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reviews

Off With Their Heads – Home album review

There are no words to describe/the awful feeling I feel inside is just the beginning of the gruff angst that thrashes through Off With Their Heads’ latest and loudest album. Formed in Minneapolis in 2002, OWTH spent much of the beginning of their career touring full time, rotating members, and trying to make a name for themselves in a punk scene that isn’t always open to fresh talent. Finally in 2008 after self-releasing their video for “Fuck This I’m Out,” the band was named one of “50 Emerging Artists” by Beyond Race Magazine the following year. In 2010 the band signed to Epitaph records and released their second full length album, In Desolation, that following June. Since then, OWTH has been continuing to tour along with working on side projects and perfecting their latest release, Home.

Singer/guitarist Ryan Young encapsulates the albums title throughout many of the tracks by ensuring the listener that “home” isn’t always the place one may want to be when times get tough. Songs like “Nightlife” and “Don’t Make Me Go” are perfect examples of the struggles that many adults face and Young’s raspy vocals only emphasizes the hardships even more. Taking a more social turn, Home’s fifth track “Altar Boy” talks about the problems with falling in line with Christianity and the dangers that are often associated with the Church.

Songs like “Janie” take the album for a slight curve but the second half of the album delivers with enough angst to put your 15 year old self to shame. There’s no doubt that dark times for the band was the inspiration behind much of Home and Young, along with fellow members Robbie Swartwood and Justin Francis, do an excellent job at achieving a sound which makes the listener feel exactly this. Though, OWTH has managed to hold a consistent sound throughout their three full-length albums, it’s obvious this album was a slight turn in a more technical direction, however the bands punk roots continued to stay true throughout.

Home is one of those albums that can make one truly respect the punk scene and what it has become within the past decade. OWTH may be one of the last true punk bands out there, though there’s no doubt they’ll have a long and exciting career ahead of them.

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reviews

Ducktails – The Flower Lane album review

The Flower Lane is the the third studio album from Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondaline after forming Ducktails in a basement in 2006. Since then Ducktails has been welcomed into the indie scene with open arms, supportive fans, and international tours, including a North American tour this spring.

There’s no doubt The Flower Lane came out just in time for the impending spring and will be the soundtrack for front porch parties and late night strolls for the next three months. Though the album slowly steers away from Ducktails DIY-garage style of music, the album takes a new turn as Mondaline’s dreamy vocals and psychedelic guitar seamlessly flow through The Flower Lane song by song.

Opening track “Ivy Covered House” calmy begins the album to give the listener a gracious idea of what the rest of The Flower Lane will bring. Title track, The Flower Lane, follows through with the assumptions one could make from the beginning with melodic organ that appears throughout much of the album. While listening to the album, you can’t help but feel you’ve walked into a dreamland with tracks like “Planet Phrom” continuing with “Letter of Intent” featuring Jessa Farkas of Future Shuttle’s drone vocals. The Flower Lane ends with one of the shortest songs on the album, Academy Avenue, that features a folkier sound than we hear on the album, but still produces the pop sound that Ducktails is best known for. Though Mondaline’s vocals are prominent on the album there are still plenty of instrumental breaks that don’t overpower any of the songs or seem to be a boring filler because it felt necessary. The album itself is relatively long however, with songs averaging at about 4 minutes but it’s what one can expect when you bring in Daniel Lopatin of Onehotrix Point Never, Madeline Follin of Cults, and without saying, members of Real Estate.

The Flower Lane album is the perfect mix of indie-pop and classic psych-rock that still holds true to what Ducktails has produced for the past 6 years. Even though Mondaline has only released three full-length Ducktails albums, it’s obvious he’s beginning to become more confident in what he’s created. It’s going to be exciting to see what Ducktails will produce in the years to come but until then, The Flower Lane will do just fine.

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interviews

Audiences Interview

The first time I heard Audiences was during a soundcheck at Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood in August of 2011. It was a sound that I couldn’t exactly put my finger on but it was something that I knew was going to bring them a lot of attention in the Chicago music scene. Nearly a year and a half, one EP, and a slew of shows in some of Chicago’s most well-known venues later, Audiences has brought attention to themselves in a scene where bands tend to piggyback on one another’s sounds and styles. I was able to sit down with Audiences at Chicago’s Double Door and discuss how the band got to where they are today, their future plans, and what it’s like to be a permanent fixture in the Chicago music scene.

MVRemix: How about you introduce yourselves…

Stephen Kraniotis: I’m Stephen, I play guitar

Brian Suarez: I’m Brian, I play bass.

Billy Jesus: Billy. Singing guitar.

Bobby Is: I’m Bob, I play the drums.

MVRemix: Where did you get the name audiences?

BI: We did a song called “Audiences.”

BJ: Actually I remember this really clearly. I was thinking about this the other day in a weird way, actually. Seriously, we had this song called “Audiences” and we’d been playing the shit out of it and we didn’t really know what we were going to do with it. We don’t play it anymore-

BS: We were called Bad Moon at the time.

BJ: But yeah, then Brian one day was like “Dude, you know what? We should be called Audiences.” Like, I remember. He screamed it from his bedroom.

BI: No, I’m pretty sure we were like “We should be called Audiences and the song should be called ‘Bad Moon.’”

BJ: Yeah, that’s right… And we did do that!

BS: So we would have a lot of house shows.

BI: And people would come and play.

BJ: We were named Audiences before our first show.

SK: There was a lot of people involved that inspired us a lot and we were just like, alright.

BS: And just like he (Billy) says on stage, is that, you know, “We’re all Audiences.”

SK: It’s like paying homage.

BS: You’re trying to connect with people, and musicians are always trying to connect with people, and it’s just so different saying “Oh, I’m going to the Audiences show!”

MVRemix: When did you start playing together as a band?

BI: What is 20-

BJ: July 2010.

BS: November 2010?

BJ: So me, Brian, and Stephen all grew up playing together in weird basements in the suburbs. The three of us grew up playing together and we went to high school together, and I learned how to sing, sort of. Maybe from the same entity. And Bob and I played in a little thing before this.

BI: I actually don’t even know these guys last names.

SK: And then, like, we were just kind of just kind of picking up instruments.

BJ: Something ended and then something bigger started.

SK: I used to play bass. On the song called “Audiences” I played bass.

BS: I never played bass before this band.

SK: And he learned.

BS: I learned how to play bass for this band because I wanted to be in a band.

SK: And we were just kind of dicking around in the apartment.

BS: Yeah, that’s the weirdest thing. It was a kind of an organic thing.

BJ: I kind of thought this was going to live in the living room and die in the living room and then we got a few shows.

BI: Big shows!

BJ: Yeah, bigger than us.

BI: It just escalated quickly.

BJ: Yeah, we just got to do some shit that was bigger than us.

MVRemix: What were your influences when you first started Audiences?

BS: Big Bird.

BJ: Do you hear the guy doing vocal warm ups in the next room? That was my biggest influence. The guy you could hear through my walls in my apartment.

SK: Probably the people we were just surrounded by made us want to start a band. Just the people hanging out in the apartment, it was very much a party house then. People were just picking up instruments.

BJ: Nothing positive or negative was happening. It was just noise.

BI: We all come from different backgrounds. It was interesting the first two songs. I come from a very heavy metal, death metal background. So somebody would be like “Hey, let’s play this bluesy riff.” And I’d just be like “Fuck yeah, let’s put some double bass with that!”

BJ: Double bass!

BI: Or something ridiculous. So I think just, going over the first few songs we learned each other better and learned how to write music to assist everyone’s strengths.

BS: I used to be in an emo band that opened for Fall Out Boy at Knights of Columbus on a six band bill. I guess 90’s stuff too?

SK: I’d say every one of us has different influences.

BJ: Tool was in the 90’s.

SK: Yeah, that’s why we sound so much like Tool.

BI: Not like 90’s pop.

SK: Okay. We all have very different influences which helps us have this spontaneously unique sound.

MVRemix: Would you say that everything you just threw at me continues to influence you and help you create music now?

BS: Actually, you’re always listening to new music and you’re always going to find new stuff that you like, or dislike or whatever. But I think that you hear stuff that you’re putting out and there’s this bar that you’ve set that at one point maybe you didn’t think you would reach but you did. Now you get to get set that bar even higher.

SK: It always keeps being different. It evolves.

BS: I think all of us could just play shit that we couldn’t play when we started. The songs that we’re writing right now or aren’t playing yet or aren’t recorded yet, are songs that we could have never come up with when we started. We just got better.

BI: When I first started hanging out with you dudes, I’d go to a party and I’d be like “Holy shit. What is this music?” Because I wouldn’t know, I had listened to death metal. And after a while after hanging with you, I started learning your catalogs and all that. So now we could say “Hey listen to this song!” And everyone is like “Oh. Okay!”

BJ: Everyone’s listening to crazy shit. Bob and I have been jamming bluegrass for the past two weeks, exclusively. Legitimately! Like, Doc Watson. Like, I can’t get it out of my head.

BS: Because we come from different backgrounds, we tend to inspire each other.

BI: It’s good because if we all listened to punk rock we’d be playing punk rock.

BS: There’s some bands that just have that one genre. I don’t know, like, The Strokes is a good example of a band who took that one thing and this album that’s coming out is like a breakthrough. We haven’t reached that. You still have to establish that stuff and it does keep influencing us.

SK: It goes along with the thing like, I wasn’t a lead guitarist, Brian wasn’t a bassist, Billy wasn’t a singer, really. Bob wasn’t an indie rock drummer.

BS: No one felt comfortable in the roles we were playing.

SK: So it’s basically been learning where we belong and we’re now kind of figuring out, so let’s take some things from there and there.

BJ: Except Bob because he just plays his drums like, all the time.

BS: But ultimately those are the things that continue to influence us. We’re not all just listening to one thing. There’s some bands we’re always going to agree on but everyone listens to their own shit.

BI: It’s better when we don’t agree on a band.

BJ: When has that ever really happened though?

BI: One time Brian was like “You should listen to this Creed song.”

BJ: But that never actually happened.

MVRemix: Since Audiences started playing, you haven’t really left Chicago but have made a pretty good name for yourselves out here. Did you ever expect that?

BS: No way.

BJ: Absolutely not. So many bands that we know because we’re playing with them are on the road and they ask us where we’re from and we’re just like, “We’re from here.” Because we have that pride.

BI: It’s most exciting because when we first started we were doing the Chicago thing and then we started talking about going on the road. Like, oh we can do this and that, but thinking about getting as big of a following in Milwaukee or Ohio or any other city. Like being that intimate to a crowd in a city we don’t belong in-

BS: We went and played in DeKalb and that was our first shirt outside of Chicago and that was 90 miles outside of the city.

BJ: I think we can make the name in Chicago and then it’ll just bleed.

SK: We never expected anything to come of this.

BJ: It’s really hard to make a name for yourself in the city because there are a thousand people making music and it’s really humbling, there’s no pride in it whatsoever. It’s just so humbling to get on stage and play at places like tonight. This is a really big deal for us. Like, the first time we ever played Double Door this was a huge issue. I said to Stephen when we walked in here earlier and got our fucking badges, “Do you remember the first time we played here? This was the first time we ever got a fucking badge.” It was insane and we felt nuts and now it’s like “Where do we get our little badges and things.”

SK: Not that we don’t appreciate it.

BS: No, not that we don’t appreciate it. It’s just like, it’s crazy.

BJ: And then we can learn more about the people who put these things on. Like, we love local venues. We learn about it because we play a venue so many times, whereas a touring band doesn’t do that. They know the production person the day of and they’ll never talk to them again. But we know the production guy from the last time we played here because he’s the house guy and he took care of us and he always does. So when you play in those venues, you’ve got that sense of-

BI: They ask you back. Like, they ask you back.

BJ: Yeah! Then it’s fun.

SK: You just gain a sense of community and obviously we need to grow here first. We’re not ready to spread our wings yet.

MVRemix: The part of the scene in Chicago that Audiences is a part of is a pretty tight knit group. Do you think that’s helped create the fan base that’s helped you get known throughout the city?

BS: Of course.

BI: Well, here’s a good story that’s about 17 minutes long, so sit down and relax. But when we first started playing those house shows people would come over.

BJ: And they didn’t have to pay.

BI: Right, and I didn’t know anyone but now they’re our good friends and they come here. Every show we go to we meet a new person and they come back.

BS: Fans become friends.

BI: I hate when people are like, “How many fans do you have, man?” And we don’t even really know. We just know the people that come.

BS: Don’t you think that’s more of the essence of Audiences? We love the people that come to the shows. That’s why we make the music, because of them.

BJ: Playing those crowds and playing in the niche that is this mock community, it’s kind of fun. Sometimes you get to play with some people who are really neat.

BI: It’s kind of culty in a way.

BJ: Sometimes you’re loading in and you’re loading in with people who you’ve seen a hundred times.

BS: That’s what I mean. This band that’s playing right now, they’re from California and they load in and are never going to see these people again. But like, we load in and get to see people we know and it’s comforting. I don’t think a lot of bands have that because they tour. You have to make that choice to give up and go out and do it right away.

BI: That’s why we’re never going to tour.

MVRemix: What’s your dream show to play then?

BS: The Vic.

BJ: Yes! That’s it! I want to be able to load the gear in from the house and walk it next door.

BS: But with who? A national touring act. It’s that easy. Because if we’re playing at the Vic would you guys even care who? Like, it’s a band we know, so would you even care?

SK: I wouldn’t care.

BJ: And because we live so close and I mean, once you’re on their radar.

BI: This is kind of negative in a way, but when you’re not responsible for the draw you get to play in front of new ears and it’s a lot of fun.

MVRemix: Future plans, dreams, and aspirations?

BI: We’re going to put out this album and try really really hard-

SK: At putting out the best album we can.

BJ: We want to tour. You know, in fall.

BI: In fall? Like, when the leaves are changing colors?

BJ: Just listen. People say we’d be good on the college scene.

BS: You know, we’re just going to try our best to put out the best album we can because we don’t really like the one we have out now.

BJ: That’s a great answer.

You can keep tabs on Audiences via their Facebook, Twitter, and website. They will be releasing a Split EP with fellow Chicagoans Apollo House through AEMMP Records on April 9th and will be releasing their first full length album later this year.

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reviews

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast album review

Formed in 1998, the California based Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is best known for their take on garage rock, mixing blues and psychedelic sounds that the band still thrives on to this day. BRMC was last seen in 2010 with the release of Beat The Devil’s Tattoo on the band’s own label, Abstract Dragon, and at it’s highest was ranked number 4 for Independent Albums in the United States. This past March, the band released their sixth studio album -the third under Abstract Dragon- Specter at the Feast. The album is said to mourn the loss of bassist Robert Levon Been’s father, Michael Been, and is the first album from the band that wasn’t produced by Mr. Been himself.

When first listening to Specter, the ominous feel of the album starts right away with an industrial and technical intro to “Fire Walker,” that quickly escalates into the psychedelia pseudo-bluesy sound that the band is most known for today. The second track on the album is a cover of The Call’s 1989 single “Let the Day Begin,” which BRMC released as a free download in anticipation of the new album in January, that gives hope the rest of the album will supply upbeat melodies and classic guitar riffs. However, the album takes a slow turn into the bands more generic style of rock music channeling the sounds of the early to mid-2000s and bands like Muse and Radiohead.  Mid-album the songs seamlessly flow into one another, though at some points too seamlessly making it hard to decipher when one song ends and another starts if you’re not paying attention. But never fear, the songs “Rival” and “Sell it” are loud enough to make up for the lull that some may face while listening to Specter. The album ends with a ballad of sorts, titled “Lose Yourself,” that is 8 minutes of solemn vocals by singer Peter Hayes which eventually leads itself into a bridge that, although seems anti-climactic at times, ends the album perfectly.

Even though Specter follows closely to the roots of BRMC, the sense of a loss can be felt throughout the entire album and at some points its hard not to miss the more upbeat garage feel the band has produced in the past.  Though the album boasts plenty of technicality behind every song, it still lacks enough power to truly make anyone want to get up and move. This is the band’s album that fans will listen to when they’re sad and probably skip over those few upbeat songs to aid in their self-loathing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because everyone gets sad, but at some points its seems BRMC was trying too hard to stop listener’s crying by adding songs like “Let the Day Begin.”

When not in a bad mood, listening to this album may feel like a chore and it almost becomes boring after the first few songs. However, if you feel like you may need a night to feel bad about yourself, grab a bottle of red wine and spin Specter at the Feast for as long as you find will suffice.

Let’s Reflect: Tales of a SXSW Virgin

For the weeks leading up to my trip to Austin, when anyone asked me if I was going to SXSW I would simply shrug my shoulders and quietly say “yes” then quickly change the subject of conversation. It’s not that I wasn’t excited to go to Texas for the conference, I just hadn’t had a clue what to expect and for a control freak like me, that doesn’t really fly in my world. So when I began making a list of bands I was interested in seeing a cocktail of excitement, anxiety, and sheer panic washed over me and in that moment I decided to take the festival by the horns and step off the plane without a plan or agenda in mind. Whether it be massive amounts of tacos or enough free vodka to fill a medium to large above ground swimming pool I would not stop until I got the “full festival experience” as all of my Industry-veteran coworkers had began calling it; no matter what it took.

When I arrived in Austin last Wednesday afternoon the feeling of the warm air and sun hitting my face were enough to let me forget about any worries I may have had before leaving Chicago. Being able to take my jacket off while waiting for my ride to the hotel had given me enough joy in itself that I could have been denied my badge at the Austin Convention Center and I would have still been okay because there was a good chance I could still manage to get a tan. However, after the relief of receiving my badge set in, I was finally ready to explore Austin and peruse up and down 6th street and discover everything that I had been reading about for months and all of the things my friends and coworkers had been telling me I would be stupid to miss.

I honestly couldn’t tell you the name of the first bar I walked into or the name of the first band I saw but what I can tell you is that I quickly learned that none of that mattered at SXSW. As long as a band was good and people weren’t drunk enough to fall over each other quite yet, a crowd with enough energy could create the feeling that you were seeing your favorite band for the first time. Everyone had just been happy to be there and to be listening to good music with people who felt the same no matter what their preferred genre may have been. As the days went on, this continued to happen again and again and although, more than not, bands were putting on phenomenal performances, it became obvious festival go-ers could have cared less if a band was signed to Columbia Records or were playing their first show outside of their small suburban town.

As days turned into nights and nights turned into periods of pure chaos, it was impossible not to reflect on the fact that I was at one of the largest music festivals in the entire World, which almost seemed impossible while watching Weatherbox in a dirty bar with only 15 other people. But reality hit once more when I received the news that I had won the lottery to gain early entrance into Green Day at the Moody Theater and only three hours later I was seeing Fall Out Boy with my best friends in a bar no bigger than the hipster dive my roommate and I will go catch shows at on the weekends. No matter one’s feelings on either of those bands, you can’t look past the fact that things like that may never happen again and the next time these artists come to your town, they’ll be playing in a venue that the night before your city’s major hockey team had just ruined their six game streak. SXSW makes things happen that not many other festivals have said they’ve done. You can’t leave Bonnaroo saying that you were in a 500 capacity room watching Cold War Kids and you may never be able to leave Lollapalooza knowing you were almost face to face with Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer.

The amount of new music I discovered was almost infinite and the connections I made with others in the industry gave me hope as a soon-to-be college graduate that I may actually have a chance at a long career in the music industry. As I was packing my bags Sunday morning, I had already began discussing SXSW plans for 2014 with the few girls I had roomed with, because for someone who had never been to Austin during the insanity that is the conference, I had never felt so at home in my entire life. SXSW became a safe haven in the short amount of time I had been there and I know that it will continuously feel that way until I’m too old and brittle to trek down to Texas. Looking back, all of the anxiety and apprehension was a waste of energy and time because the second you step onto 6th street and the rush of people and sounds of over twenty different bands playing at once hits you, none of your worries matter. You feel at home and maybe for the first time, you feel like you’re exactly where you need to be.

SXSW: ATX and Anxiety

I’ve been patiently waiting for the day I got to witness the spectacle that is SXSW since I was first introduced to the festival while watching Real World: Austin my freshman year of high school. So when I found out I was able to attend the festival with the student run record label at my college, I had two waves of emotions: excitement and sheer panic. I like to think I’m pretty involved in the music industry and am knowledgeable of bands, both past and present, but when I first looked at the line-up for SXSW my heart immediately started racing and anxiety soon took over.  “Why are there so many bands?” “Who am I supposed to see?” were a few of the questions that have been constantly running through my mind these past few weeks along with being constantly confused as to why all of my friends are staying calm while I’m attempting to make some sort of mock schedule on a crumpled napkin I found in my purse.

Now, I’m fully aware that the four days I’ll be in Texas won’t be an anxiety fueled haze down 6th street, but rather a whiskey induced stroll into what seems like an infinite number of bars and venues while discovering new bands and genres of music I didn’t even know were in existence. I’ll be busy with my own day party along with those of my friends who I promised I would attend, and by hour 36 of being in Austin I’ll have more vitamin D in my blood than I’ve had all winter up in Chicago. It seems what I’m most nervous about is the fact that there is so much happening in downtown ATX that I’m afraid I won’t have time to see it all, because I need to see it all. I haven’t looked at the festival website in nearly three days because I don’t want to have to deal with the heart break I’ll face when I see that Vacationer is most likely going to be playing during Green Day’s screening of American Idiot: The Musical. At the same time, I can’t bare to think back to when I found out Dave Grohl’s screening of Sound City was happening right as I’ll be needing to be arrive at Bat Bar on Thursday Morning.

But if I do know anything about my four days down in Austin, I know it’ll be a time I’ll not soon forget. A time of chaos, but time spent with my classmates and best friends before we graduate college and go our separate ways. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my time in the industry, it’s that very little is planned and that’s what makes it exciting- even at one of the biggest music festivals of the year, and maybe my life.