Tag: Big Star

Comprised of founding member and primary songwriter Dan Sheron, Seth Mower, Ben Mower and Carl Osterlof, the now Los Angeles-based indie rock/indie folk quartet Balto can trace their origins back to when its founding member and primary songwriter was 21 and attempting to begin a journalism career in Moscow. After failing at that and suffering through overwhelming personal and professional heartbreak, Sheron felt that his life had collapsed. Without saying goodbye to his friends or bothering to pack his belongings, Sheron took a Siberia-bound train with a child’s guitar and a journal that quickly filled with songs. And as the story goes, at some point the idea of the project was born in a third-class train car, singing and drinking among strangers somewhere east of Novosibirsk.

Naturally, over some time and with the recruitment of Seth Mower, Ben Mower and Carl Osterlof, the project transformed from a songwriting vehicle into a full-fledged band who describe their sound as “a boozy, swaggering style of American music rooted at the intersection of Motown, Big StarPlastic Ono Band-era John Lennon and Jackson Browne” — although they have cited the likes of My Morning Jacket, Dr. Dog, Alabama Shakes, and The Arcs among others. Throughout their run together, the band has been fairly busy releasing 2011’s October’s Road, 2012’s Monuments 2015’s Call It By Its Name and last year’s Strangers, which was heavily praised by Seattle-based curators Artist Home as being “a tangle of beautiful messy emotions, wrapped in a sound that’s warmly familiar yet brimming with soul and tiny details that are touched by magic.”

During the past couple of years, the members of Balto relocated to Los Angeles and the move has also influenced their sound, with the band’s sound taking on a sunnier, more textured sound. In fact, their latest single, the shaggy, shuffling and boozy “Black Snake Mojave Blues” sound as though it were influenced by The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Allman Brothers Band as the song is centered by bluesy power chords, a big , muscular and infectious hook and a raucous, bunch of guys jamming together vibe.  In some way, it’s the perfect song for making a road trip without having a clear destination or purpose beyond just being alive and digging whatever you come across. Interestingly, as the band’s Dan Sheron says of the writing process, “I envisioned it as a slow sad song originally, but I’d left my guitar in Open G and was knocking around a blues and thought to try the song a different way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Throughout the past year, I’ve written a couple of posts featuring the Portland, OR-based indie folk/psych rock/indie rock act The Parson Red Heads, and as you may recall the band, currently comprised of husband and wife duo Evan Way and Brette Marie Way, along with Sam Fowles, Robbie Auspurger and a rotating cast of collaborators and friends can trace their origins to when its core members met in Eugene OR in 2004, where they all were attending college and studying for degrees that as the band’s frontman Evan Way jokes in the band’s official bio “never used or even completed.” “We  would rehearse in the living room of my house for hours and hours until my roommates would be driven crazy — writing songs and playing them over and over again, and generally having as much fun as a group of people can have,” Way recalls. “We weren’t sure if we were very good, but we were sure that there was a special bond growing between us, a chemistry that you didn’t find often.”

The following year, the band’s founding members relocated to Los Angeles, where they hoped that they would take music much more seriously and become a real band, with the members of the band eventually moving into and sharing a 1 bedroom apartment in West Lost Angeles. “Eventually the population of our 1 bedroom ballooned to 7 — all folks who played in our band at that point, too,” Way says. And while in Los Angeles, the members of the band quickly became stalwarts of a growing 60s-inspired folk and psych folk scene based primarily in the artsy Silverlake and Echo Park sections of town. “We played every show we could lay our collective hands on, which turned out to be a lot of shows. We must have played 300+ shows in our first two years in L.A.  . . . . We practiced non-stop and wrote a ton of songs, and eventually recorded our debut album King Giraffe at a nice little studio in Sunland, with the help of our friends Zack and Jason,” Way reminisces.

After the release of King Giraffe, the band spent the next three years writing, and touring, and during that three year period they released an EP and their sophomore effort Yearling, which was partially recorded at Red Rockets Glare with Raymond Richards, who had then joined the band to play pedal steel and in North Carolina at Fidelitorium with The dB’s Chris Stamey. Once they had finished the album, the members of the band decided to quit their day jobs and their apartments and go on a lengthy tour with their friends in Cotton Jones before relocating to Portland. Interestingly around the same time, The Parson Red Heads had developed a reputation for an uninhibited live show, as they could easily morph from earnest rock to ass-kicking rock mode, which shouldn’t be terribly surprising as the band cites The ByrdsTeenage FanclubBig StarCrosby, Nash, Stills and Young and Jackson Browne as major influences on their sound. Unsurprisingly, with their third full-length album Orb Weaver, the band actively wanted to capture the energy and sound.  “We’re always made records that were more thought-out,” says Way. “When we play live, we play more like a rock band. We wanted to show that more aggressive side of us, the more rock-oriented side.”
Blurred Harmony, The Parson Red Heads’ fourth album was released earlier this year through renowned Portland-based label Fluff and Gravy, and as Way explained, the band intended to do things differently than they did before — with the band recording and tracking themselves, frequently setting up drums and amps, and furiously recording after everyone had put their kids to sleep, and trying to finish that day’s sessions before it got too late. And as a result, Way says  “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”
December 8, 2017 will mark the release of the Expanded Edition of Blurred Harmony and it’ll feature two bonus tracks, which were originally recorded during the initial recording sessions and didn’t make the final cut, and as you know from a previous post, one of those cut singles was “TV Surprise,” a single that the band’s Way explains has been around for about a decade or so, and didn’t make the cut because lyrically, the band felt it was too abstract; however, the song manages to capture a band exploring a theme from a slightly different angle and managing to get a similar yet distinctly different result.

Interestingly, Blurred Harmony‘s second bonus single “It’s Hard For Me To Say” was originally recorded in December 2015 for inclusion on You Are The Cosmos‘ 12 string guitar compilation, Twelve String Harmony and as the story goes, the band had the finished track sitting in the can for a while, when they began working on their latest album. And as they began work on the album, they felt that they could re-record the song in a way that would fit better with the overall feel of the album. As Way recalls “It ended up not making the final cut — who knows, maybe it’s because we were already too familiar with it, maybe the extra months of the song’s recorded existence made it feel less fresh to our ears. But we really love this version — the rhythm section is tighter and more driving, the tambourine and Conrad 12-string electric channels the Byrds through a warped sense, and the three years of acoustic guitar shimmering just right. Plus, Raymond added some gorgeous pedal steel, and our friend Michael Blake added a wall of mellotron and Wurlitzer.” Much like the previous bonus single, sonically speaking the song feels as though it was the best suited of the two to actually seamlessly fit on to the original album. And naturally, its inclusion as a bonus track on the expanded edition should be a reminder that song selection and as song sequencing for an album is frequently an inexact and uncertain art while revealing the various editorial decisions a band has to make upon completion of an album.

Much like the previously released singles I’ve written about, “It’s Hard For Me To Say” manages to balance earnest and personal lyrics with a deliberate attention to craftsmanship in a way that contemporary indie rock — or hell, contemporary music general doesn’t seem to have these days, and as a result, the song seems charmingly anachronistic.

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Portland, OR-based indie folk/psych rock/indie rock act The Parson Red Heads, and as you may recall the band, currently comprised of husband and wife duo Evan Way and Brette Marie Way, along with Sam Fowles, Robbie Auspurger and a rotating cast of collaborators and friends can trace their origins to when its founding core members met in Eugene OR in 2004, where they all were attending college and studying for degrees that as the band’s frontman Evan Way jokes in the band’s official bio “never used or even completed.” “We  would rehearse in the living room of my house for hours and hours until my roommates would be driven crazy — writing songs and playing them over and over again, and generally having as much fun as a group of people can have,” Way recalls. “We weren’t sure if we were very good, but we were sure that there was a special bond growing between us, a chemistry that you didn’t find often.”

The following year, the band’s founding members relocated to Los Angeles, where they hoped that they would take music much more seriously and become a real band, with the members of the band eventually moving into and sharing a 1 bedroom apartment in West Lost Angeles. “Eventually the population of our 1 bedroom ballooned to 7 — all folks who played in our band at that point, too,” Way says. And while in Los Angeles, the members of the band quickly became stalwarts of a growing 60s-inspired folk and psych folk scene based primarily in the artsy Silverlake and Echo Park sections. “We played every show we could lay our collective hands on, which turned out to be a lot of shows. We must have played 300+ shows in our first two years in L.A.  . . . . We practiced non-stop and wrote a ton of songs, and eventually recorded our debut album King Giraffe at a nice little studio in Sunland, with the help of our friends Zack and Jason,” Way reminisces.

After the release of King Giraffe, the band spent the next three years writing, and touring, and during that three year period they released an EP and their sophomore effort Yearling, which was partially recorded at Red Rockets Glare with Raymond Richards, who had then joined the band to play pedal steel and in North Carolina at Fidelitorium with The dB’s Chris Stamey. Once they had finished the album, the members of the band decided to quit their day jobs and their apartments and go on a lengthy tour with their friends in Cotton Jones before relocating to Portland. Interestingly around the same time, The Parson Red Heads had developed a reputation for an uninhibited live show, as they could easily morph from earnest rock to ass-kicking rock mode, which shouldn’t be terribly surprising as the band cites The ByrdsTeenage FanclubBig StarCrosby, Nash, Stills and Young and Jackson Browne as major influences on their sound. Unsurprisingly, with their third full-length album Orb Weaver, the band actively wanted to capture the energy and sound.  “We’re always made records that were more thought-out,” says Way. “When we play live, we play more like a rock band. We wanted to show that more aggressive side of us, the more rock-oriented side.”
Blurred Harmony, The Parson Red Heads’ fourth album was released earlier this year through renowned Portland-based label Fluff and Gravy, and as Way explained, the band intended to do things differently than they did before — with the band recording and tracking themselves, frequently setting up drums and amps, and furiously recording after everyone had put their kids to sleep, and trying to finish that day’s sessions before it got too late. And as a result, Way says  “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.”
December 8, 2017 will mark the release of the Expanded Edition of Blurred Harmony and it’ll feature two bonus tracks, which were originally recorded during the initial recording sessions and didn’t make the final cut, including the band’s latest single “TV Surprise.” As Way explains in press notes “‘TV Surprise’ is a song that’s been around for probably 10 years at least, maybe one. It’s got a real Felt/The Feelies vibe to it that I really like — those are two bands that we were just starting to get into around the time I wrote the song, so it’s no surprise that was coming through. The abstract feel of the lyrics is the thing that ended up making it not a perfect fit for inclusion on the Blurred Harmony album sequence, but Danny (O’Hanlon, who mixed the record) did a really great job creatively mixing the song — he added a lot of the textures that make this recording of the song have such a cool atmosphere and mood.”Sonically speaking, the song sounds as though the band were drawing from Fleetwood Mac, Southern rock and psych rock, as the song possesses the easy-going, self-assuredness of a bunch of old pros getting the old band together and jamming and while it sounds as though it would have been a perfect fit for the album, I agree with Way in the sense that the song doesn’t feel as personal as previous single “Coming Down” — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the song captures the band exploring a theme from a slightly different angle, and managing to get a similar yet distinctly different result.

 

Currently comprised of Evan Way, Brette Marie Way, Sam Fowles and Robbie Auspurger along with a rotating cast of collaborators and friends, the Portland, OR-based indie folk/psych rock/indie rock act The Parson Red Heads can trace their origins to when its founding core members met in Eugene OR in 2004, where they all were attending college and studying for degrees that as the band’s frontman Evan Way jokes in the band’s official bio “never used or even completed.” As Way recalls “we would rehearse in the living room of my house for hours and hours until my roommates would be driven crazy — writing songs and playing them over and over again, and generally having as much fun as a group of people can have. We weren’t sure if we were very good, but we were sure that there was a special bond growing between us, a chemistry that you didn’t find often.”
So in 2005, the founding members of the band relocated to Los Angeles, where they hoped that they would take music much more seriously and become a real band, eventually moving into a 1 bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles. “Eventually the population of our 1 bedroom ballooned to 7 — all folks who played in our band at that point, too,” Way explains. But while in Los Angeles, the members of The Parson Red Heads became stalwarts of a growing 60s-inspired folk and psych folk scene based primarily in the Silverlake and Echo Park sections. “We played every show we could lay our collective hands on, which turned out to be a lot of shows. We must have played 300+ shows in our first two years in L.A.  . . . . We practiced non-stop and wrote a ton of songs, and eventually recorded our debut album King Giraffe at a nice little studio in Sunland, with the help of our friends Zack and Jason.
After 3 more years of writing, recording and touring, which resulted in an EP and their sophomore full-length Yearling, which was partially recorded at Red Rockets Glare Studio with Raymond Richards, who had then joined the band to play pedal steel and in North Carolina at Fidelitorium with The dB’s Chris Stamey, the members of the band decided to quit their jobs and their apartments and go on a lengthy tour with their friends in Cotton Jones before relocating to Portland.  But whether they were in Los Angeles or Portland, the band had developed a reputation for an uninhibited live act, with a folk sound that can easily go into rock mode — and in some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that the band’s influences include The Byrds, Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, Crosby, Nash, Stills and Young, Jackson Browne and others. In fact, with the band’s third full-length album Orb Weaver, the band wanted to capture their live, rock-leaning sound on wax. “We’ve always made records that were more thought-out,” says Way. “When we play live, we play more like a rock band. We wanted to show that more aggressive side of us, the more rock-oriented side.”
The psych folk/indie folk/indie rock act’s fourth full-length effort Blurred Harmony derives its name from a Donald Justice poem, and is slated for release next week through Portland-based label Fluff and Gravy Records here in the States, the home of JOVM mainstay Drunken Prayer, acclaimed singer/songwriter Fernando and Richmond Fontaine. And as Way explains, the band intended to do things differently — with the band recording and tracking themselves, setting up drums and amps and furiously recording after everyone had put their kids to sleep and trying to finish before it got too late. He goes on to say that “the record is more a true part of us than any record we have made before — we put ourselves into it, made ourselves fully responsible for it. Even the themes of the songs are more personal than ever — it’s an album dealing with everything that has come before. It’s an album about nostalgia, about time, change, about the hilarious, wonderful, bittersweet, sometimes sad, always incredible experience of living. Sometimes it is about regret or the possibility of regret. These are big topics, and to us, it is a big album, yet somehow still intimate and honest.” And as you’ll hear on Blurred Harmonys latest, jangling and anthemic single “Coming Down,” the wisdom of someone, who’s lived a full, messy life and recognizing that experiencing everything life has to offer is part of the purpose and forms who you are and who you’ll be, but with a sense of awe, joy and gratitude. “I’m alive, I’m okay and those who I cherish and love are alive and okay, and that’s really all that maters,” the song seems to say. But thanks to its jaunty and infectiously upbeat feel, the song also evokes the experiences of being on the road, of seeing things you’d never seen before, of meeting people you’d never met before, of strange languages you can barely pronounce, of an aching loneliness — and it all further cementing yourself and your place in the scheme of things.

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised of Ben Roth (vocals, guitar, synth), Lance Umble (bass), Zach Dimmick (guitar, synths) and Jonathan Angle (drums), the Seattle WA and Tacoma, WA-based indie rock quartet bod is arguably one of that area’s more accomplished bands as the band features former and current members of several renowned indie bands including Oberhofer, EZTV, Telekinesis, Sloucher, Crater, and BOAT. The recently released True Cinnamon EP is the second release from the band, since their formation in 2013 and the EP’s material reportedly is an aggressive exploration inwards, a sort of adult re-calibration of their sound and thematic concerns, in which they realize the dark and uncertain realities of a world in constant turmoil — and to be constantly overwhelmed by it while drawing influence from a broad variety of artists including D’Angelo, Deerhoof, Can, Cate Le Bon, Bjork, Big Star and others.

True Cinnamon‘s latest single, EP title track “True Cinnamon” is an anthemic bit of Brit Pop-leaning psych rock that reminds me of The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Stone Roses while nodding at Radiohead and others, thanks to a rousing, arena rock friendly hook and blistering guitar work; however, the song possesses a twisting and turning structure and an explosive sense of unpredictability   — both of which evoke a sense of being awoken from a pleasant dream and experiencing a sudden, world-altering, nightmarish trauma.

Although the band recently released True Cinnamon, they’re finishing up work on a full-length album, produced by Telekineses’ Michael Lerner, slated for a fall 2017 release.

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised of Brisbane, Australia-born and Houston, TX-based Andrew Bower (vocals, guitar), Bower’s Brisbane, Australia-born and based brother Sean Bower (bass), along with Dan McNaulty (drums), The Valery Trails are a Trans-Pacific trio that over the past couple of years have received national attention for a sound that owes a major debt to early 90s/120 Minutes-era MTV rock, as previously released singles have managed to channel the likes of R.E.M., The Church, The Psychedelic Furs and others.

Now, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve actually written about them; however, the Trans-Pacific trio’s forthcoming album Chameleon Bones is slated for an August 5, 2016 release and the new album was recorded in a similar fashion to their two previous releases — with Andrew Bower recording demos in his home studio in Houston, then sending along his demos to bandmates Sean Bower and Dan McNaulty, who would then track bass and drums before returning the files to Andrew, who would then record guitars and vocals in a local commercial studio. As you can imagine, each song went back and forth to Brisbane for final overdubs, which created a variety of issues in the recording process. And as Andrew Bower explains in press notes, “The major obstacle, or more of a disadvantage, really, is that we don’t get the benefit of everyone being in the room together to agree on decisions that come up during recording.” Sean, Dan and the recording engineer had to commit to bass and drums sounds and arrangements without Andrew being able to weigh in — and without having a budget to re-record if he didn’t like it either. However, interestingly enough, this process also helps a band avoid the temptation of overanalyzing and obsessing to death over a minor issue at the expense of the overall freshness of the songs.

 

Chameleon Bones‘ first single “OK” is comprised of an anthemic hook paired with a jangling alt country/alt rock sound — in other words, slightly fuzzy guitars fed through subtle effects pedals, thunderous and propulsive drumming along with a throbbing bass line in a song that sounds as though it was channeling Big Star, The Smithereens, Murmur-era R.E.M., Dinosaur, Jr., The Church and others, complete with a radio-friendly, arena rock friendly air. But what distinguishes The Valery Trails from those familiar sources is that this particular single also manages to channel shoegazer rock and 90s Brit Pop in a way that puts a subtle new twist on a beloved sound.