Category Archives: News

Interview: Allison Weiss

allisonweiss

Photo: Allison Weiss

Say What You Mean, Allison Weiss’ sophomore full-length and first for No Sleep Records, is a memorable collection of breakup songs, with the same expertly crafted balance of  infectious hooks and emotional fragility found on any of Tegan and Sara’s better albums — the two even share a limited edition 12” split, in addition to an affinity for Taylor Swift. The 26-year-old is also remarkably funny, which makes her live set — and Twitter feed — all the more entertaining.

Allison, originally from Georgia and residing in Brooklyn for only a few more days, is Los Angeles-bound for now, but she’ll return to Brooklyn for a show at the Knitting Factory with Austin Lucas and PJ Bond on Dec. 10th.

Allison and I discussed her songwriting evolution, the lengthy search for a record label, and her upcoming move.

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From the bottom of my heart, thank you…

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I went to my first punk show at 14, back in 1992 and was hooked for life. I was amazed that people didn’t know about these bands and wanted to share. I booked shows, made a couple of zines and did whatever I could locally. I went off to college for recording with the full intent of making this my career.

Real life happened and I found myself a decade later, a father of three with a desk job. My very good friend Shannon Koffman and I had been kicking around plans for a few years and decided it was now or never. In 2005, we bought three HD cameras, built a live recording rig and started recording shows. National Underground was born.

I enlisted the help of some friends and we started recording shows around Orlando. We answered the call to help No Idea Records record The FEST 4 in Gainesville. By the end of that weekend, we were three months out and had recorded Against Me! and The Bouncing Souls as well as another two dozen bands.

We were trying to turn these into CD/DVD releases, but by the time we got everything lined up with mixes, artwork and contracts, the recording industry was taking a major hit. We didn’t want to compete with the very bands and labels we were trying to help promote. No matter how low our prices were or how short our runs would have been, it made no sense. Plus, who really likes or ever buys live records?

We decided to just start putting it out online for free…and people really got into it. From 2007-2010, National Underground was this living, breathing thing. We had tons of traffic, volunteers who wanted to mix, edit, do pr, interviews and write content for the site, developers of other content wanting to team up and labels contacting us. We have so much to show for it. It was the best.

Shannon and I were still shelling out money for tapes, hard drives, hotel rooms, pizza, beer and such. We sold a couple dozen supporter packs, did fund raisers for expenses here and there and I still have a check from Fat Records I can’t bring myself to cash. Other than that and a quick tour with Less Than Jake, National Underground didn’t make any money or pay any of our crew. Every single person who worked for National Underground volunteered. I’m simultaneously humbled by and overwhelmed with gratitude for that.

Some made National Underground a stepping stone into the industry. I’m really proud of the part it played in their careers. I even got offers to do all sorts of things from shooting at SXSW and CMJ to music videos and tour managing but alas, I couldn’t risk it with so many mouths to feed.

So, here we are, years later. We recorded straight through until The FEST 10, both HOH Fests, picked up shows like Paint It Black in a parking lot, HWM’s reunion, Dead To Me’s new lineup house show and countless warehouse shows. Truth be told, I don’t know how much we’ve recorded. I think somewhere around 600 shows and we have video for about 450 of them. Many of them are repeats, but why wouldn’t you record Dillinger Four for the fifth time?

I’ve been fighting this battle with the post production the entire time. I’ve had people give me a hard time about our turn around time since the beginning. I may have laughed, but I was super hard on myself about it. It’s not easy to mix, edit, output and post any of what we record. That’s not even getting into approvals by management, labels and such. It’s a process. Then you take into account that everybody has an HD camera in their pocket. iPhone footage is up on YouTube before we’ve can even strike our equipment. Nobody cares that our audio is mixed or we have multiple camera angles that are lit correctly. There’s no value in what we do anymore.

National Underground has been a long, expensive, trying, yet amazingly rewarding chapter in my life that I feel I need to put to bed. I have that same job and I’m up to four kids to focus on. I just can’t give National Underground the attention I think it deserves.

We’ve given the recordings to HOH, The FEST and No Idea Records. Hopefully this way more of it will get to see the light of day. I can only be sure that it has no chance if I sit on it and do nothing.

We’re going to keep the site up and might post stuff we feel like sharing. We shall see.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to every single person, visitor to our site, crew member, band, manager, venue, label, support staff, security guard and yes, even cop who helped in any and every way, even by just giving us any attention at all. It’s been beyond rad.


Interview: Deafheaven

Photo: Deathwish Inc.

Photo: Deathwish Inc.

San Francisco’s Deafheaven has been fairly described as a black metal, shoegaze, or post-hardcore band, but it’s difficult to reduce it to a single genre. The band’s debut full-length Roads to Judah was released to much acclaim among the communities attached to these various alternative subgenres. The record was sprawling with atmosphere, with elaborate instrumental arrangements and brooding lyrics brimming with dark imagery. The writing on Sunbather, Deafheaven’s followup to Roads to Judah, is the work of two songwriters — three fewer than on the previous full-length, but with no less ambition. In fact, the record will be 22 minutes and three tracks longer than its predecessor, with multiple instrumental interludes intersecting with stories of class disparity, romantic detachment, and family. I discussed the songwriting process and the content of Sunbather with vocalist George Clarke after the band played a one-off show in Brooklyn.

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Review: Luther – Let’s Get You Somewhere Else

Luther, hailing from Philadelphia, has already made quite a name for themselves in their brief existence. The band has played with everyone from The Menzingers and Dave Hause to The Bouncing Souls and Hot Water Music. With a 7-song EP and a 4-way split under their belt, Luther’s first full-length effort, Let’s Get You Somewhere Else, was released on October 9th through Chunksaah Records.

The album kicks off with “The Concrete Sound,” which immediately brings to mind Apathy and Exhaustion-era Lawrence Arms. Continue reading


Review: Propagandhi – Failed States

Impressive dynamics, scathing lyrics, and artistic cohesiveness have accurately characterized Propagandhi in the past; the same applies here, on Propagandhi’s sixth full-length and Epitaph Records debut, but these characteristics are on such prominent display this time around that I can’t help but hail Failed States as the band’s best release.

On Failed States, Propagandhi critiques subjects ranging from human nature to the often deafening effects of social media — some broad subjects, for sure, but their vitriol is just as passionately applied to specific current events. On “Rattan Cane,” bassist Todd Kowalski assumes the menacing voice of an Indonesian police officer as he, in his fascist act of “spiritual cleansing,” shaves the head of a young punk. The empowering “Cognitive Suicide,” meanwhile, addresses the degrading “gender verification” of Olympic track runner Caster Semenya in 2009. “Are they terrified of unobscured and brilliant colours?” asks Kowalksi. “Perhaps you cracked the door to their own forbidden worlds.” The song is annotated with additional words of encouragement for Semenya.

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Review: Cerce – self-titled EP/7”

Cerce self-titled EPCerce (pronounced “sir-say”) is a fierce, scorching, raging fire, with flames that rip forth unpredictably, burning fast. The 5-piece Boston band just released their self-titled, 6-song EP/7”, so I grabbed a fire extinguisher and gave it a listen.

The EP opens with a slow, brooding, feedback-heavy, meandering instrumental. The song helps set the stage for the pain, furor, and soul-baring to come, almost lulling you, before seamlessly plowing into the second track, “Weary,” drums pounding at a very fast tempo. Continue reading


Review: Defiance, Ohio – The Calling EP

This July, Defiance, Ohio made available on its website, with no prior notice, two new songs. Subsequent weeks saw the release of four more. All six comprise The Calling, a self-released digital-only EP that is in part a celebration of the band’s tenth anniversary.

Defiance, Ohio was a very different band ten years ago. Formerly an acoustic trio, its unique brand of folk punk has evolved considerably. The Calling retains some of the acoustic elements upon which the band was founded, as “Bad Ideas” is initially a 3/3 acoustic solo number, until the percussion gradually enters and the song becomes a swaying singalong.

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