Thursday, December 31, 2009

Live Video of "Flipside" by Death House Chaplain

If you missed the show on Tuesday night, you missed a real barn burner! Here's a video of the song "Flipside" so you can pretend you were there!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Albums of the Year 2009

10. Worker Bee Tangler I love a record that's moody, and this bay area quartet has released a moody masterpiece. At times confounding, the hooks peek out from behind reverb-ed, plucked guitars and barren soundscapes. All the while we are lead through a lyrical nightmare that's at once fucked-up fairy tale and inner examination by Evan's smooth baritone. I think ultimately Worker Bee has a better record in them, but Tangler is a fantastic debut.

9. Akron/Family Set 'em Wild, Set 'em Free The way in which this record opens with the mesmerizing track "Everyone Is Guilty" to the short, sweet closer "Last Year," Akron/Family continually surprises in all the right ways. There may be a bit more freak folk, Animal Collective-ness than I usually prefer, but they tend to do it in a manner that combines those influences with old fashion rock and roll and sometimes a noisy freak out.

8. Richard Swift The Atlantic Ocean Grossly under-appreciated, Swift released a record every bit as good (if not better) than his previous two efforts. Sure, I have a soft spot for the guy, he sang at my wedding and played on my records, but hell, I've never liked 70s pop as much as when Swift does it. This album is packed from start to finish with tasteful, warm jams. And what Swift sometimes lacks in electricity he makes up for in swagger.

7. Black Mountain In The Future While it may be all the rage to sound like you are from another time, Black Mountain sound like they're from another rock dimension. The riffs sound as fresh and vital as they did when Led Zep was copping them off old Delta Blues artists, and the male female vocal delivery works especially well for them. The air-drums and air-guitar I am guilty of when I listen to this record should be enough to properly shame me, but I keep dropping the needle over and over. Let the judgers be damned!

6. Sunny Day Real Estate LP2 Reissue A record that was first released in 1995 is every bit as good today. This is my second favorite record of all time, hugely influential on my musical taste and playing. This remastered version includes some awesome bonus material that was previously somewhat difficult to find, plus very informative liner notes about the making of the record. The band was breaking up at the time of this recording and you can hear it in the way the songs disjointedly fall together before blowing apart. Jeremy Egnik's voice is a powerful instrument while the bass playing by Nate Mendel carries the melodies of the songs. A tour de force.

5. Brand New Daisy Brand New is certainly a guilty pleasure, but why should they be? Their newest record sounds ferocious, thanks to a searing mix by D Sardy. Sure, their lyrical content and delivery is soaked in sad sack emo self deprecation, but everyone needs to be reminded what it feels like to be 16 every now and again. Brand New just happen to do that better than anyone else out there.

4. Timber Timbre S/T Man, this guys has a strange and hypnotic way of putting together a folk song. His voice sounds like Randy Newman on cough syrup, his imagery recalls backwoods spirituals and his vibe is all muted organs, drums, and the occasional choir backing him up. This was the biggest surprise album of the year.

3. David Bazan Curse Your Branches Until this release, I was all but sure David Bazan's best records were behind him. An introspective turn in his lyrics and a mastery of melody has shown me I was absolutely wrong. Time will tell whether this album is his best ever, but for my money this year it didn't get much better. As a listener the album is at once painfully voyeuristic and heartbreakingly hopeful. It's a journey worth taking again and again.

2. Grizzly Bear Veckatimest The best parts of the Beach Boys and the best parts of symphonic bedroom pop, Grizzly Bear made a streamlined version of 2006's Yellow House. It's their first record written ad recorded like a band and the results are dazzling. Both singers brought intricate and addicting songs to the table, while producer Chris Bear gets all the right performances out of them. Grizzly Bear has the unique ability to travel in a variety of sonic trajectories simultaneously while remaining a cohesive unit. A triumphant statement from an important band.

1. Kissing Cousins Pillar of Salt Some may cry foul, but this is still my favorite record of 2009. POS sounds like a demon horde putting on choir robes and singing break up songs disguised as nursery rhymes accompanied by Black Sabbath. It sounds like cocaine without the price tag, like whiskey without the hangover, like pot without the munchies. POS is a desperate, haunting record, filled with yearning and invocation. If you don't own this on vinyl and you consider yourself a fan of music, shame on you. It's timeless; it sounds hyper modern and lo fi 60s without really sounding like either. The bass playing by Sean Stentz and the vocal performances by Heather and Kara stun me with their urgency. Produced by Richard Swift and recorded live directly to 8 track tape in two days this album is an instant classic.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chain Letter Author's Jams We Enjoyed In 2009

I've compiled some jams that at one time or another Heather and I were really into this year. Ultimately they are all from albums where I only choose to listen to this particular song and maybe a couple of others. The albums aren't bad, per se, but they didn't make the year end best of list I'll be posting tomorrow. I've chosen to omit songs that are from my favorite albums of the year to inspire a bit more variety on each list.

"Out On A Limb" -- Faunts from the album Feel. Love. Thinking. Of. This is a song that I wish I wrote, that I could write. The interlocking guitar interplay combined with the forward momentum of the rhythm section (even though I'm pretty sure it's a drum machine) make this song sound as if it is always rolling over on itself. The title track to this record is also insanely catchy.

"Spaceships" -- Tweak Bird from Reservations. I had a hot minute with this band and this is the song I still return to. A slow, dirge-y 6/8 time signature filled with monster riffs and mouse vocals.

"Future Primative" -- Papercuts from You Can Have What You Want. This song is all about the opening muted bass line and the musical chorus hook that stays in my head for weeks at a time.

"Blood Bank" -- Bon Iver from the Blood Bank EP. Bon Iver followed up my favorite album of 2008 with this single. It embodies everything I love about this band. Simple, haunting and beautifully melancholy.

"Die Slow" -- Health from Get Color. It was difficult for me to put this song on today's list because the album is one of my favorite albums of 2009. But this song was the reason I love the record. I am addicted to this jam. It's probably my favorite song of the year.

"Rolling Sea" -- Vetiver from Tight Knit. I bought this record on the strength of it's opening song. A gorgeous melody played on acoustic guitar with lyrics that make me instantly nostalgic for a past I never had.

"God Damn Best" -- French Miami S/T. Wow. We played with this band once this year and they absolutely burnt the place down. Ultimately this album tends to be a bit monochromatic, but this bombastic tune is unstoppable.

"Fathom" -- Russian Circles from Geneva. Good god did this song inspire some instrumental post rock! From the opening sounds of a demon orchestra tuning up to the punishing melody hook that continues to return before breaking apart into a number of fascinating tangents, this song has it all for the Explosions/Mogwai/Jesu fan.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Collective Weekly Show + News Update

Mondays in the new year I will be updating you on the weekly happenings of the Chain Letter family in addition to my daily post. Tomorrow I will discuss my favorite songs of 2009, followed by my favorite albums of 2009 on Wednesday. We will return to our regular posting schedule Monday January 4th.

Tomorrow, Tuesday December 29th: Death House Chaplain 9pm & Shirley Rolls 11pm @ Spaceland 5$ 1717 Silver Lake Blvd 90026.

Wednesday December 30th: Yikes! A Lion! @ Old Towne Pub Pasadena 9pm

Thursday December 31st (New Years Eve): The Monolators w/ Aushua Le Switch & Henry Clay People @ Spaceland. 10$ advance 12$ door

Wednesday January 6th: Kissing Cousins and Twilight Sleep @ Pershing Square for Spaceland on Ice 8pm FREE!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Lie of Christmas

I was on the phone today with a friend of mine discussing a very difficult, conflicting issue and I got to thinking, does anyone truly think Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year? It seems the holidays, while bringing out the best on the surface--lights, decorations, presents, fatty delicious foods--also cultivate a culture of depression, guilt and loneliness.

This makes me incredibly sad. I was blessed to grow up in a high functioning home with many holiday traditions championed by my grandparents. As a kid, it seemed unfathomable to be depressed around Christmas. But as I got older and met people like my friend who's parents past away at a young age, I learned that the holidays are the time of year when old wounds surface most.

I wish there were a formula I could post or a recipe for wellness I could pass on to my friends that are hurting in this season. It breaks my heart to know you're missing a loved one who passed away this year, or feeling the sting of loneliness upon being separated from a spouse or a long time friend, or experiencing the crushing weight of failure in some aspect of your life. It's going to have to be enough to write that you are all in our thoughts and we wish you a fullness and wholeness unmatched by previous holiday seasons. From all of us at Chain Letter Collective, happy holidays. We love you. We'll see you on the other side.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Music Tuesday: Whispering Pines

Have you ever known someone from around? You can't remember specifically how or when you met them? I've known Joe Zabeilski from around for a couple of years now. We both travel on foot in and around our neighborhood, we see each other at my restaurant where I serve him copious amounts of iced green tea, and every now and again I'll run into him at Red Lion. Couple days ago he shows up at Gingergrass and tells me his band Whispering Pines have finished their record and he has a copy for me.

This is the culmination of a conversation 10 months in the works. Every time I see him he gives me a status update on his record, so to finally have the record in my hands feels like some sort of accomplishment. To call Whispering Pines roots music is the simple, derivative comparison. Instead I like to think of them as a band stepping out of a time machine into another era in which their music is as relevant and enjoyable as the time from which they traveled. This kind of americana can be found in parts in all sorts of LA bands like Welldiggers Banquet and the Parson Red Heads as well as national acts like Fleet Foxes. But what Whispering Pines do a bit differently is embody their influences to the point where they become indistinguishable from them.

Some would argue that this is a bad thing and that I am criticizing Whispering Pines. Not so. In their case, it's a compliment. One just has to listen to "Family Tree," the opening and title track on their new record (which I've posted below) to realize sometimes it just feels right to do something so well, even if that thing has been done so well by others for a long time.

You can buy Whispering Pine's record Family Tree at Amoeba and catch them live January 25th at the Bootleg Theatre.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hangovers. They are all day events.

This is the first time I've been able to look at my computer screen without a searing blinding pain exploding out from behind my eye sockets. I was done in by one thunderous hour last night. I was on my couch finishing a glass of red wine when Heather brought me in a vodka soda. While I was finishing the vodka soda, our friends Dave and Alexis dropped by with presents and a bottle of champagne. Which we drank. Then I opened my present, which was a bottle of whiskey. I went in to the kitchen to get glasses for Dave and I and, for some reason, decided I wanted to drink a beer along with the whiskey. So at one time in front of me I had a glass of champagne, a vodka soda, a whiskey, a glass of red wine, and a PBR. Within the hour every glass was drained, every can empty, and all I got to show for it is this all day hangover event. Good thing I'm going to 2 more Christmas parties tonight.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Now That It's Done The Work Begins

With the record finished, the real work begins. I'm talking about song order. I know in this day and age the format of a complete record meant to be listened to from start to finish is an archaic concept. Fuck that. Every record I've made, I've put an intense amount of consideration into the song order. I'm sure this is a product of being born in the mix tape age. There's a great scene in the book "High Fidelity" where the protagonist has a lengthy soliloquy on how to properly and effectively construct a mix tape, so I won't try and recreate that here.

However, the point remains that for us in Summer Darling song order matters a ton. One of my favorite memories of being in this band was way back in 2004. We were on our way to play a show in Chico, CA at a little coffee shop called Moxie's. For the entire car ride Dan, Heather and I played different song orders for each other, argued our cases good-spiritedly, and after much deliberation came to a consensus.

This time it's a bit more crowded in the car. Not only do we have a fourth member in our band now, we also have a producer and a label weighing in. (*Author's note: We also had a producer for our first record who had two very strong ideas about song order and selection, which I ignored. To this day I regret that I did, because I think his ideas would have made the album better.) I already have my order picked out, but I wonder how much I'm going to have to fight to get it on the record that way? Or will someone come up with an idea that works perfectly that I never would have thought? We shall see. The battle begins tomorrow when I show Neil Schield from Origami Vinyl the mixes for the first time. . .

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Last night at the Origami release party for the Lilofee 7" I ran into an old acquaintance named Ronnie. Ronnie and I go way back; we worked together at a coffee shop in Orange County nine years ago. At the time he was in a band called The Pressure. I had another friend that worked at the coffee shop that I knew from playing in bands. His name was Allen. He was in a local band called Mayday when I was in a band called Remember August. We played a few shows together and always got along swimmingly. After Ronnie's and Allen's bands broke up they started a band called Your Enemies Friends. Your Enemies Friends went on to release a couple records and tour the world while the bands I was in at the time slowly dissolved. For years I desperately wanted to be the drummer for that band because I thought that was going to be my only shot at playing in a real band.

It was interesting running into Ronnie on the streets of Echo Park. It's not the first time I've seen him since our coffee shop days, but enough time has passed to be able to accurately reflect on old times, which we did briefly. He's in a new band called Seaspin and Allen is in a band with his old bandmates from Mayday, but Ronnie couldn't remember what they were called. I'm not exactly sure how it makes me feel to know what kind of concentric circles this band life makes, though I'm pretty sure that if I end up where I started after some kind of wild ride with this life, I'll be grateful and think it was all worth it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Have We Arrived At The End?

In a few minutes I am scheduled to head into the studio and sign off on the final mixes of the Summer Darling record. What a grand undertaking this has been! As I think back on the 4 years of writing and rehearsing, the six months of tracking and the six months of mixing I feel two conflicting emotions.

First comes a giant wave of satisfaction mixed with relief, and maybe a little pride tossed in there as well. While we have four other past releases, the record we are finishing feels like the definitive statement the band was meant to make. It's just taken us eight years and a couple hundred shows to make it. It makes me excited for the future, expectant, hopeful.

The other feeling is an intense dread, the fear of someone being in your house when you arrive home from a long journey, the unease of uncertainty. For the last fourteen months, I knew what my goal was: finish the record. But now that it's done, what's next?

Recently I was speaking over beers to S Foye, the producer of the record, about general life equations, laughing at the circumstances of our extreme rootlessness; we own next to nothing, have no kids, etc, and how different that makes us from a lot of our friends we grew up with. We came to the realization that uncertainty in life produces a hunger that allows for new experience and a unique hope. Because we are still unsettled in this path we're on, we get opportunities to experience things that people who find themselves settled into careers and families and responsibilities don't. It was an exhilarating conclusion. The uncertainty rotting my guts and waking me up at five in the morning (much like it did this very a.m.) was actually a good thing, a product of my willingness to strive for better and different things for me and my band-family. It's a terrible, awesome feeling, and one that I hope we all get to experience soon.

This is what I was listening to while writing today. The song is called "I Get Low" by Timber Timbre.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Music Tuesday: TS And The Past Haunts

TS And The Past Haunts is Travis Shettel's new project. You may remember Travis' previous band, Piebald, or you may have seen him rocking the keys with The Duke Spirit, but the Past Haunts is a whole new direction for him. The jams showcase a mature yet playful approach to songwriting, the music is built upon piano and organ as much as it is guitars, and the performances by Travis and the members of The Duke Spirit, who served as his backing band during the recording of the album, are spontaneous and thrilling. It's the happiest blues record of all time with gritty barroom solos, whisky soaked choral arrangements, and sad sack singalong piano ballads.

Currently there's no official release date for this record, but while Travis finds the right venue through which to put this album in our grubby little hands, we can enjoy a jam or two right here on Chain Letter. Heather and I have been doing our best over the last couple months to fill in the Duke's shoes at live shows. It's made it quite difficult to pick a favorite, not only because I have a personal attachment to so many of them, but because, frankly, they are all so fucking good. They're the kind of songs to get stoned to and cruise around in nature, or to toss on the ol' vinyl player and have a few beers with some friends, or play on the jukebox of your favorite neighborhood bar at closing time. They already remind me of good times, so I suppose it's only fitting to post the song "Good Times" to introduce TS And The Past Haunts to you. Plus it's a festive time of year. So crack open a cold one, light a spliff, or just sip on some nonfat, non-alcoholic egg nog, listen to the jam and remind yourself of the good times. Or be like Travis and create some new ones!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Everything In Titles

I love naming things. In college I was fascinated with etymology. My favorite Bible myth is the one about the tower of Babel, an allegorical story about the creation of different languages that occurred when man tried to build a structure to god. I found numerology fascinating and was transfixed by the idea that Adam, the first human, spoke a perfect language that transcends the sign/signifier relationship of modern language. And now my obsession lies in naming songs and albums.

With the help of the rest of the band, I've been trying to name the Summer Darling record for the better part of a year. I usually like to allow for a long period of time to name things. This gives me the optimum amount of chances to either stumble across something that sounds cool and relates to the jams (like our 2008 EP Health of Others which I saw on a sanitation sign in my work bathroom), ask the right person what they would name the record (my friend Jim Poulos named Summer Darling's first full length I Know You, I Never Knew You), or pull a critical line from the songs themselves like we did for Good Feeling.

But this record has been impossible to name. When I first wrote many of the songs for the album, the idea for the title, or theme, if you will, was "Bear Your Brother's Burden." This soon morphed into "Share Your Brother's Burden" as the previous title felt clunky. But this title likewise became clumsy and archaic, so I shortened it to "Brother's Burden." After a bit of time "Brother's Burden" seemed completely unrelated to the jams. I couldn't for the life of me remember what specific burden had anything to do with the themes of the songs. From this point on it's been a downward spiral of wild ideas ranging from simple one word titles like "Apprentice" and "Zealotry" to long esoteric excursions like "Let's Build It Back Up So We Can Tear It All Down Again" and "Beautiful With Broken Teeth." There was "Dead Letters" that turned into "Dead Letters to Lost Lovers" after the first one felt too metal. Other quickly scrapped ideas included "Throw Off What Hinders You," "Unconversion," "Drunk On Living Water," and "Nothing To Go Back Home To." I've tried copping song titles, but that always ends up feeling lazy. And then there's the temptation of the grandest, simplest option of all: the self titled record.

I've come out the other side of these examples at a complete loss. The record is done and I have no idea what the fuck we're going to call it. Anything I come up with now feels forced. My favorite thing has turned into a total mind screw.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I wish I was in better HEALTH.

On Monday I tweaked something in my back. No big deal, just felt a little twinge. Whatever that was has mutated and malignantly attacked the whole of my upper back, shoulders, and neck. I've had trouble sleeping and I'm in pain every moment of the day. I canceled yesterday's two rehearsals, played hookie on my blog, and skipped out on work. I've been given sage advice from friends and family, pills from even better friends and family, and I'm off to get a massage here shortly.

I started thinking about what could have caused this unfortunate downturn and I have come to the conclusion that it is most definitely stress related. The reason I am stressed out is a whole other subject that I plan to spend a week writing about in the new year, so for now we'll just marvel at how the body can physically manifest such mental struggle.

When I think of health and stress, the most suitable musical embodiment of these is the band Health. They are a local LA band that has a very unique approach to rock and roll. Below is a track from their most recent record Get Color. The jam is called "Die Slow" and although its certainly the poppiest of their songs, you'll still get the idea of what the knots in my back feel like.

Be thankful we've got our H/health.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Future Ghost: Staying Positive in Tough Situations

When Loop left Summer Darling in the summer of 2008 I must admit to moments of panic. Irrational as it was, I began to think everything was unraveling, that we'd never play another show, that we'd have to start all over. If only I'd been able to learn a lesson from my friends in Future Ghost! When one of their members left this year, Brandon Tomas was duly disappointed, but when speaking to me about it in the aisles of Trader Joe's, he was resolute in his positivity. He seemed absolutely intent on making the best of a difficult situation.

Did they ever. Below I've posted my favorite track from their upcoming EP. The song, entitled "Like It Or Not," is direct in its hook and bombastic in its delivery. They are a fantastic sounding three piece and all around kick ass people. Make sure you check them out live in the coming months, as I am predicting a break out year for these noise poppers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Demo Tuesday

I'm late to head into the studio today so my grand plans of posting another video Dan and I did will have to wait until next week. But in other news, I've been writing like a madman lately, which is a 180 degree turn from the last 10 months where I wrote precisely one song. Yup, just one. I didn't have writer's block; you have to be trying to write to have that. I just wasn't inspired to write for nearly a whole year. But now with the Summer Darling record finished and coming out 2010, I've been working on new Summer Darling songs, new Vicious Scully songs, and now a mystery third project. There's a back story to this song that I will share in the future, but for now enjoy this bedroom demo I did for a song that I have no idea where it will end up. It has no name, but I've been calling it "Border Town" for my own records.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hey, Hey, My, My. Rock and Roll Is About to Die.

I spent some time this weekend watching parts of the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert. While this sucker clocked in at over 4 hours and featured performances by countless rock and roll "legends," some of who still play like they mean it, I couldn't help but notice the median age of the performers on stage to be roughly 61. It got me thinking seriously about rock and roll as the institution the Boomers built and judging by this drawn out HBO special, Rock and Roll is gonna die.

Our evening started with a rousing yet empty speech by Tom Hanks filled with hundred dollar metaphors for five cent sentiments. Who better to kick off the night than a man precisely representative of Rock and Roll's modern demographic: upper middle-aged, chubby, successful white people clinging on to some rebellious and stubborn ideal that exists only in their memory and on corporate classic rock stations, reminding them that "Rock and Roll changed the world" but neglecting the fact that after these people changed the world they it unchanged again. The same generation that heralded peace and free love is the generation controlling America's modern war machine and denying tax paying citizens the ultimate expression of love, the civil right to marry. So sorry, Tom, if I didn't get swept up in the emotion of the moment.

Judging by the night's performers, of whom the youngest was a rock band so terrified of change they sued an internet company for allowing kids to download their music for free, Rock and Roll is dying. We had the plump CEO versions of our former rock stars like Crosby, Stills, and Nash and the death-on-a-stick mockups like Jeff Beck and Mick Jagger. The only ones who still had the gleam of life without the stink of surgery or lackadaisical record sales was the Boss and Bono. Dudes still look good.

While it's amusing to poke fun at these aging performers' appearance, it is hard to ignore the fact that this event celebrated a generation of rock and rollers that has completely lost its relevance and unless they start bringing new acts into the fold these concerts are gonna get shorter and shorter as these codgers with guitars start croaking. Thinking conservatively, there's plenty of performers in their late 30s and 40s making relevant and challenging rock music. Instead of rolling out Jerry Lee Lewis, whose hands miraculously could still tinkle the ivories but whose face looked like an inexpressive mask, why not invite Sonic Youth or Radiohead or Wilco or, dare I say it, whatever politically radical, sonically polite yawn band Tom Morello is playing in these days, to warm up the stage. Then honor the relics with lifetime achievement awards and whatever the yuppie rock equivalent of a gold watch is. And better yet, why not introduce the grandfathers of rock to some things the kids are actually listening to these days? God forbid a band like Health or No Age share the stage with James Taylor. Grizzly Bear opened for Paul Simon before why not hook it up again for a national audience? Instead we get James Hatfield and Ozzie Osbourne.

I predict a more disheartening end for this age of Rock and Roll. While in the 60s and 70s record sales and talented bands had a positive correlation, one only has to watch the sad joke that is the Grammy's to know that popular music today is dominated by marketing strategies rather than true musicianship. While it could be argued that this is more of a criticism of today's music consumer (and by all means the modern casual music listener is at a serious disadvantage), I still believe that the musicians actually carrying on the mantle of rock and roll are usually not the ones atop the Billboard charts. I'm afraid the fathers of this movement are more apt to pass the torch to the Linkin Parks and John Mayers than they are to the Deerhunters and Elloitt Smiths, and when that happens, their rock and roll will be truly dead. Until then I can't wait for the 3oth Anniversary special destined to feature a Beatles reunion where Brian Wilson and Jimmy Buffet play the parts of John Lennon and George Harrison via Rock Band while Ringo drums in a wheel chair and Paul McCartney accompanies them via satellite from a plastic surgery recovery ward. Rock on.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dedication: Correatown

All this week I've unintentionally spotlighted some characteristics in myself and other people who play in bands and how those characteristics contribute to living an artistic lifestyle. Last night, Death House Chaplain played a show at a tiny little British pub in Redlands, CA with Map and Correatown and I relearned one of the most important attributes necessary for success in any field: dedication to one's craft. It's so simple, yet I rarely think about it.

In talking to Angela Correa before the show I found out that a mere 28 hours earlier she had flown in from Europe. She's spent the last month touring our neighbors across the sea, getting on average 4 hours of sleep per night. If it were me, the last thing I'd want to do upon returning home jet lagged within an inch of my life would be to play a small show in the middle of nowhere to a half empty bar. But when I asked Angela about it, she merely replied, "I know, I'm crazy, I just like to play shows. I guess I was on a high from playing every night and didn't want it to end when I came back to LA."

A further examination of the issue revealed that she was indeed human and tired as hell, but she took the stage like a champ, fought through some technical difficulties and played a damn good show. I've always believed that a show is worth playing as long as I can affect one person's life that night. Sometimes that occurs completely independent from the actual music, maybe just in talking with someone you meet along the way. Last night the show was worth it because I was that person affected. I'm not saying no one else got anything out of it, but driving home I felt that the show was a little reminder just for me to stay dedicated. Thanks Map! Thanks Correatown!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Origami Vinyl Presents Lilofee on Vinyl!

I'm very excited to announce, if you possibly haven't heard yet, that Origami, the Echo Park based digital record label and vinyl store (and home to Summer Darling), has made the leap into pressing vinyl. This is huge. This is huger than huge. It's been a shared dream for all of us in our little circle of friends, especially Neil Schield, the owner of Origami, to put out vinyl for a very long time. In fact just a short while ago, Neil and I were sitting on his porch overlooking Echo Park Blvd sharing a couple of beers when Neil expressed his interest in opening his own record store out of the storefront just across the street. Obviously the final manifestation of Origami Vinyl on Sunset in Echo Park is the mightiest of all fantasies realized, but the dream certainly started small and has outgrown many of our wildest expectations.

It's only fitting then that San Francisco based electro-pop group Lilofee be the first release on Origami Vinyl. The band's songs suggest dreamy summer days, driving in cars along the ocean, singing along with your best friends or a future one night stand, buzzed and dancing in the sun, in a club, on a porch, barefoot in the sand. There's a certain darkness lurking behind the delivery of the songs, an admission that good times end, but it's this knowledge that makes the other moments more palpable. The band is a long time member of the Origami family, a nod to Neil's own San Francisco days.

The vinyl, released in conjunction with Future Sounds, is a 7" inch featuring "Runaway" b/w "In Flight" and is a limited pressing of 500 on clear vinyl. I've posted the track "Runaway" to tempt your buying buds, so please, go out and support Origami Vinyl and Lilofee by picking up this guaranteed collectable. And what better time to do this than at the release party/release show at Origami Vinyl and the Echo, December 16?!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Time to be Inspired: Happy Hollows + Twilight Sleep @ Spaceland

The Happy Hollows are everywhere I look these days. From a residency at Spaceland to countless blog Best of 09 lists to a very positive Pitchfork review, this Los Angeles 3 piece seems poised to break through. I remember talking with my friend Brian a couple of years ago about this band and he seemed sure then that they were the real deal. I went to Spaceland on Monday night to check them out. I had seen them play a year and a half ago at Summer Camp but have no real memory of it (thanks Colt 45). Furthermore Heather had downloaded their record from eMusic recently but I can admit to only a cursory listen.

The show the Happy Hollows put on Monday night was jubilant, joyful, hyper active and loud as hell. Their sincerity and energy was down right infectous and I left feeling very inspired and in a weird, can't-explain-it sort of way, proud of them. Like they were my kids and I had just witnessed them winning a battle of the bands. I know, sounds bazar. When I started thinking about it today, though, it made perfect sense. The Happy Hollows are a band that lets people in; they're not so much performing for the audience as they are interacting with them. At that is their appeal. I've seen one show and I believe they can conquer the world. There's a lesson in that for me and the bands I play in to be more, what's the word, TRIUMPHANT! on stage. And good lord, these kids took it all in stride. Having just killed it, they responded with grace and humility. Real cool.

I was pleased to be able to witness Twilight Sleep's first show with their new line-up. It had all the classic first show jitter-ness, nervous lovers making out for the first time, moments of confidence colliding with seconds of awkwardness. But the minute they started the first jam, I thought to myself, wow they sound better in this minute than they've ever sounded before. I have great expectations for them and am excited to see them develop into a affecting live act.

Here's the song "Faces" from the Happy Hollows new record, Spells. The Happy Hollows are playing a couple of shows in January and if you haven't already, I recommend you check them out.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Music Tuesday: Shiloe

I've been following Shiloe for over two years and have watched them develop into a dynamic band who plays twisted no wave goth pop songs. Their new single "By The Daggers In Your Eyes" is a perfect example of their MO: jagged guitars, bombastic rhythms, and Ken Ramos' sing speak delivery. It's hot shit, people.

If you're like me and would like to hear "By The Daggers In Your Eyes" over and over, help them infiltrate the masses by requesting it on KROQ here. The bands are listed alphabetically; just scroll down and click on their jam. Sometimes KROQ lists their previous single "Gone" also, so I've been voting for both!

You can catch Shiloe live Saturday, December 12 at the Troubadour supporting Mellowdrone.

"By The Daggers In Your Eyes" by Shiloe

Monday, November 30, 2009

Motivation & Relaxation + Link to Live WTF show at the Echoplex

I took a walk around the Griffith Observatory on an insanely clear day this past weekend with my Dad and my brother where we had a lengthy discussion about motivation and relaxation. The conversation started with by brother relating a similar dialogue he'd had with someone at the airport during his layover. When the man asked my brother what he did for a living, that was easy; I'm a personal wealth banker, he replied. However, when he asked my brother what he did for fun, my brother admitted to being stumped.

"How sad," he would tell my father and I, "that I don't have anything to do for fun. I go to work and to the gym, watch the occasional baseball game or movie with my wife but I don't have a specific outlet to relax."

Our discussion then turned towards the question of what specifically motivated us, and I must admit to being stunned by their answers. Both my father and brother claimed that making money was their primary motivation in life. When I think about it objectively I suppose I shouldn't be surprised; I mean, after all, my father is a real estate agent and my brother is a banker who sells financial investment packages to the wealthy. Both of these occupations are intrinsically built on making money through salesmanship.

So perhaps more surprising than my family's motivation to me was my motivation to my dad and my brother. I told them my motivation and my mode of relaxation were all tied up in the same things--being creative, making music, and traveling. It got us wondering whether or not it is necessary as an artist to not care about making money. It's an interesting question that I plan to explore in future conversations with other artists and hopefully post some results.

A brief disclaimer: when I say I don't care about money, the proof is in the pudding. I work as a waiter and my wife and I's combined income is less than 60 grand a year. I used to think that was so much money! Anyone living in LA, NYC, or SF knows that's not the case, especially if you are in a band, as we tend to spend between 5 and 10 grand a year on music related expenses. However, even though money is not a predominate motivating factor in my decision making, I do not dislike money and I do recognize that I need to make some money in order to live in 2009 American society. The crux of the situation is knowing that if someone offered me an opportunity to make twice the amount of money I currently make to work in an office or manage a restaurant, I'd turn them down. But if someone offered me a ton on money to write a jingle for Jack In the Box, I'd have a far tougher decision to make. Man, talking about money just feels icky, but it shouldn't. We all have to deal with it, we should be able to discuss it freely.

Lastly, in a completely unrelated topic, I came across a link that enables the savvy internet surfer listening access to a live show that Wait.Think.Fast. performed at the Echoplex on Saturday November 28th. It sounds pretty good and it is packed with new jams from their upcoming record. You can check it out here. Just click on the Travel Tips for Aztlan show midway down the page. The WTF show is about 30 minutes into the podcast.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgetting: The System Is Rigged Against You

I'm aware of how over-the-top the title of this post sounds, and while there is a certain amount of melodramatic affectation involved, I am a bit concerned for all of us. Contrary to what many people believe, we are not a Christian nation, we are a Consumer nation. Our national brand of capitalism has ingrained this philosophy into all walks of American life: the more you have, the happier you are.

When stated that frankly, I would hope most people would cry "bullshit" to our national credo, but whether we're aware of it or not, we still seem to operate as if the above statement were true. Especially after our latest economic downturn it seems blatantly obvious that greed is god here--for goodness sake, we've taken a holiday founded on a principle of giving thanks and turned it into a day that excuses gluttony and personifies consumerism. And let's not forget that the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year; that's not an accident.

Ok, Ben, what the hell is this commie crap all about?

I want to be content. Not happy, but content. Happiness depends largely on outside circumstances, but contentment is something that comes from within. However the system I'm living in is rigged to prevent me from being content if I live by its confines. But if I can be content without continually needing more than what I already have, then the system begins to crumble. In this new system, getting more becomes a blessing instead of an impulse that once fulfilled leaves us empty.

Therefore, this year I am going to truly celebrate thanksgiving by being thankful. I find it difficult to be depressed if I am thinking of others, and I've found it very difficult to feel dissatisfied when I am thankful for all the things I've been blessed with, materially, yes, but more so, relationally. I am thankful for my wife and my family and I am blessed beyond words for all the friends that I share this adventure with. Thanks to you for reading, thanks for coming to shows, thanks for listening to the records. I know it can feel self serving from time to time because music gives us pleasure, but know that everyone who's a part of the Chain Letter Collective, Summer Darling, Kissing Cousins, Death House Chaplain, Past Haunts, and Vicious Scully is very grateful for your time and thoughts.

Have a fulfilling Thanksgiving. If you can't think of anything to be thankful for, give me a call, because I am thankful for you.

Chain Letter will resume Monday, November 30th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Music Tuesday: Summer Darling

Dan and I got together last night at his place and had some fun recording alternate versions of some of the songs on the new record. It especially makes us laugh that we are releasing alternate versions before the "real" versions! This jam is called "The One Who Loves You." and it's the first Summer Darling song in eight years to feature a banjo! S Foye is putting the finishing touches this week on the mixes and we expect to have it ready for mastering next week, which means our long wait is nearing an end! So many other exciting things happening in camp SD, but I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. For now enjoy this video.

The Terrapin at Silver Factory Studios

I met Rufo, the drummer of the Terrapin, about two years ago, but I honestly can't remember the precise circumstances surrounding our meeting. I do remember hanging out with him at KXLU with Sean from the Voyeurs when Summer Darling played on air and I do remember playing with the Terrapin at Que Sera in Long Beach pretty early on in our relationship. On Friday night, Death House Chaplain had the pleasure of opening for them at Silver Factory Studios. I enjoy the laid back house party vibe of Silver Factory. Many thanks go out to Rocco and Danny for providing such a comfortable fun setting for rock and roll shows. The sound keeps getting better and better there as well. (Just as I was about to post I heard that Silver Factory was shut down by the Los Angeles Police Department Saturday night but hopefully they will be up and running again soon.)

While this post definitely recognizes the swift progression the Terrapin continue to make towards being a very exciting noise pop group, the focus is actually on their affable, kind spirited drummer. Anyone who's been in the east side scene the last two years probably has met Rufo knowingly or unknowingly. The guy oozes friendly positivity. At a show a few months back I was down in the dumps about something or other and over all just discouraged about music and bands in general. Rufo allowed me to pile my bull shit on him, and then gently reminded me why we do this in the first place: because we love it and nothing else means as much to us or the people around us. It wasn't that I forgot these things, but I needed someone outside of myself to confirm them.

Often I find that all we need when we're confused or depresesd is to know one other person who's struggling with the same issues that can reaffirm our convictions. Growing up in the Christian church there was much hoopla made of the importance of going every Sunday. I haven't been to church in many years, but now I recognize the importance of having a support group of like minded people to lean on when you're struggling. I'm proud to be a part of Rufo's church and I hope he's a proud member of the church of Summer Darling as well.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Conclusions on Sobriety

My month long trek across the barren desert that is sobriety comes to a close on Monday. On a run around the Silver Lake reservoir today I reflected on what's different, what's the same, and some tips for next time.

What's Different Drinking definitely contributed to a low lying complacency I had towards my goals. This last month I've played more music, wrote more songs, and practiced my playing more than any other time in recent memory, all while Summer Darling has been on hiatus! Alcohol is not a bad thing for me intrinsically, but I discovered when I use alcohol as a replacement for what really gets me off I become listless and uncreative. I certainly believe there's room to enjoy alcohol while playing music, but my days of drinking all afternoon without picking up the guitar are over.

What's the Same I've enjoyed all the shows I've played and attended and the music I've made this past month sober as much as when I'm drinking. I wasn't what to expect from being a sober musician because I suspected that part of me played music as an excuse to be a mild drunk. There's a certain temptation to continue the "lifestyle" because it affords specific freedoms, one being drinking at all times without that much guilt. Had wanting to be a musician just been an excuse for me to live like I was 21 for the rest of my life? Happily the answer to that question is no. If I was given the choice to either be able to play music in some capacity for the rest of my life without alcohol or to have an infinite supply of free alcohol but no musical outlet I know now what choice I'd make--and it would be an easy one. I'd sure miss those brown Kentucky liquors, but I'd thrive no less. With or without booze, playing music is everything.

Next Time There are some side effects to ditching the brewskies cold turkey that I want to recall for the next time I afford myself a month long bout with clarity.
1. No sauce makes you testy and this can compromise your close relationships. Man, I snapped at my wife about everything that first week, but unintentionally so. I was under a constant cloud of annoyance, the feeling that something inside was off and had tainted the world around me. It's important to be aware that this feeling is natural and it does no good to express your frustration by being a shit head to those close to you.
2. There's a unique thirst that comes from drinking on a regular basis. The only non alcoholic beverage that works to semi-quench the thirst is sparkling water. I recommend Waiwera from New Zealand. Delicious! Contrary to what I suspected, non alcoholic beer is not all that good for this. While beer is tasty, most non alcoholic beers come across flat and lifeless to the pallet, plus you get all the calories and none of the get up and go.
3. Speaking of calories, this brings me to number three: I am hungry all the time. My normal routine has me eating only one real meal a day, usually in the afternoon or early evening. When you're off the sauce this ain't gonna cut it. My challenge was to not binge on Chubby Hubby Ice Cream or cookies from my work every night. Heather can attest to how often I failed this challenge.
4. Depression. I was surprised that I could feel every bit as hopeless and lost sober as when I was drinking. Those feelings, I've learned, are inherent to the human condition and a necessary by product of thinking critically about the world around you. As long as I chose not to let these feelings define my reality I am able to embrace them for their ability to inspire creativity and keep me humble.

I go back and forth on whether I am excited to start drinking again. I'm concerned I won't be able to keep it under control. I'm afraid I'll be re-enslaved. I'm nervous about feeling that first buzz. But then I remember the way beer tickles the nose after a long pull, the way Bourbon warms you from the inside, the smell of a luscious red wine as you breath in and sip simultaneously. I have my hunch; I'll let you know.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Catching Up with Tracy from Twilight Sleep

Heather and I got the opportunity Tuesday to drop in on Twilight Sleep as they record new material in an ultra plush, brand new studio in Silver Lake. I'd love to say more about the details of the studio but we were sworn to secrecy! Anyway, after a long hiatus spent writing and recording new material and assembling a new band, we were pleased to hear Tracy and Company are going to start playing shows again! Twilight Sleep's new line up features Davey Latter on drums, who also plays for Everest, Nicole Gehweiler on guitar, who also plays guitar for The Comas, and Nicole Fiorentino on bass, who also plays in Light FM, and of course our dear Tracy Marcellino heading things up with her spectacular other-worldly vocals and synth lines.

While a January show is planned with Kissing Cousins, you can catch Twilight Sleep before then at Spaceland Nov 30th supporting the Happy Hollows residency.

Here's the song "Don't Fire Your Guns" from their last EP Race to the Bottom of the Sea. Expect new amazing jams early next year!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We Can't Both be Right, Can We? The Chain Letter Mission Statement

Recently I got into a discussion with a band mate over a post I did on this blog. While the details of the argument are somewhat irrelevant, we were able to boil it all down to this question: Who do I represent when I write this blog? My friend was of the opinion that whatever band I am writing about, if I am in that band, then what I write must be interpreted as representative of that band. To use a elementary analogy, if I write in my blog that Summer Darling played a show at a bar and that the show sucked, this can be construed as the opinion of Summer Darling.

Is my friend right? Well, yes. His opinion is correct because as a member of a band my opinion makes up a portion of the opinion of the band as a whole. However, the things I say and do, especially things not advertised or presented as the official opinion or stance of the band (i.e. thoughts and feelings expressed on my personal blog), must at best be recognized and scrutinized as only part of a band's opinion but not the whole opinion. This of course would be a hard sell if I were the only member of the band, but luckily in all the bands I'm in I share the experience with other people, so to equate my opinion to the opinion of the band's as a whole disregards the opinions of the other band members.

Do my personal thoughts and feelings influence those of my bands? Absolutely. But let's allow room for opinions to be expressed that may not be in the best interest of the bands, because after all, that's what this blog is about. I want to share with you the good and bad that happens before and after a show or during the making of a record. It's dishonest and not in the spirit of this blog to follow the old adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." I find it fascinating and edifying when other people in bands share their discouraging moments and disparaging thoughts and what venues suck and what booker is an asshole and what band just plain ruins their day just as much as I savor and enjoy those same peoples' triumphs, positive tips on where to play, who to play with, and how in the hell we can possibly continue to do this without giving up. Let's make a commitment then to really examine and think critically about what happens around us, and let's realize that I'm not always going to say things that will make everybody happy. I do pledge to avoid intentional shit talking but because this is inherently subjective, I can't guarantee what I write won't sometimes be interpreted as such by others. If you have to stop listening to my band or stop booking my band because of something I write on Chain Letter, that is certainly your prerogative and I will respect that decision as much as I wish it to be recognized that some separation exists between my opinions and that of the bands I'm in. It may be wishful thinking, but I'd like to believe as it pertains to this discussion that we can both be right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Music Tuesday: Vicious Scully

Sean Foye and I have begun a new recording project dedicated to Vin Scully, the color man for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This year, Sean and I watched over 140 games together. This project will be our musical interpretation of the 2009 season as seen through the eyes of the greatest baseball announcer of all time. The first song we came up with is called "Deuces Wild" (rough mix version below) and hopefully there will be plenty more to come. In the works already are "Nmbr Sexy," "My Bison," "Wherever You May Be," and "Fuck Victorino." As the songs are finished we will post them for you to listen to and then collect them all at one convenient location for download. No official band name yet, but for now Vicious Scully will do. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Telegraph Canyon Wins the Award for Most Ingenious Band in the World

On Friday night Kissing Cousins played a show in Riverside, California with the band Telegraph Canyon from Forth Worth, Texas and they are the most ingenious band in the world. A quick note about Riverside if you haven't been there: people get wasted and they get wasted early. Upon finishing their set a herd of drunk frat boy wanna-bes bombarded the Cousins with this phrase over and over: if you wanna make it in rock and roll you need to learn the first rule of rock and roll--don't have boyfriends. Class acts these dudes. To be fair to Riverside this kind of behavior is evident in bars and clubs all across America, but seemed more apparent on this night due to the continual close proximity these boys held to the stage.

Earlier in the evening we pulled up to the venue at the same time as Telegraph Canyon. They travel in a giant Four Winds motor home, which is reason one why they are the most ingenious band in the world. They have no need to procure hotel rooms, driving around a foreign city drunk at 2 am searching for a place to stay. They are always at home. Genius.

They then proceeded to fit a full size Hammond B3 organ, a full cabinet sized Leslie speaker, a 6 piece drum set, two guitar amps, a bass amp, a separate kick drum, no less than 8 guitars plus a banjo and a mandolin, and six people including a violin player onto a stage that could not have been more than 15x15 feet! To top it off, they sounded incredible. To pull off this life size Rubik's Cube and make it sound good are reasons two and three why they are the most ingenious band in the world.

Lastly, they are nice. Oh god how many bands have we all come across over the years that may not necessarily be flat out assholes but are either pretentious or self deprecating, awkward socially or smelly, overly gracious or completely self serving? They were normal, they were nice, they were good but didn't stick it to you. They sold vinyl. All huge pluses. So next time they come through think about checking them out. Here's a sample of the music from their album The Tide and the Current out now on Velvet Blue Music. The song is called "Into the Woods" and is in parts beautiful, sorrowful, stirring and finally joyful.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fiction Fridays

On Fridays I present excerpts, in order, from a collection of stories I've written entitled Central, Remote. As it is serial I hope you can come back every week and pick up where we all left off.

BB arrived before them. A flat hot breeze trickled in from the west bringing with it the smell of cow manure and blood. It was a smell most found repugnant, but BB had lived her whole life a mile from Dickie’s and to her it recalled many summer afternoons past. She enjoyed a child’s momentary flirtation with nostalgia, even though she knew where the train of thought would bring her. She’d spent the better part of two summers coming to this spot, a forgot wooden lean-to that at one time held tools and extra feed for the old farmhouse that was torn down to accommodate the new set of rails Dickie’s required to ship in and out the goods of the day.

She’d taken to smoking cigarettes with Willy and George Jr. last summer. George had discovered his father’s cartons of Pall Mall filters in the bottom of George Sr.’s sock drawer. Each morning his father would grab a soft pack along with his daily choice of thick white athletics. George bragged to BB how he learned to time his thefts on the days when there were less than eight packs left but more than four. Never been caught once, never will, he’d said.

A month went by and BB became quite accustomed to their afternoon smoke. Willy would bring a juice box or a beer if he could score it from his older brother and BB would bring some sort of snack, a trio of Gala apples, a packet of trail mix, or a box of candies stolen from her Grandmother’s crystal bowl put out whenever entertaining company. The three would lounge on old wooden crates ducking the sun slicing through the slits in the wood, sip on their beverage, and share drags of the cigarette in between mouthfuls of chocolate or tart oranges.

One day, to the surprise of all, George Sr. showed up to their afternoon soiree. Upon seeing the truck pull up in the gravel, George Jr. cursed and grabbed the cigarette out of Willy’s mouth. The cherry popped off and landed in his lap burning a small hole through Willy’s Dungarees. Willy swore and George swore and BB sat stock-still and wide eyed and they all heard the work boots approach their fort and George Sr. call out, Junoir!

Obviously caught but unsure of the gravity of the situation, Junior hesitated in responding to his father’s call. Junior, gimme a smoke!

BB’s heart sank as she immediately projected the inevitable string of events that would lead to sitting in her bedroom waiting for Daddy to come upstairs and whoop her with the belt upon discovering his daughter was a smoker.

I don’t have any of yer smokes, sir!

Junior, if I have to open up the door I will take your entire pack, or you can just man up. open it yerself, and perhaps I’ll only take a couple.

Junior paused and looked at his compatriots. Willy shook his head. BB was sure it was a trick to get them to admit they were smoking. She wasn’t accustomed to lying but knew how to convince herself of a half-truth well enough to escape the consequences of previous misdemeanors. But Junior was something of a stubborn little shit (another of her father’s favorite phrases) and he stood up, squeezed the soft pack open and removed three of the six cigarettes left in the pack, opened the door and presented to them to George Sr.

George took the cigarettes from the boy, put one behind each ear and methodically placed the last one in his month, reached into his shirt pocket and removed the nickel plated liter with the emblem of a 18 wheeler on it and lit it. Well? He said.

Well what, sir?

You’re welcome.

Thank you, sir.

Don’t let me catch you corrupting little miss Boughlugsby again with this filth.


And you figure a way to buy your own damn smokes from now on, you hear?


And that was the end of BB’s adolescent smoking career. George Jr. later told them as it happened that day his father’s delivery route had taken him by Dickies and, having been delayed through lunch earlier, he had been unable to return home to procure a second pack of cigarettes. Apparently their secret clubhouse was well known to George Sr., who, to BB, seemed to know just as much about the town and it’s people as the sherriff and the preacher.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One quick correction before we begin today. In the post about Laura Ann's benefit show I erroneous attributed the drumset signed by Jimmy Chamberlain as having belonged to and having been donated by Billy Corgan. The set was in fact Laura Ann's, but it was used on the Gish sessions, and it may have belonged to JC at one point in time. I will contact Laura and figure out the specifics. My thanks to the reader who pointed this out to me.

Today's post will run next week as I have just learned that a member of my extended family passed away in a car accident this morning. His name is Richard and he is married to Beth, my wife's cousin. I have happy memories of Richard sitting around Heather's Grandmother's table playing Rook. He and I beat the pants off of his wife, Beth, and Heather's uncle, Reggie. While it may have been just another game to the three of them, that day held a very special significance for me. Winning that game was fun, but the interaction I shared with Heather's family members that day symbolized my acceptance into their clan. Ever since that moment I know I am accepted, loved and respected as family and there is nothing greater than that.

In a world where I often forget that relationships are the most valuable and important thing in our lives, Richard, Beth, Uncle Reggie and Heather's whole family are a beautiful example of well placed priorities. I am deeply grieved at the loss of Richard and I am saddened to the point of speechlessness when I think of Beth and their two children, Seth and Brianna. Please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers and try to connect with someone today you may have lost touch with in observance of this terrible tragedy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Map: A Link To The Past

Checking my electronic mail this morning I received correspondence from my friend Loop. He wrote a rather heartfelt and well worded soliloquy about drinking Tangueray at his office and how it reminded him of our tour of 2004. In 2004 Loop, Heather and I, along with playing in Summer Darling, also played with Josh Dooley in the band Map. The Tangueray tour was one we did in the midwest where we were forced out of broke-ness to steal Loop's roommate's bottle of Tangueray and drink that every night at the hotels, usually mixed with Sprite or Squirt.

The great thing about this tour and all the tours we went on with Map was my ability at the time to realize how special they were in the moment. Often times I am guilty of looking back on times of my life and saying "Boy I was sure happy then, but I am only realizing it now." The Map tours were different. I knew how happy I was as they were happening, even though at times they were immensely difficult and disheartening (i.e. burned down hotels, band members arrested, no people at the shows, a week in Peoria, IL wtf?).

There are many memories I'd love to share and perhaps more will come to light as the days of this blog continue to unfold like the endless Texas back roads we thought were shortcuts or the ubiquitous songs of Johnny Cash, which every bar across America played in tribute the summer of 2003. For now maybe we can share a story or two on Friday night when Kissing Cousins play with Map at the Royal Falconer in Riverside. You can have a beer and I'll have a Tangueray and soda minus the Tangueray and I'll tell you about the time Jason Martin from Starflyer 59 peed on a venue right next to the Green Room door.

Here's the single from Map's new instrumental album Speechless. It's called "Avalon."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Touch Me Judge

Everybody is in a band now days. A few reasons for this are immediately obvious to me; the first being how easy it is with digital technology to record songs, burn CDs or email Mp3s, make a website and get your music heard. But this only accounts for some of the proliferation of bands surrounding me. Yes, I attribute some of this to the fact that I live in Los Angeles where if you're not an actor or an artist along with whatever your day job is then what are you still doing here? Perhaps the explosion of people in bands has to do with the glorification of the mythical band lifestyle presented to the masses by dumb ass television shows and ad campaigns. But what else?

My other band Death House Chaplain recently played a warehouse party hosted by Ambiguous Skate Clothing Company. If you were to check out their website and click on the concert series link you would happen upon an array of photos displaying this very idea that being in a band is cool, that there are young chicks everywhere at your shows, free beer, and other hip looking people crowding around you, partying it up and celebrating the sex drugs and rock and roll culture. (Ironically other members of Summer Darling can be found in the giant party scene photos looking hip and drunk.)

Then you get to the photo of Death House Chaplain:

Not too cool. The other couple in the picture owns Ambiguous and wanted us to pose with them. What I find amusing about this photo is that it's one of the few photos that accurately expresses what being in a band is really like most of the time. My face is goofy and I'm soaked in sweat, awkwardly hugging Paul because I didn't know what else to do. Paul's face holds in it all the embarrassment of a photo op post show with people you don't know. Matt somehow looks pregnant and I look like I am feeling the baby kick.

Furthermore, while accurately depict that there were a ton of people at the show, the reality of the show was this: we played to thirteen half interested people and three friends while everyone else migrated outside to drink free PBR. Our set time got changed on us last minute, there was no gas money, and for all intents and purposes nothing good came from the performance at all.

But to us in Death House Chaplain, it was a good show. We got to play music and we felt we played well. And in this simple statement lies the best reason why there are so many bands. Playing music in and of itself is worth while. It can make you feel wonderful or it can make you feel miserable, but it always makes you feel.

And who am I kidding, being a musician is cool as hell.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Laura Ann's Benefit Show: Backwards Clock Society Featuring Billy Corgan, Kissing Cousins & More

Sunday night at the Echoplex I was witness to a perspective changing event. In the past I've been skeptical of human nature, the first to argue against any inherent "goodness" that might be inside all of us. I tend to believe people to be no greater than the sum of their selfish biological urges, enslaved by envy and greed in a way divorced from ethics or morality; it just simply is the product of the human animal. That's Laura Ann in the above picture. Her, Billy Corgan, and Josiah Mazzaschi would teach me a lesson on human nature.

A couple of months ago my friend and co-worker Laura Ann was in a serious motorcycle accident that nearly claimed Laura's foot below the ankle. After a number of surgeries and with plenty more rehab ahead of her, Laura Ann has been left out of work and wheelchair bound for the forseeable future:

Strapped for cash and buried in medical debt, Laura Ann's good friend Josiah decided to do something about it in the way of throwing her a benefit show at the local club Spaceland. His band Light FM had just finished a residency there and he knew a number of other acts connected to Laura Ann that would be willing to donate their time to make it an awesome show. Through his perseverance and big picture thinking, Josiah was able to get the show moved to a much larger venue, secure amazing raffle prizes from a variety of local businesses and book Laura Ann's long time friend, Billy Corgan, to headline the show.

I must also admit I have also been skeptical of benefit shows in the past, even though Summer Darling has played their fair share of them. But people showed up in droves and supported the cause last night. By my count at least 350 people paid the cover, bought raffle tickets, bought merch from the bands (all proceeds going to Laura), and ate BBQ (also donated by the delicious Pasadena Pig Shack, or something like that).

The bands didn't disappoint. I of course caught the Kissing Cousins set, who despite being a bit nervous to play a large stage that would soon be occupied by one of Heather's musical heros, stomped out some viciously conceived rock and roll.

I happened to catch some of the Pity Party's set and Light FM. The Pity Party played a stonier, darker set than I've seen before while Light FM masterfully cruised through their catchy power pop songs. The stage was then relinquished to Mr. Corgan and the Backwards Clock Society.

Some of the songs were downright hooky, some of the songs were soaked in delay, but all of the songs featured Billy Corgan fucking melting faces with his guitar. The solo is a tired worn tool of the modern rock song, except when the artist is able to breathe a fiery new life into it. Corgan played each solo with a mix of impassioned gestures and wicked nonchalance, even looking up from time to time to smirk at the audience as if to say, "Yeah, I just pulled that off and I made it look fucking easy." His on-stage demeanor was one of solidarity and respect for Laura Ann, the audience and the cause. He said some very nice things about Laura and seemed genuinely proud to be a part of the function. We later learned that Corgan donated the bass and drumset used on the Gish sessions to be auctioned off on Ebay with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Laura. That's classy.

The night ended with a tearful thank you from Laura Ann, who somehow managed to get herself in her wheelchair up on stage with the help of Josiah and Corgan. The night forced me to reevaluate my perception of human nature and more specifically, benefit shows. I am proud to have been a small part of a truly successful and inspiring evening and woke up this morning knowing that a huge difference was made in Laura's life.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fiction Fridays

On Fridays I present excerpts, in order, from a collection of stories I've written entitled Central, Remote. As it is serial I hope you can come back every week and pick up where we all left off.

Downtown Poplar St appeared deceptively vacant at two in the afternoon. As he rode, Willy often imagined his town being struck by a rapture-like occurrence of biblical proportions. Cars lined up on each side of the road but not a one moving. Shop lights that read “Open” “Sale” or “TV Repair” burned neon peach but no front doors opening. The steady historical rhythm of the green yellow red of their only traffic signal beat on like the heart of a coma patient. Occasionally a woman carrying a bag of groceries or a man hauling garden tools from a flat bed truck would break the spell of Willy’s fictional solitude, but today there was nobody about. Willy felt as if he were riding through the thin atmosphere of some distant hot planet. The air was heat vapor that dried up his lungs and slapped him on both cheeks like two simultaneous handclaps.

Up ahead was Hal’s Drug Store that held inside it the Post Office and the Notary Public. Willy turned his bike towards the entrance ignoring the red light as he coasted through the middle of the empty intersection. George Jr. pulled up next to him and they both propped their bikes against the glass of the storefront that was decorated in advertisements for the weekly specials.

I’m thirsty, Willy said. I’m gonna go in get a pop.

Where’d you get money for that?

My mom.

George just humphed in response. I’m gonna go around back and check something out.

George strolled to the narrow opening between the brick building of Hal’s and the adobe-like stucco of the video rental store. It was cooler by degrees in the shady alley slit and George made sure to walk deep into the indenture before he removed and examined the pistol. It was heavy and squat with nickel plating and a worn leather grip. There was a small insignia above the grip but it was smudged with grime; he couldn’t make it out. Perhaps it was a dragon or a motorcycle gang sign. George imagined for a moment that he’d stolen a weapon of Arthurian significance and he was now the leader of some secretive and dangerous commando force. He knew enough about guns from his father to make sure the safety was engaged before examining it further. He flipped the cylinder release latch and was impressed how easily the five bullet housing popped out. The thrill of holding a lit firecracker trilled up his stomach and into his throat as he discovered the gun was loaded with two bullets. He replaced the cylinder and held up the gun and aimed it at the back wall of the alley.

George! What are you doin back there?

Nothin. George put the gun back in pack and returned to Willy and the bikes. Let’s get the fuck outta here.