For Durham’s Red Collar, self-releasing its first full-length album, Pilgrim, in February was an impetus to take the show on the road and make a full-time go of rock ’n’ roll. The CDs were pressed and packaged, a publicity campaign was implemented and dates were booked. The band members packed into “Vandrew Blass,” the vehicle named for former keyboardist Andrew Blass. And, so far, it’s been paying off: The band picked up favorable reviews and college radio airtime nationwide and earned a slot at the recent CMJ Music Marathon in New York.
But Pilgrim, save for local consignment, wasn’t in stores. “One of the big problems with not having a label is not having physical distribution,” says guitarist Mike Jackson. That, though, is no longer a problem. Suburban Home Records and brother company Vinyl Collective picked up Pilgrim for distribution starting Dec. 1. The distribution deal coincides with a re-issue of Pilgrim as a limited-edition LP, pressed in a batch of 500 by Loose Charm Records.
The vinyl version is different than the CD, as the band shifted and pruned the track order. “It was harder than we thought,” says Jackson. “We had to cut some of the songs … We just couldn’t fit the album onto one LP and still have it sound good.”
“Stay” and “Hands Up,” which also appeared on Red Collar’s Hands Up EP, didn't make the cut. They remain, though, on the LP’s digital component, a download card featuring all 11 tracks from the original CD version, plus an acoustic cover of Jawbreaker’s “Jinx Removing.”
Plus, vinyl has its own rewards: “There’s something more physical and immediate about having the record,” Jackson says. “CDs almost seem disposable at this point.”
For a video of Red Collar playing "Tools" with Maple Stave at Troika Music Festival last weekend, hit the jump. And for more of Spencer Griffith's videos from Troika (and elsewhere), hit Scan's YouTube channel.
We spoke with Lambchop frontman Kurt Wagner Wednesday, on the eve of the announcement that his longtime band Lambchop would release its life-changing/affirming/ending/reviving set from this year's XX Merge fest in Carrboro, N.C., as Live at XX Merge. Tonight, they'll see if they can repeat the magic of that night at Duke University's Reynolds Industries Theater at 8 p.m. Lambchop splits the sold-out bill with Alejandro Escovedo.
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: Are you playing Asheville on the way to Durham, or Asheville on your way home?
KURT WAGNER: We’re playing Charolette first, then ya’ll, then Asheville. It’s like a tour of the state of North Carolina. We’re playing state-by-state, I guess. [Laughs.]
You’re like a touring Sufjan Stevens.
You know, he took that back and admitted it was a mistake. He probably wasn’t that serious about it to begin with, and people made much more of it than he did. That’s what happens when you say something, and people don’t forget.
What’s been Lambchop’s biggest mistake in terms of saying something that sticks to you?
Calling ourselves a country band early on. We were sort of kidding, and it sort of stuck pretty hard. Then I started thinking, “Well, we kind of are.” It was partially a joke, then we started thinking about it conceptually, and thought that it was not that outlandish.
Given the chance to do it again, would you have described Lambchop as a country band early on?
At the time, we probably would have. What was funny was we didn’t even know what a one-sheet was. Mac [McCaughan] and Laura [Ballance, both of Superchunk and Merge Records] told us we had to make a one-sheet. We asked our friend Ira [Kaplan] in Yo La Tengo, “What’s this one-sheet?” and Ira said, “Believe it or not, whatever you put in there will haunt you for the rest of your life.” I don’t know exactly what prompted him to say that. I don’t know if they had a bad experience where something was misconstrued early on, and it never went away. Oddly enough, he was right.
Well, music journalists are notorious for perpetuating the half-truths they’re fed.
Once something gets out there, it just kind of sticks whether it’s accurate or not. It’s a rare person that actually checks those facts, particularly with the advent of blogs and stuff like that. [Journalists] don’t seem to have the kind of ethics they used to have. I understand all that. Whether it’s true or not, it still exists. There’s nothing you can do.
The word is that Chapel Hill's The Love Language and Durham's The Foreign Exchange have been practicing feverishly (and with many cans of the Bull) this week for tonight's Red Bull Soundclash, during which both bands will cover songs by their counterpart and offer themed rearrangements of their own material. Reggae The Love Language? Cockrock The Foreign Exchange? That's the sort of stuff you can expect from two of the Triangle's best bands at 8 p.m. beside The Hibernian on Glenwood Ave.
"Outside?" you might be asking. "But what about this weather?"
Don't worry, says Audrey Adair, a communications specialist with Red Bull. Yesterday, the stage crew erected a large tent—the type of thing you'd see at a mid-sized wedding or a South by Southwest day party—around the stages. Adair says the space should hold between 700 and 800 people for the concert, which will go on as planned, despite what's happening outside of the white plastic walls shown at right. Doors open at 7 p.m. The music starts at 8 p.m. and is set to end around 10:15 p.m. DJ Lord of Public Enemy spins. It's free, but—given that 412 people have already RSVP'd on Facebook—you had best get there early. And don't forget Tigallo's Two Step Thursday across Glenwood after the concert.
Oh, and my prediction as to which band will handle the challenge best? The Foreign Exchange, without apologies.
With a name like Sinful Savage Tigers, you half expect cookie monster vocals, thundering breakdowns and a machine gun hardcore backbeat. But the Chapel Hill trio is a string band wedded to contemporary rock/pop sensibilities. In May, they released their debut, Rain is the Soup of the Dogs in Heaven. Their origins go back a lot further—to Seth Martin’s undergrad years at Sewanee College in Tennessee. It’s there that he met Rob Guthrie, his collaborator on the project’s songs.
“He started playing guitar in college,” says Martin. “I heard him down the hall, playing nothing but Dave Matthews covers. I went into the room and told him to knock it off. Or learn some Who or some GBV.”
They would eventually collaborate, but only when Guthrie gave Martin a call several years later. In the interim, Martin had moved to the Triangle with the loose intent to get hooked up with “an angular indie rock act.” But the opportunity never materialized, and after a few tours of the local open-mic venues, he became more dedicated to his graduate studies at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in English. Last Spring, Guthrie asked Martin if he’d come down and help him fill out a couple hours at a big music and arts festival where he lives. He wanted to perform as a duo and pad out the set with some of Martin’s own tunes, just rearranged in a string-band style.
Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh
Wednesday, Nov. 4
Last Wednesday was the perfect night for the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh to begin selling liquor, as moe. stamped the night with its melted notes, dueling guitar solos, driving bass and a blend of lights of all colors. The crowd of glow-stick bearing "moe.rons"—some still dressed for Halloween, or maybe they were just dressed for a jam—dove into the new offerings quickly, several enjoying Jager shots along with their beers. Then, through beams of rainbow light and beer goggles, the assembled mass
witnessed two sets of one of the leading acts on the jam-band scene.
Durham Performing Arts Center
Tuesday, Nov. 3
Durham went 10 rounds with Leonard Cohen last Tuesday night. That assessment isn’t just based on the stamina the spectrally voiced 75-year-old songwriter displayed after nimbly bounding onto the DPAC stage moments after 8 p.m. and animating 24 hits, choice obscurities—and one new work he’d premiered the week before—before dancing off three hours later, just after 11:15 p.m. It also conveys the feeling of much of that time.
Perhaps the single most underreported fact of Cohen’s career is the quality that bankrupts most of the glib descriptions he’s collected over 40 years in music—the godfather of gloom, poet laureate of pessimism, even the wryly self-bestowed “grocer of despair.” If his work is so unrelievedly dour, why did a near-capacity house leave the DPAC so conspicuously … happy?
Critics and scholars before me have connected Cohen’s muse to the notion of duende, the profound Spanish aesthetic embodied in the seemingly disparate fields of bullfighting and flamenco dance and song. To the degree it’s true—and I believe it is—for Cohen, it’s not because his basement baritone suggests anything like the trembling, high-pitched cries of the classical cantaores of flamenco. Rather, we heard that quality repeatedly Tuesday night, not in Cohen’s voice, but in the beautiful unquiet of Javier Mas’ agitated, Phrygian runs on the Spanish bandurria and archilaud—most notably in the luminous solo Mas seemingly excavated, chip by chip, out of the darkness itself at the beginning of “Who by Fire.”
Rather, Cohen’s connection to the duende lies more in the words themselves and their delivery, which at times is more spoken than sung. Much the same could be said for Federico Garcia Lorca, another poet who not only probed the duende in his verse but also wrote analytically—and lyrically—about its quality in his essays. It’s a difficult concept to translate, but duende has to do with the intimate relationship between passion and absolute disaster. It articulates the risk inherent pursuing the truest, most intensely felt emotions to the end, at all costs. Duende gives us the stern reminder that when we strive for the deepest love, we must ultimately be prepared to experience the deepest pain. It confronts us, at once, with the contradictions of intimacy and desolation; sex and alienation; love and total loss.
Since duende so admonishes and threatens us, perhaps we should be clear about what side it’s on. The answer might be surprising to some. Duende, it seems, is on the side of life. So is the art of Leonard Cohen.
Let that sink in for a moment: Leonard Cohen, affirming life.
When last night's show first started, David Yow, the Jesus Lizard's elemental front man ("singer" just doesn't get to it,) made an early impression on one of my friends—a palm print. Yow gallivanted his way across the forest of young punk dudes and oldsters trying to get a lift, stepped up to him and slapped him straight in the face. As the guy was telling me the story, he raised his eyebrows, smiled a little, and said, "Hard." Another friend was set adrift in "the pit," a term destined for sounding corny these days, but there it is. Distracted in a moment when he was helping suspend Yow mid-air by supporting his tailbone, he got clocked and lost his glasses.
Thing is, last night's The Jesus Lizard set at Cat's Cradle was hardly a place where negativity held any sway with people. It was fucking joyous. You could not turn your head without seeing someone grinning like they were gonna soil their pants. People who didn't know each other pulled each other up from the floor. Yow checked out every inch of the place, hanging from a fan one song, off to check the stability of some wooden staging boards the next. The band—Duane Denison, David Wm. Sims, and Mac McNeill—surged and jabbed like boxers. McNeilly pulled one of those anomalies you only see occasionally, a drum solo as brutal as their set in pace and pummeling heaviness. Denison and Sims blasted on guitar and bass what bordered on the best industrial clatter (certainly The Birthday Party is in there, always).
All this is what makes the combo of their sound and Yow's ring-leading such a physical thing: They beat everyone up. Metal schmetal. Last night it was hard not to get punch-drunk. Skulking around like he knew no other place but that room, Yow coaxed the lot along, feeding beer to the diehards down front, twitching himself around in inhuman contortions.
This year's Troika Music Festival begins in about 30 minutes, which you might've heard if you pay attention to the piece of Triangle media that covers local music. Need evidence of how well publicized this year's festival has been?
WKNC's interviewed one of the festival's organizers, Kyle Miller.
WUNC interviewed Megafaun and asked about Bon Iver (very original).
Ross Grady talked Troika on WXDU.
Karen Mann plugged it.
Here's a nifty video guide.
And we went through the lineup band-by-band, including a description and downloadable MP3 for each.
After the jump, four of the Independent's writers—myself, Spencer Griffith and Chris Toenes—share our must-see lists for the year's festival.
I’m not lobbying for the position of song-choice consultant for Matthew “Sid” Sweet and Susanna “Susie” Hoffs if the pair decides to release a third volume of their Under the Covers series, following ’06’s Volume 1 and the new Volume 2 (both on Shout Factory). However, I would serve with honor and incurable geekitude. OK, so maybe I am lobbying.
Past the jump are the 10 songs at the top of my Volume 3 wish list. Volume 1 stuck to the ‘60s, whereas Volume 2 was all about the ‘70s. My list reflects the hope that a third volume would be willing to revisit the ‘60s and ‘70s as well as dip into the ‘80s and ‘90s. I did limit myself in one way though: I didn’t choose any artists that are covered on the first two volumes, a who’s who that ranges from The Beatles and Bob Dylan to The Velvet Underground and The Zombies.
After signing to Matador earlier this year, Kurt Vile is positioned as the latest long-hair millennial to draw parallels from critics to folk-rock and psych forebears Neil Young and Spacemen 3. Further adding to what molds rock mystique in 2009 is the fact that Vile's surname is indeed real, and, as you might have heard, he previously worked as a forklift operator in his native Philly. Manual labor now coos to America's indie set in tones more romanticized than perennial bedrock recordings (from which Vile's career first sparked).
Needless to say, there's a gracious helping of buzz and bangs to haze the identity of this 29-year-old dude. And even on Vile's third and latest album, entitled Child Prodigy, his enigmatic promise doesn't give way to a definitive, fully-realized sound. Instead, Vile continues to revel in soporific jams and lof-fi ballads before intermixing abstraction and stoney repetition. The line between a single and an experimental outtake is usually indistinguishable, much more so than on Vile's output as a member of War on Drugs. Talking with Vile, currently on tour and traveling in a "Budget Rental red van with one fucked up tire," he sounds happy with not having his future and future direction paved out. He's also stoked on Thanksgiving.
And forget the future, anyway: Now, tonight, Vile brings his Violators to Local 506 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8-$10.