Movement: Sewn Leather

Do you, the adventurous gig-going music fan, want something beyond just sitting in row Z57 with a bag of popcorn in your lap, numbly applauding the 14-minute bass solo still ringing in your ears?

How about when a Facebook event page grimly warns that “you might get punched in the face?”

There we go! Thursday night, Shantytown Pub in Springfield will be playing host to hardcore heroes Hoax and Lower, with electro troublemaker Sewn Leather in tow.

Hoax and Lower are the real deal, no doubt, but Sewn Leather is on a whole different trip. Sewn Leather is the performing alias of one Griffin Pyn, a young punk who exemplifies poor impulse control, with backup provided by some cassette tapes, blown-out speakers, and eternal feeedback. Which in lesser hands would equal a trainwreck, but this is like… let’s just say that at a very young age, Sewn Leather is already collecting oh-my-god-he’s-insane live anecdotes that would rival Suicide’s Alan Vega legendary locking the doors of a club with a chain so no one could flee the building.

I’ve heard that during one show in Gainesville, Pyn actually started his set by crawling in through the club’s window, mid-song, screaming all the way, or how about the time that he broke his goddamn nose while performing… and kept going!

It ain’t all spectacle either; the music’s strong stuff – pulsating electro throbs, and grooves caked in grime and dirt, overlaid with Pyn’s screams and threats. It’s going to be something else, no doubt.

Music starts around 10pm. No cover but they’re taking donations at the door, so don’t be a fucking cheapskate. Get there on time, this one looks to be a really fast show.

Originally posted to Movement Magazine.

Movement Magazine: Memphibians

Jimmi Bayer and Nick Schoeppel are possibly the hardest working men in Jax show bizness. Not only do they helm the prolific indie label Infintesmal (home to such local margin walkers as the 2416, Kevin Lee Newberry and DigDog), they also form the nucleus of swampy guitar-abusers the Memphibians. Oft overshadowed by Infintesmal’s busy release schedule and a wealth of side projects, newly-minted album How To Be Followed Alone is where the Memphibians should finally come into their own as not only Infintesmal’s flagship but maybe even elbow their way to the front of Jacksonville’s guitar-slinging pack. Memphibian’s sound is difficult to classify, as it avoids the affected distance of a lot of indie rock, while also deftly sidestepping meatheadisms that too many young guitar bands fall victim too. They’ve come a long way from underwhelming beginnings as an acoustic-based duo project to finally being able to give vent to bigger, grander, weirder noises. It’s heady and confused, in all the best ways. Listen for hints of Brian Jonestown Massacre and Half Japanese, friends. In their first major interviews, young moguls Nick and Jimmi sat down with MOVEMENT to discuss their music and the art of noise.

Who is currently in Memphibians, and tell us how the group came to be? Had you played in other bands previously?

Jimmi: The current lineup includes Stephen Ezell, Bradley Metz, and Katie D’Elia. However the lineup will be different for the upcoming fall tour. At this time I can only say we are very excited about the new additions. Nick and I met at a small bar in an even smaller town in Mexico. We hatched the idea that night to start a band. After touring and recording with Richelieu, Memphibians was born.

Nick: Memphibians are from Mexico. Current members are Katie D’Elia, Stephen Ezell, Bradley Metz, Jimmi and myself. Before that in 2008, Jimmi and I were in Richelieu with a Navy sailor who could bend time. And space. I played guitar, Jimmi on pickle buckets with butter knives, and Lelyn R. Masters spitting through the mic, not the end of the world, but of the new cycle. None of us knew how to play instruments. We were the Friday & Saturday house band at Shantytown and London Bridge for a couple months just by showing up and playing.

Which came first, the label or the band?

Nick: They both kinda started at the same time, but I think we gave the band a name first.

Jimmi: The band had been around for a few months before we ever thought about starting a label. Memphibians afforded us the opportunity to play with a bunch of local acts. After seeing a handful of amazing bands, creating a label seemed like a logical extension, to come together as a family and community.

Where there any labels that inspired you when beginning Infintesmal, like Dischord, Factory, or K?

Jimmi: I’ve always been a fan of K, Merge, Sub Pop, etc. Personally I think SST was a big influence on me. The diversity, drive, and camaraderie of that label changed the history of American music.

Nick: The creation of Infintesmal was more inspired by the bands in town that we knew of and really liked. We definitely admire and appreciate those labels and other good ones.

How important is Jacksonville to your creative life? Ever thought about just upping sticks and moving to a bigger city?

Nick: We love Duval. It’s still an open canvas… I’m from here. Seeking travel and extended stays in other places I love, but Jacksonville is home. Although not personally a fan of living in a huge city, we do have talks of setting up branches across the land someday. Small towns and big.

Jimmi: I love this city. Good, bad, and ugly. So many people take great pleasure from bashing this city, but to those people I say, “What are you doing to make a difference?”

Unlike a lot of more vanity-style labels run by bands, you guys seem to work hard at building a deep roster and promoting a sense of community. Is it difficult to balance both, whereas sometime what’s best for the Memphibians might not be best for Infintesmal or when you’d rather work on your own songs instead of packaging and art for a cd?

Nick: Indeed. Creating a label surely was the beginning of getting everyone in town together, to blend bubbles…as far as Band vs. Label, sometimes you practice, sometimes you package cds, or make posters, or book shows, hang out, then practice. Repeat.

Jimmi: There really is no conflict. Whatever is best for the label is best for the bands, and vice versa. Running the label as well as Memphibians isn’t difficult, having to work a full-time job as well is the hard part.

In the past you’ve had some pretty interesting undertakings to promote the label- one that comes to mind immediately is the “Infintesmal Nights” series at various clubs and bars. Whats going on with the Infintesmal Nights now?

Jimmi: Starting in July we will be hosting every Saturday night at Shantytown Pub. Every week will showcase the finest local music as well as touring bands from across the world.

Nick: We used to have Thursdays@ TSI, then Underbelly, both of whom were super nice. We’ve been hosting Wednesdays @ Shantytown for 2 years but starting in July we’re switching to every Saturday at Shantytown. Gonna be good. We also do the Infintesmal Records BBQ. We’ve done nine @ different bars and venues around town, featuring 10-12 bands and free cuisine. The next one will be soon.

Tell me about the new album.

Jimmi: This album is our baby. I’ve never been more proud of anything. It took us awhile to find the right sound, the right feel, and it’s such a relief to have it released. The floodgates have been opened for the next one.

Nick: We finally did it. We tried a few times before, but it wasn’t the right sandwich. Jeremiah E. Johnson really did a great job helping us with the album.

You got a really thick, dirty, raw sound on How To Be Followed Alone. What was the recording like? Did the record turn out sonically the way you wanted?

Nick: We put war paint on and got ready. Jeremiah would ask us questions we hadn’t even asked ourselves. Sonically, I trusted everyone involved in the project that it was going to be very great. I had no anticipated sound.

Jimmi: We owe a lot of credit to Jeremiah Johnson (Wudun). He really pushed us to find the true essence of each track, breaking everything apart and rebuilding again. I’m very happy with the way it sounds… it’s all there… the ugly and the serene…

You cover a whole lot of stylistic ground on the album, is writing songs pretty much like a free-for-all? Were there any albums in particular you were listening to a lot around the time you were recording?

Jimmi: This batch of songs is pretty much the first songs Nick and I have written. It took us awhile to figure out how to bring these songs to life. In the last hour we assembled some friends and turned on the mics… As far as any particular records in heavy rotation, we all have pretty different tastes. I think that is why Memphibians just sounds like Memphibians

Nick: Yes it is pretty much a creative free for all. I don’t think any of us were really listening to a whole lot at the time. The process was that we had written these songs without knowing how to play music. Then we got members that do. Thanks Brad, Katie, Steve, Jojo!

I’ve heard there’s a more shoegazey side project that you’ve got going? Would you run down some of the other bands you’re involved in? There’s Beach Party, for one…

Nick: You may be speaking of Happy Accidents, an improv/universe/noise/drama. I think we’ve played three shows. And there’s Tell Yer Children, one of the best bands in town that most folks haven’t even heard of. Jimmi and I both play stand up drums, with members of the 2416. Strumming some indie-distort-swamp-grunge-pretty. It is good.

Jimmi: Beach Party is Trenton Tarpits (The 2416), myself, and Matt. It’s pop music at it’s DooWop trashiest. Nick and I also play drums for Tell Yer Children, a shoegaze-meets-new wave psychfest featuring Saint Andrew & Terry Davis Jr. of The 2416, as well as Alex of Poisonous Ghost fame. Happy Accidents is an improv project that Nick and I dust off from time to time.

Where do you see the label in five years? Do you look to the shift towards digital music with dread or cautious hope? Where do you see the band in five years?

Nick: The label will be releasing great albums on cd, tape, vinyl. And digitally we’re soon to catch up, just because we should. It is special to hold in your hand an artifact. An album, with art included. The band will be chillin’ in a tree fort somewhere nearby some spring water. Unless of course, the poles shift.

Jimmi: I’m terrified of the digital shift, but learning more everyday. We’ll never abandon a physical product though, it just means too much to folks like us. We’re working on distribution at the moment and focusing on getting everybody on the road. In five years I hope to see a lot more national attention towards Jacksonville music. I think Volumes 1-3 of our Real Better Jacksonville Plan compilations is enough proof that Jacksonville can hold their own next to other independent music “scenes”.

So later on this year, Memphibians have this total Black Flag/”Get In The Van” style tour of the country in the works?

Jimmi: I’m booking now. We’ve been around the southeast and now we’re looking to make it out west as well as a trip up the east cost. After about five or six months we’ll be back to record the next record before hopefully leaving on a New Zealand/Australia/Japan leg. THEN maybe we’ll take a break…maybe…

Nick: Yes. My jobs don’t know about it yet…so…Ricky, Marco, I’ll be leaving sometime in the fall. Hope you’ll let me stay until then, and return to work when we come back.

Any upcoming releases on Infintesmal you’d like to talk about?

Jimmi: Digdog has their debut full length coming this fall titled Early Reiser. It’s a trip to say the least. I Hope You’re A Doctor has a new album, their 7th in less than three years. Rumor on the street is it’s their finest yet. I’m helping Kevin Lee Newberry assemble a new album and The Moonies are going in to record with Jeremiah Johnson. Tuffy has a seven-inch coming and The 2416 has begun work on their newest slab of brutal candy titled Misanthropic Wonderlust. Honey Chamber has been stockpiling songs for their third and fourth albums and on top of all this…

Volume Four: The Real Better Jacksonville Plan.

And you thought Alvin Brown had a lot on his plate.

Movement Magazine: Mink Stole

“We’ll see who’s the filthiest person alive! We’ll just see!”
– Connie Marble (Pink Flamingos)

I’m going to (rightly) assume that anyone picking up an issue of MOVEMENT Magazine would have a more than passing familiarity with the life and work of actress and cultural provocateur Mink Stole. Be that as it may, it’s always worth restating that Mink Stole was one of the earliest members of John Water’s “Dreamland” repertory group, and has gone on to have a role in every single one of his films since. Even in a group packed full of larger-than-life characters like Divine, Edith Massey, and David Lochary, Stole early on became a riotous force of nature in those early films, playing the nefarious likes of Connie Marble (Pink Flamingos) and Taffy Davenport (Female Trouble). Even Stole’s appearance was totally ahead of the times, she raided thrift stores for a fractured glamour and dyed her hair colors like fire engine red in the early Seventies, which was more likely to get you chased down the street than lauded as a tastemaker. Stole expanded her creative output beyond the Dreamland group as the years passed, with roles in Eating Out and Stuck!, among others. And now she’s poised to enter a third act of her creative life, this time as a musician, as frontwoman of the Wonderful Band. Her debut album may even be completed by the time you read this! MOVEMENT spoke with Mink Stole, proud Baltimorean and creative chameleon, about a life spent proudly on the fringes of the mainstream.

Tell me about the new music you’re releasing now with the Wonderful Band. Who is in the Wonderful Band?

My drummer, Skizz Cyzyk, likes to call it “cabaret jazz” but it’s really more eclectic than that. I’m calling the music on the CD a memoir of my life in songs written by other people. We’re including “No Nose Nanook,” which I performed on stage with the amazing Cockettes in San Francisco in 1972, and a dynamic reworking of “Female Trouble.” There’s also the saddest song I ever heard, “If You Were to Wake Up,” by Lyle Lovett. It may seem like we’re all over the place, but they work together. My Wonderful Band is Skizz Cyzyk on drums and Walker Teret on the upright bass. We had a sweet keyboard player, Scott Wallace Brown, but, sadly, we have to replace him and are currently on the hunt for a new pianist. Luckily we’ve got a lot of Scott’s keyboard tracks already recorded, so we get to keep him on the album.

Is playing music something that you’ve always wanted to do and you got sidetracked by the Waters’ movies? Or is this a more recent creative itch?

I’ve always enjoyed singing. I was in glee club in junior high school, but they let everybody in and I wasn’t particularly distinguished. And I did some backup vocals with a rock band in Provincetown in the winter of 1970 or so, but, oddly enough, I was really too shy to pursue it on my own. I took voice lessons for a while when I lived in New York back in the ’80s, but, while I did learn a lot, the teacher kept trying to push me towards a “legit” or “Broadway” sound, which is not where I’m comfortable. I’m after a much more “mellow” sound. It was when I did a production of The Winter’s Tale with the L.A. Women’s Shakespeare Company about 10 years ago and sang in my role of Autolycus, that my friend Brian Grillo saw me and asked me to perform a song he had written at his once-monthly Sunday afternoon beer bust at the Gauntlet in Silver Lake, that I got hooked on music for good. Now, living without it is unthinkable.

Who are some of the singers that made you want to make the jump from just listening to actively performing music?

Well, of course there’s the holy trinity of Ella, Diana and Sarah (Fitzgerald, Washington and Vaughn), and I also love Julie London and Peggy Lee. But I get crushes on singers: for a long time I listened to k.d. lang’s Drag album incessantly; right now, I’m totally addicted to Sade: her new album Soldier of Love is amazing, especially the track “Bring Me Home,” which actually brought me to tears the first time I heard it, it’s so gorgeous. And I love Adele. What these women have in common is the ability to make singing beautifully sound easy. It’s not.

What is your first memory of music?

That’s a good question. I remember when I was really small seeing Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, because my big sister was a fan. We had great radio in Baltimore, good R&B stations, so I was just as familiar with Fats Domino and James Brown as I was with Pat Boone, although I did get a teeny crush on Pat Boone when he sang “Bernadine.” I have a lot of sisters, and my mom used to enjoy arranging us in a line to sing “Lollipop.” We used a plunger to make the “pop” sound. The very first album I ever bought (from a store that had “listening booths”) was Billy Stewart’s Summertime.

What’s this about you doing some Christmas-themed shows?

Our Christmas show is great! I call it “Christmas Music You’re Not Sick Of Yet.” We do some standards, like the Charlie Brown Christmas theme. We also do a terrific “Petit Enfant au Tambour” which is “The Little Drummer Boy” in French. It’s not just a translation, it’s a completely different song about a little boy wanting to bring his father home from the war. I also tell a lot of stories, including why I like the really depressing Hans Christian Anderson Christmas tales. I call him the Danish Steven King for the kiddies. We do a swing version of “O Christmas Tree,” an Anita O’Day number called “Once a Year Miracle,” and last year for the first time we did a sing-along of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It made me laugh out loud when I thought of it, but the audience loved it.

Tell me about the importance of Baltimore in your life and work. Do you see yourself leaving?

I did leave. I was gone for thirty years; twelve in New York and eighteen in Los Angeles. I came back about three years ago. It was time. I love being back! I live directly across the street from the house I grew up in. My neighborhood is like a time warp except for the occasional added deck or repainted front door, and taller trees; nothing visual has changed here since I was a child. Thomas Wolfe was wrong: you can go home again. I’ll probably stay here now. I even bought a cemetery plot, just a few yards away from where Divine is buried. John Waters and a few other good friends also have plots there. There’s talk of renaming it “Dreamland Acres.” (Not.)

Do you get recognized a lot out and about in Baltimore and other cities? Was there a point you remember where the general reaction shifted from scandalized shock to a kind of affirmation?

I love being just the amount of famous that I am; I get recognized often enough to keep from feeling forgotten, but hardly so much that I can’t run my own errands. As for shocking people, obviously, when I was younger I did that deliberately — I was the only girl in the world with dyed crayon-red hair in the early ’70s — but aside from the occasional dirty look no one ever bothered me. People who approach me now are fans; they say nice things.

Are people surprised that you’re a very sweet and approachable person in “real life”?

Sometimes, yes. I have seen people shake and cry because they were so nervous meeting me, and I’ve had to work at calming them down. I’d laugh if wouldn’t make them even more uncomfortable, because I know the reality of my life: I do my own housework, I do my own laundry. It’s hard to feel overly important when you’re sorting your underwear and socks.

What was your first meeting with John Waters? Were you both into a lot of the same things as far as music and film?

My sister Sique introduced us in Provincetown, on Cape Cod, in the summer of 1966. He was unlike anyone I’d ever known– smart, funny, and very self confident. I loved the way he looked, with his huge brown eyes and his stringy long hair. He hadn’t acquired a mustache yet; that came a few months later, but he had an amazing charisma. He was one of the first people who made me understand that my not fitting in with the world I lived in was a good thing. We both liked R&B better than the Beatles, but I wasn’t really into movies so much before I met him. One of the major things we had in common was a total rejection of the Catholicism we’d grown up with.

The original group of Dreamlanders still seem so out there and ahead of the times, even today. You guys were beyond punk on the one hand, but I always got this sort of vibe of innocence to what you were doing at the same time. Am I on the right track?

I was clueless. I knew I was doing something more fun and interesting than anything I’d ever done, with people who were far more interesting than anyone I’d ever known, but the idea that 40 years later people would be tattooing my image on their bodies was inconceivable. I’m still amazed by it. And I’m very thankful for that; the pressure of that awareness would have been too much. I would either have frozen in fear, or become unbearably pompous. John is the only one of us, and perhaps Divine to some extent, who really had his eyes on the future.

Listening to commentaries and interviews about the early Waters films, it’s clear there was a strong element of DIY improvisation in designing sets, filming scenes, recruiting extras, etc. Does a good story come to mind about making do? (I always like the one about you all driving a bunch of extras out to the cardboard village in Desperate Living and refusing to drive them back or feed them until the shooting was over.) And with that, do you have a strong belief in do-it-yourself values as far as art goes?

All film design is essentially the same, it’s faking a reality. The difference between a Harry Potter movie and a Dreamland film is budget. Mortville wasn’t actually cardboard, by the way, it was mostly plywood. I loved the furniture that rejected Raymond and Connie (David Lochary and me) in Pink Flamingos. Our production designer Vincent Peranio took the springs out of the couch and hid himself inside (I think his brother Eddie was in the chair) and pushed us off manually. It must have been really uncomfortable for them, but it worked. What we never did was improvise dialogue.

I’ve put together my own “sets” for my one-woman shows either from items from the local dollar stores or with stuff I already had. Nothing fancy, but I hate the look of a bare black back wall. My Christmas show sets look like they were done by a third grade class.

When you were making Pink Flamingoes did you know you were on to a completely different trip than most anything else in American cinema?

No. I was very unsophisticated, and didn’t really know much about film at all. I just knew I hadn’t seen anything like it.

You mentioned that Female Trouble was your favorite of the early films. Why?

I love Taffy. I always felt a deep connection between her as a character and my own childhood self. Of course, I didn’t dress like that or play car accident, and I’m the fifth of ten kids instead of an only child, but I felt a similar sense of isolation, and the unhappiness of feeling misunderstood and unappreciated. But, aside from my fondness for Taffy, Dawn Davenport’s whole story line is compelling and well told. From meeting her in high school through the last shot of her in the electric chair, Divine’s performance is riveting. One of my favorite scenes is where Dawn’s prison girlfriend is saying her tearful goodbye. It made me want to cry myself.

The production values are amazing. Van Smith deserved an Oscar for his wardrobe designs, and Vincent Peranio’s sets are hilarious, yet totally appropriate. The supporting cast is uniformly strong. I think it would be harder for me to find anything I don’t like about Female Trouble.

Was working with the Stuck! ensemble cast a good experience?

Absolutely. Steve Balderson has a cut-to-the-chase way of filming that is incredibly efficient. One of the things I loved about working on Stuck! was that when we got to Macon, the first thing we did was decorate our individual prison cells. I’ve never done that on a film before, and it gave me a heightened sense of confinement and territoriality that I imagine one would feel in a real prison environment. It was fun working with Jane Wiedlin again; back in 2001 we both had recurring roles on an MTV soap called Spyder Games.

What film projects are you working on currently?

I just worked on installments 4 and 5 of the Eating Out features, and have a couple of things coming up that are in a kind of holding pattern, so I don’t want to say anything about them yet. I’ll be performing in Now The Cats With Jewelled Claws, as part of the Tennessee Williams festival in Provincetown this fall, which will the first play I’ve done in a few years, so I’m looking very forward to it. And I’m looking at some scripts.

Are you going to be involved in the forthcoming I Am Divine documentary?

Yes, I’ve already been interviewed on-camera for it. I’m really excited about it; the filmmakers are approaching the project with a lot of love and respect.

Any advice for people trying to make their own way in film or music in 2011? I imagine you’ve pretty much seen it all as far as independent production goes.

The advice I’ve always given: get on a movie any way you can. Be a production assistant and take any job they give you and ask for more. Work for free if you have to; it’s still cheaper than film school and you’re going to learn a lot from other peoples’ mistakes as well as the stuff that goes well.

Movement Magazine: Salem / Legendary Pink Dots

Salem
King Night
IamSound

Look, at this year’s annual Popnihil staff retreat, ALL we listened to
was Salem’s King Night. David Bowie’s Station To Station even got
the boot, just so we could listen to the viscous, murky “Frost” one
more time. Pay no mind to any of the online fuss behind kicked up
about whether Salem are actually the crackhead hustlers that they hint
at, or just some smartass conceptualists. Who cares? Turn off the
computer and turn up opener “King Night,” which weds snatches of “O
Holy Night” with impossibly dark and epic synths, tick-tick-tick
hip-hop beats and twisted, choral vocals. Salem have been called
“witch house” (what a fucking cool sub-sub-genre), which I guess is a
combination of the slurry paranoia of Tricky’s Pre Millennium
Tension
, dubby bass-heavy echoes, the gothic splendor of classic 4AD
acts like the Coteau Twins, and chopped and screwed rap. Male vocals
are slowed down to a monstrous, tape-manipulated rumble, female vocals
drift like wisps of unearthly fog and the music moves at a glacial
pace; while icy, industrial synths are buffeted by tinny beats swiped
from some random mixtape. Evil as fuck.

Download: “King Night”

Legendary Pink Dots
Seconds Late For The Brighton Line
ROIR

The news of this, the newest album from the Legendary Pink Dots, prime
exponents of psych-tinged childlike wonder and seriously nonlinear
space noise, marking their 30th (!!) anniversary, is marred somewhat
by the departure of longtime members Neils Van Hoorn and Martijn  De
Kleer. What this means in the grand scheme of the Dots is a temporary
setback, as the creative reins have been firmly in the capable hands
of Edward Ka-Spel (vocalist) and the Silverman (keyboardist) for a
long time now, though Van Hoorn’s sense of cabaret slapstick will be
missed. Sonically, Seconds Late For The Brighton Line is another
fine Legendary Pink Dots album, continuing much in the same vein as
“Plutonium Blonde,” just more stripped down and electronic. There are
some beautiful, hymnal interludes that just dazzle, Ka-Spel’s vocals
are in fine form (a potent reminder of where Syd Barret would be
today, if only…), and the layerings of synths and glitches is deft,
as usual. The problem is that the Dots haven’t had a truly astounding
album since the eulogy for realpolitik that was All The King’s Men,
and so this album becomes lost in the shuffle of a daunting back
catalog, and relentless forward movement.

Movement Magazine: The Kevin Lee Newberry Interview

Making this available for out-of-towners. Jacksonville residents should track down the real thing in full-color glory  from magazine kiosks, dark corners, and generally underfoot.

Jacksonville-based singer/songwriter Kevin Lee Newberry is the real thing. He plays and records his music– music that recalls the lowest depths of Townes Van Zandt, Mark Kozalek, Neil Young, Lou Barlow/Eric Gaffney, and Daniel Johnston– in obsessive, manic, lo-fi bursts. Cassettes pile up, four-tracks are pushed to the breaking point, guitars splinter, while cameras document a creative spirit that is drunk on the possibilities of song. And maybe, yeah, sometimes just drunk. Live shows, meanwhile, become these exuberant, primal scream singalongs, presided over by a performer who has seen some dark, dark shit, but ain’t going to let it take him down. Newberry has recently found kindred spirits with the Infintesmal Records crew, who released his excellent “Dark Presser” album. Movement Magazine shot
some questions Kevin Lee Newberry’s way and was pleased to find out
that he talks just like he sings: honest, excitable, and passionate.

How long have you been making music? What made you want to make the jump  from just listening to music to instead creating your own?

I have been making music since I was real little.  I used to write little raps and
things when I was in school. I didn’t actually begin playing an instrument until I was 14 and I didn’t really start writing songs until I was 20. I wanted to be a rock star when I was young. I’d watch all these rockumentaries on the
Who, Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. I thought rock stars were cool. I loved music so much; I didn’t really know anyone that heavy into it though and kids don’t really know about that now.

Tell me about some of the influences on your work.

I listen to so many things. I mean, the obvious choices like Neil Young, but also Black Flag, Leonard Cohen… and life, really. I mean, those artist affected me deeply and gave me guidance but I am set on doing my own thing I don’t try to emulate the sounds of these artists but they mean a lot to me.

There’s so much ground to cover here. Would you run through some of your side projects and bands? (I think the first time that I encountered your music was when you or one of your bandmates sneaked a Helios Eye record into the Main Library’s collection.)

That was me… I thought someone would pick it up and think because it’s in the library it must be good. I don’t know how well that worked. I used to put them in all the magazines too. I have written and performed and recorded with Helios Eye, The Pretty Princess, Falcons of Youth, Paul Is Dead, and Moonies (which I must say is the best band I have ever put together).

“Dark Presser” is your most recent album. Would you tell me about the writing and recording of it?

I’ll tell you this much, it was weighing on me real heavy like the devil himself was tapping my shoulder. I took all my recording gear in a dark, cold, dirty garage and made a record. My records come in spurts. If I don’t get it all on tape while it’s there… you know, while the vibe is tense and everything is real, I will lose it. I am the Dark Presser… I became that guy. I had to live it, man, and it took me into some dark places but I had to go there in order to create this picture. I survived though. I always survive…

How do you generally record your songs? Home four-tracks? Studio? Etc?

I lean toward tape but I’ll record anywhere… I can make a record at home or in a studio. One day I’d like to have a budget to go into a big studio with choirs and strings and what not. But I love home recording… I mean, I come up with the craziest shit at home.

You post a lot of homemade performance videos online, when did you start doing these?

A while back. I figure if people dig my music I will give them new stuff all the time. It’s not all album-worthy but it’s not all bad either so it gets the songs out and they don’t go to waste. It’s free… I love the visual aspect of it. I love how real and personal some of them are. It’s fun.

You maintain a pretty feverish level of creativity. Do you feel a
sense of urgency in getting as much work out as possible? Do songs some to you very quickly?

The songs come easily but the songs come when they feel like it. I cannot force songs out. Songs are in my sleep, dreams, nightmares. Songs haunt me like a ghost. I can’t get away from them. I will do anything to catch that feeling for a song. Half the time I am thinking about writing but once in while I open up and 12 songs pour out… it’s enough to drive you crazy.

Just estimating, how many albums and cassettes do you think you’ve released over the years?

At least 10. Nine of them self-releases, and the “Dark Presser” was my first label release on Infintesmal Records.

Is it difficult at all to balance your family life with your musical life?

No, there’s one and there’s the other, plain and simple. My head may be on a song but I am right here at home. When I need to get that edge for writing I get it… I can tell my wife Cameron that I am going to lock myself in a room and record for 48 hours and she says, “Okay, cool.” Home is where the heart is…

How did you hook up with the Infintesmal people? They seem to be a a pretty supportive group.

Yeah, they have helped me a lot. After Helios Eye broke up I was out of it for about a year. I didn’t go to shows, play shows or anything. I joined After The Bomb, Baby!  briefly, but I wasn’t ready to be in a band. It was Nick and Jimi along with my wife who got me back into playing and recording. So after not playing for a whole year, I recorded “Bloody Mary Chanted” in like two days and they put it out. If it weren’t for some folks having my back, depending on me and me depending on them I’d probably flake out.

Besides them, are there any local artists or musicians you feel a
kinship with?

I love Jacksonville. There’s something real grimy in the water that produces
some amazing artists. I like Tuffy a lot, we have kinda been in the same place for a while… been doing it a long time. Those 2416 dudes have a lot of energy, a lot of stuff going on. Danny McGuire aka Jiblit Dupree. Chris Spohn’s 3rd version are real good and The Memphibians are making records and sounding crazy. After The Bomb, Baby!, grabbag, Borromakat, Os Ovni… All those cats have had a profound effect on me.

Do you prefer playing live or recording? I’ve heard some pretty crazy stories about your live shows; is there one that sticks out in your mind?

Recording. And ask me tomorrow it would be live. I love both. Recording is a little more controlled. Live is a lot more drunk. I have had great shows and I have had the worst shows. When things go well and sound good, I’d say live. Playing what I play in bars is real challenging.

What sort of projects are you working on at the moment? What’s coming up next?

About to start a new record this weekend. I am going to check into a motel in Alabama and record some songs I have. I am just looking for some isolation and a vibe hopefully.  And recording with The Moonies. I am really enjoying what I have going on for the  moment… Playing live…

The Cold Cave Interview

What happens when you lock a bunch of hardcore and noise musicians in a room? They make gothic music, of course! Wesley Eisold (formerly of American Nightmare), with assistance from Caralee McElroy (Xiu Xiu) and Dominick Fernow (Prurient), bashes out primitive, insanely catchy, dark electro in the vein of Joy Division, Blank Dogs, and Cabaret Voltaire, filtered through archaic effects pedals and ancient keyboards. The vibe of Love Comes Close is poised, foreboding and authoritarian. The vocals are joyless and icy – split between a blank female and a blank male – the synths and drum machines echo the heartbeats of a melancholic. Their music takes in and spits out new wave, postpunk and early house music, all with a deeply European hue.  This interview was conducted by email and finds Eisold cagey, at best…

Tell me about the creative transition from playing guitar-oriented music with American Nightmare and Some Girls to making music as Cold Cave – it seems as much personal as it does aesthetic for you. What was it that drew you to making electronic music? When you sat down with the synthesizer for the first time, did sounds come to you immediately?

“Really it was just that I never wrote music before. I never played a guitar or bass really because I can’t, so off and on through my life I would become mildly obsessed with synths or an old piano. I started making music because I wanted to make something myself without relying on others and it came out electronic.”

Did you enjoy bands like Depeche Mode, New Order or Sisters of Mercy when you were younger?

“Yea of course, younger and older. For me bands like New Order, the Cure and the Smiths growing up spoke to me.”

What was your reaction when Matador expressed an interest in signing you? Are you pleased with the job they did on the Love Comes Close reissue?

“Thrilled because some Matador records were really important to me and one of the aspects of the label that I appreciated is that it wasn’t defined by sound to me but by individuals, more so than other labels.”

What does the material you are writing now sound like? When can we expect a new album?

“I’m recording now and not sure if I could say exactly what it sounds like. I know live the songs make more sense to me when played a bit more aggressively and I’m sure the new album will reflect that. It probably won’t be out until 2011 sometime.”

What does Cold Cave live sound like as opposed to on record? Are you able to do things with the songs live that you can’t necessarily in the studio?

“It took a few line up changes and re-interpreting the songs publicly to get it right. I don’t think we played a good set until about a week into our last European tour in May. The songs come off heavier live really as there are actual drums and more layers of synths and noise.”

What sort of reactions are you getting out on tour in places you haven’t been before?

“I feel really fortunate, you know, we’ve become better, our shows have gotten better, and there are more people at each show and we recognize people from before. I don’t know really what to say, it seems like the more we enjoy ourselves the more the crowd enjoys it.”

Would you talk a little about the songwriting for Cold Cave? Do sounds and melodies come to you quickly? I like how you keep it simple in the songs – I can imagine fingers punching out every keyboard line, etc…

“I’m kind of in the middle of writing and recording now and am a bit neurotic and losing sleep so I guess that is part of my process. Pulling hair, chewing nails, self-loathing, frustration, little celebrations, nervous neighbors.”

How has the writing process for Cold Cave changed, from early on when it was mostly you and now that you have a group of collaborators. Are they taking an active role in composing songs?

“No its just me still.”

Do you feel able to express yourself more effectively (either lyrically or sonically) with Cold Cave?

“I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. I don’t want to really compare it to a previous band because its just a different time.”

What are some nonmusical influences on the band?

“Life, love, regret.”

How did you get the Radio Shack commercial? Were you pleasantly surprised on how it turned out?

“That was Matador. Yea I think when you sign up for things like that it could go any direction and it was fine by me.”

Between Heartworm and Cold Cave and your nonmusical writings you must be working on art and music most every day?

“Yea just trying to write for Cold Cave and lately when I’m not doing that 5 try to take my mind off of everything with movies or just traveling. Since the band started touring a lot I’ve found it really hard to be home or somewhere for too long so we just keep moving.”

Do you have any other projects or happenings in the offing?

“Not so much at the moment, just the new LP.”

Do you have any long-term aims or goals with your art and your music? Or do you take these opportunities as they come?

“Yes, I have personal ones that I don’t always realize I have. Really I want to provide in a way that others have for me.”

School of Seven Bells – Alpinisms

It’s in the middle of the first rushing, sighing, wordless chorus of “Iamundernodisguise,” all heavily treated waves of backmasked guitar and electronics and female vocal undulations, that you realize there are such things as happy endings in (icky) rock and roll. Case in point: Benjamin Curtis, tired of doing time in perennially shoulda-been-huge rock band-of-brothers Secret Machines, wanted out desperately, he just didn’t know when or how to make the final jump. However, after sharing stages with On! Air! Library!, a band fronted by inscrutable twin sisters Claudia and Alexandria Deheza, he saw his future in a very different set of siblings. They each ditched their respective bands and plotted a more mysterious and mainstream-shy course of action with School of Seven Bells. The gambit has paid off, “Alpinims” is their finest moment yet, leagues ahead of “Face to Face on High Places.” It fairly bursts forth with mystery, ambition and a lust for new ideas, new sounds and new experiences. School of Seven Bells is most directly reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine’s hazy beauty, Dead Can Dance’s omnivorous hunger for a whole world of sound, with a dash of Toro y Moi’s shimmering uncertainty. The electronic treatments and programmed beats are fresh and inventive, often adding a danceable sheen to complicated effects collages, the guitars are understated, oft seeping into an inseparable whole with the synths and keyboards, and there is a wealth of vocals! The Dehaza sisters construct beautiful and unexpected harmonies together, before darting off into their own separate worlds, and Curtis whispered baritone is much more rare, but a fine complement. And despite the clash of ideas, effects pedals, and songs that follow their own internal logic, goddamn does School of Seven Bells know their way around a chorus.

Read the review at Movement Magazine.

Big Pink – Easter Show

The twosome of Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell (with help from a shifting collective of collaborators, including members of Sunn0)) and Pre) released the fuck-yeah-wondrous album, “A Brief History of Love,” late last year. It’s a darkling mix of the Stone Roses, Jesus and Mary Chain, shoegazer stormclouds and electro-violence like the Horror’s stellar “Primary Colours,” early Chemlab and Curve (yes, yes, yes). The album won plaudits from the likes of MOJO, Rolling Stone, and the famously fickle NME, and unlike so many hype bandits, The Big Pink actually lived up to the hyperbole.

Though they count amongst their supporters the likes of Klaxons and Lily Allen, Furze and Cordell are no social climbers or bandwagon jumpers. Furze worked with Alec Empire and Cordell ran the Merok label, home to Crystal Castles and Salem, prior to the band becoming their primary concern. And all that journeyman time paid off, “A Brief History of Love,” is the sound of a band in firm control of their sound, combining dark-purple clouds of dense electronics and guitar pedal roar with whipsmart, synthesized beats and pop savvy into instant anthems. The Big Pink have their cake and eat it too, indulging gleefully in big choruses, but almost just as happily sabotaging them with carefully manipulated guitar noise and walls of synth-damage that shakes your insides. “Dominoes” is incredible, the taunting, almost melancholy chorus of “These girls fall like dominoes….” overwhelmed by towering crests of fuzzed-out, eight-bit guitar and battering drums, the vocals a world-weary croak along the lines of Richard Ashcroft and Karl Hyde. “Crystal Visions” is like the inescapable whoosh of the future, Velvetsy-droning verses give way to a radio-ready chorus and then all of that is just obliterated by a storm of guitar rumble-and-scree that is somehow catchy as fuck. “Velvet” is epic like comets burning up in the atmosphere, lovelorn vocals melding to otherworldly, altered guitar and synth bursts. And that’s just a random sampling of the songs on a Brief History of Love.

Originally posted at Movement Magazine.

Legendary Pink Dots Interview

Are you always trying to search out new bands, new writers, new artists to keep turning you on? Do you think that’s an essential…

Yeah! Sure! Finding new music is really important to me. It’s there, that’s the beauty of it. I’m desperately trying to hunt down this album that I just heard by chance when a DJ was playing this album by a group called the Delta Set before we played; a Finnish band or something. I can’t even find it on the internet! Where is this thing? So, yeah, the passion never stops.

What made you want to perform?

That began when I was a small child, really. It was a dream of mine always to do this. It’s funny, I was looking back at things I wrote as a child, and you can see very clearly that this was a path I was ultimately always going to follow.

When did you first start writing lyrics?

When I was about 12, somewhere around then.

Were you in a band at that point, or was it more poetry?

Some of it actually made its way into the Pink Dots later! (laughter)

What’s your first memory of music?

Oh that’s hard. I think it was actually Phil Spector, the Ronettes or something like that. And it was huge.

When did you first realize that making art was something that you could do with the rest of your life?

It really was around the beginning of the Pink Dots. I tried it a couple of times before then, but it was always with people who didn’t have the same belief, I guess. I was very enthusiastic and I wanted to create all of the time, but I just didn’t have the same feeling from the people I was trying it with. I mean, we were all very young, different priorities…

How do you get to a point of comfort with other musicians where you can maintain this very prolific working rate after about twenty years? How do you stay inspired?

Because you’re always aiming for a place that’s tantalizingly out of reach. And as long as it stays just out of reach, you must keep searching for it. We must keep trying to get there, because we haven’t got there yet. And I don’t even think I’m even close.

I’m seriously proud of a lot of what we’ve done. I mean, there’re other things that I like less, sure, but overall, I think it’s on the right track. There are things in my head that I haven’t actually realized yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. But it’s always there. It’s the thing I live for. Making music.

The rest of this long-delayed interview can be read at Movement Magazine.