Posts Tagged ‘flagpole’

Eureka California at Flagpole

“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.”


Antlered Aunt Lord at Flagpole

Antlered Aunt Lord, the slow-simmering local garage-pop project led by songwriter Jesse Stinnard (also of Tunabunny fame), is all set to release its Ostensibly Formerly Stunted (and on fire) LP Nov. 20 via HHBTM. Today, we’re tickled pink to provide y’all with a first taste of the LP via the video for “The Beezwax,” the record’s fuzz-forward, steadfastly hummable lead single.

Says Stinnard:

Lucy Calhoun (guitarist/singer in AAL) made [the video] after sitting down and learning iMovie one day. It stars Brigette, Destiny, Noam and Ravi. The more I watch it, the more it seems to be about a micro-universe in a cup and our effect on it.

Watch “The Beezwax” below:

Click through for the video!


Athens Intensified at Flagpole

Click through for some of the highlights!


Athens Intensified at Flagpole


Athens Intensified at Flagpole

Click through for three to see at Athens Intensified.


Athens Intensified at Flagpole

Start with New Orleans bounce powerhouse Vockah Redu, pausing if you can to dig the Nas sample on “Fantahsea.” Move from there to cool bluesman Willis Earl Beal, and drop out further with the jagged disquiet of Brooklyn’s Guts Club. You’ve still only dipped a toe into Athens Intensified, now in its fourth year and boasting four days of music across six venues. There’s also Brooklyn-by-way-of-Athens noise droners Bambara and Nickelodeon-by-way-of-New Haven veterans Polaris (of “Pete & Pete” theme song fame). $45 gets you into everything; drop that to $25 if you don’t mind bypassing Wavves and Toro y Moi.


Marshmallow Coast at Flagpole

Though it was associated with Athens’ Elephant 6 collective, songwriter Andy Gonzales’ Marshmallow Coast (alternately known as M Coast) never achieved the same widespread recognition as some of its contemporaries, perhaps due to the group’s high level of turnover, or its frontman’s unwillingness to pigeonhole the project.

Indeed, Gonzales has never sat still long enough to allow listeners to really figure him out, and Vangelis Rides Again, Marshmallow Coast’s fourth outing for the Athens-based HHBTM label, continues this trend. Clocking in at a brief 24 minutes, the record nonetheless finds Gonzales and company exploring exciting new angles while nodding to the jumbled, psych-speckled sounds of M Coast’s early days.

Vangelis features some of Gonzales’ finest tunes to date, from the late-night bedroom-pop of “Hills Are Alive,” which calls to mind the recent work of fellow soft-psych devotee Cass McCombs, or “Homeless Baby,” a daring, psychotropic number that reappropriates the lyrics to “On Broadway.” But though the songs stand out, there aren’t enough of them. A would-be epic in miniaturized form, Vangelis comes off instead like a tantalizing teaser for something more.


Marshmallow Coast at Flagpole

The show is billed as “Gonzalez vs. Gonzales,” but it’s a contrived controversy: Drive-By Truckers’ Jay Gonzalez and Andy Gonzales of Marshmallow Coast stress to Flagpole that they they admire each other’s work. Friday night, the local pop mainstays will each celebrate the release of a new record by co-headlining the 40 Watt Club.

After opening for the Truckers during the band’s annual homecoming in February and a stretch of shows where he performed his new, ‘70s-AM-radio-inspired EP, The Bitter Suite, in its entirety, Jay Gonzalez is primed to celebrate the collection’s release. Gonzalez says being so active with the Truckers the past few years delayed the new record’s completion.

“Because [DBT] is on a schedule, and because it’s an on-off thing, when I’m home, I can focus,” he says. Still, he adds, the music that would end up on the recording was penned a while back: “I wrote most of The Bitter Suite four or five years ago in hotel rooms.”

For the show, Gonzalez has assembled an all-star cast—Chris Grehan, Joe Rowe, Peter Alvanos and Kevin Lane—to give The Bitter Suite a proper treatment. The group will also play other songs from Gonzalez’s solo catalog.

Gonzalez says he feels fortunate to have his friends accompany him on stage, even if coordinating so many schedules is a task. “I don’t feel obliged to do it as a full band, but I really do enjoy it that way,” he says. “I feel like it’s the only way to get the whole thing across.”

Gonzalez confesses that while live shows are always a thrill, he also views them as opportunities to rehearse for upcoming recording sessions, typically scheduled whenever everyone can get together. While technology makes it easy for Gonzalez to communicate and exchange sounds and ideas with Grehan, who lives outside of Athens, he says he still cherishes any opportunity for the group to record together.

Also Friday, Andy Gonzales will celebrate his band’s return after a long break. And in fact, Marshmallow Coast’s Vangelis Rides Again is a near-perfect counterpart to The Bitter Suite. While the latter album was recorded in a professional studio, Vangelis is thoroughly a bedroom production, with Gonzales going so far as to build his own microphones, amplifiers and compressors.

Gonzales says the record’s trim, nine-song tracklist is a product of “the new era of… Internet short-attention-span promotion,” which he views as a positive. “I listen to some albums—even albums I love—and think, ‘This could have been five songs shorter, and I would have paid the same amount and not had to delete these songs from iTunes,’” Gonzales says.

With Vangelis, Gonzales says he has reached a new point in his trajectory as a songwriter which has forced him to try new methods. “I’ve gotten so into electronics in the past five years that it has eaten away at my songwriting time and cycle of focus,” he explains.

The real “epiphany,” Gonzales adds, has come from his attempts at building “song structures that move around just a few chords, like ‘Hills Are Alive’ [from Vangelis].” Gonzales says the inspiration for these sparse arrangements came from classical composers he has long admired.

While the recent uptick in Elephant 6-related activity, including Neutral Milk Hotel’s return, has garnered quite a bit of national attention for the Athens-based collective, of which Marshmallow Coast is an affiliate, Gonzales says it hasn’t impacted him or his band all that much.

“I honestly try to never think about the music business, or buzz, or trends, or anything that can spur [that] nauseating roller coaster ride of emotions,” he says.

With that caveat, Gonzales hopes to take Marshmallow Coast on the road for some East Coast dates in the future. After recent stints touring with other groups, Gonzales hopes to schedule a string of shows for his own band—“if they can be planned well and scaled so that they are fun and not in big, empty bars.”

Although Gonzales admits he prefers solo performances, where he builds songs using loop pedals and other effects, he promises “full-fledged stage musicianship” for his release show, which will feature Gregory Sanders, Emily Growden, Sarah Kirkpatrick and Derek Almstead. Gonzales will switch between guitar and piano to round out the band’s live sound. He also promises “a mild amount of theatrics… to expand the performance.”

Though both artists’ music differs in terms of approach, they share a definite affinity for ’70s-inspired pop music, so Friday’s show will seem less like a contest and more like a carefully curated, only-in-Athens event.


Marshmallow Coast at Flagpole

COAST ALONG: Longtime Athens musician Andy Gonzales has directed his almost 20-year project Marshmallow Coast through the distinctive lens of his multi-tentacled musical tastes. His newest album, Vangelis Rides Again, will come out May 5 on HHBTM Records. Moving away from the 1990s sound the project had for a long time, the new album also breaks entirely with the cloyingly twee kindergarten-isms that once defined the project. Twenty years is a long time, and Vangelis Rides Again is a smooth and thoughtfully moving album that nods nicely to its namesake.


Mind Brains at Flagpole

Mind Brains’ self-titled debut pushes the psychedelic sounds of Elephant 6 deeper and higher into the outer limits. As the CD’s opening number, “Happy Stomp,” unravels its long, drawn-out rhythms, Kraftwerk’s “Europe Endless” and Faust’s “It’s a Rainy Day (Sunshine Girl)” are musical touchstones.

These Krautrock staples light the path that Mind Brains—a group whose resume boasts of its members’ stints with the Olivia Tremor Control, of Montreal, the New Sound of Numbers and more—follows. But as “Body Horror” picks up the pace with its winding synth rhythms, angelic choruses and electronic drum patterns that fall like happy heartbeats, the group dives headlong into its own pool of cosmic dark matter.

Creating a moment in the rhythm is Mind Brains’ true strength, as “Whistle Tips,” “The Era of Late Heavy Bombardment” and “Sea Shore Minor” plow through sonic and psychological terrain that’s ecstatic and uneasy, but bound by an organic process.

This is the group’s first album, but it’s not the first trip these guys and gals have taken together. The scope of rich ideas finds balance in the most unlikely places because these five musicians know each others’ strengths, weaknesses and where Mind Brain’s thoughts are heading next—without even thinking about it.