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Interview: Brenden Kelly (The Lawrence Arms, The Falcon)

It’s been a hot minute since I have been to a show, so when I learned that Brenden Kelly‘s Here Goes Nothing Tour was making a stop in Cleveland, I knew I had to be there.

The fact the “venue” was a mere 1.3 miles away from BHP HQ sealed the deal for me. The quotes, by the way, were purposely put there as he played at a BBQ joint called Hatfield’s Goode Grub in a strip mall in the Cleveland suburb West Park.

I may have questioned the choice, but honestly, it was perfect for an acoustic set as well as a ton of hangs with some great folk.

For a Sunday night show, it was pretty packed and I have zero complaints. I got to see Brenden play a slightly extended set and even hung out with Sir Toby of Red Scare as well as some of the Heart & Lung crew.

Where I could have done a full review of the show and probably taken much better photos, I honestly went as a fan. I slammed some beers, sang along, and didn’t worry about taking notes or building a set list.

Honestly, I really needed that night. I missed live music and the interaction so much. I had fun and I know I was not the only one. That is what mattered most.

Still, when I got home that night, I couldn’t help but tell myself how I should at least do something where I could talk about the show or maybe do more.

I decided maybe an interview was in order.

I caught up with Brenden exactly one day after the tour ended just to mostly talk about the month-long series of shows and whatnot. I guess the timing was right.

Check it out:

BHP: You just finished up your Here Goes Nothing Tour with your homeboy Toby from Red Scare.  For those who may have missed out on seeing you play, can you tell me about some of the highlights other than the Four Seasons Total Landscaping show everyone is still talking about?

BK: Well, the big highlights for me mostly involved seeing friends and just getting to be out there with everyone doing what I’ve (for better or for worse) dedicated my life to doing, ya know? 

A real highlight was at a brewery in Green Bay where Jack from Arms Aloft and I were just sitting there listening to the sounds of the brewery but we thought we were listening to a super ambient Godspeed! track.  After about a minute and a half (an embarrassingly long time) I was like, “Did you put that record on?” to the promoter who was just hanging out and he said “No, couldn’t get it to work.”  We had a good chuckle at that shit. 

We got a bag full of Krystal, Southern White Castle, but they also serve chili cheese “pups”…fifty bucks worth in Georgia, and Tane called his girlfriend and said, “I just got fifty bucks worth of Krystal!” and she replied, “Tane, I thought you weren’t into hard drugs?” and we had a chuckle at that shit too. 

The shows were all fun.  Some were sold out and some were barely attended at all and some were private backyard situations.  In every instance it was really just great to be back out there again.

I was lucky enough to hit the final show in Cleveland and it was packed and even a couple of alcoholic Browns fans who were looking to keep damaging their liver some more after a pre-season win showed up. 

Was the turnout about the same at all the other places you hit up?

If you looked at the routing, you could almost certainly guess within 10 people how many people were there just based on location and whether it was a private party or not. 

There was one that was weird because I got the distinct feeling that the guy who booked the show (this was a private party) didn’t like my music.  He left while I was on stage.  He was perfectly nice and accommodating, but it seemed like a weird move to pay to have me come to your house and not watch.  Right?  But the shows in places where I tend to do well, big cities in the north (also Tampa) were jammed for sure.  It was great.

Your initial special guest did not quite pan out as planned.  I saw there were a handful of openers who took that slot including Tane Graves who played about half of the shows.  Who were some of your favs?

Well at first we had Seth from Arms Aloft, then Tane, who rode with us and did most of the tour, and at the end we had Steveo from the Crippling Addiction, formerly of The Holy Mess, so there were only 3 guests.  I would say those three were probably my faves.

You forgot to mention Heart & Lung playing as Munford & Lungs!  Seriously I hope you’re as excited for this Cleveland band’s Red Scare debut as I am.  I love those dudes.

Oh yeah.  They’re awesome and the ability those three have to not only be a great punk band but also an amazing bluegrass band is pretty astounding.  I have heard the record and can confirm it’s radical.  What do you kids say these days?  It fucks?  It slaps?  It does all that stuff.

I have to admit, I was curious about how you playing at Hatfield’s Goode Grub was going to pan out, but it worked out well.  What did you think?

That dude is a trip and the place is awesome and the food is amazing.  I had a great time and I can’t say enough good things about it.  Was it a little odd?  Sure.  All shows right now are a little odd but that place was probably the coolest BBQ bar in a strip mall run by a real live member of a blood feud family that I’ve ever been to.

Your retort to the “fan” who screamed “Free Bird” when you were asking for requests was classic.  Were there any other folk throughout the tour that made comments where you just took a moment to educate?

Oh, I dunno.  I kind of have stage brain, which is to say that no matter what is going on in my life, if I’m sad or angry or whatever, I can get up there and think with an entirely different part of my mind and do the show the way it’s supposed to be done. 

The other side of this is that I don’t tend to remember the shows particularly well.  I know what you’re all thinking but NO, mother, it’s not from boozing.  Even when I’m stone sober this happens.  Also, even when I’m stone sober everyone thinks I’m wasted so whatever.  Throw your stones.

The fact you proved to the crowd playing “Shitty Margarita” was not a good idea by playing some of it was probably one of my favorite moments of the night.  Did you get any other requests throughout tour that you just had to skip the idea on?

That one came up a lot.  So did some of the faster or just generally screamier TLA songs, like “Cut it Up”, for example.  Some things just aren’t that good acoustic.  People think they don’t care, but then they have to sit through it and it really sucks for everyone, especially me.  So I try to take requests but I know what works and what doesn’t and I try to be a good steward in that regard for everyone involved.

Toby told me to ask you about the new Guardians logo and how you loved it.  I love the team name, but if I am thinking of the same logo as you are, it is rough.  What do you like about it so much?  I can tell you the ‘G’ that obstructs the baseball just looks off.

Oh, I was referring to the Guardians fastball (I think that’s what it’s called) and I think it’s just dope looking. It’s totally got being a tattoo first and foremost in its design and I just think they nailed it.  The G evokes a super classic rust belt factory industry logo which is very, very cool to me.

That’s what I was talking about!  I’m not really sure why it bugs me.  Maybe I’ll tattoo it on me and replace the “G” with “Beex” and while I’m at it change the baseball into a garbage pail lid.  Cool?

I think this is an excellent idea.

Tour’s over, now what?  We were lucky to have you play an extended set of sorts on the last night of tour, thanks for that.  I could tell you were not really looking forward to it to end.

Yeah.  I don’t know what to do now.  My family has passed down this uh…I guess it’s our family motto (even though that sounds weird to say) which is you need 3 things: someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.  Right now I am 1 for 3, so maybe I’ll just get a beer and see how that works out.  For real though, I just wrote a page of lyrics I don’t hate.  This tour reignited my love for everything from my family to playing to exercising and on and on so I’m optimistic.  Also, Toby is talking about doing more runs, and I’d be into that for sure.  But for now I’m gonna call the insurance company and then go get my car washed.  The dizzying highs of rock and roll, am I right?

Hate to hear about the 33% family motto standing, but I’m stoked to see what those lyrics pan out into.  Was most of the writing done when traveling from place to place or just when it hit ya?

No, I just wrote one page this morning when I woke up in my bed for the first time in a month.  It’s time to dust off my dick and start working again, as the old maxim goes.

Thanks for giving me some of your time today, enjoy that phoner with the insurance company!

Now check out a video I found on my phone from that night:

Tweet from @RedScareToby

Album Review: The Roots – Do You Want More?!!!??! [Deluxe Edition]

[This is a seriously delayed review. Life caught up with me as well as I struggled with trying to find the right words. It has been a while where I strived with placing my thoughts together.

There’s no time like the present, so here we go. Thanks for taking a few moments to read through!]

I can honestly say when The Roots first started releasing albums, I did not appreciate them for their full worth. I was a suburban, white teen when they began picking up steam.

Perhaps being stuck in specific scenes and favoring punk/hardcore in the 90s could be to blame, but clearly there was more. Don’t get me wrong, I was all about tons of hip-hop acts at that time. Truth is, I was too young, naïve, and just lacked understanding to the genus behind this amazing hip-hop act.

I do not need to get into their history for they’ve gained plenty of ground since their early days. As I eluded to earlier though, I knew of them, but it was years later until I actually listened to them. Man was I missing out…

I have tried to word this out as best as I could, but their lyrical craftmanship was just top notch and add to some amazing musical ability, it was impossible for me not to adore them.

How did this punk rocker become a fan of the Roots? Glad you asked that.

When I managed a record store in my hometown in the 00s, the pompous owners had this rule with playing music on the 5-disc carousal CD changer: 1 hip-hop, 1 jazz, classical, or blues, and 3 anything else. On most days it was a drag because if I was going to be stuck in a small store for 8-14 hours a day, I wanted to pick my own soundtrack to help speed the day along.

Honestly, it made sense to not have a bunch of punk/screamo music clogging the speakers and gave a chance to carry a range of genres for all to hear. This essentially was for the customers who walked through the front door and not the horde of tired workers who helped make their shopping experience a good one.

This rule resulted in many a day where The Roots were rotated into the mix. I could not tell you who or when the band started being played frequently, but I can tell you I always approved anyone who asked to play them. It was poetry layered on jazzy beats that followed its own refined path. Even though the songs were on shuffle I would always know exactly when The Roots were on and adored their music and flowing that carried over.

I remember when “Proceed” first came on and Black Thought dished out the line “and I can Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses crash.” I paused as the two band names caught my ear, but I was not fully paying attention to what they were saying and realized I needed to change that. For someone stuck in their own lane for so long, it was at the time I realized their music and lyrics were far more than just quick wins.

Recently, the band released a deluxe 25th anniversary edition of Do You Want More?, the band’s quintessential release in my opinion. Drawn from original recordings and featuring eighteen bonus tracks curated by Questlove, The Roots are back to remind you of their pure excellence and have tossed in some bonus treats.

Why is this a big deal you ask? Well, some of the tracks included on this edition have never been released and there are others that never were previously available digitally.

The 3LP deluxe vinyl edition features five bonus tracks plus a 24-page booklet featuring images taken by Mpozi Tolbert, essays by Questlove and Black Thought as well as track-by-track commentary which all was well-received by this Roots fan. I especially appreciated what Questlove had to say. It was a great read throughout.

The LPs are pressed on black vinyl and are ever so sharp to look at. The trifold gatefold sleeve houses said albums and the booklet, which I wish was hardbound instead of material slightly stronger than the insert paper we are all so used to. Still, it is a great boxset to hold and dig into.

Not good enough? The 4LP edition, which I in time would prefer to have, features all of the aforementioned plus additional eight bonus tracks. Do not worry if you can not swing either LP edition as it will be available digitally and the new content is outstanding and worth your time.

As I have listed to the original album tons of times, I do not really wish to carry on about it more than saying how awesome it sounded on wax. The slight crackles behind each track just kept it more classic for me. The bonus content though is what I was most excited for.

The remixes of “Proceed” were killer. I am not sure which of the three I enjoyed more, but I can tell you they were not carbon-copied. The AJ Shine mix rejuvenated the song while dipping back to the 80s.

The eight bonus tracks on the digital / 4LP release were the true treat of this release. To think The Roots sat on these gems for this long is almost unbelievable.

“In Your Dreams Kid (I’m Every MC)” won me over fully thanks to Black Thought’s masquerading personal influences including ODB, Busta Rhymes, and even Ice Cube. To say this feat was impressive is an understatement.

The original draft of “Swept Away” was better than the original with a raw take that easily could have been recorded from a small club set. I liked how you could hear Black Thought ruminate while spilling out verses to the point of excitement.

I found Do You Want More?!!!??! even a more powerful, poignant listen after taking it in over the past few weeks. These are tunes that certainly have not aged and are as important as ever.

Listening to this album on repeat for the past few months never once went stale. I honestly was reminded on how exceptional and definitive this release was.

As I made mention before, The Roots are not new to the game and chances are anyone who read this knows them one way or another. This celebration of a masterpiece of an album was re-released the right way with the bonus tracks tailored to the fan, both old and new, to cherish equally.

Album Review: Shitty Neighbors – People I Know

Shitty Neighbors is without a doubt one of my favorite band names. Admit it, you smirked when you heard the name the first time.

Luckily they are pretty damn talented too.

I first got into these guys years ago when a few of my pals told me to check out their EP Better Now. To say I was not disappointed back then is an understatement. That EP is still played to this day.

The four-piece hails from Toledo, OH and just released their first LP in 7 years titled People I Know on Little Elephant a few weeks back. If anyone knows about this label you’ll know it’s a big deal that they are pressing albums and not just sessions now.

Sure, it might have taken them a bit longer to drop it with all of the bullshit preventing a “normal” life, but they did things right, took their time, and released easily one of my favorite albums this year.

Album opener “Lost In Google Translation” really had the band just jumping all in. This track hit hard in terms of life alterations for one’s best self-interest. Shitty Neighbors impressed the shit out of me with this one. It was raw, emotional, and ever so personal.

With heavy nods towards a certain Gainesville punk warm liquid band, “The Creation Of Adam” wasn’t very long, but was poignant as all hell. Then there was “Lock #6” that followed. Man, this track was full of some pent up angst.

“Whole Life Policy” actually was released over a year ago when we were all hermits. This was the track that just got me so excited knowing that they were working on a full-length. The song itself was a total banger about coming to terms with demons. I loved the lyric “I’ve got a way with only concerning myself with the shit that don’t matter at all.”

“Barrel Of Monkeys” was another track that just seemingly spoke about my past. In times of trapped iteration around certain routines of self-denying love and despair, the song carried that questioning of change without missing a beat. I appreciated the line “maybe next time i’m around we can figure something else out.”

“Friend Ender” was just brutal, but probably one of my favorite tracks on the release. There’s something to be said about a punk rock track dedicated to a lying ex-whatever. Tracks like this are why I love the bands I surround myself in.

The breakdowns on “Tonight, My Name Is Trouble” was enough for me on this track to love. Upbeat and even precise to a point, this track proved these boys are not just screwing around.

“Her Name Is Marie” closed down the album with a punk rock grand finale of sorts. The band refused to let up on this one with everyone just giving it their all even if it was tugging at some imperfect heart strings.

The one thing about this album that was a bummer is that it didn’t even clock in at 30 minutes, but I will admit, listening to this album was the best half hour spent. Perhaps I am just being an old, greedy punk, but I wasn’t ready for People I Know to come to an end. Luckily I can just listen to it over and over.

If you are a cool kid who likes young Menzingers, Iron Chic, Lawrence Arms, AK3 (before someone got hair implants), Hot Water Music and so on, make sure you check this band out.

I can only hope to see Shitty Neighbors play some small bar or basement here soon in good ol’ Cleveland. Good, good things are going to happen to these dudes. I know it.

Album Review: Joystick! – I Can’t Take It Anymore

I do not even know how to contain my excitement with this one. An 8-piece New Orleans ska-core collective has won me over almost instantly and easily has dropped one of my favorite releases this year.

The band I speak of is Joystick! and the album is called I Can’t Take It Anymore, released on Bad Time Records.

Being someone who fell in love with punk as a teen in the mid-90s, this band spoke to me the moment the first track kicked in. It was like a blend of ska punk bands like Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish met with 90s heroes like Good Riddance and the Descendents. The energy was ridiculous to say the least and nothing let up at all.

I think the thing that beats me up the most is how I’ve missed out on Joystick! for so many years now. In fact, their last album dropped in 2017 so it’s not like these guys came from nowhere. From what I have gathered, the band has matured a lot since then with members overcoming addiction, taking vows, and even having children.

“Retcon” was just a fun, brutal jam. I cannot say I’ve ever heard a song with group vocals and ska-riffs quite like this. The song pumped me up immediately and honestly, that is rare these days for something like that to happen.

“Rinse and Repeat” clearly talks about self-battles of alcoholism and the outcome of it. A personal track that needs to be heard by all to ensure that life can get better with change in time. Hell, this song hit some personal nerves knowing how I used to be and where I stand now.

The upbeat-sounding, yet somber, “Parallelograms” easily could have been taken from a 90s comp handed out at a Warped Tour back when they were meaningful. This wasn’t the first Joystick song I’d heard, but certainly is one of the more memorable ones as it was about the demise of someone who just couldn’t give up that dangerous lifestyle.

“No Sleep After Brooklyn” easily was one of my favorites off the album. I appreciated the more of a jazzy, 2-Tone sound on this one making for a nice song to get into.

Then there was “Semicolon”, a old-timey saloon sounding track that morphed into a barroom jam was actually the introduction to “Past Tense”. I adored this song to no end. It was like a ska musical in a sense.

“Worm Food” got stuck in my head a lot. I find myself whistling the opening to this track often. I loved the tempo change halfway through this one as it make even it more entertaining.

I Can’t Take It Anymore is a powerful album full of tracks essentially admitting to change for good and realizing age is only a number. If I told you I listened to this album weekly, I am lying. I have listed to this daily for a week now. I cannot get enough of it.

Bad Time Records has a hell of an act on their roster. Seriously, I am not sure how a bigger label has not caught wind of these guys yet and snatched them up. This wasn’t something just tossed together, this is personal material that is meaningful and will stick to you for years to come. Trust me on this – unless you hate ska punk and in that case, I feel sorry for you as you are missing out on something special.

Album Review: Kali Masi – [laughs]

I hope I am not the only one who thinks of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when I hear the name Kali Masi.

Yes, I realize the evil bald guy who ripped out the beating heart was Kali Ma, but honestly, I really do share the same excitement as seen above after hearing the band’s highly anticipated sophomore release [laughs].

Hailing from Chicago, Kali Masi impressed the hell out of me with their debut, Wind Instrument. They carried their own style and added personal elements making their songs more wholesome once you really dug into them. Add to that a non-repetitive melodic punk style, the band became an instant favorite of mine.

Featuring 10 new songs, [laughs] is a poetic journey that pokes at the truth, no matter how brutal, and self-realization that carries ability to just forget the troubles around you and get lost in one’s self-worth. From current events to aging and even failing friendships, the album, released on Take This To Heart Records, keeps your mind rolling.

“Still Life” was everything I have been waiting for in new Kali Masi material. This song was a straight up jam that pushed together emo and punk rock. The lyrical visuals at the start of this song were clever and held magnitude. Clearly the track was not in positive interest with somber lines like “I never said I love you, I guess I thought you knew” were sung reiterating confused communication so many of us have been through.

“Paint Me Jade” was like a lesson learned through too many trials and tribulations. In getting old, but not giving up when things don’t go to plan, this track was pretty much a series of reminders how quick and unexpected life really is. The best part about it is how those who really are true to you somehow stick around.

Music | KALI MASI

The darkened “Hurts To Laugh” wasn’t just a track to blow through. There was a ton going on here with personal battles with oneself. Where solitude seems favorable in this one, other challenges say differently. Just wait for the bass line in this one. It fit perfectly.

“Guilt Like A Gun” was an eulogy of sorts, parting ways with a meaningful someone. The spoken word of “it should be a moment of surreal peace and unity if it weren’t for the don’t-snap-at-me bickering and tension” solidified reason for the ending, welcomed or not. The video the band did for this one was very unique and captured the strain involved.

“Long Term” started with the sound of a flash being charged. From there, the tune just jumped in without letting up. I loved this one with the harmonic intermittent singing and guitar playing holding up high some brutal truth.

“Freer” was provoking but beautiful. I adored this track about essentially cutting ties. I found myself partial to the lyric, “stuck myself in a can, like a man” seeing how I used to live that life. This is a track I know in 10 years I am still going to adore.

“Recurring (I)” was good, like really good. This song seemed tougher, more confident over the rest. I loved the change in style throughout where I wasn’t sure which direction they were going. Things went insane with fury, which I got into, but what really sucked me in the most was when the horn playing started. This was like a Refused song in a sense and I appreciated every second of it.

Closing track, “The Stray” hit heavy on 00s Victory Records bands. I am not sure if this is what they were going for, but this song alone could give Taking Back Sunday a run for their money. I was almost sad that this song ended when it did because I wanted more.

This album is straight up outstanding. I wasn’t sure if they could top their debut, but I was so wrong. [laughs} is full of great material that you know the band put everything they had into. They continue to impress and I only see good things with them moving forward. Kali Masi are not a band to sit on.