Category: garage rock

Throughout the course of this site’s 10-plus year history, I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed, Atlanta-based JOVM mainstay act The Coathangers. Now, as you may recall, the JOVM mainstay act can trace their origins back to 14 years ago, when four young women — Julia Kegel (vocals, guitar), Stephanie Luke (vocals, drums), Meredith Franco (bass, vocals) and Candace Jones (keys) — without prior musical experience or lofty aspirations decided that they were going to pick up instruments and start a band, so that they could play a friend’s party.

That particular house show led to more shows around town — and those raucous and fiery live sets wound up comprising the band’s self-titled, full-length debut. Recorded during a graveyard shift at a local studio and mixed the following night, the Atlanta-based JOVM mainstays’ full-length debut was a raw, rowdy, revelrous affair. What the album lacked in polish, it made up in energy, charisma and brassy moxie. “We didn’t think anyone was going to listen to it,” The Coathangers’ Julia Kegel recalls. “We knew our friends in Atlanta would get it, but we didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. We were just excited to make a record.” Little did Kugel or her bandmates know that their scrappy house show anthems would catch on, leading to several years of successful international attention and a handful of critically applauded albums, including their out-of-print full-length debut, as well as a number of singles.

I think that the members of The Coathangers could never have imagined that their longtime label home would re-issue their long out-of-print, full-length debut as a deluxe, re-mastered version with a handful of extra tracks. Interestingly, the re-issued full-length debut, should remind listeners and fans of the band’s mischievous genre-fluidity. The band’s multi-faceted approach and diversity is a direct result of having multiple songwriters, who have brought their unique tastes and styles to the collective table. “It’s cool to to see how genre-fluid we‘ve always been,” The Coathangers’ Kugel says in press notes. “We got labeled as punk, and that was cool because that set us up as being against something, going against the grain. But it’s always been a weird dynamic of different tastes, and it still ultimately comes across as a bunch of girls having fun.”

Of course, the album is a bit of blast from the past, with the material possessing a spontaneity and careful spirit that’s invigorating, inspiring — and perhaps more necessary now than ever before. “We were just brash and making fun of things,” Kugel says. “We weren’t thinking about lyrics. We weren’t thinking about the industry. There was no thought about ‘making it’ or how people were gonna perceive it.” And as a result, the album was viewed as a private conversation between close friends, full of in-jokes, references and frivolities that reflected the band’s insular audience at the time — and their casual approach. “With this band I’ve felt like we have to speak for all woman-kind and as the records went on it became more and more at the forefront, but with the first record it was more like ‘ugh, these fuckin’ haters!’ It’s stuff we thought was hilarious and that felt really good to say because we felt safe. We didn’t think anyone was going to listen to it.” Lyrically, the album finds the band at their most unfiltered. Essentially, the album celebrates being young, brash, independent and full of joie de vivre as they say.

The re-issued edition of the self-titled album features the bonus track “Wife Eyes,” is grimy and sweaty bit of garage punk with a mischievously winking sense of humor with the song’s title and chorus being a play on words that’s partially being a tongue-in-cheek jab at the patriarchy and gender roles, and the paranoia of constant connection. It’s goofy fun — but it’s full of a freewheeling energy that seems largely missing right now.

“We have always encouraged each-other to explore other instruments.  For us, switching instruments was a way to explore our creativity and expand our sonic landscape.  Plus it allowed everyone to take a turn at the mic!  You’re breaking up the standard (sometimes stagnant) structure of onstage dynamic and it feels exciting to both the audience and the people on stage,” Kugel says. “We have been told that watching us change instruments is empowering to people as well! It’s like ‘Hell ya! I can do that too! I can play the drums!’ The playfulness of switching sort of takes the pressure off of being so serious or possessive of a certain role or instrument.  It also gives you greater appreciation for each other’s skill sets. I think some of our most creative songs came out of the practice of switching instruments and ‘Wife Eyes’ is one of our earliest recorded songs where we switched instruments: Candice plays drums and Steph the keys.

“The title is an obvious play on words-inspired by a joke on 30 Rock that lent itself well to speaking on the roles of technology and patriarchy in our culture. It’s amazing to see that we are still dealing with these issues today.”

The re-issued self-titled debut album is slated for December 4, 2020 release through Suicide Squeeze.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Death Valley Girls Release a Feverish Visual for “Hold My Hand”

I’ve also spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock act JOVM mainstays Death Valley Girls throughout the bulk of this site’s 10 year history.  The act which features founding duo Larry Schemel (guitar) and Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar) and a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make Up, The Shivas and Moaning, as well as The Flytraps’ Laura Kelsey can trace their origins back to over a decade ago, when they were formed by Schemel, Bloomgarden, Rachel Orosco (bass) and Hole‘s Patty Schemel (drums).  And despite the fact that they’ve gone through a series of lineup changes throughout their history, the band’s sound and aesthetic for much of their history has been heavily indebted to The Manson Family and B movie theatrics — while thematically concerned with the occult. 

Earlier this year, the longtime JOVM mainstays released a two song, seven-inch EP Breakthrough. The EP found the Los Angeles-based act covering two songs which have a deep and profound connection to the band — both in their spirit and aural alignment. One of those songs was Atomic Rooster‘s “Breakthrough,” a song discovered through an even more obscure cover by Nigerian psych act The Funkees.  While the Death Valley Girls’ cover leans more towards The Funkees’ version — thanks to grimy power chords, fire-and-brimstone organ lines and an in-your-face, combative chorus — all three versions of the song evoke the age-old desire to be free from prisons both real and mental.

Although they’ve been unable to tour because of COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns and quarantines, the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays have managed to make 2020 a busy year: Slated for an October 2, 2020 release through their longtime label home, Suicide Squeeze Records, the band’s forthcoming album Under the Spell of Joy derives its title from the text on a t-shirt that the San Diego-based heavy psych rock act Joy gave to Death Valley Girls’ Bloomgarden. As the story goes, Bloomgarden regularly wore the shirt constantly over the next five years, treating it like a talisman. “I read it as being about manifesting your biggest dreams and responding thoughtfully and mindfully to everything that comes in your path with joy and compassion first,” Bloomgarden explains in press notes. “There is a lot to be really angry about in the world but joy is just as powerful if used correctly!”

With Under the Spell of Joy, the members of the Death Valley Girls sough to make a spiritual record — what Bloomgarden describes as a “space gospel” — with the intention of bringing people together and creating the kind of participatory musical experience people have in places of worship. And as a result, the album’s material is generally centered around chants, choirs and rousing choruses, written with the purpose of encouraging people to sing along. Where the band had once sought to connect people through more esoteric means, Spell of Joy finds them tapping into an age-old tradition of uniting people by inviting them to be an active participant.

Although Bloomgarden and Schemel knew their intention for the album’s material before they had written a single note, the nature and direction of the music was initially inspired by the Ethiopian funk records they had been listening to while touring — but once they began playing and recording the material they had written, the music, which they claim came from tapping into their subconscious seemed to come from the future. Now, as you may recall, last month, I wrote about Under the Spell of Joy’s first single, the slow-burning. expansive and yearning “The Universe,” a track which seemed to simultaneously nod at Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here era Pink Floyd, 60s psych rock and shoegaze. 

Under the Spell of Joy’s second and latest single “Hold My Hand” is simultaneously a return to form and arguably one of the album’s seemingly more straightforward songs: centered around stomping drums, reverb drenched guitars, soaring organs and a rousingly anthemic hook, the song evokes both the urgent swoon of new love, as well as the urge to improve upon oneself deep personal reflection and through love. 

“Relationships are really tricky and can be super messy and complicated! I used to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again,” Death Valley Girls’ Bonnie Bloomgarden explains in press notes. “I realized it’s cause I thought relationships were an agreement you made with another person. And that meant giving away my power to the other person and letting them navigate our way along our path. Then I realized things either happen to you or for you! Any relationship you have is an opportunity to make an agreement with yourself! It’s a chance to learn to be more compassionate and to grow stronger and more powerfully into the person you want to be and are meant to be! Hopefully, the other person will help along the way and grow with you! If not, peace and next, please.”

Curated by Andi Avery and Kate E. Hinshaw, the recently released video for “Hold My Hand” features painted film by a collection of artists. The end result is a visual that’s lysergic, urgent and feverish.  

Over the past handful of years, I’ve managed to write quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based garage rock trio and JOVM mainstays L.A. Witch — Sade Sanchez (lead vocals, guitar), Irita Pai (bass, backing vocals) and Ellie English (drums) — and as you may recall, with the release of their full-length debut, 2017’s self-titled effort, the band quickly established a jangling reverb-drenched guitar rock sound that drew from a number of sources, including late 50s-early 60s rock,  The Pleasure SeekersThe SonicsThe Black AngelsThe Brian Jonestown Massacre and others —but while bearing a resemblance to JOVM mainstay artists like  The CoathangersSharkmuffin and Death Valley Girls.

The members of L.A. Witch have readily admitted that the writing and recording sessions for their self-titled album was a casual affair — with the album’s material coming together over the course of several years. The natural and seemingly effortless creative flow hit a snag when the band’s profile and popularity grew and they began touring regularly. So when the trio got together to write and record their forthcoming sophomore album Play With Fire, they felt that they needed a new strategy.

Between their touring schedule, studio availability and the timeline for releasing an album this year, the members of the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays found themselves with only two months to do the bulk of the writing for Play With Fire‘s material. The trio holed up during January and February for the writing process — before March’s mandatory COVID-19 related shutdowns across the world. “As far the creative process goes, this record is a result of sheer willingness to write,” L.A. Witch’s Sade Sanchez says in press notes. “When you sit down and make things happen, they will happen, rather than waiting to be inspired.” The time constraints and tightly focused writing sessions forced the band into new territories. “I’ve definitely learned that having restrictions forces you to think outside the box,” the band’s Irita Pai says. “That structure really brings about creativity in an unexpected and abundant way.”

Play With Fire finds the band pushing their sound forward with a muscular insistence but while not being a complete reinvention of their sound. Thematically, the album may arguably be their most sobering, serious work of their catalog to date. “Play With Fire is a suggestion to make things happen,” L.A. Witch’s Sanchez explains. “Don’t fear mistakes or the future. Take a chance. Say and do what you really feel, even if nobody agrees with your ideas. These are feelings that have stopped me in the past. I want to inspire others to be freethinkers even if it causes a little burn.”

Last month, I wrote about “Gen-Z,” a scuzzy and expansive, beer and whiskey fueled rockabilly blues that seethes with the sort of dissatisfaction and frustration that feels like our contemporary zeitgeist. “True Believers,” Play With Fire‘s latest single is a deceptive return to form. Sounding as though it could have been a single off their full-length debut, the track possesses an urgent post funk feel that subtly nods at JOVM mainstay Ganser — while possessing a seething disgust over everything. It evokes the recognition that we live in a morally bankrupt world; a world and paradigm that needs to die.

“‘True Believers’ is about being overwhelmed with the constant stream of news and information we see everyday,” L.A. Witch’s Sanchez explains in press notes. “It’s about feeling anger and frustration with the state of the world. In a way, the track mocks the All Lives Matter culture that has come to fruition in the U.S.

“At times when you’re traveling around and meeting new people, you get into conversations about social matters and different political standpoints. A lot of people don’t believe they have any power over the matters concerning them, and that can be frustrating. It can be difficult for people to see themselves having an actual impact with what we’re all facing in the world today, all you can really do is take it day by day, lead by example, and know that any and all change starts with you. It’s important to always believe in who you are, even through all the chaos.”

 

I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based garage rock trio and JOVM mainstays L.A. Witch — Sade Sanchez (lead vocals, guitar), Irita Pai (bass, backing vocals) and Ellie English (drums) — and with the release of their full-length debut, 2017’s self-titled effort, the band quickly established a jangling reverb-drenched guitar rock sound that drew from a number of sources, including late 50s-early 60s rock,  The Pleasure SeekersThe SonicsThe Black AngelsThe Brian Jonestown Massacre and others —while bearing a resemblance to JOVM mainstay artists like  The CoathangersSharkmuffin and Death Valley Girls.

The members of L.A. Witch have readily admitted that the writing and recording sessions for their self-titled album was a casual affair — with the album’s material coming together over the course of several years. The natural and seemingly effortless creative flow hit a snag when the band’s profile and popularity grew and they began touring regularly. So when the trio got together to write and record their forthcoming sophomore album Play With Fire, they needed a new strategy.

Between their touring schedule, studio availability and the timeline for releasing an album this year, the members of the Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays found themselves with only two months to do the bulk of the writing for Play With Fire‘s material. The trio holed up during January and February for the writing process — before March’s mandatory COVID-19 related shutdowns across the world. “As far the creative process goes, this record is a result of sheer willingness to write,” L.A. Witch’s Sade Sanchez says in press notes. “When you sit down and make things happen, they will happen, rather than waiting to be inspired. ”The time constraints and tightly focused writing sessions forced the band into new territories. “I’ve definitely learned that having restrictions forces you to think outside the box,” the band’s Irita Pai says,. ““That structure really brings about creativity in an unexpected and abundant way.”

Essentially Play With Fire finds the band pushing their sound forward with a muscular insistence — and while thematically, it may be some of their more sobering, serious work, the album isn’t a complete reinvention of their sound either. “Play With Fire is a suggestion to make things happen,” L.A. Witch’s Sanchez explains. “Don’t fear mistakes or the future. Take a chance. Say and do what you really feel, even if nobody agrees with your ideas. These are feelings that have stopped me in the past. I want to inspire others to be freethinkers even if it causes a little burn.”

Play With Fire‘s latest single “Gen-Z” is a scuzzy, expansive, beer and whiskey fueled bit of garage psych rock centered around reverb-drenched jangle, thunderous drumming, Sanchez’s sneering vocals and some enormous hooks. And while being one of the most ambitious songs the JOVM mainstays have crafted, it seethes

“Gen Z,” Play With Fire‘s latest single is a whiskey fueled rockabilly-like blues, centered around reverb-drenched jangle, thunderous drumming, enormous hooks and Sanchez’s smoky and snarling delivery — but unlike their previously released material “Gen-Z” finds the JOVM mainstays seething with dissatisfaction and frustration that just feels like it perfectly encapsulates our contemporary zeitgeist.

“‘GEN-Z’ is inspired by a series of articles mentioning the high rates of suicide amongst the Gen-Z due to the pressures of social media,” Sade Sanchez explains. “At the same time I read about several music companies not doing well due to lack of interest in people to learn to play instruments. When I was a kid, music and guitar was my escape. Music was how I fought through my depressions. What will the future do to get through it? With constant pressure to be perfect and information/advertisements and brainwashing constantly being shoved in your face, you become a product of your environment. ‘GEN-Z’ is about being a slave to technology, specifically to our phones.” 

 

 

 

Suicide Squeeze Records · Death Valley Girls – Breakthrough

Throughout the bulk of this site’s ten year history, I’ve spilled copious amounts of virtual ink writing about the Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock act Death Valley Girls — founding duo Larry Schemel (guitar) and Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals, guitar) and a rotating cast of collaborators that includes Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make Up, The Shivas and Moaning, as well as The Flytraps‘ Laura Kelsey — can trace their origins back well over a decade ago, when they were formed by Schemel, Bloomgarden, Rachel Orosco (bass) and Hole‘s Patty Schemel (drums). Although they’ve gone through a series of lineup changes throughout their history, the JOVM’s sound and aesthetic for much of their history was influenced by The Manson Family and B movie theatrics while thematically focusing on the occult.

Slated for a June 12, 2020 release through their longtime home, Suicide Squeeze Records, the band’s two-song seven-inch EP Breakthrough finds the JOVM mainstays covering two songs that have a deep and profound connection to the band — both in their spirit and aural alignment: The EP’s first single is a cover of Atomic Rooster‘s “Breakthrough,” a song discovered through an even more obscure cover by Nigerian act The Funkees.  Centered around grimy power chords, fire-and-brimstone organ chords and an in-your-face, combative chorus, the Death Valley Girls cover, leans more towards The Funkees’ cover and although all three versions manage to hew closely to their long-held aesthetic, the song also manages to be remarkably contemporary, as it evokes an age-old desire to be free from all kinds of prisons, both real and mental.

The band was drawn to something far deeper than its melody and sound. “It spoke to me because of the lyrics about breaking free from an invisible prison… we all have invisible or visible prisons we are trapped in,” the band’s Bonnie Bloomgarden explains in press notes. Interestingly, the song’s discovery coincided with the band’s interest in The West Memphis Three’s Damien Echols and his ability to endure his lengthy imprisonment by learning to astral project through meditation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays High Waisted Return with a Mischievous and Brightly Colored Visual for Achingly Vulnerable “Modern Love”

Founded back in 2014 by co-founder  Jessica Louise Dye (vocals, guitar) and Jono Bernstein (drums),  New York-based JOVM mainstays High Waisted have received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for a sound that draws from surf rock, garage rock, dream pop, Riot Grrl punk and punk rock, for a high-energy live show and their popular DIY concert showcase/booze cruise High Waisted at Sea.

The band’s Bryan Pugh-produced full-length debut On Ludlow further cemented their reputation for scuzzy, party ’til you drop rock — but just under the surface, the material revealed vulnerability and ache.  The JOVM mainstays spent most of 2016 and 2017 on a relentless tour schedule across the country opening for the likes of Brazilian Girls, Shannon and the Clams, Titus Andronicus, The Donkeys, Har Mar Superstar, JOVM mainstays The Coathangers, Jessica Hernandez, La Sera, Diarrhea Planet and La Luz, as well Riot Fest in both Chicago and Denver.

The JOVM mainstays have received praise from the likes of Consequence of Sound, Noisey, Paste, NME, who named them a “Buzz Band to Watch”  GQ, who declared them “The Ultimate Party Band” and they were named one of the buzziest bands of SXSW in 2018 and 2019 — all of which have helped to firmly cement their long-held reputation for being a non-stop party machine, while going through a series of lineup changes.

Since the release of On Ludlow, the the band contributed “Firebomb,” a scuzzy, ass-kicking, power chord-driven Lita Ford and Motley Crüe-like single to a split single with The Coax, which they supported with further relentless touring with Hundred Hounds, Beechwood and others.

Despite being badly injured in a car accident while biking in NYC last summer, Dye, Bernstein and company have remaining rather busy: they appeared in a NYLON feature, contributed to a Record Store Day release compilation with Bikini Kill, Lenny Kaye, and Atmosphere, wrote a song for NPR’s More Perfect and were featured on their podcast, played a headline show at Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and wrapped up their successful  High Waisted at Sea booze cruise and showcase, released four music videos on Left Bank Magazine  — and completed work on their highly anticipated sophomore album Sick of Being Sorry.

Slated for a May 22, 2020 release, the JOVM mainstay’s sophomore album continues their ongoing collaboration with Tad Kubler — and thematically, the album focuses on finding hope in hopeless situations and having the strength to get up after being knocked down and having the world scream at you to stay down. Now, as you may recall, earlier this month, I wrote about album opener “Boys Can’t Dance,” a rousing, party anthem centered around a plucky, heart-on-your-sleeve earnestness while further establishing the sound that has won them attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere: a seamless hook-driven mix of surf rock, Riot Grrl punk, dream pop, garage rock and 60s pop. 

“Modern Love” Sick of Being Sorry’s latest single features a surf pop-like arrangement of shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, a strutting bass line and propulsive drumming   — and while continuing in a similar sonic vein as its immediate predecessor, the song may arguably be one of the most achingly vulnerable and tender songs in their growing catalog. Much like all love songs, “Modern Love” is centered around longing that familiar desperate longing for that object of affection but with the recognition that love in any and all forms is a sort of surrender to something other than yourself. But there’s an underlying irony to the song: love ain’t easy, because it’s full of contradictions and often makes very little sense. And as a result, you have to figure out a way to be protect yourself while figuring out how to remaining vulnerable and true to yourself. 

Directed by Jenni Lang and Logan Seaman, the recently released video for “Modern Love” is a mischievous mix of live action and brightly colored and lysergic animation and imagery as we follow the band’s Jessica Louise Dye through a fantastic adventure. “Jenni found a quote that says ‘to love is to destroy and to be loved is to be destroyed.’ That really inspired us to write a story about love and power. Jess would be the heroine in the story, not only because she looks badass on the stage, but because she represents many modern women. As her character lives a happy and love-filled life, she encounters situations where she needs to step out of her comfort zone in order to protect her love. It’s a metaphor for modern love. You can’t just live happily ever after like in the movies. There are moments in which we struggle. It’s a journey of learning to be yourself, and most importantly to be brave.”