Punk/Bluegrass Outfit on Using Craigslist to Find a Tour Bus, Home Studio Gear & Their Fiddle Player
The wholesome, backyard nostalgia of bluegrass intertwined with the rowdy romp of punk. Those two genres usually don’t mix, and when people hear the concept the general consensus is a resounding: ‘huh?’
But finding the happy medium between banjo and badass is exactly what LA based septet Old Man Markley has done. Finding their start in the family room of band members Johnny Carey, Annie DeTemple, and Ryan Markley in 2007, the band has grown, shrunk, evolved and experienced a lot in the past six years.
Seattle’s Sandrider is a gnarly, loud and ferocious trio of veteran musicians, hell-bent on destroying eardrums and bass drums in equal numbers. The band is about to re-release their self-titled LP on 180 gram wax, courtesy of Good To Die Records, and we had a chance to catch up with frontman Jon Weisnewski about the group’s back story, their favorite gear, and their creative process both in and out of the studio.
Can you give us a brief rundown of how the band formed and where you’re at today?
I’d been playing in the band Akimbo with Nat, our drummer, for about 15 years. I originally learned to play music on the guitar, but switched to bass in Akimbo. And I had a real desire to play guitar again, and to play with other musicians. So I asked Nat if he wanted to start playing some songs, and we wrote some music and had some other bass players come in and fool around. Never really got a serious bass player for a while, until I was getting tattooed by Jesse, Sandrider’s bass player, and we started shooting the shit. He played in a band I liked a lot, and they were in the middle of a hiatus at the time. So I told him he should come down and play bass with us.
That first practice was just out of this world. It was great; we had an amazing chemistry together.
GENRE: Punk Rock HOMETOWN: La Habra, CA ARTISTIC APPROACH: Super catchy, female-fronted punk-inspired pop. www.fictionreform.com
Hailing from La Habra, CA, punk rockers Fiction Reform have been making a name in the Southern California scene for a few years now, but their latest record Take Your Truth may graduate them up into the next level of punk’s inner-circle. Fronted by lead-vocalist Brenna Red, Fiction Reform describes their sound as “punk-inspired pop music.” Continue reading →
“So-Cal punk legends return to form…with the addition of a new lead singer”
All or Nothing
Hermosa Beach, CA
It’s not easy for a band to lose one of its founding members, but it’s even harder for a band that’s been around since 1988 to lose its lead singer. Although Pennywise’s last few albums have been a little stale, All or Nothing feels like the band has been reborn. When it was announced in 2010 that longtime lead singer Jim Lindberg had left the group and Ignite vocalist Zoli Téglás would be replacing him, message boards lit up with discussions of whether or not the band would bounce back.
Take one ’90s music encyclopedia vocalist, a drummer with no depth perception, an ex-hardcore-drummer bassist, and one self-deprecating guitarist – now add alcohol and voilà – you have the DIY recipe for a killer punk band. Coming together in early 2008, The Tin Thistles have a fun loving attitude, a hefty thirst, and a penchant for giving away merchandise. Performer had the pleasure of speaking with guitarist Allen McRae regarding the band’s speedy shift from covers to original work, a changing studio sound, and love for the live performance.
McRae met longtime friends and band mates William Callahan and Kevin Bogart (vocals and drums respectively) while working at the same coffee shop, the doldrums of which spurred the trio to start an acoustic cover band. “But that turned out to be too hard,” McRae says, “So we started writing originals.” After picking up cellist, Al Ittleson, to round out their sound, the band recorded their Mutiny EP – a calling to the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, McRae explained. Nine months in, however, the band found their true direction. Ittleson left the band, but before the empties could rattle, drummer Art Bergevin was welcomed aboard. At that point “[Bogart] switched to electric bass, and we’ve been playing very loudly ever since,” muses McRae.
Loud and productive, the Thistles have now released an LP At the Bottom, released in 2010, another EP We Were Promised Better, and a Christmas single “Oi to the World” in 2011. The new sound draws from Callahan’s love for ’90s indie, and a lot more fuzz. Selected for the ZLX Rock n’ Roll Rumble this spring, the band got to unleash a little competitive spirit, Thistles style:
“We were a little loaded, but we played as hard as we could.”
McRae is pleased with the band’s philosophy and direction. “We’re known as kind of an asshole band, but it’s not about antagonizing audiences. We’re just drunk (and assholes) and that comes out on stage. We’re just trying to have fun.” The Tin Thistles have a split 7″ pending with new (and according to McRae, better) tracks. “We realize we suck, but we suck a little less each time.”
Japanese Comic Punks Expand Their Sound on New Record
Wow, what to say about a band like Peelander-Z? Over the years, they (or more accurately, their leader Yellow) have tried to convince me that they came to Earth from outer space, that they have their own spaceship and home planet where everyone dresses like Power Rangers, and that if you go to one of their shows, you’ll be met with free steak and ice cream…actually, that last part is true. And who knows, maybe the first few things are true as well. We recently caught up with Peelander Yellow again, after their fun-filled week at SXSW, to discuss the band’s theatricality, their new record, and incorporating New Wave elements into what’s traditionally been a pretty straightforward “comic book punk” sound. Now, a quick technical note – we tried our absolute hardest to transcribe this interview accurately. For starters, there was an unending wave of laughter over the entire recording (from both sides), and to put it respectfully, while Peelander Yellow’s conversational English is perfectly fine, even he won’t claim to be 100% fluent. So we did our best trying to bring out the meaning of his answers even if there were passages that were a tad difficult to decipher. We hope you enjoy this interview (and the band) as much as we do!
How was SXSW for you guys this year?
It was crazy because we played a great show and we had our own festival, like a Peelander festival, which carried like a thousand people, and we chose the bands – you know Math the Band – we played with [them], we played with MC Frontalot, we played with Electric Eel Shock from Japan. We chose the bands and we made the festival.
How did it go?
The festival started Saturday – it was like a Peelander family jamboree, so only kids and family. We turned down the sound because there were so many kids. We got a taco vendor, we got an ice cream vendor, and we played with a kids brass band, like an old-style showcase. We spent a super happy time in Austin, Texas.
On their live show: “So even if you don’t like our music, because it sounds like two chord, three chord, Ramones style, you’ll love our performance.”
Now that’s interesting that you had a family jamboree. A lot of people might not know that you actually put out a punk rock children’s album last year, right?
Yeah, we covered ‘EE-I-EE-I-O.’ You know that song?
Yeah, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
So we had a dance with them, we carried people onto the stage and danced with them and then screamed with them. Kids happy means the parents are happy, and then we’re happy.
So you guys are on tour for a little bit longer?
Yeah after that we come back, there’s a Boston [date], then two months all over the US [in support] of the new album, Space Vacation.
Speaking of the live show, I imagine the kids love it because it’s energetic, and sometimes, from some of the videos I’ve seen, a little TOO energetic – have you ever gotten hurt during a live show doing some of the stunts that you attempt?
Yeah yeah, we’re only playing – you’ve seen the show right?
Yeah, you actually do a little wrestling, and crowd diving, and all sorts of stuff.
Yeah we do the limbo dance, jumping rope, we do baseball because we love baseball. Maybe the Red Sox against Peelander-Z when we play in Boston.
I hate to break it to you, but I think the Red Sox can beat you…
[Laughs] How about just a baseball camp, then?
Are you still doing the wrestling stuff on stage, or not so much anymore?
Yeah, I mean, I want to, ideally, do the wrestling. Do you know our Big Squid? [editor’s note – a giant stage prop]
I’ve seen pictures of the Big Squid, but I haven’t seen it in action.
So he loves moving and listening, and if you come on stage you can chop him, because he’s a nice guy – if you chop at him he’s [still] smiling. He’s a crazy – he loves listening.
For our readers who might not be familiar with the band, could you explain a little about the costumes and the imagery, and why you choose to portray the characters that you do?
I mean, I love music, but we [also] love comics [and] Power Rangers. I want to do something on stage, so music is just 10% and 90% is performance, so we want to bring our favorite things; we want to eat steak, that’s why we made a song called ‘S.T.E.A.K.’ We want to do dancing like Power Rangers, so we choose these colors and the dancing on stage. Our answer is if we want to do the something – if we want to do the music – we bring another something to add to it. So Peelander-Z is a band, but we bring, out of music, we bring everything on stage. That’s our answer. So even if you don’t like our music, because it sounds like two chord, three chord, Ramones style, you’ll love our performance. So we [want to please]. Please come to see our show, and enjoy our show.
You said it’s two or three chord Ramones style music – and I think that’s true to an extent – but you guys do take the music seriously, and I think people should know that. That’s true, right?
Yeah, our songs are just easy songs – like you know the song ‘So Many Mike?’
We just scream, ‘So many Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike,’ because I have a cell phone, [and] inside my cell phone [there are] fourteen Mikes, all over the United States. It’s always [confusing], ‘Oh, which Mike? Mike, Mike.’ That’s why I made a song. Our keyword is very easy, that way even if you don’t know our songs, you come see our show and you can scream, very easily. So bring your parents, bring your kids, bring your pets…but leave your ice cream, because we have ice cream.
Now I know the last time we talked you tried to convince me that the band came from another planet – and both you and I know that’s not true – but you did come to New York from Japan. Was it difficult adjusting to a new environment, to living in a different part of the world?
Yeah that’s one thing… So when we go to tour, we always eat pizza, or hamburgers – I really love pizza and hamburgers – but Japanese people need rice, so we had to carry a rice cooker on tour, and then we made miso soup every day. That’s just one reason it’s very hard: we had to bring a [special] rice cooker from Japan.
So let’s get back to the music – I know you have the new record, Space Vacation. Could you tell us a little bit about the songwriting process? Is it collaborative, or do you do it yourself?
I make [each song] myself first, singing, singing, singing, and then I bring everyone together. My style is always [based upon when] I’m on tour and I see something. If really want to eat tacos, I make a taco song.
I’m familiar with the taco song [‘Taco Taco Tacos’], yes.
Yeah I really love [that one]. I really like [sunglasses] and then I want to scream, ‘Glasses, go!’ and, ‘Glass, glass, glass’ so I also made a new song, ‘Get Glasses.’ My ideas are pretty easy. Space Vacation is all about space, so basically the story is Peelander promised to the Earth we get a space vacation.
Yeah, so all the songs are about space vacations, stuff that happens inside the Peelander starship, and then we come to the Earth and fall in love with someone, then we’re back to our planet. All the songs are pretty and happy.
When you’re in the studio do you guys spend a lot of time recording?
Not really. We recorded last year in Austin, Texas. It’s a new kind of album because we used electronic drums and a spacey keyboard. So all of the songs have kind of a New Wave style.
That’s a little bit different for you guys.
Yeah, [it's] different from the last [record]. Yeah, all the songs are about space; there’s a ‘Big Bang’ song, ‘Under Zero Gravity,’ there’s a galaxy song…
So there’s a theme – it’s a concept album.
Yeah, all the songs are about space.
Why am I not surprised?
[Laughs] And then also like a cover, ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun.’
Yeah that’s an interesting choice for a cover. Why did you choose that song?
We wanted a happy song from the early ’80s – Pink [editor’s note – the Peelander-Z band member, not the pop singer] really wanted to sing the same song – and we chose [it] because it’s about partying and [being] happy, and everyone knows it. We made a more spacey sound; we picked this song because it’s [really literal] and [fits our style].
It seems very appropriate, somehow. So Pink sings vocals on that track?
Yeah yeah, this is the best one. It’s a single, for sure.
So you’re still on tour, you’ve got the new record out – what do you see for the future of the band?
We’re thinking the next recording [session will be] soon, maybe July. This tour was a long tour, two months, and now we’re back in New York, so we’ll do the next recording, I hope. Then, in the fall we have another tour.
So you guys are keeping busy?
We are real tuna fish, because if we stop, we die.
Will you be releasing that on Chicken Ranch as well?
Yeah we’re going through Chicken Ranch again, we love Chicken Ranch.
Tell us about your relationship with the label. Do they pretty much let you do whatever you want, creatively?
Yeah they help a lot, that’s why we want to work with them. Chicken Ranch, they are not a [greedy] label, they’re thinking of our future, always. So we’re [going to record with them in Austin]. I have tons of friends over there and they help us in [any way] they can. [On] the new album [they suggested] we write a ballad song, I think you would love it, it’s called, ‘Love Love Peelander-Z.’ We have friends over there, so we’re happy recording over there [in Austin].
You’ve really invented your own genre of comic book punk rock. Do you see yourselves staying with that sort of music, or maybe experimenting more with the New Wave stuff?
We are Japanese-action-comic-entertainment. It’s a little funny, that’s why I say comic. Actually we made a comic, like a real Peelander comic book – the front page is like a Ramones jacket.
On adding new elements to their sound: “It’s a new kind of album because we used electronic drums and a spacey keyboard. So all of the songs have kind of a New Wave style.”
The front looks like a Ramones cover?
Yeah, John Holmstrom [did the art] – he really loves us and works with us right now. So yeah, we have a comic book and animation. I love Pokémon and that’s why I chose yellow [for my costume]. Somebody had to choose Pokémon and I chose Pokémon because I love yellow.
I see. Now last year when you and I spoke, the earthquake in Japan had just happened. How is your family doing and how is everything over there now?
Actually, my family lost their house in the Kobe earthquake [years ago] so this time [they] were OK, they’re more West – everyone in my family is fine over there, but [many people] over there lost something, so I’m sad. I can’t do anything from here, that’s why I want to do a good show, a beautiful show, here. I want to send my energy to them. We are very small, [but we're trying] to be very big so we can say something [that reaches them].
I that know you’re touring the States for the next couple months, and you’ll be on tour again in the fall. Do you ever get a chance to go back and perform in Japan at all?
Yeah I really want to go. But we want to be famous here and then go back to Japan and play a big, big show in Japan. That’s one of our dreams: I want to bring everybody to Japan, including you.
I’ll come! If you pay for my ticket, I will come on tour with you in Japan – we’ll have a great time.
It’ll be a big show; I want to bring everybody from here to there.
Is there anything else that you want to say to our readers?
Peelander-Z plays very hard; please, please come to see what happens at our show, come to see by your eyes and then you can hear something from me. It’s weird but if you come to see our show you’ll understand what I want to say. So Peelander-Z needs you, and you need us. I’m so happy with Performer Magazine, baby!
An Conversation with Anchor Eighty Four CEO Cody Jones
LA-based Anchor Eighty Four Records was first established in January 2010, after CEO Cody Jones moved from Northern California to seek a more business-oriented musical career at Epitaph Records. A musician himself, Jones crafted Anchor Eighty Four with the sensibilities of an experienced performer, the durability and dedication of a skateboarder, and the no-nonsense resourcefulness of a punk rocker. The label released a compilation album following its emergence and has been going strong ever since. With signed bands such as A Shipwreck A Castaway, What Hands Are For, and Hear The Sirens, Anchor Eighty Four is building momentum – but never losing sight of its creed: Supporting bands that are hardworking, genuine, and optimistic. Performer had the chance to speak with Jones last month to better understand how his experiences were refined into a self-sufficient and successful record label.
Anchor Eighty Four, Jones expressed, is all about a commitment to the underground scene, pushing bands to exceed limitations and promoting the little fish in a vast and churning sea of music. “Los Angeles,” Jones says, “is really large, and even being part of the music community it’s still very hard to get a good venue out here; there are so many bands competing and the promoters kind of take the top tier, you know, because they need to make money and they need to fill venues. So for some smaller bands its very hard to get a good gig.” Coming from Jones, this idea seemed so much less a gloomy state of affairs and more so a steady challenge (read: the fundamental driving force behind his label).
“I’ve noticed that a lot of kids get their band together, they write their demo and then send that in, and want to be signed. That’s not really how it works.”
Having played in a myriad of bands before shifting into music business, Jones has seen a healthy share of the scene: starting in a punk cover band, writing originals and moving on through hardcore, metal, and rock. “I think that [experience] helps [me] to know where my artists are at. I’ve been there. I’ve done some touring and recording and playing live shows and putting out our own records – so I know what these guys are going through.” Jones explains. “When I sign a band and, you know, they have all these ideas and aspirations – the things that they want to do – I totally get where they’re coming from and want to help them out.” As countless innovators before him, Jones wishes to create a resource that wasn’t ever there when he was playing music. “That’s my main focus: just to be that helping hand and give these bands an extra push.”
Another key element for Jones is the integration of varied artistic media. “I definitely see Anchor Eighty Four gravitating toward more of a collective,” Jones says. “Branching out, because of my roots in skateboarding and music, you know, and incorporating those worlds: bringing music to the art world and bringing music to the skateboarding world – and vice versa, bringing all of that into Anchor Eighty Four.” An excellent example of this is an event the label put together last year, DIY Eighty Four, held at Backside Clothing in Echo Park. The event featured live performances by What Hands Are For and Rob Roy and also highlighted visual art by Tyler Jones, which was displayed around the clothing store. DIY Eighty Four successfully picked up a few sponsors, generated good turnout, and brought artists of all walks together in one place – a success, collectively.
With several bands in the studio right now, a few label showcases, and tour plans, Anchor Eighty Four is heating up some good stuff. The summer schedule is at max capacity with Heart to Heart embarking a two-month tour alongside Last Call, Jones details, and Lincoln, Nebraska’s No Tide finishing up a Midwest run before hitting the West Coast – only to blast over to the East Coast following with Storm the Bay. Tour frequency dictates fan volume and helps to reach different audiences, says Jones, and Performer has to agree.
Jones’ advice on advancing your career: “Keep writing, because the stuff you write today is going to be better than the stuff you wrote yesterday – whether you use it or not, keep writing. Always be playing shows. Play outside of your hometown as much as possible; a lot of bands get kind of stuck and they just play the four venues that are in their hometown, they don’t get out much, and wonder why they’re not progressing, why they’re not signed.” This is sage advice in a digital age that allows musicians expansive communication, but also the opportunity to cloister themselves from the world, including their (potential) fans.