Sunday, December 13, 2009
This is just to say that on March 9th of 2010, Extra Large Recordings will be releasing our second full-length album, which we have been referring to as The Monitor.
Here is the album cover, just one element of the gorgeous artwork associated with this record by leading typographist, author, and Double Dagger vocalist Nolen Strals.
[Yr probably going to want to click on it, since I don't know how to make it small enough to fit on the screen. Oops!]
The image which is our record cover is a photograph taken in 1862 of the crew of the USS Monitor, which was an ironclad battleship employed by the Union Navy during the American Civil War. Learn more about this amazing ship and its Confederate counterpart, the CSS Virginia (nee Merrimac), here.
Believe it or not, the lettering of the album's title on that there cover is actually taken from a letter written by none other than out 16th president, Abraham Lincoln! Wow! Cool, right?
The reason we have opted to release this record on March 9th is simply this - March 9th, 1862, was the day on which the Monitor and the Virginia did battle off the coast of Hampton Roads, Virginia, and laid waste to how we thought about naval warfare (though not to each other). Releasing this record is our way of celebrating the 148th anniversary of this historic event.
The various component sounds which make up this album were recorded during the month of August at Marcata Recording in scenic New Paltz, NY. We also took some fields trips to Boston and Baltimore, and some "field recordings" of sorts were done around Jersey and NYC, but it was primarily a New Paltz affair. Here is a picture of the barn that we lived in for that month.
All these summertime shenanigans occurred under the watchful eye of producer and engineer Kevin McMahon (who oversaw our first album, as well as Pussy Cats by the Walkmen, Son of the Tiger by the Big Sleep, and Promises Promises by Die! Die! Die! among others). The usual suspects from the world of Titus Andronicus were all in attendance, as well as an all-star cast of luminous friends (members of Ponytail, Wye Oak, Hallelujah the Hills, Spider Bags, Vivian Girls, Hold Steady, etc.) and a generous assortment of colorful New Paltz locals. The aforementioned Kevin McMahon also did the mixing during September and October, and Greg Calbi did the mastering (so chosen because he is the only person alive who can claim involvement in both The Chemistry of Common Life by Fucked Up and Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell by Meat Loaf) in early November.
So what does all this sound like? It has long passages of ambient drones, blazing saxophone, pianos homages to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," complete marching drumlines,Thunder Tube solos, fourteen-minute Billy Bragg knock-offs, backwards liturgical pieces, bombastic country duets, garbage cans hit with tambourines, choirs of angels with bromantic faces, probably too many spoken word interludes lifted from cassette tapes, and, of course, the hissy-fit punk songs, miserable, self-obsessed naval-gazing and off-key warbling we have come to expect from Titus Andronicus. With any luck, people won't talk about this record in the context of the media-concocted "lo-fi" movement, since we went crazy (and broke) trying to perfect the sound of "hi-fi punk."
The tracklisting is as follows, even though my roommate pointed out to me earlier that the perfunctory inclusion of track listings in announcements like these is kind of silly - "Here are the names of the songs you can listen to in a few months!" Either way, that seems to be the custom.
1. A More Perfect Union
2. Titus Andronicus Forever
3. No Future Part Three: Escape from No Future
4. Richard II or Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
5. A Pot In Which To Piss
6. Four Score and Seven
7. Theme from "Cheers"
8. To Old Friends and New
9. ...And Ever
10. The Battle of Hampton Roads
That sixth song, "Four Score and Seven," is streaming even as we speak on our MySpace. Elsewhere on the internet you may find two mp3s bearing this same name, one containing the first half of the song and the other containing the second. That is so because we have a seven inch coming out on February 9th, 2010 (that being Abraham Lincoln's 201st birthday, and 201 being the area code of Glen Rock, NJ, where we are from), which will divide the song in this fashion, sort of in the tradition of "Little Johnny Jewel" by Television or "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles. The good people at Extra Large Recordings felt this was also a good way to present our current vision to you kids. Fair enough! You might find those mp3s on some other website, maybe one that reports on indie rock or something, but the version which will appear on our album can be heard on our MySpace. Hopefully, it will give you a pretty good idea of what we're going for.
So, as you may have guessed,The Monitor is more or less a "concept album" – that is to say, it uses the American Civil War of 1861-1865 as an extended metaphor for the concerns addressed in a somewhat linear narrative. In said narrative, our hero leaves his humble birthplace of New Jersey - the oppressive and stifling qualities of which were discussed ad nauseam about one album ago – for the greener pastures of Boston, Massachusetts. His thesis – "the enemy is everywhere" – is put to the ultimate test as he pontificates on the topics of regional identity, emotional anesthetization, and the heavy yoke of trying to live decently in indecent times. All the while, he is forced to wonder whether said American Civil War was truly won or lost, or even completed. Will he find the supportive environment and like-minded compatriots he dreams of? Or will he be forced to leave his newly adopted home in ideological disgrace? What does it mean to be an American in 2009 anyway? Who are our so-called "friends" and how actually friendly are they? Is it necessary, or even a good idea, for an indie rock album to ask these sorts of questions? The Dark Knight, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Taming of the Shrew also fit in there somewhere.
Well, all this is still quite a few months away, so perhaps I am saying too much. We will talk more soon about the tour to support this album, the user's guide, the making-of documentary, and all the other wild, potentially ill-advised mischief we are looking to get into. For now, please enjoy our new song. Tally ho!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Last night, our band played at the VICE Magazine 15th Anniversary/Halloween party, which took place in some kind of unfinished warehouse space on N. 10th Street in Williamsburg. The theme of the party was "1994," and thusly, we were contracted to play a set of Weezer covers for generous compensation. Also, Jesus Lizard and Bad Brains were playing, and who doesn't want to play with them? Sounds great, right? Yeah, I thought so too.
The people who put on the event were very nice and gave us lots of free beer and sandwiches and all manner of other swag, and took special care to see all of our needs were met and gave us a nice room to hang out in, and so on. Around the time that Jesus Lizard were supposed to start, we crossed the street to try and see what was to be seen. We should have known we were in for trouble when the security gaurds wouldn't let us in, despite the fact that we had artist wristbands and guitars, and wouldn't explain to us why we were being denied. "I'm in a band, we're playing tonight," I told one burly gentleman. "Cool shit," he scoffed. Eventually, we had to be escorted in by the arist liason, who had to keep constant walkie-talkie communication with his colleagues. It was really bonkers!
Once we were inside, Jesus Lizard was hard to enjoy for all of the indie "Lord of the Flies" type shennanigans going on all around us. For every person drinking a beer or snorting coke in the bathroom, there were five people taking his or her picture, and they seemed to all be dressed as characters from Pulp Fiction. Okay, fair enough. It is fun, like, for Facebook and stuff, right? Something like that? Okay, fine, but by the tenth or eleventh time that some stranger took our picture while we were trying to relax and pretend we weren't in a swelteringly hot and disgusting filthy warehouse, my partner and I had had enough, and tried to seek shelter downstairs. This was equally terrifying (but kind of cool too, actually), wandering around the ground floor, which was covered in a very thick artifical fog, from which skeletons and other assorted ghouls would appear without warning. Yikes!
At this point, Bad Brains were playing, and it was clear more trouble was in store, when some guy in some sort of medeival doungeon master getup tried to crowd surf during "Attitude," which inspired the security to storm the stage twelve or so deep, evacuate the Bad Brains, and stand like some sort of musclehead Stonehenge along the end of the stage, while their leader informed everyone, "This is not a concert, this is a party. Have a seat." Of course, the floor was covered in horrible grime and broken glass, but whatever.
Poor Bad Brains. Or is it? With all due respect to these legends of hardcore and reformed homophobes, I don't know if I can ever recall a more phoned-in performance in all my life. This should come as no surprise, based on the ubiquity of weed stench emenating from their dressing room, and the equally ever-present site of all-time-greatest-hardcore-singer front-runner HR sitting motionless on a couch (seriously - this hardcore legend did not move an inch during the whole evening!). I mean, whatever floats yr boat, HR, more power to you, but for this Greatest Hardcore Band Ever to get onstage and have their singer remain motionless in body and completely monotone in voice... I dunno, it is just not how I imagined it might be. Disappointing at best.
Well, this whole scene was fucked, clearly, and my ladyfriend was getting more and more disturbed by the assholery on display (or sexual harassment, as she would call it, and perhaps rightly so) and the constant picture-taking by stangers, that she had to go home and try and live like a reasonable person. I wish I could have followed her, but as will become a theme throughout this sad tale, I really needed the money. So, I escorted her out of the building and out of the hellish nightmare that was this party, and I was glad to see her moving towards a more peaceful and decent evening.
Okay, so here is where shit got really weird, for me, anyway. I guess I should mention that I was dressed as Ulysses S. Grant, albeit a more glam version (I had no pants that matched my military jacket, so the above-mentioned ladyfriend lent me some blue leggings - a liberty I felt free to take), and my principal props were a cigar and a mid-sized American flag that I had attached to a mop handle. Understand me very clearly - there is no punk that loves the idea of America and what the flag represents at its best (all humans being created equal, land of opportunity, hard work and ensuing prosperity, forty acres and a mule, a potato in every pot, etc etc), and while some might take issue at my version of our 18th president being more in touch with his feminine side than he probably was, this costume was an unironic celebration and homage to a man that I deeply admire, drunken murderer that he was. Anyway. This is the important part!
Upon seeing my partner off, I was confronted by a large security gaurd, clearly recognizable as the sort of fellow I have encountered on NJ Transit and in the bro bars of Hoboken and frat parties the world over more times than I care to recall.
"You can't have that flag in here," he told me.
"Huh?" I asked.
"You can't have that flag in here, you have to take it outside," he replied.
"The flag?" I asked, confused.
"Just step outside," he said calmly.
This seemed like an odd request, but hey, he knows what he's talking about right, and perhaps he just wants to explain things more clearly to me when we are further displaced from the incessant thumping of electronic music, so I followed him a few yards in the direction of the door, at which point, he yelled, "NOW LEAVE!" and, grabbing me around the torso, began forcing me towards the metal barricades. I protested, primarily in the form of "Hey! Hey!" Not my most locquacious moment, but I was baffled. Growing frustrated at the effort it was taking to get a one hundred forty pound man in tights to do what he wanted, this gentleman grabbed me around the throat and lifted me off the pavement, tossing me over the barricade and onto the sidewalk. I figure that either, a) he saw his position of authority as a good opportunity to stomp queers like he used to with the other good old boys, or, b) this guy was a real American and seeing a degenerate hipster like me hoisting Old Glory was just so offensive a sight that he was driven into a blind rage, like any reasonable person would. Point is, I was now forcefully ejected and, indeed, physically assaulted, and unable to gain access to the event where I was expected to entertain the assembled masses. Did I mention that this assault was probably the single moment of the night that wasn't documented in about a hundred photographs, currenlty weighing heavily upon the Flickr server? Again, I digress.
So, at this point, feeling very insulted and violated, my neck now a mess of red handprints, and not really getting anywhere with my howls of, "You can't treat me like this! I'm an American!", I made my second-ever call to 911, who told me that police would be along shortly to see to my needs! Woo! Indeed, the police did arrive a minute later, sirens and all, and I ran after the car to tell them that I was the man who was so ghastily offended, but they turned the corner and sped off into the night, probably quite satisfied in knowing that the victim was some hipster douchebag who probably had it coming. Thanks, guys. To serve and protect. Fantastic.
Anyway, I called up my man, Ian, who is smarter than me about this sort of thing, and he came out to get the 411. Upon hearing the abbreviated version of my ordeal, he ran back inside to find the artist liason and get things sorted out. He returned a minute later to have my back, because that's how we do it in New Jersey baby, but upon trying to explain the situation to our ever-vigilant protectors, he too was swarmed upon by five or six mighty gorillas (Ian is about a hundred fifty pounds, by the way - none of these guys looked less than two fifty) and forced out in a similar fashion to myself. Hoo boy. What a pair we made, out there on the sidewalk. Ian is a good guy. He always has my back. A friend like that is hard to find.
Soon enough, the artist liason, a very nice young man named Joe, came over and found himself unable to sufficiently explain to the security that the two men they had just delivered minor-league ass-whuppings to were hired performers and needed to be inside to do their jobs, we had to be snuck through the back door. We met another security gaurd here, who I suppose was fairly high on the totem pole, since upon seeing me, said to Joe, "This guy's not getting back in. I saw one of my guys throw him out." Admirable, isn't it? Such integrity, such a commitment to excellence. This guy is going to make sure that his carefully-selected team of professionals is going to do what they believe to be the best job possible, even if it means assaulting the performers and alienating and terrifying the promoters who hired them.
I was ready to get wild at this point, so I berated this man to what I thought was a well-warranted degree, to which I was told to, "Calm down," since the man I was yelling at, "didn't know what happened." I told him that I did know what happened, and if he knew, perhaps he wouldn't be so keen on calming down either, which I thought was very fair. He must have thought so too, since he told me he wanted to start at "Ground Zero." Too soon?
Anyway, we were escorted back inside and played a very shitty set of Weezer covers. No, playing the all-time greatest guitar lick at the end of the "Buddy Holly" solo did NOT make me feel better.
Talking to the people from VICE following our performance, we learned that some young women had been ejected in a fashion much like the one I experience, though with an even more disturbing sexual twist, which I did not get the details of. They also said that they had severed their ties with the good people at Tight Security (http://www.tightsecuritygroup.com, if yr curious) and were actually going to sue them for their heinous misbehaviors. I agreed that I would give a statement whenever they needed. Is VICE actually going to do this, or were they just trying to hush me up and get me out of there? Time will tell. Next time you see one of those VICE folks, ask him or her how the lawsuit is going. I somehow get the feeling they will be too concerned with the latest gold lame unitard ad from American Apparel to give you much of an answer, but I hope I am mistaken.
With that, Eric, Liam and I went back to my apartment and watched "Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1-12" and felt all better, mostly. Walking young Liam to the L Train this morning, we found ourselves behind some typically costumed "hipsters" who delighted themselves between games of grab ass by smashing beer bottles on the ground and rearranging police barricades. Wow, you make us all look so great. Guess where they were headed? You win, you clever reader - they headed right into the very warehouse that had been such a portal to hell the night before.
Ughhh, this all raises so many questions! New York City is supposed to be a haven for people like me, and I am still getting my ass kicked by the same goons who were kicking my ass in high school. They probably want to kick my ass because they see what huge assholes we all are, with our cocaine and our cameras and our annoying music. I also wonder why it was that so many thousands of people wanted to stand for hours in the rain to get hot and filthy and have their pictures taken by strangers and probably get their asses kicked to boot. I was there too, and didn't want to leave despite any of these issues, and why? Because I am no better than anyone I despise and couldn't stop chasing the green monster. I degraded and debased myself for a few bucks, and yes, we all know where that money is going.
The whole thing is fucked. VICE is a perfectly fine magazine, and the people who work there are decent folks, but they really are bad at not getting mixed up with the wrong people and inspire my generation to really weird and troubling behavior. Tight Security Inc is raking in the big dollars by pointing fallen high school football superstars in the direction of easy targets. We are being choked and beaten and sexually assaulted, and all the while, my peers dance and snort cheap coke and photograph each other for the hundreth time. I scoff at it all now from atop my high horse, but I was there too, because I am poor and when people want give me money to play my guitar, I can't ever say no.
Kids, we are blowing it. Everything they say about us is true.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
We had some time to kill In Richmond VA, so we went to vinyl conflict and here is what we came out with.
Waco Fuck – Paranoia is Total Awareness LP
Total Abuse s/t (bad boy edition) LP
Tragedy S/T LP
Kill your idols Salmon Swim Upstream 7”
Double Dagger / Economist Split 7”
Deathcycle S/T 7”
Portraits of Past / Bleed Split 7”
Bones Brigade / D.F.A. Slpit 7”
Career Suicide- Single e.p. 7”
Off Spring- Smash CD
Yeah Yeah Yeah – Show Your Bones CD
Friday, June 5, 2009
If you don't have our album or never wanted to spend money on it, you can download it for free today and only today.
go here: http://www.beggarsgroupusa.com/releases/the-airing-of-grievances/
Also if you live in the tri-state area, we are playing tomorrow at the Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow located in Brooklyn NY
Saturday, May 30, 2009
The Titus Andronicus UK tour is almost over and we will be coming back to the US with several items
On the Next tour we well have the following Titus Andronicus Paraphernalia.
- Titus Andronicus b/w Every Time I See the Light pts. 1 and 2 7” (Merok)
- My Time Outside the Womb b/w To old Friends and New 7” (Merok)
- Titus Andronicus Live in London 12”
Monday, May 25, 2009
Patrick and I devised a tongue-twister. Feel free to make an mp3 of your own attempt to recite it. Then send it to us for our amusement. It goes like this:
"Ack, Wack Mack! Stack Jack Black's black snack backpack back on the tacky cracked rack in the back of the hatchback by Quack Zach's yak hackey-sack."
This is how we pass the time.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
1. We are currently traveling in something of a station wagon. It is pretty tiny.
2. In Brighton at The Volks, Patrick was sleeping on a bench in the venue's downstairs area. One of the bouncers insisted he go somewhere else. Later, said bouncer apologized, saying "I thought you were homeless."
3. We turned up our car stereo last night and now it goes from being entirely silent to being extremely loud, with no in-between.
4. The pizza place next door to Lennons in Southampton has very good fish and chips, as far as I can tell. Downstairs at the club I got the high score in "Paint It Black" on Rock Band but then accidentally erased it. You don't have to believe me if you don't want to.
5. At our second show in Brighton at Jam (formerly Water Margin), Patrick wanted to thank the audience for coming to our show while so many other popular bands were at the Great Escape festival. "You could be down the street seeing Dananananaykroyd," he said. A man in the front row replied "Hey, that's my band!" According to our intel, he wasn't lying.
6. Patrick has come to believe that he has a superpower wherein he mentions a person or band and suddenly we run into them.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
If you have ever been to a Titus Andronicus concert or read a Titus Andronicus interview, you have probably heard us deliver a lengthy monologue on our favourite topic, how we don't have any money. The cruel realities of life in our modern economy have forced Titus Andronicus to adopt a philosophy of extreme frugality, "jamming econo," as the Minutemen used to call it. The first thing that has to be sacrificed to live this lifestyle? Hotels!
As you may or may not know, we are heading out on a rather extensive tour of the UK later this month, and would really fancy coming over to yr house after the show and sleeping on the floor. Thus far, thanks to the assistance of Gareth from Los Campesinos! (yes, he thinks we are cool - let that colour yr perception to whatever positive end it may), we have lined up a few evenings of accomidations, but still desperately need yr help in the following cities on the following days.
5/14 - Brighton
5/15 - Brighton *
5/16 - Southampton
5/18 - Oxford *
5/21 - Liverpool
5/26 - Glasgow *
5/27 - Middlesborugh
5/28 - Leeds *
5/30 - Sheffield
( Dates marked with a * are with the Soft Pack, if that is yr thing)
If you let us come over after the show on any of these days, we are willing to get you and a friend into the concert FOR FREE. We may also be willing to do some household chores - straighten up, wash the dishes, clean some windows, water houseplants, etc. In addition, we will entertain you with a bevy of jokes and delightful yarns. What beer the nightclub gives us, you may also have some access to. Basically, if you look after our sleeping, we will make sure that you have the most memorable and enjoyable concert experience possible. Sound fair?
There are just four of us. We are all well-behaved and polite. We promise not to make a mess. We require nothing more than a floor and a ceiling.If it is yr pleasure, we are happy to go to sleep as soon as we arrive. If you seek further partying, we are happy to do that also. I believe that you will find our company most agreeable.
PLEASE, if you are at all interested, please contact us via message at this MySpace or send an e-mail toTitusAndronicustheband@Gmail.com. We will be eternally grateful. Thanks very much in advance for yr consideration.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I don’t know if I can announce this project for fear that I may step on the toes of some XL Recordings marketing intern, whose only job, aside from buying coffee for the higher-ups, is to develop a Titus Andronicus release and announcement timeline, so I won’t say anything. However, I will but hint, in the most general sense, at what was committed to tape last week at Marcata Studios in New Paltz, NY. New songs were recorded. Only, the songs are not new to the world, only new to us. Look, if one is to assume that a particular song is, ipso facto, that very song, then, no, the songs are old, but the fact remains that Titus Andronicus has never performed these songs live, nor for their own pleasure or edification, etc, etc, but only in practice, so that they might be recorded. And they have been recorded. That is all.
These two songs will be released on two separate seven-inch records. Now you think, why would I buy a record that has only one song on it? To which I would say: There is another song on the other side. A crucial piece of information that I deliberately left out of the first paragraph is that the songs that we recorded are cover songs, so when I say that the songs were old, I mean to say that at the time of our recording them, another band had before then committed a version of their song, which was the quote-unquote definitive version of the song. None of this solves the mystery of what is on the other side of the record.
This does: the band whose song we covered on one side of the record will cover one of our songs on the other side.
1. We spent Monday shooting a video at New York’s famous Silent Barn with a guy called Mike Reynolds. He was great. Thanks to those who live there and especially Joe Ahearn, who runs show paper, and especially, especially to all of the folks who showed up and allowed us to cover them with mylar, even after they had begun to sweat. You are probably still trying to wash it off. Thank you. The video is for our upcoming single for the song whose title can be shortened to “Icarus.” That should give you some idea. We placed a baby on the floor, smashed some glass, jumped around, sprayed confetti. Not in that order!!!!!! You get me???
2. Episode two of our now famous webisode has been posted on our website, TitusAndronicus.net, for your viewing pleasure. It may soon be removed and slightly edited. Featured in the video is Randy and Dean of No Age, Hisham of Soft Circle, and other great friends from the tour from last Winter.
Lucero is a band from Tennessee that none of us were familiar with until we met them the other day in St Louis. If that show was any indication it is a different kind of thing, touring with Lucero, than it is touring with No Age or Los Campesinos. Case in point, they had not gotten as far as their second song before a brawl erupted between four grisly women. Bo, who was an eye witness to the affair, said that one woman grabbed a beer bottle and attempted to smash it over another lady’s head, unsuccessfully. The rest is a blur, but the bouncer kicked them out and these women had the rest of the night to think at home about what they’d done. Meanwhile Lucero finished their set and discovered that a fat clump of hair that had been torn from one woman’s head now rest on the stage. Imagine that. I thought we would be in for more of a wild ride after the first night, but the whole thing just started with a bang and has plateaued into something vaguely exciting. We are having fun.
Sorry, if anybody reads this, that there have been fewer posts of late. America isn’t as stimulating!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The webmaster here has a pretty comprehensive collection of our material. Maybe you are interested.
We are enjoying a day off in New Jersey after our show in Baltimore last night. But don't go on missing Titus Andronicus. We are going on tour with Lucero starting April 9th and hope to see all of you there. Also, don't miss us tomorrow night at Market Hotel. Come early or risk missing Dinowalrus and Real Estate, and be the only one of your friends who wasn't there for their explosive sets.
Monday, March 23, 2009
(THE MAE SHI: WATCH THIS TWENTY TIMES TO SEE IF YOU WOULD HAVE HAD FUN AT SXSW 2008)
The whole thing was a clusterfuck. "South By." We played some good shows. There was not as much free beer and food as we were told there would be. Abe Vigoda is the best band in the world. Ponytail is also the best band in the world. I saw our buddies in Real Estate play very loud and very, very good show at the Peacock Lounge. The Tallest Man on Earth (who is in fact very tiny) played one of the greatest shows in modern history, just him and his guitar. We went to see one of this band’s greatest influences, The Proclaimers, “The Twins with Bins,” in concert. They covered a Kings of Leon song, “one of the lesser known ones.”
Click this link to see an amazing Proclaimers video. Embedding is disabled, but it’s worth your time.
Finally, Patrick, a few drinks deep, and in a dirty Paul McCartney shirt, met the mayor of Austin.
Since we arrived in Austin we have heard nothing but complaints from bands that had to carry their equipment for literal miles, like lowly packmules, between venues and vans. It is this band’s most recent logistical triumph over conventional wisdom that we have with us a Dahon Boardwalk folding bike to alleviate parking woes, spaces being both scarce and distant. The advantage of the Dahon Boardwalk single-speed folding bike is that, first and foremost, it folds and can be safely stashed along with any band’s equipment in the back of the van. Now we stash our van with great ease.
We played two shows en route to SXSW. The first of these shows was in Charlottesville, Va. Note that my notes on this show are skewed, for I was feeling jetlagged and overwhelmed, because I used to live there for three years. Playing a show for a group of people, all of whom you know at least peripherally but have not seen in a year, is a high-stress exercise in emotional management, and one that I failed. This show marked our return to mid-sized American venues with our own amplifiers, and that took serious adjustment. We were very, very loud but somehow did not clear the room. Many people did leave. This was the first of two dates with the good people over at the Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson team—or as we took to calling him, MBAR. Another band played, called St. God’s Hospital, featuring my favorite waiter Caleb L’Etoile, who used to serve me beer when I was still on college payroll.
Baton Rouge was a star-studded bill, with Marnie Stern and band, MBAR again, and our new buddies in a band called The Subjects. Jimmy of The Subjects set up my guitar and Ian’s bass guitar in exchange for only a couple of Oreos, and as it turned out later, free reign to touch our asses, in a buddy-buddy kind of way that was equal parts charming an off-putting. These guys are some of the nicest folks we’ve met. There was a nice sort of recess going on before the show, with the Subjects, MBAR and all of us doing bike tricks, playing wiffle ball and kicking a soccerball around. Then it was time to rock, and so we did. Marnie travels with a cute designer pup called Fig. It was one of those rodentine pygmy dogs that yelps always and forever, and the name of whose breed is impossible to remember. The name is a portmanteau of two breeds whose names you probably know, but once connected, are humorous. Like a golden doodle or cockapoo. I can’t remember this one.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
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This was the first full-length tour without a CD player or an iPod that we could plug into the car stereo. So we were left to listen to the radio, which was unpleasant insofar as one likes to listen to music that one likes. Most discouraging was the seeming lack of regional music on the radio. Everything was American or British. One must travel far beyond Europe to escape that sound. We hardly even heard Lily Allen or Kate Nash in the UK. Similarly discouraging is the European predilection towards writing songs in English, which virtually every band we played with did. Why not sing some songs in French, so round and gummy, or German, so brutal, or Dutch, like silk boxers. Speak the language of your feelings! (Easy for me to say.)
Favorite Radio Songs
Andrew - "Viva La Vida," Coldplay
Eric - "Spaceman," Killers
Ian G - "Single Ladies," Beyoncé Knowles
Ian O - "If I Were a Boy," Beyoncé Knowles
Patrick - "Human," Killers
Best Band We Played With, By Far
Andrew — I Arkle
Eric — Stalin Vs Band
Ian G — Plug (Too hard to find their myspace)
Ian O — John and Jehn
Patrick — The Elvis Suicide
Andrew — Tsunami Club, Koln, Germany
Eric — Vera, Groningen, Holland
Ian G — Botanique, Brussels, Belgium
Ian O — Molotow, Frankfurt, Germany
Patrick — L’Abordage, Evreux, France
There are depths of misery on tour that will forever remain untold, never to be understood by another. There are those who have felt it themselves, in their own way, but everybody has their own way of feeling it. I have tried to explain this particular feeling to my friends in the band, but they claim to never feel it, but they surely do, because, I figure, everybody who shares this lifestyle must. What I will say is this: the feeling is a cumulative and very specific convergence of things that are, taken alone, only moderately unpleasant. They include a deep gastrointestinal discomfort generally caused by too much gas station food, stinking and stretched out clothes, loneliness, and most of all, an aural overstimulation so pervasive it resembles chronic boredom in its monotony. This feeling inevitably comes once a tour, but only if the tour is longer than twenty days in length, and arrives unannounced as each tour’s emotional nadir. I can write of Frankfurt now, almost wistfully, because it was the only time I truly found myself in the pits, and only for a very specific moment. I was sitting with my head in my hands at the bottom of a staircase, feeling very tired, sorry for myself, and tired of feeling sorry for myself, when a door shut behind me. I was tired of all of these things, tired of playing shows after playing something like fifty show in fifty-five days, and eating bad food, missing my amour and what have you...but when the door shut I instinctively looked behind me where the door was and saw that painted on it was a woman, a sexy cartoon woman, naked up from the waist. She was chugging a liter of milk and spilling it all over her face and bare breasts. The painting was so detailed that you could see little milk rivulets gathered around her nipple follicles. (Nothing of this nature has so aroused me since Jessica Rabbit.) There had been one paying customer at a show on the other side of the world.
It was like the aimless sadness of youth, when one allows oneself to cry more or less because one was in the mood to make a scene, and only moments later mother or father comes to tickle you or make a face, and one can do nothing but laugh at how ridiculous it is to be upset for the sake of being upset. And so I realized, here’s this painting of a woman with milk on her tits, and my life in particular is too stupid to justify this misery. And so we drove to Koln.
Somewhere between everywhere we had been and Koln we passed the metaphysical border between places where pizza isn’t the king of foods and into the land where pizza is. I bought tubed mustard for my parents at an Indian supermarket and then we played a show. All was right in the land where pizza is king. This was one of tour’s resounding successes, which culminated with the promoter passing out on the bar while the lovely unsupervised bartender gave everybody whatever they could drink. Her mother was from Detroit, we all sat alone in the bar having free drinks and listening to a Motor City compilation. The bartender’s name was Manu, short for Manuela, but Eric misheard her and thought she said, “Anu.” The humor may be obvious, but it was particularly funny for us: some time ago my brother developed a pronunciation for the word “anus,” specifically “anu,” that later became colloquial usage in Titus Andronicus when referring to that part of the anatomy. Tee-hee.
We played Tuesday in Brussels at a venue complex Botanique. The facility was built as a royal garden. This was not immediately apparent, as the whole place was concrete and plantless, save for a small hallway there some green plantlike things dangling. There was also a hedge maze and a fountain outside. Very European. Luc, the lighting engineer, told us that the room used to be a greenroom laboratory of sorts, and is in fact the very room in which the endive was “invented.” (Were they not warmed against playing God? These would not be the first peoples smote from existence for their hubristic chicory-smithery.) During the show I relayed this astonishing fact to the impressionables who watched us rocking and rolling, flailing with reckless abandon, and one of their ranks replied, “Neko Case said that on stage last week.” And so I came to realize that in Belgium, Neko Case’s word is alpha and omega on man-made root plants, and I am just a piece of shit.
Omar Rodriguez Lopez, former guitarist and principle songwriter of At The Drive-In, was playing in Botanique’s big room next door. He had a seven- or eight-piece band, who we encountered in the tiny hallways between green rooms. Ian O claims that he complimented Omar on his shoes, boutique Chucks, and Omar was “very friendly, seemed like a nice guy.” I felt bad for Omar & Co. because they took upon themselves the unenviable task of filling the facility with marijuana smoke. The ways in which they channeled those energy was apparent when I caught some of his set. Guitar pyrotechnics.
How ironic that we should play the same venue on each end of our maiden voyage? La Fleche D’Or was kind enough to have us back on their turf after some problem arose, likely from the fact that nobody had bought tickets to the show, with the venue we intended to play. I was too tired to do any of the things I promised myself I would do, like go to the Louvre and see La Joconde in the flesh (ie, in real life). The show itself was curated by a Parisian band called Sheraff. Everyone was very nice and sounded very much like Nirvana.
Be advised: it has been twenty years since Bleach came out, and nearly that long since Slanted and Enchanted. The people who bought first pressings of these records when they came are now married and their wives will soon force them to throw away or sell their favorite records, if they have not already. This means that we have reached the twenty- to twenty-five-year “vintage” cycle wherein things from that long ago will soon reach thrift stores and dollar bins, where the twenty-year old trash that forty-year olds bought the summer before they entered college will pass through thrift stores, into the hands of impressionable sixteen-year-olds, who will buy these treasures and make the next generation of important bands, most of which will be heavily indebted to the guitar rock of that period. And then, to them, your mid-eighties influenced electro-pop band will sound “like the Killers or something.”
All of the bands were quite good. Jack Graetzer brought the pain and we got to the Chunnel without incident for the last time. I woke up to deal with customs. We will be questioned each time we enter the country from now until eternity because of November’s customs mishap. Then full speed ahead to London, for a flight to Newark, home, and the next day to New York, for a show with the Wrens. Everything that happened there was normal and decidedly not-exotic, so I will not write about it. It was good. You have better things to read about. We are two days from SXSW.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Conversation over dinner in Brussels grew tense when talk veered towards the recently proposed and highly controversial ban on smoking cigarettes in the van, slated to take effect upon our return to America tomorrow. The pro-smoking side argues that the intervals between stops for defecation, refueling, and/or snacks in American travel, vastly longer than European intervals, pose an unreasonable obstacle for even the most iron-willed nic-head. It is unreasonable, they argue, that any smoker be asked to hold out for what often turns out to be three hours or more. Additionally, for those who do not know the joys of constant smoking, there is no way to comprehend the pleasure; thus any such ban would be solipsistic, and what’s more, selfish.
The no smoking team argues these points. In the van, smoke is subject to no barriers—even the most diligent window wafter is fated to smoke out the entire van. Van smoking is thus in violation of the Personal Spaces Act of 2008, wherein Graetzer, Cedermark et al., backed by band majority, ruled that anyone can do whatever they want within a reasonable personal space in the van, so long as it does not impinge upon the well-being, emotional or otherwise, of any other member of Titus Andronicus. Non-smokers thus posit that van smoking should have ceased with the passage of that Act, along with deep flatulence, very loud headphone volumes, and “close talking.”
The smokers retort that any prohibition on van smoking will be similarly in violation of the Personal Spaces Act for burden it places upon their personal space. A smoking ban limits activity of someone else in the Personal Space, which, for a person in his own space, is an ungovernable sector for he who honors the limits of his own boundaries. After all, it is the smoke and not the smoker that invades the personal space of another; the smoke and not the smoker. Touché, I guess. And then the no-smokers argue that there are special circumstances.
One needs look no further than Eric Harm’s medical records to see that he is an asthmatic, and so has more to lose than your garden variety smoker has to gain from smoking whensoever he pleases. This dark reality is compounded by the fact that he is The Drummer. Keeping Eric healthy means playing better shows, which creates more money with which smokers may buy, and subsequently smoke, more cigarettes. (So long as they do not smoke them in the van.) His thoracic and cardiovascular healths are ipso facto the band’s backbone, or for those of you logged in south of the border, its cajones. But others in this camp argue that it is not entirely about Eric, the guy who likes to scratch his balls and in fact lies doing so beside me in a cheap motel as I write this, scratch scratch, but about manners that ought to be upheld pro forma. After all, non-smoking is normative.
Or is it? Now we find ourselves at a deep philosophical impasse. J. S. Mill does not mentions this. The demands of each group burden the others within their personal spaces. Yet both the smokers and the non-smokers believe themselves to be the normative group. For smokers, smoking was once a choice but now occupies the nebulous ground between want and need that is psychological addiction. Within their paradigm, addiction shifts the foundation of normativity to include smoking as a basic need. To their thinking, non-smokers must allow this fundamental, or now-fundamental, need at whatever cost. Whereas non-smokers argue not smoking is normative because, first, no nicotine addiction drawn upon the tabula rasa, and in this day and age more people don’t than do.
Should Titus Andronicus allow smoking in the van? Voting will take place tomorrow morning, Heathrow Airport, 11:00 a.m. Write your favorite band legislator.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
1. Jack Graetzer in the car outside Atlanta, brushing the last bit of yay from his nose. Jk. R ‘n’ R!
2. Andrew in a bar.
3. Jack at Pizza Hut outside Jacksonville, FL. We went to a Mexican restaurant instead.
4. Eric and our host Matt in Gainesville, FL engaged in a Rubik’s cube challenge. Eric later perseveres. Patrick films.
Getting to Dresden was a long, dark day in the van. Traffic woes doubled the length of the trip—not so bad, all things considered, since we’re nearly three weeks deep now and that was the first of it we’ve seen. We were greeted by sound guys who were by turn ornery and mum. Which was more our fault: we were three hours late for soundcheck and so had fucked the schedule. Their English was as good as our German, which is to say not very good at all. Beatpol is an enormous room that was doomed to look empty once the modest crowd rolled in. Again, there was a palatial greenroom and a veritable feast. We are again relieved to be in a place where we are blessed with support acts, for in Holland there are none. The other group in Dresden was a punk band called Stalin Vs Band. They were unhinged—what a fun band to watch.
We were very lucky to stay with new friends named Dani, Sebastian and their dachshund Marta, who are, in spite of the formidable language barrier, clearly some of the nicest people on the planet. Dani is in a band called Malory, and they’ve toured America at least once. Sebastian is a “pharmacy man.” (Language barrier blocked out many other details.) They like Sonic Youth. They referred to each other as husband and wife but when asked insisted, “No, we are not married!” They were enthusiastic dog owners—Dani had a tattoo of a sausage dog in silhouette on her forearm. A feast for breakfast again, delicious mustard, bread and cheese, and we’re getting fat and looking forward to being fed nothing during the upcoming American tour.
On the way out the door, Patrick joked that Dani should send us some pictures of Marta the dog. Below are the pictures she actually did send.
We had been dreading the show in Leipzig, which was rumored to have sold a grand total of zero advance tickets. When it time to play the show there were some folks there, likely for the DJs after us. We sat backstage listening on repeat to track 8 on the Lou Bega album—I don’t have access to the names of the songs—getting psyched to play that would amount to practice with a soundman watching us. Lou Bega sounds at times like Tracy Morgan making fun of music, particularly here. The Lou Bega song has a key change, and it got me psyched to play the song “Titus Andronicus.”
A guy or two danced. I broke the toggle switch on my guitar doing a somersault and had to fart around while we played “Roadrunner.” Even the keyboard didn’t work when I wanted to play it. Everybody had fun. We are staying above a café in another artists’ loft. Home soon!
GLEN ROCK, NJ
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Today is day four in Germany, and we’re on our way out of Dresden. Clips and vents in the rented van are starting to break, fruit is rotting on the floor and an oppressive drizzle has blocked out the sun for a week. But here we are, plugging away for our last five European shows. My impression is that Titus Andronicus is tired after a few long days here, yet morale remains high. This is probably because we loaded the Lou Bega album onto my computer, and now we’re going to Leipzig on a mambo and a prayer. Track eight, "Beauty on the TV Screen." is an excellent song. Patrick just mused, “It’s hard to imagine that in six days we’ll be playing with the Wrens at the Bowery Ballroom.”
An aside: I have spent the last few dreary days listening to Volume 8 of Mississippi Records’ tape compilations. Some time ago MR took it upon themselves to release a 12” of recordings by a guy called Washington Phillips, a mysterious Delta gospel singer from the earlier half of last century who accompanied himself an unknown instrument, perhaps something called a dolceola, but more likely an instrument he invented himself that resembles an autoharp in both sound and function. The music is amazing, and Washington Phillips has become important to all of us here at TA. Most songs on the MR tape, “Wrong Time to be Right,” share that ghostly Washington Phillips vibe. It’s all sparse, bizarre treats, some of which are more familiar than others. (Side B has what sounds like the original version of “Sloop John B,” made famous by the Beach Boys, which I knew was a traditional song but had never heard.) My understanding is that these are available only at the part-owner of MR’s record store in Portland, OR, but our friend Joe—the guy who put out our first 7” on Shake Appeal Records—has been making these lovely tapes available in digital form on the Internet. It may be worth checking out, if you like that stuff.
(WASHINGTON PHILLIPS--WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN HEAVEN TODAY)
Berlin, three days ago now, was a big blast. We were there early enough to go out I went to a “pay what you want” restaurant where you serve yourself wine. The waitress knew our type, Americans, and went from blasé about the not-speaking-German thing to deeply impassioned about the pay arrangement when she warned in English, curling her lip and gesticulating for emphasis, “When finish you must pay with...respect. With respect.” We really didn’t belong there—the restaurant was unmarked, and my friend had only heard of the place through Twitter. We found it by the address, and not until after a lengthy search. This kind of thing seems like it’s a dime-a-dozen there, deliberate holes-in-the-wall where you are expected to know the rules, however bizarre they may be.
The next day we spent two hours trying to find a radio studio that was supposedly thirty minutes away, in the west called Motor FM. The entrance was a hidden recess behind a whitewashed city block. There was a radio spot on Motor FM 100.6 with a tall German called Max. A very nice guy, but what remained unclear when all was said and done was whether he liked the band. He spot translated our answers to his questions so dexterously that we could scarcely tell when he had lapsed back into English.
This is what Max looks like.
The show was at the Bang Bang Club. We were relaxing downstairs, which was set aside as our green room, where the only lights were red and spun around a disco globe. It must have been a sight to see, we slobs napping, eating bread, trying to write e-mails in such an atmosphere more becoming of a wild party. As has been the trend with most of continental Europe, we were been treated like absolute kings. (Perhaps the legacy of monarchy is not so far behind them.) We never hesitate to enjoy this. Green rooms, which are a rare luxury for us Stateside, are not only always provided but are also filled with platters of fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese, beside a full fridge of drinks. We played with a band from New Zealand who had relocated to Berlin because, as one of them said, “Why not?” and the whole thing went off without a hitch. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.
Hamburg is a proper sleazy city. It boasts Europe’s largest Red Light District, which we did not have time to see. I purchased a postcard that is a picture of a naked woman framed in cityscapes. (Will this make it past our postal censors?) Next to it was another postcard, a picture of a penis with sunglasses and a cigarette—the phallus itself was a Gonzo’s nose sort of thing, and between it and the hanging testicles was a lit cigarette, which seemed equal parts funny and dangerous. It also did not look unlike the Camel Joe of my childhood. Next to the club, Molotow, I purchased a hat for one euro that says “WESTERN LIFE” at a cowboy clothes store, which Ian and Eric have been passing back and forth. The particularly bizarre souvenirs here seem like, fifteen years ago, they fell off a Chinese truck traveling to America via Germany—case in point are the peculiar bastardizations of American highway culture, the faux-metal cell-phone holders emblazoned, in the red sans-serif of a typographical future that never was, with words like “RACING” and “FASTER.” Dixie is appropriated onto license plate covers and mudflaps here as often as that ubiquitous silhouette of the reclining sexy woman. The Route 66 road sign is never missing from both these road stops, and from cities like Hamburg, where you are never more than a kilometer away from the Route 66 American B&G. Often these bizarre approximations of America feel even farther from home than a more “normal” foreign land feels.
The club felt more German. It was a cold, dark basement room with a deeply frazzled soundman, fanny-pack clad, who did not so much like our band. But we were happy. We were well cared for. Free pizza! It was another one of these places where all of our favorite bands all played at some time or another, and so now I wonder how long this coherent circuit has been around for. Have American bands been following this same exact route since the dawn of rock?
We made a friend called Mena, who brought her 3/4 scale western-themed Gretsch guitar, red with cartoons of cowboys and lassos, to the Molotow “artist’s loft.” The promoter gave us an indecipherable map, borderline hieroglyphic, that had been constructed in Word or Paint and instructed us to walk through HEILENGEISTFELD, or as Mena translated it, “The Park of the Holy Ghost.” But none of the natives could understand the map’s message, and so we found ourselves following Mena through Heilengeistfeld, a terrifying carnival site, past ghastly trailers with busted bulbs that read “FIRE BALL,” “WHIRL-WHIRL” and other oddities and to the door of the loft. Patrick wouldn’t stop yelling, half-jokingly, “Holy shit, this lady has no clue where we’re going, and, “this would be the perfect spot to murder five Americans.” Once there, I opened loft door with a—what?—skeleton key, a relic of the pre-Internet era. There was beer and a singalong there, but, feeling ill, I went right to sleep. It was all too weird. There were eleven beds, a shower and a full business office there. Everybody had fun, for it was all so odd.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Where we last left off Titus Andronicus was riding the Chunnel on its way to France, en route to Amsterdam. Everybody was happily occupied in pursuits of the mind: Patrick was heard weaving lush tapestries of song on his guitar, Ian G charting a course through uncharted territories, Bo, with a deck of cards, wowing Eric with a sleight of hand. All was right with the world. It was thusly that I came to reflect that Fortune has looked kindly upon our first European tour. Anyone with so tenuous an existence is bound to be maleficiary of the fates; the question is the when and how of bad fortune’s doling. This tour’s misfortunes have assumed a different tone, with temperamental amplifiers, common colds, and—a brand new woe—a passenger side door that does not open. These problems are all similar in the sense that while they are annoyances, they are minor ones, and by virtue of the continuous basis with which they must be dealt, one may learn live with them just so and adapt. Also, solutions exist in the form of new fuses, orange juice, and asking the van rental place to fix the door, respectively. All this is to say that these daily problems spread ill fortune over a series of minor incidents, which, in turn, repeat ad infinitum act as fortune’s pressure valve, or the load bearers that shoulder the brunt of inevitable burdens.
All of this is in stark contrast to past experience. Historically, the ill-willing fates have placed insuperable obstacles between our band and happiness in the form of major catastrophes after periods of supreme calm. For example, after a string of great shows, it was time to go to the UK for a week-long stint, but, lacking the proper paperwork, we were detained for hours at the border and sent on the next flight to New York. Or after a serene and incident-free trip across America we learned the tour that would bring us back home was cancelled. No such misfortune this time. And so! Fortune, I salute you. I salute you for sparing us these moments of devastation, and in turn providing us with temperamental amplifiers, sore throats and headaches, a broken car door, parking problems, prohibitively expensive wireless Internet, nothing on the radio, good opportunities to lose things, situations where we cannot plug in our favorite electronics, bad skin, bad smells, water bottles full of urine that roll into my feet when the van turns, and, today, a hangnail that may be infected. For though we cannot choose for ourselves, the choice made for us is if we would prefer the hangnail, or a hangnail-free existence with the looming certainty that the finger will be severed at a particularly inopportune time.
(CLOTHO, ATROPOS & LACHESIS CHILLING IN NIJMEGEN, NL)
Holland is an earthly paradise. Amsterdam deserves a special respect because it refuses to be another European city embalmed for the benefit of tourists, like Venice, for example. There are tourists—in fact it is Europe’s fourth most popular tourist destination—but the city is bursting with things like bikes and flowers, canals and houseboats that point to a local honesty, people doing things as they would even if there were no visitors. The sheer amount of bikes and the casual recklessness with which they are operated puts America’s bike capital, Portland, to shame. Even the almighty pedestrian is subjugated to the whim of the Amsterdam cyclist. Lovers reach between bikes and rub each other’s backs, people hold hands between bikes, children sit in bicycle baskets. It is bonkers. The houseboats that line the unguarded canals run the gamut from dilapidated to grand, some with makeshift gardens arranged on the deck, the odd bicycle locked to the mast, or the outdoor couch draped in clear trash bags to keep out rain. It is all the quaintness and oldness that middle-aged Americans seek in Europe. Someone said that little was destroyed in WWII, unlike Groningen, which was razed. Passing through a market, one member of the band queried, lo, do we find ourselves once again in the days of yore?
Less quaint was our hotel, the Backstage Hotel, near the venue, whose rooms were rock club themed. The closets were made to resemble equipment flight cases, a snare drum on the ceiling encased the overhead lights, light fixtures on the wall were downsized approximations of stadium scaffolding. Diamond plated steel lined the bottoms of doors, there were flames on the pool table. It was all very funny. I should have brought my bowling shirt. The staff was nice, and the continental breakfast (bread, spreads, eggs, juice, coffee) really rocked! Down the road was the Paradiso, a church-cum-nightclub in the center of what must be the tourist district. Americans everywhere! It is hard not to hold a special resentment for American accents when you believe yourself to be far, far away. Ray LaMontagne packed the huge room downstairs full of respectable people while most of us napped at the hotel or in the greenroom. Later, the show was fine, and we were relieved to find that we could store our equipment for the night in the room where Gang Gang Dance’s equipment was destroyed in a fire not a month ago.
Onward and upward to Groningen and a club called Vera. Vera is an Elysium. This is what happens there: you pull the van into a historical alleyway, through some green doors and into a hidden garage, where the world’s nicest woman greets you with coffee. You drink your coffee and look at the walls, where you notice that your favorite bands have all played there, Sonic Youth, The Feelies, Pavement, or out the window, onto the beautiful alleyway. Then scruffy Dutchmen in black clothing help you unload the van and insist on handling the heaviest equipment. The nice woman shows you to your room above the club, in the built-in hotel, where you will spend the night for free in a private room. By the end of soundcheck a delicious Indian meal is chafing in pots upstairs, which you enjoy with as much beer as you want, choosing again between the views. A nap in the hotel brings you to a half hour before showtime. No more than thirty people show up, but they place enough space between themselves to make the room look full. They all enjoy the show and buy a ton of records after the show. Before bedtime, you drink free beer in the building’s basement, which is a candlelit pub that was built in the fourteenth century.
Before the show, it appeared that nobody whatsoever was going to watch us play. Patrick went into one of his favorite anecdotes from Our Band Could Be Your Life. Henry Rollins is down in the dumps because perhaps two or three people showed up to the Black Flag show. Chuck Dukowski senses that young Hank is so down it will affect the way he conducts himself onstage. To Chuck’s thinking this is unacceptable: X number of people paid (likely $5) to see a Black Flag show, and if that person came to see a Black Flag show, then by God, he or she is going to see the Best GD Black Flag Show Ever, regardless of how many people are there. In fact, if that is the only Black Flag fan in whatever town then he or she deserves even more effort than a roomful of people, many of whom were likely shepherded to the concert and could not care less about Black Flag. Luckily at Vera, plenty of people showed up by showtime for all this to be moot.
It turns out that Vera, and likely Paradiso, are publicly funded arts projects, which is nuts. It is a volunteer-run rock club, bar, hotel, makeshift lecture hall, printing studio, town center. Seldom does an American public arts fund sponsor anything on this scale to the benefit of our demographic. Something like Vera would take the form of a college football stadium in America. Any analogy that we can draw between Vera and our own lives are the DIY show spaces in New York, like Silent Barn, Market Hotel, ABC No Rio, which are the same thing (often volunteer-run, community-based arts organizations) without the resources. And most of them are illegal. Why?
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Eric, Bo and I passed some of the time watching this very funny cover of Blink 182’s “All the Small Things” by a fabulous group called Sometime Next Tuesday. Feel free to watch that here.
Chris commented that ironically this video has more views than our music video for the song "Titus Andronicus."
On our way to Leeds we passed a sign for a place called North Cowton. We were playing a show there at a venue called the Cockpit. As we pulled up an American guy came up to us and introduced himself. So we thought to ourselves, what a nice guy! Brian, his name is, be our friend! But when he discovered that we were not playing in the big room with his show, that we were playing in the little room upstairs, he proceeded to be a huge jerk. “I have to make sure my bands are taken care of” at our expense, “don’t park here,” “do this” yadda etc. Perhaps we have been spoiled by only meeting people who share our youthful idealism about this whole r&r thing, and so we found ourselves so put off by this “every band for itself” mentality. I felt like a nerd in high school again, with that feeling one gets just after a swirlie. None of this was a big deal, truly, but the whole thing was so principally discouraging. Bands should be embarrassed to have themselves represented as such. We’re all abroad, on the road, having a difficult time being away from friends, lovers, family, etc., but isn’t that all the more reason to treat each other with a little more respect? Gimme a break!
We cowered off to get some lunch—twofer Cajun veggie burgers at the Hog’s Head—before loading into our tiny room upstairs. Many people remark that our album sounds like it was recorded in a tin can. The humor was not lost on us when we saw the room in Leeds, which, as Ian G pointed out, was shaped like half a tin can overturned on a wood floor. We were like bugs trapped by a sadistic child. Cold seeped through the aluminum roof, and everything within was bitesized—the soundboard, the storage room, even the sound guy was a little person (no he wasn’t). The Fosters they gave us were tiny, not-so-fun-size—we each must have had three dozen, and for what? The empty calories? Thimblefuls won’t do. But the show went well. Little Death’s last of four sets, in spite of some technical difficulties, was the best one they played, and we were sad to say goodbye to those nice guys.
LA’s The Bronx were there with part deux of the Shred Yr Face tour, with Rolo Tomassi and Fucked Up. On our most recent American tour with Los Camps (who were incidentally on the first installment of Shred Yr Face tours) we saw posters in virtually every venue for the upcoming Fucked Up show that was to take place just days later. Thus Fucked Up came to hang over us like specters, and our desire to see them grew by turns. They were a myth. When we heard we discovered that we would play in the same building as them, we were nothing if not amped—as we approached, I felt as Marlowe must’ve felt on the Roi de belge, creeping up the Congo in anticipation of meeting the dark Colonel Kurtz. When time came to see their set, we were excited to see that the club had made some sort of exemption for those of us in the band so that we could go see Fucked Up, but as it turns out, the small sign was there to stress that we in particular were not allowed into their show.
Today is our first day on our own, just the five of us and the road. Ian faced a great trial this afternoon, just out of Chris’ driveway, where he had to get the van going uphill from a complete stop. He’s taken these tribulations in stride and so we’re back on the Chunnel again, Patrick’s sitting down playing guitar just outside the sliding door, next to Bo and Eric, who are playing Egyptian Ratscrew, and up front I’m sitting by Ian, who is plotting the course to Amsterdam. Full tilt!
Today also marks the halfway point in our European travels.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
We were fortunate to be asked to do a radio spot with BBC Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq the next day. All of this went down in studio #4 at BBC's Maida Vale Studios, which is said to be famous. Led Zeppelin may or not have once been there. Outside the studio hung a portrait of none other than John Peel, the man who is responsible for, among countless other amazing things, my favorite Galaxie 500 recordings. All of these sessions took place in this very room! It was renovated in the early 90's, but the microphones were the same as the ones that many of our idols sang into at some point. If you listened to the recordings, the quality and pace of our repartee with Lamacq likely suggested that we were looking this man in the eye, but nay, he phoned in just as we were about to record our three songs. We were standing up the studio room, speaking into microphones covered in festive windbuffers. When we finished, Simon the cool engineer played back the tracks and we pantomimed, sort of, the songs we had just played for the benefit of a team of cameramen who had descended upon the scene. Reasonably enough, the engineer stopped us halfway through the second song because our pantomimes were too ridiculous, à la Nirvana on Top of the Pops. Simon's voice came in from the control room, “There’s rock and roll, and then there’s being a bunch of twats.” A funny man, and also a wizard of an engineer.
Stay tuned for info about how to hear that session and see the videos, if that's ever possible.
Here's a video of Nirvana pantomiming "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on Top of the Pops. Note Kurdt's voice has been brought down an octave.
All this before a good show at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, a black and white room within a posh bar. Ticket presales were encouraging, and the room was filled nicely for our third ever London gig. The man who runs visual design at the bar at the club goes by McDeath, a nice Irish boy, who e-mailed us days in advances to see what we had in mind for visual design. Nobody knew what he meant, and so the e-mail went unacknowledged. When we arrived and McDeath once again asked us the question we did not know how to answer, Bo arranged it so that McDeath projected images of the American Civil War on the screen behind us. The band before us projected images from the movie Badlands, Martin Sheen in chains, a close-up of Sissy Spacek with the desert in the background. But its gravitas was undercut by interspersed family photos of people standing before the “Welcome to Badlands National Park” sign. In particular, there was a picture of a fat man hiking at that park. McDeath’s Google image search, it seemed, was cursory. Nonetheless, when we were at the plate a picture of Abe Lincoln popped up behind us just when we played a new song that is roughly about him.
We are traveling for four days with Little Death from London, who we are traveling with for four days here, and who like true punks took the bus to Manchester last night and will do the same to Glasgow this evening. I believe their name is the anglicization for the French phrase “Petite mort,” little death, their term for an orgasm. They are orgasmic in the bonhomie they each emanate, and their band is good too. Net effect, Manchester was fun. I got the impression that it was sort of like the Chicago of England, where the vast infrastructure of a shattered industry has been reclaimed by culture. It is said that Mancunians love to fight. Eric and I were looking for falafel when a man yelled at us, “Are you looking for pussy, then!?” He wouldn’t go away, and Eric said, “No man, we’re just looking for falafel!” The man was incensed but was soon distracted by something that made him even madder than the fact that Eric and I wanted falafel. Our last time there we played at an Irish club where there was a 21st birthday party downstairs. The girls there insulted for our band: “What are you, the Ting Tings?” Some of the girls made fun of Ian’s pants. I spent too much money on beer, etc. Last night was better, for some people had come out to see the band and were highly complimentary, and beer was free. Nobody’s feelings were hurt. The kids enjoyed themselves. No harm, no foul.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
1. Patrick points to a can of grape Faygo in front of an automobile accident somewhere in Mississippi. Note his surprise: the soda is rumored to only have distribution in the greater Detroit area.
2. Bo laughs as Patrick and Gareth sing one last Pavement song at the Bottletree in Birmingham, AL. The best venue in America? Maybe, maybe.
3. The stoned girl drew us a map in New Orleans. Eric displays it. We did not find what we were looking for. (Catfish po’boys.)
4. Our friend Blair from Hattiesburg, MS brought us a king cake in New Orleans. In this Mardi Gras tradition, whoever finds the plastic baby Jesus in his/her segment of cake gets a year of good luck. Congratulations, Ollie! Ollie plays drums in Los Campesinos!