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Review + Q&A: Ambassador Hazy- The Door Between (2023, Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube Records)

Basement stoner and lo-fi music maker Sterling DeWeese is back from not going anywhere since his last Ambassador Hazy album The Traveller. On his third album The Door Between he once again explores his inner band, this time really creating an organic, living and breathing structure.

Rather than a human dude playing his instruments, DeWeese has tweaked his guitars and keys in such a way that they form a throbbing, pulsating, alien-like sound-being that is unlike anything you ever heard. It is like the sonic equivalent of when Jeff Goldblum teleported himself into a horrible pink gooey creature in The Fly, only not horrible but wonderful, and something you would actually take home to show your girlfriend.

At times rocking out full fuzz blazing, at other times more weirdly folking about, the album is a varied mixture of ideas and sounds, but with a very distinct Ambassador Hazy signature. It is with much respect and reverence I thought more than once of Eels, and Mark E. is a similar soul perhaps. It is definitely quirky and “out there”, but it also has an undeniable charm that makes you return to it time after time.

The Door Between is another chapter in the strange life of Ambassador Hazy, and it is most definitely not the last. As spectators on the side line we can hope his hazy run will last for a long time, so we can enjoy his quirks for a long time to come.

Another album, another chat! Sterling DeWeese was definitely up for it, so of course so were we! Here’s the Ambassador himself, explaining all of his doings and undoings:

How are you? How have you been since last we spoke?  

I’m very well thank you. I think like everybody it has been nice remeriging from the Covid cocoon and finally going to see a few shows again including Stereolab, Kikagaku Moyo, TBWNIS (very fun to meet them and join in for a few numbers on a recent visit to Ottawa).

What contemporary music have you recently discovered that we should know about?  

If you leaf through the record pile there aren’t too many new records but a few favorites from the last year or two are Rick White – Where It’s Fine,  Witches Broom – s/t,  Primordal Undermind – An Imaginal Abydos, Spiritualized – Everything Was Beautiful, Mouth Painter – Tropicale Moon, Stereolab – Pulse of the Early Brain.

What is the best thing about The Door Between? 

 I think it’s the best thing I’ve put out so far, so for me it’s gratifying to still be creating something relevant and that I’m actually excited about.  I hope other folks find that it strikes a chord with them too.  As always I try and keep the artifice low and the sincerity high.  

Who did the album cover, and what can you tell me about it? It seems a lot gloomier than your last record…

I actually discovered the image via Instagram, it’s by a photographer friend of mine Cary Whitter. I just saw it and loved it, and thought it would make a great cover.  And it’s seemed to fit well with the album title- sort of the mysterious veil between the mundane and spiritual.

What was your aim when composing these songs, and how is it different from last time? 

I think this record is a bit more focused, though consistent with the sort of themes I usually end up singing about, sort of being an outsider, or at least feeling outside of things and the ways one might find connection be that through drugs, music, love. It’s all pretty simple stuff, and as always I’m usually just doing most of the lyric compostion off the cuff, so whatever pops into my head I’ll try it and then just massage it a bit until it sits right with the song.  

Usually I start with the backing track and building it up in layers until there is enought of a frame to hang some lyrics on. I don’t really do narrative stuff so it’s all about the feeling and vibe. The title track, for instance, I started with the title “the door between” which was borrowed from an old detective novel I was reading at the time and then I developed the idea, basically chronicling

 taking mushrooms and opening the doors of perception if you like, so you can see the connectedness between all things while also being very aware of your own solitude.

Can you tell me how you got into contact with your record labels?  

With the first record I did reach out to various labels via email etc but I got no bites, so that’s why that one ended up as a self release. Thanks to my friend Josh Schultz (Lime Eyelid, Traveling Circle) I got that self released record into the hands of some of the “Psych Lovers” (Hi Lovers!) in particular John Westhaver (TBWNIS) who was too kind and said some nice things which caught the eye of Dave Cambridge, head honcho of Cardinal Fuzz and that’s how I ended up working with him on The Traveler and now The Door Between.  And Dave reached out to Feeding Tube who are handling the US release on this new record.  Thanks and three cheers for Dave, Byron and Ted for supporting independent artists.

What are your immediate and long term future plans? 

I think I’ll still be hanging out in the basement taking drugs to make music to take drugs to. No plans to take it on the road or anything though that would be fun it’s probably not in the cards as yet.

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

Dear Reader – mark your calendars and standby for the record release on Jan. 27th.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Review + Q&A: Morrison Graves- Division Rising (2022, Self-released)

It’s the most depressing time of the year. Next week it will be blue Monday, the day the most people in this world feel down and out. It is the perfect setting for Morrison Graves‘ gloomy doom rock. On their debut Division Rising they perfectly channel early dark post punk like Echo and the Bunnymen, modern psychedelic rock like The Black Angels, and early psychedelica like The Doors (what’s in a name?). The album is a concept studio effort challenging the topic of gentrification and the woes of modern capitalism. That may all sound heavy and without any fun, but luckily these guys write some killer songs.

The best example is probably Demolition Man, a subdued rocker that rings a bit like The Black Angels’ Currency but bleaker and with a delightful gothic undertone that would also appeal to fans of Woven Hand or Roadburn darlings Grave Pleasures. Another favorite is the atmospheric A Puppet Dance, with a chorus that will haunt you in your sleep for many nights…

It is quite unbelievable that Morrison Graves was conceived as a studio only project, with no intentions of hitting the stage any time soon because the album is a living, breathing thing. An album that projects images of smokey basement stages and shoegazed dancing by black clad audiences. It is definitely a perfect album for these unjoyous times after the holidays, but I am delighted that they released it so the feeling becomes a shared experience, and one with a perfect soundtrack.

I wrote this Portland, Oregon threesome without any expectations or premeditation. I just liked their music. To my surprise they insisted to all collaborate on the interview, and it became a cool joint effort, shedding some light on all three their perspectives. So without further ado, here’s Gary Jimmerson, Ryan Brown, and Rob Bartleson about their studio project Morrison Graves

How are you? How has the past year(s) been for you as musicians?

Gary: I’m good, thanks for asking. The past couple of years have been rewarding, despite the isolation. I’ve been learning to play guitar (historically I’m a drummer), and focusing on songwriting. I’ve always wanted to release music on vinyl, so I was fortunate enough to rope Rob and Ryan into this project to make that happen. It’s a milestone for me to say the least.

Rob:  Unfortunately, working in music every day does not allow me to do my own creative things as often as I’d like.  Doing Morrison Graves with Gary has been a very welcome break from the day to day, and I’m very proud of how it turned out.

Ryan:  I’m doing really well. Currently, I’m working with a couple of different musicians on an industrial project (on top of working hard with Gary and Rob putting this album together), so this year has been incredibly fruitful musically.  I know that the pandemic period was very hard for many, but for me they were the most productive musical years I have experienced.  I lost my job 3 different times, so I spent all of that time making music holed up in my house.

Can you introduce yourselves?

Gary (multi-instrumentalist): I’m the founder of the project. I’ve been entrenched in the sounds of “psych rock” for the past several years, and decided I needed to make a similarly-themed album. I now live about 90 miles outside of Portland, Oregon, which is home to an incredible music scene, and most of my friends. Inspired by small-town boredom, I started demoing songs in my home, while shamelessly soliciting help to make the songs better. Rob is a close friend of about 20 years now, and is an incredible studio engineer and bass player. I knew right away that he would be an integral part of the project. Ryan is my best friend from high school, and has a powerful voice that I knew would be perfect for these songs. Miraculously, they both agreed to help out.

Rob (bass + engineer): I’ve been the owner of Haywire recording for over 2 decades now and have worked in music my entire life.  I’ve also toured extensively as a bass player, and that is how I met Gary, at a show in Montana in March of 2000.

Ryan (vocals):  I have been involved in music most of my life as well, in many different veins. I recently moved back to Portland after a six year hiatus with the intent of actualizing my dream of being in a band.  The last place that I lived was amazingly beautiful, but the music scene there was lacking in many respects.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Gary: I am a self-taught musician. I started playing drums in middle school, jamming to The Cure and Nirvana. In high school, I played mostly in Dischord-influenced punk bands. In the early 2000s, I played drums in an instrumental post-rock band from Missoula, MT called This is a Process of a Still Life. In the mid-2000s, I played drums/vibes/keys in an electronic influenced indie band from Portland, OR called Small Sails. Those years were all about jumping in a van with your pals and criss-crossing the US. I then took a hiatus from music through most of the 2010s to establish a career as an ER veterinarian. It was really hard to play drums in apartments, and I didn’t really have the mental time/strength to play. But once I graduated from school, it wasn’t long until I was back at it.

Rob:  I started off in 3rd grade as a jazz musician playing alto saxophone.  When I was 16, one of my best friends (David Devery) needed a bass player so I talked my mom into buying me a bass. David & I went on to form Slackjaw, along with Joey Prude & Eric Schopmeyer, who are both guests on the Morrison Graves album.  Slackjaw went on to record 6 albums, and extensively tour the United States, playing over 400 shows.  I also have toured and recorded with the bands The Exhale and Southerly.

Ryan:  I started studying classical piano in the 4th grade, and started singing in choirs in middle school.  My high school choir teacher was one of the most influential people in my life, so I decided to get my undergraduate degree in music education — so I could follow in her footsteps.  That pushed me to continue studying classical piano and classical singing throughout university, and I taught myself to play guitar and bass over those years, too.  Not having any musicians to really work with over the pandemic, I sat down in front of a drum kit for the first time and taught myself some elementary drums, to have something to record and write on top of.  Playing drums feels amazing… even when you suck at it!!  I also spent those isolated years deep diving into production by watching mastering engineers divulge their depth of knowledge in Youtube videos.  It’s amazing how much one can progress by themselves, both in playing and knowledge, by studying online.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

Gary: My life is fucking great right now. I walk our dog for about 1.5hr while listening to music on my headphones. Eventually, I’ll cook up some bad-ass food with a beer in hand, and watch the day fold into night with my wonderful partner. Often we listen to the rain on our Oregon rooftop, or spin a record, as the day comes to a close. There are many dog belly rubs involved! I feel very fortunate to have that roof over my head, warm food on the table, and the bandwidth to have a luxury like music in my life. I work as an ER veterinarian which requires long shifts and a lot of weekends/nights, so most of my creative time is done on days off when my partner is at work. I don’t envy anyone who lives with a drummer/blossoming guitarist! I get a lot of days off, which is rad. Oregon is rad.

Rob:  Although I have my misgivings in life, I’m proud to say that most days in my life I do not have to get up before noon!  I work in rock & roll, so that’s the goal right?  Days off don’t exist for me because there is so much crazy shit going on in my life. At some point, I’d like to work on that and simplify it, but for now that is my reality.

Ryan:  I work as few days a week as I can (as a server), making just enough money to squeeze by so that I can make as much music as I can on my days off.  

What is the best thing about Division Rising?

Gary: I particularly love the subject matter of the album. Division Rising is a concept album about homelessness, gentrification, displacement, and socio-economic gaps. All very timely problems. Even the band and album names are based on this subject matter. Division Street (PDX) keeps going skyward, while class divisions rise. Morrison/Belmont (and other streets) are turning into condo graves. Our cities are on fire.

Rob: I’m going to completely agree with Gary on the subject matter. The album didn’t start out with that as a goal, but I’m glad it went in that direction.  Also as an engineer, I’m very happy with how experimental we were able to be with all of the sounds, especially the drum sounds. Gary: oh my, the Studer tape compression on Bent Beyond the Break is so good!

Ryan:  Finally finishing something. Anything!!  Lol!  My computer is filled with unfinished tracks….tons of them!  AND working with your best friend.  Gary was my closest person in high school, and we’ve worked on music together in many different configurations over the years.  So getting to come back together once again, after a long time away from one another, to create something of this scope was incredibly special.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

Gary: Rob and Ryan will have better responses for you. I live in Corvallis, OR – a small university town with a pretty vacant music scene. Thankfully, there is a small punk collective here, but not much outside that. A few dad bands, some singer-songwriters, cover bands, etc, typical small town stuff. Portland, Oregon speaks for itself.

Rob: Portland, OR.  Where else is there in the US? We have this locked down in Portland.  The average artist’s grip on P-town may be experiencing some hardships, but right now, we’re still doing amazingly well compared to the rest of the US.  The rest of the world?  Well, we can have a different conversation about that.

Ryan:  Like I mentioned before I just moved back to Portland, OR. I moved back specifically for the music scene here. It does not disappoint in that respect. This city is brimming with artistic creativity of all types. It feels raw here. Unhinged.  Feral.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))

Gary: Morrison Graves was started as an avenue to make studio albums with friends, with a focus on sound design and studio techniques. Rob is a wizard at that stuff. Then release it on vinyl! I’ve learned over the last few years that music is an integral fabric of my existence, so it appears that I will always need an outlet.

Rob: I definitely like the sound of complete artistic expression.  Gary has pushed me creatively into an area that was new, and I feel like the result of it was pretty damn cool.

Ryan:  For me, music making is about personal exploration and growth.  Having grown up submerged in classical training, I have such an incredible foundation of technique, which has served me in so many different ways. But it also was my biggest hindrance — in that it’s so structured and formulaic.  The first time I started genuinely loving music was when I started writing my own songs, but I ran into many barriers with it because of all of that training. It really got in the way of having my own voice and expression. That’s what happens when you spend so much time learning the “proper” and “correct” way to do this and that. I have spent much of the past years breaking down those structures to find myself musically.   It’s been incredibly rewarding, and also very challenging, finding myself in it all.  It’s a continual work in progress.

Who are your influences, all time and contemporary? 

Gary: I absolutely love the garage/psych/fuzz rock from the late 60s. Some classic favorites are: The Seeds, The Eyes, Les Problemes, The Litter, The Blues Magoos, Electric Banana (Pretty Things secret project), Syd Barrett, and Billy Nicholls. Some contemporary influences are: Temples, Black Angels, Night Beats, Babe Rainbow, The Mystery Lights, Levitation Room, The Lazy Eyes, Wine Lips, etc. Radiohead and Blonde Redhead are all-time favorites for me. We recently had a vinyl release party where Joey Prude spun some pretty awesome wax. That list is below if you’re interested.

Rob:  Lately I’ve been getting into bands like Black Angels, and Crumb. Always been into old school psych like Syd Barrett & Pink Floyd. Some of my all time favorite bands are The Cure, Blonde Redhead, Afghan Whigs & the Replacements. I’ve always had somewhat of an obsession with Icelandic bands like Kaelan Mikla, Sigur Ros, & Bjork. I’ll also give a shout out to my favorite (and the best) Portland band ever, (as an influence for my distorted bass sounds):  Thirty Ought Six.

Ryan:  I grew up listening to my dad’s records. The Beatles were the first band I fell in love with, along with Led Zeppelin and Cat Stevens.  The Beatles always blew my mind because of the scope of their writing abilities and their exploration and evolution as musicians over the years.  Radiohead was also a band that blew my mind for a very same reason.  I also feel such a pull towards The Beatles and Radiohead because their music is so rich sonically.  One of my favorite composers to play growing up was Debussy – I loved his concept of tone painting where tone was like paint on a canvas that conveyed meaning and emotion through the imagery that it evoked.  Those two bands really excel at that, which is very difficult to do. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Gary: I have about 8 demos started for the second record. Ryan is coming down soon to start messing around with vocal ideas. I have a lot of drum parts to write! Hopefully we can start recording those songs sometime later this year. We are also in discussions about whether or not to try this thing out as a live show. I have no idea what we will settle on for that. I also want to start a garage rock recording project. 

Rob:  We have many requests coming in to make this a live band too, and I’d be up for it, but we’d have to figure out one other person to make it happen of course. 

Ryan:  Be in a rock’n’roll band.  Stay in that band!

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

Gary: Go walk your dog, scratch your cat’s ears, and/or cook someone dinner. And listen to some of those late 60’s songs/bands you are unfamiliar with. Obviously The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin were smashing out worthwhile classics, but that era is deep with incredible music.

Rob:  Let’s all try to do the best we can to help solve the issues brought up by the lyrical material in this album. It won’t be easy, but change is always anything but that.

Ryan:  Pursue your dreams.  Enjoy your life.  Because it seems to pass by quicker and quicker as the time goes on.

Review + Q&A: Thee UFO- Ponderous Fug (2022, Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records

Thee UFO are a band that brings a piece of the fuzzy ultraviolence to your living room. Fifty something years after Stanley Kubrick launched his celluloid masterpiece A Clockwork Orange, this Irish band channels exactly the kind of snotty, botched up psycho punk energy that would have been its perfect soundtrack….

Lending their ears to American examples like Thee Oh Sees (duh!), and 60s garage rock, Thee UFO clearly is not afraid to wander weirder pathways still. Channeling Neu!‘s krautrock sound on album interlude Structure Collapse for instance, or stretching their usual short attention spanned song writing to the impressive seven minutes of underwater noise rocker Transparent Seed.

Album closer Ponderous Fug is another slow burner, with a hair raising impression of The Velvet Underground at their druggiest and most broken. It is a thoughtful and deep ending of an album that started off with loud and raucous banter and violence. A bit like the way Kubrick created different layers into his movie, making A Clockwork Orange such a wild and interesting watch.

I asked the band ten questions, and rebels as they are, they only answered six. The things they did say definitely give us a good idea of who we are dealing with here though…

What is the best thing about Ponderous Fug?

The best thing is the fact that vinyl is out now. We’re officially done with it, we’re moving on. 

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

We live in Dublin, Ireland. The musical environment is good if you plan on making somewhat commercial music or if you’re big on marketing. There is a small psych scene, however we’re not completely married to that genre we’re very much interested in making anything and everything we can. Overall we’re not involved in the Irish music scene, we fall into every other subset. 

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the everyday world? (or something else ;))

We want to create, that’s the most important thing about doing this, just being able to create. Artistic expression will never be eased, we have material ready for at least the next 10 years.  It’s really easy to find yourself lost in a song, an instrument or a piece of equipment, that is a really fulfilling, comfortable, calming thing, to be so interested in something as simple as two notes and getting completely lost in that for hours. 

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

It can be quite similar to getting lost in something for a while and building a song out of two notes, however songs do often come about generically. We do tend to jam on some songs that maybe aren’t of interest initially; eventually by trial and error we make songs worth recording. Other times we record, then cut up and combine songs. 

What is “the dream” when it comes to being an artist?

To create as much as possible. 

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

Listen to some music, read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk, tell someone you love them. Live. 

Review + Q&A: Shirley and the Pyramids- Maid Of Time (2022, Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records)

I dabble in hazy music, I must admit that I like to get disoriented and perhaps even inebriated by music. When the music is the drug, I feel like it is a safe thing to get hooked on. Some music can be mind altering and trippy, other music is more of a downer or upper to the listener’s head. Shirley And The Pyramids definitely falls in the “downer” category; slow paced, purple hazed smoke trickling up…Their brand of fuzzed up shoegaze takes you by the lapels and sits you down in a very, very comfortable chair that starts to eat you when you sink down into it. Blissfully, a sloth-like smile on your face, you fall away into nothingness.

Heavily influenced by shoegazers’ greats Jesus And The Marychain, Ride, and Swervedriver, these Canadians take that typical unhasty 90s feel and run with it. With two vocalists that interchange an almost goth-era Nick Cave like baritone, and a more 60s Liverpool psychedelia tenor, Shirley and the Pyramids finds a nice balance between darkness and light. The darker side makes the record more interesting and ups the playability, while the lighter side keeps you far away from a dreaded bad trip.

Maid of Time was supposed to be a double album, but I find the trip lasts just long enough right now at its 42 minute mark. Like pretty much everything on this record, it is well balanced and thought through. Music addict “heads” like me can safely enjoy it when it’s packed as neatly dosed as this…

I talked to main songwriter, singer, guitarist and lyricist Aron Zacharias about his band, their passions, and the future. Once again, life seems pretty ok for musicians in Canada…

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Shirley and the Pyramids??
We’re doing pretty good, excited for our new album to finally come out and play some shows again! The pandemic has had its ups and downs, as I’m sure many people out there can relate to. At first it was honestly kind of nice. Most of us live together and we just did a bunch of puzzles and watched dumb movies, made soup, that kind of thing…Then we got evicted from our house in the spring of 2020 and had to relocate ourselves and all of our gear, which was a huge hassle. To make matters worse, our old bass player left the band around that time, and I was also going through a breakup with my, at the time, long-term partner. It got pretty depressing for a while. We got through it though and eventually managed to find a new place to live that had enough space for everyone and all our gear. We found a new bass player. We managed to finish the album. Things are looking up now!

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?
Dave (guitar) is one of my oldest friends and I’ve been in many different bands with him since we were teenagers. We’re old now.

I met Duncan (keys/synths) through an old roommate of mine who was going to the same audio engineering course as him. We found out pretty quickly that our taste and philosophy towards music and art was pretty aligned. Duncan recorded my old band’s debut EP and then later joined that band. I asked him to join us when I started Shirley & The Pyramids.

Matthew (drums) has been playing with us for the majority of the band’s tenure.
Dave originally drummed for us, but he is a very good guitar player, so we figured we’d see if we could find someone else to drum. I’d seen Matthew drumming with a few different groups in town and talked to him a few times, thought he seemed cool. I asked him if he’d be down to play with us and he was.

Finally, Peter (bass) is the newest member of the band, having been playing with us for the last year or so. I’ve known Peter for a long time through the experimental music scene in Saskatoon, and through his old (and fantastic) band Caves. He also makes cool videos!

I’m Aron. I started the band and write most of the songs, play whatever instruments need playing, record whatever needs recording. I sing and play guitar live.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?
My background is mostly in electronic and experimental music, as is Peter’s.
I also spent a large portion of my 20s studying blues and American folk music, traveling around Canada and Europe playing banjo badly. I have released a lot of music and played in a lot of groups over the years.

Peter makes experimental ambient music under the name Open Window and, for many years, fronted a very good indie band called Caves.

Dave is a very, very good musician that knows a lot about country music and old rock n roll.
I have to work to play music well, but it seems effortless to him. Dave was a producer for a big radio station once upon a time. He plays in another band that may or not actually be a cult.

Duncan is an avid music lover and listener of every genre. His background is in event planning and audio engineering. He co-founded and helps run the local label, Grey Records.

Matthew is kind of a mystery to me because I’ve only really known him for a few years. I do know that he’s a great drummer that’s played (and continues to play) with many bands. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of 60s pop and garage rock. He’s probably the best driver in the band (I am the worst).

What does a regular day in your life look like?
I can only speak for myself, but usually I get up around 9 or 10 and spend an hour or two reading the news and checking emails. Then I’ll make lunch and get to work, which mostly consists of whatever music shit, band admin work, etc. I don’t have a regular day job so I make extra money recording local rappers and singer-songwriters, as well as doing mixing and mastering work. I’ll usually call it a day anywhere from 8-11pm and unwind a bit before bed.

What is the best thing about Maid Of Time?
That it’s finally done! Just kidding.. kind of 🙂 Seriously though, I really like playing these songs live and can’t wait to show them to more people. Usually it’s a bit awkward trying to figure out how to play our songs live (in the past I wrote and recorded all the parts by myself, piling on synths and weird shakers and shit onto songs) but these ones were written with the band arrangement in mind. It’s the first album we’ve made in collaboration with each other. It’s more “live” than our other albums. I also like that we recorded a whole bunch of songs for this album, like 20. It’s nice to be able to pick and choose what to use. I’m glad we were able to make a somewhat cohesive album after everything! Those other songs will be released at some point too. Maid of Time was originally supposed to be a double-album, but the logistics and price were too prohibitive and scary. Stay Tuned!

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?
We are from Saskatoon, which is a mid-sized city in the Canadian prairies. Like any city, there are cliques and certain groups that hang together, but Saskatoon is cool because it’s so small (~250,000 people) that most everyone still supports each other, plays shows with each other. There’s a surprisingly supportive scene here, not always, but for the most part. There are some cool festivals throughout the year, summer is nice. Winter is a good time to hide away and make art because it’s so damn cold. Everything was a bit slow after things opened up again, but shows seem to be picking up again.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))
I don’t know. Some kind of peace of mind in this fucked up world? I really don’t like to think about it too much because it’s not really a question or choice as much as it’s a compulsion. It can and has been unhealthy at times. I’ve never done anything else other than music, I don’t know anything else. In the end, I just hope I can support myself through art and music, maybe travel a bit you know, see some more of the world… In a less personal sense, I just hope people are into what we’re doing. Maybe we can make someone’s day better with music, that’s good shit.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?
Traditionally, I would write and record everything by myself but I’ve been trying to get away from that with our last couple releases. Starting with our 2019 EP, A New American Classic, the other members started writing and playing their own parts on recordings. On Maid of Time, about half of it is recorded live and about half of it is overdubs. Dave and Duncan even wrote a few songs for the sessions.

What is “the dream” when it comes to being an artist
Being able to live off of doing what I love, being able to support my family from making art.  Meeting like-minded people, feeling like we’re not alone in this world.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Grab a drink and check out the new music video for our song Infinity Blues!
It’s the first single from our upcoming album Maid of Time, it’s on YouTube.

Review + Q&A: Gloin- We Found This (2022, Mothland)

I swear, these amazing Toronto, Canadian bands are randomly crossing my path, I am not even seeking them out! Yet after Comet Control, Lammping, UWUW, and C. Ross, Gloin is another crystal clear piece of evidence that there is something in the water around those parts…

Mothland label mates Yoo Doo Right already reached the Weirdo Shrine editorial desks, and Gloin are equally self-minded and weird, a little wilder even still! On their album We Found This they find themselves mixing up fiercely angular noise rock, hip shaking post punk dread, and plenty of random noises into a steaming and modern sounding cocktail that somehow tastes fresh. Fans of The Horrors, The Cramps, Hey Colossus, and Liars do take note!

The vocals are shapeshifting between male and female, while the music is equally ambiguous: is this anger and frustration? Is this gloomy dread? Is this post apocalyptic disco? The fact that Gloin does not make up their minds make them such an intriguing listen, and We Found This into an album that you will have to spin a whole bunch of times before you completely “get” it. Or do you?

So of course there are some important questions to be asked and answered. I am a lucky person to find myself being able to reach out to all these wonderful artists and that people like Gloin are kind enough to answer…

Hi Gloin! How are you doing these days? 

We’re great. We just released our latest album, We Found This. Through the label Mothland. We’re answering these questions while on the road to support it. We recorded it in 2019 but due to delays with Covid, we had to wait a long time to release it. 

Can you please introduce the band; where are you from, how did you meet? 

Gloin is; John, Richard, Simon, Vic. 

Simon Richard and John had been working on various musical projects together and apart in Toronto for a few years. Richard and John knew each other from high school, while Vic knew John’s partner from high school. When Vic moved back to Toronto after living abroad for a few years, she was looking for a new project. 

What are your musical backgrounds?

John has been a lyricist and self-taught guitarist since he was 19.

Richard has been playing guitar since he was in middle school and started up playing synth for this project.

Vic first picked up the guitar at age 11 and always dabbled in bass playing but started taking it seriously for Gloin.

Simon has been drumming for 15 years.

Where do you live, and how would you say that influences your sound?

The aggression and frustration in our music is heavily influenced by the diminishing art culture in Toronto. In a lot of ways, it’s an extremely difficult city to thrive in yet that is also what feeds a driving force within us and I think that is evident in our music. We are surrounded by competition urgency and impatience.

What does a typical day in your lives look like?

We all work full-time in various trades and try to balance work, art, and personal lives in a way where we are not half assing’ anything.

What can you tell me about the writing and recording process of We Found This?

One person comes in with a riff that they have worked on and loved. They present it to the band and from there we might destroy it or reinvent it but either way we usually have a “no bad ideas” attitude. When we’re stumped we sometimes try to think of the most chaotic direction a song could go and do that and honestly it’s usually pretty sick or at least inspiring. John writes all the lyrics. When we bring a song into the studio it can come out a bit different because we are also open to creative ideas from our recording engineer Dylan Frankland. 

How do your lyrics usually come into being?

Lyrics are written sporadically. Some songs are more thought out than others, but all lyrics lean towards shared frustrations at that point in time. The frustrations for this record range from struggles financially, work life, toxic masculinity and religion, but are really based around any personal or shared struggles at that point in time. Lyrics are written far in advance of the instrumentals, during or in the studio when it comes time to sing. The strategy for vocals is always changing.

Can you tell me what music’s on the daily band playlist?

Vic: Any energetic pop music, catchy punk music, or extremely emotional ambient music and of course a good gay beat.

John: Warmduscher, Gilla band, Full of Hell, Portal, Dry Cleaning, Cola, and Viagra Boys.

Rich: CCR, Jim Croce, Gillian Weltch, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Lou Reed.

Simon: Anything funky, groovy, scary, noisy. A lot of BADBDNOTGOOD, N8Noface and Full of Hell lately.

What is “the dream” for your band? And what are your immediate future plans?

To play music full-time. 

Immediate plans are to just keep givin’er.

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

Channel your rage, listen to our record, and let it out.

Review+ Q&A: Holy Springs- E.A.T. (2022, Up In Her Room Records)

Holy Springs must have gotten hold of a time machine somehow. I don’t see how else they picked up that perfect 90s dream tone of bands like My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, and Spacemen 3. Yet upon their return to the present they added even more fuzzy wool to the mix, making E.A.T. into a mega hazy experience that will make you feel like the walls are made out of cotton candy and your chair has come alive to swallow you whole…

The voices whisper sweet and nasty things in your ear while the songs leech their way into your subconscious. Get ready to hum along to Surprise, Believe It, and I Want You, whether you like it or not. Sure, you know this sound, you know the good old shoegaze adagium, but this performance is so spot on, so damn well executed that if you had any apprehension meeting yet another ‘gaze band you will let it go immediately after that guitar hits your cranium.

You will swallow those horse size pills and that chair will swallow you, and you will like it that way. Holy Springs will EAT you, and you will savor every bite.

So let’s meet the band! Here’s Neil Atkinson Jr, Maria Bellucci, and Suzanne Sims introducing themselves and explaining how E.A.T. got so freaking awesome…

Hi Holy Springs! How are you doing these days?

Neil: We’re good thanks. Excited about the album being out and playing live. Also relieved it has had a positive response!

Can you please introduce the band; where are you from, how did you meet?

Neil: I’m the guitarist and somewhat singer! Maria plays bass and keyboards and Suzanne plays drums. I was born in Hampshire but have moved around quite a bit. I’ve known Suzanne for a long time playing music and going to see bands. Me and Maria met in Italy at a music festival (Beaches Brew).

Maria: I’m from South Italy. 

Suzanne: Neil and I have been playing music together about ten years or so. 

What are your musical backgrounds?

Neil: I started playing guitar in my late teens. I grew up listening to punk and garage bands as well as the classic rock bands. Then as I grew up I discovered bands like the Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Spacemen 3 etc and they really influenced how I play guitar and write music now. 

Maria: I used to play the keyboard when I was a child. I’ve only recently started playing the bass (a few years ago).

Suzanne: Bit of a late starter, I didn’t begin playing the drums until my mid/late 20s. I play in Dead Rabbits and have been in a couple of friends’ musical projects. Before drumming, I played clarinet at school and guitar at college. It’s better for everyone that I don’t sing.

Where do you live, and how would you say that influences your sound?

Neil: Me and Maria live in South London. It’s hard to say if it influences the music. I think a band’s sound usually comes from their musical tastes. 

Suzanne: I live in Southampton. I don’t think the location influences my sound, but there’s a really good community of musicians, all various styles, and it’s nice to hang out and support each other.

What does a typical day in your lives look like?

Neil: We all have day jobs. I work from home mostly and a typical day is sitting in front of a laptop. 

Maria: I’m an NHS nurse so my day can be quite hectic! I try to relax with yoga and some sports.

Suzanne: Oversleep, intense workout session, arrive slightly late to my office job, work overtime, drink too many beers, doomscroll, repeat.

What can you tell me about the writing and recording process of E.A.T.?

Neil: We made demos for most of the songs on an old multi track. We start with recording some guitars then add a bassline. After that the hard part is lyric writing and finding some kind of melody or hook. When the demo is nearly done me and Maria will work on it at home before taking it to the rehearsal room with Suze. We recorded E.A.T over 2 weekends at Press Play Studio and Hackney Road Studios in London. I enjoy the studio and that whole process. Working with James Aparicio was great. It’s cool hearing the songs gradually build through loudspeakers. Those 3 instrumental tracks on the album were recorded at home afterwards feeding a synth through my guitar pedals. That was fun to do.

Maria: We also love hanging out in between takes and going for a drink at the end of the sessions.

Suzanne: I usually panic as soon as the click track starts and that red light goes on. There’s a lot of sitting around waiting when you’re in a band, but it’s worth it to capture a track.

How do your lyrics usually come into being?

Neil: They’re usually the last thing I do. I try to find a melody and will usually mumble nonsense into a mic until the right words come. Sometimes lyrics can form while playing a guitar unplugged and watching TV. I remember watching quite a lot of Abel Ferrara films and reading David Foster Wallace at the time. Maybe that seeped in?! Who knows. 

Can you tell me what music’s on the daily band playlist?

Neil: I’m currently listening to Hotline TNT, Toner, Bloody Head, Spiritualized, Bowery Electric. 

Maria: Minami Deutsch, Horsegirl, Tamaryn, WEED, Mo Dotti, The Gories.

Suzanne: Kikagaku Moyo, Tess Parks, Beach House, Genn, looking forward to checking out the new Goat when I can.

What is “the dream” for your band? And what are your immediate future plans?

Neil: I guess the dream is to record more albums and play shows in as many places as we can.

Maria: Have fun playing and hanging out together.

Suzanne: I prefer playing live to recording, so as long as I get to travel about meeting people, exploring places and making a racket I’m quite happy.

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

Neil: Start a band!

Maria: If you haven’t already heard our album please check it out!

Suzanne: maybe re-read and look for secret messages, I mean there aren’t any but you can put off everyday life for at least 10 mins.

Review + Q&A: Cymbaline- Computerleven (2022, Self-released)

It is a Metropolis-like city. Dark, black and white images flicker on our collective retinas. The atmosphere is caustic, and what city sounds are still heard in this pitch black night darkness are melancholic in nature. In a shadow hidden corner of a tall business building there are two humanoid robots getting high on some defected power cable. They reflect on their “lives” and feel dreadful. This is Computerleven.

Cymbaline paints the sonic picture for this gloomy vision of future doom. With musical references ranging from New Order to Kraftwerk to Neu! and Bauhaus, they have built an arching road between krautrock and post punk, also combining their own history of psychedelia with their current more darker personas. The Dutch duo does this in plastering style, smearing layer upon layer, until their sound is very thick and heavy with synths and keys and electronic beats. While the nature of the songs is pretty dark, this sound wall feels warm, and it radiates in fact a rather comfortable glow.

It does not outstay its welcome either, clocking in under 30 minutes. Perhaps it fits the band’s statement of a fast forward future that is coming rather too soon, and far quicker that we can anticipate. For now, Cymbaline has arrived in our present with Computerleven, and unlike their automaton protagonists, their current state of being is just fine. This album is proof of that, and something that might survive even into the bleak outer limits of our mortal existence.

I managed to track Thom and Jeroen Rondeel, the two human beings in Cymbaline, down for a thorough investigation; I found out much about their devious plans for the future, their influences, and their methods...

Hi guys! How is Cymbaline doing these days? How has the band “survived” the pandemic

We’re doing pretty well! We’ve just started our fall tour, promoting the new album, and the
reactions have been great so far. During the pandemic we’ve kept ourselves busy by writing and recording our album. Because of the restrictions and the evening curfew it was a lotmore difficult to come together and play, so a lot of writing/recording was done apart from each other. We actually had quite some fun trying out new stuff, such as experimenting with cassette tape loops and crappy tape machines. Some of that is on the record as well! During that time we also realized that we wanted to head into a different musical direction and decided to continue as a duo, instead of a four-piece. During our current live shows, however, we’re helped out by Moreno Hogervorst on bass guitar. He’s mixed our album and we also recorded the guitar parts for the album with him and some extra synths/percussion.

Can you please introduce the band? Whereabouts, where you live, history, anything you’d
like to share really 😉

We’re two brothers, Jeroen and Thom, making new wave/post-punk music. We’re really into
bands such as Kraftwerk, Grauzone, Vox Low etc., but we actually started out as a psychedelic Sixties band around 2015 in Nijmegen. Back then there were still five members. At one point the band even had six members. That was when we were really into The Brian Jonestown Massacre haha! Now we’re based in Utrecht and it’s just the two of us (and a live bass player).

What are your musical backgrounds? 
Jeroen and I both started playing guitar around the age of 11 and have been playing together for a large part of our life. Jeroen started playing piano about 10 years ago and has moved towards playing keys more and more since then. Jeroen has had some classical piano training and Thom has been into jazz guitar for a while, both of which are reflected in a very subtle way in the songs on the album (f.i. the guitar solo on Falling in Love).

Has your stylistic direction always been clear to you as a band? How did/do you determine
your “sound”?

No definitely not, it took us quite a long time to get to the point where we are now. We started out as a psychedelic Sixties-influenced band around 2015 and, kind of chronologically, moved more towards early-seventies punk and now late-seventies/early-eighties new wave. We even used to do Beatles and Patti Smith covers during our live shows! I think we started to listen to a lot more new wave the past couple of years and also a lot more early electronic music. We realized we wanted to include more of that in our sound and started buying gear that could help us out with that. Jeroen buying an Odyssey synth and a Siel Orchestra has been very important for developing our current sound, but we also got more into drum computers. There’s an old Maestro drum computer on a couple of tracks, but we also used an Eko rhythm box and a 808. Those together with a couple of synths really make for the dark, retro sound on our album.

Can you tell me about being a band in The Netherlands? What are some of the pros and
cons? (and have you played outside the country and can you compare it?)

I think the pros are that The Netherlands are pretty small and, especially when you live in de
Randstad, it’s easy to play in a lot of different cities. At the same time it’s also not really easy to find a way in (especially in Amsterdam) and not every city has venues suited for bands that fall between the pub-circuit and club-circuit. And then there’s the Dutch disease.. we played in Belgium, France and Germany and the audiences we played to were so much more attentive. Of course, we had some really fun shows in The Netherlands, but our favorite live experiences are still the ones in France and Germany.

What made you decide to dub your new album Computerleven, what is the story behind it,
and a question that sticks in my mind: why in Dutch-since (most of) the lyrics are in English?

The title track Computerleven is about a person who is so absorbed by the digital world that he turns himself into computer data. For us it is a kind of Kafkaesque metaphor for current social media behavior. Seen as the theme returns in several songs, it seemed an appropriate album title to us. The funny thing is Computerleven is the first song where we sing partly in Dutch, it just sounded better than English. But we’ve always written our lyrics in English, I don’t know why. I guess we’ve always listened to a lot of international bands who sing in English. However, you have a lot of cool bands nowadays that sing in Dutch like Spinvis and De Ambassade. Who knows, Computerleven might be the start of something new…

What can you tell me about the artwork, I like it! Very artsy, dark, fits the vibe!
The artwork was made by Utrecht-based graphic designer Jorgen Koolwijk and is a collage of images he found in a thrift shop. It’s actually the parliament building in Brasil, which is a
funny coincidence seen as Jeroen lived in Rio de Janeiro for the larger part of this year.
Jorgen has also designed our previous artwork and he really knows how to fit the vibe of the music in imagery.

Tell me about your hopes and dreams for the band…
Our hope is that, now we released our first album, we can play more live shows during the
coming year. We’d really love to tour in Germany and Eastern Europe and play some festival
shows next summer. Also our plan is to record a new EP or album somewhere next year and
develop our sound even more. We’re both lucky to have steady jobs, but it would be great to
tour and record music on a more regular base.

What are your immediate touring plans?
We’re playing shows in October and November. A couple of them are support slots for the
Dutch band Smudged and the American band The Vacant Lots, which we’re really excited
about. Here’s the list of shows:

21/10 Toekomstmuziek AMSTERDAM
22/10 Onderbroek NIJMEGEN
28/10 ‘t Oude Pothuys UTRECHT
11/11 V11 ROTTERDAM (support show Smudged)
16/11 Muziekgieterij MAASTRICHT (support show The Vacant Lots)
18/11 Ojc Jonosh HEUSDEN
19/11 Pier15 BREDA (support show Smudged)
30/11 Patronaat HAARLEM (support show The Vacant Lots)

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after this interview? 
They probably should go to YouTube and look up the music video of Computerleven. It was made by Glitterjunk (Sam Cuppen) and fits the music perfectly. Also, if they haven’t already,
they should watch B-movie: Lust and Sound in West-Berlin. It’s an amazing movie about life
in West-Berlin during the eighties and we used to reference to this movie all the time when
trying to figure out the vibe that the album should have.

The Black Angels- Wilderness Of Mirrors (2022, Partisan Records)

The Black Angels return once again with a strong new display of their mesmerizing psychedelic power. The Wilderness Of Mirrors is the follow up of 2017’s Death Song, a direct nod to their personal heroes The Velvet Underground and a pretty dark and aggressive album for them. Now, five years later and a period of lots of inactiveness and being in lockdown behind them they sound more melancholic, more subdued, and at times downright distressed with the state of the world.

The album lifts off with heavy fuzz thrusters in Without A Trace, a sturdy, sun glasses wearing leather jacket rocker that these Texans are so damn good at. From the get go it is clear that The Black Angels are here to convey a message in the strongest way they possibly can. A big stylistic change would only divert from that message, and so they focus on their main strength: writing killer psychedelic rock songs that pay hommage to the 60s psych icons (Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors), while maintaining a firm footing in the now with killer hooks and production value.

And so they bring out their specter of doom and show us the Empires Falling:

Empires Falling, It’s history on repeat//Our nation’s bleeding, from street to bloody street…

All in a chorus so catchy you will sing along while dancing your feet bloody like there is no tomorrow. Which there won’t be, if we take the message of The Black Angels to heart. One we go then, with El Jardin, a song about the earth burning pleading with our current generation;

Oh leave a garden for our kids to play

Yet even when they let go of the weight of the world The Black Angels sound devastatingly heavy, take a love song like the mesmerizing Firefly, which features a breathtaking cinematic duet with drummer Stephanie Bailey. Or The River, which stylishly name checks Syd Barret, Roky Erickson, and Arthur Lee. Again proving that these guys know their history, and more importantly; that they know themselves.

For all its eloquence and beauty, it is desperation that wins the mood most of the time on The Wilderness Of Mirrors, on the title track Alex Maas seems to channel his inner Dark Star-era David Bowie, with a similar terminal urgency. Album closer Suffocation does not need to be explained either. The paradox of The Black Angels is that sound strong and invigorated in all of their sincere desperation. Of course there is no art without suffering, but it seems even more true for this artist and for this album at this time. And it is not their suffering alone, we also suffered this pandemic, we also see the looming specter of climate change and a capitalist world running towards an inevitable halt. The Wilderness Of Mirrors feels like a premature eulogy for that world, the madness and despair of a civilization in decline.

It makes for brilliant music though.

Review + Q&A: Harvey Rushmore & The Octopus- Freedomspacecake (2022 Taxi Gauche Records)

For a psych head, Switzerland’s Harvey Rushmore & The Octopus are a big box of chocolates. From the elusive band name, to the weird fishes artwork, right up to the music in which they effortlessly reference every cool band you have been listening to for the past five years. And they write songs! With jiggly earworm chorusses that will enter your hearing organ and never leave.

Opener Plastiq channels The Black Angels doing their best King Gizzard impression, while Speedmaster brings that eerie weirdo surf vibe that washes salt water over your head the way The Horrors could in their early days, but with a super stoned subdued Wooden Shjips motorik beat. It’s only an impression of what this band has in store for your head, because even when a trained psych ear can trace these tunes back to their roots without too much trouble, that never bothers as these psycho chocolates all contain a nice and balanced mixtures of delicious substances and in that way stay fresh and crispy every time you spin them.

The songs mostly range around the four/five minute mark, never overstaying their welcome and all displaying an experienced songwriting skill, except maybe title track and album closer Freedomspacecake, which is a kaleidoscopic stoned mountain climber of almost nine minutes that sees Harvey Rushmore & The Octopus letting go, surrendering to the beat the way Can could, and creating their own genuine Godzilla…

So I guess we have found another good reason to visit Switzerland. Next time you enter that beautiful Alp country add some Swiss chocolate to your space cake, find this band playing some smoke filled liquid light den, and fill your lungs with total psych indulgement.

I talked to singer/guitarist Massimo Tondini, who I already met some time ago when our bands played together in a rather terribly organized gig in the belly of Germany. This time we conversed over more joyous circumstances: a new album, and the apparent end of the pandemic, which allows his touring machine Harvey Rushmore & The Octopus to finally do what they do best once again: to blow minds on a live stage.

Hi guys! How have you been the past pandemic period?

It was not an easy time. We missed definitely going on Tour and having shows. It was quite depressing sometimes. But it also gave space to use the additional time to go to the studio and work on some new material. In the end we have been lucky, that the album release was not planned during the lockdown period.

Can you introduce the band to the Weirdo Shrine audience?

Of course, we are Harvey Rushmore & the Octopus and we play a mixture of psychedelic, garage and kraut rock. We like that certain atmosphere and a live experience – dark and crowded concert rooms, loud repetitive music with a psychedelic approach and lot of fuzz guitars. We use visuals, drum machines and lots of synths, samples and effects and we love reverb on guitars.

Can you tell me about the new album? What is the best thing about it do you think?

I think the new album is a step further in our musical development and the result of many shows and lots of playing together. We improved musically, in terms of song structure and sound design, but it also offers a variety of songs with different moods that go well together.

In what ways did you approach the writing and recording differently than previously?

The guitar parts are more mature and precise than in the previous albums. We also did a lot of jamming and recorded mostly everything, that lead later to those songs we have here. The whole album was also self-recorded at our own studio in Basel, which gave us more space and time to figure out specific things without having to much pressure.

What is the biggest force that drives the band? Why do you do it?

We really love to play in front of an audience and going on tour, with everything thats involved in it. I think HRO is not so much a “studio” band. I think our qualities stay within our performances and that is certainly our biggest motivation. 

Just doing music together is probably the easiest way to describe our motivation – with all the involved ups and downs. It’s maybe just that.

Can you tell me about your home town? In what way did/does it influence your sound?

Hmm, yes we are all living in different cities, so it makes it difficult to answer the question. I guess we are more influenced by the music we like and listen to or weird movies and art in general. I’m not so much aware about the influences of our hometowns. Maybe more in terms of an anti-posture. The core values of our hometown or country in general are heavily performance or economically oriented. They’re all doing their thing, trying to distinguish themselves. Of course you cannot say that in general and its much more complex, however with our band or the approach to a kind of music that is outside the mainstream, we find a way to get away of that. It gives us a certain satisfaction and a kind of bond to stick together. The madness of current political, environmental and social issues is something that has a big influence on our sound and the lyrics.

Choose: touring with The Black Angels or King Gizzard? (and why)

I think The Black Angels: it was one of the bands that opened a new world for me, when I was starting to get into music more seriously. I like their albums more and the sound has a deeper effect on me then King Gizzard’s sound, although I think their an amazing live band.

Can you tell me about your future plans?

Playing live shows: We are currently up to organise a small tour in Europe and working on new material. It would be nice to have another new album soon.

What is a bucketlist achievement you still want to do with Harvey Rushmore?

Touring through the balkan states, going further and record a live album in Istanbul.

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after this interview?

I think you should listen to our new song “Speedmaster” and watch the official clip after a weird night of party – with earphones and while walking home late.

Label Report: Broken Clover Records

Mickey Darius of Broken Clover Records

Broken Clover Records is a new underground label run by Mickey Darius from San Francisco, California. Apart from its very cool and extremely diverse roster I was drawn to find out more about Broken Clover Records because of their policy. They strive to be very honest and clear about their relationship with their bands and pay 100% of the royalties up front. I was curious to find how Darius was doing with such a progressive way of running a business. It turned out a fascinating moment of getting to know one of the true originals in underground independent music today.

Hi Mickey! How are you doing these days? How was the pandemic for a small-ish label like Broken Clover?

These are 2 seemingly innocuous questions, but they have countless (complicated) answers, depending on the day/hour.  As long as we’re acknowledging that humans are treating each other and the planet worse than ever before (and potentially irreparably) and that’s our bar, then my day-to-day is OK.  I’ve got my hurdles (mostly financial and emotional), but with my little family and my music and work and soccer and the other joys I can find, I’m faring pretty well.  My pandemic experience, specifically relating to how BCR is doing, is hard to qualify.  We had only put out 3 releases before COVID hit and I was really just getting my sea legs.  The following 17 releases came once we’d embarked on this new reality, so I don’t really have a comparative frame of reference.  I can say that I think we’d have fared a little better if we’d been able to have release shows AND weren’t battling for attention…and by that I mean that we’ve been steadily fighting for column space from journalists, since there is not only a lot happening in the world, but also A LOT of music coming out.  We are then also fighting for social media space from fans, as everyone has so much more to process and share.  Beyond this, from what I hear, the journalistic competition is crazy fierce right now and everyone just wants to write about a safe/sure thing.  What we’re doing at BCR is certainly not safe or predictable, so it’s been hard to gain momentum.  All this said, because we’ve stuck to our guns and just do what we do, it seems that the tide is starting to slowly but organically turn.  It is also helpful when folks share our releases or posts through word of mouth, reviews or their social media channels.

Tell me something about yourself! What is your musical background for instance, and how did you get involved in music?

I have always been involved in music.  I don’t say that facetiously.  With both parents being musicians, our house was a noisy one since I was a baby.  Early photos show pianos and shakers and microphones and drums and harmonicas and anything else I could play on or sing along to.  The same went for my brother (Charles Darius), who is 5 years my junior.  The only difference was/is that he is wildly talented and can somehow seem to master instruments and scales he’s only just discovered.  Anyhow, from early bedroom recordings to school bands to organizing shows to DJing to starting my own bands to recording other bands to starting a label (where I am owner/operator) to starting a booking agency (where I am owner/agent) to managing a venue and a lot in between…I was called in to this music world and don’t know if I could really do anything else.  This is my happy place and this is the language I speak and this is where I feel I can do the most good.

I have to say I am very intrigued by the set up of your label; can you explain your vision when you started Broken Clover Records?

This is a hard question to answer, as there are myriad ways for me to answer.  In a nutshell, I saw things that I wished other labels would do/avoid and decided to try and lead by example.  Some of these things are around streaming, artist payment, promo, album-oriented music and the general care of curating a roster/catalog.

Can you take me back to the start? When did you start and how? What were some of the highlights/lows?

I wouldn’t be here, doing this (or anything), if I hadn’t stopped drinking 5 years ago.  As I was freshly navigating this new alcohol-free landscape, I was working with a therapist who had also become my friend.  It started very much as patient/client, but after connecting over a lifetime love of music, we slowly became pretty close friends.  At one point, it came up that he had a significant sum of money that he wanted to invest in a music project.  I’d long had the idea of running a label, but that was really just a way for me to think about artists I like and would love to meet/work with in any capacity.  I now had a very real way of making this half-baked dream a reality and after discussing things, it seemed that he was willing to bankroll a new label and let me drive…which I quickly realized I wouldn’t feel good about.  If I am steering the ship, I needed to feel free of shackles or responsibility to anyone other than the artists and fans and myself.  I quickly told him thanks but no thanks and then committed to BCR001 with my own savings.  

With each new artist relationship and release, there is a new high.  So much of this job is incredibly rewarding.  Even (and sometimes especially) the hard stuff.  My 3 biggest lows are…

1) Turning away cool/interesting projects due to financial concerns.

2) Having to deal with damaged shipments and a lack of responsibility from manufacturers/shippers.

3) A new album not landing/resonating with people in the way we’d hoped.

What is your opinion about how the music industry evolved until now? Are we heading in a good direction with streaming and wide accessibility of music to pretty much anyone?

Evolved vs. devolved?  I dunno.  I kinda see running a label in our fragile music ecosystem like child-rearing…I don’t know that there’s a right way to do it (if there is, I haven’t found it), but you know right away when something feels wrong.  Specifically regarding streaming, my opinions are strong/loud.  First, I want to be clear that I have zero issue with streaming.  I love streaming music and being able to share tracks and add to playlists and all of that.  What I do have a huge fucking problem with is everyone’s sense of entitlement to instant AND free AND across all platforms.  Because of this, we hold off on pushing content to the major streaming sites until 6 months after the release.  I actually had initially set it at 12 months and then flexed to 9 months and have again recently shifted to 6 months.  We do this so that buyers can have the excitement of showing the music to people and feel like their commitment to the music is reciprocated.  There’s a relationship there and I don’t want to cheapen it.  This is not at all to say that anyone else’s method is wrong or harmful.  I’m just running BCR in a way that I think is helpful to the industry and in a way that I think is respectful to the art and in a way that honors the customers who support.  

Who are the most inspirational artists around these days in your opinion?

Anyone who is making challenging music.  In order to get through all the uncertainty that we face daily now, everyone seems to be leaning in to the classics and things that they find familiar.  I get it.  With the world on fire again/still, we find comfort in those friendly faces/sounds.  I’ve definitely found myself returning to classics like Midnight Marauders (A Tribe Called Quest-red)and Physical Graffiti (Led Zep-red) and Against The Grain (Bad Religion-red) far more than normal.  That kind of music (and security) is very important right now, but the folks who are really inspiring me are the folks who are creating music that requires a little discomfort or disorientation.  They’re likely to lose listeners – listeners that are at a premium these days – but they feel so compelled to create that they can’t help it.  That’s powerful to me.

What kind of artists are you looking for when you scout new music?

The criteria is pretty simple.  Does the music move me?  Are the humans that make it horrible people?  If it’s a yes/no situation, then we’re in good shape and can figure out the rest.  Make music I’d want in my collection and give a shit about people other than yourself. 

What should bands do that would like to be on Broken Clover Records?

I will listen to anything sent to me and will reply to anyone who reaches out.  That said, it behooves you to wait until the thing you’re sending is ready to be listened to without a bunch of explanation…ie: here’s a demo, but the hi hats on #2 are gonna be gone and the bassline on #6 needs to be tweaked or whatever.  I shouldn’t need a map to decipher how to navigate your demo.  Beyond that, be straightforward with what you want from the relationship and make sure you’re prepared to do some basic self-promo.  If talking about yourself and asking folks to buy your stuff really feels that terrible, then maybe I’m not the label for you.  I abhor the current standard means of promo on social media channels, but I’m not seeing other effective ways to get people to listen/buy, since folks also don’t want to make physical flyers or do mailers or anything like that.  Look at things though the eyes of a label owner…what would you want to see/hear and how would you want it delivered?    

Do you have a tip for other small labels and people who’s like to start one?

Only do it if it moves you…ie: don’t get in to it for $.  There will be a lot of thankless days and the only thing that keeps the fire burning for me is feeling confident that I’m putting out a quality product and treating people well and putting my best foot forward.  Think about being a fan.  Make the thing that you’d want to buy.  Your output will be amazing if you’re doing what feels good to you and it’s who you are.  I can not talk about authenticity enough.  If it really means something to you, it’ll show.  Conversely, if you’re just going through the motions of what you think you should be doing or what you think people want, it’ll also show…and that is not a good look.

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

1) Please visit the Broken Clover Records Bandcamp page and check out the roster/catalog.

2) After that, please follow our social channels…

If I’m being honest,  while the past few years have yielded great records for our catalog, our business has been dangerously slow.  In order to keep releasing the diverse international content that we’re now known for, we need to sell records…accolades don’t pay advances.  I hope that doesn’t sound snotty.  I am being real.  Our catalog is pretty vast and I would bet that even the most finicky or adventurous crate digger/downloader/streamer can find multiple titles that do something for them.    

3) Tell someone that you love ’em and pet an old dog and play your favorite record LOUD.

Want to hear more about Mickey Darius and Broken Clover Records? Listen to this episode of West of Twin Peaks Radio