Thursday, February 7th, 2013 | musiX, pdX | No Comments
I’ll be playing tunes this Friday at Hawthorne Theatre with my good pal, DJ Bob Ham. It’s always a fun time—I mean, it is Happy Hour on a Friday.
I suppose the goal will be to get things warmed up/getting people hot and bothered for the Hot Water Music show later that evening. I think we can do it. But despite what the photo to the left implies, we won’t be spinning records. Instead we will be gazing into the glow of our laptops, which will likely resemble two grown men playing Battleship. Less sexy than records, but still very, very sexy.
We will rock and roll all nite from 6-8 p.m. inside the Hawthorne Theatre lounge. Beers will be cheap(er). And I’ll be digging deep into the folders on my desktop for some digital nuggets o’ rock from all over the globe … from my computer.
A few new things I’ve been munching on of late: Kiki Pau, Foxygen, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, new Thermals(!), Holy Grail, Eat Skull, Ty Segall/Mikal Cronin. Older stuff: Pere Ubu, Monoshock, the Saints, Urbane Gorilla, the Feelies. It’ll be good. Promise.
Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 | interviewZ, musiX, pdX | No Comments
I like Portland. I liked the Mint Chicks. I love New Zealand. I dig noisy pop music. But as much as I like these things it doesn’t necessarily mean I’d like Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I’m easy, but I’m not that easy.
But I do like Unknown Mortal Orchestra. That’s because Ruban Nielson writes good songs. The PDX by way of NZ musician surprised a lot of people (including himself) in 2010 when he posted the song “Ffunny Ffriends” on his Bandcamp page. Blogs ate it up before they even knew who or what was behind it, and Nielson–who was just writing songs for his own amusement—soon found himself releasing an entire record for Fat Possum in 2011.
There’s no mystery surrounding the band’s latest LP II, out now on Jagjaguwar. The songs again dip into the nether-regions of Nielson’s psyche, as he pushes garage rock and soul through some sort of futuristic meat grinder. It’s a little hazier than their self-titled debit. Zeus knows there’s been plenty to draw from in Nielson’s life over the past few years: The breakup of his longtime New Zealand band the Mint Chicks (caused by a strained relationship with his brother, Kody); the roller coaster that came with the release of UMO’s debut, which came after deciding he was going to quit music; and a tumultuous year of touring that saw Nielson nearly party himself to death in 2011.
It sounds like the makings of a juicy autobiography; instead we get II. And it’s a good one. Nielson took some time to answer a few questions about living in Portlandia, making music with a clear head and missing his Ffriends in New Zealand.
TDoL: You wrote and performed II yourself, right?
Ruban Nielson: I wrote it, but my brother plays some drums on it. Greg Rogove plays drums on a track and Jake Portrait plays bass on a track. It was still a pretty solitary process overall though.
It’s good stuff. It’s more dynamic than the first record, more live sounding …
Thanks. It has more drum fills and is a little less repetitive I suppose. I put some extra effort into the big picture of the record. The first record was me just trying to make jams to listen to on my iPod on the bus. It wasn’t intended as a real album. On the new record I thought about the little journey it would take you on. I knew people were going to hear it so I stepped up with a bit more conceptual ambition.
What were you going for in that respect?
I was just trying to capture the way I felt about the year and half I’d just had. Every song was coming at that idea from a different angle. I thought if I could make an album that invoked the feelings I’d had it would come out pretty heavy, and it would be good.
I remember hearing the Mint Chicks’ Bad Buzz EP and being really excited about the new music, and then poof they were gone. What happened, and what did you take from that experience?
My brother was just treating me like shit, basically. I needed to get out of the situation of working with him on a daily basis. I was working really hard and putting a lot of effort into it and getting nothing back. I’d just grown out of it. I wanted my life to be more rewarding and fun.
How long was it before you started working on the UMO stuff?
For about six months I think I was just trying to figure out how to pay my bills in Portland and stuff like that so I didn’t think about music much. I had this plan in my head that I was going to do something else with my life that wasn’t music, and that whatever it was it was going to be awesome. Eventually I started making recordings as a hobby. While I was in the Mint Chicks I worked as an artist’s assistant and did visual art as a hobby and music for a living so my plan was to flip that around. I got really excited about making music without arguing with bandmates about whether an idea was good. I got excited about making music without having to send demos to the label and all of that stuff. I got excited about removing the ego bullshit from the process.
Were you surprised by how quickly it caught on?
Of course. I remember working on “Ffunny Ffrends” and specifically thinking, “OK, now I’m just removing myself from the zeitgeist entirely. This is officially the most untrendy music in the world. Nobody is going to want to hear this.” If you’d asked anyone if they wanted to hear overly distorted music in an annoying falsetto about funny friends over old-school breakbeats … and, oh, did I mention the guitar solo?
How did you end up in Portland?
I have an uncle who lives here and I stayed with him and his family for a couple of weeks, and just felt like I wanted to move here. I went back to New Zealand and basically started planning to move. I have dual citizenship but I’d never had the desire to move to the U.S. permanently until I’d hung out in Portland. Of course, it’s changed a lot even in the five years I’ve lived here. There wasn’t a TV show about how ridiculous things are downtown. I still like it a lot though.
Do you miss New Zealand?
Sometimes. I had a great time last time I was there. My good friends I have there are irreplaceable. My immediate family are still there. I get along a lot better with my brother now that we aren’t in the Mint Chicks together.
Were you more influenced by New Zealand bands growing up, or American bands?
I was influenced by everything. Flying Nun, East Coast hip hop, alternative rock, punk, post-punk, jazz, jazz fusion, avante garde music, dub, drum and bass, noise music, classical. My family are all musicians on both sides so my poor brain was under siege from music. That’s why I didn’t want to be a musician growing up. I got into it accidentally, almost.
If you could go back to a certain era of music, what would it be?
2010, man. Things were so good then.
It sounds like 2012 was a hectic year for you. What are your goals for a smoother 2013?
I think 2012 was a great year—not that hectic, just busy and successful. 2011 was the hectic one. Just touring and touring and touring. This year I’m going to be busy again. There’s never telling what’s going to happen. I don’t know if smooth is what I want.
“Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
“So Good at Being in Trouble” – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
These days—more precisely, the past five years—it’s taken rock music of a certain disposition to give me that little tickle in my belly. I’m more interested in what music can do for my body than what it can do for my brain … OK, I’ve reverted back to my 23-year-old self. But until I get the urge to trade in my wife for a Sk8ter Grrrl and nix the idea of kids for having an entire room dedicated to KISS and ’80s horror flicks, I refuse to believe this is a midlife crisis.
Parquet Courts play rock music that’ll make you feel young. If you’re young, they’ll make you feel smart. The Brooklyn four-piece brings together the high-voltage rawk of jeans-clad punkers with the high times of couch-ridden slackers. Needless to say it’s goddamn fantastic. The band released their first proper LP Light Up Gold last summer, a record that was largely slept on, but caught enough ears to get a re-release this month on What’s Your Rupture? (the vinyl is still available on the band’s own Dull Tools label). It’s jangly, fast and smart rock music, filled with lyrics that are unwieldy, poetic and poker-faced … even when they’re singing about being stoned and starving. And there’s not a single dud.
Parquet Courts’ recent performance here in Portland was just as good. The band—guitarists-co-barkers Austin Brown and Andrew Savage (who also did time in Texas band Teenage Cool Kids and Fergus & Geronimo), bassist Sean Yeaton and drummer Max Savage—plowed through a fast and furious set like they’d been doing it for a decade. It can be inexplicably non-descript when a band does everything right. There’s nothing easy to latch on to. Parquet Courts are simply doing. There’s no schtick, no acting; and it shows in the band’s music and in their performance.
I ran into Austin Brown and Sean Yeaton outside of Bunk Bar after their packed show on Friday—nice gents who were cool without trying to be. Not surprisingly it sounds like 2013 is going to be a big year for Parquet Courts, which includes heaps of touring, including SXSW and Musicfest NW (sssshhhhh) in September. If in the off-chance you haven’t heard this band, you will. The night of their Portland show they sold out of the vinyl copies of Light Up Gold. I’ve been playing mine nonstop all weekend, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. And why should it? Here’s to feeling good all the time.
Stoned and Starving - Parquet Courts
Monday, January 7th, 2013 | musiX, pdX, vinylZ | 2 Comments
It’s been a long while since I’ve written anything substantial on The Days of Lore. Keeping up with it is difficult when you don’t have an editor breathing down your neck to make deadlines. You sort of have to breathe down your own neck. Is it hot in here?
For the 17 of you with impeccable taste who’ve followed TDoL over the past four years, I have heaps of reasons (excuses?) for the draught—most of them good. A quick rundown: The site got hacked (fixed it), I got hitched (and planned it), and somewhere in there I was working 12-hour days driving a 15,000-pound refrigerated truck (hated it). After that I began freelancing full-time, and the paid work took precedence over keeping up with a blog. Besides, who reads blogs anymore?
I did know that when I fired this thing up again, I wanted to come into it refreshed and excited. And I wanted to reassess why the hell I do it. I came to the conclusion that this is a space where I can satisfy my own tawdry needs. It’s really that simple. I can write about music or interview rock bands I love regardless of whether or not it coincides with an album release or the short shelf life of [insert hot buzz music news trend here]. I can talk about that great Ike & Tina record I picked up (or am in search of). [Cred-killer alert] And I can dedicate an entire week to KISS if I want to. This is also my personal Petri dish for dissecting my own thoughts on music, and those who write about it and consume it. Above all else, The Days of Lore is to have a good time. Because this is music we’re talking about here … we’re not curing fucking cancer. That’s essentially what TDoL has always been about; it’s just nice to give myself a reminder.
So here I am. Staring at this familiar space at 2 a.m. on a Monday. I envisioned this entry as sort of a mission statement. Actually more like a manifesto, because that sounds cooler and more mysterious. At the same time, I didn’t want to overthink it … which I tend to do. Like the previous sentence. Is it complete? Is “overthink” one or two words? WordPress is telling me two. Should I have used a comma in place of ellipses? What would you do?
Well, I guess that sort of sums up what’s happening here. I promise to breathe down my own neck. And I promise to redesign this old heap this year, too. Please hold me to it. On that note, I leave you with Ike & Tina’s “Nutbush City Limits,” from the 1973 album of the same name (I really am on the hunt for this record). It’s been rumored that T. Rex’s Marc Bolan played guitar on the single. I’d like to think so.
More important, it signified the first day of summer. It’s interesting how change in weather—the heat, in particular—immediately conjures up memories of family vacations, my brothers and me in the back seat wreaking havoc; playing baseball in the 115-degree heat, a bucket of Kool-Aid the only thing saving you from heat stroke; floating down the river getting well-done on one side; roadtrips with the windows open, a cold (non-alcoholic) beverage in the cup holder and some well-chosen noises coming from the speakers.
The TDoL Summer Mix 2012 is all about those memories—bringing together old and new, the obscure and the well-seasoned—all with the one goal of offering a little relief for what ails you.
2. For the Love of Ivy – Japandroids
3. Hey Jane – Spiritualized
4. Pyramids of Love – OZARKS
5. Darlington County – Bruce Springsteen
6. If the Sun Stops Shinin’ – Chubby Checker
7. Heavy Metal Drummer – Wilco
8. El Bello Verano – Family
9. Still Young – Allo Darlin’
10. Channel Island Girl – The Mother Hips
11. Slow Ride – Beastie Boys
12. (I Can’t) Get Around You – Ty Segall/White Fence
13. Hello Sunshine – Relatively Clean Rivers
14. Rhinestone Sunset – Sonny & the Sunsets
15. La Cantina – Fellwoods
16. Swimmin’ In Sunshine – Rhett Miller
17. Fall In – Cloud Nothings
18. Baseball – Guantanamo Baywatch
19. I Don’t Wanna Know – Fleetwood Mac
20. Baby Just Break – King Tuff
ZIP: TDoL Summer Mix 2012
Cover illustration by Amy G
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 | musiX, pdX | No Comments
Portland’s The Steven Lasombras have been lurking in their basement lair, keeping a distance from our recent stretch of sunny weather. Now that everything’s back to normal here in Portland, I think they’re ready to come out of hiding.
TDoL has lured them out with the promise of beer and some sort of bacon and cheese tater tot concoction for a night of post-apocalyptic noise at Record Room Saturday, May 26. I’ll be spinning records along with DJ Bob Ham with the promise of making the gray weather a few shades darker. We’re all smiles for this one.
“The Sicilian Bull” – The Steven Lasombras
Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 | musiX, pdX | No Comments
It’s nice to see Elvis Costello having fun on stage. His current tour is less about Costello’s jazz-country-ragtime leanings of the past two decades and more about the rock. And the spectacle. The good stuff.
Bringing back his Spectacular Spinning Songbook that debuted some 25 years ago, Costello and his Intruders mixed rock show with game show into a long and unpredictable good time. Beardless, looking svelte and way too goddamn charming for a rock and roller, Costello wore many hats (literally two)—that of E.C. himself, and that of his alter ego Napoleon Dynamite, who directed the show with the help of a giant multi-colored wheel that would determine our fates.
But before the Spectacular Spinning Songbook got a workout, the audience did with an opening barrage of classics, including “Pump It Up,” “Uncomplicated” and “Radio Radio.” And while his vocals slipped behind those songs’ snappy tempos, it turns out Costello was just getting warmed up. The Intruders—keyboardist Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Davey Faragher (also a founding member of the band Cracker)—are a crack rock unit, especially Thomas, whose drumming is still crisp and spot-on. And they carried on for almost three hours, as audience members came and went from the stage, spinning a giant wheel filled with song-titles and lyrical themes, taking a seat in the “Society Lounge” and occasionally dancing friskily in the go-go cage situated stage right.
Needless to say, there was plenty of eye-candy. And the anticipation of not knowing which song would come next (along with the breaks in the action that came with it) kept the long set from dragging. Also helping matters was the cross-section of expected hits (“Alison,” “Oliver’s Army,” “Watching the Detectives”) that were met with more obscure ones (“Clowntime Is Over,” “Just a Memory”) and the usual well-chosen covers. Costello even got a few of his more eclectic, I-married-a jazz pianist, easy-listeners in there, including “A Slow Drag With Josephine,”—which are no match for his venomous oldies, even as he performs them at the age of 57.
A few things I took away from the evening (aside from the obvious): Costello is one of the few performers that can get away with blending the highbrow and the lowbrow. He also gave the audience an impressive display of his guitar abilities, from tasteful picking to extended noise explosions. For me, the nastier, noisier numbers will always win out in the end. The cost of Costello’s suits has probably quadrupled since he’s written most of these songs, but it’s still that knock-kneed 20-something underneath them. And while I was beyond happy to hear those old songs in close to their original form, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that Costello didn’t get around to playing the soft and sappy “Indoor Fireworks.” I’m sure I wouldn’t have been the only one to let the smoke get in their eyes.
Photo courtesy of elviscostello.com