She’s rolling around, she’s under the ground

OK, here’s some new music.

Well, I say “new”, it’s still not exactly hot off the press. New to me, shall we say, new-ish.

The Double U

I’m (again) surprised at how many bands there are calling themselves the Double U – at least three at first glance. What’s going on? Are all the good names taken? Portland’s the Double U, however, are unlikely to be confused with many other bands. A quick listen to the mp3s will be all it takes …

Led by husband and wife team Matt Hall and Alex Behr, and backed by drummer Geoff Soule, they play a quirky mix of show tunes and dreamy pop, all mixed up with some sort of Eastern European influence, Klezmer, I think. The web site talks about guitars, keyboards and bass, but I can hear far more exotic instrumentation in there – strings and tubas and the like. It’s all rather arcane and beautiful.

The most striking thing about the Double U sound has to be Matt Hall’s vocals though. “Gruff” would be an understatement, more like a kind of soft howl, if you can imagine that. The obvious comparison is Tom Waits, but much more interesting (and not at all irritating). On top of this, as well as the extreme… er… throatiness of the singing, it’s also almost completely impossible to pick many of the words. The band’s website refers to them as some sort of Vikings (I don’t think we’re talking death metal, or burning down churches), which made me think that they’re actually singing in Icelandic or something, but there are snatches of English. Who knows? Actually this doesn’t bother me. If I’m listening to something as weird as this, it’s OK, all bets are off; you might as well go the whole hog…

The Double u are another Emperor Jones band, and released their fifth album, Hibou Mechanique, last October, although by then had moved onto Geoff Soule’s own label, the superbly named Supermegacorporation. The previous four are, I believe, no longer available but there is this rather bizarre shared offering on Emusic, which is also worth getting.

There are a bunch of mp3s around to be snagged, some from Emperor Jones and some from Supermegacorporation, and I would heartily recommend you take them. Get a slice of something endearingly out of the ordinary, this week…

Great Deceiver

Harpoon

Ephemeral Epaulet

Never get the chance to play with executive toys…

About time for another one of these.

Lucky Seven

Fifth one now. Just a few more tracks that I’ve been playing recently. All wonderful stuff.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron
Fire Dub – Israel Vibration
First Big Weekend – Arab Strap
Quarantined – Atlas Sound
When Night Falls – Medicine Head
Slow Bicycle – Múm
Glittering Prizes – Television Personalities

The Television Personalities are another recent discovery for me, can’t work out why, really. They would have been just up my street at the time…

Lucky Seven 5

Try to appreciate the breeze…

I’ve had a load of tracks knocking around my media player for months now, meaning to post or least bin them. So I’ll do a little spring cleaning and bring a few of the better ones to your attention in the next few days (or weeks).

Bitter Little Cider Apples

Definitely been meaning to do a post on this band for a while now.

Dorset’s Bitter Little Cider Apples are fellow West Country inbreds, and bash out a pretty decent sixties, guitar-driven pop song that made me think of the Joel Gion stuff I posted a few months back. I say that, but the tracks available have a really busy Brit-pop sound to them, which just couldn’t have come out of the Arizona Desert or something. I’m guessing that someone in the band has a pretty comprehensive garage punk and New Wave collection…

According to various reviews of their album, Still, (available here on Emusic or at the Pink Hedgehog site), the Bitter Little Cider Apples are a kind of off shoot of another band I’ve come across called the Lucky Bishops, who do a sort of Psych-y thing and are currently on Camera Obscura.

Unusually these days, these fellers have no web presence at all, and I can only assume this is some sort of deliberate statement from them, which is kinda noble but a little kamikaze, I’d’ve thought. (I say “assume” because there’s just nothing, not even a biog statement on the Pink Hedgehog site). So, um, that’s pretty much it.

I guess it’s a throw away life.

Try to Appreciate – Bitter Little Cider Apples

Strings are Tied – Bitter Little Cider Apples

Playground – Bitter Little Cider Apples

London Lounge – The Lucky Bishops

You’ll never know just what you’re never getting…

You’ll never know just what you’re never getting…

Ah, yes.

Well, I didn’t get round to writing about the Family Machine gig in the end, and as for the “feast of running rugby” bit…

If you were, indeed, holding out for a bit of info about either, it was a little naïve really, wasn’t it? Really, your best bet is to go here. He’ll sort you out. Tell him I sent you…

But hold up, before you do, I have got this.

The Family Machine

Oxford’s goofy threesome, now foursome are due to release their first album and have a series of gigs and “events” (including some sort of treasure hunt) to celebrate the occasion. If I was the sort to put myself out, I would indeed have a copy of it already to talk about, as the band were giving away a few at Acoustica last week – as prizes in the whooping and clapping competition. But alas…

Anyway, there is this that I found on YouTube:

You gotta love ‘em

Had to hold you in a headlock, had to force you into wedlock

Rock City!

Two decent gigs in as many days! Steady on…

Ignoring for the moment the fact that the Young Knives tour which called in at Gloucester on Thursday goes by the name of the “Off the Beaten Track” tour, I was able to imagine, for a few brief moments, that I live in some sort of Rock Mecca this week.

Actually, if I wasn’t so chuffed at seeing some great music, I could be ever so slightly offended by this “Off the Beaten Track thing (NME called it a tour of “the small towns and provinces not usually on the live circuit.” Come here and say that – we’re the Altamont of the West Country!)

Anyway, Mercury Award nominees, the Young Knives were at the Guildhall on Thursday, and Oxford’s jolly Family Machine were in on the Friday, too. Wow!

I’ll come back to the Family Machine, and may even say a few words about the feast of running rugby we were treated to at Castle Grim on Saturday. Ain’t it great to be alive eh?

The Young Knives

Support band for the Young Knives were a noisy and boisterous trio called Johnny Foreigner, from Birmingham. (That’ll be the best of local talent then, according to the ever helpful and not at all patronising NME). They were kind of OK, but hard to make out at times (Sorry. Old Guy…), and I can’t find any downloads for them. Their Myspace streams a few a tunes though…

The Young Knives came on stage looking not unlike Art Brut, the other week, in that both the Dartnell brothers ran on in their Sunday Best, as it were, looking… well… a little chubby. I can’t help thinking this decidedly anti-rock’n’roll style is a good thing, and makes us all feel a little better about ourselves. Unfortunately they hadn’t been shopping in Gloucester in the Eddie Argos style, but I guess you have to draw a line somewhere…

I’ve only really just caught onto the Knives’ thing and their terrific Voices of Animals and Men record, and indeed I’d probably have missed them all together if they hadn’t breezed into this particular province this week. Their set was great, mixing a load of tracks from that record with some from their new one, including rousing versions “Terra Firma” and “Up All Night”. There was even a fairly dodgy Adam & the Ants cover as part of the encore.

I made a few recordings of the evening, which are OK, and by a happy chance coincide with the release of the Knives’ new record “Super Abundance”, which’ll be out tomorrow.

I don’t just throw this together, you know.

Coastguard – live at the Guildhall

Dyed in the Wool – live at the Guildhall

Tremblings of Trails – live at the Guildhall

Lightswitch – live at the Guildhall

Stand and Deliver – live at the Guildhall

I’ve got other tracks too if people are interested….

Grumpy Bear Interview pt2

OK, I’ve got the second half of the Grumpy Bear interview here, which is good stuff but as well as that the guys themselves have given me a new track which I think I’m guessing makes this … well… an exclusive! Oh yes.

So, read through the interview (I like what they say about song writing) and then download the new track, “Wojciech Frykowski (Dead Playboy Song)”.

(btw you can look up Wojciech Frykowski on Wikipedia, which is kind of interesting but I’m not sure how it all fits in…)

***

Is that a mandolin on “Luis Bunuel”? I really like it; is all your stuff acoustic or do you ever … ahem… rock out, as it were?

Lattney: …or are we just happy to see you? Mandolin has made its way into a few of our songs, but the gorgeous strumming you’re probably referring to is some of Tyler’s most inspired spirit-lifting acoustic guitar rhythm pieces we’ve ever put to record. As for “rocking out”, what about “Our Own Ocean?”

Tyler: Lattney is wrong. Although it is not mandolin, the sound you hear actually is Lattney spryly strumming a nylon-string guitar. We do use a mandolin on some other tracks. We do occasionally pull out the electric guitars and let-er-rip, but mostly we just sit and sob into our instruments.

Yellow is the colour of my true love”
You’re obviously big Donovan fans (feel free to reconsider…). I saw him at Green Man, and it must be said that he was a tad embarrassing, insisted on speaking in a ridiculous cod Jamaican accent. What other heroes would you say you have? Any contemporaries you really admire? And, thinking about it, are there any future heroes in the making that I should know about?

Lattney: I remember being obsessed with “Mellow Yellow” around the age of six, and I will always have “Hurdy Gurdy Man” screaming somewhere in the far recesses of my mind. But my big three would have to be Pavement, Roxy Music, and the Legendary Pink Dots. For the most part, I tend toward the goth/darkwave side of music, (as horribly silly as those tags are) but lately I’ve really been enjoying Spoon, the Walkmen, and particularly the Black Angels’ “Passover” album.

Tyler: Whoa! Let’s not get carried away, no hero of mine is Donovan! We had been asked to do a Fleetwood Mac cover for an Art Installation in Baltimore. My dad, who was going through a divorce at the time, suggested “never going back again” from Rumors (I am not much of a Mac fan so I took the suggestion). I had this faux-Fahey, open-string tuning version of the song and realized that ‘Colours’ just seemed to fit right in melodically. So…in terms of my musical heroes, well, I have over 1,000 CDs of all different genres. I love all the usual suspects (Beatles, drake, VU, Pixies, Smog, Mangum, Eno, et al.). More recent groups that I enjoy include Akron/Family, Caribou, Iron & Wine, Animal Collective, Okkerville River, m ward, Cass McCombs, the Graves, and Bla Bla Bla. Some of my less obvious loves include American Music Club, Mississippi John Hurt, and Can. I love music. Plain and simple. Oh, and in terms of someone new, I really like Kevin Hume. He has an album called “The Truth About Ants and Aphids” which is gorgeous.

“Been there one time, been there two times, never going back again…”
Are you comfortable talking about your lyrics? They seem pretty personal at times… I really liked the vocals on this song, are you going to be doing any more work with Anna Järvinen?

Lattney: Tyler’s lyrics certainly sound personal to me; the man has a knack for turning pain into poetry. My lyrics serve mainly to keep songs from being instrumentals, and to keep us from drawing Tangerine Dream comparisons.

And Ms. Järvinen is welcome to bless our humble music with her beautiful voice anytime she wants!

Tyler: Well, when I write lyrics it is purely intuitive. I almost never write directly about myself. Mostly I just put pen to paper and hope it isn’t shit.

Anna was so gracious and kind to work with us. We were in a bind. I had written that song on piano and had shelved it for months. Then Lattney and I finally recorded it while in a hotel room in Tucson before the opening show for the Iron & Wine/Calexico tour. Sadly, neither Lattney nor I could really do the vocals justice, so it was shelved again. Then we heard Anna. Her voice was perfect, so we asked her to add the vocals. Luckily she agreed. I would work with her again at any moment. She is wonderful.

What’s the news for the future? I’d really like to buy a Grumpy Bear CD, is there a full length record on the way? Are you likely to come to the UK?

Lattney: Hell, I’d really like to make a Grumpy Bear CD! We self-released a full-length a few years back, and have put out quite a few EPs and compilation tracks. Of course we’ve got enough material in the footlockers to make plenty more and thus have an actual “discography.” We just need the time, resources, and support! Playing in the UK would be like a Frampton Comes Alive, but again…time, resources, support…probably a following, as well!

Tyler: Yeah, well, we really have released a large amount of material. We have been recording for 3-plus years and in that time have released 2 full lengths, 5 EPs, 2 splits, and songs on numerous comps under 6 different names and on 5 different labels. Basically we’d do anything anyone asked us to do. Because Lattney has a demanding job and a family he has very little free time. I teach full time, and up until this past summer was going to grad school full time. Between those two hectic schedules Grumpy Bear is only able to get together and record once every three or four months (and even then for only a weekend here or a day off there).

I’d love to play the UK, but it seems Über-unlikely. Lattney and I are old fogies who are tied down tightly by the rope of adulthood.

***

Which is all a bit of a shame really …

Wojciech Frykowski (Dead Playboy Song) – Grumpy Bear

btw Jon at Abandoned Records, who was good enough to arrange this interview, has mentioned that the Luis Bunuel track is also available for download from the AR site, here, (scroll about three quarters of the way down the page…)

Grumpy Bear Interview (pt1)

A while back I did a post on a pair of Arizona musicians, Tyler Blake and Lattney Jones, going by the name of Grumpy Bear (here); anyway, I got an email from Jon at Abandoned Records offering me an interview with the Grumpy fellers themselves. Well, I bit, and it turns out they’re not such a grumpy pair at all. In fact, they’re more than a little witty, I’d say…

It turns into a rather long interview, so I’ll not post it all in one go…

***

Grumpy Bear

Where are you now? Where do you live? What’s it like?

Lattney: We live in Hell, both environmentally and culturally. Top 40 and Country Music rule the radio and the youth, while hundred-degree-plus weather rules most of the year. The color brown dominates the color green and while there is a large riverbed, it’s more often than not a very dry riverbed. “Ethnic Cuisine” does not exist here, either.

Tyler: Actually, I just moved to Lattney’s home town this past week. It is a tiny rural town with lots of cotton and lots of Mormons. It is painfully conservative. I moved back to Arizona three or so years ago so that I could get my master’s on the cheap. Now that I am done I really need to find a way out of the desert. Just like Moses, man, just like Moses.

Not wishing to offend anyone, but I’m guessing you haven’t yet packed in your jobs and started pursuing the dream full time. How do you earn a crust?

Lattney: I work in a nondescript aluminum building which nonetheless houses a highly-sophisticated system of robotics–which I do not get to play with.
I do, however, have access to plenty of acids and reagents with which I turn soil into solution, or “dirt into water.” Only one person has picked up on the alt-Jesus connection. I used to spend eight hours a day talking to the locals while serving Satan, but he simply had no heart for retail.

Tyler: I teach under-aged murderers and rapists. Seriously. I am a school teacher at a federal/county juvenile detention facility. It is a strange job. I have had students as young as 9 and as old as 22. In some cases the 9 year old has had more education than the 22 year old. I am certified as a social studies instructor, but we are effectively a one-room school, so I teach all subjects (poorly).

In the pictures I’ve seen, you’re both impressively bushy fellers. If you’d done a cover version for Track Records’ Will Oldham tribute, what would it have been?

Lattney: Our beardedness depends largely on the season and the need for facial warmth. Apparently, we’ve only taken pictures when it’s chilly.

Tyler: Yep, we are both intermittently hirsute. It is obligatory to have a beard if you’re gonna play beard-folk, yes?

Actually, we began working with Tract Records just after they put that Oldham tribute out. I would have loved to have contributed. I think I would have pushed for “Hard Life”.

When I looked up Grumpy Bear on Wikipedia, I got this:

“Grumpy Bear shows that while it’s okay to be grumpy sometimes, it is also silly to let grumpiness go too far. He is blue and his symbol is a dark rain cloud with raindrops (some of which are shaped like hearts).”

Any thoughts? Why not Tenderheart Bear?

Lattney: Tenderheart is a pussy. Plain and simple. We’re just too masculine and filled with bad-ass testosterone, as well as piss and vinegar, to be tender…or sharing…or cheery.

Tyler: I actually dated Tenderheart for a few months in the late 90s. Tenderheart is the reason I am so Grumpy.

Why haven’t you got your own Wikipedia entry? I think we should put this right, what should it say?

Lattney: “Give this band a record deal so their families will stop casting stares of disappointment.”

Tyler: I just don’t want to be a disambiguation! Naw, it’d be nice to have a Wikipedia entry, but (as you can probably tell) neither Lattney nor I are any good at interpersonal communication. So who would write it?

***

The couple of lyrics quoted come from the following song, which you can get here, or from the Grumpy Bear Myspace page.

Never Going Back Again – Grumpy Bear