Thursday, 28 April 2011

Video of the day (Räserbajs - Jag Legend)

I've been neglecting this blog the last couple of weeks. No particular reasons. I've just been stupidly busy.

With another 4-day weekend ahead of us, I thought I'd celebrate with a true classic. Räserbajs was one of my favorite bands growing up and I remember thinking this was just about the best music video I had ever seen.

Swedish 90's punk at its best.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Tyler Trudeau interview

I haven't posted any interviews for a long time, but today we have a long one to make up for it. Tyler Trudeau of Women's Basketball and The Tyler Trudeau Attempt replied to every single one of my questions. This is probably some sort of record, since some of them were rather stupid.

Anyway, I first saw Women's Basketball when they played in some divey rock bar in New Haven last year with Horowitz and Allo Darlin'. I think it was one of their first show...maybe even the first and it was exactly what the doctor ordered that day.

Here's a video clip from that very show...

Women's Basketball – Hold Me, Fuckers

You can download the Women's Basketball album for free from the February Records website. While you do that, you can also order the Tyler Trudeau Attempt's seven-inch single, These Are Dark Times.

OK...interview. As usual, this has just been pasted from the email without any editing.

So, tell me a bit about yourself and your various projects. What's the difference between Women's Basketball and The Tyler Trudeau Attempt? Who's in what band? Which one is your main thing? Do their paths ever cross or do you keep them separate? Please note that most of these questions will relate to Woman's Basketball, and not The Attempt….simply because I've only really listened to the WB album.
The Attempt is my main thing, and I've been working on that project in some form or another since I was in high school. I sometimes say the Tyler Trudeau Attempt is an umbrella term for the set of non-subgenre-bound pop songs I write and for any incarnation of the band that plays them, but that's kind of disingenuous, because obviously that description overlaps a little bit with Women's Basketball. Let me put it this way: Lately, and for a long time, when I sit down to write an Attempt song, I'm trying to create a steady lyrical and musical arc in a setting that's kind of like baroque pop played by a garage rock band. That probably sounds really pretentious, but it's also kind of true.

So there's this level of artifice in writing an Attempt song and arranging it with my bandmates that absolutely doesn't carry over to Women's Basketball. Women's Basketball is essentially a way for me to practice writing melodies and to make sure I keep writing songs all the time. There's a "four chords per song maximum" rule, and I try to stay under three minutes with each. I just turn on my four-track, lay down a drum machine beat, play a really simple chord progression over it, then listen back and start brainstorming melodies. Once I have a good melody, I'll scribble a few words on whatever I'd been thinking about before I started recording. Doesn't have to rhyme. The "best quickest" idea always wins out with both melodies and words. I don't like to spend much longer than an hour recording and writing any of the Women's Basketball songs.

The only overlap between the two projects is that I treat the Women's Basketball tapes as "sonic sketchbooks," and I use them for melody-mining sometimes when I write Attempt songs -- just scoop up a good two- or four-bar melody and drop it in the next room, basically.

Right now the Attempt has me on guitar and vocals and my friends John on keyboards and vocals and Bob on drums. We're between full-time bass players, but we have a couple pinch-hitters so at least we can keep gigging. Women's Basketball, on recordings, is me playing everything, plus a drum machine. When we played out as Women's Basketball last spring, I played keyboards and sang, and we had Derek on guitar and Rory on bass. We're gonna play some more shows again, because I'm putting out a new EP, and it looks as though Derek's still on and my friend Tim will probably be playing bass. All of my bandmates are righteous dudes, because that's just how I roll.

What do you do for a living? I assume Women's Basketball doesn't quite pay the bills yet?
Hey, whatcha got? I do a lot of freelance writing and proofreading. I do office temp work sometimes. Just started waiting tables on the side, too. Shit was bleak for a long time, and it's time to get paaaaaaaaaid.

You might already have answered this, but Women's Basketball has been called a fake band. In what way is it fake? I've seen you play live and you have an album.
Well, because it sounds like a full band on the recordings, but it's just me playing all the instruments.

Where did the name come from? Are you a fan of the sport?
About three years ago, I was in the newsroom late one night at the paper where I was working, getting some proofreading done. Y'know how sometimes when you get really depressed, everything takes on this air of gravitas and profundity? It was one of those nights. I came across the phrase "women's basketball" on the page and thought, "My god. This is important. If I ever start another band, I'm going to call it Women's Basketball." When I started messing around with these three-chord songs on my four-track, I thought, "Well, I think this is kind of a new band. Guess I'm going to have to call it Women's Basketball." That's honestly the sum of the reasoning behind the name.

I don't follow any sports, but there's probably some kind of subliminal trigger that made the phrase "Women's Basketball" stand out to me, probably related to the fact that I grew up in a deflated former factory town where University of Connecticut basketball was, like, a really big deal. Men's and women's alike. The women's team often advances farther in the nationals than the men -- I mean, they seriously kick a lot of ass and are zillion-time champs -- and they get a ton of respect. But the thing is, hardly anyone cares about professional women's basketball. Each year some Lady Huskies graduate, and some end up going on to the WNBA, and the give-a-shit-ometer amongst their old fans plummets. Bummertown. I'm not a fan of the sport, but now that I think of it, I guess I'm a fan of the poetic opportunities.

Tell me a bit about the WB album. I love the title and the artwork as well. Who did it? How, where did you record it?
I recorded it onto a cassette four-track by myself in the spare room of my old apartment in New Haven, Connecticut. I used a drum machine, a guitar, a bass and a keyboard... all of them on every song, I think. Every time I had a few songs that I thought other people would get a kick out of, I took my cassettes over to my friend Jef's recording studio and he digitized them. After about a year, I had 17 or 18 keepers and a lot of filler.

I drew the sketch that became the cover, too. I was hanging out in my apartment with a friend one night, and after a few beers I grabbed this stack of junk mail ads and started drawing stuff on them. I thought the lady on an inflated raft in a swimming pool ad needed more peril in her life, so I drew some shark fins and an octopus. But I drew the octopus above the water's surface, so of course it needed some wings. A few months later I found the drawing and was like, "That's the album cover. And I'm naming the album after this thing." I copied it over and Dan from February Records added some color.

What's the "scene" like where you live? Are there any local bands you feel any type of bond with. Any particular ones we should know of and check out?
Well, I've lived in Brooklyn full-time for nearly a year now, and the scene is somewhere in between "ridonkulous" and "batshit insane." Really, it's kind of overwhelming, still. I run mostly in powerpop/indiepop and post-punk circles, but even then there's this massive quality spread, from head-smackingly great songs played really tight, to total amateur hour starring motherfuckers who can't play. New York City attracts the best of the best and the savviest of the scammers. That said, I've found a pretty good crew of allies. People in pop bands tend to really want to help out other people in pop bands. You can't isolate yourself -- everyone benefits from working together. Off the top of my head, the Attempt has gigged with masters of jangle-pop Boy Genius repeatedly, and they get around and play Indietracks, so maybe you know about them. We like them a lot. I hang out a bunch with Slam Donahue, who have all these in-your-face catchy sing-along songs. They just put out a single on Too Pure, and I hope it goes far. We've been working on booking some shows with Life Size Maps, who are a great powerpop trio with an electric cellist instead of a bassist; those guys are in their very early 20s and are way beyond their years in terms of songwriting and playing. And while I have less of a personal connection with them than I do with the aforementioned bands, MiniBoone are probaby my favorite still-kinda-under-the-radar band in New York right now. Their songs are super-poppy, they have these great three-part vocal harmonies, and they destroy live. I know what a band on the verge of blowing up looks like, and they're it. That's just off the top of my head, and limited to pop music made by people who aren't famous yet. It's New York! It's massive! I could go on an on.

I used to live in New Haven, and I still get up there a lot. I like to say that New Haven is the kind of city that has one of each -- whatever you want out of a city, it has one. Maybe just the one, but still -- it's there. Same goes for the music scene. It's really diverse. There's a noise niche and an alt-country niche and a psych niche and... you get the idea. There are a lot of guys with beards. There are very few bands that just play pop songs on electric guitars, straight-up. Nevertheless there's a really supportive little audience for the pop thing. In terms of our pop comrades-in-arms: We like The Cavemen Go a lot. Bob from the Attempt also plays with them. Great '60s-inspired melodies and powerpop spirit. In terms of things that are unlike what my bands do: M.T. Bearington is a psychedelic pop band with crazy vocal harmonies and lush arrangements. Fake Babies are like this avant-dance/"weird party" band. Both put out absolutely world-class albums this year that I blast all the time. Those albums are better than most of what I've heard so far this year. I'm not kidding.

The Tyler Trudeau Attempt has a seven-inch out. Tell us about that. How did that happen and why did you decide to go for vinyl? It's quite a way from hand-scribbled CD-Rs and free downloads.
I like vinyl. A lot of my friends like vinyl. It seemed to make sense, anecdotally. When was the last time you saw someone holding a CD case? Meanwhile, most of my friends who are musicians and general music nerds have a record player and at least a few records. There's this mentality that if you're gonna buy a physical copy of anything, it might as well look as cool as a record and feel substantial when you pick it up and give you that tactile experience when you cue the first track. Plus it's just something I've wanted to do since I was a teenager, going to punk shows when every regional punk band worth its salt had a badass-looking seven-inch and I wanted one with my name on it. On a more practical level, unlike Women's Basketball, I put an awful lot of my own money into making a professional album-length recording with the Attempt, and I feel like I can't just give it away. A seven-inch is a cool-looking, cool-sounding teaser that people will actually pay attention to. Not to mention the status! Dude, I put out a seven-inch. The status for that is fucking clutch.

What are your thoughts on "illegal" downloading? I'm assuming from the free download of your entire album that you're not entirely opposed to people getting music for free? Were there any particular reasons behind making it freely available? Do you sell physical copies of it as well?
I think illegal downloading happens, y'know? And I think that if you download an album illegally and like what you hear, the ethical thing would be to re-download it legally or buy a physical copy. I think it's great that every album I buy nowadays is awesome, and I know it's awesome because I've had the opportunity to preview the mp3s. I feel like my generation is being vindicated for that time when we blew our paper route money on that Silverchair album. But downloading is all on the honor system. Some people are going to be ethical and some people aren't. Recording an album is usually really expensive. If no one pays for a copy, how many more gigs does a touring band have to play before they even recoup the recording costs?

Now, the Women's Basketball album was free for a few reasons: One, it didn't cost me anything to make. I recorded it in my apartment on equipment I already owned. Two, I never intended to, like, release it, release it. I made some CD-Rs and gave them out to a few of my friends. It was an elaborate in-joke, I thought. Three, February Records was brand new, and An Octopus... was part of a trial run of three initial releases. It was like an introductory offer kind of thing. The terms Dan FebRecs suggested to me were that the album would be available for free via the label's website for three months, and then I could do whatever I wanted. Totally fair, for this particular release. Three months went by and I was just stoked anyone outside of my immediate circle of friends was interested, so I decided to leave it up.

Your songs are very personal and often mention people by name…or at least in enough detail for the person the song is directed at to know you're singing about them. Some questions about lines in your songs. Apologies if they're too literal…

Who's Evan? And did he touch your stuff? Was there a particular event when you had had enough.
Evan was a guy who, for a while, hung around a newspaper where I used to work -- like a self-imposed intern or something. He just kind of showed up one day, got a story assignment and kept coming back every day, waiting to be hired at a job that didn't exist. One day I had my bookbag on my desk and a pocket copy of James Joyce's "The Dead" was peeking out, and while walking past, he spotted it... opened up my bag... reached in... and I said, "Evan, is there a sign on my stuff that says, 'Hey, Evan! Touch my stuff?'" Gotta draw the line somewhere, dude.

Are you still feeling lonely at the rock show? Or did she come along in the end?
Y'know, she never called me back! I think she's dating one of those New Haven beard guys now. Anyway, I'm done pining after girls who don't call me back. I'm comfortable with high-fives. These are the lies I tell myself, at least.

You use the word 'ass hat' at least twice on the album. Well done. It's an awesome word. I might have to start using it.

Speaking of 'ass hat'. Who's Andrew? He sounds like a fun but possibly bad influence. When was the last time he took you out for some "sheer and utter douchebaggery…American asshattery"?
Andrew is a good friend of mine who has the capacity to recognize the cataclysmic significance of everything and to make just about any situation both epic and weird. He and I spent a lot of precious broments together for about a year and a half. Whenever we made plans, he never said, "Let's hang out;" he'd say, "You should come rage with me." He'd show up on my front porch unnanounced from time to time. I remember one night we were hanging and we parted ways for a couple hours, and when I called him back for his bearings, he'd somehow crashed a Yale Class of 1988 Alumni party. He once promised me $135 and a harem for running promo for a music festival he'd organized. After Barack Obama was elected president, he held a dance party called "Discobama" and auctioned off titles of nobility from the Principality of Sealand. That's all just the beginning. He's since joined the U.S. Navy. I cannot make this stuff up. I just talked to him last week, but the last time I saw him in person was when he was home for Christmas in 2009. He rolled up in uniform and we went to a bar where we were immediately both served free drinks. He was like, "Ballin'." He had a lot of photos of himself posing next to powerful artillery.

How many percent of everything is alright these days?

What are your favourite bands "that sound like this"?
Haha! I like a lot of stuff that sounds like that. The Music Machine are a big favorite of mine that sound like that. A lot of their songs are very close to my doomed, anguished heart. Early Kinks sound a lot like that, don't they? Although I prefer the whole Face to Face through Muswell Hillbillies continuum, when they didn't really sound like that very often. Let's see. Guitar Wolf! I'm stoked Guitar Wolf is on tour now. I'd love to finally see them. The Sonics sound like that. The Sonics definitely sound like that. The Fleshtones sound like that, and they don't get a fair shake in 2011. My hair's grown out and I'm rocking some serious guy-bangs right now. On occasion I've endured accusations of having an "emo" haircut, and I'm like, "Think Peter Zaremba, jerkwad!" What else? I've been listening to The Griefs' Throwing a Tempo Tantrum album a lot lately. It's a few years old, but I'd forgotten how solid it is, front to back. And it sounds like that. My roommate works for Norton Records, so I hear a lot of stuff that sounds like that coming from his bedroom. It's pretty cool.

Are you still trying to answer the question "what the fuck"? or did you find one?
That was never my question! It was the question of the young lady who drove into the fence during the verse.

Finally, did you have to pay for that fence?
She didn't hit the fence very hard at all, actually. She just cracked maybe three wooden slats. "I fucked up your fence," she said, "but to my credit, there are other places where it's much more fucked up." I don't think the landlord ever noticed. No words were ever spoken.

When I saw you live you gave me a compilation of various Tyler Trudeau stuff. If I remember correctly it was called 'Hey Turdo', which is also your twitter/youtube/etc handle. Is that perhaps a school nickname that has stuck with you? Kids are so imaginative. I have a friend whose last name is Matusavage and he was called Tomatosandwich in school. Genius, huh?
That's terrific. I had to remember to switch to a British English pronunciation of "tomato" to get it, but that's pretty brilliant. The "Turdo" nickname didn't really stick to me at all until I was, like, 21. A friend of mine told me he'd imagined an over-the-top J-pop figure named Tyler Turbo, and then one of us hit on Turdo. Mostly I use it in talking to myself (i.e., "Shut up, Turdo"),

Have you ever played outside of the US? Any desire/plans to?
I never have. It would be cool to play in Canada. I wonder what the routing on that tour would be like. I've never been south of the U.S. border and lately I've been pretty curious about Latin America. I've been to Europe a few times, but not on tour. John, the Attempt's keyboard player, also plays bass in Apse, and they're on the All Tomorrow's Parties label and tour Europe just about every year. I'm super-envious (and also very happy for my friend that he's been able to have these experiences!). As much as I'd like to tour Europe, we'd need management or label support to afford the nuts and bolts -- driver and van, gear rental, etc. But I think my music would go over well in the U.K. I've been to Prague and Krakow, and I felt like my stuff would hit the right spot there, too. It's funny; my friends in Slam Donahue put out this record on Too Pure, and now I'm like, "Hey, I wanna put out a record in the U.K.!"

The Tyler Trudeau Attempt – These Are Bad Times

What's next in store for Tyler Trudeau? Will Women's Basketball ever graduate from being a fake band to a real band?
The very next thing is for the Attempt to make a new music video, thanks to the volunteer/portfolio-building efforts of a good acquaintance who is in her last year at Pratt Institute. It's going to be visually very different from the video for "These Are Dark Times," which is itself a bangin' piece of film. And then there's going to be a new Women's Basketball EP, which will again be released on February Records. It's called Don't Be Mad at Me Just Because I Challenged Your Worldview, and it's been recorded for months now. The only thing I'm waiting on is the cover art, which a friend of mine offered to do this time. Then we're going to have another round of Women's Basketball shows. I initially wanted to release the EP quietly and get on to doing whatever, but I finally realized that if people like Women's Basketball, I should just run with it for a while. Especially since the new EP is a lot more posi and hopeful and celebratory than the album. It really lends itself to being played live. I want to play shows in houses and DIY spaces, that's it. And then that'll be all for Women's Basketball. That project pulled me out of writer's block and taught me how to write better melodies. It's served its function. If I go through writer's block for long enough to put together 15 or so more Women's Basketball songs, there'll be another album. But the truth is, the Attempt is sitting on one finished album, I have songs for the next album written and demoed, and there are enough unrecorded songs in our repertoire for maybe a series of singles. The album we've finished is mastered and everything, and it needs a home. It's time to get moving on bringing all this music into the light of day.

If you would like to add anything, feel free to. Any questions I should have asked but didn't?
Phew, no, that's good, thanks!

That's it! Big thanks to Tyler for answering.

The Tyler Trudeau Attempt website

Tyler Trudeau on twitter

The Death Set live (The Old Blue Last, 13th April 2011)

So, I finally got to see The Death Set. After cancelling Tuesday's show at the last minute, they managed to squeeze onto last night's bill at The Old Blue Last. I had a blast and the old ears are still ringing.

I do feel a bit sorry for those who missed out, however. It was definitely not as busy as on Tuesday, so I assume quite a few people missed the message.

Anyway, great show. Here are some photos.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

No Death Set, just Trippple Nippples

I'd been excited about finally seeing The Death Set for ages. Today was going to be the night. But no. Instead I spent nearly four hours at the Old Blue Last for the venue eventually having to pull the show. The band tweeted earlier about a delayed flight so it was always going to be a late show, but I guess everyone hoped they would make it. They didn't. We got the support band, Trippple Nippples. Japanese. Weird. And, perhaps surprisingly, not really my kind of thing. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this kind of weirdness.

So, a bit of a wasted evening. But, but...these things happen.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Upset The Rhythm's Spaghetti Tree weekend

I spent most of Friday and Saturday at The Bussey Building in Peckham. A former cricketbat factory, it was the venue of choice for Upset The Rhythm's Spaghetti Weekend live music extravaganza. Although John Maus and Dan Deacon were good on Friday, they didn't quite measure up to Saturday's performances. Woolf blew people away and confused them in equal measure. The kind of band that would probably work better in a smaller space and a bit later in the evening, they were still one of the highlights of the weekend.


After Woolf it was time for Please, a London 3-piece I'd been wanting to see for years. And wow, just wow. They were fucking incredible!

The calm before the storm. Michael from Please soundchecking.

They're playing at The Old Blue Last on Saturday together with Pheromoans. It's free and you'd be a fool to miss it. A damn fool!

And finally, Japanther. I've already used up all the superlatives for this band. They never disappoint. It was a short set, but messy and sweaty as hell.

FInally, I watched about half of No Age . They sounded great, but I just couldn't handle any more music. It was also ridiculously packed, so I made my way home, tipsy, sweaty, clutching my Japanther and Please vinyl. An awesome night.