Indie is Just OK
Monday May 30th, 2005
Scales of Motion/Little Compass/The Programme
The Pinkeye, Tulsa, State
On May 30th I took a routine trip the Pinkeye to see the bands that I usually see on my routine trips: the Programme, Scales of Motion, and whoever decides to play with them (aka the band that will most likely be pummeled into oblivion). That night, the pummeled band was Little Compass. As big, bad, signed to a label, and from Houston as they were, they could not match the indie intensity of local bands the Programme and Scales of Motion.
Much to my dismay, The Programme was the opening band, but it was a killer opener regardless. I’ve seen this band three times now, and every time their intense wall of sound leaves audiences stunned and amazed. The cracker box of a venue was stuffed practically wall to wall with people eager to see the band’s next to last show, as the band members have graduated from high school and are going to different colleges in the fall. Many of the people there had actually never heard of the band, but judging by the way everyone was either smiling, intensely frozen, or buying CDs assured that everyone in the crowd had finally heard them, and would be hearing them in some way, shape, or form for the next several hours.
Their groundbreaking debut (and only ever) album [u]Theseus and the Time Machine[/u] is a true art-rock gem- something entirely unheard of in the state of Oklahoma, or the southwest region of the country for that matter. Their brand of textural music has greater mood swings than Mike Tyson, and it pulls no punches. Every song hits you right in the gut and makes you sympathize more than you ever thought you could with a mad scientist who travels back in time to keep his true love from ever meeting her real life husband. The story has no narration but
through song titles, and even though there are no lyrics, the songs portray exactly what they are supposed to portray with moody landscapes and passionate grooves. Their live performances live up to every aspect of the album, and this one was no different. Performed were the harder-hitting songs on the album like “Theseus Meets Pianissimo”, “They Make Love”, “Enter Xanthus, Pianissimo’s Husband”, “The Death of Xanthus”, “Return to the Future Only to Discover Everything Has Changed” and “The Wayward Time Traveler”, which all left the crowd electrified and full of applause. Aside from the power of the music, the usual Programme stage antics helped fuel the show. Lead guitarist Max Porter jerked around like a madman and kicked a bell kit into the crowd after
the bell kit feature in “Return to the Future Only to Discover Everything Has Changed”, rhythm/reverb guitarist Mark Chronister didn’t move at all but showed intensity through a cold stare at his guitar, bassist Travis Loafman grooved hard in his punk rock bassist stance, and drummer Jed Skalnik absolutely destroyed his drums. The band members’ individual ways of showing intensity in the performance helped make this show another memorable performance amongst many
memorable performances I’ve seen by them. The crowd was utterly transfixed by them, and the many fans that were there showed even more dedication to the band by humming the vocal melodies to “Theseus Meets Pianissimo” and “The Wayward Time Traveler” in place of Mark Chronister doing them himself. The hum through the audience was magic, as was the band. That all being said, they were a tough act to follow. It’s too bad they’ll only be followed (or opened for) one more time.
Next on the set list was Little Compass. I must say I liked the name, but outside of that, their performance was flat compared to the stellar Programme. I don’t know much about the band because this concert was the first time I had ever heard of them. It’s probably the last time I will hear from them, because I was not impressed. Their performance intensity was adequate, their music was average, and their crowd communication skills seemed forced at best. Most of the crowd seemed to notice their lack of stage presence as well. I could see the lips of the several people who came to see them singing the words to their songs, but overall, most of the crowd was unimpressed. However, almost every song had at least one good idea in it, and sometimes they would carry it through their songs and make decent songs. Most of the time this was not the case. Little Compass is on the verge of doing something good, because the set list improved as their set went along, but it was still an unimpressive set overall. I wish them luck in what they do, but on this night they did not win me over.
Then finally came the hometown favorites Scales of Motion. Their grooving indie-rock sound definitely helped pick up from where the Programme left off, as the Programme and Scales of Motion tend to have very similar feels to their rock songs. They played songs such as “White Noise”, “Desert Life”, and “As Far as East is From the West”, as well as 2 unreleased songs, and as usual, they wooed the audience. I found myself singing the lyrics that I knew to their songs and tapping my feet to the rhythms that Craig Maricle hammered out of his Pork Pie drums, Kevin Skillern chopped out of his Telecaster, and Chris Skillern thumped out of his Richenbacher bass.
The atmosphere in the venue was revamped and the rhythms overtook the crowd as they did me: feet were tapping, heads were moving, and hands were patting thighs (just to clarify: hands were patting the thighs attached to the same body, not other peoples’ thighs). It was a great way to cap off an overall great night of music. Scales of Motion was the feel-good band of the night- you didn’t have to feel a whole lot or gain a whole lot from the surprisingly overtly Christian lyrics to go away feeling great because of their performance. They are a very experienced band and know how to work a crowd without saying a whole lot or even doing a whole lot. Their music just feels right, and I walked out of the Pinkeye with the feeling of having come out of a great concert. The indie music scene in Oklahoma is doing just fine. Indie is just OK.
Candid/Ever Since Tomorrow/Last Tuesday/MidAmerica
May 23rd, 2005
The Pinkeye, Tulsa, Oklahoma
This was the first time that I’d been to the Pinkeye since they did ‘re-modeling’ on it. I was concerned as to what they had done, exactly- because the Pinkeye is a hole in the wall, and we all love it that way. I was pleasantly surprised to find that while the capacity of the building had been increased by about 50 people, the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ image wasn’t tarnished one bit. It’s still got couches and chairs along the walls, holes in a wall or two, and general decay going on. I love the place. It made me happy to start out with.
Unfortunately, Candid did not help out my good feelings. As a emo/hardcore band, they were worse than average. That’s definitely not good in the over-crowded emo/hardcore scene. Their music just didn’t go anywhere- the drums were simple, the bass player played the root of each chord and nothing else, the guitars didn’t have bite, and the vocals just didn’t mesh with the music at all. About every 5 minutes a good idea would come up- and seeing as their songs were 3-4 minutes long, that gives you an idea of how interesting their 30 minute set was. It appeared to be one of the band’s first gigs though, so hopefully they’ll get better as time goes on.
Ever Since Tomorrow is one of the most intimidating bands in the scene to play after- they have a rabid fanbase for their hardcore sound that makes a lot of noise and a lot of movement, but once EST is off the stage, every single EST fan leaves, leaving an empty floor for the next band to set up to. It’s horribly intimidating. Their brand of hardcore is what we like to call ‘generic small-town hardcore’- a wall of sound that obliterates everything, leaving no room for technical expertise. It’s supposed to crush you, and that’s about it. Ever Since Tomorrow did show an interesting side of themselves by announcing that their reason for playing was to give glory to Jesus Christ- to which a rousing cheer went up. They then went into another bashing, smashing hardcore song, and I really couldn’t tell if their words backed up their mission statement or not. Oh well- the crowd liked it.
After the EST fans unceremoniously left, Last Tuesday proceeded to set up to a floor with absolutely no one on it. That’s gotta be intimidating. By the time they started playing, the floor had filled out to 40-60 people- so it wasn’t a total loss. They blew through their set with gusto, cracking jokes at every turn and leveling the audience. If their musical gig falls through, I’m pretty sure that the members of Last Tuesday could make it as a stand-up act. But they’ve decided to play music, and play they did. Their music is punk music- but it’s beefed up with a huge bass sound and huge bass riffs- watching the fingers fly on some of the bass riffs was just amazing. What’s even more amazing is that a lot of that bass work was done as the guitarist and bassist jumped manically around the stage. It was above and beyond what normal punk bands do- this was an athletic event! Their dual-vocal sound also made it fun to watch- with both vocalists singing their lungs out, it was pretty obvious that Last Tuesday is here to stay. They had all the bases covered- crowd interaction, impressive stage presence, excellent musicianship. As a bonus, they declared that “Tulsa is quickly becoming our favorite place to play in America”. We’ll add that to the ever-growing list of bands that have hailed Tulsa for the great concert town it is: Snow Patrol, Switchfoot, Relient K, Bleach….
Finally, Mid-America set up to play. Having only heard one song by Mid-America, I really didn’t know what to expect. Thus, their energetic brand of modern rock was a surprise to me. Mid-America is a band that’s more fun to watch then to listen to, as all three of the non-stationary members flailed about wildly in the breakdowns. The bassist danced hilariously throughout the set, making himself the main attraction of the band. When he put his mind to playing, he was the main attraction of the band as well- his bass lines were perfectly timed, perfectly played, and extremely complex. He gave Mid-America the shot of creativity that it needed. They worked the crowd excellently- calling fans out by name and asking them for which song they wanted to hear. This led to a rather confusing set-list, as no one really knew how long Mid-America was going to play- not even the members of Mid-America knew how long they were going to play. The solution came about in one particularly rocking song where the bassist became so animated that he jumped up in the air, landed, threw his bass at the drum set, kicked over some of the drumset, then crossed his arms as the song ended. The lead singer, looking at the mess, pulled up the microphone and said “We’re done! Everyone go home! Get yourselves home on time. Thanks for coming, thanks to the bands, good night!” Needless to say, it was a wild ending to the show.
Overall, Last Tuesday and Mid-America were the show. Last Tuesday stood out as the shining star of the night, and if they’re ever in town, I recommend you go see them. There’s no way you can have a bad time- even if you don’t like punk. That’s how amazingly inclusive their show is.
Thursday, May 19th, 2005
mewithoutYou / Bear vs. Shark / Codeseven
The Championship, Lemoyne, PA
Rarely is there a show where I happen to enjoy all of the bands on the bill, right down to the opening act. However, this was one of the rare exceptions.
The opening band, Codeseven (whom I doubt many people knew, due to the generally lukewarm response to their stellar performance) was great, and they played my three favorite songs from their newest album, <i>Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds</i>: "All
the Best Dreams", "Pathetic Justice", and "Roped and Tied". The lead singer, who is the second front man for this band, put on a great show, convulsing as though an exorcism was needed before the end of their set. The tranquil blue lights only added to the ambience of their powerful brand of ambient rock, which seemed somewhat misplaced when paired with the much louder and more frantic sound of the other two bands.
As expected, Bear vs. Shark put on an impressive show. The vocalist was beyond insane, and I don't use the word insane lightly, mind you. When he wasn't jumping around on the amps and various other things, he was convulsing on the floor in what looked to be odd flailing, break dancing sort of moves. However, the most impressive thing about Bear vs. Shark, was that they all switched instruments
intermittently. The bassist played guitar for some songs, the singer picked up a guitar and played during their song "Kylie", and they all sporadically played keyboards. They played the majority of their first album, <i>Right Now You're In The Best Of Hands</i> and a few songs off of their newest album, <i>Terrorhawk</i>, then yet to be released. Possibly the highlight of their set was some random guy in the crowd shouting, "Play the bus song! I drove all the way from Philly to hear that fucking song!", to which the singer responded with
a pause and then "...and now we're going to play the bus song!"
When mewithoutYou took the stage, I found myself wondering if the owners of the venue had merely picked up some homeless man off the street downtown and put him onstage to masquerade as the vocalist for the band. He looked as though he hadn't bathed or shaved in several weeks, and prior to taking the stage, he had been painting houses for the past 18 hours or so. However, looks can be deceiving. MeWithoutYou's vocalist Aaron was awesome- he looked like he was prancing and/or interpretive dancing the whole time. The man should really consider a career on some public access children's show, possibly one with puppets and costumes. The band as a whole put on an absolutely amazing performance, transitioning from their older songs to newer ones flawlessly, captivating the audience the whole time. Few bands I've encountered could replicate the sound of their records so exactly, yet still put on a phenomenally engaging show. After flouncing around the stage and playing what many would consider to be a musical orgasm for approximately 45 minutes or so, the night of magical...magical musical-ness was at an end, as was my poor attempt at alliteration. But at least I got to hear 'the fucking bus song'.
Coloring Outside the Lines by Aimee Cooper
I love community – part of the reason I do IndependentClauses is the hope that I’ll be able to assist in creating a community of like-minded individuals. Whether it’s a local, national or international group of like-minded people, I love community.
This interest in community and especially communal living drew me instantaneously into Coloring Outside the Lines, an autobiographical account of being a punk in the early 80’s. As a part of Aimee Cooper’s experience as a punk, she got aligned with The Connected, or the TC, as she calls them through most of the book.
The TC was a group of punks that lived communally – crashing in houses when they could, living on the street when they had to. Cooper’s house became one of their crash pads as Cooper became involved in the punk life – working at the punk rock ‘zine Slash, going to shows, fighting off New Wave, skateboarding, causing good-natured mayhem and occasionally getting in trouble.
The book pulls no punches – it tells both the highs (travel, music, friendship, family) and the lows (nights in jail, violence, occasional drugs, emotional messes) of the punk life. Both are told with clarity and wit, making empathizing not only easy but necessary. When the TC get tricked into making themselves look like violent good-for-nothings on TV, it’s hard not to be offended with them. It was a natural response, as I had become attached to the characters.
Cooper’s account of the good and the bad aspects of punk life are intensely captivating – written in a short, clipped style, the story flows relentlessly. If you make it to page 5 (her first encounter with punk music), page 146 (the end of the book) will come extremely quickly. And that’s sad, because once you’ve started reading about the multiple adventures and misadventures of the TC, you won’t want to stop – especially if you long for a life exactly like the one you’re reading about (as I do).
Band Name: Weather
Album Name: Calling Up My Bad Side
Best element: Piano “highlights” make their sound unique.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label name: Cake Records (http://www.cakerecords.com)
Band e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In a 1980’s-U2-meets-Dave-Matthews-Band-meets-Ben-Folds-Five fashion, Weather has created an album of 11 original tracks that seek to please.
There really are no “weak” songs on Calling Up My Bad Side; each track has the potential for radio success. High points include the song “Calling Up My Bad Side,” which has been sent to college radio stations, and “The Bitter End,” a beautiful track which demonstrates Weather’s ability to combine the efforts and talents of each musician into a musically cohesive unit.
The addition of a piano to what would otherwise be your typical alternative rock band is what makes Weather’s sound unique. Their similarity to Ben Folds Five starts and ends here, because they take the addition of the piano and stretch it out, using its ethereal quality to further enhance the emotion of each song, whether it be upbeat or more serious and sensitive.
Weather’s lyrics are not incredibly poetic, and can even be a bit cliché at times, but they are incredibly honest. There is a lot of telling of emotions. They don’t leave much to interpretation, but they do write lyrics that are able to provoke feeling in the listener and give him or her something to relate to.
While their overall sound and style is not truly groundbreaking, Weather’s Calling Up My Bad Side is worth listening to and even has a little replay factor.
What Happened to All the Vinyl?
I love vinyl’s- the records, not the fabric. Every chance I get I grab any vinyl I can- which turns out to be about once every six months. It is becoming rarer and rarer for bands to put out vinyl complements to their compact disc albums. Yes, you can find the rare band that puts out a 45 and if you are lucky you can find a decent LP but it seems that every year fewer and fewer LPs are being produced. The art that is vinyl seems to be lost on my generation.
Whether you are listing to a classic or something new like the Thursday/ Thrice split, vinyl is a great way to go. It is just too bad that it’s so hard to find the equipment to keep the record players in working condition. Needles are impossible to find and to find a belt you have to dig through yard sales and flea markets. But even with all the work that has to go into them, it really is worth it.
There are certain albums that should only be released and listened to on vinyl. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is one of those albums. Also, anything that The Doors released should only be heard on an LP. There is just a history about some bands that should be heard on vinyl.
It probably boils down to the fact that my generation has very few people who see the purpose in listening to a vinyl when you can pop a CD in car and drive around. Yes, there is a convenience of CD’s- but there is something so true and real to sitting around your place listening to a great album on vinyl. There are just some things that should be enjoyed by all. Vinyl records are one of those things.
Album: …Over and Out
Best Element: Nothing sticks out- it’s just a good album.
Label: Dirty Laundry Records (www.dirtylaundryrecords.com)
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Self-proclaimed “surf-rockers” Urethane hit the underground scene with a great sound at the wrong time. Hailing from California, Urethane’s first album sounds a lot like The Bravery’s S/T album (Island Records): same driving yet simple guitar and bass parts, the same deep spacey vocals, and even similar use of a synthesizer. These similarities may bring Urethane popularity from The Bravery fans and scorn from music snobs, whom I would expect to say, “Urethane hopped in to the scene after the popularity of The Bravery became apparent.” Ironically, Urethane produced and released …Over and Out before The Bravery released anything.
The one thing that may redeem Urethane is the little bits of pop-punk they mix in. Imagine Matchbook Romance’s first demo- that’s the style that Urethane pulls in during the middle of the album. Though most will think “Hey, Matchbook Romance sucks…”, they have distinctive sound that Urethane unexpectedly pulls off with ease.
When I first read the press pack that was sent with the album, I expected to hear either a horrid album of five drugged-up California surfers or a horrid pop-punk album. This album is neither. It’s a seven-track album with six incredibly enjoyable tracks. The only low point is track five, a 1:49 pop-punk disaster.
Over all, …Over and Out is one of the better albums I’ve heard this year- although, along with every other good album I’ve heard this year, it was released late in 2004, leaving me still searching for a candidate for top album of ’05.
Top Ten Unsigned
The Top Ten Unsigned is a chart that the IC runs on the forums hosted by Purevolume.com. You can view it here. Updated nearly-weekly, this chart is an ever-changing list of the top unsigned bands submitted for consideration. This chart does not look for bands- only bands that are submitted in the topic will be considered.
Bands that are deemed excellent make the chart- a little less makes the honorable mentions, and if you don’t make the chart, you’re put in ‘the pit’- a place where your name will be seen, even if you don’t make it to the chart. It’s all in the name of promotion- there are no prizes and no awards, except ‘retirement’, which is reached when the same band rules the chart for 7 charts straight.
To submit a band for the chart, go to purevolume.com, sign up for the forums, and leave your band’s link. We’ll evaluate it, and you’ll have to check back with the forum to see if you’ve made it.
Just another way the IC helps you.
The Independent Clauses talks with Josh Ramon, the mysterious leader of a mysterious band on a mysterious label playing mysterious ambient-based music. The mystery was too much for us after we heard www.purevolume.com/theanti– we had to know more. So we got it. Here we go.
IC: Who is ‘in’ Theanti?
JR: Well, this project started out as sort of a “solo” thing I (Josh Ramon) had wanted to do, but now it’s sort of becoming something entirely new…and consists of different people at different times.
IC: What does Theanti mean, if it’s not “The Anti”?
JR: Theanti actually did start out as “the anti”, but for obvious reasons (if it’s not so obvious think cheesy) I chose to make it one word and pronounce it slightly different…think “thieves” and “anty” = theanti.
IC: What is the driving force behind Theanti?
JR: I play music as a result of the way I live my life… I couldn’t be who I am and not play music, or write, or do any of the other things that I do. Consequently it’s not always productive things…
IC: Do you play shows?
JR: Actually, this is a good question. To date we haven’t played a show… I am, however, piecing together a live band with hopes of promoting the full length album throughout next year.
IC: What would “making it big” look like to Theanti?
JR: Hmmm… It’d probably look a lot like it does now, only I’d have more material recorded. I’m not looking, nor expecting, to be any kind of commercial success. I just have a lot of musical ideas flowing through my head that need release…if only to help me sleep better at night…
IC: What is Inderma Records, and how did you get associated with it?
JR: Well, Inderma Records is just a label that I felt would be suited to my needs. I really think they have a lot of great ideas and the right incentive to do something no one else will… mostly because other labels are worried about selling records, rather than making really good ones.
IC: Do you plan on releasing any material anytime soon?
JR: As I briefly mentioned earlier I’ll be recording a full-length- hopefully we’ll start and finish it this winter. I’ve been writing material, as well as collaborating with some friends on a lot of new stuff…everything is really getting exciting right now.
IC: Is there a specific reason that there’s no site, hardly a Purevolume site, and barely any information on you guys at Inderma Records’ site?
JR: Well, it was definitely somewhat deliberate to not have much information about us available. It didn’t seem necessary at such an early stage in our “career” to have a lengthy bio and loads of facts when no one really gives a shit. I guess it also added to the mysticism that’s ever-so-present in the music itself, but, I wasn’t intentionally fueling that fire…
IC: What music influenced you when you were young?
JR:I suppose mostly the standard things you might think, depending on what age. When I was really little I listened to a lot of Zeppelin and the Beatles with my dad…But after about age 5 that stopped and I don’t think I listened to music again until I was 15.
IC: What music influences you now?
JR: On a “mainstream” level probably the Dissociatives, Radiohead and the Mars Volta, but I’m mostly into instrumental music, like Godspeed You Black Emperor! or anything classical..
IC: What was the last great CD you heard?
JR: The debut album from the Dissociatives… I’d say it’s the most underrated album of the past few years.
Interview conducted by Stephen Carradini in the month of May.
Band Name: The Angelus
Album Name: S/t
Best Element: Strategic instrumental timing
Label Name: Pyramid Scheme (www.pyramid-sheme.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Angelus is an ambient band that pulls its weight in the music world very well. Its straightforward approach to their music makes The Angelus sound very experienced and confident in their music. The Angelus’ self titled album simply has 5 songs that average around 6 minutes apiece of solid ambient music.
Starting off, The Angelus appears as another average-grade ambient band not quite cutting it. But quickly, the band cuts ties from the average and shows itself to be something very special. The selected instruments of this band are guitar, bass, drums, bells, E-bow, keyboard, and a great set of vocalists. No instrument stands out among the rest, so it is only fair to talk about them as a whole. The guitar, bass, and drum set up are average, but the approach with the bells and keyboard add more feeling and power to every song. Their vocals are well placed and bind the instruments to the emotion trying to be conveyed. The lyrics are articulate poems placed strategically throughout every song with care. The ringing of the bells, on top of bold lyrics and vocals, make this band’s music come to life.
It is very hard to find flaws in an album that so much time was clearly placed in. The only complaint many fans of great ambience will have with this album is the lack of tracks and the feeling of wanting more! The Angelus is a clear cut above the rest- their album is solid ambient that fans of the genre need to check out for themselves.