Showing posts with label Washington. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington. Show all posts

August 2, 2012

August 2, 2012 : Cause & Effect : Mount Eerie, The Microphones, and Phil Elverum

A recent news story on biomimicry is lingering with me as I put the finishing touches on my notes for this week's Cause & Effect. Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie / The Microphones (and who knows how many other side projects) has been kind enough to create a two hour playlist following the theme of our show by choosing songs that tell the story of his personal, musical influences. (THANK YOU PHIL!)

To explain how biomimicry ties in I should try to define it first. Nature is imaginative by necessity and design because in order to stay alive, it HAS to learn to work with the elements, its surroundings, and its own chemistry. It evolves when it has to, again, all in the name of survival. The failures over time turn into fossils and what survives still surrounds us in the present tense. These survivors are the species that have figured out the best way to push forward and keep thriving. Biomimicry is all about using nature as a model for humanity to operate. As the Biomimicry Institute states " If we want to consciously emulate nature's genius, we need to look at nature differently. In biomimicry, we look at nature as a model, measure, and mentor." 

Some of the best practices found in nature are mirrored in the music of Phil Elverum. For those familiar with Phil's epic creative outpouring, the parallels are obvious. For those unfamiliar with his work I will try my best to explain it. 

Phil Elverum as an artist is ever evolving and self renewing while maintaining a constant bond to his surroundings with a heavy tribute to Mother Nature. As a first example, one of his albums and now his current band name Mount Eerie is named after a mountain in his home state of Washington. His songs (particularly focusing on The Microphones and Mount Eerie output) and his photography often refer to his natural surroundings, reflect upon the images of his landscape, and incorporates the sounds of nature within the recordings themselves. In fact, there is barely a division between Phil's art and nature. 

To further build upon this train of thought, Elverum also writes his songs in a less traditional structured style. They tend to flow organically and move in surprising directions. His music emanates a temperamental atmosphere that unravels in unpredictable ways. Occasionally he may use a gust a wind where other musicians would place a guitar solo. or bridge. As I write this I am basking in the calm last light of the afternoon but just moments ago there was monstrous wind and pounding rain. Phil Elverum's songwriting is equally as moody and confounding. It is the gentle pitted against the wild. It is a beast suddenly tamed. It is awe inspiring and infinitely interesting.  

It should also be mentioned that Phil Elverum is a master collaborator. Using the creative talent pool found within his region (enter many of the K Records local artists, touring musicians who stop to visit him, and friends who make music within his sound spectrum), much of Phil's recording sessions include a host of special guests. Imagine a spider building a web and making the most its ecosystem based within its direct environment. If someone was wondering how they could make the most of what grows naturally around them, I suspect Phil is an expert in this approach to living, which for many artists means making making music. If you spend time enough time with Phil Elverum's diverse and mammoth creative catalog, you too will believe making music is a second nature to him. His songs reflect life, death, and all the beauty and sadness that comes with it. 

Biomimicy is about echoing nature in they way we as humans operate and while I am neither an expert in this field of thought or Phil's music, I am certain that the music of Mount Eerie and The Microphones pays deep tribute his immediate surroundings by amplifying it from a Jurassic peak.

Tune into WRIR from 7PM to 9PM tonight (Eastern Standard Time) to hear two hours of music hand picked by Phil Elverum, the artist himself! For Richmond locals we can be found at 97.3 fm on your dial and for all others around the world you can stream us live here. I will podcast the show and share the link to it here.  

And more more thank you to Phil for creating some darn fine music, picking one of my favorite Cause & Effect sets ever, and for supplying thoughtful notes that accompany each selection. Those will also be posted here on my blog and the radio station site.

Follow us on Facebook here

January 12, 2012

January 12th, 2012 : Cause & Effect : Seaweed

Like so many band discoveries of mine in the '90s, it all began with a tip off from sales reps who worked at various labels and distributors and sold to the record shop I worked at in N.J.. Before email blasts and faxes these sales people would call us and run down the list of new releases they had to sell. It was never just a cold reading of what records they had, they were almost always personal and extended way beyond whatever they were trying to sell us. I learned in great detail about who these sales reps were, where they came from, and most importantly the nuances of their local music scenes. Sales reps were rarely just employees for whatever company, they were music collectors too and often played in bands. A perfect example of this would be Mark Pickerel who was my first Sub Pop sales person. He was also the drummer in the Screaming Trees, from Washington state, was record collector, and knew everything there was to know about the bands from his region. Every call from him was an education in music, especially what was happening in his backyard. From him I learned about not just Sub Pop, but K, Kill Rock Stars, C/Z, and that list goes on. Big and small labels alike. Sub Pop distributed hundreds of local labels and through these calls with Mark I discovered a world of music coming out of Wa, OR, and ID. I eventually moved to Seattle and learned much more about their music community but the core of my education to that scene came via telephone years before my feet touched ground in the emerald city.

My introduction to Seaweed came from Mark and like so many of us who were passionate about underground music at the time, when you loved a band's record, you tracked down their mailing address (usually on the backside of a record or insert in the record) and you wrote them a fan letter. You asked if they were touring to your part of the country any time soon, you asked if they had more releases, and if you were like me, you offered them a floor to crash on if they toured. For me buying records and selling them at a shop wasn't enough. To really give back to the music community I was passionate about I wanted to extend my home to them. Often these bands were broke kids who didn't know the rest of the country well so they really needed a free place to stay, food to eat, and a local tour guide. We were all in this together, I would hope other people would do this for us when our band toured so befriending bands from all over the world was just a natural part of how our DIY culture worked. There was a massive network of small bands and fans writing letters to each other and from these pen pal friendships occasionally came life long friendships. Seaweed is one of those bands for me. We wrote some letters, they crashed with me for days at a time when they came to the NYC area (I lived in Hoboken / Jersey City then), and when our bands broke up and we all grew ancient, social media outlets like Facebook helped to revive many of these long lost friendships.

Usually each band has one member that is the main letter writer and Seaweed's guitar player Wade Neal was that guy. He was my band contact and while I know all the members, he and I were by default the most familiar because of the letters exchanged. When we stumbled across each other on Facebook the timing couldn't have been any better. Suddenly Seaweed was announcing reunion tour dates and I would have the opportunity to see them again in person (NYC) and do something I never dreamed would happen, I got to see one of my favorite Northwest bands play again.

Seaweed's importance in the timeline of hardcore and punk isn't one that is written on every history wall. For whatever reason some bands get more credit than other over time and Seaweed has for the most part remained more of a cult favorite among those who like heavy music mixed with melody. The reality is there were the hardcore bands on labels like SST and Dischord who helped lay down some important stepping stones but the next generation of band who grew up on those records (not to mention lots of metal, classic rock, emo, and new wave) developed upon that base that further expanded into post hardcore. Much like Quicksand on the opposite coast, they were  offering heavy music with all these other influences of the day (not to mention that grunge was taking off in Seattle near where Seaweed was from so there are shades of that to Seaweed too). I truly believe bands like The Deftones wouldn't exist without bands like Seaweed helping to build upon the foundation of melodic hardcore with shades of Metal mixed in. Today there is an endless number of heavy bands shamelessly adding Pop elements but int he early '90s this was still considered strange and alien to folks who either only liked Pop music or just hardcore or just Metal.

Tune in tonight to hear a band you may or may not know (but should!) tell their story through the records of their influences and peers. From 7pm to 9pm tonight I will be playing music that Wade has personally selected and while he will not be in the studio with me, he has written little footnotes about many of the tracks and I will post them to the WRIR website.

It's funny, I know I was influenced by Seaweed while playing in Dahlia Seed but I didn't know how much I had in common with their roots and influences until I began working on this radio show. I can hear now exactly why I love Seaweed so much and like so many Cause & Effect show, learned a great deal about how interconnected we all really are.

Thank you Wade for taking the time to pick tonight's set and I am really looking forward to it playing throught it all tonight!


Set list , the show download, and Wade's notes about the show are here.

January 9, 2012

Yo Yo A Go Go 1994

This past weekend I finally had a chance to check out the Karp documentary. (thumbs up)

This film got me thinking about the mid '90s and the time I spent living in Seattle / visiting Olympia, WA. I moved to the Northwest to find myself (gag) and discover what I was really made of when taken out of the comfort zone of where I grew up. I was originally from N.J. but when I was offered a job at C/Z Records in a shiny new city across the country, off I went. The extra absurd aspect of this move was that I remained in my East Coast band Dahlia Seed too. From 1994 to 1996 I was making trips back and forth between coasts to record and tour. It wasn't easy but this is how our band operated for years.

Dahlia Seed had not yet toured nationally but it was my friend Michelle Noel who was instrumental in getting us a slot on the epic Yo Yo A Go Go Festival that took place in Olympia, WA in 1994. This performance was going to be our introduction to the left coast. In short, this show was a BIG DEAL.

Check out the line up that year. (sorry, I know this poster is hard to read)

The plan was for the rest of the band to fly to Seattle and we would play Yo Yo together but it was foiled when circumstances led to the band not being able to afford the trip. So there we were with a once in a lifetime slot in an amazing fest but with only one member to play it, the singer, me.

While I play guitar and sing, I am truly terrible at doing both at the same time (and a below average guitar player to boot) so playing this massive show solo was not an option for me. Last minute, I begged a friend who worked a C/Z with me to learn a few of the Dahlia Seed songs I had written and together we would perform a few of them as a two piece, he on guitar and me just singing.

We practiced but nothing can really prepare you for the nerves that kick in when you play a massive show. Our day time slot was not nearly as packed as the nighttime shows but the venue holds up to 2500 people. So people or not, the theater is an intimidating and LARGE space. Dahlia Seed was a small DIY band that played to rooms with maybe, MAYBE a few hundred of people, so playing a show of this size was both exciting and terrifying for me. Not only because this was the biggest show I had ever played or the fact that I was so far from my home but because I was going to be performing without the comfort of my actual band. The bill says Dahlia Seed performed but this isn't 100% accurate. It was me and a tall drink of water who was willing to play guitar for me.

Michael (whom I met when he joined the C/Z Records family as an intern) was such an amazing sport to learn a few songs written by people he didn't know and then perform them at for what I suspect was also the biggest show he has ever played in his life. We spent a few weeks meeting in his living room practicing  unplugged the Dahlia Seed songs I knew how to play on guitar and trying to imagine how it all would sound in a giant space, electrified. We truthfully had no idea what we were in for. He was from Arizona, I was from New Jersey. We had zero context or experience to know what it was like to play the Capital Theater in Olympia.

In an effort to win over the crowd (suspecting that we needed a little extra to help to win people over) we picked up a box of cookies from the Olympia Brewery. Fun fact : Olympia Beer made and sold cookies. When we took the stage, we stood there for a minute in awe of it all (and me wearing a baseball jersey sent from Dahlia Seed guitar player Chris). Michael then as planned threw out cookies into the audience. Fun fact number 2 - Michael had such a great arm that he could wing cookies all the way back into the balcony. Fun Fact number 3 - bribing the audience with baked treats never hurts.

You would think I would have a perfect memory of the biggest show I have ever played but honestly, I don't. The experience was so big, so overwhelming, that it all gets a little hazy after we stepped into the middle of the stage. I didn't really have the experience as a musician to handle the pressure of that moment confidently. We didn't have a total melt down but it wasn't a flawless performance either. Mistake were made. We were clumsy but we made through the whole set and enjoyed ourselves immensely. I would like to believe there was some sort of charm to our performance (hooray for cookies!) but I can't begin to guess what it was like to listen to or watch from a stranger's perspective. The crowd was kind to us. They clapped, made us feel welcome, and it was almost as if they seemed nervous for us. As awkward as it all was, it was an absolutely positive experience that I still can't believe I was a part of. And even more amazingly, thank you person I don't know for actually having a photo and placing in on the internet of what still remains the biggest show I have ever played in my life. Maybe not played perfectly, but dang it, I still played it!

PS: We didn't make the cut on the music compilation of that year's fest but trust me, it was for the best.