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In Defense of Mr. West at the 2015 Grammy's
03/29/15 at 01:12 PM by Vance Mook
At the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Crawford climbed a prop tree and attempted to knock it down as Limp Bizkit accepted their award below. Fifteen years later, it’s a move that’s been praised as the band’s typical restlessness as well as in line with the spirit of rock n’ roll.

At the 2008 VMA’s, Kanye West infamously stormed onstage and interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech after she won Video of the Year over Beyonce. West then delivered a tearful apology on national television, deciding it would be best for him to take some time away from the spotlight and learn how to cope with his new-found fame – a theme thoroughly explored throughout his 2007 album, Graduation.

About a week ago, Beck won a Grammy for Album of the Year over Beyonce and was jokingly followed on stage by West in reference to the 2008 incident, creating likely the most interesting moment of a particularly boring show and laughter from himself, Beck, as well as the rest of the audience (and Jay-Z in particular). Beck invited West back onstage, but West made it clear he was only joking. After the show, entertainment network E! interviewed West about his opinions on Beck and the Grammy’s, at which point he said:

“…Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé. And at this point, we tired of it! Because what happens is, when you [The Grammy’s] keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, it's disrespectful to inspiration.”

The next day, West further clarified that he “loves Beck” – dismissing bogus accusations that he wasn’t familiar with the artist, despite referencing him on a song in 2004 – but simply thought Beyonce should have won Album of the Year. Beck responded to these comments by agreeing that Beyonce deserved to win, and saying he respected West as an artist and wanted to become more like him. Despite the ignored fact that West has given away at least four of his own awards to other artists, and the respectful dialogue between the two artists, the nation proceeded to lose their minds.'

What’s wrong with this picture?

There’s something to be said about the nation’s willingness to get up in arms over an artist’s comments criticizing the Grammy’s when that’s what so many later outraged people spent their night doing on Twitter. It’s disheartening to me that so many people dismiss Kanye West because of what they hear from others without any intention of ever listening to his music, or even trying to understand the passionate message he’s consistently fighting for.

I believe the majority of the public that hates Mr. West do it because they are told they are supposed to. After all, he’s the outspoken artist who criticized George W. Bush, widely recognized as the greatest president this country has ever seen, on live television, right? Yeah, okay. West has said more than his fair share of questionable things, but he hasn’t done anything that makes him an objectively bad person. It’s time for middle America to face the music; Kanye West has either apologized for or been right about every “outburst” he’s had, and we’ve been entirely too dismissive to listen.

A little background – West’s father was a Black Panther, an original civil rights warrior who taught his son to help others, give back, and fight for the things he believes in. All the way back to the Leno apology to the incredibly important interview with BBC’s Zane Lowe last year (which I would urge everyone to watch), West can be heard saying, “I only want to help. I only want to give back.”
In 2007, West’s mother passed away at the age of 58, suffering “multiple post-operative factors” after plastic surgery. This, paired with the end of a long-term engagement, cause West to drop plans for the fourth album in his “college series” and pushed him in the direction of the somber, R&B-tinged 808’s and Heartbreaks, resulting in sonic innovation and a change of production with each following album.

West calls himself “a creative genius,” and why do we find that upsetting? Who are we to argue? Critically, commercially, he has yet to produce a lackluster record, and the number of artists he has directly influenced over the past decade is close to innumerable. Do we really have the right to be upset that a black artist expressed distaste with the Grammy’s awarding ‘Album of the Year’ to a white male singing about his personal problems versus a black female whose album was more critically and commercially successful, leaving a large mark on both the music industry and feminist culture?

I’m running out of words, but I guess I’ll end with this – right now, as I finish writing this piece, I am currently in a Facebook argument after posting about a video from jock-rock/glam band Steel Panther, in which they sing a song filled with poop jokes and ultimately wish Kanye West, a husband and father, testicular cancer. Yet, the comments aren’t about how absolutely reprehensible and unfunny that is; they are about whether or not Kanye West is an intelligent and talented individual.

Isn’t that just like us, to harp on something as asinine as an artist’s unsinkability in order to avoid the larger issue? We are quick to judge but the last to even attempt to listen. Perhaps we would do some good to take the words from West’s latest single, dedicated to his mother and daughter, into consideration: “No, you’re not perfect, but you’re not your mistakes.”
Tags: kanye west, beyonce, beck, grammy's, 2015
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Listmas '14: Top 10 Albums, Songs, etc. (Now with more 2013!)
02/02/15 at 01:32 AM by Vance Mook
Just like last year, I wanted to take a minute to further procrastinate my Print Media assignments and post about what I was feeling this past year:

Top 10 Albums of 2014:
10. Modern Baseball - You're Gonna Miss It All
9. Copeland - Ixora
8. Self Defense Family - Try Me
7. Fireworks - Oh, Common Life
6. The Hotelier - Home, Like Noplace is There
5. Sun Kil Moon - Benji
4. Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
3. La Dispute - Rooms of the House
2. Seahaven - Reverie Lagoon: Music for Escapism Only
1. Weatherbox - Flies in All Directions

Honorable Mentions:
1. You Blew It! - Keep Doing What You're Doing
2. Dinosaur Pile-Up - Nature Nurture
3. Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways

Top 10 Songs of 2014:
1. “Disjointed” by Copeland
2. “For Mayor of Splitsville” by La Dispute
3. “Silhouette (Latin Skin)” by Seahaven
4. “Take Me to Church” by Hozier
5. “Carissa” by Sun Kil Moon
6. “Your Deep Rest” by the Hotelier
7. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Against Me!
8. “Your Graduation” by Modern Baseball
9. “Your Head / Your Heart” by Hostage Calm
10. “Love Me a Good Microcosm” by Weatherbox

Top 3 EP's of 2014:
1. t.gagnon - Swoon
2. The Lungs - Puddlesplasher
3. Self Defense Family - Duets

Best Album Art of 2014:
1. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2
2. Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright in the End
3. Every Time I Die - From Parts Unknown

Biggest Disappointments of 2014:
1. The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Between Bodies
2. The World is a Beautiful Place... - Between Bodies

But seriously...
2. Transit - Joyride
3. I Am the Avalanche - Wolverines

Biggest Guilty Pleasure of 2014:
Modern Baseball - You're Gonna Miss It All

Top 10 Albums of 2013:

10. Citizen - Youth
9. Daylight - Jar
8. Drake - Nothing Was the Same
7. Kevin Devine - Bulldozer
6. The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Whenever, If Ever
5. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (Part One)
4. The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation
3. Balance and Composure - The Things We Think We're Missing
2. letlive. - The Blackest Beautiful
1. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Revisited & Updated:
10. The World is a Beautiful Place... - Whenever, If Ever
9. Kanye West - Yeezus
8. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (Part One)
7. Kyle Adem - syracuse.
6. Kevin Devine - Bubblegum
5. Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap
4. letlive. - The Blackest Beautiful
3. Childish Gambino - Because the Internet
2. Drake - Nothing Was the Same
1. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Most Anticipated of 2015:
Modest Mouse - Strangers to Ourselves
Brand New - TBA
Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Title Fight - Hyperview
Murder by Death - Big Dark Love
Drake - Songs From the 6
Radiohead - TBA
Kanye West - TBA
Kendrick Lamar - TBA
Motion City Soundtrack - TBA
Tags: listmas, vance mook, eoty, eoty list, 2014, 2013, 2015
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Listmas '13: Top 10 Albums, Songs, etc. (Now with more 2012!)
01/10/14 at 01:32 AM by Vance Mook
Hey guys!
I've been looking for more appropriate places to post this in an attempt to start some discussion, and with all of the EOTY Lists going around, I figured now was the time and here was the place. Without further ado, let's talk 2013:

Top 10 Albums of 2013:
10. Citizen - Youth
9. Daylight - Jar
8. Drake - Nothing Was the Same
7. Kevin Devine - Bubblegum
6. The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Whenever, If Ever
5. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (Part One)
4. The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation
3. Balance and Composure - The Things We Think We're Missing
2. letlive. - The Blackest Beautiful
1. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Top 10 Songs of 2013:
1. "Shadows" - Childish Gambino
2. "Tiny Raindrop" - Balance and Composure
3. 'Strawberry Bubblegum" - Justin Timberlake
4. "There, There" - The Wonder Years
5. "This is the Last Time" - The National
6. "Wu-Tang Forever" - Drake
7. "Climbers" - Mansions
8. "Chum" - Earl Sweatshirt
9. "Getting Sodas" - The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
10. "Virgin Dirt" - letlive.

Top 3 EP's of 2013
1. Lights & Caves - In Satori
2. Deadron (formerly Tarantulahawk) - Along With Ghosts
3. Title Fight - Spring Songs

Best Album Artwork of 2013
1. Reggie and the Full Effect - No Country For Old Musicians
2. Sigur Ros - Kveikur
3. Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork

Biggest Disappointments of 2013
1. Fall Out Boy - Save Rock and Roll
2. Saves the Day - Saves the Day
3. Transit - Young New England

Biggest Guilty Pleasure of 2013
Tyler, the Creator - Wolf

Top 10 Albums of 2012 (Revisited, Updated & Official)
10. Such Gold - Misadventures
9. Circa Survive - Violent Waves
8. Aficionado - Aficionado
7. The Early November - In Currents
6. Daytrader - Twelve Towns
5. Father John Misty - Fear Fun
4. You Blew It! - Grow Up, Dude
3. Basement - Colourmeinkindness
2. The Menzingers - On the Impossible Past
1. Title Fight - Floral Green

Most Anticipated of 2014
1. Modest Mouse - TBA
2. Brand New - TBA
3. Say Anything - TBA
4. Manchester Orchestra - Cope
5. Two Tongues - TBA
Tags: eoty, the national, title fight, eoty lists
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An Interview with James Dewees of Reggie and the Full Effect
12/20/13 at 12:29 AM by Vance Mook
An Interview with James Dewees of Reggie and the Full Effect and the Get Up Kids
by Aaron Mook

Aaron: Do you miss being in a tub of skittles?

James: I wouldn’t say that I miss it, although I am still very happy I did that photo.

A: What’s changed in the last five years, between the release of Last Stop: Crappy Town and your new record, No Country for Old Musicians?

J: Well, honestly, a lot…I played keyboards in a huge band [My Chemical Romance] for years, stopped drinking and doing drugs, wrote a ton of songs and reconnected with a lot of the friends I lost during the “party years." It’s been a great five years for me.

A: As many artists are, you turned to crowd-funding for the financial backing of No Country. Did the results exceed your expectations?

J: Oh God, yes! I wasn’t expecting it to succeed. I realized $50,000 is a fuck-ton of money in 10-15-20 sales, and it’s another fuck-ton of shipping!

A: No Country feels like a return to form for Reggie and the Full Effect. Was that a conscious decision made during the writing process, or did you go into the album cycle with blind expectations?

J: The “return to form” is me being able to do exactly what I want to right now musically, which is really the whole point behind a solo project. It’s for all of the songs you write knowing that your band or bands are not going to want to record it or play it live. I write so many different styles of music that I need Reggie to, at the very least, get them out of my head so I can move on to writing more songs.

A: Were there any other musical experiences (touring, side-projects, etc.) that influenced the music written for No Country? I can’t help but hear a bit of My Chemical Romance in “Mega Croc vs. Super Doosh”, which is far from a bad thing, but I know you and Frank [Iero, of MCR] are pretty tight buds now.

J: I have been friends with the MCR guys since 2003 now, while I was touring for Under the Tray. Frank and I spend a lot of time working on music, I guess because we both love creating so many different styles of it. When you find people you can really synchronize and create with, things become so great. I usually send him emails with the dumbest crap in them, and he writes back letting me know whether his kids loved it or not.

A: What can you tell us about the Death Spells full-length?

J: It is so close to being done. We only have to mix a few more songs and then figure out how we want to put it out. We were full-speed ahead during the last tour, but then we both got busy with our own songs…at this point, we are more than ready for it to come out!

A: Is there anything we can look forward to in the foreseeable future regarding the Get Up Kids?

J: Maybe a few shows here and there…everyone is married, a lot of them have kids or businesses, and that makes it harder for us to all get together in the same room. We are trying to work a few things out, though.

A: I saw Matt Pryor with Max Bemis, Sherri Dupree and Merriment in Cleveland a few weeks ago. He played “Girl, Why’d You Run Away?” and then told the crows to tell you to go fuck yourself. No question, but I just thought I should tell you.

J: That’s funny…I’m sure the crowd appreciated that kind of language.

A: I had a friend tell me that you’ve mentioned the possibility of a Fluxuation full-length. Is this true?

J: Oh yeah, I work on it every day. Sometimes the songs just happen, and then other times, I have trouble getting into the “fake British homoerotic” zone required to write those vocal parts (laughs).

A: Turning 37, have you felt a shift in the demographic you’ve been inherently writing towards?

J: I have, and I won’t really know until the tour starts who exactly is still into Reggie. I’ve gotten a lot of emails from older fans who ask me to change the show date in their town so that they can find a babysitter or change a work schedule to make it (laughs).

A: How does it feel to be a staple musician of alternative and punk music today? I mean, come on, man…you’ve got your own Wikipedia page.

J: Can’t people just make all of that crap up? I like the place I’m in…I got to be a part of a movement that changed the music industry. I was there in the beginning, I was there in the end, and now I’m still here (laughs).

A: Was there an overt difference in writing, both lyrically and musically, between any of the albums from Under the Tray until now, with No Country?

J: I think being sober now made the biggest difference. Under the Tray was such a rushed record. I like it a lot, but it is one of those records where I now wish I could go back and change a few things. With No Country, everything is exactly as it was meant to be.

A: Is there a definitive Reggie record, and are there any pieces of your career that you look back on with regret?

J: Not at all. I am a firm believer in everything you do leading you to where you end up. Deep shit, right? My journey from being kicked out of college to playing in Coalesce, The Get Up Kids, My Chemical Romance as well as Reggie and the Full Effect has been amazing. There were ups and downs; they were the best of times, they were the worst of times…being broke, exhausted, smelly, hungry, but always ready for more.

A: Just how many Korean Revenge films did you watch in preparation of “Revenge is a Dish Best Served at Park Chan-Wook’s House?"

J: I have seen so many…when we were off for the Danger Days tour for Christmas two years ago, I just got into them. I would be calling Ray Toro in the middle of the night telling him which ones he needed to watch (especially “I Saw the Devil”).

A: “Guerrera” should be expanded and produced into a feature film…or at least a shoddy television pilot.

J: I was thinking a graphic novel before the full-length movie, and then we go for the TV spin-off…

A: Finally, good luck touring with Pentimento; those dudes are weird and great.

J: I’m excited to play with them…such great bands coming out now. I keep saying we are approaching the Emo Renaissance, and I get to be an elder! (Laughs) I got two months of free karate lessons at a charity auction, so I might be a yellow belt by the tour. Look the eff out, America.

Reggie and the Full Effect’s “No Country for Old Musicians” is available now via Pure Noise Records, and the Mini X-mas EP is available for preorder via iTunes. Be sure to check both of them out, and remember, the former’s cover art was my favorite of the year. You can also catch Reggie and the Full Effect on tour with Pentimento and Dads this winter, and be sure to check back for my review of “No Country for Old Musicians” tomorrow!

You can find this, as well as other original content (interviews, reviews, features) at our blog and soon-to-be-site, Fastest Kid in School. Thanks for reading!

@FKISmusic #FKIS

Tags: reggie and the full effect, tguk, james dewees, interview, my chemical romance
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Interview with Deadron (formerly Tarantulahawk)
10/14/13 at 12:56 PM by Vance Mook
The following is an in-depth interview I conducted with Deadron late last week. The band conformed all of their answers during a practice as we discussed their upcoming full-length, the Along With Ghosts EP from earlier this year as well as the awesome new Deadron Cover Series. Enjoy!

Aaron: I guess first off, since not all of our readers will be totally familiar with the lineup, who plays what in the band?
Deadron: Ron Oxley sings, Andy Golz sings and plays guitar, Marley Van Raalte plays guitar, Brendan Carter plays bass and Zach Peterson plays drums!
Aaron: Awesome, thanks so much. So first, I have to admit- Along With Ghosts was my introduction to Deadron (formerly Tarantulahawk). I obviously enjoyed it quite a bit and I think it was a good place to start, but can you tell me if you had any other releases under the Tarantulahawk name?
Deadron: Thank you! Yes, we released a split with our friends in Cardinal entitled “…Happy Again.” it’s available on Still Here Record’s Bandcamp.
Aaron: Is Still Here a local label?
Dearon: Yes, it is actually owned by our drummer, Zach!
Aaron: That’s awesome! Alongside Deadron and Cardinal, are there any other labelmates? Would fans of Deadron generally enjoy Still Here releases because of a certain vibe, or do the artists vary distinctly in sound?
Deadron: The only other bands on Still Here are Victory Verdun, From the Mire and Hear This. Victory is a revival emo band and Hear This is a hardcore punk band (since broken up). The only thing all the bands on Still Here really have in common are that we are all friends. Otherwise, the sound very distinctly varies throughout the bands. I think if people are open minded and just enjoy good music, they can find a lot of good music on our label.
Aaron: Okay, so there’s definitely still an incentive for fans of Deadron to still check out the other artists on Still Here. Whenever I hear a band I love talking up another band they’re friends with or enjoy listening to, it always motivates me to spread my musical palate. Having only two releases under the Taranutlahawk name then, can you tell me if/how difficult the name-changing process was? Was the other band polite about the situation? How was the name Deadron chosen?
Deadron: Absolutely, you should check out or friends Tundras from Rockford Illinois. They rule and they are awesome dudes. It was difficult, we were all worried about losing fans. The other band was wonderful, very polite and reasonable with their request for us to change. We all want to kill Ron so we decided it was most fitting. (Laughs)
Aaron: I could definitely see that being one of the biggest concerns, but does it seem like everything is going well thus far? I have to say, with that explanation, Deadron is just as awesome of a name as Tarantualhawk (Laughs). So obviously, Along With Ghosts is entirely acoustic. I love how full the tracks feel with just the right amount of percussion. This may be a stupid question from someone who hasn’t heard the split and has yet to catch your live show, but was the acoustic sound something specific for AWG? Deadron generally an acoustic group, or do you play full-band/plan on releasing full-band material in the future?
Deadron: Everything is going great so far, people still seem interested in us. Thank you, we recorded AWG live and straight into a mixer and into a cassette deck. We had always wanted to record something to cassette and we had the equipment lying around to do so. One afternoon, we sat down to record it and everything just fell together wonderfully- those were second and third takes of those tracks. Deadron has always been an electric group, we just love to play acoustically. AWG is meant to be a preview to our upcoming full length…same songs but full band arrangements.
Aaron: That’s an awesome way to do it. As a musician, I’ve always been interested in two very different sides of recording, whether the band records something live in order to convey the raw energy or utilize the ability to be able to fix and edit anything they want to through heavy production. From the sounds of it, that’s going to be one beast of a full-length. Is there anything else you can tell us about this full-length? A title, release date, perhaps any songs that have been played live that fans can expect…etc.? I enjoy each song for their own merits, but I’m very excited to see what kind of energy a song like “Andrea” or “Leech” can pack live.
Deadron: We have been road testing some of the new material for the full length and we are writing new songs. In the meantime we are doing a split 10” full band, with our friends in TUNDRAS. The split will come out before the full length. As far as title, release date, and songs those are under wraps.
Aaron: That’s awesome to hear. I’m sure the split will get blood amongst the fanbase pumping for what Deadon has in store. As far as the songs of AWG go, did the band go into writing with any certain theme or idea? What significance is behind the title, ‘Along With Ghosts’?
Deadron: Hopefully! Well all three of our originals on AWG were written by me, Marley. They are some of the first songs ever written for Deadron and really set the ground work for the sort of band we want to be. Currently, we have taken to writing songs together and that has been fun watching the new songs develop into something entirely different than AWG. AWG plays into the idea of your memories being like ghosts and you have to decide whether to let them haunt you or travel with them. Also, check out Yokai Monsters. a series of creepy old Japanese kids movies, one of which shares that title.
Aaron: Does that include both the lyrics and I’m assuming guitar work, and is there a prime lyricist in the group? I definitely feel that meaning throughout the EP, and that last bit is quite something to take inspiration from. I’m sure after reading this, fans will be looking into it. So now, just a few questions about the “Speed Trials” cover and the Deadron Cover Series. Did the former do anything to inspire the latter? How did you decide on “Speed Trials” for inclusion on AWG?
Deadron: Yes, I was the primary songwriter, including lyrics. I still write a lot of the lyrics but Ron and Andy have taken to writing lyrics also. In our lyric booklet, we will say who wrote each song so fans can get an idea for how differently we write from one another. I hope to write stuff that inspires people, so that means a lot to hear. Andy decided on “Speed Trials” randomly. We all like Elliott Smith and agreed it would be fun to cover. I suppose it had some inspiration, but I love playing other peoples songs so this is just another outlet to play our favorite bands’ music and show people what music influences us the most.
Aaron: One of those bands being Modest Mouse, I presume, based on the first entry in the series being a cover of ‘Little Motel’? I have to say, the cover is absolutely terrific. I love the original and Modest Mouse has always been one of my favorite artists, and I think you definitely did the song justice. Can you tell us any other artists you may cover that we can look forward to, and what are some other main influences the band shares? I have no idea if this is coincidence or not, but I get a heavy Jesse Lacey (and now that I hear about full-band, possibly Brand New) vibe from several of the songs from AWG.
Deadron: We will always put a lot into our artwork and packaging, as it is also our favorite part of getting a physical copy…fans can expect to get their money’s worth. I am a huge Modest Mouse fan and they were a band we could agree on right off the bat, so we went with it. I think “Little Motel” is an often overlooked song but has some of the most beautifully sad lyrics in MM’s catalog. I think covers can be done just like the original or be made into a new composition. I don’t think covers have to be one way or the other, just as long as it’s good. So thank you, we’re glad you, and others, have enjoyed the cover. We are excited to put up more. A few bands we are thinking of covering next are Say Anything, Heatmiser, and Low. We have very ranging tastes as a band and individually so we want to explore what styles we can do on acoustic guitars. We have gotten that Jesse Lacey comparison a lot. We all like Brand New, it was a heavy influence in the beginning stages of Tarantulahawk but has since been replaced by other influences. Brand New’s style is so simple yet so well done that it is often easily copied but not easily mastered, so we want to distance ourselves form any one genre or band (a great compliment none the less for Ron; Jesse has a phenomenal voice).
Aaron: I can definitely agree with that, and I believe sad songs are often the most beautiful. The EP does a very fine job of walking that line, without ever being mopey or whiny. They’re sad, beautiful songs for people who need to hear that someone else may be sharing a similar experience as them. Say Anything is my favorite band, so I personally cannot wait to see how that translates. It’s good to be able to channel any influence without ever really replicating it, and I also believe AWG does a swell job of that.
Deadron: Thank you! We love writing sad songs as much as we love listening to them. Thank you for the kind words about AWG,this was a delightful conversation. We hope to talk to you again soon.

Don’t forget to check out our review and of Deadron’s recently released acoustic EP, Along With Ghosts, available on the band’s Bandcamp.
Tags: deadron, tarantulahawk, along with ghosts, ep, interview, best new music
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An Interview with Late Night Beers/Song Premiere, "Broke An Arrow"
10/05/13 at 01:22 PM by Vance Mook
An Interview with Late Night Beers/Song Premiere, “Broke An Arrow”
by Aaron Mook

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the best group of guys I’ve heard all year- Late Night Beers. If you have yet to hear their debut EP, Waking, you can find my review of it here at Fastest Kid in School and on Absolutepunk. Above is a brand new single, “Broke An Arrow”, premiering exclusively on FKIS that’s sure to be a hit with fans the band, as well as The Smiths and American Football. Check out the interview below, stream the new single and let us know what you think!

Aaron: So just to get the boring stuff out of the way, and as general knowledge for our readers, can you give us a lowdown on who plays what in the band?

Eddie: Well I’m Eddie Cuddy, I play guitar and sing. Tyler Bormann sings and plays guitar, and Dylan Morris plays drums. I played bass on the new track, as well.

Aaron: Awesome. For anyone who hasn’t checked it out, I wrote a review for your recent release, Waking, and I obviously enjoyed it immensely (it’s one of my top three EP’s of 2013). Is Waking officially your first release, and can you give us some insight into how the songs came together?

Eddie: Waking is definitely the first release. The songs came together over a span of two years, really, and we went in knowing the outcome that we wanted but not exactly how it would turn out.

Tyler: I would play these little pieces on my acoustic guitar for Eddie over the phone, and we would sort of go from there. There’s actually a video on Youtube of the intro, “Isn’t it Pretty” and that was 20 minutes after we had written it. We would work out the songs in practice once every few weeks, sometimes even once a month depending on the circumstances with work and school.

A: Oh, wow, so were you all together in same space while recording the EP?

E: Oh yeah, we actually recorded it in one day in a friend’s apartment. aside from doing the levels the night before. Dylan was really sick, so we kind of just went in with the mentality of “We have the money, let’s do this,”, and it honestly didn’t take more than six hours. Our friend just had this small interface, and we tried to set up for recording in different rooms of the house. We got the final mixes about two weeks later.

A: How long had you been a band before this?

E: I actually remember, we had our first practice on Black Friday of 2011, because we all went to a show right after our first practice. Tyler and I have been writing songs since seventh grade, and Dillon and I played in a hardcore band together, so the songs came together really quickly. The chemistry was already there, we just ran with it.

Dylan: We would always keep in touch, whether we were all separated by school or not, and pass the idea back and forth…that’s how it went for a while.

A: So when you finally did get together and finalize the idea of playing together, did you have any idea of what you wanted to sound like? Or did you just go with the flow once you were all together?

D: Well I don’t know it’s just because I’m a drummer, but I had a tendency for heavier stuff. We all listened to different bands, and Eddie probably had the widest musical palette, so it was mostly a just go with the flow kind of situation.

T: It felt like a jam band at the beginning. We all had angsty feelings that we brought together and I’m not the best guitar player in the world, so I would listen to something and try to channel that into whatever I was playing at the time.

A: I don’t want to throw out the comparison too much, but the artists I’ve heard mentioned most in comparison are obviously Morrissey and American Football. Were there any artists that you all listened to that you would consider a large influence on the band?

E: Those were definitely two of my favorite artists, and Tyler’s a big fan as well. American Football was like the band we wanted to be in, and we’d send in each other clips of songs we loved.

T: We knew we wanted somewhat of a math-y sound, too.

D: It was weirdest for me because I was so used to playing material until your shoulders blew out, you knw? (Laughs). So I had to learn real quick.

E: We knew wanted Dylan because he’s such technical drummer.

A: So how old are the songs that make up Waking?

E: “Chiminea” and” Waking” are two of our oldest songs, and” Isn’t it Pretty” is more of what we considered an intro. Tyler and I are big fans of AFI, we love intros and transitions, especially the theatricality behind them, so I’m really happy that “Isn’t It Pretty” turned out so well.

A: Well at three songs, it’s definitely a short listen, and I think it’s effective in the fact that I as a listener was actually kind of pissed after it ended. (Laughs) Like, it just leaves the listener wanting so much more.

T: We originally planned on a six song EP, but due to money and some other boundaries, it was just best to just focus on our three favorites and put them in an order that worked. It was put together so haphazardly, because I remember wanting “Broke An Arrow” so badly on the EP, but listening now, Waking is such a cohesive listen and “Broke An Arrow” just feels like it belonged in a different chapter for us.

A: Was “Broke An Arrow” written specifically for Waking?

D: It was a song we played live before Waking was even a thing.

E: It’s gone through some major structure changes since its original inception, though. Here’s how I remember it- Tyler and I wrote it together acoustically, and then once we brought it to Dylan, it all really started to fall into place.

A: Well not to put down Waking in any way, but listening to “Broke An Arrow”, the track feels much more dynamic and has an almost completely different vibe from the EP. It’s much more upbeat, with 2-3 minutes of pure instrumentals leading it in.

T: I know exactly what you mean,.Waking is really chordy. We write in a way that, it’s really important to us that we can order our songs however we’d like throughout our set list when we play live. “Broke An Arrow” isn’t the song for Waking, and when we wanted a new single, I think it was all of our first choices.

Stream the new single, "Broke An Arrow", exclusively at Fastest Kid in School: http://fastestkidinschool.tumblr.com/
Tags: late night beers, Waking, interview, song premiere, best new music, Morrissey,
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Interview with Lights & Caves - 8.23.13
08/23/13 at 06:38 PM by Vance Mook
Lights & Caves have undoubtedly put out one of the best indie debuts I've heard in while, especially from such young up-and-comers. After reviewing their EP, I was able to catch up with Evan Rudman (drums) and Jason Marr (guitar) to discuss In Satori, the band's writing/recording process, where they're headed, and even Led Zepplin. Check it out:

V: So the record, In Satori - it was self-released? Did you see any difficulties in that?

E: Yeah, I mean the process can be really difficult when no one is tell you what happens next, what direction to go in…on the other hand, without anyone funding you, it’s a lot easier because you don’t have any money to pay back. So it definitely has its ups and downs.

V: What is the band’s writing process like? Did you go in with any specific ideas or themes, or is that something that came out naturally during practice?

E: Well Dillon loves recurring themes, but as for writing, I know a lot of it came from just jamming. Most of the album was actually written before I joined the band.

J: I’ve been in the band since the beginning, and we would basically write these little diddies we liked and they would go on to form these six, seven minute songs …we’d look at them as a band and say, “Okay, I don’t really like this” until we trimmed them into these Frankenstein songs we liked.

V: What kind of musical influences are you guys usually under?

J: I’m a pretty big fan of The Beatles, and while we all have our own individual tastes, I know we dig a lot of the same bands, like Coldplay and Manchester Orchestra.

E: Yeah, definitely Manchester Orchestra, and I’m into Portugal. The Man and stuff like that. I know Jason here is a pretty big Tallhart fan, and we all dig stuff like Muse and a little Kings of Leon.

V: So if you had to throw together a dream tour, who would be on the bill?

J: The Beatles. [Laughs] Evan and I just looked directly at each other and knew what was up.

E: I said it once as a joke, but then I got to thinking about it, and I would want to play with Led Zepplin; not only would they kick ass to play with but it would be awesome to have Jon Bonham get us drunk under the table. [Laughs] But in a more realistic sense? Manchester Orchestra, The Dear Hunter, bands like that…I’ve always been a pretty big The Early November fan.

J: We almost had a show with Tallhart, but unfortunately, it didn’t quite pan out.

V: Did recording run smoothly?

E: Yeah, our producer, Mike, was great. A lot of our stuff ended up quite differently than we imagined it because we would bring it to him and he’d say “That’s great, but let’s see what happens when you try this,” which is a really good thing to be open to when you’re in a band. It’s gotta run like a democracy, and when it does, you’ll likely wind up happy with the results.

V: How long has Lights & Caves been active?

E: The oldest lyric we probably have for Lights (we’ve all played in different projects) was probably from when we got together the first time, about a year ago, and from there, these are the songs we’ve created.

V: Aside from demos, is this your first official release?

J: Yeah, I mean this is the first real release in general. [Laughs] I’m not sure if we even had a demo.

V: How has the reaction been thus far?

E: Well, we’re working on getting some more reviews, but really, Absolutepunk’s is the only one we have so far [Laughs] and thanks for the kind words, it means a lot to the band finally having been able to create something for ourselves and our friends and families.

V: As a fellow musician, along with many of our readers, what kind of advice would you give to other up-and-coming bands that may be growing impatient with the obstacles of playing in a band?

E: It’s important to keep a small head, a level head, and to focus on personal growth. I think a lot of the times, band politics can get in the way. You know, you start playing shows and then someone starts talking about how you need to make more money or something like that. It’s important to remember, as that 15-year-old freshman kid who’s in his first band, that your chances at that stage of going anywhere are very low. It sucks, but don’t get discouraged if you’re not signed after five or six shows. [Laughs] Just keep doing what you want to do and then when you reach college or graduate high school, you’ve grown as a musician to have a fairer chance at taking this somewhere.

V: Where does Lights & Caves want to go from here?

E: We’ve already got a few new songs that we’re pretty excited about, one of which we’ll definitely be playing at the In Satori release show tomorrow night, and we have another song that didn’t make the record (a somewhat more rockin’ B-side to “Carry Me Home”) that I think we’ll definitely bring back whenever we do our first proper full-length.

V: As a band, what is your goal with this record? What’s most important to you about making music together?

J: My goal was to put out a record I would enjoy listening to, but also our friends and family would enjoy, and I think with In Satori it’s already been pretty easy to see that we’ve succeeded in that aspect, which we’re all very proud of.

E: I like that answer; really, I just want to continue making music I’ll enjoy playing for others. I’m not one to worry much about sales, but as long as we sell enough to fund another release (or just keep playing shows), that’s what’ll keep me happy. [Laughs]

After reading this, make sure you check out the band's fantastic debut EP, In Satori.
Tags: lights & caves, manchester orchestra, tallhart, best new music, aaron mook, interview
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Interview with Kyle Adem- 6.18.13
06/21/13 at 03:30 PM by Vance Mook
As you may have seen around the site, I've been talking up Kyle Adem quite a bit lately. I've reviewed both his debut, armour., and stellar sophomore effort, Syracuse. For those as interested in the up-and-coming singer/songwriter as I am, here is an in-depth interview I conducted with Adem about Syracuse, its differences from armour. and what kind of things have been going on in the Kyle Adem camp since its release.

Vance: So tell me, how did you get from armour. to Syracuse?

Adem: Well, armour. kind of started out as a Christian kid working out his own faith and ended with a resolution to part with it. Syracuse picks up, I guess, in the aftermath of that. There are a lot of existential themes that follow out of that path - the idea that all of our conclusions are founded on outside factors that are beyond our control calls into question the concept of free will. The album talks about that and, I guess, sort of explores a really dysfunctional season with decadent imagery. It's a dark album written from the perspective of a chemically dependent, mentally unstable individual.

V: I definitely recognized that going into the armour. review, and it's actually part of what drew me to it; I was a punk kid who had these outliers like Pedro the Lion, Death Cab For Cutie, Manchester Orchestra, and as someone who was also having some trouble leaving the faith I grew up in, it seemed like a perfect oppurtunity. I gotta tell you, that album resonated with me a lot. Now with Syracuse, I can see a lot of that afermath you mentioned - almost like wrestling with guilt. I really enjoyed the spoken word bits and the dark imagery put into Syracuse.

A: Yeah, if armour. was my C.S. Lewis/Kierkegaard record, then Syracuse is definitely my Nietzsche/"God Is Dead" record. Honestly, a lot of the spoken word bits were just poems that were collected haphazardly. Someone gave me this midi keyboard for vacuuming their house and a few of the songs like "I Am Not" and "After Jackson" were basically just a very stoned version of myself toying around with that dingy keyboard.

V: That's perfect, because my next question related to "Nietzche." Mostly, I hear Syracuse as more of a refined sound, even during some of the more experimental moments. What kind of influences would you name? I hear bits of Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst and Andy Hull throughout.

A: I'm glad to hear that armour. really resonated with you. To be honest, I had spent a lot of time with my prior releases (Living Room Tapes being the exception, as it was recorded after armour. though released a year prior) really concentrated on relaying a message of faith and love and redemption. So, this was my departure from that and I really tried to convey the message the way that I was experiencing it spiritually and emotionally, as more of a transcendental shift from one faith to another and less of a spiritual death that gives way to just carnal existence.

I'll be honest, I know Conor Oberst and his sound and a few of his songs but I have never considered him a very heavy influence of mine. I have only heard a handful of songs and they're all brilliant, and to say that his vocal style hasn't impacted me at all would be a really small thing to say, but I think in a lot of ways my emotionalism gets mistaken as an attempt at Oberst-ism. With this record, I would name John Darnielle as a significant influence, especially musically on tracks like "Learning To Drive Again" and "The Sunset Alone." Lyrically, his phrasing is noticeably present in "St. John" and "David's Song." I think also Yeasayer is another band that I was listening to a lot. The title track and "After Jackson" specifically are very reflective of those sounds that sonically were becoming really appealing to me - especially as I discovered marijuana for the first time. Additionally, I would probably consider the authors Thom Jones and Rainer Maria Rilke as individuals that had a lot to do with this record.

V: That's a fanastic way to put it. The poetry (and your lyricism in general) is definitely a stong point in your music, and the keyboard made for an interesting sonic departure. If we're being honest, the only misstep in my opinion on Syracuse is "I Am Not," although "After Jackson" is terrific. I can also clearly see the literary influence here. I actually wanted to ask you about "St. John" as well. Do you mind me asking about the substance abuse?

A: "I Am Not" is the one song that I wasn't thrilled with. I love the track but the mixing is poor, some of the instruments were bad choices and the vocals at the end were out of key sometimes- a lot of the levels are off as well. It was one that I didn't save the session for and didn't want to redo the entire thing so I just put it out as is. It's certainly the weakest track on the album aesthetically. I don't mind talking about substance abuse or "St. John". What would you like to know?

V: I feel as though Syracuse is an overall natural progression from armour. The storytelling lyricism on "St. John" is beautiful- where did it come from? And did the substance abuse come as a direct result of parting with your faith? How do you feel it has affected yourself and the music since?

A: Well, to begin, I should say that Syracuse is inspired by a really traumatic love affair that ended in true Hitchcock fashion. "St. John" is the most directly inspired considering the beginning is based on a visit to a church called St. John's Ukranian Catholic Church in Syracuse, New York with said woman. The scene was an innocent one, a tour of the church and some uncomfortable emotional moments that were tense and confusing. The storm that comes is representative of the development of our relationship; the drugs, the lies, the lawsuits, etc. It rips everything apart.

V: Okay. A love affair that really happened to you, or a concept? If that isn't too personal of a question.

A: A real love affair. The concept developed as a metaphorical exploration of the actual event. Basically, I told the story in parable.

V: Got it. That's terrible to hear, but as I said, the emotionalism, albeit sometimes numbing, really shines throughout Syacuse.

A: Thanks. It was an album that had no intention of being an album...it was really just cheap therapy that a year after, I would rework and create this album.

V: Really? I can see that...I'm glad that this collection of songs is being released this way. Dylen [manager] mentioned somthing about producing your next album?

A: We are working on a lot right now, actually. I'm writing to hopefully put out a couple of EP's this year and he is producing another album. It is a collection similar to Living Room Tapes but with an armour.-styled production.

V: That's great! Can you tell me if the writing differs at all from Syracuse?

A: Going back, I would just like to say that substance abuse is part of the allegory. I mean, after the break up I became pretty desperate for pot and it froze me in time for awhile there. I used a lot of those thoughts and feelings to relate with people who have more intense drug problems. I was just a stoner for awhile. The writing on the new stuff is not very Syracuse-y at all. I'm not in the place I was when those songs were written so the next release will probably be much happier and upbeat.

The record that Dylen is producing has some extremely radio-friendly pop songs and the overall feeling of the songs is very optimistic. The darkest song on that album is probably "Seeds," which is a song about dying and going to Hell. But, it describes Hell the same way that I did on armour. in "Brother, Follow" - more as a doorway into Heaven. So, even my "Hell song" is kind of happy.

V: I can understand that. As someone else who enjoys making music, I know that sometimes the shittiest circumstances can lead to the most realistic of songs. That relationship with substance abuse explains a lot of the dark themes, like escape and confrontation, that I heard even on my first listen of Syracuse. I enjoy this record for so many reasons, and I'm definitely excited to see how these next few releases will turn out and where your journey will take you next.

You can find my reviews for each of Kyle Adem's albums on this site. Syracuse was released May 17th via Ghost Motel Records.
Tags: kyle adem, aaron mook, interview, armour, syracuse
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