I went to Eskimo Joe’s studio last week to film them playing a tune for theMusic.com.au. It turned out pretty well!
Published in The Music (WA) | 25.09.13 | Issue # 7
Read the story here: http://issuu.com/spa_magazines/docs/themusic_wa_007
Published in The Music (WA) | 25.09.13 | Issue # 7
PUNK & HARDCORE WITH DANIEL CRIBB
If you’re watching the final episodes of Breaking Bad, I’m sure you’ll be able to sympathise with me. Having only experienced the awesomeness of two new episodes, I have been making every effort to ensure I don’t accidently stumble across any spoilers, which, if you watch as much TV as I do, can be a tricky thing. And then it happened; some jerk posted a massive spoiler on Facebook.
Although the series is winding down (after the spoiler I read, maybe winding down isn’t the correct way to put it), you can take solace in the fact that Walter White (Bryan Cranston), and Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), will still be prevalent on our screens; Cranston signing on to be a villain in the new Batman film and Norris currently starring in Under The Dome. You might be wondering what the hell any of this has to do with punk rock? Well, there seems to be an increasing trend of writers sneakily including punk rock bands in scenes – usually via a poster in the background or tune playing quietly in the background.
On a recent episode of Under The Dome, a poster of The Menzingers was visible, and in the latest season of Parks & Recreation, there was a Bad Religion A News Maps of Hell poster distinctly plastered in one of the character’s living rooms. You can’t escape from punk rock; Even The Simpsons have included some sneaky Descendents references into the show before. Creator Matt Groening was a huge fan, and there’s even reviews he wrote on the band floating around the internet. But, unlike Breaking Bad, reading a review of a Descendents show isn’t going to ruin the ending for you.
Luckily, minutes after reading the spoiler, I stumbled across a full album stream of the new Saves The Day record. I mentioned the band was working on a crowd-funded album a few months ago, and it sounds great. Their long-term relationship with fans has yielded awesome results.
Parkway Drive and Anberlin, another two bands whose fans are super dedicated (Anberlin fans paying $250 for meet and greet tickets), recently smashed through town celebrating their ten years anniversaries. It’s interesting to look over the past ten years to see how these type of bands have survived in such a rapidly changing industry.
With all this talk over the past decade about the decline of CD sales and how it’s making things hard for bands, it’s funny that bands such as Anberlin, All Time Low, Parkway Drive are all hitting their ten year anniversaries this year and touring to sold out crowds around the world. The bands seem to be doing just fine; it’s the big businesses that are screwed.
This probably isn’t the right attitude to have, but fans stealing music from the bands they love via illegal downloading has given birth to a stronger live scene, and given fans more shows to attend. All Time Low, who toured Australia twice this year, are now independent, so the majority of their income comes from shows.
But most bands understand revenue from recordings is a thing of the past, hence why most records stream days before their release and a lot of bands are doing crowd-funded projects. And although All Time Low skipped Perth on their latest tour, it’s getting harder to say that Perth gets a raw deal, because a lot of bands do make the trip to WA. US bands Joyce Manor and Cheap Girls supported The Smith Street Band on their latest Australian tour, and a few years ago those two supports would have never ventured West. Hell, The Ataris are driving all the way to Perth from Adelaide for just one show. I’ll actually have the pleasure of being behind the wheel for that 30-hour drive.
So, the next time you think punk may be dead or dying, have a quick think about the increased amount of gigs from international artists and keep your eyes peeled for punk rock posters plastered in the background of your favourite TV show – while avoiding Breaking Bad spoilers.
Published on the Music.com.au | 25.09.13
Published in The Music (NSW, VIC) | 02.10.13 | Issue # 8
& The Music (WA) | 09.10.13 | Issue # 9
Battling homeless folk and an anti-semitic Elmo for spare change in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco is all in a day’s work for Me First & The Gimme Gimmes frontman Spike Slawson. Daniel Cribb chats with the vocalist about the irony of punk rock and getting hate mail from iconic band Eagles.
A well known San Francisco tourist attraction and great family getaway, Fisherman’s Wharf is the perfect location to set up shop as a busker. When he’s not rocking out and partying around the world with punk rock supergroup cover band Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, vocalist Spike Slawson usually takes to the area with his solo project, Uke-Hunt, to play some easygoing covers on his ukulele, surrounded by balloon animals, clowns, graffiti artists, and another unusual occupant. “Anti-semitic Elmo was out and he was out sort of trolling around. No joke, I met him – look him up. He talked to me; it was really freaky. He’s got a video called Welcome To The Rape Camp and he dresses up in a fucking Elmo suit and high-fives kids; he’s twisted,” Slawson says, trying to decide whether or not to watch World War Z with his other half. The film’s post-apocalyptic zombie-fuelled essence wouldn’t be too far from the Wharf’s darker side.
“Sometimes you go out there and it’s like a horrible splash painting, like something out of The Bible. There’s a lot of freaky people in this city, San Fran is getting to an apocalyptic level of this crazy drunk or otherwise addicted homeless people, and you have to play in the middle of it and keep your stick together, which is really good for disciple, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Over the years, Slawson has toured constantly in numerous bands, most notably Swingin’ Utter and Re-Volts, but as of late, he’s been in San Francisco more than anywhere else and focusing only on Gimmes and Uke-Hunt: both acts that don’t tour all that regularly. “I haven’t been playing with the Utters for a couple of years just because I love San Francisco and they just love travelling. They love driving all the way across the country to play a first show in Massachusetts, and I can’t do that anymore. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s not in me to drive across the country for three days straight,” he explains.
Anyone who’s witnessed Slawson onstage, holding the microphone a metre away from his face and yelling down it with perfect pitch whilst jiving around, would agree he’s a great frontman, and with his unique and diverse voice, it’d be criminal for him to make a complete departure from the music industry. So with Gimmes only touring occasionally, it’s not surprising that he’s branched out into another project. It makes sense to assume Gimmes don’t tour too often because its members are so busy – the band’s usual line-up consists of Fat Mike (NOFX) on bass, Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters) on guitar, drummer Dave Raun and guitarist Joey Cape (Lagwagon) and Slawson front and centre – but Slawson reveals another reasoning.
“The difference between doing your own songs and covers is, theoretically, your own songs come from this special place and once you get it right it feels really good to express and natural and rewarding, whereas, playing covers, touring for more than a few weeks is just not feasible because it just gets sort of old for us, but playing with a different cast of characters kind of keeps it interesting.”
Having such close ties to the punk rock scene for years and somewhat withdrawing from the touring aspect of it over the past couple, Slawson’s developed a new outlook on the genre. “In this day and age, listening to punk itself requires a few layers of irony. It’s not 1976, and there’s no garbage strikes in my city, and the main thing I complain about in this city is how god damn expensive it is… approaching [punk] with humour definitely helps me. It helps me deflate the people that take punk a little bit too seriously.”
Taking on country, show tunes, ‘60s hits and more on their past records, they also released the Go Down Under EP in 2011, which took on INXS, The Easybeats and more. But not everyone finds Gimmes’ approach to humour appealing. “We asked Eagles if we could do a video for Desperado – God knows why, not my idea – but we asked the Eagles management and they responded with a resounding ‘no’, and furthermore, they hated our version. Their management wanted it known that [Eagles] hated our version. I consider that a red badge of courage; give me a medal.”
Published on the Music.com.au | 24.09.13
THE LONG ROAD
Listening back to Parkway Drive’s debut record in preparation for the band’s ten-year anniversary tour, frontman Winston McCall cringes like he’s developing a violent twitch. The vocalist gets nostalgic withDaniel Cribb.
It was August 2005 when Parkway Drive dropped their debut record, Killing With A Smile, and no one, not even the band, expected in the years to follow they would blow up as much as they did, with vocalist Winston McCall admitting he envisioned they’d maybe be kicking around for five years tops. But, as they approach their ten-year anniversary, they’re one of the biggest metalcore bands in the world.
“The idea is to play a complete span of Parkway’s history,” McCall says of the upcoming tour. “We’re going to play songs from the beginning, all the way to current things, and we’re going to play two different sets of songs over two different nights, so we’re literally learning 26 songs. It’s a bit of a mission.”
As much fun as the band have been having going down memory lane, he’s quick to add the experience has left him with conflicted views of their first releases. “There’s a bunch of songs where we’re like, ‘Wow, what were we thinkin?’,” he laughs. “There are some songs that have literally 30 riffs in them and we’re like, ‘Oh my god, another riff? This song is still going? Jesus Christ, what are we doing here’. It’s been a challenge.”
Such a chaotic approach to songwriting is especially evident on band’s first two EPs – a time when they were still finding their bearings. It’s not that they weren’t familiar with their instruments or how to write music, more they were adjusting to the transition from hardcore to a heavier platform. It might seem odd – four laid-back surfers from Byron Bay producing such heavy music, but it was fast and aggressive punk music that featured on surfing videos that first encouraged them to start playing.
Although they may sound completely different now to their punk roots, their presence at the Australian Warped Tour couldn’t be more fitting. “For us, it’s really cool to be part of it in Australia, because for half the band, the first gig we went to was when Warped came the first time,” he says.
“I think a lot of people are like, “Argh, it’s not Warped Tour. Bring back Pennywise!’, and it’s like, ‘Yeah, but you’ve got to understand that things have changed a lot since the last time Warped Tour came to Australia, and kids’ music has changed’. I think there’s a really good mix of everything. The fact that Offspring are on it is rad, because I still haven’t seen them,” he enthuses.
Topping the charts and winning numerous awards is a pretty good sign that Parkway’s ever-evolving sound is change for the better. But, much like the Warped haters, they have stumbled across their fair share of skeptics; fans that may only crawl out of the woodwork for this upcoming tour with the knowledge they’ll be graced with older hits.
“We’ve come across people that go, ‘This is a step back, they’re not as technical’, and this and that, and we’re like, ‘Fuck, these songs are harder to write than just writing 30 riffs and putting them in a row’. For us, it’s always going to be a step forward. There’s so many things we’ve taken into account over the years, so it’s one of those things of trying to marry every interest we have and over the years we’ve found the interest we have in music has become different to just playing as fast and as heavy as you can.
“We like the idea of melody, and we like the idea of accentuating what we have and experimenting with different sounds. The idea we have for the new record will be different, but at the same time, with everything, it always sounds like Parkway. We can only do what we do.”
Their sound isn’t the only thing to have become better with age. On their upcoming tour they’re playing numerous nights in every city, most of which will sell out. This is nothing new or surprising; it’s just funny to compare it to earlier tours. “Our first ever Australian tour started out with Michael Crafter from I Killed The Prom Queen booking it and it was like seven dates, and when it came around to actually tour, three or four of those dates had fallen through. But at that time we were like, ‘Oh my god, we’re playing three nights in a row, that’s insane!’. It’s pretty crazy how far things have come… I still remember playing and being stoked when 50 kids turned up.”
As the band looks back on and celebrates and impressive ten years, fans can take solace in the fact that Parkway Drive are only just getting started. There are no plans for a new album anytime soon, but McCall ensures there are plenty of other surprises in the works.
“It’s cool because looking back we go, ‘Wow, there is a fair bit of stuff’, and especially going over the old songs we’re realising how much we’ve actually done, but at the same time we still feel quite fresh, which is the added bonus. We don’t feel like grandparents of the music industry in any way, shape or form. I remember when I went to band’s ten-year anniversaries, it seemed like they’d been around forever, so for us to not feel like we’ve been around forever and we’ve still got places to go is kind of cool.
“I think in another ten years, I’ll probably have grey hair, and Jeff [Ling, guitar] will have a walking stick,” he laughs. “It’s always been something funny to us, the fact that if this band continues on to the point where we start to become aged men, is it going to just be comedic? The fact that we’re still up onstage doing what we do, and I’m still screaming and jumping around, and we’re slightly balding and our limbs are going. I wonder if I’ll still have stuff to be pissed off at when I’m 50, or maybe I’ll just be singing about the pension.”
Published in The Music (WA) | 18.09.13 | Issue # 6
Published in The Music (WA) | 18.09.13 | Issue # 6
THE MAGIC FORMULA
From releasing a spaghetti-western concept album to drafting plans for a futuristic Blade Runner soundtrack, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard thereminist Eric Moore is at war with the boundaries of psychedelic surf punk. Daniel Cribb follows to the frontline.
Trying to define the direction of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is just about as hard as saying their name out loud ten times in row – go on, try it. They’ve labeled themselves as “surf psych punk someshit”, which seems to do the job.
Their latest record, Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, is their second for 2013, but thereminist Eric Moore still feels like the band could be doing more. A September release for something recorded in February is pretty standard, but not for King Gizz. Being completely independent – to the point where they record everything at home and various warehouses – they usually release whatever they record as soon as it’s done, but this time they took a different approach.
“This record has a little more depth,” Moore explains. “Eyes Like The Sky came out in February, so we just wanted to let that breathe before we started bombarding people with anything else…we spent a bit more time with the songs and there’s lots of different writers – like Cook [Craig], our guitarist, he has a song on there, Ambrose Kenny-Smith [harmonica] has a track as well, so it’s quite varied and not so much straight up garage punk; it’s a lot more soulful and there’s a lot more going on.
“We’ve always tried to get better and progress. The first recordings we ever did were just basic and simple, like one chord and a few words and I guess with everything we’ve done since then we’ve tried to grow and progress as a band, and I feel like now we’re just coming into our own and finding our own sound and where we want to be at, which is really cool.”
With album opener and first single Head On/Pill clocking in at around 16 minutes, they’re clearing on a mission to challenge the conventions of psychedelic surf punk. A lot of producers and labels would condemn the idea of such a song opening a record – an unfortunate reality that led them to being the independent band they are. “It could never really be a radio single,” he laughs. “When we finished that song, we thought it was the best thing we’d ever done, so it’s nice to have it opening the album. It could have closed, but then people would sort of look over it.”
With more writers contributing to the album, it’s clear collaboration is the band’s key to success. Paul Maybury of Rocket Science fame, who worked on the band’s debut EP, 12 Bar Bruise, helped produce the epic 16-minute opener, and they kidnapped Eagle & The Worm’s Jarrad Brown for a few weeks to engineer the rest.
Why rent a house and pay someone else’s mortgage if you can find a way buy your own? Moore and co have a similar mindset when it comes to music; if you’re in it for the long haul, it makes sense to invest your money a little closer to home rather than forking out thousands of dollars every time you want to release something.
“Over the years with band money we’ve kind of collected a bit of recording gear, so now we’ve got it to a point where we’re happy with the quality we can produce ourselves. We went down to my home in Deniliquin, Victoria. My mum and dad were away so we just took over the house and took all our own gear and we bought a good friend, Jarrod from Eagle & The Worm. He kind of helped out with setting up all the stuff and engineering, and we spent a week down there recording and got a bunch done and then we sort of scrapped heaps and then did another session about two months later, and Jarrod came again, and did a similar thing and then we sort of finished it all off at home with Stu [Mackenzie, vocals] doing most of it.”
With two releases under their belt for 2013, you’d expect another on slaughter of tracks to pour out before the end of the year; unfortunately, it seems the band my recede into the shadows for a while – hopefully to work on what sounds like an amazing follow-up to February’s Eyes Like The Sky – a spaghetti-western concept album that quickly saw the nation taking note of their interesting approach to songwriting.
“We’ve been talking to [The Dingoes’] Brod Smith who we collaborated with on Eyes Like The Sky and he’s really keen to do a follow-up, which would be really cool. I guess we’ll have to work out a direction. I think he’s already written a few chapters for the next one, but I’m not sure. It’d be cool to do something the complete opposite – instead of a western maybe we’ll do some futuristic Blade Runner soundtrack type thing. It would be nice to follow Eyes Like up in some description, but it would be a bit lame to do Eyes Like The Sky 2, we’d have to do something a bit different I think.
“We’ve sort of got a collection of songs that got left behind over the past two years and we want to put them out on some form of release, so we kind of want to put them together and put that out soon, but I guess with the next thing, we’ll probably take a bit more time and figure out where we want to go with it. It’s been a pretty hectic 12 months writing and recording, so I think it’ll be nice to take a bit of time away from it.”
WHAT: Float Along – Fill Your Lungs (Flightless Records)