News updates for Eureka California
With their third record in as many years – and third full length since 2012 – Eureka California are proving to be the Willie Nelson of indie pop; not a year goes by without at least something new.
Their latest, Versus, finds the Athens, GA duo at its best, playing quirky, witty rock with loud guitars and louder drums. Comparisons to a band like Pavement are obvious, but singer Jake Ward arguable sounds better. You can even hear someone like Jonathan Richman in a song like “Sign You Name With an X” or “Caffeine.”
The 11 tracks here are bursting with neurotic energy and self-doubt, which can be both cringe-worthy at times and easily relatable. Though distortion runs wild throughout the record, the band is just as powerful on the softer tracks, like “Everybody Had a Hard Year.”
Though 2014’s Crunch, as well as their debut Big Cats Can Swim, were both great records, Versus finds the band at its best, with one satisfying song after the next. (John B. Moore)
Being prolific doesn’t seem to be a problem for Eureka California; they’ll be releasing their third album in three years this week! But, while some acts can just push out tracks that blend into album after album, I like that Eureka California always seems to be refreshed with each track; it’s what makes their album’s so enduring in your personal catalog. This song from the albumVersus is a high energy rocker, hitting you in the face right from the start, and never letting go until the distorted guitar rings in your ears as the track fades. Feel free to have yourself some fun, turn it up, and buy the LP fromHHBTM this week!
Athens, GA-based melodic rockers Eureka California debuted on record almost exactly five years ago; since that time the music’s gotten louder as the lineup has slimmed down to a duo. Wielding sticks, electrified strings, and copious shouting, their 2014 sophomore full-length brought them to the edge of great things, and its follow-up Versus, which hits stores and online shopping carts March 25, carries their material slightly over the border; it’s available on compact disc, vinyl, and digital through Happy Happy Birthday To Me.
Formed by guitarist-vocalist Jake Ward, right from the start Eureka California specialized in stripping things down, blending ’90s indie rock and pop-punk catchiness with a garage orientation and on their 4-song “Modern Times” EP from 2011, flashes of a lo-fi feel. Rather than luxuriating in muffled hiss ambiance, they seemed to desire the turning up of stereo volume knobs as 2012’s full-length debut Big Cats Can Swimwas rawer and more urgent.
A 2013 spilt 45 with the Liverpudlian trio Good Grief marked the departure of Eureka California’s bassist Charles Walker; subsequently, Ward and drummer Marie A. Uhler simply plowed forward and left the spot vacant. The shift to the duo lifestyle did nothing to radically alter the sound, which was and continues to be more about raucous and memorable motion than heaviness.
2014’s Crunch made an even deeper racket in part because Ward’s voice box was gushing with even more enthusiasm than before, underpinning the pop-punk in their equation as the amp gristle and sheer velocity accentuated the garage end of the spectrum, and to the pair’s credit they avoided planting their flag in any particular antecedent’s stylistic sandbox. Snatches of precedent could be discerned, however; to name a couple: ‘90s NYC duo Kicking Giant, and early Built to Spill (more to the point, the vocals of Doug Martsch).
Key to Crunch’s success is its sense of balance; a recurring humorous side never dominates the overall thrust, which is consistently loose without teetering over into sloppy as the songs alternate between punkish simplicity and moments of sophistication. Versus hones the equilibrium as it offers a quick dish of strong tunes and sustained vitality.
Tallying 28 minutes and change, the new album also maintains the alternating of short blasts of two minutes or less with a few lengthier and pop-savvier tunes; after a clean guitar progression opener “Eureka California’s Night In” roars to life, the serrated edge of persistent distortion heightening a showcase of Ward’s raw throat and Uhler’s impressive kit battering.
Adequately clamorous to suggest the speedy mauling of a full band yet with no palpable strain, “Sign My Name with an X” basks in buzzsaw riffs and lithe thumping, but at its core is a solid, if abbreviated, piece of pop songwriting. These clipped sonic blossoms can perhaps hint at the similar strategy of one Robert Pollard, though Eureka California navigate an aural lane distinct from the one traversed by the Ohio-based tippler.
In the duo’s favor they carry on to sidestep immediate comparisons, and the likenesses that do occasionally creep up can be unexpected and are reliably understated, e.g. “Sign My Name with an X” briefly brings ’80s-’90s DC act Shudder to Think to mind. “Another Song about TV” registers a bit like Built to Spill in miniature.
“Sober Sister” is the first of Versus’ selections to attain standard pop song duration and would in fact be even longer if Eureka California didn’t elect for such a brisk tempo; ultimately, it’s not so fast that the pop-rock flavor gets overwhelmed, with Ward’s axe retaining hooks amidst the reverberations as his vocals display a touch of restraint.
Where much of their stuff hovers around the pop-punk neighborhood without wallowing in the negative connotations of the style, following track “Ghosts” hits upon a chunky indie rock mid-tempo while evading the underwhelming atmosphere of swiped formal tropes. Side one closes with “Fear and Loathing in the Classic City,” a solo acoustic ditty that’s accomplishment is partially based on resisting the terribly overplayed tendency to boost the scenario with amplification.
Throughout the LP Ward engages with assorted emotions while shunning the maudlin, and “Cobwebs in the Wind” begins side two in an uptempo mode flaunting equality of vocal expression, guitar dynamics, and drum gallop/cymbal crash. “Caffeine” does employ the tactic of softer strum into louder rocking but without succumbing to bombast as the cut trucks along in a manner appropriate to its tile and then rapidly dissipates.
“Realizing Your Actuality” precedes in the opposite direction, sprinkling a dash of standard power pop into a muscular indie situation and then spreading out to four minutes. Versus returns to acoustic environs and brevity for its penultimate track, though the crisp strumming and unperturbed voicing combines with lyrical snap mildly reminiscent of Lou Barlow, insuring that “Everybody Had a Hard Year” is a fully formed prelude to the album’s closing highpoint.
Also the LP’s longest number, “I Will Write Mine over Potomac” cultivates an air of tension through a simple guitar line and vocals and then interweaves it with sturdy rocking but at a slower pace fitting the contemplative nature of Ward’s calm expressiveness. For a unit that’s generally excelled at youthfully bounding forth and energetically flailing, the song folds a level of maturity into their recipe.
That additive frequently accompanies a loss of edge and/or energy, but here the added breadth strengthens the whole. Delivering on their early promise, Versus exceeds its mixture of styles and prior models and sounds a lot like Eureka California.
GRADED ON A CURVE:
“Go to bed well before the evening/ but I don’t sleep, I just lay awake,” sings Jake Ward on “Caffeine,” a rare moment of quiet on the band’s roaring new record Versus. It’s a good summary statement for the record in general: after a string of charming but decidedly lo-fi releases, Ward and bandmate Marie Uhler scrape the mud from the corners of their songs and make a panicked, restless record about panicked, restless times. Versus operates almost entirely in the red: “Sign My Name With an X” pits supercharged riffing against Ward’s bottom-of-a-well vocals; on “Sober Sister,” Ward skips a twitching guitar line over Uhler’s ricocheting drums. That song serves as the record’s unflinching personal center, cataloging Ward’s struggle with sobriety. It also continues the band’s tradition of referencing other songs (the breakout single on their last record was called “I Bet That You Like Julian Cope”.) In this case, they nick a line wholesale from Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” In honor of the release of Versus—which we’re premiering exclusively at Bandcamp—we chatted with Ward and Uhler during a tour stop in Brooklyn.
What were some of the first records you can remember hearing that rearranged the way your brain thought about music? There’s a reason I’m asking you this.
Ward: There have been a few. I remember when I was 13, my dad gave me Quadropheniaby the Who. That was a huge, sprawling concept record, and it really changed the way I thought about what music could be. And then in High School I heard Superchunk and Guided by Voices, and they changed it again. And even more recent things—like David Comes to Life by Fucked Up, that was really cool. It feels like every couple of years there’s something that I hear that just changes how I think about things.
Uhler: I grew up in a small rural town with really strict parents, so I wasn’t allowed to buy CDs. My mom would go into my room, find the CDs I’d bought, and look at the lyrics—one time, she had to ‘have a talk’ with me about profanity. The closest music store was half an hour away, and it was a chain store. When I was 13 or 14 I found Led Zeppelin 4—as a drummer, I was pretty into that. When I was in high school, I got into pop-punk, and when I moved to Athens when I was 18, I went to see The Ergs at a house show. I didnt know anyone there, I’d never been to a house show before. It was really cool.
Ward: When we were both in high school, it turns out we were both massive Thursday fans.
Uhler: That was the one concert my parents would drive me to see. I saw Thursday like four times.
Ward: We were coming home from a show with Mike, who runs our label, and were like, “Alright, you need to hear these two records.” We made him listen to Tell All Your Friendsby Taking Back Sunday and Deja Entendu by Brand New. Like, back to back.
Uhler: He was dying.
You know, a lot of people look down their nose at pop-punk, but if you’re a suburban kid, or a kid from a small town, and you don’t have access to house shows or a DIY scene, those records can actually be a really important gateway to that world.
Uhler: Listening to Victory Records albums in 2003 is totally what led me to start going to house shows when I moved to Athens. And then once I figured out, ‘Oh, you moved to a place with a music scene. You can leave your dorm and walk three blocks and see 20 bands in one night,’ That blew my mind. I went to shows almost every night the first two years I lived there.
Ward: That’s how it was in Raleigh, where I grew up, too. I remember Reel Big Fish covering ‘Boys Dont Cry’ by the Cure and I was like, ‘Whoah, who wrote this song?’ When you don’t have these cool bands from the ‘80s and ‘90s coming through your town, the bands who are covering those bands are your introduction. And that led me to The Jam and The Damned and all kinds of different stuff.
The reason I asked that very first question is because there are so many little embedded clues in your lyrics to other records—I caught a Springsteen lyric on this one from Nebraska, for example: “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact.”
Ward: There are smaller ones, too. In one song I sing about being, ‘crazy from the heat’—that’s the name of a David Lee Roth record. We put a lot of clues in there, and listening to our songs and the lyrics, it’s really easy to tell who our influences are. I always liked it when other bands did that—when I’d hear things and it was an allusion to something else. It just makes it easier to search around and find new bands. Plus, I have a lot of fun doing it.
The thing that struck me about this record is that it’s so much bigger and brighter than the stuff you’ve done before. There was always a layer of distortion in the past, and a kind of “lo-fi” feel to the songs. This record is a full-on rock record.
Ward: There were a couple of changes we made that were very conscious. One was in the actual sound. On Crunch, it’s just me playing out of a guitar amp, but around the time we started writing the new songs, I started playing out of a guitar amp and a bass amp to make it sound fuller. I added fuzz and delay to create a mood and an atmosphere. As we would play the songs, we went in different directions. Not every song had to be breakneck fast all the time.
Uhler: When we did “Realizing Your Actuality,” I was just trying to see if I could play a basic 4/4 drum beat slower than I’m used to playing it. I’ve always had a hard time playing more slowly—even when I was a kid. That’s why a lot of our songs, when we play live, are twice as fast.
You’ve expanded lyrically, too. Jake, on this record it seems like there’s a lot of internal frustration on your part—almost like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Ward: Lyrically, it was very much a conscious effort to be 100% honest about what was going on with me in that year. The end of 2014 and then all of 2015, I’d had a shitty year. A lot of the songs are just a snapshot of that time. So some of the songs deal heavily with things that were happening at that time. ‘Sober Sister’ is my thoughts on and problems with sobriety. ‘I Will Write Mine Over Potomac’ was about leaving town saying goodbye to everything that you knew. ‘Realizing Your Actuality’ is about social anxiety. Those are very personal songs to me, because I know what I was going through at those times. I don’t feel like I’m a very negative person or a very dark person, but writing these songs was just a way of coping with what was going on. I think it just came out a little darker because I tried to write more honestly. And maybe also it seems darker when it’s so fast, and the words are being yelled, and there’s fuzzy guitars and pounding drums. Maybe if the same lyrics were over Steely Dan, it would be like, ‘Eh, it’s not so bad.’
Click through to stream their new album!
Eureka California son un dúo procedente de Athens, ciudad perteneciente al estado de Georgia de los Estados Unidos. Voz y guitarra para él, bateria para ella.Presentan su tercer disco largo en tres años, aunque es el primero grabado en un estudio. Lo hicieron aprovechando la pasada gira inglesa, durante el verano del 2015, tras girar por varias ciudades y festivales –tocaron en el Indietracks- también se fueron a Leeds para encerrarse durante cinco dias en un estudio y dar forma a Versus (HHBTM Records, 2016). Un trabajo con canciones trepidantes e incendiarias que se intercalan con otras de calado mas introspectivo. ‘Sign My Name With An X’ es uno de sus videoclips de presentación, fuzz y melodías espídicas.
“This is more our speed,” says Jake Ward as he lifts a piece of Popeye’s chicken to his mouth. Cajun-tinged jazz is playing over the fast-food restaurant’s speakers, and there are two TVs—one in front of and one behind Ward and bandmate Marie Uhler—set to a low murmur. The first is on ESPN, which is airing a bowling competition; the second is tuned to CNN’s coverage of the Michigan Uber-driver murders. The family at the next table over is glued to that screen, except for the young daughter, who’s on the verge of a breakdown.
Uhler and Ward, who comprise the noisy garage-pop duo Eureka California, aren’t distracted. They just wrapped up a meeting with their label head, Mike Turner, and are in need of some serious sustenance. Among the topics discussed: upcoming tour dates; plans for the release of their third full-length album, Versus; and other, more far-off intangibles that need to be solidified. This is the calm before the Eureka California storm, which is fitting, given the dark clouds moving in overhead on Prince Avenue.
Up to this point, Eureka California has crafted the sort of high-energy, ramshackle power-pop that recalls Superchunk, Japandroids and Jonathan Richman. That’s not to sayVersus, which the band will release Mar. 25 on Turner’s Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records, is a huge departure in terms of style or influences; they haven’t stopped writing straight-to-the-point rock songs with hooks and bite. They have, however, taken a big sonic step forward, which is even more distinct considering their two-person lineup and past recording approach.
“It was really just kind of super-sad DIY,” Ward jokes about the recording process for their first three records: the “Modern Times” 7-inch, Big Cats Can Swim and Crunch. Those were tracked primarily on Ward’s laptop with Pro Tools, using simple stage microphones. “When we did Big Cats, we didn’t even have mic stands,” Ward recalls, listing off Athens street names and the corresponding houses that served as recording locales for each release. “I remember we had to take down a curtain rod and crudely have the curtain rod hanging off the end of the couch.”
The experience was aggravating in a logistical sense, but it was all the more frustrating given the root of the problem: money. “Since we could only have two mics going at the same time and we only had so much input, we would have Marie play with headphones on to my amp so that my amp wasn’t really making any noise, and then we’d record all the drums. Then I would go through and record everything on top of that,” Ward says. “We didn’t really have a choice in doing that, because we didn’t have any money. We were super broke.”
“By Crunch, we had bought a mic stand,” Uhler chimes in lightheartedly. “Still not enough to buy a new computer or anything,” she clarifies.
“New microphones, even,” Ward adds.
Eureka California made the best with what they had, working multiple jobs at once to fund their endeavors. But good fortune was on its way. Over the summer of 2015, the band embarked on a UK tour booked by Turner, with plans during its final week to record a new album with Leeds producer MJ at his Suburban Home Studios. With a CV that includes credits on records by Leeds post-punks Eagulls and Welsh noise-pop band Joanna Gruesome, MJ’s involvement seemed ideal. Turner and MJ shared a mutual friend in HHBTM artist Jonathan Nash, who had played Eureka’s previous records for the Brit; likewise, Turner had played MJ’s records for the band. Both parties quickly became distant admirers.
With the songs well-rehearsed and road-tested by the tour’s end, the band managed to knock out recording in roughly three and a half days, mixing for just another one and a half. “It was really efficient,” says Uhler of the experience, noting how well the band’s personality matched with MJ’s. “With the wrong type of personality, there’s pressure,” she says.
“He was just really professional and really efficient and knew what he was doing,” Ward adds. “I mean, compared to how we were doing it before, it was like night and day. I remember so many times when we were recording, we would talk to each other and be like, ‘This is so much easier.’”
Steering clear of substances also made the process a smoother one. “We’re pretty mild. We don’t really drink,” says Uhler. “I mean, we used to do that stuff. And I know some people just do that all the time, like it’s their vacation, but we treat [touring] more like we’re going to work.”
“Yeah, it’s more like a job,” agrees Ward, who’s stopped drinking altogether.
Songs like “Everybody Had a Hard Year” and “Sober Sister” portray a newfound perspective, a look back on a life left behind. The former is a short acoustic number in which Ward reflects on personal hardships before making a final broad appeal, finishing the song with its titular line: “I grew a beard to hide my sins/ I spent all last year lonely and soaked in gin/ But I never thought to disappear/ Everybody had a hard year.”
The latter is a blistering track that could easily be passed off as a party anthem. Ward’s six-string is channeled through both guitar and bass amps as Uhler keeps the song from veering off course. The song’s breakneck pace easily buries Ward’s underlying concern, as he belts: “And it’s so sad that you never got the chance to see/ All of the beautiful things you could have seen in me/ Just before the start of the season/ I would drink them away for no apparent reason.”
Indeed, much of the new record sounds like a jet-fueled lamentation of the stagnation one can feel working and aging in Athens. But rather than cloaking those fears and regrets in dismissive one-liners, Ward lays them out plainly.
“I think with this record, more so than the other ones, I was really trying to write from an honest place and just be maybe more blunt than I had been in the past, or maybe more vulnerable on some songs,” he says. “I think, given Big Cats and then Crunch, the songs were always moving in that direction.”
The approach reveals a band more grounded than before—so much so that all involved are fixed in a state of firm realism. “Everything’s kind of moving forward in a natural progression in a way that’s really comfortable and really nice,” Turner says, taking a break from screen-printing T-shirts during his day off from Wuxtry. With many things coming together—a one-week, pre-release tour; slick posters for their release show; and filming underway for another music video—the pieces are in place for Eureka California’s biggest splash yet.
“I try not to put any [pressure] on records in that way,” says Turner, though he says he’s pleased with the band’s progress. “I like the pace that it’s happening [at],” he adds, before parting to work on some press emails for the band.
As focused as Eureka California is on the lead-up to Versus, gears are also in motion for out-of-state shows in April, a tour with label mates Witching Waves in May and a return to the UK this fall. Now, it’s just a matter of covering all the bases. “It is harder, the older we get and the more jobs we have, to take off huge chunks of time,” says Uhler, as the nearby tables become a little less noisy and the two finish up their meal.
Regardless of where they’ve been or where they’re going, Eureka California will always be a band to rally behind, a genuine pair of people who have never asked for much. “We’ve always, I think, tried to maintain that we’re the same exact people offstage as we are onstage,” says Ward. “It really is consistent.”
Eureka California’s Versus is the underground breakthrough album this decade has been waiting for. Clever and cunning in its deconstruction of personal ambition and self-destruction, a ringing distorted blast of cerebral rock smashes and scorches its way through dead-end jobs, insidious self-doubt, the dumbing down of our population, and bureaucratic hypocrisy we all endure every day as we watch our future slip away. Harmonious anarchy and chic songwriting stubbornly co-exist in a collection that plays like a “greatest hits” album of a legendary cult classic. Fortunately, every song is brand new on the third full length by this Athens, Georgia duo. The introverted punk-pop of Superchunk’s On the Mouth does a futuristic dance of death with earlyViolent Femmes. Over caffeinated self-awareness and Big Star style chord phrasing are amplified to the point of no return among the devious tempos of these short but bittersweet snap shots of the human condition. A huge wall of distorted guitar reigns supreme with tasty splashes of reverbed vocals and sleek single noted rhyme. “Sign My Name With An X”, “Sober Sister”, and “Cobwebs On the Wind” rock fearlessly with the jagged grace of Kryptonite-era Gaunt. The acoustic numbers, “Everybody Had A Hard Year” and “Fear and Loathing In The Classic City”, are unforgettable twisted reflections of disillusionment and solitude. The new Five Easy Pieces: Five out of five stars. The future is here and the time is right for getting blackout drunk in the street.(release date March 25, 2016) Keep scrolling to see their premiere video and read the interview we just did last week…
INTERVIEW WITH EUREKA CA’s Jake Ward and Marie A. Uhler:
What made you decide to go with the band name “Eureka California”?
J: It sounded like a good name and I had to call the band something. However, a lot of people get confused or assume that we’re from California… so, ya know, I’d probably rethink it if we were starting the band now.
Why do you think people feel so hopeless and isolated in 2016?
J: Trump is ahead in the polls. King of the Hill isn’t on Netflix. You can work a full time job (40 hours a week which is already ridiculous), have a degree and still just skate by above the poverty line. You’re only as good as your Instagram account. But it’s really easy to get hung up on the negative. Glass half full, glass half empty, glass is broken and water is everywhere.
M: You can work full time, not get benefits, have multiple degrees, and live below the poverty line. I love how social media can connect us, and I really love seeing photos of everyday life stuff from my friends and family I otherwise wouldn’t get to see, but it does make you compare yourself to people a lot of the time, unintentionally. I think people feel pressure to always put their best face forward, and when you never see people having a bad day, it can make you feel even more isolated if you’re having one. But everyone has bad days, everyone struggles with something. Those should be as acceptable to talk about as successes.
I’ve been listening to your latest record “Versus” non-stop, it feels more aggressive in its musical attack and lyrical content. How did the recording and writing of these songs come together?
J: The recording was like a dream. We recorded it at Suburban Home with MJ and it was such a pleasure to work with him. Honestly. I really can’t say enough great things about the experience. We recorded it in about 4 days after coming off a two week tour of the UK. It took a lot longer, obviously, to write the record. I think we started writing around the summer of 2014? I remember there were periods where it seemed like nothing was coming together and then we’d have days where something great would pop up out of nowhere. “Realizing Your Actuality” spontaneously came together during practice and the whole thing was written in about 30 minutes. But then things like “Sober Sister” took about 6 months to really get to where it is now. “Another Song About TV” is another one where it was written but it really changed after we started playing it live. I consider that an extension of writing. The songs don’t really reach their potential until we’ve played them in front of people.
M: This one was a bit weird because we had a deadline on when it had to be finished, and we only had a maximum of five days in the studio. We recorded it in Leeds and we going to the UK to play a festival, so the dates were set in stone for a long time. It was a big change from recording in whatever house one of us lived in where we could be loud. MJ was amazing and the nicest person to work with and spend time with and knew exactly what to do to make things sound the best way possible. He is so talented. While we were in Leeds and afterwards we couldn’t stop talking about how wonderfully dreamy the recording process was.
Is the slacker lifestyle an influence on your music and personal lives?
M: I don’t really identify with being a slacker, except maybe sometimes it’s hard to devote 100% of my attention and focus to what I’m working on in the moment, even if it’s music, or leisure time or something for fun. We both work multiple jobs and struggle to make ends meet. Usually at any given moment one or both of us is over-caffeinated and trying to do a million things at once.
J: I don’t consider myself a slacker but lately I’ve enjoyed being labeled ‘Slack Rock’ so go figure. We’re constantly working, whether be that on the band or at either of our multiple jobs. I personally don’t see anything slacker-ish about the band or our music.
What are the pros and cons of self-destruction in your opinion?
M: I guess the biggest pro of self-destruction could be an opportunity of re-birth.
What types of personalities bore you?
J: Opportunists, cynics, and Carolina Panthers fans.
The band writes some extremely catchy hooks that are super addictive, what influences your songwriting and is it usually a fast or slow process?
J: Really it’s influenced by everything – books, movies, television, other music, conversations, mishearing lyrics, etc. You kinda just take everything in and never know what it’s going to be that influences you. You just have to keep your eyes peeled. It really depends on the song with how fast it takes to write. “Cobwebs”, “Hard Year” and “Potomac” were all written in the same afternoon. However, “Fear and Loathing” took a while to write and rewrite. I spend a lot of time on the lyrics and pride myself on those. Still, the songs don’t really take life until we play them together. With the music, we take an economic, no-frills approach. We won’t repeat a part just for the sake of repeating it or making a song longer. I think self-editing is very important.
Do you get pissed off when people say things like “music is dead’ and “new music sucks”?
M: In Athens I don’t really hear that a lot, but I think people that say those things aren’t really listening to what’s around them. Now you can internet search any combination of genres or words and find multiple bands and artists that you’ve never heard of, that are making music now, or maybe made one album a few months ago and stopped, or maybe just put a song on Bandcamp every once in awhile…there are so many people doing so many things. You can walk down the street here or in any city with a music scene and see any kind of band any night of the week. Maybe it’s not all to your liking but every imaginable and unimaginable genre has never been more accessible for listeners or artists.
J: Not really. I think when people say things like that it’s just incredibly narrow-minded and it’s actually easier to just write those people off. It’s a huge, wide-sweeping, misinformed generalization and, ya know, who has the time to put up with that? Every generation has had people who are like “what is this shit? I’m telling you, music hasn’t been good since…(insert: George Gershwin, Elvis, The Beatles, The Supremes, The Smiths, Public Enemy, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Spice Girls, Nicki Minaj, etc).” I don’t really pay it any attention. I work at a local music venue and at one show, a very drunk gentleman came up to me and was like,“This sucks!” All I could say was, “Why’d you pay to get in?”
“Fear and Loathing in the The Classic City” has some of the greatest lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. What’s the story behind this awesome song?
J: First off, thank you! That’s really nice of you to say. It started off with the “I’ve got no time for Eureka California” line which was all it was for a long time and that was just me trying to mimic Brand New. After a few weeks, a John Cale reference, a lot of coffee and some chord changes, I had the final version you hear on the record. I would work on it almost every night until I had all the words/chords exactly as I wanted them.
You have a ton of live gigs coming up in many different cities. What do you like about touring and what are the biggest problems you face when touring?
M: I love touring. I love playing a show every night, which you can’t really do in one place, so you have to tour to do that. Seeing new places and meeting new people is wonderful, and returning to the places that are good to you is wonderful too. I love seeing new bands every night and not knowing what to expect. It’s interesting to see which places start to feel like a second home after awhile.
J: I have a lot of fun touring. Getting to meet new people, travelling to different places every day, trying new food, going to museums, seeing the world. I can’t imagine being in a band and not touring.
M: Booking is hard and as a two-piece, being around one other person 24/7 can be challenging, no matter how well you get along. If it wasn’t worth it we wouldn’t keep doing it.
Any plans to hit Vegas (where I live) or the West Coast in the future.
M: We have only been out to the west coast twice and are trying to plan our next time. If you know anyone that puts shows on in Vegas we would love to play there.
What do you think about the retro 90s movement and did the music of that decade have an influence on you?
J: I grew up in Raleigh and got really into bands like Superchunk and Guided By Voices in my teens. Still that was in the early 2000s, but you get the idea. I was 12 in 1999 and wasn’t really into music at that point — or was just starting to get into it and then it was mostly Black Sabbath and Metallica. I’m definitely enjoying it though and I’m being exposed to artists that I definitely missed out on the first time around.
M: I’m really into it. I grew up in the 90s but I was a little too young to participate in a lot of aspects of the culture at the time — plus I lived in a very rural area with kind of strict parents. I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies or listen to the same music everyone at school did and I wore a lot of hand-me-downs. But I was really into The X-Files. It is fun to have an opportunity to participate in certain things that I wasn’t able to the first time. We had a Superchunk cover band for a hot minute and played in a 90s cover band with a couple of our friends called the Clinton Years. Post-90s I’ve really enjoyed listening to The Breeders, Superchunk, The Amps, Throwing Muses, Guided By Voices, and everything I had only heard of or missed or didn’t get enough into before.
Last question: What are your top three favorite albums of all time and why?
J: 1. The Who – Quadrophenia
It was 2001. I was 13 years old at a Turtle’s music. My dad held up this record and a Frank Zappa album. He said I could pick one. The record I chose was Quadrophenia and it started my absolute obsession with The Who. I remember, being bored in class, writing out the words to “Sea And Sand” all over my notebooks. I would blast “The Real Me” from the passenger seat. I remember riding the buses in college, with nowhere to go, and just listening to “I’ve Had Enough” on repeat. This was probably the first record I ever owned that had me completely captivated. In fact, Pete Townshend is one of the biggest reasons that I even play guitar. I’m 28 now and still fucking love this album.
2. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
I slept on this record for a long time. It’s funny thinking about it now because when this finally clicked, I fell for this album hard. Initially I was put off by the name of the band. Then I remember finally listening to “A More Perfect Union” thinking it was good and then for whatever reason, I didn’t listen to the rest of the record. I would just listen to that song on repeat and then move on to something else. Finally I sat down, listened to it in it’s entirety and was blown away. The writing is top notch and I identified with this record on so many levels. Then Mike (at HHBTM records) got me The Monitor on vinyl and I fell in love all over again. I know for a fact that I drove Marie insane constantly playing this record on the road. In fact, “The Battle of Hampton Roads” was my go to anthem for the drive home after tour. I consider this one of the most uniquely ‘American’ records ever made along with Camper Van Beethoven’s Key Lime Pie.
3. The Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette
In my humble opinion this is the best ‘punk’ record of all time. What’s not to love?
M: I never have a running list of my favorite anythings at any given time so here are three that come to mind:
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
This was the first Sleater-Kinney record I ever heard and I felt kind of uncomfortable hearing it. But I couldn’t ever stop listening to it, and now it’s one of the most comforting things for me to hear, and that circle of how I feel about this record is reflective of how I felt and feel about a lot of other things…it was ideal timing for it to come into my life. There isn’t a time I don’t want to listen to this record. I’ve blasted it in the car, I’ve yelled the words, I’ve learned the drum parts, I’ve cried to it, I’ve shared it with anyone I could get to listen, I think it’s perfect.
Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits
I feel like this is a weird thing to have here but for a long time when I bought my van I only had two cassette tapes for it — this and Purple Rain (which I also love), which I found together at a thrift store that only had one tiny box of cassettes. So I’ve listened to it over and over and over again. It’s currently been on repeat in the van for over a month. It contains every feeling. I keep coming back to it. It’s a great album to listen to while driving around America.
Cowtown – Dudes Versus Bad Dudes
The first time I heard this record I was absolutely blown away. I couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was while listening to it. I took it home and listened to it on repeat, and listened to it at work on repeat, and in the car, and while walking around town, for months and months. When I put it on it’s hard to take it off. I think all the songs on it are outstanding. And really good artwork. It’s so catchy and the drums are ridiculous. We kind of tried to cover one of the songs once and it was, um, a fun challenge for me.
You are about to be clued in on the best kept open secret out of Athens, Georgia. Duo Jake Ward & Marie A. Uhler are Eureka California, who are readying their third album Versus for release March 25 via HHBTM Records, presenting the premiere of their confetti raining video for “Sign My Name With An X” directed by Jordan St. Martin-Reyes & edited by Thomas Bauer. What first began as Jake’s solo project became expanded to include Marie right before attending Athens Popfest, where the two tapped into a synergistic force wielding the strength and audio force of a band 10, 12 members strong.
Keeping their DIY ethics, aesthetics, and antics properly aligned; the two and a half minute video for “Sign My Name With An X” captures the action and excitement of a Eureka California performance armed & adorned with home made decorations, buckets of confetti, and rolls of streamers. With moments of pause book-ending the start and finish of the video, Jake’s guttural guitars growl initiates the song’s rowdy riffs that trigger the descent of decorative tissue paper, the snow fall of ticker tape, and balloons to mark the occasion. With a minimalist stage set-up further illuminated by a few strings of holiday lights, Eureka California kick out an anthem of anonymity while making a name for themselves with one wondrous racket to remember them by. Jake’s chords churn like pistons in an engine block that are driven by Marie’s percussion axis that throws pails of petrol on the flaming fire that the two have started. Together the two work in tandem the way thunder and lightening co-operate together in conjunctive unison, sparking out bolts of sound perpetuated by drum kit gas tank barrel rumbles of thunder. Right after the following video debut for “Sign My Name With An X”, read our interview session with Eureka California’s Jake Ward & Marie A. Uhler.
Take us back some three albums ago and tell us how you two first formed Eureka California.
Marie: I joined the band in 2010 to fill in for one show and just never left.
Jake: The band started in 2009 as a bedroom project while I was living in Raleigh, NC. At the time I had never been to Eureka and really just thought the name sounded cool so I named the band after that. Marie joined the band about a week before we were due to play Athens Popfest.
As an Athens, Georgia based duo, what sorts of west coast, Pacific gazing connections do you two have with the golden state?
Jake: We don’t really have any to be honest. I love the LA Clippers and Pink’s Hot Dogs though.
Marie: I’ve enjoyed it immensely the times I’ve been lucky enough to visit, but we don’t have any other connection to it.
Please regale us with stories of recording Versus in Leeds with Hookworms’ MJ at Suburban Home Studios, and how you both feel MJ influenced the record.
Jake: Recording with MJ was fantastic. He was so patient and encouraging and really wanted to get the best possible performances from us. I can’t stress enough how much of a pleasure it was to record with him. I had a blast making the record but the off time we spent was just as fun. We got really into going to Morrison’s for lunch everyday and eating wraps. We watching a lot of great British reality TV—”First Dates”, “Ex on The Beach”. We recorded the record relatively quickly too, getting the whole thing done in about four and a half days.
Marie: It was really nice and fancy but he made us feel really comfortable there. We only had five days but we finished with plenty of time. It was all very efficient—friendly and comfortable, but quick to start each day. We went to a show one night but otherwise we just went for walks and then back to where we were staying and ruined Nash’s Netflix account (sorry).
How do you two go about creating that kind of big, bold sound that makes
it seem like there are more than just two of you?
Jake: Between the last record, Crunch, and this one, I started playing my
guitar out of two amps. I’ll run my guitar through a splitter and then into my guitar amp and then I’ll also run it into a bass amp with a fuzz octave pedal so it sounds nice and huge. This also let’s me have multiple guitar tones going at the same time.
Also how do you two go about developing your songs?
Jake: There are a few exceptions but usually this is the order: I’ll write out a rough skeleton of the song on my acoustic guitar (it’s a 12 string guitar but I only put 6 strings on it), then I’ll play it for Marie at practice and we’ll start working on it. From there I might go back and change parts or we’ll edit it as we’re playing together. Then we’ll start playing it live at shows and from there it may change again and then eventually we record it. And it still might change after that.
Describe for us the making of the celebratory video for “Sign My Name With An X”, from Jordan St. Martin-Reyes, and how much confetti & streamers were involved with this shoot?
Marie: We just tried to think of something we could do with as few people as possible that would be inexpensive. We spent about $40 on confetti and streamers and made some of the stuff ourselves and filmed it where I work. We only did the one take. Jordan filmed on a VHS camera and some of our friends threw all the stuff at us—they came up with certain times to do it to make sure they didn’t run out too early.
What’s wonderful right now in Athens? Feels like you all always got cool things happening.
Jake: If I’m going to be completely honest, to me personally, Athens is in a weird state right now. A lot of businesses are closing down or being moved so that we can have more student housing. More bars are opening up along with clothing boutiques which have caused other businesses to move out. I don’t know if it’s as much of a music town as it once was but it’s easy to have a sort of golden age reasoning and think that things aren’t as great as they were. There are a still a lot of great things going on though like Slopfest, Athfest is always fun and we’ve had some killer bands coming through town lately. I work at a local music venue and we just had Dwight Yoakam and Lupe Fiasco, which I thought both performers were amazing. And we’ve still got people in town making great music like Antlered Auntlord, Shehehe, Grand Vapids and Hunger Anthem.
Marie: Ever since I moved here I’ve felt like Athens was a good music scene to try anything you wanted to try in. I think it’s very easy to get involved, if you try. I just played a first show with a new band last month and it had been awhile since I did that—I used to be in a lot of bands—but it was still fun and exciting to try something new. I think that other people feel the same way about it, that it’s easy to try new things, whether it’s because they feel they have a close support network or because here’s kind of low stakes, by which I mean no one’s going to make fun of you or ban you from playing a venue if your first show doesn’t go smoothly. I think that encourages a wide variety of performers. Today, though, the weather is amazing, and I think everyone in town comes alive when it stops being so cold.
Other artists, & media that the rest of the world should know about?
Marie: We just went on a little tour and played with some really great bands — Haybaby, Cool People, Parlor Walls, Soccer Tees. We played with Feather Trade from Athens who I hadn’t seen in a long time and they were great. Bee Terror Thing and Leisure Service. Witching Waves, Cowtown, and Good Grief are all from the UK and have all put out something new recently and they are all great.
Jake: Good Grief, Martha, Cowtown, Soccer Tees, SLUGS, Cool People, Grand Vapids, On The Watchfront, Witching Waves, Kleenex Girl Wonder, T-Shirt Weather, Not Sorry, Mammoth Penguins, Evans The Death and The Spook School are all great and worth your time.