Claire Lodge & Tom Cheshire: A chance meeting in the produce department at Kroger on Buford Highway

Claire Lodge

I first heard about Claire Lodge on a Tom Waits message board about 10 years ago. Everyone was fascinated, but no one seemed to know much about her. Then somehow we linked up online through an old musician friend. For years we’ve shared ideas and filthy jokes and suggested books and music and films to watch, without ever meeting in person. That all ended last week, when I was at a grocery store on Buford Highway in Atlanta. 

We both tried to grab the same piece of fruit. She looked at me and said “You’re Tom Cheshire, I’m embarrassed I’m in my pajamas.” I responded saying “that’s OK I’m in my rain boots.” So there we were, finally face to face. We put our groceries in our cars and went and had a cup of coffee. 

Three hours later and a lot of laughs a real friendship was born. We managed to squeeze out an interview and we are talking about doing an EP. 

Here you go, I hope you enjoy.


Tom Cheshire: The first time I saw you live was in New York City, It was with Compartmentalizationalists. You had two drummers and a bassist.

Claire Lodge: Yeah, I co-write in that band. We have made three albums.

The Fainting Couch is your first solo album, do you approach your solo music differently?

With Comparts, most of the tunes have a set structure, even if we improvise within that structure. When I play solo, It’s almost all by feel. Some tunes will be two minutes one night, and eight the next. Life has enough structure, I like freedom. I like that in the artists I go see live too. If you are a rock band that plays everything the same way every time I see it, I get bored. I love people like PJ Harvey, Andrew Bird, Tom Waits. I like the element of surprise.

Did you set out to make it with just guitars? Did you try playing with a band first?

I set out to make it with just guitars. I love solo guitar albums. Bill Frisell’s In Line, Marc Ribot’s Saints, Masada Guitars, Sharrock’s Guitar, Etta Baker’s Railroad Bill, the list goes on. I like the intimacy of one person with one instrument.

The songs on the album have no titles. And it is an album, not a record. And where did the name come from?

They have titles. “Part 1,” “Part 2,” and so on. I want people to listen to the entire album, like you would watch a film. And no, no vinyl. They sell records at Target. So I hope I’m ahead of the curve on the comeback of CDs. As far as the title goes, I have always liked the words “Fainting Couch,” it sounds like it could mean several things.

Tom Cheshire: What is the first song you remember hearing?

Probably “Happy Birthday.” My parents didn’t listen to any vocal music growing up. I don’t remember hearing anyone sing until I was 10.

How old were you when you wrote your first song? What was it called? 

When I was 12 or 13 I got serious about guitar. I wrote a song called “Cincinnati String Bean.” It was a banger… I have never sung in my life. 

Where were you born? Where did you grow up and where is home now?

I was born in London. I have lived all over. Mainly London and Atlanta. I went to school at Stanford.

Have you ever stolen a car?

Never. I can barely drive.

What is the best cross country driving record?

Oh man, probably Francoise Hardy. Anything by her. Or Pink Flag on repeat.

Who is your biggest influence as a guitar player?

I heard the song “Apache” by the Shadows and wanted to learn it. While I was learning guitar we were living in Italy and my teacher introduced me to Tom Waits’ music and I fell in love with Marc Ribot’s playing. Then when I heard Sonny Sharrock my life was forever changed. I wish I had a cool story about discovering him, but it was on Space Ghost.


Who is your biggest influence as a piano player?

First off, I can barely play piano. But I like to listen to this dude Francois Couturier a lot. Nina Simone, Monk.

What is your favorite film score?

A Zed & Two Noughts by Michael Nyman. It is insane and perfect. In the past 20 years, I also really liked Johnny Greenwood’s The Master.

Do you see colors when you hear music? Do you see colors or visuals when you write music?

My images are almost always black and white.

How long should a film be? What is too long?

90 minutes if you have children. Up to 2.5 hours if not. I hope Bella Tarr doesn’t read this. 

What do you look for in a song?

Texture.

Your favorite city/country to perform in?

Poland. I have been going there for the past eight or nine years and it has been a blast. That’s what pushed me into recording my tunes.

Your favorite food on the road?

Red licorice.

Mexican vs Chinese. Your thoughts? That’s on food.

I hate goddamn cheese, so Chinese. Chinese food is awesome.

Go-to snack food?

Ice cream. Any kind, anywhere.

Guilty pleasure music?

I rarely feel guilty. I guess I will go with Poppy Family, Ace of Base. At this point… Nick Cave. 

Favorite member of Wu-Tang Clan?

Inspectah Deck. He is the man. He has the best verses and he needs the publicity.

Who is your favorite comedian?

Living or dead? George Carlin might be the best ever. But I love so many. Chris Rock, Chris Elliott, Norm Macdonald, Louie, Pryor … Why didn’t he make a record called Pryor Convictions? Wait, did he? 

Would you date a man who drives a Corvette?

Only if it was stolen. Jesus … I sound like Lana Del Rey.


Who would you like to work with, write with? Dream collaboration?

Chris Gaines. We could talk shit about Garth Brooks. I bet he sniffs glue. I should go easy on him. He survived tragedies. 

But really, Tom Cheshire. Let’s make that happen.

Please say me, and do you want to put out a record together? If so, let’s do this.

Oh… I didn’t even read ahead. Yes! Let’s do eet. 

Will we get a Claire Lodge U.S. tour soon?

I don’t think so. I play secret shows in Atlanta and New York a few times a year, but can’t hit the road anymore. 

Last but not least, your thoughts on sandals? I personally can’t stand them.

Is Sandals a show on CBS? It should be.

Thank you so much for your time, Claire. 

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Three on the Ones and Twos ep. 16: Bauhaus: ‘Burning From the Inside’

Burning From the Inside has always held something of a mystery simmering just beneath the surface of every note and every lyrical phrase. Bauhaus’ final album (the first time around) perfectly distilled the band’s black-clad post-punk and proto-goth traipse into an enigmatic final act. Like the arrows of chaos, seminal recordings by Love and Rockets, Peter Murphy, Tones On Tail, David J, Daniel Ash, Dali’s Car, and Poptone all fired off in every direction shortly after its arrival.

I’m not sure if there’s a literal code to crack here, but nods to Italian Futurism in “Who Killed Mr. Moonlight” take shape as a poignant snapshot of a group that has already pulled itself apart at the seams. “Antonin Artaud” pushes that tension to an ecstatic state, “King Volcano,” “Slice Of Life,” and the album’s title track are monster cuts—quintessential Bauhaus. “Hope” brings it all to a warm and psychedelic landing, hinting at what the future holds in store. But it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees, maybe that’s what the cover art is all about. All meaning is shrouded in layers upon layers of cinematic imagery here. Nearly 40 years after its arrival, Burning From the Inside still reveals all sorts of insight into the band’s history and legacy. I was thrilled when Cassy, Tom, and James invited me on the show to talk about it all.

You can also listen to our conversation on Spotify.

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4 1/2 Grizzes with David Bair of New Bedlam

David Bair of New Bedlam. Photo by Chad Radford


At the top of the year, New Bedlam went into Maze Studios with Ben Etter to record a new EP titled Steady Diet of Bullshit (released June 18). Later, singer and guitar player David Bair, bass player Tyler Davis, drummer Mike Walden, and guitarist Michael Parrish returned to the studio to film live performances of each of the EP’s five songs.

Recently, Bair and I made our way to El Myr in Little Five Points to talk about the group and the latest EP while knocking back a few Grizzes — four and-a-half Grizzes each, to be exact. 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.

This is part 1 of our conversation. Keep an eye out for part 2 coming soon.

What brought you to Atlanta?

Me and our bass player Tyler were in a band called Bully Pulpit. We moved here from Charleston in 2016. Danny, the kitchen manager here at El Myr, was the frontman for that band.

We were touring up and down the East Coast, putting out records, and bought a van. Charleston just wasn’t a good place for our headquarters. We had some homies living here, so we moved. … Moving four guys into a house, who didn’t have jobs, and had never really lived with anyone else before … It fell apart pretty quickly. Me and Danny and Tyler stayed. We put a lot of time and money and energy into this band, and that’s what pushed me to pick up the guitar again and start writing music with a new band. Nothing will happen if you don’t try.

It’s taken three years to get the word out about New Bedlam. The songs are there, the sound is there, now we just need to get it into peoples’ ears.

Having some professionalism in our work ethic, staying on peoples’ asses, doing the live videos on Youtube is only going to help us.

The new EP is called Steady Diet of Bullshit … Clearly a Fugazi reference?

Yes! Tyler is a Fugazi nut. Originally, jokingly, we were going to call it Steady Diet Of Pizza, but that was too much. Obviously, Fugazi is a huge influence on us and we’ve covered “Merchandise” before. It’s that DIY ethic: If anyone’s ever seen a Fugazi show in person or on the internet, you’re going to church. You connect with it immediately when you’re watching those motherfuckers play. So the title was a clever way to give them a nod, and to signify that if you come to one of our shows, you’re going to leave with something new in your life.

I’m not on stage just because we’re some band on a bill. I’m here because we’ve culminated this with our homies, and wrote these songs to hopefully send you home in a way more positive mood than what you showed up with. We want it to be something that’s fun and exciting, something you hadn’t experienced before.

Let’s talk about some songs — “End Transmission”.

We had a bunch of songs in the can and everyone was like, “fuck it, let’s go record them.” At first, it didn’t make any sense to me when we recorded. But now, hearing them together, whatever the songs mean to the user makes sense. They all mean different things to me, they mean different things to the boys and the band. “End Transmission” is more personal. To me it’s about parents and childhood and shit like that.

The idea with Steady Diet Of Bullshit is something that me and you deal with every day. Something that everyone in Atlanta deals with everyday — the mound of bullshit you are constantly navigating to be happy, or to have a positive mental attitude, or just to keep your  bills paid. People relate to that because it’s everyday life.

“Lurch” is a heavier song. Some of the other songs on the record are more punk oriented. “Lurch” has got more atmosphere, but when we hit the chorus it still punches you in the gut. It’s about how we’re always trying to move forward so fast — society, technology. But my personal experience is that we’re just lurching in one way or another, trying to get through whatever.

As much as I love Fugazi, I never detected much of a sense of humor in the music. A lot of bands wear the Fugazi influence on their sleeve, but calling the album Steady Diet of Bullshit is a new approach … And it’s a funny way to pay homage.

Yes! And even with our other EPs, there’s always a cynical quality to the music. You could take some of the lyrics seriously, or not. There’s always a light side of me saying some pretty heavy shit. So naming it Steady Diet of Bullshit is my way, and the band’s way, of bringing humility to the music. We’re all pretty humble people, but we’re still vulnerable.

It’s refreshing to be in Atlanta, and to hear this level of anger in a newer band. Atlanta is the music scene that you’re part of, but these songs resonate with a bigger picture that’s aligned with Melvins or Unsane.

We were learning “Scrape” not too long ago, just to have a fun cover to play! Dude, that kind of feeling that you get from listening to Unsane is what we want — that’s us in a nutshell. The way it makes you feel when you listen to it — that nasty, knee-buckling shit — when you hear it, however you relate it to your world, we’re in the same boat. 100%

New Bedlam is (from left) Tyler Davis, Mike Walden, David Bair, and Michael Parrish. Photo by DJ Bing.

Part 2 of our conversation is coming soon.

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Record Plug: Warm Red

When you’re out and about this weekend, hitting up records stores, coffee shops, or just grabbing a beer somewhere, be sure to pick up a copy of the September issue of Record Plug Magazine.

For this issue, I had the chance to catch up with Warm Red before their show at the Earl a little earlier this month, and to talk about their debut album, Decades of Breakfast (State Laughter). Press play below.

Also, this issues features cool write ups on AthFest (Sept. 24-26), Skin Jobs, Entertainment, the upcoming Southern Surf Stompfest (Oct. 2), and a whole lot more.

The website is here, but print is where all of the stories live, and copies are strategically placed all around metro Atlanta and Athens. … I grabbed my copy at Drip Coffee in Hapeville, but I saw it at Wax-n-Facts and Wuxtry as well.

Keeping scrolling downward to read my Warm Red feature story, and check out those killer live shots courtesy of Mike White at Dead Designs photography.


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GUEST EDITOR: Tom Cheshire in conversation with Jordan Berardo of Golden Frown

Jordan Berardo aka Golden Frown.

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’s Miguel Chen talks life after the pandemic, internet drama vs. the real world, and what’s in store with ‘Sick Sesh!’

TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET: Kody Templeman (from left), Ray Carlisle, Darren Chewka, and Miguel Chen. Photo courtesy Fat Wreck Chords.

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]

Teenage Bottlerocket and their Fat Wreck Chords labelmates MakeWar join Atlanta’s Breaux for an evening of outdoor music on the loading dock at Boggs Social & Supply. Thursday, July 1. $17 (adv). $20 (day of show). 7 p.m. (doors). 1310 White Street SW.

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Neon Christ: A brief history of ‘1984’


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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Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel on creating ”Oumuamua’

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?

Frank Schultz: 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).

Scott Burland: 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.

Duet For Theremin and Lap Steel play the ‘Oumuamua CD release party with W8ing4UFOs on Saturday, June 12. Free (donations accepted). 8 p.m. (doors). Railroad Earth, 1467 Oxford Rd NE.

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Two Grizzes with Ben Trickey


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.

Yes.

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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Miles Seaton of Akron/Family R.I.P.

Akron/Family at the Earl on February 20, 2007. Photo by Chad Radford


Sad news made the rounds over the weekend, as word spread that Miles Seaton of Akron/Family has died. He was 41 years old.

I was lucky enough to see Akron/Family play The Earl a few times over the years—in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2012. The group’s members also made up Michael Gira of Swans group Angels of Light when they played The Earl in 2005.

Akron/Family was the quintessential experimental folk outfit, an offshoot of the “new weird America” scene, blending a cosmic strum and wail over a bed of noisy and psychedelic pleasantries. The group’s sound was a warm and far-out acoustic dirge that was inspired more by the back roads of rural Georgia than the mean streets of their hometown of Brooklyn.

I took these photos at The Earl on February 20, 2007, when Akron/Family was on the road playing songs from the album Love Is Simple (Young God Records). They shared the stage that night with Untied States.

Rest in peace.

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