Thursday, June 4, 2009

"We Fought the Big One Mixtape - June 2009"

Ra Ra Rasputin is playing a show with Love Is All tonight @ The Black Cat, and I, Colonel K from Ra Ra Rasputin will at DJing at "We Fought The Big One" on Friday @ Marx Cafe in Mt. Pleasant, DC.

Brandon and Rick, the hosts/DJs of WFTBO invited me to compile a mixtape to celebrate my ascension to "Guest DJ" status. Enjoy!

Simple Minds “Changeling”

Between 1979’s “Life in a Day” and 1982’s “New Gold Dream,” this Glaswegian quintet ambitiously fused Krautrock, ambient pop, Italo-disco and glam rock into a sound that was chaotic, yet inspired. But buried in the confusion, there are stunning moments of glory. Look no further than “Changeling,” an incredibly danceable single from 1979’s “Real to Real Cacophony.”

Family Portrait “Mega Secrets”
This is a band featuring some younger friends of mine here in DC. (They’ve all just completed their bachelor’s degrees at GW). I had no idea that these guys were in a band, and I was gobsmaked when they played me the rough version of this song. Recorded on a reel-to-reel somewhere in suburban New Jersey, “Mega Secrets” is a piece of enjoyable lo-fi pop by a very secretive band (they’ve only played 2 or 3 shows).

The Pop Group “She is Beyond Good and Evil”
Bristol’s the Pop Group were one of the most intense and experimental groups to emerge from the ashes of punk rock. “She Is Beyond Good and Evil,” is an aggressive bouillabaisse of free-jazz, punk, and dub - all of this topped by Mark Stewart’s fanatical, Yoko Ono-esque vocals. The lyric “Our only defense is together as an army, I’ll hold you like a gun,” sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. If Liquid Liquid can get back together for a series of concerts, why the hell can’t these guys.

The Pale Fountains “Always Something on My Mind”
I discovered the album “Pacific Street” while working as a teacher in the suburbs of Paris. “Always Something on My Mind,” a sunny Love/Burt Bacharach-influenced tune, was my favorite song on the album. A song that kept helped me keep my mind off the Continental winter.
One evening, while I was thumbing through paperbacks at a small bookstore in the Latin Quarter, I met a lovely American girl named Caroline. We would get together to sip drinks and complain about the weather. We ended up moving to DC around the same time and continued to post up. While driving around in my car one Sunday morning, we listened to my copy of “Pacific Street.” When I dropped her off, I gave her the CD as a reminder of old times.

Hey Paulette “I Really Do Love Penelope”
There was a period back in ‘07 when I could not fall asleep at night. I’d stay up for hours watching either stand-up comedy or looking for old music videos. One night I searched for “C86″ and found this song. It wasn’t the most groundbreaking video -it was just Super8 footage the band playing in a warehouse (actually Temple Lane Studios in Dublin). But the guitar playing was heavenly and the lyrics made me laugh out loud. I tried to dig up information on the band, but came up with very little.
Hey Paulette were an Irish group whose sound referenced the jangly guitars of the Smiths and the self deprecating lyrics of Edwyn Collins. Typical of most bands of their era, Hey Paulette released one album, two seven inches, one twelve inch and a Peel session. And despite their brief blip of a presence on the indie-pop radar, the band somehow managed to attract fans in Japan and the Philippines. And thanks to today’s reissue culture, all of their material has been compiled onto a CD that is available on I-Tunes. I love it.

Felt “Fortune (12″ Version)”
This version of “Fortune” (which appeared as the b-side to “Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow), is much better than the original found on 1981’s “Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty. Lawrence’s vocals sound a lot better when they’re up front in the mix. And Maurice Deebank’s atmospheric approach to classical scales sounds so much better with the right amount of chorus and reverb. In my opinion this is probably one of Deebank’s finest performances. Felt really suffered when he decided to leave the band. Sure they gained Martin Duffy - but he didn’t really start to shine until he joined Primal Scream. But that’s another argument for another day.

Ringo Deathstarr “Starrsha”
The key to playing shoegaze/dreampop is VOLUME. A Place to Bury Strangers knows this. Screen Vinyl Image knows this. And Ringo Deathstarr definitely knows this. This Austin quartet has played DC five times in the last year, and will probably be here twice before the end of 2009. If you haven’t heard their music, do so ASAP. Along w/the aforementioned APTBS and SVI, they manage to carry the torch of early Jesus and Mary Chain/Isn’t Anything era My Bloody Valentine without sounding hopelessly derivative. “Starrsha” is the second song on their debut EP, which was recently reissued by on vinyl by none other than Fan Death Records.

The Style Council “Long Hot Summer”
Some people will never forgive Paul Weller for breaking up the Jam and forming the Style Council. And while Weller and collaborator Mick Talbot did many questionable things during the 80s, they always looked sharp and always came through with dope and soulful songs.

Nite Jewel “What Did He Say”
In his review of 2009’s “Good Evening,” Ian Cohen of Pitchfork complained loudly about the album’s tape hiss, unquantized drum programming and shaky playing. But something tells me that he’d never complain about the poorly tuned guitars and flat vocals that seem to dominate most indie rock.
Rockist statements from crabby reviewers aside, I sweat this song cuz it reminds me of hot summer evenings. You know, when you’re getting ready to go out and you have the AC on blast and you’re trying to find a good shirt. Much respect to Spin Magazine for writing a little blurb these ladies in last month’s issue.

The Teardrop Explodes “Like Leila Khaled Said
I love this song for the sheer audacity of the subject matter. Leila Khaled was a member of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who was briefly imprisoned in the UK due to her involvement in two high profile airline hijackings in 1969 and 1970. In today’s post 9/11 world, I can’t think of any group that would dare to compose such a love song. But considering the fact that Palestine is no longer a cause célèbre amongst the young and hip set (most people wear kaffiyehs without even acknowledging the political significance of that particular garment), I doubt anyone would care.

Jacob Miller “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown”
I used to trade cassettes with this dude Johannes, a hip Filipino kid from San Francisco. We met during an exchange program in Nice, France and instantly bonded over music. Upon returning to the States, we began trading mix tapes. He’d send me cassettes of late early 90s house, Kool Keith and dub reggae. In turn, I sent him tapes of underground NY hip hop and hardcore punk.
This version of Jacob Miller’s “Baby I Love You So,” was the first dub song I ever heard. I damn near destroyed the cassette because I kept rewinding it to hear the huge spaced out drum fills in the middle of the song.

Liechtenstein “Roses in the Park”
In age where so many artists are using AutoTune in the studio and on stage, it’s such a relief to hear the sound of a singer’s natural voice. Liechtenstein’s vocal arrangements not only sound beautiful, they are also very well thought out. This was the first of their songs that I ever heard and I instantly fell in love with it. Some pundits have compared them to Kleenex and Liliput. Some of my BYT Colleagues swear they sound like the Mo-dettes. Me? I think they sound like the Shop Assistants or Darling Buds. Whatever you think they sound like, they sound great and I can’t wait for them to come back to DC.

Antena “Camino Del Sol”
Les Disques du Crepuscule was more than just a dumping ground for A Certain Ratio and Durutti Column 7″s. In the early 1980s, they released several recordings by one of the innovative groups to come out of France’s electro scene - Antena. By mixing Afro-Brazilian rhythms (played on cheap rhythm boxes and drum machines) with icy synths and jazzy vocals, the group created “electro-samba” (a term coined by Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, who reviewed one of their early singles).

This mix and the accompanying notes were originally posted on Brightest Young Things

Monday, June 1, 2009

A lot of words with Nate Frey (of Last Tide, Detox Retox)

I’m not 100% sure how I met Nate Frey. I do remember remarking that he was wearing Uniqlo T-000 jeans. I gave him much respect for this, as I can only think of a few people in DC who enjoy going up to NY and shopping at Uniqlo as much as I do.
But this is not an interview about fashion – no. Nate is a talkative fellow and he's in a couple of bands. Detox Retox is his longtime band and I've had the pleasure of sharing the stage with those guys several times. Homeboy also has a new band called Last Tide and they'll playing at Red and Black on Tuesday June 2nd.

Nate you’re a pretty busy guy(he also has a post-rock group and occasionally does noise sets). How do you find the time to devote this much energy to making so much music - I mean you do have a full time job as well!
It's pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I could easily spend every waking minute playing music and be happy.

Boring question - what made you wanna pick up the guitar?

I started playing when I was about 13. At that time I was mostly trying to learn a lot of classic rock, stuff like Jimi Hendrix, The Police, Neil Young.

Who are your primary influences?
Depends on the project. Here's a few of the more obvious ones:
Last Tide: MBV, Slowdive, Red House Painters, Smashing Pumpkins
Detox Retox: Talking Heads, !!!, Modest Mouse, Head Automatica
Reversal: Mogwai, Don Caballero, Explosions in the Sky, King Crimson

And then there are loads of others who've influenced me in more subtle ways.

What’ve bee you listening to in the last 6 months?
"Isn't Anything" - My Bloody Valentine
"Year After Year" - Idaho
S/T (I) - Red House Painters
"The Name of this Band is Talking Heads" - Talking Heads

"Dark Was the Night" - VA. (The Bon Iver song on this record is incredible!)
St Vincent - I saw her play at the Black Cat the other week, not knowing much of her music, and I was really blown away.

Now, your band,Detox Retox, has been quiet for a few months due to the fact that your singer is doing an internship abroad. When is he returning and what your plans are for the next few months?
Well, we have some tracks recorded that we're hoping to have Justin Moyer (Edie Sedgwick) mix in the near future. Not quite enough for another EP though, so when Parker gets back we'll need to record another song or two before we can do an actual release.
Show-wise, we just found out we're playing MidPoint Music Festival in Cincinnati in late September, so we're probably gonna do a couple additional Midwest dates around that. Plus, there will definitely be some local shows later this summer that aren't quite nailed down yet.


And I just heard that y'all are playing the Warped Tour. Congratulations!

Yeah, that is definitely happening, July 14th at Merriweather on the Kevin Says Stage. We're looking at it as a great opportunity to get some exposure to an audience we probably wouldn't have access to otherwise, and to get to see Bad Religion play for free... among other things. I think it probably means even more to the other guys than it does to me; they all went to Warped Tour as kids, but yeah, we're all pretty stoked.

It's great that you've managed to make so much progress. But it must be a bit odd to have so much momentum and then have to switch focus to another project.
Playing in Detox Retox is a blast, but I've also always loved a lot of dense, moody stuff that doesn't really fit in with what we do. When I found out we were going to be taking a break from April to July awhile back, I seized the opportunity to start up another project.

So what's Last Tide's songwriting process like? Do you hand the group finished songs and say "play it like this" or is it a more communal effort?

With Last Tide, usually Libby or I will have a fairly complete song, and we'll take it to the band and try to work out an arrangement collaboratively. I tend to think that it's pretty hard to "jam it out" with this type of music, particularly in a five piece band.
In Detox Retox, on the other hand, usually songs start with Parker bringing a riff to the band, and then all of us collectively jamming the rest out.

So how'd you manage to start a new group and book a mini-tour of the East Coast on such short notice?
Well, I went into the project with a lot of songs I wanted to play already written, plus Libby's written a bunch of great songs too, so we weren't short on material like a lot of new bands are. Beyond that, everyone has been good about practicing regularly, which is helpful.
As for booking the shows, I have a lot of contacts from doing almost all the booking for Detox Retox, so I was able to use those connections to my advantage.

There are a lot of bands experimenting in post-rock and shoegaze. In your opinion why is there so much interest in this sort of music right now?

I guess I have two answers to that. Taking a very broad view, God only knows what drives public opinion. But more narrowly, I would say that it may be related to the fact that bands like MBV and Slowdive made such amazing records, but had very little mainstream exposure stateside. And now with the advent of digital music, it's been easier for people to obtain their music, and it still sounds fresh because there really never was a mainstream record anything like Loveless, and because the best shoegaze records were years ahead of their time in terms of production and arranging techniques. That's totally a guess though.

(Photo by Andy Watts)

Ok, so how does one approach such a popular sound and still come off as original?
I think it's important to keep an open mind about what your sound is and not let yourself be constrained by some preconceived notion of what the music should sound like. For example, I started Last Tide as a "shoegaze" project, but there's a lot of other stuff that's made its way in, psychedelic music, minimalist stuff, some punk, all kinds of things, and I'm not even sure a purist would consider what we are doing to be shoegaze music at this point. And that's okay with me. We just try to let the deciding factor be whether we like it or not, and so far, that's worked out pretty well.

Now for inevitable "the scene questions." What do you think about the Washington DC scene right now?
Another broad question. There are a lot of bands I dig, True Womanhood, Imperial China, The Tennis System, Greenland, Title Tracks, Mittenfields, to name a handful, but there are loads of others. (Apologies to any friends I failed to mention!) My biggest disappointment has been that so many DC bands seem to not capitalize on the buzz they accumulate for one reason or another, and seem to end up just another great band that nobody outside of DC ever heard of.

Favorite venues? Are there any places you'll never play again?
Well, maybe it will be different with Last Tide, don't really have enough experience to say yet, but with Detox Retox... we've found Rock and Roll Hotel's sound to be really good, the best we've had probably. Velvet Lounge has a really cool vibe to it that we like a lot. I've never played Black Cat or DC9, so I can't really speak to those from a performer's perspective, but I love seeing shows at both.
Outside of DC, there's this BYOB space in Philly called Connie's Ric-Rac which is just a huge party, (the place Detox Retox played with you guys a few months back), that was just a great atmosphere.
There actually haven't been very many places I've disliked playing. I'm easy to please, I guess.

And who are your favorite bands to play with?
These are all bands Detox Retox has played with, though I am really stoked to play with some of the bands Last Tide is sharing bills with in the next couple months. We love playing with you guys (Ra Ra Rasputin), we love playing with Loose Lips. Oh, and I definitely have to mention the guys in Fight the Bear; they've been great to us basically from the beginning, and they rock so hard.

And finally, I must acknowledge our many conversations about musical equipment we findon Craigslist and Ebay. Tell me about some of your recent purchases. Any regrets?
I spent a few months this winter acquiring a small arsenal of cheap guitars. In retrospect, some of them probably weren't worth buying, but they are gonna make fun DIY upgrade projects, so I don't really regret them. I will say that I regret buying three chorus pedals that all kind of sucked before finally spending the extra money on a BBE Mindbender, which was what I wanted in the first place. But c'est la vie.

Do you have any predictions on how the economy will affect the market for vintage instruments?
I had to sell some stuff a few months back and I can honestly say it's very much a buyer's market right now. I think the future direction of the market depends upon the state of the economy at large, and if I knew that I'd be a much richer man.

Last Tide will be playing @ the Red and Black on Tuesday June 2nd. Doors are at 830pm , first band is on at 9pm.
Last Tide MySpace
Detox Retox MySpace