Monday, July 18th, 2005
Fear Before the March of Flames / Curl Up and Die / Bear vs. Shark / Fire When Ready / Fares Well Without
The Championship, Lemoyne, PA
Having not been to a hardcore show in what seemed like forever, I was particularly excited to see the lineup presented this evening. Truth be told, I even requested off from work for this particular show and was not disappointed that I forfeited my amazing salary of six dollars an hour for three hours of musical entertainment. Fares Well Without, a local hardcore favorite, took the stage first. I have seen them play several times prior to this show, and the lead singer Wally’s stage presence brings an added spark to their performance. A mix of more traditional hardcore and metal, Fares Well Without succeeds at blending the two genres to create their own exciting brand of music. While not exceptionally innovative, they are well on their way to becoming a serious force to reckoned with in the music business, and the boys making up the band are all rather young, with a lot of time to grow and hone their sound.
The next band to play was Fire When Ready, who seemed a bit out of place on this particular tour based solely on the category their music falls under in the giant spectrum of mostly made up genres everyone is so fond of using. Although the lead singer, who doubled as the bassist, realized that about a third of the way through their set that his bass was not playing properly, he merely tossed it aside, grabbed the microphone, and began gyrating around the stage Adam Lazzara style. Since I had never heard their music prior to this night, I had nothing to compare it to and thus did not notice any notable difference sans the bass line. In fact, I would recommend that they find a regular bassist and just have him do vocals, because his antics on stage when free of the constraints created by playing an instrument added a great deal to their performance. Admittedly, I am not a fan of most punk rock, but Fire When Ready’s music and vocal style seemed merely based on this, and instead of being merely another cookie cutter band, they added a certain complexity and uniqueness to their music.
After their set, you may recognize the next band as one I’ve already written about several months ago; a little band called Bear vs. Shark. Since I’ve already sang their praise in previous publications, I will spare you the gory details and just say that once again they put on a stellar performance that did not disappoint in the least. Given that I had already seen them play a couple months ago, one might be worried that the set would be somewhat redundant, but this band, especially the vocalist, is one that always manages to spice everything up, and take it up a notch no matter what.
Curl Up and Die was probably the most disappointing band for me, solely from a musical stand point. Though prior to seeing them live, I hadn’t been exposed to a great deal of their music sans several songs I downloaded to get a feel for them, I was let down by their lack of ingenuity and the seeming blandness of their songs. Despite the vocalist’s amazing energy and stage presence, the fact that their songs all ran together and none stood out is what stuck in my mind most about this particular band’s performance. Perhaps if they dropped the formulaic song structure and made the lyrics at least somewhat intelligible they would have greater success at holding the audience’s attention.
The most anticipated band in my opinion, Fear Before the March of Flames, did not disappoint in the least. In fact, they even upped their quality of performance since the last time I had seen them several months ago. A few extra minutes of setting up time yielded a Plexiglas covered light box set in the middle of the stage on the floor, and several sets of strobe lights at the back of the stage. The lead singer cavorted around the stage; jumping on the box of high powered colored lights, which along with the strobe lights (and absence of other lights in the room) created almost an ethereal feel. The only disappointment was that the venue owners would not allow the lights in the record store connected to the stage to be shut off, which would have provided a more dramatic lighting effect. Sound clips and space-like sounds accompanied the band’s crazed performance of their own unique brand of complex hardcore and served as interludes between songs. Unlike their touring counterparts Curl Up and Die, Fear Before the March of Flames had a much more unique sound to their music; with more elaborate and distinctive guitar parts in addition to the more distinguishing vocals. With all the flashing lights and crazy stage antics, this was one band that was lucky that no one in the audience was epileptic, because they surely were seizure inducing…in a good way.
– Allison Frank
The Independent Clauses does focus on music. But every now and again, our focus will shift to a topic that has music as a secondary focus. This month’s deviation of character is based on the excellent clothing company Skylab Clothing. Their bold, creative designs can be found on the backs of some pretty excellent bands, as well as anyone who wants to look really sharp. Creative designer and owner Chuck Magnum took some time out to talk with us.
Independent Clauses: How long has Skylab Clothing been running?
Chuck Magnum: Skylab, to a lot of people’s surprise, has only been online for three months.
IC: Why did you start Skylab Clothing?
CM: To tell the truth, myself and a good friend going to different colleges were somewhat disillusioned with the whole thing. College, that is. We asked ourselves, and I think it’s important for others to do so as well, “is this what we want?” We didn’t want to just float by for four years, so we came up with a small business plan, a little cash and got to work. Part of our approach was to take all the money we earn and throw it back at making better products or advertising. To me it felt like even if I just break even I have a lot to show from the success and the skills it took to get that success with Skylab, when I finish school and look for a job in the graphic design field. In this short time I have learned a tremendous about business, art, music, and networking and done some work for some great clients that I may not of otherwise had the chance to.
IC: Where do you come up with designs for your shirts?
CM: Mostly sketches drawn in classes I should be paying more attention in. Right? I sit down at the computer and finish it up and post it to see what folks think. It’s entirely different from the approach I normally take from doing merch for clients. That involves a lot of sketches too, but after that the process splits.
IC: How often do you get new designs?
CM: New designs are posted pretty frequently on myspace but we only print new ones when older ones go out of stock right now. All of the current designs and future designs are $10.
IC: Have you thought about branching out into other clothes and accessories?
CM: I would love to do some silk screen posters for one. It would be great to do some zip up jackets, but right now shirts for ten bucks are our style.
IC: What is your ultimate goal with Skylab Clothing?
CM: Ultimately I want to be proud of it. I think the others who help me will agree. We have met some great people and learned so much. We would love to get new designs out and tour. We just want to keep getting better at what we do.
IC: Are you looking to sponsor bands?
CM: We always have our ears open. If anyone out there wants to send us a press pack that would be great, but otherwise please no emails with links to purevolume or myspace. Currently we have four bands on our roster, Westcott, Gas Can Pick Up (British Records), Capitol Risk, and The Junior Varsity(Victory Records).
IC: Explain to us your unique advertising plans for bands.
CM: We were exploring other ways we could advertise and actually came up with away someone else could advertise with us. Bands we sponsor or bands that want to advertise with us give us gear like stickers, demos, or pins to stick in our orders going out to customers. We’re sure our customers love free stuff and our bands get out to someone who may of never heard them.
IC: How many bands have done that advertising plan?
CM: Only a couple since we have only been around a couple of months. One of the bands, we actually sponsor now since we were both good for each other and we love their music. If anyone is interested check the site for details.
IC: What are you listening to right now?
CM: Outside it’s summer so I’m rocking the new Weezer, Acceptance, Underoath and The Number Twelve Looks Like You is always on for when I need to get hyped. To wrap it up I have MeWithoutYou still echoing in my head from seeing them live and Kings of Convenience playing all the time.
IC: What’s some of your favorite albums of all-time?
CM: My number one is The Blue Album from the good folks at Weezer. After that some of my favorites are Too Bad You’re Beautiful by From Autumn to Ashes and Deja Entendu from Brand New.
Anything else you’d like to add?
First off, even though this has been such a short time so far, I’d like to thank the awesome people we have worked with already and look forward to meet more people like them. As for the future we are looking to print new designs (and keep them affordable), distribution, and maybe go on tour. I would love to spend my summer traveling and met the great kids that are out there. Heck, even if we only sell enough shirts to get us gas money for the next day it would be one great experience. I would just like to mention we also do design merch for bands so if we are what you are looking for get in contact with us.
-Interview conducted through e-mail in the month of June by Stephen Carradini.
Album: The People Of and Their Verses
Best Element: Danceable, yet still refined.
Genre: Danceable indie-rock
Label: Jade Tree Records (www.jadetree.com)
Band E-mail: N/a
When in causal conversation about music (which I am in more than I would like to admit), I often tell my conversing partner that my favorite record label is Jade Tree records. I do this for two reason: 1) they have a strong, diverse back catalog that includes some of the most influential records in underground music in the last 10 years and 2) everything about the label is cool. They’re based out of Delaware and are completely independent. They sign the top bands in every small sub genre imaginable. However, they never had a part of one of the most influential (and cool) bands of the last decade: At the Drive-In. This is where Despistado comes in. From 2001 to 2004, these Regina, Saskatchewan natives played music that was left in the void of At The Drive-In’s premature breakup for the record label that they should have originally been in. Does this story end happily ever after? Not entirely.
Despistado is band that sounds like they were listening to At Drive The In’s In/Casino/Out and Fugazi’s 13 Songs on those long tours in the Great White North. The lyrics are esoteric, the guitars are angular, the drums are extremely danceable, and the vocals are a cross between a yell and forceful singing. Sound familiar? Of course it does. But that’s not all bad. It’s because of these elements that the record is so good. The songs are catchy as hell. The guitar work is creative and relies on technical skill over volume. The vocals are actually quite perfect for this type of band. They’re rough, but not too rough. There is the soul of a young, idealistic man in the verses of the songs, yelping against the odds that were placed before him in such a frigid climate as the one that he grew up in. But the drums, they are the wrecking ball of the album and probably the reason why this band got signed to such a fantastic label. They burst and step lively, keeping the time and never over playing. There is a danceable quality to each song that makes the album fun and exciting.
Lastly, there is a side of Depsistado that veered from At The Drive-In in the mid-parts of the album. Some songs have an introspective sound that is more reminiscent of Braid. If they had kept on following that idea and refining their sound, they would have been able to take a place at the top of the dance indie pyhlim with Q and Not U. Unfortunitely, Despistado broke up and they will forever be in remembered for a flawed yet promising debut record.
Band: Josh James
Album: Primitive Sketches EP
Best element: The songs are all great individually.
Band E-mail: N/a
The acoustic songwriter world is full of variation. If you’ve got a guitar, and a voice, you can have a crack at it- producing everything from Ani Difranco’s empowered-girl folk to Dashboard Confessional’s emotive pop to Damien Jurado’s fractured Americana. Unfortunately, there’s a genre that most people armed with only an acoustic guitar fall into- the coffeeshop artist.
Some people do it excellently, some don’t do it well at all, but all do it with heart- busting out songs that run the gamut from folk to ballad to pop, then smashing them all together in one set, or one album. Josh James is a definite coffeeshop artist.
The biggest problem with coffeeshop artists is that they never carve out a definite niche. James falls victim to this in his EP Primitive Sketches. While all four songs are enjoyable, with “Comfort Coat” being especially well-done, the EP is a dart-board of styles. “Comfort Coat” is a neat piece of finger-picked mature pop in the vein of Gary Jules, with a consistently interesting guitar line and a well-done vocal line, but it’s backed up with “Feet on the Ground”, which is a neo-soul track. “Stay the Same” is a confrontational track in the vein of Elliot Smith, and “Nothing to Lose” is gravel-throated somber dirge. He does some genres better than others, and accomplishes absolutely no flow.
James’ high-ranged voice is great on songs like “Comfort Coat”, where he stays in his range and works the tone of his voice into the guitar sound- it’s unfortunately not so good on songs like “Feet on the Ground” and “Stay the Same”, where some unnecessary stretches are taken, whether they be too high or too low.
Overall, the tracks are enjoyable individually, but with the rapid change of styles and moods, it’s a challenge to enjoy every song when a thorough play of the album is heard. There is a lot of promise in the voice and guitar skill of Josh James, but he needs to exploit it by carving a niche for himself in one of these genres and running with it.
Band: Last Tuesday/The Evan Anthem
Album: Resolve/Sens Teaser EP
Genre: Last Tuesday: Punk/ The Evan Anthem: Emo
Label: Mono vs. Stereo (www.monovsstereo.com)
Last Tuesday is the best punk three-piece I’ve ever heard. While their quick tempos and danceable strum patterns will appeal to pop-punkers everywhere, their intertwined, dual-vocalist harmonies and unusual arrangements (courtesy of Relient K’s Matt Thiessen working the board) will appeal to those who detest modern punk. This two-song teaser to their album Resolve forecasts good things for the album, as these songs display more depth in songwriting then they have had in the past (hence the unusual arrangements).
“Have You Seen Me?” starts out with classic LT punking, complete with their signature pseudo-mellow section, before adding a piano/vocals piece in the middle of the song. “All These Things” starts out with a piano intro before blasting off into some darkish punk accented by aggressive vocals and a Relient-Kish breakdown. In short, they’re getting better with every release.
The Evan Anthem plays straight-up new-wave emo, minus the screaming. It’s very well recorded, giving this a gritty edge that is lost in most new-wave emo, but it’s still not anything to scream about. And while “Testing” does experiment with some interesting drum patterns, it’s evident that the vocals take precedence when mixing comes into play- so not all emo ills have been remedied here. But then again, it’s catchy, it’s minor, and it reads like a diary- what more could you want? It even includes some nice keys occasionally.
Prognosis: Last Tuesday is awesome, The Evan Anthem is about average. I’d recommend both albums to fans of their respective genres, although Last Tuesday is recommendable to fans of any genre.
Best element: Very comforting and accessible.
Genre: Mellow Indie
Label: Dirty Laundry Records (www.dirtylaundryrecords.com)
Band E-mail: email@example.com
ReedKD is brilliant when it comes to making a melody. While that’s important in any genre, in the genre of mellow singer-songwriter, it’s everything. This 5-song pre-release of his as-yet-unnamed full-length is simply stunning, and it’s all because the melodies are fantastic. Whether it’s a vocal line, a guitar line, or a piano line, the result is always the same- calming, familiar, and entrancing. If you want to chill, there is no better artist than ReedKD- “Seventeen” is perfect evidence. The subtle use of electronics underlies a plodding keys line that propels the dreamy song. The soft, sure, clear vocals ring out with a sweet clarity that is unrivaled anywhere in the album. It’s a genuine tragedy that the song is the shortest on this prerelease, as it is a track that I could put on repeat all day and just chill.
The slightly more apocalyptic vein of “Moving Parts” displays the emotional weight that Reed can pull- instead of being used to soothe, the keys here accentuate feelings of loss and alienation. “Say You’ll Miss Me” displays a bit of an alt-country accent in the guitars, while pulling in some Death Cab for Cutie influences in the vocals. The Fountains of Wayne couldn’t have asked for a better pop gem than “Drive Away”, which closes the album in a brilliant manner.
Overall, there’s not a better way to spend a day then taking a long trip with ReedKD on the stereo. Or maybe just chillin with Reed on the stereo. The singer-songwriter world has another gem in ReedKD- pretty soon the general public will discover it.
Never Give Up Hope
Sometimes I’m very frustrated. I get frustrated with the scene I’m trying to cover, with the music I’m trying to make, with the music I’m listening to- sometimes I just get fed up with music in general. I was having one of those slumps earlier this month. Everything I listened to felt boring- even my most powerful ‘pick-me-up’ CDs. I know I’m in trouble when listening to August and Everything After by Counting Crows doesn’t so much as make me hum. And that’s where I was- tired of everything. I didn’t know what to do.
Thus, I did nothing. In fancy terms, we say that I went on a ‘sabbatical’- I listened to nothing for a couple of days. I still didn’t feel any need for music- I was busy, the Independent Clauses wasn’t in a time of the month where it needed my attention. I felt completely empty.
I’d like to say that it all came rushing back as a result of a concert (it didn’t) or a new CD (quite the opposite- the new CD I listened to set me back on sabbatical). I just kept pressing on. I got a song stuck in my head one day, and I listened to it a couple times. I got back into Coldplay albums. I played music that I could read to- not really listening to it, but just hearing it. Just whatever.
Why am I writing this? It’s not because I think that everyone goes on tirades where they hate music. I’m so in love with music that lovers’ quarrels are necessary. No, it’s the fact that maybe this little concept can be applied to our lives. Don’t give up so quickly- there’s always hope. It may be a relationship. It may be a band member who’s not cooperating. It may be a friend who always finds fault in you. Don’t give up too quickly- if you throw up your hands you’ll never get to experience the joy that comes in reconciliation to that which you loved.
I saw Angeles Drake perform live- a concert review will come next month. In short, it was bliss. They put the final nail in the casket of apathy- with a sound so fresh, so emotional, so powerful, how can you not love it? I loved music once for a reason, and I love it again for the same reason. If you loved it once, you’ll love it again- hopefully you won’t be staring across the bridge you burned when you decide you love it again. Never give up hope.
Album: It’s a Wonderful Life
Best Element: They mellow out nicely.
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The hardest thing about Opie is that while they’ve whittled down rock songwriting to it’s very roots (an admirable trait), they may have gone too far, eradicating some of their potential for excellence (a not-so-good trait). Their EP It’s a Wonderful Life is a rather frustrating listen of tuneful-but-quickly-unmemorable rock songs and inspired, poignant mellower songs.
It’s certainly not the vocals that drag this down- in this EP of inconsistency, the vocals are a bulls-eye on every track. From the casual harmonies on “Death of Adventure” to the earnest pleas of “Eli” to the plaintive near-mumble of the stand-out “Heater”, the vocals never disappoint. One of the greatest treats about this album is the poignant female guest vocals, which accompany on “Heater” and “Fly on the Wall”.
No, it’s not Opie’s vocals that are the culprit here. The majority of the problem comes in tracks like “Eli” and “Good Drugs Fix Bad Kids”, which are full of too much space between instruments. It just sounds like they forgot to finish writing the songs.
Their two mellower offerings are stellar, though- while the introspective “Fly on the Wall” is honest, emotive and beautiful, the stand-out track “Heater” goes from soft to loud (the loudest Opie gets, actually) and then back to soft in its nearly 7-minute duration. The guitars in both are simply fantastic- while not technically difficult, they connect with the listener instantly, unlike “Eli” or “Who Cares?”.
This EP is fun to listen to once in a while. The gleeful rock that Opie usually stands for is awesome once or twice. You may even put the rollicking “Death of Adventure” on a mix CD or two. But after a while, all the rock becomes monotonous instead of familiar, and that’s 2/3rds of this EP.
Band: Over It
Best element: Very tight guitar and drum tracks.
Label: Lobster Records
Band E-mail: email@example.com
My first impression of Over It was: “Here’s another California pop-punk band that’s on their way to selling out.” The band sounds like they are influenced by Yellowcard (also on Lobster Records), the Early November, and other pop-punk/hardcore bands. Thus, their sound is not very original- they are like many of the MTV generation cookie-cutter bands that have sold out. This is a band that you could probably find on the Warped Tour along with My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy.
The band is on a “punk” label, but they are just borderline pop-punk- they mix in some ill-fated hardcore attempts. If they were heavier with a new singer, the album would be a lot better. Some of the songs are pretty mellow, and sound like they belong on the soundtrack to the “OC”. Although the guitar parts could use a little beefing up, overall, the instrumental aspect of the CD is all right- it’s just not very original.
In conclusion, Over It’s 5th album Silverstrand is a mediocre attempt to cross the pop-punk line and show everybody that a band can have their own sound. They blend in with most of the new bands that are played on TV and the radio. I feel they could get a new singer and be a lot better than all the rest of the girly punk bands- you know who I’m talking about. If you are into songs that were written because someone got dumped, then pick up Silverstrand.
Band: Rainy Day Collapse
Album: Three Song Demo
Best Element: Potential to become a great band.
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rainy Day Collapse sounds like one of those unfortunate bands in which the members are still learning the finer points of making music. In later years, the members will confess to new friends about how bad the band was but how much fun it was. There will be a mixture of longing and relief in their voices as they retell stories of ill fated recordings, poorly received shows, and the bonds that were made during such times. I know this because that’s the story of just about every musician I talk to. So let me explain the premise of Rainy Day Collapse to give a proper description and in turn, a fair review.
There are certain clubs around my native Rochester, NY in which young local bands can play their first shows. These bands usually get lumped together on the bills, receive no money from the club owners, and beg their friends to come out and watch them fumble through a set of originals and perhaps the occasional cover (“Dammit” by Blink-182 was always popular when I was doing this, I believe bands have now graduated to “The Day I Die” by Story of the Year). If you watch closely, you’ll notice that each band is pretty much the same. There is the drummer who is either exceptional or terrible, but will overplay no matter which category he or she may fall into. There is the bass player who plays his bass like a guitar and usually looks bashful and reserved on stage. Next there is the second guitarist who is often the most fashionable and charismatic of the young group. This person is the rock star and may even try out a few cool stage moves like getting a big stance in front of the audience or jumping during the pogo part of the song. Lastly, there is the unfortunate lead singer. He or she (let’s be fair) has the heavy chore of trying to make the vocals sound credible. Often young boys in these bands have not yet developed enough control over their ever changing vocal chords and try trouble singing in key.
Upon listening to Rainy Day Collapse’s three song demo, I knew that this band was exactly what I just described. The rhythm section is off and the drums speed up and slow down. In certain points, the drummer tries to play complicated parts but cannot pull them off, sounding amateur. The guitar work has good intention but often the player tries to go out of skill range and ends up sounding sloppy and ill-conceived. But what really sinks the demo in the end is the poor vocal performance and lyrical content. The lead singer’s vocal lines are monotone and lack a solid rhythm. Furthermore, he often sings out of key and out of rhythm. As far as the lyrics go, it sounds that the lyrist has listened to far too much Dashboard Confessional and The Early November and is trying to convey feelings of anguish and grief through very trite, pseudo-poetic lyrics. What ends up happening is that the band comes across sounding like a joke. But there is hope.
This band is obviously young and has much time to hone their skills and work on writing good, well crafted songs. I hear a yearning to follow in the Promise Ring’s poppy, dork-friendly emo-rock footsteps that have been missing from the American underground for some time. If Rainy Day Collapse keeps on using the keyboards and plays within their own limits as a band, they should become a great band.