Now I’m not gonna’ beat around the bush here: we at YabYum love Phantom Party.
We named them our Best New Band of 2016 and with good reason: their on-point performance skills and totally unassuming air back up their qualified knack for crafting crisp, summery pop songs.
Hundred Skeletons is the culmination of two years worth of writing, the complete emotional breakdown and restructuring of lead vocalist/guitarist Joshua Capati, and five straight days of recording in early January 2017.
For you see, the music of Phantom Party may seem bright and uplifting — bassist and back-up vocalist Matthew Slusser and drummer Austin Cooper bringing the vision to full effect — but it’s Capati’s lyrics that remind us all that seasonal depression is, in fact, very real and it’s all about how you deal with your personal shit going forward. How to handle your scandal. And sometimes you fail, but it’s about getting up at least one more time than you fall, right?
After the fun instrumental opening of “Sedna”, “Catholic School” goes right for the gusto; high-tempo toms and losing your religion. Personal fav “Elvis” follows suit with one of the best depressing lyrics of all time: “Well I’m down to my last cigarette/Why couldn’t God make me look like Elvis?” And trust me, the entire song is that good.
By the time “Derby Daze” comes on I feel like I’m listening to a Phantom Party’s Greatest Hits record. At 13 tracks, there’s no room for filler here! And, I guess that’s kind of the point. As Joshua states on their Bandcamp page, “Essentially, this was going to be my last thing. I was going to release it, do rock and roll, then die… what would I say if this is the last thing I release?” Better make it good, I guess.
With songs like the Weezer-inspired “Tunnel of Love”, live favorite “Charlie”, and the bitchin’ title track on the last half of the album, Hundred Skeletons simply gets better as it plays along. Recorded by Phantom Party and mixed and mastered by Joshua Capati and Bryce Copple at Joshua’s house in Tempe, I sense the decade(s) long, over-all pattern of young people writing, recording, and releasing their own material isn’t going to go away anytime soon…
Epically closing with “Twenty” and the lines “I’ll get closure when my heart stops beating/I’ll live as if my life has meaning/I’ll drop dead before my demons kill me/I wasn’t planning on being twenty” and “ooo-ooo-ooo”ing with all your hearts content sure is one of my favorite ways to fight back the demons of depression. It seems like the members of Phantom Party think so too.
For more Phantom Party, check out their website. With a gang of shows coming up for the band, make sure to catch them at your favorite venue soon!
Are you ready for the transcendental expierence that is The Fuzzy Crystals? These spaced-out pysch rockers from California (where else?) create a dynamic sound that will have you wandering through the acidic flower fields of our hippie parents’ memory mindspace with their new single, “The King is Dead”. If you feel like you might have missed out on Woodstock, I suggest delving into The Fuzzy Crystals right away.
How should we describe the music of the musical duo known as Swellshark? Sweet and somber? Lonely but playful? Sad and happy? It seems like all the words apply when listening to “Numb + Insensible”. Shélan O’Keefe and Henry Kellam (aka Swellshark) fuse together a buoyant indie folk sound with pensive lyrics that seek to root out all those insecurities you sought to subjugate. The pair are heading out on tour this coming June so check with Swellshark to see if they have a stop in your neck of the woods. For us in Phoenix that means The Trunk Space on June 3rd so mark your calendar!
The husband and wife team behind Joy Downer [Jeffrey Downer and Joy Bishop] are originally from San Diego but they recently made the jump to Hollywood. “Stranger Places” takes that casual Pacific air and adds some L.A. production for a super fun summer single. This track comes to us from the duo’s EP, Radio Dreamer, which was recorded and produced by Rob Kolar at his Echo Park studio. Check out the single from Joy Downer below &/or head here for the complete Radio Dreamer EP.
There’s something nostalgic about that early indie sound “popularized” in the 90s by alt-rock bands that had too much buoyancy in their sound for grunge. It definitely feels like Loyal Wife has continued the tradition on their new single, “We Notice Homes When They Break”. Loyal Wife has that bright bummer rock thing down and I’m totally digging it. Check out the single, available through Sunset Alliance Records, below…
This psych-rock act from North Carolina is passing through Phoenix in June and all you locals are not going to want to miss out on the vintage sound of Shadowgraphs. “Eastern Holiday” starts off with a bit of Western amble before giving way to a mellow and nostalgic rocknroll that is quite enchanting. Give “Eastern Holiday” a spin below and then be sure to check in with the Shadowgraphs’ complete tour schedule (through Facebook).*
*This sentence was modified from its originally published content because some writer got a show date wrong. The jury is out on whether to blame the band or the staffer. Trial to begin at noon.**
**That was a joke. There’s no “trial” other than trial by combat and that always starts promptly as dusk.
Usually it’s Lauren Ruth Ward’s sultry Americana swagger that has us all wound up, but this week it looks like Ward is ready for rowdy and rocking. “Blue Collar Sex Kitten” is the latest hit to come out the songwriting partnership between L.A.-based musicians LRW and guitarist Eduardo Rivera. There’s so much sass on this single, you’re going to want to skip it on the drive to work and save it for that cruise home… unless, of course, you want to arrive at your job ready to burn the whole fucking place down. Consider that your warning.
London-based band The Great Malarkey dares to ask the question, “Why did the Irish artist, the Canadian surfer, the Portuguese London tour guide, the Gloucestershire gardener, two UK Guild Hall students, a Latvian paralegal and an androgynous cockney, walk into a bar?” Apparently, the answer is create some riotous folk punk of orchestral proportions. Of course, with eight members listed as part of The Great Malarkey, I would imagine this band brings the party every time they show up to perform. If you dig “Gaffa” (and you will), I suggest checking out more of the online musical offerings The Great Malarkey released last month (here).
This garage rock trio from PHX adds some colorful kitsch to their punk rock punch bowl. Yes, Sturdy Ladies throw out the feisty fun on “Secret Weapon” that will have you shouting along so you might want to consider your location before you smash that play button. Luckily you’ll get your chance not once but twice. Not only are the Sturdy Ladies playing this Saturday, May 13, at the Yucca Tap they’re also opening for Shonen Knife (from Osaka, Japan) on May 24 with Shovel and The Pübes! More on that event here. Until then, spend some time with “Secret Weapon” and also their campy classic, “Cat Olympics“, available online as well. Both singles comes to us from the Sturdy Ladies’ debut EP, Brut Force, which you should pick up at a one of the previously mentioned shows because, so far, that’s the only place you can get ’em. Enjoy.
Okay, so when “It’s Not Easy” kicks off, you’re probably going to worry that I might be confused about what the word “rowdy” means, but give it a minute. The NYNY quartet known as the Dolly Spartans turn up the energy and the angst for this indie rock single. The vocals call to mind club scene kids like The Strokes while the accompanying instrumentation has an emo tinge that reminds me a bit of Jimmy Eat World. This single comes to us from the band’s latest EP, Time Sides with No One, which came out last month. Give “It’s Not Easy” by the Dolly Spartans a spin below…
Shanghai-based act Round Eye is comprised of “American ex-pats and Italians” which might seem like a bit of a metropolitan muddle, but rocknroll is a transcendent language that cold-crushes culture divides. “Billy” has a feisty punk energy and catchy hook that might just lodge into your brainspace and never leave again. Twenty years from now, a routine traffic stop could result in you screaming “Billy was a cop! Billy was a cop! Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy!” if you let the music of Round Eye take hold. And you definitely want to.
Britain’s Annabel Allum first landed on our radar with her single, “Rich Backgrounds”, and this new single proves Allum is more than a one-trick pony. She has some chops. “Eat Greens” rips into that impetus toward better health that hits many of us as we move toward full-time adulting, but the song is more about finding balance than just clever witticisms. Allum has a gritty sound and a dry tongue that reminds me of Courtney Barnett. “Eat Greens” came out on April 28 through Killing Moon Records. Give the new single a spin below and, if you haven’t already, check out “Rich Backgrounds” from Annabel Allum as well.
The Irish rockers known as Otherkin have some “Bad Advice” to offer up to fans. The four-piece describes their sound rather accurately as “Grunge Pop” so I could easily seeing them sharing a bill with Phoenix favorites like Fairy Bones or maybe Harper and the Moths. This single comes to us from the band’s forthcoming debut album. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our grubby mitts on that release in the not-too-distant future. Until then, enjoy “Bad Advice” from Otherkin…
Sharon and Frank Labor of Battered Suitcases joined the YabYum crew down at Phoenix Center for the Arts. They brought along some really great tracks, spanning time and space, that really show some shining examples of lyrical prowess, from Jim Carroll to Leonard Cohen. The complete podcast can be found below!
Holy hotcakes, Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold have (finally) released their debut album and it was certainly worth the wait. It’s good. Damn good.
Given that they joined forces in 2012, five years may certainly seem like a longer-than-normal time frame for a band to release their first album but it’s certainly not unheard of. Within that time the duo, Tyler Matock (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, kazoo) and Jesse Gray (banjo, electric guitar, suitcase drum) have amassed quite the local following and are known for their hootin’-hollerin’-boot-stompin’ shows all across the Valley.
For you see, Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold play a “bastard child of rock, alt-country, blues, Appalachia, and bluegrass.” The music gets rowdy sure, but it also gets down right contemplative and even sweet.
“You Never Loved Me” is the perfect opener for the album, Jesse’s banjo setting the immediate tone. As Tyler’s guitar and then vocals come in with “Don’t change your mind/Go grab your things/I got the time honey/You got your dreams” you’ll know right away what you’re in store for with Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold.
Although they do a tremendous job on their selection of covers (“Killing Floor”, “Bad Gasoline”, “Mole In The Ground”, and “Rex’s Blues”), I prefer their originals with “Ain’t That Bad”, “Goodbye Mama”, “Fight the Urge” and “American Dream” some of my top songs right now by any band locally or otherwise.
I was able to catch up with Tyler and Jesse via the Internet and ask about the new album, what’s upcoming, and, yes, even their sense of style.
YabYum: How long have you lived in Arizona? Are you from here?
Tyler Matock: I’m born and raised here in Phoenix. A second generation at that.
Jesse Gray: I’ve lived here about 6 years. I was born and raised in Kansas and Missouri, and also spent a few years in Portland, Oregon.
What drew you personally to the music of Appalachia? Who are some of your influences as songwriters?
Tyler: As far as Appalachian music goes, I really hadn’t been exposed to that particular type of music at all until I started jamming with Jesse. I think its impossible to be around (a real banjo player) without being exposed to Appalachian music. However, I was listening to music very similar in sound both regionally, and aesthetically before I had met Jesse.
After my dad had taught me how to play a few simple chords on guitar, I tried learning songs that worked with the chords that he had taught me. Early country and blues music lead me straight to an affection for any thing out of the American South – which is responsible for almost all genres of music to this day.
I discovered this music by becoming a “nerd” for finding my influences’ influences. I became compelled to research what influenced Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, John Prine, and the endless list of iconic songwriters. It was like my own crash course for understanding and appreciating the heart and soul of what American music is, and all about. That being said, as much as I write, I never try confine myself into to sounding just like those guys – that just sounds exhausting and not very fun to do, because that stuff was so groundbreaking for it’s time, and it’s almost damn near untouchable still to this day.
I just think with all those older influences in tow (Jimmie Rodgers, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Tom T. Hall, Lee Hazlewood) and combing influence from more contemporary artists and songwriters I like (early Avett Brothers, Langhorne Slim, Ryan Adams, Dr. Dog, Neutral Milk Hotel, and maybe one of my top 5 albums of all time called, Return of the Frog Queen by Jeremy Enigk) – I sort of subconsciously draw from the past and the present in hopes to make something that is relevant to myself and of course the audience or listeners as well.. Wow, that’s a really long answer.
Jesse: Part of what drew me to the music of Appalachia was having an intense love for the mountains. Some of my favorite memories are of finding gold with my family in the mountains of Colorado. When I first heard Clarence Ashley’s “The Cuckoo”, it completely captured that feeling for me. Though not technically Appalachia, I think the feeling is the same.
When I started playing banjo, I naturally gravitated toward that feeling. But I wanted to rev it up, too, and add some rock, punk (just in the sense of being aggressive) and blues to the mix. Then I discovered Roscoe Holcomb and Dock Boggs, and found that they were already playing clawhammer and “oldtime” banjo in a really aggressive, dirty, bluesy style way back in the ’20s and on, before that style became a bit diluted. They really crystallized that “mountain” sound. I think it’s a beautiful sound, and I can only hope we catch a little of that in what we do.
It’s incredible to find out Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold was the late Dan Somers last record he worked on. Would you speak a few words about him for those who didn’t know him?
Jesse: Dan Somers was an amazing guy, and I really miss him. He was so intelligent – but with a modesty that often doesn’t go with that – funny, genuinely nice, and fun to hang out with. Truly one of my favorite people I’ve met since I’ve been out in Arizona. He added so much to the album, and I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with him – the album wouldn’t be the same without him – but I really just miss him as a person. Weird to say that about someone you only hung out with a handful of times, but some people you just feel an instant connection to. I’m glad people got wind of the things he had to say, because I think they’re really important. All I can hope is that his words saved some people from having to go through the things he went through.
Tyler: I couldn’t be more honored to have met and been given the opportunity to work with Dan. It pains me to this day knowing now, what he may have been suffering from then. I’ll always remember how sweet of a person he was – how kind and insightful he was – how hard he worked – his poignancy and wit. He immediately lead me striving to be a better musician and most importantly a better person. His band, Lisa Savidge, remains to be one of the coolest bands I’ve ever heard come out of the local scene.
You guys have played a lot of shows. Any one in particular stand out in your mind that’d you care to mention? The release show looked like it was a grand ole time!
Jesse: There are a number of shows that really stand out, and we’ve had the privilege of playing with some really great bands at some great places. But the release show is a night I’ll never forget. Last Exit was packed, and when we got up on stage, virtually everybody had moved up front waiting for us. We wanted to give them everything we could, played for an hour and a half, and every song felt top of our game. We got to show them a lot of newer songs, expand, and go to different places with the music that we can’t often go to during shorter sets. And the crowd was right there with us from start to finish. We have a lot of sides to our music that people haven’t heard yet, and we’re excited to show them.
Tyler: I’d just like to sort of echo what Jesse said. The CD release was such an unforgettable show for us amongst so many others we’ve had prior to that. I think why its one of my personal favorites was to see all the hard work that was put in to make it happen. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to reach out to everyone I knew. I even mailed out letters with a flyer invitation and a little note to family members and close friends. To see almost all of them show up and support us – and then to deliver them a show to remember was quite the achievement. We’re a live band and a good performance is very important to me. Giving the crowd everything we’ve got and leaving it all out on the stage is the ultimate goal. I feel like we made that happen, and I can’t wait to show more people what our live show is all about.
You played with a drummer for your Tiny Desk Concert submission. Have/would you ever play with other musicians or is the music you create as Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold inherently a two-man show? I can certainly hear fiddle, washtub bass, mandolin, mouth organ, and any other manner of instruments joining in with the sound…
Jesse: We’re definitely open to playing with other musicians. I think the first step would be adding a rhythm section. Then other musicians could come in on top of that. The music has been moving in different directions that would call for that type of thing, so it’s definitely something that could happen. We’re both drawn to expansion and different sounds – rock, garage, soul, psychedelic, shoegaze, etc – and have no intent on staying exactly the same, being purists, or treating the music like a museum piece.
Tyler: The songs I wrote on this album came to me when I was pretty young as a songwriter. Most of them were the product of being a young 20 something-year-old. And I personally don’t regret or discredit any of those songs because we still play most of them to this day, however, they were written at a time with no expectations and more of just a catharsis for myself. I think now, as a growing and practicing songwriter, I’m adapting to the world and life around me as a 30 year old – which brings a little more expectation upon myself to adapt with music artistically.
A lot happens in life from then until now. People change. People grow. And just like music or art, they grow and change as well. The growth seems to be a natural progression into what can be the best possible way to create our best art, or in this case, our best possible songs. Jesse and I are naturally comfortable working with the “less is more mentality” because that’s all we’ve ever known as a band – but we’re now also beginning to realize the potential of adding more parts and tools to follow what the songwriting is currently calling for.
You guys sport some awesome threads. Are these thrift store finds or are there certain Western stores you’d care to name drop at all?
Jesse: For me, the threads are all thrift store finds. Being in a band gives you a bit of a license to dress like a fool, and we have fun with that. I’m still looking for assless chaps – that’ll be the holy grail.
Tyler: First of all thanks for diggin’ the threads haha. I think fashion and style has always been something important to me, even before music. That being said, I don’t AT ALL claim to having any “cool” fashion sense, but rather just wear what makes me feel good on a “trial and error” basis.
When I first started playing out, (just for open mics), I would wear the best 3-piece suit I could get my hands on. Even if it meant literally piecing all different types of brands of clothing together (old & new). Somehow though, I think I made it work. I think Justin Townes Earle, Pokey LaFarge, and Langhorne Slim, all have great styles, and I realized they pulled from American classics. So that’s what I try to do. Just pull from what I dig all the greats wore. Jimmie Rogers and Samuel Lightnin’ Hopkins were two of the coolest, sharpest dressed dudes in music, in my opinion.
Clothes make me feel good. Especially well made clothes – old and new. I feel like I can perform better when I’m dressed right. I consider clothes as my tattoos, except I get to change them whenever I feel like it. I’ve worn a hat as long as I can remember, I’d love to have my own signature Stetson someday. Retro Ranch, Buffalo Exchange in Phoenix /Tempe, and Incahoots Vintage Clothing in Flagstaff might be one of my all time favorites for go-to threads in AZ.
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