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Iration: Lei’d Back Tour

Iration: Lei’d Back Tour 2011

I light up a cigarette and my hands shake, partially because I’m standing outside the Hawthorne Theater in the pouring rain and partially because I’m anxious and nervous to conduct an interview with one of my favorite bands, Iration. Reggae music has common connotations to the outside world: Bob Marley, smoking weed, and Island life. And though all these things are relevant entities to the basis of Reggae, some do not realize that this kind of music is not only complex, well-written, and unique; it is one genre of music that can instantly alter your emotional state and transport you some place happier, a place where you aren’t afraid to be free. This soul-altering experience I speak of is a place that the music of Iration has helped me, and many others, travel to.

Iration is made up of Joe Dickens, Adam Taylor, Cayson Peterson, Kai Rediske, “King,” and Micah Pueschel all of whom are Hawaiian-raised, but are currently based in Santa Barbara. The members have known each other since high school, but did not begin playing music until they were in college at the University of Santa Barbara or Pomona College which is where lead singer and guitarist Micah Pueschel attended. They started experimenting with music and jamming together for fun which eventually led to them forming a cover band playing Bob Marley and other roots Reggae artists. “Iration” can be found in two Bob Marley songs, Roots and Positive Vibrations which is where they derived their name. From there, they were able to book local functions and gigs in Santa Barbara, and once they began songwriting, they decided to pursue music further.

Before attending the show, I was fortunate enough to be able to meet and speak with guitarist Micah Pueschel about songwriting, what it is like to play in Portland, and what is in the future for Iration. Iration has played in Portland over five different times, playing previously at the Hawthorne theater and the Roseland theater, where they played last year with Rebelution who are close friends of the group and also based in Santa Barbara. Throughout the years, Iration has toured with Pepper, the Expendables, Ballyhoo!, Passafire, and many others. They also opened for Kings of Leon several years ago at the Santa Barbara Bowl, which was Pueschel’s favorite live show that he has attended. His biggest inspirations come from bands like the Beatles who he refers to as, “his Gods,” and Weezer for songwriting.

Vocalist Kai Rediske and Micah Pueschel do the majority of the song writing for the group, but creating a track would not be possible without equal influence from the entire group, which Pueschel says usually starts simply with an acoustic guitar and is then finished as a group in studio. Pueschel wrote the song Time Bomb, which is the title track for their 2010 album which took a while to record, due to the fact that it was recorded in two sections; the first half in the studio, and the second half after their summer tour in 2009. Though the process was long, this was Pueschel’s favorite album to record. They were able to experiment with synthesizers and new instruments, creating sounds that were unique and unable to be duplicated by keyboard or computer. Through this album, they were able to not only experiment with producing techniques, but with songwriting also. During the time he was writing Time Bomb, Pueschel did not think it should be on the album, but after encouragement from Rediske and the rest of the group, they entered the studio to create one of their most popular and memorable tracks. The song Get Back to Me started as a single hook from Rediske that is now the chorus of the song, and was then pieced together by Pueschel and the rest of the group, becoming another one of the most popular tracks on the Time Bomb album.

It is a given that in any band, equal group participation and collaboration in creating songs and albums is essential. However, the closeness and trust you feel between the members of Iration seems to be a rarity. They truly are a group of close friends who are lucky enough to create amazing music and travel together sharing it with dedicated fans across the country. Though most of the time spent in the different cities is spent preparing for and playing the shows, they do get to venture out and explore as much as they can, and the same is true for their time spent in Portland, Oregon.

Pueschel says Portland is a “cool city,” with great food and funky bohemian vibe. Experiencing the different cultures of each city is a perk of touring, but the best thing is, of course, being able to play music and build lifelong bonds with other bands. The worst, Pueschel says, is being forced to leave behind the people you care about the most, having no normal schedule, and having to “create a routine for yourself to feel normal.” One of his favorite places in the city is the Annex Bar near the Crystal Ballroom because of the late night happy hour which is great for musicians.

Though Iration has gained immense popularity throughout the years, I cannot help but be pleasantly surprised at how at ease I feel while speaking to Micah Pueschel who proved to be a humble, friendly, and incredibly talented man whom I hope I am able to see perform many more times in the future.

The electricity in the air is undeniable, and each person seems more anxious than the next. Finally, after what seems an immensely long intermission, Iration takes the stage. They are dressed in Mexican tuxedos and fake mustaches, creating an alter-ego group, Los Diamantes, for the night. The case of Tecate brought onto the tour bus makes much more sense to me now. It is Halloween, and I’m pleased that Iration has chosen to so enthusiastically participate. La Cucaracha plays, and at the end of each painfully familiar chorus the crowd shouts, “Ole!” in unison with the band. And thus, the show begins. The band begins with the song All in You, a popular favorite from the Time Bomb album and follows with Time Bomb, Get Back to Me, and Electricity to finish the first set.

One of the most amazing things about seeing Iration live is experiencing their fluid transitions from song to song; the show continuing as one complete piece with hardly any interruptions or pauses. My favorite songs to hear live were Summer Nights, which sent the entire crowd into an instant and mutual state of relaxation, and I’m With You which has a chorus as addictive as the guitar chord. Along with playing fan favorites, Iration also was generous enough to share two new tracks that will be on their upcoming album, hopefully to be released sometime in 2012.

No Time, which has a bubbly indie pop intro different from any other Iration song, is Micah Pueschel’s favorite song to play live. He describes the song as a “fresh, fun song with a good vibe.” Their other new track, Undertow, experiments with a heavier electronic element as well as a darker feeling that resonates throughout the song and lyrics. Both of these songs are available free to fans.

Live music is a religion to me, and I cannot express the feeling that I, and other fans, get when experiencing a fun, energetic, and tremendously talented band such as Iration. After finishing up their Lei’d Back Tour with Tomorrows Bad Seeds and Through the Roots, they hope to enter the studio to work on completing their upcoming album. I’ll be patiently waiting for the release, so I can write what I’m sure will be an album review filled with nothing but respect and admiration.


I Break Horses – Hearts review

I Break Horses: Dream Pop Duo

The Swedish duo of Maria Lindén and Fredrick Balck join to make I Break Horses. Their name is taken from a song by Smog, and their sound is taken straight from a basement – the sort of homemade electronic noise popularized by Owl City.

I Break Horses imitates the sound, but are able to leave the high-pitched, bubbly part behind creating something that is darker and far more intriguing. The first two tracks (Winter Beats and Hearts) start out with same soothing and uplifting cloud of electronica, the core being a repetitive chord flowing endlessly throughout the track. In fact the tracks combine when listened to back to back to make one long, computerized ballad.

Hearts is filled with a steady synth arpeggio, delivering the listener into a divine dream state of confusion and ecstasy.
Wired is the album’s standout, sounding like a remix of Vampire Weekend. It’s mostly a warp of several different instruments and homemade electric beats, followed by unexpected and confusing pitch changes within the last minute.

We do get the opportunity to hear Maria Lindén’s soft, airy voice (virtually absent or discreet throughout the entire album) on Wired, Pulse, and I Kill Your Love, Baby. I Kill Your Love, Baby begins completely silent for the first minute and a half until a quiet, MGMT chord in the style of Time To Pretend begins to play in the background. We only hear Lindén’s soft soprano lazily repeating “Do you know,” until the song comes to an unsatisfying end. The track is stunningly reminiscent of the song Don’t Fear, by The Honey Trees.

Hearts serves as an album filled with synthesized hums, sharp electronic arpeggio’s, and dreamy vocals. If the OC was still being aired, this album would be on the soundtrack outlining any events of intense emotion felt by the characters.


Wooden Shjips – West review

The Wooden Shjips (pronounced shyips) are a psychedelic rock quartet from San Francisco, California. The album as a whole is reminiscent of all the spacey, 70’s acid bands that we all know and love, but a bit more progressive and experimental instrumentally.

The first track, Black Smoke Rise, is a good introductory song as it is a classic but modern interpretation of psychedelic rock, a genre which doesn’t have much relevance or popularity in music today. However, Lazy Bones provides a stronger influence on the rhythm section and is the most upbeat song on the album.

Home strays away from the typical psychedelic rock mold and uses a sound that is more classic rock, a vocal which has a stunning similarity to Bono, and features the best guitar solo out on the album. The album retains a certain level of darkness and depth, the drone of the guitar remaining stable throughout.

All songs start out fairly exciting, experimenting with different instruments in the intros, but all fall into a long stream of slow, hypnotic guitar which you can expect on each track on West, creating a relaxing and mesmerizing sound I haven’t heard in years; a blend of Pink Floyd and the Pixies, spacey but intriguing, and a dreary guitar that reminds me of a young Sonic Youth.

Though the album is good when viewing it in its pre-destined psych-rock category, each track is predictable and lacks any real melodic surprises. The drone of the guitar is expected and ties each track together creating an experience in which the listener can get lost; the exact purpose of such a genre.

West is an album that would be great background music to sit around and get high to, and as far as acid/psychedelic rock is concerned, can be deemed as well-accomplished.