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.