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Athens Intensified at Athens Banner-Herald

Click through for photos from the festival.


Mind Brains at Athens Banner-Herald

There are certain truisms when it comes to Athens music.

One constant is the unusual nature of anything released from those within the Elephant 6 collective. It will be weird, experimental, ranging and often “out-there,” but in a way that is neither unfocused or boring.

The latest creation to join this formidable list of musical acts is Mind Brains, a fivesome which includes members of E6 stalwarts Circulatory System, of Montreal, M. Coast and The Music Tapes.

The band’s self-titled debut dropped on Orange Twin records last week, and Saturday night the band launches its live act at Flicker Theatre and Bar.

What gives the band an odd bent, aside from the spacey, melodic yet somewhat folksy music, is the instruments it uses to make it.

Cobbling together forgotten, out-of-date electronics, Mind Brains employs toy drum machines and fixed-up Casio SK-1’s (those 32-key synths from the 1980s which pumped out cheesy songs when pushing the demo button) to create songs eliciting the minimalist improvisation of Krautrock.

The album’s opening track, “Happy Stomp,” bears this out. Beginning with a clipped chorus of voices, it unfolds into an undercurrent of extended tempos of strings, synths and singing. It’s part Neu!, part A Sunny Day in Glasgow. “Whistle Tips” and “Body Horror” pick up the pace, fashioning more beats, but keeping a stream of voices below the surface.

Andy Gonzales, a Mind Brains member and the main force behind M. Coast, has made this kind of music for years now. His 2009 album Phreak Phantasy showcased elements of what the Mind Brains have recently released.

“I’ve been inspired by ‘80s production and drum machines,” Gonzales told me a few years back. “I’m trying to approach the kind of modern music style like what I think electronica is. I don’t listen to that kind of music, but I want to use those tools and create my own version.”

John Fernandes, who plays with several E6 bands as well, teams up with Alec Livaditis to open the show. Tickets are $5.


Mind Brains at Athens Banner-Herald

In the age of MP3, Garageband and iTunes, modern technology has allowed bands to completely bypass the music industry by recording and releasing their material without the aid of professional engineers or marketing departments.

But in this 21st century ocean of self-generated content, how do you draw attention to your stuff?

How would you make an impression on the local media in a town like Athens, where event fliers of wildly varying quality are taped, stapled and pasted on top of one another on a near-constant basis?


Along with the requisite information and artwork, you mail us your CD in between two slices of bread, complete with heart-shaped cutouts so as not to completely obscure the cover art.

And that’s exactly what Orange Twin Records did with their latest release, the self-titled disc by Mind Brains. The album, which “drops on Hamuary 666th, 1945” according to an accompanying document, already has our undivided attention.

Take note, those who think press kits are an outdated (or unnecessary) part of being an independent artist. Your music need not stop with filling the ears and imagination of the listener. It can stop their stomach from growling, too.


Muuy Biien at Online Athens

I’m a snob about punk music, a genre which I place into a finite definition. For many, merely having fast guitars and snide lyrics is enough to rise to the punk label — allowing bands such as Blink 182 to be considered punk when nothing could be further from the truth.

No, punk music is a churning, guitar and cymbal thrashing cavalcade of sound and noise, sometimes melodic and repetitive, fronted by singers who act as if they just rather do something else, even though they’re really great screaming into the mic. Bad Brains, Agent Orange, Dead Kennedys, Fear, Minor Threat. These are punk bands.

I love love love The Clash and Husker Du, but they are not punk bands. A punk band would never make sweeping albums like “Sandinista” or “Candy Apple Grey,” as great as those albums are. Plus Strummer and Mould cared, Jello Biafra always seemed like he didn’t care at all.

Music I call punk I hold dear, because it came of age during my restless teenage years, opening a stirring rage within. There is nothing more freeing that slamming into a group of people who share this rage but are human enough to pick you up when you fall down. I remember a Bad Brains show in 1986 at the Cameo Theatre on Miami Beach like it was yesterday — to barely survive the floor during I Against I only to slowly “reggae slam” for The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth is, at 17, discovering true happiness.

I don’t slam dance anymore, my knees disapprove and so does my temperament (what kids today will slam to has me shaking my head), but every time I see Muuy Biien, I’m 17 again. I force myself away from the stage, because I want to throw down. The band makes it difficult for me to obey my own common sense.

I listened to D.Y.I., Muuy Biien’s latest release on Happy Happy Birthday To Me records, and it is a packed potion of punk power (sorry for the p’s). Infused with an insatiable edge from singer/songwriter Joshua Evans, D.Y.I. is nostalgic and inventive, honoring venerable bass lines while roaming through a modern landscape of musical chaos.

To understand the range and verve, all one must do is listen to the first three tracks. The instrumental Cyclothymia I, unexpected with a dreamy sharpness, slides into a drum kick and racing bass line for Human Error. When Evans utters his first words the song tears into new territory — his cadence and ability to filter above and around the sterling din behind him is a treat. With White Ego, all funky-edgy bass line and squawking guitars, Muuy Biien is at its apex. Evans sings, in a controlled yelp, ‘Another white ego/another good gone bad/to overcompensate for what you lack,’ and you understand you’re not dealing with common lyrics.

I go through stages where certain Athens bands I won’t miss if I have the opportunity to see them, I went through this with The Whigs, A. Armada, Producto and Easter Island. Three of those bands are gone and the former tours the world. I’m not sure what will happen with Muuy Biien, but it’s my new must-see crush, and D.Y.I. makes the argument that it’s the best show in town.


Athens Intensified at Athens Banner-Herald

Athens Banner-Herald calendar picks for Athens Intensified.


Athens Intensified at Athens Banner-Herald

No stranger to performing in Athens, Atlanta rapper Killer Mike still made a splash when Athens Intensified, the weekend-long music festival that rose from the ashes of Pop Fest, announced him as this year’s headliner alongside Japanese weird pop duo Cibo Matto at the festival kicking off next Thursday.

Killer Mike’s past dates at New Earth Music Hall and Georgia Theatre were well attended, to say the least, by Athens’ own hip hop scene, members of which had been entranced by the emcee’s Southern style lyricism since before he guested on the Outkast classic “The Whole World”.

But the rapper’s star has shone brighter in recent years with the release of his studio pairings with rapper El-P, calling themselves Run the Jewels and attracting the attentions of the oft-hip hop trepidatious indie rock community.

It’s not hip hop directly that has everyone talking about Killer Mike at the moment, though he does seem to be cresting whatever arc of power he’s riding, meaning he’s at the top of his game.

The emcee turned into an outspoken critic of the current police state in the wake of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo. Beginning with an op-ed piece in Billboard, the outlet of record for the entertainment industry, Killer Mike then took to TV, most notably Fox News, to decry a slate of highly controversial deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers.

None of this could have been predicted, of course, when Killer Mike signed on to helm Athens Intensified. But his presence at the 40 Watt next weekend gives an unintended poignancy to a festival notable for its corralling of talent local and regional, and in some cases international.

Spanning a number of venues in downtown Athens, the festival kicks off Sept. 11 with an all-ages Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records showcase at the Caledonia Lounge, 256 W. Clayton. Starting at 8 p.m., the showcase includes, in order, Tunabunny, Bows and Arrows, Muuy Biien, Robert Schneider, Deep State and Eureka California. Also on Thursday is a night of experimental and dance music at Go Bar, 195 Prince Ave. Staring at 9 p.m., the lineup is AstroShama, Future Ape Tapes, Holotropic JuJu and Dr. Fred’s Karaoke.

On Friday, Killer Mike headlines a night of hip hop at the 40 Watt Club, 285 W. Washington St., that includes Floridian producer Frost the Waver God, fellow Floridian Dola, Eddy Braveaux, local Louie Larceny.

At Caledonia on Friday is Under a Sky So Blue, Pinecones, Blue Blood, The Powder Room and T. Hardy Morris and the Hardknocks.

The Friday lineup at Flicker Bar, 263 W. Washington St., is still coming together, but Orgegan’s Genders and Athens’ Mothers are highlights on this bill of minimalistic-named bands.

Outdoors on West Washington Street Saturday afternoon is a skate competition co-sponsored by Get Rad Skateshop from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Currently scheduled live outdoor acts include punkers Burns Like Fire and Come What May.

The 40 Watt hosts Nels Cline of Wilco and Cibo Matto on Saturday night. Go Bar has Death Domain, Future Ape Tapes and Feather Trade.

Flicker has Four Eyes, Grand Vapids, Shoal Creek Stranglers and Matt Hudgins.

Caledonia, again, has the all-ages goods all night Saturday beginning at 5:45 p.m. Lots of young-ish local and touring indie acts fill two stages, with the night capped off by a scenester’s who’s who in Faster Circuits.

Athens Intensified also extends to the weekend of Sept. 20. New Earth Music Hall, 227 W. Dougherty St., has Djs Mahogany and Osmose early on that Saturday. Then at 10 p.m., there’s Javon Womack, Wesdaruler and The Egyptian Lover.

Festival passes are $35 for all events or $30 to skip Cibo Matto. Individual tickets to Killer Mike are $15, Cibo Matto are $16 and Egyptian Lover are $10. For tickets, go in person to Wuxtry in downtown Athens or order


Eureka California at Athens Banner-Herald

With all due respect to Eureka California, the local garage-punk band that just released the stellar “Crunch” on Happy Happy Birthday to Me records, the best song on their newest collection is their shortest and simplest.

“I bet that you like Julian Cope/ Don’t tell me you don’t,” Jake Ward sings over and over again on “I Bet You Like Julian Cope”. Those lyrics, and a Ramones-y beat cribbed from “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”, last all of a minute. The song is refreshingly minimalist among all this perfectly-quaffed indie rock marketed as edgy to us music journos.

A barrage of pick slides between verses is just extra sprinkles.

I point out the “Julian Cope” tune because it represents the core values of a band that does a lot with very little. On this particular song, they are doing a ton with the very least. Eureka California is but two people, Ward and drummer Marie Uhler. Much of their catalogue has been home-recorded. Their songs are frantic. The vocals break. The guitars fuzz. It’s all very immediate.

I often find myself lamenting that rock lyricists these days are over-emotional, fretting over nothing, crying over filled milk. Ward is slacker-style angry, intellectual and caffeinated. He’s the type of ne’er-do-well I like to see championed. The kids aren’t alright, Ward seems to say, and neither are the 20-somethings, the parents, the professionals and the retirees.

It’s OK to be depressed, Eureka California tells us with “Crunch”, especially when despondency is delivered via two-minute pop-punk songs.

“Crunch” is released officially on May 27. The release show for the album is May 31 at Little Kings (223 W. Hancock Ave.), part of the bar’s 10-year anniversary party. The shindig begins at 6 p.m.