Posts Tagged ‘Athens’

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Happy 8th birthday to R.E.M.’s farewell de force ‘Collapse Into Now’, released on this day in the US on 8th March 2011.

Sessions for Collapse Into Now started back in early 2009 with songs worked up with interesting titles such as ‘After Ski At Timberline Lodge’, ‘Rusty In Orchestraland’, ‘Victim Of Psychic Surgery’ & ‘Sounds Of The Big Racers’..., (the guys certainly having fun) eventually changing to more. For Collapse Into Now, R.E.M., which is singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills, re-teamed with Grammy Award-winning producer Jacknife Lee, who produced the band’s acclaimed previous album Accelerate. Lee is also noted for his work on albums by U2, Snow Patrol, The Hives, and indie stalwarts Kasabian, Editors, Aqualung, and Bloc Party. R.E.M. and Lee recorded the album in New Orleans at the Music Shed and in Berlin at the famed Hansa Studios, where several legendary albums, including David Bowie’s Heroes, U2’s Achtung Baby, and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, were made. Additional recording and mixing was done at the venerable Blackbird Studio in Nashville.

The band has also revealed that Collapse Into Now features some very special guests: Patti Smith, guitarist Lenny Kaye, Peaches, Eddie Vedder, and The Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb.

“I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog,” said Michael Stipe when drummer Bill Berry quit R.E.M. in 1997. True, but a three-legged dog never triumphed at Crufts or the racetrack. Even so, the R.E.M. that recorded 1998’s Up (experimental, frequently beautiful), 2001’s Reveal (lush, frequently beautiful) only started listing badly on 2004’s Around the Sun, where a mystifyingly insipid production and sluggish mood got in the way of frequent bouts of beauty. Stung into action, they tore through 2008’s frequently thrilling Accelerate – but can an R.E.M. album ever feel like an event again?

The clock is indeed ticking for the band, this being their 15th album on their 30th anniversary. But Radiohead should be so lucky at this stage. Even if a lyric sheet on a R.E.M. album doesn’t feel right, Stipe’s words are alluring, enigmatic and provocative, free of rhetoric (the Hurricane Katrina aftermath of Oh My Heart notwithstanding). Unlike Accelerate, Collapse into Now is also free of a planned response to a predecessor. It’s as varied and deep as previous R.E.M. classics. It’s not epochal like Automatic for the People, but it can’t be. These are different times.

On that basis, the album kicks off like Accelerate Part Two, with Discoverer and All the Best incorporating that sinewy and keening R.E.M. rock thrust of old. There are also passages that are, yes, frequently beautiful. All five ballads get the tense, urgent delivery they deserve, and at best, Walk It Back show as they get older, R.E.M. are even better at gravitas, Oh My Heart’s accordion/mandolin undertow is an immediate earworm and Every Day Is Yours to Win is the kind of wistful lullaby often reserved for an album finale.

The closing track here is more in line with You from 1994’s Monster: Peter Buck’s guitar is drenched in fuzz, Country Feedback-style; Stipe’s spoken word diatribe and Patti Smith’s solemn incantation equally fire; and a surprise coda returns to Discoverer’s exuberant chorus. Before then, though, we’ve heard the first (non-session) guest men on an R.E.M. album. Every Day… features Eddie Vedder and The Hidden Cameras’ Joel Gibb on valiant backing vocals and Patti’s faithful guitar foil Lenny Kaye transforms Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter into something that’s virtually hard rock (Peaches adds lascivious vocal back-ups). Fun, maybe, but also overblown. Consider it the album’s only misjudgement. Fortunately, That Someone Is You follows in a more dutifully golden, Byrds-ian rush.

One of the great final gasps of R.E.M. is this stunning jam that stresses the idea of carpe diem. It’s about embracing the unknown and the changes that come from within. Musically, the whole thing brims with harmonies, hooks, and the kind of woodsy instrumentation that made the Athens outfit so iconic, but we’ll leave it to Stipe to explain the lyrical nature itself: “I wanted to picture an almost blunt outsider’s perspective – the experience of a guy who is walking through a city that is completely new to him and still very unfamiliar. I have combined these two words to express that. I don’t pretend being a German or a Berliner. Not at all. I just tried to figure out the mind of this outsider….” Well, there you are.

Buck reckons no R.E.M. in 20 years has 12 songs as good as this. 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi may have something to say about that, but Collapse into Now genuinely feels like their first post-Bill Berry album to resemble a four-legged dog. And that, folks, is an event.

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Hailing from the musical hotspot that is Athens, Georgia, Deep State have been making music for the best part of four years with a modicum of success, and today look to take a big step forward with the release of their third album, The Path To Fast Oblivion. Ahead of that release the quartet  have shared their excellent new single, “Son”.

Inspired by an, “inherent desire to instill wisdom into someone younger”, Son is a musing on whether the older generation should look to guide the youth of today, or let them make their own path. Musically, the track is the sort of restrained-riot that Deep State do so well; like a beautifully constructed wind-up toy, they seem to burst into life both furiously fast and perfectly controlled. Bringing to mind the likes of Wolf Parade or Clap Your Hand Say Yeah, this is rambunctious rock’n’roll with enough brains to keep it interesting, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

“Son” written and performed by Deep State From the album The Path To Fast Oblivion

The Band:

Taylor Chmura: guitars, vocals, electric piano, percussion
Christian DeRoeck: guitars, whammy bar, vocals
Michael Gonzalez: drums, percussion, piano, “bizness”
Brandon Page: bass, fuzz

R.E.M. Album By Album Pt.5: ‘Monster’

During the first decade of their career, R.E.M. had become accustomed to fighting an uphill battle. Their timeless yet enigmatic early albums Murmur, Reckoning and Fables Of The Reconstruction had engrossed their hardcore fanbase, but it took the cumulative effect of that urgent, muscular triumvirate of Lifes Rich Pageant, Document and Green to finally push them to the brink of mainstream acceptance.

Up to this stage of their career, the versatile quartet had been perceived as the integrity-fuelled, alt.rock heroes it was OK to like. Yet, with the multi-million-selling double-whammy of 1991’s Out Of Time and ’92’s Automatic For The People, the band made an enviably seamless transition into bona fide global superstars.

Lesser bands could well have crumbled and given into excess-fuelled madness at this juncture, yet R.E.M.’s well-established work ethic instead kicked in and ensured they remained focused. With their post-Automatic For The People promotional duties completed, the four band members hunkered down for a four-day meeting in the Mexican resort town of Acapulco, discussing where they would go next.

REM Japan Monster Tour Poster - 300

Wonderful records though they were, Out Of Time and Automatic… had both consisted primarily of introspective, acoustic-based numbers; during their Mexican sojourn, the four bandmates reached a consensus. For their next album, R.E.M. would get back to making what guitarist Peter Buck had previously described to the NME as a “real noisy” rock’n’roll record which the band pledged to tour for the first time since undertaking a year-long trek in support of 1988’s Green.

Later in 1993, pre-production work began at Kingsway Studios in New Orleans, where the band worked up a bunch of new songs before moving to Crossover Soundstage, in Atlanta, Georgia, in February 1994. There they laid down most of the basic tracks for what would become their ninth LP, Monster. Though they had built their reputation as a consummate live act, R.E.M. had been off the road for the best part of five years, and co-producer Scott Litt wisely thought the band would benefit from recording their new songs live, partly to re-familiarise them with the rigours of performing in concert. “I thought they hadn’t toured for a while, so it would be good for them to get into that mindset,” Litt said “You know… monitors, PA, standing up.”

A post on the band’s official Facebook page today simply states “#Monster25 coming soon” followed by “October 1994: released. October 2019: planning starting now…” . The news doesn’t come as a great surprise, since similar treatment was given to 1991’s Out Of Time and 1992’s Automatic For The People in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Monster wasn’t as well received as the two that preceded it and was a return to a more ‘rockier’ vibe.

The album spawned a number of singles including ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth?’, ‘Bang and Blame’ and ‘Strange Currencies’. Unlike the band’s two previous records, the Monster sessions proved atypically fraught. Both Bill Berry and Mike Mills were struck down with illness; Michael Stipe suffered a tooth abscess that required urgent medical attention after the sessions had moved on to Criteria Studios in Miami; the band were collectively knocked sideways by the recent deaths of Stipe’s personal friends, actor River Phoenix and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The latter event hit Stipe especially hard and inspired Monster’s most intense track, the eerie, funereal tribute ‘Let Me In’.

“That song is me on the phone to Kurt, trying to get him out of the frame of mind he was in,” Stipe later told UK rock monthly Select. “I wanted him to know that… he was going to make it through. He and I were going to make a trial run of [Nirvana’s] next album. It was set up. He had a plane ticket. At the last minute he called and said, ‘I can’t come.’”

With the mixing sessions finally wrapping in LA during the summer of 1994, Monster was scheduled for release in October, and the band gave some preliminary interviews to provide the public with an insight into the new record. In a Time magazine feature, Mike Mills stressed that it would be anything but another Automatic For The People. “On past albums we had been exploring acoustic instruments, trying to use the piano and mandolin,” he said, before adding, “And you come back to the fact that playing loud electric guitar music is as fun as music can be.”

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” is like the “Homerpalooza” of R.E.M.’s catalogue: a tragic story of an old man trying to be cool. It happens to everyone, though, and as Stipe was racing towards his 13th year with the outfit, it’s not unlikely that he was having those very same feelings. Of course, we all know he had very little to worry about — especially, you know, seeing how Monster arrived towards the tail-end of an unstoppable run of albums — and this song was proof perfect. It was a noisy signal to Generation X that the band understood the frequency loud and clear. After all, they were the progenitors of what would wind up being ’90s Alternative, so they weren’t exactly asking questions. They were answering them.

Monster was trailed by one of its strongest tracks, the grunge-y, anthemic ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ Stipe copped the title from a 1986 incident in New York, relating to a vicious attack on CBS Evening News presenter Dan Rather by two unknown assailants who reputedly repeated the phrase, “Kenneth, what’s the frequency?” while beating him. Promoted by a striking video directed by ex-Cabaret Voltaire filmmaker Peter Care, wherein Stipe paraded his newly shaven head, ‘… Kenneth’ peaked at No.21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No.9 in the UK Top 40, and went on to become one of the band’s most popular – and most regularly performed – live numbers.

Released on 27th October 1994, Monster was, as Mills had previously hinted, very much a product of electric rock’n’roll instruments. Recorded with only minimal overdubs and long on heavily distorted guitars, it was chock-full of brash, extroverted garage-rockers such as ‘I Took Your Name’, ‘Star 69’ and the louche, T.Rex-ian ‘Crush With Eyeliner’, while, in most cases, Michael Stipe’s lyrics (which were written almost entirely in character) dealt with the nature of celebrity: something which R.E.M. were now having to deal with at very close quarters.

Monster was released at a time when musical trends were changing all over the world. Britpop was on the rise in the UK, while, in the US, alt.rock acts as diverse as The Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day were staking their claims with multi-platinum LPs. Yet Monster comfortably held its own and critics received it with enthusiasm. While acknowledging the album’s urgency and big rock shapes, Rolling Stone magazine gave it four-and-a-half-star review, penned by Robert Palmer, shrewdly concluded that the album was “a deeply felt, thematically coherent, consistently invigorating challenge to ‘evolve or die’, with all the courage of its convictions”.

A decade after its release, only ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ was picked for the much-lauded anthology collection In Time: The Best Of R.E.M. 1988-2003, suggesting that the band’s feelings towards the album have cooled over the years. Yet while songs such as the dance-enhanced ‘King Of Comedy’ might now seem dated to some ears, Monster includes several of the band’s most underrated gems. Though perhaps at odds with most of the album’s high-octane guitar pop, both the tender ‘Strange Currencies’ and the shimmering, soul-infused ‘Tongue’ (delivered by Stipe in an atypical, yet highly affecting falsetto) are worth the price of admission alone and certainly remain comparable with the best of the group’s illustrious canon.

Though it failed replicate the stratospheric successes of Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, Monster proved to be another mega-selling album. The UK, where it Monster bagged the No.1 spot during its week of release.

As good as their word, R.E.M. undertook a massive world tour in support of the album, yet difficulties that beset the band during the recording sessions returned to blight the tour. Bolstered by support acts including Grant Lee Buffalo and Died Pretty, the Australasian and Far East dates went off without a hitch, but when the tour swung through Europe and reached Lausanne, Switzerland, on 1 March 1995, Bill Berry complained of severe headaches while onstage and was later diagnosed with a ruptured brain aneurysm.

Remarkably, after surgery and the cancellation of a raft of dates, Berry rejoined the tour in the US in May, though after R.E.M. returned to Europe, disaster struck again, with Mike Mills requiring urgent abdominal surgery. Once again the tour restarted successfully, only for Michael Stipe to undergo a hernia operation which – incredibly – was performed successfully without the need to cancel any further dates.

Again snatching victory from the jaws of adversity, R.E.M. finally sailed through the R.E.M. ’95 Tour’s remaining itinerary, playing a whopping 52 US dates. Three emotional, sold-out shows at The Omni in Atlanta brought the tour to a close, and provided the highlights for the electrifying Peter Care-directed video Road Movie.

A dayglo psychedelic rock album isn’t exactly the first place you’d look for the raw emotions of a breakup album, but Montero’s Performer is exactly that. It’s maybe the first breakup album that should come packaged with a tab of acid, as the cartoonist and musician packs songs about fleeing a relationship (“Montero Airlines”), retreating into yourself (“Caught Up In My Own World”) and into substances (“Tokin’ The Night Away”) into songs that sound like his vivid marker drawings. It came out in January, which seems a lot longer than 11 months ago, but it’s a perfect companion for all seasons, a soft hug in the crush of reality.

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Montero is Australian musician and artist Ben Montero. New album Performer was recorded at Mark Ronson’s Tileyard studios in London. It is co-produced by Ben, Jay Watson of Tame Impala/Pond/Gum, and Grammy Award winning engineer Riccardo Damian. All instruments were played by Ben, Jay and Riccardo, save some violin by Emily, a waitress from the studio cafe, and electric piano from Ben’s uncle Jason.
Performer glories in the widescreen soft rock tradition, updating the romantic classicism of golden era love songs with a psychedelic pop brush. Montero’s music evokes the extended soundscapes and textures of 70s prog, the easy listening adult weirdness of Jimmy Webb and Burt Bacharach, and the sports arena pounding of vintage MOR rock – sometimes all in the space of one song. With an emphasis on clear vocals, soaring melodies, lush instrumentation and dreamy glam pomp, Performer ventures into gently surreal realms of romance, yearning, and wonder.
As a visual artist, Ben’s much-loved comic-based style highlights the universality of small human moments via a cast of furry (or sometimes slimy) friends. His art has graced album covers, t-shirts and posters for Mac Demarco, Ariel Pink, Kurt Vile, Pond and others. Ben has lost count of the number of fans who have had his drawings tattooed on their body. His Facebook page Ben Montero Sketchbook has more than 80,000 fans.
In Australia, Montero has played with Ariel Pink, Kurt Vile, John Maus, Yeasayer, Sonny & the Sunsets and The Bats.
Ben currently lives in Athens, Greece and his live band are made up of members of Greek psych heads Acid Baby Jesus, plus other friends. 
Released February 2, 2018

Beginning life as the solo project of vocalist Emily Braden, Neighbor Lady were formed when Emily realised she was too nervous to get up on stage as a solo artist,“so I asked my friends to play with me”Now based out of Atlanta, the band originally formed in the musical hot-bed of Athens, and it is perhaps unsurprising, considering that location, that the sound of their debut album, Maybe Later, was built on the twin pillars of country and indie-rock.

From the opening bars of the first track, Let It Bleed, the intensity in Neighbor Lady’s music and the quality of Emily Braden’s vocal are both laid out for the listener to admire. The echoing, lightly distorted guitar ebbs and flows as pounding snare hits, clattering cymbals and nagging, propulsive piano chords, give the track an intensity and a drive. Atop all that wonderful noise, Emily, in her voice, the middle ground of Patsy Cline and Jessica Lee Mayfield, paints a picture of casting off whatever is weighing you down, “you said you’d do anything for me. But you hardly even know me”, Emily sings, before cathartically declaring, “I let it bleed”, atop a particularly wonderful crescendo. If Let It Bleed was the perfect introduction to Neighbor Lady’s sound, across the rest of the record they demonstrate they are no one trick pony; Oh Honey is a strutting Natalie Prass like slice of classic pop, I Wish Nothing dials up the country influence and delivers a perfect two-stepping rhythm, while Silent Separately adds a Shadows-like twang and a flamenco strut.

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A beautifully produced and performed record, Maybe Later, is a new take on an old style, one of the year’s finest new voices, delivering a stunning, sumptuous record, in which to get lost, and charmed, time and time again.

released May 11th, 2018

Considering the weight of the ideas T. Hardy Morris is exploring on his new record Dude, The Obscure, it feels like his airiest work yet. Following 2015’s twangy Drownin’ On a Mountaintop, Morris is shedding some skin and getting at something a little rawer and more heartfelt. Dude, The Obscure soars and floats, at once dreamy and heady, even when Morris is rocking out (as he is prone to do). Questioning his place in the world, and striving to stay present in an ever more chaotic world, Morris digs deep on this album and seems to have found his own bliss in the process

A cheeky play on famed English author Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude The Obscure, Dude, The Obscure sounds like a stoner’s spaced out tagline. And in many ways, the album gives us that vibe of getting so deep in your head to where it’s murky and dark, until you ultimately come out the other end feeling more like yourself. On “The Night Everything Changed,” Morris gets nostalgic for good times on the road and feeling connected to others by the memories we share. Recounting faraway cities, missed planes, and wasted money, Morris weaves a sweet, sublime thread made even more magical with the glide of steel guitar. “When the Record Skips” is a dark, heart-thumping ode to the idea of a legacy and what gets left behind. And though “Be” opens the record, it feels most like a culmination for Morris. It’s the album’s stunning peak, and a moment of reckoning as Morris strips away all the clutter that keeps him from moving forward.

Hailing from the artsy Southern enclave of Athens, Georgia, Morris hasn’t lost his twang, but this time around, his sound is elevated and meditative. He creates a big sound on Dude, The Obscure, with swooning arrangements that live somewhere above us and that compel us to look upward and reach for them to try and catch just a little bit of that sweet enlightenment within them.

From the album ‘Dude, The Obscure,’ available June 22nd

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Mothers are to release their second album titled “Render Another Ugly Method”, their first for new home ANTI-Records. On top of that great news, the Athens band, now based out of Philadelphia, have also shared the first taste of that record, in the shape of new track, Blame Kit.

The next step for Mothers, and their chief songwriter Kristine Leschper, was, for anyone who’s seen their live show, always going to be an intriguing leap. While WYWALDYAT was a sprawling, emotional, sometimes muted affair, live Mothers became a sprawling, angular, maths-rock power-house. Even expecting something different though, Blame Kit still feels like a fresh new direction; the vocal production of the sprightly intro initially had us wondering if this was even the same band, it was only in the bass-heavy break-down one minute in as, Kristine sings, “not the first time I’ve seen it, I watched her body expand a hundred times its size to contain it”, that the hair-raising vocal tone meant this could be no other band.

Lyrically the track aims to explore the idea of the titular Blame Kit, “a social mechanism that aims to shift or imply guilt onto a particular person, group, or idea”, the track was inspired by a case study Kristine read on children with Autism and Schizophrenia, as she explains, “‘his body will at one moment expand to contain things and events that are outside of it, and at the next shrink to near-nothingness…Uncertain of the boundaries of his body, things on the outside become terribly important.’ I couldn’t stop thinking about that.” The return of one of the most important, intriguing bands in the world, embrace this progress, this brave new musical world.

“Blame Kit” by Mothers from the album ‘Render Another Ugly Method,‘ available September 7th via ANTI- Records.

It’s been a long time since Justice burst onto the Athens scene with a pair of excellent EPs. After a few name changes and the addition of a few members, Justice is returning with a new EP. Much like Justice’s past releases, The Movies will serve as a chronicle of the past year in the life of the band, with songs that incorporate elements of folk as well as the occasional dip into pop-punk.  Their 5 track EP “the movies” is out today on Marching Banana Records. These songs are the best way we know how to say goodbye to what has been an insanely special few years making music together in Athens.

The record was recorded live one year ago with Drew and mastered by Chase Park Transduction. Thank you to everyone who has given our music their time and ears over the past two years!

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Band Members
jianna justice (guitar and vocals)
trent johnson (guitar)
william marks (bass)
colton reeves (drums

 

Even in the melting pot of the American new wave scene, The B-52s’ debut single stood out. Equal parts funny, weird and artfully avant-garde, “Rock Lobster” is still the greatest nonsensical six-and-a-half-minute psychedelic surf-rock song about marine life. “Well, there’s not any songs like it,” laughs vocalist Fred Schneider. The quintet bonded over a flaming volcano cocktail in a Chinese restaurant in Athens, Georgia, in late 1976, and quickly pieced together the song that helped secure them an audience on New York’s alternative scene.

“Nothing with the band was ever thought out or calculated,” says drummer Keith Strickland . “Even the way we dressed was just how we dressed when we went to parties before the band started. I think that’s what made it work, ’cos it was just who we were.”

Formed from an open-tuned riff written by the group’s late guitarist Ricky Wilson and wry sprechgesang poetry from Schneider, all topped off with raucous fish impressions from Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, “Rock Lobster” even has the honour of having sparked John Lennon’s return to the studio in the late ’70s. Recognising Yoko Ono’s influence on Cindy’s wild screams, Lennon became convinced the music world was now ready for him and his wife, and swiftly began work on Double Fantasy. “We started out as a party band,” says Schneider, “and we all had a good sense of humour. But we don’t do our songs in a funny way, we want to kick ass. We want to rock.”

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KEITH STRICKLAND (drums): I’d been friends with Ricky since we were 16 in high school. I would play his guitar sometimes, but I would often break a string, and instead of replacing it I’d just retune the guitar to some open tuning. This was much to Ricky’s annoyance… I said, “Try playing it like this.” And he finally tried it. The next day I walked in, and he’s playing the guitar and laughing. I go, “What’s so funny?” and he says, “I’ve just written the most stupid guitar riff ever.” And he plays the “Rock Lobster” riff. He knew it was good, but he also thought it was funny – that was Ricky’s sense of humour.

FRED SCHNEIDER (vocals, songwriting): I first heard the riff when we started jamming. I’d had the idea for the title – I was at this disco in Atlanta, called 2001 Disco, and instead of a light show they had a really cheap, cheesy slideshow. They’d show slides of puppies, lobsters on the grill, hamburgers, children… I mean, it wasn’t a pervy place [laughs], but it definitely wasn’t an expensive, deluxe place. And I just thought “rock this, rock that… rock lobster”. So we went into our studio, which was an unheated bloodletting room in the African-American part of town, in a funeral parlour.

STRICKLAND: I would just jam along with Ricky. Kate wasn’t playing bass on the keyboard yet, so it was just drums and guitar; very White Stripes!

SCHNEIDER: The way we worked was to jam for a long time. If we thought we had something, Ricky and Keith would take it back on their tape recorder, and then they’d come back and play it for us, and show us parts and we’d see if it worked for us. I just thought, “Okay, so this is the title, imagine something and then just start singing about it…” Sometimes pot would help, too [laughs]. It just gradually grew and then it wound up at six and a half minutes long…

STRICKLAND: When Cindy goes into the scream, that was sort of a tip of the hat to Yoko Ono. We were all big fans of her music. I think the fish sounds and Fred going “there goes a narwhal” and “here comes a bikini whale” and all that stuff, that was just from the jams, and piecing it all together.

SCHNEIDER: “Pass the tanning butter…” That was probably a ’60s reference, ’cos I lived near the shore, and there were constant ads for suntan lotion and all that stuff – I just threw everything into the mix.

STRICKLAND: The humour came out very naturally for us. That is Fred’s genius in a way. He would just yell the stuff out… very sort of punk, you know? It was how he delivered it that made it work.

KEVIN DUNN (production): I first heard about the Bs when they were playing around at parties and they were the talk of the town, basically. I saw them when my band The Fans played with them in Atlanta – it was something to see. It was a singular sound, nothing like it, Ricky especially. He was one of a kind, a perfect, naïve genius. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in my life.
It was like mass kinesis in the audience.

SCHNEIDER: We played New York before we ever played Athens. We’d done parties in Athens but there was no place for us to play, ’cos we were the only punk band in town. Somebody said, “You sound as good as a lot of the bands at Max’s”, so we got a gig there on December 12th, 1977.

DUNN: The Fans were playing CBGB’s a lot in ’77 and we basically introduced the band to Hilly Kristal: “Here’s a cute little band from Athens, perhaps you might like to book them sometime.”

SCHNEIDER: And eventually we were one of the only bands they would allow to play both Max’s and CBGB’s, because we said, “Look, we can’t be driving 800 miles on alternate weekends.” We started just totally selling out, and record labels came to see us, we were thrilled. We met Blondie, the Talking Heads

STRICKLAND: I remember playing Max’s the second time and The Cramps were there, and I was talking to Lux and Ivy after our set. In those days, everybody was putting out an independent single and we hadn’t recorded ours yet. I remember Lux and Ivy asking, “What’s your single gonna be?” And we were like, “Well, we haven’t decided yet.” They said, “It’s gotta be ‘Rock Lobster’!” I wasn’t really sure, but it was always the last song at closing time.

SCHNEIDER: I guess it was the strongest, and got the most response. By that time, we had “Killer Bees”, “Planet Claire”, “52 Girls”, maybe “Dance This Mess Around”.

STRICKLAND: We went to Stone Mountain Studios, and basically set up live. Maybe we all played it live, so Kate played keyboards and keyboard bass at the same time.

DUNN: I came to produce the first version of “Rock Lobster” through Danny Beard [of DB Records]. He was sort of dating Kate, and was into the band a lot, and he decided that I knew something about recording. In a lot of ways I would always say I was the production chauffeur. I didn’t add very much to the operation, which was pretty bare-boned. It was just like, here’s the sound recorded. The engineer, Bruce Baxter, was a genius in that way, so uh… I directed traffic. That was basically it. I think it took the better part of two days.

SCHNEIDER: I don’t think we added any reverb to the whole recording at all – we didn’t think about it!

DUNN: The aesthetic back then was for dry drums. It was like, do as little to the core of the rhythm section as possible.

STRICKLAND: There wasn’t a lot of production. There were no overdubs. Um, I think we may have overdubbed the gong, though, and kind of pitched it down.

DUNN: I tried, in the “down, down” section, to get a ring modulator effect to be introduced to sound like bubbles. And they were
like, “No.” That notion was not accepted!

SCHNEIDER: We released it in the summer of ’78, and it made its way to Australia and all these different places, and eventually it was one of the best-selling independent singles of that time.

STRICKLAND: A lot of people were very interested in producing us, including Frank Zappa. I love him but I just felt, it’s going to go in that territory, you know – that sort of obvious, very sarcastic humour.

SCHNEIDER: I like British humour, you just come up with something that’s intelligent and ridiculous, and keep a straight face. People were saying, ‘They’re camp’ and shit like that. It’s like, hello, camp means you don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re funny ’cos you’re ridiculous. All our stuff, we knew what we were doing. We were a band with a sense of humour, and a lot of uptight, probably straight, white guys didn’t get it.

STRICKLAND: We liked that our music was more ambiguous, it wasn’t tongue in cheek, because we performed as passionately as someone doing a very heartfelt, gut-wrenching song. It wasn’t like, ‘Here comes the punch line…’

SCHNEIDER: We signed with Warners in 1978. All these different labels kept courting us, ’cos we all figured like, hey, free meals! ’Cos we all had jobs that didn’t pay well – 25 cent tips… Imagine, I’m washing pots and pans one week and flying down to the Bahamas to record our debut album the next. Keith and Ricky were working at the bus station. So it  was exciting.

STRICKLAND: We didn’t spend too long recording the first album at Compass Point, maybe a couple of weeks. We recorded pretty quickly once we found a deal ’cos we just wanted to get the album out that summer. So I think we were down there for maybe two weeks. Things went pretty quickly, most of it was recorded live as well.

SCHNEIDER: Chris Blackwell wasn’t really hands-on at all. Robert Ash basically produced the record and I think Chris just listened to it, and made some suggestions.

STRICKLAND: I remember after we finished the album, we listened back to it and I just thought, ‘This sounds horrible.’ I just thought it was dreadful, the whole thing, the whole album… it was terrible. Because I just thought, you know, you go into a studio and you think you’ll sound bigger and better or whatever, you know? And Chris really wanted to keep it stripped down and just sound the way we did it. I mean to me, to my ears, we never sounded that way. In the club, it’s reverby, the acoustics are horrible and so there’s a lot of splashing around with sounds, it always sounded much bigger to me when we played live. And it was louder and bigger, but in the recording it doesn’t sound that way, it sounds very stripped down and very minimal.

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SCHNEIDER: I thought it sounded a little ‘rinky dink’, to be honest. I mean, I guess that’s what we sounded like live, I don’t know.

DUNN: The sound got a little sharp on the album version. I think the somewhat primitive nature of the equipment involved in the original session made it warmer, more guttural.

STRICKLAND: Now, I get it and I like it, it’s a document. John Lennon said a few times that he liked the song. Of course, this is something we didn’t know until after he had been killed; so it was quite bittersweet to hear it. It blew my mind because The Beatles were the reason why I wanted to be an artist at all. I was just blown away that he had heard it and he’d heard Yoko through Cindy, and thought, ‘Now they’re ready for us.’

SCHNEIDER: We’d always been fans of The Beatles, John, Yoko… people still don’t get Yoko, she’s brilliant. So to hear they liked it… oh God, yeah. Yoko sang on “Rock Lobster” when we did our 25th anniversary show. Unfortunately I didn’t have her in my ears, but c’est la vie [laughs].

STRICKLAND: It was just amazing. Yoko’s just going; she’s wailing, she was way into it. I remember thinking, ‘Let’s just keep it going, let’s just jam out on this.’ But I couldn’t really get everyone on board in time, and the song seemed to end so quickly. But we could’ve just gone all night doing that! She and I sat down for a moment backstage and we talked about John and Ricky, and it was just blowing my mind that she knew all about Ricky and his guitar playing and everything [Wilson passed away in 1985], so it was a really sweet moment to have that with her.

SCHNEIDER: I would always say that we were good for all theatres, ’cos if we played, they could tell if they were structurally sound. The balconies would have a bit of give… and boy, did they start giving!

STRICKLAND: Yeah, “Rock Lobster” was the dangerous one, we had to stop a show in Minnesota in 1990 because plaster was falling from the ceiling, on to the people down below. That was probably one of the only times we didn’t play “Rock Lobster”.

SCHNEIDER: For some reason, I don’t get bored with it, I don’t know why.

STRICKLAND: It sounds like a children’s record, if you think about it. It’s like those children toys where you learn, like; ‘This is the sound a pig makes…’ I mean, we were aware of that, we were like, ‘This is ridiculous’, but it just made us laugh. So we just went for it!

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Two important events occurred during the making of White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood. I became “Simulated Reality” paranoid and I fell in LOVE.
Well a lot more happened during the process of writing and recording, but those are the two big ones. I also reached a healthy point of self-forgiveness for my failed marriage and became deeply educated in the lies of America the Great.
I feel like a switch was recently turned on in my brain and now I’m beginning to see through the lies that have been fed to me my whole life by the masters of media and by those who control and manipulate the narrative of our cultural identity and social order.

My paranoia began during the presidential election cycle and reached a dangerous peak shortly after the inauguration. In the meantime I watched and read countless works of art in a mad effort to be reminded of how many truly brilliant people there are living/struggling among us and to try to maintain a positive outlook. The works of Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Chris Kraus, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the Autobiographies of Malcolm X and Mark E Smith were all great inspirations, to name a few.
Musically, I was very inspired by the extended dance mixes that people used to make for pop singles back in the ‘80s. It’s so cool how a lot of the 80’s hits had these really intricate and interesting longer versions that wouldn’t get played on the radio and could only be heard in the clubs. I used that template with these tracks, I wanted them all to feel like the extended “club edit” of album tracks.
I also decided to abandon the “live band in a room” approach that I had been using on the recent albums and work more on my own or remotely with collaborators. I used the same drum sample packs throughout because I wanted the album to have a rhythmic continuity to it. I wanted the drums to have a strong and consistent identity, similar to how Prince’s Linn Electronics LM-1 drum machine played such an important role on his classic albums. Zac Colwell also played a huge role on this album, adding saxophones and synths to most of the songs. I also got a lot of help from long time collaborators, and “of Montreal” touring members, Clayton Rychlik and JoJo Glidewell.

The two title concept came to me when I was thinking about how difficult it is to frame the message of a song with just one title, because so often the songs are about so many different subjects. ‘White Is Relic’ was inspired by James Baldwin’s writings regarding the creation and propagation of a toxic American White identity. I’ve come to learn how it’s just a tool wielded by the 1% to give poor white people a false sense of superiority in an effort to keep the masses placated and numb to how deeply we’re all getting fucked by our capitalist rulers. An ‘Irrealis Mood’ is a linguistic indicator that something isn’t yet reality but does have the potential to become so. 

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I’m always searching for new identities so this concept of the death of “Whiteness” appeals to me greatly. Might be the only way to save the world. Kevin Barnes, January 2018

Released March 9, 2018