Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 29: Everclear

Everclear, photo by Ashley Osborn

Everclear is a band that emerged in Portland, Oregon in 1991 in time for the first wave of alternative rock that decade. Main songwriter and frontman Art Alexakis had grown up in southern California and relocated to San Francisco for a time in the late 80s with his first wife where he established his music imprint Shindig Records. None of his musical projects at the time broke through and to get a fresh start, having not so then long ago got off drugs and newly a father, he moved to Portland, Oregon with his family where his wife had family and an important support system that makes life in a new city easier. Alexakis had a solo project turned band in Colorfinger and some songs he wrote during that period would make it into his next band’s repertoire. With Everclear, Alexakis would use his tumultuous life, challenging youth and great personal loss as the subject matter for especially raw and affecting songs. Everclear’s debut album 1993’s World of Noise was raw and real and recorded for a few hundred dollars. 2022 sees the remaster of the album for digital in June and for vinyl in the fall 2022 and its songwriting strikes as still relevant, poignant and powerful. By the time of the 1995 follow up Alexakis and company had a major label contract and a budget so that the resultant record Sparkle and Fade had much more professional production but the songwriter’s knack for pairing meaningful and deeply personal lyrics with solid hooks rooted in classic pop songcraft and Alexakis’ own eclectic background as an artist whose appreciation for country music melodies informed some of the most memorable songs of the decade including “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine,” “I Will Buy You A New Life” and “Everything to Everyone.” After three platinum albums throughout the latter half of the 90s the musical landscape had changed some even if Everclear kept writing quality material and the band disappeared from the world of mainstream music.

In 2014 Everclear announced its Summerland tour which brought together alternative rock bands popular in the mid-to-late 90s. Though a bit of a nostalgia tour it also proved there was still an appetite for that music even if it wasn’t dominating the commercial charts. All through the ups and downs of popularity Alexakis has been an insightful observer of humanity and culture with a pragmatic streak born of being a music industry veteran who has always had to advocate for himself and who has long advocated for other artists and humanitarian causes. In his music you hear the words of someone who projects vulnerability and sensitivity backed with a grit and strength that was necessary to make a life in rock and roll. Look for his autobiography in the coming years where you can read a plethora of a great stories from a colorful and eventful life.

Catch Everclear on Sunday, June 12, 2022 with Fastball and The Nixons at Ogden Theatre and listen to our interview with the engaging and witty Alexakis on the latest episode of the Queen City Sounds Podcast on Bandcamp linked below.

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 28: Hex Cassette

Hex Cassette at the Hi-Dive December 23, 2021, photo by Tom Murphy

Hex Cassette is an EBM/synth pop/confrontational industrial artist from Denver, Colorado. As the solo project of Zachary Jordan, Hex Cassette has been around since the mid-2010s and his gift for crafting fairly accessible, exuberant dance music with a darkwave flavor has garnered him a bit of a local following among people who not only appreciate his particular style of music but potentially of anyone that would like to see musicians engage with the crowd in a way that is aimed at blurring the line between performer and audience and sharing in a dissolving of a complacent dynamic in live music. His spirited shows involve wicked but benevolent humor including a comical needling of the audience and it wouldn’t be unusual to see Jordan not just roaming the stage but coming off stage with his animated style and bringing that energy into the crowd. His latest release is Pomegranate Death and while the themes of death and mortality and irreverence for stuffy, traditional religion and culture remains a feature from the music of Hex Cassette in general, the album is also one that injects into the mix expressions of hopefulness and seeking to live a vital existence. All set to some of the most vibrant electronic music you’re likely to hear all year.

Hex Cassette celebrates the release of the album on June 10, 2022 at Jester’s Palace with other local darkwave greats Church Fire and eHpH as well as experimental indie rock artist Pink Lady Monster. The show is also the tour kickoff for Hex Cassette who will be headed out on a mini-tour of the west where you will be able to purchase a, yes, cassette copy of Pomegranate Death. Listen to our interview with Jordan on Bandcamp linked below.

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 27: Elder Island

Elder Island, photo by Nic Kane

Elder Island is a trip-hop influenced trio from the home of that downtempo electronic music that emerged in the 90s in Bristol, UK where Katy Sargent, Luke Thornton and David Havard met at university. Starting life in the early 2010s as an experimental folk act its members had access to seeing the great electronic artists of their early days and inspired by the power of that music and its ability to stir emotions in ways different from the types of instruments you’d use to make even more avant-garde folk. But fusing the styles completely and arranging the music almost like a trip hop jazz lounge group, Elder Island’s debut album The Omnitone Collection was a set of lush, soulful, deeply atmospheric pop with surprisingly spare arrangements that left a great deal of room for experimenting with dynamics that invited the listener to project their imagination on to the open spaces of the music. At that point in the band’s history its three members were multi-instrumentalists who had learned to integrate its broad sonic palette with imaginative arrangements and creative production. The 2021 album Swimming Static was completed on either end of the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic with work done in between since Elder Island all lived together or nearby. The record reflected the band’s expanding access to analog synthesizers and the ability to freely incorporate those elements into the songwriting resulting in pop songs that have resonance with early analog synth artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and OMD as well as synth pop groups of the 80s and modern practitioners of the art of dramatic tonal and dynamic arrangements like Nation of Language and Perfume Genius.

Listen to our interview with Elder Island on Bandcamp and go see the UK trio at its shows in Denver at the Bluebird Theater on 5.20 and in Boulder at The Fox Theatre on 05.21.

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 26: ADULT.

ADULT. at Larimer Lounge 10/13/18, photo by Tom Murphy

ADULT. is an electronic duo from Detroit that has been evolving its blend of dark techno, noise and post-punk since forming in 1998. Early releases displayed the project’s affinity for early techno and around the time of its 2007 fourth album Why Bother? you could hear the experiments in production and soundscapes with beats that yielded fascinating results on the 2005 album Gimme Trouble turn into almost set pieces in an album with an almost cinematic aesthetic, like dynamic visual design translated directly into sound design and songwriting. Since then ADULT.’s releases have been more overtly political and commenting on aspects of culture and society that have been corrosive to human culture and civilization in an accelerating way that has also more or less made cataclysmic climate disaster in our lifetimes a foregone conclusion. Since signing with Dais, the hip experimental music imprint, ADULT.’s output has seemed even more intentional and focused in its critique starting with 2018’s This Behavior, to the 2020 album Perception is/as/of Deception and now to the 2022 album Becoming Undone. Nicola Kuperus and and Adam Lee Miller both have a background in the visual arts and punk and both come through in striking visuals for the album covers and promotional material as well as the composition of the music and certainly in the band’s confrontational live performances. With the current underground popularity of what is called darkwave ADULT. seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance after spending more than a decade pioneering some of the modern style of the more electronic wing of that loose movement while also showing what the music can do when there is a unity of aesthetic vision brought to bear with strong concepts and creative commentary on important issues of the day and personal impact of things like the commodification of all areas of life, misogyny, environmental destruction, societal complacency in the face of rising fascism in what were once some of the most democratic nations on Earth. Though the music is accessible it is also challenging and the opposite of dissociation in a time of global crises. In this interview we discuss the band’s early days and its development, its visual elements and the ways in which the new record has delved in novel sonic areas for the project in line with what the title would suggest as the world as we know it seems to be coming apart or certain in a state of perilous flux.

Listen to our interview with Adam Lee Miller on Bandcamp and go see ADULT. live at Hi-Dive on Saturday, May 14, 2022 with Kontravoid and Spike Hellis.

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 25: Reverb and The Verse

Reverb And The Verse, photo by Tom Murphy

Reverb And The Verse has been going in Denver since 1999 when Shane Etter and Jahi Simbai (aka Providence) met through friends who figured they might gel as a duo. Between Etter’s technical wizardry with synthesizers and production and Simbai’s deft and thought-provoking wordplay Reverb And The Verse became a staple in the local underground music scene. But their wide-ranging musical interests and eclectic aesthetics always seemed to make them perhaps too experimental or not otherwise right for the hip-hope scene and too hip-hop for other scenes. And yet Etter and Simbai have produced an impressive body of work across ten albums including their 2022 and final album BLACKWALL. From jump it’s a decidedly different and engrossing album that hits like a secret and great industrial or darkwave record but with a hip-hop production aesthetic (of course much of industrial production was inspired by hip-hop sampling techniques and sequencing) and Simbai’s commanding vocals and incisive social analysis. One would hope that in an era when Vince Stapes, Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, Tyler the Creator, Death Grips, Moodie Black, Dälek and clipping. thrive that Reverb And The Verse would have been embraced by a wider audience but time will tell. BLACKWALL is arguably the duo’s finest moment across a catalog of consistently impressive and imaginative work with something to say with poetic finesse. All of it can be found on the Reverb And The Verse Bandcamp page.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Etter and Simbai to discuss their backgrounds in music, engineering (not the musical kind) and the ideas and experiences that shaped their extraordinary music. Listen below on Bandcamp and look out for a vinyl release later in 2022 and, with any luck, live performances of these songs and news of what the artists will do next.

reverbandtheverse.com

Reverb And The Verse on Instagram

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 24: Ov Stars

Ov Stars, photo by Nick Kiefer

Ov Stars is a duo comprised of Alice Genese and Shaune Pony Heath. Genese some may know for her tenure as the bassist in Psychic TV from 2003-2020. She had also been involved in the underground music scene around Hoboken, NJ as a member of Gut Bank and Sexpod whose own output is perhaps long neglected but worth exploring on their own. Heath was born and raised in South Africa and moved to the USA at 23 to pursue a creative life not as readily available in his home country. Genese had already started releasing music as a solo artist with her 2014 debut album Sticks and Bones and through her brother she was introduced to Heath and the two gelled personally and creatively. Their debut EP as Ov Stars, Tuesdays, is a warm and energetic blend of cosmic country circa Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, psychedelia and pop. Fans of Low and Marianne Faithful will find a good deal to appreciate in the finely crafted melodies and evocative atmospheres across the record’s five tracks. The duo is starting to perform live shows so check in with Ov Stars on Instagram @ovstarsband for live dates and notification of when the vinyl edition of the EP is released in later 2022. Tuesdays is, however, available now digitally on Bandcamp.

Psychic TV at Summit Music Hall 12/11/15, photo by Tom Murphy. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge on left, Alice Genese on right

Listen to our interview with Ov Stars on Bandcamp and if you happen to be in Brooklyn on or around June 30, 2022 you can see Ov Stars performing as part of the We Are But One – Breyer P-Orridge exhibit at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 22: Mike Lee of Letting Up Despite Great Faults

Letting Up Despite Great Faults, photo courtesy the artists

Letting Up Despite Great Faults released its latest album titled IV on March 4, 2022 and marked its first full album in nearly eight years. But for a band that got off to what might be described as a slow start in 2004 in Los Angeles followed by the 2006 release of its first EP Movement (which was reissued on cassette in 2021) the group, lead by singer/guitarist/songwriter Mike Lee, fairly quickly progressed from an early synth pop/proto bedroom pop project to a more shoegaze band by the time of its self-titled 2009 debut and following its move to Austin, Texas at the beginning of 2012 the band has fused the more soundscapey side of its songwriting with the entrancing pop hooks that have always been its hallmark. The new record and its lead single “She Spins” hits your ears right away as one of the great works of guitar pop of the past two decades. Its unconventional melodic lines subvert expected musical tropes of the genre and the intricate guitar interplay recalls the best sides of the Paisley Underground and C86 but with lush production that makes it an easy record to get lost in with a single listen. We had a chance to speak with Lee about his early days as a musician, his development as an artist within the context of Letting Up Despite Great Faults (a name that’s a nod to the Blonde Redhead song “Loved Despite Great Faults”) and the aesthetics of IV from the songwriting to the cover art which Lee, as a graphic artist himself, helped to create.

Listen to our interview with Mike Lee on Bandcamp linked below and catch Letting Up Despite Great Faults performing with Blushing, Old Soul Dies Young and Moodlighting at Lost Lake on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, doors 7, show 8, $12.

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 21: Joshua Ostrander aka Mondo Cozmo

Mondo Cozmo, photo by Travis Shinn

Mondo Cozmo aka Joshua Ostrander once fronted the alternative/indie rock bands Laguardia and Eastern Conference Champions before recording under his own name in 2016. The project’s records beginning with 2017’s Plastic Soul through New Medicine from 2020 have had a lively and eclectic quality that synthesizes Ostrander’s folk influences with those more experimental and electronic for a sound that feels both familiar and fresh. His 2022 album This Is For The Barbarians propels Ostrander’s creative instincts in interesting new directions for an album that is often evocatively intimate, delicately thoughtful, brash and rebellious and contemplative all at once. It is a deep record with thought-provoking and insightful commentary on the state of the country and the world as well as the impact of navigating a time of great conflict and disorder bordering on chaos. One hears in the music the influence of Bob Dylan, Radiohead and Bruce Springsteen. Ostrander consulted with the latter on some of the songwriting for the new record and in our interview with the open and engaging musician Ostrander talks about what he and the boss discussed.

Listen to the podcast interview on Bandcamp linked below, catch Mondo Cozmo on tour now with The Airborne Toxic Event. Follow Ostrander on his website www.mondocozmo.com.

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 20: Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Anton Newcombe, photo by Thomas Girard

The Brian Jonestown Massacre has followed the colorful and heartfelt creative vision of Anton Newcombe since its 1990 inception in San Francisco. Its aesthetic informed by 60s psychedelic rock and experimental electronic music has evolved greatly in always fascinating directions through challenging personal times and tense periods within the band while garnering a strong cult following on the strength of its prolific output. Before psychedelic rock became a trendy style of music again in the past decade and a half, the Jonestown Massacre was influencing that directly or indirectly through bands it inspired or through Newcombe’s idiosyncratic mentoring. Too many people took the 2004 documentary Dig! at face value when it was a snapshot of a time in American underground music when alternative music was becoming relegated to the underground again while the possibilities of overcoming the forces of the music-industry-with-music-as-commodity seemed possible. Fast forward twenty years and Newcombe’s idealism and wide-ranging curiosity and creative vision seems vindicated by bands not only able to more directly reach an audience but one more organic and global. One June 24, 2022 the group will release its new album Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees, the product of much experimentation in terms of songwriting, production and testing reactions to the music through YouTube and other social media outlets and one of Newcombe’s strongest set of songs in recent years. We had a chance to speak with the songwriter about 2022 tourmates Mercury Rev, the band’s artwork for the tour posters unique to every date, his following the instinct to create regularly as a way of self-inspiration and staying in the habit of creating at as high a level as possible and the flow of the wordplay of his poetic and playful song titles among many other subjects.

Brian Jonestown Massacre performs at Ogden Theater on 04.12.22 with Mercury Rev. Listen to our interview with Newcombe on Bandcamp linked below. Full tour itinerary (including past dates) beneath the interview link and for more information please visit thebrianjonestownmassacre.com.

27th March 2022 Philadelphia, PA USA Union Transfer
28th March 2022 Brooklyn, NY USA Brooklyn Steel
29th March 2022 Jersey City, NJ USA White Eagle Hall
March 30th 2022 Baltimore, MD USA Rams Head Live
March 31st 2022 Providence, RI USA Columbus Theatre
April 1st 2022 Boston, MA USA Roadrunner
April 2nd 2022 Montreal, QC Canada Le National
April 4th 2022 Toronto, ON Canada Queen Elizabeth Theatre
April 5th 2022 Detroit, MI USA Majestic Theatre
April 6th 2022 Indianapolis, IN USA The Vogue
April 7th 2022 Cleveland OH USA Agora Theatre
April 8th 2022 Chicago, IL USA The Vic Theatre
April 9th 2022 Milwaukee, WI USA Turner Hall Ballroom
April 10th 2022 Minneapolis, MN USA First Avenue
April 12th 2022 Denver, CO USA Ogden Theatre
April 13th 2022 Salt Lake City, UT USA Metro Music Hall
April 15th 2022 Vancouver, BC Canada Vogue Theatre
April 16th 2022 Tacoma, WA USA McMenamins Elks Temple Hotel – The Spanish Ballroom
April 17th 2022 Seattle, WA USA Showbox
April 18th 2022 Portland, OR USA Roseland Theatre
April 20th 2022 San Francisco, CA USA The Fillmore
April 21st 2022 San Francisco, CA USA The Fillmore
April 22nd 2022 Los Angeles, CA USA The Wiltern
April 23rd 2022 San Diego, CA USA The Observatory North Park
April 24th 2022 Santa Ana, CA USA The Observatory OC
April 25th 2022 Tucson, AZ USA The Rialto Theatre
April 27th 2022 San Antonio TX USA Paper Tiger
April 28th 2022 Austin, TX USA Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater
April 29th 2022 Dallas, TX USA Granada Theater
April 30th 2022 Houston, TX USA The Heights Theater
May 2nd 2022 Lawrence, KS USA The Bottleneck
May 3rd 2022 Saint Louis, MO USA Delmar Hall
May 5th 2022 Nashville, TN USA Brooklyn Bowl
May 6th 2022 Birmingham, AL USA Saturn
May 7th 2022 Atlanta, GA USA Terminal West
May 9th 2022 Asheville, NC USA The Orange Peel
May 10th 2022 Carrboro, NC USA Cat’s Cradle
May 11th 2022 Washington, DC USA Black Cat

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 19: Aaron Turner of SUMAC

SUMAC, photo by Reid Haithcock

SUMAC formed in 2014 when Kurt Ballou of Converge connected guitarist Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mammifer, House of Low Culture) who had written the initial elements of songs with Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn to help realize Turner’s vision of crafting the heaviest music of his career then thus far. Brian Cook of Russian Circles and formerly of These Arms Are Snakes and Botch rounded out the classic and current line-up in time for the group’s debut album. The resulting four albums since (The Deal from 2015, What One Becomes in 2016, Love in Shadow out 2018 and May You Be Held released in 2020) are indeed some of the heaviest records of recent years. But as with Turner’s other projects it’s never just heavy for the sake of that quality, it’s intricate and imaginative, emotionally charged soundscapes in which the contributions of all the players seems to be highlighted. Certainly with the most recent album it’s not relentlessly crushing dynamics but a flood of textures seemingly elevated in a suspended and sustained whirlpool of sound that rushes through you and then out like experiencing a state of being. Calling it post-metal or sludge metal is one way of giving people an idea of what they’re in for but the music itself has more in common with artists like Neurosis and SunnO))) than with some other bands lumped under those genre designations. Perhaps it is conceived of as a mind-altering experience to perform and thus witness when you’re in the room with it live. The fact that SUMAC has collaborative albums with noise legend Keiji Haino who is highly selective with whom he does work speaks much to how SUMAC isn’t merely a metal or heavy band.

Turner has long been a champion of forward thinking underground music since the 90s with his label Hydra Head Records which issued releases from the likes of Boris, Big Business, Cave In, Daughters, Dälek, Jesu, Kayo Dot, Oxbow, Khanate, Harvey Milk, Xasthur and The VSS. Its roster is a kind of who’s who of heavier experimental music of its heyday. Through the label and touring Turner has had a vehicle for exploring his creative interests in music and visual art which brings an added dimension to SUMAC’s releases as well and the ethos with which the band operates. On its current tour the group will be joined by purveyors of death doom Blood Spore and Los Angeles-based avant-garde saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi.

We recently had a chance to talk with Turner about his roots in music, his early and ongoing experiences with DIY music and culture, working with Keiji Haino and the aims of his record labels Hydra Head and SIGE among other subjects that hopefully hold surprises for the patient listener. Find links to SUMAC, Hydra Head, SIEGE, Thrill Jockey and information for the Denver show (including buying tickets) this Sunday, March 13, 2022 below the Bandcamp link to listen to the interview.

Venue link for SUMAC at Marquis Theater | March 13, 2022

SUMAC on Instagram

SUMAC on Twitter

SUMAC Page on Thrill Jockey Website

Hydra Head Records on Bandcamp

SIGE Records on Bandcamp