing was gonna be some kind of freakshow.

Well, it wasn’t. Yes, Nathan was a bit weird, but he was certainly in good spirits. And the addition of powerhouse drummer Zach Hill made his songs sounds MASSIVE. I mean, the music wasn’t groundbreaking, revolutionary, whatever whatever whatever. But Wavves were a lot of fun. And everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves.
I had a chance to speak to Nathan after the show and I found him to be really laid back and funny. So much for the drug inhaling, glass-smashing monster that the rest of the blogosphere has made him out to be. Don’t believe the hype, kids…
Tennis System on MySpace
Ganglians on MySpace
Wavves on MySpace

Friday, September 4, 2009

Summer is over and the trees are bare...

100 dBs, fresh off a vacation in Bermuda, has posted a new Brian Wilson mix called "All Summer Long." Download it for free over at his website.

Ringo Deathstarr will be releasing "In Love" and "Summer Time" on 7" on September 14th. They've also posted two new songs "Two Girls" and the thrillingly beautiful "So High" on their MySpace. They will be returning to Washington DC on Monday October 26th @ the Black Cat.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

THIS WEEKEND NYC: 2 dope events for Saturday Aug 22

Underwater Peoples Summer 2009 Showcase
Fresh off the heels of a Pitchfork-approved compilation and a couple of new singles by Real Estate and Ducktails, the lads at Underwater Peoples will be hosting the mother of all-dayers at Market Hotel in Brooklyn. The folks at UP promise lots of ill music, lots of beer, pleasant company, tons of fun.

Show Starts 4PM $5.00 @the door
Subway: J to Myrtle Ave Stop.

BANDS (in no order; official set times will be posted in a couple days):

And while he may not be performing, Kenny Brown of Byrds of Paradise will be holdin’ it down.


ArtCrime this Saturday at 205 Chrystie featuring System D-128 (Mad Decent)

Join Theory Events for a night of audio-visual crills with guest video artist System D-128 (Mad Decent/Stemspot) and resident djs It’s Overture, Voidstar Runner, DJ Scallywag and 100dBs burning up two dance floors, upstairs and down.

System D-128, a.k.a. Duey FM, is coming to us from Illadelph, PA. In late 2004, he created a DVD for Diplo’s Florida LP. He has also worked with Obey, M.I.A., Ed Banger, Stones Throw Records, Ghostly International, A-Trak, and MF Doom on a variety of projects. He is currently working with Mad Decent, Mishka and his independent production company Stemspot.

Music by:
System D-128
DJ Scallywag
It's Overture
Voidstar Runner

The 411:
205 Chrystie Street. New York, NY
Free for ladies
$10 for dudes ($5 on guestlist:
Subway - Take the F/V to 2nd Avenue OR the 6 train to Bleeker

Official Site