Best Shows in Denver 9/1/17 – 9/6/17


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.



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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.

Best Shows in Denver 8/25 – 8/31


EVP performs 8.26 at Hooked on Colfax, photo by Tom Murphy

If, like many of us, you aren’t super flush with money and couldn’t sell enough blood plasma this past year to afford half the ticket price of the Depeche Mode show tonight at Pepsi Center, you have plenty of options should the live music experience be what you’re seeking. Not just the Titwrench festival at the Mercury Café starting tonight August 25, continuing tomorrow, August 26, but plenty of others including the following.

Who: Itchy-O and SPELLS 
When: Saturday, 8.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Gothic Theatre
Why: Itchy-O, the cult/sprawling experimental band/spectacle including over thirty members, has toured America, played in Tasmania and is arguably the most well-known weirdo band from Denver. Now the group is finally releasing its sophomore record, From the Overflowing, the follow up to 2014’s Burn the Navigator. Both albums have a home at Jello Biafra’s long-running indie label Alternative Tentacles but you can buy one in person this night and experience Itchy-O’s ever evolving live show. You can also catch openers, SPELLS, fronted by comedian Ben Roy who, with any luck, will do and say something memorably ridiculous.

Who: Sliver, Television Generation, Quantum Creep and Stasis of Seasons 
When: Saturday, 8.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Moe’s Original Bar B Que
Why: Sliver and Television generation play together often but that’s no bad thing because both groups have managed to basically reinvent grunge for the Rocky Mountain West. 20 years ago, maybe you would roll your eyes at such a throwback impulse in sound. But both bands are energetic and seem to be coming from a sincere and pure place that bypasses notions of misguided nostalgia. TG even worked with grunge scene engineer par excellence Jack Endino on its 2015 Digital Static EP. Quantum Creep is a noise pop band that is comprised of veteran members of Denver area indie rock and indie pop bands. Rather than just basically retreading prior efforts, the members of Quantum Creep challenged themselves to focus not just on solid songwriting but in expanding what indie rock can and should sound like. Also, kudos for the nerdly science reference, people!

Who: Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble w/Heather Trost and Pattern Language 
When: Saturday, 8.26, 8 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake
Why: Laetitia Sadier was once the charismatic frontwoman of Stereolab, a band that combined Krautrock, avant-garde electronic music, bossa nova, punk and pop for an otherworldly listening experience with every record. Since that group split up nearly a decade ago, Sadier has forged her own music path with songs creatively worthy of Stereolab but more a reflection of her nuanced, further exploration of a cross-cultural blend of sounds and thoughtful commentary on life and the modern political landscape. Heather Trost, whom some may know for being in A Hawk and a Hacksaw, perfectly compliments Sadier’s own blend of diverse influences. The what one might call electronica exotica of Boulder, Colorado’s Pattern Language, as one can find on the 2017 EP Total Squaresville, is a great introduction to the whole evening.

Who: Kevin Morby and Shannon Lay
When: Saturday, 8.26, 9 p.m.
Where: Globe Hall
Why: Before ever joining experimental folk band Woods on bass in 2009, Kevin Morby was writing his own music from a very young age. After leaving Woods in 2013 to forge his own way, Morby has proven himself to be a gifted crafter of introspective pop songs with a rare full use of low end in his compositions. Currently on tour in support of 2017’s City Music, Morby is finally writing and performing with the confidence that comes from not making music in the shadow of his previous musical projects.

Who: Speakeasy Series: EVP and Nighttimeschoolbus
When: Saturday, 8.26, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Hooked On Colfax
Why: Nighttimeschoolbus is not too well known in Denver, much less elsewhere, but if quality of music is ever an indicator of success in that realm it should be. However, the duo comprised of Robin Walker and Toby Hendricks has few widely available recordings. They play few shows and don’t seem to have a shred of the careerist ambitions that bands trying to “make it” in any way seem to need to go beyond being asked by friends to play small shows. Walker, one of Colorado’s most talented musicians and vocalists, released solo albums in the past and with her indie pop band Cougarpants. Hendricks has several releases under his solo hip-hop moniker Otem Rellik. And together it’s an amalgamation of that underground hip-hop beatmaking and Walker’s avant-garde pop sensibilities. Also on this bill is EVP, another duo, but in this case, the band has elements of industrial music, witch house and post-punk. Amanda Baker’s vocals are reminiscent of Gitane Demone and the music has an 80s death rock vibe informed by a modern dance music production sensibillity.

Who: Reggae on the Rocks featuring Sublime With Rome, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Fishbone, Inner Circle, Landon McNamara and Judge Roughneck
When: Sunday, 8.27, 2 p.m.
Where: Red Rocks
Why: In an annual tradition going back several years, Reggae on the Rocks will get started early Sunday afternoon. Whether the musical form is your thing, or whether or not all of these bands appeal to you, there’s not likely to be another chance to see punk/reggae legends Fishbone, much less a worthy band they influenced like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones on the same bill. Maybe some people will even figure out that Inner Circle has excellent songs beyond “Bad Boys.” The band, after all, has roots in the earliest days of reggae and had a whole career before 1986 when its most famous song was released. Local reggae powerhouse Judge Roughneck is also on the bill. While much local reggae is deservedly the butt of scorn and disdain, Judge Roughneck has garnered respect for its own music which never seems like a misguided appropriation.

Who: Bleached w/Springtime Carnivores and The Corner Girls 
When: Sunday, 8.27, 7 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Jennifer and Jessica Clavin were once members of the great art punk band Mika Miko. When they formed Bleached in the wake of the dissolution of the latter, they embraced a kind of songwriting style that reflected the myth of Southern California—bright and easy melodies—while never trying to pretend there isn’t a darker side to California or a more gritty aspect of everyday living. The group’s latest album, 2016’s Welcome the Worms, is a heavy album that manages not to weigh you down. Denver’s The Corner Girls also take a sort of punk and surf rock aesthetic and make it a vehicle for commenting on serious issues in a way that doesn’t sugarcoat anything but also doesn’t unproductively wallow in despair.

Who: Silver Face w/Mugen Hoso and Palo Santo
When: Monday, 8.28, 9 p.m.
Where: Silver Spur Saloon
Why: Tokyo’s Mugen Hoso could be a punk band or a rockabilly band but in fine Japanese tradition, distinct categories don’t matter and the art statement of kind of cutting loose in a culture that frowns on such emotive gestures is plenty rebellious on its own. Silver Face, the Denver psychedelic rock band, is also on the bill. By not trying to be a psych band in the same mold as so many bands have in the last 10 years when more people discovered that music by listening to the Black Angels and realizing that The Brian Jonestown Massacre is a great band and not just a living caricature of a band in the excellent 2004 documentary Dig!, Silver Face is writing valid songs with real roots in an earlier era of rock and roll.

Who: The Cutthroat Drifters (final show) w/The Patient Zeros and To Be Astronauts
When: Wednesday, 8.30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Since around 2003 way too many bands have mined the “classic rock” sound and attitude. Like Civil War recreation societies for rock and roll. The results have been mixed. The guys in Cutthroat Drifters, though, never seemed to forget that it’s not enough to play music inspired by that era of great songwriting or to just live an irresponsible lifestyle. These Drifters wrote many a worthy rock and roll song of their own and the live show was surprisingly forceful with a talented vocalist and frontman in Nicolas Kjolhede who danced with an unaffected yet theatrical flair as his equally skilled bandmates provided the context for that performance to work. After nearly a decade of rocking and sweating on multiple Denver stages, this is their last show. We hardly knew ye, Drifters.

Who: Wovenhand with Emma Ruth Rundle and Jaye Jayle
When: Thursday, 8.31, 8 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Wovenhand has evolved into a more noisy, haunted, post-punk band from its more Gothic Americana beginnings a decade and a half ago. Live, the band’s music is a journey through harrowing emotional landscapes guided by singer David Eugene Edwards’ dark vision aiming toward spiritual catharsis. Sharing the bill are Emma Ruth Rundle and Jaye Jayle. The two songwriters had a collaborative album earlier this year but separately, Rundle has a ghostly purity at the heart of her dark, moody songs that evokes Julee Cruise while sounding more like Marissa Nadler. As a member of Red Sparrowes with roots in folk music, Rundle masterfully navigates a broad and deep vista of emotional expression. Evan Patterson, Jay Jayle, is no stranger to heavy music himself as a member of Young Widows and Breather Resist, and his burnished blues folk is the stuff of Jodorowsky soundtracks.

Laura Ortman’s Ambient Music is Steeped in Community and Environment


Someday We'll Be Together by Laura Ortman, cover
Laura Ortman from the cover of her 2011 album Someday We’ll Be Together

Laura Ortman’s transition from a focus on visual and performance art to music and sound art generally happened when she acquired a 4-track recorder. Not only could she record her own compositions but she could capture sounds and use those recordings to transcend the limitations and immediate contexts of either. It perhaps provided a way to use her skills and conceptualizing tools as a visual artist in a different context and to transcend the limitations of a more classical mode of creating music.

An accomplished, New York City-based artist Ortman grew up in St. Louis where he adopted grandmother inspired her to learn violin. She went on to play in the St. Louis Youth Symphony and earned a BFA from University of Kansas which lead to living in NYC where became an installation and performance artist. Since taking up music, Ortman has become a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who also employs unconventional instruments like an Apache violin and an amplified piano to create sound environments that are as much music as an emotional experience translated in a form that can be shared without the boundaries of spoken language. Ortman plays tonight at Titwrench Fest #9 at the Mercury Café at 10:30 p.m.. We had a chance to interview Ortman via email about some of her recent projects and bringing together various modes of creation and cultural traditions in making her deeply evocative soundscapes.

Tom Murphy: You recently did a tribute concert to the late Bruce Langhorne roughly two months before he passed, assuming it’s the same folk musician who worked with Bob Dylan and much more. What inspired doing that tribute concert and why do you think that sort of tribute was fitting for him?

​Laura Ortman: Yes it’s the same Langhorne. He was incredible, though I didn’t know that much about him until Scissortail Records in Oklahoma rallied all these musicians for this extensive compilation tribute album and it was guitarist Loren Connors in New York​ who recommended for me to participate. It was a huge honor to try to cover one of Langhorne’s pieces, especially as a violinist. It was the right pairing and now it has given me a great sense of the man. Playing the tribute concert was taking all these understandings of Langhorne knowing he was in solace but his legacy is very inspiring to me especially for the kind of music he wrote and recorded.

Your music and art incorporates multiple styles, traditions, cultures and aesthetics. Do you feel that anything in particular set you on a path to doing what you do know from having played in classical situations like the St. Louis Youth Symphony and later on doing truly unique experiments with amplified strings (pianos, various violins etc.)? 

​Yes. I grew up playing and listening to ’80’s radio in Alton, Illinois and at the same time was learning from a great violin teacher from 5th grade to high school the craziness of the concentration it takes to even slightly attempt to play difficult classical repertoire. And then when moving to New York City that became my new school of influences due to so many of my friends who were going to many live shows, seeing great art exhibits and having wild parties. It became a huge passion and that happened along the same time I was doing improv violin live for modern dancers. It was inspiring to keeping me in the moment. I eventually played in large, crazy bands, especially Stars Like Fleas.​ Then doing my own home recordings and soundtracks for films really helped me sort out tons of what I liked and wanted to part with too.

You’ve experimented with 4-track recorders for some time. When did you first start using them and what do you think makes it a creatively inspirational bit of technology to use in making music? Or, perhaps, rather, why do you think simulating isolated, ambient sounds from the environment around you at the time is so evocative in composing an experience (certainly I don’t think your compositions are limited simply to the framework of a traditional song most people are used to thinking about when using that word “song”)?

​I live on one of the loudest streets in Brooklyn called Flatbush Avenue. My apartment is old and on the 2nd floor right above the avenue (I also call Flatbush my river.) That’s where I learned how to 4-track and it was nearly impossible to play this incredibly ambient, atmospheric, simple sound recordings without a garbage truck, ambulance siren or subway train rumble inside of it. I always listened back through all these recordings and noticed how much I really think it was my partner in one lone quiet violin song, or a space between a chord on my amplified piano. I embraced it fully and leave the technology of recording to that mostly because it’s all I’ve ever known. ​

You’ve worked (or are still working on) on soundtracks of cities like New York and Santa Fe. What does coming up with these soundtracks look/sound like for you in terms of what you collect and edit/collage together. What would you say are the salient qualities of New York that make it interesting for you to write a soundtrack for? Santa Fe?

It’s about bringing my friends and community together and hearing pieces of their experiences in the audio way so as to catch a window into their worlds. There’s a lot of ideas I have about working on these soundtracks about being a resident and visitor in a place I will never fully know. So I take a lot out of what it means to hang with the locals. I want to know this world where I live and work. My community (music world, Native world, friends, and beyond) carries me through this experience. Plus—the strangers! The strangers!

Where do you think Western European, First Nations, ambient and avant-garde music intersect and blend well in your own music-making and imagination? As in where do you find them blending well with the other or informing the other, enhancing the music. I realize that it may not be as separated out as that or as self-conscious. But as someone who educates people about these sorts of things, I was wondering how you may talk about how these various ways of thinking of art and music intersect and work together if indeed they do.

​From my own experience, I began as a visual artist making drawings and sculptures, then shifted to installation work and performance work and then gained a huge interest in making my own self-recordings for my installation/performance work. And then just probably through the massive, worldly New York City music world and the huge influence it’s had on me, working with just music made so much sense to me because it simplified all these ideas about how to express my ideas about where I’ve been, where I’m going and what’s to come. Coming from many different worlds (Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Kansas, New York City) through many different mediums has been a thrill. And I just can’t stop wanting to be part of the vibrant music/arts scene my friends, heroes, homes, communities and family has brought me to since I was very, very young.

Your music suggests mood and setting and a story even if it’s non-verbal. Do you feel storytelling is a component of your music and how do you feel you incorporate that thinking in music that has no lyrics or words?

​More than anything I’d say my music is about atmospheres of places I have dreamt up. They tell stories perhaps about staying in one place with one emotion and one vista. It takes me years to figure out what some of my pieces are about, but I always mainly leave them up to the listeners observations without any yes-es or nos. It’s open.

My Soul Remainer (2017) reminds me a tiny bit in places of the more pastoral work of Daniel Lanois yet it was recorded in Brooklyn with Martin Bisi who is of course known for all those great post-punk and avant-garde and whatnot recordings. How did you come to work with Martin and why do you think he was the right choice for the kind of album you had written? 

​This is my third solo album recorded by the great Martin Bisi of Gowanus, Brooklyn. I came to know him through his discography but then also many of my good friends 20 years go when I first moved to New York were recording with him. I loved the idea of the small violin in his gigantic cavernous studio to record my 1st solo album. I emailed him and told him about my work. He said yes! And it’s been an incredibly vibrant and productive relationship ever since. I even haul my ginormously heavy piano there to record it. I needed the space, the caverns, the crud and the one-on-one fast paced relationship with someone like him who can read my mind sometimes. ​


Titwrench 9th Edition This Weekend 8/25 – 8/26 at the Mercury Café

RARE BYRD$ at Titwrench 2016, photo by Lauri Lynnxe Murphy

Titwrench kicks off its 9th Edition tonight at the Mercury Café with performances from experimental and underground musicians from Denver and around the country. The festival is a community focused celebration of “women and LGBTQIAP artists and musicians and other underrepresented/emerging artists pushing the boundaries of genre and form.” The event will also feature workshops, crafts vendors, food and drink, tarot card readings, a yoga session on Saturday morning and much more. That’s what it is but if you go you will see the kinds of music that probably isn’t on the radar of any mainstream publication or news outlet and thus maybe, if you’ve never been, you’ll get to experience something refreshingly different.

Titwrench cultivates emerging artists in the community while featuring significant artists from the Rocky Mountain region and elsewhere. For instance, atmospheric sound collagist/sculptor Laura Ortman from New York performs on Friday as well as melodic doom punk “glam insect metal” band Chicharra, from Albuquerque and Denver’s own dream folk genius MIDWIFE. Saturday the performance art/sound experience troupe Milch De La Maquina will deliver another unforgettable performance and should not be missed. RARE BYRD$ will bring an example of hip-hop from the future and Shooda Shook It will provide the soundtrack to a No Wave funk dance party. But all of the artists are worth your time. Below is information and a program of events copied and modified from the Titwrench #9 page. We will be sharing interviews with Laura Ortman and Marisa Demarco of Chicharra and Milch De La Máquina later today and tomorrow as well as photos and observations post festival.

Friday August 25 and Saturday 26th 2017
Decor by Secret Love Collective
Music and local artisans/vendors from 4:00pm-2:00am both nights
At Mercury Cafe Denver
(ADA accessible venue)
2199 California Street
Denver CO 80205

All ages + All welcome
With your favorite Mistress of Magic Piper Rose guiding the way all weekend long

Tickets at this link.
* sliding-scale pricing
10% of all funds raised go to the sustainment of grassroots programs byWEBS of Support!

Workshops happening Saturday August 26th include:
DIY Marketing and Branding for Working Artists
Beat-making for Beginners
Performance + Vocals 101

SCHEDULE of music and performance: 

400pm doors open with DJ Avalon (Denver/San Juan)

500pm Girls Rock Denver (bands TBA)

530pm Giraft (Denver, CO)
moody minimalism

600pm Emily Frembgen (New York, NY)
third wave americana

630pm Pearls and Perils (Denver, CO)
mad medicine for crazy hearts

700pm yesol (Denver, CO)
sweet harp and strums by Cory Feder

730pm The Molly Growler Project (Denver, CO)

800pm Prism Bitch (Albuquerque, NM)
turbo rock n’ soul punk

830pm K.O. SOLO (Seattle, WA)
electroimprovisational ambience

900pm Litter Brain (Albuquerque, NM)
bratty hardcore punk

930pm Cthulha (Albuquerque, NM) experimental solo piano and surprises

1000pm Nizhóní Girls (Albuquerque, NM) desert surf punks

1030pm Laura Ortman (New York, NY) solo experimental violin/meditations

1115pm Chicharra (Albuquerque, NM) glam insect heavy rock

1200am MIDWIFE (Denver, CO) delicate drone-pop anthems by Madeline Johnston

1:00am – 2:00am we dance it out with DJ Avalon!

Milch de la Máquina
Milch de la Máquina at Titwrench 2016, photo by Vincent Comparetto

SATURDAY AUGUST 26th (morning)
Community yoga led by Piper Rose w/live music by Annastezhaa (Aurora, CO)
dreamy harp and vocals
WORKSHOPS all afternoon on Saturday 8/26 – check our Facebook for details!

Weedrat at Titwrench 2016, photo by Sarah Slater

SAT AUGUST 26 (evening)

400pm doors open

430pm Girls Rock Denver

500pm Buried Moon (Denver, CO)
dark psyche

530pm Glitter Vomit (Albuquerque, NM)
like a unicorn wandering in the forest

600pm The Maybe So’s (Denver, CO)
from the brilliant minds of Bianca Mikahn and Jenee Elise

630pm Esmerelda Strange (Denver, CO)
one woman man band

700pm Bonnie Weimer (Denver, CO) banjo rambler

730pm kismet&dough (Denver, CO)
collaborative project by patrycja sara
a question. an off-kilter lullaby asking you how much your dreams cost

800pm EBONY & ERMINE (Albuquerque, NM)
wordseamstress magic

830pm R A R E B Y R D $ (Denver, CO)
sonic freak queens

(Denver, CO)
progressive hip-hop featuring Annastezhaa

930pm Dance Break w Erin Stereo (Denver)

1000pm Milch de la Máquina (Albuquerque, NM)
desert bird performance art troupe

1030pm Glassmen (Madison, WI)
indie experimental folk rock

1100pm PRETEEN OD (Denver, CO)
avant-garde classical weirds

1130pm Mirror Fears  (Denver, CO)
industrial dark wave

12:00am (Midnight) Shooda Shook It  (Tucson, AZ)
disco funky punks

12:45 Get Along (Denver, CO)
indie glitter dance pop

and then we dance it out some more with Erin Stereo! ♥

Victoria Lundy
Victoria Lundy at Titwrench 2016, photo by Vincent-Comparetto

Join us on Sunday August 27th for brunch at Mercury Cafe, followed bySlutWalk Denver 2017 from 12-3pm at Civic Center Park!

Psychic TV and a New Parallel Culture Part One

Psychic TV, photo by Drew Weirdermann, interview/story by Tom MurphyPsychic_TV_by_Drew_Weidemann_Web

Tonight, Psychic TV will perform in Denver at the Mercury Cafe with Rotties and DJ Tocsin uniting a Denver institution whose existence dates back to the late 70s and an original location off of 13th Avenue and Pearl Street and a band that had yet to get its footing in the USA until Denver concert promoter Tom Headbanger got PTV into its first tour bus and from there into a kind of cult following that resulted in a more cultural institution to spread esoteric and spiritually evolutinary/revolutionary knowledge into the world at large with network of likeminded communities and seekers under the umbrella of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. Those worlds come together again with this show at the Mercury.

Ahead of the show we were able to speak with the band’s leader, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge to discuss the still powerful and abundant ability of creativity and imagination to transform at least the world around you and to impact the world beyond. We will publish the conversation in full in the next few days. In this first section we discuss Gen’s early projects and how they lead in part to the founding of noteworthy modern music label Dais Records, which not only made the early Worm and COUM Transmissions recordings widely available but is also a proponent of music by artists touched by the continuing legacy of the strain of music operating outside the mainstream pioneered by Gen and their collaborators in creating a parallel culture.

Queen City Sounds and Art: Psychic TV kind of got its start here with a bus provided by Tom Headbanger.

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: We used to love that bus so much. We had so many amazing times on that bus. Then when we moved to New York with Lady Jaye we discovered you’re not allowed to have a bus in New York so we gave it away to some hippies in California as a gift. Apparently a year later they got very stoned and burned it.

T: You’ve long been a keen observer of society and culture. Right now we’re at an interesting/dangerous point internationally. But I think we can act on the local level with creativity and affect the larger world. As a teen you did the ‘zine Conscience and then later in your late teen years and early 20s, COUM Transmissions.

GBP-O: There was an exhibition in Howden, Yorkshire in January that was a retrospective of COUM Transmissions and Spydeee [Gasmantell] was there. I hadn’t seen him for decades so that was really nice. We’re corresponding again now. He’d done an issue of Conscience after we’d gone off to university and got expelled from the school for it. So the last issue was seized, banned and he was expelled for and that was the end of Conscience. We started one at the university we called Worm.

T: That was a band as well?

GBP-O: It was going to be. We did that one record and we disbanded and forgot about it. But that was one of those amazing stories when the Tate Britain decided to buy my archive we needed people to help us catalog everything. So we got these people who volunteered to come in. One of those people was Ryan Martin who came to me one day and said, “Gen, what are all these reel to reel tapes in this box?” “Oh, it’s just stuff we were doing when we were young. It’s rubbish. Don’t listen to it. Forget about it.” He said, “What does it sound like?” “You don’t want to listen to it, it’s not important.” “I think it is important and that people would like to hear it. Even if it doesn’t sound great it’ll show people your thinking about sound from an earlier age.” So we said, “If you think it’s so interesting, why don’t you go and do it?” Then he went off to start Dais Records with his friend Gibby [Miller] and now Dais is celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this month. It has released records by eighty different people all because he nagged me about this old, reel-to-reel tape. He released Early Worm and [The Sound of Porridge Bubbling, Sugarmorphoses and Home Aged & The 18th Month Hope from COUM Transmissions]. We like that something done that long ago can trigger someone else into changing what they do in life. Suddenly it’s become this energy attractor and makings things possible for lots of extra people. In a way that’s what we’ve always been trying to do—come up with ways of looking at things or perceiving things or just shifting the point of views so that new opportunities and ways of analyzing society can happen.

Kill Minus Nine Continues Its Industrial Revolution with #SIGKILL

Photo by Coss Photography, interview/story by Tom MurphyKM9_Faces_CossPhotography

Kill Minus Nine is a politically-charged industrial rock band in the classic mold established by bands like Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, Stabbing Westward and Pop Will Eat Itself. The group, comprised of veterans of Denver’s industrial, electronic and metal scenes, is releasing its latest album, #SIGKILL, tonight at The Moon Room at the Summit Music Hall where it will perform alongside Diveje (also releasing its own new album We Still Remain), eHpH and The Midnight Marionettes. Kill Minus Nine separates itself from bands operating in a similar stylistic vein with strong, fluid basslines, creative and evocative synth work and vocals that aren’t just gritty but tuneful and capable of conjuring emotions beyond just anger and despair. Truly a cut above the tired place industrial rock got trapped in in the late 90s and early 2000s. In the interview below, conducted via email, the confluence of influences and a kindredship of spirit goes along way in explaining why there’s more to Kill Minus Nine than might be immediately obvious.

Queen City Sounds and Art: Kill Minus Nine formed in 2013 but it can be assumed you were in bands before that. What bands did you play in before?

Corey Drake: Emergence, Die Brücke
Rob Holman: Emergence, Die Brücke, Aeon Crush
Jason Ayers: Die Brücke
Erik Johnson: NEMESYS – guitarist/thereminist. That’s right: a metal band with a theremin.
Noel Johannes: Emergence, Project 12:01, The Siren Project

What was your first exposure to industrial music and/or EBM? How did you get involved in making that style of music rather than some other kind of music?
Corey: Various clubs around Denver. Have always been involved in music in some form and ran into other like-minded musicians.

Rob: Probably Skinny Puppy in the early 90s. I was mesmerized. I’d never heard anything like it before, and the depth of emotion that could be represented with that kind of instrumentation and effects was what drew me to the genre.

Jason: The Deadbeat Club, I wanted to be a part of something that wasn’t your typical heavy metal band.

Erik: Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Einstürzende Neubauten. I was big into punk rock in the ’90s, but could never find a band or afford decent gear. Then I heard these guys making the same hard, fast, aggressive, politically-charged music, but using synths, samples, MIDI and tape tricks, and random junk—things I could afford. And then Trent Reznor started making records all by himself, demonstrating that you don’t have to wait for a band to start creating music.

Noel:  Growing up in a small town (less than 1000 people) in northeastern Colorado as I did, and at a time that predates the Internet, the radio was my primary vehicle into the exploration of new music.  I enjoyed rock, metal and grunge because that was what was being broadcast over the airwaves.  Then one evening while sitting in my bedroom listening to the radio I heard a sounds unlike any sound I had ever heard. I heard KMFDM’s Megalomaniac and it blew my mind! At the time I was playing bass guitar in blues and grunge bands.  People were always flaking out and not showing up to practice. Around the same time my drummer told me how people were using computers to write/perform music. This led me to sell my bass gear and buy a Korg workstation. A short while later I bought my first Macintosh PowerMac and Cubase for my DAW.


Your band is obviously different from some of the cookie cutter EBM industrial and future pop stuff that came out of the 90s industrial scene. What still draws you to making the kind of industrial music you do? What do you think the enduring appeal of the music has for you?
Corey: The emotional feeling and connection is what keeps drawing me to making this music. Push and pull, power, dynamics.

Jason: I find the challenge of integrating live instruments (guitar, bass, drums, keys) with heavy synth backing tracks very fulfilling once it all comes together and creates the enduring appeal for me.

Erik: I think what sets us apart is our desire to play and record live instruments as much as possible. Coming off of more than five years playing shows in the metal scene, it was always kind of hard for me to get excited about seeing industrial or EBM acts that consisted of just one guy with a microphone, and one guy with a MacBook. I’m not saying in any way that there’s a right or wrong way to do it, or that that way is wrong, but for me, I want to make dance-y, club-worthy songs that also feel organic—like they were played by a live band.

Noel: Nostalgia draws me.  I have many great memories from the 90’s and the main theme that ties them all together is industrial [music].  I felt like an outsider living up north.  I remember the acceptance and feeling of “this is my tribe” that I experienced when I discovered Rock Island [in Denver].  I hope we can create music that will inspire as well as contribute to a community that fosters acceptance.

#SIGKILL is a suggestive album name. What is the significance of it for you and of the songs you’re including on the album?
Rob: SIGKILL is a signal that can be sent to a process in a computer, to cause it to halt immediately. It cannot be interrupted, it cannot be ignored, it cannot be stopped. If you apply this idea to other processes in the real world, I think you can see that it conjures some compelling imagery.

Erik: Most of us are in IT or tech-related jobs, so we’re kind of repurposing what we know as social or political allegory. It’s like Tron—we fight for the users.

Iconoclasm mixed with more forward thinking, perhaps even progressive, political leanings have been a part of industrial music since it’s early days. Why do you think that music culture and those musical ideas lend themselves well to that sort of orientation in thinking about the world?
Erik: Pop music, by nature, needs to be inoffensive and accessible in order to make all the dollars. But counterculture artists – punk, hip hop, industrial – and their fans, are already outcasts, so we’re not encumbered by social pressure to fit into a class identity or milquetoast ideology. We’re adults, and we do what we want.

Industrial music has had a bit of a resurgence in the last few years. Do you have a sense of what might be contributing to that?
Erik: Everyone misses guitars in EBM? [Says] the guitar player.

Jason: I think the millennials are now discovering the genre as they become more disenchanted with the world.

Erik: I guess see above? It doesn’t matter where you live or what your politics are; if you’re a human living somewhere on this planet, the odds are that your world is kind of a dumpster fire right now and counterculture music always tends to thrive when social unrest does.

Noel: I imagine the resurgence of industrial music stems from many influences.  One example that comes to mind is the genre’s love with dystopian themes.  The current political climate inspires those types of fantasies.

What music are you into most now that isn’t really connected to industrial music or hard rock or heavy metal or punk right now? What makes it compelling to you?
Rob: 30s and 40s big band and swing. I think those songs are in many ways the bedrock of all modern pop and rock music.

Erik: I’ve basically had Run the Jewels’ entire discography on repeat for the past year.

Noel:  My spirit animal is a sloth.  I move at a slower pace.  I believe that is why I gravitate to downtempo/trip-hop.  Massive Attack’s Mezzanine will always be in my list of top 10 albums.  Not sure is she qualifies as downtempo, but I love music by Bat for Lashes.  The same can be said for Lana Del Rey.

Best Shows in Denver 8.18 – 8.23

Downtown Boys, photo by Miguel Rosario, text by Tom Murphy

Now that the Smash Mouth show in Parker that was to happen Saturday is canceled you can make other plans either this evening or over the weekend. Here are some choice options as summer wraps up.

Who: Weapönizer album release for Lawless Age w/Throne of Belia, Rotstrotter and Chemically Crippled
When: Friday, 8.18, 7 p.m.
Where: 7th Circle Music Collective
Why: Weapönizer has long been one of the best, most underrated, metal bands in Denver. It’s latest album, Lawless Age, is a showcase for how black metal, death/grind and a well-crafted rock song with hooks are not irreconcilable concepts. You also get to see excellent grind acts Rotstrotter and Chemically Crippled. Also, the show costs $6.66. Someone, somewhere involved in the show, has a wonderfully irreverent sense of humor.

Who: Future Days
When: Friday, 8.18, 10 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: Future Days is a three-piece, yet completely legit, Can cover band. It includes drummer Andrew Lindstrom who has played in noise jazz band Nightshark and sludge punk outfit Git Some. Guitarist Zach Bauer is also a veteran local musician whose versatile talent you could hear in outsider punk band Zombie Zombie and stoner noise rock outfit The Outer Neon. Bauer also has a brilliant weirdo pop album in the can that someone should help him put out. It’s like if Harry Nilsson and David Bowie worked on a secret project together. In addition to other material the band will perform “Sing Swan Song: and “More More Night” for this show.

Who: Native Daughters, Abrams and Black Lamb
When: Saturday, 8.19, 9 p.m.
Where: Streets of London
Why: Native Daughters are going on extended hiatus after this show. The instrumental heavy rock band writes songs as powerful and as compelling as watching an epic adventure movie. Sharing the stage tonight is the stoner rock band Black Lamb coming out of its own semi-retirement to show how harrowing emotion and mutant blues metal can be inspirational. Denver’s Abrams is a sludge rock band that puts momentum behind otherwise slow dynamics. Because of that, Abrams is able to tap into a familiar sound while giving what could be a well-worn genre a shot of real vitality.

Who: Get Loose w/DJs Roger That & John Tyler
When: Saturday, 8.19, 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Where: The Thin Man
Why: Roger That and John Tyler are part of Denver’s electronic music world producing original music that is more like the underground techno that has been part of the more forward thinking end of electro in the world of the last ten years. Roger That once honed his craft in Berlin before returning to Denver within the last handful of years and that experience informed not just his music but the kind of soul-infused DJ sets like that which you can catch at this event.

Who: Cat Power w/The Still Tide
When: Saturday, 8.19, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: The Still Tide is one of many bands making indie rock relevant again. Mainly because its songwriting and use of sound goes beyond the ossified chamber pop and watered down R&B-isms that made that form of music so stale by 2008. Some may consider The Still Tide a dream pop or shoegaze band because its creative use of atmospheric elements but even without such refinements The Still Tide’s songs shine for not being entirely predictable yet accessible. Also, Chan Marshall, Cat Power, isn’t someone who is phoning it in whether in her songwriting or as a performer. She was known for hushed pop songs early in her career and then her 2012 album Sun became an embodiment of the experimental impulses on all her records up until that time. Five years later, who knows what Chan Marshall will bring to the stage? That one can have that question of a performer two decades into her career must surely be considered a good thing.

Who: Downtown Boys w/Surf Mom and Bleak Plaza
When: Sunday, 8.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: Downtown Boys are arguably one of the most exciting “punk” bands today. Its new record, Cost of Living, recorded with Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto (who also produced records from Blonde Redhead and The Gossip). But pedigree and hyperbolic statements about a band being good are not enough. One should know that Downtown Boys take buoyant noise rock and play it with an irrepressible, youthful verve while singing anthems that take direct aim at social/economic inequality and the pervasive sense of fear and despair that plagues the world today. Is it any wonder that a band that is redefining or at least reinvigorating with vibrant ideas and undeniable passion comes from Providence, Rhode Island? That place that gave us bands like Arab on Radar, White Mice, Six Finger Satellite and all that great stuff on Load Records? Doesn’t seem like a coincidence and Downtown Boys is worthy of any of the aforementioned even if there’s no direct connection between the members of Downtown Boys and Providence’s great local music tradition. That the band is doing the reverse of “Girls” bands with no women in them is also cool statement in itself.

Who: PiperFest w/Colfax Speed Queen, Ned Garthe Explosion and High Plains Honky
When: Sunday, 8.20, 8 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: This is, “[a] benefit show and silent auction for 3 year old Piper Waneka who was recently diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) an extremely rare, aggressive, and inoperable brain tumor. All proceeds go towards medical costs and quality of life expenses for Piper.” So yes, a good cause. But you get to see the great psychedelic garage band Colfax Speed Queen and Ned Garthe Explosion, a psychedelic rock band that answers the question in the positive about whether great bunches of humor and disparate musical ideas can make for a good band. But Ned Garthe Explosion is beyond merely good. Best stage banter in Denver? Maybe so.

Who: Washed Out w/Dega
When: Tuesday, 8.22, 7 p.m.
Where: Ogden Theatre
Why: Ernest Greene evolved right out of the chillwave straightjacket music journos who chimed in wanted to slap onto his music pretty quickly. Even though Greene’s song “Feel It All Around” is now synonymous with the opening music to Portlandia that the song can evoke memories of a more beautiful and tranquil time in your life almost every time is a testament to Greene’s gift for tapping into that part of your brain and memory. After exploring where he could go with guitars and a talent for writing non-wack nostalgic music, it seemed as though Greene became a little disillusioned with that musical path. All along he’d already had an interest in hip-hop production including his extensive use of samples on various records. He followed those instincts for his new album, 2017’s Mister Mellow. That it saw a release on respected experimental hip-hop label Stones’ Throw is perfect. Greene is still finding his footing after his reinvention but his ability to tap into an intospective yet hopeful frame of mind and evoke that in his listeners is completely intact. Likely he’ll play old songs but this tour will be one of the first times most people will get to see the new material that is more than a stones throw from his earlier dream pop/chillwave roots.

Who: Pleasure Prince w/Nasty Nachos and Retrofette
When: Wednesday, 8.23, 8/8:30 p.m.
Where: Hi-Dive
Why: In 2009, Lily Scott appeared on the ninth season of American Idol. While she didn’t take first place, Scott made an impression on many who saw her song. But, creatively anyway, Scott went on to much more respectable endeavors including her rock band Varlet. While Varlet didn’t become a household name, it released some great music. Scott spent some time not being so public with her music making but her latest project, Pleasure Prince based out of Brooklyn, is making its debut in Denver. Lily Scott is a real vocal talent and Pleasure Prince’s downtempo atmospherics is proving to be a good vehicle for that.

Modern Leisure’s releases latest single “The Secret Art”

Casey Banker of Modern Leisure, photo by Paul Banker, article by Tom MurphyModernLeisure_PaulBanker1

Casey Banker has certainly left his mark on Denver’s indie rock world over the last nine years. While living in Greeley, he started The Don’ts and Be Carefuls with some friends in 2008, his brother Paul joining a year later. Although the name was a bit unwieldy the music was lively and Banker’s lyrics strikingly well composed. The Don’ts flourished at a time in Denver and America generally when indie rock wasn’t some tired thing watered down by imitation and oversaturation. And even as trends wended in the latter direction, Banker’s gift for sharp observations about his own life and the world around him remained strong and great songwriting never really goes out of style. The band split in September 2012.

Banker went on to play in member of Shady Elders in which he shared songwriting duties with Fox Rodemich. That group had a moodier, dream pop side to its sound that garnered a respectable fanbase. But there were the inevitable creative differences and resulting personal differences and Banker exited the band (which has since gone on indefinite hiatus circa July 2017). But in 2016, Banker re-emerged with a new group called Modern Leisure that more fully reflected his creative vision and sensibility.

Modern Leisure has been releasing singles since summer 2016 but its latest, “The Secret Art,” has been released (listen and download below the interview) with plans for the full length, Super Sad Rom-Com to drop on October 20, 2017. Banker recently shared some thoughts on his new band and the ways in which his songwriting has evolved since his time in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls. Modern Leisure performs at the Hi-Dive with Kyle Emerson and Down Time. Doors 8:30, show 9 p.m. 21+, $10. At the show you can pick up a copy of the 7″ of “The Secret Art” backed with “Girls in Black.”

QCSA: You’ve been in prominent Denver bands of the past including The Don’ts And Be Carefuls, The Outfit and Shady Elders (maybe others). What do you get to do or put forth with Modern Leisure that maybe you weren’t able to in the past?

Casey Banker: It started a few years ago after I found myself without a band again. I had just got out of the longest relationship I’d ever been in. So I moved into a cheap studio apartment in the Speer neighborhood in Denver. I lived there for about 18 months and over two summers. A little bit after moving in I started writing. The ideas came out fast. I found myself reflecting on relationships and experiences I’d had since moving to Denver in 2010. About a lot of the people that came in and out of my life and all the shows and crazy experiences I’d had. My time living in that apartment was also kind of wild since I was on my own again and it felt like the last hurrah of my 20s. Living in that neighborhood, which is near the Denver Country Club and a lot of rich people, informed the music too. Seeing such a large growing income gap felt like the end of a Denver era… Denver felt pretty different than it had 5 years ago and my life did too.

So I wrote most of the songs while I was there and when I moved out I put the band together and started figuring out how to record the album. That’s when I named it too. With Modern Leisure I’m finally able to be creatively in charge of a band, which is ideal. It’s not something I ever had before. All the bands I’d been in before had been democratic and those never worked out for me. I wanted to run things from the ground up this time, for better or worse, and felt like I had enough experience to make it work.

Why did the name Modern Leisure suggest itself to you?

Modern Leisure just popped into my head one day. I think the 2 words came from some early Blur albums. Someone mentioned to me that it sounded like an ode to The Modern Lovers and I’m just fine with that. I was also going through a yacht-rock phase at the time and felt that the name perfectly described the inviting yet schmaltzy nature of that music. The name also helped serve as a sort of mission statement that helped direct the music. It’s fun to use an abstract idea to help guide a creative process and Modern Leisure just seemed to encapsulate this weird idea of a seductive malaise that I wanted to get across. It’s also fun to say with an english accent. 

You got to experience being in a band during Denver’s DIY and indie rock heyday. What do you think the current era is better for and/or lacking in regarding being a band in Denver and trying to play shows and get your music out there? 

I don’t know if it ever felt like a heyday at the time. I started playing in bands about 9 years ago. The difference now, I guess, is that everything is much more confusing with social media. There’s a lot more internet pressure to build a relationship with your audience. I do miss how simple it was with Myspace. Making your band a brand will always seem a bit besides the point to me. But you can still have fun with it and make like coasters and frisbees which is fun. Mod Leis yo-yo’s are currently in production.

How do you think the local scene and the cultural infrastructure around it (venues, publications and radio) could do better to cultivate local music?

Open Air, The Colorado Sound, and Radio 1190 are all pillars of local music. I could’ve never dreamed that commercial-free independent music would be blasting 24 hours a day on FM but here we are. A lot of my friends listen to the those stations. Bands could be more discerning on what they are being paid by venues. A lot of artists just think it’s an honor to book a show somewhere but they need to have frank discussions on pay out and where the money is going. The venues aren’t going to do that for you so you have to come to that conversation informed. 

What is The Secret Art? Or what does it represent as a theme for the song?

The Secret Art is essentially a song about being in a terrible situation in your life and still finding a silver lining. It’s me feeling like I’m living in a real-life purgatory and finding comfort in the idea that even the people that I respect the most experience that feeling too. It’s probably the most positive song on the album. 

You’re releasing a single, why not wait to release an EP or an album? 

I booked the hi-dive a few months back thinking the album would be finished but it wasn’t. So releasing a 7” single was the next best thing. Plus I love singles. They’re so precious. 

As a veteran songwriter, do you find your focus in songwriting has changed over the years? What do you feel like you tend to write about now as opposed to the sorts of stuff you wrote about in The Don’ts and Be Carefuls? If it’s similar territory do you feel that your refinement of your treatment of subjects and putting together the songs has undergone an evolution that you can identify in how you go about things now? 

Oh for sure. I had a bit of a wake-up call on how meaningful and moving a song can be over the last few years. Inserting humor and truth inside a great composition can just elevate it another level. My old songs could be quite angsty and a little one-dimensional. Listening to artists like Destroyer, Father John Misty and Metronomy helped a lot. Subject-wise, I’m still on a similar train. I still like writing about characters. Duality and contradiction play a large roll in everything I write. Or that’s what I find the most inspiring to write about. People can be shitty but I don’t think there are too many are truly evil people out there so there’s a lot of good material to be found in just understanding where someone’s coming from.

Best Shows in Denver August 10-August 15

First Timers at Union Station, photo by Tom Murphy01FirstTimers_TomMurphy_Jul18_2017

Yeah, sure, A Tribe Called Quest is playing Red Rocks and it’s probably sold out so if you didn’t already know about it and want to go see one of the most important artists in the history of hip-hop, and probably music generally, there’s always other ways of getting tickets. But fear not, there are plenty of worthy options in the Mile High City this coming week starting tonight and here are ten.
Who: Teacup Gorilla w/The Proto Whats? and Time Traveler
When: Thursday, 8.10, 9 p.m.
Where: The Skylark Lounge
Why: On 2nd Thursdays at The Skylark, Claudzilla aka Claudia Woodman curate a show called Musical Mayhem that highlights some of the more interesting leftfield artists in Denver or touring acts that are beneath even the usual small club radar. This time experimental rock band Teacup Gorilla brings its outsider psychedelic glam to the event. Strong songwriting and equally vital and wild imagination is a rare combination and Teacup Gorilla is not short on either.

Who: Chimney Choir w/Alright Alright, Wildermiss and Anthony Ruptak
When: Thursday, 8.10, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: It’s a Project Worthmore Benefit and in an era when refugees face a hostile world beyond the situation they faced at home it’s a cause to support onits own. But you get to see talented songwriter Anthony Ruptak as well as Chimney Choir. The experimental Americana band always brings a show that goes beyond the usual get up on stage and perform some songs well. A Chimney Choir performance is almost always high concept and involves an element of theater. Also, it’s not just a gimmick, it’s an extension of the excellent songwriting taking the experience of that music into new dimensions that usually encourage audience participation.

Who: Muscle Beach, Product Lust, Zeta (Venezuela), Alumine (FL)
When: Friday, 8.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Flux Capacitor, 25 W. Kiowa, Colorado Springs
Why: Colorado Springs DIY space Flux Capacitor was shut down in December 2016. But with a partnership through the Pikes Peak Library District, Flux is now again open in a building on the property of the Penrose branch east of I-25 and Kiowa. Park around back. The reason to go to this show is to see some punk that’s bursting the boundaries of the sound and the style. Muscle Beach is easily one of the best punk bands from Denver disregarding rules about how much metal can be in the punk and vice versa and how “arty” a punk band is allowed to be. Turns out plenty. Same with Product Lust which could be considered a hardcore band with its energy and confrontational performance style but it’s rhythms are so beyond the punk mold and the guitar sound goes through more changes and tones to be shackled by the usual hard and fast rules of the genre.

Who: First Timers with Charming Disaster
When: Friday, 8.11, 9 p.m.
Where: Syntax Physic Opera
Why: First Timers is a trio that combines Bossanova rhythms and dusky tones with punk rock attitude. No surprise considering the lineage: guitarist and vocalist Andrew Koch was in Tiger Beat in the 90s as well as weirdo punk group Veronica; drummer Denise Andert used to play in The Get It and Turbo Knife Fight; bassist Sid Pink has been a bit of a personality around Denver and played in various bands, most notably and most recently with American Fucktape. The sound sits in a nice place that bears comparison to the countrified end of Yo La Tengo, Duster’s hushed introspection and Wilco’s explorations of inner space with its unabashed blend of Americana and electronica.

Who: EyeHateGod and Primitive Man, Fathers and Boar Worship
When: Friday, 8.11, 5:30 p.m.
Where: The Marquis Theater
Why: Primitive Man is really taking Denver music out into the world with its inimitable, nightmarish doom metal. At the live show it’s easy to appreciate how Ethan McCarthy, Jonathan Campos and Joe Linden create atmospheres so dense and harrowing it might be the soundtrack to the world beyond the interdimensional gate in Phantasm. Primitive Man drops its fantastic new record Caustic on October 6 on Relapse Records. Also, EyeHateGod melds harrowing poetry with swampy sludge rock in a way that transports you into both emotional lows and highs at once. It’s the kind of heavy show for people who aren’t into metal but metalheads will find plenty to love as well.

Who: Priests w/Lithics and Princess Dewclaw
When: Saturday, 8.12, 8 p.m.
Where: Larimer Lounge
Why: DC-based Priests do that uncommon thing of writing songs that are charged with political and socially critical sentiments without coming across like they’re preaching. They’re just telling it like it is in the world today and there’s plenty to talk about without having to look too far for material that affects your everyday life as well that would resonate with other people. Is it punk? It is in spirit. In sound it’s more like the better late 90s/early 2000s emo bands like Rainer Maria and Milemarker in that there don’t seem to be moods, atmospheres and sounds off the palete of expression. And the live show is refreshingly raw and engaging, thus making Priests one of the most interesting and exciting rock bands going now. Denver-based art/noise punk outfit Princess Dewclaw open the show.

Who: Spiritual Cramp featuring: David J. DJ set, Echo Beds, Tragic Black, The BrickBats, Lucas Lanthier, The Pirate Twins (Scary Lady Sarah and William Faith), DJ Malefic (Memento Mori), Wake the Dead (DJs Mr. and Mrs. HoodBats and JunkYard), DJ Rickbats, Davey Bones (The Hanging Garden), Boyhollow, DJ Roland, DJ Slave1, DJ Matte Blacke and Batboy, DJ Mudwulf, DJ Vision
When: Sunday, 8.13, 4 p.m. start
Where: The Church (nightclub)
Why: It’s a kind of Goth festival heavy on DJs but hey, David J of Bauhaus/Love and Rockets, William Faith of Faith & The Muse and Christian Death. Among other luminaries including locals like Boyhollow of Lipgloss fame, DJ Roland, DJ Slave1 and DJ Mudwulf. That would be worth checking out on its own if the curated DJ set is your thing. But Echo Beds is playing a live set bridging the gap between the older Denver Goth scene and the current wave of industrial/darkwave/post-punk coming out of Denver and elsewhere that has no real connection to the older Goth world. Echo Beds is arguably the most prominent industrial band in Denver at the moment but think more like Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Department more so than some 90s EBM garbage and future pop.

Who: Product Lust, Entry and faim
When: Sunday, 8.13, 8 p.m.
Where: Mutiny Information Café
Why: If you didn’t feel like going to Colorado Springs on Friday (see above) you can catch Product Lust in Denver at Mutiny.

9. Who: Barbarian w/Peucharist, Nekrofilth and Morgue Whore
When: Monday, 8.14, 7 p.m.
Where: Lost Lake Lounge
Why: Metal can get a bit tedious when bands stick to a narrow formula and traditions of style. But that’s true for all kinds of music. Fortunately, bands like Italy’s Barbarian didn’t get the memo to just do thrash or death or black metal. Same for Vermont’s Peucharist. And in Denver and Colorado generally people tend to grow in their own directions musically so you get a bands like death/black metal ragers Nekrofilth and Morgue Whore. The latter also apparently realized that writing solid hooks and well-crafted songs needn’t mean you’re settling for being yet another classic rock wannabe. Its 2016 self-titled debut was striking as not just a metal album but as a great set of rock and roll songs.

Who: Melvins with Spotlights
When: Tuesday, 8.15, 7 p.m.
Where: The Gothic Theatre
Why: Thank goodness weirdoes like the guys in Melvins have kept at putting out heavy music that refuses to stay in a boring pigeonhole. Its recently released A Walk With Love and Death is its first double record that paired the kind of psychedelic noise rock you might expect from the band with an soundtrack to a forthcoming short film the band is making with Jesse Nieminen. Don’t go expecting the latter, go expecting to see a band you’ve either never seen but heard about or have seen several times and not being surprised by how Melvins manage to keep their show exciting and fresh.