Sunday, August 31, 2008

Belated Friday Night (at the Crofoot) Reconnaissance

Jostled thoughts, thrown together in the last minute(s) as the hot and muddled weekend blurs by me with deception and indifference - with a devastated digestive and nervous system after a week of illness and untempered intake of the usual vices, I'm trying to piece together what went down Friday night at the Crofoot.

I didn't make it out to the Arts Beats & Eats festival during the day - but was spinning digital records with Mikel O.D. and Thomas Matichon the patio of Vernor's Subterranean Lounge (the home of Phototropic) that evening as sort of an after party to scrape all the wobbly drunkards off of the public streets frying pan and into a veritable circus salad of mascara and collared shirts and fist pumps and tattoos and big hair and strange smells and gurgly Miller Lite burps and scattered blow pops - galvanizing every single sector, bar, stage, table, chair and breathing space of the Crofoot complex.

This was nightlife-entertainment provider and ubiquitous marketing site Metromix "Encore" party (thus named for the Hard Lessons being scheduled to play their second show of the day, having finished a set in the late afternoon at Arts Beats & Eats). It was also the ambitious inaugural run of The Sucker DJs (mentioned above, the DJ collective with Tom and Mike...) which ended up going supremely well - especially considering that while my health had me checking out before 1 a.m., Mike and Tom were able to rock the joint till just past 2 a.m. - with headliner Ice Cold Chrissy having run into technical difficulties.

Prussia, Millions of Brazilians, Our Brother the Megazord (Randy, from Deastro), Zoos of Berlin and, of course, the indomitable Hard Lessons - all played exceptional it to an occasional blown out sound system and somewhat seizure-inducing flashing lights. I shuffled around the cavernous ballroom during the DJ set breaks to try my best to run into all these luminous characters that I'd recognized from so many Detroit based shows - but we were in Pontiac territory now; and not the neo-bohemian, dishes in the sink, co-op and organic/casual we're-all-in-this-together-unity of the AC Rich Building--Pontiac, or even the laid back art-supporting ambience of, a different crowd, well-dressed, tough and beautiful looking people fueled by energy drinks and hard liquor, dancing to hot french house Justice trax and meandering in tight groups. Some had spilled over from the day's festival, some were just waking up, some had been up for days.

The night was facilitated splendidly by the Crofoot - as it celebrates one full year of hosting events.

But me, I felt like I was at high school graduation - walking around awkwardly in a semi-familiar location, paradoxically, put at ease by the presence of close friends and familiar bands from Detroit, but yet so uncomfortable in my own skin, like I was itching inside a robe with a mortarboard and my grandmother following close behind with a giant camera, wearing white gloves and telling people embarrassing stories about me. I'd find my way over to a fellow show-going comrade or a member from one of the scheduled bands and we'd try to find a haven away from the sea of bodies to talk the usual chatter of what we're working on, what we're listening to or what shows we're checking out next..........

Ah, where am I even going with this?

The Hard Lessons is where I should be going...and their performance was as striking and emphatic as ever! They are bursting with such an exuberance (even at midnight after a day's work and an hour-long set atop the Phoenix Center) that you'd think KoKo was literally stomping her heeled feet straight through the floor, you'd think Augie was literally throwing his guitar into the air like a javelin, back flipping, then pivoting in time to catch it - of course neither happened, but its such a fluid cascade of pop/rock energy expounded through a palpable passion that is so eagerly offered and shared with the crowd, that neither feat would be doubtful of happening at a Hard Lessons show. You'd think, also, that there was a tinge of sadness (there had to be something...) inside Christophe Zajac-Denek (or, The Anvil) as this was more than likely his last performance as a member of the trio (after six years.)

It was also refreshing to see Our Brother The Megazord - the more dance-ready project of Randolph Chabot - featuring songs off an upcoming new release under that moniker.

That's all for now...
Something much more substantive and less-ramble on the way!

Sucker DJs return to Phenotropic in October

Photos: (mike milo)


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Festival Cluster-F*ck (+ Shadiamond Le Freedom)

Labor Day Weekend...

Chryster Arts Beats and Eats

The Hamtramck Polish Festival

The Detroit International Jazz Festival

in terms of Arts Beats and Eats coverage...

Here's a fine article on a DC favorite, Millions of Brazilians, from Martin Bandyke in the Detroit Free Press. - see them tomorrow (Friday) night at the Crofoot in Pontiac.

Also, you can read Scott Bolohan's write up on the Hard Lessons, who also join the MoBz tomorrow.

There's also a ramble in Deep Cutz this week--addressing a bit of the AB&E...but also the Hamtramck Polish Festival....................

Deep Cutz - 8 / 27

With the Hamtramck Polish Festival coming up, it gives me the chance to expound the sounds of a band I've been fascinated with throughout 2008 – local quartet, Shadiamond Le Freedom (pictured) ( – since they're playing over the city's weekend event, on Monday, at 4:30 p.m. Experimental, freeform, noise-percolating rock, hard and volatile percussion like the rolling tank treads for the spinning loaded turret of guitar-scraping feedback fury (listen: "Pandemic"), or, at times, confrontationally abrasive or caustic or amorphous, with roaring reverb slides into darker spaces ("The Spice"), but also just as apt to capture a more palatable coarsely-hooked indie-rock (albeit vocals all fuzz-fucked with shoegaze syrup, ironically with a refrain of "…can't understand what you say…") Get to Hamtramck early…

If you go 20 miles north, up to Pontiac, there's another city-wide event, The Arts Beats and Eats, going on all weekend. On Saturday you can see Universal Temple of Divine Power at 9:30 p.m.; or Sunday, spend the whole day at the Detroit News Stage: The Questions, Love Meets Lust and Dutch Pink. Or, Friday, catch Zoos of Berlin at the Crofoot (Phonotropic) with DJ's Mikel O.D., Thomas Matich and more. And—also, get ready for the Dally in the Alley on the horizon.

AB&E line up:
Jazz Fest line up:
Polish Fest line up:
Dally Line up!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Friday - Crofoot - free Suckers, three DJs

So, this Friday - the Hard Lessons are playing the Crofoot - to kick off the fun insanity of labor day weekend, particularly - Pontiac's Arts Beats and Eats - included in the line up on Friday's bill are Prussia, Millions of Brazilians, Our Brother The Megazord (Randolph Chabot's other even-dancier, sunnier, often even-poppier project..., next to Deastro), and Zoos of Berlin!
more info here ...or, check out the band's links for sampled sounds!

Starting at 9pm on the patio (as part of Phonotropic), providing ambiance in the form of electro/pop/dance/new-wave/some-punk and some-indie, will be the Sucker DJ's - featuring Mikel O.D. from the aptly titled podcast Most People Are DJ's and Thomas Matich, who you'll remember from Real Detroit, or from here...or here.

DJ Ice Cold Chrissy takes over around midnight!

It's only $5 dollars for the whole night - but I hear a lot of the bands are offering spots on their exorbitantly spacious guest lists.

Have a good weekend everybody...(man, it's only Tuesday...?)



Back with more reviews and interviews soon:
The Walkmen, TalkDemonic, Au Revoir Borealis

and news on the next Sucker DJs show.

Mike came up with the name...
go listen to his podcast!

and thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Any Given Night...(Jacoby's, Summer Smash, The Great Fiction)

So, here is another in what's becoming a line of weekend-photo-round ups, documenting some of the latest shows of local talent and to highlight their upcoming performances.

Carjack worked out the kinks at Jacoby's, after taking July and August off to record and further develop his other project, The Electric Fire Babies.

On Friday, he played with Ypsi/Ann Arbor power-duo Charlie Slick and Lightning Love, two distinct and vibrant bands currently flourishing out in that westward scene. Mary Alice, from Troy Greogry and the Stepsisters also presented her awesome menagerie puppet show.

(Charlie Slick)
Upcoming shows:
Carjack - September 5th, in the Garden Bowl, in-between sets at the Dirtbombs show.

Charlie Slick - also September 5th, but further north, in Pontiac, for Phonotropic Fridaze!

Lightning Love - September 11th, playing with Farewell Republic for their CD Release show at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor.

(some of the newest art at the CAID)

Then it was another dreamy evening at the CAID where a casual explosion of talent nonchelantly discharged throughout the cozy walls of the performance space and outside under the starry (and slightly rainy) summer skies - as part of the Detroit Summer Smash - a grand and vital tradition that took the year off last year - but came back to the CAID for three invigorating evenings of music and overall amity - featuring bands like Oblisk, The Beggars, Elle & The Fonts and more!
The night itself was, as nights at the CAID often are, an indescribable slice of bliss, filled with giddy glories of companionship and celebration of musical expression...and some trash-can showers as well.
The CAID, more than any other venue in this city, has a certain kind of hospitality and spilled-out benevolence. There is no division between band or, it feels more like we've all made an escape to this rectangular haven and it's grassy/sandy back lot; more like a party than "a show" or "concert," with some of its attendees just happening to amble up onto make-shift stages to play a bit of music, out of passion and and for fun.

[[And, being here meant that I would sadly miss the Great Fiction CD Release party at the Magic Bag. But check them out here! and look for their upcoming shows]]

Meanwhile, Ryan Spencer from Prussia played percussion while riding atop the shoulders of a friend - while Andrew from Prussia and Frank from Woodman entered as guest drummers for The Electric Fire Babies. Prussia, having just toured for 7 days straight, some of them living off of "sugar and beer" were as potent as ever...Ohtis floored us with their quirky folk and neo-space-country running acoustic jams...Electric Fire Babies exploded out the gates and took no prisoners, continuing their sweet blend of electronica, funk and old-school house that really put a spark of energy into the crowd. Goudron was fascinating...the Dead Bodies were tight, as always...The High Strung are THE consummate professional band, and seem to always--ALWAYS be on tour...and Silverghost closed out the weekend with songs from their latest 7", including a new song, my current favorite, "Face-Heart."
Thank you Summer Smash! See you next year
Photos (by the milos)
Captured here, top to bottom are: prussia

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sik Sik Nation - 8/22 Blind Pig, 8/28 PJ's Lager House

It's a windy, chilly day, settling in at the WAB, nestled down in the open air street-side café, with beer and veggie burritos - and the hinted chill of oncoming autumn.

I ask local trio Sik Sik Nation where they see themselves fitting in the expansive musical institution of Detroit – and they say, that's just it..."We don't fit in."

"We're a strange band," said bassist Eric Oppitz, "We're too garage rock or too rock-n-roll to play with the indie bands, we're too psychedelic or too strange to play with the rock bands. We're kinda in-between somewhere, but hopefully we make our own scene."

Sik Sik Nation: The Deep Cutz Interview

Even tracing the band's "home" is difficult, as Oppitz lives in Ann Arbor, drummer Rick Sawoscinski stays in Ypsilanti and singer/guitarist Sean Morrow resides in Livonia. They are, for all intents and purposes, simply a rock n roll band, thunder-drums and banshee-guitars and swinging-grooves and all the raucous shred and punch vigor you could ask for…Yet, they often send some ripples through typical back of the venue debates because they linger toward garage (or psychedelic) sound, or because they don't run with any cliques or labels.

"Do we wanna be an indie-pop band?" says Sawoscinski, "No, but we don't want to be really obscure either, we want to be accessible. [But,] it's confidence, because we write the songs we want to write."

"Just with the way the industry's going now," says Morrow, "you're not gonna get rich, you're not gonna get famous, you should be doing this because you love to do it."

"We didn't have those ties," says Oppitz of the progress, notoriety, recording and live slots they've attained, as a unit, since forming in early 06. "There's been no ties, no connections, nobody that we've met from outside of this band."

Picking through his meal, Morrow suddenly interrupts, "…there's cauliflower in my burrito…?"

Oppitz, continuing, "It's more satisfying that way, cuz you feel like you're working toward something."

Morrow, again, "…asparagus?"

"I mean, garage rock…" Sawoscinski begins, "we have great garage rock passion, but I feel like that word's become a dirty word in Detroit…"

"I should beat you up for saying that!" Morrow mocks the typical knee-jerk response.

"It's back to the late 90's," says Sawoscinski, "when people started saying emo too much, I don't want to see garage rock turn into that."

"If we say we're a rock band," says Oppitz, "nobody thinks twice about it, but if you say, 'oh, you guys are a garage band,' there's this negative connotation, and certain bands aer like, 'oh, I'm not gonna play with that band.' Well, wait a second!...."

"Being in a band is synonymous to being in high school," said Morrow (who speaks from experience, since his day job is a Junior High teacher.) "There's so many unwritten rules and everybody apparently knows them, but, as stupid as they are, everybody follows them…"

"We're such a fan of so many different music genres," said Sawoscinski, "Eric and I will go to so many different shows and see so many different bands; we like the folk bands, we like the indie bands, we like the garage bands…it's just hard for us cuz we don't fit…"

Indeed, this is one of the most down to earth bands you'll find in the city – because they are out there, at the shows, on the stage, checking other bands out. They don't drag their egos with them, they don't strut to show off their vintage jeans, they don't bow to trends; with hearts on their sleeves, they pour out all of this musical passion onto the stage (and return it, through enthusiasm for other local acts, by consistently going out to other bands shows.) Indeed, I run into this trio on random occasions for other band's shows more than many musicians…Often, when they're heading home from another bands show – they'll head over to Morrow's home, set up and start jamming – running on pure, inspired adrenaline. They've played with Loco Gnosis, they've played with X! Records, they've played with Quack and Qui-Sci…

"Our CD Release show," says Sawoscinski, of the May debut of their full length, 8 Style to the Unholy, "…was the Questions and Silverghost…you may never see that bill again, probably. We just want to be friends with everybody…we're not very cliquey."

"This asparagus," Morrow continues, back with the burrito. "I don't know how I feel about it. When I envisioned a Veggie Burrito – I envisioned green/red peppers, onions…"

Ah yes, I suggest, by definition – it's still a veggie burrito. Just like, by definition, no matter what the collective perception is…you guys are still, just a rock band.

"If everyone has a different experience with it," says Oppitz, "then it's good. That's great."

The band spent much of 2008 recording 8 Styles with Ann Arbor's Jim Roll – an experience they raved about, regarding his laid back approach and allowing the trio to push some experimental jams. The album is a strong statement of propulsive, dark psychedelia mixed with arresting pop-rock hooks and heavy pedal indulgence – an album written equally between the three members.

They play the Blind Pig on Aug. 22nd and the Lager House on Aug. 28th. Dig some tracks from 8 Styles to the Unholy at:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Farewell, Rob Kenna

R.I.P. Rob Kenna

It is with sadness that I write about the passing, this week, of singer/guitarist Rob Kenna. Kenna formed the Ypsilanti-based indie-rock group, The Farewells, (with his beautiful psyche-pop ballads and urban singer/songwriter sensibilities living on, in song, at the Farewells Web site: No official news on the future plans of bassist Nick White and Larry Johnson, at the moment - but you'd be doing yourself a favor by checking out their songs - ranging from the euphoric burnt bliss of Olivia Tremor Control to the basement born endearment of Portastatic.

The backstory of The Farewells, as relayed in an interview with Nick White:

"The Farewells were formed in 2003 by Robert Kenna; who had a couple of songs and enough talented friends to record the debut album, ... "Suspicious Tones". Recorded from 2003-2004 by Robert Kenna, George Dubber, and Joe Harry at the 205 Studios. Songs were then mixed by Robert Kenna and George Dubber, mastered by Dave Feeny at Tempermill Studios.

The Farewells were not a band in terms of playing out and being a part of the scene until recenetly. Before then it was pretty much just, singer songwriter, guitarist: Robert Kenna.
In the winter of 2008, The Farewells returned, playing live shows with a new lineup. Based mainly in Ypsilanti and Detroit."

White has plays with Tone and Niche and runs the Lobby Art shows at TC's Speakeasy in Ypsilanti. Johnson works as a recording engineer in Ypsilanti.

From the Farewells: " one of the best song writers i have ever had the privilege of knowing. rob kenna, past away early this week. i have never had the pleasure of befriending anyone else quit like rob. he was funny, charismatic, and an all around fantastic soul. he was also a true musician to the bone, he lived and breathed music and showed this through his incredible talent. he will be missed by many, but never forgotten. we send our deepest condolences to anyone who knew rob most of all to his mother, cathy. "

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Carjack for President: returning this weekend, 8/22 at Jacoby's; 8/23 at Summer Smash (with Electric Fire Babies)

So, the incomparable Carjack has been laying relatively low throughout the summer (except for a particularly spirited romp through the Old Bohemian in June) - but now he's resurfacing, "jumping back into the fray" just in time - not only to present some of the new material he's been writing and recording throughout the dog days of July and August, but also, hopefully, to announce his candidacy for the 2008 election - running under the Plutonian ticket, more than likely...

Carjack returns this Friday with a splendid Jacoby's line-up: buzz-brewing indie-pop trio Lightning Love; and the time-machine-toting, walking-dance-party, Charlie Slick (who just released a new album, Edward Murphy.)

The next day (8/23) - he joins Justin Audio and Miss N. for his other more dance-ready cosmo-booty-shaking-freak-funk project, The Electric Fire Babies, as apart of the Detroit Summer Smash at the CAID.

(Also, look for our brave candidate to be stomipng and jumping around up and down the rickety tables and Pacman acrades of the Garden Bowl bar, during the upcoming Dirtbombs show at the Magic Stick.)

As a quick reminder - here's the line-up for the Summer Smash

Thursday August 21st, $5 or $16 for festival pass
9pm- Bird Gang
10pm- 4 hour Friends
11pm- Friendly Foes
Friday August 22nd, $8
9pm- Sons of the Gun
10pm- Hotness
11pm- Beggars
12am- Oblisk
12:30am- DJ Afterglow
Saturday August 23rd, $8 for full-day Saturday pass
2pm- Whistling School for Boys
3pm – OHTIS
4pm- Elle & The Fonts
5pm- Always 17
6pm- dinner break!!!
7pm- Prussia
8pm- Electric Fire Babies
9pm- Goudron
10pm- Dead Bodies
11pm- The High Strung
12am- Silverghost


Monday, August 18, 2008

The Strange Victory of the Silver Jews (Playing the Crofoot in Pontiac, 8/31)

Dream All Day, Write All Night...

an Interview with David Berman

by Jeff Milo

(above photo: Cassie Berman)

David Berman, the trickster. The gaunt scraggly sage. The post-futurist, the scholarly trucker type, chewing on grass and plucking pedals as he muses, trapped inside the song, searching for someone to make his lies come true…

David Berman is the auteur behind the clasping riff-raff noise-pop, the smooth-rolling country-rock, the heartbreakingly beautiful indie/lo-fi jangle of the unparalleled Silver Jews. A poet, a writer, a teacher, and a husband, who just happens to play guitar; the Tennessee-based musician discovered the joys of music through charming, errant freak-shreds, with longtime-friend Stephen Malkmus, as they started the band in 1989. Not quite the Lennon and McCartney of indie-rock, but, certainly, it must be said that they both hold an air of aristocracy in the genre, and have both come to unique positions of warm regard as they humbly shuffle into their 40's – Malkmus as the prince, the pop song writer, the guitar-heavy rocker and Berman as his reclusive, more pensive, not as playful, illuminati whose grown considerably more open over the years…having gone through rehab in 04, toured for the first time in 05 (with the Jews) and finally in 08, adopting a sort of, wise old owl to the 20-something internet seekers.

The Silver Jews have always been about gut sensation – delivered over a romantic back-porch sensibility with moonlit pedal-steel and rolling gravel bass lines, under Berman's unique warbled roar baritone, booming with strung-out phrasings and inverted sonnets. Acoustic-born country-haunts and urban line dances in neon saloons.

After four albums of minimalist country twang and starkly beautiful, but shivery dark poetry (shadowing a few personal demons that wouldn't be exorcised until 2004) – Berman, with his wife Cassie joining vocals (full time) and the newly energized Silver Jews, released the rejuvenating Tanglewood Numbers, (04): a jumped-up hoe down of jabs and swings and endearing cerebral chin-tickling that spurred the band to tour through 2005 (for the first time in their existence.)

(Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea)

Thus, 2008's Lookout Mountain Lookout Sea is very much Tanglewood's more rock-inflected, straight-forward, confident older brother: beautifully crisp, uncompromising rock songs, elucidating darkened corners of the true, (often surreal,) American experience.
(Listen here. + Read the Real Detroit Article here.)

David Berman: The Deep Cutz Interview

(photo: Brent Stewart)

Milo/Deep Cutz: You seem to be a very self-reflective and often self-deprecating, artist--indeed, I've read instances where you question calling yourself an artist/poet (yet some consider you a renaissance man of sorts, with performing, singing, poetry, writing) is it modesty or self-doubt? are you aware of said modesty, is it something you purposely trigger to keep yourself grounded

David Berman: Or a third choice, I'm a trickster. A poseur for gain. I try to hang around the in-betweens. I never presume membership. Is it pride or humility? I'm always synthesizing. I try to believe in what I do while keeping an eye on my worthlessness.

Milo: …something that seemed to change on Tanglewood and continued on Lookout is - more of an overall brightness. Not sunny pop, not happy music, but faster tempos, more driving-beat songs, with not as much of a dark vibe, at least not haunting, would you agree - or would you say anything to do with how you approach songwriting has changed in the last 5 years?

DB: It's true. The two albums seem much more awake. And sped up. There's not as much…pussyfooting, as they say, around. To the original fans we must sound like Dire Straits now. And that's okay.

Milo: …which album stands out for you and why?

DB: Side one of Bright Flight and Side one of Tanglewood Numbers should be combined into a Lost Weekend Truck Stop Special. I don't have a lot of reverence for the records after a while. At first I protect them and defend them, but eventually I have to let them go. I still love this new one.

Milo: …some of the senses I feel with Lookout's songs are regret, reflection (what is not but could be if), longing (pillow is the threshold, we could be looking for the same thing) nostalgia (suffering jukebox) and a yearning for simplicity or escapism (open field) how on or off are these for you...what were you feeling for most of the creation process of Lookout--

DB: I think you could see a lot of disenchantment being expressed. I wonder, how disappointed do I have a right to be with this world? I'm making a critique of things as they are when I'm writing. I rarely engage in simple celebration. I'm the whistle blower. Look at this bullshit, I'm saying.

Milo:…I find a song like Candy Jail eerie…I'm out here driving to work or the store or whatever, and even though the guards are kind and the bars are made of peppermint, I'm IN jail…a deceptively sweet, illusory imprisonment where I Got a Number on my Name

DB: It's as simple as that. Can a person who checks his email 15 times a day be said to be free?

(David and Cassie, photo: Brent Stewart)

Milo: You've stated your reverence for lyrics, your lament that words have gone by the wayside in electronica/instrumental "shopping music" era, and you once stating that you are interested in having your art serve as a telling of histor(ies)I get the impression (or an image in my mind) of you standing up and shrugging in a crowded room where everyone's sitting down, playing video games and not talking to each other...

DB: It's strange to realize there is no plan out there. I see a lot of gluttony and economic predation everywhere. I don't want to be any more of the fun. I don't want to go along with the program. I want to be the whistleblower.

Milo: But, sometimes, an artist, poet or singer starts commenting on the state of the world and society, as you've remarked on your investment with the effects of 1913 and the Babyboomers' screwing Generation Y, then all of us critics get keyed up and start wanting to give you [the artist,] the Bob Dylan '65 in England "lightbulb-press-conference treatment" and asking you for the big answers to the world…have you gotten these misreads (from fans or reviews) or longing mystical questions from interviews - now that you've extended beyond the more personal (of being drunk on a couch in Memphis) to the more broad (of the strange victory of the bankers and the federal reserve from 1913?)

DB: No . I can honestly say that no one has reached out for any prophecy or proffered a platform for political pedantry. I was contacted by one of those C and C (Cunt and Clip) shows they have on VH1. The ones where the network has pet monkey comedians mock reality show bloopers and celebrity misadventures?Seriously though, there aren't any critics, or I should say there aren't any editors, who want to feature discourse that questions the status quo right now. Today we are all scabs. The corporate-entertainment-luxury system has starved out the idea of solidarity among people who don't want to just go along . No one want to sit on folding chairs in a ymca basement anymore besides Alcoholics Anonymous.

Milo: In Suffering Jukebox, singing to this poor beat up machine, you say "money lights your world up," is this about technology and a culture? Or about society and a kind of people?

DB: It's about those things. The first verse sets up an opposition between the winners and this loser of a jukebox machine. On the human level it's about self-imposed failure. It's about psychology really. About people who don't think for themselves. The ailing jukebox Is allegorical of a person trapped in misery and cut off from communication.. And then there's a narrator who's sort of undermining the object's identity with his critical analysis. The jukebox is either silent (broken) or just a vessel for other people's ideas.

(photo: Ben Corrigan)

Milo: From Bright Flight (01) to Tanglewood (04), it feels like a shift in instrumentation – mostly that it was 'beefed up' in terms of the accompaniment, the sound is lush, thicker, a rousing get-up-and-go hot-tub-to-a-shivering-pool-cannonball to go from 'slow education' to 'sometimes a pony' – and that across the board elevation of sound and activity, in melody and rhythm, continues from Tanglewood onto Lookout – which gives competition to your up-until-then not-often-challenged singing voice. Is this some kind of conceptual or creative rebirth? Were there palpable changes in your outlook or approach between 02­and­05?

DB: I have a backward music career. People start out in bands and as they grow older evolve into solo artists.` The last two albums I've been conducting a band. I think it's the songs too. They are more universal now, less hermitic and wary.

Milo: Often, you seem willing to unpack your previous works and dissect it – is it closer to a joy or closer to a chore? it seems inevitable because most silver jews fans (or just critics analyzing the texts) seem inextricably fixated on all the other albums/works, or previous songs, or past lyrics…(I suppose the first sentence of this rant is the question…and maybe your thoughts on that)

DB: Because the records are similar, their differences are interesting. On [Lookout Mountain Lookout Sea] I made a little change that signaled a big difference: by making a four word title (which is really a three word title or a two clause title) instead of a two word title, as the previous five had been. A common complaint is that the first song on this album is not as 'out of the park perfect' as some of the first songs on the other albums. If I could have had a rebuttal I would have said that record albums take different formal strategies, many of which call for a quiet or subtle beginning.
So the title should be a cue. Warning: Things Change.

Milo: Thanks David. See you soon.

DB: Thanks a lot Jeff, for the uncommonly thoughtful questions


See the Silver Jews, 8/31 at the Crofoot in Pontiac.

Donovan Quinn and the 13th Month - Interview

(words: Jeff Milo)

Donovan Quinn is a stately, distinct singer/songwriter with an aesthetic completely emeshed in the Californian psychedelic-folk aura. His father, musician Bill Graham, played through the San-Francisco psychedelic scene of the late 60's, with his son joining him to many shows throughout the 70's. He grew up on a horse ranch in Walnut Creek, CA, and has been playing, singing and writing since the age of 13.

In his early 20's, he joined fellow mystic troubador Glenn Donaldson to form the radiant wandering space-age-spiritual folk project The Skygreen Leopards (2001.) They have since released 5 albums and an EP.

Donovan Quinn and the 13th Month is his latest project - having re-released a collection of early recordings called October's Lanterns Quinn has set himself to fully pursue a solo experiment (in writing, at least--as he is joined by longtime collaborator Jason Quevers on the newest release, a self-titled full length on from the Soft Abuse label.

The vibe's a hazy heartfelt singer/songwriter twilight rocking chair sonnet, with beautiful and bewildering psyche-slinky folk ballads that feel so California, so winding-bends and rising-hillsides, so sun-soaked-fields and grass-chewing-under-shade-trees…Drawing strongly from toned down solemnity and earnest reflective country-folk of John Wesley Harding-era Dylan, Quinn is able to flesh out his own sleepy-afternoon sensibilities with swaying compositions expounding crumbled relationships and resisting a detachment to the natural world in the whirled daydream of the break-up. ("All our time is measured in hollowed candles...") Constantly present, whether lingering in the corners of the songs or hovering over it with no-subtle glow, is an investment in spiritual imagery, religious allegories and muses from the Christian vernacular. (One break-up song is called, "Take the Cross off the mantle...")
The pedal-steel waves in with its whiny roar over boom-chica-boom beats and you feel the scuffed floor and swept-aside hay from last night's barn dance, with a transfixing ghostly nasal voice, slightly twanged devout mysticism and a just-woke-up raspy muse, gravelly and heartfelt, like a melancholic overcast o'er patchy green fields. A romantic hitchhiker walking off his wounds, a holed up collective in cabins of the wilderness, laying down simple acoustic-born ballads of regret and heartache to syrupy guitars and sympathetic organs. Somewhere between Reed's Pale Blue Eyes, Byrds "I Wasn't Born to Follow" or Dylan's "I Went Out One Morning" is the taut and brutal poignancy of Quinn.

The Deep Cutz Interview: Donovan Quinn

Milo/DC: Were you at all apprehensive to release some of your older solo-stuff?
DQ: Well, I released some solo stuff under the name of Verdure at the same time that me and Glenn started Skygreen Leopards, so that's like 2001-2002, is when the first [Verdure] albums came out...Hoenstly I just don't think they were very good...I can admit it, by the time we even put them out which was like a year after we actually recorded them I was...kinda dissatisfied with how they sounded...

Milo: And, where does October Lanterns fit in?
DQ: October Lanterns was kinda the last of those Verdure records, which I didn't release at the time. That was recorded in 2003 and i just released it last year, the limited edition cd-r, and I like it...but it's just hard, at times, to really enjoy listening to it for wheatever reason, maybe because I was younger, I was too self critical, but also on those records I played everything and it was home recording, so when I'd listen back to it it would just be me, and I kinda like to collaborate a little bit more than with the 13th Month record I'm doing it with Jason, but I kinda spend more time on collaborations-

Milo: You didn't find it difficult to transition from the kid playing by himself in Walnut Creek, to collaborating, say, with Glenn?
DQ: Well, with Glenn it's different. For one we've done it for so long, we have a back history,...and it's different with each person, with Glenn we would write the songs together, like I'll come in with the bulk of a song or he'll come in with the bulk of a song, or we'll leave something open so the other person can fill it it's a real collaboration--with the 13th Month all the song writing i just did on my own...and, sonically, I left it open so that Jason could be creative with it, and make his own decisions, how do you view each of your projects?

Milo: How do you distinguish between your different projects?
DQ: I can’t remember where I read this, it might have been that writer, philosopher, Henri Bergson – where you take two things that are different, compare them and find one similarity, they’ll have sometime that’s the same and the more and more you show these different images or different sounds, there’s something that remains…and it becomes clearer – that’s kind of a jumble of thoughts and I’m not explaining it really well. But, you know, like David Bowie, you really clearly know who David Bowie is as a songwriter, but he completely changes bands/styles. Sonically, he would completely change, he would change the way he looks but all it did was make him more of a defined personality. I feel things of my personality just come across…I kind of want that to be what remains rather than anything in terms of what band it is or what style of music…

Milo: Next question is from my friend Pierce, (he's a guitarist for a local band here, The Oscillating Fan Club,) he just wanted to know influences, or other artists, contemporary or past, that you admire...
DQ: What's his name--Pierce? I'll have to check him out when I get home. Well, probably like every band, there’s tons….but, I mean…Bod Dylan…of course, like everybody else – he really did have a huge impact on me and made me want to write songs when I was younger. My father’s band, Country Weather, Skip Spence, Waylon Jennings, I really love Robyn Hitchcock. And I really love the pop stuff too – it doesn’t always come across, but I really love solo-Paul McCartney. The Fall were a huge band to me, especially the way (Mark E. Smith) made the music fit around his writing. Which I always really respect – that’s another Dylan thing, you have certain writing styles, a song that you can write well and then figuring out music that really speaks it...

Milo: What are your writing styles, or your common themes you drift to?
DQ:It seems like 8 out of 10 songs somehow end up being about light, or a lighting of some sort. I’ve never thought that interested me. I really write relationship songs. Skygreen’s a little different, we think of the group as occupying this specific territory, so we put a lot of the absurd things in there. A lot of it is humor, we mean it to be kind of absurd in a way – the imagery, but with my own stuff I really write relationship songs.

Milo: What about the religious overtures, the holy imagery? (one skygreen tune is called “Jesus was a Californian,” another, “Jehova—I surrender.”)

DQ:It’s weird, a friend of mine asked me if I was religious (recently) and…no, not really. I have some weird stuff, when I was a kid – I come from a real wild family; my mom was not religious, she didn’t go to church. My mom’s a famous superstitious, she doesn’t believe in God, but she doesn’t want you to say anything about him in her presence, unless some of it might be true – she doesn’t want to be cursed or whatever. My grandmother had the big religious awakening, caused by music, and she’d take me to all these different weird churches – one where they spoke in tongues and went into her house and broke all her stuff to try to rid it of demons. Another had a rock group and the preacher was like the bass player. So I remember all these things. I don’t consciously do it that much with songwriting. John Wesley Harding, the album, I just love how he used that biblical language, there’s something….everyone can relate to on a level, but also not int hat kind of realism-way. I’m not that into realism, or using the language that you could use every day. There’s something inherently magical about the language and imagery (of religion) even if you’re not a religious person…it’s kinda like Disney, in a way, not to demean religious. It’s valid for a lot of people. I’m not particularly religious, myself…

Milo: I can hear a lot of John Wesley Harding on [13th Month], certainly…
DQ: It’s probably my favorite record. I love the language, I love how it’s recorded as well. Because the way he wrote those songs, you always get the feeling that there’s more to it, there’s some mystery…

Milo: Any Skygreen Leopard news?
DC: There is! Me and Glenn have been back in the studio, recording mainly with Jason. It’s a little less country-ish than our last record and a little bit more kind of Village Green-style pop. Disciples of California (2006) was…we’d been playing with the Sky-band (as we call them) for a while and we wanted to get the sound of the live band, so we went in and recorded quickly. We’re back in the same studio, but we’re layering everything a lot more. It looks like we’ll have a release, maybe, spring of next year.
(photo1: Chris Berry; photo2: Jennifer Modenessi)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dear Prussia,...Best Wishes, The Silent Years

There was a lot of love in the room...and, a fair share of hot-blooded, stuffy-aired, sardine-swinging, house party floor stomping glory...

It was certainly a battle to get up to the A.C. Rich Building in Pontiac last nite--this tiny, cordial event was going on where broad-shouldered croc-footed yokels and ballyhooed babyboomers crammed the curb-sides, screaming, animalistic, for us to do burn outs in our 2005 Pontiac G6...

A battle, slowly creeping our way northward into the stronghold of the Woodward Loop...and finally into the warm and welcoming confines of the A.C. Rich, a sea of smiles where the air was electric with constant reverberation and enthusiastic vibes for local band Prussia--and they're debut full-length album (on Common Cloud Records), Dear Emily, Best Wishes, Molly

The line-up was glorious and ridiculous - The Oscillating Fan Club and the Silent Years, along with a fine experimental/rhythm-heavy folk project from Illinois, Ohtis - considering there's really only room for 150 people, at best, inside this lean rectangular loft - suffice it to say, we all got to know each other.

The Fan Club brought out 2 fine covers, The Cure's 10:15 Saturday Night (which is just about the exact time their set started) and the 13th Floor Elevators 'You're Gonna Miss Me,' along with other blistering tracks from their recent release, Feverish told by...

Ryan (Prussia) Spencer, who doubled as soundman for the night, also sat in with Ohtis (with his brother, Prussia drummer Drew Spencer) to provide the rhythm section.

Prussia, bright green flood lights blazing behind them, with the Cruise slowly dying on the streets below, shunted out forceful reggae-soul pop out into the sea of grins and undulating fans...

.....which led into the Silent Years closing out the night - playing new songs from their forthcoming EP (hopefully next Spring) as well as selections from their newest album, The Globe.

August...through the first week of September...every week there's another great local album release!

The Oscillating Fan Club
The Silent Years
Charlie Slick
The Frustrations
Au Revoir Bourealis
and more....
with still more to come!!!
On all this on a night where we also had a birthday party for Face Freehly at the Lager House, Oblisk/SikSik-Nation and the recently-WDET-featured Lightning Love at the Northern Lights Lounge, a Scrummage Fest and another secret show at 4th Street...

Cheers, Detroit
(pop-quiz: how many shots did that weird naked-blowup-doll/mannequin thing make it into?)
(photos: Mike Milo)