Review + Q&A: The Swell Fellas- Novaturia EP (2022, self-released)

With a band name like The Swell Fellas you’d expect a barber choir, or an acoustic bluegrass group from a Coen Brothers movie. What you might not expect is the psychedelic riff monster these guys really are. No, bands like this are often called after something involving buffaloes, witches, or crows. As their hazy fuzz waves conjure up images of the old America, wind swept plains, stern mountains, and galloping horses…

On this 33 minute EP/mini album The Swell Fellas have clearly set their gears to “epic”, as they pull off big riff after big riff without breaking a sweat. However somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear that they have been under the spel of All Them Witches, as well as King Buffalo, as they subtly mix their epic riffery with more subdued vocals. Like their bigger brethren they do rock hard, but they never take it over the edge and become larger than life. They keep it real and believable, which is a rare thing in rock ’n roll, and especially in epic riff land.

I do hope they get picked up then, because we can all use some intelligent psych rocking in our lives. And whether they are called The Swell Fellas or King Mountain Witch Crow Buffalo, it really don’t matter to me. As long as the rock rocks, and the roll rolls as much as it does on Novaturia.

Swell Fellas

I was lucky enough to catch these guys in between touring and writing their new album so that they could answer all these questions that popped up in my brain when listening to Novaturia. Drummer Chris Poole was kind enough to answer.

Hey guys! How has Swell Fellas been doing the past period of pandemic weirdness?

We’ve been really good, as good as we can be. Stayed busy writing and doing a lot of skating while the world was locked down. We all live together so it makes it pretty easy to just hang and create on a whim. Seems like things are looking up for the most part as far as covid goes, so we’re excited to put some more miles behind us on the road and crank out more music.

Can you introduce the Weirdo Shrine readers to the band?

For sure, we’re a trio from Ocean City, Maryland interested in creating something unique together that we all enjoy and feel connected too. The band consists of Conner Poole (Guitar/Vox), Mark Rohrer (Bass/Vox), and Chris Poole (Drums/Vox).

How did you meet? And how did you determine your initial sound?

Well, Conner and I (Chris) are brothers so that sums that connection up haha. Mark and I met when we were 11 or 12 on a school bus during a field trip. We shared some headphones and next thing you know we were recording shitty demos in a bedroom on Audacity together. He was and is primarily a guitar player, so getting Mark to play bass naturally turned into basically having a sub-octave riff outlet. Finding our initial sound was tough at first, it took about two years before we really fell into a groove of writing songs that seemed universally agreed upon between the three of us. A lot of which made up our first record “The Big Grand Entrance”. The process of writing that record really opened a lot of doors for us as a collective consciousness, we’re big fans of conceptual records. Albums with a good flow. So feeling out how to intertwine songs and parts seamlessly was integral to our initial sound, and ultimately threw us into a world of writing longer explorative songs in our recent releases. Also, great pedal boards are essential. 

Can you tell me your relationship with All Them Witches? (one of my favorite bands actually…)

One of our favorites too! They rip… hard. We got the opportunity to meet up and record with Ben while he was in the process of mixing our first record. We were on a diy tour that landed in Nashville for a few days in October of 2019 to cut “The Great Play of Extension”. He took us in, we tracked the EP, drank beers, cooked out, and chilled with his cats. It was sick. Later on met the rest of the guys. Really cool humans, a serious inspiration.

In what way did your geographical situation effect your music?

Growing up by the ocean is a beautiful thing. Life feels a bit slower there, it gives you more time to think and opens you to ponder the world a bit. There’s a feeling of being close to that force that’s overwhelming. Definitely have written lyrics about it… and I suppose that headspace could be a bit of where we pull some psychedelic aspects from? I’m not sure, I’ve never really thought about it until now.

What is your general aim when writing a song?

Make it our best and capture a feeling.

Who influenced you most musically and otherwise?

Family, friends, sick riffs

When you play music in the band van, what do you play? And what is an absolute no-go?

Some DO’s to name a few: Knocked Loose, ASG, MF DOOM/CZARFACE, Alice in Chains, The Psychotic Monks, OM, The Black Angels, Fuzz, Meatbodies, Oh SeesPortayal of Guilt, Gangstarr, Queens of the Stone Age, Kikagaku Moyo, King Gizz, The Melvins, Meshuggah, Raekwon, TOOL, Betty Davis, Chamber, Harms Way, Wheeler Walker Jr.

DON’T: Bud light. Dirt roads.

What are your immediate and more distant future plans?

Right now we’re focusing on writing the next record and booking more shows! Releasing our new EP, Novaturia this Friday and just going to keep at it. It’s hard to plan a distant future, so we’ll take the opportunities as they come and see where it leads. We’re excited for it, that’s for sure.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after this interview?

Call your mother.

Swell Fellas

Review + Q&A: Dust Mothers- The Gates Of Horn And Ivory (2022, self-released)

When we say “90s feel”what do we really mean? I for one think of an era where rock bands were still an exciting thing, there was still plenty of mystique and genuine darkness and danger surrounding them. Alternative music was literally something much less available, it was something you had to go out and hunt for, browsing magazines, or digging crates at obscure record stores. When you found something cool and new it was like discovering a pirate’s treasure, and your friends would only hear it through you taping it for them. It was the golden age for music nerds and elitists like me.

So you can imagine my shriek of joy when I discovered Dust Mothers. Not only did they remind me of the 90s musically in more than one way, they also felt like a strange and unexposed exotic gem. Having not been picked up by a record label or any of the bigger music zines I felt like that nerdy kid I was more twenty years ago, and if Dust Mothers hadn’t been on Spotify or Bandcamp, I would definitely have taped them for you so you could hear how awesome they were too.

Dust Mothers starts off with a big whiff of that smelly 90s noisy indie rock in the vein of bands like Barkmarket or a heavier Pavement, but then add weirdness and fun to keep it fresh and exciting. For some odd reason they totally sound Belgian to me too, reminding of the laziness of Balthazar in the vocals, the adventurousness of early dEUS, and the energetic songwritership of Soulwax too. They are not afraid to derail or to discover what lurks around the corners of their designated “sound” and should be applauded for that explorative spirit, even when it sometimes does skid of the rails and leaves you puzzled.

I love the care and creativity they put into their work, the way they created separate art for each of the songs for instance, and they way carefully wrote their songs, filling each of them to the brim with weird and sometimes psychedelic druggy ideas so they that they shoot up in all different kinds of directions like fireworks. It’s a feast for the senses and an incredible ride to take.

I was lucky enough to find Dust Mother willing to -thoroughly- answer all of my questions. They gave me a profound insight into being in this band, and what they are all about…

Hi guys, can you introduce Dust Mothers to the Weirdo Shrine audience? Where do you come from, what do you sound like, your influences, and most importantly: why???

BLAOWW is a pretty apt way to introduce our sound. We’re a noisy, progressive, psych punk outfit out of the lil d of Denton, TX. Roger sings and guitars, Adrian also sings and guitars, Noé fishes bass, and Nathan drums AND records/produces our music. Each of us are chronic fiddlers so we like writing music that not only keeps the listener’s but also our own ears on the edge of their little ear seats. Between all of us we’ve got influences ranging from Ovlov, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and King Gizz, to Viagra Boys, Mars Volta, and Death Grips. I could rattle off bands all day BUT THAT’S NOT WHY WE’RE HERE we’re here for DUST MOTHERS BABY. *ahem* but to cycle back around to your question of “why???” I say: the serotonin rush of hugging our sweaty band of bliss after a good show. Also the million big bucks of promised funding that Spotify has yet to follow up on.

How has the corona period been treating you? What did it mean for the band?

Big oof. We actually debuted the band with our first album about two months before covid hit, so we got about as much as “HEYO WE’RE DU-” before the world and the entire music industry went under.

As with everything, covid did actually help push us into our current lineup. The lack of shows and motivation had us scoop up Noé and Adrian into our Dusty ranks to fill in the gaps, and we subsequently started to write and rehearse this big ol freshly unearthed brisket of a record. Covid might’ve killed the local house show scene, but it gave us time to iron out allll the little kinks we needed to let this album flourish.

Can you tell me about the makings of The Gates Of Horn And Ivory? What makes it stand out from anything you did before?

The Gates is our first jaunt at an album recorded by all four of us, the brightest and most different light between the albums has to be this one’s collaborative effort. Yeah, the lyrics and concepts are from Rog, BUT all the textures, riffs, and the connecting lines and transitions were flushed out over probably 7-8 months of rehearsing. The bombastic energy never could’ve existed without having four best buds all locked in the same room, getting sweaty and heady for 40 hours over 4 days.

This album is a lot more focused on its immersion and storytelling, each song reflecting its inspiring dream symbolically through the structure, themes, and harmonies. Think we really hit the nail on the expressionist head with this one.

I did not see any label, vinyl, or other physical release of the album yet, surely there must be labels that were interested in Dust Mothers? And I for one would love a physical release! Are there plans or things cooking?

If there are any out there that are interested then maybe we could get in touch! But for now we’re just trying to make music that satisfies our itch to express our kookiest thoughts while having fun. If there are any fun labels looking for a good time, hmu 😉

Since The Gates was entirely DIY we only did a little CD run of discs we burned ourselves featuring art from a bunch of our favorite local artists. More physical copies would be pretty got dang cool in the future though!

Can you tell me where the “French” influences on the album come from?

I love that someone finally pointed this out, this was actually just an accidental part of the process. The only real French influence would be on Buttafoot, a song whose inspiration was a nightmare that took place somewhere that felt like Paris. Which, I think is pretty funny, given that the only inclination towards that is the one “mademoiselle” lyric in the chorus.

Jamais Vu came to be because of the phenomenon of its nature. Whereas Deja Vu is experiencing something that you are familiar with, Jamais Vu is being familiar with something you have never experienced before. The song isn’t meant to be French, just about the silly nature of destiny, calling out fate, and all that jazz.

As for Statique, I just like how it looks like that.

What does the album title stand for? And how does the -great looking- artwork relate to it?

The Gates of Horn and Ivory are actually a literary reference coined by Homer, which is used distinguish true dreams from false. Our album as a whole is about the silver lining between dreams and reality, about various dreams and nightmares that I (Rog) have had that felt more real to me than everyday life, and moments in life that feel more surreal than true. 

Because of its ambiguous nature, we thought it’d be cool to have a bunch of local artists depict their own idea of what each song would look like. For the album as a whole, we had the pleasure of working with Sajan Rai (@oh_hai_ku on Instagram) for the cover art, which felt like a no brainer given Sajan’s surrealist style. I gave him the music and the concept, and he churned out a perfect representation of the duality of the album’s themes. Bodied/disembodied faces connected to the one self, the calendar on the wall of the room that’s… outside with all the trees and plants, the literal gates in the person’s core that are connecting them with a part of themselves they can’t see. To this day I can’t stop looking at it, it’s so gorgeous.

Dust Mothers are from Denton, Texas, right? Do you think it’s a good place for a band to start out? I noticed some cool bands from there, among which Midlake, Neon Indian, Parquet Courts…and now Dust Mothers? Is it an inspiring town?

Yes yes, we are indeed! Personally think it’s a fantastic place for bands to start out, Denton’s a big petri dish of burgeoning artists looking for an outlet. With two colleges in the one town, there’s a lot of fresh creative energy in the air. You’re pretty much always a stone’s throw away from a really cool connection too, like Nathan and Noé getting to have worked in the studio with a dude from Bowling For Soup a couple years ago, and Roger having been in the same mariachi the bassist from Snarky Puppy used to be in. Plus, we all share the honor of getting to know Adrian Radons, let alone having him be our lead guitarist.

What is your biggest dream? And what are your immediate future plans?

My biggest dream involved hurtling through space, but as far as the band, probably getting to tour outside the U.S. Getting the opportunity to play in Australia and cry as I breathe the same air as my heroes sounds pretty neat.

Now that we just wrapped up our first tour up to NYC, think our next goal is to throw ourselves back into the sound sauce to see what new spices we can discover. Maybe a hint of psychedelia? Perhaps a dash more of punk? The drawing board is calling our name, a new flavor of jambalaya is beckoning.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview?

Okay so inhale, blink in morse code the letters D-U-S-T-M-O-T-H-E-R-S, cusp your hands to your mouth, exhale, open your hands, watch the baby blue jay fly away, give yourself a second to enjoy the beautiful moment, and then go listen to our new album on full blast.

Review + Q&A: The Ballet Bombs- Mutations 10″ Live EP (2022, Noisolution Records)

The Ballet Bombs from Eindhoven, The Netherlands are one of those bands that are quite hard not to love. That’s because they radiate so much fun and energy when performing, it always rubs off on the audience. So for these young fuzz wolves to release an EP of live recordings as their first physical release makes a lot of sense. It’s purposefully rough around the edges, it squeeks and rattles, and might blow up your speaker if you play it loud enough.

Stylistically the band harks back to 70s garage rock with a psychedelic twist and a little extra fuzz on the side. So basically that stuff you liked from Ty Segall, and Thee Oh Sees; it’s sunny California but seen through the lens of drunken hobos and fuzz addicts. From their band name to the loose way they handle their riffs, it is clear that the Ballet Bombs don’t take themselves too seriously, keeping it hanging freely as they say…

Don’t underestimate them though, because they will wreck your house party, puke in your bed and take your momma for a ride. They live for their rock ’n roll, and with mr. Covid on a leash, there is nothing to hold them back anymore. You better watch your back.

The Ballet Bombs

I had the pleasure of talking to singer/guitarist Rubin van Nistelrooy, who talked me through the pandemic years and their absolute career highlights so far: playing live at Roadburn and signing to German psych/stoner label Noisolution.

Hi Rubin and The Ballet Bombs! How have you guys been the past pandemic years? How have you coped personally and as a band?

I believe the past pandemic years have been hard for many people in many ways. For the band there was a period where everything was so unclear, we couldn’t play shows, we didn’t really see each other (only through a phone screen), we weren’t even allowed to rehearse at one point and time. So that was no fun. But… We tried to make the best of it of course. I (Rubin: guitar/vocals) built a studio with a friend of mine. Here I did all the mixing for our new live EP Mutations.

At this place we now can rehearse as a band, I can work day and night on our music, and we’re planning to record our debut album here… Exciting stuff!! Our drummer got a kid during the pandemic so yeah, he’s a dad now! Which is beautiful to see, we wish him and his family all the love and health in the world. But of course, this was also a major change for the band. Strangely enough Frank had loads of inspiration and wrote a lot of new songs, ideas and created the artwork for our live EP.

How were things for bands in The Netherlands? Were there things you could do that you otherwise would not have been able to?

Things here were okay-ish I guess. I mean it was no fun but that was the case in the whole world. We just had to wait it out…Well, we did do a few cool live streams. We wouldn’t have done those for sure if there was no pandemic. And of course, our live EP. I don’t know if we would have done that. Because during the pandemic we just had so much time, I (Rubin) just spent day and night working on this live EP to finish it. We wanted to release new music so badly… and during all those lockdowns, it seemed to us it was the perfect idea to just bring our liveshow to everyone’s home in the shape of a live EP!!

I saw you played Roadburn! Can you tell me about that experience?

Roadburn was truly AWESOME!! We’ve been waiting for 2 years to play Roadburn, since we were supposed to play Roadburn 2020. So, we want to thank Mr. Roadburn aka Walter Hoeijmakers so so much for keeping us in his mind and making this happen. We love him! It was everything we wanted it to be really. The line-up was awesome, all the people there are so nice, it’s organized so well, and a lot of people showed up at our show which made the gig even more magical!!

Why did you choose this new physical release to be a live album? 

Well… since there was this thing called Covid-19, we didn’t really know what we could do, if we should record/release music or how long all these restrictions would go on. We didn’t have the money to go to the studio because we spent almost all of our money on merch to sell at Roadburn 2020 (which got postponed..) and other shows that also got canceled or postponed haha. But we had a highly energetic live set we loved to play and during the pandemic we did a really cool small tour in The Netherlands with Pendej0 where we got to play these nice venues. So, I (Rubin) just asked those venues if I could get all the tracks of our show. And the Mezz and Doornroosje were so sweet that they gave me the recordings of those shows.

During the lockdowns I built a recording-studio with a friend of mine and just started to work every day on these live tracks. I thought, well since I got the time, I will try my best to just make these recordings into a worthy live EP for the band. At the end of the process, we were so proud of this record that we just had to release it. The record is a perfect capturing of what we are, an energetic, raw live band!

Are your favorite albums also live albums? And what are your favorite

albums 😉

MC5Kick Out the Jams (Live)

MotörheadNo Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith (Live)

Ty Segall – Deforming Lobes (Live)

These are a few of our favorite albums and… they’re also live albums! We just love that live albums are so honest and capture the magic happening on stage. You can really feel the energy between the people on stage.

Which current bands would you love to be touring the world with?

Thee Oh Sees! I think we could really learn a lot from those guys. They’re playing so many and such energetic live shows, touring the world, keep on releasing great albums, and every show is just a massive party! We saw them a couple of times live and man… from the first note they played, there were people flying through the venue haha. That’s awesome. And they have been doing this for such a long time, that really inspires us!

What was your best live experience so far? Can you describe it?

Roadburn. Like we said, we had been living up to that show for two years. And then it finally happened and it was everything we wanted it to be. The show felt like the best dream, that ‘rockstar’ dream we all had when we were young. All of a sudden, you’re on a big stage, loads of excited people headbanging to your songs and just completely letting yourself go. And it felt like that for the whole band, we were all just having the best time of our lives!

What does the band mean to you guys at the moment?

This band is such a big part of our lives, and we love it. We’re very proud of the cool things we get to do as a band. It’s hard work, but when you see the results of that, like: playing Roadburn, holding your self-produced EP, signing with Noisolution…That makes it all worth it, every time!

What are your shared ambitions as musicians? 

All of us just want to have the best time we can have as a band. We live for playing live shows! And at the moment we’re really focusing on making new music and having fun in our new studio. Having fun in doing all of this is most important to us, having fun and making music we love.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Just some shameless self-promotion… Check out our brand-new live EP Mutations! It’s also available on 10-inch vinyl, thanks to our lovely label Noisolution. ❤

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Uhh maybe… Check out our brand-new live EP Mutations! Haha.

Review + Q&A: Yoo Doo Right- A Murmur, Boundless To The East (2022, Mothland)

Yoo Doo Right, a band name inspired by Can, that’s already a good start. Musically the Montreal, Canadian band has a great lot to go on as well, although Can or any other krautrock band of yore would not be the first reference that comes to mind when listening to their album A Murmur, Boundless To The East. What would? Good question…

It is actually quite hard to pinpoint this band. On the songs without vocals they sound like a really good postrock band in the vein of more progressive acts like Mogwai or Mono, but the first and last track of the album with vocals are a different story all together. They feel postpunk, but more proggy, fierce and urgent, with the echo of Talking Heads and Gang Of Four coming from some far away hallway deep down below. A band like the Japanese mathrock outfit Bo Ningen comes to mind as well, if only because they just as hard to put into a decent set of words.

Mostly it is three very skilled musicians doing what they do best, and enjoying their brains out while doing it. They probably don’t spend a minute wondering what “style” or genre they are doing it it in, and neither should you.

I talked to Yoo Doo Right by email, and like through their music, they rather let their instruments do most of the talking. This is what they said;

Hi guys, how is Yoo Doo Right doing? And how have you managed the past few years?
Hi! We’re alright! The past few years weren’t so good, but we kept busy.

Can you introduce the band? That bandname is a CAN reference, right? How come?
It is. Can, like most other German bands back then had a lot of political leanings that we are inspired by.

Can you describe your hometown scene in Montreal? Are there many bands you feel connected with?
Tons of artists. We’re a big family on this island of Montreal.

What can you tell me about the making of A Murmur, Boundless To The East? What was your goal at the start, and how did the process go?

It’s the product of us not being able to play shows for real people and only being able to be tucked away in our studio, making music for ourselves without the pressure of tailoring anything to an audience

Some of your songs are instrumental, others have vocals, when do you decide which song needs what? Is it clear from the get go for instance?

It is not.

What can you tell me about your upcoming tour? Any other future plans?
We did a month in the US, 3 weeks in Europe and we’ve got some more things happening this summer around Canada…after that we’ll sit down and make another record, I reckon

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview?
Take a bath, go for a walk, tell your loved ones that you appreciate them, start a car fire…anything but linger in front of this screen

You Doo Right

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Singing your own words in your own language: Moura- Axexan, espreitan vs. Leda- Marocco Speed

Mankind has sung songs from the moment they could utter words, and probably even before. In folk music and pagan cultures people have always used their mother tongue to tell each other ancient tales of their people. Of course since the introduction of pop music almost a century ago the world has mostly switched to English as a universal language to express ourselves, but of course there are exceptions. Today I’d like to highlight two of them, and focus on why they use the language they use, and what it means for their art. They are Moura from Spain, and Leda from Italy.

Moura, 2022

With Axexan, espreitan (2022, Spinda Records) Moura from Galicia emerges with their second album of adventurous psychedelic and progressive folk rock. Galicia is an autonomous community in the North of Spain, and Moura is proudly raising its flag for awareness and pride in their heritage. The music breathes a certain ancient folklore tradition, through its rhythm, and instrumentation, but also very much through its lyrics. Now, I cannot understand more than basic Spanish, let alone the Galician language Moura sings in, but it is clear that these lyrics are meaningful tales of Moura’s Galician roots, and the music brilliantly helps painting this picture.

More than just a traditional ethno folk group though, Moura has implemented influences from psychedelic 60s and 70s rock, like lush organs and hazy repetitive jams, that give their sound a unique twist. The fact that they have maintained their original language helps them stay absolutely sincere. It might raise the bar for interested people from without the Spanish language sphere, but once you’re in there is a captivating world of colorful depth to explore.

Axexan, espreitan is a wonderful album of psychedelic music in a language different from mine that still speaks to the same heart; the universal love for self-minded and creative music. The English language is faling me in expressing how highly I recommend this album.

Leda- Marocco Speed (2022, Il Piccio Records)

(Leda is not on Bandcamp)

The first time I heard of Italy’s Leda it was the title track of their latest album Marocco Speed. I was deeply impressed by the unique sound, and placed it somewhere between the 90s triphop of Portishead and other amazing slightly psychedelic female fronted metal bands like Dust Moth. The Italian language used in the song gave it a unique twist.

The Italian language fits Leda’s music so well because it has a very Italian feel. It is quite smooth and streamlined like a well known Italian sports car, it accentuates female beauty in the center with its wonderful singer Serena Abrami, and it focuses on a light industrial vibe and style. Furthermore a song like Il Politicante has a certain bombast that feels Italian as well, like it wouldn’t be out of place echoing through a big football stadium.

Not all songs hold a similar amount of magic as the aforementioned title track, but Marocco Speed does hold a certain spell over its listeners that make you bound to it for the entire ride. It is not every day that we can take a holiday in Italy through a new and exciting rock album. Leda makes this day dream a reality.

Leda, 2022

Review + Q&A: Abronia- Map Of Dawn (2022, Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube Records)

A landscape empty of any life, eerie looking ancient tombstones, a stern faced Greek statue, and a view of a planet resembling the Earth lighting up in the sky. Tumbleweeds roll by, a slide guitars slides, drums roll in the distance, and a woman appears on the stage. She resembles The Velvet Underground’s Nico wearing long shamanic drapes. When she starts chanting her pagan hymns, the whole scene changes instantly.

It’s this otherworldly setting in which Abronia paints their sound collages. Part Spaghetti Western, part ancient pagan folk rock, part African desert blues, part smokey jazz unit, part 70s prog rock, but mostly Abronia; impossible to pinpoint, but even harder to ignore. On Map Of Dawn they have carved one of the finest examples of modern psychedelic “rock” music I have heard in a while. Music that needs time to creep on you, fill your lungs, and finally completely cloud your head. Music that matters, music that takes you on a journey and lets you wander inside your mind for a bit, music that shows you weird vistas of other lives with every different song.

Humans have made music for as long as they exist, people like Charles Darwin have wondered why and found no real scientific evidence for the reason, other than that it is a trait humans were born with and through which have always made deep spiritual connections with each other. Abronia somehow took this wisdom and connected all the dots from the very first man, through the past century of modern music back to the very present.

Maps Of Dawn is a beautiful example of that spiritual connection humans can make through music and their minds.

Abronia, pic by Joey Binhammer

I talked to guitarist Eric Crespo about his band and their musical backgrounds. This is what he said:

How have you been these past COVID years? How has the pandemic affected the band and your personal lives?

We’ve all mostly been ok, more or less,   

It did force us to practice outside–you know once it was deemed safe enough to gather outside at a distance we started practicing like that.  It probably did some things we’re not even quite aware of.  The outdoor practices were at a pretty low volume in backyards–Keelin would just sing into the air without a PA.  She claims this was the first time she really sang without any effects on her voice and she thinks it made her a more confident singer.   

Everyone in the band has probably felt some strain at times from the pandemic but most of us have seemed to weather it ok.   

Sometimes I kinda mourn the old world.  Pandemics in general get a big THUMBS DOWN from me.  But it coulda been a lot worse for any of us–that’s for sure.  Things can always be worse of course. 

Can you introduce the band? When did you form? Who contributes what?

Keelin Mayer – Vocals/Tenor Saxophone

Rick Pedrosa – Pedal Steel/Percussion

Shaun Lyvers – Bass

Paul Michael Schaefer – Guitar

Eric Crespo – Guitar/Backing Vocals

Shaver – Big Drum/Melodica/Percussion

We formed at the end of 2014–played our first show in the spring of 2015.  We maybe played that first show a bit prematurely, but it helped make it real.  

How does being from Portland influence your musicianship? Is there a good scene over there?

Oh yeah, pandemic aside, there’s a lot going on here musically.  Whatever kind of scene you want, you can find it here.  There’s a lot of bands here.  

I think the amount of bands here led me to a place where I was conscious about the idea of how to make something that stands apart a bit from the plethora of bands.  Not to throw shade on what anyone else is doing, but it’s just like if somebody has a certain area covered it makes me wanna leave that zone they’re working in to them and I can go find my own zone to dwell in.  Doesn’t mean you can’t be part of a scene or something.

The music on Map Of Dawn sounds quite unique, but I do here a whole array of influences from non Western folk music? Is that correct and can you explain your sound and the way it was influenced?

I’m thinking of being surrounded by and looking at the sort of scripted nature of bands in America rising to prominence…By scripted I mean: they get the right label, they get the right booking agent, the right PR firm, the right manager, the social media is on point–they play the right festivals and everyone who is working for them has a vested interest in making them as famous as possible. Sometimes all that stuff doesn’t reflect on the music and sometimes it does.  

I don’t know, but I think at some point in my early adult years I found solace in getting into music that didn’t seem to adhere to that formula of success–music that seems more pure or something.  I think honestly though that’s tough to say what’s “pure.”  I think sometimes we’re just not aware of what the hierarchy is in those scenes and how they function–wherever people have to earn money in order to survive art becomes mingled with commerce.  If the music is recorded–it’s already a slippery slope.  Sometimes the culture is so foreign that it’s hard to be aware of the ways those musicians are climbing the ladder of success in their own region, because it looks different to me.  But whenever I can hear music that is clearly labored over and seems to exist outside of the familiar realms of commerce, I think it’s just refreshing for me.  Like the old Alam Lomax field recordings or some of the Sublime Frequencies stuff–I think that’s the underlying appeal of that kind of stuff–the perceived purity of intention in that music.  Like it’s only for expression or to touch some other spiritual realm.  Of course we never really know the motivations of the musicians who are making the music and really if it sounds good, does it matter what the motivations are?  I just don’t know.  

I was traveling around SE Asia many years ago and I remember walking down this alley in Vietnam, and I think there was a funeral going on and I heard this otherworldly music coming out of this doorway.  It was incredible.  I couldn’t see the singer or the other musicians but the music was clearly live.  It was so powerful it almost knocked me down.  I didn’t know what instruments they were using and I wanted to know very badly.  I didn’t want to be a creep so I kept walking even though I would’ve gladly stood outside that doorway until they stopped playing.  Moments like that are sort of the pinnacle for me when it comes to listening to music.  I’m curious–I like to explore things I haven’t quite figured out.   

I think in all kinds of complicated circles when it comes to music making and listening.  I will say I have no allegiance to genre, culture, language or whatever else.  I like to remain open to whatever comes into my orbit.  I can tell when something feels right to me.   

If I’m working on music sometimes an idea comes out feeling just right, and sometimes you can feel that the rightness is just over the next ridge and you gotta explore in that realm a bit until you find it.    

If we were a fly on the wall during one of your band practices or writing sessions, what would we see?  

You’d definitely see the wood paneling in Keelin’s basement.  Also six jokers standing around.  Depends on the day if we’re just practicing songs for a band practice or working on new stuff–sometimes both.  Lately we’ve really been trying to hone the live set as we’ll be touring Europe for the first time this summer.  

How did the recording and writing process from Maps of Dawn differ from your previous work?

We only had one song written for Map of Dawn when everything shut down in March 2020.  I think we had a few other little snippets of ideas we’d been working on.  

But yeah we kept coming up with song ideas through all the lockdowns and everything.  It was a pretty different approach.   Where as before we’d stand in the same room and maybe I’d present a new guitar part or something and then we could talk about it and jam on it, now we were sending little recorded ideas back and forth and then we’d all get together on a Zoom call once a week and mostly we’d tell dumb jokes and stuff but we’d also try to talk about the new song ideas.  We called this band practice.   

So I think in summer 2020 it was deemed safe enough to gather in a socially distanced manner outside, so we started practicing in Keelin’s backyard.  Again, also pretty different since we turned way down–Keelin was just singing into the air–no PA or anything.  

We eventually tracked Map of Dawn fairly similarly to the way we tracked the previous two albums–in the same space–though the studio has new owners.  

We had Larry Crane mix it in, I think three days total. He mixed it with analog outboard gear so he did two days by himself and then on the last day we all came in and sat in the studio with him and agreed that when we left that day those would be the final mixes.  And they were.    

What do you consider your most important accomplishment so far, and what would you still like to do?

I’m just kind of amazed that I had this idea for a band and it’s happening pretty much exactly how I hoped it would.  It was my concept but I always wanted it to be very collaborative.  I wanted people in the band to take ownership of it and that’s exactly what has happened.

As far as what we’d still like to do:  It would be cool to go on tour and not lose any money doing it.  There’s six of us so it’s hard.   

What can we expect from Abronia in the near future? 

We got invited to play a very cool seeming festival in Birmingham, UK called Supersonic.   So we’ll be touring around that in Europe from June 30th-July 16th.   

And we made these recordings back in December–went out to a house in Central Oregon and spent a few days recording mostly improv stuff onto a cassette 8 track machine.  

I’ve been compiling and piecing all those recordings together, so maybe we’ll put that out next.  We’ll see.  

What are you going to do after this interview, and what should the Weirdo Shrine reader do?

I’m gonna close my eyes for a little bit.  

The Weirdo Shrine reader should find a hungry person and give them some food to eat. 

Abronia 2022 (pic by Joey Binhammer)

Catch Abronia on tour on these EU dates:

Thu.30.6.22 HR ZAGREB – Club Mochvara
Fri.1.7.22 IT BOLOGNA – Freakout
Sat.2.7.22 –  ??? 
Sun.3.7.22 DE Munich – Neitzsche-Keller
Mon.4.7.22 DE BERLIN -Schockoladen 
Tue.5.7.22 DE KUSEL – Schalander
Wed.6.7.22 FR ROUEN – Le 3 Pieces  
Thu.7.7.22 UK HASTINGS – The Piper
Fri.8.7.22 UK BIRMINGHAM – Supersonic Festival
Sat.9.7.22 UK LONDON – 229 London
Sun.10.7.22 UK MANCHESTER – Retro Manchester
Mon.11.7.22 UK DUMFRIES – The Venue
Tue.12.7.22 UK BRISTOL -The Lanes
Wed.13.7.22 UK BRIGHTON – Hope And The Ruin
Thu.14.7.22  FR PARIS – Olympic Cafe 
Fri.15.7.22 DE SAARBRÜCKEN – The Silo
Sat.16.7.22 DE STUTTGART – Eastfilly Fest

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