Tag Archives: Rock

The Molochs Make a Virtue of Being Outsiders

The Molochs

Photos by Angela Ratzlaff.

Lucas Fitzsimons and Ryan Foster are used to feeling like outsiders. Growing up in an Argentinian household, Fitzsimons felt different from the other kids at school. Both of them are soft spoken, and neither of them are fond of the social climbing and extraneous noise that characterizes the LA entertainment industry.

That outsider mentality serves as inspiration for the music they create as The Molochs. The duo don’t kowtow to local trends; instead, they keep doing what they’ve been doing for years: making blues-based guitar music rife with lyrical honesty. While the songs have an upbeat musicality, there’s a palpable sense of somberness lurking beneath the grooves.

The band recently signed with Innovative Leisure, a label that hosts a roster of acts including Tijuana Panthers, Nick Waterhouse, De Lux, Classixx and Bad Bad Not Good, and have gone from playing shows at small dive bars to festival slots at Primavera Sound in Barcelona and Noise Pop in San Francisco. They’re also gearing up for tours in the U.S. and Europe.

We spoke with Fitzsimmons about returning to the country of his birth, operating outside the industry, and how a trip to India inspired him.

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His Name is Alive on Dark Matter, Black Metal & Creating an Album for the CERN Lab

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His Name Is Alive. Photo by Davin Brainard.

When the largest particle physics laboratory in the world decided to host bands who were in keeping with their experimental spirit, curator-scientist James Beacham specifically sought acts who had explored the musical unknown. For the lab’s EX/NOISE/CERN series, Beacham invited Deerhoof, Pere Ubu, Thurston Moore, plus one other artist who has made a career of exploring the musical unknown. Warren DeFever, the founder and only consistent member of His Name is Alive, has spent the past 26 years making music that showcases his incredibly diverse sensibilities. (Richard Fontenoy wrote that the band’s third album, Mouth by Mouth, was “a 70s heavy-rock album produced by a hyperactive and easily distracted child with an interest in trying every possible effect, level and mixing technique”—and that’s just one style DeFever’s music. His Name is Alive has taken on many, many forms over the decades.

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Album of the Day: Various Artists, “In Case You Missed It: 15 Years Of Dualtone”

Even if the name Dualtone Records doesn’t ring a bell, chances are you’ve at least heard one of the label’s signees. Artists like The Lumineers, Shakey Graves, Langhorne Slim, and Delta Spirit have all made mainstream inroads, but they represent only a small portion of the impressive roster the label has been quietly but steadily amassing over the course of the last 15 years.

To commemorate all that hard work, Dualtone has released a celebratory compilation to showcase the music that’s made it such a bright beacon in the world of indie labels. Rather than merely cobble together their hits, the label took a different tack, pairing classic tracks like Guy Clark’s “My Favorite Picture of You” with rare and unreleased cuts.

Shakey Graves’ “Tomorrow” is a bootleg from one of the label’s newer signees, an artist who rose to prominence on Bandcamp before joining Dualtone to release his 2014 debut album And the War Came. The song quietly exemplifies what Shakey (aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia) does best. Playing an electric guitar and accompanying himself on a suitcase-turned-kick drum, his lyrics explore the condition of millennial love. In the song, the object of Shakey’s affection feels the questioning pang of FOMO, promising him something substantial, but keeping their options open. “You used to tell me we’d turn into something,” he sings. “Oh, you said life was much better than this/ Yeah, but the closest I come to perfection/ Is when you turn around to steal a kiss.” For anyone who has experienced the pain of a wavering lover, the verse has sharp teeth. The label went back to 2008 for The Deep Vibration’s “Tennessee Rose,” a thorny love song on which lead singer Matt Campbell’s bruised chorus gets an assist from Gillian Welch’s wistful harmony.

Rosco Gordon’s “Cheese & Crackers” is an upbeat blues/jazz number with barrelhouse piano, woozy brass, and Gordon’s soulful voice—a fun number to punctuate the more contemplative songs that comprise the majority of the album. The compilation ends with a version of “Keep on the Sunny Side” by June Carter Cash, with Johnny Cash contributing backing vocals on the chorus. It’s a nod not only to the label’s storied history, but to the ethos that continues informing their roster and mission.

In many ways, In Case You Missed feels like a mural composed of many individual pictures. When the viewer steps back far enough, a single, unified image becomes clear; up close each picture tells its own story.  

Amanda Wicks

Scene Report: Rock in Cleveland, Ohio

Grog Shop
Grog Shop, prominent venue in Cleveland’s scene. Photo by Ken Blaze

My introduction to the Cleveland rock scene came over hot dogs and cheap beer, and was shepherded by scene torchbearer Sean Kilbane. A true member of the rock ‘n’ roll proletariat, Kilbane was the kind of club owner who made sure that the bands who played his little hot dog restaurant/rock club—The Happy Dog—were fed, had enough to drink and, most importantly, got paid. Sean wanted bands to come through his town. He wanted his bar to become a destination for bands who weren’t big enough to headline local flagships like The Grog Shop or Beachland Ballroom, but still wanted to get in the van and hit the road. He gave the broke and hungry a good reason to keep coming to Cleveland, and through him I found a rock scene that has been thriving under the radar, just off the frigid coast of Lake Eerie.

Cleveland
Photo by Ken Blaze

 

recent article in Cleveland Scene bemoaned the fact that many bands have been foregoing a night in the historical mecca of rock for greener pastures in nearby cities that have stronger relationships with booking behemoths LiveNation and AEG. That idea, coupled with the proliferation of an indie touring circuit focused on major markets like New York, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles and Seattle, means that certain cities that were once cornerstones of the national rock ’n’ roll scene—Cleveland, Detroit, Boston—have been left by the wayside.

Nonetheless, the Forest City is full of endearing, genre-blending guitar bands. Coupled with prominent scenesters, bars and venues, record stores and the like, Cleveland in 2016 is as endearing a rock ’n’ roll scene as any in the country.

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Angel Olsen, Down to Earth

Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen. Photo by Jacob Biba for Bandcamp.

I first met Angel Olsen in the summer of 2012 at a house party thrown by one of our mutual friends. We sat out on the back porch for an hour or two, drinking beer and talking about culture, politics, and playing music. She wasn’t A Musician and I wasn’t A Writer; we were just two people with a lot of common connections, shooting the shit on a balmy evening. I thought she was funny, sharp, and smart, and we friended one another on Facebook post-party, remaining in one another’s general social orbit. She was about to release Half Way Home, which I listened to with interest when it came out; the album’s elegantly-structured, bittersweet songwriting made me think fondly of Richard Thompson, one of my mother’s favorite musicians and an artist whose omnipresence in my childhood indelibly shaped the way I think about and listen to folk and rock music. I’ve watched Olsen grow from an excellent folk musician into a singular voice and force—much like Thompson. Also like Thompson, I see her slowly developing a legacy, putting out quality music for a devoted following, netting critical respect for her entire life.

The next long conversation Olsen and I had was almost exactly four years later, in August of 2016, by phone from both of our homes (she in Asheville, I in New York), and in the intervening years, our lives had changed drastically. We’d both quit our day jobs; she now plays music full time, and I now write and edit full time. I’ve seen her play shows since then, every one of them intense, growing in complexity and ferocity each time. We’ve smiled and waved to one another across rooms, but we haven’t really had a chance to talk. “You’ve kind of had a bird’s-eye view of my trajectory!” she exclaims.

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