Ladies and gentlemen this is Golden Frown, this dude has songs.
Jordan Berardo aka Golden Frown, sounds like Roky Erickson partying with Joey Ramone on certain nights, other nights he sounds like Jay Reatard partying with Neil Young. It doesn’t matter, because his songs always sound great. They sound like snippets of a psychopath and dreams of a child, and echoes in the desert. This is a very honest conversation we had on a Saturday morning.
Hope you enjoy.
Tom Cheshire: Good Morning.
Jordan Berardo: How you doing? Give me a minute. I just woke up, it’s a.m. Alabama time.
What is a normal day for you these days? What do you do, what is the songwriting process.
Life feels great these days. Every day I wake up feels like a gift. Making music is a gift, and I take advantage of it. Cleaning up my act was a gift. There’s no turning back now. My only goal is to be a musician, so when I wake up, I live and breathe music and writing songs.
Can you talk about your past, your drug use?
I’m very transparent about my past. No one is perfect. I started meds when I was 14. I started self medicating in 2000. I’ve made my mistakes, I’ve had my addictions. I died in 2007 from a methadone overdose and came back to life. I’ve died eight times because of my addiction. The last time I died was the beginning of my new life. I was on heroin. I got off it and all drugs and began my new life as a musician. I started writing songs. I use my past to help me with my songs. I will write 15 songs in a day some days, and I talk about my struggles, tell my life story.
Tell me about these songs.
These songs aren’t love songs. They are what happen in my mind. They are stories I learned from. My music is a love song to the road, the romance of life.
Sounds like you’re in a relationship with your songs.
I am. Nothing can touch you when you’re on the highway. No one can touch you when you’re in the moment, writing songs. My romance is the music. I’m in a relationship with my songs and with the road. I just sit down and the music just comes out of me.
Tell me about the lyrics.
Well the lyrics are my story about my past, but I write them all freestyle off the cuff in the studio. I come up with the music on the guitar, that’s all written out. Then I get in the studio in front of the microphone and in five minutes I have a brand new song.
You’ve developed a wonderful working relationship with Peter Mavrogeorgis (Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, Twisty Cats) who is recording you and producing your record.
Peter has been amazing. We have a lot in common. We are both artists and eccentric. I love the way he works. He knows exactly what I need. He’s such a great musician and has such a great ear. We have a great system down, so why change it or fix it, if it works already. We have two albums done already and we are writing more.
Tell me about this record. When will it be out?
This will be a four-song EP and it’s coming out July 23. I am calling it Gone Are the Lemon Trees and I think it’s the best stuff I’ve written in my life. The title is a Kinks reference.
I love it and can’t wait for you to share it with the world. Anything else you want to share with our readers.
Everybody loves an underdog. Ruff Ruff Mother Fuckers, and that’s me. I’ve come out of the darkness and now I’m alive. My story is a second chance story. Please give me a chance, and listen to the songs. I’m going to continue writing songs every day, and perfect my craft, and hit the road and play these songs. Check me out, this dude has songs.
Thank you Jordan, and long live Golden Frown.
Golden Frown’s four-song EP Gone Are the Lemon Trees is out July 23.
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Teenage Bottlerocket is on the road again. Originally hailing from Laramie, Wyoming, the rapid-fire pop punk outfit is on the heels of releasing a new single, titled “Ghost Story.” Bass player Miguel Chen took a few minutes between gigs to talk about playing live punk rock shows as the pandemic winds down, the music’s power to unite people, and what’s in store with the group’s next record, Sick Sesh! (out August 27 via Fat Wreck Chords).
Were you nervous, or feeling anxiety about taking Teenage Bottlerocket out on the road while the pandemic is still winding down?
Absolutely, we felt nervous all around. Our first concern was how do we get back out there and do it in a safe way? And how do we do it without a lot of backlash? We worked with a lot of promoters trying to figure it out. Once that started to settle into place a second wave of anxiety came with this one particular show where we were giving a … let’s call it a discount. Essentially, tickets for the show were $1,000, but if you showed your vaccination card it was like $20.
Talk about a conversation starter!
Yeah, it was a crazy promotional thing, but it blew up. The next thing you know we’re being interviewed by CNN about it. We’re on the front page of Apple News, all of this crazy stuff. People just saw the headlines: “Teenage Bottlerocket,” “No Vax Tax.” That angered a lot of people. So we went on the news and tried to explain that it’s just this one show. There are many other shows doing different things. So yeah, definitely anxiety from all angles.
Honestly, though, this has probably been the smoothest running tour we’ve ever had. Turns out it was all imaginary stress and drama, or internet stuff that seemed so real. But when you get out into the real world, it’s just not there.
That’s interesting to process. The internet has been everybody’s window to the world for like a year and a half. People have been stuck at home, staring at their phones and computers. All of the sudden “no vax tax” becomes the frontline.
That was just that one promoter’s idea. Obviously it worked well, that show sold out super fast, and everybody there was really happy. For us, if that’s how they want to put on a safe show, we’re all about it. But it turned into a whole big thing.
Does it feel like audiences have been bottled up and are ready to just go nuts like never before?
A thousand percent, yes. And funny enough, the last real tour we did was a lot of these same cities. Lots of shows in Florida just before the pandemic shut everything down. We played Atlanta on that tour. And here we are, passing back through Florida, heading for Atlanta. For a lot of people we were the last show they saw before everything shut down. Now we’re the first show they’re seeing as everything opens up.
Have you had epiphanes or realizations along the way about the dynamics or the value of getting out on stage and playing live punk rock shows again?
Yeah, and it all connects back to what we were just talking about with the internet. There’s this space that exists within music, and particularly surrounding live music. On some level it reminds us that we’re not all as different as we think we are. We’re all connected in some really meaningful ways. And I think that this whole thing where everyone has existed on the internet for the last year and a half has deepened some divides and made people lose that common ground. I have the feeling that getting back to live music and live shows is going to heal that aspect, and help people realize that we’re all the same on some level.
Have you noticed your audiences becoming more diverse?
We had one particular show in Tallahassee where we all noticed that the crowd was really young. Our band exists in a weird space between the old and the new. So we played this really awesome place in Tallahassee called the Bark; it’s a really Queer-friendly, LGBTQ-friendly, and diverse collective, where we all recognized that we have these types of fans. We are lucky in that we didn’t get stuck with just like the punks who are stuck in the ‘90s. We’ve been embraced by the 2000s punks too! We talked with this one fan at that show—I’ve actually had this conversation two times this year—where they said, “I’ve been listening to you since I was nine or 10 years old because you’re my parents’ favorite band.” That’s really fun, but the younger generation will always inherently bring a bit more diversity, and hopefully that continues forever.
You have a new album, Sick Sesh!, out in August. Are these songs a product of how the band spent its time during quarantine, or were they in the works before everything went crazy?
We definitely had plans to do a record before everything went nuts. Our system has always been to do a record every two years. The plan was always to go into the studio late 2020 and release a record in 2021. It just kept getting shifted back because of all his stuff. Under the original timeline the record would already be out. But you can’t release a record if you can’t tour around it. So we sat on this thing for quite a while. Andrew and Jason at the Blasting Room remixed and remastered it quite a few times because I think they were just like us, bored without the usual workload.
I’ve always thought of Teenage Bottlerocket as a band that’s super tight, super concise, shotgun blast-style songwriting. … Point being there’s never anything in the way of the song. With so much time to work in the studio, did that affect the record?
I think all of the extra time and effort went into stripping it down or making it a little more raw. A lot of bands, given that much time in post-production, might’ve gone the opposite direction: give it more polish, make it more radio friendly. Our approach was, “This sounds too clean. Tone back the production a little.”
I have found that the more time you spend stripping something down, the more you realize that, oftentimes, things that feel essential aren’t essential at all. As a journalist I’m always under pressure to cut, cut, cut. It’s a painful process, but once you have time to reflect you can see that there was too much in the way of what you’re trying to say.
Do you watch Top Chef? I think about that a lot. The chefs who always kick ass are the ones who know how to edit themselves—take ingredients off the plate and present something simple, and do it well. This is Top Chef Bottlerocket. [laughs]
There is a new single out, called “Ghost Story.” Much of the press points out that you wrote the lyrics. Does the group have one principal songwriter, or is it generally a group effort?
Generally Ray writes the songs that he sings and Kody writes the song that he sings. Brandon would write a song once in a while. Over the last few years—since we lost Brandon—I’ve tried to step up a little more and bring songs to the table. I’ve got three on this record: One called “The Squirrel” and another called “Moving On.” Kody sings on one of them. Ray sings on two of them.
Is the band rolling out a lot of new songs on this tour?
We’re doing “Ghost Story” every night because, obviously, it was sort of intentional to release that song before going on tour, and people already seem to know it, which is a great feeling. We’re trying to play one other new song each night, which is fun for us. So many of the songs we’ve been playing for a long time. It’s nice to play new songs that are fresh and that we’re excited about. But the crowd wants to hear “Skate Or Die” or “Don’t Want To Go,” or “Radio,” things like that. So as much as part of me would love to do a show where it’s only the new record, you just can’t do that.
How many songs do you power through each night?
I’d say we probably play 25 songs each night.
That’s a workout!
Yeah, but it’s our only workout, so we need this!
While we’re talking about songs, when I hear “I Want To Be A Dog,” I am instantly thinking about Iggy Pop’s song, “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” These songs are polar opposites of each other, but was there intentional mirroring going on there?
Tony wrote that song, and I’m sure there is. We’re all Iggy Pop guys. One time we played Riot Fest with Iggy Pop, and me and Ray saw him backstage. I was frozen—scared to do anything. Ray just puts his fist up in the air, and says, “Fuck yeah, Iggy!” And he gave us a fist bump back. We were both so pumped after that.
But, yeah, I’m sure there’s a loose connection there. Obviously we tip our hats to our influences. You know “In The Basement,” back on “Warning Device,” is obviously like a Ramones song.
While I’m thinking about “I Want To Be A Dog,” I remember we filmed it and got the edit back, and there’s all these dogs taking a shit. We thought, “There is no way our publicist will let this fly. She’s going to shoot it down, make us edit it. So we hit the send button, and nervously waited for her reply. She just wrote back, “I love it!” And that was it. The video was released. Then Erin, one of the owners of Fat Wreck Chords wrote, “I really could have done without all of the dog poop, guys.” So we’re all like, “Sorry …” [laughs].
That’s funny, but the more I’ve watched that video the less jarring it becomes. Plus anyone who owns a dog knows that’s what dogs do at the dog park.
Yeah, you get desensitized to it pretty quickly. [laughs]
High Key Disco is a weekly residency featuring Treasure Fingers and Jeremy Avalon—two of Atlanta’s premier DJs spinning electronic music, funk, and disco in the cafe at MJQ. $5. Every Tuesday night from 11 p.m.-3 a.m.
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Tears For the Dying‘s singer and multi-instrumentalist Adria Stembridge is living in Athens these days, methodically working with two new musicians—bass player Zakki Kartoffel and guitar player Morgona Widow—to solidify a new lineup.
The group’s latest single, “Mortuary,” has been making the rounds since May. Stembridge tracked the single by herself earlier this year, but with lyrics such as “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, purified flesh chase you tonight. No eyes to see, just slash and dine, screams on dead ears, kill to survive! Screaming bodies in the mortuary. Screaming bodies in the laboratory,” it’s no less vexing in its creepy and death-afflicted goth-punk and metal imagery.
“I loved the main guitar riff but wanted to add an extra strings track that subtly alludes to the B-horror movie soundtrack technique of shocking the audience with a sharp musical stroke,” Stembridge says. “I feel like everyone is zombied out, given the huge number of zombie movies and shows over the past decade or so, but I haven’t heard many modern goth/deathrock bands explore the vibe in music.”
Stembridge worked with legendary March Violets guitarist-turned producer Tom Ashton (Vision Video, Entertainment, Hip To Death) at Subvon Studio in Athens to record multiple versions of “Mortuary.” One is a raw, guitars-only mix, and a third version is synths-only. Keep an eye out for different versions of the song to appear later this summer.
With the new lineup in place, Stembridge, who has handled much of the guitar and bass playing duties in the group, will now focus mainly on guitar and voice.
A new album is also in the works.
In the meantime, the group’s first show back from the pandemic is Fri., Aug. 13, at Flicker Bar in Athens. Tears for the Dying will also appear at the forthcoming VOTH (vegan goth food + dark music festival) on Oct. 15.
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Back in May, I had the privilege of hanging out after hours at Wuxtry Records’ Atlanta shop to interview Randy DuTeau, Jimmy Demer, Danny Lankford, and William DuVall of Neon Christ for this documentary film, directed by Nicol Eltzroth Rosendorf.
We talked about the formation of the group and their history together amid Atlanta’s early ‘80s hardcore scene, and the all-analog remastering process that yielded NX’s recently released discography LP, 1984 (Southern Lord/DVL Records).
If you weren’t able to track down a copy of the Record Store Day red vinyl edition of Neon Christ’s 1984 LP, no worries. A second press is set to arrive in September, pressed on black and coke-bottle clear vinyl. Both versions are available for pre-order at the Southern Lord Recordings store.
If you weren’t able to track down a copy of the Record Store Day red vinyl edition of Neon Christ’s 1984 LP, no worries. A second press is on the way, pressed on black and coke-bottle clear vinyl. Both are up for pre-order at the Southern Lord Recordings store.
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After taking a few weeks off to play some Drivin’ N Cryin’ shows in real life Kevn Kinney is back on the internet—back in the attic—this Tuesday, June 22, to perform a round of solo acoustic numbers, tell some stories, and maybe play a cover or two, maybe some new songs. Maybe some guests. … There are no rules here.
It’s free to watch, donations are accepted. Music starts at 8 p.m. Eastern and goes till about 10 p.m. Tune in via Drivin’ N ‘Cryin’s Facebook page and leave a whole bunch of ❤️ 👍 😂 ❤️ 👍 🤑 ❤️ in the comments.
If the virtual experience leaves you wanting more, and your up for a day trip, Kevn has some solo shows coming up in July.
MESSENGERS FROM AFAR: Frank Schultz (left) and Scott Burland of Duet For Theremin and Lap Steel.
It’s ironic that 2020, a number that universally signifies clarity of vision, brought to a head one of the most clouded years of recent history. Now, as a global pandemic winds down and the dust settles from a chapter of full-throttle socio-political tumult in America, it’s no surprise that the news media and one of Harvard’s brightest astronomers (Avi Loeb) are pointing to the skies with claims of seeing visitors, messengers from afar?
With their latest album, titled ‘Oumuamua, Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel has crafted an album that communes with the vast and mysterious space where human consciousness and the cosmos collide. Scott Burland’s swirling theremin wails and Frank Schultz’s lap steel textures and movements in songs with titles such as “Ceres,” “Vesta,” and “Enceladus,” are intuitively tailored to resonate with the imagination just as humankind seems fixated on asking bigger questions about the universe in which we live.
Burland and Schultz took a few minutes to talk about ‘Oumuamua, which arrived recently via Stickfigure Records.
How did the concept behind ʻOumuamua come about? Was it something you had in mind going into the recording or did it come about in the editing process, after the music was recorded?
FrankSchultz: After the music was recorded and mixed. Since Halocline was about water related phenomena, we thought we would tackle space. We looked at atmospheric phenomena and those names did not really ring true, then went down the whole “we are space dust” path and landed on the vehicles that would have brought those elements/materials to earth (asteroids and comets).
ScottBurland: We came across ‘Oumuamua after the music was recorded and agreed that there would be some sort of space theme as the music is “spacier” than most of what we’d done before.
Were you aware of ʻOumuamua as it was passing through our solar system, and the dialogue that it caused as it sped up while leaving our solar system?
Schultz: Was aware of it when passing through, but not so much the speed up on exit and the controversy surrounding it.
Burland: I had never heard of ‘Oumuamua until we came across it during our research. But once we came across it, it was like wow! A Hawaiian word for “a messenger from afar, arriving first.” Exciting!
It is rich fodder for the imagination. In academic circles it seems to have removed a bit of the stigma surrounding sincere discussions and speculation about the possibilities of extraterrestrial intelligence, while not being too committed to one answer. It also seems like a nice metaphor for the realm of music in which DfTaLS exists (IE. I often think about this group as coming from the context of Eyedrum and the improv nights that went on there for so long. The music was sophisticated and appealed to something of an academic mindset, but it was also irreverent).
Amid the media’s recent obsession with UFOs and UAPs, ʻOumuamua feels timely, like it reflects a lot of people’s headspace and curiosity. Is that a happy accident, or do you find yourself pondering questions about the cosmos more often these days?
Schultz: Happy Accident. But pondering the cosmos is always a good thing.
Burland: It was a happy accident. It could be argued that our music is space music, or “spacey,” though when we rehearse or perform, we’re not necessarily thinking about that. We try to clear our minds and have no agenda. What comes out comes out. But perhaps UFOs and UAPs have a subtle influence over us in an unconscious way. Space is the place!
How did you approach this music differently from your more recent releases, like Halocline and 10?
Schultz: Much less editing. We took pieces as a whole, no overdubs, no other instrumentation. Compared to Halocline and 10, it is stripped down to the core.
Burland: I don’t think our approach was any different. We often record rehearsals and pore over the recordings and decide if it’s release-worthy. For example, all of the music on CD1 was recorded on Christmas Day 2020. Frank texted a day or so later and said, meh, not so great. But a day or two later he texted and said he was able to work some magic and it was interesting for me to listen. I was able to recognize the basic framework of what we’d done, but it had transformed into something I found much more listenable.
Do you think of this as being more refined from what you delivered with Halocline?
Schultz: No, but I generally don’t analyse or compare our music. I leave that to the pros.
Burland: It’s quite different from Halocline, I think. I’m not sure I would say more refined, but I think the music explores the space that it created. It’s as if we happened upon a nice moment and rather than try to change it or evolve it, we stayed a while and explored that moment.
What was the first piece of music that you recorded for this album? Was that the catalyst from which the rest of the ideas here were born?
Schultz: “Ison,” “Sliding Spring,” and” Enceladus” were all recorded on October 8, which would have been the earliest date. The first CD was all recorded on December 25 and the rest of the songs were recorded on Dec. 2. We did not sit down to record for an album (which we did do for 10), but upon listening back to the various recordings we decided that they should be released. So, there is not a song or series of songs that intentionally influenced the other recordings.
Burland: I agree with Frank here, and will add that we didn’t start out thinking about releasing a double CD, but it seemed appropriate after having listened to the music. There seemed to be a common (though unconscious) thread.
One of the most compelling aspects of DfTaLS’ music has always been the strong emotional reaction the music draws out; and it is an enthralling experience that demands your attention. Just a few minutes ago I left the room while the song called “Enceladus” was playing. I had to take care of some fairly important business. I was in an entirely different room of the house, and the music was still affecting me so severely that I had to come back into my office and pause it in order to concentrate on the task at hand. Have other people described having similar reactions to the music?
Schultz: Well thanks for saying that. I have a friend who ran out of a show because it was freaking her out. 🙂 Hi Katie!
Burland: That is high praise indeed, thank you! I’m always humbled when people talk about the experience of listening to our music, whether it’s a live performance or recorded. We’re just a couple of guys who’ve been doing this for 15 years and I’m always pleased to hear when someone says that they felt something while listening. It’s what keeps me going, keeps me involved. The simple fact that people come out to hear us perform and buy our music and are compelled to write about it or play it on their radio program, I dunno, I am so grateful for that.
DfTaLS’ Scott Burland (left) and Frank Schultz. Photo by Chad Radford.
What is your headspace like when you’re creating this music? Do you feel like you’re in control, or is the music in control of you?
Schultz: Typically our best work comes from being guided by the music and getting completely lost in it.
Burland: The bar is always set to be controlled by the music. There are moments when I get goosebumps, though they are fleeting. Forever chasing the dragon.
GRIZZNESS CASUAL: Ben Trickey. Photo by Chad Radford.
Ben Trickey and I recently made our way to El Myr in Little Five Points to talk about his latest album, We Are Not Lucky We Are Blessed, while knocking back a couple of Grizzes. What’s a Grizz, you ask? It’s a pony-sized bottle of Corona with a shot of well Tequila dropped in, and a lime placed atop so you don’t spill too much on the way back to your table … And to enhance the flavor, of course.
Chad Radford: We met years ago, when you were involved with the noise scene. Whenever we’ve done interviews I’ve brought that up: “How has working with noise music influenced your songwriting?” You always have a good answer, but I’ve been thinking, “Ben’s gonna get sick of me asking him about noise.”
Then I read on Facebook that most people ask you about country music. … I wouldn’t think to go there.
Ben Trickey: I wouldn’t either, but most people who don’t know country music naturally go there. Even the trumpet player on the record tweeted something recently that said it’s a record by this great country guy. People hear Southern and they hear acoustic guitar and think country.
… Whereas I look for the noise in your songwriting, and most people think I’m crazy.
But the noise influence is a big part of it. To me, it’s about intensity, buildup, and structure. Noise is like putting together a house or something. I see it as elements of building a structure.
People get away with a lot of bullshit in the name of noise. But a well-composed piece of noise music can be life-changing? It changed the way I engage with music.
Yes, and I was lucky that I went to art school when I did. Then going through grad school at Alfred University in western New York, about five or six hours away from the city. I got to attend a lot of noise and improv sessions with New York artists like Pauline Oliveros, Peer Bode, and Andrew Deutsch.
Is Alfred University known for having a badass music program?
It has a badass art program. It’s mainly a pottery school—ceramics and new ceramic engineering. They have an electronic integrated art program. That’s where a lot of New York video and sound artists went. I met them through Sara Hornbacher at the Atlanta College of Art, who used to hang out at The Kitchen in New York City.
I was sort of her apprentice when I went to Atlanta College of Art. She connected me with that scene.
Tell me about the sign on the cover of your record?
My parents live in the middle of nowhere Alabama, on Smith Lake. It’s about an hour-and-a-half north of Birmingham—between Huntsville and Birmingham on 65. Near Cullman.
My dad and mom built a small cabin there in the ’70s, and I grew up hanging out around there. It was like our lake house. Later, they built another house there, and they still live there. Both of my sisters live there with my nieces and nephews. I have one brother in Chicago.
It’s a fun, pretty place, and I like going there—just don’t spend too much time talking to some of the people around there, especially in the Trump era.
One day I was in the car with my dad, slightly before the pandemic. People were just starting to talk about it.
We drove by this deserted gas station that had been turned into a youth ministry in Trimble, Alabama. I saw that sign in front: “We are not lucky we are blessed.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh!” I had my dad pull over. He was like, “What are you doing? This is ridiculous!” It wasn’t a big deal to him, but I thought it was hilarious. It felt so cocky to say we are the blessed people, which, first of all, assumes there are people who aren’t blessed. So I took that picture with my phone.
When I was working on the record I started thinking about the multiple meanings of it, especially in the South. Saying, “We’re not lucky …” I am not lucky, and this record is about being not lucky. And in a Southern context, saying someone’s blessed, like “bless your heart” is usually a way of talking down to someone, or saying something’s wrong with them … They’re blessed. So I liked the duality of it for the title of a record that’s about an exhausted apocalyptic feeling.
When you’re working with language like this, and you put it out into the world, people will find meanings that you never intended.
I cannot control how my music exists in the world. So, like I commented on that Facebook post, I’m sitting back, eating boiled peanuts or whatever. I used to get frustrated about it. I’m okay with it, though. Once you listen to the record you can figure out what it’s about … Or not.
I was listening to the lyrics of “Glendalough or Chantilly,” and wondered if it’s autobiographical, or how much is thinly-veiled real life vs. fiction.
It’s a mix. There is an autobiographical element to it, but it’s a longing for escape, and feeling tired.
When I was practicing the song with Tiffany [Leigh Clark], she said, “This is about our phones.” I was like, “Really?”
I mention the phone in the beginning of the song: “We’re all children falling to pieces, blinded by light.” She says yeah, it’s the light of our phones. And I’m like, “Wow, what is that?”
I talk about burying the phone because I had a rough few years. I was thinking about escape. I had been to Glendalough in Ireland and to Chantilly in France. Both of them felt like fairytale worlds. So I’m asking: Give me blue skies, or a night on the town. Give me something, because I’m tired of feeling so exhausted. It’s asking for deliverance.
When I listen to it, I think about the pandemic.
Something happened … Most of this album was written before the pandemic. Then the pandemic happened while I was recording these songs, and somehow I fit all of that into the album. It made me realize that I’ve always written apocalyptic anxiety songs. It meant way more because a lot of what everyone was feeling fit perfectly with what was going on. Everyone was hanging out in their backyards. All they had was the news on their phone, and it was driving everyone crazy.
It all affected the album. Even though it was written before the pandemic, it was recorded and produced during the pandemic. It was all emailed, or I went to people’s houses and sat up socially distanced. That affected the sound. With all of my records I reach a point where I let noise take over. With this one, I wasn’t doing that. I wanted it to be structured, song oriented. There are still touches of noise here and there, but I didn’t scream. With some of the older records I get kind of loud with my redneck bark. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to sing sing, and make an easy going record about hard things. I didn’t want it to intensely attack you. With a lot of my older records I really wanted to punch you in the chest.
I can’t help but look for the confrontational elements of your music, but that’s what I bring to your music.
There’s also just a part of my personality where even if I try, I can’t not do that, because it’s just how I write. So even if I’m pulling back it’s still gonna be there. Like with the song “Burn It All” — where I’m like, “If you think I won’t do it, I will.” That’s confrontational. Maybe I tried to fight it with the organ to keep it a little more smooth.
Don’t undersell your redneck bark! In your voice, there is a naturally sad quality, or a naturally scared quality. So there are moments in songs where you say that you’re scared, and the sound of your voice pushes the words beyond what a lot of vocalists are capable of doing.
That is something that I am aware of, and I’ve played with that over the years. To me, that’s fragility, and by showing fragility the music and the message become stronger—by showing the weaknesses and exposing the cracks, you make it stronger. That’s the basis for a lot of my music.
On the drive here, I was thinking about how to phrase that: “Is there strength in showing vulnerability?
That’s been the conceit of most of my records. Hopefully I’m right [laughs]. A friend of mine recently played it for a woman he’s seeing. She said, “It’s alright, but this guy needs balls.”
I feel like I have them, they’re just deep thinking balls.
… My music is never going to sell a lot. Someone on that Facebook post said something like, “My friend was in a punk band and was into the Clash. He was trying to figure out how to do it. He realized that when he played country music more people came out. He started doing that and now he’s in Sugarland making millions of dollars …”
I’m never going to do that.
I’m less of a career musician than I am a poet, if I can be that pretentious. I don’t consider myself a musician because I’m not that good. So it’s more about poetry. And I can just see the sounds as words.
You do it for you, not for other people.
I came to that realization about music journalism as well. Over the years, different editors have said that I need to write about music that more people care about, more “big Atlanta.” Aside from the fact that I have always felt repulsed by mainstream culture, the music that I am genuinely drawn to doesn’t have many dedicated writers any more, or anyone else paying attention in any critical capacity.
And it would be disingenuous for you to fake it.
Yes, but in the era of social media, a shallow disingenuous voice is often rewarded and repeated way more often than an honest exploration of music.
Do you know what synesthesia is?
Yes. I think I have it to an extent, but It’s never the same for me. Sounds feel like chunks and they feel like colors and pictures. But they change depending on my mood, so it’s never consistent. I almost always visualize it like I want the music to sound like breaking wood. It’s definitely a visual thing in my head. This makes me think of Richard Buckner. Most of his stuff, especially the first few records always sound to me like cracking wood.
What is the first song that you wrote on the new record?
Probably the first song, “Big Empty.”
I had the beginning of the song a long time ago, and I could never finish it. Originally it had a different ending that went into these cliches about mankind, money, and bullshit. I didn’t like it, but I liked the chords. So I rewrote it and rewrote it. The first song that I played out besides that was “Petrified.”
Do you think of “Petrified” as being like a thesis for the album?
Originally, yes, but not any more. That’s a hard question because now that I’ve had time away from it. that song is just an intense little mediator. It is the catalyst where all of the other songs came from. That event or those feelings are what led to everything else being written. But I don’t know if it’s the thesis.
Ben Trickey plays the We Are Not Lucky We Are Blessed LP release party at the Earl on Saturday, September 25, with Evan Stepp.
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On June 12, as the Record Store Day shopping frenzy winds down in Little Five Points, head over to the the parking lot behind the Star Bar (437 Moreland Ave NE), where Neon Christ, GG King, and Upchuck are playing a free show from 6-8 p.m.
Atlanta’s hardcore luminaries Neon Christ were founded by Alice in Chains singer William DuVall in 1984. Back then DuVall played guitar alongside vocalist Randy DuTeau, bass player Danny Lankford, and drummer Jimmy Demer. “Our first practices were in Little Five Points, just steps from where we’ll play June 12,” DuVall says. “We played festivals here in ’84 and ’85. My record collection as a teenager came almost entirely from Wax N Facts. We didn’t even consider playing anywhere else.”
DuVall also did a brief stint playing in Santa Cruz, California’s seminal hardcore group Bl’ast! between 1986 and ’87.
Neon Christ’s members are reuniting to play live for the first time since February 8, 2008, when they took the stage together at The Treehouse in Lawrenceville. The show is also a victory lap on the heels of releasing the 1984 discography LP as a Record Store Day exclusive via Southern Lord and DuVall’s DVL imprint.
For this show, NX will tear through its earliest thrash and hardcore songs such as “Parental Suppression,” “Bad Influence,” “Ashes to Ashes,” and more. This is the material from their original two 7-inch releases, culled together and remastered for 1984—much of which the band stopped playing that same year. Before splitting up in 1986, NX’s had evolved and channeled its energy into longer, heavier, and slower songs. On June 12, though, the group is going full-on high-energy.
Press play on the new video for the group’s theme song, “Neon Christ.”
Before the show, NX will be at Criminal Records from 5-6 p.m. for a meet-and-greet, and to sign copies of 1984. “We wanted to do a quick in-store appearance for Record Store Day, but Covid restrictions would keep us from doing a proper punk rock show,” says Demer. “So we decided to make it outdoors, and all ages, and free. And instead of doing a couple of songs, we’ll play a full set.”
Music behind the Star Bar starts promptly at 6 p.m. Each band is playing a tight 30-minute set with an even tighter changeover between sets. “If all goes as planned, Neon Christ will play at 7:30 p.m. and end 26 minutes later,” Demer says. “Don’t blink, you’ll miss it.”
Don’t dick around and miss this one. After the Treehouse show in 2008 the group said it was the last time NX would play live. So 13 years later, this is a rare treat, and it could be your last chance to see them on stage. “We’ve only played two or three times since we broke up in 1986,” Demer says. “This one feels like a homecoming. It’s full circle, back to Little Five Points.”
This show also marks the first time that GG King has played live since the crushing new LP Remain Intact arrived in March via Total Punk. Press play below.
And check out Upchuck’s self-titled EP from January 2020, too. It’s a scorcher.
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