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Best Coast covers “Rhiannon”

9 Aug

It wasn’t until a week after their US Open performance that I discovered Best Coast covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” for the tribute album “Just Tell Me That You Want Me”, which also includes performances by Lykke Li, Washed Out and MGMT. There’s been a lot of internet hate for their cover, but I think it’s beautiful. They turned a classic, a favorite of mine, into a pop-y, beach-y version that is all their own. While I don’t think it’s as good as the original (they never are) I thoroughly enjoy it and think the haters need to find more constructive ways of expressing their discontent than proclaiming Best Coast never should have attempted this. I’m glad they did.

What do you think?

Tourist in My Backyard: Best Coast @ the US Open

9 Aug

Courtesy of the beautiful Lisa Aoyagi

I absolutely adore Best Coast. Their angst-driven lyrics about unrequited love and the pitfalls of dating make me wish I had their tunes to comfort me when I was in high school. And “Summer Mood” epitomizes California garage-pop and makes me feel understood and close to home even when I’m in a far-off land.

When I heard they were playing a free show at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach I had to play hooky from work – there was no way I was going to sit in an office when I could have a quintessential Orange County experience in Surf City, USA. Best Coast didn’t go on until 5:30 PM so we made a day of it. The cooler was full of Blue Moons and my flask was full of vodka. We parked miles away from the beach in a residential area to avoid the insanely inflated event parking fees and sipped our libations as we walked to the beach.

The US Open itself was pretty anti-climatic, even though we stood on the wet shore just a few yards from the action. The beach was packed with locals, tourists and teeny-boppers, who couldn’t have been older than 16 and were wearing unflattering and uncalled-for Brazilian-cut bathing suits with obnoxious writing all over their bodies proudly displaying their phone numbers or the words “free hugs”, “single” or some kind of ridiculous hash tag. I prayed to God I would not run into my 18-year-old sister because if I saw her dressed like that I would have to bury her in the sand until I could find her a cover-up.

Just before the show started we left the half-naked kiddie display to grab a drink on Main Street. We ended up at Sharkeez and ordered Long Island Iced-Teas that tasted like lemonade and cost $8. Do not go there. The chips were stale and the $7 shots weren’t even an ounce. Thank God for my flask…

When it was time we joined the herd and pushed our way through the massive, tightly packed crowd from the side of the stage and tried our best to get as close to the front as we could. The crowd waited anxiously for the threesome to appear and wailed as lead singer Bethany Cosentino started strumming her guitar. Do not be fooled by Best Coast’s surfer-stoner vibe or they’re less than perfect acoustic renditions – they have serious talent and are even better live because you can hear the full depth of their sound. Their “I Want To” and “Boyfriend” performances made me fall in love with these songs even harder because I got to feel them and at one point I found myself dancing so hard I bumped into my poor neighbors.

Best Coast is moody, melodic and punky but watching them perform as I swayed, singing along with sand between my toes, felt like the proper way to experience this band. Their name is Best Coast after-all and here we were – on the coast.

Black Lips @ The Galaxy

25 Nov

(Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 19th, 2011 for OC Music Magazine)

There wasn’t a moment during the Black Lips show at the Galaxy last Sunday when a fan didn’t jump onstage. They weaved in and out of the mics, kissed the lead singers, and danced, before diving into the crowd so hard their shoes went flying.

They threw their bras onstage, stole the mic and sang, and took off their shirts and swung them over their heads. Security guards looked the other way, but if someone hung around too long, they’d push them back into the crowd or escort them off stage by their arms and legs.

The high energy was so infectious that even singer/guitarist Cole Alexander stage-dived, bringing his guitar with him. It felt as though there were no rules, and the song “Bad Kids,” off the Good Bad Not Evil album, seemed to be the night’s anthem.

The Black Lips formed in Atlanta, Georgia back in 2000 and in eleven years they’ve put out six albums – each different from the last. These Southern boys, who describe their sound as “flower punk,” are far more punk than flower, though their recordings would have you believe otherwise. Their psychedelic, country, doo wop, and indie influences never seem to overpower their true punk nature, but you’d only know this if you saw them play live. They’re the kind of band that has to be experienced with all the senses – maybe that’s why over fifteen girls ran onstage to steal kisses during the show.

By the time it was over, everyone in the pit was drenched in sweat – their faces flushed, and grinning from ear to ear. It was the experience teen-aged punks have wet dreams about, but you had to be twenty-one to get in.

Inspired by the anarchist mood of the evening, I seized the opportunity to sneak backstage when I saw the door to its entrance swing open and the security guard walk away. Read on for the post-show interview with bassist/singer Jared Swilley:

A: So how do you feel about all these girls jumping on stage and trying to kiss you?

J: (He laughs) Well, tonight my girlfriend was on stage behind me but I always try to pull away from it anyway.

A: What’s your favorite part of performing?

J: Usually when the show’s over, that’s best part. It’s a good feeling. I didn’t have much schooling but its like if you take an exam and you know you aced it, and you’re done with it, it’s like there’s no more cramming or studying – you’re done.

A: What’s been your favorite place to perform so far?

J: In the world? Oh, that’s hard to say. There’s so many places – I guess New York is cool, and Tokyo. Big cities, they’re fun. Small towns are fun too. We’re not really in a small town right now though so…

A: Well it’s Orange County so it’s kind of like the greater LA area…

J: Yeah. It’s cool here. I like the youth of Orange County. They’re like real punk – I enjoy it.

A: I saw you guys perform at the El Rey on Valentine’s Day like four years ago and this show was completely different. It was much more of a punk scene. Everyone was jumping onstage and I feel like last time it was more…

J: Well the El Rey is kind of strict. But yeah, Orange County is fun.

A: How do you feel about people jumping on stage? Do you ever get worried, because they’re hitting your mic and…

J: I like it, the only thing I worry about it, sometimes, is I don’t have dental insurance so like the mic is right there but I’m really good at balancing it with my knee, so when I see someone running I catch it real quick. But you don’t want a mic in your mouth because then your teeth are out.

A: Yeah, and it ruins the whole show.

J: And it’s a lot of money.

A: What’s your least favorite part of touring?

J: I guess the no sleep part kind of sucks. Touring is really fun. The only bad parts of it are like what’s shitty about anybody’s day. Like oh, I’m tired, I have to wake up. So it’s not really shitty at all.

A: Does it ever get to the point where it feels like a job?

J: No, this is the most bullshit job. It’s the most awesome job.

(The lead singer of Bleached walks up)

J: I’m really glad you guys got to play tonight.

B: I know, it’s the best. I lost my voice.

J: I can’t believe I have my voice still. Losing your voice, that’s what sucks about touring.

A: What’s your remedy?

J: Well I learned it from a long line of old soul singers from Atlanta. Mighty Hannibal taught me this trick that he and James Brown and Sam Cooke used to do. It’s just white vinegar and cayenne pepper and you shake it up and gargle it before you sing. It’s not a cure-all but it’ll get you through. And boiled ginger, that works well. I just boil ginger all day and drink the water. It’s good.

A: You guys are from Georgia. How do you think that affected the development of your sound?

J: I grew up with a lot of gospel and like country music and my father is a preacher and I grew up in the church, like singing and so I guess just like traditional music. I actually live in California now. The other guys live in Atlanta. I’m a Californian.

A: What do you think? It’s very different, right?

J: It’s cool. It’s just a different vibe. I don’t know, Southerners are different from Californians. There’s no Southerners here – I haven’t met one yet. But it’s cool, endless summer, I dig it. Tacos…

(A guy comes up and asks if Jared would make his boyfriend’s dream true and take a picture with him.)

(“Of course,” Jared says, and makes sure he’s given me enough of his time before he leaves.)

J: Alex?…

A: Yes?

J: It was a pleasure meeting you.

He shakes my hand and walks away.

What a Southern gent…

Lyric Breakdown: ‘I Hope There’s Love’ by Dr. Dog

21 Nov

photo: Michael Forester

There are some songs that are so painfully beautiful, so lyrically sound that they speak to that dark place inside of you the way nothing else can. They articulate the human experience in such a pithy, honest way that you no longer feel like you’re going through it alone.

We turn to these songs each time we need that cathartic release because we’ve become numb to our emotions or situations. For me, that song is ‘I Hope There’s Love’ by Dr. Dog. I think it is an example of brilliant songwriting and is the perfect breakup song, but it also applies to falling-outs of any sort, or those times when you feel like you no longer know yourself.

Scott McMicken is a true poet and ‘I Hope There’s Love’ is just one of the many Dr. Dog songs that represent the power of music and lyrics.

Listen to the song whilst reading the lyrics and you’ll see what I mean.

‘I Hope There’s Love’ by Dr. Dog:

I don’t want to fight.
I don’t see no point, we will never get it right.
So, what do you think in the middle of the night,
When you’re all alone’

Will you pick another town,
And pick up and leave once you’ve burned your bridges down
Until the point when you’re sleeping on the ground
And the whole world is out of your reach’

Well you learn how to talk.
Like a baby, you learn to walk the walk,
But in the end it’s just you in the dark
Did you learn who you are’

Well something broke that I can’t seem to mend.
‘Cause somethings break before they bend
I hope there is love at the end of your day to take you away.

When you tell a lie,
Can you look in the mirror and see it in your eye’
Who to do you fool with the things that you hide’
Is it for your sake or mine’

Well I can’t wear your shoes
Nah they just wouldn’t fit I’ve got too much to lose
By walking so fast when you can’t pick and choose.
The people you walk on

Well I know an old band
And I know your face like the back of my hand
And I hope that maybe you will understand
That I don’t know who you are anymore

Well something broke that I can’t seem to mend.
Cause somethings break before they bend.

Davis Fetter: The Interview

17 Sep

                                                                                                                            Photo: Haley Reed

Davis Fetter was the creative force behind Venus Infers but he’s recently decided to step out on his own. He’s foregone his previously enigmatic presence and now records songs that peer directly into his soul. Read on as Fetter opens up about his involvement with Venus Infers, how he’s never really been in love and how he’s transitioned from a guitarist and songwriter to a one-man band.

A: People are always comparing you to other artists, from Bono to Julian Casablancas. Does that make you feel like you’re being stereotyped? Like you’ve been put into a box?

D: People come at you with comparisons all the time. Like a fan will say I like your song because it reminds me of this and I think that’s cool because that means they’re personalizing it, but if they’re comparing it in a bad way and dismissing it because it’s a derivative of something else, that’s not as fun but I think it’s okay.

I always think if people are listening then my job is done, I’ve gotten them to listen to it. You can’t force people to like your music, you can only have them interact with it how they want to and that’s the beauty of music. Everyone is going to have their own personal taste.

Music is funny because people take it so personally, even when they’re not creating it. And it can mean everything or nothing at the same time, to two different people. For me, there’s certain artists that everything they’ve ever done or will do I’ll probably love.

A: Who would those people be?

D: Anything that Morrissey is involved with. I have everything the Smiths have ever created except for maybe a couple random B-sides. They’re my all-time favorite band but definitely like the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, John Lennon – all the greats.

A: I love Lou Reed and when I saw your older band’s name, Venus Infers, I thought that had to be a play on the Velvet Underground song, Venus In Furs.

D: Definitely. I always loved that song but I thought it represented American psychedelic music in the best way. Lyrically it’s cool and you can delve way into it and get creeped out, or you can take it for pop music and enjoy it.

I think that’s the coolest thing about Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s stuff. It can be kind of twisted and dark or it can be like poetry and observations, or pop music.

A: I was checking out your YouTube channel and from the songs you covered it’s evident that you have an eclectic taste in music and a good range of your voice. Was it hard for you to find your own unique style and develop your voice?

D: Oh man, I’m learning everyday. I picked up a guitar when I was young but I never wanted to be a singer and I only started singing about 4 years ago. When I started Venus Infers I was just writing the songs, and then from writing more and more I would get into the scene just to hear how they should go and then slowly but surely just kind of kept going with it and here I am.

Those covers, they’re just for fun. I always play those songs live. I like picking songs that are either requests or just songs that I’m really into. Lyrically, vocally, it’s a challenge for me, wanting to sing like Hank Williams, or try to sing like James Brown. It’s just trying to sing like these guys that I really look up to.

A: Do you think your ability to sound like them has actually helped you find your own voice?

D: Yes and no. When I first started learning other people’s songs, that’s when I was playing guitar and I was real little and that was just about learning exactly perfect. Like every Buddy Holly song I learned on guitar, I learned it perfectly. And then I played them from time to time and now I sing them, sort of how the artist would have done, it but I try to put my own little spin on it. It’s almost like I try to emulate it so that I can change it when I play the song.

A: There’s a quote on your Myspace about how much you love singles. Why do you think you like singles so much?

D: I think the root of it all is probably from my parents giving me their collections, 45, singles. It’s just about discovering bands through one good song at a time. I feel like sometimes you can get more from a single than a whole album. I see the counter argument, I can hear my friends saying, no, fuck you man, Love’s ‘Forever Changes’ was amazing from start to finish and there are great albums out there, of course, I have them, but singles are rad because at the birth of rock and roll and pop music you got one song at a time because that’s how it was released. You got to really listen to that song and just get it, and absorb it.

I really like pop music and I think it has a negative connotation to it now but over time pop music was the best music, for me anyway. When I say pop, I don’t mean Lady Gaga necessarily, but I mean like Elvis, and Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, the Beatles and John Lennon, all the great artists that we’ve ever known.

You get that mood, you get that vibe because whoever created that single they were thinking, okay let me say what I need to say as concise and simple as possible. I think in a modern way, pop stars kind of dumb down the audience, but the classic greats were more like, no, let me give the audience the best and most concise version of what I have to say.

I was talking to a friend of mine who’s getting a PhD in Russian and we were talking about Russian propaganda and how it’s very succinct and simple but there’s so much message inside one phrase. I feel like singles are the same way because at least for me, one song will affect me more than the whole album. And also with me going under my own name, I want people to digest the song and get the message because I write hundreds of songs but it takes a while to get that one song that 10 others were trying to say.

Photo: Haley Reed

A: When you say now you’re going by your own name, did Venus Infers break up or were you playing with the guys and now you’re stepping into the limelight as just yourself?

D: Venus Infers was what I liken to Bright Eyes. It was the same situation – Conor Oberst wrote the songs and then put a band together. In Venus Infers, I was the only full-time member in the group and I wrote the songs, wrote the lyrics, wrote the music. It was a collective of artists. A few of the guys stayed in for quite some time, like a couple of years, but it was always my intent to write songs under a pseudonym.

A: And why do you think you needed to write under a pseudonym?

D: I think because at the time it was my first stab at writing and I was probably just nervous to go out on my own. At first it was kind of freeing because if you look at the entire Venus Infers catalogue, it was all over the place. There were albums with two different singers, 4 EPs where I was singing and then I had different musicians playing on the record.  Any whacky idea I had, I could pursue.

When I started writing songs a year ago, they were so personal and so focused and I was kind of like, whoa, this might not work for Venus Infers. These songs were about very real things that I’ve experienced so I thought I’d almost be doing a disservice to the listener if it wasn’t from me.

A: I heard you were chosen on the Locals Only playlist on KROQ?

D: My first single ‘Euphoria’ was just played a few weeks ago and then I had 3 singles released on KROQ that I did with Venus Infers. I’m really excited about my new song ‘L.O.V.E.’ because it’s kind of inspired by Roy Orbison.

In the studio I’m really into the 50s and the 80s, as far as recorded sound. It’s like the two decades I feel are the most unique in sound: the 50s being the most raw version of recorded pop music and the 80s being the height of recording technology. So when I recorded ‘I See Love,’ to me the chords and the message of the song make it a 50s song but the guitar pedals and the technology that we used was 80s technology.

Photo: Haley Reed

A: In that same quote where you professed your love for singles you also talked about how all your songs are about love. Do you find it easier to write when you’re in love or in lust? Or when you’re in some sort of love-induced turmoil?

D: I’ve seen it all and I’ve written about it all. I have 10 songs recorded and finished but I’m releasing them one at a time and I’m hoping people see the progression. ‘Euphoria’ is about looking for that feeling of perfection, basically longing for love. But ‘I See Love’ is a little bit darker like, ‘man, everyone is so happy and everyone is in love and I’m not.’ You’re out and about and you see a couple…

A: And you almost resent them…

D: You go through these emotions right? You get envious, you get jealous and then you might hate them and then you realize, ah, I’m happy for them.

This next single called ‘L.O.V.E.’ is about losing love – a break up song so to speak, which definitely did happen. I feel like ‘Euphoria’ is about how I’ve never really been in love. I’ve said the word before but I don’t think it was that pure, unconditional love where you lose yourself and you find yourself.

To answer your question, I’ve never been in a situation romantically where I’m like, I’m so happy, let me write about it. I’m just trying to write about what’s real to me. It’s easier when you’re hurt or you’re longing or searching for love to write about it, because I’m still searching for it. That romantic love between two people, I’ve never really had that.

I’m old school and I like 50s music so I believe in romance and when I was in college and reading Shakespeare, I believed that stuff and I still do. I think it’s harder to find these days, I think our society right now is a bit troubled and love is kind of a gray area for most people these days but I still believe and hope it’s out there.

I made a list to myself about all the songs I wrote about and the one thing I didn’t write about was love and I was like, holy shit, what’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I tackled that subject? I started thinking about it a lot and trying to get out exactly how I feel and what I ended up with was, yeah I don’t think I ever really have been in love and I really want to fall in love, but I think I’ve never been there so maybe I can write about that. I think, if I can’t say I love you, maybe I can still write about, you give me ‘Euphoria.’

 (Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

Peaches @ Freak City

9 Sep

Peaches made her grand entrance to the DJ Extravaganza Festival at Freak City in Hollywood dressed in a nude body suit adorned with a coat of breasts – complete with dark areolas and Barbie doll heads for nipples.

The notorious ‘glam-shock’ headliner is known for her sexually explicit lyrics and the bulbous growths on her shoulders were tame in comparison to her Fatherfucker,Impeach My Bush, and I Feel Cream album titles.

Though the crowd had already been dancing to the electro-filled sets of BLOK, Tearist, Cherie Lily, and Vice Cooler for just under two hours, they summoned their remaining energy and rocked even harder when Peaches took the stage.

The 44-year-old performer, whose real name is Merrill Beth Nisker, teased her fans throughout the show by alternating performances of her cult-like hits such as “Boys Wanna Be Her” and “Talk to Me” with DJ sets– a move that may have disappointed her die-hard fans.

Consequently, Peaches relied heavily on outlandish gimmicks and her dancers to supplement the action while she tended to her turntables. After several wardrobe changes, one of the dancers climbed atop the table onstage and took a chainsaw to her metal chastity belt, sending sparks flying everywhere while Peaches cheered in the background.

When she did leave the DJ table, she’d shake up a bottle of champagne and douse the audience before taking a few swigs out of the bottle. At one point, she pulled a guy dressed in an Alien costume, from the Alien vs. Predator movies, onstage, to serenade him and make out with his mask.

It was a night filled with absurdity, sex, and rock n’ roll, and Freak City couldn’t have been a more perfect venue. It’s one of those places that instantly transports you to a different state of mind with its neon graffiti, dark corridors, and David Bowie-meets-Fresh Prince vibe.

In the early morning hours the DJ Extravaganza Festival came to its close, but the dance party and debauchery that ensued throughout the night would have made the Club Kids of the 90s proud. The night culminated with Peaches last song, “Fuck The Pain Away” and everyone belted out its iconic line: “suckin’ on my titties like you wantin’ me, callin’ me all the time…” and beaming smiles were seen all around.

If you didn’t leave the show panting, covered in cigarette smoke, sweat, or champagne then something was seriously wrong with you. Peaches, along with the rock gods, would have been disappointed.

(Originally published in  OC Music Magazine)

The Sounds @ The U.S. Open

14 Aug

The Sounds frontwoman, Maja Ivarsson, is a rockstar in every sense of the word. She marches onstage as the band starts playing, clapping her hands to the beat, and you’re instantly compelled to follow her lead. The crowd brims with anticipation as the claps get more intense, when suddenly, she opens her mouth and the lyrics finally come out.

With shaggy platinum blonde hair, a black leather jacket, matching heels, and a dangerously short romper, Maja epitomizes the female take on rock n’ roll and has the attitude to match. The Swedish babe riles up the crowd throughout the show, kicking her legs high in the air or dropping to the floor – wherever the music takes her.

In between songs she’ll grab a cigarette and puff away or take a few sips from her mysterious plastic cup. She drops f-bombs the way Valley girls say ‘like’ and she’ll call out the crowd if they aren’t rocking out hard enough.

She sticks with her post-punk indie-rock roots, though the sound of their latest album Something to Die For is much more electronic. It’s not surprising that three fans were arrested during last week’s free show at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

When the first crazed fan ran onstage, bolting for Maja, she gave the star a hug and tried for a kiss but was dragged offstage – fighting back the whole way. But when the same fan somehow snuck onstage again, this time with a friend, Maja was noticeably freaked out and gracefully ran from the kooky girls without compromising the song.

The show must go on, as they say.

And it did: complete with more ballsy fans stage diving and crowd surfers wearing nothing but skimpy bathing suits.

The Sounds wrapped up their set with “Living in America” off their 2002 debut album of the same name and Maja said they’d be back in the fall doing a tour, but the fans were not satisfied. From the moment the song ended, they chanted, “One more song!” and were disgusted when the wannabe-‘E!’-network-hosts came onstage to announce the winners of the Invisalign Teen ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ award.

Everyone booed and irritated fans started leaving. The obviously inexperienced hosts didn’t know how to handle the crowd and one of them screamed, “Relax, we got you. Jesus! I want ya’ll loud when these people get their awards or I’m telling The Sounds to go home.”

The opposing crowd finally gave up and feigned interest as the kids ran onstage to grab their checks.

The things we’ll put up with for a free concert.

When the Sounds finally made their way back onstage, the energy between the musicians and the crowd was as strong as when the set opened and the fans’ patience was awarded with two songs: “Tony The Beat” and “Hope You’re Happy Now.”

When the songs were over, Maja proclaimed, “Thank you. The Sounds love you and we’ll be back in the fall!”

Check back on OCMM for Orange County tour dates.

(Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

Kinski Gallo: The Interview

4 Aug

Monte Negro is a bilingual Spanish/English rock band that is currently on their six-week, 47-stop, cross-country ‘Longest Day Tour.’ OCMM caught up with the LA-based band, who describe their sound as world beat with splashes of eclecticism, as they rode in their tour van on the way to their next gig.

Lead singer and songwriter, Kinski Gallo, tells us about the difficulties of being in a genre that has yet to become mainstream, what life is like on the road, and how music has affected his life from its very beginning.

A: Where are you guys right now?

K: We are actually an hour away from Atlanta. We play a show there tonight.

A: So far, how does this tour compare to previous tours?

K: Well for one, we have a new drummer but in general, I think that every tour we try to learn from our past mistakes, like, what works for you and what works for everybody. A tour is so taxing so you try to create an environment of harmony because everybody needs their space.

This tour to me, so far, is a little more mellow. There’s no drama, even though it’s been crazy. We’ve had a flow to everything. We’ve played at a lot of places for the first time and it’s great because you play for new people, new fans, and you’re sort of challenged.

A: How is it different from your previous tours?

K: It’s more intense, but more organized, so it’s the best of both worlds. The other tour we did was three weeks, this is six weeks, so it’s a lot more cities to cover. And additionally we are playing more shows.

We have two days off every week and we play four gigs straight, so it’s definitely more intense in terms of playing more regularly, almost everyday. It can get pretty taxing for the soul and the body, especially the way we perform.

A: What do you do on your days off to recoup for the next set of shows?

K: Mostly we sleep and read and really just do mindless things – go for a walk. The kinds of things where you don’t have to deal with anyone, you sort of just turn it all off.

A: What would you say has been the highlight so far?

K: I think the highlight has been the Congress show in Chicago. There were 4,000 people and major screens, and it was just a proper rock show. It sort of sounds louder, it’s rock n’ roll, there’s moshing, and it’s beautiful.

A: How do you deal with homesickness? Or do you even get homesick?

K: Of course, you’re in a different place everyday, in a different hotel, and there’s no stability to it. And some of us are married.

Just getting out of your own space is a beautiful thing but it’s a commodity that you take for granted. We’re like everyone else but after you’ve done so many tours, you learn to surrender to the honor of it.

A: What’s your favorite thing about touring?

K: I love performing different songs to different people everyday. We try to change it around so that if people go to our shows two days in a row, they’ll experience a different show. Everything is just being able to have that chemistry between the people and the band. It becomes a well-oiled machine that’s very comforting. You enjoy it because they enjoy it, and it’s beautiful.

A: Can you tell me a little bit about how Monte Negro formed and the process that it’s taken to get to this point?

K: Monte Negro formed 12 years ago, and Rodax is my brother. He’s the bass player. We just kind of met randomly through one of my ex-girlfriend’s brothers who told me about [guitarist] Jason and said, “You’ve got to come see this kid play.” So I went to see him and the rest is just kind of history.

We signed to Sony Records, Epic Records, and then we were intensely touring the next three, four years going to Puerto Rico, Mexico, all over the U.S., and we went to Canada.

A: How has your sound evolved over time?

K: We were doing a lot of heavier stuff back in the day. We were doing the Warped Tour and after maybe four or five years, we realized the music we were doing was kind of one-dimensional and we wanted to make it more eclectic. So we started combining reggae, alternative – just everything we liked about music. And then we started becoming bilingual rather than just playing English and I think it was then that we came into our sound.

We always challenge each other and I think the beauty of it is that even though we try to stick to our ideas, we’re always very open and I think that as long as we have that in ourselves, we can continue to create and compromise.

A: Do you think that it’s hard being a bilingual rock band? That it’s maybe affected how mainstream you are?

K: Yes and no. I think that in general, good things take a while – like a good soup. In the United States, people are speaking in half-Spanish and half-English but I think in general, sometimes people feel threatened by another language. I believe though that when people begin to discover us, there’s a lot less resistance to listening to us. Those doors of stereotypes are broken down because I think music is universal. I listen to a lot of French music and African music, and I don’t necessarily understand it, but I think it creates a unanimous feeling.

I think it’s harder [being a bilingual band], but I think it’s a lot more rewarding because you realize that little by little, more people are coming that don’t even speak Spanish.

When I was little, the way we learned English was just listening to American music. I didn’t understand the words, but I could pronounce them.

A: I’ve actually heard that from a lot of bilingual or trilingual people – that growing up to listening music from other countries helped them build their language skills.

K: It’s definitely more enjoyable. You can sing along with it and you can get better pronunciation because you’re hearing it from a native.

I was born in Mexico, where my mother was from, but my father was from the United States so it’s one of those things where neither culture is better to me. They each have a lot of greatness to them and I’ve just picked the best of both worlds and applied them. I write in English and in Spanish and I think every language has a very poetic nature to it. That’s what’s always interested me about language, so I try to write in a serious manner.

A: What’s next for Monte Negro after this tour?

K: We are contemplating releasing a compilation record, and we have plans to go to Mexico in November. There’s another tour coming up there, and then we’re going to do another three-week tour in the States. After that, we’re going to Canada, and then I go to Paris for a while to do some shows out there, and Jason is going to Guatemala. He’s trying to learn more Spanish. Then it’s just more work – flowing with the constant motion and never really relaxing.

A: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?

K: I would say thank you for listening and keeping open-minded. Keep listening and keep finding music that excites you.

(Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

Wallpaper.: The Interview

30 Jul

As I walked up to the Detroit Bar just before sound check to meet Wallpaper.’s lead singer, Eric “Ricky” Frederick, I was surprised to see him without his trademark shades and fedora. He was a pared down version of the persona I’d seen in his #STUPidFACEDD music video, and I suddenly understood the symbolism of his band-name.

In a button-down shirt, rolled up jeans, and a pair of lace-up Tom’s, Ricky softly told me he was saving his voice, and we found a place to begin the interview. Everything I’d read and seen about Wallpaper. – that their music was the next big club-scene anthem, that the tracks off their recently-released LP have titles such as “Butt2butt” and “FUCKINGBESTSONGEVERRR” and that they were affiliated with the Jersey Shore somehow – just didn’t seem to match up with the person I saw before me.

It wasn’t until Ricky went onstage for the sound check that I saw where the members of Wallpaper. were coming from. They’ve got the soul and moves of James Brown, the hooky mixed-genre beats of modern pop, and a stronger rock n’ roll sound than their LP alludes to.

Ricky’s stage presence is strong and his energy is contagious. After The Hood Internet wrapped up a killer set and the crowd was primed for the headlining act, Ricky – now donning a white suit and his obligatory headwear – commanded the venue and had everyone dancing, jumping, and singing along. The absurdity of some of the lyrics and song titles somehow made sense and when the set ended with #STUPidFACEDD, I thought to myself, “This could be the next ‘I’m in Miami, Trick,’ by LMFAO, or ‘Paper Planes’ by M.I.A.” I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

Read on for the pre-show interview with Wallpaper. front-man, Ricky Friedman:

. . . . . . . . . .

A: Why the name Wallpaper.?

R: Pop music is wallpaper to me, or it has become that, I don’t think it’s always been that, but I’m trying to change that and make it something that we are more emotionally invested in.

A: How did you get started in the industry?

R: I started playing punk in middle school and high school and slowly got into touring and putting out records. I learned how to produce records when I was in high school – producing my rock band’s stuff. I played piano when I was a real little kid, so I have a background in a lot of weird ways, and then went to UC Berkeley and got a music composition degree and it all kind of just strangely turned into this.

A: When did you have your first break?

R: I feel like I haven’t had the break yet. I feel like for me I’ve been working for so long that it feels like a steady incline so I can’t sense any major changes – it’s just like things are always getting a little bit better, things are always a little bit bigger than they were before, but I don’t feel like there’s been that POW – that overnight explosion. I mean, I’m definitely not opposed to it, but right now it just feels like I’m working.

A: Do you think this upcoming tour will get you some of that exposure?

R: Yeah, I think that some of things that we have coming up – the MTV stuff and the Jersey Shore stuff – will probably help that, but I’ve been doing this for so long that if I think like that, like ‘Which thing is going to give me that cosmic burst,’ then I would be spinning my wheels. You always have to know that, I guess, you can’t think about the end, you have to think about the means to get there and the process and if you’re good in the moment and you’re good with the process, then things will work out.

A: Tell me a little more about the Jersey Shore/MTV stuff in the works…

R: I don’t really understand exactly how it all came together but, from my understanding, they thought that #stupidfacedd obviously fit the tone of the show so they’re going to give it a spin on the premiere episode, which is pretty exciting and pretty cool.

A: What was that moment like for you when your #STUPidFACEDD music video premiered on MTV?

R: Oh man, that was pretty wild. I sort of grew up on MTV. I was talking to my bandmates about this the other day: The show The Grind, on MTV, it was like this crazy club-dance show, I used to watch it every morning right before school from like third grade to fifth grade so I’m really like an MTV kid. Being involved with them almost has a sentimental element. It’s pretty cool to me.

A: Your LP comes out this week. What are you most looking forward to about that?

R: I’ve been working on these songs for a long time, there’s a lot of new things, a lot of new influences and I just like getting the music into the peoples’ hands.

A: What does stupidfacedd mean?

R: Stupidfacedd is the state of inebriation directly before blacking out or passing out, or before you get sick, it’s that pinnacle – that really special place where you feel fearless and you feel loving and you feel so attractive and time stands still and all your friends move in slow motion, all that stuff.

A: Is the pound sign in #STUPidFACEDD a pun on internet culture?

R: It’s a hash-tag for Twitter. I just thought that it made sense. A lot of people on Twitter will post something on a Friday night and put hash-tag drunk, you know?

A: Would you consider your lyrics satirical?

R: Satire is a very strange and a very specific word. I think that my lyrics are going to mean different things to different people. I think the meanings woven into my lyrics don’t need to be expounded upon by me. I want people to listen to them and get what they can get out it and it can go either way.

A: What do you do to prepare for a show?

R: Do sweet interviews. (We laugh, I blush) No, I just chill. I’ll have a whiskey or two and I’ll do some vocal warm ups, stretch out a little bit, have some Mexican food – that’s like every show, for sure.

A: The majority of your songs have references to drinking and partying, yet you told me earlier you were holding off on drinking tonight until after the show. Why is that?

R: Well, tonight I’m not. I usually will drink before the show but on this tour, we’re headlining and it’s longer sets so my throat’s a little sore. Post-show it goes down, big time.

A: What do you expect from your upcoming tour with AWOLNATION?

R: That’s going to be dope. I love Aaron, the singer from AWOLNATION, he’s great and I love summer touring. I love that everyone is sweaty in the van, in tank tops and board shorts, just getting gross. And the tour’s all through the South, through the dead of August so I’m looking forward to it.

A: Any last words for your impending fan-base?

R: I thought you were going to say impending doom. Uh, (he pauses) don’t fuck without a condom.

We laugh, he heads onstage for the sound check, and I make my way over to the merch table where dozens of free condoms in metal containers with Wallpaper. stickers on one side are displayed. Ah, now I get it…

(Originally published in  OC Music Magazine)

Pink Floyd Experience @ OC Fair

21 Jul

When I first heard I was going to cover the Pink Floyd Experience at the Orange County Fair, I immediately pictured a night filled with laser light shows and all the other trippy aesthetics that have become synonymous with the classic rock legend.

And when I heard PFX would be playing the entire Animals record and then some, I crossed my fingers and hoped to see the giant pig, from the 1977 album cover, floating above the Pacific Amphitheater at some point during the show.

However, my mistaken emphasis on the word ‘experience’ left me disappointed when I realized this was merely a tribute act and the only lights I would see were those shining on the band members and coming out of the projector screens on either side of the stage.

No– Roger Waters, Syd Barret, Nick Mason, Richard Wright and David Gilmour were nowhere to be found, and while PFX lead singer Howard Pattow’s vocal was impressive, it wasn’t quite good enough to make me forget I was watching a cover band.

Impervious to this, my fellow Pink Floyd fans filled the amphitheater and rocked out as lead guitarist Tom Quinn, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Howard Pattow, bassist Gus Beaudoin, saxophonist Jesse Molloy, keyboardist John Cox, and drummer John Staten put on one hell of a show.

As the sun went down, revelers with a beer in one hand and for some, a joint in the other, watched in amazement as Quinn and Molloy played near perfect guitar and sax solos. The crowd roared each time they recognized a track off the classic album and images of factory explosions, lava lamp goo, sheep, and a man with no eyes corresponded with the psychedelic songs and their philosophical lyrics.

“We just think this is some of the best music ever written,” said Pattow, who then played hits “Money,” “Time,” and “Comfortably Numb” off Floyd’s 1973 Dark Side of the Moon album and 1979 album, The Wall.

Call me a snob, but part of me cringed when the act concluded with a sing-a-long to “Another Brick in the Wall (Pt. II).” The guy next to me, a veteran Pink Floyd concert attendee who called himself “a rare fruit grower” and had the distinct smell of rum and coke on his breath, shared my sentiments and scoffed, “A sing-a-long?! Pink Floyd would never do that!”

He also screamed, “Where’s the fuckin’ laser show, man?” A kindred spirit, I guess.

So, is the ‘experience’ as good as the real thing? No, but it’s near impossible to be as good as the originals– it’s like going to a Doors concert without Jim Morrison or a Queen concert without Freddy Mercury.

Given what the guys of PFX are up against, they are a talented bunch that truly respect the original musicians and may just be Floyd’s biggest fans. Considering that two of the original members are now playing their “great gig in the sky,” PFX is the next best thing and a relatively inexpensive way to see the iconic songs performed live.

In the words of my newfound friend, “They’re good, but they ain’t Pink Floyd.”

(Originally published in OC Music Magazine)

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