September 28, 2005

Gimme Indie Rock

For someone who blabbers on about his own ridiculously ameteur musical history (see a few posts below), I don't talk a lot about other people's bands anymore. There are 2 reasons for this- one, I used to be (as many young white suburbanite males are) a real nasty, opinionated asshole when it came to music fandom & criticism. This snobbery came despite a still-enduring appreciation for '90s U2 as well as an inability to truly slug it out with other music snobs. The other reason was that I didn't like being that guy after a while, which was easy to feel once I started making my own music and throwing it out there in the world for other people to judge (and oh, they have, for both good and ill). So this is sort of a compromise- let me show off my two favorite indie rock releases from the past year or so (loosely, since I belatedly found one from 2004), from SoCal-area bands that I'm only tangentially connected to. Both these records are great works, great listens, and I recommend them highly to music fans anywhere.

"Terrors Of The Deep" by Bodie
Bodie are doomed to be hailing from the O.C., just like me, but they don't let that get to them. In fact, this album has more of the great things I associate with Southern California beach towns in its songs, more than probably intended by the band. Big spaces are evoked, but not excessively- more like the slow bobbing of a lifeboat at night ("Twilights") or the mellow scalding of sunsets on paradise ("Holdin' Out"). Seems like sea & sky figure highly in the disc's collective psyche, or at least some large expanse of space- empty or not. I've always liked that in any kind of music, but reverb and echo on guitars (and basses!) is still my favorite sound, and there's lots of that to go around here. As a lyricist I should also say that the song lyrics aren't slouchers either- but not in a ten dollar word sorta way- more like the right word or phrase for the right feeling at the right point in the song. One of my favorite lines in the lyrics is "my door closes tight, but it locks from the inside", from "Don't Feel Good To Be Left Alone". As a designer, I love the cover art. So yeah, for a roots-rock band with mildly psychedelic tendencies (sorry, had to hack a description out somewhere), Bodie made one tight, focused album. Don't know much more about them, but I do know that my brother works with the band's singer, and that's how I got turned on to this album, and right now that's enough for me.

"Volcano And Heart" by The Coral Sea
They might not know or care to hear this, but I liked the name they used to have- "Rey", first name of this Santa Barbara band's frontman Rey Villalobos (brother to Gina, she of last year's great indie-roots-rock album). I know they've switched band members a bit over the years (Rey and James Garza go back a bit, though, I think), and hopefully the change was for a good reason. Rey (the band) released the rock-ish "Secret" EP 3 years ago, and Rey (the multitalented frontman) released a solo album called "Rey Means King" in '03 that easily bested the EP but for some reason is no longer available to the wide world, before forming a combo called the Coral Sea that includes himself, bassist Garza, guitarist Duncan Wright (my editor from the days at the Independent), and multipercussionist extraordinaire Matt Talmage. The moody, mellow-to-monstrous reverb-tinged epics on "Volcano And Heart" seem to be the next logical step from "Rey Means King" (indeed, piano-driven "Yesterday/Tomorrow" appears on both albums), but the kicker on the new disc is the layered string arrangements that beef up many of the songs. The high point for me is "In This Moment's Time", a careening, swirling vortex of a tune that I had the pleasure of hearing on KCSB the week of the album's release. Rey's voice is in a high, fragile register for most of the record, but he's only ever overwhelmed by the band on a few occasions, and even then it serves the intensity of the song. Duncan's guitar tones mostly ring instead of crunch, but I'm more attracted to that sort of playing anyway, so thats a plus for me as well. This album seems to have been a major effort by everyone involved, but I say it paid off in spades (and continues to- their live show is great as well). It's a good, strong piece of work. Oh, good cover art here as well.

September 26, 2005

Ed Is Dead

Yep, the big blue beast called Edgar, the car I learned to drive in, the co-mascot of Honey White, was finally towed out of my life last Friday. That's him right next to Bryn's old '81 green monster. Ed the Volvo had been sitting idle and unregistered (from a failed smog check), collecting dust from the farm field next door, for two months, while I biked to work. Once I got ahold of Lis' Jetta Ed's days were certainly numbered, but I think ditching the Volvo had been a virtual certainty ever since he unceremoniously died on the 101 in San Jose last October, trying to get home from the studio where the band made our latest CD. That and Em was tired of giving her Honda Trevor all the heavy road-trip work since then. Mostly, though, it's all my fault, for the single pathetic reason that it was the outward manifestation of my inability to perform even the most basic auto maintenance.

The car's best years were gone before I ever got it, but it's been in my family since 1988, its year of issue. My grandpa bought it for my grandma after her lima-bean-green colored Volvo wagon crapped out at around my 11th birthday. I didn't see it too much unil five of six years later, when it came to my mom, who drove it into the ground driving her three kids everywhere. Much to the chagrin of Nick, Jon, and Kevin, I was not in fact the first of the four of us to get my driver's license, but (I think) the last. I didn't legally drive the big blue Volvo til I was about 17 and a half. About five months of total freedom followed, but it ended when I got grounded (for the only time) after conspiring with the three above-mentioned guys to throw the infamous New Year's 1995 party during our senior year of high school. My girlfriend at the time wasn't amused, I'll bet, that she had to drive me everywhere for a bit, or at least until I got my first job at the Saddleback bookstore after I finished high school. I drove that car to work almost every day, but ironically it was Bryn who pushed the thing to 90 on the freeway one time, as he came to get me from work.

The car stayed with my mom until about 2001, or maybe a bit earlier, but it wasn't actually signed over to me til spring 2002, by which time it had already driven up and down the state many times, adding to the steady wear and tear it had already endured. I promptly forced it to do much, much more, all for the sake of rock and roll- or, more accurately, my own ignorant, selfish willpower. It never really had a name- sometimes it was "the big blue beast", but only when Bryn's was "the big green monster", but it was forever christened Edgar one night in Isla Vista after someone wrote "Edgar Sucks" on its dirty windows. Probably just a neighborhood kid, but that didn't matter- the car now had a name, and, unfortunately, a mission: To Suck Like No Volvo Has Ever Sucked Before.

Yes, my volvo and Bryn's were the inspiration for Billy's cover design on the first Honey White CD, but the car quickly became undependable, and to someone like me who knows fuckall about cars and their workings, this was Unforgivable. Oh sure, I was to blame, but hey, I've learned my lesson, and if a car can last from '88-'05 with only a dozen or so instances of total, absoulute failure, then it's earned the right to either a jalopied rebirth or a merciful junkyard demolition. Emily even sang it a song once it was gone:

"good bye edgar,
good bye edgar,
good bye edgar,
he will suck no more"

Which is cute, but I still think it's just cause she's glad Trevor won't be handling all the hard work now. It's almost too bad that my sister's- now my- Jetta was already well known as Scooter, cause we could surely have some good names for it. Funnily enough, though, it is now the Jetta that bears the license plate frame which reads "Honey White: My Band Rocks".

September 18, 2005

Two Days at Chavez Ravine

Rob's adventures in Cubland prompted another Dubious baseball post, however insubstantial (and nothing really to do with Em and I seeing an Angel game last night). No, this one concerns the Dodgers, currently in the dumper and way behind my Padres (as Ted likes to say). The above photo is from last year when we saw L.A. win their only playoff game in a losing effort to St. Louis (who of course went on to lose the World Series to Boston). It was the only Dodger home game of the series and the place was going absolutely apeshit. Jose Lima pitched a great game and Shaun Green hit two home runs (so, of course this year they were traded to other teams). Though the vibe at the stadium was pretty ecstatic, there were already hints of the thug-fest it would become this year. Cardinals fans were abused without mercy by the hometown crowd, and were often escorted out for their own protection.

Anyway, it was a great game and reminded me that I hadn't been to a Dodger game since 1996, when coincidentally I also saw a playoff game, this time against Atlanta (who won, then went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series). I went to the game with two of my friends from UCSB, Anny and Elizabeth, who were blissfully ignorant of the danger their Brave-rooting placed us in (notice my weak "I hope we get out of here alive" smile in the above photo). I actually remember very little about that game, but 8 years is a long stretch between Dodger games for someone like me who grew up and then went to school in Southern California.

So yeah, the Angel game was pretty dull last night til Garrett Anderson and Miguel Cabrera made it interesting (and, as Matt said, similar to 2002) in the 8th. We also listened to the wild and crazy Padre game on the radio on the way home, where the Pads came back to beat Washington in extra innings on the strength of a Khalil Greene grand slam and Ramon Hernandez walkoff 3-run blast.

Next time we gotta find a way to get one of those free givaway binders. Maybe kidnap a junior high student or something.

September 09, 2005

Nerdy Self-Obsessed Music Stuff

And now for something completely different. With my machine relatively paralyzed by creating backup of the tons and tons of GB worth of my musical history, I have little to do but yak all about it. Not really such a big deal, except that my dvd burner can only work up to 2x speed, which means almost all of the dvd-r stuff now available is out of my league. Now that I've found discs slow enough for the thing, I'm backing up all the Honey White and Mojo Wire stuff I can, often so I can toss the mounds of random CDs clogging the playroom.

One of the more interesting things I unearthed is the original backups for Honey White's debut CD, a 5-song demo/E.P. from 3 years ago. We recorded it at a home studio, digitally onto a Roland VS-2480, the hyper-evolved version of my own Roland VS-890 (which is what I use to record shows and rehearsals). Anyway, all the backup material can only be read by a VS-2480, so it's basically useless unless we find one lying around somewhere, which is doubtful. As a counter-example, the backup for this year's album (which you see on this blog) is readily accessible as it was done with Pro Tools. It's stored on an external drive here at my place, and Brian has a copy also. Not to mention the 500 copies we pressed of the actual release. So no, there probably won't be a 30-year remastered, rejiggered version of the "My Band Rocks!" E.P., which shouldn't really make anyone shed any tears.

Other more irritating revelations concern the lack of Mojo Wire backup material. I've found a few discs of mp3 backup, but not much else. This isn't necessarily bad, since the Mojo stuff was all mostly on cassette tapes, and we got the best of that before the tapes got themselves lost in our various moves around Isla Vista. Still, considering the amount of crap we have for Honey White after 3.5 years of existence, it's a shame that the Mojo Wire's 5 years are preserved so poorly. The world at large might not care, but I do. Guys in bands tend to have special places in their hearts for the first band they were ever in, no matter how much that band may have sucked.

The Mojo Wire didn't suck all the time, though. To say they did is kind of insulting, actually, since at the time we definitely didn't think so- it was too much fun to worry about what other people thought if they didn't like us. There were actually 3 different lineups in 5 years, and much of it was quite good considering the various circumstances under which the recording was done (such as near-total ignorance about recording techniques). Funny thing is, the first Mojo album was very bluesy-surfy, and much of the recording that we did for those songs was done so poorly that we actually got pretty close, without even knowing or trying, to what original blues or surf recordings sounded like back in the 50s/early 60s- the days before stereo, when one microphone was all there was to do the job. Tinny, weak-sounding stuff, but hey, very unique. When we dropped "Battery Acid Blues" in late 1997 in Isla Vista, it was totally different from anything being played there at the time (ska, punk, jam bands) and different from the wider music world at large. That goes double for the 3rd Mojo Wire album, which, because of when and how we made it, is still real special to me even though some of it is damn nigh unlistenable.

As you may have guessed I'm the archivist for all this band stuff. It's so valuable to me though, more than anything I've ever been paid to do, and that's including the graphic design work I've been doing in recent years. That's why the websites are up for the bands, still, even (and especially) the ones that aren't active anymore. Hell, Bryn and Adam have been jamming again down in OC, so really, whenever they play together the Mojo Wire ain't dead. I'm really glad the Honey White guys agree that this is still a great thing to do despite the physical distance between all of us- since getting together to play is hard to do these days, it's really a big deal when we rehearse, let alone play a show.

Don't know where I was going with all this but I thought in light of all the negativity I've been spouting recently I ought to mention the things that really make me feel happy to be alive. Playing bass guitar and writing lyrics for my bands over the last 10 years is definitely on that list.

Well, that and it gives me great opportunities to make a public fool of myself. It's only rock & roll after all.

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