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…)

Best Of SXSW : The Biters

During my time on at MOKB, I’ve awarded the Best Rock Band in America title to, in order: Marah, The Hold Steady, the Avett Brothers and The Black Keys. Mere minutes into The Biters’ sweat-soaked set at The Jackalope on Saturday, I knew the belt was destined to change hands again. How did it happen? The old-fashioned way: the Atlanta-based quartet took the stage in that oppressively hot room on 6th, counted it off, and took it.

Remember when rock stars looked like rock stars and not sullen Radio Shack employees? Well, the biters look like Joan Jett’s delinquent brothers, right down to the matching haircuts and tattered jean vests. Yes, you read that right: jean vests. So when you and Heidi Klum are wearing’em this summer, feel free to blame The Biters, along with everyone favorite Venusians, Valient Thorr.

And act like rock stars? This band positively oozes attitude, the kind that makes people afraid to sit on public toilet seats. Let’s just say that if sneers were currency, singer Tuk and Adnan Khashoggi would be golf buddies. And don’t get me started on drummer Joey, who grabbed the 2011 Ginger Baker award for regifting mid song and not missing a beat.

But an outfit doesn’t get to be the Best Rock Band in America on the strength of denim, attitude and projectile vomit alone. The Biters have great songs, but classifying this band as power pop really doesn’t do them justice, especially given their subtle co-opting of punk, glam and hard rock. A few spins through the All Chewed Up EP (get it here) and you’ll recognize influences (including such heavies as Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy, KISS and the Bay City Rollers), but it’s all in the service of peerless pop songs. Pop songs that’ll be stuck in your head long after the hangover subsides.

Finally, You gotta deliver the goods. And believe me, you, The Biters leave it all up on stage. At a point in the festival when most bands were phoning it in, The Biters played with precision and urgency that’s pretty rare under the best of circumstances. Truth be told, they played every song like their very existence depended on it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Best Rock Band in America. The Biters.

MP3 : The Biters – Born To Cry

The Biters on Tour
3/25 – Fullerton, CA – Slidebar*
3/26 – San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside*
3/27 – Sacramento, CA – The Hub*
3/30 – San Jose, CA – Blank Club*
3/31 – Reno, NV – Lincoln Lounge
4/01 – Portland, OR – East End*
4/02 – Seattle, WA – The Comet Tavern*
4/03 – Boise, ID – Gustos*
4/04 – Salt Lake City, UT – Burt’s Tiki Lounge*
4/05 – Fort Collins, CO – Surfside 7*
4/06 – Denver, CO – 3 Kings Tavern*
4/07 – Colorado Springs, CO – Triple Nickel Tavern*
4/08 – Omaha, NE – Slowdown*
4/09 – St Louis, MO – Cicero’s*
4/10 – Memphis, TN – Murphy’s*
5/19 – Indianapolis, IN – Rock Lobster*
5/20 – Milwaukee, WI – Quarter’s Rock N Roll Palace*
5/21 – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen*
5/22 – Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class*
*w/ the Booze

MOKB Exclusive + Free EP : Tereu Tereu : Savage Love

One of the biggest beefs leveled against this year’s SXSW was the continuing trend of big name acts muscling in on what started as an indie event. (cough cough Kanye) For that reason, and in keeping with our policy of championing the underdog, we’ll be sharing some of SXSW’s unsung heroes over the next couple weeks. First up is Tereu Tereu, a DC-based progressive rawk trio who overcame illness and a crappy early afternoon timeslot to light a fire under MOKB’s The Glitter Taco Smoosh Party at SXSW, both on their own, and as backing unit for their pal, the enchanting Carol Bui.

The trio combines patented DC post-punk with Taureg desert music, the end result of which is both powerful and slightly unnerving, and provides optimal backing for the darker themes the band is exploring in their newest material. MOKB is privileged to premiere Savage Love, a scathing denouncement of recent gay bullying incidents and their tragic aftermaths. Savage Love is the lead track of the band’s new NW EP, which will officially see the light of day on April 5th, but which you can download for free in exchange for an email address.

MP3 : Tereu Tereu – Savage Love

Best Of SXSW : Josh T. Pearson

Back in January when we interviewed Josh T. Pearson, it had yet to be determined whether the expat troubadour would be performing at this year’s SXSW. After several weeks of will he/won’t he speculation, Pearson elected to take the stage in the very city where his reputation was forged a decade earlier as a member of Armageddon-sized rock trio, Lift To Experience, and conjured up a performance that few lucky music fans will forget any time soon.

Fate and poor planning on my part dictated that I would see Pearson in the most unlikely of settings: a high noon performance in a small parking lot behind an Urban Outfitters on UT’s deserted campus. The sun shone directly overhead, but the first sounds of Pearson’s plaintive guitar announced this wasn’t to be a summer singalong. Gaunt and obviously tired from a trying week, the singer warily made his way through four songs off Last Of The Country Gentlemen and a cover of Rivers Of Babylon in front of an enrapt audience.

No longer afforded the luxury of LTE’s bombast, Pearson turned within himself. Last Of The Country Gentlemen is nothing short of amazing, but pulling off these songs in a live setting is hardly a walk in the park. Fortunately, even in his enervated state, Pearson rose to the occasion, his booming acoustic punctuating the often violent imagery of his songs, his world-weary voice and mournful delivery weighing down each sullen syllable. Riveting doesn’t begin to describe it, and it was nearly impossible to take your eyes off this forlorn Virgil. At times it felt as though the audience itself was trying to will him through the next verse, the next chorus, only to exhale in relief when the song reached its oft ambiguous resolution.

Happily, the absurdity of performing behind a store specializing in distressed clothing and ironic gifts was not lost on Pearson, who quipped about upcoming performances at The Gap and American Apparel. He may even have dropped a wry smile once or twice. But the whole thing was over and done in less than 30 minutes; Pearson quietly walking off stage, leaving us only to wonder if we would see him again.

Random great thing about SXSW 2011: Though not limited to the run of SXSW, you gotta, just gotta, love Allens Boots. I don’t care if home for you is Pakistan, Poughkeepsie or the prairie, five minutes in Allens and you’ll be convinced that can must wear boots, perhaps something along the lines of Old Gringo Eagle Boots in Galaxia Black.

Best Of SXSW 2011 : Doomtree

It’s a cardinal rule of SXSW. Don’t go down there and check out your hometown artists. I am well aware of that rule, but I’m also one to go with the flow as dictated by the circumstances. So when everyone in our movable binge insisted on checking out Gayngs on the Mohawk’s outdoor stage, I bowed to the pressure. Fortunately, the buzzing lite-rock Lotharios were picking up an assist that night from Minneapolis hip-hop collective, Doomtree.

If you’re not down with Doomtree, you really owe to yourself to get off your kiester and perform some due diligence. All of you; no “if you like hip-hop” qualification. Over the last few years, we at MOKB haven’t been shy about singing the praises of Dessa, P.O.S and Laserbeak, but like all great art, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the Doomtree brand is proof positive that creativity and celebration can exist in harmony. In a period of musical history where shoegazers and “serious” artists dare not exchange glances lest they be accused of interaction, it’s truly awesome to see performers mesh as effortlessly and enthusiastically as the ‘Tree. Even crazier is how much fun these kids seem to be having. On this night (and most nights) Dessa stole the collective heart of the audience. Rapping and singing  in both English and Spanish, it’s only matter of time before she is major force in indie music. But I would be derelict in my duties if I didn’t throw some love in the direction of Mike Mictlan, whose urban Heyókȟa absolutely made the night for me and sent me scrambling for his Hand Over First release with Lazerbeak. All in all, a show I had no intention of checking out proved to be a serious highlight, and struck me as even more impressive following the lackluster Das Racist set I attended the following day.

If you’re in need of Doomtree 101, they have a slew of great releases in various configurations, but the best places to start are Dessa’s A Badly Broken Code, Doomtree and P.O.S’s Audition. No word on when entire gang will be together again, but Dessa will be heading out this spring with Sims and Lazerbeak on the Into The Spin Tour, which should be well worth the price of admission and your time.

Dessa “Into The Spin” Music Video from Doomtree Records on Vimeo.

Random great thing about SXSW 2011: A nameless didgeridoo and drum duo that turned 6th Avenue rubberneckers into sonic zombies with their super-saturated indigenous goulash of techno, free jazz and metal. Can’t imagine that there were a lot of didgeridoo virtuosos in Austin this week, so if anyone caight the name of this act, please share with the group.

New Song + Video : The Diamond Center : Caraway

Richmond’s Diamond Center is one of the more interesting outfits I’ve come across lately, which is kinda saying something given the muck I’ve been travailing. Trading in psychedelic currency, the band delivers a dreamy mulch of Beach House, Mazzy Star, Brian Jonestown Massacre with maybe just a little Fleetwood Mac thrown in for good measure. Toss in a live show that incorporates dynamic visuals and stresses improvisation, and these boys and girls are sure to have little problem finding ardent followers as their reputation grows.

2011 is already shaping up to be a busy year for The Diamond Center. First up, a handful of SXSW performances to coincide with the release of the Caraway/20Twin 7-inch (pre-order it here), the first of which the band promises will be several limited-edition releases leading up to the release of the full-length follow up to 2009’s My Only Companion.

MOKB is mighty happy to have laid our paws on the mp3 and video for Caraway, an alternately slouching and soaring, but totally engrossing, epic of shoegazery replete with a staggeringly creepy video that looks as thou it were cobbled together from Manson Family home movies.

MP3 : The Diamond Center – Caraway

The Diamond Center at SXSW
3/17 @ Spider House – 4:00pm
3/18 @ Vegas Hotel, Alive Records stage (Sinister Foxy showcase) – 12:30pm
3/18 @ Uncorked (Lovely Hearts Club day party) – 2:30pm
3/18 @ Rusty Spurs (Knitting Factory Official Showcase) – 8:30pm
3/19 @ Cherrywood Coffee – 3:00pm

New Song + Video : Yuna : Decorate

Yuna might be the prototypical pop star for the next decade. Raised in a Muslim household in Malaysia, she was inspired to begin composing on guitar at age 19 by acts like No Doubt, The Cranberries. and Fiona Apple, and soon carved her own unique style. In 2008, while attending law school, her debut self-titled EP became a massive critical and commercial hit in Malaysia, and led to taking home a mess of hardware from the 2009 AIM Awards, including Best Pop Song and Song of the Year.

On March 15th, FADER released Yuna’s Decorate EP in the United States, with the promise of a full-length later in 2011. The title track and its stark video pack quite a wallop into less than two minutes, and while I hate to get Pollyanna on ya’ll, it’s artists like young Yuna who could play a huge role in uniting people in seemingly disparate cultures.

MP3 : Yuna – Decorate

New Song : De Staat : Sweatshop

De Staat was born as a one-man showcase for Dutch singer, musician, and composer Torre Florim, who single-mindedly and handedly wrote, played, and produced the band’s debut album Wait For Evolution. Now a fully-functional live unit, De Staat is back with the recently-released Machinery, the first single of which, Sweatshop, simultaneously celebrates and condemns the mind-numbing, soul-sucking workaday existence that passes for living today. This of it as a update to Working In The Coalmine as imagined by The B-52s; you know, work sucks, but at least we look good.

MP3 : De Staat – Sweatshop

De Staat on Tour
March 18 Dutch Impact Party, West Tent, Brush Square Park 5pm (SXSW) Austin, TX
March 19 BD Riley’s (SXSW) 1am Austin, TX
March 21 The Warehouse LaCrosse, WI
March 23 7th Street Entry Minneapolis, MN
March 24 Pancho’s Chicago, IL