Hey all, I will be the first to admit I have neglected the hell out of this site.
I am going through some life changes currently and have every intention of rebooting this blog very soon. I promise y’all, I am ok. Been a rough start to the year, but the future is looking to be just fine.
Aiming to cover this summer’s Punk in Drublic festival at Nautica (it will always be Nautica). I also have a handful of albums I need to review so stick around and see if I hold myself to this.
Heart & Lung were one of Cleveland’s best kept punk rock secrets until that Toby guy over at Red Scare had to sign them and promote the ever-living hell out of them for all to adore.
Rightfully so though, this upbeat band rips on so many levels, is fun, and absolutely deserves the attention.
The foursome has been doing their thing for over 5 years now and just have this ability to put you in a great freaking mood. They are hilarious, but will strike your ass with their snark and style – so try not to make any eye-contact at a show (just kidding, they are super friendly folk).
Unlike any typical non-serious review I have ever done, I think it is important to share my latest dumb idea for a t-shirt for these guys to lean into what I want to say next about them:
HEART, LUNGS, & HARMONY (This of course is done in the style of the Bone, Thugs, and Harmony logo …)
The balance these dudes carry is unreal. This is not some NOFX-bellyaching where they talk over tunes, Heart & Lung just carry an ability to combine and lead from each other’s verses without disrupting.
Anyways stupid, but rad idea – hint, hint.
The boys dropped their sophomore release titled Twistin’ The Knife Away in mid-October on Red Scare records, and it was an instant classic to my ears. Hell, Brenden Kelly said himself, “What do you kids say these days? It fucks? It slaps? It does all that stuff.” He ain’t wrong.
The album is a quick listen, but is full of tracks that are going to get stuck in your head and played over and over.
“Watch You Suffer” started off the release with a fast-paced banger for all to adore. The band has no problem holding back on this track surrounded by the best intentions for someone who clearly sucks. As much as I adore the breakdown on this one, the guitar licks are where it’s at.
“I’m Fine” is a day-to-day reminder of the things we do living in this repetitious life. Loved that they tossed in their debut album name on this, but the punky bluegrass build up was what won me over on this track. The harmonies kick in hard here to the point I have been singing this one to myself a lot lately when the day is challenging.
“Headache” was slightly toned down with good reason. I loved the emotion in this track while sitting back and realizing how aligned I am with the subject.
Loved the Blazing Saddles quote on “Shit Together”, a song the pretty much defined many of our entry to adulthood lives while stuck trying to figure things out. Damn song almost made me sad listening to it as I recalled too many parts of it in a personal aspect.
Probably one of my favorite tracks was “Never Come Home”. This song did not let up once and carried almost hidden powerful encouragement in regards to moving on when life comes down in the worst way. Maybe skip this one if you just broke up with someone recently.
“Control” was another good one that had some hints of bluegrass masked over clearly by the good stuff. This track was harmonic, yet quick and totally captured my total attention.
With 3 singers who connect on the best level, this band is incredible and entertaining to listen to. Taking queues from their previous bluegrass talent, these boys know how to steal your attention with some of the catchiest music I have heard all year. Do not take my word for it, check out Twistin’ The Knife Away and thank me later after your 20th listen.
Heart & Lung have been touring to the best of their ability lately and are opening for some band called Lagwagon in early December at the Grog Shop. Should be a good time had by all!
Twistin’ The Knife Away is on those streaming services, but if you really want to supposed a rad act, head over to the Red Scare Industries store and pick up a copy or 2. Tis the season to rack up credit!
For well over half my life, I have appreciated all things punk rock. This blogsite here really has stuck around because of that notion. I love listening to the genre, I love talking about it, and specifically I love being part of the community.
I find myself fascinated with 80s and 90s punk mostly perhaps as it was what I was solely focused on as a teen and just is a comforting reminder where I came from. I love learning of side-acts and projects from many of the members of these bands that have helped fuel my life.
A couple months back I was given an opportunity to chat with someone who I have always been a fan of since my early days of becoming obsessed with punk rock. It is no lie, she’s played in one of my favorite bands that I never was able to see back in their heyday.
Thanks to her releasing a debut solo album, Kira Roessler was available for an interview and I made sure I jumped on this opportunity.
If you have no idea who Kira is, then I will give you the high-level recap. She once was the bassist for Black Flag, but that isn’t the only think you should know. Her punk roots go pretty far back to the point Pat Smear and her were in a band called Twisted Roots.
She actually was asked to join Black Flag while she played with DC3 – Mind you, DC3 was fronted by Dez Cadena, formerly of Black Flag,.. – Anyways, she later formed a dual bass band called dos with Mike Watt soon after and dropped a few albums before moving on to other avenues in the film industry. Where not completely removing herself from music, her priorities shifted.
Throughout her musical career, she matured into a more prolific bassist which in turn just continued to impress me. Her solo album is no exception and where it has been years in the making, it is everything I would have expected to come from her.
I had a million questions I wanted to ask Kira, but also did not want to be a nuisance so toned it down some which in turn became quite a great conversation.
Check it out:
BHP: Hey Kira, not going to lie, slightly freaking out over here given your musical history and the the impact your music had on me growing up. I must say I am so stoked to have a moment of your time and promise I am not going to just ask about Black Flag from the get go.
Instead, I’ll start off asking about MinuteFlag. I love that EP so much although hate that the music essentially was released because of Boon’s untimely passing. I am just curious though, how did this collaboration come together in the first place?
Kira: Wow – not many dig this deep. Well Minutemen and Black Flag were obviously label-mates on SST. For a while Mike worked at the office at SST. I am not sure what the deciding factors were, I know the Minutemen often felt a little competitive with the other bands – they did a double album because Husker Du did one. But Black Flag was jamming pretty regularly in practice, and playing instrumental material regularly. But I do not know who suggested the joint recording. Mike and I hadn’t done the two-bass thing yet and I felt like it was hard to find space during the jams with another bass wailing away. It didn’t really come out as well as he hoped and I think that was part of why they agreed to wait until one of the bands no longer existed to release it. But I like it, it’s pretty weird.
BHP: Ok, now that I got that out of the way, what took you this long do something on your own terms? Given people you have surrounded yourself with throughout your life, many who have done solo projects themselves, I’d have thought you would have done something decades ago.
K: Well I have been recording my own music in my room for many years. Building songs virtually by sending ideas to other people who then would add their parts just became a good way to operate. Since I work a lot of hours sometimes, most of my bass work happens early in the morning which is not necessarily when others want to play. So I have had a body of work (so to speak) for a while. The intention was never really to release any of it. But Kitten Robot had a label and my brother Paul approached me and said they wanted to release a record. I turned 60 this year and it was somehow the right time. It doesn’t hurt to have someone ask. I will always be making music, though, whether it is released or not. That is where the joy comes, in the creation.
BHP: In a day and age of global pandemics, I assume a lot of what was recently recorded came from constant solitude. What was differed this time for you about recording music?
K: Actually much of the music was recorded before the pandemic. Working alone in my room made sense to me long before 2020. The actual final phase of polishing and mastering happened in 2021, so very little of this record had it roots in the pandemic. I did write some songs during that time… and I actually mixed and mastered a record for my favorite guitar player Glenn Brown of his songs, that I had written bass lines. This material was created virtually as well. I just tried my hand at mixing and mastering since I needed an extra project during the pandemic.
BHP: Your debut is very intimate and carries experimental vibes throughout. When you started recording this did you have an idea of where you were headed, or was this more of a “let’s see where this takes me?”
K: My music always tends to be very personal. I am moved to write from a feeling or idea that comes from inside, and I try to capture it with my bass and then my voice. This particular group of songs tells a story – it is chronological – so I did not know exactly where I was heading because it was written across time as things were happening.
BHP: Who was “The Ghosts” about? I really enjoyed that one and figured I would at least ask.
K: “The Ghosts” captures the story of the record the best in a way. It is a story about love and loss. “The Ghosts” was written at a time when I was facing a loss and all the losses that had come before in my life came into my head and heart like ghosts… appearing to torment me just as I was facing this new pain …
BHP: Your brother helped with producing this release and dropped it on his label, Kitten Robot Studios. It absolutely kills me by the way that he more or less hung out with Darby Crash and Pat Smear in high school by the way. Anyways, what was it like to work so closely with him when putting things together?
K: Paul and I have a very close relationship. We have been in bands together and gone through this long journey together. But working on my songs at Kitten Robot Studio I feel that our collaboration has grown a great deal. Paul’s music tends to be very lush and layered and it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to him to leave the spaces. I am quite the opposite. So he will help me with ideas of layers to add, and I will strip away things I feel are using up too much space. It’s a dance. On my songs, he gives me ultimate decision making so in a way – he just works hard to facilitate what I am trying to do. He is an excellent producer in that way. His goal is to help people achieve their vision.
BHP: Do you think you’ll do a small tour to support this release?
K: I do not have any plans to tour. I do not have any plans to play live. I will say that I am trying to find a way to share something, some kind of event, but I have not but a vague concept so far.
BHP: One thing I really have admired about you is once you parted ways from the L.A. punk scene, you started experimenting with sound in dos first from a far and then in person, contributed to some of the most essential releases in various ways. and then managed to become a dialogue editor and sound editor. How were you able to accomplish off of this? Did you make any sacrifices to take leaps towards any goals you may have had?
K: Of course it can feel, at times, like it is a sacrifice having to put my musical life to the side in order to make a living… but the truth is that I have been nothing but lucky.
When Mike and I thought about having a two bass band – we were very clear that for us to have the space we needed, there needed to be no other instruments. I learned a lot during dos about leaving holes and spaces and also how to find the spaces in order to add something. It became my preferred sound or style, not to have everything on top of each other. My tastes became stripped down, because I could hear the emotion better. And after all, I love music when the people playing are felling something and then I get to feel it too. That became the goal.
In terms of work, I studied computers at UCLA and then became a computer programmer to support myself after college. But working in the corporate world was kind of miserable for me. I am a non-conformist and the corporate world insists on conformity. I felt like an oddball the whole time. Then I met a guy by chance through Paul who was doing sound for a USC student film. Paul was composing for it and I played some bass. I became enamored with the idea of using my musical background and my computer background to work in sound editing for television or film. I twisted the guy’s arm to hire me and answered phones and did admin work until I could learn the skills I needed to contribute in sound. Just lucky – because it is work that suits me very well.
BHP: Luck or not, I am sure it was not easy, can you tell me about some challenges you overcame?
K: Well of course the biggest challenge is to achieve some kind of balance. To make a lot of music, work on a lot of great projects – but there are only so many hours in the day. I go through times when it is very hard to find time to create music because work is challenging. And I am not a prolific song writer. I go through very dry periods when the ideas just don’t come, or the ability to translate the ideas feels stuck. But I try very hard to just appreciate what I have – recognize how lucky I am, and not focus on what isn’t happening at any given time.
BHP: Clearly you have so many stories about your life from the mid-80s onward. Have you ever thought about maybe writing an auto-biography?
K: I find writing to be a pretty challenging type of work. It does not feel natural, especially to blather on about myself. Then there is the problem of having to remember all those fascinating details that I should remember. And actually my life before the 80s had some pretty cool stuff too!!
BHP: If you could regroup with one band you played with in the past, which would be be and why?
K: Interesting question. Like go back in time? Or like the re-hash thing where groups re-form after years off and do a record or tour? The truth is that for me, the idea of re-creating something years after the fact is less appealing than doing new music and moving forward. I do not regret any of the time I spent in any band … but that doesn’t mean I want to revisit them. For me there is always the journey forward, with new things to say, and potentially new people to say them with. So … I got nothing.
BHP: You know, I wanted to follow-up here and just say regroup with any band you ever played with and for the sake of nostalgic purposes, but I get what you are saying and understand sometimes dripping back isn’t as purposeful as looking ahead.
Finally, probably one of the more important questions. You said in your bio you are a dog mom. Tell me about your pups.
K: I currently have 3 rescued dogs … all seniors 14, 12, and 10 years old. They are 20 pounds and under, as I live in a 2 bedroom condo. For them, there is room to run if the mood strikes them. The oldest, Jim is in some ways the most active. But he has gone almost completely deaf … which is hard for him.
Hank, the middle child, is the problem child. He has bitten my husband and I on more than one occasion. Generally speaking he feels that he is under attack at times and those are dangerous times indeed. He is 15 pounds of fury in those moments. Luckily they are relatively rare.
Our youngest is our female, nicknamed Stinky … the reason is probably self-evident. She is a sweetheart, very calm and loving… she just prefers to wear a layer of yuck if she is able to find one. But we (my husband and I) love them all dearly. I never had kids – so my dogs give me that opportunity to nurture and care for a being who loves me unconditionally (most of the time).
BHP: Thanks for your time. I enjoyed the release a lot!
K: Thank you, and I am glad you enjoyed the listen.
Kira, the debut solo album by Kira was released on 19-OCT-2021 on Kitten Robot Records. Check out the video below for the song “The Ghosts”:
MakeWar are easily one of the most exciting bands to hit the Fat roster in recent years. I have been a fan of them since they were a one man show called Sad & French and always knew the potential the band had as they grew.
Lucky for us, they dropped a nice surprise on a couple weeks back. No, they did not to a split with NOFX, Frank Turner, Me First or anything (yet), but they did drop an EP that made me equal parts sad and happy.
The Brooklyn, NY punk band has been gaining ground over the past couple of years with their catchy yet emotionally driven punk tracks and Stay is no exception. It may be just 4 songs, 2 unreleased and 2 of which are original takes on songs from their last release Get It Together, but they are all solid tracks and absolutely needed to be released for all to hear.
Listening to the opening track “Stay” brought forth some personal trauma of losing my best 4-legged friend about a year ago. The track, a homage to Jose Prieto’s dog (Bruno) is a must hear with with Vinnie Caruana (Movielife/I Am The Avalanche) taking on singing duties on behalf of Bruno. I smiled and teared up while listening to this previously unreleased song that was more or less the last conversation the two had while remembering the great times I had with my beloved Sweet Lou and Zeus. This track will punch you in the heart if you love(d) your pet unconditionally.
“I’m Sure My Little Brother Never Listened to Lagwagon” was the other unreleased track and was a total banger. Loved the bass licks that reminded me of Matt Fremon as well as the recollection of punk life pitfalls.
“American Futbol” and “My Bones” were a little rawer than what showed up on Get It Together but equally as great and served as a reminder how much I adored their Fat debut.
2021 has been yet another shit year, right? I personally thank bands like MakeWar for persevering on with their true passion and providing those distractions we all need to make these days a little better.
MakeWar playThe Fest today and then have a few Northeast shows lined up on their way back home in early November. In 2022, they landed some Europe shows with some band called the Descendents.
I have said it before and will say it again, these guys are going places. Do not sit on them.
Also, can we talk about how sick the color pressing of Stay is? I ordered mine the day it dropped and adore the variant that was shipped to me:
Growing up in Canton, Ohio in the pre-internet 1990’s wasn’t exactly a bustling hub of counter-culture for a young kid. Sure, I had cool parents and an older brother who passed down the foundations of my musical interests- The Ramones, The Replacements, Dead Milkmen, and so on- but I had yet to find “my thing”.
Then, I found Beavis and Butthead. Suddenly the world opened up in front of me. Archers of Loaf, Seaweed, and Sonic Youth all hit me like a ton of bricks. All of these bands were rooted in the world that I knew, but they were decidedly original and a bit more unpredictable. I was hooked. Superchunk’s song and video for Package Thief was what rattled me, though. It was my lightbulb moment for what I wanted out of music- frantic energy, bright fuzzy chords, catchy melodies, and weird lyrics. I knew instantly that they were my band.
They became a frequent presence on my annual Christmas lists, but I don’t think their records were the easiest to find where I lived. I wouldn’t really find “my band” until 2004 or so, when I walked into what was then known as The Record Exchange in Canton and bought almost their entire discography in one go- minus Here’s Where the Strings Come In and Indoor Living.
It wasn’t an entirely joyous outing, though- even though I loved every album I picked up. On The Mouth was everything I hoped for after being hooked by Package Thief. Foolish was a classic that laid a blueprint that younger bands had followed for the last decade. Come Pick Me Up was off-the-wall and intoxicating. And then there was Here’s to Shutting Up– slower, somber, and ominously titled. Based on its name, I assumed the worst about the band’s fate- and their lack of internet presence in that era all but confirmed it for me. Scattershot shows would pop up in major markets once or twice a year, and front man Mac McCaughan would pop in on the now-defunct Superchunk/Merge message boards from time to time but it seemed like the title of their 2001 full-length said it all. I missed the window of my favorite band’s full-time existence.
Fast-forward just a few years after that and the band would thankfully reemerge, comfortably settled into their classic sound, more frequently releasing music and heading back out for brief clusters of shows. But the interim time would also reveal that even though the title of the record was unintentional, or subconscious at worst, the writing was on the wall for Superchunk as they were in 2001. It was a tough time for the band in 2001- the indie rock scene favored up-and-coming bands rather than those who had been at it for a decade-plus. Superchunk was caught in the middle of a fanbase that didn’t particularly want them to change their formula and critics who would drag them for staying the same. On top of that- thanks to inner turmoil and exhaustive tours with a steep decline in attendance post-9/11, the band did ultimately shut up for nine years or so. (To hear it from the band in their own words, check out the book Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, and the Peyton Reed-directed documentary DVD Crowding Up Your Visual Field)
Twenty years later, Here’s to Shutting Up has been rereleased along with a CD of acoustic demos from the writing sessions. It’s a record that went largely unheard at the time of it’s release due to unavoidable bad timing- the album came out on September 18th, 2001- along with a refrain in the pedal-steel guitar-led acoustic ballad Phone Sex that includes the lyrics “Plane crash footage on TV- I know that could be me.” Unfortunate timing and coincidences aside, it’s a beautiful, haunting record that finds Superchunk engaging in some of their most ambitous songwriting- from the eerie, meandering What Do You Look Forward To, to the more-upbeat entries such as Art Class (Song for Yayoi Kusama) and Rainy Streets– the album is more than worth a look back or an introduction if you missed it the first time around.
Last week, I caught up with drummer Jon Wurster via email to see how he feels looking back at the album:
JU: Here’s to Shutting Up caps off a trio of Superchunk’s most experimental records. Do you recall any discussions the band was having leading up to the writing of this record? Any interesting stories worth sharing from the writing/demo sessions at your house?
JW: This whole conversation is tough because this is the Superchunk album I have the most difficult relationship with. I honestly can’t recall the names of most of the songs on the album and we only play one of them live at this point (“Art Class”). We worked very diligently for months on “HTSU” in Jim’s garage. I still have the snare drum head I used for the rehearsals/writing and it’s got about 30 funny working titles for the songs, like, “There’s Something About Marvin” and “New Asics” (I’d just bought a pair) scrawled on it. Just speaking for myself, I didn’t really love the direction we were going for this record.
We were really good at the punky, catchy, slightly weird music we’d been doing for over ten years and it was only natural that we branch out and try new things. I just didn’t feel like we were particularly suited for the Yo La Tengo-inspired music we were coming up with for HTSU. I WILL say that it’s one of our best-sounding records. I’d finally gotten a snare drum I liked (a Ludwig Black Beauty) and used it on that and just about everything I’ve played on since. So, sonically, I think it’s really good.
JU: Was there ever any talk or possibility of working with Jim O’Rourke again after Come Pick Me Up? I’ve always been a big fan of the string and horn arrangements he brought to that record. I could be wrong, but I feel like the production on that record isn’t given its due.
JW: CPMU is difficult too. I thought the songs were really good but we lost it in the mix. The drums are too buried for my tastes on “Indoor Living” and CPMU in particular. Jim was so much fun to work with, but I don’t think he was really a drum guy. We had to overdub cymbals on a few songs because they weren’t really mic’d for some of the basic tracks. He wrote the horn arrangements and did a fantastic job all around. The problem was he was running on fumes and going home each night to finish work on another record he was producing. He was really burning the candle at both ends, not with substances, just work and lack of sleep. But Jim was really great to work with.
JU: It’s pretty well documented that 2000-2002 was a stressful time for the band- and many touring bands in the wake of 9/11. Did any of those circumstances alter your opinion of the album at the time?
JW: That was such a difficult time. I’m really painting an uplifting picture of the band in the late-’90s and early 2000s, aren’t I? The record was released on September 18th and we immediately hit the road, going to Japan, Europe and then doing a full US tour. Attendances were down, I didn’t feel like the new songs were connecting with people, I didn’t really enjoy playing them, and it felt like other bands were passing us by. Like, we’d hit the glass ceiling. I just wasn’t excited about Superchunk anymore. The final show of the HTSU tour was at the Black Cat in D.C. and I remember thinking that was the end of the line for me.
JU: How do you feel looking back on it now?
JW: I honestly never think about HTSU. That said, I was in a coffee shop in NYC about four years after it came out and one of the songs from it came on the in-house playlist. I knew it was us but I didn’t recognize the song. I thought, “wow, this sounds really good, surprisingly tight for us.” Then I realized it was the last song we recorded for the album and the only one where we played to a click track: “Out On The Wing.”
JU: Brian Paulson co-produced Here’s to Shutting Up with the band. This is the first (maybe only, as far as I can tell?) time you used the same producer for a full-length record since 1994’s Foolish. What went into that decision?
JW: I honestly don’t recall. We were still very friendly with Brian and we’d see him all the time because he also lived in Chapel Hill. I think it just felt right.
JU: Art Class has remained a steady presence in live sets ever since the album’s release. Revisiting it now, and barring any logistical/additional personnel challenges, are there any songs from HTSU you think would be fun to bring back into live rotation?
JW: One song we recorded for HTSU that I really liked, but didn’t make it on the album is “Becoming a Speck.” I think that song would have given the album a little more of what we were really good at, but someone must’ve decided it didn’t fit. It’s on the “Cup of Sand” comp. That would be a fun one to play, as would “Rainy Streets.” I’m now looking at the track listing and remembering that we ended the shows with “What Do You Look Forward To” and “Drool Collection.” Let’s just say I didn’t look forward to playing those songs every night.
JU: Here’s to Shutting Up holds the distinction of having some of Superchunk’s longest songs- namely with What Do You Look Forward To? coming in at 7:42. Was it strange to play outside of (generally speaking) standard pop-rock parameters Superchunk had typically held to or did it feel like a natural progression for everyone?
JW: To me it felt a little false. Maybe not false, because we WANTED to play this new music well, but to my ears it sounds like us trying to be another band, specifically Yo La Tengo. I don’t want to hear a seven-minute song by anyone, so, as I said above, that particular tune was not a favorite to play.
JU: Since the band got back into semi-regular output in the 2010’s, the sound has returned to what some would say is Superchunk’s more traditional hyper-energetic output (What a Time to Be Alive is arguably the band’s hardest-hitting record at times), give or take a few slower numbers. Are there ever any band discussions about revisiting any of the more experimental, long-form ideas from this era, or do you think those concepts are mostly content to live on in the bands’ various other projects?
JW: I think we got the “writing as a band” thing out of our system. Sometimes that yields some great results, but often you end up with music that’s a little unfocused. The first four or five albums were pretty much written by Mac. We’d all throw our two cents in but he pretty much wrote the songs. He was incredibly generous to make the publishing a four-way split. “Indoor Living,” “Come Pick Me Up” and “HTSU” were all written, musically, by committee and Mac would go off and write the lyrics. There’s a lot of good stuff on those records, for sure, but since we regrouped, it’s gone back to Mac writing and doing rough demos of the songs and then presenting them to us. I really like it this way because the songs just sound more focused and concise. He’s written so many great songs for these last few albums.
JU I recently saw an interview with Mac where he discussed the band working on an album during quarantine, written and recorded remotely. Are you able to give any details on the process behind that or any upcoming plans?
JW: Not yet 😉
JU: Finally- followers of your Instagram account are treated to regular doses of Rock ‘n Roll Weirdness. Outside of the band supposedly surviving largely off of Long John Silver’s, do you have any tales of Rock ‘n Roll Weirdness to share as relates to the writing/recording/release of Here’s to Shutting Up?
JW: The only thing that comes to mind is that there was nowhere to sit in the studio! I don’t know why that was. There WAS a row of very uncomfortable wooden seats from a classroom or something, but nobody wanted to sit on them. Maybe we should’ve called it “Here’s to Standing Up.”