Tag: Fluff and Gravy Records

Comprised of Henry Hill Kammerer (guitar, vocals) and John Johnson (drums, percussion), the Portland, OR-based folk and blues duo Hillstomp have received attention regionally and nationally for a gritty and sincere,  rock ‘n’ roll-take on Americana/roots music that draws from hill country blues stomp, North Mississippi trance blues, Appalachian folk and blues, rockabilly and punkabiliy played on a drum kit made from assorted buckets, cans, BBQ lids and other ephemera and slide guitar. And over their 17 years together, the duo have toured with Reverend Horton Heat, JOVM mainstays The Devil Makes Three, and Southern Culture on the Skids among others.

Slated for an October 19, 2018 release through their longtime label home Fluff and Gravy Records, Kammerer and Johnson’s sixth full-length Hillstomp album Monster Receiver was recorded by Juniana Lanning and John Shepski with mixing engineer john Askew — and the album finds the band pushing their sound and songwriting into even more experimental territory with the album’s material seamlessly flowing from grungy folk, garage rock and intimate and tender ballads while featuring guest spots from Anna Tivel (violin), Hook & Anchor‘s Eric Clampitt (pedal steel) and I Can Lick Any Son of a Bitch in the House’s David Lipkind (harmonica). Interestingly, the album’s first single “Hagler,” is a grimy, psych blues stomp centered around shuffling drumming, chugging guitar and an explosive guitar solo that recalls the North Mississippi All Stars and fellow labelmate Drunken Prayer as its full of piss, vinegar and whiskey.

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Currently comprised of founding members Willy Vlautin (vocals, acoustic guitar and electric guitar) and Dave Harding (bass, backing vocals), along with Sean Oldham (drums, percussion, vibes and backing vocals), Dan Eccles (guitar) and Paul Brainard (pedal steel, piano, acoustic guitar, trumpet, backing vocals), the Portland, OR-based alt country quintet Richmond Fontaine can trace its origins back to 1994 when the band’s founding duo met at  Portland Meadows Racetrack, where they bonded over betting on the ponies and their mutual love of Husker Du, Willie Nelson, X, The Blasters and The Replacements, and they quickly decided to collaborate together. After a lineup change with the band expanding to a quintet, they developed  reputation for a sounda that frequently meshed elements of rock, country, punk, folk and Americana paired with Vlautin’s narrative-like songwriting, which resulted in praise from the likes of nationally and internationally recognized media outlets including UncutQ MagazineMojoThe IndependentThe Sun and others.

Interestingly, over the past decade, the band’s Vlautin has developed a reputation as a critically applauded and commercially successful novelist with his debut novel The Motel Life winning a Silver Pen Award from the State of Nevada and landed on the The Washington Post’s Top 25 Books of 2007 — and later, the book was adapted into the critically acclaimed motion picture, The Motel Life which starred Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson.  Vlautin’s 2008 sophomore novel, Northline was a San Francisco Chronicle Top Ten Bestseller. 2010’s Lean on Pete won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and was named Hot Press’ book of the year. 2014’s The Free continued an incredible run of prolificacy which included the band’s 9 preceding full-length albums, an instrumental soundtrack for Northline, two live albums and an EP.

After a three year hiatus from recording, the  members of Richmond Fontaine returned to the studio with their long-time producer and collaborator John Askew to write and record, 2016’s You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, which was released by one of my favorite labels, Fluff and Gravy Records across North America and Decor Records across Europe. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you may recall that I wrote about album single “Wake Up Ray,” a jangling bit of old school country-influenced alt country with Vlautin’s novelistic attention to detail, which managed to created a very real, lived in world in which the song’s characters wake up every single day to a lonely life and an even lonelier house that they’ve learned to hate — and yet they’re aware that because of the choices they made, that their position (if not, their very fate) is largely inescapable. But underneath the surface, is a wistful and mournful recognition of life and love’s impermanence.

Following the release of You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, the members of the band formally announced that it would be their final traditional album and tour; however, as the band’s Vlautin was putting the finishing touches on his fifth novel, Don’t Skip Out on Me which is slated for a February 13, 2018 release through HarperCollins, he was able to round up the band to record an instrumental, companion soundtrack, and while a digital download of the soundtrack will be bundled with the book, Richmond Fontaine’s long-time label home felt that it deserved it’s own release — February 16, 2018 with an extremely limited vinyl release both in the States and in Europe, through Decor Records.

Soundtrack single “Horace And The Trophy” while clearly nodding to classic, 60s and 70s Renegade Country, 70s AM rock possesses an obvious cinematic quality, as though it should be part of the soundtrack of a deliberate, thoughtful road trip movies, featuring rugged, heartbroken and rootless loners crisscrossing the continent, fleeing a troubled past or an uncertain future.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Initially started as a one-off vehicle to release a record for a friend, Portland, OR-based indie label Fluff and Gravy Records has established themselves as arguably one of the most unique and difficult to pigeonhole labels in the country as they’ve released  albums that have run the gamut from Americana, indie folk, punk rock, indie rock, garage punk, alt country and even British folk from a diverse and eclectic set of artists including JOVM mainstay Drunken Prayer, Hillstomp, Jeffrey Martin, Fernando Viciconte, The Evangenitals, Anna Tivel and several others. To celebrate their fifth anniversary, the Portland-based label is releasing the Five Years of Gravy compilation — and according to the folks at the label, the compilation isn’t a mere retrospective; in fact, it’s a compilation of new and unreleased tracks from 17 of the label’s artists that they feel offers a glimpse of where the label and its artists have been and where they all are going. But the label and its artists also see the compilation as a way of giving back as the proceeds from sales of the album will benefit The Jeremy Wilson Foundation, a musicians’ nonprofit health and services organization that assists individual musicians and their families throughout the Pacific Northwest during medical emergencies — and is supported by fans, musicians and friends. Certainly, the work of charitable organizations such as The Jeremy Wilson Foundation will see even greater importance in light of President-elect Donald Trump’s threatened plans to cut Obamacare and with most musicians being independent contractors, access to affordable healthcare for musicians and their families will be critical.

Now, earlier this year you may recall that I had written about the Argentina-born, Portland, OR-based singer/songwriter Fernando Viciconte, who performs under the mononym Fernando. Viciconte first came to attention as the frontman oft he Los Angeles-based rock band Monkey Paw, and when the band broke up, Viciconte relocated to Portland where he began to focus on a solo career that began in earnest with the 2006 release full-length debut Enter to Exit, an effort which was critically praised by a number of major media outlets including BillboardMagnet (which named Fernando, one of the best, new artists of 2006), PasteThe OregonianNo Depression and MSNBC.com, among a lengthy list of others. Just as Viciconte’s profile and career were  set to explode into the national scene, the Argentina-born, Portland-based singer/songwriter suffered through several major health issues, which nearly resulted in the permanent loss of his voce — and as you can imagine, his health issues prevented him from touring. Fortunately for Viciconte and for us, after going through a number of doctors, it was revealed that his illness was misdiagnosed and the root cause of his issues, a hiatal hernia that caused heartburn and acid reflux, which bathed his vocal vocal chords in his stomach acid, was fixed surgically.

Viciconte’s eighth full-length effort Leave the Radio On was released last year through Fluff and Gravy Records and although the album took three years to complete, the album has the Portland-based singer/songwriter backed by an all-star cast featuring R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, who has been an early champion of Viciconte’s work; Scott McCaughey as well as members of M.Ward and Elliott Smith‘s backing bands, Richmond Fontaine and The Delines. Of course, if you had been frequenting this site, you may recall act I wrote about Leave the Radio On‘s first single “Save Me,” a bitter and aching lament of a song that evoked the lingering ghosts of one’s life — the failed relationships, the misguided decisions and poor judgements and the crushing doubts that seem inescapable and yet, finding a way to move forward with your dignity, sanity and sense of self intact. His contribution to the compilation “No Regrets” continues in a similar vein to “Save Me” as it’s a mournful lament from a narrator, who looks back on his life with an uncommon clarity and honesty, with the song’s narrator sadly admitting that he may be at fault for the mistakes and poor decisions of his life. Sonically, Viciconte’s aching vocals are accompanied with a country-leaning arrangement of steel pedal guitar, acoustic guitar, gently padded drums and twinkling keyboards — and in some way pairing the song’s sentiment with its arrangement makes the song sound as though it could be the soundtrack of lonely men lost in thought and drinking their sorrows away. And much like “Save Me,” “No Regrets” evokes life’s lingering ghosts — but in this case with a weary sense of acceptance.

 

Of course, if you’ve been frequenting this site, you’re probably well acquainted with Drunken Prayer, the recording project of Morgan Christopher Geer, who currently splits time between Portland, ORAsheville, NC and Louisville, KY — and is a touring member of renowned act Freakwater.  Into the Missionfield, Geer’s Drunken Prayer debut was released in 2012 to critical praise both locally and nationally — Portland’s Willamette Week describing Geer as a “barking ringleader with chops between Tom Waits and The Butthole Surfers‘ Gibby Haynes” and the Portland Mercury describing Geer as Warren Zevon’s medium, showing him the world from the great beyond.” Since then Geer has been rather prolific realizing several lyrically and sonically ambitious albums that have been praised for his signature sound — a sound that meshes elements of the blues, country, folk music, 60s psych and soul music and New Orleans-styled funeral dirges paired with lyrics that explore our existence through the prism of the tragicomic. In fact, Geer’s material suggests something that most of us loathe to admit — that life is often bitterly cruel and ironic. And in those moments, the only option you have is to do as the old song says “Laugh and never let the world know that deep down, you’re crying.”

 

2016 has been a very busy year as Geer released The Devil and the Blues. Featuring Lance Willie (drums) and David Wayne Gay (bass), his former bandmates in The Unholy Trio and former members of The Reigning Sound, as well as guest spots from The Sadies‘ Dallas Good (guitar), Aaron Price (organ, piano and engineering), Anna Trivel (fiddle) and a small horn and section, Geer’s latest effort was Geer’s “party album” — and by party, the material thematically covers and explores sadness, rebellion and redemption in Geer’s signature rowdy, riotous, loutish, proud and somewhat ridiculous fashion. His contribution to the compilation “I Feel Into The Sun,” is an atypical Geer song, as it’s a swooning and infectiously sweet love song with a wicked sense of humor. Yes, underneath all that loutishness and joke cracking is a sweet, aching heart desiring love and its redemption.