Jim McCarty is a founding and current member of The Yardbirds. The latter was one of the most influential and creative of the blues rock bands of the 60s whose membership included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page who, when the band broke up in 1968, formed Led Zeppelin. With a string of hits that include “For Your Love,” “Shape of Things,” “Heart Full of Soul” and “Over Under Sideways Down,” The Yardbirds were one of the key bands in the development of British blues rock and psychedelia. After the group split, McCarty became part of a variety of bands across the 60s, 70s and 80s (Renaissance, Together, Box of Frogs et. al.) and has released solo albums under his own name but since 1992 he’s also been part of the reformed Yardbirds. In 2018 McCarty issued his autobiography, focused on the career of his most well-known band, Nobody Told Me to great critical acclaim. On June 7, 2020 McCarty’s wife of over 25 years Elisabeth (Lizzy) passed away from cancer. The tragic event propelled the musician to look back on his life and examine his personal journey as a creative person fascinated by larger questions about life and left field realms of knowledge and comprehension of spiritual and philosophical issues. In the subsequent memoir, She Walks In Beauty (invoking the title of the Lord Byron poem) McCarty charts that path in an unpretentious and engaging way tracing the line between his imagination being sparked by the landmark British television show The Quatermass Experiment in 1953 through science fiction, an interest in UFOs, esoteric knowledge, the occult, Buddhism, mysticism, spiritual mediums and all manner of ideas that stir creative pondering and exploration of ideas and concepts that also informed the music. It is an intimate and touching portrait of a time and the people, including Yardbirds singer Keith Ralf who shared McCarty’s interests in unusual subjects, McCarty met along the way including Lizzy. We had a chance to speak with McCarty about the book and the fascinating details of his journey through learning about a wide range of Western and Eastern esotericism and spiritual traditions and its overlap with creative work as he followed his instincts and curiosity even as someone who was and remains a skeptic but one open to possibilities.
New Standards Men make music that defies simple genre categorization. Its threading together and fusing of multiple streams of influence has produced a music that has the subversive spirit of punk, psychedelia and the avant-garde, the technical prowess of jazz and metal and all informed by a sense of humor and disregard for stylistic convention. All while creating a prolific and surprisingly coherent and strong body of work including its 2020 and 2021 companion albums I Was A Starship and Spain’s First Astronaut respectively. The group came together in late 2016 when current members Drew Bissell and Jeremy Brashaw started jamming with another friend to produce music that drew on a desire to make music through a sort of improvisational/spontaneous composition approach that continues in the writing process to this day. The aforementioned albums were written and recorded during the same session but with the music having a slightly different flavor, one more heavy, psychedelic doom jazz, the other more John Zorn-esque free jazz. Companions in mood but clearly different facets of the New Standards Men sound. With now shows happening for over a year the group couldn’t release I Was A Starship in the usual fashion with the album release show but the record managed to pretty much sell out of its first run. It was then the band approached Chuck Coffey of the Denver-based Snappy Little Numbers imprint with the thought of reissuing the album and a tape of Spain’s First Astronaut and give a second wave of energy behind promoting those recordings. We had a chance to sit down with Bradshaw and Bissell to discuss their long history in underground music in both southern Iowa, where both spent much if not all of their formative years, and Denver and their deep comprehension of the dynamics of scenes as well as the process of making and releasing their music.
On Thursday, December 9, New Standards Men will have an album release show at the Hi-Dive as a co-album release show with Alien Neighborhood, joined for the night on stage by SPELLS and Moon Pussy. Listen to the interview with the band on Bandcamp below and connect with New Standards Men and Snappy Little Numbers at the links provided.
Siv Disa aka Siv Anderson is a Reyjavik, Iceland-based songwriter who released her debut album Dreamhouse through the UK imprint Trapped Animal in November 2021. Anderson had been recording her eclective and evocative experimental dream pop and releasing singles for the past couple of years and demonstrated a knack for delivering a whole concept with her songs and accompanying music videos. From early forays into songwriting and performing while in college in the Boston area to becoming immersed in the underground music world of New York City post-grad and working as a teacher, Anderson’s style of soundscaping and storytelling is riveting in its quality of operating from a place outside standard logical though. Dreamhouse itself follows a bit of a story arc in the way Anderson spent a great deal of time figuring out an order for the songs in terms of themes both subject matter and musical. The album’s free association of ideas with psychedelia/shoegaze, jazz structures, noise, ambient and pop in a way that seems to invoke concepts of non-linear film making has resulted in a set of songs that takes you through a broad range of emotions and a gentle catharsis. We had the opportunity to speak with the songwriter at length through the benefit of speaking over the internet about her roots in becoming an artist rather than something her parents would have approved right away, her development as a musician and film maker as well as the themes of some of her music.
Listen to the interview with Siv Disa on Bandcamp linked below (where you can also order a vinyl edition of Dreamhouse), check out the video for “Whistle” (filmed in Iceland) and connect with her at the links provided.
Circle of Celebration is the latest release from the NOUS ensemble. The latter is a collaboration between composer Christopher Bono, sound healing artist Arji OceAnanda and ambient music legend Laraaji. Bono had met OceAnanda and Laraaji at the Ananda Ashram near Monroe, NY in 2013 and wasn’t initially aware of their status as accomplished musicians. But the three made an immediate connection over the work of Thich Nhat Hahn, the influential Vietnamese Zen monk and over several years kept in contact and came to record this new album. Incorporating Bono’s classical composition and production background with Arji’s sound healing methods and both Laraaji’s approach to ambient music and his concept of laughter meditation the music goes beyond logical barriers and limitations to stimulate the parts of your brain that create an openness of spirit and relaxation from everyday anxieties. Certainly states of being and emotion we could all use now.
Laraaji became known to a larger world of music through the 1980 release of his landmark album Day of Radiance as the third part of the Brian Eno produced Ambient series. At that time and since his music has exerted an influence not just on ambient music but world music and the use of sound and practice as a meditation for personal and collective improvement and development and Circle of Celebration certainly incorporates all elements of Laraaji’s life in the arts up to this time.
We had a chance to speak with Laraaji about Circle of Celebration and its manifestation of the trio’s philosophical and artistic underpinnings, intersections and goals as musicians linked below through our podcast on Bandcamp. Circle of Celebration releases on Our Silent Canvas Records on November 12, 2021 and you can order the album at the label’s Bandcamp page.
Plack Blague started as a side project of grindcore outfit Wasteoid. Drummer Raws Schlesinger wanted an outlet for his interest in electronic music, noise and dance music and Plack Blague became, for about a decade, the occasional vehicle for that when it launched on Halloween 2001 and a pretext for Scheslinger to play some of the weirder shows he would have been going to anyway. With the untimely passing of Jeffmetal Sayers of Wasteoid in September 2011, Schesinger went on to focus his energy on Plack Blague and hone its craft, visual style and performances and along the way went from something of a local and regional legend to a star of the American underground able to fit bills of multiple musical genres and one of the most powerful and compelling live acts running. Depending on which record you pick up or show you catch you might hear more of the noise side of Plack Blague or more of the electronic dance aspect but in place is the leather daddy gear and Schlesinger’s dynamic stage show comparable to a more industrial and noise Big Freedia—the same raw intensity and infectiously fun energy. Schlesinger also regularly issues aesthetically striking merch and does t-shirt screenings for himself and other artists. But as you will hear in our recent interview with Raws he has a strong sense of community and connection to underground music culture both within the rich history of Lincoln, Nebraska punk and extreme music and the larger culture beyond his regional scene.
You can witness the spectacle of Plack Blague for yourself at the Hi-Dive this Saturday, November 6, 2021 for the 4 year anniversary of the Eventually It Will Kill You label along with Kontravoid, Many Blessings and Closed Tear. But until then, please listen to our extended interview with Raws Schlesinger below and hear about his deep roots in Lincoln punk and the modern era of underground music in America and beyond. And o check out Plack Blague’s music and order merch, visit the Bandcamp page.
Black Dice was an integral part of New York City underground music in the late 90s and 2000s. Its members had come up through punk but took the spirit of open possibilities suggested by that music to do whatever the wanted to. Anything could be an instrument, any rhythmic idea could be made to work. Even ideas about how structure and patterns would emerge through a kind of sound collage cut-up technique that one might compare favorably with the work of Autechre and Aphex Twin. Key to the band’s creative approach and aesthetic was visual art concepts and its various album covers have been designed by members of the band in a style that hits you like graffiti by way of the Situationist International. The band’s methods of composition and expression proved influential to peers like Animal Collective, a band that on the surface makes an updated form of 90s indie pop but like that music truly experiments with the form and musical substance of the songwriting with forays into noise and sampling that enriched the palette of sounds and dynamics available in crafting songs.
In 2012 Black Dice released its then most recent album Mr. Impossible after which its members took time to pursue other projects, Eric Copeland releasing several solo works as well. With the pandemic thus far time seems to have stretched and compressed for most people and what may feel like a handful of years in the living it can stretch to several and in 2021 Black Dice released its latest record Mod Prog Sic. It is classic Black Dice as a free flowing parade of ideas, textures, rhythm and playful tone and signal processing like some futuristic hip-hop/EBM fusion psychedelic beatmaking. We recently had a chance to speak with longtime member Aaron Warren about his early musical days growing up in California and his formative years as an active member of the punk scene in Boulder and Denver in the 90s before ending up in NYC in pursuit of furthering his education and ending up in the city at a time of great creative ferment.
Black Dice performs at the Hi-Dive this Thursday, November 4, 2021, with cindygod and H-Lite (doors 8 p.m., show 9 p.m., $15 presale, $20 day of show) but until then, please give our wide-ranging and in-depth interview (linked to Bandcamp below) with the insightful and engaging Aaron Warren a listen as it is another tale of the American underground music scene from the 1990s to the present.
This Friday October 29 through Sunday October 31 with doors at 8 p.m., Denver-based experimental performance troupe itchy-O is set for a string of shows at The Summit Music Hall it’s calling HALLOWMASS. Expect a visceral flood of image and sound more like a ritual than a traditional concert or other show with performers dressed up in outfits like ushers in a neo-mystical ceremony. Full drum corps including taiko, synths, other electronics noises, bass, guitar—all in sync to create one of the most powerful live music performances you’ll get to see this or any season. Opening the first night is dark Americana band Munly and the Lupercalians, on October 30 the opening performer is industrial/noise/producer legend J.G. Thirlwell and his Xordox project, October 31 brings tribal post-hardcore post-punk phenoms Wovenhand.
In 2020 the 57-member group performed two outdoor, drive-up events, SYPHERLOT in the parking lot of the Mission Ballroom in August and HALLOWMASS at the now demolished New Tech Machinry building in October. Those performances were captured in high definition and will find release as a double live LP on November 5 through Alternative Tentacles. But advance copies of SYPHERLOT | HALLOWMASS DOUBLE LIVE 2020 will be available during the 2021 HALLOWMASS performances. We recently got to ask some questions of the band via email about the creation of the new album and its evolution as a live and recording project across roughly the past decade.
Queen City Sounds and Art (Tom Murphy): How did Itchy-O prepare for the concerts that were captured on the SYPHERLOT | HALLOWMASS DOUBLE LIVE 2020 album given the sprawling membership and what one would assume were observed precautions during that phase of the pandemic?
Itchy-O: When the pandemic hit, we got to work at what we do best, adapting and evolving. Over the years as this thing has grown, being as flexible and nimble as this behemoth can be has been paramount.
So, we heeded the call: Short-band radio broadcast turned each car interior into a private listening experience for what felt like a post-apocalyptic affair. Roving bands of our Khaos Federation opened a temporary escape portal with physically contactless strategies, engulfing each vehicle in the carefully crafted rite and ritual 2020 called for. And procedurally, we developed a set of standard operating procedures that the health department applauded us for, while we followed all of the recommended CDC guidelines for masking, ventilation, disinfecting, and distancing to keep everyone safe.
Q: Bands often release a live album to mark the end of an era or the peak of that era and the beginning of another. Do you feel this was the case with this live album? If so, how so? If not, why not wait until enough newer material was created for a new studio type of record?
I: We record all of our live sets but have never been interested in putting out a live record until now. One of the reasons we decided to release this material was because after looking back we realized we had just captured an extraordinary moment in time (as the blaring car horns attest). It was a literal torch lighting during one of the darkest moments of modern history.
In hindsight, and as you most astutely surmise, this album does feel like a turning of the page for us. One of the reasons for this is the music that we are currently writing for our next studio album embraces a number of more advanced concepts we are incredibly excited about: Things like beat cancellation, the effects of frequencies on bio-organisms, science in music, group hypnotics, and the rhythmic brain.
Q: The global pandemic, still ongoing, prompted musicians and other performing artists to find creative ways to present and perform their music in a safe way and/or to reassess their music and experiment with new approaches and sounds out of necessity and caution. Did those considerations and limitations drive the kinds of shows you’ve done and perhaps inspire new sounds and visual styles and performances that stretched what you’ve done before? How so?
I: Covid may have forced our hand, but like we mentioned we are good at adapting and were able to respond in kind. In addition to the drive-in series (which you can catch part of on Alamo In-Demand), our From The Vault live performance streams gathered fans online each Saturday for two and a half months to relive HD recorded concerts, and we were commissioned by the Greek Onassis Foundation for our Milk Moon Rite performance. The acclimation and protocols we developed helped shape our triumphant return to Levitt Pavilion in July for thousands of spaced-out revelers under a beautiful summer night sky that we set ablaze in pyrotechnics.
But, probably the thing we are most proud of over the past 19 months was our Noise Bath stroboscopic meditation series, utilizing binaural and isochronic frequencies. We rolled out this six part series to our beloved Patreon supporters (who have seriously been the lifeblood through these last 20 months) as a proof-of-concept and it exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Q: What do you feel Evergroove Studio has been instrumental in bringing out in terms of sound for the live shows and on your recordings, the live album in particular?
I: Bringing on Evergroove in 2015 was a game changer for us. Our radio frequency game is on par with the biggest stadium shows touring and in terms of the studio… a whole other article could be devoted to this; see: Evergroove’s new Atmos system that was just installed and our next record.
Q: After listening to the live album in depth I’d say that like your studio albums it gives the listener another dimension of the band. I found the level of detail in texture, dynamics, tone and atmospheric elements to be very immersive in a way that’s different from the live show where the visual element and the collective experience of both band and audience creates an energy that would be impossible to convey fully on a recording. What do you feel you tried to highlight on the live recording with the mixing and mastering process that isn’t always fully possible when executing the music live? Or maybe it is and having this independent listening experience enriches the live show.
I: Many of the musicians were out in the center of the lot with the cars and we had atmospheric mics specifically placed to capture those elements. Those tracks really ended up paying off.
Q: How did J.G. Thirlwell come to be an opener for the October 30 Hallowmass 2021 show? How did his music and production impact what Itchy-O has done?
I: Many of us grew up with J.G. – Foetus, Wiseblood, Clint Ruin, Steroid Maximus, and all of his music on Ectopic Ents, etc. We met him down in Tasmania when we played Dark Mofo in 2016; he’s been a great source for advice concerning the industry over the years and we are completely honored to get his holiday cards every year.
Ian Vanek is perhaps best known for his time in the band Japanther. From 2001 to 2014 Japanther brought together the interest of Vanek and bandmate Matt Reilly in hip-hop, punk, art, graffiti and a spirit of experimenting with a mode of creative expression that would be difficult to pigeonhole. Depending on who you might have asked at any point people might have lumped Japanther in with punk, garage rock, indie rock or art rock. The group befriended a broad spectrum of like-minded artists in the realm of music and fine art and pursued whatever opportunities presented themselves in that rich milieu of Brooklyn in the 2000s and early 2010s and the American and international art and music underground. In the spring of 2021 Vanek released his memoir Puppy Dog Ice Cream about his time in Japanther. His candid and thoughtful account of his life during those years is a vibrant and encompassing narrative that truly captures the spirit of that time and those various places that certainly intersected similar scenes throughout the country and the wider world before various political, social and economic forces made the cultural infrastructure that made aspects of DIY touring and the art galleries and venues increasingly unsustainable certainly by the end of the decade.
These days Vanek’s perhaps main musical project is Howardian and he’s playing a show at 1010 Workshop in Denver, Colorado on Monday, October 18, 2001 at 10:30 p.m. with Knuckle Pups which includes Oliver Holloway formerly of the great folk punk band The Fainting Fansies. Vanek also publishes his long running zine 99mm, the current issue of which includes an interview with hip-hop legend Boots Riley of The Coup whose film Sorry To Bother You garnered rave critical reviews upon its release in 2018 and with whom Vanek has toured and collaborated. We recently got to talk with Vanek extensively about his time in music going back to his youth in Olympia, Washington in the 90s when he was involved in underground music and culture from a very young age. In the extended discussion we talked about aspects of how underground music has changed and how that evolution was inevitable as well as the perils of nostalgia and a looking forward to a future of inspirational music and art that one has not yet encountered. For more information on Vanek, his various projects and goings on, please visit ianvanek.com where you can also find links to his social media accounts related to his varied creative projects. For now, you can listen to the interview on Bandcamp for episode 5 of the Queen City Sounds Podcast below.
Cellista brings her tour for her new album Pariah to Colorado this weekend. The multi-media artist described her performances “stage poems” that engage those who show up as part of an inclusive experience that reflects the reality of the world and people’s lives. Originally from Longmont, Colorado, Cellista has been on a creative and civic path that has expanded her ideas of the possibilities of music and the reach of her rooting in classical music and working through her compositions and performances to make that world of music more accessible to people outside the traditional elite circles through presenting musical and theatrical experiences in a way that attempts to break down those barriers, psychological, social and economic. If you go expect not just to witness music and storytelling but a strong cinematic dance element. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Cellista about her background in Denver underground music, the noise scene and her times developing her music and performance in San Jose, California and beyond. So listen on Bandcamp embedded below. And go see the show for yourself on Friday, October 14, 2001 at Mutiny Information Café, doors 7:30 p.m. with special sets from dark ambient artist Herpes Hideaway and Zero Collective and Saturday October 16, at House of Cellista in Longmont with Zero Collective, 7:34 p.m.
For more information please utilize the links below the Bandcamp podcast.
The Titwrench Festival launched in 2009 as a means of shining a light on the creative efforts of marginalized groups beginning with the musical and art works of female identified folks and expanded to other groups including the 2SLBGTQIAP+ community at large and people of color and so on. While the curation has been thusly focused, the festival has always been all ages and inclusive and open to everyone to get to experience creative performances in a safe environment from people whose work isn’t always featured in the usual venues and rooms where you generally get to see live music. The current edition of the festival takes place on Sunday, October 3, 2021 from 4-10 p.m. at the Denver City Park Pavilion. The event will include educational workshops, dance parties, food from Maiz food truck (selling homemade Mexican cuisine) and a market featuring Witch Collective, a group of local artisans and herbalists. This podcast includes interviews with the event organizers (Sarah Slater, Michaela Perez and Katie Rothery) and members of all the performing artists including My Name is Harriet, Machete Mouth, Nacha Mendez, April (Axé) Charmane of Sol Vida Worldwide and Harmony Rose of The Milkblossoms. For more information on the festival please visit titwrenchcollective.org. Listen below to our lengthy interviews with the festival’s organizers and artists performing at this year’s event.