The bassist/vocalist of Chicago-based punk band The Lawrence Arms, as well as guitarist/lead vocalist in The Falcon and Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds. Kelly’s former bands include Slapstick and The Broadways. He is known for his raspy vocals and onstage witticisms.
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Sometimes referred to as Chicago’s best kept secret and other times called the funniest band on Red Scare, for all of us not currently living in Chicago, we know them simply as The Brokedowns. After officially closing the book on 2022 on a high note with a live show during the late hours of December 31, they claimed the honor of the last band of 2022 at Reggie’s Rock Club and rang in the New Year in style. Their 2023 is started off on an even higher note, however, with the release of the quartet’s 6th studio album titled “Maximum Khaki”, the band’s fourth release on Chicago label Red Scare.
Out of the gates, the group’s first single “Obey the Fumes” damn near knocks your fuckin’ teeth in. Lead guitarist Kris Megyery kicks the song off with a killer, in-your-face opening riff that sets an excellent tone for the next thirteen tracks of this quick, humorous, thought-provoking punk masterpiece.
In my opinion, this record is what a punk record should be. The songs are fast, both in tempo and duration, with only one track breaking the three-minute threshold (and even that comes in at an even three minutes). The release comes equipped with intriguing, chuckle-inducing song titles that, upon questioning with the band, have both deep and sincere subject matters. After listening from beginning to end and finding myself starting over, I fully understand the pride that these guys hold in their finished product.
“There’s nothing I really regret on [the record],” said Megyery. “At this point I’m usually like ‘Fuck it’s coming out in a few days, this sucks.’ But not with this one, that’s a good feeling to have.”
Keep scrolling for all kinds of cool stuff: music videos for “Obey the Fumes” (which coincidentally was done over a Zoom call as well) and “Samurai Sword Decontrol”, info for their record release show January 28th at the Burlington in Chicago, and the full Q&A with Eric, Kris and Mustafa. Cheers!
(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sake because a good chunk of this interview was just four guys shooting the shit.)
Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate): So first off, congrats on the new record. I know it’s not technically out yet as of this intervew, but I’ve listened to it several times and I love it guys. How long has this been in the works, I know your last release 2018?
Kris Megyery (KM): Yeah I think we started recording in February but we did the bass tracking March 7th 2020. So pretty much we started recording right before the pandemic and then we finished it up like last summer.
So you started recording back in 2020, but are these songs a lot older than that?
Mustafa Daka (MD): I remember, Kris, we recorded for like a split or something and you were like hey while we are at it, let’s just like demo all these songs you had just shown us, so like there’s a kind of a real rough recording of all those songs like a year earlier so like 2019?
KM: Right yeah it was that Copyrights cover song for the Red Scare comp. And my idea was to try to record a whole album that we’ve never practiced once and I thought it would go awesome *laughs*. And we did, we recorded that Copyrights song and then we just like live recorded the whole album and I remember during the session being like ‘holy shit this is gonna work’, like we just did the whole album in like a couple hours. And then we got home and listened to it and we were like ‘oh this is a turkey’. *laughs* So we went back like a year later to perfect them.
So I always like to ask this with new releases, did you just kind of collect these songs over time after your last release or was it like ‘alright let’s write another record’ and you just sat down wrote songs and recorded?
KM: Yeah the way we operate as a band for at least the last 10 years since I’ve had kids is pretty much just like whoever writes a song, like me or John, we make demos with the song and then everyone kind of learns it from the demo, like we don’t “get in the lab” *laughs* or spend tons of time. Like this shit all goes really fast because it has to. So it wasn’t over time and we never do that over time. Usually like we don’t even think about recording anything until we have a chunk of songs. There’s never like we’re just knocking around one song like normal bands do. Normal bands are like ‘hey let’s work on this one song and it slowly grows’, where us it’s like we binge it all man*laughs*.
MD: I will say, it’s been funny that Kris, since you’ve had kids, you are real quick to just hit us with like a bunch of demos and some of it’s like a Casio drum kit and everything or sometimes it’s just like the drums that he’s got laying around that he micd up. But you’ll hear his kids all over it, so I think it’s awesome. Where you have kids that might kind of get in the way of your being able to write and record demos, Kris kind of just combines those two times together so it’s like ‘well I’m gonna hang out with these kids, they may as well get involved’ *laughs*.
KM: Where a normal person would be parenting, I’m demoing *laughs*.
So does this record kind of have a theme, I know like with your last release you tackle like some of the thrills of living in the Midwest. Does this have any kind of main theme or does each song kind of have a different theme?
KM: Well a lot of our songs are like political in nature I guess. The last one was actually a lot more personal songs about like growing up and shit, and a lot of like bummer songs. The year we wrote that album like we had a bunch of people close to us die in like one short period of time, so that’s a bummer record for me. But this one is definitely more about just the cultural nightmare we’re all going through, living in our country and you know all that stuff, all that groovy shit.
Where’s the name of the record come from, Maximum Khaki?
KM: So the word khaki, I kept using as this like reference to just like the banality of evil, like bland evil, not referencing like the soldiers, but referencing the accountants who are making the atrocities happen. And when I would write a song I would have the word khaki written in there. It probably started from that Charlottesville rally you know where everyone was wearing khakis, probably stemmed from that. I think John brought it up, he’s like ‘there are like 6 songs where you mentioned khaki’. So khaki was used as a reference to just like bland cruelty. And we were going to call the record “Khaki Majesty” and right before we started making artwork for it the Slow Death from Minneapolis who we’re friends with announced their new album “Casual Majesty”.
MD: I think I told those dudes, I was like ‘you know we’ve got an album coming out called “khaki majesty”, but yeah not anymore’.
KM: I didn’t blame them or anything, but they definitely heard from our attorneys *laughs*.
MD: Yeah I don’t talk to those guys anymore *laughs*.
I know your artwork for the album always comes into question, what drew you to Ryan Duggan for this record cover?
KM: We love him. He did the album “Species Bender” and we love that record cover of ours. And we’ve always loved everything he does and he does with his artwork what I think we’re trying to do as a band, which is like be funny but not be overtly funny; be kind of very subtly funny. And he probably doesn’t want to be connected to us that way *laughs* But it just always makes me smile, always makes me giggle and always makes me think in a nonlinear way, so kind of a no brainer [to go with him]. He’s always been like doing posters and stuff like that around Chicago, and in the last 10-15 years he’s really developed a reputation. He’s got a really unique style.
So starting with “Obey the Fumes” that’s a kickass opener, that’s an awesome opener you guys put out. Walk me through kind of the meaning behind that because I know you said it was about breaking bad habits in one of the press releases, but can you dive in a little bit deeper maybe?
KM: Yeah, initially, like in my head what I see is like an 80s beer commercial where you’re working in a factory, you wipe your brow, you crack open a cool Coors. But in our like dystopian hellscape that we live in, it’s like glue. So you go to your job, and in this case the protagonist of this song goes to a job where he gets skull-fucked by demons every day, and he just wants to crack open a nice thing of glue and fuckin’ cut loose. But that’s the funny version, but it’s like about trying to break bad habits, specifically drinking, like negative drinking habits in a culture where it’s everywhere.
That was actually one of my favorite tracks off the record, do each of you guys have any favorites you’re excited for people to hear once it’s released on Friday?
MD: I love our samurai sword song, that’s probably one of my favorites and I think is the only song that I used to click track on for that whole album.
Eric Grossman (EG): I like that song yeah. “Cinnamon Kings” is probably a highlight for me.
KM: Yeah that song “Cinnamon King” is like our favorite probably. It’s only like 15 seconds long, but so much fun to play. Been playing it live for like three years, we love that one. I like it all, I think it all kind of moves really fast, it’s super short, it’s like our shortest record. It moves along pretty quick, there’s nothing I really regret on it and at this point I’m usually like ‘Fuck it’s coming out in a few days, this sucks’. But not with this one, that’s a good feeling to have.
Yeah I know guys that regret releases they put out because they do it in such a short amount of time, so I mean that’s a good feeling to have.
KM: I wanna warn the listeners, I may be wrong. You might hate this *laughs*, don’t take my word for it, I’m too closely attached to it to have a unbiased opinion.
So I gotta ask you then, some of these other titles are very intriguing. “Honk if You’re Horny” *laughs*?
KM: *laughs* Yeah real subtle.
Tell me about “Osama Van Halen.”
MD: It sounds funny to hear.
KM: It’s a real bummer, but it’s funny. But I was thinking about just like how you know Eddie Van Halen was an innovator, in a very creative way, but like Osama Bin Laden was also an innovator you know what I mean *laughs*, just in a different way. So like the chorus is about like a 4 minute mile because it took forever for people to run it, but once people ran a 4 minute mile like everybody was doing it. So once Eddie Van Halen fuckin’ busted out a power drill every jack off with a power drill could do that. But once someone does whatever fuckin’ atrocities in the newspaper every week, once you see that it makes it that much easier for the next dildo to do that.
That’s actually really cool, I wasn’t sure which direction you were gonna go with that *laughs*. So this is your 4th release over at Red Scare, I take it you’ve had a pretty good experience over there with Toby?
KM: Definitely yeah! Yeah he’s great.
MD: He sends me hoodies and shirts sometimes, and pens, it’s awesome.
EG: Lots of swag. Moose has to pay for them but he gets them *laughs*. When Moose orders it, he gets it.
MD: Sometimes I get $0.69 off and sometimes I get $4.20 off *laughs*.
So from what I’ve seen, the Chicago and Chicago suburbs, the whole scene is flourishing, makes me jealous down here because it just seems like you guys have stuff going on every night. What are some local bands that you guys want to name drop as influences or just bands you’re into?
MD: Wig, I love Wig. I love Permanent Residue, they’re fantastic. Salvation, of course Meat Wave is one of my favorite all time bands. Lollygagger‘s a great band, shit I could keep going. Oh, Avantist.
KM: I’m listening to that Stress Positions EP over and over again for the last couple weeks that’s fuckin’ kicking my head in. Obviously Meat Wave, all the bands Moose said, Wig. Yeah there’s a lot of good shit, there’s always good shit it’s the third largest city in America. Where are you at?
I’m down in Nashville.
KM: Oh yeah that’s not a place known for music *laughs*.
Speaking of locals, Deanna Belos, in “Corndog Sonnet” she named you guys. So when are you guys gonna the line “listen to Sincere Engineer” in one of your songs *laughs*.
MD: I don’t write lyrics
KM: It’s hard to work that in, I’ll figure it out. It’s a little lengthy. It’ll probably be in a super offensive song title, she’ll be like ‘hey thanks but no thanks’ *laughs*.
What about outside of Chicago, what kind of influences do you guys have?
KM: Well the obvious answer, everyone compares us to, collectively we all love Dillinger 4. That was like a huge influence for us. Fugazi’s like my favorite band of all time, that’s creeps in there a lot you know.
MD: Toys That Kill
That’s actually the one that you guys reminded me of on this last record, it’s actually in my notes for the interview *laughs*.
MD: I will absolutely rip off Toys That Kill. Jimmy will send me a text message for like whatever we put out and be like ‘oh I heard it’s great’ and I’ll be like ‘listen to this song, that’s the song I totally ripped you off’ *laughs*. I always am like thinking of Toys That Kill whenever I’m playing somehow, I just love love love those guys and I love their drums.
So your album release is on the 28th, where are you guys playing that?
EG: That’s at the Burlington, which is also pretty close to Moose.
MD: I like it because it’s pretty close to the practice spot so it’s like you just gotta pick up the gear, drive just a few blocks and go right back.
KM: Moose’s love for venues are all based on geography *laughs*.
KM: Chinese Telephones we haven’t played with in at least 10-12 years. And the other two bands we’ve never played with, but we’re friends with all of them. We wanted to play with bands we haven’t played with in at least a decade or never, but they’re all great super great and I’m super excited for all of them. I love them all.
What about your guy’s strict touring schedule? In one of your interviews you said out of town shows 3 a year, do you have those three out of town dates booked up yet or what’s the plan?
KM: There’s a bidding war going on, it’s like when a city hosts the Olympics because when we come to a town it brings a lot to the local economy *laughs*, the dispensaries.
MD: No we haven’t booked anything yet out of town, but we’re gonna definitely play a lot more this year hopefully. We might do as many as four shows out of town *laughs*.
EG: Yeah maybe. We’re talking about maybe.
So when did you guys form, I’ve seen a few different dates, but I’ve come up with 2002?
EG: What you define as the band as it is today was 2002 yeah. John and I have been playing together for a really long time, way before that probably ‘96 or ’97, somewhere around there. I mean we weren’t really serious about it and the band that you see today was 2002. I think that was when we first played with you Moose, right?
MD: Right, I used to watch you guys from like ‘96 and then in 2002 is when I joined the band, holy shit *laughs*.
KM: Yeah we should have changed our name when Moose joined because I feel like it all became kind of different.
MD: But I saw the first Brokedowns show, I wasn’t in the band but I think John was fourteen I was 18
EG: Yeah I think I had just joined the band at that point. I don’t know if I even played that one maybe I wasn’t in yet.
KM: But John was like a fuckin’ 7th grader *laughs*.
MD: I have a DVD that my friend’s uncle sent me and it has the Brokedowns playing like before you and I were in the band Kris. I think it was Taylors last show in the band. Kris and I weren’t even in the band at the time, Eric was but …
KM: Today those are referred to as the who gives a shit years *laughs*.
I’ve talked to a lot of guys who have either quit music or stopped for an extended period of time after doing it for so long, and I mean you guys have been at this for a while and I mean, based on the new record, it doesn’t seem like you guys are slowing down. What’s kept you guys going?
KM: We’re all very close friends and we don’t do much and even when like we were young, the band was never like the top priority. And because it’s never been the top priority, we’ve never had to like really sacrifice. It’s created a very low pressure situation you know.
MD: I always said it was like fishing buddies, but we play music together instead. It’s like when we lived together, sometimes our Fridays are Saturdays would be just going into like Kris’s garage or whatever and just playing for hours, get drunk in the process and sweat it out right.
KM: It’s just as simple as like if someone doesn’t want to do something, we don’t do it. And then the three people that did wanna do it just quietly resent them behind their back *laughs* and we vent to each other about how terrible that person.
MD: It’s always Kris, we always hate Kris.
KM: That’s funny because I always hate you *laughs*.
MD: Oh shit that’s so funny because I hate you even *laughs*.
KM: Honestly though, 21 years, like the band is old enough to legally drink now and I can’t think of an actual fight, like a single one.
EG: I don’t think so, no.
MD: Maybe something I did, probably. If we fought, it had to have been about something I wanted to do or didn’t wanna do.
KM: I love that false modesty there *laughs*.
So you guys have been referred to as the funniest guys on red scare, who’s second, who’s coming for your title right now? I saw Sam Russo a few months ago and that dude was pretty funny.
KM: Wow. We would never say we’re the funniest. Brendan Kelly is obviously insanely funny. The Copyrights are really funny, they’re super funny.
MD: Like personally those guys are funny as hell.
KM: They refer to movies as Kilmers and books as Grishams; every book’s a Grisham and every movie’s a Kilmer, that’s a good bit *laughs*. I love that bit.
Okay, last question here. I know the record’s not even out yet, but do you guys have any other upcoming plans far future maybe? I know you’re kind of known for doing splits, do you have any of those planned for the coming future?
EG: Not really, we don’t have anything planned. Got a bunch of stuff demoed.
MD: I was gonna say Kris already sent us demos for whatever we’re gonna do next, it’s probably gonna be a split.
Any bands that come to mind for doing splits?
KM: We were supposed to do one with Canadian Rifle actually, so probably them. But they recorded their songs and we never recorded ours *laughs*. So we blew that one. But there was a pandemic, in case you didn’t notice *laughs*.
Well that about wraps everything up, I really appreciate you guys taking some time and sitting down with me. Once again, congrats on the new record and good luck with the album release on the 28th.
Deanna Belos’ nom de plume et scène is Sincere Engineer, but sincere is also a great way to describe the human behind the guitar and voice.
I recently did a photo shoot with the multi-hyphenate Midwesterner (singer, songwriter, guitar player and fun provider) as we rode Chicago’s Red and Green Lines, and took over parts of some CTA train platforms post-Riot Fest. This happened just days before Sincere Engineer embarked on a European tour. We later followed up with an interview in which she describes, among other things, the experience of being on stage, her creative process, and fun. That last word serves as a sort of mission statement for the Chicago native.
Deanna Belos starting playing the guitar at age 12. Her foray into music was due to the work of those who stood out to her when she was just a kid. She tells me,
“The bands I watched while I was growing up inspired me a lot.”
Belos soon discovered her favorite band, the Lawrence Arms, by way of Alkaline Trio, which she also loves. Belos is proudly from the Windy City and this is reflected through her affection for the hometown punk scene and the musicians borne out of it. So many of those who inspired her have become good friends, including the lead singers of the aforementioned bands.
The year 2022 saw Sincere Engineer promoted to one of the Riot Fest main stages. She looks as comfortable on it as she does on smaller stages in smaller venues. Her band, composed of guitarist Kyle Geib, bass player Nick Arvanitis, and Adam Beck on drums, also seems right at home on the expansive stage.
I asked her how conscious she is of the crowd and her surroundings as she performs. Belos tells me,
“I’m usually amped by the time we get on stage. But leading up to it I’m always nervous and pacing.”
Her strategy for relieving that case of nervousness?
“I always try to look at the crowd and make sure everyone’s having fun…” adding, “but I always try to look straight ahead and focus on playing.”
There was no doubt the Riot Fest crowd was having fun as evidenced by how many partook in a Corndog Circle Pit [Video by Pray AFK]. This particular circle pit was an homage to the opening track, “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” off of Sincere Engineer’s debut album Rhombithian. Belos joyfully relates her reaction when she noticed it happening,
“I was able to see it from the stage, yes! It was super cool. I almost teared up at it. A fan started a Facebook event to coordinate the corn dog pit and it kinda took off from there.”
“Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” is an infectious tune but it also showcases her signature “Raw, Lonely Punk.” I am not quoting Belos there but rather a certain late legendary, comedian whose visage is inked on her leg.
It was in 2017, after Belos replied to a user called @braverygravy “Lol, maybe @NormMacDonald will listen to it.” The one-time Saturday Night Live cast member and comedy icon tweeted back: “I have. What’s not to love. Raw, Lonely Punk.”
To this day, Belos uses a screenshot of that interaction as her Facebook cover image.
It’s not hard to see why her songs and especially “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” hits so many, famous or not, in the heart so strongly, and somewhat painfully:
“What am I supposed to do now?
What am I supposed to do now?
When you’re still not around
And you’re all I think about“
When it comes to writing songs, it’s a melding of creative methods which works best for Belos.
“I continually write lyrics just in a document, but typically I’ll play guitar and just riff til something comes to me. If nothing comes to me I’ll use some previously written lyrics and try to puzzle them together to make a song.”
Belos’ humor is often in the form of self-deprecation, and she seems about as humble as any musician I’ve met. When pressed to list some of the qualities which help make her a great musician, this is about as boastful as she gets:
“I think I can write a relatable song and that helps!“
As to other parts of the life of a working professional musician, Belos returns to the same three-letter word so important to her.
“Favorite [part] is watching people have fun at our shows.”
With every favorite of that life, there are challenges as well.
“Hardest…touring probably. It’s fun and rewarding but it’s a hard endurance test haha.”
Belos is grateful for the experiences she has had as Sincere Engineer.
“We have been so fortunate to get to play with some of our favorite bands. Playing Metro with Alkaline Trio was surreal. Riot Fest too. Hometown shows are always the most fun.”
But she is also keenly aware that not all shows are equally great. She maintains a pretty positive outlook even after such shows.
“I try not to beat myself up too much about it, but make sure to try harder next time.”
While it seems, from her current success and increasing stardom as Sincere Engineer, that it must have been a foregone conclusion Belos would become a professional musician. However, she once considered going into the medical field. “Overbite” from Rhombithian describes how she disabused herself of that notion.
“I wanna give up
I wanna give up
I don’t wanna try no more
I wanna stop all these pathetic attempts and saving this shipwreck
Swim right out the door
Before it sinks with a fraction of what’s left of my dignity
I swept so many failed tests under carpets
Deep down I knew this is not what I wanted (not what I wanted)”
Sincere Engineer’s fan base is growing exponentially and no doubt many members of it are glad Belos abandoned attempts to place the initials D.D.S. after her name.
There is one part her life Belos did felt harder to abandon.
“I was an animal care technician for laboratory animals. It was a tough decision and I’m still getting used to it. It still makes me nervous!”
Returning to the subject of the tour from which Sincere Engineer just returned, Belos happily indicates, it was a success and tells me
“The tour went really well! It was super fun to visit and play in a bunch of new places.”
“It started in Ireland and ended in Germany. There were stops in England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria along the way.”
Such a whirlwind tour left little time for anything more than playing a set at one venue and traveling to the next city or town to perform there. She informs me,
“We did get a little time to sightsee. Not a ton. We went to the Guinness Factory in Ireland, saw the Berlin Wall stuff in Germany. The rest was mostly just doing stuff around the venues we played at.”
On this particular tour, someone especially close to Belos’ heart stepped in to help her out when one of the band members sadly had to stay back in the States. Per Belos,
“My drummer Adam [Beck] couldn’t do the tour because of work. It was nice having Jeremy [Hansen, her long-time boyfriend] there and made me feel less homesick, and he’s such a great drummer and it was an honor to play with him. He played in the band Tricky Dick in the ’90’s.”
Belos was not the only member of the band thankful Hansen could help out. Kyle Geib describes him this way,
“Jeremy was such a great candidate to step in on the European tour! We all love Jeremy.”
For Hansen, it was a blast as well. He tells me,
“It was lovely! Lots of fun. Shows were good. Hangs were good. Got to do some sightseeing. Doing it together was special.”
That’s the thing about Sincere Engineer. While it may be described as a solo project, Belos’ love and admiration for her friends, who double as her band members, is obvious, as is their love for her. This all adds up to…you guessed it…fun.
Belos now has a little breathing room to just kick back and relax at home. After an exciting and seemingly exhausting year, hopefully Belos will be able to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Once 2023 hits though, she will be back onstage. First up, headlining at Bottom Lounge on January 14. Belos reports there are a couple of other events already inked on her 2023 calendar.
“And we’re doing Slam Dunk in the UK again and SBAM festival in Austria next May/June!”
Should be fun.
In what little time off from Sincere Engineer-related activities, Deanna Belos lists her favorite activities as “Bike riding, kayaking, plants.”
Please see below for images from my recent photoshoot with Deanna Belos, on September 23, 2022, and from her set at Riot Fest on September 16, 2022 in Chicago IL.
Greetings, and welcome to the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is the weekly* column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new releases, reissues… you name it, we’ve probably got it. Kick off your shoes, pull up a chair, crack open a cold one, and break out those wallets, because it’s go time. Let’s get into it!
Check out the video edition of this week’s Record Radar, presented by our friends at Punk Rock Radar:
Starting us off this week is a new pressing of The Vandals‘ Fear of a Punk Planet, with two snazzy color variants. The pink and black splatter seems to be the Indie Variant, which you can get everywhere, including Amazon. The blue and purple splatter variant can be pre-ordered here. Looks like these should start shipping in November.
Probably one of the most unexpected reissues in a long time, Assorted Jelly Beans’ self-titled debut album is back in print for the first time in 27 years. Get it on red colored vinyl here.
The Flatliners made a theme song(?) for the San Jose Sharks, and even played it live on opening night in the Shark Tank, which is interesting because I’m pretty sure these guys are Laffs fans. Anyway, “Between Our Teeth” is being released as a 12″ picture disc. It’s $20 but the money goes to charity. Get it here.
Alright, now for the Bottles To The Ground stuff (that’s the Fat imprint label). Fat Mike had a camp fire singalong thing at his mansion with Chuck from the Mad Caddies, Brendan Kelly from the Lawrence Arms and a bunch of other individuals of note. This new 2xLP Campfire at Fatty‘s is a recording of that momentous occasion in mankind’s history. You can buy it here.
Fine Dining is an LA punk band with members of some other bands you may know, such as 98 Mute and Eken Is Dead. They’ve got a new record called No Reservations coming out on Felony Records in a couple weeks. We recently premiered the lead single (check it out below). Pre-orders go live here this coming Monday and you’ll have some sweet color variants to choose from.
New Found Glory’s From the Screen to Your Stereo Part 2 has been released on vinyl for the first time ever. There’s a grand total of 5(!) color variants, with three available from the Drive Thru Records webstore, as well as a $40(!) Urban Outfitters exclusive on “Baby Blue with Hot Pink Splatter” colored vinyl, and a UK exclusive variant available from Banquet Records.
Canadian punk legends NoMeansNo’s 1989 album Wrong is back in print for the first time in 13 years, with a new pressing on Alternative Tentacles. There are three color variants up to pre-order on the label’s webstore, as well as a red and black splatter variant you can get only get by signing up for the “Squid” or “Plague” tiers on Alternative Tentacles’ Patreon.
Last week, I told you about the 20th Anniversary reissue of Rancid’s Indestructible. At the time, there was only one color variant available, a US Indie variant on “Red w/ Black Galaxy” colored vinyl. A new clear variant of the 2xLP has since popped up on the band’s EU merch store. I’m sure there are many more to come, so I’ll keep ya posted as these trickle in.
Well, that’s all, folks. Another Record Radar in the books. As always, thank you for tuning in. If there’s anything we missed (highly likely), or if you want to let everyone know about a new/upcoming vinyl release you’re excited about, leave us a comment below, or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram, and we’ll look into it. Enjoy your weekend, and don’t blow too much money on spinny discs (or do, I’m not your father). See ya next week!
Wanna catch up on all of our Record Radar posts? Click here and you’ll be taken to a page with all the past entries in the column. Magic!
Sludgeworth, the1990’s beloved Chicago punk band, returned to the stage on a recent Saturday night. With support from Chicago’s Permanent Residue, and rapidly ascending Minneapolis band Tightwire, it was an incredible night on stage and a helluva fun one offstage at Cobra Lounge. Longtime fans who were there at the start and have been waiting decades to see them play again were thrilled. Some even expressed disbelief that this was even happening. Others in the crowd, whether not born yet at that time, too young to remember them, or not from Chicago, instantly became new fans. Cobra Lounge was packed at this sold-out show. This was a momentous show, but this night also helped demonstrate why, though Chicago may be called the Second City, for some many it is #1 when it comes to its punk rock community.
First, a note about that community: It is a tight-knit one. Like a family, there are many different personalities and perhaps not everyone gets along. But far more often it is easy to witness the support those in the community have for each other, including most musicians, most of the venue owners and staff, other behind-the-scenes people, and yes from my experience most of the photographers and writers covering the shows. This night was no exception, though it did seem to be an all-star event. Tobias Jeg, founder and owner of Red Scare Industries returned to the Windy City to support one of his label’s band, Tightwire, do business, and hang with so many good friends. There were some heavy hitters among the punk rock musicians on hand to celebrate the return of Sludgeworth. Among those spotted at the event were Naked Raygun‘s Jeff Pezzati, Daryl Wilson and Ken Fitzner from The Bollweevils, Joe Principe of Rise Against, Deanna Belos aka Sincere Engineer, Brendan Kelly from The Lawrence Arms and The Falcon, Steev MF Custer from Death and Memphis, 88 Fingers Louie‘s Denis Buckley, and Joe Sowinski, currently of Static Age, but formerly of The Evictions, Major Threat, and The Old Comiskeys. Dave Simon, of Deal’s Gone Bad, The Crombies, and Anger, a popular bartender at Cobra, was on the job this night but is definitely a prominent member of the Windy City punk rock family. I would be remiss if I did not mention him. I’m guessing there were others but in the cozy confines it was sometimes hard to see much else around me as I documented the festivities.
For a smaller venue, such as the case with Cobra Lounge, that’s quite an impressive turnout. Witnessing this amount of support for each other is one of the biggest reasons this Long Island born and raised, Chicago transplant, who spends a good deal of time each year traversing the Lower East Side of NYC, loves the Chicago punk rock scene. Oh, and the oftentimes very good, sometimes great and occasionally, phenomenal music factors in too.
Ok, now that the scene is set, on to the show. I moved to Chicago in March of 2009, so I had no idea of Sludgeworth until very recently. However, in the weeks leading up to it, I was repeatedly told I had to be at this show by various friends They argued that this was going to be an important one. Fortunately, this came from close friends who were on the ground during the first Sludgeworth era. So of course I had immense trust in them. All I can say is damn! Well, that and thanks to those who insisted I attend. And of course, all that I am about to say in this piece. Because, wow! Sludgeworth is straight-up phenomenal, both in music and performance. Oh and there was the live performance debut of a future punk rock star. More on that in a bit.
Having documented Dan Schafer as the lead singer for Dan Vapid and The Cheats multiple times and also seeing him front another of his groups, The Methadones, I knew going into this event that he is a dynamic performer and musician. But with his Sludgeworth bandmates, this was taken up a notch. He worked the cozy stage, engaged the fans about as much as one can without actually jumping into the crowd. Schafer spent much of the time extending his arm, microphone wielded tightly in his hand into the upfront scrum. Yes, this is a common movement in shows. Yet the frequency with which it was done here, coupled with the frenzied glee from fans who seemed to remember every lyric to all of the songs from long ago, surely set this apart. No doubt Schafer and bandmates were having a blast.
Mike Hooten on bass, Adam White and Dave McLean on guitars, and drummer Brian McQuaid aka Brian Vermin behind the kit, each commanded their spots on the stage individually. Collectively, they powered the music against which Schafer’s vocals were set.
Red Scare Industries recently re-issued the band’s 1995 record, “Losers of the Year.” They opened with, the appropriately titled for this event, “Never Say Never.” From there Sludgeworth drove through an electrifying set that included fiery renderings of “Follow,” “Another Day,” “She’s Not Disposable,” “Waste It Away,” “Angry Man,” and “Two Feet on the Ground.”
Every band member appeared very glad to be together on the stage again. McQuaid, with Yankees cap (per McQuaid “It’s 100% Jay-Z and 0% baseball.” That said, Let’s Go Mets!) turned backwards on his head, spent most of the set with a giant grin on his face as he slammed through, in the very best way, the setlist. McQuaid was also celebrating a very special moment on stage, and he had reason to be proud.
Brian McQuaid’s 13-year-old son, Max McQuaid, made his live performance debut when he took over on the drums for the song “Anytime.” The kid crushed it. This is no generous hyperbole to encourage Max, who has been playing drums for five years. He legit killed it on the the song “Anytime.” Fans showered the younger McQuaid with some of the loudest cheers of the night, immediately adopting him in a sense as the newest member of their beloved band. Almost jumping into a bear hug with his Dad on stage just added another verklempt-inducing moment. Later, Max stage-dived, and crowd-surfed, the only one to do so this night and Schafer jokingly put the kibosh on him invading the stage to try it again. Instead, Max had to make do with rocking out on the shoulders of a family friend named Mikey. Max signed a drumstick for me after the show. I’m going to hold onto it because this young man is a drummer who we should all keep an eye on. He is part of the next generation of great Chicago punk musicians preparing to take over. I have no doubt about that.
As great as the show was, I was curious as I am sure many or most of the fans old, and new were. The obvious question being, how did this event happen?
I caught up with Schafer by DM a few days post-show to get some answers.
“We had the reissue of “Losers of the Year” on Red Scare records, and I believe, if memory serves me correct, the idea was floating during various Zoom interviews back in December. It was met with a resounding no, which turned into a maybe, into a yes, and into an enthusiastic, hell yes. How? I’m not exactly sure. There were some problems to work out, but we did.”
And the welcome news: “Yes. We will be playing again in 2023 and will have a new single.“
Indeed the band, played a new tune called “Together, Not Together.” Fans were euphoric.
Schafer shared the genesis of the new song,
“Through the excitement of playing again, they suggested it to me. I was dead set against it. They sent a riff to me, and I was like, “Hmmmm…”
He continues, “Next thing I know, words pop into my head, and we go back and forth with voice memos. We made the final touches on it the day before the show.“
So Schafer’s verdict on the show?
“I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. I felt well-rehearsed, relaxed, in good spirits, great camaraderie, enthusiastic fans.“
“The passage of time was a mind trip. It’s been 30 years since we broke up. Aside from a handful of reunions over the years, the thought of these songs being in somewhat of a demand in 2023 is pretty incredible.”
Incredible? Yes. Incredible news that there is more to come this year from Sludgeworth? Absolutely.
When you have such a major event headlined by a beloved band, you better make sure the two support bands measure up to the importance of the night. The organizer of this show hit the jackpot.
Playing in the middle spot was Tightwire, a band on a rocket ship to greatness, ready to blast off. I have covered the band a few times for Dying Scene since our resurrection and know that there are plenty more to follow. The Minneapolis quartet are big fans of the Windy City, and the Windy City has many big fans of the band.
The group, on the Red Scare Industries label, had the energy to match the headliners. Singer Tane Graves shredded his vocal chords, and his bass. Both guitarists Noelle Stop, often in close proximity to Graves, and Paul Mullaney, lurking in the darker corner of the small stage, contributed powerful vocals whilst driving the music. Drummer Parker Thompson seemed to be happily destroying his kit in proper service of the music.
Tightwire kicked off its set with the appropriately titled for this night, “Party,” and ended with “AYL.” In between they jammed through “Six Feet Deep,” “Told Yah,” “Hidden Planet,” “Spell On Me,” and “Anyone But You.”
I look forward to seeing them again in short order. I’d hazard a guess anyone else who has witnessed them live feels the same way.
Another band I had the pleasure to document previously, as support for The Brokedowns a few months back, is Chicago’s own pop-punk Permanent Residue. It’s a fun crew led by singer, guitarist, and harmonica player Kate Manic, also from Fuck You Idiot. Her bandmates are Jake Levee of Canadian Rifle, on bass. drummer Victor Lord Riley, and guitar player, Vince Miller. The band, off the Long Island label, Dead Broke Rekerds, provided a great opening for the show. Its music is played at a full-throttle pace, with the songs clocking in under two minutes long. The speedy set started with “Ogden Avenue,” the title referencing a well-known street named for Chicago’s first mayor, William B. Ogden. It was followed by “O Well,” “Resignation,” and “I Don’t.” The last song in the set was the delightfully titled “David Gilmour Girls.” I expect the band to be headlining more and bigger shows. But wherever they are on the bill, make sure you check them out.
This was a top-shelf night of great music, equally great friends, and massive talent amongst the fans. Please see below for more photos. Cheers!
The War on X-Mas continues. No, not the fictional War on Christmas some people peddle as a political weapon. Here we refer to the 8th Annual War on X-Mas weekend stand, held at Reggies Rock Club this year and featuring The Falcon, The Dopamines, Tightwire; and Won’t Stay Dead on night two. The second night was a plugged-in evening with full bands but night one showcased singers performing alone with their acoustic guitars and a microphone.
As Sincere Engineer, Deanna Belos typically has a full band with her on stage. On a very chilly Friday night, Belos delivered a set full of warmth and humor. She set the tempo for the low-key enjoyable evening with a setlist including “Bottle Lightening Twice,” Shattering,” “Out of Reach,” “Overbite, and Trust Me.”
English singer-songwriter Sam Russo recently participated in our World Cup coverage and on this weekend, his own national football club was still in the hunt. As I write this, it still is. But his own performance was just as is strong, albeit on a smaller stage, as those of his fellow countrymen. Running through “Runaways,” “Letting Go,” “Small Town Shoes,” “Young Heroes,” Sometimes,” Russo most surely earned new fans. Oh and playing “Merry Christmas, Baby, I’m Sorry,” was a nice nod to the holiday known for its nog.
Josh Caterer performed a setlist mostly comprised of songs by his band The Smoking Popes. He started with “Simmer Down,” then followed it with “Let’s Hear It For Love,” “Rubella,” “Paul,” and “First Time.” Caterer ended his set with a cover of the Nick Lowe penned, made famous by Elvis Costello classic, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.” He was joined by what seemed to be most of those in attendance. If it wasn’t quite Christmas caroling, it was close enough for this holiday season evening. It was also lovely.
Brendan Kelly, unlike years of X-Mas past, wasn’t fronting The Lawrence Arms. However, his X-Mas present to the crowd was a set full of the aforementioned group’s songs, including “The Devil’s Takin’ Names,” “Demons,” and “Quincentuple Your Money.” Kelly added “Suffer The Children Come Unto Me,” from another of his groups, Brendan Kelly and The Wandering Birds. In a tip of the hat to one of the night’s earlier performers, Kelly performed “Young Heroes,” by Sam Russo. Neil Hennessy, Kelly’s bandmate in The Lawrence Arms and in The Falcon, as well as a member of The Smoking Popes, joined Kelly onstage for “Old Mexico Way.”
Won’t Stay Dead might seem well-suited for Halloween shows, with its spooky aura and members dressed in all black, in what might be called “punk rock semi-formal.” Not to mention the fact that the band page describes the group as “Grungy horror pop punk from Chicago.” However, the band composed of Saffron Lair, Violet Staley, Tyler Palermo, and Will Lange, fit in perfectly as the Saturday night kick-off band. After all, it was the War on X-Mas. They band was as sharp as a “Rivers Edge,” which was also the first tune they played. This was followed up in quick succession by the rest of the set, including “Wicked Plans,” “Hack To The Bone,” “Somebody Put A Cross On My Head (And It Burned)” and “Sink Your Teeth.” Won’t Stay Dead closed out its spirited set with “Damaged Brain.”
Tightwire from Minneapolis, MN delivered a fierce set including “Party,” “Six Feet Deep,” ”Body Language,” “Spell on Me,” and “Pentagram Tattoo,” “Bitter Pill.” Group members Tane Graves, Paul Mullaney, Noelle Stolpe, and Parker Thompson brought the energy and the fun as they tore the stage up. The crowd was there for it.
The Dopamines, from the Queen City aka Cincinnati, OH, had the weekend’s penultimate time slot. The band, comprised of Jon Lewis, Jon Weiner, Josh Goldman, and Michael Dickson, roared through its set, injecting the atmosphere with a heavy dose of adrenaline. Included in said set were “You’d Make A Good Horsecop,” “Straight Papers,” “Cincinnati Harmony,” and “Heads Up Dusters,” as well as “The King of Swilling Powers Part I, II, III,” “Ire,” and “Dan Teets Runs a Marathon.” Frenzied done right.
The Falcon closed out the weekend with a forceful set and a dash of cheeky humor. band members Brendan Kelly and Neil Hennessy were, on this night, joined by Joe Principe (Rise Against) and Kody Templeman (The Lillingtons). All four were sporting matching black t-shirts with The Lawrence Arms logo, except in this case, the logo was covered over by the iconic red “NO” symbol. A wink and a nod to the fact that The Lawrence Arms was unable to make this year’s show. The setlist included a collection of some of the most unique and colorful song titles you’re bound to come across over a stretch of time. The Falcon performed, among others, “The Celebutard Chronicles,” ”Huffing The Proverbial Line Off The Proverbial Dong Or The Blood and the Frog,” ”Hasselhoff Cheeseburger,” “The Fighter, The Rube, The Asshole,” ”Feed The Monkey, Drown The Worm Or Goin’ Home,” “Building The Perfect Asshole Parade Or Scratching Off The Fleas.” The Falcon surpassed the already-high expectations. So did the weekend as a whole. Looking forward to next year’s event already. Maybe The Lawrence Arms will be on the bill?
See below for more images!