Happy Abandon’s Facepaint Is Cinematic Pop Music Outside Its Comfort Zone

Happy Abandon
Happy Abandon, photo by Shannon Kelly

 

Happy Abandon has a name that on the surface suggests a carefree, effervescent spirit. While that quality is certainly present in the music, the band’s songs delve deep into the issues of identity, authenticity and bravery in the face of your own shortcomings. Happy Abandon released its latest record, Facepaint, through Schoolkids Records on August 25 and is currently on tour to cities it has yet to visit in the western part of the US and Canada. For vinyl heads, the colored vinyl edition of Facepaint has a color scheme mirroring the album cover.

Lead singer and guitarist Peter Vance, percussionist Jake Waits and bass player Justin Ellis all met at the University of North Carolina in 2010. All were involved in theater in some capacity growing up and in college and that element enters into its songwriting, particularly on Facepaint, which is one of the factors in what makes the band’s music stand out. There is a sense that the band is scoring an emotional experience while also recreating that experience as would a novelist or a filmmaker. Although the band in the beginning sounded more like a folk-inflected indie rock band, it has grown into its artistic ambitions.

The live group is a trio, its fourth member Alex Thompson, mainly doing production on the records, perhaps occasionally playing live in the group’s home town of Chapel Hills, North Carolina. Every member of the band is a multi-instrumentalist beyond the musical roles cited above and that perhaps accounts for its broad expressive palette. “ I think what makes this band so special and interesting is that we’re what happens when drama kinds come together to form a band,” says Ellis.

This cinematic, theatrical sensibility extends further into the songwriting in that Happy Abandon’s music always has a direction and a cohesion that suggests a narrative quality even if there is no strict aim to tell a story. Its soundscaping is as informed by the soundtrack work of Hans Zimmer and epic fantasy film scores (think Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings) as it is by bands that are able to convey strong emotions regardless of whether or not there are lyrics—Sigur Ros, This Will Destroy You and Mogwai. However, what Happy Abandon has to say reveals an effort to connect with people by articulating feelings everyone has but might be elusive to pin down. This is exemplified well with the song “Severed Seams” which deals with the transitional times in one’s life when everything seems like it’s changing and falling apart all at once.

“It’s one of the earlier songs,” says Vance. “I started writing it before Happy Abandon was an idea. I was writing it because writing is a really good coping mechanism. I was in a relationship that wasn’t working but I didn’t know how to communicate it. I liked the idea of the first line being, ‘If you should rest upon my chest would you feel my distress.’ If you could, could you understand what I’m feeling without me having to say anything. Can you feel it without me having to be super blunt about it. Nobody likes conflict but sometimes conflict is necessary. The answer of the song is no, that’s not how you deal with conflict. It’s like hope but not hope that things will get better but that there will be a sense of closure. But to get there you really have to go out of your comfort zone and face the conflict head-on.”

“It’s funny with ‘Severed Seams,’” continues Vance. “As I was writing out the lyric sheet for the album, it has the fewest lyrics and yet those lyrics are super significant. It’s like the idea is highly condensed into a pocket sized bit of emotional baggage. I don’t think the song needed too many words because it’s a simple idea people can relate to. And not just in romantic relationships but yes, I have to suck it up and be an adult and intentionally confront it. I think of ‘Severed Seams’ and ‘Heavy Lines’ as sibling songs because they’re definitely related. Except ‘Heavy Lines’ is like a sequel. ‘Severed Seams’ is the consent to the idea of it and ‘Heavy Lines’ is the doing of it. I’m not happy with a lot of decisions that I’ve made and I think a lot of those make it into the songs. I’m not here to write songs about how great I am, I want to write songs about real problems and things that people go through. I’m not good at forming sentences about how I’m feeling so I write a song. [We all have different coping mechanisms in this band],Jake likes to hit things, Justin likes to write emails and I like to write songs.”

Facepaint by Happy Abandon
Cover of Happy Abandon’s Facepaint

The songs on Facepaint are clearly layered and arranged for dramatic dynamism yet exuberant, refined and organic, delicate but powerful. Naturally the title mattered and carried a significance that isn’t obvious. The album cover shows the face of a young woman, face painted like she might be a Viking or part of a Celtic tribe prepared for ritual or for war. It is a striking image. The young woman is Eliza Merritt, the daughter of the album’s producer Jason Merritt. The painting was done by Mariam Marand and the photography by Shannon Kelly and Jafar Fallahi. All people with whom the band has personal connections. For such a personal album yet one whose songs give glimpses under the masks everyone wears to get through life even though the masks we wear often do little to hide what’s really going on behind the facade.

“The title comes from a lyric in the song ‘Take Me,’” says Vance. “The whole idea behind it is that face paint is used to change what you look like so you look like something you’d rather be. The longer it’s on your face the more worn down and imperfect it will be. When we talked to Mariam we said we wanted it to completely cover her face but to look hectic as if she threw it on. Some people are in a point in their lives where they have to just become somebody else.”

Catch Happy Abandon on tour now…

Thurs. 9/21 – Denver CO – Syntax Physic Opera
Mon. 9/25 – Richland WA – The Emerald of Siam Thai Restaurant and Lounge
Wed. 9/27 – Vancouver BC – The Morrissey Pub
Thurs. 9/28 – Seattle WA – Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar
Sun. 10/1 – Tacoma WA – Real Art Tacoma
Mon. 10/2 – Portland OR – Bunk Bar
Tues. 10/3 – Crescent City CA – Port O’Pints Brewing Co.
Wed. 10/4 – San Francisco CA – Hemlock Tavern
Sat. 10/7 – Los Angeles CA – The Hotel Cafe
Wed.10/11 – Phoenix AZ – The Lost Leaf
Fri. 10/13 – Austin TX – Spider House Cafe and Ballroom
Sat. 10/14 – Houston TX – Super Happy Fun Land
Sun. 10/15 – New Orleans LA – The Circle Bar
Tues. 10/17 – Birmingham AL – The Nick Rocks
Thurs. 10/19 – Athens GA – The Caledonia Lounge
Fri. 10/20 – Bryson City NC – Nantahala Brewing
Fri. 10/27 – Galway, Ireland – Monroe’s Live w/ Mundy
Sat. 10/28 – Dublin, Ireland – The Academy w/ Mundy
Sun. 10/29 – Birr, Ireland – Birr Theatre & Arts Centre w/ Mundy
Tues. 10/31 – Dublin, Ireland – The Ruby Sessions at Doyles Bar
Thurs. 11/2 – Bray, Ireland – The Harbour Bar
Sat. 11/11 – Richmond VA – Gallery5
Fri. 11/17 – Durham NC – The Pinhook

INVSN and the Power of Music to Subvert the Dominant Paradigm

INVSN
INVSN, photo by Redigera

 

 

INVSN is a post-punk band from Umeå, Sweden that has mastered the art of making radical politics accessible to a wide audience. It’s melodic yet intense compositions recall the appeal of Gang of Four who likewise made pointed social commentary with contagiously danceable songs. And like Gang of Four, INVSN isn’t short on experimental flourishes that ensure the music stays fresh and challenging.

The band’s lead singer Dennis Lyxzén is one of punk’s all time great frontmen who many of you may have seen on vocal duties in The Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy. Charismatic, nearly supernaturally energetic and witty, Lyxzén and his bands have exerted a lasting impact on punk and popular music. INVSN recently the 2017 album The Beautiful Stories on Woah Dad!, a reminder that punk need neither be didactic or purely created for entertainment. It can inform, illuminate and inspire. We recently had a chance to talk with Lyxzén as the band was getting its current tour under way with a stop tonight at Larimer Lounge in Denver. The show starts at 8 p.m.. We’re including the bulk of the interview in Q&A format because it felt like a conversation more than a typical interview and so many of his ideas are relevant for punk, music and culture in general today.

Tom Murphy: Some of your other projects that might be more familiar to most people like The Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy had obviously political content with names that suggest such and I was wondering if the name INVSN had similar connotations.

Dennis Lyxzén: Not really. With The (International) Noise Conspiracy I was pretty stoked that we had a band name that was kind of an idea what the music presented. INVSN, it could be the same for that.

At one point INVSN had Swedish lyrics but with English lyrics you can obviously command a much larger international audience. Was the the reason for the switch?

Yeah. I mean, when we started the band singing in Swedish was a very different approach. When we did two records in Swedish and we started honing in on what we wanted to do as a band we thought it was good enough to be everywhere. Singing in Swedish is fine but if you want to reach outside of Sweden it’s hard and you become nothing more than a cult phenomenon. We’re ambitious people and we wanted to do something substantial. The previous record we did we did a Swedish and an English version. With the new record we only did an English version but we worked with an American producer, Adam Greenspan and it didn’t make sense for him to fly over to Sweden, record a record and have no idea what was going on with the lyrics. He’s worked with The Veils and some Nick Cave. I met him through the last The Refused record and I asked him if he wanted to work on this record and he said yes.

With all the bands of yours that I’ve heard it seems as though you have been able to take what some people might consider radical politics and make them accessible without watering them down. Is that something you’ve done all along with your music?

With The Refused my ambition wasn’t to be accessible, but just to be radical and kind of annoying. I think that when we were a hardcore band and we were hardcore people and such an integral part of the scene, which is a very small scene. There is something very, I wouldn’t say defeatist about it, but it’s a kids preaching to the converted kind of deal. We figured with The (International) Noise Conspiracy let’s be a band that’s accessible but radical with the political ideas. INVSN is the same way but I don’t think it’s the politics or the people that we are, it’s the ideas and it’s going to shine through no matter the music we do. We just want to write great songs and the politics go hand in hand with the kind of people we are. It’s not a cynical attempt to be accessible and political. It’s the music we like and the ideas we have. No matter what I do or the music I’ll always be political because that’s the person that I am.

Yeah, and always have some commentary on things going on whether it’s overt or not.

Exactly. I have to say the art dictates how you approach the political topics. With The Refused it’s so much in your face. The music itself is so aggressive and so violent that the politics are just like they’re screaming in your face. With INVSN it’s more introspective and existential in nature even though all the political traits all shine through if you look at the lyrics. I think that’s the cool thing about having different projects—the language of the music dictates the language that you use in that music.

Right, in the way it’s presented.

Yes, exactly.

I remember seeing The (International) Noise Conspiracy and you jumped around on the railing at The Bluebird Theater, which few people do. This was around the time of the 2000 Presidential election. That was striking but even more noteworthy perhaps was how funny you were about very serious subjects. I remember you made a remark about fascism and brown shirts and maybe we prefer light brown.

I think the way to approach music like that when you play shows sometimes it’s serious but you have to add a sense of humor to it because if it’s too heavy-handed people won’t respond well to it. Especially when when play in INVSN and there aren’t a lot of people, you have to be able to be personal and approachable. And joke about being tight-pantsed communists from Sweden. I’m a very serious person and so are many of my lyrics. But I like to joke about myself. I think it’s important to be able to make fun of yourself. Otherwise you become insufferable.

INVSN
INVSN, photo by Redigera

I’ve never been to Sweden, despite being part Swedish, but is there anything integral to your life early on to your development as a musician that might not be obvious to people who know little about the culture and society there?

I think where you grow up and where you live affects how you view the world. We didn’t even even grow up in Umeå, which is the big city of one hundred twenty-thousand people, we grew up in the villages around it, in the countryside. There is something really sparse about it that gives you a sense of isolation and it affects how you approach music and life. Sweden also has really great, communal music schools. When you’re a a kid at twelve and you want to play guitar, there’s always a practice space and a place to play guitar. That’s how we got to play music and an early age.

Just starting my first band with my friends there was a youth center you could go to and they had a practice space fully set up. We didn’t know how to play but someone came in and showed us the chords to “Smoke on the Water” or whatever. I think that was super important and I think that’s why so many Swedish bands are good at what they do.

I wish every society had that. They had instruments to play too?

They had a complete set-up with the P.A. and everything. You had to book your time but we eventually got our own practice space. We had study circles and borrow a P.A. and suddenly you have your own room and your own equipment.

What kind of places did you have to play for other people?

We had a lot of youth centers. I remember when we started The Refused across the city of a hundred thousand people they had maybe eight youth centers and they had shows. Every other weekend you could play a show at the youth club. And then go see other bands. It was a way to really hone your chops. It’s different from America where you have to do everything for yourself. We had communal music schools and then the youth centers and then the city provides you with good practice spaces. It’s a good thing. It makes people good at what they do. It’s set up to help people. That’s part of the setup of Swedish society—it’s set up to help everyone. If you have an interest we help you with that—if you want to play music, play football, set up a study circle. When we toured and saw the rest of the world we realized it wasn’t anything like Sweden. When you’re at home and find shit you’re concerned about and when you get out into the world you find out how you have it pretty good.

Your new album has a song called “Immer Zu.” What does that refer to?

Oh, that was a joke, it means “Forever.” The song has an industrial and crazy sound. I was joking, because of industrial music like Einsturzende Neubauten from Germany, that I was going to scream the chords in German. And then I did. It was an experiment to mix languages and there was a little bit of Swedish and a little bit of German. Why not?

“I Dreamt of Music” is an interesting title too given the current cultural climate in much of the world because many of us are not encouraged to dream of or aspire to anything that doesn’t serve the interests of big money. I think it’s a radical act to aspire to something that isn’t dictated to you.

The quote “I Dreamt Music” is from Blade Runner. I thought that’s so rad because it’s a sign that you’re a conscious person somehow. As you said, you need to find things that matter in a world that’s been so devoid of ideas, especially political ideas. I think music and art and culture has a huge gap to fill and I think it’s great that with music we can inspire people and make them think about ideas.

Music is one of the few things that can cut through cultures and conditioning. And that’s why it’s been trivialized as a product whose main purpose is entertainment. I think it’s potentially much more powerful and significant than that.

I think so too. I think music has a huge potential to subvert the society we’re in. It’s so powerful and hits you right in the gut. Music doesn’t have to be intellectual, it just has to hit you right. I think that’s why it’s been commercialized as a cheap form of entertainment. Look at punk rock. There are so many punk rock bands that don’t talk about politics or anything. They’re just entertainers. Which is kind of weird because when I was growing up punk rock music was rebellion. Sometimes maybe not focused or directed but always about rebellion. I like to hold on to the idea that music can lead you into [a different way of being].

I remember when punk rock was widely rejected by mainstream society and you might even get beat up or persecuted for being part of that subculture. Now it’s definitely been assimilated into the mainstream even if it still has the potential to be subversive.

I think music still has that potential. Now every fucking fashion designer, every TV show, has the “punky” and “edgy” element. But the music is important and it holds merit. In the 60s with the civil rights movement and the hippies where the music and a mass movement could be close together, I don’t think we’ll have that again. Music still has power but maybe it’s not as visible as it was back then.

That potential power is why our culture seems so set on trivializing creativity and art generally. Whether a conscious effort or otherwise, it is geared toward undermining and neutralizing that power, that influence, over society. But it can’t truly be contained.

For sure. And I think that’s why I’m still obsessed with it. With the idea that music can still reach people that we can’t otherwise. I’m still obsessed with this tribal way of communicating with people. Every night I feel so privileged to do that and get on stage and create something that other people can make their own.

Best Shows in Denver 9/15 – 9/20

Widowspeak
Widowspeak, photo by Kyle Jacques

Now that Trump and the Democrats have struck a bargain about the budget and DACA, maybe we can all take a break and check out a great show happening in Denver (or beyond as some of the acts listed below are on tour).

P.S.: “Goddamn-dipshit-Rodriguez-gypsy-dildo-punks. I’ll get your ass.” — RIP Harry Dean Stanton

Who: Church Fire, Giardia, Deer Creek and The Pollution 
When: Friday, 9.15, 7 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: The Pollution is essentially a psychedelic punk band done by people who are punks who like Hawkwind. Bassist Jay Fox was (sometimes still is) in DC hardcore band United Mutation. But given his having spent a great deal of time in the Southern hemisphere including New Zealand, Fox’s musical tastes are eclectic and there’s plenty of that Kiwi rock influence in his music today. Meaning The Pollution could never be a standard punk act. Church Fire makes synth-beat-driven pop music with a passionate intensity worthy of any the heavier rock bands on this bill. And yet, somehow, singer Shannon Webber amidst her ritualistic performances, manages to inject just a twinge of humor—a quality welcome in music that, while immediately danceable, addresses serious social and political issues with an unblinking ferocity. Okay, maybe some blinking.

Who: Speakeasy Series: Rare Byrd$, Abeasity Jones
When: Friday, 9.15, 6 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Experimental hip-hop show in a basement of a coffee shop? Not the first time but in this case you’ll get a chance to see one of the most promising acts in Denver or anywhere with Rare Byrd$. The group has incredibly soulful flow and its beatmaking combines the finely sculpted low end of 90s gangsta rap and ambient and psychedelic music in that it’s as hypnotic as it is mind-expanding. Easy to compare to cLOUDDEAD, Deep Puddle Dynamics and early Atmosphere but only in the sense that all are rooted in imaginative soundscaping and poignantly truthful poetry.

Who: Post-Punk Piano/Vocal Covers Night w/Todd Loomis of The Twilight Garden and The Siren Project
When: Friday, 9.15, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercury Café
Why: Todd Loomis of Goth/dark dream pop band The Twilight Garden along with like-minded Denver-based act The Siren Project will perform songs by the likes of INXS, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Switchblade Symphony, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, Morrissey, Bauhaus, Ladytron, Garbage and more. Loomis will also play some songs you wouldn’t expect by artists like Roy Orbison, Elvis, Otis Redding, John McLaughlin, Metallica and Sinead O’Connor. What makes this different from cover bands playing the usual sort of gig is that neither set of artists generally does covers and the interpretations are likely to be interesting.

Who: Blanket Empire w/Silver Face and Quantum Creep 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: Blanket Empire is releasing its latest album, Hymn For the Heartless at this show. Superficially Blanket Empire sounds like its members recently ditched that wave of music miming classic rock in favor more unusual influences and embraced modern sensibilities as much as those classic. Maybe these guys listened to a lot of T. Rex, Roxy Music and Led Zeppelin for big, warping sounds. But the lo-fi charm of its album is reminiscent of Jay Reatard’s masterful blend of raw rock and roll and a sophisticated sense of melody and songwriting has been a massive influence on underground music even before his untimely passing in 2010.

Who: Vic N’ the Gnarwhals, Surf Mom and Monocle Stache
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: Vic N’ The Gnarwhals do that rare thing where the music has a familiar vibe, one might dub it psychedelic surf rock for the blend of styles, and thus very tangible. But there’s a mysterious undertone to its songs suggestive of noir cinema even when its songs get a little out there. Surf Mom used to be kind of a surf rock band, sort of still is, but the band has evolved greatly since it debuted a couple of years go. How many surf rock bands cover Christian Death? But the influences with this duo are broad ranging and since its members are still in high school you have to think they’re going to outgrow what inspires them now or at least take the music in new directions.

Who: Lotus w/Com Truise and Nosaj Thing
When: Saturday, 9.16, 9 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: Lotus is basically an EDM jam band. For some people this sounds like the combination of two terrible things. And Lotus may not be for you. Lots of jazz overtones like an electro version of Galactic. But what would you expect of a jam band? Nevertheless, Lotus is respectable live band. But if you want to catch some of the more interesting electronic acts playing more mainstream venues these days, check out Nosaj Thing and Com Truise. The former is a hip-hop artist who has done production work for Kendrick Lamar, Busdriver and Chance the Rapper. His own albums, though tend to be more like ambient dance music with deep low end coursing over and under drifting, vivid melodies. On his 2013 album Home, he featured Blonde Redhead singer Kazu Makino on the song “Eclipse/Blue.” So his musical range and interests are not limited to just a single genre of music. Com Truise came to prominence in the underground through fans of analog synth-based dance music several years back. But his science fiction themed albums caught on with a wider audience not just because Seth Haley is a talented songwriter but he was able to take what could have been simply a lo-fi aesthetic best experienced in a small venue with small sound system and render it suitable for a much larger format of presentation.

Who: Stiff Little Fingers w/Death By Unga Bunga 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Stiff Little Fingers, from Belfast, Ireland, were an anecdote in the film High Fidelity for a reason. It’s scrappy, melodic outbursts, as found on its classic, aptly titled, 1979 album Inflammable Material, found an immediate influence but its enduring impact was on the early pop punk scene in America. Although the band broke up in 1982, it reconvened in 1987 and have been actively releasing albums and touring since. Plus, if recent shows are any indication, these guys still play like the world could end tomorrow.

Who: Sonic Vomit, Condor & Jaybird (IA), Harikiri (MN) and Kwantsu Dudes 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 7 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Pueblo’s Sonic Vomit probably gets broad brushed as a death metal or grindcore band. But it’s avant-garde and jazz side aren’t exactly subtle or hidden. It just makes the band’s music more unsettling and, frankly, more interesting than something straight ahead couched in a heavy metal subgenre. Which makes its pairing with Condor & Jaybird, a psychedelic band from Iowa rooted in that kind of psych that could have come out of a cult like The Source Family with folk song structure but one using non-Western instrumentation and sounds.

Who: TOPS w/She-Devils 
When: Saturday, 9.16, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Superficially, TOPS is a Canadian band that makes the kind of light pop music reminiscent of the kind that did well on record charts in the mid-to-late 70s through the 80s. But the secret of many of the songs from that timeframe too is that, yes, discussed the usual everyday life struggles, but in a way that commented on the emptiness and dissatisfaction that is at the core of every society in which the best most people can hope for is a job that doesn’t suck too bad, spending the rest of one’s life with someone you get along with okay even after the rush of early love has long since passed and resign oneself to a beige reality knowing deep down it never needed to be that way. TOPS’ music sounds like the sinking realization of that sort of thing but with more than a shade of the knowledge of what could make life be more fulfilling. That aside, the band’s songs are true gems of indie pop songcraft with words that dig more than a little deeply at the quiet desperation of 21st century urban living.

Who: Micah Schnabel, Sour Boy Bitter Girl and The Swindlin’ Hearts 
When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Lion’s Lair
Why: It’s difficult to say whether, at this point, Micah Schnabel is better known for his solo career or for his band Two Cow Garage. Either way, Schnabel’s take on alt-country is self-critical and he has a real gift for puncturing his own pretensions of years past and foolish notions he might entertain in the present. In that way one might compare him to comedians like Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford who are keenly aware of their own shortcomings and turn them into their best work. Sour Boy Bitter Girl couldn’t be a more well-named band considering the music. Benjamin Buttice seems to have few qualms in laying out his twitchy psyche out for the audience. Every neurosis, fear and flaw is mixed in with his honest and poetic portrayal of life as its experienced, the only filter seeming to be to make it relatable to other people. The band probably gets labeled alt-country or the like as well but like Schnabel’s, Buttice’s songwriting transcends simple genre designation. It just feels vitally authentic in a format of music tends to hold few surprises.

Who: Witchtrap (Colombia), Nekrofilth, Weaponizer and Skeid 
When: Sunday, 9.17, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Colombian thrash band Witchtrap makes an appearance at the Hi-Dive. Also on the bill are death grind band Nekrofilth, black metal thrashers Weaponizer and “Barbarian black metal” band Skeid. What is that whole Barbarian business about? Listen to their 2017 split release with Morgue Whore and it makes sense because it sounds like the kind of pulsing, low-end heavy stuff Conan would listen to if he could.

 

Who: GGOOLLDD w/Time Scale 
When: Tuesday, 9.19 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Before starting GGOOLLDD with her bandmates in 2014, Margaret Butler was someone who got out of high school and got out of her home town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After a stint of subsistence living in Portland, Oregon, she was invited by friends to spend some time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but it was there that things came together for Butler when she heard the right music that made he want to sing along and soon enough GGOOLLDD became a bit of a local phenomenon before taking its synth pop, crafted to cinematic proportions to stages far and wide. The band isn’t yet playing large theaters regularly but its music is written to that scale. In December the band will release its latest EP, Teeth on Roll Call Records.

Who: Widowspeak w/Death Valley Girls and Clearance
When: Tuesday, 9.19, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Death Valley Girls have done a magic trick in turning campy musical and performance elements into a powerful live band that has the kind of bombast and raw power of L7 or Bikini Kill complimented by an elegant atmospheric side that recalls Cocteau Twins. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work but it just makes DVG more interesting than any surface level assessment of the band could convey outside the live setting even though the band’s records capture some of this essence nicely. Headlining the bill is Widowspeak, a band also known to upset expectations in the best way. Its’ ethereal melodies have an introspective shimmer reminiscent of Mojave 3, The Sundays and Mazzy Star. Its latest record, 2017’s Expect the Best out on Captured Tracks, finds the band exploring a broader palette of sounds seemingly emphasizing texture and rhythm as much as tone and its signature sweeping vistas of dreamy melodies.

Who: Ride w/Lo Moon and DJ Paul Italiano 
When: Wednesday, 9.20, 7 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: In June 2017, British shoegaze legends Ride released Weather Diaries, its first album in twenty-one years. This in the wake of a successful reunion tour in 2015. And like its contemporaries, Slowdive, the new record is a worthy entry in its already respectable extant catalog. The term “shoegaze” is known to have been an insult to bands operating pedals in order to execute their mindbending sounds. What is missed in such a nickname, now minus the negative connotations, is that many of those bands, Ride in particular, did more rocking than shoegazing. As several bands in the 2000s embraced the visceral sound sculpting of 90s shoegazers, the old guard has enjoyed a renaissance and to the credit of most, they came back with new musical ideas that didn’t sound like a tired second act. Those fortunate enough to have caught Ride since it’s been back got to see a band that re-established its reputation as one of the great live bands of its era. Also on the bill is Los Angeles-based dream pop phenoms, Lo Moon. The band has released a few singles that hint at the kind of band that has the sophisticated songcraft and soulfulness of a band like Talk Talk and the knack for crafting evocative atmospheres that have made Perfume Genius one of the most interesting modern artists. But Lo Moon isn’t standing in anyone’s stylistic shadow and its beautifully brooding songs may yet be released on a full length album before the year is out. Get to the show early and catch one of the most promising new bands of the last several years.

The Haunted, “High Desert Psych” of Sun Blood Stories

Sun Blood Stories
Sun Blood Stories, photo by Jackie Hutchens

Sun Blood Stories makes its latest appearance in Denver tonight, 9/15/17, at Lion’s Lair with Big Dopes and Serpentfoot. The former quintet now trio from Boise, Idaho, has been creating its experimental psychedelic music since 2011. Though the band emerged around the time when the most recent wave of psychedelic rock was headed toward its peak, Sun Blood Stories seemed to come from a different place. Its shows feel a bit like you’re seeing what a traveling, shamanistic musical ceremony might be like. Its songs, some rock, some weirdo folk but all informed by an attempt to create a mood and an experience as much as, or more so, than melody.

The 2017 album It Runs Around the Room With Us has a title that suggests the supernatural and the songs themselves are often melancholic compositions haunted by memories, dreams and experiments in crafting atmospheres that stir the imagination and don’t seen leave the mind. We recently caught up with the band via email to discuss some of its history, inspirations and perspectives in creating its riveting body of work. Where a specific band member responds the name will precede that response otherwise assume it’s a collective answer. But you can figure that out because you’re smart.

Queen City: What brought you together to form Sun Blood Stories?

Ben Kirby: I played as a solo act for awhile and really just wanted a band because that’s a shit ton of work and pressure for just one person. Delegation is key.

Jon Fust: He actually just wanted a bunch of mindless fools to do exactly what he told them.

Amber Pollard: Which totally backfired because what he ended up getting was a bossy chick and a drummer who can literally never make a decision about anything.

Ben: Anyway, through a couple line up changes and stylistic progressions, we arrived at this band.

The name of the band suggests that maybe you have a narrative element to your songwriting. Would you say that’s true? What kinds of stories tend to make their way into your songs?

There’s definitely a few continuous themes that tend to push their way into our music: time and death, dreams and wonder, pain and dealing with it. Oh and politics.

Amber: I write a lot about my own personal experience and how that relates to the current political climate. This comes pretty naturally as I am a loud activist in our community. On this newest album we touch on themes like the Black Lives Matter movement, climate change, the confederate flag, the lack of adequate healthcare for the underinsured, police brutality, human trafficking, LGBTQIA rights, etc.

Sun Blood Stories
Sun Blood Stories, photo by Everett Smith

Were you in bands before SBS? What kinds of bands?

Jon and Ben were in a band called Talk Math to Me which was loud and garage rock-y which was active from 2010-2011. When Talk Math to Me dissolved Ben started playing solo as Sun Blood Stories.

When you started out were there really any bands locally that seemed like-minded? What kinds of places did you play early on and did any of them play an important role in your development as a band?

Jon: I feel like Boise has a really good community and the bands are all friends but there aren’t too many overlapping genres here.

Ben: We played really everywhere we possibly could.

Amber: Treefort Music Fest has really given SBS a yearly goal to just play better. The first year of the festival [2012] was Ben’s first year of performing as Sun Blood and every year since we’ve worked really hard to ensure that we are growing and trying to keep up with Treefort’s cool.

What bands or other artists that had a particular impact or influence on what you’ve done with SBS?

Jon: My natural instinct is to say The Velvet Underground because they make me wanna make weird noise.

Ben: I’ve learned a lot from Deerhoof both from seeing them play and reading interviews about how they actually run the band.

Amber: Can I just pick a genre? Cause I listen to A lot of 90s R&B and Hip Hop. It’s taken a lot of strategy and smooth talking to convince the band to let that influence our music.

Having traveled around on tour, what have you come to appreciate about Boise and being based there?

Amber: 1, I can go out and not see anyone I know or I can go out and be surrounded by friends. It’s small enough and big enough for both. 2, I can ride my bike any where in the city. 3, cost of living is pretty low in comparison to other Metro areas which makes supporting this band a lot easier on us a family.

Jon: I like Boise because the music scene is in a cool stage of growth right now and I feel like we’re right in the middle of it.

Ben: Um, I’ve loved many of the towns and cities we’ve gone to but I always just want to come back home.

It’s always awkward trying to describe someone else’s music much less your own, but why do you shorthand describe your music on your Facebook page as “High Desert Experimental Psych-Fuzz”? Certainly that kind of description could be used to describe Spindrift, some aspects of Black Mountain or a trippier, harder edged Ennio Morricone. 

Amber: At Treefort 2015 Wolvserpent posted a picture of us performing on Instagram. Their caption described our sound as “High Desert Psych,” and I just embraced that. I added in the experimental descriptor because sometimes we don’t know what we’re doing but it always sounds good. After a bit I needed to add in the Fuzz part because who doesn’t love fuzz?

Ben: Also it was the coolest 5 words we could think of at the time.

Jon: We have a Facebook page?

Sun Blood Stories
Sun Blood Stories, photo by Sun Blood Stories

Your music has always had experimental underpinnings. You could have followed the psychedelic rock trend of the last 7 years and done okay for yourselves. But you seem to have really embraced what some might consider the weirder side of your songwriting as part of the whole. Why is that such an important aspect of your music and what do you think got you interested in exploring that richly as you have?

Jon: It just felt natural.

Ben: I’ve always loved deeply weird music. The fact that we’re considered a psych band is really interesting to me because it’s almost just a coincidence that the psych thing was happening as we were beginning.

Amber: The Residents and captain Beefheart have really held a place in Jon’s heart since he was very young. Fitting into a genre is just not our jam. I’m much more interested in carving out our own space and I think we do a pretty good job of that. Like when we release a new single and people hear it on the radio, people who have listened to our album or seen our show can tell right away that that’s Sun Blood playing through their speakers. I don’t want that to change.

It Runs Around the Room With Us is very different from Twilight Midnight Morning. Neither would be considered a straight ahead rock record, for sure. But It Runs Around the Room With Us not only suggests the presence of spirits in the music with the title, it’s more overtly ambient/deeply atmospheric. What inspired that approach to the songs for the album? What sorts of feelings and ideas spawned that set of songs?

Ben: Much of the difference between the two albums is the lineup change that occurred between the recording of each. We went from being a quintet to a trio and there was considerably more space within the sound. We tried to reign in some of barreling cacophony and focus more on the development of the pieces themselves.

Jon: Yeah I feel like the line up change had the most significant impact, at least for me and what I’m playing. Having two less members opened up a lot of space in the music, which forced us to get more creative with how we filled that space, and allowed me to start playing keyboards along with the drums.

Amber: I kind of feel like the tracks on It Runs were all loosely based on “Misery is Nebulous,” the final track of Twilight. The elements of that song that really stood out for us were the build, the spaciousness, the beauty and the pain. We took those elements, expanded on them, and used them as the foundation for this album. Creating this album was a healing experience and playing it live is like a therapy session.

Soft Kill’s Post-Punk Roots Remain in the Underground

SoftKill_JoannaStawnicka1_900
Soft Kill, photo by Joanna Stawnicka

Portland, Oregon-based post-punk band Soft Kill is currently on tour with Chameleons Vox. For the Denver date at The Bluebird Theater on Wednesday September 13 the bill include Denver’s own industrial punk band Echo Beds and beat-driven, post-punk shoegazers Voight. It is, frankly, a show that represents a respectable spectrum of a wave of bands that have come along over roughly the past decade that comprise what could loosely be considered a new incarnation of the kind of music that came in the wake of punk when many creative types realized they didn’t need to adhere to an established mode of musical expression. Industrial developed alongside punk with the advent of Throbbing Gristle, but both musical impulses were anti-establishment and made a lifestyle alternative to mainstream mundanity viable.

By the 1980s industrial, post-punk, death rock, dark synth music, noise and even punk were still relatively underground phenomena even as bands like U2 and Echo & The Bunnymen took post-punk into the mainstream, Fad Gadget influenced Depeche Mode who took avant-garde synth music and gave it pop accessibility and both Skinny Puppy and Ministry proved that challenging music could find more than a simply niche audience. When the alternative music explosion of the early 90s changed the face of popular music some of the aforementioned bands benefited while much of the rest became sequestered to the “Goth scene” or largely forgotten.

The so-called post-punk revival, including “dance punk,” of the mid-90s to the early 2000s brought atmospheric, moody music into the mainstream but began in scattered underground scenes around the country. Groups like !!! (Chk Chk Chk) in Sacramento, The Faint in Omaha and The Prids (initially in Missouri, then Nebraska and for around two decades now, Portland, Oregon) created some of the most compelling post-punk in the history of that music. As did New York-based bands such as Interpol, The Rapture, The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them. All of those bands knew their musical roots in 70s and 80s post-punk, no wave, early darkwave and Krautrock but at that time many of their fans eschewed the term Goth and those so self-identified seemed to dismiss the post-punk revival bands as simply indie rock. The connection between post-punk, Goth, industrial, minimal synth and related music seemed lost.

That is until a generation of musicians, mostly born during the heyday of post-punk and industrial, rediscovered that music and embraced it as something vital that stirred the imagination. That there was an overlap with the noise scene that survived in the depths of the underground didn’t hurt. It was from there that Tobias Sinclair, one of the guitarists and singer in Soft Kill, emerged as a fledgling musician in the larger DIY music scene in New England. He had attended shows at the influential DIY space Fort Thunder in Providence, Rhode Island where, according to Sinclair, “Every other warehouse seemed to have someone with a P.A.” as well as places like Munch House and Dirt Palace.

Going to these unconventional spaces to experience music left an indelible mark on Sinclair.

“It was really inspirational without a doubt that people could just hold their own shows without all the bullshit of a bar,” says Sinclair.

At a memorable show that included now Denver based artist Mat Brinkman, Sinclair experienced the kind of creative expression that one rarely experiences anywhere else.

“With Forcefield he and seven other guys would knit these seven foot tall outfits and play oscillators,” recalls Sinclair. “That completely blew my mind compared to all the other conventional trappings. All that stuff is more important to me probably more than obvious influences on Soft Kill. hat was really inspirational for me because somebody that didn’t ever have lessons or what I perceived at that time as an inherent talent, I loved the lack of those limitations and I could kind of go nuts with it and teach myself to play an instrument based off of what felt and sounded cool rather than what was in a book.”

Around that time, Sinclair and his friends saw the 2001 Friends Forever documentary which shared some of the experiences of the Denver-based noise/performance art band that toured, or even played locally, in a van that often served as both transportation and impromptu stage. After catching Friends Forever at a venue in Western Massachusetts, Sinclair became friends with Friends Forever’s Josh Taylor. It was then that Sinclair and his band Night Wounds relocated to California and played numerous times at long-running DIY space The Smell in Los Angeles. By a strange quirk of fate, Taylor, who was involved in running Monkey Mania, a beloved DIY venue in Denver, moved to Los Angeles to help run The Smell and work at Amoeba Records at the same time Sinclair, who had worked at Amoeba, moved to Denver into Monkey Mania in 2006.

At that time Night Wounds was still an active band that toured the DIY music circuit that had been, and remains, so inspirational to Sinclair and it connected with like-minded noise rock bands like Chicago’s Coughs, Montreal’s AIDS Wolf and Vancouver, British Columbia’s Mutators. All of which were big names in the small realm of DIY noise rock. Also during that time, Sinclair was deep into a thirteen year struggle with drug abuse that ended in 2016. Although his experience with hard drugs took its toll on Sinclair in various ways, access to substances is what anchored him to cities like Denver and his now home of Portland, Oregon. “I wasn’t aspiring to go to a place to go be fucked but I definitely stayed longer because of that, if that makes sense.”

Sinclair admits that the drugs are part of the reason Soft Kill has taken a lot longer to blossom into the band it has striven to be, it also coincidentally pushed his timeline as a musician into developing the ideas and sounds for which Soft Kill is now known. But before Soft Kill, Sinclair had, alongside Night Wounds, been part of a Goth-y punk band called Blessure Graves.

Soft Kill
Soft Kill, photo by Joanna Stawnicka

“When I started Blessure Graves the big thing was the lo-fi garage rock revival,” says Sinclair. “And there was this very small niche out of that which was Goth music made with a similar fidelity. It felt like a quick, flash in the pan. What happened with us was when I started Soft Kill in 2010 we did one album and then my demons got the best of me and I started getting locked up and having to take a long time to stray away from music. When I got out, I started seeing that a bunch of people saw An Open Door as one of the top two or three records that had come out in recent years out of that type of music. That influenced me and people in the band now to put more energy into it in 2012. But by the time we really got momentum was 2014. By that point we realized that our first record had been celebrated as one of the integral releases in post-punk records of the past ten years—they said it was top tier. We thought whoa, that’s crazy, it must be because there aren’t other bands doing that.”

“We started going out and touring and we were blown away by how many bands there were. And from there onward, for the first time in forever I felt there was a large, legitimate scene with dots connected much more than they’d been in the past 15-20 years. There’s a lot of labels that cater to it. Some of the bands have become popular and it’s not been limited to just one style. Not all these bands sound like Joy Division.”

The larger scene that Sinclair had discovered included a constellation of bands and labels across the country and around the world. Imprints like The Flenser, Dais, Sacred Bones, Dark Entries and Beläten are just a few of the labels releasing the music. Bands such as Curse, Beastial Mouths, Troller, Some Ember, All Your Sisters, Burning, Youth Code, Pop. 1280, Echo Beds, Voight, Church Fire and numerous others have been touring and finding an audience eager for sounds and a culture that maintains a connection to its underground roots and experimental music that has yet to be completely co-opted and tamed by mainstream commercial interests.

2016 represented a landmark year for Soft Kill. Its arguably best album to date, Choke, was released on Profound Lore. Best, because it most fully realizes the band’s love of hypnotic beats, driving bass and rich, expressive, evocative tones. Sinclair had booked a Chameleons Vox tour in 2015, through simply contacting vocalist/bassist Mark Burgess. In 2016 Sinclair went on to book two other of the most influential bands for Soft Kill in Sad Lovers and Giants and Modern English, the latter performing its classic 1981 album Mesh & Lace in its entirety for the first time as the group had not toured on the record the first time around. He also booked Clan of Xymox for the third edition of the Out of the Shadows festival alongside Denver-based darkwave band Tollund Men, who released his favorite tape of recent years—Autoerotik.

“When we played Denver the first time at Leisure Gallery they played and we were like, ‘No way, this can’t be happening!’ I think they were really taken aback by how into their band we were. We showed up superfans. They played with us the next time we played there and I think they disintegrated after that.”

“I really like repetitious stuff in general but there’s this slow burn to that whole tape. It’s got hooks and it’s dirty as hell but I can put that on and crank it up and it’s the perfect background music for me. I dug the tones that he gets out of distorting everything to the maximum degree. It was a band I always loved but that particular tape I’m really glad they did that last and went out on that note. He showed he wasn’t beating a dead horse, that he had mastered the vision that he had so it makes sense that he moved on from there. I respect that because I know he could have taken many an opportunity that he didn’t. I love when people don’t give into that bullshit.”

Soft Kill
Soft Kill at Leisure Gallery, June 16, 2016, photo by Tom Murphy

Sinclair’s soft spot for Denver, born of his experience living in the Mile High City and experiencing Friends Forever in New England, extends to the underground metal and hardcore scene in Denver and he expresses an appreciation for acts like Blood Incantation and Civilized. In the near-ish future Soft Kill will also put out a split with Denver death grind heroes Primitive Man, whose Ethan McCarthy shares the history with Sinclair of having lived in and operated Monkey Mania, though not at the same time. But, as is the way with the informal, DIY there is no pressure to put out the split release to fit some record label release schedule. Sinclair met McCarthy and so many other musicians who have impacted him through the underground music route.

“Ultimately, this is how I met all these people and this is the world that we want to exist within and regardless that we sound nothing like Echo Beds, that’s a band we would go on tour with before whatever people think makes sense,” says Sinclair.

Best Shows in Denver 9/8 – 9/13, 2017

Too Many Zooz
Too Many Zooz, photo by Michael Weintrob

While Denver didn’t get hit with any of the hurricanes and storms that have devastated large swaths of America, the Caribbean, India and beyond, an unusual collection of wild fire smoke descended on the city making it look like leftovers of the final scene in Apocalypse Now, wrecking the days of any allergy sufferers. But now that the aftereffects are slowly clearing up you can take time off from sneezing and coughing and go see a worthwhile show this next week. Here are several worthwhile events for your consideration.

Who: Too Many Zooz w/Jayce 
When: Friday, 9.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: Too Many Zooz had already garnered a bit of a cult following with their “brass house” style refined playing in the subways of New York before being tapped to perform on Beyoncé’s 2016 album Lemonade. The self-described genre of the group stems from its combination of acoustic instruments (including trumpet, bari sax and drums) and an electronic compositional sensibility, the sort that underlies most modern hip-hop beatmaking and that of underground and beat-driven experimental electronic music. According to Too Many Zooz trumpet-player, Matt Doe, there are already people recording cover versions of the band’s songs, a testament to not just the songwriting but the music’s appeal to other musicians. See our interview with Matt Doe coming soon.

Who: Never Kenezzard w/Ora EP release and Ice Troll 
When: Friday, 9.8, 8 p.m.
Where: Tennyson’s Tap
Why: If a more experimental metal scene can be said to exist in Denver, this show is certainly proof. Ice Troll is like a heavy music orchestra lead by Don White who has been involved in some of the more interesting weirdo bands of recent years like Boy Howdy and The Kappa Cell. Never Kenezzard in another time might be considered stoner rock or doom but it’s really coming from a place of solid songwriting so while heavy it is so in the same sense one might say of Boris or, more recently, Power Trip. Ora includes former Skivies guitarist Zahari Tsigularov who was basically the Helios Creed in a band that channeled their inner Butthole Surfers and Mr. Bungle. Truly one of Denver’s greats and Ora, his new band, is releasing its debut EP at this show.

Who: Altas, Rowboat and Emerald Siam 
When: Friday, 9.8, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: One of those all Denver band line-ups that should happen more often. Altas is an instrumental hard rock band whose songs suggest visuals without providing them—instead you are engulfed in the group’s songs. Rowboat came out of Sam McNitt’s experiments with folk music but became more akin to a dark, haunted Wilco or Nick Drake in terms of subject matter and depth of McNitt’s personal insight. Emerald Siam is fronted by one of Denver’s true rock legends, Kurt Ottaway, who was once a member of Twice Wilted, Tarmints and The Overcasters. With Emerald Siam, Ottaway has brought together a group of musicians that has him channeling the dark muse that informed TW and Tarmints. A gifted storyteller, Ottaway’s songwriting has a literary quality similar to that of Steve Kilbey of The Church.

Who: RUMTUM album release w/Dirty Art Club, DJ Babyshoe and Nasty Nachos
When: Friday, 9.8, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: John Hastings has been developing his electro-acoustic band RUMTUM for several years now but with the new record he has seemed to have really blended the elements together in ways that fully draw from the merits of organic and purely electronic sounds equally.

Who: Silver Face, Mount Orchid and Anna Smith 
When: Friday, 9.8, 9 p.m.
Where: The Curtis Club
Why: It was probably inevitable that live music would be coming back more visibly to The Curtis Club. And this night, psychedelic prog band Silver Face will perform and prove that you can be both of those genres of music without being pretentions or jamming endlessly to the entertainment only of the people on stage. Also on the bill is Anna Smith of Ancient Elk fame. Her solo acoustic music is tender and gentle yet intense and riveting. Is it psych folk? Avant-bluegrass, if such a designation doesn’t stretch the boundaries of good sense to name? Yes, both and more.

Who: Kid Astronaut 
When: Saturday, 9.9, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Denver Public Library – Cherry Creek Branch
Why: Jon Shockness was once in the great hip-hop group Air Dubai. His multifaceted talent, though, always meant he would want to different kinds of music and he is able to with his Kid Astronaut project. Naturally Shockness’ vocal talent is on display but also his imagination and his ability to take on mindsets and ideas to embody an experience with each song. See him in the morning at the Cherry Creek Branch of Denver Public Library for free! Bring the family because kids should get to see good music instead of the stuff pumped into them from TV and elsewhere.

Who: Cocordion w/EVP, Hair Club and Coo Coo Bad Brains 
When: Saturday, 9.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Cocordion from Colorado Springs is supposedly lo-fi bedroom recording stuff. If it is, it has more in common with the likes of Vetiver and Microphones. EVP somehow combines death rock sensibilities, industrial electroclash sounds and the airing of social ills and personal demons through Amanda Baker’s vocals seem both celebratory and darkly cathartic. In another era Coo Coo Bad Brains (now possibly called simply Cuckoo) would have fit right in on either the K or Siltbreeze imprints. Its lo-fi soundscaping and gentle melodies really embody the kind of modern era malaise brought on diminished expectations for the future and the need to ease the pain with something creative. And other music journalist projections on the intentions of musicians.

Who: Life’s Torment, Doperunner (release of P.C. Bonfire), Chemically Crippled and Berated
When: Saturday, 9.9, 9 p.m.
Where: Bar Bar
Why: There aren’t that many grind shows in Denver these days. It is, though, sort of a niche music. And for this show one of the stars of local grind, and international grindcore for that matter, Doperunner is releasing its cheekily titled new album P.C. Bonfire. You don’t get many chances to see the band these days and you have to appreciate the fact that a self-conscious album title acknowledging the phenomenon of how people who pretty much agree with each other politically can still find ways to police each other over relative trifles. And if you don’t like the messaging, at least the tape is probably twenty minutes long of inspired fury tops.

Who: eHpH, Pieces, Jxnny Teknikvi 
When: Saturday, 9.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Saying this is an industrial show might be misleading because eHpH, while coming out of that sort of realm of music and EBM, really is a band that has songs and not just production experiments and an excuse to rock out like a glam metal band on guitar over electronic beats. eHpH’s soundscaping is darkly soothing even when the band brings in the gritty elements. Pieces is reminiscent of the sample heavy compositions of pre-Too Dark Park Skinny Puppy but more lo-fi, at least on the recordings.

Who: X and Skating Polly 
When: Saturday, 9.9, 8 p.m.
Where: Summit Music Hall
Why: X is too famous to have to recommend but rarely have the worlds of poetry and punk rock come together so fruitfully. Formed in the late 70s in Los Angeles, the title of their debut album, X became one of the most popular punk bands of the era because it had the passion and personal darkness one would want from punk but also an accessible tunefulness that transcended genre. Skating Polly as the opening band seems perfect because that band is punk by virtue of really inventing their own musical style based on their idiosyncratic method of learning to play together growing up in Oklahoma. Easy comparisons might be made with Babes in Toyland’s feral punk rock but Skating Polly doesn’t bear facile comparison to other bands.

Who: Exodus w/Axeslasher and Legion of Death 
When: Saturday, 9.9, 7 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Exodus was one of the pioneering bands of Bay Area thrash in the early 80s. Its landmark 1985 album Bonded By Blood is a classic of metal in general but also essentially a blueprint for a lot of heavy music that has come along since.

Who: Territorio Liberado: A Benefit for Denver Metro Sanctuary Coalition featuring: Roka Hueka, Los Mocochetes, Altas, Cheap Perfume, Wild Lives, Roots Rice and Beans, Church Fire, Mirror Fears 
When: Sunday, 9.10, 3 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: This is a benefit show for Denver Metro refugees. Until the world can get to some Star Trek-esque realm of rich multiculturalism and bring about the end of poverty and war and all the things that make life needlessly difficult, this will continue to be an issue that governments and non-governmental groups will have to keep addressing. On the bill are some of the best Denver bands from across a wide spectrum of genres.

Who: Jay Som w/Stef Chura,Soccer Mommy and American Grandma
When: Sunday, 9.10, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Fox Theatre
Why: Melina Duterte’s band Jay Som seems to sit somewhere between dream pop and a lounge-y C86-era indie pop. Her songs have a twinge of soft jazz and surf rock but that dynamic gives the weight of her lyrics a way to hit without crushing. Like she’s made space for herself and her potential listeners to take in the emotions and thoughts that Duterte has somehow found a way to articulate so vividly. It’s beyond relationship issues and personal demons illustrated by unfortunate experiences, Duterte’s nuanced treatment of subjects elevates what could just be nice, well-crafted pop songs. But don’t worry, it’s not all downtempo, the self-effacing humor with which Duterte and the band present themselves is endearing in a way that is reminiscent of the best of the 90s indie pop bands whose similarly sincere songs about life’s complicated moments seem incredibly poignant and serious. Currently touring in support of the 2017 album Everybody Works.

Who: Screwtape, Stay Wild, Upstanding Citizen and guests 
When: Tuesday, 9.12, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: On a very short list of the best punk bands from Denver or anywhere right now must include Screwtape. It’s tempting to lump them in with some subgenre of punk like hardcore but the band doesn’t limit itself that way. When Screwtape opened for Choking Victim in November 2016, for some people, the Denver band stole the show with its raw energy and ability to inject its songs with non-didactic political content.

 

TIME’s Ecstatic, Theatrical Live Show Brings Transcendence Through Sound

TIME
TIME, photo by Ian Clontz Historia Photography

TIME from Gainesville, Florida, is currently on tour bringing its otherworldly synthesizer-based compositions to many corners of America. Its 2016 self-titled album is reminiscent of Alice Coltrane’s devotional albums and Peaking Lights. It has the saturated tones and atmospheres that have made so many analog synth projects of recent years tap into a sense of nostalgia for a time when, as Americans, we had the time and leisure to let our minds explore inner space or find solace in letting the imagination exercise its capacities in creative activity we often feel pressured to set aside in favor of non-meaningful work to merely survive. TIME’s music reminds us, if perhaps indirectly, that we must consider what we would want to do with our lives if we weren’t yokes to the machinery of late capitalism. Maybe it’s that the music has some roots in South Asian spiritual practices as hinted at below. Think something like Dead Can Dance, Sky Cries Mary and Tangerine Dream and you have something of the vibe.

The live shows will include a sense of theater beyond the rich atmospheres and emotional catharsis of the music so don’t miss out if you get the opportunity to witness TIME for yourself. We caught up with TIME during their transit through the southwest via email and learned a bit about their foundation, their connection to the DIY music world and what exactly is Mirror Vision, the art project that lent its name to the band’s tour in early 2017.

Queen City: Where did you grow up? What kind of music did you have access to when you were younger?

Madhava Collins: I grew up in the Canary Islands and South Wales. I would say that when I moved to the US 12 years ago my musical library broadened and became more sophisticated. I grew up on a lot of timeless classics. My mom would play old soul and Motown records as well as Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer [and such] then there’s the whole Spanish and Spanish speaking South American music: Salsa, merengue. Growing up Catholic, there would be several festivals of the saints in our town and the whole village would come out and celebrate and there would be live music all night long. And of course, also, disco!

Michael Collins: I grew up in Gainesville, discovered punk rock through a Minor Threat mixtape my brother made me and stumbled upon the tail end of the golden era of the Gainesville punk scene in the late nineties. Seriously formative in my understanding of DIY culture and the community necessary to support it.

Had either of you played in bands prior to TIME? What kind of music? What made you want to do something different?

Madhava: I’ve been fascinated with playing music since I was a child. One of the best things they taught me at school was how to sight read music. During my college years in Salem, MA I played blues harmonica and later chromatic harmonica in jazz band. I was in one of my music teacher’s bands for a little while. Then I dropped everything and became obsessed with devotional music from India. I started playing harmonium and an Indian drum called mrdanga. Up until 2 years ago I would play other people’s music and never felt inspired to write lyrics or compose songs. Then, while driving one day, I started hearing in my head a random arrangement of a traditional vaisnava song from my spiritual practice that is a prayer of protection to the lion incarnation of Vishnu. I began recording melodies, lines and drum beats on my phone recorder with my voice while stopped in traffic and it later became “Nrsimha Pranam,” which is on our album. That moment was like a flood door opening and since then I have probably recorded around 30 songs in the same way, two of them which will be in an upcoming album we are planning for 2018.

Michael: I had a high school band called Dasi which then became Prince Rama of Ayodhya and eventually just Prince Rama. We released about five albums together and toured almost constantly. It started as a “psych-folk” project and shifted towards tribal/noise/synthpop as our tastes evolved. Working with them was truly amazing but in many ways I had to set off on my own to discover my own voice.

TIME
TIME, photo by Ian Clontz Historia Photography

What inspired the formation of TIME?

Madhava: Michael and I had been dating for a year or so when I started composing and he set me up with some software so I could begin laying everything down. He was super impressed . I think he was surprised too because I don’t think he knew I had that in me, and neither did I to be honest. That’s when we formed the band.

Michael: I had been performing solo for a few years under my own name, put that on the back burner to perform traditional kirtan on the streets of New York with a bunch of Hare Krishnas and then Madhava came along with an amazing collection of songs that inspired me to dust off the old synthesizers and get back in the game.

How did you get started playing live in Gainesville with the kind of music you make?

Madhava: Our first show was at a bike collective in Gainesville and we played with Ghost Fields. One of the audience members was pretty much the go to booker for DIY, experimental, awesome music in Gainesville. He brings amazing people here like Boy Harsher and Curse. Some known and many unknown but incredible people. He started booking us for his shows and gave us a good start.

Were you aware that there were other bands making new, all synth/electronic music that wasn’t part of the whole dance music world (EDM and such)? Were there other bands in Gainesville or nearby making the kind of music you wanted to before you started TIME? 

Michael: Contemporary EDM I’ve avoided like the plague. My exposure to electronic music was initially through electroacoustic composers creating insane tape and synth based compositions under the auspices of forward thinking institutions (Pierre Schaeffer, Steve Reich, Terry Riley) and also the world of noise and harsh electronics that was so prevalent in the mid to late 2000’s (Teeth Mountain, Sewn Leather, DJ Dog Dick, etc.).  I eventually discovered Bobby Orlando and Italo disco and my life was never the same.

 

TIME
TIME’s Madhava Collins, photo by Mary Silas

When did you become aware of like-minded artists around the country? Particularly in the DIY music world. Though I suppose Michael’s experience with Gainesville punk and Prince Rama didn’t hurt.

Madhava: This is our 3rd DIY tour and actually it was just a year ago that we set out on our first tour, which was 3 months long and took us pretty much everywhere, including Canada. There were only a handful of U.S. states where we didn’t have shows. Back then I was more naive about DIY touring. When I met Michael he had mentioned that he was going on tour for a few weeks with a friend and I pictured them in a huge tour bus with a crew. I had no idea DIY touring was a thing, but now I handle pretty much all the booking and get excited when I discover new amazing artists and folks from cool local scenes.

Michael: As a punk rock youth I was involved in Gainesville DIY spots and saw so many amazing bands pass through, it was only natural that I eventually sought to do the same.

Your self-titled, 2016 album reminds me tiny bits of Alice Coltrane circa Turiya Sings, early Dead Can Dance but with synths rather than guitar and analog synth science fiction soundtracks if the 80s. What inspired the combination of sounds and ideas for that album?

Madhava: That same summer I started composing I was working as a yoga teacher at summer camp and I asked Michael for some good relaxation music for my classes. Not only did I get that from him, but also amazing synth music: John Maus, Martin Dupont, Emeralds, Zeno and Oaklander and Inner City just to name a few. I got super into it!
Michael: John Maus, Popol Vuh, Bobby O, Robbie Basho—artists seeking transcendence through the medium of sound.

Your current tour is the Infinity Tour. What is this Mirror Vision thing that gave name to your tour earlier this year?

Madhava: That’s our collaboration with our friend and Florida artist Jay Rosen. Michael and I were living at a show space where Jay had his exhibit last year and we were so impressed. It was the most incredible thing in the whole show. Everyone flocked to try on his head pieces. When you wear them it totally transforms your reality. You can see out, depending on the light, but you also see multiple reflections of yourself inside from different angles and sometimes you can even see behind you. It’s like being a kaleidoscope.

One day Michael asked Jay if we could tour with the pieces, so we took them on the road for our Mirror Vision Tour earlier this year. When we got back from tour we said “Now we want a whole stage!” And he built it in less than 3 months. My personal connection with Mirror Vision is that it serves as a visual representation of an important concept explained in the Bhagavatam, one of the main texts of our spiritual practice, that this material plane is a distorted reflection of the spiritual plane.

TIME
TIME’s Michael Collins, photo by Ian Clontz, Historia Photography

 

There seems to be a real moment right now, or has been going on for a few years, where synthesizer music, darkwave/industrial and post-punk music is enjoying a real renaissance and this time more interconnected than before. Do you feel this is the case? If so, how has this benefited you? Are there other bands you’d recommend to anyone out of all that and why?

Madhava: It’s hard for me to say whether synthesizer, darkwave/industrial and post-punk music are at a renaissance right now because it’s music that I am super into and I feel like we attract or surround ourselves with people on the same wavelength. I have talked to folk who have no clue about this music at all, and I doubt they would say it’s currently prolific. One of my old pals from college, upon hearing our album, said “What is this? I’ve never heard anything like it! I can’t make sense of it!” Mind you, this is a person who plays bagpipes and is into contra dancing or something like that. At the top of my list of current artists right now is Drab Majesty. Not only is their music incredible in and of itself, but they have an interesting aesthetic and performative vibe which is a direction that we are also exploring.

Review: Downtown Boys at Larimer Lounge, 8/20/17

 

Downtown Boys at Larimer Lounge
Downtown Boys at Larimer Lounge, photo by Tom Murphy

Several people got to see Downtown Boys in Denver at the Summit Music Hall opening for Prophets of Rage for that Rock Against the TPP kickoff concert on July 23, 2016. Lucky them. The Providence, Rhode Island band made its return to Denver on August 19, 2017 at Larimer Lounge in the wake of the release of its latest album, Cost of Living. The title suggests layered meanings with considerations of a living wage in a world dominated by late stage capitalism, but also the cost of living in the world we live in both externally and internally, the emotional and psychological cost of having to make your way in a civilization that seems hostile to not just creativity but any modes of being not tied directly to a narrowly conceived profit motive–and the impacts of such on every aspect of your life. But Downtown Boys also weave narratives of how to resist that erosion of humanity without being a downer. On the bill that night were Denver bands Bleak Plaza and Surf Mom as well as Los Angeles-based No Wave psychedelic, Latin funk band Sister Mantos.

Bleak Plaza
Bleak Plaza at Larimer Lounge, photo by Tom Murphy

It’s rare that a band can live up to even a fraction of its hype. Even if you saw live footage on YouTube or elsewhere. Even if you saw the interview Downtown Boys did for Democracy Now in February 2016, it simply didn’t prepare you for the actual experience of what Rolling Stone’s David Grossman in 2015 declared “America’s Most Exciting Punk Band.”

From the beginning, Victoria Ruiz was the kind of front person who commands attention. Between songs engaging with the crowd in mini-treatises on the condition of the world today in a way that felt like a great friend you hadn’t seen in a long time might talk to you in a very real, poetic moment. The songs, blistering post-punk with an exhilarating dynamism that I’ve only before seen when witnessing The Gang of Four in 2005 on its reunion tour, Fugazi in 2001, The Gossip in 2006, Ponytail in 2008 and Refused in 2012. That kind of punk that sweeps you up not only in the music but in what the music is about, what it represents at that time when a lot of music feels phony and devoid of anything but entertainment value.

Sister Mantos
Sister Mantos at Larimer Lounge, photo by Tom Murphy

When Ruiz spoke, every time it felt like she was cutting right to what’s ailing the world from the racism, sexism, homophobia, all other misplaced phobias, inequality, the perils of manufactured boredom and violence. Among other subjects too varied and eloquently spoken to recreate hours after the fact. Downtown Boys fused the excitement of a punk band not limited by the tropes of the genre, willing to use dynamics and sounds that you know won’t be quaint years from now. By the end of the show, Downtown Boys struck me as the perfect band at the right time with the most on point message presented in the most exciting and riveting fashion imaginable. One has to think this show must have been what it was like to see Public Enemy circa Fear of a Black Planet but addressing a wider and different set of issues but in a more challenging time in American history making Downtown Boys not only one of the most exciting bands in the land but also one of the most important.

Surf Mom
Surf Mom at Larimer Lounge, photo by Tom Murphy
Downtown Boys
Downtown Boys at Larimer Lounge, photo by Tom Murphy

Best Shows in Denver 9/1/17 – 9/6/17

 

Rubedo
Rubedo at Treefort Music Festival 2013, photo by Tom Murphy

As summer is winding down hopefully two weeks of rampant allergens winds down in time for many people to catch some of the best shows happening in Denver and its environs. Perhaps even Labor Day at Red Rocks with Foreigner (interview with Queen City Sounds and Art published soon), Cheap Trick and the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience show. Maybe not. Either way, here areten worthy of consideration.

Who: Chaperone and Radere split tape release 
When: Friday, 9.1, 7:30 p.m.
Where: ATLAS Theater, CU Boulder
Why: It’s a release show from Always Human Tapes, which issues some of the most interesting electronic and electroacoustic music going on anywhere. It’s also in the black box ATLAS Theater in the basement of one of the buildings on the CU Boulder campus with an immersive video environment and a high definition sound system. It’s also free so take a chance on seeing ambient/soundscape artists Chaperone and Radere in pretty much the perfect environment to experience that music.

Who: 09.01 Fiat Luxx (Intimat, Eko House), Ryan Scannura (Deep Club) and Mike Carungi (Nocturnal) 
When: Friday, 9.1, 9 p.m.
Where: The Black Box (Denver)
Why: Electronic music collective Nocturnal presents this showcase of some of the most interesting deep house/dubtechno/techno artists in town. Ryan Scannura is one of the founders of the Deep Club collective, which, along with Nocturnal, Sorted and other groups helped to give underground electronic music a real foothold. If you like electronic dance music but find the whole EDM thing a little played out (or you were never into that to begin with), this may be a good place to start exploring the rich and broad electronic scene in Denver at a venue with a Function One. There is another show at Black Box this night that’s also worthwhile (RUN DMT, Calivin Hobbes, Rave Booty etc.) so make sure to get into the right room or just take a chance.

Who: Abrams w/Glacial Tomb, NightWraith, Kenaima 
When: Friday, 9.1, 9 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Even if you’re not really a fan of metal, all of these bands write good songs beyond genre considerations. At the same time, none more heavy. Ten years ago maybe Abrams, Glacial Tomb and Nightwraith would have been lumped into stoner rock or sludge or simply doom, like too many things are now. And it all would have fit but this bill displays the diversity within heavy music because Abrams, despite being doomy and heavy has real energy and nuance like the band remembered that great songs often aren’t just about being crushing and devastating. Kenaima is more overtly a post-hardcore band. Glacial Tomb is deathgrind with flecks of melody. NightWraith wouldn’t sound out of place in a Gothenburg melodic black metal playlist.

Who: Earthless w/Cloud Catcher and Chieftain 
When: Saturday, 9.2, 8 p.m.
Where: Marquis Theater
Why: Earthless is an instrumental hard psych band from San Diego but they were doing that before it became something that felt ubiquitous for a while. Like a bunch of the stoner rock guys discovered acid and post-Lemmy Hawkwind and the 13th Floor Elevators and that Black Sabbath wasn’t the end all be all of heavy and trippy music. Drumming for Earthless is Mario Rubalcaba who once played or plays in Clikatat Ikatowi, Pinback, Hot Snakes, OFF!, Rocket From the Crypt and The Black Heart Procession. Cloud Catcher from Denver somehow makes bluesy rock and roll blended with metal’s harder edges seem dangerous but fun and singer/guitarist Rory Rummings really sells it with his seemingly indefatigable energy.

Who: The Soul Rebels featuring Big Freedia w/The Reminders, Sur Ellz and Venus Cruz
When: Saturday, 9.2, 9 p.m.
Where: Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
Why: Big Freedia more than helped to popularize the hip-hop genre known as bounce—and Big Freedia’s variety oft referred to as sissy bounce. Beyond embodying a genre, Freedia contributed to the world of music by taking bounce and crossing it over into the realm of experimental electronic music and a kind of hyperkinetic dub that is a mind bending live music experience. Collaborating with fellow New Orleans band The Soul Rebels on this tour just means the sound palette between both sets of artists will be greatly expanded. Also on hand are worthy locals in the realm of hip-hop The Reminders, Sur Ellz and Venus Cruz who embody genres of hip-hop of their own. A lot of personality for one show.

Who: Courage My Love w/The Hollow and Viretta 
When: Saturday, 9.2, 9 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: If you go, do know not to expect the sort of pop punk band of six years ago when Courage My Love first started making waves in North America. It might be safe to say that the band ditched what offered less possibilities for artistic growth in favor of the kind of pop music that would allow for Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn to more fully utilize their classical music training background. The new album, 2017’s Synesthesia, may alienate many of the band’s older fans expecting the punk band but to the Arn-Horn sisters’ credit, the songwriting is more interesting and explores more emotional expression than their earlier work.

Who: Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman 
When: Sunday, 9.3, 7:30 p.m. show
Where: Hudson Gardens
Why: Last year, the version of Yes including Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Billy Sherwood with Jon Davison on vocals performed Drama and sections of Tales From Topographic Oceans at the Paramount. This year, you can see the version of Yes with the inimitable Jon Anderson, the band’s original lead singer, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman. All impressive musicians in their own right, they’ll be able to play from Yes’s respectable back catalog of some of the most imaginative rock music of the 70s and 80s. The set list for the tour so far is heavy on the 70s.

Who: La Luz w/Bad Licks and Rubedo 
When: Sunday, 9.3, 7 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Theater
Why: La Luz started in 2012 when it seemed that there was a glut of surf and garage rock (or a combination of the two) bands. The then Seattle-based band distinguished itself from other groups mining similar sounds and influences by having songs that transported you to a better place where your dreams and aspirations seem attainable. With album titles like It’s Alive (20130 and Weirdo Shrine (2015), La Luz was signaling to like-minded types their own willingness to make pop music for people who are at least somewhat outside society’s mainstream. So that Denver’s psychedelic band Bad Licks and the prog-pop-psych luminaries Rubedo are on the bill opening the show seems just about perfect.

Who: Weedeater w/Telekinetic Yeti, The Atomic Bitchwax and Tricoma 
When: Monday, 9.4, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: The sheer amount of sound at this show might be slightly too big for a place like the Hi-Dive. But if Primitive Man can play there, so can sludge lords Weedeater whose giant, crushing riffing is like a slow moving tidal wave. The Atomic Bitchwax sounds like it took more than a few cues from Fu Manchu and Monster Magnet (2/3 of the band currently plays with the latter) but if that tuneful stoner rock is your thing you should definitely check out The Atomic Bitchwax. This should probably be in a bigger room so consider yourself lucky you get to see it at a relatively cozy venue.

Who: The Octopus Project w/Eyebeams and Curta 
When: Wednesday, 9.6, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: Austin’s The Octopus Project has been bringing its brilliant electro-indie pop compositions to stages around the country since 1999. The band’s almost orchestral sound employs 8-bit sounds, vintage synths and motorik beats. You’re never sure what you’re going to get with each tour but The Octopus Project manages to be a refreshing experience every time. Opening is indie pop band Eyebeams from Denver featuring the songwriting of Suzi Allegra who some may know from Quantum Creep but also earlier projects like Fingers of the Sun and The Pseudo Dates. One of the best bass players in town, Allegra is also a gifted songwriter whose insightful lyrics make thoughtful observations about life and the world around us.

 

 

Marya Errin Jones of Ebony & Ermine And Ensemble Art as a Springboard for New Ideas

Mariner Variations
Mariner Variations at Titwrench 2012, photo by Tom Murphy

Ebony & Ermine from Albuquerque, New Mexico performs tonight at Titwrench fest 9, going on stage 8 p.m. at The Mercury Café. The duo represents the collaboration between Ebony Isis Booth and Marya Errin Jones. Booth, a former Denverite, is a renowned slam poet and once member of the all female Wu-Tang cover band Lady Wu-Tang. Jones runs the performance space Tannex in Albuquerque but may be known to previous attendees of Titwrench for her turns as Mariner Variations as well as her contributions to the performance art collective Milch De La Máquina. Jones also organizes the Albuquerque ‘Zine Fest and Booth puts on the annual Burque Noir event. I recently had a chance to ask Jones some questions about her background and inspirations.

Tom Murphy: How did you discover and become involved in a kind of underground and experimental music and art world in Albuquerque ? Was there an experience or group of friends that brought you into it et. al.?

Marya Jones: I have been an experimental theatre artist for more than a decade, and a musician since a child. I was trained in physical theatre, and have, with few exceptions, devised most of my own performances. As far as experimental music is concerned, I started working with Milch de la Machina (created by Marisa Demarco and Monica Demarco) several years ago, which lead me to making experimental, electronic music. I also run a performance space in Albuquerque called The Tannex. For four years I have produced music events and other performances that exist outside the bounds of conventional performing arts.

Were there people (individuals or groups) that mentored you as a musician/artist in ABQ? Who were they and how important were they to your development, what did it help you to realize about your own creative work, if so? If not, what sorts of things did you do to foster your own creative vision and work?

I’m inspired in some way be everything that I see. As much as I enjoy watching local artists and groups, what fosters my creative vision and work is my own inner life – my dreams, and memories of the past.

You’ve performed at Titwrench before as part of Milch De La Maquina and as Mariner Variations. What inspired Mariner Variations, a clear nod, in part anyway, to seafaring adventures and sea shanties for someone living in a place fairly far from the ocean and large bodies of water? What about that sort of thing do you think held such a fascination for you?

The Mariner Variations was born from my love affair with the writer and adventurer Robert Louis Stevenson, whom I consider a mentor and distant friend, as strange as that may sound. I don’t think it’s unusual at all to be in love with water and the sea. I wasn’t born in the desert – I can here. I grew up in Georgia and Florida, lived in California and New England. And, lived in the womb for 9 months! Who doesn’t carry the ocean in their soul?

Milch De La Maquina is always a highlight of Titwrench. What do you think an art project like that is aimed at affecting for both the people involved in creating it/performing in it and the people who get to experience it that aren’t directly involved even if they are involved in the experience of the performance? What do you hope people get out of it? What do you get out of doing that past the time of the performance as they don’t seem to be designed to be repeated or captured for posterity in a way that would ever translate well to anyone that isn’t there?

This will be my first Milch experiment. After attending the first Titwrench, and seeing the dress piece I was thrilled by the idea of creating sound and art – which is something I’d wanted to work on for a while. At that time, I was dipping my toes in the waters of experimental sound, primary via the voice. After building speakers and creating a piece with pedals, I started building my own performative sound projects.

I don’t know that the purpose of all art is that it exist forever. We plan, we rehearse, we practice, we experiment, but Milch de la Machina performances are born very much out of how we are feeling in the month, at the time, in the hour. I think it’s power to create that way. It opens up new avenues for creation. I honestly don’t think in terms of what someone will get out of a performance. I think about giving my all to a performance, being present, and creating space for those who witness the work to daydream. What I “get out of it,” is the experience of working in ensemble and using the experience as a springboard for new ideas.