King Tuff is the creative moniker of Kyle Thomas who has established himself as an artist whose imaginative and eclectic songwriting has evolved over the course of several imaginative albums. His style might be traced to some roots in psychedelic and garage rock but what shines in his recorded output and performances is Thomas’ craft as a storyteller whose lyrics illuminate aspects of American life and culture through the lens of his own experiences and their grounding details. With his latest record Smalltown Stardust, Thomas reflects on the small town life hailing from Brattleboro, Vermont that shaped him and drawing on warm memories to inform a set of songs that sound like an affectionate exploration of how reconnecting with a past one left behind in pursuit of one’s life goals can enrich an appreciation of where you are now and where you’ve been. Beginning to end it’s an album of uncommonly well crafted pop melodies that feel grounding and comforting after a time of some of the greatest chaos and uncertainty for any musician hoping to share their music with a public in living memory. The record is also a celebration of the community and context of Thomas’ musical life and conceived and recorded while his housemantes Meg Duffy (Hand Habits) and Sasami Ashworth (Sasami) were putting together their own extraordinary records of the past couple of years (Fun House from 2021 and Squeeze from 2022 respectively). Some of that spirit creative spirit and good will seems to have intermingled into Smalltown Stardust as well.
Listen to our interview with King Tuff on Bandcamp and follow the artist at the links below. King Tuff performs at Globe Hall on Saturday, March 11, 2022 with Tchotchke and The Savage Blush, doors 8, show 9.
The CBDs are a Power Folk Trio formed in the Boulder area in 2013 when the members of the band more or less met each other through their wives and via the world of CU Boulder. Burt Rashbaum (keyboards, vocals), Evan Cantor (acoustic guitar, harmonica, bass, vocals) and Roland LaForge (electric guitars, vocals) all grew up on the East Coast of America and were electrified by the counterculture of the 60s and 70s and all witnessed that great wave of music and art as it was happening before they separately found themselves moving to Colorado in the mid and late 70s. Rashbaum has a background in writing and has been a published author for decades, Roland LaForge was a geologist who spent times in volcanoes around the world gathering data for analysis among his other duties and Evan Cantor in addition to more mundane jobs was a part of Colorado’s avant-garde as a member of Walls of Genius with Little Fyodor (aka Dave Lichtenberg) who blurred the lines between punk, tape collage and noise and Cantor experienced the rich and great underground scene of 1980s Denver and Boulder including witnessing shows at The Packing House and The Junkyard including the legendary 1986 show with Einstürzende Neubauten the tickets for which were painted bones one had to purchase at Wax Trax. Cantor was also in various other left field punk and experimental rock bands over the years but upon befriending his current bandmates he reconnected with some of his own roots in that genuinely cool end up hippie subculture and its own musical leanings.
The CBDs have been playing shows along the front range for the past decade and are now finally releasing a double album conceived of as representing the kind of set list one would hear at one of the band’s performances. Two Sets is the kind of record that could have come out fifty years ago, a decade ago or now and its refreshing and spontaneous energy draws you in immediately into its stories of life, love, bemusement at some of the situations one finds oneself navigating through life. In moments it recalls the off the cuff brilliance of the Grateful Dead or The Band and in others of Frank Zappa in his mode of thoughtful storytelling. It’s a varied record that flows so well it’s like listening to the kind of movie one would hope someone would make of a Tom Robbins novel but one more rooted in instantly relatable and evergreen themes of human connection that bypass sectarian political and cultural divides. It’s a gentle yet potent reminder of an era of idealism and open humanity that never needed to get tarnished and one that seems accessible, practical and nurturing.
Listen to out interview with The CBDs on Bandcamp give a listen to Two Sets on Bandcamp as well (linked below) and witness the easy and creative connection of the band for yourself live. For more information on the band and their future exploits visit thecbds.com.
Upcoming Live Dates for The CBDs:
3/5/23: Very Nice Brewing Company, 4-6 pm, 20 Lakeview Dr., Nederland, CO 3/18/23: BOCO Cider, 6-8 pm, 1501 Lee Hill Dr., Boulder, CO 5/5/23: The Rock Garden, 6-9 pm, 338 W. Main St., Lyons, CO 6/6/23” The Local, 7-9 pm, 2731 Iris Ave., Boulder, CO
Weird Al Qaida got off the ground in 2008/2009 when Eric Peterson and Ingvald Grunder formed the experimental project with the aim of being able to explore whatever musical ideas came to mind. Both had been in bands in and around the Denver music scene for years prior with Peterson having played in power pop/punk pop group The Barrys and Grunder having spent some time in Orbit Service. Weird Al Qaida doesn’t fit nicely into any Denver subscene not being quite noise enough for that world though elements of musique concrète, ambient and noise are elements of its songwriting and not quite psychedelic folk or jazz enough for a more mainstream version of that. But its fascinating body of recorded work including the 2011 seven inch Psychic Wizard, 2016’s Plastic Family and now the 2022 record The Dog & The Deer showcase imaginative soundscaping and arrangements that expand categories of what music can be while remaining essentially accessible.
Listen to our interview with Weird Al Qaida on Bandcamp and connect with the duo at its website linked below. Weird Al Qaida performs at Mutiny Information Café on Friday, February 17, 2023 from 8:30-9:30 pm and with any luck we’ll get further chances to catch the band in person now that live music is back to being more regular.
Mark Bingham got an early start in the music business when he was signed with Elektra Records at the age of 17 in 1966 and released a single on Warner Bros. before returning to his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana to attend university. At the time he started Bar-B-Q Records and in 1975 he relocated to New York City and started the band Social Climbers but also got involved in recording some of the city’s more adventurous artists like Glenn Branca, MX-80 and in particular Bush Tetra’s 1980 single “Too Many Creeps.” Bingham moved to New Orleans in 1982 and started The Boiler Room recording studio and in 2001 opened Piety Street Recording but ended operations with the studio in 2013. Across his decades as a producer, musician (studio, live), composer and recording engineer, Bingham has worked with R.E.M., Ed Sanders, John Scholfield, Flat Duo Jets, Allen Ginsberg, Marianne Faithfull, Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, Korn, Dr. John, Pretty Lights, Dave Matthews and countless others but is perhaps less known for his eclectic and vast body of work that is his own music. So from 2022-2023 Nouveau Electric Records is releasing Bingham’s collected work in 22 albums. The series began with the release of Mushroom Crowd and Goo Seneck on Friday, November 18, 2022 with albums released every two months through September 2023 including the recently issues William Blake in Bakersfield.
Listen to our interview with Mark Bingham on Bandcamp and please visit Bingham’s own Bandcamp below for more information on the producer and the aforementioned series of releases.
Pink Lady Monster is a Denver-based band that began as a vehicle for singer/guitarist/keyboardist/synth player Simone’s songwriting but began to take on its current form once Savanna joined the group on bass and synth and Gabe settled in long term on drums. Its early music might be loosely be described as in the realm of psychedelic rock or dream pop but since it began actively performing live in early 2022, Pink Lady Monster has branched out and incorporated more ambient soundscapes into its aesthetic and now the project is seeking to leave behind its softer more mellow sounds in favor of musical ideas that eschew conventional structure and favor songwriting that while perhaps still accessible veers off standard genre styles. Those that have seen its entrancing shows of 2022 may be in for a bit of a sonic departure in 2023 going forward. What music from the band exists online are often more like Simone’s early sketches of songs and as interesting as they are the live band that emerged out of those recordings is more of a force with an undeniable mystique and creatively vibrant. One might compare the music of 2022 to the likes of Blonde Redhead in its moodier moments and like Broadcast once the synth became involved in mix but you’ll have to see for yourself what Pink Lady Monster has been crafting until it releases the album reflecting its current state of development.
Blacklist was a flagship band of Pieter Schoolwerth’s Wierd Records label, the imprint that perhaps best known for 2000s and early 2010s post-punk, shoegaze, industrial and noise. The group in its initial run from 2005-2011 released one full-length album Midnight Of The Century (2009) but even then was establishing itself as distinctly different from other bands lumped into the then emerging modern coldwave and post-punk scene that would lead to the current version of that movement. Blacklist incorporated elements of metal and clear, melodic vocals with crisp production. It’s astutely observed, politically aware lyrics one might even compare, given the music especially, to late 80s Queensryche or Vision Thing-period Sisters of Mercy. At that time a new uptick of fascism beyond the prevailing authoritarian swing of world politics was making itself known, blossoming toward the middle of the 2010s onward. After an extended hiatus Blacklist returned with Afterworld (Profound Lore Records, October 28, 2022). The new record builds upon while more or less reinventing its earlier sound somehow evoking shades of Comsat Angels, Fields of the Nephilim and the aforementioned with emotionally charged commentary on the world in this moment and the larger challenges human society faces with the environment, persistent social ills and political turmoil and inequality (all of which are deeply intermingled) but with a personal touch. The music doesn’t shy away from artful melodrama and in not adhering to trendy post-punk or metal aesthetics. The production on the album is multi-resonant and feels like a time-bridging sound of 80s rock and its emotionally earnest quality with a more contemporary ear for nuanced depth of mood. It sounds unmoored from and unbeholden to a particular cultural timeframe or context and a more enriching listen because of it.
Listen to our interview with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Joshua Strachan of Blacklist on Bandcamp and follow the group’s exploits at the links below.
Eszter Balint is a singer, songwriter, violinist and actress who released her fourth album I HATE MEMORY! on November 18, 2022 via Red Herring Records. The album is a set of songs that chart the artist’s path from communist Hungary in the 60s and 70s to New York City of the late 70s and 80s. Co-written with Stew (Stew & The Negro Problem, Passing Strange), the songs are like vignettes about the art, music, theater and film world and the community around it in which Balint was intimately involved as an active participant. But the album is more than a mere catalog of the times, it is a meditation on the nature of oppression, freedom, the possibilities inherent to situations in which rules fall by the wayside and one’s struggle with memory when you are someone who is most focused on the present rather than living and re-litigating the past. Long in the works the songs are the basis of an “anti-musical” which is planned for an ongoing series of performances at Joe’s Pub. I HATE MEMORY! is a multi-faceted, multi-layered ambitious work that has helped Balint reconnect with her teenage self with the aid of her various collaborators (for more information on those, visit her website linked below).
Balint as a youth lived with the avant-garde Squat Theatre troupe founded by her father and that’s where she first met Jean-Michel Basquiat who produced her first recordings and with whom she became involved. Balint’s career and proximity to the New York arts world led her to her cinematic debut in Jim Jarmusch’s first major film Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and to later roles in Shadows and Fog (1991), Trees Lounge (1996), The Dead Don’t Die (2019) and in season 4 of the sitcom Louie. All along the way she has performed music and recorded with Angels of Light and Swans (in particular for the sprawling 2012 album The Seer), John Zorn and Marc Ribot.
Listen to our interview with Balint on Bandcamp below and for more information on Eszter Balint please visit her website linked below and give I HATE MEMORY! a listen on Bandcamp as well linked separately beneath the interview.
The trio of Mike Baggetta / Jim Keltner / Mike Watt released its second album Everywhen We Go on November 18, 2022 via BIG EGO Records. The record represents a further development of the project with its master players having come to a new level of comfort and one might say intuitive interplay. Most of the songs were at their core written by guitarist Baggetta with one by Watt and two by the collective and one hears in the results a flow of musical ideas that contains elements of jazz and surf rock but which evolves in unpredictable and fascinating ways for an eclectic album that bears the hallmarks of the trio’s collective roots in punk, art rock and the avant-garde. There is an intimacy in the recorded sounds even in its more rocking moments that draws you into its spontaneous energy. Keltner’s resume reads like a who’s who of rock music from the 1970s onward but his early interest in jazz coincides well with Baggetta’s free jazz chops and Watt’s own diverse and dynamic musicianship beyond his time in Minutemen, fIREHOSE, Stooges and numerous other projects. Everywhen We Go is an energetic yet relaxing listen that showcases the ability of three veteran musicians to play expertly to the song in a way both focused and free form.
Listen to our interview with Mike Baggetta on Bandcamp and listen to the new record for yourself and for more information on Baggetta and the trio please visit the links below.
Richard X. Heyman recently released his 15th solo album 67,000 Miles An Album. The veteran musician and producer was is a founding member of The Doughboys who in the 1960s were a legendary garage rock band from New Jersey though their oeuvre was comprised mostly of covers of commercially successful bands of the time like The Yardbirds, The Kinks and of course the Rolling Stones. When the group split in 1968 (before re-forming in 2000) Heyman went on the drum for the likes of Brian Wilson, Link Wray, Jonathan Richman, played keys for Ben. E. King, guitar for Mary Weiss of The Shangri-Las. The new album includes new material and older work reworked and assembled as a kind of tour through time and in space. The earth travels through space at 67,000 miles per hour and on its axis at more than 1,000 miles an hour. The length of the album in time is approximately the distance you’ll have traveled as a passenger on spaceship earth. Recorded at both Heyman’s home studio Kick Factory and at Eastside Sound in NYC, the album features Heyman on vocals and a wide array of instrumentation with Nancy Leigh on bass and backing vocals and guest performances from Probyn Gregory on brass, Julia Kent on cello and Chris Jenkins on viola. Musically the album is brimming with infectious and exuberant melodies and exquisitely orchestrated power pop. It’s the kind of record that could have come out fifty years ago or now and seemed very much of the moment.
We had a chance to speak with Heyman about his career and his collaborations as well as the concepts and assemblage of the new record and you can listen below on Bandcamp. The album is now available on CD, digital download and via streaming services having released on Turn-Up Records on October 21, 2022. Please visit www.richardxheyman.com for details on listening and purchasing.
Steve Faceman has been a prolific and active artist in the Denver rock underground since the late 2000s with his project utilizing as a moniker his adopted surname. The group, mostly a trio, has developed an eclectic musical style that often waxes between indie rock and pop and Americana with underpinnings of experimental music and jazz. The songwriting has always been finely honed with lyrics that reveal the perspective of artists with a self-awareness and sensitivity to the human condition and the ways we go through life finding meaning and experiences that open and expand our horizons and depth of feeling. What has often set Faceman apart from other bands has been a seeming instinct for creative presentation in a community oriented fashion. Some of the early shows involved elaborate costumes and set pieces seemingly crafted from basic elements and a basic level of skill but obvious imagination. Like a child’s craft project and the homespun charm that entails. At other times the band collaborated with theater production companies to create a stage setting like the paper Megalodon for a show in 2013, the massive tornado sculpture brought to the Oriental Theater for the Faceman’s 100 Year Storm festival in 2016 (which featured 100 bands across two days) and the Journey to the Sun festival in 2015 at Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box (this one had a mere 80 bands over the same timeframe). With each, Steve helped to facilitate massive community involvement to make for a memorable and unique event and experience for everyone involved. On many if not all Faceman records there are guest musicians and recorded at noteworthy recording studios with cover art by members of the local arts scene as well. All of this is to say that Faceman certainly cares about its own fine music but the band recognizes its context and feeds into that ecosystem in a very direct and grassroots way. In 2022 Faceman releases its 2016 album Wild and Hunting for the first time on vinyl as well as its 2022 album Western Jupiter, a relatively spare record by Faceman standards but also an intimate portrait of human experience and kind of an Americana science fiction anthology of songs about the travails of the past few years.
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