For the Record: Laura and the Killed Men

laura and the killed men

by Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

I’ve been enchanted by the vocal stylings of Laura Kepner-Adney for years now (proof here) so the emergence of Laura and the Killed Men with their debut EP last year caused considerable stir down at YabYumHQ. The band recently completed their follow-up effort, Everchanging Trail, due out for release later this week and fans will not be disappointed.

Laura and the Killed Men crafts a harmony-rich Americana that harkens back to a bygone era without sacrificing modern relevance. Their latest collection, featuring eleven new tracks, was largely written from the road while the band explored the nation on tour. Yet, throughout Everchanging Trail, the band’s westerly roots can be heard in the slide guitar and country sonority.

The release show for Everchanging Trail happens this weekend (4/15) at Club Congress in Tucson followed by a Phoenix appearance at Valley Bar (4/20) next week.

I had a chance to ask bandmates Laura Kepner-Adney and Sam Golden some questions about the new album, the band’s songwriting process, and what’s next for Laura and the Killed Men…

YabYum: The title of the new album seems particularly apropos given the changes in both lineup and sound. I’d like to talk about the lineup changes first. Are there new players amongst the Killed Men?

Laura: Everchanging Trail refers more to the proverbial cultural and ecological path of the country. Yes, the band is undergoing a personnel change, with Bjorgvin Benediktsson taking over bass and vocals duties for Bob Hanshaw, but the album title was only coincidentally self-conscious. The title of the album is the title of one of the songs we wrote on last summer’s 12,000 mile tour across the country. Our drive across such a culturally and geologically diverse landscape inspired the lyrics. We incorporated voices of travelers from the past and present, with a little forewarning for the future, given the ecological cliff we’re nearing.

Sam: It’s easy, and extremely destructive, to become lulled into thinking anything will always be a certain way. It’s a painful slap in the face and a profound comfort to remind yourself of the impermanence of things.

Next, let’s discuss the changes in direction, musically speaking. One Bell, the debut EP from the band has a distinctly vintage musicality. There’s something romantic and old-fashioned in the sound. The new album doesn’t lose these qualities but there is maybe a little more country, even gospel, on the new release. Was there an intentional shift in direction? How do you feel your sound has evolved?

Laura: The biggest difference between the previous release and this one is the shift to collaborative songwriting.  Every track on the album but one was a co-write (most between myself and Sam, and one between all the band members).  We wanted to maintain the story-telling aspect of Americana, but the songwriting skewed–as you mentioned–significantly more country, less psychedelic.  It wasn’t an intentional shift, and I don’t think I even realized it had happened until we were mixing the album and listening to every track in succession.  It was like, “Oops, we made a country record.”

Where did you record Everchanging Trail? Were there other artists, in addition to the band members, that appear on the recording?

Laura: We recorded and mixed the album at Waterworks Recording with Jim Waters here in Tucson. Working with Jim is always a pleasure, and there’s something about that studio. It’s full of 1970s ephemera: black velvet paintings, teak sculptures, old cuckoo clocks. Something about that environment inserts itself into a recording; makes it feel richer and deeper. It’s a special place.

Sam: We have a couple of great cameos on the album– Kevin Mayfield (Of the rootsy Tucson band Miss Lana Rebel and Kevin Mayfield) plays musical saw on “Winter in Her Teeth”, adding some unearthly strangeness to an already deeply weird and borderline-sinister song. Marco Rosano (of Y la Orkesta and myriad other musical projects around Tucson) provides a really tasty clarinet part to the New-Orleans-jazz-tinged dirge “Heaven’s Daughter.”

There is definitely a desert feel to the music of Laura and the Killed Men that completely enamors me. Do you feel your location has had a strong influence on your sound? And, if so, how?

Laura: A LOT of these songs were written on the road. “Caroline” we wrote in a barn during a rainstorm in Colorado; “Heaven’s Daughter” came from a melodic seed that started in North Carolina and we finished in Kentucky; “Everchanging Trail” we wrote on the road in New England. Beyond that, the songs we wrote in Arizona are largely about other places: Pocatello Son, Boston, World’s Fair Hotel. It’s comforting to hear that you felt a stylistic-thematic unity throughout the album. The desert plays strongly in our aesthetic, and I’m glad to know it came across despite the geographical spread of the songs.

Sam: In addition to physical geography, we jump around the American timeline as well. Many songs began with a purposeful attempt to capture a certain musical era– usually a geographically specific era: 19th C. Sacred Harp choir singing; c.1970 Gram Parsons country-rock; c.1920 New Orleans jazz; etc. However, we didn’t want just to faithfully recreate music from these eras– rather, we wanted to find what makes this music still reverberate so strongly with us, here, in 2016, and to recast that in the mold of the present day. This conversation between past and present is made explicit in “Everchanging Trail”, as Laura already mentioned. And I think– or at least I hope– what holds the album together is that unifying lens of Arizona in 2016, despite the myriad locations and years we view through that lens.

The music has such an orchestral quality, really sweeping at certain moments. Can you tell me a little about the band’s songwriting process? Is one person mainly responsible for lyrics and/or melody and the rest of the band fills in the rest? Or do you work together from start to finish?

Laura: Sam and I split songwriting duties on almost every song on the album. We’d come to each other with a lyrical or melodic fragment and work it out together from there. We did a TON of writing in the car. I was shocked at how productive we were while driving. We would just decide to write a song before we got to the next location, then follow through.

Sam: When you’re driving like 6 hours a day for two months you gotta pass the time somehow. I-Spy got old around the second week. So we wrote an album.

What are your 2016 plans? Tours? Music Videos? Writing new material? Etc?

Laura: We have plans!  We’re releasing the album on April 15th, then doing a 3-week promo tour for the record. Our first stop is in Phoenix, at Valley Bar, on 4/20 with locals Huckleberry and Cisco and the Racecars (more info here). The tour will take us up as far north as Arcata, CA, and east to Austin.  Then this summer we’re headed up to tour in Alaska for a few weeks.

We’ve got one music video ready for premiere and one in the works right now.  We also just did a fun collaborative writing/recording/video project with Raven Sound Studio in Prescott, AZ in which we wrote, recorded and made a video for a song in 24 hours.

If you’re in the Tucson area, head out to the release of Everchanging Trail from Laura and the Killed Men at Club Congress on April 15th (more info here). For those of us in the Valley of the Sun, we have to wait until April 20th when the band performs at Valley Bar (info). Now check out their brand new video for “Pocatello Son” below!

Laura and the Killed Men
“Pocatello Son”

5 Questions Not to Ask the Press (or Frequently Asked Questions)

ask 00by Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

I should start by saying: Don’t get your skivvies in a bunch. If one of these questions strikes too close to home and you know you’ve sent us one of the following questions in one incarnation or another, don’t worry. You are not alone. These are the most common questions we get asked that we shouldn’t. You shouldn’t be asking any publication these questions. Ever.

There are always exceptions to the rule. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for a benefit and I’ll occasionally cast aside my rules about replying to these questions for a good cause. But, as a general rule, these are questions to avoid when dealing with the people of the press.

Anyway, without further ado…

1. Who should we play with?

First of all, you should never end with a preposition, but all grammar jokes aside, don’t ever ask an editorial staff this question. Ever.

Let’s say you know a guy [in its gender-neutral form] who writes for a local rag. Maybe you’ve shared a few beers or been to their house for dinner. You want to ask this person about new bands that might share a bill with their band. Sure, fine, whatever. Let’s not linger on specifics. There is always an exception to the rule. But, aside from sharing a personal relationship with an individual writer, this is not an appropriate question for a publication.

I might bend this for a friend. Maybe. But it would have to be a close friend, like on that has seen me in pajama pants which I would never wear outside of my home unless it’s our annual Pajama Day at Radio Phoenix; a day, I should mention, that we usually designate without informing anyone else, even at the station.

You want to know why we hate this question? Because our answer is our blog. We provide information about bands on a daily basis. You just haven’t done your homework. Bookmark us (or your favorite local music blog if it’s not us… <sniffle>) and keep up-to-date about what’s going on in your town. Do that for a month and you’ll have a pretty good idea about what’s happening in the local music scene. Or, at least, some idea of other acts in the area.

If you’re hard-pressed for time, you can always delve into our search bar (located up there somewhere) and enter in genres. Try it. I’ll guarantee you come up with a handful of bands to look into further. And, hey, we also include links. See? We try to be helpful. We just don’t have time to take all the legwork out of it. Give us a break.

Even if we’re not covering the bands your into (sorry, metalheads, we’re trying), we keep a running list of current flyers on our Upcoming Shows page (tab up there somewhere). See what bands are playing around town and then Google them. If you’re serious about promoting your music, you’re going to have to clock some hours. Ask any musician succeeding in the current economic climate.

Admittedly, you can be serious about your music (or artwork) without being serious about promotion. I’m sure we all know plenty of that type. Alas, talent does not always beget attention, especially in the Age of Social Media. It takes a lot of commitment and I’m not talking pursuit-of-the-soul kind, I’m talking the hit-the-pavement (or -computer, more realistically) kind.

In the same vein, asking “Where should we play?” is also not okay. If you are looking for a venue in the area, consider either (a) checking out our Venues page or (b) cruising through our Upcoming Shows page to see where other bands are playing.

2. Can you help promote my show on your Facebook page?

Nope. That’s not what we do here and, I’ll bet you anything, other publications are thinking the same thing. If you have an important show coming up and you’re looking to get the word out about there are ways to go about it.

First of all, find out if the website offers show promotion throughout the week. For example, we have our Upcoming Shows page that is updated regularly. From that list, we select our “Top 5 Shows of the Week” which runs every Friday [see more here].  On that very same Upcoming Shows page, we tell you how you can get your flyer over to us. It’s a very inclusive process. We’re not the only site that offers some sort of weekly show guide. Mitchell Hillman over at Sounds Around Town offers up “What’s Going Ahhhn” and even the Phoenix New Times and AZ Republic will throw out show suggestions to their readers. It is totally appropriate to send over information about an event for consideration. It is not cool to request that the website bypass their normal means of show promotion for your event.

You can also extend an invitation to your event. When the editors receive emails about events that extend an invitation for a writer/photographer to attend on behalf of YabYum, we pass that invitation along to others on our staff to see if anyone has interest in covering that event. And, if someone on staff has interest in providing coverage, that show is more likely to end up on our “Top 5 Shows for the Week” because there will be a follow-up article in the week to come. See how that works?

The press love the words “Press List”. It is one of the few boons of this thankless endeavor. Usually, if you offer to put a writer on the “Press List” for an event, it also suggests to them that you are looking for coverage of said event. This is by no means a guarantee of coverage, but it is a polite way of asking them to throw some ink your way.

3. Did you get a chance to listen to my album? Did you get a chance to listen to my album? Did you get a chance to listen to my album? Did you get a chance to listen to my album?

Following-up is great. Repeatedly following-up at regular intervals more than a few times is annoying (let’s say three or four). So many albums come our way, it’s impossible to get to all of them. We (the editors) try to listen to everything that gets sent to us, but we can’t make the same promise for each and every staff member. Albums can get overlooked. Sometimes a really good album comes out a really hectic time and doesn’t get the attention it would yield in different month of the year. If you think you got lost in the shuffle, a gentle reminder can be welcome, but persistent reminders that you’re “album hasn’t been covered” or, dear gods, that it “hasn’t received the attention it deserves” should be avoided.

Basically, making art is, at times, an unfair shitshow. You might have the greatest, most original, post-rock glitchwave that is going to totally change the face of music as we know it, now and forever, but, for some reason, no one seems to be covering it. Maybe it was a big month for glitchwave and the critics rolled right by it a little too dismissively. Maybe it’s too ahead of its time. Or maybe, just maybe, it didn’t rise above the other albums on our list that month. That doesn’t mean it’s awful. I mean, it might, but it more likely just didn’t stand out. Whatever the reason. Don’t give up. Keep pushing your sound. Make art for art’s sake and no other reason.

Better luck next time, kiddo.

4. When are you going to publish the article on me/my band?

As an editor, I always discourage my writers from answering this question when subjects present it. Our publication schedule can change down to the last minute. We might need to rearrange our content to accommodate a more timely piece or, if we encounter an issue, we might be forced to bump the piece until the matter can be rectified. It’s just the name of the game.

That being said, if you’re looking to get some coverage in prelude to a big event, it’s totally appropriate to include that information when reaching out to the press. Let people know what you have going on so they can consider impending events when arranging their publication schedule. If you have an album release or a super fancy show and you’re looking to drum up some press, contact media outlets and let them know. Do not, however, make demands when it comes to scheduling. It just makes you look like a dick.

5. Can I see the article before you publish it?

Definitely not. This is never going to happen. End of story.

Hope this helps you in your future dealings with the press in all its forms. Kisses!

~

 

Staff Favorites for 2015

staff favorites titleAlrighty, folks, this is where we lay it all on the line and each member of staff gets to name their favorite band/album from the preceding year. Awards’ month is a contentious time for us, but everyone came through in the end with their banner held high for their personal favorites. Now, it’s time to name names.

katterwaul

Katterwaul

Lenore LaNova – Senior Editor

Katterwaul released 15 Forever back in September. I like to think of the album as a little birthday present just for me. From beginning to end, Katterwaul delivers gritty, bluesy, desert rock that makes me want to light things on fire. I can’t even pick a favorite track. Brittany Katter’s voice has just the right amount of sand mixed in with the sugar to give Katterwaul the funky edge that defines their sound.  Every songs begs for repeated listens.

freaks of nature 01

Freaks of Nature

Mark Anderson – Senior Editor

Musically speaking, my favorite album of the year is Songs for Savages by the Freaks of Nature. Take the best of 60s garage pop rocknroll and then filter it through four guys who love it to death and that’s as best as I can describe Songs for Savages. Although the band has been on hiatus for a little while, the Freaks say they’re not done yet. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Daniel Shircliff seems to be quite busy with his new band The Christian Family however, so we’ll be keeping our ears crossed new Freaks material comes out soon. Not sure how it will sound without Steve on lead guitar though!

decker

decker.

Frank Ippolito – Associate Editor

My pick this year is Patsy by decker. Most concept albums can get sideways pretty quickly, but here, Brandon Decker manages to stitch together a beautiful tapestry of songs that explore the frailty that resides in us all. It’s title track (“Patsy”), and its lyrics, (“Never better over there/never better over here/never better anywhere”), and it’s refrain (“They shot me down”) capture the essence of how it feels to be human and how, sometimes, we are all pawns in this game of fate.

fairy bones

Fairy Bones

Nicole Royse – Arts Editor

I love the energy and spirit that Fairy Bones brings to their music and its eclectic sound. The lead singer Chelsey’s gorgeous voice and songwriting is simply moving and mesmerizing. I love the danceability and joy that this band brings when they perform and they are one of the hardest working and touring bands around. I’m proud they rep AZ!! Listen to their 2015 release, Dramabot.

Citrus Clouds

Joe Golfen – Staff Writer

One of the rare bands that arrives on the scene with their sound fully formed, Phoenix’s Citrus Clouds offer a churning mix of shoegaze and psychedelic rock, with big nods to bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus Mary Chain. Local music fans will recognize guitarist/frontman Erick Pineda from his other excellent band Tierra Firme, and with Citrus Clouds he’s nailed that big, distorted guitar sound, while making sure the songs are strong enough to support the noise. Drummer Anthony Jarero is a powerhouse that keeps the energy rolling, and bassist Stacie Huttleston’s airy vocals and Joy Division-style basslines offer the melodic center of the band. Make sure to check out their 2015 release, In Time I Am.

harper

Harper and the Moths

Song River – Staff Writer

Harper and the Moths: In a sea of penguins sometimes we spot a panda. It isn’t so much the dynamics of what is inherently nothing more than black and white, but it is the elements of arrangement that define. Music, when listened to at times, sounds all the same: a deluge of indistinct noise. However, I recall when Harper and the Moths arrived on the scene their arrangements, both musically and fashionably, brought my ears forward and kept them in tune. Holding power and hip shaking sanctify the listener to the flame – Harper and the Moths have done that. Check out the 2015 singles released by the band here. And, yes, there is a new album on the horizon this year.

montoya

Mike Montoya: KIND

Brent Miles – Staff Writer

Ah. yes. When Yab Yum’s esteemed editor asked for the 2015 Staff Picks, there was only one clear choice. I love Mike and his newest album, KIND, journalism ethics be damned.* Mike sent me an early version of KIND. I was only able to give it a cursory listen, as I was cramming to execute Mike’s immaculately intricate guitar parts. When you think he’s going to zig, Mike zags, and that’s why KIND rewards the listener upon every spin.

i am hologram

I Am Hologram

Chris Nunley – Staff Writer

I Am Hologram embodies everything that I love about music and the element of chaos. Using a perfectly balanced blend of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, Hologram’s unconventional and unwavering performances will leave you in shock and awe. This guy is quickly setting himself apart from other solo acts as one of the most original in the valley.

jjcnv

JJCnV

Anton Shipe – Webmaster

As webmaster (and sound editor for our radio show), Anton hears a constant barrage of local music, probably far more so than any of you musicians out there. Out of it all, JJCnV rises to the top as his favorite local act. Their 2015 release – Leathered, Weathered, and Feathered – got shafted on all fronts from YabYum because of one editor’s (ahem… Mark) involvement in the band’s new horn section, but it was one of the best albums to come out of Arizona this past year. You’ll probably want to add this one to your collection.

harrison fjord

Harrison Fjord

Jofrin Pezzati – Burning Empire Media Affliate

Harrison Fjord are newcomers on the local scene but they’ve already made quite an impression. Jofrin Pezzati of Burning Empire Media and the head cheese for our “Songs from the Reading Room” series also chose these youngsters for their slick musical stylings as his favorite band of the year. If you haven’t delved into the spaced-out, jazz pop of Harrison Fjord, consider changing all that and hear their 2015 EP, Puspa in Space.

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*Mike Montoya has been a friend and occasional bandmate of Brent Miles. As part of our policy on full-disclosure, we wanted to include this little note, but, for those of you that have heard Montoya’s KIND, no note was probably necessary. It was definitely one of the best releases to come out of the state in 2015.

Soft Shoulder: No Draw

soft shoulderby Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

Soft Shoulder has been making gritty, experimental music around the Valley for ten years now, chasing all those people who only think they’re into avant-garde music out of bars and into the reality that they’re nowhere near the edges of the industry.

At the heart of the project is James Fella, a soft-spoken sort of guy who exudes a disarming warmth. His music, on the other hand, is very confrontational; dissonant even and intentionally distant. Soft Shoulder might be his most user-friendly musical formation and, once you hear it, you’ll understand that Soft Shoulder isn’t trying to create radio hits. They’re exploring the outer reaches of sound and art.

Soft Shoulder is ready to release their new LP No Draw through Gilgongo Records on December 1st [but you can preview the album here]. Side A includes four tracks recorded in 2009 at the now-defunct Ye Olde Bike Saviors while Side B presents “Repeat #3”, an almost twenty-minute song recorded in 2014.

I had a chance to chat with James Fella about the new album and the shape of Soft Shoulder, past and present.

YY: Where did you record the album? 

James Fella: The A-side was recorded at YOBS with Gerald Biggs, who at the time I was recording with constantly (mostly solo material, but also Soft Shoulder). I enjoy recording on my own as much as possible, but Gerald is undeniably better at it. When we would do it, Soft Shoulder was usually just me, but in the case of this LP, Paul (Arambula) played drums and Stephen (Steinbrink) played bass – they were “the band” at the time before Stephen moved to Olympia and Paul to Berlin.

Side-B was recorded at home, and was an unplanned sort of thing. Ricky and Sean from Oakland band No Babies were in town, with another band, Human Behavior. (No Babies were on a 4 way split 7″ with Soft Shoulder and I released a 7″ with them on Gilgongo last year). They stayed the night and we ended up recording that track the next afternoon. It’s an extended version of an instrumental song that occasionally is used as filler in the live sets… not meant in a negative way, I love “filler” sort of tracks, ones that are allowed to go on and on. Playing with them was very natural feeling, the only portion we really discussed was the beginning and the rest just sort of unfolded on its own. When we finished, the track was something like 35 minutes long I think… so we had to edit it down to fit on that side of the LP.

YY: I noticed that the first four tracks were recorded in 2009 while the side B track was recorded this past year. How long has the band been together? How has the band changed since in the past five years between recordings? Part Two: It seems like during that time you moved further away from “accessible”. Is that an intentional move?

JF: 2005 / 2006, the first couple of 7″s came out in 2006 so that’s a fair “starting point” I guess. It’s hard to really chart any direction(s) the band has gone… earlier in 2015 there were 3 Soft Shoulder 7″s that basically swept up all of the unused tracks between 2009 and now, so in a way the LP was doing the same. Above all else, the band is inconsistent – which for some people (who may enjoy some of the material and not other) might be annoying, but for me, allows it to be an outlet for whatever it is I’m feeling like doing at the time. I would say that the most recent versions of the band, live anyway, have been fairly accessible, the only alienating aspects might be volume and repetition.

YY: A lot of bands attach the term “no-wave” but this is one of those times when I feel it’s being aptly used. What does no-wave mean to you?

JF: One of the first physical records I was able to appreciate was my father’s copy of No New York (a 1979 LP with several tracks each from James Chance and the Contorions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars and DNA – curated by Brian Eno which I assume is what sparked my dad’s interest in the record). If that is to serve as a reference point, there is plenty of inconsistency there but maybe an underlying factor of “free” playing – “free” being open-ended in some cases, but “free” also being free from conventional playing, guitar parts that are devoid of any inkling of harmony or even “notes”, vocals that are spastic or shrieking, rhythm that may be completely disjointed or relentlessly repetitive. I don’t know if that really answers the questions as far as what it means to me, and truth be told I don’t feel that every Soft Shoulder track meets my own criteria for this label by any means, but it’s without a doubt a driving force in how I approach writing and performing with the group – even if it’s not always that apparent.

YY: How does Soft Shoulder differ from your solo work? Do the artists that you work with help write or construct the songs?

JF: Solo work is formless, generally no melody or anything like that, not “song oriented” where as Soft Shoulder is “songs” when it’s at least somewhat weird or out there. I like playing normal guitar too – playing in Detached Objects has been satisfying in that regard lately!

I generally write the songs while recording them, it’s an all-in-one process. The A-side of the LP is songs I wrote while recording alone at Sound Kontrol a year earlier. That being said, when playing with others the songs can change, Stephen added so much to the bass parts, so it was nice to re-record them as full versions that had input from others. Like everything else I guess it’s inconsistent, but I’m always open for new things to happen to songs or improvised pieces when doing it with a full band.

YY: Who performs with the band at present? 

JF: The band right now is a rotating group, there’s no regular practicing or anything like that, basically whoever is able to make something work is who is in the group that time around… so in some ways right now Soft Shoulder is:

Paul Arambula: guitar or drums
Ann Seletos: drums
Jorge Garcia: bass
Jacob Howard: bass
Ryan Avery: drums
Mikey Henson: bass
TK Nicholson: tapes
James Fella: vocals, guitar, tapes

YY: What’s next for Soft Shoulder?

JF: Going to do a CD that compiles the LP, 3 7″s, and various other random things… hoping to record and put out more records pretty steadily for the foreseeable future – like a 7″ or two and hopefully LP each year… not sure… sometimes the band is very active and other times nothing for long periods of time.

I’m really enjoying the group of people who has been playing with me lately so hopefully we’ll play somewhat regularly.

Listen to No Draw by Soft Shoulder here and get your own copy on vinyl! You can also preview it below.

Good Friends Great Enemies: Cautiously Poptimistic

GFGEby Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

I’ve been a fan of Good Friends Great Enemies ever since their 2012 self-titled debut, a release that went on to win our award for Album of the Year. Since their inception the band has continually pushed their own boundaries, exploring and incorporating different genres into their overall sound. Their most recent release, Cautiously Poptimistic, is the culmination of that effort; seamlessly fusing elements of classic rock, jazz, and psychedelia into a 15-track collection of genre-blending goodness. I think we once again have a serious contender for Album of the Year from the Good Friend Great Enemies’ camp.

I talked with Evan Bisbee about Cautiously Poptimistic and what’s next for Good Friends Great Enemies.

YY: Where did you record this album? Tell me about the recording process.

EB: We recorded most of the album at my house in Tempe before it was too late at night so my neighbors wouldn’t get disgruntled. Some of the shorter songs we did at the old band house a few years ago. A few of the tunes (tracks 6, 12, and 15) we tracked the rhythm parts at the currently under-construction branch of Crêpe Bar in Tempe. We got pizza from the place next door and they really got a kick out of us “having a show” inside the plaza.

The recording process was pretty drawn out. We recorded a number of the songs at the old house with different arrangements and recording styles etc. Random Happenings was meant to be a lot longer but we got impatient and released those four songs as an EP. Then I made a whole bunch of creative choices with the project that set us back a little but we figured it out! Re-recording songs was frustrating at times but the patience paid off, I’m happy with where the project stands now.

YY: Who performs with GFGE? Who appears on the album?

EB: Currently the band consists of me [Evan Bisbee] on guitar and vocals, Max Greenwald on bass, Bryce “Peasoup” Broome on drums, Zack Parker on lead guitar, and Eamon Ford on keys.

I play all the keys on the album, and Max and I switch between bass and guitar depending on the song. Max also plays the acoustic/nylon when they’re in the mix, and he played the mandolin on track 13. I do most of the auxiliary percussion, though Aaron Mortemore played aux on track 11. I do the vocals and harmonies and busted out the ol’ trumpet on track 11. Isaac Parker is on upright bass on track 7, and he also manned a guitar pedal on track 3. The most notable contribution on the record comes from our favorite tenor sax player, Joseph Amos, aka King Duck.

YY: This is my favorite album yet from the GFGE’s camp, which is saying a lot because the 2012 self-titled debut from the band still gets more than its fair share of air time down at YabYum HQ. Your first release drew a lot from classic rock influences. What do you feel has had a noticeable impact on your evolution of sound?

EB: The first release was definitely steeped in my then-recent discovery of all things classic rock. I still have a real soft spot for that style of music (thus the birth of Witch Cackle), but I have always had more influences than that. It was fun to write a verse-chorus type song and give Max the space to shred the gnar while we all rocked out. [It was] fun [at] live shows doing that too! With Random Happenings I was trying to write more nuanced songs, but still maintain the rock and roll. With Poptimistic I made the switch to guitar pretty much full-time and with it came different song structures and arrangements. There’s a lot of music out there, it’s almost overwhelming. I guess I’ve just tried to keep my ears open and work with elements of styles that I enjoy and can wrap my head around. Fusion is fun and challenging, but there’s also something to be said about having a clear aesthetic and shooting for it. We tend to flirt with both methods I think.

YY: Your sophomore effort, Random Happenings, was a collection of pensive, meandering tracks while your first album adhered to a more strident song structure. It seems as if you found a happy medium between those two modes on Cautiously Poptimistic. Do you feel like that is an accurate assessment of the GFGE evolution? What have you learned from previous releases and how has that informed your current release?

EB: I think you nailed it! I’ve maybe answered some of this question with the ones above, but certainly the other releases have informed and guided my choices. You better believe the next album won’t take 2 1/2 years to complete, I’m done with that kind of timeline! Better knock on wood…

More than my own music, it’s the other people I’ve worked with that have informed me. I’ve learned and grown as a musician and songwriter by working with Wavelengths, Elevator, Roar, Paper Knife, and everything in between! Everyone has a unique musical perspective, and no one is right or wrong, I love it. It’s like a never-ending conversation to be a part of.

YY: Let’s talk about the title. This album is more “pop” than previously releases (especially with the presence of the keys), but I wouldn’t call it “pop”. What are your reservations about pop music? Where does the “caution” come from? 

EB: It’s not so much that I have reservations regarding pop music than it is a lighthearted nod toward both the musical direction and the overall tone (lyrically and otherwise) of the album. The title hit me during the recording process and I really got a kick out of it. Not to mention both Peasoup and myself had some pretty intense car accidents while working on the album that set us back a little time-wise (and cemented our suspicion of the Good Friends Curse). I just like that the title can be read in a few different ways, depending on what you’re looking for in it. Puns abound, you dig?

YY: So, the band is cursed?

EB: I hesitate to talk about it, I’d hate to put you in harm’s way…

YY: Fair Enough. What’s next for Good Friends Great Enemies?

EB: I plan to take the band out on the road and get to recording new songs pronto!

Go see Good Friends Great Enemies live at Valley Bar on Wednesday, Nov. 25th. I also suggest checking out Cautiously Poptimistic here. You can keep up with Good Friends Great Enemies through their Facebook page here.

Algae & Tentacles Unleash Lightning

YabYum Music & Artsby Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

I’m always down to explore the innovative undertakings of John Melillo so you can perhaps imagine my excitement when I received early access to the first official Algae & Tentacles’ LP. The self-titled album will be released later this week through Lightning Records which also plays host to artists like Sam Amidon, Pontiak, American Culture, Ohioan, and many more.

Originally started as solo project for Melillo who holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from New York University and teaches at the University of Arizona, Algae & Tentacles attained some underground attention for its committment to exploring the outer reaches of sound. Algae & Tentacles, the album, promises ten tracks of experimental pop that transition from slow-moving garage gradients to permutations of upbeat rock that swim toward your ears through muddled airwaves. I can’t get enough of this album.

Algae & Tentacles opens with “Prester John” and fills your ears with psychedelic desert pop before “Little Body”, the second track, comes in with some customary Melillo weirdness. Algae & Tentacles seems to dance through the borderlands of dissonance, something you can hear throughout the album. Listen to “Fire Song” for an example of this playful tampering which musical conventions while maintaining a thoughtful distance from the realm of the unlistenable. Other songs like “I Want to Run Away with You” and “Magellan” demonstrate Melillo’s tendency towards minimalism.

Every track on Algae & Tentacles’ self-titled LP promises careful construction and offers more than your usual music-listening experience. This is a mediation on the very nature of sound encapsulated in an album perfect for long desert drives. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with Algae & Tentacles. All you true-blue music lovers out there need to get your hands on your own copy as soon as possible.

Algae & Tentacles will be joined by The Rifle, Wet Marble, Schlappi, and Virdee on Sept. 17th at Exploded View, a gallery and microcinema in Tucson, for the release show. You can find out more about that event here.

UPDATE: Check out Algae & Tentacles now out through Lightning Records here.

Keep up with Algae & Tentacles here.

For more on John Melillo, check out our Tucson Portraits Series by Bob Hanshaw here.

YabYum Music & Arts

Girls Rock! Ready to Shake Up Phoenix

Girls Rock! - YabYum Music & Artsby Lenore LaNova
Senior Editor

The newly founded Phoenix chapter of Girls Rock! is hosting their first public event this weekend to help raise both funds and awareness about this exciting edition to the community. Girls Rock!, a national organization aimed at helping girls build self-esteem through music education and performance, supports summer camp programs around the globe wherein young women learn an instrument, form a band, write a song, and then perform at a showcase. An empowering experience for a young artist if ever there was one.

I asked Sarah Ventre, President of Girls Rock! Phoenix, what campers can expect of a week spent with Girls Rock!

Ventre replied, “Campers can expect the best week of their lives!! They will come in on the first day not necessarily knowing how to play an instrument or even having any kind of musical experience. By the end of the week they will have learned an instrument, formed a band, written a song, and played a showcase. They’ll also be attending workshops on topics like body image or self defense, and learning in the DIY tradition through activities like zine making and screen printing. And the entire week, they’ll see and hear women as role models — teaching them instruments, performing for them, teaching workshops, and running the technical side of things. By seeing women in roles that are often given to men, it gives girls an opportunity to see themselves filling those roles from a very young age. It also reinforces the idea that they can do anything they want to, and they don’t need a guy to give them approval to do it. And it creates a space where women and girls are lifting each other up — seeing one another as collaborators instead of competitors.”

Ventre first became involved with Girls Rock! while she was living in Washington D.C. when a friend of hers volunteered for a Girls Rock! camp in New York. She then decided to volunteer as well for a camp in the D.C. area.

I asked Sarah what made her decide bring the organization to Phoenix when she returned to her home turf.

“So many things!!! The music world is really male dominated, and Phoenix is no exception. I kept thinking about growing up in Tempe, and feeling like I didn’t have access to our local music community until I turned 21. Then when I did turn 21, I only saw a handful of local bands with any women in them at all,” she began.

“I also thought about what it feels like when you’re growing up as a girl…it’s hard to feel confident or empowered about anything. Our society constantly tells girls that we’re not enough and we’re not worthy. We’re taught to apologize for being who we are, and when we try to do new things and find outlets for our creativity and self-expression, we get put down a lot. I used to think I had to wait to perform until I was “really good” at playing my instrument. But through volunteering at rock camps and really beginning to understand the riot grrrl tradition, I learned that you don’t need anyone’s permission to form a band and make music. And if I had been taught that at a young age, it would have made a world of difference in my teenage years and through to my adulthood. Now it’s time to grow this kind of an empowering, supportive community of women and make it accessible to young girls in the Valley.”

Already, the Phoenix edition of Girls Rock! has some notable volunteers involved in the program which plans on hosting its first Phoenix summer camp in 2016. According to Ventre, “Several local musicians (including Grace Bolyard from The Darling Sounds, Amy Young from French Girls, Jenny Weintraub from Sister Lip, Amanda Schukle from Steel Cranes, Alexis Ronstadt from Larkspurs) are part of our organizing team, as well as women who work at local venues/art spaces like Andrea Pederson from Nile Theater and Laura Dragon from {9} The Gallery, and a bunch of other women who volunteer in lots of different ways. We’ve also received sponsorship for our upcoming fundraiser from Kimber Lanning, and from Charlie Levy, owner of Crescent Ballroom and Valley Bar. Plus we’ll be working with Catherine Vericolli, owner of 513 Recording Studios to introduce girls to audio engineering.”

There’s still room for more volunteers for those interest in getting involved.

“For folks who want to volunteer at camp, we’re looking for women-identified, trans, and genderqueer or gendernonconforming folks who have an interest — no musical experience is necessary! We’ll need people to do everything from coaching and managing bands, to teaching instruments, to running workshops, to being roadies and moving gear, to helping with administrative tasks and organizing camp lunches! There’s a place for anyone who’d like to be there!!” Ventre stated in a message.

This coming Sunday, Girls Rock! Phoenix will be down at the Newton for a screening of Girls Rock! The Movie for folks interested in getting involved, showing their support, or just learning more about this worthy organization. Live music and a raffle are also included in the mix so don’t miss out! Tickets for the screening can be purchased here. Or, to learn more about the event, you can head here.

YabYum Music & Arts

Fathers Day Celebrates 10 Years!!

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by Lenore LaNova

Senior Editor

Fathers Day has been shaking up the local scene with their unique brand of punk for, well, a whole decade now. Yes, folks, ten years of the irreverent dad rock we’ve come to know and love.

The cast of characters that currently comprise the Fathers Day lineup include Tony Skyes (a.k.a. Olympic Sports Dad) on drums, Ronald Hayweather (Step Dad) on bass, Frank Brando (Golf Dad) on guitar and Douglas Patton (Business Dad) providing the vocals.

There have been several changes to the lineup over the years, all of whom adopted a “dad” moniker for the band. Many of the changing crew appear on the cover of the“…It’s Called A Separation”: 10 Years of Fathers Day.  Over the years, Fathers Day has worked with Tristan Jemsek (Drunk Dad), Emily Spetrino (Classy Dad), Diana Welsch (PTSD Dad), Dave Driscoll (Single Dad), Toby Fatzinger (Little League Coach Dad), Jason Kron (Conspiracy Theory Dad), and Ben Nandin (Step-Dad), amongst others. Ray Reeves even signed on for a short while, but he didn’t have a paternal alter-ego because, and I quote, “because he is Ray Reeves and he is an amazing drummer and played drums for Bob Seger(we figured that’s dad enough)”. Only Andrew Jemsek (Golf Dad) and Ryan Avery (Business Dad) have held to the lineup since the inception of Fathers Day.

Avery, the man with the moniker of Douglas Patton, is a born performer. As Patton, he appears determined to deliver a memorable show every time he gets on stage and this has proven to be the most impressive facet to this longstanding local act. Any band can keep up a long-running joke concept, but Patton really sells it to us by completely disregarding who he is outside of Fathers Day when performing with Fathers Day. Total immersion.

To mark ten years of Fathers Day, the band took an unconventional approach (no surprise) to the tribute compilation marking this momentous occasion. “…It’s Called A Separation”: 10 Years of Fathers Day features a host of bands covering Fathers Day songs. Well, actually, they all cover one Fathers Day song, fan favorite “Did I Use the Word Divorce?”

This is a very difficult album to write about. Writing forces judgement calls and I really don’t know if I like Andy Warpigs’ cover of “Did I Use the Word Divorce?” more than Soft Shoulders’ version. Stylistically, the album proves so eclectic it’s sometimes difficult to remember that you’re really hearing the same song 16 times. Even the tracks vary in length which wouldn’t surprise me too much except for how disparate those numbers are. From 420’s 31-second version to Soft Shoulder’s which clocks in at just over 5 minutes long.

Everyone has their own approach to “Did I Use the Word Divorce?” Django Ramone puts a lounge spin on the number while Serene Dominic takes some artistic liberties, both lyrically and musically. Many of the bands I recognize from the local scene, but a few new names were introduced to me by “…It’s Called A Separation”: 10 Years of Fathers Day. 

Okay, the Treasure Mammal track might really be my favorite. It is the first moment in perhaps the span of Fathers Day that the band breaks character on an album for the inclusion of a short monologue from the real life father of Ryan Avery (a.k.a. Douglas Patton) discussing some of the larger implications behind the project. The misogyny and aggression, the bad dads. The track was in fact recorded by Abe of Treasure Mammal who works with Avery’s father.

In truth, the original will always be my favorite. You can hear the Fathers Day version of “Did I Use the Word Divorce” here, but you really want to want to check out “…It’s Called A Separation”: 10 Years of Fathers Day.  Listen/purchase here. Do it or your grounded.

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