Slothbear – White Christmas

Contributed by Chris Gedos


Song two off Slothbear’s 2010 LP Qids (no u) is called “White Christmas”. After the first few guitar notes, (they’re adept at the instantly recognizable lick), any and all Bing Crosby comparisons dissipate into the crisp, Long Island night. The use of background falsetto yodels during the verse is a simple trick, but one so effective it’s befuddling. Herein lay the magic of Slothbear—their experimentations come off as natural and unpretentious. They’re unafraid to take a chance while somehow fitting those strong choices within traditional Rock constructs. Probably one of the best new bands on the East Coast and hardly a lad has ever fancied these cats. Santa better have a surprise in their stocking!

Slothbear – White Christmas

Slothbear newyork (Facebook)

Rating 8.48


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GEDOS DOES JAZZ: Art Pepper Quartet – Yardbird Suite

Contributed by Chris Gedos


Listen to this 1953 cut of the altoist Art Pepper lay down Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite”, written back in ’46 at the height of postwar jubilation. Suburban tracts, the Marshall Plan and the G.I. Bill do indeed apply! This is a happy freewheelin’ take on a happy, freewheelin’ composition, capturing the spirit of 1940’s Tommy Dorsey-era New York. Pepper, however, was a native Angeleno who lived for much of his life in Echo Park. A colossal performance almost criminal it’s so good, by one of the Gods of West Coast Jazz. I think the name of the gentleman on the piano is Russ Freeman, BTW.

Art Pepper Quartet – Yardbird Suite

Art Pepper california (All Music)

Rating 9.5


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Christian AIDS – Stay Positive


Contributed by Christopher Gedos

Pulsating backbeat, haunting synths. The beginnings to any great electro track. Indecipherable lyrics either about death or hooking up in the discotheque. This track is so fly I can even forgive the wholly insensitive name Christian AIDS or the equally unoriginal track title, “Stay Positive”. They and indie dopplegangers WU LYF are holding down the Manchester scene in the year 2011. Keep thine ear low to the ground.

Christian AIDS – Stay Positive

Christian AIDS: (Bandcamp)

Rating: 8.01


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REVIEW: Andy Kaufman – Andy And His Grandmother [LP]

Andy Kaufman

Review by Chris Gedos

Andy And His Grandmother, the looong-overdue first LP from late great comic/actor/humanoid Andy Kaufman, is a powerful intellectual document for anyone interested in the creative process. For Kaufman, whose performance was so forward thinking that it still makes the avant-garde look passé, the album reinforces that for Kaufman’s life and art were the same, that the constantly shifting organism of existence provides for the most telling glimpses into human psychology. So for Andy, what better way to preserve these transcendent moments than to keep a micro-tape recorder running surreptitiously? Indeed, the great writers don’t create, they draw from existence. And as much as Andy chose to display his extraterrestrial likeness (most famously as Lakta Gravas on Taxi, an offshoot of his foreign man routine on SNL, who first premiered on the show’s fourth episode in 1975), there’s this infatuation with the kaleidoscope of the human palette omnipresent within Kaufman’s work.

One such track off the LP, “Slice of Life”, Kaufman is at his most confident: after sex with his girlfriend. After he gets past the pretense of “make believe that it’s not on”, referring to the recorder, the first line of the “performance” (that is, documented life without script or pretense), he challenges his “audience” (in this case, his girlfriend) with “it didn’t look to me like you were enjoying it that much.” A hilarious and universal motif, but in the context of reality it gains a painful beauty. He continues: “it looked like you were just lying there and like you wanted it to be over soon.” He continues into the topic of marriage, and when his girlfriend says she doesn’t like to joke about marriage, the shock of silence is detectable in Kaufman’s absence.

Produced, edited and sparingly narrated by Vernon Chatman (voice of South Park’s Towelie and co-creator of Wonder Showzen), Andy And His Grandmother has been pared down from 82 hours of material. Given the album’s final track, “I Want Those Tapes” which features Andy’s now-ex telling him to ‘fuck-off’, I’m afraid there’s even more unreleased hours devoted to Andy’s sociopathy, contemplating his death and future immortality.

Andy And His Grandmother is out this Tuesday, July 16th, via Drag City records. An essential listen for both fans of Kaufman’s genius and critics of the celebrity age, which Kaufman’s work foresaw.

Andy Kaufman (via Drag City)

A classic Andy Kaufman moment on Letterman:

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Review: Slonk Donkerson – Watching Every Channel At Once [EP]

Slonk Donkerson - Watching Every Channel At Once

Check out the new EP, Watching Every Channel At Once, from “ultimate parlor room name game” winner Slonk Donkerson. It approaches that Foo territory without ever getting too Foo. The title track could be a lost Slothbear cut, as they’re both very much of that same slacker vein and NYC sound. Slonk tags Dylan, Husker Du and The Replacements on their Soundcloud, and indeed there’s something Midwestern about them, an ethos borne from the garages of middle-America. I’d be hard pressed to find a band of this particular breed in LA, but the fact is that any coast, whether it be best or not, would greatly benefit from a band with such a clear sense of what they want to accomplish. By Chris Gedos

Slonk Donkerson – Watching Every Channel At Once

Slonk Donkerson newyork (Soundcloud)

Rating 8.4


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Culture Collide Festival Wrap: 2012

Photo by Jasmine Safaeian, Filter

Last week the Culture Collide music festival returned to Echo Park, Los Angeles. The third annual Filter Magazine event produced a four days of non-stop music by emerging talent from around the globe. Team-B3SCI were on the grounds making all the rounds to venues, parking lots, champaign rooms… you name it! Below is a collection of some favorite first-hand accounts from our troops on the ground.


THURSDAY October 4, 2012

Photo: Aida Daneshvar

Dean Wareham @ Methodist Church

I feel like a better music fan, and more specifically a better indie music fan, for having seen Dean Wareham at the Methodist Church. The cozy, intimate setting was dimly lit and provided the perfect setting for Wareham’s lo-fi aesthetic. The capacity of around 200 was nearly full, with casual listeners strolling in and out to catch the other acts during the time slot, namely Blood Red Shoes. Wareham is a true rock craftsman — I’m more a fan of his Luna project than Galaxie 500, and although the set was mainly Galaxie material, I found myself recognizing most of the cuts. At his preferred tempo, Wareham is hard to beat. By Chris Gedos

Photo: Andrew Slough

Blood Red Shoes @ The Champaign Room

I left Wareham early to catch the last three songs of Blood Red Shoes’ set. This Brighton duo pack more of a wallop than most three and four-piece groups, check our interview with drummer Steven back in 2k10 for more on their sound. Apparently I had missed some technical difficulties earlier in their set, but the three cuts I heard were raucous, euphoric, abrasive, fleeting, and all those other words which come to mind when thinking of the group. The Champaign Room at Taix was packed to the brim, with a healthy mosh of about 50 adding to the excitement. Unfortunately for this listener, Blood Red Shoes ended almost as soon as they began. By Chris Gedos

Photo: Monique Hernandez

Tribes @ The Champaign Room

I could not have been more pleased with Tribes’ set. They’ve been here in LA for the past couple months recording the follow up to February’s Baby, which btw is sure to land somewhere in my top ten at the end of the year. While the usual smattering of attendees relocated to another room for John Talbot, much of the crowd were engaged singing along, and genuinely pumped to see the Camden four-piece. While Tribes only played “Dancer” off the new album (great cut, similar in sound with a big chorus), the songs off Baby were spot-on. I was especially pleased to hear closer “Bad Apple”, which was left off when they played The Bootleg in March, and of course “Sappho” and “We Were Children”, two of the better power pop songs written since the mid-90s. By Chris Gedos


FRIDAY October 5, 2012

Photo: Monique Hernandez

The Balconies @ Taix Lounge

Every music fan hopes to catch a surprise discovery or two during any festival, and my most pleasant surprise at Culture Collide came with the first band I saw. The Balconies from Ottawa/Toronto are a hard rock trio with amazing energy and good melodies. Singer Jacquie Neville not only has all of the moves of a star front woman, but she is also the band’s guitar player. They were on the lips of many during the rest of the weekend. By Bruce Rave

Photo: Bruce Rave

The Royal Teeth

The Royal Teeth from New Orleans delivered a spot on set packed with some flawless harmonies and radio-ready songs. These guys have a band next door kind of vibe, and their “Wild” single has been gaining some traction on many radars. By Bruce Rave


SATURDAY October 6, 2012

Photo: Jake Giles Netter

Morning Parade @ Taix Lounge

UK and Morning Parade have seen a fair amount of radio success this year. It’s definitely worth noting that their strong live set helps backs up some of the buzz. By Bruce Rave

Photo: Brian Litwin

Moss @ Taix Lounge

While heading over from the a set at Echoplex, I bumped into the bass player of the next band I was heading to see. We talked over a cigarette about how Moss have enjoyed playing in the US and were going back to Amsterdam shortly after playing this festival. Not giving me much insight into the show I was about to take in, and by some suprise the dutch quartet blew away their small but captive audience. Their unique indie pop sound explores various influences with spot on harmonies and an overall musicianship, that would almost seem like they have been playing together for 20 years, culminating to an outstanding show. A definite highlight of the festival for me and a band worth taking note. By Brian Litwin

Photo: Jasmine Safaeian, FILTER

Ewert and the Dragons @ Echoplex

Ewert and the Dragons hail from Estonia, playing a blend of sweet melodies set in a sort of Mumford & Sons feel. More than just an A+ band name, these guys showed why they were one of the more buzzed-about bands at Culture Collide. By Bruce Rave

Photo: Brian Litwin

Gold Fields @ Echoplex

This show had everything from loads of energy, an injured lead singer, Aussie accents, radio ready songs and cowbell – lots of cowbell. Astralwerks backed Gold Fields had the Friday night Echoplex crowd moving. Playing songs off their 2011 self titled EP and closing with recent single “Dark Again (Lights Out)”. By Brian Litwin

Photo: Brian Litwin

Icona Pop @ Echoplex

Shortly after Gold Fields, the dancing continued for Swedish DJ duo Icona Pop. From the start, the twosome had control of the crowd. When they dropped blogger crazed “I Love It” featuring Charli XCX it sent the crowd into a frenzy, and during the whole performance it seemed the duo were taken aback by how responsive the crowd was. Look for the band’s sophomore showing The Iconic out on October 16th. By Brian Litwin


SUNDAY October 7, 2012

DIIV @ Block Party

DIIV (pronounced “dive”) is the perfect band for the Culture Collide crowd, on the vanguard of third or fourth gen shoegaze (depending on who you ask). This band do just about everything right— they play loud and they sound exactly how you would want them to sound live after listening to their acclaimed debut album, Oshin. The audience listened intently with little to no dancing— after all, shoegaze is a sub-genre meant to be listened to with a stoic objectivity. I’m certain that their follow-up show at the Echo on Tuesday night was near max capax and did not disappoint. By Chris Gedos

Photo: Chris Gedos

Tapioca and the Flea @ The Champaign Room

Tapioca and the Flea (top 20 coolest band name in history) played the Taix Champange room as a last-minute addition. Hopefully enough people saw their adroit and energetic set that they’ll be properly added to the bill for next year. They provided an interesting dynamic and can mix up tempos mid-song extremely well. With an aura never quite descending into Sugar Rat indie thanks to some Wayne Coyne lyrical coyness, the keyboardists’ contribution to the arrangements even reminded me of a 21st century Question Mark and The Mysterians. By Chris Gedos

Photo: Monique Hernandez

School of Seven Bells @ Block Party

School of Seven Bells can be slotted under the classification “Interpol-wave”, and in fact their band came to fruition opening for Banks and company. Their style is a refined and nuanced art-rock which held up rather well in front of the slaphappy West Coast crowd. Singer Alejandra Deheza has an enchanting presence, to say the least. By Chris Gedos

Photo: Bruce Rave

The Wombats @ Echoplex or Block Party

The Wombats are finally nearing the end of a long run supporting their album This Modern Glitch, which contains surprise US radio hit “Jump Into the Fog”. Most of the band’s set rejoiced from This Modern Glitch but their UK smash “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” recieved great reaction, and will always be a standard for them. The Wombats were one of the more fun bands at Culture Collide, which the crowd was happy to share. By Bruce Rave

Photo: Brian Litwin

Class Actress @ Block Party

Class Actress, an electro-pop duo, drew many festival goers away from the limited shady spots located near the hot and sunny main stage on the closing day. Fusing pop-friendly lyrics and heavy synth leads and instrumentals, lead singer Elizabeth Harper swayed side to side of the stage moving the crowd along. Playing mostly from their 2011 release Rapproacher, Class Actress set the stage nicely for the acts coming up. By Brian Litwin

Photo: Brian Litwin

Poolside @ Block Party

Brazilian trio Bonde do Role couldn’t make the show due to some Visa issues so festival producers had to scramble quickly to get a replacement band. They signed on LA’s own Poolside, which proved to be a very nice surprise. Laying down some daytime disco, the crowd started to really get into it. Grooving to songs like “Next to You” and “Kiss You Forever” the crowd didn’t mind that Bonde do Role couldn’t be there. Ironically enough, Poolside starts a fall tour in San Francisco today (October 10th) with Bonde do Role and headliner Com Truise. By Brian Litwin

Photo: Carl Pocket

Nikki and the Dove @ Block Party

Nikki and the Dove set the trippy stage for the Of Montreal out-of-this-world main course that would soon follow. As for numbers, Nikki and the Dove had nearly as many people in attendance as Of Montreal would anc their set was loud enough to reach other galaxies. I loved their stage presence, and while there’s a part of their musicianship eerily reminiscent of Prince, it’s debatable how much of their panache translates to CD. By Chris Gedos

Photo: Chris Gedos

Of Montreal @ Block Party

Of Montreal provided the perfect capstone to a weekend of great musical variety. Within the first few songs a fleet of aliens and a giant ghost (consisting of three performers)had already stormed the stage. Lead / musical virtuoso Kevin Barnes relished his moment as headliner and delivered a set of fitting distinction, one which touched upon the entirety of the band’s catalog, from its more traditionally quirky indie roots of Satanic Panic in the Attic and The Gay Parade, to the indie psych of Hissing Fauna, are you the Destroyer, to the neo-indie-soul of their most recent compositions. By Chris Gedos

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Review: Alt-J w/ Wildcat! Wildcat! @ Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles 9/29/12

The Bootleg was bumping on Saturday night for Alt-J (∆) with Wildcat! Wildcat! providing support. Mercury-nominated Alt-J, which hails from Cambridge, England, were back in LA for the third time in five months to celebrate the North American release of their fantastic, mind-expanding (insert superlative here) LP, An Awesome Wave. While openers for the evening, Wildcat! Wildcat! who finished their August residency at the Echo to much acclaim, have been on the b3sci radar for some time now. The two groups combined to produce one of the most satisfying nights of music of the year.
Wildcat! Wildcat! (duplicate names have replaced the animal + noun setup) burst onto the scene earlier this year with “Mr. Quiche”, a feel-good indie-electro-cool with a mesmerizing key + falsetto combo. Follow-ups “The Chief” and “End Of The World Everyday” adhere to the same equation for success with impressive results. Although only a band for a year, the members have played together for considerably longer, a discernible reality from the first note forward. They know exactly how they want to sound. Their level of professionalism did not go unnoticed, as they controlled the dynamics of the set throughout, engaging the audience with showmanship that wasn’t showy. A fair number of attendees had seen Wildcat! before, cheering for the intros to songs which haven’t made their way online and are presumably waiting in the vault for the debut full-length, and the devotees’ excitement permeated throughout the rest of the crowd. This is a group which is ready and waiting to be discovered on the national level. The to-be-released album is already one of my most anticipated for 2013.

Wilcat! Wildcat! california (Official)

(Review Continued)

It’s so refreshing to hear new rock music that takes the consciousness of its audience seriously. If there’s one word that pops when I think of Alt-J, it’s “intelligent” (closely followed by “metaphysical”). The band is mathy right down to the name Alt-J (∆), the symbol used to denote change and determine a derivative in calculus. And just like with calculus, they make music which can reveal something new each time.

Alt-J began their set with the first three songs off An Awesome Wave: “Intro”, “(The Ripe & Ruin)”, an a-capella cut with lyrics both Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas could be proud of, and “Tesselate”, a hazy, stoner jam about a break-up, hook-up or threesome. Once the house’ vocal mix adjusts, they sound perfect as they hit their stride (and ripple the Bootleg’s billowing floor). Next is “Something Good”, with my fav lyric off the album: “Forty-eight thousand seats, bleats / and roars for my memory of you”, truly arena rock in an English country basket. From there they go into “Ms.”, followed by “Fitzpleasure”, recently featured on the USA TV show, Suits. When they played the “(Guitar)” interlude after “Matilda”, members of the audience were hushing those around them to hear Joe Newman’s solo in detail. Each of the members display their own personal signature, from drummer Thom Green’s lack of hi-hats to Gwil Sainsbury’s castanets and Gus Unger-Hamilton’s pervasive keyboard loops. 

I was impressed by Alt-J when I saw them at Bardot in May; I was blown away by Saturday’s performance. They’ve made my Mercury uber-short list of two (along with LLH). And whether or not they win the coveted award, the future for Alt-J is extremely promising, for the band possesses great wisdom. As they advise: “Like all good fruit, the balance of life is in the ripe and ruin.”  Review written by Chris Gedos

Alt-J (Official)

Bootleg Theater california (Official)

RATING: 9.39

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Review: Django Django @ The Echo, Los Angeles 9/26/12

You could tell the Django Django crowd Wednesday night at the Echo was one of those massively excited crowds that seems several times larger than its actual tally. After opener Vinyl Williams’ set, it was difficult to move around; by the time the Edinburgh-based quartet took stage, the numbers had even swelled at my preferred Echo listening digs, (back-center, near the soundboard), leading me to explore new spots at least three times during the set. Ironically, it was exactly how I thought I wanted to see Django Django— during their first visit to Los Angeles, amidst a packed house and on the heels of their Mercury Prize nomination.

Opener Vinyl Williams performed well and did their duty in getting the crowd amped for the main event. Their youthful precociousness is impressive, as is frontman Lionel Williams’ musical lineage (he is the grandson of Spielberg’s go-to composer, John Williams). Their music is enjoyable and instantly appreciated, shoegazey post-post and all that good stuff, but Mr. Williams’ voice doesn’t carry enough power to do the music justice. In that sense it needs a little more time in the incubator. Nor was his voice distorted enough to really become part of the music and create a wall-of-sound, which is a shame because the music itself is just about strong enough to stand on its own as part of any discerning music lover’s “epic builds” mix. Lionel Williams is also an exhibiting artist who specializes in collage, and seems to have quite a bit of talent in that field as well. Vinyl Williams are a great band for the radar and it’s clear that Mr. Williams gives a great deal of thought to art and the process of artistic expression.

The break between sets was understandably long. Besides the intimate Bardot School Night on Monday, this was Django Django’s first performance in Los Angeles — an extended sound check is oftentimes in order for a band to sound its best in front of the sea of cultural purveyors (and to rid the organism of unwanted butterflies). Therefore very early sound issues felt inexplicable and seemed to throw The Django’s off inially at the start of what would become a redeeming set.

For the first half of the set, Django’s bass drum and bass guitar took over the house. The band’s rendition of “Hail Bop”, my favorite cut off the LP, was driving with it’s industrial Devo like quality and one of the cleverest lyrics in recent memory. And like the many Django Django live videos I’d seen on Youtube, things started to balance out by the fourth song, which I believe was “Love’s Dart”. “Firewater”, a bluesy, Mavers-esque cut, was one of the strongest of the night and some of the African-inspired rhythms so lauded on the album had more of a house, or dance, vibe live. I’ll cede that they’re a new band, and the album’s sound is deceptively nuanced, very unique for a band still in its formative years. Songs like “Default” stole the set and put the masses in motion. got the masses moving. Django Django closed out strong and received a lengthy applause, which was unsuccessful in eliciting an encore. Review by Chris Gedos

Django Django (Facebook)
The Echo california (Official)

RATING: 8.13

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Jacob Turnbloom – The Front Steps

By Chris Gedos

“The Front Steps”, by Mrs. Magician singer / songwriter Jacob Turnbloom, displays a startling versatility on the part of the San Diego, CA native. The song, part of Jacob Turnbloom’s Death Tapes, a limited release of various bedroom recordings, is properly rooted in the reverb-core / slacker tradition. Gripping from the first chord and with a wonderful, building arrangement, the abstruse delivery is a complete 180° from the Mrs. Magician LP released earlier this spring. While that album is perfect summer hipster BBQ music, “The Front Steps” is private, intimate, to be cherished.

Jacob Turnbloom california (Label)

Rating 8.34


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Harlan – Native Son [EP]

Contributed by Chris Gedos


Harlan’s Native Son EP is a delightful pop carousel, one of my fav EPs as of late, with heady hooks to be enjoyed by music lovers of all ages. Per the Echo: “It has been described as Prince meets Genesis meets Shuggie Otis.” However, songs like “I Never” also show off a Nilsson Schmillson variety involving the rare juxtaposing of whimsicality and self-seriousness. Sprinklings of da Doobie Bros and Jamiroquai can be detected as well. We’re mightily stoked here @ B3SCI for his May residency at the Echo, one of the more exciting in recent memory. Harlan can hit all the notes and plays just about every instrument as well. And right when you think you’ve heard it all, there’s that desert rock guitar on the EP’s title track. Absolutely righteous!

Harlan – I Never

Harlan california (Facebook)

Rating 8.5


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INTERVIEW: Slothbear


B3|fam Chris Gedos recently had the chance to interview a NY group who’s been ample in our discussions within this last year. So it’s great to learn a little more about Slothbear – a band with much more to be learnt about.

CG: A little background. How did Slothbear come into existence? How long have you been playing together for? Who mans what instruments and do you trade off depending on the song?

CH: I wrote to Josh on MySpace in 2006 because I liked his and Doug’s high school band, and kids who played music and were into ‘indie rock’ were impossible to come by. Long Island was pretty much dominated by emo at the time, and may still be for all I know. Ian and I played as a two piece at the time, and we all met at the Jericho Diner, which has since been demolished but was immortalized in all its Google Earth grandeur on the credits page of Qids. We became fast friends and would moonlight in each other’s bands, a tactic that proved hugely influential on the indie scene in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

JG: Each of us led our own band. There was the goofy, very sappy power pop band, The Electric Sentiments, which I fronted, Doug played guitar and Craig played bass in. Then there was Nancy Reagan’s Enduring Love, Craig’s sorta bratty noise rock band, wherein I played bass and Doug and Ian traded off playing drums. Doug fronted this pretty serious band called Ether Switch and Ian had his pet project, Sexually Active Girls, neither of which involved Craig or me.

I’d been trying to put Slothbear–a collaborative, egalitarian band for us four friends–together for a while but it didn’t really crystalize until early 2008, at which point we became the quartet we are today. We started out with pretty rigidly defined roles: Craig and I singing and playing guitar, Doug playing bass and Ian playing drums. When we were tracking
Qids, an album that consists literally of nothing but sounds made by the human voice, bass, drums and electric guitars, Doug started playing around with harmony vocals. On Canter On we all branched out: Craig and Ian play piano, I play bass and some acoustic guitar and Doug sings lead vocals. Now there’s much more flexibility in our roles in the band.

CG: We didn’t hear about Slothbear until Canter On. Can you tell us a little bit about the recording and release history of Qids?

CH: Before Qids we’d only really released a six song, self-titled EP via a netlabel called Rack&Ruin. It’s our only record that Doug hasn’t produced, so I took it upon myself to record the whole thing on a four-track my grandpa gave me, which by then had a broken input and could only pick up the built in mic. Everything — mistakes and all — would go through that, and then we’d overdub more guitars. To top it off, I for whatever reason took it upon myself to crank the treble as far as it would go. Doug made two pretty legit records in high school, but for the rest of us, Qids was the first proper LP we’d ever worked on, and it took a very long time. Doug’s better equipped to go in depth, but on my end, I spent the better part of a year’s time creating static visuals to represent every song, compiled in an art booklet with the disc inside. Only the first 50 copies featured all the art, and printing it cost us nearly as much money as mastering the record, so we probably won’t get to do it again.

DB: Recording Qids was actually the core of my senior project at NYU. I studied recorded music in a selective and theoretically prestigious program, and in order to graduate, I had to produce the album and draft an in-depth business proposal for its success. In the end, I had to “pitch” the record to a panel of industry big wigs, Powerpoint and all. I think the guy who recorded Sublime told me the vocals were mixed too low.

CG: How did the recording for Qids compare to Canter On?

CH: Most of Canter On was done live since the space allowed for it. “Goodnight, Retrograde” is actually several different live improvisations, expertly spliced by Doug Can-style. To date we still can’t play it live.

JG: The most significant difference between the process of making Qids and Canter On was how we wrote. The way we wrote the songs on Qids was usually just that Craig or I would come in with “a song” and just play it in front of the others. Before even hearing the whole song or knowing its structure, the rest of us would come up with something on the fly and start playing along. We’d play it at most twice and then we’d move on to playing something else. Besides the fact the composition of the songs themselves, like “Galloping” or “Goodnight, Retrograde,” was way more collaborative, we started sharing ideas about where we thought the songs could go and how we could improve them. When we were writing Qids, we would literally get angry at each other for stuff like that.

Canter On was written and arranged over a month’s time, but we did more talking about those five songs in that one month than we did on even the most collaborative Qids tracks, over the course of two or three years.

DB: Recording Canter On was my stab at the Albini method of production—record everything as quick and as live as possible. The experiment yielded mixed results. Most of the recording took place over a couple of days and that was cool, but mixing the EP took months! I probably won’t work that way again until I’m more self-assured about getting the sort of results I’m looking for in a short amount of time. Editing “Goodnight, Retrograde” felt liberating to being given thirty minutes of jamming and then having to construct a song out of it, without these clowns getting their grimy hands all up in the honeypot. It was a new experience, to say the least. Furthermore, I like that the final product sounds a few shades more three-dimensional than the rest of the EP—of all the songs, it does the best job of capturing the sound of Josh’s old living room. Come to think of it, I spent a lot time in that space as a teenager, so it’s actually quite nice to have this sonic photograph to remember it by.

CG: You guys sort of vacillate between straight-forward Rock and something more experimental. Does that happen on a song by song basis, or rather something you try to identify within a particular cut?

CH: Whenever I listen back to Qids I think it’s funny how many unabashedly ‘Rock’ songs there are because when we were writing and rehearsing that record, I was really into Animal Collective, and Josh and Ian listened to lots of hip hop. And now that we’ve come to terms with our love of The Rock, our newest songs are weirder and mellower. Josh and I often play in our own alternate tunings, and have since the beginning of the Slothbear Era. I guess it’s like Thurston Moore said, ‘when you’re always playing in standard, you’re sounding pretty standard.’ (no diss to the Beatles).

DB: Rock, being badass… these things are of a surprising importance to me. Although I’ve aspired to be innovative and “weird” all my life, I’ve found that there’s always someone else standing there to outinnovate and outweird you when it counts. And so I’ve decided it’s best to just to say ‘fuck it’ and join the party that is Straight-forward Rock.

None of this really has to do with my approach or artistic intent in Slothbear, but I do think it bears noting.

CG: We’re in love with the dual lead guitar. What are your ideas and ideals for how a guitar band should sound?

CH: I think it’s cool that anyone considers us a dual lead band, because Josh and I have very different ways of ‘stepping out’ on guitar. Not to burst any bubbles, but the two solos on “White Christmas” are just different Josh takes, and other than the two chords and some feedback, all the six-string insanity on “Djam” is Josh as well, at least until those arpeggios come in. I’ve always identified most with guitarists like Johnny Marr, who does really ornate and dense things but who never gets truly heroic on the axe. I’d call it kind of a ‘lead rhythm’ guitar, because it’s not just some strummy bar chords in the background, but it’s not melting faces, either. The intro for “White Christmas” is kind of my humble, depraved little nod to that school of guitar. We’ve always been very cognizant of our ‘tandem’ dynamic in writing parts, although ironically Doug is far and away the best guitarist in the band. I just take solace in the fact that a blogger recently described my guitar on G’nite Retro as sounding like “crazy ass ray guns.”

Other than obvious teams like Television or Sonic Youth, a personal fave of mine is Women, just the way they played off each other and were so texturally nuanced and subtly complex, I think that’s what I find most engaging. An active band who do it really well are Strange Shapes from Brooklyn.

CG: You use these dynamic background vocals very effectively and non-traditionally, thinking of “Galloping” and “White Christmas” in particular. Does something spontaneously harmonic happen during recording or are these vocals written into the song?

CH: We’re actually very self-conscious about our singing, so thanks! Josh and I have vocal-only practice twice a week to try and tighten up our trouble spots, and it’s definitely the ‘final frontier’ in my mind as far as becoming a tight live act goes. “Galloping” was an instance of Josh playing the main riff while goofing around and me pouncing on it even though he didn’t think it was much. I put some parts around it and showed it to him, and we went from there. I distinctly remember the two of us walking around campus talking shop, each asserting that our own vocal melodies for the chorus were better despite not even hearing each other’s ideas. That mentality is indubitably endemic to how the song developed vocally.

JG: Those songs being weirder vocally stemmed directly from the fact their music was written collaboratively. “White Christmas” was pretty conventional, I wrote the music for the verses and Craig wrote the chorus. When it came to arranging the vocals, we ended up trading verses and each singing our own part to the chorus. I’m a sucker for wordless “ooo-ing” vocalizations in the vein of “Cut Your Hair,” which go alongside ith Craig’s singing words. “Galloping” was trickier though, because its structure is less Josh-part-Craig-part-Josh-part-Craig-part. We both had a melodic vision for the song, so rather than fighting over who got to sing it, or one of us singing words and the other “ooo-ing”, we decided to just each do our own thing.

By the time we recorded “Galloping” all our parts were composed. Two sets of lyrics were written and recorded never having been shared with one another. However, my “ooos” on “Goodnight, Retrograde” and “Wide Berth” were written completely on the spot and premeditated in no way.

CG: At the end of “Wide Berth”, is the sound after the repeated lyric a clicking of the tongue? If so, brilliant!

Slothbear – Wide Berth

CH: Yep! It initially just had a conventional, melodic resolution but I think I was listening to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd around the time of recording and was into the idea of just making wacky mouth-sounds. I’ve been likened to both an Australian and a squirrel on this track, so there’s that. Ian actually thought the clicking was his ride cymbal.

GG: There’s a wistful existentialism to the lyrics, such as “In the end, in the end, you’re just as small as all your friends,” (Don’t Taunt a Tiger) and “If you love someone you’ll let them run and go have fun.” (Ex-teen) Can you tell us a little bit about autobiographical inspiration and possible literary influences?

CH: I don’t mean to sound snarky at all when I say I’m always psyched to see the different transcriptions of the chorus to Tiger (laughs), not to break the fourth wall but I’ve always wanted to bust out “(laughs)” in an email interview, though Josh stole my thunder all over this thing, but the actual lyrics are “In the end, in the end/Justice mauls all your friends.” Josh and I talked about how it’d be funny to write a song about the tiger that mauled those kids at the San Francisco Zoo when they harassed her a few Christmases ago, and I put it into practice. Yours is probably a more cutting commentary, though. I think our friend Noah actually had your version verbatim, but I’m not sure. The guitarist in his old band once drunkenly told us that his whole family sang “INDIANS, INDIANS!” in the car, and my pal Hank from Spirit People thought it was “In and out, in and out/This is what it’s all about.” How lascivious!

JG: I think one of the things that is cool about lyrics is the subjectivity of what the “real” lyrics are. I’ve had some fairly profound experiences with lyrics to a song only to discover that I’d misheard them but that never changed how they impacted me. as for “Ex-teen”…

When I wrote “Ex-teen” I was looking to write a cathartic break-up song but something went wrong and I got introspective and wrote something that felt like a coming of age. I was shy about the song being so introspective, so I tried to focus on the object of the song (the girl I was sad about) rather than its grammatical subject (yours truly).

Most of “Ex-teen” is set on this secluded beach that I almost drowned at two summers back. I was 20 then, an ex-teen, visiting my then-nineteen-year-old, then-girlfriend. I sing “Got nipped by minnows in the bay, ex-teen. The teen’s areolae were…,” but it sounds like “Got nipped by minnows in the bay. Ex-teen, the teen’s, areolae…,” what with the embedded clause, characterizing the presumed titular character as being a teen. Playing around with sentence structure and punctuation allow the lyrics to mean something different in print than they would just being heard.

The song is about recognizing my impulse to settle settle down with someone and coping with the fact my still-teenaged lover is not on the same page as I am, not necessarily because she doesn’t love me but because she is too young to love me the way I love her. Sometimes I get really serious when I write songs. On the next record I’ll have better jokes.

The writers whose ideas and ways with words contribute to how I think and the aesthetics of my writing most are Joanna Newsom, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Milan Kundera and Bill Callahan. Lil Stevie Malkmus, too.

CG: Some in the blogosphere have compared Slothbear to Pavement. Is it an apt comparison, or do have a better band to complete the sentence: “If you like _______, you will like Slothbear.”

CH: Josh and I are probably to this day administrators of the Facebook group “Pavement Is the Greatest Band Ever” (Bob Nastanovich joined). As cherished a band as they were and still are to us, I think I speak for all of us when I say that slacker ethos are fairly antithetical to our approach to live music. Which isn’t to say that we didn’t have a great time seeing them on the reunion tour—we even conned people into thinking we were opening! Brooklyn Vegan and Consequence of Sound both listed us as openers for Central Park SummerStage, and QRO Magazine emailed us asking for a press pass. I told them we could do the interview in the crowd, Among the People. They declined.

CG: Greenpoint vs. Williamsburg? DiMaggio vs. Mantle? Jets vs. Giants?

CH: I work in Greenpoint, and I often find myself driving around Williamsburg, so neither of those. Bushwick is the ‘hip’ one now but while we play there a lot we’re kind of outsiders. Mantle is the better player and the more likable guy… DiMaggio was kind of a stiff whereas Mantle was like a hilarious frat dude. I’ll go Maris, the true homerun champ, for my dad. I’ve been a Giants fan since the tail end of the 2001 season, and I have the Kerry Collins jersey to prove it.

DB: Ultimately, I find myself roaming Williamsburg more often than Greenpoint, but that’s because I’m a yuppie at heart. Or maybe it’s because when I asked a girl where I could find another “unattainable girl genius,” she told me to “try Bedford Ave” (clearly referring to between Metropolitan and N 9th or10th).

Haha, “bears noting.”

CG: What’s next for the band? Any plans to hit the West Coast this summer wink wink?

JG: We’ve been rehearsing this eighteen song batch for over a year now and calling it Grey and Depraved. Those should start turning up soon, over the course of a couple singles, an album and an EP. That batch includes “Agonistes” and “Yorkshire Sash,” which there are decent videos of, some heavily reworked older tracks that have appeared in other live clips or radio sessions like “TXTMSG Never Sent” and “Tucked in Trees” and a bunch of other songs we’re pretty excited about like “Ranch Row,” “JZ,” “Please Don’t” and “Birds,” to name a few.

We’re also finishing up a video for “Wide Berth,” which should be a hoot.

CH: I’m currently in the throes of booking us a grossly ambitious cross-country ‘international’ tour to Vancouver and down through California.

DB: I’m working on a solo EP at the moment, but I plan on wrapping that up soon in order to start working on other projects, primarily the next SB album. I’m also very eager to get on the road with the band this Summer and begin filming our tour document/internet miniseries, The Torbus Diaries. The shows will be fun as well.

Slothbear newyork (Facebook)

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Trails and Ways – Tereza

Contributed by Chris Gedos


Trails and Ways’ new single, “Tereza”, from their forthcoming Trilingual LP, exhibits a startling diversity to their musicianship. They have multiple members who can deliver captivating vocals which are equally articulate and soulful. Like the previously posted “No Wisdom”, “Tereza” is genre-bending at its finest, probably too intelligent for commercial airplay but recognizable from :01 and gripping throughout. This is the sort of music you’d put on a mix for a significant other in the days before such overt romanticism became hokey and maudlin.

TRAILS AND WAYS california (Bandcamp)

Rating 8.1


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