Electric Six Bring Fresh Blood To The Dance Floor

ELECTRIC SIX

ELECTRIC SIX play The Casbah Mar. 30, The Constellation Room Mar. 31 and Bootleg Theater Apr. 1; photo Cortney Armitage

It’s that time of year again folks, and whether or not the power grids of Southern California can handle the sudden surges of electrical energy, Electric Six are coming to town. Touring in support of their latest musical effort, Fresh Blood for Tired Vampyres, the band will be performing at The Casbah Mar. 30, The Constellation Room Santa Ana Mar. 31, and the Bootleg Theater Apr. 1.

Over the last 14 years, lead singer Dick Valentine (born Tyler Spencer) and his band of electric misfits have been dishing out dance / punk / comedy rock at the prolific pace of an album every year (except for 2004; still impressive). With their latest release in October of last year, we found the band continuing to explore what it means to be a dance-punk band. Fusing their signature in-your-face danciness with healthy doses of 80’s Goth pop, the album promises to be a boogie-fest for the ages. Well, certainly at least for those of us worthy of appreciating their extremely unique and danceable vision.

But Valentine knows that his music isn’t for everyone. In fact, he embraces it. Taking a break from his pre-tour daddy duties (bringing to mind an image which stands in an intriguing contrast to his band’s usual silliness), Valentine sat down for a chat about his music, how he writes it, why he writes it, and the reasons behind his affinity for the strange and nonconforming.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: Vampires are so 2010. So that makes me wonder what’s going on with the vampiric theme of your last album? How did this inspiration come about?

Electric Six

ELECTRIC SIX; photo James Christopher

DICK VALENTINE: The main thing was that the core of our band, myself, Johnny Na$hinal, Tait Nucleus?, and Da Vė to some degree, we’ve been in the band for some time. And we’re middle aged men. And then all of a sudden we had a rhythm section that, over the course of a year, had left for greener pastures. So we recruited a couple younger dudes to play bass and drums for us, and that was basically the idea. We got this fresh blood riding along with these tired vampires.

CGL: You guys release an album every year. How does that work? What’s the writing process look like?
DV: Well, there’s no one way to do it. The guys in the band who write will send me logic or garageband sketches that I write lyrics to, or if I’m doing it myself, it’s usually done on guitar. I also have a little synthesizer that I work with.

Lyrically, it can start with a title, start with a word. As I go through the day and come up with an idea, I type it in the notes section on my phone. My phone is just filled with little sketches of like three or four words, and then I string them together and get an entire song.

CGL: You seem to be a devout follower of the strange and unconventional. Has this always been the case? When did you realize you could combine your strangeness with music?
DV: Well, for me personally, and without getting too personal, my bubble burst earlier. And you realize, as you see what’s happening to our country, how many people’s bubbles haven’t been burst. I mean, you look at people’s yearbooks and there was never a black person in the class, or they don’t know any gay people, or they don’t think the same, blah blah blah. And when I grew up I went to a very integrated school, went to the city of Detroit as a hipster and realized I wasn’t gonna die, I wasn’t gonna get shot, and ended up getting into music at that point.

So I guess to answer your question, once you realize that things you used to think were taboo, aren’t really taboo, that they’re actually fun and healthy, there’s really no limit to what you can do, as long as nobody gets hurt.

Electric Six

Electric Six; photo James Christopher

CGL: So then music became a platform for you to express that?
DV: Yeah, to some degree. For me I’ve always gravitated towards lyrics, what you can do with lyrics, and how they’re delivered. So, you know, I wanted the band to be interesting to myself. I firmly believe that if what you’re doing is interesting to yourself, then that’s the first step in making it more interesting for other people. So I know that not everybody’s gonna like our band, but we have enough people that do, so we’ve been able to keep doing it for 15 years.

CGL: Well, I’m glad that it sounds like you’re in touch with the “true inner self.” I think that’s where art is supposed to come from, and if it doesn’t, you can sense it. You hear all the derivative pop music on the radio, and there’s no soul there. At least, that’s how it feels to me.
DV: Yeah, I’ve never ever approached music like, “I know what it takes to get on the radio. I know what it takes to write a hit.” But so many people do, and that’s the end game. We ended up having moderate radio success in the UK for a year, and it was a complete accident. It was a fluke, and that’s the way I always approached it.

Our second album was kind of the one time in the history of this band where it was like, “Oh, you gotta write another ‘Gay Bar’,” and I realized that sitting down to try to do that is something I can’t do.

And also, within that, you look at all the pieces of shit that have been in the radio rotation. And it just proves the point that it’s not the songs, it’s not the songwriting, it’s the fucking radio pluggers. You can’t sit down and write a hit and have it go viral, and everybody loves it on its merits. So I’ve never approached it that way, and I’ve been very, very lucky to have wound up in situation where I can actually sustain myself, and still do what I was doing in 1996.

UFO Soars Into Anaheim With Saxon In Tow

UFO

UFO play HOB/San Diego Mar. 14, Belasco Theater Mar. 16, Grove of Anaheim Mar. 18; photo James Christopher

For those of you who prefer rock bands to be hard and/or full of hair, you’ll be excited to know that the veteran hard rockers of UFO and Saxon have decided to go on tour together. And as Southern Californians, we’ll have more than enough chances to bang our heads to the pulsing boom of their music. Be sure to catch them at the House of Blues San Diego Mar 14, Belasco Theater Los Angeles Mar 16, or The Grove of Anaheim Mar 18.

Starting out as a space rock band in the early 70’s, UFO has made its way through various forms of rock music, as well as lineups. Amidst all this change however, founding member Phil Mogg has managed to keep at least one thing consistent: the quality of his band’s musical output. To aid in this endeavor, Mogg sought out the mind of Vinnie Moore, who joined the band in 2003 to take up the role of lead songwriter.

Just weeks before he takes several stages all across America, Moore was kind enough to sit down and converse about all things music: how he makes it, how it exists today, and how we’d all be dead without it.

Concert Guide Live: I read on your website that you composed the majority of your latest album, Conspiracy of Stars. Was your input on the band’s music this significant when you first joined the group back in 2003?
Vinnie Moore: Yeah, it was pretty much the same. I think Phil wasn’t necessarily looking for only a guitar player, he knew he needed someone who wrote music. And that’s kinda why I got the gig. Not only for the guitar playing, but for the fact that I was a writer and he needed a partner, like he’d done with other people in the past.

CGL: When you write, do you ever have any specific goals, or, a specific direction you want to take the band? Do you listen to any particular music/artists to inspire your writing?
VM: I don’t really think about it that much, it’s kinda like, you pick up the guitar and start playing and whatever comes out, comes out. And my philosophy is write a bunch of songs and see what sticks. Then I’ll send the demos to Phil and he’ll pick the ones he feels he could do something with and they’ll be the ones we’ll go with.

CGL: I’ve seen videos of you guys playing “Love To Love” in which an acoustic guitar is set up on a waist high stand that enables you to play both electric and acoustic in the same song without taking off one guitar and putting on the other. I think that is just delightfully clever. How did you come to use this technique?
VM: Well, the Gracie Stand has been available for quite some time. But I never really had one until I joined UFO and there was a need for it. And actually – it’s funny – we tour over in Europe a lot, and our manager is really good friends with some of the guys in Scorpions. And when I first joined the band, you couldn’t get one of these Gracie Stands over there in Europe, so he would always borrow Rudolf Schenker’s. We would take it on the road and use it, until one time the Scorpions also needed it, at which point we finally had to get our own. But they were hard to get for a while. It was like, there’s only one in the world and Rudolf Schenker has it.
CGL: Beyond just playing music, I see that you’ve also done a couple of instructional videos. That must feel pretty great, you know, showing people how to access the wonderful world of music.
VM: Yeah, it definitely feels good. When I was a kid playing guitar, if I could have watched somebody’s video or talked to them at a clinic and directly asked a question that would have just been amazing.

CGL: Do you also find yourself diving into that world of instructional YouTube videos?
VM: Oh I’m always learning. I mean, music is endless. You can never stop learning. And yeah, I’ll check things out online, I’ll look into different musicians. Not only guitarists, but horn players, violin – whatever – you can pick up things everywhere.

CGL: Through the Internet and the spread of information and technology, I like to think we’re currently in a musical renaissance of sorts. What are your thoughts on this?
VM: I totally agree, but I think it’s also making people more lazy, too. I can’t tell you how many times people will send me messages on Facebook asking me if I could transcribe one of my songs for them in tablature. And you know, when I was a kid, I put on the record and learned the stuff. It’s really important to do it yourself because your ear gets better by doing it that way.

CGL: How would you describe the importance or function of music? In a general sense, you know, like in the context of a society or our species.
VM: I think people would be dead without music. It’s so important – it provides so much entertainment, so much emotion. I mean – it’s magical. You listen to a song on the radio and it can take you back to when you were a kid. It’s just unbelievably powerful. I’ve been studying it all my life and understand a lot about it, but then, in another way, I don’t understand anything about it. It just hits you very, very deeply. It’s spiritual.

The Melvins Let The Freak Flag Fly

THE MELVINS

THE MELVINS play the Fonda Theatre Jan. 27 and 28; press photo

Somewhere along the course of American history, the name, “Melvin,” became associated with pocket protectors, questionably sized eyeglasses, bowl cuts, and feeling passionate about long division. With this connotation firmly in hand, it seems only fitting that this word would go on to describe the gut-churning heavy, sludgy, gleefully dark and aggressive music of The Melvins.

Since standing as musical pillars of the “grunge” movement, Buzz Osborne and the (various) boys have yet to find a reason to stop. Their release earlier this year, Basses Loaded, marks the 25th time their name has been on a studio album. At a certain point, one would expect a band/artist, to slow down, or run out of ideas. But this album offers no indication of that. In fact, by making an effort to feature every member that has been in the band over the last decade, and even a Beatles cover, it laughs in the face of such blasphemy.

As implied by the title, the album places a special emphasis on the bassists, a unique move for any band, really. The end result is quintessential Melvins: unique, heavy, dark, and weird. And luckily for Southern Californians, these adjectives and more will be on local display once again as they return for two at the Fonda Theatre Jan. 27 and 28.

While in the midst of his preparations for the above mentioned shows, Buzz Osborne was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on making music, having weird hair, and staying out of the political fray.

Concert Guide Live: When you sit down to write a song, do you have any specific goals? Or do you just let it come out organically?

The Melvins

The Melvins

Buzz Osborne: You just kinda play, and hope something will come out of thin air (laughs).

CGL: So you’re not really into concept albums or anything like that?
BO: Maybe to some degree, but then sometimes you’ll just be playing some riffs and all of a sudden something’s really cool. But then you end up with a massive amount of that stuff. And you dig through it all, and most of it doesn’t get used at all. The vast majority of it, you know?

CGL: Your hair is very intriguing. What’s the story there? How do you feel it expresses who you are?
BO: I don’t know, I don’t mind looking freaky. I’m just like Little Richard; I don’t give a shit about any of that. It’s everybody else who cares about that. But I also understand, going out into the world looking like a freak, I’m gonna have to deal with a lot of stuff that normal people don’t. Fine with me. I made my bed, and I will lie in it.

CGL: So you don’t really view it as a way to live out your ideology of being true to yourself?
BO: I never really thought about it that much. I just wanna look like a weirdo.

CGL: Do you ever aspire to speak your personal opinions through your music?
BO: Well, I don’t like to go graphically into politics, because I don’t think it’s my place to do that. What I am, is an artist-musician who does what he wants to do, and maybe some people will care about it and it will make their lives a little better. Because it makes my life a little better. I mean, I feel the same way that people like Bob Dylan felt. Which is that they’re not “joiner-inners.” You got a protest; I don’t want nothing to do with it. I don’t feel good there. I don’t want to be a part of your club.

CGL: What advice would you give to younger musicians just starting out?
BO: Be as peculiar as possible. That always works. Don’t be a “joiner-inner.” Practice your instrument, but don’t practice things you’re never gonna play. I mean, beyond exercises, I never wanted to play Eddie Van Halen or Randy Rhoads type of solos, so I never learned them. Why should I bother? Try to figure out what bands the bands you’re into were into. I mean, clearly they were listening to something that inspired them. So, what was that, you know? Rehearse. Make records that you like. Don’t concern yourself with the outside world, in terms of, “Oh, I wonder what my fans can handle.” I figure my fans can handle whatever I do. And if they can’t, they clearly have no understanding of who I am. So be it.

Beach Goth Day 1 (2016)

THE GROWLERS-Beach Goth

The Growlers, Beach Goth Day 1; photo Lauren Ratkowski

The thing about lines is, if you’re bothering to wait in one in the first place, chances are it’s because you really want the thing at the end of it. And so the line really becomes an understood low before the high, a necessary part of the prize-getting process.

As I stood in various amounts of lines at the Observatory for the first day of The Growlers’ annual Beach Goth festival, I further thought to myself, “You know what? You can’t even have a high without a low anyways. That’s just bad science. So in a way, it’s good that Beach Goth is incredibly, inescapably crowded.” And then I continued to stand there, now smiling confidently, wherever I was lucky enough to be, as the bands, the crowds, and the donut-ice-cream-sandwiches being sold at the Afters booth reminded me what it’s like to relish the gift of life.

(That’s all I’m going to say about how crowded it was. So just know that it was, that I wish it wasn’t, but that it also by no means stained the experience.)

Speaking of which, you can’t have crowds without people, and the people at Beach Goth were pretty cool people. Like a tame version of what I imagine Burning Man to be, there were bizarre/sexual/hilarious costumes galore. The amount of Halloween spirit was enough to keep me occupied whenever I decided to peruse my surroundings, and I was able to have friendly conversations with literally everyone I stood next to throughout the day. To my great pleasure, I quickly found common interests and established a rapport with everyone I met, and even befriended a contextually rare, 50 year old couple (but they were younger than ever, let me tell you).

As for the lineup of artists, it was quite an eclectic mix. There was not a single genre of music overlooked, and I found myself with plenty of options to satisfy whatever sonic craving I had.

ames Blake, Beach Goth Day 1

James Blake, Beach Goth Day 1; photo Lauren Ratkowski

My day started with the talented quartet of adorable Spanish chicas known as HINDS. As per usual, they played their songs with their trademark brand of infectious, playful, honest joy and passion. Claiming to have been “hungover”, their taut, energetic performance suggested quite otherwise.

With a unique blend of harmonies, angst, melody, and garageness, their songs beg to be moved to, moshed to, sway to, and many other verbs of this nature. Even the relentless beating of the sun couldn’t keep the crowd still, with the Hinds’ staple closer, “Davy Crockett,” sending the audience into a crowd-surfing, mosh-pitting frenzy of spirited joy.

And because good things sometimes happen, the offensively skillful, CHICANO BATMAN followed Hinds. Taking the stage in identical, fitted blue suits, their collective cohesion seemed to exist on a whole other level. And if you’ve listened to their songs before, you know that each instrument, and respective musician, seems to be battling one another in an epic duel for supreme musical glory. For this reason I felt as though they were the most technically impressive performance of the day.

Their stage presence was just so tantalizing and engaging. Frontman Bardo Martinez for instance, when he wasn’t inducing crowd-wide swoons with his serene, soulful, pitch-perfect vocals, played his keyboard with reckless abandon, throwing himself on its keys with a deep, awe inspiring fervor for musical expression. It seemed like their whole set was a sing-along experience, all of us brought together collectively as one, drunk off of their audial divinity. As they left the stage, I made a solemn, unbreakable promise to myself: I will see them again as soon as I am able. For my health.

The next band to completely overwhelm me with sensation was VIOLENT FEMMES, whom I have been waiting to see since the early days of my music-listening career. As one of the stagehands brought a charcoal grill onto the stage to serve as part of the drum set, as well as what looked like the largest brass instrument I’ve ever seen, I knew that this long, 10-year buildup would go on to have exactly no let down. When the band kicked things right off with their radio anthem, “Blister in the Sun,” it became clear that I was right.

The crowd sang along loudly and lovingly for most of the set, as the band effortlessly shredded all the songs you would have wanted them to play. And they were just as weird as you would have hoped, with Gordon Gano often deliberately, tastefully playing wrong notes or dissonant chords, and Brian Ritchie embarking on some truly, unconventionally spectacular bass soloing. In a lineup full of younger acts, this band of 50 year-olds played with more energy and vivacity than most of them combined. Go figure.

Patti Smith, Beach Goth Day 1

Patti Smith, Beach Goth Day 1; photo Lauren Ratkowski

While on the topic of older acts blowing it out of the water, PATTI SMITH was a force to be reckoned with that night. Starting off with a tight, spritely performance of “Redondo Beach,” she made it immediately clear that she doesn’t age like other human beings. There was a youthfulness to her stage presence, an outright refusal to bend to the weight of time.

She and her band played with a strict adherence to perfection, jamming out often intricate compositions with expertly assured ease. It’s also worth mentioning that her discourse with the crowd was the most intimate of any act I’ve seen.

She talked to us with a sense of learned wisdom and a lust for life, at one point demanding we raise our hands high into the air, and proceeding to yell at us, with soul-shaking passion, to treasure the lives we have, not because of what they consist of, but because we get to have them at all. I looked around to proudly see not a single phone in the air, a wholly, unique concert experience in this, the age of Snapchat. She, a 69 year old human being, managed to pull an entire crowd with a mean age of 19, into the pure bliss of the present moment, where social media couldn’t possibly even exist. And not just with the vigor of her words, but with the sounds of her art.

On the heels of her boisterous rant about life, she closed her set with a rambunctious, highly relevant cover “My Generation,” for which she swapped the usual acoustic for an electric guitar, and proceed to belt out a raunchy, fuzzed out, soul-f*cking solo. Truly a sight to behold.

At several points during her set, she split the night with the declaration, “This is the coolest fucking festival ever!” And you know what, after having reeled in the splendor of its lineup and atmosphere, I would have a hard time arguing otherwise.

Dune Rats And DZ Deathrays Captivate SoCal

DUNE RATS

DUNE RATS play Soda Bar Nov. 7, The Echo Nov. 8, Constellation Room Nov. 9; photo Nick Parkinson

If you consider yourself a resident of Southern California, are a fan of upbeat, Australian garage punk rock, then brace yourself for some stellar news: Dune Rats are coming to town(s). Touring all over the SoCal coastline with DZ Deathrays, they will be stopping first at Soda Bar Nov. 7, driving up to The Echo Nov. 8, before finishing up their SoCal residency at Constellation Room Nov. 9.

Filled to the brim with fast, moshpity rhythms, fuzzy, enveloping guitar distortions, and catchy melodies sung with vocals that often break with the sincerity of true, balls-out passion, their music is made to sweep you up and make you move. With lyrics that speak to the counterculture inside all of us, their 2015 self-titled release bursts with the various, delighted sounds of three guys who would rather everyone just calmed down and stopped taking everything so seriously. Which will no doubt make for a rollicking good concert, but you already knew that.

Taking a moment out of their tour-time antics, many of which are filmed and put on their YouTube channel, filed under Dunies TV (check it out, they’re over-the-top hilarious/awesome), drummer/vocalist BC Michaels gave Concert Guide Live a little look inside the mind of a Dune Rat, complete with a variety of answers to a variety of questions, and, more importantly, an explanation of “Dalai Lama’s” inexplicable lyrics.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: So when can we expect a new album?
BC MICHAELS: Next year I reckon. And what can we expect from it? A step up from the boys!

CGL: As an Australian band, do you prefer to play in Australia? If not, where has been your favourite place to perform?
BCM: South Africa, Prague, Bangkok and Canada are all awesome! Nothing compares to Australian crowds though.

CGL: What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
BCM: Happy.

CGL: What do you love most about touring/being on the road?
BCM: Not working a day job.

DUNE RATS

Dune Rats; photo Nick Parkinson

CGL: If you could go on tour with any band, living or dead, who would it be and why?
BCM: Probably Blink 182 or The Beatles because it’d be unreal.

CGL: What inspired you guys to start Ratbag Records? How would you describe the whole process of starting a record label?
BCM: Just to help out our friend’s bands with cash and a bit of a platform. It’s quite the process.

CGL: How did Dunies TV come about? Does one (or all) of you have an interest in filmmaking?
BCM: We all just thought there was so much classic shit happening around us that it’d be mad to show anyone who was up for a laugh.

CGL: I have to ask, what is the meaning behind the lyrics of Dalai Lama?
BCM: Danny once asked the Dalai Lama a question in person on stage in Brisbane when we visited, grew up in Coffs Harbour where the big banana is from and we were smoking fuckloads of pot.

CGL: Given that your music is consistently high energy, raunchy, garage punk, do you guys listen to any artists that might surprise your fans?
BCM: Brett listens to pretty much everything. Danny doesn’t listen to much and I’m listening to Frenzal rhomb at the moment. Yew!

Unique Songstress Lydia Loveless Accompanies Drive-By-Truckers

LYDIA LOVELESS

LYDIA LOVELESS plays Teragram Ballroom Oct. 11 and Oct. 12, Belly Up Oct. 13; photo-cover

Since entering the scene in 2010, Lydia Loveless has been seemingly determined to escape the confinements of a single genre. Her debut album, The Only Man, showcased the country/bluegrass roots from whence she grew. Her explorations of the genre were done as though paying homage to the reasons people love country music: playful, twang-filled, virtuoso slide guitar, sing-along melodies about love/drinking/farm life, fiddles, banjos, and a voice enriched with a commanding, unmistakably Southern, beauty.

But even here, with all her similarities to artists who came before her, there remained a sense of something more unique. Her lyrics have more bite than her apparent influences. Her musical compositions were articulated with a clarity that could only exist through the marvels of modern sound engineering, and from a deep understanding of musical expression.

As she evolved from album to album, we find Loveless moving away from such classically southern beginnings, injecting her music with varied doses of modern pop rock, straight rock n’ roll, and alternative rock. The results are consistently solid and entertaining, her band confidently following her lead wherever she goes. Often, her musical influences are not immediately apparent, coloring her music with an extra shade of intrigue for the more active listener.

Always, her voice remains effortlessly beautiful in ways that beg to be heard, and subsequently marveled at, during a live performance. Her latest musical effort, Real, is certainly no exception. Now three albums removed from her debut, several tracks, such as “Heaven” and “Bilbao”, retain almost no similarity to her initial sound. While the twang of the south refuses to leave her vocal timbre, with nigh jazzy basslines and chords, washed out, effects-heavy guitar riffs, and a blatant lack of banjo, one would sooner guess that Lydia grew up in Los Angeles before they guessed Mississippi (even though she’s from Ohio – you get my point).

In support of this recent statement of musical, artistic evolution, Loveless is hitting the road alongside fellow Southern rockers, Drive-By Truckers. They will be stopping by the Teragram Ballroom for not just one, but TWO nights, on Oct. 11 & 12, before heading to Belly Up Oct. 13.

Business As Usual With The Minders

THE MINDERS

THE MINDERS play The Satellite Sep. 13; photo Holly Andres

For the first time in over 20 years, the sounds of The Minders will once again shake the walls of the Satellite Los Angeles on Sep. 13.

Touring behind their first studio album in 10 years, The Minders will no doubt be expanding on their psychedelic explorations of 60’s pop music. And if their feverous, aggressively catchy new single, “Needle Doll,” is any indication, then aging seems to have had the opposite effect of giving this band even more energy.

In a recent conversation with Concert Guide Live, frontman Martyn Leaper was kind enough to elaborate on both his absence and subsequent return to the studio, and all that falls in between.

Concert Guide Live: So you have a new album coming out after ten years. What’s the story there? Why now?

Martyn Leaper: I mean, bands fade out sometimes. You know, during the recession and certainly just before that I went through some personal things. A divorce, that kind of stuff – which I don’t necessarily want to talk about. You know, life happens. But I kept writing and I did put out stuff, but on cassette, or on bandcamp, or something like that. And also it just took me a while to write the songs because I wrote a bunch of songs, and then threw out a bunch of songs. So, yeah. It took a while.

CGL: Sounds like the typical cycle of an artist at work.

ML: Well, I don’t know if I’m much of an artist. But it has a process, and there’s just a whole lot of stuff that gets in the way, or slows you down.

CGL: Well, it needs to happen organically, right? You can’t just squeeze it out, that’s not how it works.

ML: Absolutely. I mean, that is absolutely true. I actually kind of expected this kind of question. I had an interview yesterday with some guy and he had this same question, “What was goin’ on?” And it’s just like, you know, life. What are you gonna do?

CGL: Yeah, life doesn’t really have a plan does it?

ML: Well, thank goodness for that. It would be mighty boring.

CGL: So are you excited to be back on the road again?

ML: Well, we did a short tour with Neutral Milk Hotel last summer down the west coast. We played sort of locally in the Northwest quite a bit. But really again, I don’t mean to harp on this, but we’re f*cking broke. It’s f*cking hard to get in a van and leave our jobs. Some people did quite well after – I don’t want to keep going on about the recession – but geez. Everybody in my band, I mean, we still have our jobs. But we’re still doin’ it.

CGL: And what’s driving that motivation?

ML: Well, we now have a record, and it just took a while to piece it together. We tried to make an entire statement, or a complete package. From song “A” to the last song.

CGL: Like a concept album of sorts?

ML: Hmm, I don’t know. Somewhat. It’s semi-autobiographical at least. The songs are framed so that they’re almost these bookends. With the first part of the title track sort of returning on the first track on side B. So I wouldn’t say it was entirely conceived as a concept record. It could be anything you want. I don’t know about you, but when I listen to a record, I don’t necessarily read the liner notes. If I like a record I just delve in. I’m kind of weird that way. I don’t necessarily even know the song names. But I know the lyrics.

CGL: Sounds like you’re trying to avoid anything that might color your opinion before you listen to it?

ML: I don’t know, it’s just kind of haphazard. I mean, how do you enjoy a record? There’s no real organized way to get into a record.

CGL: Yes, the “science of enjoying a record” doesn’t really exist.

ML: Yeah, and again, thank goodness for that. I guess that’s just sort of the way we do things. Living in the Northwest, you’re in a kind of fuzzy cloud. I mean, Portland’s not as sleepy as it used to be. It’s a very hectic, busy little town now. I mean I hope that answers your question though. We wrote a record, we put it out, there isn’t really a reason. It’s just business as usual.

CGL: So did you find Larry Crane to have a pretty big effect on your sound? How did it compare to your previous recording experiences?

ML: Well, for the last few records, we made them ourselves. I have a home studio — a 4-track, an 8-track, and a 24-track machine. And then I have some computer capability. But it’s still kind of analogue. We’re a little behind the times, but I like the sound. So the last few records, we did at home. The first album was recorded and produced by Robert (Schneider) from the Apples (The Apples In Stereo). I kind of gave him free reign.

CGL: Like, “Do your thing, Robert, and I shall follow.”

ML: And that’s the thing, that’s what you look for. Obviously, I wrote the songs and there was serious input. So this was very similar to the first record. This record, Larry had a pretty big hand. And also, I’d like to mention Doug Jenkins. He’s the sort of main Cello Project guy. He actually scored out all of the strings. Rebecca (Cole) had some rudimentary stuff that she had played out on piano, and we would send the recordings to him and then he would score them out. You should really check out the Portland Cello Project.

But, back to Larry. He had the same role as Robert did. You know, coloring the sound. I didn’t have a whole lot to do with the engineering side of this. Usually I do. Because I record, too. But to be honest, I’m not a very technical person. And I was looking for clarity.

We Are Scientists Play Passionately In Constellation Room Jul 14

WE ARE SCIENTISTS, Constellation Room Jul 14; photo Reuben Martinez

WE ARE SCIENTISTS, Constellation Room Jul 14; photo Reuben Martinez

When We Are Scientists walked onstage wearing various combinations of blazers and skinny jeans, I wondered if they knew the two basic reactions to which they had just committed themselves. In my experience, this particular fashion statement is eventually either met with, “Dang, I had no idea these guys were such hipster trash,” or, “Okay, yeah, I’m probably already best friends with these guys and none of us have realized it yet.” Naturally, I was eager to see which camp their stage presence and banter would land them in.

After being mentally sucker punched by a delightfully, aggressively performed first song (“This Scene is Dead”), and smiling stupidly at their podcast worthy, belly-laugh-inducing witty repartee, well, you and I know exactly where they landed. What followed was a lot more of the same, the different, and then some.

In a venue as intimate as The Constellation Room, it’s easy to feel like the band is playing a private show in your own living room, and in your honor. The sound is enveloping and the air is shared between the walls of that special room. You can imagine, then, how stimulating it must be to witness the uncontainable energy that is We Are Scientists.

WE ARE SCIENTISTS

WE ARE SCIENTISTS, Constellation Room Jul 14; photo Reuben Martinez

Guitarist/lead vocalist Keith Murray performed his songs with vigorous passion, often combining his fuzzed out guitar solos while slashing his guitar through the air with reckless abandon. It was as though he were angry with himself for hitting all the right notes in all the right ways; a true rockstar. With his eyes closed and lungs blaring, his fingers moved like they had minds of their own. Here’s a man who has played music every day for years and years and years because he loves it.

Alongside this one-man show, was bassist/vocalist/fellow original band member/resident mustache champion, Chris Cain. He was prone to holding the rhythm section down with taut musicianship and a keen ear for phat, punkish, dance-worthy bass lines. His relatively calm demeanor provided a nice contrast to the musical thrashings of his counterpart, digging deep into his various grooving with a focused swagger.

His partner in time and tempo, drummer Keith Carne, was the percussive peanut butter to Cain’s rhythmic jelly. Filling in every seeming sonic gap that might have been left between a less capable trio of musicians, Carne made sure to keep the beat pulsing, the feet moving, and the minds blowing as he ripped his toms to metaphorical shreds. How he didn’t overheat and pass out in that blazer is yet to be scientifically understood.

At any given point, there was at least one person in the crowd dancing much harder than any recommended amount, as if locked in an epic dance-off with themselves and eager for new challengers. That’s because much of the music by We Are Scientists is tailor-made for bodily movement.
With a setlist that spanned equally across their five studio albums, the songs ranged from their earlier post-punk, dancing days of “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,” to songs borne out of their current status as an 80’s pop-rock duo.

Melodic, sonically ethereal jams like “Buckle” and “Too Late” now pepper the landscape of their shows, infusing their set with a welcome variance in sound. While these songs may not have the same pulsing beat of the early 2000’s, they were performed with the same emotional honesty and intensity.

The live translations of their newest songs took on a raw, more tangible feel as compared to the results of any possible studio production. This edge brought the songs to life with the energy and gravitas of a band who is still eager to share the contents of their mind.

When you combine this with their between-songs stand-up comedy routines, you get a show full of priceless sound and vision. And considering it was for the price of just a normal ticket, I’d say we all got a pretty sweet deal.