Formed a couple of years ago, Reno-based shoegazers Had To features some of that city’s grizzled music scene vets — with each of the members playing in a number of bands across different genres. But they bonded over a love of big guitar music from the 90s with their major influences being Oasis, Guided By Voices, Catherine Wheel and others. “We all come from similar backgrounds, all from the same area in Reno, Nevada. Not much rock music comes from our area, and we are excited to be one of the few bands like us to come out of there,” the band says.
As the band jokes, they just wanted to write something hat could be played on the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack. Thematically, their work focuses on “how it’s weird feeling older, and who we are ending up being.”
The Reno-based indie outfit’s Philip Odom-produced sophomore album Is This Normal? was recently released through digital streaming platforms. The album’s lead single “Lucid” sounds as though it wouldn’t be out of place during the 120 Minutes‘ heyday: fuzzy power chords, rousingly anthemic, shout-along worthy hooks and choruses paired with thunderous drumming. For me it brought back found memories of Foo Fighters‘ self-titled debut, Catherine Wheel and others.
Directed by Nate Kahn, the accompanying video fittingly brings back memories of 120 Minutes-era MTV with the visual split between footage of the band driving around a sun-bleached desert in white shirts, slacks, ties and sunglasses. At one point, they brood by what appears to be Lake Tahoe. We also see the band playing a house party.
Acclaimed Los Angeles-based rock duo Deap Vally — Julie Edwards (drums, vocals) and Lindsey Troy (guitar, vocals) — can trace their origins to the duo’s chance meeting in a knitting class over a decade ago. The Los Angeles-based duo’s debut single, 2012’s “Gonna Make My Own Money,” was released through tiny British indie label Ark Recordings.
Although the band has been received critical applause and won fans across the globe, maneuvering the contemporary music industry has become increasingly difficult. And if you add the challenges of the pandemic and raising families, the duo increasingly found themselves struggling to fit into the recording, promotion and touring cycle. “That model isn’t compatible with our current lives,” Lindsey Troy says. “We found we just can’t function as a traditional band anymore,” Julie Edwards adds. “It’s time for both of us to explore motherhood and other avenues of our lives properly, rather than squeezing them into our artist’s hustle.”
“I’m so proud of all our records, and Julie and I have an uncanny creative relationship,” Troy says. “It’s hard to ever picture having that with someone else. After all that, ya never know what could happen! We need to find the balance where we can focus on the fun stuff, but have the freedom to make the music we love. We just felt it would be fitting to go out with a bang, not a whimper. I felt marking this occasion should be a cathartic process: healing deep wounds, reconnecting with old friends and collaborators – and falling in love with Deap Vally all over again.”
So while Deap Vally is calling an end to their decade-plus long run together, they’ve decided to go out with a bang — and not with a whimper. They’re releasing a re-recorded version of their full-length debut, SISTRONIX 2.0, which is slated for a Spring 2024 release through their own Deap Vally Records. Pre-order vinyl, exclusive bundles and the digital LP here.
They’ll be supporting SISTRONIX 2.0 with a final tour, which will see them celebrating SISTRONIX‘s 10th anniversary by playing SISTRONIX in its entirety. The tour begins with West Coast dates during November. And a Midwest and East Coast run in early 2024. The east coast run includes a February 17, 2024 stop at Le Poisson Rouge.
Ticket pre-sales begin on Thursday. General on-sale tickets will begin on Friday 10:00am local time. You can get more information here. L.A. Witch, JOVM mainstays Death Valley Girls, Sloppy Jane, and Spoon Benders will be opening for the band in select markets. Of course, more shows will be announced in the coming weeks and months. So be on the lookout.
But in the meantime, the duo have shared SISTRONIX 2.0‘s first single “Baby I Call Hell (Deap Vally’s Version).” Built around buzzing power chords, thunderous drumming and soulful vocals, “Baby I Call Hell (Deap Vally’s Version)” is a swaggering and towering ripper that captures the quintessential Deap Vally sound and energy but within a completely different and new context: The duo is a bit older and wiser. Kids are around — and that forces you to rethink everything about your life and career. But they do so lovingly and wistfully with a sense of admiration and awe as though the pair is saying to each other: “Holy shit! We did actually did THAT!”
“‘Baby I Call Hell’ is quintessential Deap Vally,” Lindsey Troy says. “It was the first song we ever wrote as a band, so it’s very meaningful to our story. Re-recording that song was a lot of fun, but also a lot of pressure because we wanted to make sure the recording captured the magic of the song again.”
“SISTRIONIX is just classic Deap Vally. It’s so pure and raw,” Troy continues. “It really encapsulates an era — an era of dank, yeasty backstage rooms across the UK, of the endorphin rush of that first wave of success, of youthful drunken, wild nights, of the worldly adventures and the newness of it all.”
“We’re just going to go to play as many places as we can and say farewell to everyone,” Julie Edwards says. “Though the band is playing live for the last time, the door is open to us to collaborate. Now we’re all about re-establishing a workflow and connection around our friendship, after all we’ve shared together along the way.”
11.10 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah * 11.11 – Santa Ana, CA @ Observatory ^ * 11.15 – San Francisco, CA @ August Hall ^ 11.17 – Portland, OR @ Star Theater ^ ~ 11.18 – Vancouver, BC @ Wise Hall ^ 11.19 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre ^ ~ 02.08 – Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West # 02.09 – Nashville, TN @ Basement East # 02.10 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall # 02.11 – St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club # 02.13 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom # 02.14 – Washington, D.C. @ Black Cat # 02.16 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts # 02.17 – New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge # 02.18 – Boston, MA @ Crystal Ballroom # 03.09 – Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram * 03.15 Las Vegas, NV @ Backstage Bar + Billiards * 03.16 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge * 03.17 – Denver, CO @ Marquis * 03.18 – Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf * 03.20 Austin, TX @ Mohawk * 04.18 Mexico City, MX @ Foro Indie Rocks!
support from ^ L.A. Witch * Death Valley Girls # Sloppy Jane ~ Spoon Benders
Chicago-based indie outfit Smut — Tay Roebuck (vocals), Andrew Min (guitar), Bell Cenower (bass, synth), Sam Ruschman (guitar, synth) and Aidan O’Connor (drums) — released their sophomore album How the Light Felt through Bayonet Records.
While 2020’s Power FantasyEP saw Smut dipping its toe into more experimental waters, How the Light Felt saw the band diving headfirst into their vast array of 80s and 90s influences, including Oasis, Cocteau Twins, Gorillaz, and Massive Attack — while pushing their sound in a new direction.
How the Light Felt‘s material can be traced back to 2017: Following her sister’s death, Tay Roebuck turned to writing to help her navigate a labyrinth of grief and heartache. “This album is very much about the death of my little sister, who committed suicide a few weeks before her high school graduation in 2017,” Roebuck explains in press notes. ” “It was a moment in which my life was destroyed permanently, and it’s something you cannot prepare for.”
Roebuck’s bandmates composed the song’s arrangements, excavating underutilized 90s guitar tones and drum beats to build an expansive sonic world for her lyrics. “A couple weeks after the funeral we played a show and I couldn’t keep it together,” Roebuck says, “but we just kept playing and started writing because it was truly all I felt I had, it was all I could do to feel any sense of purpose. For the past five years now I’ve been chipping my way through grief and loss and I think the album itself is just the story of a person working through living with a new weight on top of it all.”
While rooted in profound heartbreak and loss, the album’s material pairs nostalgic inducing guitar tones, lush yet unfussy production, lived-in lyricism, and earnest vocals in a way that turns pain into a bittersweet yet necessary catharsis. Certainly, if you’ve lost a loved one, the album will likely resonate with you on a deeper level than most.
Just ahead of a handful of tour dates with Knifeplay and Citizen, the band and their label shared “18 Tons” and “Y Signal,” which were originally featured as bonus tracks on the Japanese CD edition of the band’s sophomore album.
Building on the building’s thematic exploration or grief and its impact on the surviving family members and friends, the two previously released bonus tracks continue the overall aesthetic of delving into their influences while pushing their sound in new directions.
Built around swirling synths, reverb-drenched guitars, and crackling, staccato drum samples and Roebuck’s tender delivery, “18 Tons” explores dark and dizzying feelings of bargaining with oneself and their feelings with a lived-in specificity before a cathartic final chorus.
Opening with glistening synths, “Y Signal” is a gentle, almost lullaby-like anthem for avoidant personality types with a narrator, who sprinkles in revenge fantasies, self-recrimination and blame in a mischievous and deceptively hopeful soundscape. Much like the preceding track, “Y Signal” is rooted in Roebuck’s incisive, lived-in lyricism.
Tour dates are below as usual.
Smut Tour Dates: Sun. Oct. 1 – St. Paul, MN @ The Treasury * Mon. Oct. 2 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club * Tue. Oct. 3 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village * Wed. Oct. 18 – Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi Annex +
Montréal-born, German-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jasmin O’Meara can trace the origins of her music career to when she was a teenager: A 14-year old O’Meara removed a guitar off of her uncle’s wall and declared it her own.
The Canadian-born, German-based artist is an autodidact, who went on to join Montréal’s indie scene and collaborated with several different bands and experimenting with a multitude of genres. Taking a break from music to study design, a chance encounter in London led O’Meara back to music — and to playing bass in English bands Temposhark and Kill Electric.
Between 2008-2014, O’Meara played bass in synth pop outfit Zoot Woman. Writing and performing and under the moniker OMEARA, the Canadian-born, German-based artist stepped out into the spotlight as a solo artist with the release of her debut EP Desert Heart, which was released earlier this year. The EP sees O’Meara singing and performing all the vocal parts and almost all of the material’s instrumentation with the exception of harmonica on one song.
Thematically, Desert Heart examines the uneasy and harrowing quest of navigating love in the 21st Century, set to a richly layered and modern take on the music, which shaped her life — and is informed by her own professional experience in post punk, synth pop and indie rock bands.
Desert Heart‘s first single “Take It Back” is sleek post punk-inspired song featuring a relentless motorik-like groove, a supple bass line, gauzy guitar textures paired with rousingly anthemic hooks and choruses, a dance floor friendly bridge, and the Canadian-born, German-based artist’s punchy delivery. While sonically, “Take It Back” reminds me a bit of The Stills, The Killers and others, the song is rooted in deeply personal, lived-in experience — one that should feel familiar to anyone, who’s attempted to maneuver the awkwardness of human relationships.
“The song is about telling your lover that you never really loved them, that you felt pressured into saying ‘I love you’ back, and yet feeling no remorse about revealing this information,” O’Meara explains. But at its core, the song reveals a remarkably self-assured artist, with a penchant for crafting incredibly catchy, anthemic hooks.
Initially known for his work drumming in Marriages, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Andrew Clinco founded founded Drab Majesty back in 2011 as a way to create music as a solo project, with him recording every instrument himself. Clinco created the androgynous character Deb Demure for himself. Alex Nicolaou, a.k.a. Mona D (keys, vocals) joined the project in 2016.
Since signing to Dais Records, the Los Angeles-based duo have released three albums, 2015’s Careless, 2017’s The Demonstration, 2019’s Modern Mirror, which saw the project combining androgynous aesthetics and commanding vocals with futuristic and occult lyrics, to create a style and sound that the band’s Demure refers to as “tragic wave.”
Released late last month through Dais Records and clocking in at 32 minutes, the duo’s latest release An Object in Motion sits somewhere between an EP and mini-album while also marking a new chapter in the project’s story: Written during a 2021 retreat to the remote costal Oregon town of Yachats, the band’s Deb Demure leaned into the neo-psychedelic resonance of a uniquely bowl-shaped 12-string Ovation acoustic/electric guitar.
After early morning hikes in the rain, Demure would record ambient guitar experiments the rest of the day, tapping into “flow states,” in which he would let the sound lead the way. Those sessions were then refined or recreated and then later elevated with contributions from Slowdive‘s Rachel Goswell, Beck’s, M83‘s and Air’s Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and Uniform’s Ben Greenberg. Fittingly, the EP reportedly holds true to its title, as it captures Demure and Drab Majesty in a transitional state, and evolving while showcasing a series of potential futures from the project.
In the lead-up to the EP’s release, I wrote about two of its singles:
The effort’s first single, “Vanity,” featuring Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell. Built around shimmering, reverb-drenched, 12 string guitar and gated reverb-soaked drum patterns. Demure’s plaintive yet commanding baritone is paired with Goswell’s imitable and expressive vocal, which seamlessly intertwine in an uncannily gorgeous, swooning harmony. To my ears, “Vanity” seemed like a synthesis of Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne‘s “Close My Eyes Forever,” Sisters of Mercy, Disintegration-era The Cure and Goswell’s work with Slowdive — or in other words, something that will warm the cold hearts of any goth.
“The Skin and The Glove,” a lush, Smiths-meets-Slowdive/RIDE-like song built around reverb-soaked, shimmering 12 string guitar, a driving groove paired with the Los Angeles-based duo’s uncannily unerring knack for gorgeous harmonies and catchy hooks. But under the lush soundscapes is a song that thematically touches upon the endless march of time, and our inevitable mortality.
Clocking in at a little over 15 minutes, An Object in Motion‘s closing track, the expansive “Yield To Force” is built around glistening, cynical strings, ominous slide guitar and shimmering synthesizer. The result is a composition that’s intuitive yet meditative with the instrumentation that spirals, sways, crests and ebbs like waves crashing into the shore.
Kilpatric stepped away from the music industry for several years to refocus and evolve in other areas of his life. But back in 2020, the grizzled music industry veteran began to step out into the limelight as a solo artist when he started his recording project The Behaviour, a representation of the sounds, harmonies and noises he has heard in his head and ringing in his ears for quite some time.
The project’s full-length debut, A Sin Dance is slated for a September 15, 2023 release. While the project — and in turn, its full-length but — has been brought to life with a vision of artistic integrity, passion and substance informed by his decades of experience and intuition. The album’s material is meant to be a cathartic, a medicine for melancholy, a remedy for repressed emotion, an enlightenment for evolving senses, Kilpatric explains.
A Sin Dance‘s second and latest single, the slow-burning and expansive “An Untouchable Relic” continues a run of material indebted to Queens of the Stone Age and Josh Homme‘s The Desert Sessions but with subtle elements of 80s metal and shoegaze paired with propulsive, building rhythm. As Kilpatrick explains, the song is “an ode to unrequited desires for something unattainable perhaps . . .”
Minneapolis-based indie outfit Wild Lyre — Keith Wyman (vocals, guitar), Art Oxborough (lead guitar), Mike Vasich (keys), Dave Dorman (bass) and Dan Cordell (drums) — released their debut single “Shelter,” along with two other songs earlier this year.
“Shelter” is a deceptively anachronistic jam that sound as though it could have been released in 1967, 1973, 1977, 2017 or — well, earlier this year. Built around some remarkably catchy hooks, “Shelter” displays the band’s ability to pair attention to craft with earnest, lived-in lyricism and performances.
Split between France and England, the emerging, self-described “industrial heavy rock dance” duo Golem Dance Cult features longtime friends and experienced musicians: producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Charles Why, who has played in Lotsa Noise, Nexus and L-Dopa and vocalist Laur, who has played in Sparkling Bombs, Kevin K Band,Vague Scare and Other-ed. The pair’s latest project can trace its origins back to when they were teenagers, playing in the first band together, a band in which Laur played drums.
During most of the band’s short run together, the pair have written and worked on material remotely, as a result of pandemic-related restrictions and distance. Their work in Golem Dance Cult is structured around a couple of simple, agreed-upon parameters:
They had to work spontaneously, with each member following their instincts.
Mistakes should be expanded upon.
The duo eventually settled on a rock-inspired approach with electronic production but without holding to the formal structure — or strictures — of either genre.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you might recall that the duo released their debut EP 2021’s Grotesque Radio, an effort that featured the Bauhaus-like “Nosferatu Waltz,” a goth/horror track with a playful nod to Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.
The duo’s full-length debut, Legend of the Bleeding Heart was released earlier this year. The album’s latest single “21st Century Dogs” sounds like a glammy, Bowie-like take on Bauhaus built around their penchant for enormous, arena rock like hooks and hours. The song is written and sung from the perspective of a dog and fittingly both the song and video ifeautres references and allusions from Luis Buñuel’s Le Chien Andalou and George Cheesbro’s Wolf Blood: A Tale of the Forest. But by doing so, the song and video explores people’s darkest, most feral impulses and desires.
Over the past decade, Aussie singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jay Watson has been restlessly prolific: He’s written and recorded five albums as the frontman of GUM, including 2020’s Out In The World. As the co-leader of acclaimed psych outfit Pond, Watson has been behind nine albums, including last year’s aptly titled 9. And through that recorded output, the Aussie singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has treated listeners to some of the most sonically diverse and eclectic explorations of the past decade or so.
Slated for a September 15, 2023 release through Spinning Top Music, Watson’s sixth GUM album Saturnia is reportedly the richest and most coherent work of the Aussie artist’s career to date. Coming off the back of Out In The World, Watson had a loose idea of where he wanted the project to go next.
Drum sticks in hand and a rough sonic map in mind, the intervention of the pandemic and the logistics of caring for two small children meant that the songs Watson had stated to write were given a previously unprecedented amount of time to percolate in his head, and the material began to ferment and sprout new tendrils. “Because of Covid and because I had a new kid, for the first time ever I would write songs and think about them months on end,” Watson says. “I’d always been a bit of a lazy arranger, but this time I was working on different sections in my head for months.”
With his mind ticking over and creative impulses sparking off new ideas, Watson’s initial blueprint started to look very different. There were now new routes on this initial road map. “My dream was to make one coherent record that sounded the same all the way through, but it’s just so hard when you like so much different stuff!” he laughs. “I wanted the whole album to sound like Nick Drake at the very beginning, but it just doesn’t work out like that. I’ve got so much equipment and stuff to play with that even if I start with something that sounds like Nick Drake, I’ll starting adding things and playing with it and it will take it away into somewhere else immediately.”
The anchor of Saturnia‘s material is the bedrock of real-life playing and organic sounds that Watson was aiming for. But as the album evolved and grew, it became the launchpad for something more adventurous and musically nourishing.
Saturnia’s latest single, “Music Is Bigger Than Hair” is built around a simple, shimmering, finger-plucked guitar melody paired with Watson’s dreamily forlorn delivery and a breathtakingly gorgeous string arrangement by Jesse Kotansky. For about three-quarters of its 4:18 runtime, “Music Is Bigger Than Hair” is a dusty Nick Drake-meets-Pink Floyd-like bit of troubadour folk with a narrator grappling with age and mortality in a realm where youth and youthfulness is valued above all. But the song ends with an unexpectedly, breezy and playful, samba influenced coda.
“’Music Is Bigger Than Hair’ is a funny title, I think it’s referring to me getting older and feeling my mortality a little bit more, or at least my worth as a musician being tied up in the way I look,” Watson says. “Feeling like it’s affecting my music, as if it has anything to do with it. Musically it’s one of my favorites because of Jesse Kotansky’s beautiful string arrangement.”
Shot on grainy and nostalgia-inducing Super 8mm film, the accompanying video for “Music Is Bigger Than Hair” features Watson playing the song in a lush garden, footage of the Australian coast at sunset, Watson and a pal kicking a soccer ball around and more. The video knowingly captures the endless cycles of time and seasons, and the tacitly emphasizes the acknowledgement of age and mortality at the core of the song.