Wavves are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their self-titled debut with a special vinyl reissue. Due out tomorrow for Record Store Day (April 21st), it will be available in a unique black-and-white splatter colorway and come packaged with all-new artwork.
To coincide with this release, the Nathan Williams-led punk outfit has unearthed a demo left over from the recording sessions for the 2008 full-length. The song is called “All Star Goth” and exudes the kind of raw and noisy adrenaline associated with that first album.
Check it out below, followed by the 10th anniversary LP artwork.
Wavves’ last full-length came in 2017 with You’re Welcome. They recently put out “The Lung” as part of Adult Swim’s Singles Program back in September.
Sweet Valley, the electronic project also featuring Williams, dropped a new album today titled Eternal Champ II.
Track by Track is a new music feature in which we invite our favorite new artists to break down each song on their latest album.
Years of sweaty DIY shows, career shifts, and jam sessions will come to fruition for Chicago neo-psycho rockers Post Animal this week. Tomorrow, the band will embark on a massive headlining tour of North America in support of their debut album, When I Think of You in a Castle. It’s not due out until Friday, but Consequence of Sound is premiering it in full below.
When I Think of You in a Castle began to coalesce during a 2016 retreat in a haunted Michigan lake house where the band began recording in the midst of what drummer Wesley describes as “an uncertain time for us as a band.” In a press statement, he adds, “Before this album, we weren’t sure what the future of the band was going to look like. I was considering moving to Los Angeles and [guitarist] Joe [Keery] was off filming Stranger Things. We didn’t know where we were all going but we knew we wanted to make an album with all of us in the same room.”
Those sessions, which the band describe as “magical,” served to solidify Post Animal’s future as a unit. The band toured extensively in 2017 while bassist Dalton Allison perfected the album’s mix and Jared Hirshland, brother of guitarist/keyboardist Jake, handled mastering. What you hear on the final effort is the sound of a band of brothers, including drummer Wesley Toledo and guitarists Matt Williams and Javi Reyes, connecting over a shared passion for psychedelic, poppy rock. Lead vocals are shared by all — even Keery, who despite not joining the band on the road sings on the peppy “Ralphie” and the sludgier “Gelatin Mode” — a testament to the fact that this is the work of a truly collaborative group of musicians.
Check out the album below:
When I Think of You in a Castle is due out on this Friday, April 20th via Polyvinyl. Pre-order it here. For more on what went into the creation of the record, the band has broken down the album Track by Track.
“Everything All At Once”: This song didn’t start as an instrumental intro; our early demos had vocal harmonies moving throughout. We recorded it first of the bunch, and set up a few mics on an acoustic guitar and a Casiotone portable keyboard. It started to rain outside, so we opened the window and tracked two takes straight through. In post production, our friend Adam mixed some pads and synth bass in. The instrumental version reminded us of our time at the lake, so we left the vocals off.
“Gelatin Mode”: The first song we finished for the album. We took segments from the original demo, which we recorded in our basement in Chicago, and organized the intro, verses, and choruses. It needed a climax, so we workshopped riffs until we found one dramatic enough. Before we decided on the lyrics, “Javelin Throw” was the main phrase, then “Gelatin Mold”, and finally “Gelatin Mode”. Don’t be shocked if you hear something else live.
“Tire Eyes”: This one’s been in the oven for at least three years. The first version was much less frantic with a melodic, meandering guitar riff playing through the verses, which are now very rhythmic. It probably wouldn’t have made the cut for the record, but just before we left to track, we rehabbed it in a jam and fell back in love. We had our friends Mr. Cadien and Mr. Malcom join us for some harmonious joy at the end; Malcom’s responsible for that angelic yell in the finale.
“Ralphie”: This was the first song we recorded with a live guitar ensemble. Javi had just arrived to start guitars and Dalton was dehydrated and noise-fatigued after recording drum — lying on the porch in woe. We set up the mics in a circle in the living room and decided to start with something difficult. After about 20 tries we had the take of the Ralphie intro that made the record, and with this take we established the way we’d police ourselves for the next tracks to get live takes we’d be proud of.
“Heart Made of Metal”: Life, in this song, is a person named Lorelei. It’s lyrically about convincing oneself to not fear the change around them, and eventually succumbing to the answerless way we’re all tossed through existence.
“The Castle”: When I Think of You in a Castle was originally the title of this song. The short vocal verse is about love, and longing, and using imagination to create a feeling of togetherness. It’s placed at the beginning of Side B as a mostly instrumental breath; some peace before the deep dive that follows.
“Special Moment”: This song is a response to the pop tunes in the album’s first half, using a quirky half-step progression to create something both off-kilter and digestible. We didn’t have enough headphone inputs or good amps to accommodate all four guitars recording at once, so Jake recorded “Special Moment” headphone-less and through a 10-inch Fender starter amp.
“Victory Lap:Danger Zone”: Our rowdiest track. It’s about playing through a conflict in your head and building it up until you hit rage, aka the “danger zone.” The meditative end acts like a partial resolution to that inner conflict. Falling in line, but not completely satisfied. For when you’re stuck in a metal box.
“One Thing”: This song is the slow cooking burner on the record. In the same suit as the end of Victory Lap, it’s about coping with something that you can never get away from. The song arrived at the lake house as only bass and synth. All of the guitar harmonies were written just before recording.
“Dirtpicker”: Dirtpicker was the last song we tracked drums for. Immediately after finishing we had to take a break because a cup of coffee spilled all over Dalton’s computer. We had no back up of the two days of work and played a disparaged game of catch in the front yard as the computer dried out. Three hours later, we fired it up and it worked. Everything could’ve ended right there. The computer is fine.
“Susie (Bonus)”: When you’re done with the record, crack a cold one and take Susie for a spin.
Post Animal 2018 Tour Dates: 04/18 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club 04/19 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop 04/20 – Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig 04/21 – Columbus, OH @ The Basement 04/27 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall 04/28 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon 05/02 – Columbia, MO @ Cafe Berlin 05/03 – Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar 05/04 – Nashville, TN @ The High Watt 05/06 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival 05/24 – Cleveland Heights, OH @ Grog Shop 05/25 – Toronto, ON @ Smiling Buddha 05/26 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo 05/29 – Allston, MA @ Great Scott 05/30 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade 05/31 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s 06/02 – Washington, DC @ Union Stage 06/04 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter 06/05 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle Back Room 06/06 – Asheville, NC @ Mothlight 06/09 – Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo Music Festival 06/11 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada 06/14 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar 06/15 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater 06/16 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room 06/17 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar 06/18 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Atrium 06/19 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe du Nord 06/21 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge 06/22 – Vancouver, BC @ Fox Cabaret 06/23 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza 06/26 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court 06/28 – Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge 06/29 – Omaha, NE @ Slowdown Front Room 06/30 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Jim James has announced his third solo album. It’s called Uniform Distortion and set for a June 29th release date through ATO Records. The project comes just months after Tribute to 2, his covers LP from December, and follows 2016’s Eternally Even, his last solo release of original material.
As a press statement notes, Uniform Distortion was inspired by The Last Whole Earth Catalog, a ’70s-era magazine focused on the environment, sustainable living, and DIY culture. Specifically, the My Morning Jacket frontman was drawn to a photograph titled “Illuminated Man” by Duane Michals. For James, the image made him reflect on society’s near addiction to technology and the way in which we consume information (and misinformation).
James wrote to Michals asking if he could use “Illuminated Man” as the album cover for Uniform Distortion. He was initially rejected, but his second letter finally earned him permission. Here’s a portion of that convincing message he penned to Michals, which also offers some insight into the album’s underlying themes:
“… It [“Illuminated Man”] spoke to me so deeply of how my head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis and how that information is so DISTORTED there is almost no longer any tangible truth. the name of my new record is “UNIFORM DISTORTION” because i feel like there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our “news” and important information…and more and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth…and finding hope in places like the desert where i write this email to you now…finding hope in the land and in the water and in old books offering new ideas and most importantly in each other and love.”
The forthcoming LP was self-produced by James and Kevin Ratterman at Louisville’s La La Land studio. James was backed by bassist Seth Kauffman (Floating Action) and longtime touring drummer Dave Givan. Additional vocals were provided throughout by Dear Lemon Trees’ Leslie Stevens, Jamie Drake and Kathleen Grace.
James is previewing the record with lead single “Just A Fool”, as well as its corresponding music video helmed by Ellis Bahl. Check it out abelow.
Uniform Distortion Artwork:
Uniform Distortion Tracklist: 01. Just A Fool 02. You Get To Rome 03. Out of Time 04. Throwback 05. No Secrets 06. Yes To Everything 07. No Use Waiting 08. All In Your Head 09. Better Late Than Never 10. Over and Over 11. Too Good To Be True
Read James’ full letter to Michals:
hello duane- your piece “the illuminated man” was used in “the last whole earth catalogue” in 1971. i wasnt even born yet. i was born in 1978…but i found my copy of “the last whole earth catalogue” about 6 months ago in a thrift store and it blew my mind. i have been feeling increasingly overwhelmed by the speed of technology and its place in our lives and here was this beautiful book/catalogue from the past showing me me all these beautiful things and amazing images to help one learn different ways to look at the world… or “get off the grid?” funny they had no idea back then just how crazy “the grid” would get. or did they?
so i am trying to put down my phone… use the computer and social media less… and just focus on real life and the people i love and my art. of course i am not fully “off the grid” because i am sending you this email in hopes of you changing your mind about letting me use your image as it appeared in “the last whole earth catalogue” in 1971 because when i saw it on the page there it spoke to me so deeply of how my head feels like it is exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis and how that information is so DISTORTED there is almost no longer any tangible truth. the name of my new record is “UNIFORM DISTORTION” because i feel like there is this blanket distortion on society/media and the way we gather our “news” and important information…and more and more of us are feeling lost and looking for new ways out of this distortion and back to the truth…and finding hope in places like the desert where i write this email to you now…finding hope in the land and in the water and in old books offering new ideas and most importantly in each other and love.
i feel like there was a reason i found “the last whole earth catalogue” and there was a reason your art spoke to me… and i really think it would speak to others who would see it exploding out at them illuminating from the record store shelf or the glow of their phone or computer screen and feel its organic mind blowing distortion connect with this new music.
i also like the natural “distortion” that time and the pulp of the paper meeting the ink from “the last whole earth catalogue” add to your original image and that is why i am asking your permission to use this “distorted” version of your original beautiful image.
Origins is a recurring new music feature in which a musician breaks down the various influences of their latest track.
With his 2017 debut EP, Hopeless Romantic, San Francisco’s Justin Cheromiah offered a peek into his world of young love and heartache. Now, the 18-year-old indie songwriter known as High Sunn will expanded on that release with his full-length debut album, Missed Connections.
Due out May 4th through PNKSLM, the album picks up where High Sunn’s EP left off. The record touches on all the uncertainty and fears associated with growing up — the unrequited crushes, fluctuating feelings, and a sense of being without direction. It also sees the multi-cultural Cheromiah (he’s of Native American, Chinese, German, and Filipino descent) teaming up again with producer Dylan Wall (Craft Spells, Naomi Punk).
Today, Consequence of Sound is premiering a new song off the LP, “I Thought You Were”. Here, Cheromiah channels his love of ’90s indie rock — think the whimsy and chunky, angular guitars of Built to Spill or Modest Mouse. “I thought you were there/ But when I opened my eyes I saw nothing but air/ Was it a disguise?” he asks in search of a loved one. “Where are you?”
Take a listen to the track below.
For more insight into the new offering, Cheromiah has detailed the various inspirations that helped bring “I Thought You Were There” to fruition. In addition to the music of Coldhart and Richie Jen, boba tea and skateboarding played an important role.
This film really inspired me to create a lot of the songs on the album. The whole scenario that the character was in seemed to be very cute and innocent. I rewatched this about 5-6 times. It’s one of Ghibli’s underappreciated films that deserves far more recognition. Anime in general really influenced the making of “Missed Connections”. I spent a lot of time watching several series/movies. Haha ew huh. In particular, the song, “Kokuhaku”, is the most significant product that came from watching the anime. The cliches in anime are perfect.
Coldhart — “I Don’t Wanna Die In California”:
Coldhart has always seeped into my playlists. He is one of my favorite artists actually. I had the opportunity to work with him and release his tapes, which is something I never would have imagined. Well, at the time I recorded the album, this specific song was on repeat. The depressive and emotional nature of the song comforted me in a way and played some influence in the writing process.
Everyday I used to get boba (milk tea). Instead of eating a meal for lunch, it would be boba. I would skip a meal to get my fix after school. It’s super unhealthy, but soooo good. Hahaha. I remember that I would have either Jasmine Milk Tea or WinterMelon Tea next to me whenever I wrote a song. I even had my drummer, Joe, go on a boba run when we recorded in studio.
When I wasn’t writing or watching anime, I was outside skating. It’s a form of therapy that either helped clear my mind or think more deeply. It’s good to take a break from writing music and doing something else you really like. If I didn’t get outside and skate, I would have probably lost my mind.
Richie Jen — “Too Softhearted”:
This song is a must listen. I occasionally revisit this song because of how cheesy (but good cheesy) it is. It’s a classic. This is the OG of emo music hahaha. I can feel Jen’s heartache through his soft cries. It definitely accompanied me when I was writing the album.
Origins is a recurring new music feature providing artists a platform to dig into the influences of their latest single.
Considering the odds, it’s understandable that some folks aren’t completely on board with the idea of chasing the rock and roll dream. Passion and even talent can only take you so far, they may argue, and this whole music business thing is such a crapshoot anyway. If you started your career playing naked parties in a Boone, North Carolina college house like The Nude Party did, the prospects may seem even more dubious. But as the garage psych sextet make clear in their new song “Chevrolet Van”, they’d rather enjoy themselves playing tunes and traveling in a van than wearing a suit and tie.
The lead single from the band’s forthcoming self-titled debut (out July 6th via New West Records), “Chevrolet Van” captures all the pleasures of performing music with your best buds in its easygoing, barroom twang. In the accompanying band-directed video, The Nude Party give a tongue-in-cheek response to anyone who would tell them to pursue any other occupation. Interspersed with scenes of the six-piece imagining slacking off in a boring office life are clips of them playing in a dusky dive. It may not be the most glamorous life, but flash forward a few decades and The Nude Party — now played by their actual fathers — are still completely content to be rocking out in the same rundown bar.
Check out the clip below.
For more on what inspired “Chevrolet Van”, The Nude Party’s Patton Magee and Connor Mikita have broken down a few of the track’s real-life Origins. Check those out below.
At the onset of our first big tour, we were gifted a Ford Econoline E350 Van from bassist Alec’s family. It’s a hulking Army Green 16-passenger workhorse that they used to take on family vacations. With some modifications like creating a combo bed / gear storage space, burglar-proofing the back door, and adding an external luggage box on top, we’ve made Aubustus Gibbons into a mobile headquarters. And it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that we spend half of our lives in that van.
We would’ve called the song “Ford Econoline Van” but that just doesn’t have the same ring that “Chevrolet Van” has. Maybe someday when Aubustus retires, Chevrolet will give us one of theirs in exchange for the free advertising. — Patton Magee
Letter from Pops:
My brother spent a while in Asia backpacking around, and had loose plans to move to Korea for a while and teach English. Essentially he just wanted to go on an adventure. Upon hearing this, our grandfather sent him a letter detailing how he aught to amend his plans and start focusing on narrowing down his career options and select one to stick with forever. “You are a juncture at which I think you should be focusing on setting goals… and beginning to narrow the choices of a career… I wonder if the plan to teach English to Koreans would further your career path.”
The letter was absolutely meant in good faith, and definitely came from a place of love, but it demonstrates that rift in reality between us and the old school traditionalists. Our song is a tongue-in-cheek response to that letter. It’s a counterpoint to the idea that your life should just be constant preparation for the future. — PM
In the spring of 2016, near the beginning of our touring days, a relentless email attack paid off with an offer to open a few shows for The Growlers on their Chinese Fountain tour in Florida. Immediately we agreed to the tour understanding that we’d have to book quite a few dates through Florida ourselves to fill in the gaps around The Growlers shows. We arrived in Orlando for our first show together, and parked our trash filled, steamy air condition-less van next to The Growlers massive tour bus. The place was sold out, one of the biggest crowds we’d ever played for. People were asking for our autographs and buying tons of our merch, we felt like little celebrities.
Riding high on this wave of good fortune, we began our self-booked leg of the tour in St. Augustine at Shanghai Knobbys. Immediately we noticed something awry when the aged, flickering marquee outside the bar simply read “Patton”. Our confusion quickly faded as we realized the bar’s tragic mistake in assuming Patton’s name when signing off emails was actually our band name. As we were shrugging off this minor miscommunication, from the dark wooded edge of the parking lot appeared an ork-like man in an ankle length leather trench coat who claimed to be filling in for the normal bartender. Upon telling him that the bar was locked, he told us he didn’t have a key and quickly began breaking in to the bar through a side window and climbed in over the jukebox. The show we played ended up being double booked with an open mic night which favored us because the two other performers were the only audience members. No one else showed up.
To wash off the shame of this humbling show we decided that an inebriated midnight skinny dip in the Atlantic was in order. This went successfully, but when we returned to the spot we had left our clothes we realized someone had taken everything. Inside of these clothes were most of our wallets and cell phones which were never recovered and naturally complicated the rest of the tour. Thankfully, Patton was able to throw up on most of the inside of the van which was then steam broiled in the Florida heat.
This tale is a snippet of the memories created when living nomadically almost year round. Times like those make us wonder if good stories are worth many of the sacrifices made to chase that neon rainbow. They usually are. — Connor Mikita
Pre-orders for The Nude Party are going on here. You can also catch the band on tour with Sunflower Bean and Ron Gallo at the dates below.
The Nude Party 2018 Tour Dates: 04/11 – Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room * 04/12 – Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge * 04/13 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court 04/15 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent * 04/17 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Atrium * 04/18 – VIsalia, CA @ The Cellar Door * 04/19 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room * 04/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater 04/22 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah * 04/23 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar * 04/24 – El Paso , TX @ Lowbrow Palace * 04/26 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger 04/27 – Austin, TX @ Levitation Music Festival 04/28 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada 04/29 – Houston , TX @ Satellite Bar 05/01 – Memphis, TN @ Growlers 05/03 – Nashville, TN @ The Basement East 05/04 – Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light 05/05 – Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern 06/01 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery ^ 06/02 – Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel ^ 06/03 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle – Back Room ^ 06/05 – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor ^ 06/06 – Atlanta, GA @ Aisle 5 ^ 07/05 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
After a winter-long hibernation, Top Songs of the Month returns on the final Friday of each month to share the songs that we just haven’t been able to shake over the last 30 days. And trust us, March kept our earbuds swamped. Legends returned, the biggest names in rock and roll had something new to say, fresh faces further carved out space for themselves, and hot acts dropped tracks that’ll no doubt still be bumping in our heads come warmer weather.
With the release of Firepower bringing Judas Priest’s album count up to a whopping 18, the English heavy metal titans prove that they never lost their grip on their grit, and “Lightning Strike” makes for strong evidence. Brimming with a delectable darkness and raw power, the lead single hits the ear hard and heavy. This results in the track taking on an effortlessly epic life of its own, which is exactly what makes it the ultimate rock and roll cocktail that will keep listeners coming back for round after round. –Lindsay Teske
The first single off of upcoming June album Lush, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan tells an insightful, honest story of teen isolation and angst in lilting ballad “Pristine” with straightforward yet poetic lyrics. Jordan’s youthful voice is supported by her trademark punk-inflected yet soft guitar, questioning those who keep her down with queries like “Don’t you like me for me?” and discovering that she loves herself and “Won’t love anyone else”. –Clara Scott
Soccer Mommy has proved a smash hit on the indie circuit with her debut album, Clean, a collection of rock ballads and jams that weave interesting stories between catchy guitar-based hooks. “Cool”, the second single from the record, carries its power in the narrative of female badassery sung dreamily by the outfit’s creator, Sophie Allison, telling the story of a man-eating cool-girl while maintaining a danceable chorus. –Clara Scott
Release: From Boarding House Reach, available now on Third Man
Jack White has successfully concocted a masterful melting pot of scuzz and style in “Over and Over and Over”. The standout track from his third solo album, Boarding House Reach, finds its strength in its exploratory nature. The cool and cohesive mashup of textures and tones boldly diversifies White’s existing body of work, yet still makes way for his signature sonic flair to shine through. “Over and Over and Over” was a creative gamble, and White rolled his dice and won big. –Lindsay Teske
06. DJ Khaled – “Top Off” ft. Jay-Z, Future, and Beyoncé
Release: From Father of Asahd, available April 2018 on We the Best
Features are a catch-22 proposition in hip-hop. Going it alone isn’t in the genre’s DNA, but roll with too many others and those guests can be seen as crutches. And then you have former Terror Squad member DJ Khaled, the anomalous hit-maker whose success stems from knowing exactly who to write with, tap as producer, and pass the mic to, and rarely, if ever, has the hip-hop chess master had better pieces to maneuver than on “Top Off”. With features from Jay-Z, Future, and Beyoncé, the top may just stay off that Maybach for the rest of 2018. –Matt Melis
The Get Up Kids are gearing up to release their first new music in seven years. Today, the emo pioneers announced their signing to Polyvinyl Record Co., which will serve as the home for their follow-up to 2011’s There Are Rules.
Alongside the announcement, the Kansas City band shared a brief clip teasing the new material. Check it out below.
In 2008, The Get Up Kids played a reunion show after a three-year breakup to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their seminal sophomore album, Something to Write Home About, and followed up with a national tour. 2010 saw the release of their Simple Science EP, which led to the aforementioned full-length, There Are Rules.
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The Lowdown: At the tender age of 22, the members of New York-based trio Sunflower Bean have musically matured in a preternatural fashion, moving leaps and bounds beyond the rough-and-ready attack of their 2016 debut album. In a mere two years, they’ve absorbed the history of glam rock and paid enough attention to the world at large to become fully jaded adults. As a result, the 11 songs on Twentytwo in Blue stomp and seethe, while aching for humanity’s future.
The Good: With the help of co-producers Jacob Portrait (bassist for Unknown Mortal Orchestra) and Matthew Molnar (ex-member of Friends), Sunflower Bean have dropped the tightly packed core of their wiggly rock into a pool of warm water, letting it unroll and swell into something softer and cushier. And they’ve wisely set the emphasis on the enrapturing curl of Julia Cumming’s vocals. Even as she snubs organized religion (“Human For”) and breaks free from a poisonous relationship (“Puppet Strings”), it goes down like a syrupy, potent elixir.
The Bad: The band’s youth comes across most strongly in their decidedly less-than-nuanced lyrics. Cummings and fellow vocalist Nick Kivlen write songs with a punk-like bluntness that rubs roughly against the otherwise frictionless music. They drive their points home firmly, as in the embittered “Crisis Fest” (“Reality’s one big sick show/ Every day’s a crisis fest … there’s a coup in our country/ It’s happening now”), but often get stuck on rusty turns of phrase (“Who holds the puppet strings to my heart?”) that feel like yearbook quotes.
The Verdict: Sunflower Bean have all the ingredients at hand to achieve something truly spectacular. And they’re right on the precipice. Considering how quickly young bands are expected to ripen to survive in our accelerated age, this trio has done a remarkable job evolving from the uneasy steps of their first self-released tracks to this more steady and fleshed-out album. At the moment, it feels more like a sneaky treat than something to provide more substantive fuel. But there are plenty of occasions were that quick-hit sugar rush is all you need.
Essential Tracks: “Burn It”, “Crisis Fest”, and “Sinking Sands”
Origins is a new music feature in which artists have the chance to share the deeper inspiration for their newest single.
Cold Fronts founder Craig Almquist has seen 15 different supporting cast members in his band over its eight-year existence, but he’s always kept the ethos of driving garage pop going strong. With 2015’s Forever Whateverdebut, the lineup of Almquist (vocals/guitar), Max Steen (guitar), Alex Luquet (bass) and Joe Killian (drums) finally seemed to feel right, and so Cold Fronts locked it in. After the record’s release, they began collaborating on music together for the first time. The results will be seen when their sophomore album, Fantasy Du Jour, drops April 20th via Sire Records
The new effort’s opening track, “This Always Happens”, finds Cold Fronts firmly in their groove. Almquist delivers Albert Hammond, Jr.-esque licks while singing seething lines about the disillusion that comes with too many failed romances (“Take a shot, but you can’t replace/ What you had, or what you don’t know/ When I fade, babe, you always glow yeah”). Behind him, the band turn in fuzzy garage pop filled with frustration and exasperation. Take a listen below.
Almquist has given us deeper insight into “This Always Happen” for our latest Origins feature. Read on to learn why 2015 had as much of an impact as ’70s/’80s punk icons The Cramps.
The Cramps –“The Way I Walk”:
I love how wild the singer Lux’s vocals are. I really admire how unhinged he is when performing and wanted to go for a similar vibe when recording the vocals. I definitely remember watching this video of them performing in a California State Mental Hospital with my buddy Zach who I wrote the song and being very inspired by it.
The Modern Lovers –“I’m Straight”:
I love the hopeless romantic side of Johnathan Richmans lyrics. There is something so honest and conversational about them that I really admire, its very sincere. This Always Happens is about when you like someone, you think it might go somewhere, and then you see them dating someone else.I feel like everyones gone through something like that where you have genuine feelings for someone but it doesn’t mean they’re “the one”. I listened to The Modern Lovers a lot over the past couple years and its become one of my favorite records, this is one of my favorite songs.
My buddy Zach and I have been making songs together for a while and we wrote “This Always Happens” together. We’ve made a bunch of songs and he turned me on to The Modern Lovers and The Cramps. We wrote it in the summer of 2015 and have released a couple songs on SoundCloud over the years. He also introduced me to our guitarist Max who’s had a big impact on the band. They have a group called Vexxed thats putting out an EP in April on Rare MP3s, definitely keep an eye out for it, its sick.
I wrote this in the summer of 2015 and had been been on tour for a good chunk of it. It was a really stressful year for me, we were touring hard on an album that as far as I knew was never going to see the light of day. Half my band quit two weeks before a two month US tour and we also had our first show in the UK booked. I had also just gotten out of a five year relationship to top it all off and was feeling like a real lost boy. I think thats where some of the darkness and pessimism in the song comes from.
There’s something precious about turning 22. It brings a creeping sense of maturity — you’ve spent a year legally drinking, after all — yet you still haven’t shaken the vulnerability of coming into your own. It’s the first birthday that doesn’t actually feel that special, just sort of expected. What you do with those expectations, however, is how you begin to redefine yourself as an individual. Or, in the case of Sunflower Bean, how they reinvent themselves as a band.
The Brooklyn trio — the first artists to receive both a CoSign and Artist of the Month stamp of approval — return next week with their sophomore album, the aptly titled Twentytwo in Blue. All three members hit that palindromic age while working on the record. As if breaching adulthood or having to follow up a breakout debut like 2016’s Human Ceremony didn’t carry enough pressure as individual events, here they were confronting both simultaneously. Speak with bassist/vocalist Julia Cumming, guitarist/vocalist Nick Kivlen, and drummer Jacob Faber for just a few minutes, or give their new LP a spin, and it’s quickly evident how gracefully they’re handling the transition.
Where other young bands may get lost in the rush of acclaim and a touring lifestyle, Sunflower Bean are making a concerted effort towards longevity. They take nothing for granted, improving with every gig, pushing past the self-consciously imposed limitations felt by any vicenarian. Years spent in one band or another have led them to Twentytwo in Blue, and the sophistication with which they’re approaching the moment can be felt in every chord.
Their 2015 EP, Show Me Your Seven Secrets,stuck them with the label “psychedelic rock,” something that hung around even as they broke out of its confines with the muscular Human Ceremony. On the heels of singles like “I Was a Fool” and “Twentytwo”, they’ve now been saddled with comparisons to a band they jokingly hint at as “Bleetwood Black”. Though overused, it’s not terribly surprising given the new album’s larger sound flourishing with strings, bongos, and the increasingly rare use of female-male dual vocals. At the same time, a single like “Crisis Fest” cuts in like a Joan Jett protest punk rocker, and the poppy swing of “Puppet Strings” is constructed from misheard Nirvana lyrics.
Sunflower Bean’s goal is not to sound like anyone — in fact, it’s to sound like no one. Like any young adult, they want to be distinct, and the years since they first came on the scene have given them the confidence to do just that. As much as the new songs are a testament to their own growth as both individuals and artists, the lyrical honesty also makes them ready to be, as Faber puts it, “someone’s companion or friend that they can really hold on to.”
“Someone’s favorite weird song,” adds Cumming. “Something that they put on and feel strange and happy.”
When Twentytwo in Blue drops March 23rd via Mom + Pop, get ready for some happiness.
Julia Cumming: I’ve been touring since I was 11. My dad is a bass player, so I grew up with music and people playing music being pretty normal. I remember taking naps in studios that my dad was playing in. [The first band I toured with, The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players,] had a girl who was two years older than me, basically a child drummer. She needed a kid to hang out with, and I would get paid $5 a night, and I would go up to people and offer them CDs. They would have to buy them from me, and it was this really odd power dynamic because they couldn’t say no to a child!
Nick Kivlen: That’s slave labor!
JC: What’s funny is it almost set me up, because what do you do after that? Do you go back to school? It’s not like I had stage parents, but it was so cool. I got to travel the world. I got to make $5. It was amazing! I never really saw anything any other way. So a few years later when that girl said to me, “I’m starting my own band. Do you want to join?” I was like, “Yeah!” But I didn’t play any instruments.
NK: You were like, “I cost $5 a night.” JC: So I think from being in that band and the guys being in another band, we learned a lot of how to be in a band. Which is where a lot of bands suffer. For a band to work, it takes a lot of love and a lot of mutual respect. Of course, we still get into fights. But I know what not to do. These guys know what those dynamics are like from that other band. So we offered a different kind of relationship to each other, which I think is what I learned most from bands before this: how to not fuck it up this time.
JC: We played the most shows out of any band between 2014 and 2015 in New York City, which was over 50 shows and, in reality, was probably more around 60 or 70 for all the shows that weren’t listed.
Jacob Faber: You learn everything. It becomes your life. There’s no separation from it. On a personal level, it helps with maturing in a way because you’re going to so many different places, and you’re always having to adjust yourself and think about how you have to be in whatever certain place it is. Looking at yourself and how you feel in all these different places, what your role is in what you’re doing. A lot of that is amplified on the road rather than just sitting at home or in your college dorm for these four years.
I’m always reflecting on things like, “Oh, shit, this is crazy. I’m living my dream.” For some reason, it always only happens during a random show. Not even a big show or an important show — I mean, all shows are important — but just the most random show. And I’ll just be playing a song, and I’ll just get chills and be like, “Fuck. This is really amazing.” It’s good to think, because then after that, you always feel more clearheaded. It can be difficult to deal with your mind within all this stuff.
JC: The first year the band started I was a senior in high school, and the boys had just graduated. We started playing a lot of college shows that year, and I called it our own roundabout college tour. It felt like I was getting my college experience at Penn State or Bennington or Purchase. I remember the feeling that always came from that is that it’s really cold and depressing out there. We were partying and it didn’t seem like the right thing for me. When it came to graduating, we said we’re going to take a gap year, which has sort of become a gap life. We’ve always had this sense that there’s nothing to lose: “I’m 18, I’m healthy. You never know what’s going to happen. Right now, I have the ability to do this. We just have to follow that.” When kids ask us how to start a band or what to do, which they do a lot on the road, the thing I always say is if you have even the feeling that you have the spark, if you see something in the thing you’re doing even a little bit, follow that and chase it. It’s worth it.
JC: I feel like every single step we’ve made has been kind of like climbing a never-ending staircase of really tiny steps. Everything has felt really nice, and now we’re going to play Bowery again on April 26th; we’re going to play the whole record in full and have a bunch of cameos. I remember when we first headlined Bowery, I had this feeling — I’d opened there in my life like four or five times, and I had this feeling that I could die now. As a New Yorker, this is it. I’ve been here a million times, I’ve played here a handful of times, but to actually sell it out, having my family there, and having everyone there … And now to come back two years later and feel like this is an intimate show. It’s crazy!
It wasn’t ego, but we were high after that show! “We have an album coming out! We played Bowery! Pow pow pow!” And the next night we were going on tour, and it was the first night of the tour. We had an opening band. We were like, “We’re doing it!” We were in our zone. And we’re getting paid to play a fraternity at Dartmouth.
NK: We were getting more to play their frathouse than I think we got from selling out Bowery Ballroom.
JC: We show up and it was snowing. They’d left all the doors open; it was so cold we almost couldn’t play. And I swear to God not one person watched the set. There were like 20 people in the room, and a fight happened upstairs that everyone went upstairs to watch. And there was some shady shit going on in the basement. We were literally playing to the sound guy, to the point where it was the middle of the set and we were like, “Should we stop?” And this frat kid is so high he can’t finish writing the check. So one night we sell out 600 people, and the next night you play to nobody, and you have to bring the same thing all the time and you have to know that the world doesn’t owe you anything and every wonderful moment that happens is a special gift. And the things that aren’t special are just part of the thing.
ON WORKING WITH UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA’S JAKE PORTRAIT
Photo by Pete Vandenbelt
JC: With us it really is sort of a family affair, ride or die. With [producer] Matt [Molnar], we felt like we grew so much from doing the EP to doing Human Ceremony into actually being who we wanted to be that we thought we could take that even further. Matt had been so helpful in so many ways. Especially with writing stuff that’s intense or personal.
JF: I think we decided to work with him again because we can really trust him. That’s the biggest thing, just having someone in the initial writing and demoing process whom you can trust and you know will give you a straight answer with things. I think going to this one, we knew we wanted to add someone else, a new set of ears to it.
NK: Then enter Jacob Portrait … We were always big fans of UMO. They were a band we looked up to when we first formed. We always thought of them as a rock band that was taking traditional and classic things and elevating them to a different height. They really inspired us. So when it came time to bring in a wild card, Jacob was just so crazy and inventive. His ideas, we never even considered. He had all these strange guitars that you might not think were actually instruments you’d want to use, and he’d be like, “Go plug that in. We’ll put it through this pedal and see what happens!” And it would sound bizarrely wonderful. He reminds me a lot of Brian Eno in that way. He’s very, very experimental and inventive in the studio. He brought the songs from these initial tracks we brought to him that were just us playing live like we normally would, and he just elevated them to the next level.
JC: We’d put everything into the live show, and I think something we inadvertently learned on tour — being fortunate enough to support really legendary acts like the Pixies and have their influence permeate us — was our real longevity and our real purpose was still not entirely harnessed yet. I think that what we’ve done now is gotten a lot closer to it. I think we realized that there was more we could be doing as artists. What we needed to do actually was work on songs for the sake of songs. That’s what we loved and that’s how we approached this record.
I think we were doing that before, but we were also still really experimenting with sounds, with different formats, a little more obscurity, more tongue-in-cheekiness. We didn’t really talk about our lyrics in interviews. We focused on making a really cool live experience and curating these sounds. On this one, we wanted to focus on going deeper into ourselves and what we had to say, putting that more into the forefront instead of obscuring it.
NK: It was more of a refined thing for us at this point. We had found our footing a little bit. We were ready to be a little more earnest. I think that’s a big part of it.
NK: The ethos that the band formed on was we always wanted to do the opposite of what people were doing. So coming up in the Brooklyn DIY scene in 2013, there were a lot experimental noise bands and shoegaze bands where you couldn’t care about what you looked like onstage, your album art had to be obscure graphic design art, and you couldn’t be on your cover. There couldn’t be any melodic guitar solos or big choruses. It was very no-wavey, art punky. And we were just like, “No. We’re not gonna do that.”
JF: Even more than a rejection of what everyone else was doing, I think it’s finding a spot that isn’t already taken up. Finding what music we can create that can have a purpose in this climate. There’s a lot of shit out there, and I don’t think we ever want to make something that feels redundant.
JC: It’s like rebelling against ourselves in a way. Rebelling against something we knew we could do. That’s something I love about Lou Reed so much. Even late in his career, having the courage to make some really weird, bad shit. Being like, “I’m an artist. I’m not going to make the same thing. I’m not even gonna make a likable thing. I’m gonna make Lulu. I’m just gonna keep making stuff that’s really unexpected and fun.” I think that’s a really important quality to think about. With music, it is communicative, and we want people to love it and hear it, but you have to be brave.
JC: Let’s say you had a kid that all of sudden likes baseball; you’re going to buy them a baseball bat. You have a song like “Twentytwo” that’s really pretty and you’re like, “How do I support you? How do I help you become the version of yourself that you need to be?” It’s like, “Doy, it’s strings. It’s harmony.” The fact that we had a team in place and we had ourselves and all the things that we could pull from, we had the ability to try the things and see them through for these songs. That’s why you go from Phil Spector on “Anyway You Like” to kind of Lush on “Human For”. We were trying to see and develop the identity of the tracks before anything else.
NK: Something I was thinking about was diving into more escapism with the music while having the lyrics become more real. It wasn’t a conscious choice or anything. It was just like, “Wow, these songs are kind of fun. There’s kind of a party vibe.”
JC: This juxtaposition of how awful a term [like “busted” in “Twentytwo”] is with beautiful strings deliciously tickles this very existential part of myself that I like to indulge. A lot of it is a juxtaposition, like “Burn It” where we actively said, “This is so heavy-handed we have to make this a party.” We got bongos, we added breaths. We wanted to make it a fucked-up party.
NK: People always want to put their own filter and their own taste over you. They want to make the connections that they want to connect. Early in the band, we were sort of a guitar wig-out, extended jam rock band, and I think the psychedelic tag fit well on maybe the first EP that we did. But we quickly outgrew that, and I don’t think of Human Ceremony as a psychedelic rock record at all. When I listen to that record, I hear the influence of the New York indie scene of 2010. The Captured Tracks sound is pretty heavy on that record.
JC: For sure. When we get asked a question like describe your band in three words, my answer is always “guitar, bass, drums.” I think that’s the quickest way to distill what the heart is. Guitar music and keeping that alive and fresh rather than covers of the past is really important to us. When people hear what they want to hear in it and call it Bleetwood Black or whatever, it’s fine. Our goal on this record was to make sure each moment was really special, and we took a lot of influence from Tusk conceptually as a record as far as the fact that it’s a really strange record. It’s super long; you have to skip two songs to get to a good song. There are all these sounds, all these experimentations with timing, this fearlessness that I think we took influence from, rather than taking direct influence from the music. Just to give us the courage to try.
NK:I think everyone has a responsibility to be political and to pay attention. I would never want to be an artist that says, “Oh, I’m never going to touch politics. I’m going to strive to be apolitical.” For us, it felt like it was so all-encompassing in our mind at the time we started working on the record that we had to.
JF: I think it’s more of a responsibility on our end to be honest in our music. Why would it be a burden? I think a song like “Crisis Fest” has its purpose. It’s a reflection of all that we saw in the year touring and meeting so many different kids and people our age and younger. I think it’s just a reflection of that.
JC: “Crisis Fest” is definitely the most direct, but you have these feelings permeating through the whole record. Even “Oh No, Bye Bye”, Nick had called it an anthem to uncertainty. I think that sums it up really well. Even a song like “Burn It”, a song that approaches this concept of cities changing, which as a native New Yorker is really important to me. This pyrotechnic idea of feeling so angry at this change you can’t control that you wanna burn everything up and start again from the ashes. That’s a really twisted way to feel. In a time like now where everything is so messed up, it on the flip side creates this immeasurable opportunity for creativity and growth. I think artists right now are in a really unique place where they can really test the limits and hopefully non-limits of their creativity to actually approach something that’s really important instead of our own fucking bellybuttons. Why not try?
21st Century PUNX Deconstructors, Trouble Making Agitators, DIY noise insurgents & Manufacturers of Dissident Political Wear.
PUNX.UK was formed by a Manchester anarcho punk collective in 2013 as a webzine sharing info on local gigs and bands.
Originally focusing on creating a DIY gig guide for our city we then expanded to cover the whole of the UK scene in 2014.
Since then we've faithfully tried to promote all the events, blogs, websites and sounds of resistance throughout the country and beyond.
In 2016 we partnered with Sabcat Workers Cooperative to produce dissident political wear providing financial support to the activist causes, benefits, unions, bands, and community groups that we work with.