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Review + Q&A: Lay Llamas & JuJu- Flag Of Breeze (2023, Backwards)

In warm and humid Sicily, the deep, deep south of Italy, two men find each other again and again in waves of symbiotic creativity. The chemistry between Gioele Valenti (JuJu) and Nicola Giunta is strong. Together they are Lay Llamas, and Flag Of Breeze is their new EP of dreamy psychedelia. If one thing is clear, it is that their common electricity has not lost any of its power.

Flag Of Breeze is a short affair, consisting of four new songs, intermixed by short weird sounds, described by the duo as ” like a sort of radio tuning listening session among FM stations and misterious shortwaves transmissions”. The songs are very varied, from the dreamy post wave of Flag Of Breeze, to the tribal surf pop of Bury Me Tonight, the gothic witch dance of Mixtures And Potions, and the psychedelic dark cabaret of Underwater Jungle.

The result may be short, but it is a sweet little adventure. And it creates a hunger for more to come from this wonderful duo.

Gioele Valenti

I gladly took on the opportunity to do a second interview with Gioele and Nicola, this time together. We talked about the creation of Flag Of Breeze, why it took so long to physically release it, and what the future might bring…

Hi Gioele and Nicola! How have you been since we spoke last year?
GV.
Very well, thanks. Lost in magic.
NG. I’m fine, thanks.

What is the main reason you two keep on finding each other in Lay Llamas? In
what way do you complement each other?

NG. I think Gioele is among the best vocals composer out there… and I’m so lucky that
he’s a very good friend of mine at the same time. So, basically when it’s about Lay Llamas
I provide to send him instrumental tracks on which he writes and performs vocals, and I
mean melody, harmony and lyrics. There’s a kind of chemistry, something magic.
GV. I personally think it’s a matter of vibrations. We have a very long-lived friendship as
Nicola said. I think me and Nicola work together in a very strange and special alchemic
way. I have this “pop” attitude… and Nicola has this very incredible taste in exotic things,
music, art, he has a great sense for aestethic… I think that is the main reason we find each
other.

The album is listed as Lay Llamas & Juju, what is the difference from a regular
Lay Llamas release? It’s always the two of you, right?

NG. Right. But anyway we liked to add on Juju name to underline how much strong was
his work as composer. For the rest it’s basically the same thing we did in the past… with a
different typing on the sleeve maybe.
GV. Yes, basically the same process.

Can you tell me about the conception of Flag Of Breeze? What made you start
these songs, what was your intention?

NG. We recorded these tracks during the same sessions for GOUD LP (Black Sweat
Records, 2022). But too much tracks for a single LP so we did an EP for this second
release. Nothing different about creative process: I compose and record the music, send it
to Gioele that compose and record vocals, lyrics and sometimes any overdub with guitars,
synth, etc., finally I do the mix.
GV. Yes, we had a lot of stuff coming this time.

Even more than before this album is very psychedelic, hazy, dreamy. Is there an
explanation for this? Can you tell me about the specific influences for this one?

NG. Hazy and dreamy, more than psychedelic in my opinion. As always when we meet to
make music together as Lay Llamas a kind of mind-travellers music comes out.
Other(inner)worldly music I call it!
GV. I would call these songs “lazy” rather than “hazy”. Haunted more than psychedelic.
There’s this universalistic afflatus underneath. Songs for globetrotting spirits. I like to put it
this way.

What can you tell me about the release process, I heard that some people had to
wait for a long while on their orders? Can you explain what happened? It seems that
in the mean while Juju and Lay Llamas both released another record, right?

NG. Oh man, that was a real mess! The label sent the master to the pressing plant in April
2021 and it had received the vinyls one month ago or something. The Covid delay was
huge, at the same time the label could have handled it better maybe. Mainwhile a Lay
Llamas
LP titled GOUD It was released in March 2022 by italian label Black Sweat
Records
. Anyway, here we are.
GV. Very long time. Friend, let’s take it as another “long covid symptom”.

What can you tell me about the background stories behind the lyrics? What was
your inspiration for the words this time?

NG. I wrote only one lyric; Underwater Jungle. It was strongly inspired by Jules Verne
novels.
GV.I used to read a lot of quantum physics stuff while writing the songs. The collapse of
the wave function. Of how reality is an interactive process between the observed object
and the observer. Reality, basically, does not exist. Thought is everything.

Would you say that you are “typical Sicilians”? Why/why not?
NG.
Not a simple question. As I think Sicilian people are quite complex. For example,
Sicilians often use ‘maybe’ word rather than ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We talk using a layering language.
In this way I feel ‘typical’. But not if you consider ‘typical’ the sicilian guy with mustache and
shotgun on the back.
GV. I don’t like clichés, which immediately become a stigma. It depends on what you
mean by “typical”. If we mean a cultural trait, well, yes, then I feel I belong to a broad
culture, of great historical breadth, of great tradition. The other reflections on being
a typical Sicilian doesn’t make sense in my opinion. I’m no more typical than a
typical Englishman can be, these days.

What is the thing you look forward to most in 2023?
NG.
new music and art, still living with my dears, be a better human.
GV. Staying alive already seems like a great goal to me

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

NG. go out and take a walk, breath deeply, elevate yourself.
GV. Take care of you loved ones. You will save the entire world.

Nicola Giunta

Review + Q&A: Sound Of Smoke- Phases (2023, Tonzonen Records)

Have you ever wondered what the sound of smoke sounds like? Well you won’t find out here, but judging from the cover and the psychedelic rock oozing out of the speakers while playing Phases, Sound Of Smoke from Freiburg sure do like to smoke one themselves!

With a huge progression from their previous album, especially production wise, Phases engulfs the listener, drowning you in a purple haze. Beautiful, beautiful vocals pop up out of nowhere like sirens, drawing you in, and for three quarters of an hour you’ll be entranced.

The songs are subtle, stripped, and on point, always including enough earwurm to stick with you, but not so much as to be poppy or annoying. The band has truly found their own sound, a rare thing in female fronted psych rock, where belting divas often set the tone. Not here though. Singer Isabelle Bapté keeps you on your toes, her aura radiating more 60s beat pop than 70s larger than life rock (I am looking at you Blues Pills!). Which in my humble opinion is a very good thing, and a feature that makes them stand out from the rest.

So what does smoke sound like? I still do not know. But I do know that Phases is a perfect album to smoke one to. Just let the haze hit your eyes, and let Sound Of Smoke take care of your ears.

Interview time of course! I talked to the band, and they all pinched in for the answers. Nowadays singer Isabelle has moved away from their hometown of Freiburg to live in the big city of Berlin, but that does not hold Sound Of Smoke back…not even close!

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Sound Of Smoke?

Hi! Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to do this interview! We are all fine, we just had our pre-release show and we are very excited for the official release of our new album Phases. The pandemic period was very productive for us. We wrote most of our Songs in this time and in 2021 we went to the Big Snuff Studio in Berlin to record the songs for the upcoming album. Of course the pandemic had also some negative effects. There where no live shows and meeting with the band was not always easy due to all regulations. ‘Anyway we are happy this time is over and we are looking forward to play a lot of shows in 2023.

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?

The band was founded by Isabelle, the singer and florian (former guitar player – now Bass and synth). Florian knew the Drummer Johannes from school and he was in to jam and see whats gonna happen. As the final member, Jens joined the band and became the guitar player of Sound of Smoke. After 2 years of searching for their musical direction, the quartet released their first LP Eletheromania in 2018 and 2021 followed the LP Tales via Tonzonen.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

We all have a similiar taste of music. We are all strongly influenced from the psychedlic retro bands of the 60s/70s. Also the german kraut bands like NEU, Kraan, Kraftwerk have affected the sound of the band. But the roots of the music are mainly coming from blues and boogie.

Anyway we never tried to copy anyone and we where looking for our own way of creating music and going for new directions.

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

The members of the band all have jobs next to music (unfortunately). So we are mainly avarage working people… But if we talk about a free day for all the band. It probably would start with a nice brunch followed by some somke 😉 then a lot of jamming, dinner and a show at night for the perfect day with the band 🙂

What is the best thing about Phases?

Thats a hard one. The songs for the album where created in different times (Phases) of the band. Some songs existed long before corona others came to life in this time, some where written just days before the studio. So that is it what inspired us for the title Phases. The songs vary from heavy to soft to psychedlic to stoner. Blues to kraut to oriental. The best thing of the record is probably that we are finally can release it and finally have a proper LP with descent sound. Also we really love the artwork, which was done by an artist called Mirkow Gastow.

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

We all used to live in Freiburg (south west Germany). Now Isabelle moved to Berlin but we still will continue to make music, even if its now a bit harder then before. Berlin is a paradise for creative people and any sub culture you can think of. Freiburg is compared to Berlin a pretty small and quite town. But the music scene is very active there and full of talented musicians. Of course there is room for improvements. Rehearsal rooms are pretty hard to find and most sub cultural live venues had to close down.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

King Buffalo, All Them Witches, DeWolff, Pentagram, Electric Octopus, and many many more. And all the old dudes who are still alive of course as well (Sabbath, Floyd, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane).

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

Most of our songs are created from jams. We pick different parts from the jams and put it together to an arrangement. Then mostly isabelle is adding the lyrics. After that we are rehearsing the songs and change the structure.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

For this year we want to focus on the release of the LP. We plan to play some festivals in summer and maybe do a little tour later that year. We are also working on new songs but this will take time. We plan to go to the studio in 2024 and hopefully release the new record end of 2024.

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

Smoke a spliff and listen to our new record 😀

Thanks so much for this interview! Lots of Love to all supporters and listeners out there!

Isa, Flo, Jens, Johannes

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: Super Pink Moon- Iron Rain (2023, self-released)

Somali Yacht Club guitarist and singer Ihor Pryshliak also lives out his creativity on his own sometimes. Through Super Pink Moon he channels his inner shoegazer, while at the same time maintaining his signature sound. In a way it is an even more interesting album than last year’s Somali Yacht Club record The Sea, because you get the feeling that anything goes here.

The context of Iron Rain is the war in Ukraine. The album was written and recorded in the midst of the chaos, and you can feel the density all through the songs. The vocals are clean, sincere, and dreamy. The lyrics are heavy, and breathe war and loss with titles like Doomscrolling, Collision, and Hollowness. There is also a tiny speck of hope; because despite all the horror and despair there is the possibility of beauty and reparation, so much becomes clear.

From Hum-like bombast to My Bloody Valentine vacuumcleaner antics, Super Pink Moon sounds like a machine, sucking it all up and taking it into space. At times the heavy end prog doom of Somali Yacht Club pops up too, but never too long. Overall Iron Rain is a strong and consistent album that will appeal to heavy mood heads anywhere in the world.

How are you? How has the past year been for you as a musician, especially considering the Russian invasion and the war?
It was rough. Probably the most challenging year of my life. Music was/is a way to escape from a harsh reality.

Can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Ihor 🙂 I love music, dogs, and coding.

What can you tell me about your musical background?
I started playing guitar when I was 16. The first song I learned to play was Nothing else matters 

🙂

 I remember the first time I asked to “test” the distortion pedal in a music store the first thing I played was Nothing Else Matters and it sounded absolutely terrible. Everyone looked at me like pleeease stop it, no no. And I was having the greatest moment in my life lol.

What does a regular day in your life look like?
8am wake up, 9am crossfit or walking in the woods with my dog, 10:30 work, 2pm eat, 3pm work, 7pm music/rehearsals/gaming/chilling pretty every day 🙂 Yeah, I’m a boring software developer/musician.

What is the best thing about Iron Rain?
It’s interesting. You can listen to it several times and find something interesting to you each time. It was designed as a Castlevania-like game or like Elden Ring 🙂 You’re free to roam wherever you want to, but you’re also always welcome to come back and try to go deeper.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?
I guess the biggest challenge is the underdeveloped local music industry. If you play anything harder than hard rock -> you are the underground. Here, it’s a big difference between popular artists and good underground artists who are actually pretty famous abroad. Another challenge is money. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me a guitar or hire a teacher till the moment I got my first scholarship. So yes, I’d say it’s challenging, but not impossible.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))
Initially, it was an artistic expression because I needed to do something with this energy. Now it’s a form of escapism. When I do music I’m in a flow, it’s like a mediation. It means that for a couple of hours a day I can forget about all bullshit going around me and that’s a blessing. I wish everyone could develop such a skill to ignore the outside. Good for your mental health.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?
Oh, it’s different each time. You just sit and play with sound, rhythm, lyrics, riff, whatever is interesting to you at that moment. It’s like a sandbox or Minecraft if you like. Music is pure magic, so it’s always interesting for me to play with it.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?
The future plan is pretty straightforward – survive. Immediate -> release IRON RAIN, start another record, and keep going till the moment I get bored.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Go over here and donate to Ukraine -> https://war.ukraine.ua/donate/

Review + Q&A: Tajak – La Sombra Del Agua (2022, Little Cloud Records/Cardinal Fuzz/The Acid Test Records/Hole Records)

Strange and exciting things happen when creative minds decide to drop everything they were doing and move to into the woods. Whether it is the falling away of urban overstimulation, the closer contact to nature, or just the increased focus on the task at hand; beautiful and meaningful things are made. Novels are written, poems are conjured out of thin air, and musicians find new sources of sound within themselves. Tajak definitely did. Their previous album Ciclos was a great album of noisy shoegaze, but it did not fully prepare of what was to come…

Hailing from Mexico, one can imagine that the forest Tajak chose for a creative hideout is rather a different affair than let’s say than Thorough’s when he wrote Walden. I recently got to see the second Avatar movie, and I feel Tajak would have done a much better job scoring the beautiful rain forest and underwater scenes. The music on La Sombre Del Agua (The Shadow Of The Water) is rich and dreamy, layered, and filled to the brim with tiny little sonic easter eggs that make it a true headphone feast. This is a studio album mind you, but one that feels organic, a living breathing thing.

The songs are set up like paintings, and can spread out often longer than twelve minutes. When there is the need for a word or two there are some sparse humanoid voices, but they mostly remain whispers or echoes of wavering guitars and synths. The roots of this psychedelic soundscape music lie in improvisation, but like the grand maesters of kraut Can, Tajak have filled in their jams in the studio for an optimal sonic experience.

And that is why La Sombre Del Agua is what it is; a wet rainforest of sound with a sonic palette as rich as the flora and fauna. Tajak dares you to put on your headphones and disappear with them, away from the hassles and speed of modern life, into the shadow of the water.

Ok, so I had to talk to this band. I needed to know where they came up with their beautiful ideas and how they worked on it. The language can sometimes be a barrier though, standing in between a short and stand offish answer, and the whole thing. I am therefore glad that Tajak gave theirs in their native tongue. I would like to send mad props to Roman Tamayo of Doomed & Stoned Latino for the translation into English so we can all follow…

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Tajak?

We are fine, everyone surviving as they can. We live in different places so we could only see each other once in a while. During the pandemic, we were recording La Sombra del Agua, in La Orduña, and Zoncuantla, Veracruz. We spent a year over there recording and producing the album, first in a place that a friend lent us in the woods and the rest in an abandoned factory.

Can you introduce the band and how did you meet them?

Tajak are:

Alvaro Castro: Drums + FX and Synth + FX.

Carlos Arias: Electric guitar, effect pedals, and voice, he generally uses other instruments such as Sitar on the album Ciclos and LSDA, Didgeridoo on our self-titled Ep. And flutes and thunder drum on La Sombra del Agua.

Coco Badan: Bassist + Effect pedals and voice, just like Carlos he uses instruments like flutes, and ocarina on tracks like Camino.

Coco and Carlos are originally from Ensenada B.C. for what has been known for quite some time and Alvaro de La Paz B.C.S, we met at the university, and we met during out studies of Audio Engineering.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

I (Alvaro) started playing electric bass in a black/death metal band, when I was 13-14 years old, I started to be interested in drums. I played drums in a band called Orthodox. After that, I started taking classes and playing as a session musician in several bands. I went to a music university but I didn’t feel comfortable, so I left and began to study Jazz with a private teacher, this was in the city of Guadalajara.

In 2013 I moved to Mexico City to study Audio and that’s where I met Carlos and Coco, we lived together for a few months and one day we jammed at a colleague’s house. From that day we kept playing and that’s how the first songs of Tajak were born. It is safe to say that there was never the intention of starting a band, we would get together to play for pleasure.

Carlos started playing the guitar at the age of 12 and formed his first band in Ensenada at the age of 15, called Mr. Saldos (shoegaze, noise pop), Coco was part of that band for a while playing the keyboards and singing as well, it was the first time they experienced playing together.

Coco: I started studying music at an early age, taking flute classes from the age of 7, and then I went to a formal music school where I played clarinet in an orchestra, but the truth was that the whole experience was quite unhappy and I almost lost myself. They made me hate music. For me, all those years were a waste of time. It wasn’t until I dropped out of that school and started teaching myself guitar that my musical journey really began. Since then, I have continued on a self- taught path.

What is a typical day like in your life?

Alvaro: I work in a dubbing studio as a Pro Tools operator, usually, I’m recording most of the day, I come home in the afternoon, spend time with my girlfriend and play video games or read some manga or books. Sometimes I do sound design, and effects for audiovisual material such as documentaries or advertising.

Carlos: me and my wife own a vegan restaurant in Ensenada, we are both the chefs there, plus we do music events right there since we have a great outdoor space. Excellent projects from the independent scene in Mexico have been presented. In addition, sometimes I did work related to audio, mainly mastering, recording and production. I really like watching movies and series, playing video games, and sometimes I take the time to record new music or write.

Coco: I am currently living on my family’s ranch in Ensenada, B.C. A rather lonely life but one that I really like, especially in winter. I work in tourism, but during my free time, I paint, read, make music and walk in the countryside. I am preparing a drawing and painting exhibition that will be on February 16 in Ensenada. In Mexico City, I am managing a gallery/venue with a group of friends where we will do a small festival for our label in March.

What is the best thing about La Sombra Del Agua?

Alvaro: The whole process: we went through together recording and producing this album, for my very uncomfortable moments, where I felt that nothing was flowing, but even so, I kept looking for a way to improve the tracks. The best thing was to give ourselves the time and space to be able to work on each track carefully and be as satisfied as possible.

Coco: That such a long and arduous effort has given a very satisfactory result.

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

Alvaro: I live in Mexico City, and there are many places to play music of any genre, and new bands emerge very often. It is more difficult to earn enough money to live with your band: festival fees are generally very low for Mexican bands, compared to foreign bands that visit our country.

Carlos: In Ensenada (where Coco and I live) there are few places to play, there is much less public for this music than in CDMX, that is one of the reasons why I promote shows and bring projects from different parts of Mexico, to contribute this to my city.

Tajik’s previous album Ciclos

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Alvaro: I really enjoy some Oneohtrix Point Never records, like Replica. Darkthrone has always been a band I enjoy listening to, their record A Blaze in the Northern Sky. I’m also a fan of Beherit, they recently released an album called Bardo Exist, which oscillates between black metal and dark ambient. Mabe Fratti is also a great influence in the way she uses her musical resources and presents ensembles that I have enjoyed very much live. I also admire Pedro Tirado a lot, his album SalsiPuedes, his lyrics touch me in a deep way. I also really enjoy Container. Lately I’ve been somewhat short on new music, recommendations are welcome.

Carlos: I don’t believe in heroes, but the music that has influenced me the most in my life is: Bardo Pond, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Swans, Wolf Eyes, Donovan, Bhimsen Joshi, A Place To Bury Strangers, Celestial Processions, Mabe Fratti, Sunn O))), The Shangri Las, Jorge Berumen, The Ronettes, Nada, Mito Del Desierto, Coco Badan, Cloks, Jesus And Mary Chain, The Residents, Fernanda P, Oneohtrix Point Never, Silver Apples, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, The Kowalskis, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Curvo, Julee Cruise, Dirty Beaches, Pedro Tirado, Manto Blanco and many others that I can’t remember right now.

Coco: It makes me very happy to be able to say that many of the projects I admire are people close to me. If Tajak has given us anything, it is the opportunity to meet all these people.

Celestial Processions, Myth of the Desert, Electrical Services, Aviation School, CCOOWWSS, Beru, Mr Saldos, Cloks, Nada, le trash can, Choco bestia, Shax, Mental Induction, gnois, José Orozco Mora, J Zunz, Concepción Huerta, Love Die, Nine Lives, Rogelio the 3rd, etc. etc.

Outside of the local scene I’ve been listening to KMRU, Lucrecia Dalt, Coby Sey, Aaron Dilloway, Lea Bertucci, Keiji Haino, Jun Konogaya, His Name is Alive, Alex Zhang Hungtai, John Tavener, Wolf Eyes, Cindy Lee, Cosey Fanni Tutti , Brin, Ryuchi Sakamoto, lots of rapping and my two biggest obsessions: Nocturnal Emissions and Coil.

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

Generally, we get together to improvise, we come up with something we like and we record it with our cell phone, then we record with bass, drums, and guitar microphones. On top of that we are adding more layers of other instruments such as synthesizers, flutes, etc. Then we edit and select what we like the most about what is recorded, we add effects and volume automation.

On La Sombra Del Agua, we had so much time to do it, we would sometimes spend a month without listening to the tracks, then we would listen again and when we listened again, we would think of new things to add to give each track more depth and dynamics. This was only the case on LDSA, our previous albums were recorded very quickly and mixed in a short time as well.

Being from The Netherlands, I am quite interested in the background story of Amsterdam 211, did you live here for a while?

Amsterdam 211 is the address of an apartment in Mexico City where Carlos and Coco lived. Much of the beginning of Tajak we spent a lot of time there, listening to records, talking about music, experiencing sounds, and having a good time with friends. We listened a lot to Black One by Sunn O))), Amanita by Bardo Pond, Cop, and Filth by Swans, Wolf Eyes, Boris, Barn Owl, Fuck Buttons, Oneohtrix Point Never, among others.

What are your immediate and long-term future plans?

Getting a European and American Booker to spin La Sombra Del Agua, we’ve struggled with that. Record new material in February.

Review + Q&A: Atsuko Chiba- Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing (2023, Mothland)

It’s hard not to drop The Mars Volta as a reference when listening to Montreal, Canada’s Neo prog outfit Atsuko Chiba. It’s not that they sound so much alike, but they have similar left field technical chops, a same genuine strangeness and forward thinking spirit. Yet they are not a carbon copy, far from it. Atsuko Chiba mines more genres for their unique blend of progressive rock.

For instance, you can tell these guys are big Rush fans, but they are into more subdued post rock as well, creating beautiful gigantic soundscapes and welding them together with more violent passages. But there is a more oppressive side to the band as well, an angularity that links them to a band like Japanese prog postponers Bo Ningen, or their label mates Yoo Doo Right.

But enough with the name dropping. Atsuku Chiba deserves to be mentioned in their own right. With Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing they have created a powerful statement of eclecticism. It is an album that, like water, has many shapes and forms, yet always flows. It can be awesome and majestic, and harsh and incomprehensible, but it remains at all time recognisable.

It will also take some patience from the listener to fully grasp what is going on here, because when you think you get it, Atsuko Chiba will have darted around the corner to creep up on you the next moment. A very exciting album therefore, and one of this year’s first really great features.

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

We’re all doing well! Spent the last year quietly finishing our newest album “Water, It Feels Like It’s growing”. Given the state of things in the last few years, it took us a little longer than anticipated to finish up this record. But we pushed through it and it gave us a lot of time to explore and experiment with our writing process. It definitely feels good to be back in the grind of things. We recently started playing shows again, opening for King Buffalo on their recent Canadian dates. And we’ve got a pretty busy year ahead of us. We’re all quite excited to get back on the road and play a bunch of new songs for people.

Can you introduce yourselves?
Anthony Piazza: Drums, Projections
David Palumbo: Bass, Vocals
Eric Schafhauser: Guitar, Keyboards
Karim Lakhdar: Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Kevin McDonald: Guitar, Keyboards



What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?
We all grew up in the east-end of Montreal playing music together in different bands since the early 2000s. About 10 years ago, we finally decided to all come together and start something new. We wanted to create a band where there were no rules, and we had the freedom to explore any idea we wanted to. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like?
A regular day for the five of us involves each of us holding a day Job. We routinely meet at our studio, at least three nights per week, around 7:30 pm and jam until midnight. I think it’s fair to say that our weekly meetups are somewhat “sacred”.  During that time we are either rehearsing, writing, or recording. 

Atsuko Chiba



What is the best thing about Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing?
Well that is a difficult question to answer. But a few things standout about this record that we’ve never done before. The first thing that comes to mind is writing for a professional string quartet. We got the string section arranged and recorded at planet studio here in Montreal. When looking back on the writing process and the recording of this album… I think we found a nice balance in the writing process and we all felt very comfortable and relaxed throughout and I think people will be able to hear that in the music. The world around us felt like it was falling apart but our time together, slowly writing and recording through all of it, served as a bit of a sanctuary. We would spend our time doing long distance bike rides to the studio and then spend nights honing all this new music and hanging out as friends. So on a personal note, this album will always represent a feeling of comfort and a sort of “safe haven”. 

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?
Montreal is a very unique city. The music scene is very diverse and vibrant, and people are generally very open and excited to support music and art that lives outside of the mainstream. Bands are really able to be themselves and explore ideas freely and at the same time have a support system that encourages them in this endeavour. Being involved with Mothland (our label) has been a blessing, because they have opened up many doors for us and allowed us to grow outside of our own expectations. 

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 guess you can say it’s a mixture of all these things. But I’m not sure there is a specific aim for the outcome of our music. The creative process is really the most important thing. I think on a really basic level the point is to communicate and connect with each other through the language of music and art. Sometimes that looks more like musical conversation wrapped up in time signatures, harmony, our individual tastes and other times it could be the result of our lives being filtered through the process of making music or jamming together. At times we have something to say and we want to say it with our music and other times we just want to feel and so we make music. Put simply, I think our lives feel enriched by the act of making music together and we always hope to enrich others with our music the way so many artists have done for each of us. 

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs? And what is the main difference from last time around?
Every song we write has a different approach. Early in the pandemic, Montreal was forced to lockdown and we were under  a pretty strict curfew so a few ideas got started remotely. We would pass around demos and sketches and elaborate on each other’s ideas. In the past if we worked from someone’s demo or sketch we would all come together in the studio and work through the ideas in person. But due to the restrictions we found a new way of doing things. We were all setup with Ableton live and we would send each other ideas to look at. The results were always really interesting because when we were able to start jamming again we sometimes had two or three variations on the same song. And the songs written that way further evolved once we got to playing them together. Another major difference in the overall writing process for this record is that we were writing and recording at the same time. In the past we would rehearse a group of songs and then block out the time we needed to record them all. But this time around we were able to work one song at a time. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?
Our main priority right now is to release our album, which is set for release on January 20th. Immediately following that, we have a couple of shows around Quebec and Ontario, followed by a 2 week tour of the US. We also began writing new material, so we will continue on that as well. 

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?
Drink plenty of water. think of something you are grateful for. Tell the people you love that you love them…  if you are interested in what our band is up to, head over to our Facebook page or instagram for all upcoming news, and check us out on all the streaming platforms, including Bandcamp! 🙂

Review + Q&A: Sunburned Hand Of The Man- Headdress (20th anniversary re-release, 3Lobed Records)

Picture yourself in the middle of a dark and crowded room. The band stands in a circle around you. Feral men, wild eyes, long hair and beards. They chant shamanic hymns or sing lost words in broken sentences. They seem to have a secret communication. Through telepathic signalling they orchestrate their singular music. Completely in synch, they wander, not knowing where to go but feeling it together as one. As you start to feel it too, you close your eyes. This is what improvisation can be, and it is awe inspiring. When Sunburned Hand Of The Man do it on a good day, it is the best thing in the world.

Headdress is not a new album. It is a session from 2001, set in the early post 9/11 era of chaos and darkness. You can feel the apocalypse hanging in the air in these jams, perhaps even picture these chants the rituals of human civilisations that will outlive us after we have nuked ourselves to oblivion. There is a dark madness in the air that translates really well into the mostly instrumental music.

Clearly inspired by German improvisation legends Can, Sunburned Hand Of The Man has made this intuitional way of playing their own and added a certain wildness to it, a dangerous “anything could happen” vibe that I personally dig extremely well. Open minds are obligatory with this kind of music of course, but hey, if you came this far on this internet page and this review, I am quite sure you are already through that habit hole…so enjoy!

It took some hardcore stamina and some professional tree shaking to get Sunburned Hand Of The Man to respond to my emails, it is the reason this article was published over four months after the album’s official release date. But hey, when you finally get to reach out to American improv legend John Moloney you do not complain. I felt gratetful with his honest and thorough answers to my questions below…

Hi guys, how is Sunburned Hand Of The Man these days?  

Sunburned is doing great, we’re settling into our usual winter playing and  recording routine. Plus, Michael Josef K just moved to town and returned to the  fold after about a 15 year hiatus. We’re psyched. Phil Franklin is here visiting from  Australia too. We just did a few shows with him and that was fun. We’re getting  ready to record our next LP for Three Lobed and we’re finishing up artwork for  our new album Hypnotape which is coming out on VHF this spring in the first of  many CD, etc, focused releases.  

We’re all happily married to each other and bamboozled that we still foam at the  mouth to be able to do this after so many years, phases and music scene crazes.  

What have you guys been doing since your last release? 

Breathing, working, making art, reading, listening to records, looking at phones,  raising kids, stressing, guzzling, playing and recording more music on the  regular.  

Personally, I tour manage and play second drums on occasion with Dinosaur Jr  as my “real job.” I love it and we just finished up a very busy year of touring with  Ryley Walker, Pink Mountaintops, GBV and Garcia Peoples on the various tours.  So it’s nice to be home with my family and getting busy with Sunburned again. I  could do without the New England winter though… 

Tell me what kind of band Sunburned Hand Of The Man is these days?  

We’re a country-western massachusetts mental ghetto ensemble and psychedelic  trap house. There’s no way out. 

Who decides what and when? Do you see each other frequently, etc…

Sunburned itself makes all the decisions, I act as the conduit but most usually we  decide things as a group. We see each other all the time. 2 guys share an  apartment and 5 of us live within a mile radius of each other, the rest are just  minutes away.  

What can you tell me about this new re-release of “Headdress”?  

We were asked to reissue the record by Cory Rayborn at Three Lobed. We needed  to remaster it first and none of us could find an original cd master. It was all  recorded on cassette tape. I have 99% of our archive semi-organized here at the  HQ and it still took me over a year to track down all of the original tapes and one  is still missing. It drove me insane having to listen to all that headdress era music  and eventually Ron tracked down the master. 

All of the original art is here. This was pre-easy computer so we rebuilt it from the  parts and expanded on the art. 

Marc Orleans who passed in 2020 was a HUGE part of this record so its great to  have his spirit still burning hot on this record. He made it the record it is with his  amazing playing and I’m glad Cory really pushed to put this back in circulation.  Carl Saff made it sound even better than the original too.  

We were going to maybe do an expanded version with other material from the era  but that didn’t happen.  

 Can you take me back twenty years to when you made it?  

A lot of the music on Headdress was made the day after 9/11/2001 and the  following weeks. Those times were crazy and we were 20 years younger and  wilder with most of us living together in a loft space in Charlestown, MA. We were  also doing a weekly residency at the Burren in Davis Square Somerville which is  still a killer traditional Irish music pub. I tended bar there for a while. They had a  back room where non-Irish music played once in a while and we were given the  Wednesday night slots. 20 years ago we the project was based in Boston and  Somerville, and now we’ve all drifted out to Western Mass which is odd and  amazing to me.  

Do you still recall what it was like to be in the band at that time? What is the biggest  difference to the present in your mind? 

At that time being in Sunburned was essential to the mental health and survival of  everyone involved. We weren’t thinking about being a “band’ in the traditional  sense. We were bonded in our need for group therapy and the fun that  surrounded it.  

Is the Manhand label still alive?  

Yes, Manhand is still very much alive. 

What is your relationship with 3Lobed like? 

Very good. Cory is a friend and brother to all of us and we’re so happy and  looking forward to the future together. We just put together a loose schedule of  releases with Bill at VHF too and I’m personally beyond excited to have  Sunburned working with my two favorite labels.  

Where should a Sunburned Hand newbie start in your rather extensive discography?  

Start with Headdress, then check out Jaybird, No Magic Man, Rare Wood,  Anatomy, Get Wet With The Animal, My Accident, Fire Escape, A, Earth Do Eagles  Do, The Spacial Crime Symbol, Double Puberty, Vugarisms, Pick A Day to Die and  Headdless. That’ll give you the broadest potpourri of vibes.  

What are your proudest pieces of recording as a band?

All of the above. Is an honor and pleasure to be In this crew.  

What kind of music are you listening to today? Which contemporary bands do you  dig? 

I’m listening hard to Bardo Pond’s reissues on Fire and Three Lobed this week.  Right now I have Bitchin’ Bajas’ Rebajas on the cd player.  

Can you tell me some of the most memorable stories of being in this band? The  weirdest, most outrageous, or just beautiful parts of it? 

There’s way too many to write out here but I will shamelessly plug the 8 part  Sunburned Podcast, which is still in production that’s coming out worldwide later  this year which will be full of the best and most colorful stories.  

If you’d go back to the 90s when you started the band, what would you do differently?

If I could go back to the 90s I would have bought a lot more music gear at  Cambridge Music and a couple of triple deckers in Boston with my bartending  money instead of spending a lot of it on partying, fine dining and up to a dozen  plane tickets at a time for Sunburned tours instead back then. I don’t regret any of  it.  

Do you have any wisdom to share with the Weirdo Shrine readers reading this  interview? 

Experiences rule. Take yourself places physically and mentally.  

Review + Q&A: Buddha Sentenza- High Tech Low Life (2023, Pink Tank Records)

Buddha Sentenza does not play it hard to get on their new album High Tech Low Life. From the the get go album opener Oars puts it all out there, everything that makes this band so freaking awesome in nine glorious minutes. The Heidelberg, German instrumental band consists of five individuals, each wearing their distinct influences on their sleeves. On Oars you can hear it in an energetic culmination of heavy metal, prog rock, punk, space rock, and soundtrack atmospheres. It is in-your-face-heavy, virtuoso, but has its subtle moments as well where guitarist B.B. Blacksheep shines on violin.

video for Ricochet

There is a strong sense of joy emanating from the album. A more commercial band might opt for a more uniform sound perhaps, but you can hear these guys are bored easily. Not a minute is the same, and the songs gallop in all kinds of different directions from double bass drum trigger happy to epic fantasy movie soundscapes. Buddha Sentenza does what they want, and they sound thrilled doing it.

By being stubborn and sticking to their own values they have created a thing of their own that is hard to relate to anything else going on at the moment. I will give it a shot. Within the instrumental rock/metal spectrum they might be closer to a band like Long Distance Calling then to many of the more improvisational jam bands out there, but there are some Farflung-related space rock parts as well (synthesizers from outer space). They are not quite as technical as Animals As Leaders (they definitely don’t “djent” -thank buddha-), but they make up plenty by being adventurous and original. Ultimately though, Buddha Sentenza is their own beast. High Tech Low Life is a unique album of five gifted musicians doing what they love, and doing it right.

I talked to drummer Tom “Jesus Malverde” of the band about their new album, the place they are from, and contemporary influences. If anything, he definitely is as passionate about music as he sounds like drumming.

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Buddha Sentenza?

The conditions for small underground acts and event organizers were already tough before the pandemic. This situation became even worse, but we don’t want to complain, we still keep on doing what we love.

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?

We met as students at the University of Heidelberg who enjoyed playing as a jam project together, just directly what came in our minds. Time after time we began to develop more complex song structures, but still integrate jam parts till this day.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

We have different musical backgrounds. I played in a punk band before, the guitar players are more into metal, the bassist played garage/indy rock and the keyboarder is a prog head.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

I work mainly as a drum teacher in a music school, but beside that I also run a small screenprint business and organize underground shows.

What is the best thing about High Tech, Low Life (and what does the title mean)?

The title is an hommage to an old friend of us called Ombo. He was a homeless man who lived a while in our rehearsal complex. He was a connoisseur of the art of living, a bohemian and a hedonist. He was the perfect example of a man living in a modern world but really reflected his needs and was satisfied with the little property he got and showed us that you don‘t need much to be happy.He was also an artist, who used everyday garbage to create partial complex art. That impressed us.

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

We live in Heidelberg, Germany, but originally I came from a small village where you had no options to do music and art and stuff. So we where forced to create our own entertainment by going in the fields with an generator and played from the back of a tractor trailer. We‘re used to create our own creative environment. We like the idea that you don‘t just consume culture. Create culture yourself and live the D.I.Y. spirit. If the environment doesn‘t fit your needs, start getting active yourself.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Mhhh, I‘m not the hyping type of guy and no fan of big names. I prefer people doing their stuff without any intentions of getting rich and famous. So I would recommend the underrated artists. To drop some Names however: Oma Hans, Nekropsi, Clutchy Hopkins, Dakh Daughters, Neptunian Maximalism, The Budos Band, Dead Quiet, Daniel Higgs, Matt Eliott.

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

Sometimes we just start jamming and arrange the occured parts we like the most. Sometimes one of the guitar players develop a basic structure and then we add instrument after instrument to it until all of us played a part. It‘s quite grass roots democracy based.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Playing Shows, releasing more music, meeting interessting people, having a good time.

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

In general support your local underground, visit shows, buy some merch or start beeing creative yourself. In particular visit our bandcamp Site or check out some Videos on Youtube we did and maybe leave a comment.

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: Warp- Bound By Gravity (2023, Nasoni Records)

I should not like Warp as much as I do. Their raw mixture of stoner rock and doom metal is far from the left field weirdo psych I mostly enjoy these days. And yet, Bound By Gravity has a certain something that draws me back to it each time.

The Israeli trio mines the oldschool stoner well from which legendary early acts like Astroqueen and 7Zuma7 sprung. They add aggressive yelling vocals that remind me of Big Business and enough jamming and repetitive solos to make this record a favorite for the real stoners that like. to get high and dive into their speakers.

I thoroughly enjoy the raw honesty with which this record is crafted. What you see is what you get, and that is three guys riffing the hell out and just having a good time. Nothing more, but definitely nothing less either. If you like to toke up from time to time and enjoy a good riff then don’t let anything stop you from blasting the new Warp album this year.

I found guitarist and vocalist Itai Alzaradel at home in Tel Aviv, Israel, and more than willing to talk about his band. We chatted about line up changes, growing up punks, and being under the influence…of good music.

How are you? How has the pandemic period and its aftermath been for Warp?

We’re good, thanks! The pandemic caught on us a bit after our first European tour, which made everything stop for a while. We took the time and started writing new material from scratch, trying out riffs, dig a bit deeper and finding sounds and writing directions which eventually lead to a new album which we are very proud of. 

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?

I’m Itai, I play guitar and contribute some lead vocals. Me and Sefi (Bass+Vocals) were roommates back in 2014, having known each other since we were teenagers in the Israeli Punk scene, we always played in Punk/Hardcore/Post-Hardcore bands. At some point we must have sat in our shitty living room and expressed our desire to form a more riff-driven and heavier band which will incorporate our Doom/Stoner/Rocknroll influences. Our friend Ezra joined the band as a drummer and we began writing and practicing for a while without anyone knowing. Eventually we played some shows but soon after, Ezra left after being involved in a traffic accident and not wanting to drum anymore. 

We asked Mor, who was playing in multiple bands and was always a cool guy to hang around with to join us, so this is the current lineup, for the past 4-5 years or so. Each of us contribute to the writing process, we all share leading vocal duties, we all write lyrics – so it’s very much a team effort. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

As I mentioned, me and Sefi come from the Punk scene, both played in several bands, mostly Punk/Hardcore/Post-Hardcore stuff. We knew Mor as the drummer of one of the coolest Punk bands around – Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but he’s more of an all-around band member, playing a lot with Rock/Heavy Metal bands.  I feel like all of us brought the Punk attitude and energies into the first record, which can be identified by the raw sound and sheer energy and by the fact that we recorded it 100% DIY at our practice space. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

Unfortunately, Rock music, especially alternative Rock, isn’t very popular in Israel which requires us to work regular jobs. I (Itai) work as HR at a cyber company, Mor is a software developer and Sefi is a Pro dog trainer. After the workday is done, we meet with at the practice space (each of us has several active bands) and then home! 

What is the best thing about Bound By Gravity?

For me, it’s the broader sound we achieved, compared to the previous album. The fact that each song is a bit different but remains interesting. Also, the fact we’re 3 different vocalists which adds more diversity to the record, and last, the lyrics. Our lyrics are more about everyday life, dealing with our experience living in a very problematic place, politically. That’s why “The Hunger” or “You Fascist Pigs are Back” have more substance, in my eyes. 

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

We all live around Tel Aviv, which is one of the only cities around where artists/musicians go to, given its liberal atmosphere, even though living in Tel Aviv has become impossibly expensive. Tel Aviv’s alternative scene is small and consists of people from all over the country who looked for something else and poured into Tel Aviv at a certain stage. There aren’t a lot of bands in the genre so a lot of the times shows would be very versatile – sharing stages with both Punk and Death Metal bands or even some Noise or Indie ones. 

We didn’t get to play a lot of shows since the pandemic, exactly because we were spending the time writing and recording. Also, Mor left us for almost a year to live in Holland, but now he’s back and the record is ready, we can’t wait to perform again. 

What are your favorite contemporary bands and albums right now?

I listen to a lot of Hardcore Punk and dig the New York scene – mostly the Toxic State roster. I think a lot of the bands there were able to give Punk an extra edge with a lot of wit and innovation. I love Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Witch, Dopelord – these are the bands who manage to combine heavy riffs and melodic vocals, like what we do. Also Pigs X 7 are pretty fucking awesome (Viscerals SHREDS!), successfully combining elements of both stoner and punk. 

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

Most of the times we jam together, finding some cool riffs/lines and build the song from there. Sometimes one of us will bring an idea from home and we’ll develop it together but as I said before, It’s a team effort. On this record we wrote most of the materials without any lyrics for several reasons such as our willing to experiment with lyrics once the instrumental track is done. At some point we suggested recording the instrumental parts, listen to them and get the inspiration, which eventually worked out. 

Some of my songs were written on my way to the session. My writing is very intuitive and involves whatever is going on in my head at a certain point. Sefi and Mor’s writing is a bit different, each has his own methods, I guess. The recordings themselves were also pretty swift, recording most of the backing tracks live and layering some lead guitars over in one weekend. Later on we got to mess with some sounds and effects that gave more depth to the tracks. 

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

For me the dream is to stay “hungry” to create some interesting new stuff and to be able to share it with the world.  Would love nothing more than to tour once again, get exposed to new crowds and meet new people. The ideal is to do so until we die. Anyone anywhere who’s interested in booking us, can email to warptlv@gmail.com.

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

Go get our new LP from our label Nasoni Records . Our first single out of it titled “Dirigibles” will be out on January 3rd, so look it up as well!  The whole album will be available on all streaming platforms from February 1st. Look it up!