Posts Tagged ‘crayon’

Crayon at PureHoney Magazine

Crayon’s “Brick Factory” sounds like the best ‘90s record you never heard. Give it two or three listens, and its lo-fi, occasionally off-key earworms will find permanent residence in your sense memory, not to mention your iPod and your record collection. So much so that you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life—particularly that time in your life when you were discovering your sexuality, hating school and sucking at sports.

Remembered primarily as the musical launching pad for Washington State musicians Sean Tollefson and Jeff Fell, who went on to form the seminal twee band Tullycraft, Crayon was a formidable act in its own right. The trio issued a self-released cassette, six 7-inch singles and its lone album, Brick Factory, in its four years of existence at the dawn of the 1990s. Today, the music sounds like lightning in a bottle, a singular yet familiar noise-pop brew that was utterly of its time, suggesting, at various points, Treepeople, Superchunk, the Dead Milkmen and Beat Happening.

The album has been out of print for most of the past 20 years, its reputation exceeding its availability. But in honor of its 20th anniversary, the venerable Happy Happy Birthday to Me label has released a limited-edition LP and bonus-track cassette with digital downloads; purchase both and you’ll get pretty much the entire Crayon discography.

At first, Tollefson, who played bass in Crayon, was apprehensive about releasing the reissue, because the band’s breakup still clouded his memories of it. But, he says, “when I finally sat down and listened to Brick Factory with fresh ears I thought, ‘Wow! Who are these kids? They’re crazy. It sounded surprisingly fresh to me. It felt like music being frantically made by passionate people I didn’t know. There are, of course, a couple points that make me cringe while listening to my younger self, but that’s to be expected. Honestly, I think the record actually stands up quite well.”

“I still don’t like my voice,” adds guitarist Brad Roberts, who split vocal duties with Tollefson. “And I wish the guitar sounded heavier on the album. There were some songs that definitely clicked, though. Jeff’s drumming is flawless throughout, and Sean had some great lyrics that still hold up.”

Part of the memorable tension in Brick Factory is its two divergent directions—the punk sensibility, which shone through on Roberts’ songs, and the proto-Tullycraft twee, which manifested in Tollefson’s. The trio was listening to music ranging from ethereal Sarah Records pop to the skull-crushing heaviness of Big Black, and integrated all of it into the teenage angst of Crayon.

“Our influences along with our lack of musical ability were mixed together in a naive cauldron,” Tollefson says. “If we had been better musicians, I’m positive the music we made would have been terrible. We were easily one of the more amateurish bands in [Bellingham, Washington], and we were also one of the most confident. At the time, I was convinced that we were one of the best bands in that local scene, but this sentiment wasn’t shared by most. We could headline and sell out the Middle East in Boston, but in Bellingham we were almost always the opening band for the opening band. It didn’t make any sense to us, and I think our songs benefited from this anxiety.”

Because the record never caught on in its time—the perennial fate of the cult classic—Crayon disbanded in 1994 with Roberts’ decision to leave.

“We had just gotten home from a six-week tour with The Softies, and we were about to go on another tour with Cub across Canada,” Tollefson recalls. “I don’t think Brad was having much fun being in the band and being on the road so much, so he decided to quit. At the time, I really wanted to continue, but in hindsight I think Crayon actually ended at the right point.”

“Part of me wonders, why was I so bummed out at the time?” Roberts says. “I was in a great band (pardon my delusions).” But, he says, “we were all very conscious of many people, especially local bar bands and indie-pop purists not liking us, and that gave us a bit of a chip on our shoulders. I think we were a very honest band that really tried to write good songs that would connect with people. I’m grateful that there are still some people who want to hear this record.”

Brick Factory is available now at www.hhbtm.com

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Crayon at When You Motor Away

Hey pop collectors.  Here is a rare and wonderful album from the first half of the ’90s.  The Pacific Northwest, was banging its collective head to grunge and other forms of alternative rock.  The Southeast had R.E.M, The dBs and its own brand of swampy jangle.  But amid it all, there was a spot for a noisy, lo-fi, merger of twee, punk and noise pop.  Born in the college and lumber town of Bellingham, Washington, there was Crayon.  Consisting of Brad Roberts (guitar/vocals), Sean Tollefson (bass/vocals) and Jeff Fell (drums), the band recorded a few singles and one album, Brick Factory, released in 1994 on Harriet Records.  By the middle of the decade, they had disbanded, with Tollefson and Fell leaving to found Tullycraft.  As the release of Brick Factory hits its 20th anniversary, HHBTM Records has issued a limited edition vinyl version of the album, which comes with a digital download with including 20 bonus tracks.  There is a cassette version with some bonus material as well.

The songs on Brick Factory deftly capture the awkwardness of young adulthood, the delight in the commonplace, the trickiness of romance, and wrapping it in distorted guitar, coy lyrics and bratty vocals.  The performances are energetic, and the music begs to be played at a high volume.  The record has been out of print and much sought after for years, so its resurrection is bound to delight old and new fans.  It may never come around again.

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Crayon at Big Takeover

Out of print almost immediately after it was released, Crayon’s sole full-length, one of Sebadoh founder Lou Barlow’s top ten albums of 1994, finally receives its first reissue – on vinyl, no less.

Brick Factory teeters between charismatic inept indie pop and early Nirvana distortion. Snotty melodic sing-a-longs voiced by bassist Sean Tollefson (pre-Tullycraft) merge with scuzzball fuzz personified by guitarist Brad Roberts. Behind them, Jeff Fell (also pre-Tullycraft) holds it down with his ecstatic, adolescent drumming. These are songs of the teenage experience, heart-felt and honest, recorded with a drive to tell a story, no matter how mundane it seems to adults or how many mistakes were made in the process. It’s like F.Y.P. eschewing the hardcore in favor of The Shaggs.

Twenty years later, fans still hold Crayon in high regard. Spin Brick Factory on your turntable and find out why.

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Crayon at Clicky Clicky Music Blog

A dusty blue, early ’90s Toyota Corolla: we can picture it in our head, we can smell it, we can see the cassette tapes it contained. And when we think of riding in the great Pete Torgo’s car during our later college years, we think of Crayon‘s “The Snap-Tight Wars,” a tremendous, hook-laden indie-pop classic we likely listened to often traveling north and south through New England lo those many years ago. In hindsight, the trio’s song presents as a relic of its time: indeed, our (basically) middle-aged self is not as comfortable with the nakedly heartfelt lyric “I wore you as an emblem of, as a badge of my worth” — delivered in bassist and fronter Sean Tollefson’s distinctive, adenoidal vocal — as our romantic and stupid 20-year-old self was, but such sentimentality at the time scanned as powerfully real. Now it seems representative of a sweet naïveté that perhaps hits a little too close to home when we honestly appraise our 20-year-old self. But of course, that is only one part of “The Snap-Tight Wars,” whose cracking drumming, pulsing bass lines and squalling guitar in the chorus reveals a punk heart and renders the song a most-serviceable rocker. The production is lo-fi but clear and electric, and the song was perhaps the first major calling card for the little band from Bellingham, Washington. Or at least it was for us. “The Snap-Tight Wars” appeared on Crayon‘s terrific, sole full-length release Brick Factory, which is being reissued Tuesday by Athens, Georgia’s Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records. HHBTM‘s reissue — which at least roughly coincides, mathletes, with the record’s 20th anniversary — is actually Brick Factory‘s first release on vinyl; the 2014 issue has been pressed to yellow media in a limited edition of 500 pieces, and is also being released as a cassette. Purchase of the LP includes a digital download of 21 bonus tracks — tracks from 7″ singles, comps, 4-track demos and never-before-heard, unreleased songs — and deluxe pre-orders include yellow vinyl, a cassette and button and apparently even more songs. The very fine people of Crashing Through Publicity have secured permission for us to offer a stream of “The Snap-Tight Wars,” which is embedded below, and we highly recommend that if you have not yet gotten with the now sounds of 1994, get with them now and pre-order Brick Factory from HHBTM right here. Crayon did not survive 1994; Mr. Tollefson and drummer Jeff Fell not long after formed the consistently excellent indie-pop juggernaut Tulleycraft, which we wrote about here in these electronic pages as recently as April 2013, when the act released its wonderful sixth LP Lost In Light Rotation.

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Crayon at Dagger Zine

Wow, this was certainly a blast from the past that I had nearly forgotten about. This record by this Bellingham, WA band was originally released on Tim Alborn’s Harriet Records label (Tim also published the half-size zine Incite!). This band included Sean Tollefson (bass vocals), Brad Robert (guitar/ vocals) and Jeff Fell (drums). Both Sean and Jeff went on to form Tullycraft (who may still around in some form or another) while Brad retired from music to work in an eraser factory (not a brick factory).  Crayon were fiercely independent, noisy/poppy and probably had some inspiration from Beat Happening. Sean and Brad alternated vocal duties with Sean having the childlike, innocent (which brought the band the twee tag, Sean would later carry these vocals into Tullycraft, let’s face it, his voice is instantly recognizable). It’d be hard to call these guy a twee band though as on many of the songs the guitars roar and the waves of distortion go over you heard and swallow you up (in the best way possible). Songs like “Chutes and Ladders’ (not a Gray Matter cover), “Crown,” “Pedal” and “Hope in Every Train” are too sticky for words. Hold your breath and jump in, people. Kudos to the HHBTM label for reissuing this lost gem 20 years after its original release. As it says on lots of records the world over, PLAY LOUD!  www.hhbtm.com

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Crayon at Dublab

Sometime around 1992/93, after the rise of alternative rock and before the death of Kurt Cobain, there was a sweet spot in the pop-culture landscape for DIY punk, noise rock and the many permutations of lo-fi pop. There was Shimmy Disc, the documentary “The Year Punk Broke”, and the movie slackers. Zines and indie labels celebrated and embraced all that. Crayonwalked that fine line of the not quite aggressive, yet hard enough to not be pure pop. Lo fi to its purest, the re-issue of “Brick Factory” by HHBTM Records is on limited edition vinyl (the album was originally only released on CD and cassette). In addition, the digital download includes 21 bonus songs comprising tracks from 7 inch singles, compilations, 4-track demos and never before heard unreleased songs.

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Crayon at Get It On Vinyl

Decades from now, people will look back and appreciate just how awesome the early 90’s was for music. It was the birth of so many genres, mainly grunge. However other than the birth of several sub-genres, it stood as a testament to the rock and roll dream. All of a sudden the guys we knew in high school who jammed in the garage were the new rock gods. Of course the majority were still stuck in the garage, but that was fine, they could make it! It could happen! There seemed to be probability of success to any project worth a damn.

Unfortunately, when Crayon originally released their only full length album,Brick Factory I wasn’t nearly cool enough to know about this underground cult classic. Partly due to my influences, partly due to the fact that I was all of 12 years old when it first came out, I am sad to say that hearing the new re-issue from Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records is in fact my first exposure to the band.

With that said, it’s clear to see why Brick Factory has been a long-awaited re-issue. Fronted by Brad Roberts, the album is more punk than his later project, Tullycraft, but there is plenty twee elements at work. One of the favorites from the LP, “Chutes & Ladders” proves that twee pop was alive and well in the early part of the decade, only to be robed and destroyed ten years later.

In fact the album as a whole walks the line between twee and punk very well. The reason why is the choruses are catchy enough to keep it pop, but the heavily distorted guitars and breakdowns like that in “Small” show plenty of punk elements at work. The tradeoff of vocals between Roberts and Sean Tollefson exemplifies the worlds colliding.

It’s no wonder this album has received such cult status, and while it’s unfortunate that it has been so difficult to find in its years out of print, this re-issue gives much needed credit to the influential project.

The Vinyl
Our friends at HHBTM Records always release excellent vinyl editions. Pressed on heavyweight black vinyl, the album includes the original album artwork, inserts, and a forward written by longtime fan Courtney Klossner. The vinyl mastering sounds excellent, especially on the low end. You can pick up a copy from your local independent record store or directly from HHBTM Records.

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Crayon at Raised by Gypsies

Before I listened to this cassette, I made an effort to figure out why I thought there was once a band on HHBTM called Crayon but it wasn’t this band for whatever reason.   I remember there being a soft cover CD in a plastic sleeve but I couldn’t place the name.   Thanks to Discogs (because going through my own collection would simply take more time) I found out that the band I was thinking of is called 63 Crayons, so perhaps I was only off by sixty two?   (For the Record: A “Where Are They Now?” feature on HHBTM bands would appeal to me greatly.  Whatever happened to The Gwens?  Visitations used to be my jam as well)

There are two sides to the music of Crayon and, no, I don’t mean that in the way that a cassette has two sides but rather that it has two different traits that it can take on during any given song but it usually maintains one or the other for the course of the song.    The first is this sort of dirty, fast paced almost punk sound that can best be attributed to “Incesticide” era Nirvana music.    Of course saying that spawns ideas of Local H (Maybe a few songs off of “As Good As Dead”, and then of course “Bag of Hammers” era) and the once lived Campground Effect.    This music is hard and raw and it hits you right in the mosh pit.

On the other hand, this music can sometimes take that turn into rock with a hint of garage, pop and maybe even that spills over into the twee– I don’t know– but it sounds a lot like High Pop to me and, yeah, there are other bands that are probably more recognizable to make that comparison with but screw it because I love High Pop and don’t listen to most of them.

At the end of Side A, there is this funny part that is seemingly live but I don’t think any of the songs were recorded as such.   Anyway, they mention that one of their members wasn’t at the show because he claimed to be sick but they thought he was really staying home to watch “Star Trek”.   The random banter will only help you fall in love with this band.

My only concern is that this cassette is titled “Brick Factory” and that makes me think Lego, yet crayon and Lego don’t really go together do they?   Do they make some sort of hybrid toy because if they do I want to know and if not someone better get on it.

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Crayon at Pure Honey Magazine

Check out page 3 for a story featuring Sean Tollefson and Brad Roberts.

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Crayon at Luna

20th anniversary reissue with download including 21 bonus songs. Crayon took the burgeoning sound of twee pop and added punk elements, sounding something like a cross between UK indiepop bands like the Pastels and more abrasive American bands like Unwound.

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