Housman’s Athletes bring literary punk rock from Phoenix, Arizona

July 14, 2008 at 3:54 am (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave, Punk Rock) (, , , , , , , , )

Interview by Derek Jensen
Phoenix, Arizona is not the first place you think of for the latest cutting-edge punk rock, which might give the locals Housman’s Athletes an element of surprise in a now overcrowded and strangely competitive genre. Unlike many of their contemporaries, too, Housman’s Athletes are not some brainless brats; besides being more musically versatile than other young acts also proclaiming themselves to be punk, they are literary as well, taking their name from a poem by A.E. Housman.

Derek Jensen: I’m getting an Orange County vibe from Housman’s Athletes although you guys are from Arizona. Were you influenced by a lot of Southern California punk rock such as NOFX, Bad Religion, and Pennywise?


Chris Foley: Some of us more than others. I think we all, for the most part, had our phases, but I’d say that Eric [Epps] has a greater tie to that scene.


Eric Epps: Well, yeah. When I moved to Arizona from the Midwest suddenly there was all of this West Coast music available that was new to me and fast and fun. I love NOFX, Pulley, and so forth, but I feel music shifting with the coming up of bands like the Gaslight Anthem, A Wilhelm Scream, and the now-ubiquitous Against Me! Phoenix is often overlooked as a music town, but there is some great talent here.


DJ Foley: We are all influenced, to some degree by the So-Cal scene, and I’m sure anybody that has ever been to Warped Tour is, also. Our primary influences, however, range all over the board from bands like Neurosis and Amen to country acts like Waylon Jennings and alt-rocker Ryan Adams. We also listen to electronic artists like Assemblage 23. They just did a remix of our song, “Save Me, Destroy Me” for us, by the way.


Jensen: There’s no genre classification of “punk” noted in your CDBaby entry. Was this a conscious decision to remove yourselves from the current punk stereotypes?


Chris: I personally think that punk has become just that, a stereotype, and we don’t feel that we fit in it. Punk is first and foremost a state of mind, a way of living. It seems today that everyone has put the ethics of punk at bay and chosen to focus more on brand names and mohawks.


DJ: Well, we definitely don’t want to pigeonhole our sound, as it covers a wide spectrum of genres. I don’t think you could call songs like “Four Cheers For Innocence” or “Feet Dangling & The Color Purple” punk songs, necessarily. By no means are we ashamed to be included in the punk genre, but we’re a fucking rock band.


Jensen: Lyrically, Housman’s Athletes strike a more serious, thoughtful tone, less politically caustic than Bad Religion but certainly a group which can carry flags with Against Me! Has this songwriting for Housman’s Athletes always been this mature or did it simply evolve into that later, much like what Green Day did?


Eric: It always seems like bands are put into one of two camps: Either they write songs about girls, or they write political songs. We’re not afraid to do either, but we don’t want to feel tied to a specific subject matter. We tire of boring minutia. When I write, I write the things that are on my mind. For example, “Things No One Wants” is supposed to inspire people to do anything other than sit on a couch and stagnate, and I wrote “Four Cheers for Innocence” immediately after I finished reading the novel Atonement. I think our “mature” songwriting, as you call it, stems from the fact that we are educated guys that work to better ourselves each day.


Jensen: The band credits the video games “Guitar Hero” and “Dance Dance Revolution” as inspirations. Are you being serious?


Eric : Not really. I finished tracking vocals for our pre-production at 6 a.m. after 30 hours of straight recording, an hour before I got on a plane out of town, and I sent a text message to the band (they left a few hours before me) that said ‘Guitar Hero’ and ‘Dance, Dance, Revolution’ are having a hot baby and it is going to be our record.” From there, it just sorta stuck. We thought it was funny.


Jensen: The group is named after a poem by A.E. Housman. Do you see yourself quitting at the top of your game?


Chris: Not necessarily, but I would like us to be remembered at our best.


Eric: Yeah, in the poem, the “athlete” dies right at his prime, and as a result, he is revered by everyone that knew him. That’s a great alternative to fading away and becoming lame or whatever. We’re not trying to die or anything, we just want to find some sustainability when we hit our stride.


DJ: And it all depends on where the top of our game is. If it means we’ve accomplished everything we possibly can as a band, then yes. I’m not looking to be a part of the music business to half-ass it. I don’t think any of us are. I also don’t want to do what a lot of bands have done and give up too soon. Many groups I’ve loved over the years had a lot of life in them and parted ways just before creating what could have been their best stuff.







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Waxapples deliver summer fun on ‘Glitter & Grime’

June 18, 2008 at 5:08 am (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock) (, )

Artist: Waxapples

Album: Glitter & Grime

Rating: 9/10

Official Website: http://www.waxapples.com

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

What time is it?! The season is here, the weather is starting to shift, and the flowers already have finished blooming. It’s summer time!  There’s time for everything, especially time to chill and listen to catchy tunes while driving down a nearby freeway listening to Waxapples on a hot summer day. In the song “Look Out,” one may be reminded of past memories, encompassing a cherubic voice along with the inviting artistry of the band’s instrument playing is worthwhile. Listening to Waxapples may be a whiff of fresh air; in the song “Lucky Stars” and “Over Again,” the band features their ability to intertwine rock, grunge, and great guitar riffs. With fun tunes such as “Hollywood,” and “Tush,” what more could one want to listen to during
the summer?


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Mike Press captures poetic songcraft of Jeff Tweedy with Beck’s quirks

March 27, 2008 at 7:07 am (Adult Album Alternative, Indie Rock) (, , , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Mike Press

Album: Keep Your Head

Rating: 9/10

Official Website: http://www.mikepress.com

Written by Derek Jensen

Singer/songwriter Mike Press casually tosses out more great lines than most of his peers are barely able to piece together. Keep Your Head is basically moments of genius stitched together. It’s not a smooth ride, certainly, and it took me repeated listenings to appreciate Press’ style in full. In fact, that is the best way to experience this record, in one large gulp, over and over again, letting Press’ rambling, off-the-cuff observations and desert-dry wit into your subconscious.

“Our love was a train wreck in the stars,” Press sings on “Tears of Goodbye (Wayward People’s Hearts),” recalling the poetic imagery of Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Obviously, Press is fan of the Americana segment of the indie-rock population; however, he isn’t too enamored of it in the sense that he is afraid of reaching beyond it. In fact, the influence of Beck and his stream-of-consciousness wordplay is just as pronounced here as the traditional roots-rock elements found in “Short Supplies” and “Taboo.”

I never heard of some of the groups – Drunken Boat, Sticky, etc – that Press used to be in so I’m curious as to how his work has progressed through the years. He certainly has something going for him here.

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The Libertines US offer flashback of pre-Nirvana alternative rock

March 7, 2008 at 7:51 am (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave) (, , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: The Libertines US

Album: Greatest Hits

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.thelibertines.us

Written by Derek Jensen

It may be hard for those who didn’t discover alternative rock until Nirvana or, God forbid, emo, but there was a period of time when just about everybody in the indie scene wanted to be R.E.M. Worshipped by Rolling Stone magazine and the crowned princes of campus stations worldwide, R.E.M. ruled the underground for nearly a decade before their inevitable mainstream breakthrough. You need to read that history lesson to fully understand the Libertines US.

With their continually ringing guitars and enigmatic lyrics (the most straightforward is probably “Everybody Wants to Be My Sister,” which says it all), the Libertines US were among the best of the R.E.M.-alikes. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t like R.E.M. enough. While most R.E.M. clones settled into the same jingle-jangle-jingle-jangle format track for track, the Libertines US skidded in other directions like Goth punk rockabilly (“Voices from the Past”) to neo-psychedelia (the Church-ish “Firetruck”) to, well, proto-grunge (“300 Moons”). However, what may have seemed confusing two decades ago fits perfectly within the electic jukebox of my iPod. Like the Velvet Underground, the Libertines US were way ahead of their time. My only problem with Greatest Hits is that it seems to toss in everything the group has recorded, and not all of it clicks for me. Nevertheless, the many tracks that do – more than half of this CD – make this a must-buy. Get it while it’s still in print.

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Vast Countenance groove to the heart of the Kinks, the Beatles

March 5, 2008 at 6:58 pm (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock) (, , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Vast Countenance

Album: As We Please

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.vastcountenance.nl

Written by Derek Jensen

Opening the indie-rock scene to blatant fan-worship of the ’60s, Vast Countenance breathe new air into an increasingly stale climate. These Dutch rockers embrace the Woodstock generation with giddy open arms and actually do not humiliate themselves. Their taste for retro rock is real and intelligently and coolly shaped into prime slices of garage-band nostalgia and British Invasion power pop. “Easyride” takes a look back at the Beatles’ ringing-guitar majesty without the bland coyness that often informs such efforts in the indie-rock world. “Clay” finds Vast Countenance investigating psychedelia while “Trumpet Slide” takes a walk on the wild, er, dark side of the rock groove.

Is there anything original here? My answer to that is: Does it matter? Rock & roll is so old now (more than 50 years, kids!) that all we can do now is recycle the same parts in different ways. If Vast Countenance want to take a time machine to the glory days of the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, and the Who, they certainly do so with youthful vigor and an inspired spirit. And they write attention-grabbing tunes with the crisp kick of an angry stallion. Fasten your seatbelts when the guitars take off on “This Year’s Fall,” making most of the post-punk wanna-be’s (they know who they are) look like wimps. Even VC’s mellow touches such as “Finelines” and “Telephone Line” are ethereal and pretty, making me long for the late, lamented Straitjacket Fits.

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