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PRIDE PARADE • KINGS OF CONVENIENCE• DAVID MEAD • HOLY GHOST TENT REVIVAL • CLIPSE • WHY? • ROYAL BANGS • MASS SOLO REVOLT & MORE!!!
for their sixth album, tegan and sara find faith in — and out of — love
PATRON SAINTS OF POP
hardly a flower, ten years in brand new are anything but gentle
channeling the best of The badger state
how to subvert the expectation of unexpectedness
a royal pain
will a new piece of legislation kill radio as we know it?
> happy happy birthday to you >
PATRON SAINTS OF POP
For their sixth album, Tegan and Sara find faith in — and out of — love. story by Natalie David photo by Pamela Littky
by Alec Wooden
Channelling the very best of “The Badger State”
reVamping my choir
by Adam Clair
Fiery Furnaces on how to subvert the expectation of unexpectedness
eVery daisy has its thorn?
Hardly a flower, ten years in Brand New are anything but gentle
by Natalie David
A new piece of legislation promises the performing artist new royalty rights. But will it kill radio as we know it?
by Sarah McCarty
by Ed Morales
Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records is still big on friendship, imagination and ingenuity
celebrating a decade
Conan’s got The Tonight Show. Leno’s got his own show, too. But is America being entertained?
by DeMarco Williams
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down David Mead Why? Pride Parade Kings of Convenience Royal Bangs Efren Clipse Mass Solo Revolt Holy Ghost Tent Revival
editor’s playlist: Ten Tunes Worth Noting the first word: Remembering Nebraska worth a thousand: Who says you need words?
7 8 64
10 11 12 13 14 16 17 19 20 21
20 35 60 52
ear candy: Album Reviews this day in music history ten Questions with: Drivin’ n’ Cryin’
22 26 35
m USIcIAN’S cORNER
musician’s gear guide Life’s too short to own bad gear regional report: Jacksonville, Fla.
RTS & 49 aNTERTAINMENT e
upcoming on the screen
c ONcERT ShOTS
the month in photos
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
blur froM The ediTor
My fame on the airwaves was pretty short lived. When I was in college, I freaked out (literally, almost drove my Jeep into a ditch) after hearing one of my band’s songs on the radio for the first time. The second time was almost as cool. The third time...okay, I don’t think there was a third time. The point of the story isn’t to relive musical glory days. Rather, the point is that each time the broadcasting station was Bulldog 100.1 FM (103.7 on the dial at that point). For that reason, it will always have a special place in my heart. I’m sad to know the Bulldog is gone — but even more sad (and dumbfounded, frankly) over what has taken its place, Top 40 Hits station “Power 100.1.” Did we need a Top 40 station to call our own? Not really. Athens picks up Atlanta joints like STAR 94, 95.5 The Beat...the list goes on. By and large, I just don’t buy the fact that we’re that much of a Top 40 town. Popular music isn’t shunned, nor should it be. But we’re a rock town. Indie-rock, poprock, punk-rock, post-rock, alt-rock, hard-rock, whatever. There was something special, something nice, in hearing that catchphrase — “World Class Rock.” Let’s call a spade a spade. Did I listen to Bulldog very much? No, not very much. Classic rock isn’t really my daily bread and butter. But that’s the point — even lacking my favorite artists in their playlists, Bulldog still had something for me, as it did for all. I listened in the mornings when afforded the chance, the local music shows whenever I could — I never went out of my way to turn the Bulldog off or question why someone else had it on. No doubt, I won’t say the same about “Power.” Something feels like we’ve lost a close friend, a local staple, a dependable (regardless of whether or not their playlists were your bag) voice in the community, swallowed into a big, stinking corporate mess. That said, I have no real reason to wish ill will towards Cox for the decision to re-format Bulldog, other than selfish personal ones (but those are the most fun, aren’t they?). If this move will keep the most employees in the workforce, then hey, more power (no pun intended) to them. But as time goes on, I think we’ll all find that this ain’t no power (pun fully intended) to the people.
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Executive Editor Alec Wooden firstname.lastname@example.org Director of Sales Stephen Simmons email@example.com Account Executives Jen Allen firstname.lastname@example.org Adrienne Klein email@example.com Cole Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org Design Lauren Mullins, Carlye Norton, Allison Weiss, Alec Wooden Editorial interns Marie Baginski, Kristen Callihan, Jessica Cole Contributing Editors Matt Conner, Jon Ross Contributing Writers Adam Clair, Amanda Cuda, Matt Conner, Natalie David, Matt Fink, Jennifer Gibson, Tiffani Harcrow, Sarah McCarty, Ed Morales, Phil Pyle, Ned Rauch, Ingrid Sibley, Dylan Solise, DeMarco Williams Contributing photographers Alyssa De Hayes, Stefen Eberhard, Wes Elkin, Justin Evans, Sandra Gallardo, Alex Gibbs, Will Gravlee, Daniel Peiken
Alec Wooden Executive Editor
“Husks and Shells” Volcano Choir “I Want You To Keep Everything” These United States “Surprise Hotel” Fools Gold “Don’t Haunt This Place” The Rural Alberta Advantage
MAkE SURE THESE TUNES GET oN yoUR pLAyLIST
“The Hobo Girl” Fruit Bats “These Are My Twisted Words” Radiohead “January Twenty Something” Why? “Calypso Gold” Princeton
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The Athens Blur Magazine issue 11, copyright©2009 By The Athens Blur Magazine, INC. The Athens Blur Magazine is an eight issue/year music and variety publication, proud to be based in the “Classic City” of Athens, Ga. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part in any way by any means unless written permission is received from the publisher. Published monthly except for each summer issue in the United States of America and distributed free of charge (limit one copy per reader, each subsequent copy is distributed at a charge of $4.95). Postmaster send address changes to the Athens Blur Magazine, p.o. Box 7117 Athens, Ga. 30604
ON THE COVER: Tegan & Sara. Photo: Pamela Littky
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
blur The firsT word
REASon to BEliEvE
Twenty-seven years ago Bruce Springsteen released the most daring, revolutionary and rock ’n’ roll record of his career and, perhaps, of the era. He did it without drums, bass, saxophone or pretty back-up singers and recorded it in his bedroom on a four-track tape machine. Then he went and named it Nebraska. It’s simple, it’s spare, it’s honest and it’s haunting, and to hand it into the record company, at a time when synths and New Wave ruled, took more balls than his peers would have even dared to muster. You think Jackson Browne could have pulled that off? In today’s scene, Jack White has made a career out of zigging when people thought he’d zag. Nebraska out-zigs White by a mile, and it’s no novelty act. It’s painfully real. In 1982, Springsteen was at the cusp of international superstardom. Born in the USA was two years away, but Springsteen had already established himself as the greatest American rock performer. The River, which came out in 1980, produced his first topten hit, “Hungry Heart.” He’d toured the country’s arenas, but hadn’t yet graduated to stadiums, and supernova status was anything but certain. In the decade that had passed since the release of his first record, he’d consistently moved toward his rock side and away from his folk side, filling his songs with sharp, chiming electric guitars, pianos and organ riffs, explosive drums and sax. Whereas acoustic guitars defined the sound of 1973’s Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, they appeared on subsequent records only to color a song or two. Meanwhile, the '80s were becoming, well, the '80s. War between Iran and Iraq, Russians in Afghanistan, Central America a violent mess. Reagan was elected on a promise of a new morning in America that, to Springsteen’s ears, sounded like a con. And so he retreats to a rented Jersey farmhouse with an acoustic guitar, a tape recorder and a bunch of Flannery O’Connor stories. Out comes a record about serial killers, organized crime, envy, social stratification, a cop-killer, brotherly love, corruption, Vietnam, desperation, duty, emasculation, pride, cars, love, family and — all in one song — a dead dog, a dead man, a baptism and a runaway bride.
27 yEARS LATER, SpRINGSTEEN’S NEBRASkA STILL SHINES A LIGHT
the same line. “Mary Lou loved Johnny with a love mean and true.” Past tense. That love’s on ice, too. One cut, sort of, qualifies as a love song: “Open All Night.” But it’s less an ode to Wanda, the narrator’s girlfriend, whom he met at Bob’s Big Boy, than it is to his car. Springsteen sings the lyrics to this one five times faster than anything else on the record, and it’s the one tune on which we hear an electric guitar. It, too, is running fast. There’s a frantic, fleeting freedom here. It’s the feeling you get when you know where you’re going and why. You’re in control, and control is a rare thing for the characters on this record. And yet Springsteen is in total control of it. He played and sang every note on it, adding bits of harmonica, mandolin, glockenspiel and organ here and there, fleshing out these skeletal songs just enough to give them life. He tried the tunes with the rest of the band, but heard none of the angst and pain in the new arrangements. Springsteen, like the people on the record, would be alone on this one and, in some ways, barely there. The reverb on his voice creates a sense of distance and detachment. While his face appeared on the cover of his last four records, Nebraska’s cover shot is just a road cutting through the prairie beneath a heavy sky. The record came out, went gold, but Springsteen didn’t tour behind it. He OK’d a video for “Atlantic City” but isn’t in it — just black-and-white shots of a beat-up gambling town. Somehow, in the midst of all that darkness, Springsteen shines a little light. It’s dim, but it’s there in the refrain of “Atlantic City” (“Maybe everything that dies someday comes back.”) and in the title of the last cut, “Reason to Believe.” The song doesn’t offer any reasons at all, but it finds Springsteen marveling at the ability of people who’ve lost it all to endure. “At the end of every hard-earned day, people find some reason to believe,” he sings. And that’s what makes Nebraska not just gutsy but strong: it finds hope in the hardest of times. Ned P. Rauch lives in New York City and writes for www.tendollarradioshow.com and plays guitar in the band Frankenpine.
over the course of
Nebraska’ s 40 minutes
are 14 deaths, including a
four run-ins of one kind or another with the police, two
and a fatal explosion.
Over the course of Nebraska’s 40 minutes are 14 deaths, including a death-row execution (another character, sentenced to life in prison, asks the judge, instead, to “put me on that execution line,”), four runins of one kind or another with the police, two courtroom scenes, a fist fight and a fatal explosion. Much of Nebraska is about life’s unforgiving side and the authority patrolling it — and whether you face it or run away from it. The word “sir” appears nine times; “road” appears seven times; “car” and “highway” both appear six times. This is not a record about romance. The word “love” shows up just three times on the whole record. The first time, the narrator admits that his “love may be cold.” The other two times come at the end of the record, in
courtroom scenes, a fist fight
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
WITH THE GET doWN, STAy doWN
On a day of unyielding Georgia rain, Thao Nguyen is in the beguiling San Francisco. “I’m from right outside D.C., so the pace is a little bit more intense there. And people are a little more quick to react,” says the Virginia native, who fell for San Francisco while volunteering at a homeless shelter under a college grant. Nowadays, she gives of herself in a different way, by pouring her heart into her music. The cover of her second full-length release with The Get Down Stay Down, Know Better Learn Faster, represents this visually with Thao removing a blindfold to witness a dripping heart-shaped piñata: Thao Nguyen: It’s me sort of tongue-in-cheek beating [my own] heart. But it’s a party atmosphere and there’s people watching and exaggeratedly enthusiastic. I guess the conception of it is more the idea of being somewhat selfdestructive and then writing songs about it and having people celebrate that. But I don’t mean it to be that cynical or dark. Mostly we wanted a high-energy record, but also, the content is very sad, to me at least. And so that does sort of [become] the paradox. We wanted to juxtapose both those ideas. Athens Blur Magazine: What would you consider to be the theme of the whole album? TN: I would say a lot of the album is about the end of a relationship. It’s sort of the audit of what did and did not happen. There’s obviously whatever emotions are involved in the breakup. There’s a sort of underriding current of frenzied hopelessness. I think the title track is one of the more meaningful songs to me — “Know Better Learn Faster.” ‘Because you can’t, that would be what I found out. That by the time you know you should have, it’s too late. And how can
dAvId MEAd’S LATEST IS pERSoNAL ANd pRofoUNd
It’s hard to believe David Mead is in a good place. After all, the longtime singer/songwriter just emerged from a divorce, his producer hates his new album title and he scrapped the first batch of songs for Almost and Always because they were too depressing to release. Yet one listen to the updated version of Almost reveals Mead at his absolute best. It’s the oft-seen beauty-from-tragedy that marks the 14-song collection and finds the lonesome tenor both triumphant and defeated. As Mead describes it, the trials became a prime place for inspiration to take root. “Of course, this is just my perspective, obviously, because a lot of people deal with this differently,” Mead says, “but no matter how you come out of the relationship part of all of this, it's impossible to avoid a lot of dynamic and a lot of change. That's just going to be inherent. That's usually a pretty good time for the creative process to happen. If you get too comfortable, there's less inspiration to do anything.” Of course, it takes time to lick your wounds and find the proper headspace to even compose a song. For Mead, the time didn’t last as long as it could have for others. “I was fortunate,” Mead explains. “I had a really shitty time of it for about six months or so, and then some lights started to come on. I had some very good help in processing the emotional side of that, so I wrote several batches of songs. I wrote one set of songs that was supposed to be Almost and Always that turned out pretty dark. I was fortunate to get some advice that it might not be a very listenable record to make, so I didn't.” That advice came courtesy of friend and producer Brad Jones. The counsel may seem harsh, but Mead acknowledges it was deadon. “He didn't want me to put out an album, especially with his name on it, that would be difficult to
tRiuMph AnD tRAGEDy
Who’S Who David Mead FoRMED 1998 in Nashville, Tenn. lABEl Cheap Lullaby lAtESt RElEASE Almost and Always (2009) on thE WEB www.davidmead.com
“[ Jones] understands a lot of things that bring a listener joy,” Mead says. “It's not like he can't have a couple or three songs that are really dark or even an entire record of that, but you have to do that really well. Maybe he just wasn't impressed with my version of it.” Once the original tunes were shelved, fresh material began to emerge with Mead’s new songwriting partner, Bill DeMain. Instead of producing the intensely personal songs from before, the co-writers allowed the songs to become universal in nature. “I went back to this group of songs that Bill DeMain and I had written. The focus turned out to be strangely prophetic, but a lot of them were torch songs to nobody, and I felt like they, in a roundabout way, described the situation in a better way than the ugly songs that I had written. Well, they weren't ugly, but they were intense. They were pretty jagged. There was no perspective on the feeling at the point that they were written.” It’s there in the tension that Mead’s Almost and Always exists as a relatable compendium of weathered songs with enough of Mead’s personal fingerprints for one to appreciate both the art and the artist involved. — Matt Conner
thAo With thE GEt DoWn, StAy DoWn
you? It’s sort of frustrating and funny, but it’s not funny. Too little, too late, or something along those lines. AB: Who all was playing on “Know Better Learn Faster”? TN: The band and myself. And Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper does some slide guitar. And then Andrew Bird graciously made a guest appearance…that really high pitch almost inhuman but beautiful note that you hear in the end is him whistling. And we were all in the studio, and we were like scared when he did that. Amazing! AB: What’s the meaning behind the song “The Give”? TN: Oh, that song, yeah. That’s the song about the end of a different relationship. But it’s written from the perspective of a father addressing the daughter. AB: does it feel personal or is it more general? TN: Oh no. It’s incredibly personal. I only said ‘a father and a daughter’ to disguise it, but it’s very personal.
CoURteSY tHAo & tGdSd
Who’S Who Thao Nguyen (vocals, guitar, banjo), Adam Thompson (bass, keys, guitar, vocals), Willis Thompson (drums, percussion, vocals) FoRMED 2005 in Richmond, Va. lABEl Kill Rock Stars lAtESt RElEASE Know Better Learn Faster (2009) on thE WEB www.thaomusic.com
keys and everything. And then we’re gonna have some cello guests as well. We’re excited to go to Atlanta. I think we’re playing The Earl? AB: Yeah, it’s November 9th i think. TN: Sure, yeah! I don’t know the dates. AB: How do you think this album has progressed from We Brave Bee Stings And All? TN: There’s a lot more emotional straightforwardness and I think this album has a lot more energy from us and from me in particular. A lot more of my energy than the last record and I think a lot of that is over the last year and a half, however long we’ve been on tour, we’ve become more comfortable with ourselves as a band. I think what we’ve found is we like a more high-energy show. And I wanted that same energy to be represented on the record. That was our hope. We’ll see how much of it got to the album. — ingrid Sibley
CoURteSY dAvid MeAd
AB: do you have horns in your live shows? TN: We will for this upcoming tour for this record. But normally we don’t. We’ve been a trio for the most part. But you know. It’s mostly financial — how big your band can be when you’re on the road. But thankfully for this tour we have the Portland Cello Project opening. One of their members will be our multiinstrumentalist playing horn and
“ We’re all at the point where we’ve done enough art for art’s sake. It’s just not really that interesting unless there’s some sort of participatory, interactive element to it.” — David Mead —
listen to,” Mead says with a laugh. “We're all at the point where we've done enough art for art's sake. It's just not really that interesting unless there's some sort of participatory, interactive element to it. So when we make records together, we're very conscious of an audience — not in the sense that we're trying to tailor-make music to find some larger audience — but music, to me, is made to be listened to. I stopped playing in my bedroom a long time ago.” In the end, it was Jones’ experience and expertise that allowed Mead to trust his judgment.
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
WHy?’S fRoNTMAN WILL NEvER STop SEARCHING foR HIS BEST WoRk
A WolF on thE pRoWl
ATHENS BANd LIkES To MESS WITH EXpECTATIoNS
It’s Yoni Wolf ’s unequaled blend of honesty and artistry that’s accelerated his hip-hop collective, Why?, to the front of critical hiphop lists everywhere. Last year’s Alopecia delivered one of the year’s most celebrated hip-hop releases and placed the Berkeley unit on the map for many new fans. Now, eskimo Snow provides a quick record to capitalize on a stillbuzzing fan base. The turnaround time is as startling as the music inside, but that comes as no surprise when considering the two projects are “sister albums,” as Wolf calls them. “We recorded eskimo Snow at the same time as Alopecia, and they were split up according to the sounds and the ideas behind the songs. But they come from the same sessions.” Originally, Wolf says eskimo Snow was scheduled first, but some internal misgivings on his part forced the band to consider Alopecia instead. “I set that material aside for a second because I didn't know what it needed,” he explains. “It wasn't done, but I didn't know why. I knew the type of work that Alopecia needed on it, so I decided to pick that one up to finish it first. We ended up recording some more songs for Alopecia and then that came out in 2008.” “It wasn't about songs or anything on the surface. It was a tonal thing, I think. I had gone down to Nashville and mixed it with my friend Mark Nevers. He has this distinct sound that he’s done with artists like Silver Jews and Bonnie Prince Billy, and I thought this record has that sound or a kinship with those types of artists. So I wanted to go to the source to mix with Mark.” While pleased with Nevers' work, Wolf explains that something still tugged at him about the project. There wasn’t a cohesion with Why?’s previous work, and more detail work was to be done. The question remained: What exactly was needed? “Coming away from that experience and listening to the material, I couldn't help but feel that it didn't sound like a Why? record,” says Wolf. “It sounded super-raw and under-produced, if that's even a word. I wanted it to sound natural, but it almost sounded too natural. So we went in and psyched it out a bit — just enough so it had a different flavor to it. We didn't want to go overboard and make it into an Animal Collective record or something like that.” Wolf ’s insistence toward excellence and willingness to admit mistakes keeps this longtime musician focused and sharp. As Wolf notes, it’s usually the difficult choices that are the ones worth making. “Sometimes you have to be honest with yourself and admit when it's not working like it should be,” says Wolf. “You have to admit what needs to change for it to maintain its integrity as a project. Sometimes that's a bitch and it takes a whole lot of reworking. I didn't want to mix eskimo Snow all over again, but I had to be honest with myself at some point and say, 'You know, it's just not done. It needs a lot more work to it,' and we just had to do it.” “I believe there’s more at
PHoto: JACoB HANd
PHoto: SARA BLUM
Who’S Who Yoni Wolf, Josiah Wolf, Austin Brown, Doug McDiarmid FoRMED 1997 in Berkeley, Calif. lABEl Anticon lAtESt RElEASE Eskimo Snow (2009) on thE WEB www.myspace.com/ whyanticon
stake with each new project,” he continues. “I'm harder on myself with each new record and feel that it has to be more and more of what it's supposed to be. When I first made a tape in ’97 or so, it was just anything goes. It was done because there's an hour and a half of material to go on it and that's all you thought. As time has gone on, I've been able to hone my editing skills and critical listening skills, so I'm harder on things than I've ever been in a way. That's a good thing I think.” — Matt Conner
Andrew Prater has a dream. It’s a mischievous dream – indicative of his deep desire to “fuck with people’s minds.” The dream centers on Pride Parade, the bracing hard rock band for which Prater is vocalist and guitarist, and the band’s somewhat whimsical name. In his dream, the band and its moniker play a role in changing narrow minds and bringing about universal understanding. Well, kind of. “I want some homophobic asshole to have to tell his friends he saw a badass band last night called Pride Parade,” Prater says. Actually, the group’s powerful, unrelenting music doesn’t quite mesh with its sunny, upbeat name. So maybe homophobes aren’t the only demographic that Prater and his band mates enjoy messing with. The band released its latest album dose on September 30 and, like previous releases descendants and the EP v, it was self-released. The Athens-based band — which also includes guitarists Allen Owens and BJ Bracewell, bassist Bubba McDonald and drummer Aaron Sims – has been performing together for about
two years, and it certainly seems to have evolved in that time. In fact, Prater says, he originally envisioned the band “as some kind of Neil Young type thing. More country type stuff.” But those early concepts are nowhere to be found on the band’s latest project. dose is undeniably rock ‘n roll, with elements of punk and other genres thrown in. Prater acknowledges the big difference between how he originally saw the band and its current style. He says Pride Parade’s sound changed and developed the longer the band worked together as musicians and songwriters. In the beginning, he said, the band didn’t collaborate as much on songwriting. Once that changed, the sound and energy of their music changed right along with it. “As we kept playing together and writing songs together we got more and more dark and twisted,” Prater says. The result was “a lot of anxiety music — manic depression's a bitch; Hell is real.” All that darkness is influenced a great deal by life experience, which Prater says doesn’t, in and of itself, make the band unique
Who’S Who Andrew Prater (vocals), Allen Owens (guitar), BJ Bracewell (guitar), Bubba McDonald (bass), and Aaron Sims (drums) FoRMED 2007 in Athens, GA lABEl No label lAtESt RElEASE Dose (2009) on thE WEB www.myspace.com/prideparade69
among rock artists. “I'm inspired by the same things anybody else is inspired by — happiness, depression, social anxiety disorder, binge drinking, life, the world, [the idea that] pills are fun sometimes,” Prater says . As far as being influenced by the work of other artists, Prater says he and his band mates grew up in the mid '90s, and, of course,
listened to the grunge rock that was bursting onto the scene at that time. But, in general, their tastes are eclectic. Prater says everyone in the band is interested in different types of music. His own tastes are particularly diverse and have more to do with an interest in quality than a loyalty to any particular genre. “I've been listening to The Temptations a lot lately, [as well as] Willie Nelson,” he says. “Anybody who writes a good song.” Right now, the band is busy touring to promote the new release. As far as the future is concerned, Prater says he isn’t really sure what it holds, though he’s eager to keep working with his fellow Pride Parade musicians. “The ultimate goal is to write, record and play as much music as we possibly can before we start hating each other and quit,” Prater quips. In reality, the likelihood of the band devolving into a hatefest is pretty small. “We’re pretty good friends,” Prater says. “Best friends, actually. We’ll see.” — Amanda Cuda
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
ToGETHER, kINGS of CoNvENIENCE LEARN To BE INdEpENdENT
It’s the tail end of a long press day for Kings of Convenience’s Erland Øye. On the other end of the line, it’s a rainy day in New York City, and the Norwegian red head’s sore throat is just another sign of the anticipation behind his duo’s latest album, declaration of dependence. Alongside Eirik Bøe, Øye has been earning so-called quiet music a whole new respect since 1999, creating intricate, delicate and rhythmical tunes with just two men and their guitars. Together again for its third album, declaration of dependence continues the Kings of Convenience's crusade for all things delicate, mixing a stripped down sound with a bossa nova soul to complement its trademark harmonic vocal bliss. Answering questions about the new disc, Øye speaks in purposefully slow, thoughtful responses, but can’t help but launch himself into a longwinded discussion about dependence, and why it might not deserve the bad rep pop culture has conjured for it. “Well, if you are independent, it also means that you are completely free. You have lots of options. The Western world now, you have so many options that a lot of people are going crazy,” he explains. “And if you are dependent on something, you can face the world from that wall.” But Øye’s musical relationship with Bøe is far less based on dependence than it once was. So when they reconvened for album number three, their partnership required an altogether different reason to remain intact: because they wanted it to. “Back in the day, when I was really dependent on Eirik and he was really dependent on me, it was much easier because, well, we needed each other,” says Øye. “And when you don’t need somebody, well, then you have to constantly decide if you want
DARE to DEpEnD
T H E G E O RG I A B A R
. . . a good place to drink
KinGS oF ConvEniEnCE
Who’S Who Erland Øye (vocals, guitar), Eirik Bøe (vocals, guitar) FoRMED 1999 in Bergen, Norway lABEl Astralwerks/Virgin/EMI lAtESt RElEASE Declaration of Dependence (2009) on thE WEB www.kingsofconvenience. com
helps push their music to its best, even if it causes battles between the two songwriters. “We’re not very respectful with the other’s ideas, so there’s a lot of ‘That sucks. That’s ok. That’s good. That sucks. This part could be something. That, that’s boring,’” Øye says. “So you kind of have to fight for your ideas.” Ultimately, the rigorous writing process for Kings of Convenience, one seemingly based on near-perfectionism, is one well suited to the band’s acoustic, guitar-and-vocalsonly sound. And Øye says he is drawn to that sound because there are no studio tricks to hide imperfections or songwriting mishaps. “I like the idea of stripping down to the bone and getting rid of unnecessary stuff. It’s like when you cover with just a guitar a very produced song. And the song is so good that it doesn’t really matter; it’s very good with just one guitar,” he says. “The songs have to be really good. The words have to be really good if you do it on just guitars.” And, from these Kings, that’s something you can depend on. — Natalie B. david
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PHoto: ASe HoLte
“When we started out doing this thing, I was really dependent on Eirik because he had a good voice, and I didn’t yet. And he was dependent on me because he didn’t really have any kind of idea of how to bring his music out of the bedroom But now, through the making of this album, there was no longer this thing that we depended on each other anymore, and that made it much more difficult.” — Erland Øye, Kings of Convenience —
to do it or not, if you want to be with this person.” Their declaration of dependence, then, is the decision to stick together. Always a 50/50 partnership, their divided lines of responsibility have now blurred, creating both more options, and greater difficulty for the duo. “When we started out doing this thing, I was really dependent on Eirik because he had a good voice, and I didn’t yet. But together we sang really well. And he was dependent on me because he didn’t really have any kind of idea of how to bring his music out of the bedroom,” says Øye. “But now, through the making of this album, there was no longer this thing that we depended on each other anymore, and that made it much more difficult.” “We have to discuss everything,” explains Øye, citing decisions from who should play the nylon guitar to who should helm lead vocals or take the high harmonies, since both men are now capable of all three. “So it was a lot more choices. Choices, choices, choices.” On top of the new decisions to be made, Øye and Bøe aren’t exactly known for their cordiality while in the studio. However, Øye admits that the scathing constructive criticism
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
REAdy To WoRk, RoyAL BANGS IS poISEd foR A BREAkTHRoUGH
but with other bands. Fastforward a few years, and with a name change and the addition of Stratton, the genesis was set for the home-recorded We Breed Champions (2006). Champions is a collection of relentless drums, eclectic clicks and bouncy beats, but at first the trio never expected the album to go much beyond the Knoxville borders. “The whole reason we recorded that album is because we thought the band wasn’t going to be around anymore,” Schaefer says. “I was moving, so a lot of that was just documenting those songs.” Schaefer moved to France — “soaking up 90 percent beer and writing new shit,” he says — while Rusk was using the Bangs’ MySpace page to get anyone he could to listen to Champions. And then one day, while sitting in class at the University of Tennessee, Rusk got an e-mail response from Carney. He wanted the demo. The 2008 re-release of Champions, an epic 2 a.m. Bonnaroo performance and an added legion of critical acclaim later, the band sits atop a precipice of uncharted territory. Embarking on -a fall tour with Drummer (Carney’s side project), the Bangs’ roster (with the addition of bassist Henry Gibson and guitarist Brandon Biondo) has with it a new level of expectations. Expectations it intends to sustain. “We’re slowly making the transition into doing this full time, and it’s exciting, but nerveracking,” Schaefer says. “All we want to do is work. The only thing we told our booking agent was we don’t want any days off. Every day we can play a show, we should. A lot of people I know like having days off every now and again, but we want to play music. Why spend another day in a city where we can spend money we don’t have? That doesn’t interest me. I’d rather play a show. I’d rather work.” — ed Morales
MARChinG to itS oWn BEEp
BUT THE NAME ISN’T THE poINT
How do you promote an artist who wants to remain anonymous? Well, okay...the mastermind behind efren doesn’t want to remain anonymous, he just wants you to not really care who he is or, more importantly, who he has been. The thing is, you know this guy...but at the end of the day, does it matter? All he asks is that you close your eyes and listen... Athens Blur Magazine: You've gone to some pretty good lengths to not attach proper names to this project,particularly your own.Why? Efren: I needed a moniker to get away from my name and the preconceptions that it brings, being my jazz history and what not. It frees me to do whatever the hell I want. Two shows from now or when this article comes out, people are going to see my face whenever I’m playing but, you listen to the album and its so totally different. It’s so far from anything anyone’s seen me play in Athens. People were like…shocked. ABM: They were expecting... E: Jazzy, funk stuff or whatever. And ya know, I just got so burnt out playing jazz. I mean, this is my roots — Bob Dylan, blues singers, living out in the country. ABM: it is an interesting name. What's behind that? e: So um, my wife Jenn, her family name is Leon. Her father, Efren Manuel Leon, better known by Ben - he really didn’t go by Efren but, that was his name. He had passed away, and I wrote most of these songs during a Lortab experiment at a funeral. ABM: There’s something to be said, especially now in the last decade or so when so much has been put in to production and this perfect mass production, track-by-track pristine production. Yet you did this whole thing on a little laptop, right? e: Ya, I’m gonna see if Mac can get a big promo on me for doing this on a crappy G-4 (laughs).
tAKinG thE FAMily nAME
tracks down which I ended up keeping. You can hear all this weird shit in the background. ABM: From a promotional standpoint, particularly online, efren has been unavoidable. e: Everyone I work with is a musician and I’ve been telling them, “Ya’ll if we all blog about each other’s music, we all do reviews of each others’ shows; that’s more press, more hits, more traffic, more everything.” I haven’t made a phone call, I have printed a piece of paper, but I mean it’s been all internet; just blasting bloggers, too. It’s all about this stuff like, if you put it out there, it’s going to happen. And you can do anything by setting your intention or whatever. I put it out there and try to be good to people who can help me — more importantly the fans — and lead them down the road to find that shit. I’ve hit up MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and all these big venues to get the name out and people take notice. I’ve put the work in — and it’s really not that much work. ABM: That’s got to be cool though. You've been playing music through this entire rise of the digital age, really. e: I’ve read some crazy articles, like the gate-keepers in the music industry are gone. I mean, that is no longer there. Say I put together this big business package — send it to Mac about this. And like, get that shit on the front page of iTunes music store and what the fuck is next? Ya know, it’s like I had a buddy who got the front page of iTunes music store and sold like five-digit figures for two weeks. And, that’s a part of my plan. Let’s get this album done and get a nice music package together and send it off to them and who knows what happens. I’ve never really done it this way. It’s all new to all of us. — Alec Wooden
ARtWoRK BY AdAM o’dAY
CoURteSY tHe RoYAL BANGS
You’ve heard them, this new barrage of bands paying homage to the late ’70s and early ’80s, playing their “wanna sport the keytar” synthesizer pop/rock. Not naming any names (Empire of the Sun, Passion Pit), these bands are finding fresh fans even while their sound stays in the past. It’s as if Marty McFly took them back to 1981 and decided to ditch them there. So it’s no wonder Ryan Schaefer, the singer/keyboardist/beat maker of Knoxville, Tenn.’s Royal Bangs, sounds weary discussing those “influences” he keeps hearing about when others try to define his band. Even when, it turns out, some of those descriptions come from a familiar face. “I know what the press says about us, with the ’70s influence, and maybe that comes from me too, and maybe I misspoke,” Schaefer says, laughing. “But I’m not interested in throwback rock. We want to make something new. I feel, especially right now, there’s a lot of music I can’t get behind. It’s music that sets itself square in the middle of a musical idiom that
started and ended. I don’t know how you sustain a career making records that sound like records that have already been made.” To combat this time warp, Schaefer and his four bandmates offer up Let it Beep, a crisp collection of up-tempo tunes and electronic flourishes you’d never hear in a 1980s musical movie montage. Released in mid-September, Let it Beep is the Bangs’ sophomore album on Audio Eagle Records (the label run by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys) and is generating a steady level of enthusiasm. “The way we did this album was always the way we wanted to do it, with all the extra pulses, extra instrumentation and percussion,” Schaefer says. “This record, to me, is catching up on some ground. With the exception of one or two songs, all songs were recently written; they all go together. There were one or two older songs that were good songs, and the recording came out really well, but it just made the album drag. They didn’t seem to fit.” Finding its place to fit has been
Who’S Who Ryan Schaefer (keyboard, vocals, beats), Chris Rusk (drums), Brandon Biondo (guitar), Henry Gibson (bass guitar) and Sam Stratton (guitar) FoRMED 2005 in Knoxville, Tenn. lABEl Audio Eagle Records lAtESt RElEASE Let it Beep (2009) on thE WEB www.royalbangs.com
one part luck, one part patience for Royal Bangs. Schaefer and drummer Chris Rusk formed the band while attending high school in suburban Knoxville under the name Suburban Urchins. The duo wrote “really shitty songs. It was a wreck,” Schaefer remembers. Guitarist Sam Stratton kicked around the same high school,
But I was more connected to the music than like sterile, perfect pro tools with the beautiful preamps and all this stuff that make it sound so pristine. Like a few people have said before, it's like sitting on the corner of nowhere. Or like, it’s something you want to sit out in a field and listen to by yourself and drink freakin’ whisky and ginger, sittin’ in my yard. You listen to that shit and it’s like raw, pure emotion. There’s some bells and whistles, and I’d say there’s probably less on mine. I played acoustic guitar and congas on one song, and everything else is done with body parts, beat boxing and making samples. I’m known as an electric guitar player, I’m known as a shredder. There are two guitar solos on this album and they are so filtered out they sound like background noise. So this was my way to reconnect with my audience. ABM: Any specific examples of how it lends itself to the listener in the final product? e: Montana Scare is a song that started it all, really. My wife went out and took care of her
Who’S Who some play strings, some sing, some hit drums, and/ or some use slides FoRMED 2009 in Athens, Ga. lABEl independent lAtESt RElEASE Thunder & Moan (2009) on thE WEB www.reverbnation.com/ efrenrock, www.efrenrock. blogspot.com
dad for like five weeks and I had the house to myself. Woke up at the crack of dawn on my day off, its storming like shit. When you listen to the song in the headphones you can hear the rain pouring down. [On another song] you can hear my son crying in the background. My wife and son are watching cartoons in the other room and I was just laying scratch
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HATE THEM foR CoNTENT? TRy LovING THE dEdICATIoN ANd GRINd
How does the old saying go? If it ain’t broke, don’t remix it? A similar premise would apply here. If you’re a part of a beloved musical crew like brothers Gene and Terrence Thornton are, and you’ve worked marvelously during the past seven years with one production team, why on earth would you think of switching gears? You wouldn’t … unless, of course, your insanely loyal followers asked for a change. “It was more so a fan request,” explains Terrence, who goes by Pusha T to everyone outside of his childhood home in Virginia. “Fans wanted to hear it, and we went to the guys that we liked at the time, so we’re giving the fans what they’ve been asking for. I’m proud of how good the songs came out with the new producers. First time stepping outside of the box from The Neptunes. Those songs are hot.” Gene (actually, it’s Malice if you see him on the streets) elaborates on the new direction: “Yeah it’s a couple other producers on the project. We got DJ Khalil and Chin — they’re known for a few things back with Kanye and 50, I’m not for certain. I wouldn’t quote that one. Nah, but definitely you can 'cuz I seen all the 50 plaques at his crib. Sean & LV from American Gangster notoriety [produced too]. Then The Neptunes came in and cleaned up.” The cavalcade of producers gives til the Casket drops, the Clipse’s anticipated third album, an innovative sound folks still obsessing over the classic Lord Willin’ and near-spotless Hell Hath No Fury won’t recognize right off hand. Gone are some of the melancholy percussion and somber strings. Replacing them are a '70s feel (“Kinda Like a Big Deal”) and a more chill, sonic breeze (“I’m Good”). Don’t get us wrong. There’s still dopeboy drama and lavish tales of excess; it’s just that those stories are peppered with less-aggressive
Who’S Who Gene Thornton aka Malice (MC), Terrence Thornton aka Pusha T (MC) FoRMED 1993 in Virginia Beach, Va. lABEl Re-Up/Columbia/Star Trak lAtESt RElEASE Til The Casket Drops (2009) on thE WEB www.myspace.com/clipse
ones, too. This change of pace is mostly credited to maturity and a change in tax bracket. But honestly, the
Clipse are just in a better space mentally now. Gone are the jiving days with Jive Records. The present situation at Columbia has been a lot less strenuous, giving the bar-munching brothers more time to concentrate on lyrics and choruses as opposed to lawsuits and contract breaches. “I think we’ve become very accustomed to the business side of things,” Gene says, “especially with all the label setbacks — if you can call them that. I count everything as a plus. We learned how to take things upon ourselves and don’t just sit back and wait for the label to motivate it or move out, to move with the swiftness that they should or the diligence that they should. Hence the [We Got it For Cheap] mixtape series. That’s all work
that we put out on our off time.” Amazingly, the brothers have also kept busy with Play Cloths, their own fashion line (“Four seasons with four sellouts,” Gene boasts). Gene has even found the time to pen a book, Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked, which is planned for a January release. So, damn right til the Casket drops has a different feel than the Clipse’s past stuff. Most of the clouds hovering over the crew have evaporated. “Life is good,” Gene concludes. “We have nothing to complain about. Got God. Got my health. We out here. Me and my brother we together on the road. Out here doing shows. It’s rough out there, so things could be a lot worse.” —deMarco Williams
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THE TRANSITIoN fRoM pERSoNAL pRoJECT To GRoUp EffoRT
the middle of making this record. With the guitarist that started with us, he had a couple of really awesome musical song ideas, and I felt a little bit weird just saying, ‘OK, awesome, now it’s my song, and I’m going to do what I want with it.’ You know? But I got over it quicker than he did. I even forget, now, who came up with the idea originally. But yeah, I guess I do think differently. Jim Frye: I don’t think that you do, as far as the music is always the music. And your lyrics — he doesn’t censor it in that way. It comes out as is when it comes out.
CoURteSY MASS SoLo RevoLt
HoLy GHoST TENT REvIvAL fINdS INSpIRATIoN IN CoLLABoRATIoN
What is it that makes a family? Sure, it means sharing a bloodline, but family is not just something we are born into. It is equally of our own making, of people that we invite into our lives. It includes those with whom we share our experiences, our loves, our fears, our triumphs and our defeats- those with whom we have drank and danced and sang and laughed and cried. This spirit of family is what connects the members of Greensboro, NC’s Holy Ghost Tent Revival to each other and to their audience. The six-piece band boasts a lineup that includes guitar, banjo, bass, drums, trombone and keys. The instrumentation and arrangements bring to mind a varied confluence of musical styles. One hears strains of Dixieland jazz, ragtime, country and bluegrass, but the songwriting and presentation are thoroughly modern. They sing about steamboats one moment and break into a spirited Beatles cover the next. This embrace of different styles combines with a passionate stage presence and leads to some captivating performances of a unique brand of shambling indie-Americana. HGTR shows are not merely attended but also experienced. “Three of us were theater majors so we understand the necessity of performance,” says keyboard player Mike O’Malley. “We’re all of the mind that there has to be a visual accompaniment to the music.” This attention to performance is what separates the band from other like-minded musicians in the Southeast. The band push each other to summon forth every available reserve of energy. They sweat and sing and scream and stomp until the last note has fallen to silence. As such, a HGTR show is just as much a physical manifestation of the emotion behind the music as it is about recreating the songs themselves. At its best, the band careens along picking up momentum, pushing the limits
it’S A FAMily AFFAiR
holy GhoSt tEnt REvivAl
Who’S Who Stephen Murray (banjo, guitar), Matt Martin (guitar, banjo), Hank Widmer (trombone, euphonium), Mike O’Malley (keys), PJ Leslie (bass), Ross Montsinger (drums) FoRMED 2006 in Greensboro, NC lABEl Goodship Records lAtESt RElEASE Family (2009) on thE WEB www.holyghosttentrevival.com
Hot Starving Street Band, a troupe of N.C. musicians that includes members of groups such as Lost in the Trees, the Never and House of Fools. These friends shared their time and talent and broadened the palate of a band with an already expansive sound. The result is an album with an undeniably joyous feel. The song “Alcohol” is a tribute to the glories and agonies of intoxication that mirrors a night on the town. It begins with a mellow swagger, progresses to a roiling ebullience and ends with a staggering, hiccupping goodnight. The track “Goodbye or Goodnight” featuring vocals from rapper Tab-One, shows that the band is not afraid to push its boundaries to include even a seemingly disparate genre like hip-hop. It works because everyone is having such a good time. And that is what the band is all about. Whether it’s in the studio with a dozen friends, or in a club packed with fans, Holy Ghost Tent Revival draws strength from family. —dylan Solise
MASS Solo REvolt
Who’S Who Martin Brummeler (guitar, vocals, keys), Jim Frye (bass), Dave Harrison (guitar, keys), Russell Sherman (drums) FoRMED 2005 in Athens, GA lABEl Independent lAtESt RElEASE Bend In Time (2009) on thE WEB www.myspace.com/masssolorevolt
Mass Solo Revolt is that it doesn’t have any rules to it. When I write songs, before I bring them to the group, they’re all me, and they usually sound like a character. They’re very different, and I threaten all the time to put out something and not censor myself and go totally off on that. ABM: When it’s more of a group project, do you ever feel a need to adjust how personal the songs are? Brummeler: It was weird because we actually changed guitarists in
ABM: Athens is a perpetually young town — Brummeler: And we’re not young. ABM: Well, that’s what i’m wondering. There are these really well-defined niches in the Athens music scene, and there aren’t a lot of “adult” bands in town. Brummeler: Yeah, I know. Really, this is one of the things; when I’m in the mood, I’ll drive around and feel sorry for myself because I don’t think we’ve ever, no matter what age we were, really fit in to where we lived. We do feel old in Athens. I don’t even worry about it because I’m going to be probably 50 years old and still trying to make records. It’s just what I do. You can’t worry about it. I don’t care. I’ve reached a certain point when you just don’t care. I’ve been here for almost 10 years, so I wasn’t that old when I moved here, but I didn’t fit in then either. ... Now, it’s hard to believe how young some of these bands are. Realizing that when I was in what I would consider a real band — not like a teeny band — when I was really in a real band, they were, like, 12. That makes me feel old. It makes me worry — I don’t know if worry is the word — but realize that they’re never going to really identify with me, they’re never going to quite understand. — tiffani Harcrow
There’s an old saying I just made up that goes, “No good mules around, you’ll have to haul your own cart to town,” and as with most mule and cart related aphorisms, the adage resonates deeply within the music community. See Martin Brummeler. Referred to locally as one of the most talented Athens musicians of whom you’ve probably never heard, Brummeler once sat atop his towering mountain of pop songs and guitar hooks searching high and low for a band of kindred spirits to bring his personal brand of early indie rock to the masses. After years spent casting around for a suitable band to no avail, Brummeler decided to just go solo, and last year, he released easy Mark under the name Mass Solo Revolt. With all music and lyrics penned by Brummeler himself, the record garnered widespread critical acclaim, even landing a feature on National Public Radio. But, alas, the single life grew tiresome. Brummeler stepped down from
his solitary, craggy peak this year to record a new album with a new band of old friends. Bend in time marks not only a departure from the frontman’s solo, mountain-sitting ways, but also a shift from the pop sounds of easy Mark. I recently sat down with Brummeler and long-time friend and bassist Jim Frye to discuss the band’s evolution that its paradoxical name so aptly describes as well as the problems associated with being seasoned musicians in a perpetually young college town. Athens Blur Magazine: i was reading another interview where you said you’d been searching for a band for a while, that it hadn’t come together and so you just did it on your own. do you feel this is the realized Mass Solo Revolt? Martin Brummeler: I don’t think there’s ever a fully-realized Mass Solo Revolt … But yeah, I’m very happy. I’ve been in a band with Jim since ’94 or something, on and off, so to be playing with Jim is huge. The thing about
CoURteSY HoLY GHoSt teNt RevivAL
“Three of us were theater majors so we understand the necessity of performance. We’re all of the mind that there has to be a visual accompaniment to the music.” — Mike O’Malley, Holy Ghost Tent Revival —
of pace and energy and the crowd follows right with them, creating a communal frenzy that blurs the line between performer and audience. In September, the band will release a new EP titled Family. The songs were recorded live with a minimal amount of takes,and the spontaneity and energy created in this environment imbues the tracks with a ragged veracity. Family is loose and comfortable like an old frayed couch, which perfectly complements a batch of songs that at one point held an uncertain future. These were songs that the band had been working on but had not completely polished. They had fallen out of rotation within the band’s live sets, leaving the band unsure of how to tap their potential. The solution was to turn to their extended family of musicians for help. “The idea was to get all our friends together and see what happened. It was all very playful,” says O’Malley. With a relaxed approach and the perspective gained by allowing others to contribute, the songs found freedom and a home. The EP features the Lonely
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
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The Inner Banks Songs From disko Bay Cool is an overused word, and I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to usage. I'll drop the word in conversation with the effect of an Altoid — trying to freshen an otherwise ordinary moment. So when I describe Songs From disko Bay, the sophomore effort by Brooklyn's The Inner Banks (married couple Caroline Schultz and David Gould accompanied instrumentally by a dozen others), as a “cool” album, it's not meant to be a trite assessment because I have nothing better to write. But then again, maybe I don't — I'm really on the fence here. The opening track, “Lemon Tree,” stirs this indecision. Galvanized by Schultz's angelic voice (a modernday Julee Cruise if there ever was one), the music itself limps along at a tepid pace, an indifferent observer to Schultz's soaring lyrics. Midway through, the song becomes a lingering instrumental with the feel of a forfeit. “Pyramids” has the same disinterest (dare I say coolness), pulled solely by Schultz's dreamy cords. But as the music gets much better, with Gould boasting a host of inventive arrangements, Schultz becomes far too commonplace. “Tournament of Waves” and “Big Bang” are celebrations of sound — playful pianos, glockenspiels and violins — while Schultz, once the wow factor, becomes mundane after six songs of the same cadence and vocal structure. They seem aware of this, as subtle yet strong instrumentals “Blame” and “Coda (Lemon Tree)” close the album. “Disko Bay” is a dichotomy — when one part flourishes, the other fades, and this tug-o-war fractures an album full of promise. And hey, that's cool. Or not. — ed Morales Lou Barlow Goodnight Unknown Lou Barlow’s playing it fast and loose the second time ‘round. And the music’s all the better for it. For the uninitiated, Barlow’s one of this generation’s under-the-radar pioneers. A founding member of Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, Barlow’s lo-fi techniques grated counter-culturally and paved the way for many a future sound. His previous solo foray, 2005’s emoh, ripped up his rock roots and soaked them in acoustic glory – giving us perhaps our most tender look at Barlow the man. Goodnight Unknown finds Barlow harder to pin down, because he’s much more musically interesting. “Gravitate” stomps a slightly distorted, Caribbean feel with a dreary accordion and industrial percussion filling out the rest. “Sharing” arrests from the outset with a straightforward Killers-vibe, while the title track provides the most plodding two minutes in indie rock. The acoustic guitar returns for “Faith in Your Heartbeat” and “Too Much Freedom,” the latter a Great Lake Swimmers’ confession of sorts that perfectly moves the album forward in tone and instrumentation. As Goodnight Unknown closes with the militant crash of “Don’t Apologize” and driving acoustics of “One Note Tone,” it’s clear Barlow’s not a torchbearer found in music’s past, but a hero to look to for in its future as well. — Matt Conner lingo Through The Scattered Trees If the guys in Lingo were 10, 15, 20 year veterans of jam-rock, this album would be largely overlooked, categorized as a solid collection, but nothing necessarily worth writing home about (oh, the perils of southern blues/jam rock). But they’re not. The ages in the band read 22, 20, 20 and 20 — though from the music you would never know it. The execution is passable, though it’s not the highlight of the record — that distinction belongs to the arranging and songwriting, two of the most oft-overlooked pillars of this genre. Particularly on the middle stretch of the record (third track “You’re Lost” to sixth track “Agents” showcases the best of the best here), with songs ranging from true southern ballads to damn-near brit riff-rock, all expertly written and tastefully played. This stuff is rooted in a particular time a place, no doubt (read: four 20-year-olds in Michigan aren’t going to make this record), which is a big selling point of the band. They can, and likely will, find a nice home in the southern states if they stick to the pedigree which they seem to understand quite well: sing when you need to, play when you need to, and don’t choke the chicken (that’s Southern for “don’t overdo it,” right?) Only one song on trees breaks the 7:00 mark, which is a big deal for a “jam” band. Not overcooked but full of substance, keep an eye out for Lingo in the calendar year to come. —Alec Wooden
mount eerie Wind’s Poem advertised in advance as phil elverum’s foray into black metal, Wind’s Poem was figured to be a harsh departure from Mount eerie’s most recent spate of eerily quiet releases. but, in keeping with most of his body of work, Wind’s Poem is actually more neil young than Xasthur, as its emphasis on heavy guitar feedback and roaring distortion never gets in the way of a gentle turn of phrase and stark melody. That said, here elverum clearly favors building texture over flexing his traditional singersongwriter muscles, as these songs are wrapped in wet sonic wool and layered in thick clouds of fuzz, from the windowpane rattling shards of guitar in “The hidden stone” to the reverb-drenched organ drones of “Through the Trees.” The mood is dark if not exactly threatening, a smoldering landscape where ominously corroded blasts of static-laden percussion lead to meditative keyboard movements, only to be swallowed up by the morass again. The spirit of young (particularly his work with crazy horse) hangs heavy in the album’s musty air, pronounced in the soft harmonies and reflective echoes of “stone’s ode” and the drifting, dirge-like guitar tones of “summons.” no doubt, all those heavy textures add up to a more massive sounding album, as there’s nothing in his catalog aside from the Microphones’ landmark The Glow, Pt. 2 that compares to the monolithic hugeness of the textures he pieces together here. Those clamoring for a sequel should look no further. — Matt Fink boo ray Bad News Travels Fast boo ray's Bad News Travels Fast is like a book on tape you'd like to pop in and never take out — a most agreeable companion for most any situation. Much like the songwriter himself, these songs are well-travelled and bear the lofty weight of the southern songwriter genre with great class and ease. at work here is a combination of west coast glimmer, nashville knowledge and the free-loving grit of the southern blues. The colin linden (“o brother where art Thou?”) co-penned “bad news Travels fast” is not just the perfect foot-stomping title track, but a perfect summation of everything you need to know about this record's namesake in the future. bad news, good news, it doesn't matter — the news about boo ray is spreading quickly. don't miss out. — Alec Wooden
What’s in your top 20 for 2009?
Athens Blur is collecting reader data on your Top 20 albums of 2009. Review, rank ‘em and submit to email@example.com by November 1!
(albums MUST be ranked #1-#20, and include a one sentence reason for your choice at #1!)
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music albuM reviews
no age Losing Feeling ep There’s a wave of excitement that accompanies the oncoming layers of no age’s latest ep, Losing Feeling. The stunning guitar work, ambient distortion, solid percussion and indie rock flavors slowly scroll forward a la the “star wars” intro until the familiar sounds from Nouns engulfs the listener fully with the lead-out title track. sub pop’s darling duo deserves every ounce of attention it's received thus far — from its obnoxious debut (five different eps released on five different labels with each covering a different letter of the band’s name — all dropping on the same day) to the heralded lp Nouns. now, Losing Feeling only continues the journey it's begun, adding a couple unique elements to tide us over until the next release. The aforementioned Losing Feeling conjures The walkmen at their best, but it’s “Genie” that stands out for its faux acoustic core. The song finds beauty within no age’s typical distortion and heart within its sometimes cold, calculated layers. “aim at the airport” and “you’re a Target” close out Losing Feeling, with the former a fairly forgettable instrumental that’s simply a complex outro from “Genie” and a soothing way into “Target.” it’s here on the last track that randy randall and dean allen spunt find their adrenaline rush, make their mark and leave the listener absolutely panting for more. —Matt Conner abby parks The Homeplace Give it up for abby parks, an artful writer and guitarist with a voice that could very well part the sea of kudzu leading out of Jacksonville, ala. with her latest cd, The Homeplace, abby doesn’t hang her hat on just one peg but shows this is indeed her album musically, vocally and lyrically—quite the trifecta, and she scores on all points. abby’s a storyteller, often throwing in a dash of melancholy, which puts Homeplace in company with one of my most oft-played cds, all about eve’s Scarlet and Other Stories, but with a twist of american Gothic. standouts on Homeplace include the opening title track, an upbeat recount of exploring an abandoned house that’s rumored to hide a treasure, and “chantilly,” an acoustic ballad that showcases her mesmerizing vocals and intricate guitar work — both of which she controls with affecting precision. The rest of this album ebbs and flows with engaging, moody melodies, though she hits on some themes and metaphors that might raise an eyebrow, as in “caves.” Then again, two semesters of english lit flew over my head, too, so apparently poetic aptitude isn’t my strong suit. but nobody will mistake Miss parks for being part of the uninspired brood of coffeehouse acoustic acts. her blend of musicality gives that relaxing sense of something familiar, but she's original enough to make you wonder where the next song will take you. — Phil Pyle yoko ono plastic ono band Between My Head and Sky arguably the most widely ridiculed musician in the history of popular music, her name shorthand for everything pretentious and unlistenable, yoko ono has experienced a remarkable rehabilitation over the past decade. long celebrated in the avant garde underground for the very qualities that made most listeners despise her, a new generation of indie rockers came together in 2007 on Yes, I’m a Witch, providing backing tracks to vintage ono vocals and proving just how ingenious and imaginative her best pop songs actually were. as if rejuvenated by the experience, ono now revives the plastic ono band, the act that she co-lead with John lennon after the beatles’ demise, substituting son sean for his late father. The result is startling, a rollicking return to her most spirited and immediate '70s work, from the scorched earth freakout of “waiting for the d Train” to the free form funk of “ask the elephant!” and the richly textured freak-folk of “healing.” having largely worked in the dance sub-genre since her last full-length, 2001’s hit-or-miss Blueprint for Sunrise, here the 76-year-old ono sounds genuinely invigorated to be playing with a live rock band, unleashing her infamous vocal ululations as if she were ornette coleman blowing his sax and maintaining a high level of energy as the album drifts through synth-pop, piano ballads and psychedelic riff-rock. as always, there are a number of new agey platitudes and cringeworthy truisms about peace, clean water and love, but even those eccentricities add depth to a thoroughly enjoyable whole, the sort of album that even her haters should find hard not to like. —Matt Fink
david nail I’m About to Come Alive what makes a country artist these days? apparently, good looks, a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a pouty “lone wolf” cover photo will do the trick. To hell with talent and originality. even the title track is a Train cover that sounds exactly like the original (one of my peeves — what’s the point?!) nail has a good voice, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. individually, the songs hold their own, but collectively, it’s a one-note woe-fest about lost love or leaving a small town or both. The standout is “Mississippi,” an ode to its musically historical namesake and one worth downloading. “red light” has rightfully garnered some airplay, but after sitting through all 11 songs a few times, it finally hit me — this album has no balls! not a single foot-stomping, beerspilling “Girl, get in my truck!” anthem. no fiddles or finger-picking solos that country fans have come to expect. in fact, Mr. nail doesn’t even play guitar! and he only [co] wrote four songs. but hey, he’s a handsome guy, so i’m sure his female fan base will keep him around, just like they have another almost-talent, Taylor swift. —Phil Pyle
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music This day in Music hisTory
1978 - Echo & the Bunnymen makes its debut in Liverpool at Eric’s Club. 2003 – Augusta, Ga., officials announce plans to construct a statue of James Brown and rename a music festival in his honor. 1960 – On his 13th birthday, Gregg Allman receives a guitar. 2001 - The musical “Lady Diana - A Smile Charms the World” opens in Germany. 1965 - Velvet Underground makes its debut at a high school dance in New Jersey. 1974 - ABBA begins its first tour of Europe, the first tour outside of Sweden. 2003 – At 21 years old, Britney Spears becomes the youngest person ever to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. 1980 - Don Henley is arrested after paramedics treat a nude sixteen year-old girl for drug intoxication at his Los Angeles home. Henley is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, cocaine and Quaaludes and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. 1957 - The Miles Davis Quintet debuts at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. 1982 – Japan (the British rock band) announces its break up.
music This day in Music hisTory
1964 - Willie Nelson makes his Grand Ole Opry debut. 1979 - Ringo Starr’s Los Angeles home burns down.
1978 - The film version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” opens. In the film, The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton and Billy Preston all make their acting debuts. 1998 - Kmart launches Music Favorites, an online music store.
1972 – The Allman Brothers’ Berry Oakley is killed in a motorcycle wreck at age 24.
1993 – Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav is arrested for allegedly trying to shoot another man in a dispute over a woman. He is later charged with attempted murder and reckless endangerment. 1994 - Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged” performance is released as “MTV Unplugged in New York.” 1974 – Becoming the first Beatle to attempt a national solo tour, George Harrison hits the road for the first time in eight years. 2003 - Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs raises $2 million dollars for charity by running in the New York City Marathon, finishing in 4 hours, 14 minutes and 54 seconds. 1957 – Jerry Lee Lewis releases “Great Balls of Fire” on Sun Records. 1995 - Hootie and the Blowfish and Bob Dylan reach an out of court settlement in a lawsuit over the group’s use of Dylan’s lyrics in their song “Only Want To Be With You.” 26 ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
1977 - Ozzy Osbourne quits Black Sabbath. He would rejoin after a few weeks before later quitting again. 1998 - Liam Gallagher of Oasis is arrested on charges of attacking a photographer and damaging his equipment. 1973 - Gram Parsons’ manager Phil Kaufman is fined $300 for stealing Parsons’ body shortly after his death. Kaufman claimed that it was Parson’s wish to be cremated. 1975 - The Sex Pistols makes its live debut at St. Martin’s School of Art in London. 1978 – Boston (the band) performs its first show in Boston (the city). 1998 – Amazon.com forms “Advantage For Music,” a tool for unsigned artists and independent labels to sell music online.
1991 - Frank Zappa is diagnosed with prostate cancer 1967 – The first issue of Rolling Stone hits stands with John Lennon on the cover. 1998 - Rick James is hospitalized after suffering a stroke when a blood vessel ruptured in his neck a week before in Denver.
1970 - The Doors make its last appearance with Jim Morrison. 1987 - Sly Stone is arrested for nonpayment of child support when he arrives for his “comeback” concert in L.A. 1986 - Metallica performs its first concert with Jason Newstead. 2005 – “Guitar Hero” is released in North America. 1973 - Jerry Lee Lewis, Jr. is killed in a highway accident in Mississippi. 1997 - The musical “The Lion King” opens.
1991 - Randy Jackson is sentenced to one month in jail for violating probation related to charges of beating his wife the year before. 1994 - David Crosby gets a liver transplant. 1987 - U2 opens for itself by pretending to be a countryrock group called The Dalton Brothers during a Los Angeles concert. 1995 - The Rolling Stones become the first act to broadcast a concert via the Internet. 1979 - Chuck Berry is released from a California prison after doing time for income tax evasion. 1990 - Milli Vanilli is stripped of its Grammy because other singers had lent their voices to the “Girl You Know It’s True” album.
1991 - Eric Carr of KISS dies of cancer at age 41. Carr joined the group in 1982 as Peter Criss’ replacement. 1991 - Freddie Mercury of Queen dies at age 45 of complications from AIDS. 1889 - The first jukebox is debuted in at The Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. 1998 - Donald Bohana is sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for her role in the drowning death of Delores “DeeDee” Jackson — Tito Jackson’s ex-wife. 1956 – Legendary big band leader Tommy Dorsey dies. 1999 – Boy band sensation 98 Degrees performs and sells some exclusive band merchandise on the Home Shopping Network.
1961 - The Everly Brothers are sworn into the Marine Corps Reserves. 1966 - The Jimi Hendrix Experience makes its London debut at the Bag O’ Nails Club. 1976 - Queen’s “Somebody To Love” is released. 1997 – Singer Bjork is admitted to an Icelandic hospital with a high fever. The resulting diagnosis of a kidney infection forces her to cancel most remaining tour dates. 1969 - The “Save Rave ‘69” benefit concert, thrown to aid the youth culture magazine “Rave,” takes place in London. 1988 – LL Cool J performs the first rap
1968 - The Who releases its first concert record, “The Who Sell Out.” 1995 - Sammy Hagar and model Kari Karte tie the knot.
1900 – American composer Aaron Copland is born. 1990 - The Who’s Pete Townshend confesses to Newsweek that he is bisexual.
Hey! You! Ya, you! The one reading this! Be sure to check back in the next issue, out December 1, for a special “all-decade” music history selection, featuring only the best from 2000-2009. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve forgotten!
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Their Neck of the Woods
volcano Choir channels the best of The Badger State
by ALEC WOODEN
PHoto: CAMeRoN WittiG
method allowed for loads of creative freedom, but also required a mammoth leap of faith from both parties. “I think where challenges could arise, obviously, is if you pour your heart and soul into some song and send it off to someone, and they come back and put something on it that you can’t stand,” laughs Rosenau. “That’s obviously a gigantic issue. But in this situation with our kind of friendship, there was just always a total confidence about that what we were going to get back we were going to love.” When the collective finally, well, collected last year, the sessions were informal, meant simply to see what, if anything, could be harvested from the digitally-sown seeds of the last two years. “Nobody knew how many songs we had started,” laughs Rosenau. “[ Justin] felt that it was a good idea just to kind of have everyone in one place and have the goal just being to kind of aggregate everything we had and just see if there were holes or weak spots or stuff that we didn’t like or liked — just see what the last three, or however many, years had produced. On a Friday night, we just sat there and listened to everything and drank and had a shit ton of fun and everyone shot out ideas. For the rest of the weekend we literally — it was very weird, man — we set up I think three different stations in this house that all had computers and speakers and headphones
and stuff. Everyone just kind of went and did their thing in little small sub-groups. People would take breaks and go help other people out. It just ended up being this total party but this total insanely productive weekend. But it needed a period at the end of the sentence for those specific songs. Otherwise we could’ve worked on them forever, because there was no real goal. The “period” on the weekend was a simple and stark realization that, no matter what such a notion might mean, this group was a band — and the band had a special collection of music. Next step? A name. “It was John Miller, the drummer,” he says of the party guilty for the Volcano Choir moniker. “I think ‘volcano’ had been stuck in [a rejected name], and he just ended up putting them together. It was just a total instant like, ‘Yep, that’s what it is.’ So that’s what we ended up with.” When two established bands — with each its own established vibe, sound and history — form a new entity, there tends to be a host of landmines for which the group must be wary. They sound too much like band A, and don’t attract the fans of band B (or vice versa). Or perhaps they don’t sound anything like either and, while maybe grabbing some new ears, alienate both established fan bases altogether. Rosenau knows all this — and doesn’t seem remotely concerned about walking the walk.
“The Volcano Choir record kind of spans the spectrum of everything the Bees has done. We’ve been kind of working more recently with a super rock, American minimalist idea. There’s definitely some of that in there, but there’s also some less bombastic stuff, the more spelledout stuff,” he says of the record’s appeal. “And I think Bon Iver fans will like it because it really does have Justin all over the place. I personally don’t understand how you can’t love every note that comes out of that guy’s mouth — I’m in love with it. And everyone seems to be really into what he’s been doing, and they should be. That said, I don’t think that the record’s not accessible or inaccessible in any way, but it’s definitely not For emma.” The fact is, Unmap isn’t easy. It doesn’t come to the listener. Rather, it must be sought — spun once, spun again and taken at face value to be appreciated. It is, as they say, a working man’s collection. “I prefer that over ‘acceptable,’” insists Rosenau with a chuckle. “Both Justin and the other people involved have done more ‘inaccessible’ stuff than this, so to us this is a pretty nice accessible record. But at the same time we also operate in the real world and understand that people will be approaching this from different places. Hopefully people will give it a bunch of passes and end up on the other side, that it’s something more than they started with. I hope that’s how it works.” B
The age old debate finally has its definitive answer: if a bunch of musicians cut a record in the forest, does anyone hear it? Yes. As long as it’s winter, the woods are in Wisconsin and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) is involved. Vernon first channeled the magic of those Wisconsin woods in winter of 2007, recording his smash breakthrough (as Bon Iver) For emma, Forever Ago — an album that earned him countless accolades and nearly overnight mainstream fame. So when he teamed with fellow-Wisconsinites Collections of Colonies of Bees to form Volcano Choir, where else would the group assemble to record its debut collection? “It was definitely born and bred here,” says longtime Bees’ guitarist Chris Rosenau of his native state. “I think that there’s different regional — not to stereotype anything — peculiarities or something like that, you know what I mean? It’s just derived from the people who are living there and you know, everything
from social norms to the environment to the weather. Obviously in the middle of winter in northern Wisconsin it’s getting pretty cold outside, as opposed to L.A. So [debut album Unmap] is definitely one of the sounds of northern and southern Wisconsin.” The project made too much sense from the get go: Collections of Colonies of Bees has been around for over a decade and boasts a loyal following, particularly in the upper Midwest, while Vernon (as Bon Iver) seems to have covered a decade’s worth of turf in less than two years since emma. The whole lot met as far back as 2005, when Bees toured with Vernon’s then-main focus, DeYarmond Edison. The groups stayed in touch and, sometime around 2007, began informally collaborating through the musical equivalent of a long distance relationship — generation Y’s version of tape sharing, sending files back and forth through cyberspace, working on tracks after shows or from home bases on touring breaks. “I had some songs that I had actually just kind of been playing around with as a kind of scaffolding, architecture for what I thought
would be really interesting for a kind of stark, vocal idea,” says Rosenau. “So we ended up sending [Vernon] some of those because he wasn’t really working on any specific project or anything at that point. We were just like, ‘Hey, play with these and send ‘em back, and we’ll see what you’re doing’.” The combination of the band seems like a no-brainer — one an instrumental band, one a now-acclaimed “chamber-folk” singer, both slightly off the beaten path. Rosenau insists, however, that the songwriting was far more than just Vernon’s lyrics + CCB’s tunes = Volcano Choir’s songs. “Because we’re an instrumental band and Justin is a singer, I think everyone assumes that we wrote these songs and sent them to him, and he would say, ‘Okay, I’ll finish the song.’ But that’s totally not how 80 percent of this went,” explains Rosenau. “We were just super interested in what we could add and how we could flesh every idea out, trying to challenge each other to see what everyone else would do with it.” Faceless interaction in this building block
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Revamping My Choir
by ADAM CLAIR
CoURteSY FieRY FURNACeS
Fiery Furnaces on how to subvert the expectation of unexpectedness
depending on their level of acrimony. At least one half of the Furnaces calls it “casual,” a decidedly new style for a band who has dabbled in a lot of them. “We can’t make the same record every time,” Matthew Friedberger says. “That would be cheating.” So each time the Furnaces make a record — and i’m Going Away is the band’s eighth — they have to do something new, which is of course dependent almost solely on what they’ve already done. Nearly a decade of quirkiness cleared the path, important to both the band and to its listeners. “We wouldn’t have felt free to make this record if we hadn’t set up people’s expectations with the records we’ve made in the past,” the male Friedberger says. “To people who have never heard the band, this will sound very conventional, and that’s good and bad. But for people who know the band, hopefully, it’ll be funny, both amusing and a little bit queer.” It’s easy to label a band like the Fiery Furnaces as simply “different for the sake of being different.” It’s also a bit unfair. While Friedberger is intent on keeping things interesting superficially, he’s also driven by making sure there’s some depth, too. It’s just that this time, the band wanted to let the listeners do some of the work. “We wanted this record to be unelaborated, to make people have to do the work themselves,” he says. “They have to elaborate it themselves in their own imaginations. A lot of people prefer that.” This, it seems, is the key to the Fiery Furnaces modus operandi: challenging listeners in a way that ultimately rewards them. In the past, it has been records that were sonically dense and lyrically prolix. On i’m Going Away, it has been by offering much sparser arrangements and letting — or forcing — listeners to fill in the blanks themselves.
The Fiery Furnaces have a reputation for quirkiness. Through a career that has thus far seen the release of records like the conceptually globetrotting Blueberry Boat, the backmask-laden Bitter tea, the geriatrically narrated Rehearsing My Choir and Remember, the “live” album cobbled together from countless shows over the course of three years, maybe that reputation is deserved. But when everyone begins to expect the unexpected — and looking at the “deaf descriptions,” fan-written reviews of the Furnaces’ newest record written before any fans had heard the album, that’s what no small number of people expected from i’m Going Away — what’s a band to do? If you’re the Fiery Furnaces, you release a record this summer that, since actually hearing it, listeners have called straightforward, generic or boring,
And the band is elaborating on it as well, releasing a pair of albums rearranging the songs from its latest record. Friedberger says the reasons for this are many. For one, the band rearranges its songs for live performances anyway. So this time, they figured they would record them too, into two records, each with half the songs arranged by Matthew and the other half by his sister Eleanor, so that in total each will have redone the entire album. Further, prior to the album’s release, the Fiery Furnaces asked its fans to write reviews of the record without having heard it. So while the new versions of the songs on i’m Going Away will not be copies of what pre-reviewers expected to hear, Friedberger says he felt compelled to match the effort his fans put into their reviews by releasing alternate versions of the same record. He owes them, after all. “You play a show and if it’s pop music in any way,” he says, “you have some obligation in some way to be more egalitarian, more democratic.” This sense of indebtedness to its listeners seems to drive a lot of what the Fiery Furnaces do. After asking fans to review its last record (albeit before even hearing it), the band is asking fans to actually perform the next one, a so-called “silent record” that will be released in the spring. The band will offer sheet music as well as all kinds of other peripheral instructions and guides for performance. Again, Friedberger has an explanation. “Since before the Beatles, part of the rock model is that the composer and the performer is the same person,” he says. “So it’s fun to play with the opposite, where there’s a gap between the perspective and aim and expectations of the person writing it and the people who are going to perform it, whether they’re trying to enact the songwriter’s vision or just use it as a way to express whatever they want to express or the talents that they have.” Again, he has more. “The second thing is the idea that since a band can’t sell audio anymore, we’re not going to provide it,” he says. “We don’t mean to be complaining about that, but records have become much less an important part of the way musicians make a living. “The third thing is because shows are so important to rock bands now, more important than the records, you have an obligation to do something different with these shows. You have to find different ways to have gatherings of fans and of your band being more interesting. Fans can make recordings of Silent Record and that would be fine, too, but the idea is to focus on the opportunity to have shows, to bring people together because they’re fans of the band, to have the band drop out and have the shows just be about the audience.” If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a fan-reviewed album i’m Going Away and a fanperformed album Silent Record. What comes next is, naturally, a fan-written album. At shows during the past year or two, the Fiery Furnaces asked members of the audience to pass to the stage whatever bits of trash they might have in their pockets: movie tickets, dry cleaning stubs, fast food receipts, whatever. The band’s goal is to turn these bits of prosaic ephemera into an album, not just from gleaning lyrics from the text but also from turning serial numbers and account balances into chord progressions and rhythm patterns. The aptly titled democ-Rock — an album by the people, for the people — should be out in the summer. The band has 15 or 16 songs ready and hasn’t ruled out adding more, but Friedberger insists he isn’t just outsourcing. “It’s not fair to make the fans of the band actually write the songs and send them to you, making them work,” he says “It has to be automatic or inattentive writing on their part.” Not that he’s afraid to challenge people, not even at the risk of alienating them. “As a rock band, you have to change,” Friedberger says. “You have to be more willing to displease the people who like you than to please them. You have to make things that people want to come to, as opposed to things that go to people and give them the equivalent of a backrub and say ‘please love me.’ There’s a difference between setting up an expectation and trying to fulfill it and setting up an expectation and then having it be a little surprise. The pleasure comes from the surprise, as opposed to the fulfillment of the expectation.” This, Friedberger says, is the drama of being a fan, hoping the band sticks to what drew you to them but changes enough to avoid getting stale. He was mum on what other plans the band has — though it definitely has other plans — but he was clear that despite all the territory the Fiery Furnaces have covered in their career so far, they’re constantly looking for new ground to cover. “Unless you’re a band like the Ramones and you just have this one thing that you do and you have to get the message out, it’s traditional to change,” Friedberger says. “That’s what would be sincere, that you would try something a little different each time. If you didn’t, that would be strange.” B
Most Wanted in Athens.
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CoURteSY FieRY FURNACeS
PHoto: ALexA LAMBRoS
Hardly a flower, ten years in Brand New are anything but gentle.
by NAtALIE B. DAVID
Every Daisy Has Its Thorn?
trying to prove anything to anyone except for ourselves. We always want to please the other three people in the band, no matter what,” says Lane. “And that’s what always ends up happening.” daisy, the band’s fourth album and second for major label Interscope, was recorded with long-time collaborator, producer, engineer and unofficial fourth member Mike Sapone. A homecoming of sorts, although the band returned to Sapone’s Long Island basement studio for at least one song on every album, it was the first time since their 2001 debut Your Favorite Weapon that they worked with Sapone for an entire album cycle. “Everything comes back there, so this time around we just decided to start it there and finish it there,” says Lane explaining that for 2007’s The devil and God Are Raging inside Me, the band burned through two or three producers before returning the project to Sapone’s comfortable hands. “We just went straight for it because we already knew, because last time we made the mistakes.” A smoother experience this time around, Lane describes the recording of daisy as “a lot more comfortable than any other recording process,” and it’s easily understood why: for one, the album was recorded in the band’s hometown, and two, because working with Sapone rather than an outsider meant working with a producer who is as integral a part of Brand New as Lane, Lacey, Tierney or Accardi. “He doesn’t only get sounds and stuff. He writes with us also. He comes up with ideas for vocals or ideas for drums, or anything along those lines,” explains Lane of the band’s relationship with Sapone, which extends back even to Lane, Lacey and Tierny’s band prior to Brand New, called The Rookie Lot. “He’s someone that no matter what is a part of Brand New. He’s a member of Brand New, almost the same as all of us. He just doesn’t go on tour with us.” The title of the new disc may be the
The members of Brand New have come a long way from their pop-punk beginnings, but, when you think about it, a decade is a pretty long time. Since banding together in 2000, Brand New has never been afraid to evolve, and their latest disc, daisy, again finds the band exploring new stylistic terrain. On the phone from his home in Long Island, NY, drummer Brian Lane sounds pleased with his band’s latest dark odyssey but candidly admits it may not be as immediately accessible as the band’s earlier output. “It’s definitely one of those records that takes a while to sink in,” he says, “for sure.” But his band is far less worried about this album’s reception than they were for any of the three that came before it. These days it’s all about making fellow band members Jesse Lacey, Garrett Tierney and Vincent Accardi proud. “At this point I don’t think that we’re
innocuous daisy, but this flower has thorns and burrs aplenty. Brand New has never been exactly what you would call a “happy” band with a catalog’s worth of Holden Caulfield-inspired melodrama, emo loneliness and breakup angst making up their repertoire, and daisy, too, follows its well-traveled path of dark catharsis. If its preceding album was the sound of the devil and God duking it out, then daisy is undoubtedly the sound of the former’s victory. Adding to the gloom, mixed in amongst searing guitars, analogies to being broken down cars and metaphors of being burned alive are archival sounding clips of a Baptist minister recorded in the 1960s. Pulled from tapes Lacey found at an estate sale, the snippets of sermons and hymns incorporates a definite sense of creepiness to the overwhelmingly bleak affair. However, unlike many bands that have lengthy tales of woe to precede its darkest discs, the enveloping blackness on daisy is just as inexplicable to the guys who created it. “It’s interesting because the last record we were all in darker places than we were during this record. The last record we had a lot of things to sort out internally and externally, and this time wasn’t like that at all,” says Lane. “A lot of death wasn’t surrounding us like last time and we weren’t away from home and we didn’t go through living in other places.” He continues, “None of us can probably really explain why it was darker, it just turned out that way.” One option, though Lane seems skeptical, is that lead guitarist Accardi took a larger role in the songwriting for daisy than for previous albums. Always an integral part of the Brand New writing team, this time around he took more turns at bat, writing lyrics and lending his harsh scream to lead vocal duties more often, most notably on the scathing, blistering album opener “Vices.” Composition-wise, daisy also stays truer to the sound of Brand New’s live performance. Whereas in the past, songs were written instudio and figured out live afterward, for daisy, the band worked backwards, thinking through how the songs would be played live first and recorded them accordingly. “A lot of our songs evolve after we record them and play them on stage anyway, so this time around it was more like, ‘This is what I would do on stage so we might as well record it that way’,” explains Lane. “And I think a lot of the songs translated to what they are because of that.” Sneaking back into the band’s live set, too, are some tunes from the group’s peppier beginnings. Known in the past for shunning their early material, Brand New has uncovered a new-found outlook on their back catalog. Easily understandable that as grown men with houses and responsibilities it would be hard to revisit and relate to songs moping about teenage heartbreak, Lane admits that the band is, in fact, more comfortable with their fan-favored beginnings than ever before. “It took us all time to come to grips with what we did. It took us all time to be just like, it’s okay that we did that because that was 10 years ago,” says Lane. “And I think we’re all a lot more comfortable now looking back on it, being like, you know what? That was good for the time that it was, so it’s okay to play those songs, or it’s okay to listen to them and go ‘Ah, that one part is really cool,’ you know?” For a band that has evolved with each new release, from the poppunk of their debut to the emo leanings of 2003’s deja entendu and the moody rock that emerged on devil and God, Lane explains that, more than anything intentional, it all stems from the band members simply getting better with age. “You change as a musician as you grow up,” Lane remarks. “Your influences usually change. This band has been going on for 10 years. I definitely don’t listen to the same things that I listened to 10 years ago, and I’d imagine that happens to a lot of people. “Things happen that way just because we change as people, and B that’s really the bottom line.”
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ten DrIvIN’n’ QUESTIONS: CryIN’
by JENNIfEr GIbSON photo by rUTh lETImaN
Athens Blur MAgAzine (ABM): fiRST ThiNg'S fiRST: dRiviN’ N’ cRyiN’ haSN’T RElEaSEd a full-lENgTh REcORd Of NEW maTERial SiNcE 1997. WhaT TOOk SO lONg? Kevn Kinney (KK): well, we didn’t think anybody was really waiting. i’d been making solo records, everybody kind of went their own way for a while. i had a band with dave [v. Johnson] the drummer. i wanted to try some different things. i just really didn’t feel like it was ready until we all had some presence in it. i really wanted to do it right. i really wanted to have a publicist. i wanted to have some sort of machine behind it. it just took a while for interest to be definite and to see that it’s a big deal, because it’s a big deal to do this. i want to treat it with the proper amount of respect. i don’t want to just keep churning records out just to do it. so this fellow in atlanta says, “hey, man, we’d love to help you pay for a record. we want to go full bore on it. we want to hire a publicist and hire a real company to distribute it.” i was like, “oK cool.” i didn’t just want to pay for it myself. i could do that. i could pay for it myself. we could make a cover and we could let it trickle out there and sell it at shows, but i didn’t want to do that. i wanted to wait until we had some sort of support system in place. ABM: ThE TiTlE Of yOuR NEW REcORd iS The GreAT AMericAn BuBBle FAcTory. WhaT ExacTly iS ThaT? KK: it’s the starting point of a conversation i had with somebody about factories and corporations in america not making things in america. if you can remember back when wal-Mart first started, it
was a really big proponent of being american made, back when sam walton was running it. when he passed away it became a chinese clearing house, basically. i took my granddaughter to the dollar Tree one day, and we were looking at bubbles, and it said, “Made in china.” and i thought, “wow, these bubbles came a long way. 'Made in china.' why can’t they make these in dalton, Ga.?” so it’s just a conversation about how it’s obviously cheaper to make automobiles and televisions across seas, and maybe the technology over there for what they do will make it more economical for us to own things like that, but what about garments? The millworks, the garment factories of the south. i was talking to some buddies, and i said i’d pay an extra $15 or $20 for a shirt to be made in south carolina of south carolina-made cotton. it’s about, you know, bringing back some place to work in this country besides just Googling and doing the best we can to sell our services. There’s got to be more to do than just bartending, or singing songs on stage. There’s got to be something. ABM: yOu’vE Said ThaT ThiS REcORd iS “ThE PERfEcT cREScENdO TO a lONg 20-PluS yEaR caREER Of dRiviN’ N’ cRyiN’. i ThiNk WE’vE fOuNd ThE TRuE ESSENcE Of WhaT WE STaRTEd TO build back iN 1985.” WhaT iS iT abOuT ThiS REcORd ThaT givES yOu ThaT fEEliNg? KK: it goes back to what we were doing. The musical styles are back to what we know, some hard rock mixed with traditional americana. we had a couple in the '80s and '90s that i think were self-help kind of records, i guess like armchair psychology, end of
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“we didn’t think anybody waS rEally waITING!”
KEvN KINNEy ON DNC'S 12 yEar rECOrDING abSENCE
these things in america, i write all these different types of songs, so it was like “what if i write a country song, or country pop song, or 70s country song or a hard rock song?” let’s see what happens if we put them on the same record. when people are like, “There are a lot of different styles going on on that record,” i’m like, “well, it’s kind of like a record collection.”
ABM: SPEakiNg Of diffERENT STylES Of muSic, “dON’T yOu kNOW ThaT i kNOW ThaT yOu kNOW” iS a gREaT SONg. NOT a hugE ROckER, buT iNfEcTiOuS. iT’S bEEN STuck iN my hEad SiNcE i fiRST hEaRd iT. WhaT’S ThE iNSPiRaTiON bEhiNd iT?
the bar psychology. our records Scarred But Smarter, Whisper Tames the Lion, Mystery Road, Fly Me Courageous, those are all topics of conversation. and it was good rock n’ roll, good songs, had a cool melody to it but then it said something inside it that might bring up some conversation or feelings. That was kind of a tradition we had. we hadn’t made a record in 12 years. right after we finished the last record we regrouped and i made a solo record, Broken Hearts and Auto Parts, with this band. it takes a while for a band to become a real band instead of just my side band because i’m the singer and main songwriter. for it to be a real record you have to be a real band. dave, Mac [carter], Tim [nielsen] and me, we’ve all been through seven or eight years of playing together and getting to know each other to where it’s not the Kevn Kinney backing band — it’s a true band where everybody has a say so and everybody has some great ideas. That’s kind of what i meant.
ABM: yOu’vE mENTiONEd bEfORE ThaT yOu STaRTEd ThE dEmOS fOR ThE NEW REcORd ON SEPTEmbER 10, 2001. aSidE fROm PuTTiNg Off REcORdiNg fOR a WhilE lONgER, hOW did ThaT affEcT ThE fiNal PROducT, if aT all?
the Gulf war. it’s hard for me to have all these feelings around. i thought that the hierarchy of our government was pretty, i don’t know, oppressive. i’m not really sure. i didn’t really want to write about it until it was over, and then write about it frankly. i just wasn’t ready. a song like “i stand Tall,” it’s a great song. i didn’t write it. personally i stand tall, but i would hate it if anybody understood that as a right to go to war.
ABM: aNOThER REcORd Of yOuRS, Whisper tAMes the lion, haS SOmE NOTORiETy, TOO. iT WaS ThE lOWEST chaRTiNg dEbuT ON ThE TOP 200 chaRTS WhEN iT WaS RElEaSEd iN 1988, acTually kNOckiNg DArk SiDe oF The Moon Off ThE chaRTS fOR ThE fiRST TimE SiNcE iTS RElEaSE. ThaT’S a gREaT STORy TO havE. WhaT dOES iT fEEl likE TO TOPPlE PiNk flOyd?
“we never do ThE SamE ShOw”
36 ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
KK: it just made us not want to put it out. it made us reevaluate what we were doing. see, when i write and i sing, when i come to your town, i’m coming to Greenville or i’m coming to athens, and i get there at three or four in the afternoon, and i wander around and i get dinner and i do things, and what happens in that time affects what happens in the show. we never do the same show. i’ll go to record stores, look at posters, see what kind of bands you like or i talk to people i meet in coffee shops. in saying that, there are times when it’s really hard … i don’t like to write topical music, you know? i don’t like to write specifically about a certain issue because in 20 years no one’s really going to get it. and right then, there was the build up to the war and those things. i made a solo record in that era, after [hurricane] Katrina, but i didn’t mention Katrina specifically and i didn’t mention
KK: well, we’re trying to let people know, let people drink it in and know. it felt pretty good. Mac’s a huge pink floyd fan, so he doesn’t take it well. i think he would not bring it up with roger waters if he ever met him. but hey man, if you’re going to make just one small impact on the world, the one little thing Whisper Tames the Lion did was humble pink floyd. but then they came back on the charts and i don’t think we’ve been back on since. so if you can look at the charts, how many weeks has it been on the charts now, that’s how long it’s been since i’ve been on the charts. so if it says they’ve been on the charts now for 500 weeks or something, that’s how long it’s been since i’ve been there.
ABM: back iN 1985, bEfORE yOuR TRiumPh OvER PiNk flOyd, yOu Said, “WE aRE a baNd ThaT’S likE yOuR REcORd cOllEcTiON.” hOW SO, aNd havE yOu hEld TRuE TO ThaT?
KK: The inspiration behind it is, well, there’s a group i thought had written a song about me at one time, and i was like, “well, that kind of sucks.” it kind of hurt me. i thought they were talking about me in a song, maybe. i don’t know. but then again, what it must be like for girls or guys to date musicians and then they wind up with songs about them. They have to go see them and they’re like, “That song's about me!” There’s this friend of mine who has a record, his name’s bobby bare Jr. he has a record out and at the very end of the record it says, “and don’t call me no more, blah blah blah, and don’t write no more songs about me!” and i thought how i’ve never dated a musician before, or a talk show host, or a comedian, but i thought it must suck to date them and then break up with them and wind up in their routine. and it’s kind of about that. i don’t remember which record it is. i do know they made him take it off on some versions. i’d be too afraid to [put it on a record]. i’m married now, but i dated very strong willed women, so i can’t imagine what they would do.
ABM: yOu dON’T SEEm TO bE a baNd ThaT’S full Of dRama OR full Of ThEmSElvES, buT ThiS iS a REally gOOd, ThOughTful ROck REcORd. hOW havE yOu REmaiNEd a REal SOlid baNd fOR 20 yEaRS WiThOuT giviNg iN TO ThE daRk SidE? OR havE yOu?
side and back when nobody was watching, back in the early 90s. we just struggled with having a limited amount of fame for a year. we were on MTv for a week or so. i think that taught us a lot about what our main objective was and why we were doing this. it makes you evaluate the importance of what it is you want to do, and how popular do you have to be until you’re satisfied. here’s what i was like: my friend col. bruce hampton, he’s one of my best friends, he’s like, “you just did not look comfortable.” and i really was not comfortable being even remotely famous. The thing is, i’m not trying to be your favorite band, and you don’t have to come see every show i do, but here’s what i would love: if you’re the kind of person who goes to see 30 shows a year, please come see one of mine. if you’re the kind of person who buys 30 records a year, please just try one of mine out. That’s kind of my mantra, because i’m just doing what i do. i’m not trying to compete with anybody but myself. i’m trying to write the best stuff i can write and have fun with it. My band’s records are a conversation between band members. Mac writes his own guitar parts, dave comes up with his drum parts and Tim comes up with the harmonies and bass parts and all that. i’m really proud to be in this band. i think we’re in a place now where we’re a true brotherhood and we’re really good friends and we dine together and have fun together and we stop at wal-Mart on the road and nobody gets in fights and nobody’s screaming at anybody, and all those things that happened to bands in the past. we’re like, “let’s not do that. let’s let life be life.” we all have kids now, we all have obligations. That’s where the screaming and yelling can come in, but let’s not make music part of that. let’s make music be the fun part. let’s not be so serious. we’re not going to change the world. it’s just a little bit of a distraction for someone, and we can do it well. you can just kind of tell your story, and i think people will buy it. well, buy it as in, “i think they‘re trying to be pretty true to their essence. That’s cool.” but we’re not putting on any airs. i looked really stupid when i tried to do that. i looked really horrible. Trust me, i tried. luckily, i’m surrounded by really honest friends who were like, “dude, what the hell was that?” but that doesn’t answer your question, does it? That rant.
ABM: aT ThE ENd Of ThE day, WhaT iS yOuR favORiTE REcORd yOu’vE madE, aNd Why?
KK: yeah. when i was a kid, i had a lot of 45 singles, and i would sit there and play some rolling stones, or Motown, or some John denver thing, or “The wreck of the edmund fitzgerald,” something like that, you know? and i’d kind of make this little set-list up, make mix tapes and stuff. i want my records to be like mix tapes. i’m influenced by all
KK: i don’t know how to answer that. i’m supposed to say my new record. it’s the one i’ve been listening to the most now, and i like it. but i’ll tell you i think the best solo record is Broken Hearts and Auto Parts, and i think this new one is the best sounding drivin’ n’ cryin’ record. it’s got the best sound to it. i really love “detroit city,” and i really love the song “let Me down” that Mac does, and i love “don’t you Know …” i love “Train wreck.” i love the whole thing. yeah, this is my favorite one of the drivin’ n’ cryin’ records, and Broken Hearts and Auto Parts is my favorite solo record. but that doesn’t answer your question. My records are like my children! They get pissed off at me when i start picking sides. They come into my dreams and ask, “what about me?” and i’m like, “hey, i like you, i like you. i do!” i’m a little afraid to answer that.
ABM: fiNally, i WaNT TO kNOW: i SaW a POSTiNg ON yOuR WEb SiTE aNNOuNciNg, “lOOkS likE WE havE SOmE fRiENdS iN ThE gEORgia gENERal aSSEmbly,” buT ThE liNk TO ThE STORy WaS bROkEN. iT SOuNdS OmiNOuS. aNy WEiRd STORy bEhiNd ThaT?
KK: i think we probably went to the dark
KEvN KINNEy ON DNC’S TOUrING phIlOSOphy
KK: our friend that was in the assembly is not in the assembly any more. he retired to raise his kids. he’s a juvenile court judge now in ringgold. we were a big supporter of his; he’s a big supporter of us and there was another fellow from atlanta, too. but that’s why we had that linked up there. but that was a while ago. sorry. no story B there.
PATRON SAINTS OF POP
by Natalie B. David
TEGAN AND SARA FIND FAITH IN – AND OUT – OF LOVE.
People are so afraid to write torch songs or love songs ...and I hate that because I love love songs.
PHoto: PAMeLA LittKY
38 ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
ust like with her music, it’s difficult not to be carried away by Sara Quin’s catchy effervescence. Calling from L.A., she says it feels like she’s on vacation. In reality, it’s the middle of day-two of a weeklong press-capade behind Tegan and Sara’s sixth album, entitled Sainthood, and Murphy’s Law is in full effect. She speaks fast, her demeanor almost hummingbird-like, mixing thoughtful insights with quirky quips and unabashed honesty. But first, due to technical difficulties, she’s saddled with a headset. “Just imagine it for a moment. It’s not as seamless as Britney’s, for example. That’s more skin toned, matched to her hair,” she laughs. “This is more Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation over here.”
Imagining the petite, raven-haired rocker sporting a pop diva’s mic is certainly a stretch. Tegan and Sara are responsible for some of this decade’s best indie pop tunes, but overdone pop stars? They’re definitely anything but. Calgary, Alberta natives Sara and her identical twin sister Tegan have earned a following by crafting genuine songs about falling in and out of love and everything in between, all combined with perfectly catchy melodies and indelible, delectable hooks. What began as two 14-yearolds writing songs and playing talent shows has turned into a bona fide musical career that most up-and-comers would envy. Signed by certified rock legend Neil Young in the duo’s home country to his Vapor music label in 1999, Tegan and Sara have since seen their tunes covered by
a surprising variety of revered acts, including Ryan Adams, Alkaline Trio, Amanda Palmer and The White Stripes, who recorded the duo’s 2004 single “Walking With a Ghost” for their own 2005 EP of the same name. All in all, it’s not a bad resume for a band whose bread and butter is the much decried love song. With a title lifted from the lyrics of the Leonard Cohen song “Came So Far For Beauty,” Sainthood centers around an “obsession with romantic ideals.” In short, it’s 13 tracks about love and the crazy things we do to get it. Although both Tegan and Sara, who typically write their songs separately, have covered matters of the heart more often in their songwriting than not, Sainthood tackles the subject from a new perspective. For the first time in her adult
life, Sara found herself ready to write an album and was completely unattached, a romantic free agent. “Since I was 14, which was when I began songwriting, I’ve been engaged in some form of a relationship, whether it was the breakup of one, or the dissection of one from within,” she explains. “I’ve obviously fully written about that and deconstructed that process and that experience and I was suddenly, like, really single.” “And I wasn’t just writing about my own pursuits at getting out of a relationship and getting back into one,” she continues. “I was also thinking about what am I even looking for? And what do I even really want?” Unafraid of the stigma that comes along with fessing up to penning love songs, Tegan
and Sara’s willingness to be upfront about the nature of their songs is a refreshing and welcome change from most indie rock bands, who tend to regard the L-word like a specially branded hipster repellant. “Oh my god! I know! It’s like an epidemic in indie rock music,” Sara enthusiastically interrupts. “People are so afraid to write torch songs or love songs because it’s seen as embarrassing or being overdone, and I hate that because I love love songs.” As with the throngs of us who have belted our hearts out to a sappy serenade at one time or another (c’mon, admit it), in her single status, Sara found herself longing to hear genuine love songs in all of their over-the-top glory. Pushing rock and indie rock out of her personal listening
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repertoire, although not apparent on Sainthood, she began to almost exclusively listen to the sounds of Motown, old French records and hip hop acts like The-Dream. “I wanted to hear people singing like they were — broken hearted and crying,” says Sara, citing a specific childhood rediscovery. “All of a sudden I started listening to Patsy Cline like I would die without it. And every song is a love song. Every Supremes song is a love song. Every hip hop song is a love song. And I started to feel like, you know what? There is nothing embarrassing about wanting to sing your heart out about your heart.” It’s true, the love song has been maligned as the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll cliché. A subject both accepted and expected in mainstream circles, in other genres, especially in indie rock, wearing your heart on your sleeve in flashing, neon lights is often considered an ultimate taboo. Sure, most bands do it — they just don’t talk about it. “For some reason, if a woman or an indie rock band sings about love or gets a bit too emo about love,” she says, “it’s sort of assigned a lesser value than if you sing cryptically about love in this way that is seen as more heroic or more stoic or something like that.” Tegan and Sara’s offbeat-yet-user-friendly take on love has certainly resonated with a wideranging flock of music fans. As a special treat to please Tegan and Sara devotees, the duo also created a three book boxed series to accompany Sainthood. The project, entitled “ON, IN, AT” was created as an alternative to a more video-centric endeavor (the duo has two DVDs — 2006’s touring documentary “It’s Not Fun, Don’t Do It” and 2007’s “The Con — The Movie”), and a way for the sisters Quin to offer fans an experience that, quite simply, wouldn’t fit on a circular, 4.72-inch piece of plastic. “With music now, having the actual tactile experience of unwrapping a CD, for a lot of people, is gone and it may never come back,” explains Sara, “and there was this idea that we would still be able to give an actual product, something that
For some reason, if a woman or an indie rock band sings about love or gets a bit too emo about love, it’s sort of assigned a lesser value than if you sing cryptically about love in this way that is seen as more heroic.
you would hold in your hand, a piece of art if you will, and that the experience wouldn’t be the same thing for a free download or a digital PDF of the thing. It actually is something that you could put in a room or on your bookshelf and it would be really substantial.” With Sara tied up doing A&R for indie buzz band An Horse, the project was conceived and spearheaded by Tegan, but ultimately became a collective project. Choosing to self-publish, the books became a team effort between Tegan and Sara, their management and close friends, with everyone taking turns writing, copyediting and finessing the minutiae of publishing. “We all learned a ton about publishing and shipping and the differences between copyright and publishing in the written world and the music world,” says Sara of the experience. “I mean, we’re geeks. We basically decided that this was fascinating and we really sort of immersed ourselves in it.” The three books chronicle the past year in the lives of Tegan and Sara: “ON” and “AT” similarly document a U.S. tour from October 2008 and an Australian tour from January 2009 with photos, essays and journals written by tour mates and members of the band, amongst other goodies. The middle book, “IN,” captures a songwriting experiment that took place in New Orleans last November. Like fellow identical-twin sister act The Watson Twins, Tegan and Sara both contribute songs to their albums, but never collaborated. Until now. Spawned from a conversation with a musician friend undergoing a rather difficult recording process, Sara looked back at her own songwriting past, realizing that it had been years since she had felt intimidated or challenged by the creative process having rarely strayed from her solo ways. “It occurred to me that the scariest thing I could do was put myself in a room with anyone and write; it didn’t have to just be Tegan,” she clarifies. “I realized that I had gone about 10
(CONTINUED ON PG. 56)
w Evolution of a Medium: The story of radio’s survival and continued fight
By Sarah A. McCarty
performing is looking out
House resolution 848
thanking radio for by gold and and millions of recordings of artists, Sitting in an office surroundedselling millions platinum RIAA Sales Awards Kevin Steele, thanking radio for sellingprogram managermillions of recordings of artists,sends millions and for Athens radio station Magic 102.1 Kevin an e-mail explaining why he thinks the current actions of those same record Steele, program manager for Athens radio gratitude Magic 102.1 sends an companies and their artists who once showed station are now threatening the radio industry – an industry explaining why he thinks the current email correspondence with a dynamic history full of ups and downs. actions of those Nearly one-hundred years since the first U.S. licensed commercial broadcasting same record companies and their artists who once showed gratitude are now station hit the airwaves, proposed legislation that calls for radio stations to pay performing threatening the radiothe face of the an industry with a dynamic history full of ups artists could change industry – industry once again. and downs. that we’re in the digital age, all those years of support from radio stations don’t “Now seem to matter anymore,” Steele said of the players on the other side of the line who support what he calls the “potentially detrimental legislation.” Nearly In February, Representative John Conyers, (D-MI) introduced HR 848 Performance one hundred years since the first U.S. licensed commercial broadcasting into Congress, which would require radiolegislationpay artists when they Rights Act station hit the airwaves, proposed stations to that calls for radio play to music. stationstheirpay performing artists could change the face of the industry once According to opencongress.org, the Performance Rights Act and again.the Senate, would amend federal copyright law to grant performers ofthe similar S. 379 in sound recordings equal rights to compensation from terrestrial broadcasters. For broadcast stations with gross revenues in the digital age, all those years of support public broadcast “Now that we’reof less than $1.25 million and for noncommercial, from radio stations such as University of Georgia’s WUOG, the said of establish a flat annual stations don’t seem to matter anymore,” Steeleact would the players on the fee in lieu of payment of royalties. An exemption from royalty payments would be granted other side of the line whoservices and for incidental uses “potentially detrimental for broadcasts of religious support what he calls the of musical sound recordings. Although legislation.”the act has been considered by committee and recommended to be considered by the House, it has not yet been put to a vote. If the bill does eventually get passed, some say it could have serious effects on radio stations throughout the country, which is In February, Representative John Conyers, (D-MI) introduced HR 848 and causing a lot of controversy and pitting people like Steele against many organizations Performance Rights Act into Congress, which would require radio stations to famous recording artists. Backing the proposed legislation are several organizations, politicians and recording pay artists when they play their music. artists including the Recording Industry Association of America, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the American Association of Independent Music, According to opencongress.org, the Performance Rights Act andmusicFIRST The Recording Academy, Georgia representative Hank Johnson and the the coalition supported Senate, range amend federal copyright law to grant similar S. 379 in the by a widewouldof performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band, Jay-Z, Andrea Bocelli and Amy to compensation from terrestrial performers of sound recordings equal rights Grant. In a press release, Rep. Johnson, like many supporters of the performance royalties, broadcasters. Foran act of fairness. Radiowith gross revenues of lesssongs royalties, said it is merely broadcast stations stations currently pay writers of than $1.25 but and for noncommercial, an attack on broadcasters. The reality is that artists millionnot performers. “This bill is notpublic broadcast stations such as University get paid for the use of their music on establish a flat such as fee in lieu of of Georgia’s WUOG, the act wouldall other platforms, annualthe Internet, satellite, and cable, but they do not get any compensation when their work is played over AM and payment of royalties. An exemption from royalty payments would be granted FM radio stations,” Johnson says. for broadcasts of religious musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio uses of musical sound In the same sense, the services and for incidental Starting Today) coalition says on its website it is “committed to making sure everyone, from up-and-coming artists recordings. to our favorites from years-ago, is guaranteed Fair Pay for Air Play.” Although committee hearings considered by Congress, Billy Corgan of The Smashing the act has been before the 111th committee and recommended to In be considered by the House,of musicFIRST and said, “I am a big fan If the bill does Pumpkins testified on behalf it has not yet been put to a vote. of radio, and am very interested in its continued health and have serious effects on radio stations eventually get passed, some say it couldwell-being. Terrestrial radio has helped me to discover many of the my life and throughout thesee them asartists that became influential tolaw we are here to discuss only country, which is causing a lot of controversyartistic pursuits. I and pitting by no means the bad guy. The change to the people like an outmoded, unfair practice that favors one participant’srecording another. redresses Steele against many organizations and famous needs over artists. This legislation is simply a form of restoration to artists long overdue.” Corgan went on to explain proposed legislation are several organizations, politicians profit Backing thehow many performers on hit songs may not be big name artists who can and from tours and the sale of merchandise and they deserve compensation in the form of recording artists including the Recording Industry Association of America, royalties.
itting in an office surrounded by gold and platinum RIAA Sales Awards,
for tHe artist.
but does it Have
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by saraH a.
tHis is tHe
radio’s figHt for survival
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the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the American Association of Independent Music, The Recording Academy, Georgia representative Hank Johnson and the musicFirst coalition supported by a wide continued range of performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band, Jay Z, Andrea Bocelli and Amy Grant. ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
es mpani s; co isHing yalty fee ubl s pay p year in ro e n to tH . statioars eacH d dio all ra ns of doll ributetHemusicy “ re dist rs of llio mi ta at man
kevin steele sits in His office at cox radio. pHoto: wes elkin
manager of programming at 95.5 “The Beat,” another Cox Radio station in the Atlanta/Athens market, agreed that the bill could cause changes. “In the case of 955 The Beat, it’s difficult to tell the exact effect because we don’t know what the fees would be. However, some adjustment would need to be made including playing less music during some time periods. In some cases for smaller stations in smaller markets, I have heard from several owners and operators that any increase in expenses would put them out of business,” Kidd said. When asked to give the perspective of a non-commercial, independent station, Rock 100.7 FM General Manager Xavier Elkins said further fees would obviously be taxing on any organization like 100.7 particularly because it is already non-profit. Steele supported the claim saying, “Even though the House amended the legislation to protect smaller, non-commercial broadcasters by creating a sliding scale fee, many of these stations will still not be able to afford any increase in royalty fees.” While many debate the fairness of the issue, Elkins brought into question the relevancy of royalties.“The notion of an artistoriented royalty fee seems a bit outdated given that the economic engine of the music industry has shifted gears. In music's heyday, artists toured to promote
composers of music to get their fair share since they cannot earn with performing or promoting, which is how the system currently works today. Others opposed to the performance royalties include the Free Radio Alliance, Greater Media, Inc., National Association of Broadcasters, College Broadcasters, Inc. and a few state broadcasting associations. Georgia congressman Paul Broun, who represents the 10th district that includes Athens, also opposes the proposed legislation. According to govtrack.us Broun joined more than 240 politicians who cosponsored the Supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act that opposes the Performance Rights Act, but he could not be reached for response. While the outcome of this proposal could cause drastic changes to radio, it’s not the first time controversy, technology and culture have altered the medium. Commercial radio first hit the scene in the 1920s when it became licensed and picked up advertisers and sponsors along with original content. From the 1920s until the 1950s radio had its heyday. During this Golden Age of Radio stations produced a variety of broadcasts including
During this Golden Age, non-musical shows were more popular than live and recorded music. Most families would gather around the radio and tune into to their favorite programs from one of the first radio comedy series “Amos ‘n Andy” to the CBS drama “Suspense” to the old-time radio detective show “The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” Some faithfully listened to the big soap operas, which are now synonymous with daytime television but actually began as serial broadcast on radio with soap manufactures as sponsors and producers. One of the most famous of these soaps is “Guiding Light,” which launched on radio in 1937, but eventually moved to television in 1952 — a sign of the changing times and upcoming trouble for radio. With the advent of television, and later cable, people began watching shows instead of listening to shows, and radio had to devise a plan to stay relevant. “As audiences shifted to television, radio had to really change its format,” said Ann Hollifield, Ph.D., Head of the Department of Telecommunications at the University
a ies tH s and owne added fee tHo pay. an mon riter uld be rd t r wo
st d c s oadusa formatte ormats or ju br ic lk f
On the other hand, those opposed to the Performance Rights Act, including outspoken organization Cox Media Group that owns Magic 102.1, say that it threatens the industry and claim it is not fair compensation but actually a tax for airing free music. Many people in the radio industry refute the argument that it is only fair to pay for the use of songs the artists perform because the airplay received is beneficial to the artists. Some radio supporters recall the infamous Payola scandals, saying record companies depend on airplay so much they once reportedly bribed and paid disc jockeys to broadcast the songs of their artists to promote the music. National Association of Broadcasters Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton touted airplay of songs in a press release when he wrote, “Every week, radio airplay reaches 235
million Americans, promoting both new and legacy artists and generating more than a billion dollars in CD and download sales for record labels annually.” Though recording companies and many performers say that while it is still important, traditional radio broadcasts of their music is not as significant as it once was. During his testimony, Corgan said, “If the performance of a song has value to a particular terrestrial radio station in its airing, I believe it is only right to compensate those performers who have created this work. If a station plays a song, both the author and the performer should be paid. These particular performances must have value to the stations or they wouldn’t be playing them.” However, Steele says the royalties would put many stations in danger. “All radio stations pay publishing companies
millions of dollars each year in royalty fees; monies that are distributed to the songwriters and owners of the music. The performance tax would be an added fee that many broadcasters can’t afford to pay,” he said. “Therefore, many music formatted stations will either go to syndicated talk formats or just go dark.” Some supporters say the fees won’t force any stations to close, but Steele disagrees. “These added fees will no doubt bring many independent broadcasters to their knees, virtually shutting down many local and community oriented radio stations,” he said. While Magic is a larger station, Steele said he did believe if the legislation passes, many of the community services provided by the Cox stations would be greatly affected by the added cost. Tony Kidd, vice president/market
e g sonerw rmance tax can’ t affo s will eitH k.” fo n r tHe p go da ters statio many m ndicated t y
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of Georgia. In the beginning, most stations went to a strictly music format, with some news and sports talk programs, but there was a lot of overlap as more and more stations came on the scene, according to Hollifield. “As TV became a more powerful competitor, radio really reinvented itself in the late 1960s and early 70s to a format-type in very narrow niches such as top 40, classical and jazz stations as opposed to just general mixes of music,” Hollifield said. She said when cable TV entered the game and there was
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albums (the music was the product). Now, artists distribute music in order to drive demand for their tours (the live performance is the product). It won't be long before most music is free, or nearly free anyway,” Elkins said. Large touring acts will still make the big bucks, which makes the idea of royalties seem disconnected and trivial by comparison, according to Elkins. He said he sees fees as a method for
m u s i c programs, serial soap operas, mysteries, dramas, comedy shows and news. Although music was not the primary product in early radio, some record companies reportedly feared the medium at the onset as competition providing a free product while others saw it as a means for promotion of music. A court ruling eventually granted copyright owners compensation and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) began collecting licensing fees.
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afternoon naps * bearsuit * boyracer* bunnygrunt * cars can be blue * casper & the cookies * elekibass * eux autres * fishboy * forever * hotpants romance * keith john adamsbirthday* to you * marshmal* lolligags lovely eggs low coast * oh ok * patience please * red pony clock * smittens * sourpatch * superions * titans of filth * tunabunny * velcro stars * afternoon naps * bearsuit * boyracer* bunnygrunt * cars can be blue * casper & the cookies * elekibass * eux autres * fishboy * forever * hotpants romance * keith john adams * lolligags mike turner’s little label is big on * lovely eggs * marshmallow coast * oh ok * patience friendships, imagination and ingenuity as it * smittens * sourpatch * suplease * red pony clockreaches the 10 year mark by ed morales perions * titans of filth * tunabunny * velcro stars
t’s an August night in Athens’ Caledonia Lounge and Holly Ross, lead singer/guitarist of UK’s Lovely Eggs, is holding court atop the dimlylit stage. With a drum mallet in one hand and a PBR in the other, she watches fellow bandmate (and husband) David Blackwell set an unstable, rustcolored floor tom aside the front monitor. “This is a song about an amazing guy we know who draws octopuses and owls,” she says while swigging the beer, “it’s called ‘Jon Carling’.” And she’s off, banging the mallet against the tom with all her might. “I know an artist and he draws about owls/He knows about birds/He draws about owls” she croons
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as the crowd, amid their delight, can see what’s unfolding. With each hit, the tom leg inches closer and closer and closer to the floor. There’s trouble ahead. Standing near the stage is Nate Mitchell, drummer for Cars Can Be Blue. Just as the tom topples, he rushes over and holds it steady as Holly keeps blasting away. Two other people lend a hand, and the song, lasting less than a minute, is saved. Mike Turner, the founder of Happy Happy Birthday to Me records and the man who made this moment possible, watches a few feet away. He smiles. Bands helping bands. That’s what this 10 years is all about.
t’s been a wild decade – terrorist attacks and wars, cities an ideal place for us.” lost to hurricanes, presidential elections decided by courts, Turner encapsulates his mantra on the label’s web site: “hhbTM the first african-american head of state – but perhaps the bands help each other out. if you don’t think you can help a fellow most fascinating aspect of the aughts is the loss of personal labelmate out with booking a show or two for them, or a place to crash connection. The onset of the internet, and the electronic tools it for a night while on tour, then this is not the label for you. we all treat fosters, has made the world flat (as one pulitzer prize-winning writer each other like family, and always try to do the best for each other.” noted) but also distant. admit it, you have no idea who your neighbors and that means righting fallen toms. are, even while you glom their wireless. “The thing i like about Mike and eric and the rest of the hhbTM so while a 10-year anniversary is but a blip in the realm of time usual gang of idiots is that they take what they do seriously without (even donald Trump had a taking themselves seriously,” marriage that lasted 10 years), said Matt harnish of in today’s detached, 24-hour bunnygrunt. “They realize news cycle world, it’s a heady that the alternative to doing achievement. especially for stuff is not doing stuff and an independent record label who cares about people created as a lark by a guy who’s who don’t do stuff? They job before starting it was have a respect for us but at running a rather efficient frame the same time Mike has no shop in the florida panhandle. problem punching me in the “Ten years? i didn’t expect balls if he feels like it. That’s it at all,” said Turner about the kinda label we wanna the aluminum anniversary of be on.” hhbTM. “The first cd was meant to mark the last issue of my zine Bee’s Knees. The t’s not just a twee label, original happy happy birthday oK? To Me volume 1 was meant “a lot of people put to be a joke because there was tags on things because it’s not going to be a volume 2. i easier for them to describe,” thought it would be funny if Turner said. “i did the same someone really dug it and then thing when i wrote so i wondered if there’d be a volume understand when people 2 only to find out there wasn’t.” say ‘well it’s easier to put volume 1 was released in the things in this little category summer of 1999 and featured or section and describe it songs by elf power, of Montreal this way’. The label has had and Marshmallow coast. The a wide variety of stuff. i’ve collection of 15 singles was never really put out a noise culled from contacts and friends record or a hip-hop record, Turner made in the four-years but there’s been enough previous while working on his other kind of things where zine, but proved a harbinger it’s not just a twee label. but as the ’90s came to an end. once you get that tag it’s Turner not only tapped into hard to get rid of.” a sound people sought but a The twee moniker will musical aesthetic defining what happen on a label with his venture was to become. bands named The smittens, and now, a decade later, the afternoon naps and The one-off “joke” has grown to an lolligags, but a closer look industrious enterprise. hhbTM at the catalogue shows claims more than 100 albums, elements of americana, a stable of bands of various mike turner poses at wuxtry records, his other athens love 1960s power pop and musical genres, an annual fivephoto: wes elkin psychedelic-folk reminiscent day festival featuring 80-100 of elephant 6. bands from all over the world, “The first cd i put out was by the artist birddog, which was more and a belief that taking chances and cherishing a personal, homemade americana,” Turner said. “The record had elliott smith on it, paul K feel can not only attract a fan base, but grow one as well. from paul K and the weathermen, edith frost, Glenn Kotche from “everyone i’ve met associated with hhbTM have been really nice wilco, so the first actual artist cd that i put out was americana music. and genuinely enthusiastic about our band and the other bands on The second one was The visitations with davey wrathgabar, who i the label,” said Tom dechristofaro, whose band afternoon naps knew because of the e6 connection, so i really got into that scene. is a recent addition to the hhbTM family. “he’s actually releasing Then the Gwens were kind of another sub e6 affiliate band . . . and our debut, and as with all the current releases, Mike has pre-order then as things went on i had an ashley park record, which is more ’60s specials the early bird fans can order and in return they get something pop. special with the album. we pitched him the idea of wrapping it in a silkscreened pillowcase and he loved it. little things like that make it continued
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“There’s a time from 2002 to 2003 where all the things that came out were americana,” Turner continued. “it wasn’t elephant 6, it wasn’t pop, it was very much roots oriented acoustic music — folky ’60s based. and right after that there may have been more like psychedelic pop stuff, which led to the twee pop.” and it was at the time of more twee when Turner, living in panama city, fla. decided to take a chance on creating a music festival — 400 miles away in athens. set to play at Tasty world and the 40 watt club, popfest 2004 saw the 50 or so bands (including sunshine fix and the rosebuds) play four days and nights in early august. Turner moved to town just in time for the festival’s festivities. “i thought, you know what, i’m just going to put together a festival,” Turner said, laughing. “i’d been visiting athens and i fell in love with it . . . i made friends with people who were putting out records at that time. so i just moved up here and put together a festival with no real job. The first year of the festival was a success in that it went off.” with eric hernandez at his side as the festival’s stage manager (he also does artwork for the label), Turner knew he had a good idea, but with several kinks to work out. “i learned everything not to do, then it was trying to fix that and make back the money that was lost,” Turner said. “it was frustrating at the end because it really wasn’t local.” undaunted, Turner set sights for 2005, moving to the little Kings bar from Tasty world (“moving all that stuff from Tasty world to 40 watt was a big hassle,” Turner remembers), and getting a huge boost when athens’ favorites pylon and of Montreal signed on to be headliners. later years saw The Mountain Goats, deerhoof, Ted leo and the pharmacists and a breakthrough performance by black Kids etch the festival into minds of music bloggers everywhere. “we met Mike and the gang when we were asked to play the athens popfest,” dechristofaro said. “needless to say the whole popfest experience was amazing and quite eye-opening.” a rough economy had Turner shut down popfest for 2009, but he plans to return in 2010 with a few new surprises. surprises to further dispel the twee image. “with popfest there’s a certain community that looks at it as ‘oh, this is tender twee pop type stuff,’ but it’s not really,” Turner said. “Maybe the first year it was indie pop, but it wasn’t specifically twee pop, and there all different kinds of pop. by the second year the addition of pylon and of Montreal moved to more electronic and
dance music, and by the third year it’s Mountain Goats, deerhoof and apples in stereo. none of the people fit the twee pop thing, but to a rock audience, it’s very much a twee festival. To an indie pop or twee pop element, this is a rock festival, which is really frustrating because i like a lot of stuff. but you can’t change the way people think about it or write about it so you just have to let it go.” he music business as it is nowadays, sometimes having a label doesn’t make much sense. for this reason, Turner takes a nontraditional approach in who he chooses to work with, and once they’re onboard, how he markets and introduces them to the world. “it’s always up in the air,” he said. “if someone doesn’t like how it goes, they’re free to go. There’s no real signing on, there’s no contract. sometimes i wish there were — there’s been times where i wish i would have had that because at least the interest of the label would be protected. but at the same time at times it’s good there weren’t contracts signed. it’s so easy for bands to do it on their own anyway, sometimes i don’t even know where the label exists at some point.” when the label started, he added musicians and bands he met while putting together Bee’s Knees — birddog, visitations, Kingsauce. but now Turner — aside from getting a healthy host of letters and Mp3s via e-mails (which he promptly deletes) — brings bands into the fold after being impressed with their live show, following recommendations by friends, or by pure kismet. he also leans on hernandez and his wife leslie (who is a member of The lolligags) to find the best fits. “with Tunabunny i went to see them and was blown away with how unaware of themselves they were,” he said. “it was really like they were playing and doing what was right for them and whatever else was going on didn’t really matter. instantly i had to sign them. Then there’s this band sourpatch. friends of mine who i really trust went to see them at san francisco popfest and said ‘we met this band, they’re so nice, they fit the label, they’ll help bands out with shows they’ll give people a place to stay, their music fits in, we know you already love their influences.’ so i got these demos in and one night was listening to it eight or nine times and i thought, 'yeah i can see this working.'” “i booked a show for this band TacocaT which i was really excited about seeing, and forever was touring with them,” Turner continued. “Though i was excited about TacocaT, when forever played i was instantly into them, and by the time they got home from their tour i sent them an e-mail and said we need to put this out on a real cd and
MU CO SIC rnIan’ e S
Fender Sub-Lime Bass Fuzz Pedal
The Fender Sub-Lime Bass Fuzz Pedal resurrects classic Fender fuzz tone from the 1960s and ’70s—a distinctively dirty sound that fueled a thousand garage bands and put buzz-saw bass tone beneath everything from Bowie-esque glam to the most snarling punk. In short, it’s the return of an epic rock sound. Added to the signal path between your bass and your speakers, the Sub-Lime Bass Fuzz Pedal gives you easily dialed-in classic Fender fuzz ranging from the barest hint of buzz to an all-out seismic roar. A major modern touch is that the tone can be tailored by setting the crossover frequency wherever you want the effect to happen—low-frequency fuzz, high-frequency fuzz and anything in between—without sacrificing allimportant low-end muscle and fundamental bass tone.
Monster T urbine PRO High Performance In-Ear Speakers
Whether you’re a professional audio engineer or a demanding audiophile, attaining perfect sound reproduction doesn’t matter a little—it’s all that matters. That’s why Monster brings you a higher level music listening experience with Turbine Pro professional in-ear speakers. Turbine Pros were engineered to deliver bass so deep, it’s like a subwoofer in your ears, plus reproduce the clarity, detail and dynamic range of the finest studio monitors or audiophile reference loudspeakers. Turbine Pro reproduces all genres of music with incredible musicality and accuracy: Whether it’s the deep rhythm sounds of hip hop, the intimacy of a jazz trio, or the thunderous power of a full-scale orchestra. You’ll rediscover your favorite music, hearing things that you didn’t even know were there.
Roland BA-330 Portable Digital PA System
The BA-330 is the all-in-one portable PA solution for music venues, worship events, conferences, seminars, business meetings, and much more. The BA-330 has a four-channel configuration, with two channels dedicated for microphones or instruments, and two other channels for standard 1/4” stereo inputs. Each channel has its own independent tone adjustment and effects switching for built-in effects, such as EQ, reverb, delay and widening. A Stereo Link function allows for a pair of BA-330s to work in tandem to provide an extra-wide stereo spread. Powered by a high performance digital stereo amplifier, the BA-330 features four custom-designed 6.5” stereo speakers and two tweeters, positioned for wide stereo dispersion. While the built-in tilt-back stand enables the unit to be angled up for better sound monitoring, the BA-330 also can easily be mounted on a speaker stand. The Roland BA-330 PA System features a unique Intelligent Anti-Feedback function previously unavailable in self-contained portable PA systems. During use, the BA-330 can automatically detect potential feedback possibilities and eliminate it immediately. This is a huge advantage over manually adjusting volume levels, as it allows performers to place the PA system behind them and easily hear themselves without experiencing feedback. Designed to deliver high-quality stereo sound for audiences of up to 80 people, the BA-330 can run on standard AC Power or eight AA Alkaline or Ni-MH rechargeable batteries. The switchable output power allows the user to switch between the maximum power and the energy-saving Eco modes to preserve battery life. The BA-330 is also amazingly efficient, delivering a sound pressure level of 109 dB, comparable to much larger mid-range sound systems.
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BOSS e-Band JS-8 Audio Player with Guitar Effects
The BOSS eBand JS-8 Audio Player with Guitar Effects is the portable audio player designed for guitarists who play and practice at home. eBand is the audio player that combines playback of full songs, backing tracks, or rhythm loops with high quality BOSS guitar effects and a built-in stereo speaker system. This all-in-one solution is ideal for guitarists who want to learn songs, solos and riffs, practice new songs outside of band practice, play along with any of their own collection of music, or create new songs while jamming with audio tracks. Loading music onto eBand couldn’t be easier, with direct playback from any standard USB memory stick or SDHC memory card up to 32GB. eBand also has the ability to import songs from any audio CD using the included utility software. Unlike traditional audio players, eBand lets guitarists interact with their music by changing the pitch and tempo independently, or using the advanced Center Cancel function to remove guitar or vocal parts. eBand comes with 300 backing tracks and rhythm loops which also include pre-programmed guitar effects. Not only can players jam along with eBand, they can record their musical ideas as well using the included USB audio interface. Pressing the Record button during a jam-along session will create and save a new audio file with the entire performance.
By Julie McCollum established 1832 population 807,815 notable bands Claude “Butch” Trucks (drummer of the
Allman Brothers Band), Derek Trucks, Pat Boone, Limp Bizkit, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Yellowcard, Shinedown, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, J.J. Grey and Mofro useless trivia Michael Jackson donated his elephant, Ali, to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in 1997. drive from athens 363 miles something extra CD Connection, an independent record store in Jacksonville Beach, has a vast collection of CDs, DVDs and vinyl, as well as t-shirts and posters (and an online store for lazy music lovers). There is also a DJ section upstairs with thousands of 12-inch singles available to spin, complete with needles, slip mats and headphones.
JamHub Silent Rehearsal Studio
PreSonus FireStudio Mobile
Finally, a new-generation, studio-quality FireWire interface that you can use anywhere! The PreSonus FireStudio™ Mobile combines the superior analog-circuit design and advanced platform technology of their acclaimed FireStudio rackmount interfaces with the ability to run on bus power in field applications. Now you can have enhanced audio performance for music recording and creation anywhere you can lug your laptop! The FireStudio Mobile is bundled with an exceptional software package, featuring PreSonus Studio One Artist, the amazing new DAW software for Mac OS X and Windows XP and Vista that makes producing high-quality projects easier than ever before.
saltwater Grass’s organic blend of blues, reggae and a touch of funk is a product of the members’ diverse backgrounds and their home base of Jacksonville beach, fla. frontman rich hansen was trained at bluegrass pickin’ circles, and the Miami-born percussion duo of Jp salvat and alex santeiro draws from their roots to produce afro-cuban rhythms. The band’s sound is fleshed out with ryan daley on electric guitar, austin Johnson on bass and Jeff hoff bouncing between harmonica and a smooth, muted trumpet. The band released its self-titled debut album in March of 2009. a fixture in the Jacksonville music scene, saltwater Grass has also performed at skipper’s smokehouse in Tampa, The white room in Miami and for former president bill clinton in orlando in august 2009. with a new album coming out later this year and a growing fan base, saltwater Grass continues to spread their beach-infused sound throughout florida and beyond.
your new favorite band the buzz in jacksonville saltwater grass
on the charts
The JamHub™ silent rehearsal studio is a patents pending device that allows musicians to interconnect their practice devices, such as devices with headphone jacks, and create a unique mix for every player. This allows the band to play more often, in more locations and to get better faster. With the SoleMix™ controls on every section and every remote, each player is in control of what they hear and, because the mix and volume is in control, the band gets better faster.
DigiDesign Eleven Rack
Digidesign® ElevenRack, a standalone hardware unit that combines a hyper-realistic guitar amp and effects processor with a highquality computer recording audio interface, to create the ultimate recording and performance solution for guitar players. Bundled with the industry-standard studio mixing software Pro Tools LE®, Eleven Rack empowers performing or recording guitarists to focus on what’s most important — great tone, great recordings and great performances.
freebird live is one of those unique music venues that can play host to a variety of national, regional and stand-out local acts. The 700-capacity building is located in downtown Jacksonville beach, just one block west of the atlantic ocean. The venue’s two stories give concert-goers prime standing access to both floor and balcony level viewing. dubbed simply “freebird” by locals, the venue is owned and operated by Judy van Zant, the widow of lynyrd skynyrd lead singer ronnie van Zant, and has opened its doors to musicians including Gregg allman, willie nelson, The black Kids and The Killers.
top 10 songs played on 97.9 Kissfm
1. i Gotta feeling black eyed peas 2. use somebody kings of leon 3. down Jay sean/lil wayne 4. you belong with Me taylor swift 5. battlefield Jordin sparks 6. obsessed mariah carey 7. party in The u.s.a. miley cyrus 8. Knock you down keri hilson/kanye west 9. sweet dreams beyonce 10. love drunk boys like girls
ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
upCoMinG on thE SCREEn
MAkING SURE IT’S WoRTH yoUR $9.50
youth in REvolt
(OCTOBER 30) (Miguel Arteta) They say: The awkward but lovable Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) goes to extremes to win the heart of the girl next door. He creates an alternate persona named Francois who is the antithesis of the nerdy Nick – in short, he is a no-rules bad ass. But how far is too far in trying to win the girl? We say: Michael Cera playing an awkward, quirky guy in pursuit of a cute girl? Never seen that before – or maybe just in four or five other movies. But his alter ego Francois does add something new – and something funny – to the mix.
thE pRivAtE livES oF pippA lEE
(OCTOBER 23) (Rebecca Miller) They say: After her much older husband forces a move to a suburban retirement community, Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn) engages in a period of reflection and finds herself heading toward a quiet nervous breakdown. (Read: impending suicide). We say: Drama, drama, drama. Get your tissue box, or your Xanax— whichever you prefer.
WhERE thE WilD thinGS ARE
(OCTOBER16) (Spike Jonze) They say: An adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story, where Max (Max Records), a disobedient little boy sent to bed without his supper, creates his own world—a forest inhabited by ferocious wild creatures that crown Max as their leader. We say: There are two directions this could go. Good—i.e. “Horton Hears a Who,” or terribly bad—i.e. “The Bridge to Terabithia.” People hoping for a little nostalgia are sure to fill the theater’s seats despite the critics.
MEn Who StARE At GoAtS
(NOVEMEBER 6) (Grant Heslov) They say: Journalist Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) meets Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney), who claims to be a member of a secret “psychic warrior” branch of the U.S. military. Based on a story that seems too weird to be true but is, this dark comedy follows Wilton and Cassidy as they embark on an adventure and delve deeper into this secretive military unit. We say: This movie is prime to be a hilarious success with a cast that includes George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges as the hippie leader of the “warrior monks.”
(NOVEMBER 13) (Roland Emmerich) They say: The end of the world arrives – just as the ancient Mayans predicted – in the year 2012. The Earth’s 6 billion inhabitants are left to battle it out against the apocalyptic events that ensue. Volcanic eruptions, massive avalanches and tidal waves tear the world apart while John Cusack’s character and his family fight to survive. We say: All this world coming to a horrifying end, everyone run for their lives business is enough to give us nightmares. This film from the director of “Independence Day” will delight doomsday and action lovers alike.
thE StEp FAthER
(OCTOBER 16) (Nelson McCormick) They say: Do you know who your family is? Michael (Penn Badgley) returns home from military school to find his mother happily in love and living with her new, skeptically too-nice, boyfriend. We say: Your typical 1987 thriller remake. Watching Penn Badgley all hot and bothered by his new “daddy” won’t take away from the thrill of the tell-tale story of falling for the wrong — possibly evil — guy.
FAntAStiC MR. olD Fox DoGS
(OCTOBER 23) (Mira Nair) They say: A look at the life of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world. We say: Should be an appealing movie surrounding the mysterious nature of Amelia Earhart's fame. No
(NOVEMBER 25) (Wed Anderson) They Say: Based on a book by Roald Dahl, the animated film follows sly Mr. Fox (voice of George Clooney) who steals chickens from his neighbors and must protect his family from the men he stole them from. We Say: Director Wes Anderson’s unique adaptation and previous films (The Darjeeling Limited, Rushmore) point to a more mature animated adventure that will surely satisfy an older crowd, and will go over the heads of children who are just entertained by a talking fox.
(NOVEMBER 25) (Walt Becker) They Say: Robin Williams and John Travolta star in a comedy about two friends whose lives are flipped upside down after they learn they must take care of two 7-year-old kids. We Say: With the generational gap bridged with the help of Seth Green and Justin Long, this PG-rated film should prove to be entertaining for all ages, though competition will be steep this holiday season.
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Conan O’Brien’s hosting The Tonight Show.
Jay Leno’s got his own show too.
But is either really showing America a good time? by DeMarco Williams
he numbers don’t lie. last July, “The Tonight show with Jay leno” earned about 4.6 million nightly viewers. This July, “The Tonight show with conan o’brien” got about 2.6 million visitors. There could be any number of factors as to why o’brien’s ratings paled in comparison to leno’s, but for the sake of conserving editorial space, we’ll just blame it on growing pains. a new face in a new place. hell, numbers like Jay’s would be hard for anyone to replace. and it’s with that line of thinking that conan o’brien trudges on. yes, “The Tonight show” is a late-night institution that has matured into the third longestrunning entertainment program in Tv
history. yes, its rival, “late show with david letterman” is kicking its butt right now. but no, conan’s not losing a wink of sleep over any of it. remember: the man had his own show, “late night with conan o’brien,” successfully run for 2,725 episodes. he knows what he’s doing, geeeeez. “look,“ says the 46-year-old o’brien, “there's no denying that the media likes conflict. it's a better story. but one of the things that's been really nice is that Jay and i have always — i mean, really going back to 1993, when i got started — gotten along really well. i just saw Jay; we did this upfront show in new york, and we hung out in the Town hall Theatre at rehearsal for a
10 o'clock has made the transition particularly easy for both of us.” (Conan O'Brien)
while, just trading stories about guests and jokes and things like that. we've always gotten along really well, and he's been very kind to me about this whole transition. Jay staying with the network and going to 10 o'clock has made the transition particularly easy for both of us. because he's happy, i'm happy. and, you know, that's actually been kind of a Godsend.” at press time, leno’s mug was gracing the cover of Time magazine (as if conan needed that thrown in his face!). but truth be told, “it’s not that big a deal,” shrugs the 59-year-old leno, who launched “The
“Jay staying with the network and going to
Jay leno show” in mid-september. “another [magazine] is coming out next week.” Maybe so, still, there’s no denying the things said in the magazine about leno revolutionizing broadcast television are pretty darn bold. a 10 o’clock talk show is rather kooky, right? can’t knock nbc for trying whatever it can to get some revenue going. plus, as Jay points out, three episodes of his show cost as much as it does to blow up one helicopter on the new drama “Trauma.” funny he should bring up disasters. conan o’brien doubters feel one may be hard for the guy to avert. with so few brad pitts and Tom cruises and so
many o’briens, lenos, Jimmy fallons and chelsea handlers out there, there may not be enough top-shelf guests to keep viewers entertained. “There are really only about 18 people that make a difference,” insists leno. o’brien still doesn’t seem the least bit troubled: “i think the guest thing has sort of been over-blown. i got terrific guests on “late night.” and i was farther down the totem pole than i am now in terms of booking, so, i'm not worried about the guest situation. To me, it's not about who gets a guest first; it's what you do with that guest. My chemistry with them might be different than other people. i don't think it’s going to be a problem.”
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<<PAtRON SAINtS OF POP>>
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years without stepping outside of my solitary writing process and invited someone in to collaborate and so I suggested it to Tegan.” The sisters decided to try it out on neutral territory (Tegan currently resides in Vancouver, while Sara lives in Montreal) to negate any creature comforts or distractions and went with New Orleans. The aim was to keep the sessions as stripped down as possible, meaning no overdubs, and the songs would be fully written from scratch, no prewritten sketches allowed, in order for the sessions to be fully collaborative. The seven songs written in New Orleans helped to complete the package of 50 demo songs that were handed over to Chris Walla, who also co-produced 2007’s The Con and is most well-known as a guitarist for fellow relationship dissectors Death Cab for Cutie. Although the New Orleans sessions turned out too incompatible from the rest of the material that would become Sainthood, during recording sessions in L.A. Tegan and Sara continued to write together, albeit in a more natural way. Of Sainthood’s 13 tracks, two co-writes made the cut, as did three songs co-written by Tegan with AFI’s Hunter Burgan. But the collaboration didn’t just end there. On Walla’s suggestion, Sainthood was recorded live in the studio. The assembled band featured Tegan and Sara on vocals, guitars and keyboards, Walla on bass, Death Cab’s Jason McGerr on drums, and longtime touring member Edward “Ted” Gowans also on guitar and keyboards. The group, Sara says, would play songs multiple times back to back, record the performances, and then critique what they heard. “I really enjoyed it and it made me feel, ultimately, more attached to what Tegan was doing because sometimes she’ll be so into her
own music that I won’t really do much other than a background vocal or guitar part or something,” she explains. “For the first time I was really a part of arranging her songs and playing some of the core parts, like the main guitar part on ‘The Cure’ was something that I came up with and played, whereas in the past that was something that Tegan would have taken the lead on.” More teamwork made for a stronger arsenal of pop tunes, compiled into one of the year’s best pop albums. Period. And, if you want to call them out on being a pop band, really, that’s ok with them. “More and more, I don’t care what people call us. I like pop music. I like making pop music. Pop music can be Kelly Clarkson. It can also be The-Dream. It can be Grizzly Bear if that’s what turns your crank,” she illustrates. “I think whatever has a strong melody and resonates with a lot of people, that to me is pop music.” Creating music that resonates with as many people as possible, Sara says, is one of her goals. Recalling powerful childhood experiences at concerts by Bruce Springsteen and Depeche Mode where the electricity generated by hearing tens of thousands of people singing along together left all the hair on her arms standing on end, Sara fully admits that she wants to experience that feeling from the stage. “Who the fuck doesn’t want 75,000 people to sing along to the chorus of their song? Who doesn’t want that?” she asks. “Sometimes when I’m writing music, I’m not necessarily thinking about what will be popular or what the audience will like, but there’s definitely a part of me that’s like ‘Would 70,000 people sing along to this chorus?’” After a few shows in October gracing stages in New York and L.A, a full U.S. tour looms ahead in February. Although Tegan and Sara may not be playing stadiums and arenas just yet, this act of B sainthood will only take them closer.
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even more competition for audiences and advertises, radio moved into micro-niches where listeners could choose from country rock or classic country instead of just a general country music station. Not only is the content of current radio different than when it began, but so is the business model. “When radio was first started it was an intensely local media before regulation really came on board,” Hollifield said. Regulation brought order to what was chaos resulting from overcrowded airwaves. According to Hollifield, radio began to expand and changed from a local model to a new layout with radio networks providing national programming to local affiliates. Eventually the Federal Radio Commission was created to control and regulate commercial radio, which was replaced by the FCC in 1934. Hollifield said one of the biggest changes in radio came at the hands of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. “While it was ostensibly designed to allow for competition for telephone and cable, it had the most impact on the radio industry,” she said. One provision in the act lifted a previous ownership cap on the number of stations companies could own nationally. One of the major and most immediate impacts was to set off an incredible wave of mergers and acquisitions that resulted in radio industry becoming one of the most consolidated industries in the country. While many people were worried that radio would be controlled by these companies, Hollifield said the consolidations were “the saving grace of radios because in 1996 a large percentage of stations were in financial trouble.” Once again radio prevailed and the industry was really strong in the 1990s and in the early part of this decade. Now, she says radio is facing financial challenges again, and some blame it on a host of emerging technologies. While technological advances in the early history of radio like moving from AM to FM improved the industry in the late 1930s, technological advances in this century have proven to be less beneficial. The Internet, ipods, music downloads and satellite radio provide music lovers more options — some say better options. With the launch of satellite radio, terrestrial radio proved it still had more fight. Using its local appeal and touting its free broadcasts, it has been able to fend off threats. While many terrestrial station managers, including both Steele and Kidd, say satellite radio has not really had a major impact, Hollifield said it would be hard to argue that radio has not lost audience. “If you look across all media, with the
additional competition from all the new players in the market, every media outlet has suffered a decline in its particular share of the audience,” she said. “I think radio is facing the same kind of hurdles that all legacy media are facing - audiences are being fragmented.” An ever-growing number of content choices now provide what academics call gratification opportunities (to consume media where and when you want), according to Hollifield. Traditionally, radio has always been a much more mobile media, but now ipods and other forms of technology provide more mobile music. She said people’s patterns of media consumption appear to be undergoing some changes, but not as much as some people think. The difference between radio and other media is that radio’s market share compared to other media has dropped significantly, and radio’s advertising share nationally has been surpassed by online sales. “The radio industry is really struggling financially. The revenue is dropping at a really rapid rate and no industry can sustain that for long,” Hollifield said. Given the incredible financial challenges that radio faces right now, the Performance Rights Act could be dangerous for the industry. Hollifield said she could not take a stance on the proposed act without more information. Hollifield said executives constantly look for new business models like all competing media, but is not sure what the future holds. She said despite what happens with the Performance Rights Act, major markets will be around for a while, but where stations have been and will be most vulnerable are local, small markets. The fact is, radio is tightly woven into the lives of Americans. Although it may be fading, the love affair with radio is forever etched in American culture from Eric Carmen singing “Turn The Radio Up,” to Kenny Chesney’s “Road And The Radio” pairing to Regina Spektor hearing Guns-n-Roses “On the Radio.” Just as Corgan testified that radio broadcasts cultivated his musical life, all types of people throughout the country have an appreciation for the medium. While the death of radio has been predicted many times before and some say the current tech-savvy culture renders the medium archaic, it has survived and still offers a muchneeded service to music lovers throughout the country. As the debate continues over whether or not it’s fair to offer that service without paying performers, the question remains if many stations will prevail over dwindling revenue income and this possible new legislation. And if it does prevail, will it be the same radio loyal listeners are used to, or could this be another opportunity for radio to adapt to the perpetually changing world of music? B
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do this right now and it just worked. i like the way they were working toward what they were doing.” “it’s been really great getting to know everyone on the label and getting to know and work with Mike,” said Joel lopez of forever. “recently, we got to hang out with him again at athfest 2009 which ended up being such a good time. The label showcase we played was well attended, air conditioned and ended up being a really great time. we got to see Tunabunny who were radical and ended up putting us up for the night in their big beautiful house just outside of athens. i read some good material in their bathroom. we’re also stoked about our friends sourpatch who will be putting out a release on hhbTM. stay tuned, it’s gonna rule.” connections. bands helping bands. see, it’s working. — “This is where i find myself to be more of a chump than a record mogul,” Turner said with a grin. “i’ve got this band called lovely eggs coming over from the uK, and i think, 'you know what, i’ll make them a bunch of buttons and i’ll mail them to them so when they start their tour, they’ll have this bag of buttons.' Then they say ‘hey can you silkscreen some shirts for us?’ oK, i guess i can, when you get to athens you can pick them up. i find myself making T-shirts, posters — it’s a nonstop thing to where i’m sure no one in Matador or Merge are in the little details of things.” The little details. whether it’s sleeves made of fun foam (red pony clock), a coloring book based on song lyrics (63 crayons), or a specially-designed reference dictionary (patience please), the individuality of the label is what keeps Turner’s business going. Moving past the 10-year mark, Turner has designs for another 10 years, and has ideas of how to achieve that. one way is to get more bands on tour — with booking agents. right now only longtime hhbTM band casper & the cookies has an agent (although Marshmallow coast is close to having one as well), but a band such as cars can be blue with a booking agent would break new territory (“they would stay on the road – all year long. i wish i could get them on a warped tour because i know the people who would really dig what they do are probably a bunch of 14 and 15 year old kids,” Turner said). another aspect to continued success is having bands in constant “go mode.” “i would love to see bands be able to get out and create a fan base or meet their fan base or discover that fan base and keep the records in print,” Turner said. but while Turner would like bands to take more control over their destiny, he knows part of his destiny is helping them achieve that goal. for Turner, continuing to be a “record mogul” is staying connected with the people you work with, and the music you love, because it makes you a part of something bigger than yourself. “The beginning of the label was very much me being hands on in an arts and crafts background of making sleeves and hand-doing stuff,” he said. “and then it led to manufactured goods, where everything was done at a processing plant and there was shrink wrap around everything. but in the last year it’s changed. i looked at the amount of records we’ve done, and i love these records, but i’m completely detached from some of them. sure i put them out, i was involved with the distribution or manufacturing end, but i’m not attached to them in that i actually had a hand in helping them more than just getting them to the store. so i sat down and said ‘what part of the label did i enjoy?’ and it instantly became i enjoy doing the handmade end. it’s where i want to be.” B
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5 The felice Brothers @ 40 Watt (Laurie Moot) Still flyin’ @ 40 Watt (Alyssa de Hayes) Crowd Shot, Baller’s Ball @ Athens Arena (Wes Elkin) Greg Holden @ Melting point (Stefan Eberhard) Greg Holden @ Melting point (Stefan Eberhard) Timi Conley @ New Earth Music Hall (daniel peiken) Leon Russell @ Melting point (daniel peiken) prefuse 73 @ New Earth Music Hall (Wes Elkin) The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Tasty World Uptown (Alyssa de Hayes) 60 ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
The felice Brothers @ 40 Watt (Laurie Moot) Tom Goss @ Little Kings Shuffle Club (Wes Elkin) The Lovely feathers @ Tasty World Uptown (Alyssa de Hayes) Sister Hazel @ The Classic Center (Wes Elkin) Workhorses of the Entertainment & Recreational Industry @ 40 Watt (McGinnis Leathers) The dirk Howell Band @ Ashford Manor (daniel peiken) Sister Hazel @ Classic Center (Wes Elkin) ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
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got some concert shots? send hi-res versions to editorial@ athensblur.com
Amon Tobin @ New Earth Music Hall (Wes Elkin) pretty Lights (Baller’s Ball) @ New Earth Music Hall (Wes Elkin) Still Small voice & The Joyful Noise @ 40 Watt (daniel peiken) keegan kell painting during pretty Lights @ New Earth Music Hall (Wes Elkin) Corey Smith @ Classic Center (Wes Elkin) Constellations @ Tasty World Uptown (daniel peiken) 62 ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
T8RToT @ New Earth Music Hall (Wes Elkin) The Black Hollies @ Caledonia Lounge (Alyssa de Hayes) Missing Cats featuring JoJo Hermann (Widespread panic) @ Melting point (Alex Gibbs) Missing Cats featuring JoJo Hermann (Widespread panic) @ Melting point (Alex Gibbs) Ingrid Michaelson @ Melting point (Wes Elkin) Ingrid Michaelson @ Melting point (Wes Elkin) ATHENS BLUR MAGAZINE
worth a thousand...
A look inside the Georgia Theatre, September 2009. Photo: Justin Evans.
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