New: Us the Band – And I Will

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How did you spend your twentieth birthday? Tied up in a dominatrix chamber after downing a bottle of Jager? Yeah, me too. Except my dominatrix chamber was called Black Bear Lodge, and the dominatrix in question was actually two people: Nick and Jesse. And they were in a band. Called Us the Band. But I did drink a bottle of Jager. That part is true.

Anyway, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of another brutally mundane year full of DJ battles at corporate retreats. Us the Band are incredible: short, fast songs played way too loud. Also, lots of head banging. Lots and lots and lots of head banging. They unfortunately set a standard of breaking in a birthday that I don’t think I’m going to be able to top.

Anyway, this formidable twosome released a track called “Fallout” last year that made my breakfast shoot through me like I’d just swallowed a dozen flat whites in a row. They’ve been sitting idle for a while since then, but that’s only because they’ve been in the middle of some BUSINESS TIME! Us the Band have just signed with Rice is Nice Records, one of Australia’s finest, and home to Straight Arrows, The Laurels, SPOD and Richard in Your Mind.

They’ve also been spending a lot of time working in a video production studio, crafting a clip of Spielbergian film wizardry to accompany their new-ish song “And I Will”. Expect semi-nudity, strobe lights, and more masks than that orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. Oh, and head banging. Lots and lots and lots of head banging.

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New: Richard In Your Mind – Ecstatic Electricity

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Having lost their drummer to the Big Bad Apple, Richard in Your Mind have chosen to unleash all their pent up longing for Pat into one of the most explosive songs of their career. Whereas their most recent album, ‘Ponderosa’, was essentially the band patiently explaining their deep love for The Beatles through lush, weird soundscapes, “Ecstatic Electricity” goes for the jugular, and doesn’t stop until every drop of blood has been loosed.

Mighty, churning and gargantuan, Richard in Your Mind have taken a turn down the path that’s plagued with all of the guitars. The bass line is guttural, bellowing like the cries of an anguished Broncos supporter, and fuzz pedals are deployed to a cacophonous degree. Sonic orgies dart and fret in the form of Conrad Richters adopting a wicked scientist’s stance behind the keyboard – Dr. Jekyll is gone, Mr. Hyde is deploying his destructive power with cackling menace.

Listening to “Ecstatic Electricty”, there’s a genuine feeling that when they play this song live, frontman Richard Cartwright will raise his guitar above his gleeful mug, and smash it into the floorboards of the venue a la The Clash. I never thought I’d hypothesis that statement about Richard in Your Mind, but in just doing so, it has made me very, very happy.

Urge on Richard in Your Mind’s instrument demolition when they play at the Glebe Street Fare on Sunday 15th November, or their headline show at Newtown Social Club on the 18th of December.

Album Review: Summer Flake – Time Rolls By EP

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Late last year, Summer Flake (aka Melbourne via Adelaide’s Steph Crase) dropped ‘Son of a Gun’, and the sounds of hearts shattering could be heard around the world. It was allegedly the first single of a sophomore album, fresh from the best Adelaide export since West End Draught and Matt Banham, and I couldn’t have been happier.

A year has passed, and that “forthcoming” album has remained elusive. However, just as we were about to return to Robert Smith for a companion in the most dire of times, Steph has released an EP of brand new material and a Stones cover. In true Summer Flake fashion, the songs are raw, honest, and tug at the heartstrings more than the mention of the 1997 Grand Final around a Sea Eagles supporter.

The whole thing is essential, but particular standouts on this EP go to “Sun Won’t Shine” and “Makes Me Wanna Die”. The former has the approval of Henry “I Kinda Started Hardcore, Yeah” Rollins, a five minute wallow in the mire of guitar dirge and Steph’s incredible voice. She shines here, despite the title, but its her lyrics here that make the track stand out, cruising through the darkest depths of anxiety and bleakness.

The latter track, despite sharing a name with a song that actually does make me want to kill myself, is fantastic because it could work just as easily in an intimate moment of joy, as it could when you’re huddled by yourself under the blankets at 4pm on Saturday. It drifts on a simple guitar strum, splashes of a drum, and the Summer Flake mantra, “Makes me wanna cry”.

For many, Summer Flake echoes our own fragility – her voice is a gentle lullaby, but booms with heartbreak. The greatest thing here is that her music feels universal – it doesn’t single out one demographic, and concentrate all of its energy in appealing to that single group. Come one, come all! Teenagers, war veterans, game show hosts, it doesn’t matter your race, creed, footy team, brand of smokes, whatever. If you’ve ever felt down in the dumps, alone, a little bit helpless, Steph understands, and her music and tone reflects that. Part Neil Young, part Yo La Tengo, and part Eric’s Trip, she guides you through the shits with a soft hand and quaint voice.

So we might not have that full-length record from Summer Flake that we all crave. But at least we haven’t gone a full year without any material from one of Australia’s most underrated. 2015 has birthed a full EP of breathtaking music to accompany us at our most cracked and distraught. Honestly, wouldn’t you much prefer to spend those lumpy-throat moments with someone as sincere and comforting as Summer Flake? Thought so.

Summer Flake’s ‘Time Rolls By’ EP is available now on Rice is Nice Records, and you can grab it on the ol’ iTunes here. A limited run of cassettes will be appearing October 17th. If you’re around on the 16th, make sure you come to the free Rice is Nice Mixtape Vol. 3 launch at Waywards w/ Zeahorse (!), White Dog (!), and Us the Band (!). Oh yeah, Soundly Sounds DJ’s are going to be DJ’ing as well. I just downloaded AC/DC’s best of, so it should be a great set.

Album Review: Angie – Free Agent

qudHyOn9JsyGhrFraU_ElV03-kp5m6M7leb-dk4TeZUAngie is one of the most productive legends in Australia – in the past year alone, she has showcased her debut full length film ‘Garish Hearts’, as well as a myriad of music videos, curated an art show for the Underbelly Arts Festival,  and has just unveiled a book publishing company which has already seen the publication of poems from herself and Beef Jerk’s Jack Lee. And with a few months to spare in 2015, Angie has released her new solo album, the follow up to 2013’s ‘Turning’.

‘Free Agent’ was written whilst Angie has been touring the world – from Memphis’ Gonerfest (the Mecca of garage rock), multiple European tours, a residency in Brazil, as well as criss-crossing Australia. That’s a lot of travel, and anyone who’s ever flown on Tiger Air or any international equivalent for longer than a half hour knows that these things can be brutal. There’s a lot of time spent cramped up in those soaring sardine cans, and Angie is obviously someone who doesn’t shy away from productivity, preferring to record her thoughts and processed during these lulling moments rather than let them slip away. As such, ‘Free Agent’ showcases Sydney’s favourite soul at her barest moments, as well as her strongest.

Angie is primarily known for her noise wreaking abilities, whether it be with the plethora of bands she’s headed (Circle Pit, Straight Arrows, Ruined Fortune etc.). Even her debut solo effort ‘Turning’ was a festival of dirgy feedback and songs raised on their haunches. ‘Free Agent’ explores a duality to Angie that’s never quite been revealed before. For example, “Ricky Street” reveals a mournful side, repeatedly asking “Where are you?” between plonking pianos and a rickety guitar whose rusty strings threaten to snap at any second. “Crocodile Tears” shows off her own incredible voice, albeit layered heavily underneath sprawling guitar. Encased here is a heartfelt track with an abandoned narrator, grieving through webs of noise that thicken as the song progresses. It’s the greatest song that Grace Slick never wrote.

That’s not to say that Angie has lost her ability to wreak havoc with songs that sound like they’ve been recorded through a wind tunnel, and have burst out through a PA stack that has been through several 13th Floor Elevators tours. Crackling, prickly and tough, songs like “Down for the Count” and “Paris Face” muscle through with a Royal Trux-esque pervasion of cool, roughhouse riffs plunging next to Angie’s signature puncturing vocal drone. “Out of Age” signifies the most skin-crawling moment of ‘Free Agent’, a crescendoing eruption of sounds and curdling guitar licks, brawling viciously to come out on top, but falling short to Angie’s strident vocals.

There are parts of ‘Free Agent’ that are powerful. There are parts that are desperate. There are parts that are flippant, and parts that are naked. Angie works from all angles, covering a range of styles with a sound that feels purely her own. ‘Free Agent’ remains another of her bombastic works, but it has also freed her from the tag of being just a rocker. Although she’s always experimented, it’s now become less subtle and more accessible, without losing the identity that she’s established over all her years behind art of some form or other. ‘Free Agent’ allows the public to get into the head of one of Australia’s most underrated stars, and what’s inside is a dichotomy of painful self-awareness and raw power.

‘Free Agent’ comes out Friday, September 4th through Rice Is Nice Records. Angie will be launching the record in Sydney on September 4th at Waywards in Newtown, with Skull & Dagger, Sex Tourists and more.

Interview: Darts

Earlier this year, Melbourne-via-Bendigo fivesome Darts released their debut record through Rice is Nice Records. An acidic, vitriolic commandment of biting rock, Darts threw down the gauntlet, swaying vocally between angelic, and grinding fury. It was a headbanger, through and through.

When they were in Sydney, Darts’ co-vocalists Angus Ayres and Ally Campbell-Smith had a chit-chat about their album, turning a lack of confidence into a thrashing source of therapy, and the trials of growing up in Bendigo:

 

R: This isn’t the first Darts record, you’ve had other stuff. But you got rid of it, there’s nothing on the Internet about it.

Angus: The old stuff, we’d been around for a while, so it was a really more of a compilation of songs that were from different eras of the band. Whereas this record, we see it as more cohesive, and representative of how we want to sound.

R: What makes this more particularly definitive?

Ally: This is a bit more of a basis. The last EP, like Angus said, it was a lot of different periods, so this is a bit more concrete.

R: Do you think it was weird that it took so long, from 2009-2014, to develop that basis?

Angus: We hadn’t really thought about it too much. In 2009, we got “unearthed”, and we didn’t really consider trying to push ourselves. Someone telling us that we were alright, that pushed us to have a crack at recording some decent songs. I guess that period has meant we’ve had a slow build to where we are now.

Ally: It was a long process, we recorded the album three separate times.

R: What wasn’t right about the first two times?

Angus: They sounded good, but the environment we were in was very comfortable. We were in this guy’s bedroom in the outer suburbs so we had all the time in the world.

We thought once you put something out there, it’s out there forever. We wanted to put something out we were 100% proud of.

R: After recording so much – where there any points you thought you wanted to give up? 

Angus: You get really tired, and you have no money, but collectively, there was never a question of not finishing this record. We spent so much time on it, we were all very driven to complete it.

R: You said before that someone ‘told you’ that you were good, which I guess led to some high profile slots like Groovin’ the Moo and supporting Wavves. How do you reckon that affected you?

Angus: I’d say we’re a pretty low confidence band. Even if we’re playing a small room, and someone comes up to us and says they thought we were good, we’re blown away. We’re dumbfounded by it.

R: Do you think that non-confidence feeds itself into the aesthetic of the band?

Angus: All those feelings of being overwhelmed, it can lead to feeling hopeless, and that bottoming out sadness. And then when you feel that exhausted, it can turn into aggression, and that comes out through the record.

R: You guys are originally from Bendigo, and I find that a lot of great bands in Oz come from regional areas, like The Ocean Party and High-tails. Why do you think bands from isolated areas develop into something more unique and special?

Angus: I think in regional areas particularly, sport and football is a big thing for kids at that age. When I was 16, the first song that really connected with me was Bob Dylan’s “Lovesick”, and that feeling of a big famous person going through what you’re feeling at the time…that’s amazing. People from those regional areas, when they have to move to a city, it’s a different kind of isolation. You don’t know anyone, and it makes for interesting songwriting.

R: Do you think it’s because there’s extra steps to actually play music?

Angus: [In Bendigo] there were maybe three or four “alternative rock” bands. Every week, it’d be the same bands, at the same venue, in front of the same three people. And I remember when one band went to play in Melbourne, we all thought, “Oh they’re going places!”. It was a cool thing for us to think about.

R: Looking back, how are you viewing, ‘Below Empty & Westward Bound’, this baby of yours?

Angus: It’s interesting, we were very proud of it, but outside of that, anything is a bonus. It’s really amazing that it’s had a [good] response. There were moments in the studio, where we had ideas and thought, ‘Is that a bit too crazy?’ But we did it anyway, and now we have confidence going forward, and we’ll trust our instincts a bit more.

R: What would an example of that be?

Ally: There’s a lot of dueling parts in the songs, like “Below Empty”, where there’s just one guitar, and then whistling. Like, who whistles on a track?

Angus: And there would be three minute tracks turning into five minute tracks. Those were moments where it’s like, is that too much, is that too long?

Ally: Anything over three minutes feels long to us!

‘Below Empty & Westward Bound’ is out now through Rice is Nice Records – grab it here.

Album Review: Darts – Below Empty & Westward Bound

First time I heard this record, I had my hands poised in writing position, ready to write about what I thought about this album. Some pun on their band name was boiling around my head, I’m sure. I’d crack a joke about how Darts are bad for your health, and the crowd would roar with belly-rocking laughter. I’d pause for dramatic effect, and with the ice broken, I’d launch into some critical response that would go on to win a Peabody and a Pulitzer.

But fuck, the awards don’t belong to me. Unfortunately, my award season is going to have to wait a year longer, and the ironic Bjork swan dress is going to gather dust in the cupboard for 365 days longer. Because Melbourne-via-Bendigo spaghetti-punks Darts have got a cinematic masterpiece on their hands. You reckon this is how Scorsese felt when he finished Taxi Driver? Or how Beethoven felt after polishing off the last notes of “Symphony No. 5”? Or how L Ron Hubbard gleamed when he made his first million off Scientology? A majestical feat that shouldn’t have been possible, and yet, here it is, laid bare in front of us.

‘Below Empty & Westward Bound’ is a pummelling record from start to finish, on par with the wildebeest stampede that killed Mufasa. Songs like “Westward Bound” and “Pony Up” have the thrashing spirit of At The Drive In being fronted by Isaac Brock. These are headbanging moments, grilled and stoked in searing bright flashes of guitar wizardry, and bolstered by yelping defiant shouts. There’s also additional elements in play that help distinguish these moments of ecstasy from any other excitable, hyperbolic jam – slow tidal waves of a tangled noise finale for “Solitary Refinement”, splashes of classic rock posturing in “Traveling Aardvark Cashmere”, and the occasional, but always welcomed ghostly addition of Ally Campbell-Smith on vocals, such as album standout “Aeroplane”

But ‘Below Empty & Westward Bound’ isn’t only similar to the saddest scene in the Lion King because of Darts’ ability to crush spleens with their bulldozing rock. No, it’s because these guys implement all the emotional impact of that scene into their music as well. There’s an innate sadness, anger, regret and loss available in all the aspects of their album. For example, when Angus Ayres questions “I’m gonna lay real low, so they don’t know, so where we going now?” between soaring fiery bellows of guitar. Or when he snarls about a lack of identity on “Dead”, screeching the titular phrase with a the kind of aggression and command usually reserved for attempts at mimicking the “THEY CAN TAKE OUR LIVES, BUT THEY WILL NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM!” speech from Braveheart.

Darts went to the school of 90’s rock for sure, but their teachers were all different. They learnt under the guidance of Albini, the Deal sisters and Brock in equal length, and soaked up their rawness, melodies and knack for catchy indie rock respectively. And then Darts applied this to their own context – with riveting songwriting trapped underneath blazing, nothing-to-lose riffs, they formed a new sculpture from the mould that The Drones built so many years ago.

This album is absolutely incredible. There have been some fantastic records released this year – from The Living Eyes, Love of Diagrams, and Courtney Barnett, to name but a few. However this Darts records succeeds on so many levels, with such a strong array of songwriting on display. It’s an acidic, self-loathing, and grizzled reaction to both personal and environmental circumstances, and it fills you with an energy that is unparalleled to any other rock release this year. ‘Below Empty & Westward Bound’ has got to be one of the finest albums released this year, for sure.

Make sure you head along to Darts’ album launches -June 20 at Shadow Electric in Melbourne, and June 27 at Brighton Up Bar in Sydney w/ Julia Why? and HANNAHBAND.

Album Review: Sarah Mary Chadwick – 9 Classic Tracks

What defines a classic? Is it the fact that a whole bunch of wankers that once got to watch Mick Jagger jerk off backstage bequeath it that honour? Or is it personal? The fact that you get to decide what becomes a favourite of yours, and is therefore classic in your catalogue, and by your definition? Or is it classic if the songwriter just chucks that word in the title? I dunno, I’m one of the aforementioned wankers that gotta see Mick Jagger jerk off. Cha-ching! It was awesome, and now I get to lord my opinion over all y’all and tell you that you’re wrong about everything that you care dearly about. And I’ll start my slow domination of your opinions with this simple fact: the new Sarah Mary Chadwick record is magnificent.

See, we all get a little depressed sometimes. Maybe it’s a Monday, maybe you just watched Old Yeller. But Chadwick takes the blues to a new level, with a deeply heartfelt, poetic take on heartbreak and self-doubt that mimics the act itself perfectly. ‘9 Classic Tracks’ prolongs that feeling of desperation, captures it like a weak Pokemon seduced by the power of the Masterball, and hammers it all down to tape with plain but powerful emotion. The first words out of Chadwick’s mouth are “Too happy for the sad ones, too long-faced for the glad ones”, and the themes of hopelessness just extend from there.

You can’t simply jump into this record, hoping for the best, because the depth will drown you. Don’t be fooled by Geoffrey O’Connor’s masterfully production that recalls the death of a disco – this record draws you in with its sheer magnitude, or rather its quiet exuberance. It unfolds like the most complex chatterbox ever created in Year 2. But there’s no meticulousness, or calculating genius behind the control panel. Rather, the thing we end up bowing to is Chadwick’s ability to speak the kinds of things we all feel. No one does regret like Sarah Mary Chadwick, and no one delivers it with the kind of biting clarity that she is capable of. Take “Am I Worth It”, “Aquarius Gemini” or “Same Old Fires” – these are songs purpose-built to bury into the emotions of even the most hardened individual. Even Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket would have trouble not finding himself in the words of these songs.

The clear reasoning for this ability to harrow all with ears is Chadwick’s longing poetry and delivery. Chadwick’s voice and lyrics are serene, a wash of angelic melancholy delivered in the most gorgeous Kiwi accent this side of Karl Urban. The soft inflections do more than remind us that Chadwick comes from a foreign land that gave us some solid sheepskin jackets and The Clean. It provides a serene alien voice that fits well into the context of her work – many New Zealand songwriters, at least the one’s I’ve heard, seem afraid of utilising their accents. Just like her lyrics, Chadwick is naked with her voice, baring all in both a cathartic and damaging manner.

Although ‘9 Classic Tracks’ might suffer occasionally from fodder, and, at least upon immediate release, it couldn’t be classified as ‘CLASSIC’. But you can’t help but remark and marvel at the honesty of Sarah Mary Chadwick’s music, and its ability to move. It’s serene. It’s beautiful. It’s compelling. It simply exists as a document, and happens to be a document that feels both universal and intimate. Chadwick is speaking to both you, alone, and everyone in this entire universe, even those fuckwits in Parliament. Because sometimes, even Joe Hockey gets a little down. And when that time comes, he’ll be reaching for the new Sarah Mary Chadwick record, along with every other individual who needs someone to explain the shit that they themselves aren’t capable of understanding.

‘9 Classic Tracks’ is available on Rice Is Nice and Siltbreeze Records. Sarah Mary Chadwick will play a launch at Golden Age Bar and Cinema in Slurry Hillz on May 28th, show’s free, so I expect to see ya there.

Video: Donny Benet & Kirin J Callinan – The Edge

Y’all ready to be bent over by genius, and raw dogged with joy? The highlight from Donny Benet’s ‘Weekend At Donny’s’ has arrived with audio-visual accompaniment, and the result is about as fantastic as anyone could hope for. The Don stands as a sentinel, albeit one adorned in a salmon suit, and surrounded by a trusty Roland and a moustache that would make Tom Selleck bite his lip.

But Kirin is the real star, a figure impossible to look away from. Half-Michael Jackson, half-Prince, half-creepy uncle who was really into Duran Duran, Kirin is an improper fraction of lust and action. Building towards a crescendo of nudity and thrusting drum pads, the video for “The Edge” is essential to your day.

New: Darts – Westward Bound

Darts have been around for fucking yonks, but I only heard about them when they opened up the fucking amazing party that Rice is Nice threw a few weeks ago. I walked into the courtyard keen to hear a band named after the fastest thing that’ll kill you, and was promptly thrown by how fucking amazing this band is. Shame on all of you for not arriving on time and catching this maelstrom of sound. Just through watching them, I lost 10 kilograms.

They’ve just announced a signing to the legends at RIN, and have dropped their first single of an upcoming record. Holy fucking shit, drop whatever bullshit, menial task you’ve assigned to yourself and wrap your ears around this thing. It’s a chugging anthem that sits somewhere between At The Drive-In and Modest Mouse’s most thuggish singalongs. “Westward Bound” is course and grating, but soaked in acidic melody. It’s a chokehold of a listen, a slam dunk of steely-gazed alternative uproar. Seriously, shove this into your brain, and let this clanging gut-punch cleanse you harder than any detox ever could.

Top 5 Records: Rice Is Nice Records

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Rice Is Nice Records is probably the closest thing that Australia has to royalty. They have allowed for us mere peasants to be granted access to the wonderful minds of Straight Arrows, The Laurels, Seekae, Donny Benet, SPOD, Richard In Your Mind, You Beauty, and so many more. The people will write songs about them one day, however, they probably won’t be as good as this one:

At a time when people thought John Butler Trio were a heaps decent band, and people seemed to not care about the local heroes as much as they do now, Rice Is Nice was there, pumping out classic record after classic record.

Julia ‘El Boss Dog’ Wilson is the operator of Rice is Nice, and a total champion. Besides being wonderful woman, and the introducee of many of everyone’s favourite bands, she knows how to throw a killer party. Last years’ Rice Is Nice Turns 5 celebrations were mental, and they’re going for ROUND 2. This Sunday, 18th of Jan, at The Vic in Marrickville, Rice is Nice is taking over, with sets from The Frowning Clouds, Summer Flake, Terrible Truths, Weak Boys and Darts. And it’s all FREE! Which means there’s more money to spend on booze. A hangover is definitely on the cards.

Fuck how great are puns? Anyway, before the abuse starts over my shitty jokes, I’ll allow Jules to talk about her favourite albums. Cya at the party!

Julia Wilson (Rice Is Nice Records) – Top 5 Records

TOP 5 Records, now this is a hard task. I am too indecisive / paranoid to commit to these things but here you go. I do love many more but these are always going to be awesome.

5. The Band – The Last Waltz

Move over Robbie. I love you Levon.

4. The Faces – Five Guys Walk Into A Bar

This is an awesome collection of The Faces songs and you all must get it. The Faces for life. I saw Rod play once hoping he would play Faces songs. I can’t remember if he did or not, because he totally distracted me with changing his shirt after every song. He had lime green satin, zebra print, pink, red, blue, orange, melon…man he had them all. OH YEAH. I just love this!

3. Ween – Chocolate & Cheese
It’s the first Ween record I bought and it has Freedom 76 on it, The HIV Song, Take Me Away and Don’t Shit Where You Eat ah fuck me this is a great record. I want to have kids so I can move to Woodstock and get Gene Ween to give them guitar lessons. I think that’s a good goal to have in life.
2. Mclusky – The Difference Between You And Me Is That I Am Not On Fire
I was going to call Rice Is Nice – Your Children Are Just Waiting For You To Die instead but I thought it might be too heavy, so I went with Ricey. They broke up Friday 7 January 2005 and on that day I wrote them an email saying something like, thanks for ruining my life, or something. Jesus. Umm…so as I was just writing all the stuff down bout this record I just realised I sound like a fucking crazy person so I’m just going to leave it here. This song still scares me –
1. Wilco – AM
I love Wilco. You can all fuck off, they are awesome and AM is fucking awesome. Ah fuck this is so good
 
This list is pretty much a Greville Records extravaganza. It’s what happens when you live on top of the best record store in the world.
– Julia Wilson