Tag: Concrete Blonde

New Video: Melbourne’s RVG Releases an Intimate Visual for Aching and Anthemic “I Used To Love You”

Romy Vager is an Adelaide, Australia-born singer/songwriter, who as a teenaged goth kid runaway left her hometown, drawn to Melbourne, Australia. Upon her arrival in Melbourne, Vager joined her first band, Sooky La La, a project that crafted material centered around anger and discordance. Sooky La La were misunderstood, never found a following and routinely cleared rooms. Eventually, the band split up and as a result, Vager committed herself to write songs that people would actually like and want to listen to by doing what countless other aspiring songwriters hope to do: match feelings of alienation, loneliness and feeling misunderstood to melody, introspection and enormous, soul-stirring hooks and refrains. 

For a while, Vager was living at The Bank, an erstwhile recording, rehearsal and performance space that took over an old bank building in Preston, Australia, a suburb about six miles from Melbourne. The Bank was a scene unto itself, featuring a handful of bands that would soon become acclaimed, including Jalala, Gregor and Hearing, who all played, practiced and lived there. Naturally, living in an enormous space surrounded by musicians, who were constantly working and refining their work was profoundly inspiring to the Adelaide-born, Melbourne-based singer/songwriter. 

Back in September 2015, Vager launched a tape of solo material that hadn’t actually been pressed and landed her first solo show at The Bank’s downstairs performance space. For her live solo debut, Vager recruited Drug Sweat‘s and The Galaxy Folk’s Angus Bell, her Bank neighbor, Gregor’s and Hearing’s Reuben Bloxham and Rayon Moon‘s Marc Nolte to be a one-off backing band. And as the story goes, once they began playing together, they all realized — without having to say it aloud — that they needed to continue as a band. Shortly after that show, they initially formed as Romy Vager Group before shortening it to RVG.

RVG’s 2017 full-length debut A Quality of Mercy was recorded live off the floor at Melbourne’s beloved and iconic rock ‘n’ roll pub, The Tote Hotel. Initially released to little fanfare — no press releases, no music videos, no press photos of the band or any significant press push, the album’s material was heavily inspired by The Go-Betweens, The Soft Boys and The Smiths and centered by Vager’s passionate and achingly vulnerable vocals. Much to the band’s surprise, their full-length debut received attention and praise across their native Australia and elsewhere — and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, the band caught the attention of Fat Possum Records, who signed the band and re-issued A Quality of Mercy, which led to a much larger profile internationally. 

Building upon a growing profile, the band then went on world tours with Shame and Kurt Vile. Late last year, the band released the Victor Van Vugt-produced single “Alexandria.” Written as a response to the immediate aftermath of Brexit and Trump, the song is appropriately urgent and ardent. Featuring jangling guitars, pummeling drums, a rousingly anthemic hook and Vager’s earnestly plaintive and gravely howl, the song finds the band gaining a subtle studio sheen — without scrubbing the grit and honesty that has won them attention. 

2020 will be a momentous year for the rising Melbourne-based band. They recently signed to Fire Records, who will be releasing their highly-anticipated sophomore album Feral on April 24, 2020 throughout the world — excluding Australia and New Zealand, where the album will be released through their longtime label home Our Golden Friend. And to mark this exciting new era for the band, they recently announced Feral’s second single, the devastating and heartbreaking, anthemic ballad “I Used to Love You.” Simple and sincere, the song tells a familiar and fairly universal tale: a narrator, who proudly reclaims themselves and their lives in the aftermath of an embittering breakup. The song’s narrator may be proud and defiant; but there’s the sad acknowledgment of something deeply important coming to an end, iAnd while firmly establishing the band’s reputation for crafting an enormous, heartfelt hooks centered around personal experience, the song manages to recall Concrete Blonde’s “Joey” and R.E.M.’s “One I Love.” 

Directed by documentarian and narrative filmmaker Tom Campbell and shot by Edward Goldner, the recently released video for “I Used To Love You,” is a cinematic and intimate video featuring a contemplative Romy Vager, who at points sings the song’s lyrics directly at the viewer — and with the same earnestness and heartache as the accompanying song. “There’s a lot of power in reclaiming yourself but also a lot of sadness. I adore Tom’s video and feel like it captures the energy of the song perfectly,” RVG’s Romy Vager says in press notes. 

 

A few years ago, I wrote a handful of posts on the Los Angeles-based indie rock trio Psychic Love, and because it’s been a while I think I should refresh your collective memories a bit: fronted by Laura Peters and featuring Max Harrison (guitar) and Liam McCormick (bass), the trio have described their sound as “dream grunge” and “as if  Nancy Sinatra had a love child with Frank Black.”

Now, it’s been some time since I’ve personally written about the Los Angeles-based indie rock trio but interestingly, their latest single “Go Away Green” derives its name and is somewhat influenced by a very odd yet very true fact — at Disney theme parks, the things they don’t want patrons noticing is painted in a shade of green that they’ve dubbed “Go Away Green.” Naturally, Peters was fascinated by that fact, and began to observe that people frequently try to cover up unpleasant aspects of their personalities and character in as similar fashion. As the band’s Laura Peters says in press notes. “This is a song about the things and people hiding in plain sight. I often feel like I’m looking out from inside a body – a body, a face, a look, that is telling the world one thing, but inside I’m just you and you are me.” Interestingly, the song features novelist’s attention to psychological detail, as it captures a relationship in which both people aren’t being as honest as they say they’d like to — and they both know it.

Sonically, the song is a decided expansion of the sound and songwriting approach that first caught my attention — the song is a bit of a shape shifter, that begins with a cacophony of noise that recalls Pearl Jam’s Vs. before quickly morphing into a slow-burning and atmospheric section with a rousingly anthemic hook that recalls Concrete Blonde and JOVM mainstays Oddnesse, but while hinting at Phil Spector’s famous Wall of Sound of production and an increasingly ambitious songwriting approach.

 

 

 

 

Currently comprised of primary songwriting and founding duo Laura Fisher (vocals) and Jeremy Marx (guitar), along with Jonathan Arcenueax (drums), who has played with Toonces, Julie Odell and Debuache; and Devin Kerrigan (bass), who has played with Toonces, Bionica, Gravity A, the New Orleans-based indie rock act Tranche have developed a reputation locally and regionally for a sound that meshes elements of dream pop, shoegaze and grunge in a way that’s dark and moody yet familiar. In fact, their anthemic, mid-tempo “Wishing on the Water” brings to mind Concrete Blonde, JOVM mainstay Chelsea Wolfe, PJ Harvey and others, as the track is centered around shimmering, delay and distortion pedal fed guitar, four on the floor drumming, a soaring hook paired with Fisher’s powerhouse vocals, expressing a profound yearning.

Interestingly, as the band’s Laura Fisher told me through email, “‘Wishing on the Water’ is born of deep and relentless reflections on the current state of our world, in all of it’s dark dystopian inclinations and tragic beauty; in particular I explore the separation and perception of reality vs. mind. Sometimes I feel like our most modern technologies purposefully breed paranoia and dissociation. Or maybe those are just inherent parts of human nature?

When I asked Jeremy for his input, he noted that the song isn’t so much a story as it is a ‘literary wishing well.’ Which I love. It’s also super accurate considering I was greatly inspired lyrically by the images conjured in Marlon MacAllister’s novel Meld Resistance (as well as it’s illustrations by Yona Yurwit). Musically, I think the riff just came to Jeremy and we played with it, developing the hook together. I wrote the verses. It felt like channeling all of our favourite grunge anthems into something new and for 2018.”

New Video: Valley Queen Releases Thoughtful and Cinematic Visuals for “Supergiant”

Currently comprised of founding member Natalie Carol (vocals, guitar) and early lineup member Shawn Morones (guitar, vocals), along with newest members Neil Wogensen (bass, vocals) and Mike DeLuccia (drums), the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock band Valley Queen can trace their origins back to their formation in 2014. With a handful of singles under their belts, the band quickly saw a growing profile, which resulted in a relentless touring schedule and an increasing amount of time away from home — and although the band found their own magical pocket musically, the strain was too much for original lineup members Morones and Doot, who left the band.

Carol continued onward with a series of session musicians and ringers, and while the band continued to play bigger clubs, the chemistry that Carol had felt and began to depend on was missing, With growing buzz surrounding her and her bandmates, the members of Valley Queen landed a record deal — a dream that many bands desperately wish to achiever; however, Carol recognized that the band was much more than her concentrating on lyrics with session musicians being paid to play and record the material as directed; in fact, Carol wanted the band to be about the chemistry and relationships between the members of the band, all of which helped the band land their record deal in the first place.  So before writing and recording the material, which would eventually comprise their Lewis Pesacov-produced full-length debut Supergiant, Carol called Doot, who couldn’t re-join the band; however, Mike DeLuccia joined. Then Carol called Morones, who after a series of lengthy conversations, before decided that re-joining the band would be worth the risks involved.

Interestingly, Pesacov, who has worked with Best Coast, Fool’s Gold, Nikki Lane, FIDLAR and JOVM mainstays The Orielles, continues to cement his reputation for raw production while focusing on the urgency of the album’s material and the musicians performances — and for the band, the album was about the collective whole exploring and creating together. As for the album’s lead single and opening track, Carol says, derive their names from the most massive, luminous, and yet the fastest burning known stars in the universe. “The song ‘Supergiant’ is about how we’re all made up of the same stuff as stars, and I liked the idea of tying the whole album together with that metaphor,” says  Carol. “It takes all the drama you hear on the record-the aggressive, chaotic moments, and the more beautiful or quieter moments-and puts it all into a more galactic perspective.” As a result, “Supergiant” has a noticeably cinematic air while possessing elements of 80s New Wave and 70s AM rock in a way that will bring to mind the likes of Heart and Linda Ronstadt, if they were covering Concrete Blonde, or Heartless Bastards covering — well, just about anyone, as the seemingly anachronistic single is centered around Carol’s soulful belting, well-crafted songs and exceptional musicianship.

Directed by Matt Bizer, the incredibly cinematic video for “Supergiant” follows a contemplative Natalie Carol, as she starts her day and meets up with her bandmates, who drive around town while listening to the radio, capturing people with nothing much to really do and nowhere to really go that are longing for something — although they don’t quite know what it is. 

 

Currently comprised of founding member Natalie Carol (vocals, guitar) and early lineup member Shawn Morones (guitar, vocals), along with newest members Neil Wogensen (bass, vocals) and Mike DeLuccia (drums), the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock band Valley Queen can trace their origins back to their formation in 2014. With a handful of singles under their belts, the band quickly saw a growing profile, which resulted in a relentless touring schedule and an increasing amount of time away from home — and although the band found their own magical pocket musically, the strain was too much for original lineup members Morones and Doot, who left the band.

Carol continued onward with a series of session musicians and ringers, and while the band continued to play bigger clubs, the chemistry that Carol had felt and began to depend on was missing, With growing buzz surrounding her and her bandmates, the members of Valley Queen landed a record deal — a dream that many bands desperately wish to achiever; however, Carol recognized that the band was much more than her concentrating on lyrics with session musicians being paid to play and record the material as directed; in fact, Carol wanted the band to be about the chemistry and relationships between the members of the band, all of which helped the band land their record deal in the first place.  So before writing and recording the material, which would eventually comprise their Lewis Pesacov-produced full-length debut Supergiant, Carol called Doot, who couldn’t re-join the band; however, Mike DeLuccia joined. Then Carol called Morones, who after a series of lengthy conversations, before decided that re-joining the band would be worth the risks involved.

Interestingly, Pesacov, who has worked with Best Coast, Fool’s Gold, Nikki Lane, FIDLAR and JOVM mainstays The Orielles, continues to cement his reputation for raw production while focusing on the urgency of the album’s material and the musicians performances — and for the band, the album was about the collective whole exploring and creating together. As for the album’s lead single and opening track, Carol says, derive their names from the most massive, luminous, and yet the fastest burning known stars in the universe. “The song ‘Supergiant’ is about how we’re all made up of the same stuff as stars, and I liked the idea of tying the whole album together with that metaphor,” says  Carol. “It takes all the drama you hear on the record-the aggressive, chaotic moments, and the more beautiful or quieter moments-and puts it all into a more galactic perspective.” As a result, “Supergiant” has a noticeably cinematic air while possessing elements of 80s New Wave and 70s AM rock in a way that will bring to mind the likes of Heart and Linda Ronstadt, if they were covering Concrete Blonde, or Heartless Bastards covering — well, just about anyone, as the seemingly anachronistic single is centered around Carol’s soulful belting, well-crafted songs and exceptional musicianship.

Valley Queen will be touring to support their new effort and the initial batch of tour dates are below.

VALLEY QUEEN TOUR DATES
July 5-8 Winnipeg, MB – Winnipeg Folk Festival
July 28 Los Angeles, CA – The Moroccan Lounge
August 01 San Francisco, CA – Cafe du Nord
August 02 Davis, CA – Sophia’s Thai Kitchen
August 03-05 Happy Valley, OR – Pickathon
August 07 Seattle, WA – Sunset Tavern
August 08 Spokane, WA – The Bartlett
August 09 Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge
August 11 Denver, CO – Lost Lake Lounge
August 12 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
August 15 San Luis Obispo, CA – SLO Brew

Over the past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the Los Angeles, CA-based indie pop project (and latest personal obsession of mine) Oddnesse, and as you may recall, the project comprised of singer/songwriter Rebeca Arango and producer Grey Goon can trace its origins to when both members individually relocated from the East Coast to Los Angeles after being in several failed bands. As the story goes, Arango and Goon bonded over a shared vision of beautiful and infectious music with a dark, heavy groove, and initially the project began as two friends jamming and experimenting with ideas before they began to take it as a serious endeavor.

Last month, I wrote about “I Used To,” an atmospheric and meditative track that centered around an ethereal arrangement of twangy guitar, gently droning synths and Arango’s ethereal crooning and while clearly nodding at 80s New Wave with Concrete Blonde and Siouxsie and the Banshees immediately coming to my mind, there was a subtly alt-country vibe that adds to cinematic proceedings. “Trust” the duo’s latest single, much like its predecessors is centered around a tight, hypnotic groove, featuring one of the best bass lines I’ve heard in a rock song to date, atmospheric synths, a sinuous guitar line played through washes of reverb and delay pedal paired with Arango’s come hither vocals and a razor sharp hook. And while continuing a run of subtly ambitious and well-crafted material, the song may be among their most straightforward and infectious pop songs to date that focuses on the swooning and wildly uncertain pangs of love — with the tacit understanding that love can make us all do some strange and unpredictable things.

 

 

 

 

 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Wax Idol Release an Anthemic Power Ballad

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the  Oakland, CA-based indie rock act Wax Idols, and as you may recall that after 2013’s critically applauded album Discipline + Desire, the band went on hiatus as the band’s founding member, primary songwriter and frontperson Hether Fortune joined the equally acclaimed punk rock band and JOVM mainstays  White Lung. That was followed by a heartbreaking and life-altering divorce, which informed much of the material on the band’s critically applauded, third album, 2016’s American Tragic.

Informed by the one of the saddest and most difficult experiences of Fortune’s life, as Fortune explained that American Tragic wasn’t “. . .a sad album.The whole spectrum of grief is represented here — shock, pain, anger, loneliness, and then finding a way to work through all of that, and not only survive, and thrive. That’s what I was going through. I was kind of trying to save myself.” Fortune wrote and recorded every note and every single chord on the album, and as a result, it gives the album a deeply personal vision and point of view in which the heartbreak and grief at the core of the album is visceral and haunting — especially if you’ve ever experienced the dissolution of a long-term romantic relationship, as it evokes the lingering ghosts and resentments, the push and pull of longing, confusion and hatred towards that person, who may well never be in your life again; but it’s all underpinned by the recognition that if you’ve known love, you may know it again and again and again, and that somehow you’ll pick up most of the pieces and move forward. And while thematically being among the most soberING and thoughtful material Fortune has written, the material sonically is reminiscent of Too True-era Dum Dum Girls, Concrete Blonde, Siouxsie and the Banshees and others.

Slated for a May 16, 2018 release through Etruscan Gold Records, Wax Idols long-anticipated forth Monte Vallier-produced album Happy Ending finds the band heading towards new thematic territory as the album finds the band exploring the abstraction and finality of death from philosophical, political and personal perspectives, continuing on the deeply personal tone and vibe of their critically applauded American Tragic. Additionally, the album finds the band continuing onward after a series of lineup changes with the band’s founding member and primary songwriter Fortune backed by Peter Lightning (guitar, bass, organ, piano), Rachel Travers (drums) and Marisa Prieto (bass, backing vocals) and The Mallard’s Greer McGettrick joining the band after the album was recorded. 

Now, as you may recall Happy Ending’s first single “Scream” was a rousingly anthemic, 80s-inspired post punk track with with a deeply personal, idiosyncratic vision, complete with some impressive guitar pyrotechnics that make the song seem as though the band drawing influence from Boy and October-era U2.  As Fortune told NPR, “Finding inspiration in one of my favorite poems, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ by Dylan Thomas, I used this song as a vehicle to meditate on the concept of free will & how one could choose to exercise it even at the brink of death.” She adds, “The protagonist is someone who is young, madly in love AND desperately wants to live — though they know that they will not. They have chosen to use their final seconds, the only breath in their lungs, to scream out the name of the one that they love.” Interestingly, the album’s latest single  the mid tempo power ballad, “Crashing” continues on a similar vein as its predecessor as it’s a swooning and urgent ballad centered around twinkling piano, propulsive drumming and an anthemic hook with some gorgeous guitar work. Much like Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” and others, “Crashing” is the sort of song you can envision earnestly shouting along with a beer held aloft, with the knowledge of life’s fleeting nature.

 

 

Currently comprised of founding member Luisa Black (vocals, guitar), August Churchill (guitar), Jonny Naismith (guitar) and Gavin Haag (drums), the New York-based indie rock band, which specializes in a sound that meshes elements of British art work with American garage rock initially began as a solo project of its then San Francisco, CA-based founding member, after the breakup of her previous band The Blacks, and evolved around a series of demos Black wrote while she was living in London. Since then, the band has worked with a rotating cast in which they’re often a trio but occasionally a duo — and interestingly enough, with the release of a handful of EPs, the band has developed  following in the UK and the European Union.

Rich Girls’ recently released full-length debut Black City finds the band pushing their moody minimalist sound into new directions, and while they retain the reverb-drenched guitar-based sound that first won them attention, the album’s material employs the use of vintage, analog synths and marimbas, as well as some ambitious songwriting that finds the band further blurring genre lines as the material swings back and forth between a pop-leaning focus on melody and a punk-leaning focus on urgency.

“Wayne” Black City‘s latest single is a slow-burning and anthemic, ballad that sonically reminds me of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps,” Concrete Blonde’s “Joey” and Mazzy Star, thanks in part to a sparse arrangement centered around reverb-drenched power chords, thundering drumming, a soaring hook and Black’s vocals singing heartbreaking lyrics on a post-addiction love; but underneath the song’s ache is the self-assuredness of old pros, who can craft an ambitious, arena rock friendly torch song in a way that feels both profoundly sincere and effortless.

 

 

If you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of this year, you’ve come across a couple of posts featuring the Los Angeles, CA-based indie rock/dream pop duo Alyeska, and as you may recall the duo, which is comprised of Montana-born, Los Angeles-based frontwoman Alaska Reid and Ben Spear derive their name from an archaic spelling of the state of Alaska — and of course, Reid’s first name.

With the release of “Tilt A Whirl,” the first single off their John Agnello-produced debut EP, Crush, the duo began to receive attention across the blogosphere — as well as this site — for a sound that draws equally from 80s post-punk and New Wave, as it did from contemporary indie rock. The EP’s second single “Motel State of Mind,” as a moody and dramatic song that while meant to be a “rip off “rip off The Replacements” as Reid explained in an interview with Billboardmanaged to remind me quite a bit of Concrete Blonde‘s “Joey,” complete with a swooning heartache at its core. “Sister Buckskin,” the EP’s third single continued in the 80s post-punk/New Wave/college radio vein, as it managed to remind me of The Pretenders; but underneath the shimmering guitar work and anthemic hooks was a bitter sense of nostalgia over what could have have been — and just didn’t happen.

Since the release of Crush, the duo have gone on to open for the likes of Middle Kids, Frankie Cosmos and Blitzen Trapper but interestingly, the band recently released the EP’s latest single “Stones,” the last bit of music recorded at The Magic Shop, where David Bowie, Arcade Fire, Sonic Youth, Norah Jones, Coldplay and the Foo Fighters once recorded albums. And while further cementing their reputation for crafting hook-laden, anthemic 80s-inspired rock, the “Stones” manages to make a subtle nod to Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as the song features some of the most impressive guitar work on the EP while bristling with a feral sensuality.