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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Cerce (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
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.
When you talk to the average bear about their favorite music of the decade, you may find yourself in murky water. The Vanilla Ices, Sugar Rays and Lits of the decade have potentially rendered many music fans’ 90s taste buds useless. Just as every decade’s pop charts have ruled the airwaves, there is of course a plethora of musicians who have had their good name sullied by similar “artists.”
By no means am I an expert in this field, but it is a passion of mine to discover the overlooked. The goal of this ongoing series is to expose the vein and turn you on to the real, honest artists from the 90s who actually deserve your attention.
It’s A Shame About The 90s
The Lemonheads, fronted by the elusive and brutally honest Evan Dando, are my first choice. My bromance with Mr. Dando aside, this man warrants your consideration. The ability he has to take pop/rock stylings and inject them with heroin-infused truths may not necessarily strike a chord on first listen. It takes a few spins to sink your teeth into the meanings and find the sincerity. Just like any good drug, after you’ve tasted it, all you want is more.
Starting as a “punk” band in the mid-80s, Evan has remained the Lemonheads’ only constant member through the years. In 1992, their fan base grew enough for the almighty major label to bring them under their wing. That same year, they released “It’s a Shame About Ray,” their only critically acclaimed release. The record’s title track was the first and most successful single, reaching #5 on the Modern Rock charts in America. When the record was re-issued, a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” was tacked on as the album’s closer. The cover was a pretty big hit, even finding its way onto the Wayne’s World 2 soundtrack.
Over the next 15 years, Evan and his Lemonheads went on to release a lot of wonderful music that was greatly overlooked. He collaborated with members of Dinosaur Jr., Descendents, even the crazy Brits from Oasis. I could tell you that every single record they made through the years is fantastic, but I’m biased. As a songwriter, Evan mixes metaphor and reality in a way that is truly poetic while at the same time can be taken in jest.
I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Mr. Dando on the 20-year celebration tour of “It’s a Shame About Ray.” Through all of his quirkiness, he could not have been more friendly and cordial. I can’t imagine playing the same songs over and over for 20 years and still being able to wear a genuine smile. We talked about MC5, how our Methodist Church van is a good cover for smoking pot, and how strange it is that our little town of Gainesville gets no love from bigger touring artists.
I can’t say enough nice things about this man and the music he has crafted. I hope he never stops.
When you start listing the bands that Ryan Seagrist and Pat Schramm have been involved with, it kind of makes sense that they have produced a demo that leaves you desperate for more. Between them, they have played with bands such as Discount, Latterman, Bridge & Tunnel, Fellow Project, and Monikers.
But with Young Ladies, these two friends based in NYC have produced something that is a departure from their trademark sound and lets them showcase a different side of their song writing, leaning more towards indie rock or 90s alternative than straight forward punk rock.
I spoke to Ryan and asked him how the project came about.
“I work in a recording studio sometimes in the city, had a couple of free days, and Pat and I went in and just finished those three tunes. We posted the songs and have already gone through a few hundred downloads. So we’re really stoked,” Ryan explained.
With this demo, Young Ladies have taken the themes of friendship, loss, loneliness, and big city life that have run through so many of their previous bands lyrics and delivered them in way that lets them step out from the shadows of their other projects and I, for one, can’t wait to hear more.
After the break-up of Jets to Brazil in 2003, fans of Blake Schwarzenbach held their collective breath waiting to see what would come next from the legendary frontman/guitarist. It took five years before Thorns of Life surfaced in 2008, and vanished far too quickly, breaking up less than a year later following the departure of drumming legend Aaron Cometbus.
Later in 2009, fans got the news they were again waiting for; Blake had formed another band, a 3-piece called forgetters (check out this December 2009 live set recorded by National Underground at a packed show in Gainesville). About a year later, their first release, a 4-song, self-titled EP, came out. It was an outstanding taste of what the band had to offer, though fans wanted more. But, after touring in 2011, their bassist (Caroline Paquita) left the band and, despite some rumors and hints that the band may continue, it remained unclear if it was the last we would hear from them.
That is, until September 9, 2012 when it was announced via the band’s blog that a new full-length album was going to be released November 14. Additionally, the post says forgetters will be touring, news that is equally as exciting.
I’m beyond stoked about this news. As a huge fan of Blake, it will be a sad day when he hangs it up for good; so, anytime I learn that we’ll be privileged to more music, it puts off the end a bit longer. I love what I’ve heard from forgetters, and I’ve been lucky to have seen them twice, impressed both times. But I’m also curious to see if they’ll just be a 2-piece going forward and what impact that will have on their sound and live shows.