Why write a book about Atlanta record stores? The truth is that you get a singularly unique perspective on a city’s history, its culture, and its personality when viewed through the lens of a record store’s front window. I have often said that if you want to understand a society or a culture, just take a look at its pop culture, and music has always remained right there on the frontlines.
Atlanta is world-renowned as a hip-hop mecca, but a rich underground rock scene has been thriving here for decades. The hub of that world is the city’s record stores. Featuring decades-old institutions to shops that existed just long enough to leave an impact, Atlanta Record Stores is a rock-centric take on a hip-hop town, unfurling the secret history of music underdogs—outliers living among outliers—telling their stories in their native tongue. From Jarboe of SWANS to William DuVall of Alice in Chains and Neon Christ to Kelly Hogan, Gentleman Jesse Smith, Atlanta Braves organist Matthew Kaminski, and those surly characters behind the counter at Wuxtry, Wax ‘n’ Facts, Criminal, Ella Guru, Fantasyland, and more, all were drawn by the irresistible lure of vinyl records—all found their communities and their own identities, leaving an indelible mark on the culture of Atlanta.
Click below to purchase a signed copy of Atlanta Record Stores: An Oral History. $25 (postage paid).
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Hello, my name is Chad Radford and I am an Atlanta-based music journalist with 20 years of experience in writing, editing, and podcasting. Punk, hardcore, jazz, noise, post-punk, hip-hop, metal, modern composition, drone music, and all points in between are where my interests lie. I am an avid nature lover, and I buy too many records.
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Rejoice! Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. return to the Earl on Tuesday, May 23.
The last time Japan’s ultimate sorcerers of psychedelic rock delivered a dose of cosmic freakouts to the East Atlanta Village was in the Spring of 2019. Now, the group’s founding guitarists Makoto Kawabata and Higashi Hiroshi are on the road again, traversing the States on the “Metareboot North American Spring Tour 2023.” For these shows the group’s lineup features drummer Satoshima Nani, guitar and bouzouki player Jyonson Tsu, and their latest addition, bass player Ron Anderson (also of PAK). Acid Mothers Temple’s kaleidoscopic stage presence is the stuff of legend—full throttle exploration of inner space while reaching for outer space. Every live show offers a mind-bending portal into unknown realms of the multiverse, where ecstasy and overload collide with searing rhythms and riffs.
The group’s body of work is truly immense. Although no new AMT offerings have materialized since the pandemic shut down the world, the group filled up its official Bandcamp page with 60+ albums and various unreleased offerings.
ATTENTION COLLECTORS: There will be a full-on mountain of rare reissues on the merch table—LPs, tapes, CDs, hand-drawn artwork, and more. Speaking of which, Austin’s ST 37 will open the show, and there will be a split live cassette of recordings made during their 2015 tour together.
The reviews are in, “Atlanta Record Stores: An Oral History” is a bonafide hit! Check out a list of interviews, reviews, and more. … And click below to get a signed copy of the book delivered to your door.
“Rather than a straight narrative, Radford let the owners, employees past and present, musicians, and shoppers tell the stories of the record stores in a series of oral histories. It’s a breezy, funny, nostalgic read.” — “New book chronicles the history of Atlanta’s record stores” with Collin Kelly for Rough Draft
In the meantime, RadATL is honored to premier the album’s first single and music video, titled “Olah (Burnt Offering).”
For this latest album, Rosendorf weaves together Ashkenazi musical tones, textures, and melodies with electronic drone music. The song’s magic lies in its smooth combination of these elements, giving rise to a vast, atmospheric piece of music that stands on its own as a cohesive work, as well as an entry point into a nuanced excursion into the surreal. “Olah (Burnt Offering)” retains the post-industrial essence of Rosendorf’s 2020 debut, Big Other, while placing an emphasis on environmental sublimation and a refined sense of Rosendorf’s singular compositional style as a musician and visual artist.
For this song premier, “Olah (Burnt Offering)” is accompanied by a RadATL exclusive track titled “Shûb.”
For this project, Rosendorf used Chat GPT to create a series of instagram posts—song descriptions—written in the style of a 19th century Rabbi. Follow @nicol_eltzroth_rosendorf on Instagram for more.
“For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters” (Job 3:24).
The Internal Return commences with “Olah (Burnt Offering)“—titled after the sacred Burnt Offering in the Jewish tradition. Just as the Burnt Offering is brought forth as a symbol of devotion and atonement, so too does this music seek to perturb within us a sense of expansive intensity. The peculiarly unprecedented fusion of the explosive machinery of synthesizers and distorted guitars, twined with the Ashkenazi tools of the clarinet and the violin, is the musical ideal I have been seeking.
Drawing inspiration from a fragment of Wagner’s “Magic Fire Music,” I have transformed the notes with the Klezmer scale and stretched them to their very limits. The result has taken on a life of its own, evolving from a weighty drone with a prominent sampled clarinet into a powerful expression with the addition of a masterful violin solo by the renowned musician, Daniel Hoffman.
Hoffman, a true virtuoso, came to my attention with his band Davka, which created some of my most personality-treasured music. With his intervention, I have sought an authenticity of sound, and with the replacement of the sampled clarinet with the real instrument by the esteemed Ben Bertrand the composition has attained an even greater depth. I am boundlessly thankful for their contributions.
Contrasting the anti-Semitic notes of Wagner’s music with Jewish concepts of sacrificial offering is a sort of koan. Titling the piece with a Hebrew word that contains the root of Holocaust is nearly a pun. One can only try to laugh in the face of the void.
Again and again—I do not speak Hebrew, German, or Yiddish.
I am not in any way a conventionally religious person.
I am so proud of this body of work, and I hope it pleases you.
As it is written in the Talmud, ‘All beginnings are difficult.'”
Three versions of the physical release will be out June 9, including the limited edition 180g vinyl, a deluxe set that includes a Giclee print as well as a CD featuring remixes By Rafael Anton Irisarri, Siavash Amini, and Terence Hannum. More details will be available soon. Click here to pre-order “the album”Olah (Burnt Offering).”
If you have enjoyed reading this post, please consider making a donation to RadATL.Venmo to @Chad-Radford-6 or click on the Paypal link below.
“All over the country / We want a new direction. I said all over this land / We need a reaction. Well there should be a youth explosion / Inflate creation. But something we can command. What’s the point in saying destroy?”
— The Jam, “All Around The World”
On Wednesday, May 3 at 6 p.m., Randy Gue will kick off the inaugural session of a five-week seminar, titled “What’s the Point of Saying Destroy?’: Punk and the DIY Ethos,” at The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University.
Think of the seminar as Punk 101, an informal class that touches on all things punk, hardcore, and DIY, and how the culture has changed over the decades.
Gue is the Curator of the Political, Cultural, and Social Movements Collection at Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. He’s also vocalist and guitar player for the “wordcore” outfit El Matador, a former auxiliary member of Atlanta’s ‘80s hardcore luminaries Neon Christ, and one of the masterminds behind Emory’s “Create Your Own Culture: Art, Punk, and DIY Fest.”
Throughout these hour-long sessions (from 6-7 p.m. every other Wednesday until the end of June), conversations will be guided by listening to songs—by the Ramones and beyond—and reading select texts and news articles from the last 40+ years. Come as you are. Attendees will receive a free copy of Osa Atoe’s recently published“Shotgun Seamstress,” an anthology of the Black punk zine.
The sessions are free to attend but space is limited. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. to RSVP. 1635 N Decatur Rd., Atlanta, GA 30322
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Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes have been a locomotive punk rock freak-out on the national DIY circuit since their 2010 inception in Indianapolis. In that time, The Pink Cigarettes have been defined by their love of all things DIY, their jubilant, unrepentant creativity, and the ferocity by which it is all held together.
Born out of a high school friendship, bassist Abby Hart and guitarist Davey Gravey originally formed a horror punk band going by the name Room 21, a reference to The Misfits’ song “Horror Hotel.” When that band ended in 2010, the friends readied their next project to play an already scheduled Halloween show. Ayesha Clarissa then joined and learned drums for the project. While the band started as a five-piece, two members quickly exited, and the trio of Clarissa, Gravey, and Hart continued to write, driven by their desire to share their music and play shows.
“Our reason for naming [the band] as flamboyantly as it is, is because we had been listening to The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, and we thought about having just a whole troupe of people playing when we were writing the songs and that’s kind of like, where the crazy name came from,” says Hart. “Our friends would always be like, ‘Hey, let’s have a party, but… let’s make it formal.’ And then as we got more into the band, we wanted to show our inspirations aesthetically for the band, so like a ‘60s, ‘50s [-era] John Waters ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.’ We wanted it to be colorful and fun.” Gravey notes, “We were watching all the John Waters movies when we recorded the first stuff that we were making.” Hart adds, “And [Richard Elfman’s film] ‘Forbidden Zone.’ We chose the name because it could be a band that was in a John Waters movie. He’d be like, ‘Yes, you can be in my movie, that’s a name that fits!’”
Live, Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes are an utter spectacle. The musicians throw themselves about on stage in a thrall, somehow keeping the propulsive backbeat in the pocket as Hart and Gravey alternate singing into a single microphone at center stage. The performance is immediately captivating. Driven by the force of Clarissa’s percussion, the melodies of the songs are carried by the alternating vocals of Gravey and Hart, when they aren’t screaming at the top of their lungs. The band’s sound is akin to Pixies driving too fast for conditions, or a version of The Gories that grooves until they actually, truly bite you on the shoulder when you aren’t looking.
Key to the ongoing success of the band is their DIY mentality and love of DIY culture. Hart explains, “I care if a band is good. But, I care way less if a band is good if they’re shitty people. I would rather play a show where maybe it doesn’t make full sense but everyone is on the same page about community, and DIY.” Adds Gravey, “So much of this whole thing is friends, making connections…”
Hart continues, “The bands that aren’t signed to giant labels, and even some that are signed to smaller labels, we’re all using the same contacts, we’re all in this together, I guess. And it makes it way easier when everyone’s on the same page. We all just like doing this, whether it’s successful that night or not.”
Clarissa concludes, “Being in a band gives us an excuse to do all of the different parts of it. It gives us an excuse to make a video, it gives us an excuse to make a design for a T-shirt. It gives us an excuse to dress up, it gives us an excuse to paint your instrument or your new pedal. It gives us an excuse to do things that are fun.”
The band is now looking forward to the release of a new full-length, as well as a split 7-inch with NightFreak from Chicago, both on What’s for Breakfast? Records.
Ask Dan Melchior about the underlying narratives that play out in his records and he’ll say he doesn’t pay much attention to them. They reveal themselves in ways that are personal to the listener. He simply goes where they lead him.
A lot has come to pass in Melchior’s life over the last few years. He made a cross-country move from his longtime home in Carrboro, NC to the greener pastures of Austin, Texas. He has embarked on a brand new relationship, and … oh … there was a global pandemic that shut down the whole world for a couple of years. It’s difficult not to try connecting the dots when listening to his latest album, Welcome To Redacted City, Melchior’s third release with the Atlanta-based label Midnight Cruiser Records.
Songs such as “Going Outside,” “The Right Influencer,” “Incel Country,” and “Voyager” find the U.K. born, U.S. transplant singing and playing guitar through 21 honest-to-goodness songs backed by a full band. The lineup featured throughout the album includes bass player Chris Girard, keyboard player Anthony Allman, and drummer Clark Blomquist yielding a cohesive live band feel that’s aligned with Melchior’s earlier recordings with his Broke Revue band, and much of his older releases for In The Red Records. Garage punk, loads of distortion, and exquisite melodies careen with a poetic and renewed vigor here, each element underscoring an album that is decidedly of the times.
Each song navigates a maze of modern dilemmas, viewed through the T.V. and computer screens as the world goes to hell. But Melchior channels his anxieties into these uplifting numbers that sit right alongside personal disasters and triumphs—the kinds of things that one obsesses over while living in isolation. The driving bass in “Voyager” and the ominous voice in “No Culture” spouting, “It’s a no culture zone but you can never go home, ’cause they’ve got you hooked on the sex and sunshine,” expand upon any and all expectation. Melchior’s words carry just as much weight as the low distorted rumble of the music.
Jumping from captivating melodies into bluesy punk-inflected chargers, the dots start to connect themselves in Redacted City, giving rise to an album steeped in menace and delight, paranoia and confidence.
Jenny Don’t and the Spurs are making their way across the country, playing songs from their brand new album, Lovesick Crawl, out now via Augusta, GA’s Missing Fink Records. Before hitting the road, the Portland, OR-based group’s founding members Jenny Connors and Kelly Halliburton took some time out of their day to talk about the Cramps, Dead Moon, Wipers, and the songs that make up Lovesick Crawl.
Catch Jenny Don’t and the Spurs when they play the Earl on Feb. 23, and Fink Fest in Savannah on Feb. 24.
Let’s talk about what you had in mind when you settled on the song and album title, Lovesick Crawl. It’s the word “crawl” that really grabs my attention.
Jenny Connors: We were listening to a lot of music by the Cramps. The cover art for the album is by Stephen Blickenstaff, who did the cover art for the Cramps’ Bad Music For Bad People, which is a really cool coincidence. We’d talked about doing something in the style of the Cramps, but nothing turned out sounding like the Cramps as it evolved. It’s essentially about being in love with someone—being infatuated—and you can imagine yourself crawling across the floor just to get their attention.
The song originally had an intro that was similar to the Cramps’ “Human Fly,” but we nixed that along the way. Then Johnny from Missing Fink Records approached us about releasing the record.
Kelly Halliburton: Stephen does a lot of the artwork for Missing Fink. Johnny contacted us less than six months before the record came out. We did the recording sessions in February 2022, and finished songwriting six months before that. The idea to channel the Cramps came to us before we knew that Johnny was working with Stephen so much. It added yet another layer to the strange coincidences surrounding this record.
How did the two of you meet and start making music together?
Jenny: I started stalking Kelly around 2008, until I finally whittled him down to date me. I was up front for a Pierced Arrows show and thought it was great. The drummer was super hot and I wanted to hang out with him, so I wrote to him on Myspace. That puts a date on it!
Kelly: Our relationship as a couple pre-dates the Spurs by about three-four years. It took a while because I was touring a lot with Pierced Arrows. The singer and guitar player Fred Cole started getting sick around 2012 or ‘13 so the band slowed down and eventually ground to a halt. Jenny and I had talked about doing something together. It wasn’t until Pierced Arrows wasn’t really a thing anymore that we had time to make it happen. Eventually all of our other bands broke up and this was the last one standing.
Jenny: Kelly and I have a pretty big age gap between us. I was just about to turn 22 when we met. He’s 16 years older than me and said, “I don’t want to date a 22 year-old.” But I said “Come on, I’m serious!” And here we are. We got married last year.
When we were talking about doing stuff together, Sam Henry and I started gigging around town playing a bunch of songs that I already had, which I used on the first album. Sam became the drummer for the Spurs.
Kelly: At first it was me and Jenny. I had an acoustic bass and she had an acoustic guitar. We wanted to keep it really stripped down, and not rely on anyone so that we could do this at any time, whether it’s on a street corner, in our backyard, wherever. It was purely acoustic and we sounded terrible. Something was missing. We didn’t have a ton of experience playing acoustically. All of our previous bands played amplified punk and garage rock. We wanted to keep it stripped down, but we asked Sam to play a snare with some brushes to keep time. Eventually there was a bass drum, then a high hat, and before we knew it, it was this loud, amplified thing with a full drum kit and electric instruments.
Jenny: Then we thought, “You know what’s really missing are guitar solos.”
Sam Henry was the original drummer for the classic Portland punk band Wipers.
Kelly: He played on the first three Wipers singles and the first album, Is This Real? They started in ‘77-‘78. He quit the Wipers in ‘80-‘81. I love everything [Wipers singer/guitarist] Greg Sage has done, but not everyone does. For most people, all you need are the first three LPs: Is This Real, Youth of America, and Over the Edge.
Sam quit the Wipers and joined Napalm Beach, which is kind of funny. Sam doesn’t play on the Wipers album Land of the Lost, but their singer and guitar player Chris Newman drew the dinosaur artwork, which is the weirdest cover, but they were all weirdos [laughs].
Jenny: When we were on tour, a lot of people would come up and say, “No way, Sam Henry from Napalm Death!” [laughs].
I was hanging around a record shop with a few older guys when the Wipers ‘96 album The Herd came out. They said, “Uh, this is gonna suck!” But I took the promo CD home, and even though it wasn’t cool to like The Herd, I loved it. The guitar playing is cosmic.
Kelly: Greg never deviated from his formula, so it’s not like anything on that record is all that different. He slowed it down, but it’s still dreamy, twangy, reverb-drenched guitar. He got more into the whole alien abduction thing. That album art has a fence around the world. That stuff follows Greg’s obsession with alien abduction. From what I understand, he firmly believes that he’s been abducted by aliens. If you look closely, that’s sort of a theme that runs throughout a lot of his stuff.
I’ll never hear “Alien Boy” the same way again.
Sam died in February 2022, but he plays on Lovesick Crawl.
Jenny: Yes, Lovesick Crawl features the last recordings that he made. At the end of our January 2022 tour, he wasn’t feeling well. We were heading to Seattle to record. His doctor said, “You need some rest,” so Sam told us he couldn’t make it. A lot went into scheduling, though, so we planned to wing it and go anyway. He heard that we didn’t cancel so he changed his mind and came with us.
We finished the recordings and were supposed to have a show in Everett, but he was in really poor shape. We canceled the show and took him to the hospital, which was the beginning of the end for him, unfortunately.
Kelly: He was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I want to say the day after the recording session ended. They gave him three months to live but he didn’t make it three weeks.
Jenny: Obviously, no one saw what was coming. We were at the end of a tour. He was older and everyone feels like shit after a tour. The doctor said, “Maybe you drank too much on tour,” which he hadn’t. But he did great during those recording sessions. He didn’t complain. He felt uncomfortable, and every day it was getting a little worse. Something was seriously wrong. In the end, it makes these recordings extra special for us.
Is there a song on the record where his performance stands out?
Jenny: The session as a whole stands out for me. But “Lost Myself” stands out because I think about when we were writing the song. He would say, “How about we try this,” or “I’m going to hit the drum like this.” I have a lot of memories associated with that song.
Kelly: It’s hard not to think about how difficult it must’ve been for him to get through those sessions. There are a couple of songs from earlier sessions: His drums are great on “Right From the Start.” We recorded that song not too long after we wrote it. Later, we did the session where the album version came from. There’s the single version and the version on Lovesick Crawl. The later version was recorded after we’d played it for a while.
Jenny: “Black Cadillac” is a good example of his ability to go all out, or scale it back. He’s mainly playing snare and the rim and clicking the drum sticks together, and adds dynamics throughout that.
Not a lot of players can entertain without playing the whole kit. They get bored. There’s a video of Sam playing that, and there’s never a dull moment.
It’s kind of a beautiful thing that he did what he loved doing till the end.
Kelly: If we’d gone to Seattle without Sam we wouldn’t be able to listen to these songs. The fact that he rallied and did it is a testimony to his dedication. He was 64 and he had a ball every time we played. He was an amazing person to be in a band with. There will never be another Sam Henry.
Jenny: After he passed away, Kelly, our guitar player Christopher, and I asked, “What does this mean for us as a band?” Collectively, we acknowledged that Sam dedicated the last 10 years of his life to this band, and wouldn’t want us to end at this point. We were all on the same page, and having that camaraderie helped with the grieving process.
Kelly: Sam was such a gregarious personality, and such an outgoing, loving person. He was a good counterpoint to someone like me who’s kind of a crab and wants to be alone most of the time [laughs]. He made friends with people all over the world. Everywhere we went there were people who knew and loved Sam. So everywhere we take this stuff when we’re out on the road it’s cathartic for people who loved and cared about him. We see a lot of teary eyes out front. There are a lot of people who are connected with Sam through this music.
A lot of what we’re doing now is for Sam. Why stop now? What’s the point in creating something that he cared so much about and letting it fizzle out.
It has to be rough for your new drummer fitting in as you move forward.
Kelly: Sam’s shoes are impossible to fill. It would be unfair for us to have those expectations for anyone. Also, the band is more than a working relationship. We knew Sam before the band existed. It worked better than any other band that we’ve been in. For someone else to jump in, that has to be hard and we respect that.
Jenny: For a new player, the songs have to fall into the structure they’ve been written in. But obviously if they bring other inspiration to it, it’s the band’s responsibility to respect everyone’s talents individually. Even though it’s called Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, we’re all equals.
Kelly: The band that came before Pierced Arrows was Dead Moon, which had an almost cult-like status. I stepped into an environment that was probably a lot like what anyone who’s playing with us is stepping into. The guy that I replaced with Fred and Toody was Andrew Loomis, who is universally loved. Everywhere we went for the first few years everyone was looking at me saying, “You’re not Andrew.”
Fred and Toody went out of their way to reassure me that I didn’t have to try to be like Andrew. I didn’t have to try to make my drumming style like his. Obviously I wasn’t going to do that anyway, but it felt good to be reassured. I want to extend that kind of welcoming courtesy to anyone who’s stepping into this band.
I joined Dead Moon in about 2007. They were on tour in the fall of 2006. They did a really long European tour and that was pretty much the end. They were all getting sick of each other. Initially Fred and Toody wanted to take a break, but Fred was always so restless. It didn’t take them long to form a new band. They called me out of the blue in March of 2007—maybe three months after Dead Moon played their last show.
I didn’t even play drums. I’m barely a bass player, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. With so many expectations, it was terrifying at first. Not only am I not a good drummer, I’m also stepping into this kind of high profile situation where I’m in front of all of these Andrew Loomis-Dead Moon fans.
People were brutal about it. I was at a bar in Portland shortly after Pierced Arrows got going. There were fliers wheat-pasted on the bathroom wall. There was a Pierced Arrows flier with a photo of us and someone had drawn an arrow pointing at my head and wrote, “Worst drummer in Portland” [laughs].
Honestly, I couldn’t argue, but that was the level of hostility that I faced in that band. People warmed up after a while. It was also funny, because people invented a feud between Andrew and I—like Andrew was pissed because I took his spot. But Andrew and I would get together and laugh about it. He was as sick of Fred and Toody as they were of him.
Jenny: Another layer to all of these weird coincidences that lined up to where we are now: When I moved to Portland in 2008, I randomly moved into a house where Andrew hung out a lot. He introduced me to Sam, and then we started playing together. Small world! I didn’t know anything about Dead Moon and Wipers before I moved to the big city of Portland from Acme, Washington.
Kelly: In a bizarre, round-about sort of way, the existence of this band owes something to Andrew Loomis, which is awesome.
You have a new drummer now?
Jenny: His name is Buddy Weeks and we’re enjoying his presence in the band. Hopefully, if he still likes all of us after this tour, we’ll have a long relationship together.
Kelly: Playing together is one thing, but we love being on tour. Luckily he’s had a lot of touring experience. That’s almost as important as being able to play, because it ain’t easy. Putting four people in a tin can and carting them around the country for six months out of the year … There are only so many masochistic personalities that can endure that.
Jenny: You’ve gotta be able to play well and you have to be a good hang. You have to be funny. You have to be able to connect on some things outside of music a little bit, so you enjoy each other’s time together. There’s one hour of playing and 23 hours of being around each other.
Kelly: Christopher March has been playing guitar with us for almost six years. We’ve got him wearing a lot of hats. He’ll have the lap steel set up on stage, then he’ll play a baritone guitar for a couple of songs. We don’t have him literally juggling on stage yet, but we’ll incorporate that at some point, just to make his life that much more difficult [laughs].
There are moments throughout Lovesick Crawl that remind me of Hank Williams Senior’s recordings. It’s also rooted in punk rock mingling with country music—stripped down and rough-and-tumble. You roll with the mistakes.
Jenny: We enjoy it more when it’s stripped down and not super polished. We like music that’s a little rough around the edges.
Kelly: That’s certainly the music that I’m drawn to. I still own every piece of music that Discharge ever pressed to vinyl. A lot of people say that punk and country music are coming from these disparate places, but I’m not so sure their worlds are all that different.
Jenny: If the crowd is really entertaining and you mess up while you’re jumping around on stage … Entertaining is a lot more fun than worrying about perfection.
Kelly: Dead Moon was genius in their own way. No one in the band was a virtuoso musician. It was a lot more emotive than technically flawless. That resonated with people a lot more than these bands that really try to be total shredders. There’s a place for that, but there’s also a place for raw, emotive expression that comes from a different place than musical virtuosity.
That’s what attracted me to music in the first place. When I heard Black Flag for the first time I thought, this is it!
Kelly: Exactly, it doesn’t get more raw than “Nervous Breakdown.” It’s just a few minutes of raw aggression and teenage frustration. That set the template for a lot of things that are still important to me now, and I’m in my 50s!
Some of my earliest studio experiences, going back to when I was 19 years old, the drummer for Poison Idea, Steve Hanford, “The Slayer Hippy,” was a renowned producer. He did a bunch of studio work with some of my old punk bands. I learned a lot about recording while working with him. One of the things he would put into practice was if you can’t do it in a couple of takes, just ditch it and move on. Maybe come back to it in a couple of takes, maybe not. He always felt that the energy would dissipate if you ran it into the ground. I don’t know if it’s true that Poison Idea did that, but he always maintained that Poison Ideas stuff was done in one or two takes. That’s kind of our approach.
Jenny: The magic will go away if you do a solo 50 times. When I do a vocal I’ll do it three times. One warmup and two runs through it. It’s how I sound and it’s not gonna sound better if I keep doing it. On any recording you can listen and think about how you should have done something differently. When you’re in the studio you can do something over and over, but you learn to be ok with imperfections. This isn’t for us. It’s for the listeners, and they’ll make it their own.”
In the meantime, a video for the EP’s title track teases out the group’s feral garage-punk charge, as co-founders vocalist Valeria Sanchez and guitar player José Rivera are joined by bass player Paul Hernandez, and drummer Sam Adams.
Check out the scene for a backyard blowout at local punk, hardcore, and headbanger hangout, The Catacombs.
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Ideal Conditions is an indie rock album that’s rife with layers of sonic textures, all distilled to a point of perfection, or at least Andrew Wiggins’ vision of what perfection should be for Thousandaire’s sound. “I think it all comes back to consistency,” he says over the phone while traveling from Baltimore to Philadelphia to play a show just a few days before releasing Ideal Conditions, the group’s second full-length recording.
It’s the definitive statement so far of Thousandaire’s musical DNA and the vocational drive that Wiggins has spent a lifetime honing, while maintaining control over every aspect of the music.
Wiggins is the vocalist, guitar player, and principal songwriter for Thousandaire. He is also the majordomo overseeing all creative and technical facets of the band in pretty much every situation imaginable.
In conversation, he offers a recent revelation that he’s had about leading the group, which includes bass player Chad LeBlanc and drummer Tom Bruno, while traveling up the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states for this latest round of touring.
“We play the same, we sound the same, and we have the same amount of fun no matter what,” he says. “We’ve played in front of a hundred people and we’ve played in front of five people on this tour. We’ve played with everything mic’d up, and we’ve played with the most minimal set up, from a vocal PA in a tiny dive bar to setting up in a record store with a portable PA, and we’ve played with the same intensity. Despite these variables, it sounds just as good in any situation. That is very intentional for us,” he adds. “I have worked really hard to make that, and I didn’t want the record to be any different.”
Of course, Wiggins is pulling from decades of experience that encapsulate everything from playing and touring with a range of bands, including math rock outfit Blame Game and noisy post-punk groups HAWKS and Wymyns Prysyn. He has also spent time composing noise with his solo project Caesium Mine. Wiggins has also spent years doing live sound and mixing touring bands in venues including the Earl and 529. He also spends most of his days building fuzz pedals and repairing vintage guitars and amps at his self-run Moreland Magnetics business. “All of that experience goes into making this worthwhile for the 30 minutes we’re playing music,” he says.
Press play on Ideal Conditions and the opening number “No Good” channels an intense live band vibe, taking cues from like minded ‘90s rock acts such as Silkworm, Chavez, Dinosaur Jr., and the Meat Puppets. Asymmetrical guitar solos and fugue-like moments in rhythm take shape amid songs such as “Promise” and “Coward,” and in an older number, titled “Sgt. Billy.” Throughout each one of these numbers, extended compositions blend layered walls of sound and lyrics that are often contemplative, self-conscious, and always heartfelt.
Even at their most melodic and briskly paced moments, Thousandaire’s songs feel haunted and disquieted. Much of the inspiration behind the group’s self-titled 2020 debut album was sparked by Wiggins embracing a freshly sober lifestyle after years of consumption. Ideal Conditions reaches beyond the previous album’s blueprint as Wiggins tightens his focus on the art of crafting the music itself.
“Thousandaire was probably the best creative outlet for me to get out a lot of what I was feeling at the time, whether that was intentional or not,” he says. “I don’t need to get really personal in my songs. I have a therapist,” he laughs. “I don’t really need to use music as therapy, and all of my lyrics are hypothetical. But it is a vibe that I can’t really avoid. On the new record, there’s a little bit less of that. Time has put some distance between me and those feelings.”
In more recent years, lyrics have moved closer to the forefront of Wiggins’ mind as he has continued writing songs. The strength of the sound, the songs, the performances that keep him truly and naturally motivated.
“I used to get really frustrated about writing lyrics until one day, I was talking about it with our old drummer Adam Weisberg, after he’d moved to New York,” Wiggins recalls. “Both of us are fans of Cass McCombs, and Adam said, ‘I bet that dude gets out of bed every morning and writes lyrics all day long, whereas you get up and make fuzz pedals all day. So don’t worry about it so much, you’ve got other stuff going,” Wiggins laughs.
The raw and serrated tones and distortion of songs such as “Bar Song,” “Your Gold Teeth III,” and Ideal Conditions’ title track are instantly arresting, drawing strength from each one of their respectively visceral and emotionally stirring melodies.
“I listen to a lot of records, and I think what’s best for what I want is both consistency and intimacy,” he says. “We recorded this record as live as possible, and I want to put the listener in the room with these songs, instead of putting the listener in a balcony seat in a huge 2000-person arena where there’s a symphony that has all kinds of bells and whistles going on. There’s something to be said about those kinds of records, but it’s just not Thousandaires’ vibe.”
Wiggins owns all of the gear the band uses. He’s worked closely with drummer Bruno and bass player LeBlanc to customize each of their instruments’ singularly abrasive snarls.
Damon Moon at Standard Electric Recorders in Avondale Estates also worked closely with Wiggins to summon and recreate the sounds that Wiggins had stuck in his head, and to carve them out into real-world songs.
In this process, it’s the ability to adapt that sets Thousandaire apart.
“It’s the way we set up the equipment, the way everything sounds, the way we interact with whoever is doing sound. To me, it’s all about eliminating variables and stuff that you can’t control. If you get used to not having all the bells and whistles, like if all we did was play Terminal West where we have a huge production and a top line sound system, and then go play some record store, dive bar, or something where everything isn’t necessarily up to spec. If you can’t play your songs the same way that you play them on a big stage, then you fail.”
This extends to capturing the group’s sound on vinyl, or in the case of their latest offering, it’s on cassette. And what you hear is the culmination of Thousandaire playing under ideal conditions.