5 Questions with Dr. Robert : Deer Tick

MOKB’s Dr. Robert is back at it, making his rounds with the who’s who of the indie scene. Next up: John McCauley of Deer Tick.

Dr. Robert: How did the Middle Brother concept come about? Does this supergroup have a future or was that record (one of my faves of the year) a one-off?

John McCauley: Me and Taylor were on tour in 2009 and thought it would be fun to write and record together. When we were finally able to get together it just so happened that Matt was free. I had never met Matt, except once when I was blackout drunk, but I had a good feeling about it. I’m not sure we’ll continue with Middle Brother. I’d like to do another record someday though.

Dr. Robert: How did recording in your home state of RI affect the new record?

JC: Well, we got to sleep in our own beds and haunt our favorite bars every night. That was fun. I don’t know, it was just comfortable. We probably could have recorded it anywhere though.

Dr. Robert: I was pumped to learn that the inspiration for the band name was a tick incident in the woods near Bloomington, IN a place near and dear to my heart. What’s the story of that fateful day?

JC: I was hiking with some friends in Monroe National Forest, or Park, or whatever it is. I had somehow managed to never get bitten by a tick before, even though there’s a shitload of them in Rhode Island. I kind of freaked out when I found a deer tick on my scalp. I thought it sounded gross, and pretty cool, so that was that.

Dr. Robert: Any Deervana shows in the near future?

JC: No, Deervana broke up. We still cover Nirvana songs once in awhile though.

Dr. Robert: Any new music/bands we should be listening to?

JC: Virgin Forest, Dead People, Cerebral Ballzy, Strange Boys, Shannon and the Clams, Knife Party, Guards. This one’s not new but we just got a copy of Kid Rock’s 1990 debut Grit Sandwiches For Breakfast – it’s really something else…

See the entire Deer Tick session at Laundromatinee.com!

Film + Interview : Xan Aranda Debuts with Andrew Bird Doc, Fever Year

If you went to an Andrew Bird show in 2009, you may or may not have been aware that he was plagued by a fever for much of his tour. You also might not have known that a documentary was in the works, following Andrew on his fever frenzy.

Making her full-length film directorial debut with “Fever Year,” Xan Aranda filmed what was Andrew Bird’s most rigorous touring schedule. “Fever Year” premiered at the prestigious New York Film Festival Lincoln Center on October 1, and has since screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival.

Featuring live performances at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater with collaborators Martin Dosh, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Michael Lewis and Annie Clark of St. Vincent, the film follows the tour to its final show – a Chicago homecoming with Bird on crutches from a previous onstage injury.

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As is the case with any concert or music documentary, you have to wonder, is this film just for the rabid Andrew Bird fan? Would a casual fan, or even someone who’s never heard his music find a story here to sink their teeth into? I got a chance to ask Xan this and other questions.

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MOKB : I actually had the chance to see his Indianapolis show at the Murat.

Xan Aranda : I love that you were there. I was there too, checking out lighting, etc.

There’s a scene in Fever Year shot backstage at the Murat – the band is goofing around, warming up before going on stage. It’s hard to describe, but something very Muppet-y happens. I shot that on my Blackberry. Doesn’t look great, but content trumps production quality, in this case.

MOKB : Is this film for super Andrew Bird fans only?

Aranda : Longtime fans will enjoy many little tasty treats in the film, including a very powerful live performance of “Headsoak” from The Swimming Hour. The casual viewer may enjoy learning more about where that crazy spinning horn comes from. Some folks might just hang in there to see Andrew end up on crutches for his final show of the year.

Just as the fever year snuck up on Andrew – he was a frog in hot water, adapting to his surroundings – I think the film sneaks up on the viewer. At first you think you’re settling in for a comfortable music film, by the time “Headsoak” rolls around you realize you’ve absorbed a lot of circumstance, cumulative feelings, subtle impressions.

MOKB : Are there any aspects of the film or scenes that really appeal to the casual or non-fan?

Aranda : To the casual fan, I would say it’s a chance to spend time with Andrew, learn more about his process than who he is. This film is for everyone. I believe that a well-made documentary should be able to hold the attention of any viewer, regardless of content. I tried to do that with Fever Year. People who’d been previously ambivalent about Andrew came to love his music after seeing Fever Year.

People also tend to enjoy what I call the “Indie-Rock Hotel Porn Scene” with Annie Clark. It’s just a rehearsal, very benign and straightforward, but watching those two sit on a hotel bed and practice a brand new song he’d written that week is pretty beautiful.

MOKB : You’re friends and long-time collaborators with Andrew Bird – how did that affect your filmmaking process?

Aranda : Yep, this is our fourth project together. I previously produced the Imitosis music video (stop-motion animation with little insects, in the style of a 1960s science film) and Lull video (adapted from Chicagoan Lisa Barcy’s beautifully vicious 17-minute film “Mermaid.”) I also paired several other short films with his music for live show projections for the Armchair Apocrypha tours.

I believe the proximity of our friendship, which began in 2002, brought a huge level of trust to the process. Andrew is an incredibly private person, which I respect deeply, so it was a challenge for him to be comfortable with cameras being around for anything off-stage. I kept a very low-key crew presence whenever possible and worked hard to keep him simultaneously comfortable AND open.

MOKB : What was Andrew’s response to the film?

Aranda : He wanted the concert captured so that it could stand in for him while he’s taking a much-needed break and working on a new record. Fever Year is like a time-capsule of the past ten years of his work – he’s evolving, so I think it’s hard to see a snapshot of that former incarnation committed to film. Beyond that, I don’t make a practice of communicating on his behalf.

MOKB : After getting your full length directorial debut under your belt with a subject so near and dear to you, what do you work on next?

Aranda : I’m actively shooting my next film, which I actually put on hold to make Fever Year. It’s another deeply personal project, called Mormons Make Movies. It’s inspired by two films my mother starred in while a student at Brigham Young University in the 1960s, as part of the Mormon church’s Motion Pictures Studio. MMM is about creativity, nature, ancestry, and religion. I left the faith fifteen years ago, so there’s a personal aspect to the film as well. The project is ripping my guts out a little, in a way that I like. Thrilling, challenging, humbling.

View the trailer:

Official Trailer (2:45) from Andrew Bird: Fever Year on Vimeo.

About the Filmmaker:
Xan Aranda, aside from having previously directed music videos for Andrew Bird, writes narrative films and serves as a consulting producer for the US Department of Education for their documentary projects.

Upcoming Screenings:
COLORADO PREMIERE – Denver Film Festival
November 5-6, 2011, Denver Film Center/Colfax

EUROPEAN PREMIERE – Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival
November 10, 2011
Xan Aranda, Angelo Valencia to attend

MISSOURI PREMIERE – St. Louis International Film Festival
November 19, 2011 at 8:30 PM, Webster University
Xan Aranda to attend

February 17, 2012
Xan Aranda to attend

Details can be found at www.FeverYear.com/screenings.

Follow @MOKBFilm on twitter.

Interview : Van Pierszalowski of WATERS

I’ve truly enjoyed Van Pierszalowski as a human being since we first met.  I’ve had the privilege of producing multiple Port O’Brien shows and sessions for Laundromatinee.com/SIRIUS XMU.  We bonded over the highs and lows of The Los Angeles Dodgers in recent years.  The first thing he responded to me with when I requested this interview was, “Hey Dodge, my boy! Great news out of L.A, today, huh? McCourt is no more. We can move on now.” I chuckled, equally grateful.

I’ve been regrettably slow to cover Van’s new project, WATERS, but not because I don’t love it. Some of Port O’Brien’s slower/softer/folkier works I often skipped on by. The more aggressive, sing-along, boisterous songs always pulled me in. It’s as if Van heard my heart and brain all those miles away. WATERS is aggressive, loud, and rawkous, but not noisey loud. All of the great songwriting qualities that Van has always possessed are still there, he just grew a pair. This project has cojones. Out In The Light was released on September 20th, 2011 via TBD Records.

MP3 : WATERS – O Holy Break Of Day

Tell us about this new direction and project.  What prompted this rebirth?  Were you fearful to start anew?

Van Pierszalowski : I knew it was time to move on and start something new.  My life went through so many changes that it just wouldn’t make any sense to continue with my old project’s name.  I needed a new platform to reflect my “all new everything” reality.  At first, I was a little nervous, after having worked on my old project for so long and devoted SO much energy into it, but as soon as I got started on WATERS in Oslo, the excitement of it outweighed all of that.

How was your mindset different when approaching these songs?

Van Pierszalowski : I wanted to work a lot more on the songwriting before I ever took them into a band.  In my old project, I would get a sketch or an idea and immediately start playing it.  I wanted to give these new songs more time to grow and take form before I took them there.  I always have been a song-focused musician, but WATERS is the most song-based record I’ve ever made.  Its a lot noisier and louder than anything I’ve ever done too, which is something I felt like I could get away with if the songs were that steady.

How has living in the various locations, especially the move to Oslo, Brooklyn and then Dallas to record, affected your music?

Van Pierszalowski : I don’t think the physical locations affected the songs that much, actually.  The songs are mainly a result of the things that I was going through in my personal life.  That journey did take me to Oslo for a long time, which was an amazing place to catch my breath and get rejuvenated.  And Brooklyn was an especially productive place to be for me.  I went back to Kodiak, Alaska in the middle of the writing process as well.  But through it all, the main inspiration behind the songs was my personal experience, rooted in relationships with people, which will always be more important to me than where I am.

How was it working with John Congleton?  Did you learn anything from him?

Van Pierszalowski : It was amazing.  I learned so much from him.  That dude is a genius.  He really took an active role in keeping things “punk rock.”  I always feel like double-tracking or triple-tracking all my vocals, and throwing lots of reverb on, which has been so popular in “indie” rock or whatever for so long now, but he really wouldn’t let me do that.  On “Ones You Had Before,” which is one of the most intensely personal songs on the record for me, he forced me to keep the vocal as raw as possible, and I love him for it.

Give us a quick rundown of the musicians that make up the new band.

Van Pierszalowski : On the record, its just me and a couple Norwegians.  Nikolai Haukeland has been involved with WATERS from the beginning, and even played guitar on the last tour with my old band.  Sigmund Nilsen played drums on the record.  Both of these guys are amazing, educated musicians, which is the furthest thing from what I am.  I could rely on them to really do anything I came up with in my head.  It was amazing.  They also came up with some great ideas themselves.  Nikolai is still with the project, he’s played guitar in every WATERS show.  Sigmund couldn’t come on tour, so he’s back in Oslo.  On the live-side, my current band features the amazing Nicholas Wolch on drums, who is absolute BEAST.  In bass-world, my current main man is Alexander Margitich.  Alexander and Nicholas are both SF Bay Area-based homies.

As you stated earlier, there is some serious electric guitar in this new project.  What prompted your desire to rock out more?

Van Pierszalowski : Well, I’ve always wanted to rock out a little more.  There are hints of this on all the records, really.  “Pigeonhold,” “Leap Year,” and live versions of “Sour Milk/Salt Water” all could totally fit in with WATERS jams.  We even play “Pigeonhold” in our live set.  With the new project, though, I started listening to a lot more noisy stuff around the time of writing and recording.  “In Utero” has been my favorite album of all time since I was 15, and Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pixies, the guitar work on Galaxie 500, those have been influences forever.  But “Out in the Light” really does also feature other ideas and influences as well, particularly on “Mickey Mantle” and “Ones You Had Before.”

How has the new sound/project been received by Port O’Brien die-hards?  Are YOU happier with this project?

Van Pierszalowski : I’ve been surprised and excited about the response from fans of my old project.  And on a personal level, I am DEFINITELY happier with this project.  I’ve never been this excited or proud of my work.

What do you having coming up to round out the year and what does 2012 hold?

Van Pierszalowski : We’re touring throughout a lot of the country with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.  I really love their new record, and it’ll be an awesome and fun tour.  We played with them in Paris earlier this year, and really hit it off.  Other than that, more writing, more working, and more touring.  I’m all in with this music shit.  Hope to see you out there!

For The One performed by WATERS on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Shot and directed by Heidi Petty.

MP3 : WATERS – For The One
MP3 : WATERS – California (EMA Cover)

5 Questions with Dr. Robert : Mason Jennings

Been a while since we’re heard from MOKB dashing Dr. Robert. Fear not, he’s still making the rounds as evidenced by his recent sitdown with Mason Jennings, whose newest, Minnesota, is drawing raves.

Dr. Robert: When starting out what drew you to Minnesota as a place to start your career away from home? How did Minnesota impact your musical growth?

Mason Jennings: I fell in love with it the first time I visited when I was 18. I loved the way the woods met the city, art met nature. It was a very diverse scene to be dropped into. It was a place I felt free.

Dr.R: You have been on a major label subsidiary started by Issac Brock, Jack Johnson’s label and now Thirty Tigers, how has the recording experience been different with each label?

MJ: Pretty much the same with each. I do what I feel in my heart and have made sure to surround myself with people who support that.

Dr.R: With several albums under your belt do you have a process by which you create a record or is it different every time?

MJ: It is different every time. I guess the one similarity would be that I approach the process always with a spirit if play, like making up a game out back when you were little. That spirit is key.

Dr.R: Do you have a sound in mind before writing the songs? Was this album influenced by any music new or old that caught your ear?

MJ: I was listening to Chopin and The Bad Plus. That might of come through. I let the song guide the production. I just do what feels right.

Dr.R: Any new music we should be listening to?

MJ: Joanna Newsom’s song 81 is great. I like the Kooks’ song Junk of The Heart. The Bad Plus song People Like You. Awesome songs!

MOKB Interviews: Jim Ward

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Jim Ward is a busy, busy man.

His new bar in El Paso, Hope and Anchor, is still in its infancy. He’s currently renovating an old building nearby into a new rock venue. Oh, yeah, and (as we wrote earlier this month) he’s also releasing a new solo album. And touring Australia, writing new songs with his band Sparta, running his own studio and, somehow, managing to have a fairly normal home life.

Ward, who famously first became a punk rock household name with At the Drive-In, will release In the Valley, On the Shores The End Begins & Electric Six on August 2, on his own Tembloroso Recordings.

Ward talked with MOKB about many of his countless projects, and a whole bunch of other things. Check out the conversation below. (more…)

MOKB Interviews : The Rosebuds

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When Kelly Crisp sings, “I wanna feel something way out here. I need something to happen now, even if it fucks me up… Come visit me way out here. I need you to see me, even if it makes it worse,” it might just make you shiver — you know that feeling. We all do — agonizing over lost love, knowing a phone call might be a quick fix for what seems like a chronic condition.

The track, Come Visit Me, is one of the more wrenching cuts from The Rosebuds’ latest record Loud Planes Fly Low, and it’s among good company — the album was written and recorded following the break-up of Crisp and co-Rosebud Ivan Howard. At times, it seems almost invasive to hear these 10 tracks, all wounded, haunting and redemptive guitar pop. But out of heartbreak comes hope — and Crisp is the first to say it. Before Loud Planes Fly Low drops on Merge on June 7, Crisp told MOKB about how the album brought her back to earth. (more…)

Interview with The Booze and The Biters

Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to interview both The Booze and the Biters, at present my two favorite rock n’ roll bands out there today, who you may already know about from recent MOKB posts here and here. Currently they’re on a nationwide tour together, in support of the Biters All Chewed Up and The Booze’s At Maximum Volume, both on Underrated Records and recorded at The Factory Studio, Atlanta (both can also be found on iTunes and Amazon). I met them at Portland’s East End this past Friday night, shortly after they jumped out of their vans from the ten-hour drive from Reno, Nevada, where they’d played the night before. Though road-weary, with dwindling bank accounts and somewhat reeling from a string of brutal, small-town gigs; it was quickly evident that it’s this group of good friends’ fierce sense of humor, camaraderie, and shared mission to bring straight-from-the-heart, gutsy rock n’ roll to the masses, that carries them along the occasionally unfriendly roads across America. I chatted with Tuk (lead singer-songwriter/guitar) and Matt (lead guitarist/back-up vocals) from the Biters, and Randy, (singer-songwriter/lead guitar/back-up vocals) Ricky (guitar/back-up vocals) and Chaz (lead vocalist) from The Booze. They graciously joined me for a two-hour, roundtable free-for-all, before they played. Here are some of the highlights of that conversation:

MOKB: So you guys just got in from Reno?

Randy: Yeah, my ears are still ringing.

Matt: Don’t tell her about my gambling addiction.(laughs)

Tuk: We lost $700 dollars last night. Me and Matt.

Ricky: We were staying at this place called The Atlantis, so after the show, Tuk and Matt came over and the next thing you know, we were wheelin’ and dealin’ over there.

Matt: We we’re putting real money down. We were gambling like men. (laughter)

MOKB: I was looking at your tour schedule and it looks like you were hitting a lot of smaller towns on the way up here from L.A. and S.F. How did those go?

Tuk: Sacramento sucked ass. Chico sucked ass.

Matt: Chico wasn’t too hot.

Tuk: And I’m being positive with those words, you know what I’m saying?

Matt: But it’s still better to play those small towns than to have four days downtime. Which is what it was. We had a sure thing in S.F. and we wanted to hit Portland and Seattle on a Friday-Saturday, so what are you going to do in between there? Nothing and fuck around and spend money? Instead of playing shows? ‘Cause the shitty shows are still paying a hundred bucks or so and it breaks it up into short drives and you can stay with a friend along the way.

MOKB: So if you’re in Chico, even if it isn’t a packed or well-received show, are there still a few cool kids who are excited to see you?

Matt: No, but there’s cool kids who drove to that town to see us. That’s what happens, because those shows are all-ages, so kids from S.F who couldn’t see us there at the 21+ shows road-tripped up.

Ricky: Even in San Jose, kids drove up like an hour and half from somewhere else to see us, and they couldn’t even get in, so they just sat outside by our van the whole time.

MOKB: Do have favorite cities across the U.S. you like to play?

Randy. New York.

Matt: Austin is bad-ass. L.A is great.

Tuk: Chicago. Both Indianapolis and Chicago are awesome.

Matt: And Milwaukee. That’s always good.

Tuk: They’re not always huge shows, but lots of cool people come out. The shows feel great because of all these great people. A lot of other places it seems hard, because it feels like there’s not a really a scene for what we’re doing. For either band. (motioning to Randy)

Randy: It’s like we’re the last of a dying breed. (laughs)

Tuk: Especially when you’re in a band that looks like band and you’re trying to play real rock n’ roll. You go into some of these other places and people are like (in a disgusted voice) “you guys must be in a band” And it’s like these are my everyday clothes, it’s not like I got a costume on or anything, but that’s the audio-visual part of rock n’ roll that drew me into it as a kid, and I think that’s what the true spirit of it is. But now there’s such a slacker, indie generation thing going on, that it almost makes Nirvana and the grunge scene look glamorous, what’s happening now. You know? The indie scene is so ironic. Post-modern, indie, ironic bullshit, and then the mainstream is like fake soul-less robots, so then you got people like me and Randy, rock n’ roll superheroes trying to fight the fucking forces of evil on either side and just getting ambushed.(laughs) It’s kind of weird for me because those kids will go “look at your haircut, look at your band, are you trying be trendy or something?” and I’m like “No, nobody’s doing this to be trendy.”  It’s like I’m being ridiculed in high school again for looking like a rock n’ roll band and playin’ the music. Some of the comments made to me in the last couple of days from these people is blowing my mind, because when you’re touring, living like shit and trying to play this, and really trying to be real, and honest…I mean, I don’t have an attitude, none of has, or any ego about it. We’re for real.

Randy: Like when we’re just going into a gas station, it’s like somebody just skipped a record in the old saloon when we walk in.

MOKB: So how is it in your hometown of Atlanta?

Randy: Atlanta’s still pretty bad.

Matt: The show’s we play there are really fucking awesome, high energy, good times…

Randy: But it’s just us. There’s not a scene there. That’s why we play together all the time. And when we do those Hate City Nights in Atlanta, it’s just like three bands.

MOKB: Does it ever make you want to move to another city?

Randy: Of course, all the time.

Matt: It doesn’t make me really want to move. I don’t think it matters where the bands’ from. I don’t want to be a local band. I just want to be a band that happens to be based out of Atlanta, hopefully dominating another city every tour. I think if you can do that it doesn’t matter wherever you happen to live.

MOKB: When I see on you on YouTube doing the Now Dig This! series (a filmed music show in the spirit of the Old Grey Whistle Test) it makes me think there’s a hipper music scene going on in Atlanta than most other cities. (Biters-Now Dig This!)

Randy: Naw, that’s just us. (laughs)

Tuk: That came out of Randy calling me from England about it, and I just helped make it happen. He conceptualized it and I helped follow through. We’re going to try to do another one but it’s expensive. You know why there were seven bands? Because we couldn’t afford it, so each band had to pay ninety dollars. (laughs)

Matt: The more bands the cheaper it was. We had to rent out this big-ass t.v. studio to do it.

MOKB I know you each recently put out new albums, The Booze’s At Maximum Volume, and the Biters All Chewed Up, that you’re touring in support of. Do you have any other projects in the works?

Tuk: We each have a video coming out in the next two weeks.

Randy: The Booze has a video coming out next Wednesday.

Tuk: We have one coming out for Born To Cry. It’s got an actual storyline, Randy plays a bartender in it, there’s a whole bunch of characters in it.

Randy: Our’s is for Kick Me. It’s a split screen like Warhol’s Chelsea Girls. Or like Kitchen. Have you seen that?

MOKB: I’ve seen Chelsea Girls. Not Kitchen though.

Randy: Well it’s in black and white with a split-screen, like with a Chelsea Girls thing going on the left side and the right side is like Kitchen. But anyway, it’s just a collage of images.

MOKB: And looking ahead, what would make 2011 a stellar year for you?

Tuk: To survive off playing music. I’m not asking for too much, I just want to be able to play. And write. That would be fucking killer. Not to have a day job and struggle. It’s gotten to the point now, where for us, it’s starting to get…real discouraging.

Randy: Yeah.

Tuk: Sometimes it’s hard to keep going and being enthused.

Chaz: The way I was thinking of it last night, in Reno, was it’s kind of like gambling. You have a certain amount, and you ask yourself, how long am I going to keep going before I run out of money? Can I keep doing this? You know the payoff could come, if we keep re-investing and re-investing, but at the same time, we may run out before that happens.

Tuk: It’s scary when you don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel. Like if I could just see a peek of daybreak, that would be so fucking awesome. And actually get to a little island instead of just keep swimming. It’s like my arms are getting tired, you know?

Randy: Plus we’re getting older too.

MOKB: I feel like every time I read a review of either of your bands, I read a lot of “the next biggest thing” or “on the verge” type of comments. Do you ever feel that way?

Tuk: Well that would be great, if somebody would like to invest some money in us.

MOKB: Would the goal to be on a major label right now?

Tuk: Probably, but I don’t know. What, then they’d hire songwriters for us or some shit? (laughs)

Randy: It would be better to be on an indie label with a lot of money.

Tuk: But this right now is all theoretical. We’re just trying to make it to the next city. We’re sometimes living off ten dollars a day, which when you’re a grown man, sucks.

Randy: Not to mention, there are bands in London that get a major record deal after their first show. And here we are. We gotta hustle up and down the country.

Tuk: But if we weren’t doing this…you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way, it would just be nice for a little bit of hope.

Chaz: When we play in a city like L.A. or Chicago, it makes it feel more real. More positive.

Tuk: Yeah, you get this natural high off the audience, off their energy and that’s what this is all about. Then after four days of playing for nine people calling us names and stuff like that, it kind of takes it away. But you gotta get out here and do the grind, that’s a part of it. Everybody should pay their dues, for sure. I don’t feel I’m entitled to anything.

Randy: But at the same time, we take as much time as we can to perfect our music. To make it perfect…our playing. Then I do a lot of side band playing for bigger acts when I’m not doing this, and those guys play to a backing track. So sometimes it all feels like a big mind-game. You know what I’m saying?

Tuk: And we’re out here trying to be like four dudes, playing great music at the same time, organically, and it’s fucking hard to make it sound good, but we’re trying. Of course, we all have goals we’re trying to achieve. But both our bands get disrespected, seriously, about things like “they try too hard, they sound like this, their recording’s are over-produced” and its like, why? You know? Because we want to do our own thing? It’s why we play together all the time. We don’t even sound the same, our bands, but somehow we’re touring together because we’re trying to carry the same spirit. Our heart is coming from the same place.

Randy: There’s guys in Atlanta, saying things to us like “You guys are going on tour? Why are you trying to sell your music? I hate it when bands do that.” I mean, what are we supposed to do? Play in our basement for no one? Anything that you’ve heard, you’ve heard because someone sold a song. And they always tell us “You guys need to create your own thing. You guys are looking too far back.” It’s not that, we’re not reinventing the wheel or anything. We’re not doing that. But at the same time, if we were trying to do that, then the only canvas that you have for your creativity, is your memory. So you have to look back, no matter what you’re doing.

Chaz: Which makes me think about what’s going on now, on mainstream radio these days. If music is supposed to be about self-expression, and you’re making yourself sound like a fucking robot, then you must feel like robot, you know?

Tuk: We’re just out here trying to kick some ass. We’re just some guys working hard as fuck. We really are.

Chaz: I know there’s a demand out there for bands and sounds from the 70’s, like Tom Petty, who we love, and there’s those old bands from back then getting together again to tour and they’re making loads of money. And people are craving to hear that style of music. But then people are seeing us doing the same kind of thing as them, and saying “oh those guys are just a novelty act.”

Randy: It’s like how we get called retro rock. It’s not retro rock. We’re just a rock n’ roll band. We just go into a studio, or on a stage and plug in. But they call us retro rock because there’s bands now like Nickleback or Green Day, who they’re calling rock n’ roll. And it’s either do that, or this, but we both can’t be rock n’ roll bands, so they have to call us something else. So you can call us this, that, or the other, but you have to remember T.N.T. by AC/DC was just Beggar’s Banquet with distorted guitars; Tom Petty was just doin’ The Byrds and Dylan, but no one’s going to say that because those guys are revered stars. But it’s easy to pick on us.

Chaz: But we wouldn’t be out here if we didn’t really believe in what we were doing.

Tuk: I’ve been telling Mario, the drummer for The Booze, whose been filling in on this tour, “I’m up there like, giving these people my all, like I’m giving them my life force, they’re just draining my blood, and instead of giving it back, they’re just shitting it out. (laughs) And Mario’s like “No, they’re really into it.” And I’m like “I don’t get that feeling.”

Randy: That’s the difference between you and me. Before I even go up on stage I can spot that already.

Tuk: But I feel like if you’re a powerful being, you should be able to change people’s minds. I’ll get up there, and I’ll try my hardest. If you put on an honest, real rock n’ roll show, with your blood and sweat, you can change people. I don’t know…sometimes I think people are so spiritually blocked, desensitized by video games, what they’re eating, their lifestyles, reality t.v.; then they see us and they don’t even know what the fuck’s going on. They’re just watching us with their mouths open.

Chaz: That’s why I almost kind of like playing in front of dead-panned people, because it  gives me the feeling that when I’m up on the stage doing my thing, at least I can show them; this is what it looks like to feel something. You know? You can feel this way. Here’s something that really exists. I guess that’s all I can really do.

Randy: Larry David, the comedian, back in the 70’s, he would go up, and he could already see there was no one out there who was going to get him. So he’d get up there, grab the mic and look out at them and go… “Naw” and he’d leave. (everyone bursts into laughter) That’s what I wanted to do last night. (laughs)

Tuk: Me too. And I love to play.

Randy: On this tour, sometimes I just want to go home and sit in a tub. And I don’t even take baths. I shower. (laughs) But sometimes it really makes me want to go home and sit in a tub.

MOKB: When you do get home from a tour, are you happy to be there, or do you find it hard to stay in one place after so much constant traveling?

Tuk: I’m happy to get home, but no matter what, after about two weeks I get the itch to go back out there again.

Chaz: Yep.

Randy: Exactly.

Both bands went on to play the passionate, ass-whuppin’ rock n’ roll sets they’re becoming known for, to a packed Portland club. The Biters with their ferocious, precisioned, heart-exploding, punk-pop-edged rock n’ roll, that makes you wish you were joy-riding with your friends on a hot summer day with the windows rolled down and their music blaring. And The Booze, with their early R&B and Stax soul-soaked rock n’ roll, so seasoned and perfected underneath, they can afford to play it loose and dangerous on the topside, making you glad you’re in a dark club reaching for another beer. If playing honest-to-God, real rock n’ roll includes inducing the audience to ass-shaking, fist-pumping, head-banging, and screaming sing-along back-up vocals with big, ridiculous smiles plastered on their faces, then the Biters and The Booze delivered. As we filed out after the show to the merch table to snatch up some t-shirts, stickers and buttons, (they have vinyl too, by the way) I turned to my friend Nat, who I’d raved to earlier that evening about how both these bands, with their very different styles, had a way of making you feel twelve again; like when you first discovered the bliss of rock n’ roll with the unaffected joy of a pre-teen, and gave him a “did I tell you?” look. With a glazed-over smile that looked like he was both lost in happy teenage memories, and currently bathed in the sweaty, baptismal re-birth of a great rock n’ roll show; his whispered response to me was an utterly sincere “I believe.” Of course we giggled for a second after he said it, the sheer drama of the sentiment couldn’t help but crack us up. But here’s the thing: he absolutely meant it. Without a lick of irony. One can only hope these rock n’ roll superheroes uncover more believers out there on the road, inspiring them enough to keep fighting the good fight.

Fortunately for all of us, we here at MOKB were sent some amazing live footage of these two bands at the Star Bar in Atlanta earlier this year, so you can check ’em out for yourselves.

Biters – Oh Yeah (The Bitch Wants More) (live @ Star Bar HD)

The Booze – Kick Me Where It Hurts (live @ Star Bar Atlanta HD)

-Post by Miss Dolly Mod

MOKB Interview + [Win This!] : Jason Isbell

I’m currently of the mindset that, if the Mayan are right and the whole shithouse is going up, I’m glad I got the opportunity to lose my virginity, see the Twins win a World Series and hear Jason Isbell’s newest, Here We Rest. Combining elements of country soul and knee-buckling southern rock, Isbell and band have managed to whittle together one of the year’s most heartfelt, intelligent and downright enjoyable records. With SXSW and a North American tour knocking, Isbell took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk about rehearsal, Jimmy Hughes and why The Black Keys should’ve just recorded Brothers in his apartment. And be sure to check after the jump for a chance to score Here We Rest on vinyl.

MP3 : Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Codeine

MOKB: I hate to start here, but Codeine is a phenomenal song. When you come up with a song like that, do you immediately go, “Hey, this is something special?”

Jason Isbell: Yeah, I think so. I think you know when one of those happens. You know it’s better than some of the other songs you’ve written, or at least more accessible. That’s how you know you’ve written something catchy; it starts by sticking in my head before I actually write it down. I just found out they were given that song away, and I think it’s a good idea. People seem to like it a lot.

MOKB: How was it different recording Here We Rest after two years of touring of pretty constant touring? Did you approach it differently?

JI: Not really. I think the formula we have has worked pretty well in the past, and we’re able to make records I feel are good without becoming too frustrated with the process and having everyone pissed off in the studio. I would go in and play a song for the band, and that would be the first time they heard it, and we’d just start playing until we found parts that fit. And it was fun that way. I don’t like rehearsing an album before recording it. That’s just too much time in the studio. And rehearsal sucks. We don’t spend a whole lotta time hashing out the details.

MOKB: How many songs did you being to the sessions?

JI: Pretty much exactly what was recorded for this record. There’s a bonus track that comes with the vinyl and we did a Guided By Voices cover, but otherwise it’s just the song on the record. Kind of a waste of money to record 20 or 30 songs.

MOKB: So no 5-disc Jason Isbell outtake boxset on the horizon?

JI: [laughing] Not on this record. Maybe in the past. If it’s not worthy of being on an album, I try to keep it to myself.

MOKB: You’re a road warrior. Did you ever consider doing this record on the road ala Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty?

JI: I’ve thought about something like that, That’s a really neat way to make a record, and I love that album. The problem is, nowadays, by the time you had the album recorded it would already be all over the Internet. You don’t want to be the asshole who doesn’t let people tape shows. Tapers will pitch a fit, they’re so used to everybody letting you tape everything and put it on the Internet. You can’t have a situation where every song is on the Internet before you put the album out.

MOKB: You recorded Here We Rest in two legendary rooms, Fame Studios and The Nutthouse. Can you talk about the impact recording in these rooms? (more…)