Tag Archives: Indie Rock

Hundreds of Artists Help Launch ‘Bands Take A Stand’ to Combat Sexual Assault

Take A Stand

Three years ago Jake McElfresh, who records under the musical moniker Front Porch Step, was accused of sexual harassment by several young women, a handful of which were teenagers. In 2015, a petition was created to remove Front Porch Step from playing the traveling pop-punk festival Warped Tour—founder Kevin Lyman obliged; McElfresh was uninvited and Front Porch Step was dropped by his label Pure Noise Records. Lyman later allowed McElfresh to play one surprise set at the Nashville date of the tour, further enraging the thousands of pop-punk fans who’d signed the petition. McElfresh stayed quiet for a while, later citing mental difference as the reason for his indiscretions. In 2016, he returned with a new song, “Help Me Hurt,” and a Christian identity. That, too, was met with a barrage of both support and opposition. In February of this year, McElfresh once again attempted to return to the limelight, announcing that a new song would be released on the 16th. For a specific group of music fans and professionals, it was the final straw.

Bands Take A Stand was created and launched in a single day—February 16th—by an anonymous group (“We want to keep the focus on what we’re doing, not who is doing it,” a representative wrote via email) bewildered by Front Porch Step’s return. The organization asked bands to donate their Bandcamp sales to A Voice For the Innocent, a non-profit dedicated to acting as a community of support for victims of rape and sexual abuse. Within that 24-hour time period, 320 bands signed up—everyone from the dynamic duo of PWR BTTM to smaller emo and pop-punk acts from around the country and Mexico. Bands Take A Stand asked those who signed up to donate for a single day. A month later and many acts are still voluntarily sending all proceeds to A Voice for the Innocent.

Continue reading

Spiral Stairs’ Long Ascent

Spiral Stairs

Scott Kannberg didn’t plan to go eight years between albums. But after releasing his first solo record as Spiral Stairs—the nickname he originally used as a founding member of indie-rock legends Pavement—in 2009, life intervened. Pavement reunited and toured, Kannberg got married and moved to Australia, then had a daughter and relocated to L.A. Once he finally found time for a new album, he wanted to move fast. “The early Pavement records were made in like three days,” he says. “I itched to do that again, and I had songs that could be done that way.” Unfortunately, there were more roadblocks ahead: Kannberg’s good friend and bandmate—drummer Darius Minwalla—passed away unexpectedly.

The shock caused Kannberg to slow down once more. Over the next few months he rewrote a few songs, penned some new ones, and gradually assembled an album. In the process, what was meant to be a back-to-basics rock record became something more complex. Though the tunes on Doris and the Daggers are immediate and direct, they also feature extra touches like string sections and horn accompaniments—the sort of embellishment that needs time to grow. The album also includes several guests, including Kelly Stoltz, The National’s Matt Berninger, and Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew.

Still, this is clearly a Kannberg album, filled with simple melodies and his most personal lyrics ever. Many songs include autobiographical details about travel and family, including a super-sweet gem about his daughter, and a poignant tribute to Minwalla. Kannberg recently spoke to us over the phone from his family’s new home in Mexico.

Continue reading

Big Ups: HIRS’ Queer Thrash Fury is Taking Over America

hirs-600-2

When JP, founding member of the queer thrash band HIRS, gets to the copy shop, the person helping her doesn’t blink an eye at the graphic insert for the band’s forthcoming Trans Girl Take Over tour tape—which happens to be a cartoonish act of violence. They’re similarly unfazed by the silvery glitter-colored HATE MALE button fronts JP has printed, nor do they raise an eyebrow when she asks for “the hottest pink” paper they have. After all, this is Philadelphia, and while the political atmosphere here has its own peculiarities, the overall atmosphere is decidedly tolerant.


On the upcoming Trans Girl Take Over tour, which takes the band to cities like Minot, North Dakota and Bozeman, Montana, the audiences may not be quite as sympathetic—which is exactly what JP wanted. “I love playing places that don’t get as many shows as all these cities on the East Coast,” she says.

“I’m really excited to meet the people [in those areas] who have been booking weirder shows for stranger people—or even just booking shows for marginalized people, period,” she continues, before adding, “and also intimidate the assholes I know are going to be there.” She’s not kidding about that last point; at the start of every HIRS set, JP asks the marginalized people in the audience to come to the front and tells the cis white men who tend to dominate punk and metal shows to, “fall the fuck back.” While this is usually met with little resistance at the shows the band plays in Philadelphia, it’s hard to tell what might happen on tour.

Continue reading

Los Campesinos! on How Mental Health Struggles Informed “Sick Scenes”

Los Campesinos

Photos by Owen Richards

If a single moment is capable of defining a band, for Los Campesinos!, that moment occurs during a brief passage halfway through “I Broke Up In Amarante.” A fly-on-the-wall document of frontman Gareth Paisley’s mental health struggles during the recording of their new album, Sick Scenes, the track is rattling towards its heartening conclusion when Paisley’s voice suddenly drops away as he says, “Nah, you’re going to have to help me out here” and the gang-like vocals of the rest of band take up the mantle. It’s the aural equivalent of dragging someone through the final few meters of a marathon, a very human moment that encapsulates the spirit of togetherness that has seemingly pushed Los Campesinos! through hurdles that might have finished off other bands.

Sick Scenes, the band’s sixth album, is a weighty addition to the group’s catalog of fervent guitar-pop. Having left their label in the wake of previous LP, No Blues, the band took a step-back to try and define who they were and what they were doing. The result is a heartening and resolute record that really couldn’t have been made by anyone else.

We spoke to frontman Gareth Paisley about the backdrop to Sick Scenes; those aforementioned hurdles, the mental health struggles that informed it, and why they believe in themselves more than ever before.

Continue reading

Crystal Fairy: A Supergroup Decades in the Making

crystalfairydavidgoldman-600

Crystal Fairy by David Goldman

Teresa Suárez is sitting in the living room of her El Paso home, and she is positively electric. She usually talks quickly, but today she’s talking really quickly. She blames it on an overindulgence of caffeine (“I’ve had so much coffee that I’m sweating,” she says.), but the coffee doesn’t really account for all of Suárez’s excitement. Her new band, Crystal Fairy, is about to release its self-titled debut, and naturally, she’s over the moon.

It doesn’t hurt that Crystal Fairy also includes two of her musical heroes—Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover of the Melvins—as well as her long time collaborator, Omar Rodríguez-López of The Mars Volta, At The Drive In, Bosnian Rainbows, and 7,494 other bands. Crystal Fairy’s been decades in the making, with each of the members coming from similar backgrounds despite their disparate cultural pedigrees. Right now, Suárez is illuminating her own past.

“I was in the room when my mother was giving birth to my younger brother and I saw a lot of blood come out of her,” says Suárez, who sometimes goes by Teri Gender Bender and founded the band Le Butcherettes. “At first, the blood from the birth traumatized me,” she says, “but then, I realized it was good. It was life and it was life at its fullest. Red is the color of victory, and that’s why I usually wear it.”

The appearance of the color red has been consistent throughout Suárez’s work. She’s slathered the color across her album covers, and wears a lot of crimson in concert. She used to perform naked while covered in pig’s blood as a way to make a statement on violence against women. Her music even sounds red: songs often start sweetly, but they just as often end in ear-ringing chaos. Red is the color of love, and of anger.

Continue reading