Steve ‘n’ Seagulls is a Finnish act, comprised of Irwin Remmel, Pukki Kaalinen, Puikkonen, Hermann and Wild Till Hiltunen that has received attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere for bluegrass-like renditions of well-known metal and hard rock songs, including this amazing cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” which has amassed over 88 million streams on YouTube. Interestingly, much like Gangstagrass, Steve ‘n’ Seagulls make a vital connection between bluegrass and metal and hard rock, reminding listeners that they all essentially come from the same source.
I’ve written quite a bit about the Seattle, WA-based heavy metal quartet Thunderpussy over the past handful of years, and as you may recall the act quickly exploded into the national scene as a result of a string of critically applauded live shows and co-signs from Rolling Stone and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the band released their Mike McCready-produced self-titled debut through Stardog Records/Republic Records, and the album which featured the Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath meets Joan Jett-like anthem “Speed Queen” and the bluesy “Velvet Noose,” further cemented the band’s reputation for crafting self-assured, arena friendly rock.
The strutting, AC/DC-like “Never Know” is the first bit of new material from the band since the release of their self-titled debut, and while centered around enormous hooks, a booze-fueled 12 bar blues and Molly Sides’ sultry vocals — and while continuing a run of arena friendly rock, the song which features a new drummer, also manages to possess a different energy and air; that of an ambitious band that wants to take over the entire world.
“‘Never Know’ was a labor of lust!” The band says in press notes. “We dove deep, got stuck and let it go. Turns out it came back to us with a new energy and a new drummer! This was our first experience recording in LA with a group of producers that blew us away. We feel like the sound is something we’d been searching for a while and ended up being there all along. You truly never know what will happen when you let something go. If it’s mean tot be, it always finds a way back!”
8/9: Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bowl #
8/10: Philadelphia, PA @ Milkboy #
8/11: Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery #
8/13: Nashville, TN @ High Watt #
8/15: Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi Indy #
8/16: Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Rock Club #
8/17: Saint Paul, MN @ Turf Club #
8/19: Bozeman, MT @ The Eagles Ballroom #
8/20: Boise, ID @ Humpin’ Hannah’s #
9/30: Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction *
10/1: San Diego, CA @ House of Blues – Voodoo Room *
10/3: Las Vegas, NV @ The Bunkhouse Saloon *
10/4: Los Angeles, CA @ House of Machines *
10/5: San Francisco, CA @ The Midway San Francisco
# w/ Hollis Brown
*w/ Ramonda Hammer
The acclaimed Portland, OR-based heavy psych act Blackwater Holylight was formed by founding member Allison “Sunny” Faris (vocals, bass) after her previous band broke up, as a way to begin experimenting with what her own version of “heavy” should and could be both sonically and emotionally — while celebrating vulnerability in all of its form. In fact, the primary idea for the project was to have vulnerability be in the driver’s seat when it came to the creative process. Throughout most of her musical career, Faris was often the only female in many of her bands and she desperately wanted to see how it was to work exclusively with women.
The band released their critically applauded self-titled full-length debut last year. And after extensive touring to support the album, the members of the JOVM mainstay act honed their sound and identity, with their live set being about the slow build, as their sound has evolved a bit
The band released their critically applauded self-titled full-length debut last year and after extensive touring to support the album, they’ve honed their sound and identity — with their live set being about the slow build, as their sound has evolved a bit. In fact, as a heavy band they do something unique: their songs aren’t anchored to riffs, but rather riffs come in and go in rippling waves that surface throughout material that’s generally meditative and entrancing. But they also focus on building tension and intrigue throughout the song.
Slated for an October 11, 2019 release through RidingEasy Records, Blackwater Holylight’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Veils of Winter finds the band with a different lineup — Faris (bass, vocals), Laura Hopkins (guitar/vocals) and Sarah McKenna (synths) along with the band’s newest members Mikayla Mayhew (guitar) Eliese Dorsay (drums). And perhaps a result of the new lineup, the band’s sound and writing process have changed quite a bit. “The process of this album was vastly different from our first record,” says Faris. “One, because we recorded it over the course of a few weeks, whereas the first record was over the course of about a year. And two, this album was a true collaboration between the five of us. Each of us had extremely equal parts in writing and producing, we all bounced ideas off each together, and we all had a say in what was going on during every part of the process.”
“One of our favorite things about this album is that because it was so collaborative, we didn’t compartmentalize ourselves into one vibe.” She continues. “It’s heavy, psychedelic, pop, shoegaze, doom, grunge, melodic and more. The whole process was extremely organic and natural for us, we were just being ourselves.”
“Motorcycle” Veils of Winter’s finds the band balancing fuzzy, power chords, gorgeous melodicism and a motorik groove to create a unique take on heavy music that’s one part doom metal, one part shoegaze that manages to reveal subtle nuances on multiple listeners while being headbang worthy.
2017 saw the Melbourne, Australia-based psych rock septet and JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard release five albums — with each album managing to be in a completely different genre and style, all of which further cemented the band’s reputation for being both restlessly experimental and prolific.
Now, for a band that has managed to be as wildly productive and prolific as the Melbourne-based JOVM mainstays, not releasing new material last year was an extremely odd; however, during that same period, they were busy with a number of other things including — a relentless tour schedule that featured a headlining set at Desert Daze and three sold out-dates at Brooklyn Steel, the largest venue they’ve played in the States to date. The band also re-issued their first five albums on vinyl for the first time ever — and it created such a frenzied demand that the Flightless Records website crashed from the traffic.
Earlier this year, King Gizzard and The Wizard Lizard released their 14th album Fishing for Fishies earlier this year, and the album’s material found the band creating a sonic world in which the organic met the automated; where the rustic met the robotic; where the past and future collide in the beautiful present. But at the end of the day, the material was essentially boogie blues that strutted, shimmied and stomped through several different moods and terrains,. “We tried to make a blues record,” says frontman Stu Mackenzie. “A blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing, but the songs kept fighting it – or maybe it was us fighting them. Ultimately though we let the songs guide us this time; we let them have their own personalities and forge their own path. Paths of light, paths of darkness. This is a collection of songs that went on wild journeys of transformation.”
2019 find site Aussie JOVM mainstays returning to the prolificacy that their fans and the blogosphere knows them for. In fact, the band’s 15th album, Infest The Rats’ Nest is slated for an August 16, 2019 release through ATO Records here in the States. While the members of the band have long enjoyed a fluid creative approach, the recording sessions for Infest The Rats’ Nest featured a pared down lineup featuring Stu McKenzie (vocals,. guitar, bass) Joey Walker (guitar, bass) and Michael Cavanaugh (drums). This stemmed from other commitments — including Cook Craig (guitar) and Ambrose Kenny-Smith (keys, harmonica) being busy with their side project The Murlocs; Lucas Skinner (drums) taking time off to spend time with his newborn; and Eric Moore (drums) being busy running their label Flightless Records.
Naturally, the pared down set allows for much tighter arrangements and blistering velocity — and as a result, the new album’s material finds them scratching a long-held thrash metal itch. “In fourth grade there was an older kid who was into Rammstein” explains Stu of his early discovery of metal’s extremities. “I made friends with him and we put together a performance at our school assembly where we headbanged to ‘Du Hast’. I got whiplash, which I thought was pretty cool. That was my introduction to heavy metal, and soon Rammstein led to Metallica, Metallica led to Slayer, Slayer led to Kreator and Sodom. The German bands really kicked my ass and scared the hell out of me too. Later on, when I picked up a guitar I realized that shit was too hard to play, so I got into rock ‘n’ roll and garage. That was liberating.”
“Organ Farmer,” Infest The Rats’ Nest latest single is blistering, balls-to-the-walls thrash metal, complete with shrieking guitar solos, howled lyrics, thunderous drumming, and rapid fire tempo changes. And naturally, the track brings Kill Them All and Ride the Lightning-era Metallica to mind — in other words, the song which seethes with disgust and fury, is a straightforward headbanger.
Directed by John Angus Stewart, the recently released video for “Organ Farmer” features the members of the band, shirtless with the words “Organ Farmer” and others scrawled on their skin. The first portion of the video sees them smashing a car up with hammers — but by the end, the zombie-like members of the band are moshing in a sweaty and packed basement. It’s an insane and intense visual for an equally insane and intense song.
I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles-based thrash punk/metal trio and JOVM mainstays Zig Zags over the past couple of years, and as you may recall, the act — currently, founding member Jed Maheu (guitar, vocals), Dane Andrews (drums) and longtime sound engineer, multi-instrumentalist Sean Hoffman (bass) — over the course of their eight-plus year history have gone through a series of lineup changes, while releasing seven singles and three full-length albums. Each of those albums found the band managing to subtly yet continually evolve their sound, songwriting approach and overall aesthetic.
The Los Angeles-based JOVM mainstays fourth, full-length album They’ll Never Take Us Alive was released earlier this year through RidingEasy Records, and the album finds the ban paying homage to their earliest influences — the bandmembers’ mutual love of Dead Moon and Wipers, while remaining decidedly thrash metal.“Fallout,” the Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning-era Metallica-like album single further cemented the band’s reputation for specializing in headbanging, power chord-based riffs and rousingly anthemic hooks paired with a blistering urgency. The album’s latest single “Killer of Killers” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor, power chord-centered riffs, rousingly anthemic hooks, blistering and dexterous solos — paired with an urgent and frenzied production and performance.
The recently released video for “Killer of Killers” is a cartoonish and goofily lo-fi take on Troma Films-like horror films, complete with a sociopathic, masked mass murderer, who kills as many people at a local park as he could — although one Walkman-wearing kid manages to escape. The video splits between our shitty horror film and footage of the band playing a frenzied set in front of headbanging admirers. Fake blood and gore abounds; but it still kicks ass!
Comprised of singer/songwriter Inara George and seven time Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who has worked with the likes of Sia, Adele, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney, the Los Angeles-based indie pop act the bird and the bee can trace their origins to when they met while working on George’s 2005 solo debut All Rise. Bonding over a mutual love of 80s pop and rock, the duo decided to continue to work together in a jazz-influenced electro pop project.
The Los Angeles indie pop duo’s debut EP Again and Again and Again and Again was released in late 2006. They quickly followed that up with their self-titled full-length debut in early 2007 — and with their earliest releases George and Kurstin quickly developed a reputation for bringing a breezy elegance to their work, which finds them putting their own idiosyncratic twist on time-bending indie pop.
Although serving as the long-awaited follow up to 2015’s Recreational Love, the bird and the bee’s fifth album, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen actually closely follows 2010’s critically applauded Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates. And while Van Halen‘s most anthemic and beloved work may initially seem like an unlikely vessel for the Los Angeles-based duo’s sound and approach, George and Kurstin are both lifelong fans of David Lee Roth-era Van Halen. As the story goes back in 2007, George caught her first-ever Van Halen show, during the first tour to feature David Lee Roth as the band’s frontman since 1985. George was so charmed by Roth’s presence, that after that show, she approached Kurstin about writing a song for Roth. The end result was the swooning serenade “Diamond Dave,” which appeared on their 2008 sophomore album Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future. “We asked him to be in the video, but instead he signed a picture and gave me the yellow top hat he’d worn at the show I saw, which I thought was very sweet,” George says in press notes. “When we were trying to figure out who to cover for the second volume of Interpreting the Masters, we were both a little bit like, ‘Oh my god, can we really do it?’ But then we just went for it.”
Slated for an August 2, 2019 release through No Expectations/Release Me Records, the duo’s fifth album features an impressive backing band of guest musicians including Justin Meldal Johnsen (bass), who has worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails; Joey Waronker (drums), who has worked with R.E.M and Elliott Smith; and Omar Hakim (drums), who has worked with the David Bowie and Miles Davis assisting the duo in making familiar David Lee Roth-era Van Halen anthems completely their own, imbuing even the most over-the-top tracks with a slinky intimacy.
Interestingly, for Kurstin, an accomplished jazz pianist, who once studied with Jaki Byard, a pianist that once played in Charles Mingus‘ band, one of the greatest challenges he had translating Eddie Van Halen’s virtuoso guitar work into piano arrangements that kept some of the spirit and vibe of the original. “I know there’s a jazz influence with the Van Halen brothers, so I tried to channel some of the things that I felt might’ve influenced Eddie,” Kurstin notes. “In a way ‘Eruption’ is almost like a piece of classical music, so I mostly treated it that way as I interpreted it for piano,” he adds, referring to the iconic instrumental guitar solo from Van Halen’s self-titled debut.
While creating arrangements around Eddie Van Halen’s guitar work will reveal the duo’s ingenuity and playfulness as interpreters and arrangers paired with a deeply nuanced reading of the material, which is influenced by their deep and profound emotional connection to the band.“I remember being 10-years-old and seeing their videos and feeling both excited and totally terrified—I responded to them in this very visceral way,” George says in press notes. Kurstin, who also is a lifelong fan, actually got a chance to work with Eddie Van Halen in the early 80s when the Grammy Award-winning producer and multi-instrumentalist was a 12 year-old member of Dweezil Zappa’s band. “I got to hang out with him in the studio and go backstage when Van Halen played The Forum, which was a really big moment for my younger self,” Kurstin recalls.
Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen‘s first single is the duo’s “Panama,” which finds the them turning the beloved, power chord-based arena rock anthem into a sultry club banger, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, bright blasts of twinkling piano and cowbell, a wobbling Bootsy Collins-like bass line and George’s sensual vocal delivery. The album’s second single “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” is a slinky New Wave-like take on the original, centered around an angular and propulsive bass line, atmospheric electronics, shimmering and arpeggiated synths and while bearing an uncanny resemblance to New Order and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the track is imbued with a feverish quality.
While much of Van Halen’s material, whether it was David Lee Roth-era or Sammy Hagar-era is seemingly familiar to the point of well-worn, the first two singles off Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 2: A Tribute to Van Halen finds the duo crafting a loving and thoughtful take on beloved material. And they manage to do so in a way that retains familiar elements but within a playful, post-modern, decidedly feminist fashion.
The bird and the bee will be embarking on a 15 date North American tour throughout the summer, and the tour will include an August 17, 2019 stop at Elsewhere. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
Over the course of 2017, the Melbourne, Australia-based psych rock septet and JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard released five albums — with each album being in a completely different genre and style from its predecessor, further cementing the band’s reputation for being restlessly experimental and prolific.
For a band that has been as wildly productive and prolific as the Melbourne-based JOVM mainstays, not releasing new music last year was extremely odd; however, they were busy with other things, including — a relentless tour schedule that featured a headlining set at Desert Daze and three sold out-dates at Brooklyn Steel, the largest venue they’ve played in the States to date. Additionally, the band re-issued their first five albums on vinyl for the first time ever, and it created such a frenzied demand that the Flightless Records website crashed from the traffic.
Now, as you may recall, the band released their 14th album Fishing for Fishies earlier this year, and the album found the band creating a sonic world in which the organic meets the automated; where the rustic meets the robotic; where the past and future collide in the beautiful present with the band crafting material that’s essentially boogie blues that struts, shimmies and stomps through several different moods and terrains. “We tried to make a blues record,” says frontman Stu Mackenzie. “A blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing, but the songs kept fighting it – or maybe it was us fighting them. Ultimately though we let the songs guide us this time; we let them have their own personalities and forge their own path. Paths of light, paths of darkness. This is a collection of songs that went on wild journeys of transformation.”
Interestingly, the acclaimed Aussie JOVM mainstays have written, recorded and released a couple of standalone tracks that simply don’t fit on their most recent album because they’re on a completely different tack — one of those tracks is the thrash metal ripper “Self Immolate” which finds the band piling power chord riff upon riff upon riff, thunderous drumming and McKenzie taking on a growling vocal delivery reminiscent of Slayer’s Tom Araya and Sepultura’s Max Cavalera. Interestingly, the track is a reminder that they’re not dabbling dilettantes when it comes to thrash and thrash metal — and that they can pummel eardrums with the best of them.
Directed by frequent visual collaborator John Angus Stewart, the recently released video for “Self-Immolate” sees the members of the band burnt alive in a Satanic ritual in the middle of nowhere.
Stephen McBean is a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who can trace the origins of his music career to when he became involved in the Victoria, British Columbia music scene, forming his first band Jerk Ward in 1981. In 1984, the band recorded a demo that was re-released in 2009 as Too Young to Thrash. Jerk Ward evolved into Mission of Christ (MOC), who recorded a split 7 inch in 1987 — but two years later, the band broke up and McBean relocated to Vancouver, where he started Gus, a band that released two singles, a split EP and a full-length album, 1995’s The Progressive Science Of Breeding Idiots For A Dumber Society, which lead to McBean’s first experience with extensive touring.
In 1996 McBean asked Radio Berlin’s Joshua Wells to join his new band Ex Dead Teenager. Much like his first band Jerk Ward, Ex Dead Teenager eventually morphed into Jerk With a Bomb. Signing with Scratch Records and Jagjaguwar Records. the band released three albums — 1999’s Death To False Metal, 2001’s The Old Noise and 2003’s Pyrokinesis, which featured Dream on Dreary’s Amber Webber contributing vocals.
While McBean and Wells were still writing, recording and performing as Jerk With a Bomb in 2003, McBean started to demo material that included “Black Mountain” and by the following year, the duo began working on demos under the name Black Mountain with contributions from Webber, Matt Camirand (bass) and Jeremy Schmidt (keys). Those early demos eventually led to their self-titled debut album and a split 7 inch with Destroyer that featured “Bicycle Man,” and was released by Scratch Records and Jagjaguwar Records.
Building upon a growing profile, Black Mountain toured across North America and Europe and by the following June, the band released the 12″ single “Druganuat”/”Buffalo Swan” in the US. In August 2005, the band opened for Coldplay during their Twisted Logic Tour.
2008 was a huge year for the band, their sophomore album In The Future was a finalist for the 2008 Polaris Music Prize, and the album received a Juno Award nomination for Best Alternative Album. Additionally, “Stay Free” was featured on the Spiderman 3 soundtrack.
By 2010, McBean relocated to Los Angeles, where they wrote and recorded their Randall Dunn and Dave Sardy-co-produced third album, 2011’s Wilderness Heart, an album that was long listed for that year’s Polaris Music Prize and appeared on !earshot’s Top 50 chart.
2016 saw the release of their fourth album, the aptly titled IV. Since then the band has gone through a series of lineup changes and now features McBean along with Arjan Miranda, Rachel Fannan, Adam Bulgasem and Jermey Schmidt. Interestingly, during that same period McBean got his first proper driver’s license — and for him, it was as though he essentially became a teenager again, discovering a new sense of personal independence and freedom.
Now, as you may recall, the band’s newest album Destroyer derives its name from the discontinued, single-run 1985 Dodge Destroyer muscle car, and reportedly the album is imbued with the wild freedom and newfound agency, anxiety and fear that comes from one’s first time behind the wheel. The serpentine, slow-burning, whiskey fueled, boogie strut “Boogie Lover” was meant to evoke cruising down the Sunset Strip late at night while drawing from space rock, doom metal and stoner rock simultaneously. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Licensed to Drive” evokes a sense of wild freedom — of speeding down the highway with the music blaring at eardrum shattering levels while sonically drawing from krautrock, space rock, Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent, as the track is centered around a motorik pulse, shimmering synths, buzzing power chords and a razor sharp hook. Get in your car, play this one loud, man.
Directed by Zev Deans, the recently released video for “Licensed to Drive” is an extended riff on classic 8-bit video games and Mad Max, complete with leather and ax-wielding barbarians, a tricked out 1976 GMC Spirit, a guy playing trash can drums, and an enormous, mutant bat. And of course, while McBean and his buddy are playing the “Licensed to Drive” game, a cord is yanked out or something and they wind up having to watch a hilarious take on the classic Maxell Cassette tape commercial. For those of you who came of age in the 80s or grew up in the 80s, this video will bring back a lot of memories.