Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Initial disclaimer: Sweep The Leg Johnny (“Sweep”) originated in the early 1990’s on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Following graduation, the band moved to Chicago, continued playing for several years, and recorded a handful of albums on both Divot and Southern records. While in Chicago, the band underwent several lineup changes. Given the purpose of this blog, this discussion of Sweep will focus only on the band as they existed while in South Bend. If you are looking for additional discussion of the band’s lineups that included Matt Alicea, John Brady, Mitch Chaney, or any of their label-produced albums, you will not find that here.
No history of Sweep would be complete without first acknowledging the band Victoria's Real Secret. When a shake-up struck VRS’ lineup, and new drummer James Bukow (aka “the battery”) joined the band, Sweep was born. Steve Sostak (vocals, sax); Chris Daly (guitar, vocals); Ryan Hallford (guitar, vocals); and Wil Freve (bass) rounded out Sweep’s founding lineup. These five played together for a short period before creative differences (ever-present since VRS days) finally took a toll, and Ryan left the band. Sweep stuck together as a foursome, completing our sophomore year at Notre Dame playing some new material, coupled with some re-worked remnants from VRS.
At the beginning of our junior year at Notre Dame (1993) we started fresh, scrapped the old VRS material and began an intense and refreshing phase of writing new material. During this period, there was a marked difference and cohesion in our musical focus with Sweep. This time around, we seemed much more pointed in the same direction than we did with VRS. Perhaps we had “grown together” in our musical interests a little more...or perhaps (with Ryan’s absence) the creative duo of Steve and CD subtly took the opportunity to exert more control over the musical direction of the band. In the end, the combination of these factors and our collective experience during the VRS days laid the foundation for Sweep’s music.
The band’s evolution continued at a fast pace throughout our time at Notre Dame and beyond, never becoming asymptotic. Steve began incorporating punctuated saxophone as a unique textural element for our music. CD shined as the band’s sole guitarist, stretching his playing ability and style, as well as readily accepted the role of main creative director. Jim brought a new level of precision and sophistication to the rhythm section, and I simply did my best to keep up with the others’ musical growth.
Our music gracefully surrendered our youthful, starry-eyed attitude, and adopted a cynical, angst-filled vibe. It grew noticeably “darker”, abandoning the sometimes poppy power chords for dissonant, accidental-laden rifts. Despite these changes, the concepts of “unpredictability” and “intensity” survived the transformation from VRS to Sweep, and they remained central to our musical vision. However, with a more unified musical direction, the incorporation of these concepts became more subtle. Instead of experimenting with “intra-album” dynamic shifts (whole songs being loud or quiet), we began incorporating polarizing, “intra-song” dynamic variations. The constant battle between pianissimo and fortissimo within our songs became a calling card of Sweep. The overall native tempo of our songs slowed, as we realized that intensity could be born of other factors besides raw speed. Individually, we became more self-confident, and lost the need to “show off” by forcing complex, self-indulgent rifts into our music. We began viewing songs in their entirety, and contemplating the emotional response a listener would have. Simply stated, we became more musically mature, and this evolution was reflected in our music.
Sweep finished out its time at Notre Dame feverishly writing, evolving, and playing as many shows as we could. Our repertoire seemed to stay a constant size, as new material replaced older, dated works in our rotations. Following school, we collectively decided to move to Chicago, and the four of us (plus Ali) rented a house together in Wicker Park (aka “The Estate”). During our first year here, the combination of living together and working together in the same house again took its toll, eventually leading to the rhythm section calling it quits. Steve and CD remained, replaced Jim and me, and kept playing as Sweep the Leg Johnny. For several years after, the band continued its darkened and tension-filled evolution, underwent more lineup changes, and carved out a unique and lasting place in the college indie-rock scene. They garnered a strong Chicago fan base, and surprisingly drew fans on an international level, touring as far away as Tokyo, Japan, before finally disbanding in 2002. Before achieving such notoriety, however, Sweep the Leg Johnny managed to record a variety of material from their early years in “The Bend.”
Circles All Around was the first step in Sweep’s musical evolution, becoming the earliest “official” recording we made as a band. The tape was made at Studio X in Chicago and is the result of a whirlwind day in the studio. All songs were recorded and mixed in one day (not surprising, considering our college budgets). One of the musical objectives we had during this album was to de-emphasize the vocals in our songs; we wanted the vocals in our music to have equal weight with all of the other instruments, not supersede them. In addition, Steve began incorporating his saxophone playing into the mix in a very non-traditional way. The saxophone was typically not intended to be another “melodic” or “vocal” element... instead it was intended to be a rhythmic, textural addition. At the time Circles was recorded, I think Steve was still finding the balance of how best to incorporate the sax into the music. Its inclusion seems sometimes forced, and the focus on this instrument eventually lessened.
Track 1: An instrumental, “The Rolling O”, kicks off this recording. One of our friends at Notre Dame (we’ll refer to him as “Mikey”... ”B.D.”... ”Brrrummmm-Skiiii!”) owned a powder blue cargo minivan, which was surmised to contain a mattress in the back section. This vehicle therefore earned the nicknamed “The Rolling Orgasm”--hence the origin of this song’s title. The song is a straight forward composition, incorporating several different parts in a traditional song structure. The guitar varies from clean power chords to heavily distorted and bent notes. The dynamics of the song shift subtly at time, and at others slap you in the face with a wall of cymbals and Marshall generated distortion. The tension seems to build throughout the song, eventually being released in a final, chaotic series of random chords and cymbal crashes. There’s a brief moment of calm resolution before the second song on the album picks up.
Track 2: “Sunday” introduces the first lyrics of the album. The song begins with a syncopated drum rhythm that is soon joined by a bouncy low-high bass line. CD’s guitar plays around for a few moments before kicking into full-throttle, crunchy chords for several measures. These chords are then muffled to allow Steve’s vocals some space. Following the verses, the bass, sax, and some swanky guitar form a quiet, subdued section before the cymbals and distortion crash back in. This pattern is repeated a few times in the song until the ultimate conclusion of the song. The vocals of this song are noticeably lower in volume than they were on Pasta (VRS). Additionally, Steve’s vocal technique had improved significantly since that album, and this song afforded him an opportunity to sing in a more natural range.
Track 3: The final track on this album, “Teach”, was one of the first songs written by the band following Ryan’s departure, and it had a surprisingly long lifespan. This was one of the only songs written during our junior year that we played through our senior year and beyond. In fact, this is the only Sweep song that was recorded more than once (on this album, and again on a 1995 demo). Although this song followed the familiar quiet-loud, quiet-loud pattern found on Circles All Around, it was generally packaged in a more traditional “emo” structure. Musically, the song flows fairly well and was always well received by audiences. Lyrically, the message of this song always resonated strongly with me (and other members of the band)... a plea for patience, teaching, and sharing over selfishness and competition. I think the combination of the song’s mainstream feel and classic message kept it as a fan favorite for a long time.
Sweep is now defunct, and the five original members are scattered across North America. Steve Sostak is located southernmost, living with his wife in Peru. I believe they are both English teachers. Chris Daly stayed in Chicago, and is now married, with child, and continues to pursue other musical interests (see: Haymarket Riot) while working as a paramedic. Ryan Hallford spent many years in Scottsdale, AZ, where he also married and had two children, but he has since returned to his home state of Texas. Ry-Guy is an established alternative-medicine practitioner that serves the Dallas community. James P. Bukow moved back to his Boston roots, and is also married with three children. Jimmy-Jam is an electrical engineer that designs things that keep us safe at night. I have stayed in Chicago-land, and have transitioned to suburbia with my wonderful wife and daughter. I’m a recovering civil engineer, working for a national developer in primarily west coast markets. Questions or comments? I may be contacted at email@example.com.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Welcome to a very special holiday edition of Friends of The Bend...
Drink a Cup of Whiskey-Beer, or The Night Tackleloco Saved Christmas
By Robert Dahl
We never planned to save Christmas. But sometimes things need savin’. That’s when real men have to step up, stiffen their spines, and boldly relive their childhoods.
In the summer of 1999 I’d been out of college for a couple of years, was living in New York NY, and was ready for a change. When I say “ready,” I of course mean “desperate, clamoring, and ready to jump a train to anywhere” for something other than the clotted streets and scintillating odors of our nation’s most famous city. Circumstances conspired to send me to Washington DC, where I had several good friends and the promise of a better life.
This new life in DC first became manifest in the form of a makeshift band we called Tackleloco (no, not “Taco Loco.” We were not a mariachi punk band. Tackleloco was a game one of us used to play growing up. From what I understand it involved little more than a group of kids running around tackling each other (not unlike Aussie rules football)). This band was originally formed by a good friend of mine from way back (among those mentioned above) named Mike Larmoyeux, and a friend of his from college named Jim McNamee. Jim and Mike had played in various bands at Notre Dame, and Mike and I had played in various bands in high school down in Jacksonville, Florida (actually, Mike and I had played in only one band, but we kept changing the name. So it really counted as like 8-10 different bands. I stand firmly by this). The instrumentation was odd, but we were confident that it would work: Mike and I played guitar, and Jim played clarinet.
No singing. No rules. That’s how we rolled. Word to your mother/nearest female kin.
Jim and Mike already had a few originals written by the time I came along, so I was happy to be included and did my best to augment what they’d already put together. Some of the songs included such hits as “Away to Me, Fly,” inspired by the sheepdoging movie Babe, and “Broderick,” a very somber number written by Mike in a fit of despair after seeing Godzilla and wondering what the hell had happened to Ferris Bueller’s career. I started adding some material of my own, writing the unforgettable “I’m Not the Spaz You Know Me As,” and collaborating on “Well, I Never Knew a Rufus.” We had an iron-clad songwriting process… Mike and I would come up with the oddest arrhythmic guitar harmonies we could, and Jim would hold it all together with the melody. We did one cover early on, which was Brittany Spears’s incomparable “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” With our instrumentation and the speed at which we played it, it sounded oddly similar to “Hava Nagila.” That is to say, it was exactly what we were shooting for. Let us rejoice.
We recorded a demo and played out here and there, and had a great time. But the first big project we wanted to undertake was, naturally, to record a Christmas album. Doesn’t every young band want as much? Good artists borrow, great artists steal, and immortal artists record Christmas albums. Just ask Lawrence Welk. Why not us? By the Autumn of 2000, it was on. We would record The Night Tackleloco Saved Christmas.
We began figuring out “Skating” from said special, and away we went. “We Three Kings.” “Carol of the Bells.” “Ding Dong Merrily on High.” We tried to keep songs recognizable, but also to infuse each of them with that special “Tackleloco” something. Since we didn’t really know what that “something” was, we just mixed it up and tried keep it interesting. It was all exceptionally fun, and the best part was that we got to think back to what we loved about Christmas as children, find songs that captured that feeling, and then play them in musical ways that we’d learned and cultivated in early adulthood.
That all came to a head when we began figuring out how to end the album. How do we close this deal? With what song can we end such a project and have it bring everything home? We needed one more song. It had to be good, and it had to be fun (and don’t forget, also playable and awesome). Fortunately, we were able to benefit from the expertise of another Notre Dame musical alum, Doug MacEachern. He lived in DC at the time as well, and he came over one evening to help out with some of the recording. As many of our dear readers are aware, he is not only a good recording engineer, he is also a spectabulous percussionist. He came over, and the four of us sat down to figure something out. We decided to take the last song in an entirely different direction.
We decided to play Twisted Sister’s inspiration for “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and returned the favor on their behalf. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” heavy distortion, clarinet, and banging on whatever bits of percussion we could cobble together in our basement. In figuring it out, we realized that not only were the chord progressions of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “Faithful” very similar, they were both very much like “Auld Lang Syne.” So we turned it into a two-tune medley. And we decided to sing. But none of us knew the words. So we did what any self-respecting band would do… we hit “record” and started playing. Here’s how Auld Lang Syne came out, near as I can figure, Tackleloco style:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And we’ve done sing to mine?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
Just don’t forget about auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne,
Yeah, auld lang syne,
We’ll drink a cup of whiskey-beer,
For auld lang syne.
Done. Hit “save.” Make copies. Wonder what “whiskey-beer” is and try to figure out where to find some.
In any case, we finished the album, gave it away to whoever would take it, and kept playing for as long as we could. We never broke up, and we later added a fourth member (my brother Taylor Dahl), but we haven’t done anything for a long while.
Tackleloco is not dead, Tackleloco merely sleeps. Like Arthur and his England, Tackleloco will rise again in Christmas’s time of great need, should such a time come.
Tackeloco on MySpace
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Before Mike went off to London for the spring 1995 semester, we booked time at Miami Street Studios to record as much as we could in the little time we had. John, the owner of the studio, offered us a discount rate because he claimed to never make any money off of us since we worked so quickly. In the end, we recorded 16 songs (plus one throw away improvised noise track to kill off one of the reels) in the space of a weekend during October 1994. Five songs went to our second seven inch, Tinkertoy, and another five songs went to a short tape we put out as a self-titled release. Well, it was officially self-titled, but the unofficial title is The "Dwayne Dibbley" EP, in honor of the uncool alter-ego of Cat from the BBC sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf.
Speaking of cats, the actual cover photo is Edgar and Puck, the two cats who lived at the Miner Street house where Doug and Joe also resided. The actual tape covers were printed on either red or green cardstock, and then the emiLy logo (a lightbuld with an "e" in the middle, originally drawn by Lael T. for the Finer Time cover) was silkscreened over the cats. The tape was also notable for being the first emiLy release to include a lyric sheet. The second, and last, emiLy release with printed lyrics was the riverrun CD.
As far as the songs go, this tape rivals the CD for my favorite collection of songs. It starts off with the tense "Beef" before kicking into "Red Line Metro", written by Joe for his younger sister. "Tactical" is one of my very favorite emiLy songs, built out of one of Mike's bass lines that I recall having to hear a ridiculous number of times before I sorted out the timing of the intro. When we played "Fearless" at a house party for the first time, there was a guy standing in front of Joe the entire time who blurted out something along the lines of "MAN, IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE PLAYING TWO GUITARS!" in the middle of the song. "He Had A Loud Mind" was written for Dave M. of hace frio, and musically inspired in large part by the NJ hardcore band Merel.
emiLy on MySpace
emiLy on last.fm
Friday, December 12, 2008
Taking their name from a Simpsons parody on the Freemasons, The Stonecutters were a fun yet short-lived poppy punk endeavor from an assortment of South Bend rock regulars. The band consisted of Kate B. (July) on vocals, Mike C. (decaf) on guitar, James J. (Hace Frio) on bass, Mark H. (Tacklebox, True North) on drums. A couple of these folks were kind enough to weigh in on this recording:
The Stonecutters wrote 11 songs in 11 days then played our first show at the Green House. We then proceeded to play a handful shows (Archi party, Angela Blvd) and recorded and mixed this cassette of 12 songs, including a cover of emiLy's song "Red Line Metro," in about 2 hours in Mark's basement. I remember each practice we'd hit a store to buy cigarettes, a 40 oz for each of us, then we'd drive to Mark's parents house out in Mishawaka to practice. I think we existed for just about 2 months. It was quite a fun experience. -- James J.
The song "Humans" was written the day we made the tape, and was recorded the second time we had played it. Also, there was no PA so I had to sing directly into the 4-track, for better or for worse. Great, great fun, I really miss that summer. -- Kate B.
You gotta admire a band that has the stones to cover an emiLy tune ("Red Line Metro") and do a pretty decent job of it at that. "Blister" is a snappy little ditty that shines in it's pleasant simplicity. "East Race" refers to either the kayak course in the middle of downtown South Bend on the St. Joe River, or the liquor store that was around the corner from the Red Star house. Album closer "August" alternates nicely between a peppy ska-beat and some serious hard rock chops. Also worth noting, the track "Shameless" is a take-off of Heavens To Betsy's "My Red Self," a song originally written about menstruation.
This self-titled cassette was recorded on a 4-track and mixed in two hours in Mark's basement in May of 1996. It was released on Rent To Own Records as RTO12.
The Stonecutters on MySpace
Monday, December 1, 2008
Victoria’s Real Secret (“VRS”) was the precursor to the later, better known band, Sweep the Leg Johnny (“Sweep”). VRS featured the creative nucleus of Steve Sostak on vocals and Chris Daly (aka “CD”) on guitar. Ryan Hallford supplemented this pair as a hybrid “lead” guitarist and occasional vocalist. Marty (Master of Time) Mennes on drums and yours truly, Wil Freve on bass rounded out the lineup. We played as VRS during our sophomore year at ND (1993-94). This band was young, inexperienced... metaphorically in its adolescence. The members brought some semblance of individual talent, though admittedly less than we all thought (save, perhaps, for Ryan). We shared a love of playing music; however we lacked a cohesive creative direction. Each of us attempted to pull the band towards our individual musical interests and styles; our songs reflected this, becoming syntheses of many rock ‘n roll styles including indie, alternative, progressive, punk, blues, and classic rock. Everything we did was a new experience, and frankly, a musical experiment. VRS developed a reputation as a unique, eclectic, and stylistically diverse band.
Fifteen years later, I listen to some of VRS’ songs and instantly remember the individual who crafted the song’s main concept, and the creative battles that ensued. Albeit counter-intuitive, I personally believe this stylistic tug-of-war became the primary strength of the band. The resulting musical library was a melting pot of musical genres, styles, and influences. In the end, we all agreed that whatever musical styles would be combined within a song, they would be done so with intensity. This became the unifying concept for our music. Perhaps it was this intensity, and our predictable unpredictability that shored up a consistent (and passionate) following for VRS’ live shows. Although I look back on our music and think it unpolished, and sometimes clumsy, it represents a musical time capsule that appropriately captures our early development as musicians. Much like reading a term paper written during high school, listening to Pasta reminds me how green we were, and how much we grew in the years to come.
It has been ten plus years since I last listened to this album. One thing in particular struck me when hearing it again: I loved the layering and interplay of the guitars in this album. Both CD and Ryan complemented each other extremely well. From their styles and training right down to the gear and stage presence, each brought unique contributions to the band. Although I generally consider our VRS compositions to be of lesser “quality” than those of Sweep, being able to play with a tremendous guitar duo was a definite bright spot of my experience with VRS, and something that was noticeably missed with Sweep.
Track 1: This album starts with the driving and energetic song, “It Depends.” VRS did its best not to have a consistent, signature “sound;” although, if we did, this song embodies what that would have been. After a brief guitar introduction, Marty, Master of Time, reveals the songs true tempo with a punishing, percussive barrage. CD kicks in with the song’s primary guitar rift, and he is eventually mimicked by Ryan (playing it with a blues-twist, of course). These crunchy, Marshall-produced power chords are underlain with a bouncy, octaval bass line that has an annoying habit of falling one chromatic step short of the root note... an unexpected juxtaposition of indie-rock accidentals with major-scale, blues chords. For this song, VRS borrowed from traditional blues theory, then sucker punched it, turned up the tempo three notches, ran away and never looked back.
Track 2: The album starts in fifth gear, but “Stained Glass Window” dramatically downshifts, showcasing certain band members’ “emo” influences (in fact, the song’s name is a tribute to Buffalo Tom, who had a knack of randomly naming their songs). The songs ethereal introduction begins with Ryan’s restrained and melodic guitar part accompanied by CD’s screeching background guitar and my harmonic tappings (inspired by Alex Lifeson’s harmonics in the song “Red Barchetta”). When the drums and bass finally kick the song into full swing, I still get chills down my spine. The song progresses through a fairly conventional song structure, rewarding the listener with variations of the main melody and some notable textural breaks. When the song resolves back to its final chorus, this transition feels nothing short of triumphant (Marty’s syncopated ride cymbal is like icing on the cake). I always loved this song...although it is more a “mainstream” than we were used to. This song has an organic quality and just seemed to “work.” During the creation of this song, our musings were operating at a higher level, and it felt like the song wrote itself. The end result was, in my humble opinion, powerful and expressive. My biggest regret of this song was trying to cram too much into my bass part. I learned later in my musical study to appreciate moments of understated bass and the incorporation of rests and silence. Used appropriately, these concepts can be powerful additions to a song, augmenting rhythms and varying texture. I wish I recognized this better before recording this song; the end result might have been very special.
Track 3: “Why Ask, ‘Why Ask Why?’” begins with an obviously Chilli-Peper-esque bass introduction. Although I love the funk & slap style of bass, this song represents the one time Steve and CD let me bring (ehh... bastardize) that style into one of our songs. What can I say... we made the most of it and had lots of fun with our funky selves. Eventually all of us indulged our funky sides and viewed this song as a welcome departure from our other work. My favorite part includes the popping and tapping bass breakdown in the middle of the song, followed by a tidal wave of distortion and percussion that crashes in, culminating in a blistering guitar solo by Ryan. As a side note, at the end of his solo, Ryan was unhappy with his track and he casually slid his hand up his guitars neck, thinking he would be re-record the solo. CD and Steve liked the way this sounded and eventually persuaded him to keep this in the recorded version.
Track 4: “Backwards” is the final song on the first side of the album. This song mimics the mellow feel of “Stained Glass Window,” but in my opinion falls short on energy and intensity. When I first heard CD’s guitar part, I thought it sounded like a rift that The Edge from U2 would play. Therefore, as a quasi-tribute to that band, I modeled my bass line after Adam Clayton’s simple, legato style. I don’t regret experimenting with our music, but with such one must expect a few failures. In my opinion, this song is the weakest on the album. It has an overly simplistic structure, a completely uninspired bass breakdown, and an incredibly misplaced distorted guitar part at the very end of the song (every time I hear it, I think of the old theme song for “Entertainment Tonight”). This song had potential, but overall, it severely underachieved.
Track 5: “Proper pH” thankfully picks up the tempo on the second side of the album. This work features lightning fast guitar riffs, alternating tempos, and a pulsing, intentionally staccato bass line. There’s a lot of dynamic variations in this song, and at times the bass switches from being intensely “in your face” to being a rolling, subdued ditty, on which the guitars gradually rebuild the song’s intensity. I feel obliged to point out that the slowed bridge portion of this song was intentionally crafted to be “cheesy” and “poppy”... a satirical counterpoint to the unconventional remainder of the song. After hearing many fans’ critiques of this part, I am convinced that the members of VRS were the only ones that were “in on the joke.” This song is a fitting introduction to the second half of the album, and provides a representative foreshadowing of the tempo and dynamic changes that would eventually become mainstays of Sweep.
Track 6: The final three songs on the album are older songs whose creation predated my time in VRS. When I came aboard, I was asked to respect their original bass lines, so these remained largely intact. The first song, “The Green Iguana,” needs to be listened to, as no description will do it justice. I might futilely try to describe it as acid-numbed Primus meets Pavement, getting their asses kicked by a speed metal band strung out on cocaine. The inspiration for the song came from Steve’s pet iguana, and he penned lyrics that contemplated living life crawling around like an iguana. It’s weird. Just listen to it.
Track 7: “Been Around the Block” has a straightforward song structure like “Backwards;” however it triggers a more effective emotional response. I’ve always been a fan of hypnotic grooves, and this song brings a Fugazi-like bass line that tries its best to get your head subtly bobbing. For this alone, I enjoy this song. Although I’m not crazy about the guitar’s flange effect on the recorded version, I think this helped the mood of the song when played live. Given this song was a remnant of Schwa (that’s a whole ‘nother review), VRS sure got a lot of mileage out of it.
Track 8: “Fish” is another one of the first songs written by VRS. Steve conceived the song’s lyrics to chronicle the cyclical romance of two of the band’s close friends. It contains poppy and lively guitar with some acoustics layered in. The rhythm section pushes the tempo, but generally allows the guitars and vocals to carry the song. Although a simple composition, this was just an up-tempo song we always had fun with. Ryan throws in an over-qualified guitar solo to complete the song, and thus, the album. I feel that ending the album with such an early song was an appropriate reflection of how the band started, and an acknowledgment of how far we had come.
In conclusion, Pasta was a joy to record. Not all the songs were first rate, but it’s a good demonstration of the diversity of styles, tempos, dynamics, textures, and moods that VRS brought. More than anything else, I remember VRS as a band that was FUN to see live. We always had a great time stirring the audience into a frenzy and playing off each other. This album is a product that I feel is still pretty unique, and I’m thankful for having my experience and memories with the band. Questions or comments? Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Wil Freve
Victoria's Real Secret on MySpace
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Go-Lightly's were a rompin' saucy rock-n-roll party machine! The band consisted of Kristi R. on bass and vocals, Zoe M. on keyboard and backing vocals, and Andy Yang (of Obstruction fame) on drums. Let's check out what a couple of 'em had to say about the history of the band:
"Originally, The Go-Lightly's were Kristi, Chris O. and Andy. Chris found out that I played the piano, then asked me to join. In fact, it was his electronic keyboard I used for the duration of the band. Our first practice (in Ron, Andy, and Travis' basement, aka The Hive) was, I think, also the last practice Chris partook in before leaving the band. Let's call it... over 'artistic differences' and leave it at that. Kristi was sort of the main song writer and band leader, and sang vocals with me backing her up. The band was sort of the illegitimate offspring of Leslie Gore and Heavens To Betsy. (You know, the offspring that goes off to state college and nurtures an ever-growing beer gut while trying to decipher The Doors keyboard solos). Complete with out-of-tune singing, no guitar, Kristi on bass, Andy on drums, and me on a cheap electronic keyboard.
Yes--the Metallica Party. I remember we all wore metal. Literally, I had on a tin foil skirt. I also remember our first (and last) show in a bar--remember that swanky bar that was just up Hill Street from the Red Star House? It had the shag carpeting and private vinyl booths? Super 70s swank? Well it was transformed into a Domer haven, and somehow we scored a show there opening for The Butterfly Effect.
We did a few covers: 'Dumb Head' (Ginny Arnell), 'Axeman' (H2B), a couple more... we also played 'Time of the Season' by The Zombies, and oh my was the keyboard solo ever challenging to figure out. But I did it, damn it! Our own song, 'Do It Right,' however, was probably our signature tune. It's the one that made them all scream for more, except we didn't have any more since we usually saved that one for last." -- Zoe M.
"I remember how we would come together to write songs in The Hive basement. The girls had worked on some things and when we all came together, it would just be a jam session at first. They would lay down some melody and lyrics and I just kinda made up drum beats to go with the stuff. I can't even remember how many songs we had, I think only 6-8 songs. But the most memorable for me was 'Ash Rash,' which Kristi wrote after my smart move of putting actual ash from The Hive basement fireplace (there was one on the opposite end of the drum kit) on my face under my eye as 'makeup' for my halloween costume that year. I think it was a last minute thrown together costume of a beat up boxer, that I just threw that shit on my face. I would have been better off with a damn sharpie because the next day, my left eye had developed a peculiar rash where the ash had been and stayed there for a week or so. That was one of many dumb moves, but it gave way to the song... 'Ash Rash!'
I think we only played a few shows, the biggest one being at a bar that I can't remember the name of. Of course, we played at The Hive a couple of times. I mainly remember how fun it was to mix it up with those cool girls and how different and unique our sound was. It was a nice, refreshing change of pace from the other sounds on campus." -- Andy Yang
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to see The Go-Lightly's perform, having moved away shortly before they got together as a group. But when Zoe gave me a copy of this live party recording a couple years later, it was like I could've just as easily been right there when it all went down. Listening to the cassette, everything felt so familiar. Perhaps because basement shows in The Bend for the most part all shared some common yet distinct, intangible qualities. As someone once wrote, "Just imagine 20 or so friends, an unimpressed out of town band or two, a pony keg, shoes, beer, and friendly insults flying..." --that's a pretty clear picture, and this show was no different. I'm glad this is the first live recording we are featuring here on our little blog, because it really captures the feeling (for better or worse) of so many of the dozens upon dozens of basement shows that were put on back then. It's nice to be able to re-live that a little, even if it's only for the 26-minute duration of The Go-Lightly's rockin' good set.
That said, there are some really enjoyable moments on the Metallica Party Live recording. Lots of laughs, plenty of "ALL-RIGHTs!!!" a-hollered (see the fellow to the left), fuck ups, false starts, and a brilliantly timed call-and-response "GO!"... "LIGHTLY!" intro from the crowd to get the whole thing started off with a bang. Zoe's keyboard solo in "Time of the Season" is truly off the chain. And "Do It Right" lives up to it's billing as the quintessential Go-Lightly's smash hit.
If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say this was probably recorded by Hardcore Ron, with something a little fancier than a mic hanging from the rafters of the basement ceiling. The cassette never had any official release, but rather was just one of those things that you dubbed yourself and passed out to your friends (I got mine as filler, if you can imagine, on the other side of a taped copy of a Neutral Milk Hotel record!). The Go-Lightly's did at one point record in Ron's studio, but it was one of those "let's hurry up and put something to tape before everyone leaves town" kinda deals, was never mixed or released, and promptly faded from the memories of the parties involved. Who knows, maybe y'all will get lucky and it will resurface and see light on this blog one of these days. Until then...
The Go-Lightly's on MySpace
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Welcome to another edition of Friends of the Bend! This time we welcome Jason Kucsma, former frontman of Hey, Dummy, to drop some knowledge on us about the history of the band and their powerful 7" EP, Fall In Line:
My friend Dennis recently posted a photo album on Facebook titled, "Bowling Green, 1995-96: If You Can Remember It, You Weren't There." And this, my friends, sums up why it's taken me several months of prodding from Theodore and my own self-flagellation for being a flake to actually sit down and write up what little I remember of the Hey, Dummy years. What follows is a loose recap of a period in Hey, Dummy's life -- as told by the only guy in the band who, unlike his former bandmates, isn't making any kind of contribution to music these days.
Hey, Dummy was me, Tony Cavallario (Aloha), Mike McNeeley (No Sanctuary), and Eric Koltnow (Aloha, Six Parts Seven). The band was born from the ashes Chunk Iron Chest in the early 1990s when Mike and I were fortunate enough to connect with Eric and Tony to start what we hoped would be some amazing amalgamation of the indie/punk/hardcore/jazz/experimental music that we were each into individually and collectively at time. Earlier in Hey, Dummy's career, we tended toward really basic (and fast-as-fuck) punk rock, but Fall In Line can more accurately be described as a more mature (read: schizophrenic) Hey, Dummy that had finally grown into ourselves as a hardcore band benefiting from the skills of a classically trained percussionist and a superbly talented guitarist. Add Mike's ferocious bass and my untrained vocals to the scene, and Hey, Dummy was a case-study in controlled chaos. During rehearsals, I would watch Tony, Mike, and Eric work together to write the songs while I worked on lyrics primarily inspired by my own personal reckoning with what it means to be a white political activist in rural NW Ohio. While early songs were sarcastic jabs at our punk rock activist subculture, later Hey, Dummy covered more theoretical issues about white privilege, personal accountability, and animal rights (we were all vegetarian/vegan at the time).
The Fall In Line 7" followed our cassette demo Products of the Industrial (R)Evolution, which was recorded in the early 1990s at an old town hall in Rudolph, Ohio -- about 10 miles from our home base of Bowling Green, Ohio and located across the street from a cemetery. The demo was recorded in 1 1/2 days, but could have been done in a day. On the first day, we practiced and recorded all the songs to our satisfaction. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we turned to the guy (whose name escapes me) to see how things sounded, and he told us that he accidentally forgot to hit the record button on the deck. He had been checking levels and monitoring our progress without ever actually recording anything. When our rage reached a peak, we looked at the guy, and he was asleep at his mixing board. He was purportedly narcoleptic and dozed off when things got a little stressful. We came back the next day and plowed through the songs and called it a day.
Learning our lesson, we recorded Fall In Line with our friend Mike Pennington at Eric and Tony's house, our practice space and future house-show mecca. The 7" received some favorable reviews in HeartattaCk, MRR, and other zines that put us in the Born Against or Submission Hold camp -- brilliant family with which we were all pleased to claim kinship, though never felt quite deserved. Incidentally, the sleeve and liner notes were designed by me and cruelly document my early career as a self-taught graphic designer. I loved collecting old encyclopedias and children's books -- lifting illustrations and photos with abandon for use flyers, zines, and myriad other projects.
Recording Hey, Dummy was a small part of our history, though. The joy we got from the band was playing live shows around the Midwest on a handful of small tours. A trip down the East Coast to play with Pink Collar Jobs, Griver (future Hellbender) and others took us all the way to Gainesville. Midwest tours took us to South Bend to play with our friends, and we even found ourselves in Kalamazoo and Chicago playing shows with Los Crudos and Charles Bronson. And here's where the "if you can remember it, you weren't there" comes in. So much of our short history was enveloped in brilliantly great parties with friends and extended punk-rock fam that it's all a nostalgic blur to me. It's hard for me to point to specific instances where Hey, Dummy changed my life, but the overall experience of learning from these guys and just sharing in the experience of playing music that made people happy (or challenged people in some instances) was an overwhelmingly formative experience for me. Bad recording quality and all, I still love to listen to this shit.
-- Jason Kucsma
I go back a long way with the guys from Hey, Dummy. Jason, Mike, and I all went to high school together, and I spent a lot of time traveling back and forth from The Bend to Bowling Green, OH throughout the mid-90s. I witnessed the earlier incarnations of the band (Chunk Iron Chest, The Schlitzed), and watched their sound mature and gain momentum as Hey, Dummy. Their shows were always so much goodness, and was lucky enough to see them play numerous times in various locations. For me, there's really something special about witnessing good friends create great music, which was part of the reason for starting this blog in the first place.
Hey, Dummy was kind enough to host Chikkenhead and Obstruction for various shows in BG, and we did what we could to return the favor. They played in South Bend twice; once at the Green House with Ground Round, and another time at Clifford the Big Red House with The Mad Dogs, Obstruction, and a couple others I can't recall at the moment. The first show was a lot of fun, as they let me stand in on second guitar for a few songs (which they probably regretted soon after). The second show was a tad bittersweet, because although their set was through the roof, Jason ending up losing his voice, putting "the big kabosh" on the Hardcore Ron Studios recording session planned for the following day. A real shame, as the band was near the top of their game and would've really shined under Ron's recording mastery.
Thus, we are left with this great EP, Fall In Line. Whatever is lacking in production is more than made up for with energy and emotion. I, too, still love to listen to this shit. It was self-released by the band in 1997 on Saturnalia Records.
And because we love ya, and because this might be the only place this band is ever documented online, we're also posting what might arguably be the rest of the recorded works by Hey, Dummy for your listening pleasure.
Hey, Dummy - Cassette Recordings
Friday, October 24, 2008
Say hello again to Hace Frio, your indie pop rock friends. Hace Frio was Dave McM., James J., Vinny C., and Rose S. (though I don't believe Rose is featured on this cassette). Let's hear what a couple of these guys had to say about the band:
"Hace Frio was a band for the fun of it. None of us could play instruments except Vinny on drums, but we had loads of fun making up little pop songs. We actually played a load of shows from Michigan to Chicago, and did a mini-tour with emiLy, which was a highlight of our life as a band in the summer of '96. Over time we got a little tighter, wrote better songs, and rocked Nazz into oblivion. Our best show was playing with Chisel in the basement at 702 W. Angela Blvd, or perhaps playing University of Chicago with an audience of about 60-70.
The College Years was the first recording, with loads of songs. We were inspired by the general output of bands like Guided by Voices, although we fell short in the lyrics and music departments. What was great about Hace Frio was that even though we were short on instruments and green behind the ears, we got to listen to far superior bands like emiLy and learned to appreciate Joe's masterful guitar playing, and the general elan of the band. Plus Vinny covered up any musical lapses we had." -- Dave
"When we started, Dave and I seriously had no idea how to play. Our first show was quite awful, but we all loved music, had an idea and went with it.This cassette features a diverse selection of sounds and directions, from indierock and punk to instrumental noise and poetry. Who could forget "Anne" -- a poppy toe-tapper that is sure to stick in your head all day once you give it a spin. You've gotta also love "Dyngus Day" -- an homage to the Bend and it's most beloved local holiday. And "Center Aisle" brings the rock with it's full-on Dead Kennedys-style choruses.
So many good times! Early on we hijacked the WVFI van for a weekend, it was 107+ degrees outside and we headed to Chicago to record our first demo songs in Sweep the Leg Johnny's basement. Quite an insane experience, we probably shouldn't have made it there and back, but we survived. We had a mission, what that was is anyone's guess. Vinny's awesome drumming, and Rose's sweet violin sounds, along with sheer determination, led to much better song writing and towards the end some really amazing shows." -- James
The College Years was recorded in 1995, and released on the eSTaTe record label (what is it with capital letters in the middle of words with this crowd?). We'll leave you with a little something from an unlisted cut at the end of the tape:
"Ahh the College Years... when old Smitty said, 'Kick back, look at the spectacle of life kid, absorb all the wonderful French minds and let it all slide down your throat like a Werther's Original,' he had it right! And this, this is our gift to you: The College Years by Hace Frio 1995-1996. Yes... and then I'm going to kill you and eat you. But that's alright. People will call me a cold-hearted fiend, but enjoy the recording."
Hace Frio on MySpace
Monday, October 20, 2008
Who better to speak on behalf of July than Ms. Kate B.:
Most teenage girls today wouldn't think it, but in the pre-Alanis days of the early 90s, when a strong woman in music meant Janet Jackson or Madonna, or maybe Pat Benatar (which was on occasion mistaken for Kate's vocals?) a band with a woman singing about taking charge of her life and wreaking havoc on those who wronged her was, apparently, a revolutionary thing for some of the female audiences who heard us -- or at least that's what I heard at shows, especially the few times we played away from the band's house. The sad fact was that very few bands in the Notre Dame family had female singers at all, and those who did generally opted for a sweet and gentle delivery. So when July appeared on the scene, we turned some heads if only for the sheer novelty of it. And personally, I think the time was ripe for women to be getting up and demanding attention, on stage and in general, which is something that happened a lot in the early and mid 90s, especially in the punk and indie scene. Still, I don't see July as a chick rock band, even though I tried to sing it that way. I was amazingly lucky to start off playing with a group of amazingly tight and talented musicians who could craft powerful and catchy tunes that could stand up to my novice singing and songwriting. What I lacked in stage presence, those guys made up for in strength and ability, and if I had it to do again, I would have just done more of it.
Here is the official story: Prior to coming together as July, Ernie C. (bass), Ted K. (drums) and Justin M. (guitar) had played with another singer as Grope for Luna. Two weeks after starting to practice with Kate B. on vocals, we played our first show at the "Farewell to Bush Bash" at Stonehenge on the ND campus, which consisted of four songs. Not so great with names, we played our second show as Freezehead, and Kate also vetoed Sweep the Leg Johnny as a potential name (we'll let the history books weigh in on that choice) before we settled on July as a name.
In practices, Ted's drums were so loud that the other instruments had to be turned up to match, so the boys usually never heard the vocals until it came time to play live with a proper PA. I think the balancing act between an art-rock guitarist, a jazz drummer, a riot-grrl singer, and a Fugazi-loving bassist produced something really special and unique, if very much of its time. Or, to quote Joe C. from our entry in Maximum RocknRoll's Book Yr Own Fucking Life, "A great great grindy power pop punk kinda sorta thing with PJ Harvey-esque vocals."
April Twentieth was recorded live at Dalloway's Coffeehouse on, natch, April 20th, I think 1994. Rommell DD is taken from a Richard Brautigan poem. The cassette was released on the Rent To Own label as RTO5.
July on MySpace
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
This gem comes to us courtesy of John D. (Chisel, Edsel, etc.), and is quite the early 90's rarity. A big thanks to John for hooking us up!
The music of Teenage Dope Slaves could be described as noisy, discordant indie punk, at times with Slint-y spoken vocals, ranging all the way up to some nicely distorted howls. In this band, we find John stepping away from the skins and instead handling guitar and vocal duties. TDS also featured Dennis McN. on bass and vocals, and Jeff J. on drums, vocals, "tape junk" and samples. Dennis apparently went on to become head writer at Saturday Night Live. Cool.
Here's what John had to say about TDS:
"Originally a four-track band project. We were supposed to play a show but I was punched in the face by some neighborhood wannabee gang banger during a party at the house and we canceled."The cassette was recorded in December of 1991 at the Rokkhouse on Joe C's 4-track, and is noted as Rokkhouse 001.
Teenage Dope Slaves on MySpace
(Rokkhouse photo shamelessly swiped from Facebook -- thanks Jeff!)
Thursday, September 11, 2008
First up, we've got Chisel turning out an amped up version of BCV's charmer, "Spectacles," which was originally featured on their Just Trying to Help cassette. Technically, though, this tune should be entitled "Spectacles/Pillow," as the final chorus romp is borrowed from another BCV song ("Pillow," duh) found on the Bucket O' Fun N' Stuff N' Yeah CD. Regardless, this is a power ballad of massive proportions--well, for Chisel anyway. You have to grin a little at the almost over-the-top treatment Ted Leo and the boys applied here. A punk rock kid once told me he thought this was the worst Chisel song he ever heard. But I think if that same fellow listened to it now, years later, he'd have a greater appreciation for what was going on with this recording. It's a fun, rocked out jam, and knowing Chisel-- you just gotta love it.
Aside from it's debut on this piece of wax, Chisel's "Spectacles" was also played over the closing credits of the Songs for Cassavetes documentary.
The flip side has Brian, Colin and Vince toning down "One in Ten," which can be found on Chisel's Nothing New album. This folked out rendition takes the original rocker and smooths it out with BCV's patented three-part harmonies and fine acoustic instrumentation. Put it on and sail away...
And just for grins, check out this unearthed, less-than-enthusiastic review from the high & mighty punkers at HeartattaCk, issue #6:
Arghh, why me! Why did I choose to review this. Since I chose to, I will choose to not have my ears hear it. The Brian, Colin and Vince side was 2 acoustic songs that were so boring. Just stop now. The Chisel side was pleasant after listening to BC&V. The packaging wasn't half bad. If college rock is for you, then give it a try. RRThis record was recorded in May of 1993 by the infamous John Nuner at the Miami Street Studio down in the Bend. It was released on the Sudden Shame label as SS005.
Chisel on MySpace
Brian, Colin, and Vince on MySpace
Scorecard insert from the 7"
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
In the summer of 1997, Ron G. mentioned he wanted to start a band with me when he got back to South Bend in late August. Later I found out that his idea was something where I was playing drums and he was on bass, but by the end of the summer I had a pile of new songs written on guitar (some left over from the end of The Cuba Five) that I was eager to play, and so The Butterfly Effect was formed. Vinny C. was living in Chicago at that point, but was convinced to come to South Bend on occasion as a temporary drummer. Not long after our first practices, Vinny moved back to South Bend and is still living there. About a year later, we recorded Now Everybody-- at Plinko Studios, our friend Garth's basement studio over Thanksgiving weekend. Four days before recording, I completely lost my voice. Timing is everything, as they say.
The tape included the following liner notes from Chris O.:
Though catchy in a grandmotherly fashion, the "From the mouths of babes" argument is hardly compelling. First, it seems to slight the unsightly. What right-minded grandmother would stoop to such a lowbrow dis? Perhaps if said grandmother had an envelope-pushing band of her own competing for market shares in the highly competitive South Bend, Indiana market and not simply biannual envelopes garnishing pop-up greetings and five dollar bills, one could start to see the seedlings of an intergenerational "scene conflict." And what sort of credence should be given to grandmothers making claims of "hipness" to current styles of punkrocity? Certainly their modes of thinking concerning current modes of coolness are outmoded. What kind of person is comfortable hearing their grandmother refer to a person as a "babe"? At the very least, it seems more grandfatherly! In the use of the word "babes," which seems most problematic, one might say that these aging laggard women mean "bab[i]es." The classic definition of the entire phrase then meaning "Interesting and insightful witticisms come out of babies' mouths." A few quick consultations with fellow consorts immersed in the "indie-rock subculture" revealed a short but thorough list of things that "hipsters" have witnessed coming out of the mouths of "bab[i]es": "a silvery stream of spittle," a "gaseous flow of small iridescent bubbles," and a "nickel." "The Butterfly Effect," then, seems to have very little to do with infant intellectualism.
At this point it should be noted that "The Butterfly Effect," the rock troupe, should not be confused with "The Butterfly Affect," a theory proposed in 1949 by Gerald Gootes and Florence Shingles of the University of Notre Dame concerning the higher IQ scores of Irish-American, Columbian-Italian, and African-American male toddlers subjected to the intensive spinning of Butterfly mobiles above their cribs as infants. (See "The Butterfly Affect," Nervous Parent Magazine August, 1949) The Butterfly Effect, with an "E," in fact rejects intellectualism in both grandmothers and infants. The Butterfly Effect rejects both the objectification of themselves as "babes" and the preposterous notion that they would resort to drooling or sucking on loose change to feign intellectualism. In fact, contrary to the opinions of the so-called "intelligentsia," The Butterfly Effect seek not to move your pituitary glands or bowels, but your sing-along mouth, heart and butt, respectively. The music seeks to kick and the lyrics seek to move. In the end, one must hope that if an emergency caucus was held, and all the infants, psychologists, grandmothers and vicariously emotional hipsters showed up, the Butterfly Effect would give them one heck of a sweaty show.
I should know.
The title comes from the final line of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. The lyrics to "Little Ode on St. Anne's Day" are a poem by Jim Carroll. I gave him a copy of this tape following his reading at Notre Dame and he briefly joked about me hearing from his lawyers before telling a story about being in the studio with Rancid. The sample in "Fat Man and Little Boy" comes from the beginning of Patton. The effect at the end of "The Idiots Dance" is a deliberate rip-off/homage of Pink Floyd. "The Idiots Dance", "The New Gods of the Underground", and "Twenty-Three on Twenty-Four" were re-recorded for the second Butterfly Effect album a year and a half later.
The Butterfly Effect on MySpace
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
And talk about a good time -- who could forget the handsome lads of Streganona! Hailing from the Hyde Park area of Chicago, they ascended on The Bend (maybe twice?) thanks to a connection with our good pal Dave M., if I'm not mistaken. They rocked our bodies and stole our hearts, sparking much debate as to which band member was the sauciest (the drummer, of course!). Smooth and sexy basslines, driving and frenetic guitarwork, dual singing and screaming vocals, and oh those beautiful beats... what's not to love!
The four songs on this cassette were recorded on the bass player's 4-track in February of 1995, which is probably shortly before the time they came to play for us. I've got two copies, and they both have different covers. Maybe yours is different, too... I'm not sure how many variations exist. A note on the sleeve says "For optimum sound quality, Streganona suggests a decreased midrange and a maximized volume." I recommend you comply!
Got a suggestion for a future "Friends of The Bend" feature? Who was it you remember that came to town and rocked the house (or basement, for that matter)? Leave a comment and let us know! Thanks!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
"It's Mike's turn to be in the zone! Mike, welcome to the zone... "
Well, we did it, thanks to two guys at Knox College, Trent and Cyrus, who heard our Finer Time 7" (see previous SBPN blog entry below), liked it, enough to invite us to their school to do the radio broadcast and live show. They were also nice enough to let us crash at their place before driving all the way back to South Bend the next day, and feed us excellent vegetarian cuisine. Oh, and allow moi a superfreakout nostalia session of Atari 2600 geekness: Yar's Revenge. If you're out there and reading this, thanks you guys.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Brian, Colin and Vince were three young men that played quirky and fun acoustic music. Songs ranged from sweet and sappy to completely goofy and ridiculous. Either way, the trio was always entertaining. You'd be hard pressed to see these guys perform and not have a good time. The live track included with this collection, "She Never Had a Chance," does a pretty good job of capturing the jovial feeling that was the BCV on-stage phenomenon.
Colin once offered this description of the band:
3-part harmonies, a million songs, Brian was the leader and star – such a great songwriter and guitar player, Vince sang great harmonies and played bongos... Trees hugs and rock and roll was a motto one day. We were not hippies, but I think hippies thought we were fun... Some ex-ND kids think this is the best band I’ve ever been in.Looking back, I remember long stretches of time where the song "Hypothetical Situation" would make a weekly appearance on my college radio show. It seemed to be the perfect tune to encapsulate how broken my heart felt at the time (awwww...). Ahem, continuing on... "Spectacles" would eventually end up being covered by Chisel, and released on a split 7" where BCV and Chisel swapped songs (more on that in a future post). But the original version offered here is an outstanding take in it's own right.
These 30 songs were put to tape in a Morrissey Hall dorm room in April of 1992, and self-released on cassette. There's a little bit of banter in between tracks, which adds to the overall charm of the recordings. The cassette was actually re-issued a year or so later on Colin's Sudden Shame label as SS007.
Brian, Colin, and Vince on MySpace
Friday, July 18, 2008
The Cuba Five began as another emiLy side project, though the band really came into its own following the breakup of emiLy. I had a bunch of songs written which I never got to do with Spoonfed, so I started a new band. Chris C. (who also played in The Whiteout, Regular Size Monsters, and Ely Parker & the CIAs) played drums, and Brian G. (from decaf) was the original bassist. The band started in spring of 1996, and played a handful of shows in this format. Brian graduated that May, and Mike L. (from emiLy, The Mad Dogs, and a lot of other bands) took over on bass. The Cuba Five was around until March of 1997, when Chris moved across the country in mid March. He announced this on a weekend, we practiced on that Monday, recorded Tuesday and Wednesday, and played a final show on Thursday.
The album was recorded at Clifford the Big Red House by Ron G., at the beginning of a spring which featured at least four bands recording in the same basement (Obstruction, The Mad Dogs, and Cod in Salsa being three of the others).
The band name (occasionally misheard as "the cube of five") comes from the following historical bit: In 1872, seven Irish political prisoners were freed from jail on the condition that they leave Ireland and never return. Five of them sailed to New York on the steamship Cuba, where they were warmly welcomed by the Irish immigrant community and nicknamed 'The Cuba Five'. One of them, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, earned the nickname "Dynamite Ro
ssa" (hence the song name) for his advocation of using bombing as a tactic to promote the cause of Irish independence. His granddaughter, Rosemary, is pictured on the cover of the tape at age 2. Rosemary is my grandmother.
As far as the music goes, I remember it being reviewed by a friend of ours in the ND campus newspaper. He said how you could hear Billy Bragg, Jawbreaker, and (most of all, in my opinion) Unwound. I can't argue with this. I think the strengths of the album are the instrumental tracks. "Beta Decay" once had lyrics, but they were tossed and we kept only the title. The song has a sample from the movie Swimming With Sharks, while "Dynamite Rossa" samples Walking & Talking, and "At Long Last Arriving" has a couple samples from rumblefish which get largely drowned out by guitar. Our sampling technique was quite primitive: hold a hand-held tape recorder in front of the television while the desired bit is playing. The title of "Saroyan" refers to the author William Saroyan, whose short story "Am I Your World?" provides both lyrics for part of the song and the title for the album. It's not an easy story to find, but it's worth reading if you get the chance. "Homesick" is worth skipping. Seriously. "Nation of Uselessness" was sited as the single bright point of the album in the HeartattaCk review, which was pretty vicious otherwise. People said "Does This Answer Your Question?" shamelessly riffed on Billy Bragg, but I always thought it was much more of a Chisel ripoff.
The second best complement I got about this album was having a friend of mine tell me that he and another friend were playing video games one day and the other guy started humming something. When he asked what he was humming, the guy started singing "Young American Skateboard Disaster".
The best complement I got about this tape was unexpectedly hearing it playing on the stereo in a friend's car. Because while it's cool to hear people say "Hey, I like your band", nothing beats knowing they're actively listening to it.
The Cuba Five on MySpace
Thursday, July 3, 2008
What could be more appropriate for "the blog that no one demanded" than the band that no one ever wished would play. The liner notes for this release (penned by Chris O.) do an exceptional job at laying it all out there:
Ah, the Mad Dogs. While the "Mad Dogs Proper" period lasted roughly from October 1996 through June 1997, the band itself was somewhat of an amalgamation of sorts of Chikkenhead (comprised of Mike Larmoyeux, Ted Hennessy, and Doug McEachern) and the Catatonics (comprised of Chris Owen, one Jeanine Gaubert, Dave "Night" Stoker, Mike, and Andy Yang of Obstruction fame). When it became obvious that the Catatonics could no longer function (read: get together for practice or even remotely interesting conversation) and that Chikkenhead would never eclipse the limp yet existent Recess Records band of the same name (or sing and play their instruments at the same time), it was decided to unite the two awfully hard sucking bands into one monstrous vehicle of audience antagonism. Chris became the singer for the Chikkenhead, which began a period of zero songwriting, zero practicing, intermittent performances, and haughty quibbling over what the band should finally be called. During this period, which actually encompasses the entire life of the band, they were called, at various points, "Thunderhead," "the Grasshoppers," and finally, to no one's complete satisfaction, "the Mad Dogs." Audiences, oddly enough, always called them "shit."
Drawing from completely incongruous interests and a muted sense of responsibility to entertain, the Mad Dogs experience was often, at the very least, difficult to perceive as worthwhile for both the band and the audiences they somehow managed to gather. While Mike (seminally the man in 10 bands at the same time) was willing to play essentially anything, a willingness on no one's part to actually write new songs left the band in an odd state. Doug's quixotic interest in britpop and the like led to a personal emphasis on The Cuba Five, a brilliant and entertaining combo that frankly whomped ass. Ted's love of Propagandhi and political pop punk presented a puzzling predicament as he was the transcriber of Chris' nonsensical attitude towards writing music (Chris: "it goes like this--BLAM BLAM BOOM BA BOOM BLAM BLAM DU DU DU DUH DU DA DA BOOM!" Ted: (plays an E chord) "OK, say that again"). An unhealthy love on Chris' part for Iggy Pop, GG Allin, Stiv Bators, the Dwarves, and, er, Morrissey, was the final blow in proving incompatibility. That and, of course, conflicting work schedules. At this point, alcohol begins to become important. It became obvious at some time that drinking at least one "Orange Jubilee" Mad Dog before and during a performance led to an increased level of interesting behavior for the Mad Dogs.
OK, sure, they never played to anyone outside Doug and Mike's basement (well, Dalloway's, but that was the first show, and the Bowling Green hardcore fest with Chris singing with Obstruction for a couple songs), but fuck man, the Mad Dogs kicked ass. This cassette doesn't precisely document the silliness that those shows were characterized by, but it gives a pretty good idea. Just imagine 20 or so friends, an unimpressed out of town band or two, a pony keg, shoes, beer, and friendly insults flying, and the Mad Dogs bleeding, cursing, fucking up, ripping clothes off each other, acting out deviant sexual nonsense, and never ever getting all the way through the set without breaking something. And the music. That wonderful music loved by no one but me.
Col. Ricardo Cabeza
This cassette (a split effort with hardcore heroes Obstruction, who'll get their own post here soon enough) was recorded quickly in two short sessions in the spring of 1997 (by Hardcore Ron), just before everyone promptly went their separate ways for the summer. It was every song the band knew, minus a couple they never really learned how to play. The highlight of these recordings for me will always be the last chorus in "Dream Lover," when you can actually hear a somewhat intoxicated Chris throwing up into his mouth while still trying to sing through to the end of the song. If that doesn't say it all...
The Mad Dogs on MySpace
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Spoonfed was essentially an emiLy side project. Here is the "Brief History of Spoonfed" that came in the booklet which accompanied the self-titled tape:
Spoonfed began as an excuse for me to play the songs I had written on guitar instead of trying to teach the guitar parts to Joe C. and using them as emiLy songs. For about two weeks of practice and one show, Spoonfed was a 2 piece, with Joe on drums and me playing guitar. We figured out pretty quickly that Joe wasn't meant to be a drummer, and we recruited Ted K., who was drumming for an amazing band called July at the time. Spoonfed played on and off for a year or so, and became a full time band when Mike from emiLy went to London for a semester and July was no longer a band. Spoonfed ended in May of '95 when Ted graduated and moved out of South Bend. This tape is a collection of all the songs we knew, without the songs that weren't worth remembering.
Three of the songs ("(structural)", "Bulletproof", and "Big Boy") had been recorded in early 1994 at Miami Street Studios with the intention of releasing them as part of a split 7-inch with July. The record never happened, so the songs eventually found a home on this tape. One song ("Theme From a Spoon") was recorded in James K.'s dorm room in November of 1993, during a spontaneous session captured on a hand held tape recorder. James provided background noises using a typewriter, record player, and whatever else happened to be available. The three other songs recorded that night were another version of "Bulletproof", "Moment", and "Fourth", the latter two falling into the category of Not Worth Remembering.
The remainder of the tracks were recorded in April of 1995 at the Green House on Justin M.'s (also of July) four track. The cover art is a picture of the San Diego-Coronado Bridge taken during a harbor cruise. The tape came with a 16 page, quarter size booklet featuring lyrics, recording info, pictures, and background stories for some of the songs. It was the 11th release for Rent To Own Records, the label under which the members of emiLy and their friends put out all of our music (hence the RTO 11 on the cover).
A few notes on the songs: "(structural)" is in parentheses because it's supposed to be an untitled song, but we needed something to call it for sake of reference. It was written for someone who was a double major in Architecture and Structural Engineering. "Takeback" was actually written in high school. "New Town" is a song about hometowns. "Last Words" is so titled because it was the last song by Spoonfed.
Spoonfed on MySpace
Thursday, June 19, 2008
emiLy once self-described as:
"We play music. It sounds kind of like what might result if you threw Jawbreaker, DC stuff, Rites of Spring, American Music Club, and an inept love of jazz in a blender and pureed the mixture into a fine mush. We are three fine young men who own and operate musical instruments and occasionally stir fry. Joe plays guitar and sings, Mike plays bass, and Doug plays drums. Buster plays his face, but he doesn't actually have anything to do with the band, seeing as he is a cartoon."A fairly apt assessment, or at least as close as one could probably hope to get. Complete with an Animaniacs reference and everything!
Finer Time is the little piece of wax that propelled emiLy into international superstardom, or something like that. It was reviewed quite favorably at the time by HeartattaCk (UPDATE: review included below) and others, which is probably why you'll occasionally find rips of it floating around punkrock message boards.
"Great musicianship and a tight production make this an awe-inspiring record. Like Hoover they took the Fugazi sound and created something new. But unlike Hoover they sound fresh and raw and stir something in me that I can't quite describe. Listening to these 3 songs is better than dancing the one-handed mambo, it's better than garlic-pepper-tofu flavored edible underwear. -MH" from HeartattaCk #2
And now some thoughts from Doug:
"Better than tofu flavored edible underwear" -- that's the phrase that always stuck with me. I have no idea what the hell it has to do with the music, but we got a lot of mail as a result. For a year or so, Joe and I amassed a large pile of records through trades alone. It also led to us being interviewed in a Slovenian zine called Pssst and eventually getting a CD put out in France by a new label called SanJam.
Domestically, the record helped us get shows in Chicago, Galesburg, IL, Columbus, OH, and Tampa, FL. The Galesburg show led to the recording of our second tape, Engineering Means I Like You.
Finer Time was recorded at Miami Street Studio in South Bend. The cover art is by Lael Tyler, who was working as a designer out in Portland, OR last I heard from him. The drawing is of what was his front porch at the time, at 226 St. Peter Street, a house most famous for being the place where Unwound and Crain played. The "e" in the light bulb was also used for the labels on the record itself, and became a logo of sorts for emiLy. The covers were printed by Punks With Presses.
Side 1 has "Cartoon Sex" and "Finer Time", while side 2 features "Frialator." The latter was named after a deep-frying machine which was actually spelled Fry-O-Lator, and for some reason the song later became known as "5(frialator)." I'm pretty sure we also recorded a song called "Fortune 13" in the same session, but it only turned up on a demo that we sent to places in hopes of getting shows.
My parents have a copy of this (and Tinkertoy, our second 7-inch) hanging on the wall in their house, along with family pictures and diplomas.
emiLy on MySpace
emiLy on last.fm
Friday, June 13, 2008
What better way to start things off than to go all the way back to 1991... The first official release by the young boys of Chisel sounded, well, not so much anything like the later sound that would garner them more acclaim than pretty much any other band to come out of the Bend at the time. The A-side certainly hinted at things to come, but B-side "Listen" has a darker, more aggressive vibe that would soon fade away in favor of Chisel's trademark mod-pop melodies. Ted Leo once described this song as "solid thrash."
Here's a little background on the early days of Chisel from their Wikipedia page:
Chisel began in 1990 on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, when classmates Ted Leo (guitar/vocals), Chris Infante (bass), and John Dugan (drums) began practicing in the basement of a campus dormitory. Leo had played punk shows with bands such as Animal Crackers in New York's all-ages scene and Dugan had drummed with the Washington, D.C. area punk act Indian Summer from the age of fifteen. The band quickly went from playing a covers set (Wire, Misfits, Buzzcocks, Mission of Burma) to playing original songs written by Leo. Chisel began to perform at various college venues in the Midwest and Northeast, visiting clubs such as D.C. Space in Washington and ABC No Rio in New York City.After only having a cassette dub for the longest time, I eventually found this 7" at a used record store in TX for a buck. Enjoy.
In 1991, the band released its first single, Swamp Fox/Spike b/w Listen, on Assembly Records, and followed it up with appearances on compilations released by college radio stations WVFI in Notre Dame, Indiana and WPRB in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1992, Infante graduated from college and was replaced on bass by Chris Norborg, who also provided the backing vocal harmonies that soon became integral to Chisel's sound. It was during this period that the band began to change its style from traditional emo-influenced pop punk that was inspired by contemporaries in Washington, D.C., to more of a mod-influenced band in the vein of the Small Faces and The Jam.
Chisel - Swamp Fox/Spike b/w Listen