Search Results for "DS Exclusive"

Inside All Silk Mastering House With Ed Hall (Egos At The Door): Interview, Live Session Premiere

We spend a lot of time covering music here at Dying Scene and not so much looking at the people behind the sounds. Today, we’re going to buck that trend with an interview with mastering engineer and owner of the All Silk Mastering House, Ed Hall.

Ed has spent most of his life in and around the DIY punk scene in the north of England. He’s probably best known as guitarist with the recently disbanded, hugely underrated techcore proggers, Egos At The Door. With Egos, Ed has travelled across Europe and America, allowing him to build a strong network of contacts from the international punk scene.

His latest venture involved the creation of a sonic fantasy lab in an undisclosed location in Colne, Lancashire in the north of the UK. Ed was kind enough to share his experiences setting up the All Silk Mastering House, which has been a complete DIY effort. From construction and decorating, through to fitting the space out with all the necessary gear and, of course, the mastering itself, Ed handles the entire process. He’s an inspiration to all those who long to cast off the shackles of the daily grind and chase their dreams but lack the gusto to take that initial plunge.

Below, you’ll find an interview with Ed, as well as an exclusive look at his latest project – a regular live session from the All Silk Mastering House floor itself. We’ve also thrown in an example of Ed’s recent work with UK garage punks SWEARS’s latest single, Space Invaders.



Dying Scene Radio – Episode 12 – Band Spotlight: Mad Caddies

Dying Scene Radio is back with a new installment! In this episode, Bobby heads down to the beach for Surf City Blitz Festival to eat some awesome food,watch some dirt bike racing and listen to some fantastic music. Oh yea! He also sat down with the Sultans of Ska, Mad Caddies to talk about growing up in Solvang, how Joey Cape helped kick start their music career and…wine fermentation?? As always, the guys are also bringing you all of the noteworthy scene news that you were probably too lazy to read and play rad new tracks from emerging artists that you were probably too lazy to discover! All of that and much, much more in Episode 12 of Dying Scene Radio, below!



Interview: David Green (Moonraker) Gives Us a Track by Track Breakdown of The New LP “Lanterns”

Southern California punks Moonraker released their sophomore record Lanterns back in September of this year via Tiny Dragon Music and after having a few months to listen to and digest the album, we wanted to know more about it. So we called up drummer/vocalist David Green and asked all of the questions that were eating away at us! All eleven tracks, dissected and explained by the man himself! If you haven’t heard the album yet, go download it and listen while you read through. If you’re already a fan, listen to it again while you read through, below!



DS Photo Gallery: The Radiator Rattlers Rock Nashua’s Holiday Stroll

It’s not often that Dying Scene covers performances at local Christmas season outdoor holiday strolls. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the only time we’ve done it. However, it’s also not often that a band as cool as The Radiator Rattlers plays a local Christmas season outdoor holiday stroll, so this past weekend, we packed up our camera bag, headed to our old hometown, and took in a pretty awesome performance to finish out the family-friendly annual event.

As you may recall from our recent sit-down with guitarist and co-frontman Frankie Piessens, The Rattlers hail from a half-hour down the road in Haverhill, Massachusetts. However, the octet’s (Piessens, Kenny Turner on washboard and vocals, Matt Pepp on banjo and vocals, Travis Boucher on mandolin and vocals, Carla Pierce on acoustic guitar, Luke Williams on Drums and Jimbo Ritchie on bass) swashbuckling pedal steel player Jonee Earthquake has been a fixture in the New Hampshire punk rock community for…well, for as long as I’ve been alive, and I’ll be forty on my next birthday. Earlier in the week, they announced a pretty huge milestone in their career that spans about a half-dozen years; they’ll be playing the big stage at next May’s Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas! And while you wouldn’t think of “family friendly downtown holiday stroll in southern New Hampshire” as perhaps the punk rockingest of venues, the set up was very much guerrilla-style and DIY: the street was blocked to through traffic by off-duty DPW heavy equipment, and the band performed on the in between snowbanks on a sidewalk – no stage in sight – outside a dive bar in the sub-40 degree temperatures. That’s pretty punk rock if you ask us.

Check out the rest of our full photo gallery below.

 



Screwtape (hardcore) Announces New EP

Screwtape

Denver based hardcore act Screwtape is back with a new EP and we couldn’t be happier! The four track album, Static releases on pretty much every digital streaming site on November 28th If you’re a more hands on type like us, the EP will also be available in hard copy and we would highly suggest picking one up at the album release show which will be hosted at The Oriental Theater on the day of it’s release. Head over to the band’s Facebook page for more details and be sure to check them out if they play in your neck of the woods!



DS Exclusive: Catching Up with Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun

Naked Raygun, a band founded in 1980, recently played The Aragon in their hometown of Chicago. Though the headliner was Jawbreaker, there were many in the crowd who were there specifically to see Naked Raygun.
A few days after the show, I checked in with Jeff Pezzati, one of the band’s founders and its lead singer. He is routinely described as a punk rock icon from a legendary band. So how does he feel about such labels? We discuss it here. While the word “legend” may mean one thing to most fans, Pezzati views it with a sense of humor,”I don’t pay that much attention to labels like that. I know that James Van Osdol called us that once. It could mean that we’re just old. Ha.”


Pezzati spoke of the effects such a label might have on the receiving people or groups of such labels, “We’ve always been pretty hard on ourselves to play the best that we can. I don’t think just because a few people are calling us legends would change our preparation for playing out live.” Along the same lines of the band being considered legendary, Pezzati has been ordained by NR fans and those whose job it is to analyze and write about punk musics, with the word “icon.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the second description of the word icon is as follows: “an object of uncritical devotion : IDOL.”

From our discussion, I sense that Pezzati would not believe or describe himself as someone who has been an object of devotion, sans criticism. I did put the question of how it feels to be called an icon of punk rock. And whilst the subject of dictionaries never arose, his definition resembles that found in the Collins English Dictionary. As Collins defines it in their entry: “someone or something regarded as embodying the essential characteristics of an era, group, etc.”

On being called an icon, per Pezzati: “Well, that’s weird too. It indicates that I am symbol of punk rock. In that sense of the word” (the literal meaning) it feels right because I believe that punk rock is a very good thing that changed music indelibly forever. I can stand up for that any day.”

Pezzati downplays the influence he and Naked Raygun have had on the musicians and  bands that followed and his role in shaping said people/bands. Most famous perhaps of citing the influence of Naked Raygun is Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters. Grohl has oft relayed his memory of watching and being inspired by his first live music performance. The show was at The Cubby Bear, when Grohl came to Chicago for a visit. He was there with his cousin and the band was Naked Raygun. In 2015, Grohl repaid that “favor” by inviting Naked Raygun to open for them at Wrigley Field.

“Those bands would have probably made the right kind of music anyway. There were plenty of great bands out there to pick up on when we were starting. We might have hurried the process along for some of the people in those bands.”

I have myself seen many bands describe how much they appreciated what Naked Raygun has done and how they were insured by NR. It occurred again on the evening of the Jawbreaker show, when Smoking Popes, the first band on the bill, gave a shout out to NR and Eli Caterer of Smoking Popes joined in for a couple of songs.

So of course, I felt compelled to ask Pezzati to discuss his influences and to recall some of the stand out moments in the band’s history of sharing the stage. “This is a great question. Our influences were: The Buzzcocks, Wire (first 2 albums), The Stranglers, Gang of Four, The Dead Boys, The Birthday Party and a few others. We never got to play with any of them. Shows that stand out for me are: The Undertones at the Aragon Ballroom in the mid 1980’s. Madness at the Park West in the 80’s. Johnny Thunders at some little hole in the wall where Walter Lure’s band was playing in NY,NY – he just showed and took over the show. The Birthday Party at Tut’s in Chicago in the 80’s, The Cramps and also The Psychedelic Furs both at Tut’s. Blurt at Hueys in Chicago. Gang of Four at the University of Chicago. Also Ian Hunter at the Park West with Mick Ronson on guitar.”

When it was announced that Naked Raygun would be opening for Jawbreaker, there were ripples of rumors that this show would mark the end of the band playing live. Pezzati is quick to dispel that rumor: “Well, we WILL play out live when our album comes out. Although no one seems to be in a hurry to finish it. And we may play on New Year’s Eve…this year.:”

As with what seems to be most bands, the Naked Raygun’s lineup has changed over the course of its history of nearly four decades. I wondered how those changes affect the performances of songs that were first played by members no longer affiliated with the group. Pezzati: “Well every player, plays a little different, however we want the ‘new guy’ to play the songs as close to the recorded version as possible. There may be a slight difference. Hopefully it is an improvement to the original or we would have the part explained better to the player. For example…we have very few songs with any guitar solos. I hate guitar solos…but if you’re going to stick (one) into a song it should be brilliant and you (as a guitar player) should be able to regurgitate it up the same way every time the song is performed.”

Moving on to other ground, the corporatization of punk rock, which is not new. Pezzati describes it this way:

“(Punk rock) certainly started out on unsteady ground. It was the laughable joke of most American music fans. However, as people ‘got it’ they became devout believers and some, disciples of the music. The corporate world just took edible pieces of punk and applied it to sell their products or ideas. I have no problem with that. The fact that the entire genre was ignored by popular radio… now that I have a problem with. Looking forward I see a worrisome predicament beginning to occur…that is that the mainstream music industry still has not included into their ‘boys club’ attitude this great music. I mean how many times have you heard even Weezer on the radio or seen a post, pre, emo, pop punk band on the Grammys? They still believe that rap is good music and it just isn’t. It’s total garbage. And yet they are rewarding it like it’s the best thing since ice cream. How many times are we going to listen to a song where the guy calls himself the N word and think ‘Wow that is so great and new’?”

When discussing punk rock with a singer who was active in his present band during the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher / United States President Ronald Reagan years, I would be remiss if I did not broach a topic on a lot of our minds recently: Donald Trump. I presented it to him as follows: “Treason” is a song that has been recently played, repeatedly on Facebook and other places with Trump in mind. How do you feel about that? Are there songs you have written long ago, which feel newly relevant in the era of Trump?

Pezzati: “I first read about Donald Trump in the 80’s when I bought a book – an unofficial biography of Trump. He had bad taste then and he has bad taste now. Some people will never have the skills to mold themselves into a palatable version of their elected position. “Treason” remains relevant as does “Managua,” “Hips Swingin’ and certainly “Rat Patrol.”

Recalling that roughly one month post-2016 U.S. Presidential election, Guardian newspaper in Great Britain put this query to its readers via this headline “Rise above: will Donald Trump’s America trigger a punk protest renaissance?” I put this query to Jeff Pezzati: “Have you seen an uptick in music addressing politics and is this something you like to see? I see now that a few bands have taken on the GOP in their music (as it seems when it comes to punk does appear to be more of a target that the left). I

Pezzati responds, “I have seen some really pissed off people in bands – for example Vic Bondi. Originally of Articles of Faith. But I don’t know if I’m the one to ask. I’m not really in tune with the kids these days..”

I asked him to respond to something I have also seen happening starting almost from the moment Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finished her concession speech that night in early November 2016. It seems much of what we see in the punk rock community is addressing the president is via t-shirts and buttons and the like. Is this something you see as productive or merely cathartic for the wearer? And do you see a discernible difference from the punk rock answer to Reagan and Thatcher; and other leaders coming after both Reagan and Thatcher?

Pezzati: “The punk rock community seems split on this issue and during Reagan’s and Thatcher’s day it was too. You have emo bands just writing torrid love songs and some people are just sick of hearing about the latest atrocity that the Trump administration has contrived.”

I then switched gears back to Naked Raygun and specifically, its beloved bass player Pierre Kezdy. Kezdy joined the band in the early 1980’s, however he’s not presently playing the live shows due to his health. I asked Pezzati if he would provide an update that best that he could.

“I know he feels the love from the NR fans…. He is not doing well. Cancer is a bitch. They treat it so viciously that almost kills the host …meaning you. The thing is – most of this malady could have been avoided but Pierre has always had what I call ‘The Martyr Complex’ and always will.”

The love was indeed present at the most recent show where arguably the most popular item available at the Naked Raygun table was a t-shirt featuring a delineation of Kezdy.

Almost wrapping up, I had two more questions to pose to Jeff Pezzati. The first was in reference to upcoming projects he might want to share with Dying Scene readers. And what a teaser he provided.

“Someday I WILL release a solo effort that is mostly complete at this time. It has one song on it that is the best thing I have ever written.”

I also asked if he had anything else he wanted Dying Scene readers to know. He answered with a few words of wisdom, not necessarily garnered through years of being that aforementioned punk rock icon but by years of just being a human. They are words we all should already be heeding but a reminder every now and again is always a good thing. Of course Pezzati had to answer with a bit of humor.

“Be good to one another. Life is fragile and very short. To overcome any situation, take small bites. You’ll get there. Since most of the time you spend is doing things that you HAVE to do rather than CHOOSE or ENJOY doing ….treat every day as something special… a gift – if you will. And things will work out, I promise. I am after all an icon AND a legend. Ha!”



Dying Scene Radio – Episode 11 – Band Spotlight: Lost In Society

The boys over at Dying Scene Radio are back with a special Halloween episode (….a week after Halloween) to tickle and titillate those pretty lil ears of yours! In this installment, Bob meets up with NJ punks down in Fullerton to talk about the current trends in album recording, down tuning and other awesome stuff that AP has no clue about. As always, the guys are also bringing you all of the news you were probably too lazy to read and play spooky, Halloween themed tunes from emerging artists that you were probably too lazy to discover! They did all the work for you! So, crank up the volume grab some of that leftover Halloween candy and stream Episode 11 of Dying Scene Radio, below!



DS Photo Gallery: Oh The Humanity, Tiny Stills, KCUF and Brook Pridemore – Cambridge, MA

Almost unarguably, one of the best parts of living in the greater Boston area is the small, passionate community of people working hard and on an independent level to continue to provide an outlet for artists, musicians and creators of all shapes and sizes. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the seemingly endless gentrification across the area and the resulting demise of smaller, independent venues, but I’ll be damned if there aren’t some inspiring people and places keeping the scene’s heart pumping strong. Take Charlie’s Kitchen, for example. The two-floor , diner-style burger joint nestled away in Cambridge’s Harvard Square plays host to live music on Monday nights, featuring bills curated by Rebuilder‘s Daniel Carswell, always chock full of  solo troubadours and great local and national indie rock and punk bands.

Such was the scene last Monday, when Los Angeles’ Tiny Stills came to town to kick off a run down the east coast that ended with an appearance at Fest in Gainesville. The (I guess we’re calling them) power-pop quartet anchored by singer-songwriter Kailynn West are still on the road in support of their new album Laughing Into The Void, which is one of the catchiest and important albums of 2018 — more on that in the future. They were joined on this night by fellow Fest-ers Oh The Humanity!, the local five-piece who play a particularly shred-worthy metal-infused brand of skate punk that would make bands like A Wilhelm Scream proud. Local project KCUF – Ken and Chris’s Undecided Franchise – played second on this night. While they’re still a relatively new collective, the members are scene vets instantly recognizable from other outlets like Loser’s Circle and Coffin Salesman and OC45 and The Radicals and Live Nude Girls and Back Door Key and probably like 800 other projects I’m forgetting. Boston is a delightfully incestuous place sometimes. Kicking things off was Brook Pridemore, who himself was wrapping up a fairly lengthy run before heading home to Brooklyn. Calling Pridemore a “solo acoustic folk punk” act probably does a disservice to both Brook Pridemore and to your boilerplate solo acoustic folk punks. There’s doom metal and dark humor and fuzzed out guitars and synth pedals (or whatever) and a bunch of other ingredients thrown in the blender in a way that makes Pridemore a unique performer.

It’s nights like these filled with bands out grinding that keep the scene alive. And at Charlie’s, it happens every Monday. Head below to catch our full photo rundown, and stay tuned for more.



DS Photo Gallery: Bouncing Souls and Swingin Utters from Webster Underground, Hartford, CT

If you’re like me and “of a certain age” and grew up embedded in the Epitaph/Fat Wreck Chords sound of the early 1990’s, you’ve no doubt got a special place in your heart for the Bouncing Souls and the Swingin’ Utters. And though both bands have been rather steadily plying their respective wears for thirty-ish years, unless you caught them opening for Descendents together back in 1996 or maybe at a handful of festival one-offs, you probably never got the chance to see them together. And so it was with great anticipation that the Souls announced that the Utters would be the sole opener on a quick three-day run of dates in the greater NYC area. The second of those three shows was at the tiny Webster Underground in Hartford last Saturday, and yours truly was one of the lucky ones crammed into the dimly lit glorified hallway of a black-painted-plywood walled venue for the festivities.

The Utters took the stage first promptly at 8:30pm. This three-show run opening for the Souls served as a break roughly at the halfway point of the legendary Santa Cruz band’s own eastern US headlining tour, and because there were only two bands on the bill — shoutout to two-band show bills, by the way — the Utters were afforded a longer-than-average slot. This resulted in a stellar eighteen-song (by my count) set that spanned the bulk of the band’s three-decade career. I had seen the Utters headline in New Hampshire earlier in the week and left just about as thoroughly impressed by the quartet (longtime partners Johnny Bonnel and Darius Koski joined by newest bassist Tony Teixeira and fill-in drummer Max Katz) as I had been at any time I’d seen them in the past. This show raised the bar to even loftier heights, with a varied setlist that found traditional favorites like “Windspitting Punk” and “The Librarians Are Hiding Something” joined by some of the more recent odd-tempo Bonnel-penned tracks like personal highlight “Dubstep.” Every handful of years, it seems like the Utters go through a particularly productive writing and touring phase, and based on their recent album, Peace And Love, and the two shows I caught last week, here’s hoping we’re in one of those cycles.

By the time the Souls hit the stage, the sold-out crowd had packed sardine style into the venue, and remained a frenetic ball of energy from the opening notes of “Hopeless Romantic” to the closing notes of “Night On Earth” more than an hour later. The Hartford area has been starved for good punk shows for a while – the Webster tends to draw a more metal-influenced crowd – and even though the average age was…well…clearly Souls fans from back in the day, that didn’t stop the constant whirling dervish and barrage of crowd surfers from matching the band’s energy. If you closed or eyes or at least just squinted, you’d have sworn it was 1998 all over again. “Monday Morning Ant Brigade” and “These Are The Quotes From Our Favorite ’80s Movies” and “I Like Your Mom” were fun additions to a set, and are proof that the band still maintain their goofy sense of humor amidst a set that is also chock full of anthemic rallying cries. Oh, and speaking of the band’s energy; it is not hyperbole or said with any malice to previous drummers to state that the addition of George Rebelo behind the kit equates to the most steady, rock solid lineup of the band’s three-decade career. There was obviously early scuttlebutt that they might throw in the towel when Michael McDermott left back in 2013 after a 14 year run, and boy would that have been a mistake.

Head below for our photo rundown from a night that was truly one for the books.



DS Photo Gallery: Swingin’ Utters with Gallows Bound and Michael Kane & The Morning Afters, Dover, NH

With any luck, some of you have been paying attention while something truly remarkable has been happening on the eastern half of the US and Canada for the last couple weeks. That something, specifically, is the Swingin’ Utters tour in support of their solid new album, Peace And Love.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Even for a master of hyperbole such as yourself, this is a new level, Stone!” You’d be correct about the first half of that statement, but dead wrong about the last. At least, that’s the overwhelming feeling I had in watching the Bay Area punk legends as they took the owned the stage at the Dover Brickhouse in Dover, New Hampshire. It was a cold, drizzly Wednesday night that saw a small crowd that gathered upstairs in the brick-and-dark-wood adorned venue that creates a vibe that’s equal parts brew pub and sports bar (especially because the flat screens showing Game Four of the American League Championship Series remained on throughout). The Utters took the stage as a four-piece, with longtime partners-in-crime Johnny Bonnel and Darius Koski joined by their newest bassist, Tony Teixeira, and by Gabe Katz, filling in on drums for Luke Ray who was away at a family reunion. In spite of the latest in what’s become a series of line-up changes, the band totally delivered from note one, in a way that’s at the very least inspiring. It might stand to reason that a setlist in such a situation would be scaled down or overly reliant on material from the new album, but that wasn’t the case. Sure Peace And Love tracks were well-represented, but tunes like “No Eager Man” and “Windspitting Punk” and “The Next In Line” and “The Librarians Are Hiding Something” were as vibrant, vital, and well-received as ever.

Support on this run (aside from three dates that find the Utters playing alongside Bouncing Souls in the greater NYC area – more on that later) came from Gallows Bound, and Michael Kane And The Morning Afters served as local opener, venturing up from Worcester, MA, for the mid-week opportunity to play alongside a venerated and influential band like the Utters. Gallows Bound, if you’re not familiar, are a five-piece from Winchester, Virginia, whose sound is delightfully hard to pin down. “Appalachian Punk Bluegrass” is what they’re billed as and is a fairly accurate description, with the acoustic-driven instrumentation and dueling vocalists (Jordan Joyes and Jesse Markle) trading duties and allowing elements of country and punk and folk and gothic undertones to meld in a unique way. Michael Kane and crew, who you may recognize as among our local favorites, are a working-class rock-and-roll band with influences that are equal parts The Clash, Tom Petty and, as evidenced by their set-closing rendition of “Born To Run,” Bruce Springsteen.

Head below to scroll through our photo gallery from the evening!

 



DS Photo Gallery: Lucero with Brent Cowles, Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA

Lucero are no strangers to the Boston area, but it’s been a few years since they played a proper club show of this sort; 2016 saw them headlining the Copenhagen Beer Fest, last years saw them playing on a boat in Boston Harbor. At the tail end of the East Coast run in support of their latest album, Among The Ghosts, the band made a whirlwind return to the city the weekend before last, returning to the legendary Paradise Rock Club for the first time in half a decade. Lucero have played some rather legendarily raucous shows in prior ventures to the greater Boston area, and while the craziest of those days are largely in their collective rear-view mirror, the fact that the band are on a pretty great run right now and that the show took place on a Saturday night resulted in a pretty high-energy affair.

The band kicked things off with the title track from Among The Ghosts, and in rather atypical fashion for Lucero, played largely the same core set they’d been playing on most nights of this particular run (albeit without a visible setlist in the house). What it might have lacked in improvisation, though, the set more than made up for in style and variation. Of course the new album was rightfully best represented throughout, but the band’s self-titled 2001 debut and sophomore album Tennessee, released the following year, combined to make up roughly half of what we’d call the “main set.” The return to prominence of underrated songs like “No Roses No More” and the more recent “I Can’t Stand To Leave You” are particular highlights for yours truly; the latter being an example of a song that, though Nichols wrote it during a different time in his life, has taken on new meaning and in light of more recent events in his life, and perfectly connects some of the grittier musical tones of early Lucero with the family-centered lyrical content so prevalent on Among The Ghosts. And fear not, old-school fans, the night wasn’t exactly formulaic — it’s a Lucero show, after all — as the quintet mixed things up in the latter part of their set, opted to play more music instead of leaving the stage and returning for an “encore,” and caved to audience-led peer pressure by pulling out “Bikeriders” late in the set.

Support on this run came from Brent Cowles and his stellar backing band, the Foxhole Family Band. Sadly, I admittedly wasn’t all-too familiar with the Denver-based singer-songwriter prior to the announcement of his opening role on this tour. Shame on me. Though small in stature, Cowles, the son of a preacher, sings and shreds with the kind of full-bodied soul that would make Sam Cooke look down and smile. Check out Cowles’ work here.

While you’re at it, check out our photo gallery from the evening below. You can find upcoming Lucero tour dates here. Among The Ghosts, as you should be aware, was released August 3rd on Thirty Tigers.

 

 



DS Exclusive: Josh Caterer on “Into The Agony,” Smoking Popes’ first ‘original lineup’ album in two decades

Sometimes when I conduct an interview with an artist I’m a fan of, I find it best to pull out a few noteworthy quotes, craft them into a story that I find interesting, and then allow the reader to click through to read our full conversation to provide some level of context. Usually, this finds me asking the subject a number of sort-of fleshed out questions and engaging in a conversation that goes somewhat as planned, and I can almost start to write part of the story in my head as we’re talking. I try to go in with more material than I need, and don’t always get to touch on all of it. But even by my own standards, I had a lot of questions for Josh Caterer.

I’ve been a fan of seminal Chicago band Smoking Popes for the last couple of decades, So when the opportunity presented itself to chat with the band’s songwriter, frontman and principle voice about their new album, Into The Agony, I jumped, even though it came with little in the way of lead time. Given that we’ve never spoken for Dying Scene before, there’s a lot of subject matter to mine: obviously I wanted to talk about the new album, because it’s stellar and upbeat and incredibly melancholy at the same time. And obviously I wanted to talk about the changes in band dynamics that came with founding drummer Mike Felumlee’s return to the band a couple years ago after a decade out of the fold. And about their sticking with Asian Man Records. And my daughter wanted to know if he actually ever broke his arm on stage. And I wanted to ask about issues of faith and politics and punk rock, particularly in the present sociopolitical climate in this country. And about the idea that Smoking Popes seem to exist at that curious intersection of “Bands That Are Immensely Influential Avenue” and “Bands That Are Wildly Underrated Boulevard.” And maybe even his thoughts on whether or not Smoking Popes were miscategorized as a “punk” band early on, particularly when held up against some of the more noteworthy alternative bands that they came through the ranks with. And while we did touch on a few of those things, a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.

That funny thing, as it turned out, was Judy Garland.

In hindsight, had I been paying close enough attention, I should have seen it coming. A black and white picture of Garland serves as the focal piece of the cover art of Into The Agony, and the album’s halfway point is marked by a cover of “Get Happy,” a tune first popularized by Garland in the 1950 movie Summer Stock. But Garland’s presence on this album runs far, far deeper than that. It might be presumptuous to assume that most readers of Dying Scene are primarily aware of Garland due to her iconic performance as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the “child star” nature of the early part of her life, Garland would go on to have a career that spanned more than four decades, though she became a quintessentially tragic figure (much to her chagrin), long battling issues of an unstable home life, chaotic and at times abusive interpersonal relationships, alcoholism and substance addiction, mental health and more all while desperately trying to put on a brave, happy face and bring joy to the masses through her art.

Stylistic differences aside, that’s a profile ripe for exploration by a punk rock songwriter, especially one with a penchant for crafting poetic tales of love – albeit sometimes unrequited – and loss and hope and heartbreak all with a tremendous pop sensibility. Now rest assured Popes fans; Into The Agony is not a Judy Garland-themed rock opera, not by any stretch. While the idea of diving into the agony might be the central thread that ties the album together, it finds specific inspiration from issues that are both macro and micro, political and personal. There’s despair, for sure – these are desperate times – but there’s a trademark Smoking Popes sense of optimism present in droves, sometimes defiantly so.

With that as a bit of a teaser, I decided in this case to just let our conversation stand for itself, because I found it one of the most interesting chats I’ve had in the roughly 100 interviews I’ve run here at Dying Scene. It was challenging, thoughtful (and thought-provoking), funny, and a little melancholy. We talk about the specifics behind a few tracks, for sure, and also talk about the nervousness that comes with actually revealing the backstory to a song, thereby stripping the listener of the context they’ve provided to the song. And we of course talked a little about the band’s history and the renewed energy they’ve found since Felumlee rejoined the ranks. Head below to check out our full conversation with Josh Caterer. You can also head here to check out Into The Agony for yourself, and head here to see where you can catch the Popes on the road!



DS Exclusive: Riot Fest Recap – Day Three (Alkaline Trio, Bad Religion, Bouncing Souls and more)

Day 3 started off rocky. FEAR went on stage play the debut album “FEAR: The Record”in its entirety. Actually, they started the set with “Fuck You, Let’s Rodeo”and “Honor and Obey”from their 1995 album “Have Another Beer with FEAR.” FEAR fans will tell you that the band is, well, not exactly PC, so it was interesting how the crowd will react to the album. Well, no need to worry because singer Lee Ving changed some of the words in certain songs to be a bit more friendly. But self-censorship was only one of the problems with the set, as it seemed the band didn’t do that much practicing, with the guitarist struggling during “Sanatorium”and Ving missed his cue on, well, quite a few songs, actually. A weird thing considering he’s been singing these songs for over thirty years.

 

By comparison Suicidal Tendencies were the complete opposite. The California thrash punk legends blazed through most of their self-title debut album (they didn’t play “I Want More”) completely annihilating the captive crowd with Mike running back and forth on stage, pumping his fists like a fucking lunatic off his meds. Naturally, with this much going on, one of the larger pits I’ve seen that day formed. Songs from “Fascist Pig” to “I Shot Reagan”were played with such ferocity that you forget singer Mike Muir is in his 50’s. The set ended with Mike bringing kids and adults on stage as he performed the classic “Institutionalized.”

The three-day Riot Fest experience was…good. Not great, but it didn’t suck either. There were some definite peaks and valleys in regards to the performances. Overall, I did enjoy it. Hopefully, they work out the kinks next year.

In the interim, please check out some images from a few of the other Day 3 acts, including Bad Religion, Beach Rats, Bouncing Souls and Alkaline Trio! For more coverage from the festival, check out our stories from Day One and Day Two. As with the last two days, all words by Frederic Hall and all photos by Meredith Goldberg.



Riot Fest Recap – Day Two (Street Dogs, Total Chaos, Conflict and more)

Riot Fest’s second day found that bastard, the sun, at it again when California punks Total Chaos began their afternoon set. Before they began, they did treat the crowd with a quick verse from Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”during soundcheck. The band played a blistering set of breakneck punk like “In Unity,” “Riot City” and their recent track “Street Punx”off their eponymous EP. Both the band and the crowd were wearing studded jackets, patched-up vests, Mohawks and liberty spikes.

Lower Class Brats keep the momentum going. Wearing all black and singer Bones channeling his inner Adicts with his derby hat, the Austin, Texas band covered “All The Young Dudes” as a dedication to David Bowie. The rest of the set was blessed with an insane circle pit and folks just crowd surfing.

British anarcho-punks Conflict were a bit disappointing. Keeping up Lower Class Brat’s all-black-everything look, the band tried their best to get the crowd going with a smattering of success. Even singer Colin Jerwood (the only original member), stepping off stage to sing and greet the crowd didn’t help. Add to the equation some problems with the vocal mic and the overall set was a bit of a let down.

Street Dogs, on the other hand, put on a pumped set. Even with their covers of “Guns of Brixton”, “Borstal Breakout,” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” the Boston band infused it with a kinetic energy that slammed the crowd into hysterics. Even singer Mike McColgan stage dived and kept singing while he was crowdsurfing.

 

Please check out our images below from some of the other Day 2 acts. If you missed yesterday’s Day One coverage, you can check that out here. All photos by Meredith Goldberg, and words by Frederic Hall.



Riot Fest Recap – Day One (Flogging Molly, Lagwagon, Bombpops, Direct Hit!, Pussy Riot and more)

The beer was $9. The crowd was greeted on inaugural day with a horrendous flute cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, complete with straining and crackling high notes. This year’s Riot Fest was a gorgeous, grotesque display of gathering bodies of drunk and fucked-up folks bathed in sweat thanks to an unforgiving sun radiating degrees in the upper 80’s throughout the three-day event.

Our coverage of Day One kicked off with Direct Hit, who played an energetic set, the type where the bassist Steve Murray hops sound so you hope he doesn’t land wrong and break his ankle. The band admitted most of their songs are about drugs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Oh, and between songs, the singer Nick Woods something about “The Big Bitch.” Towards the end of the set, drummer Danny Walkowiak actually ran from his drum set to the edge of the stage banging his drumsticks along with the clapping crowd before running back to his kit the second the band started back. It’s cliche as hell, but people loved the shit out of it.

Pussy Riot’s set was…interesting. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan. While I do appreciate their political message and my heart goes out to member Pyotr Verzilov, who is recovering after being poisoned(!), the music didn’t quite move me that much. However, I would say their stage performance, consisting of everybody wearing florescent green ski-masks and button-up shirts was a sight to behold. But whatever momentum they was stopped when the group exited the stage and a played an audio recording of someone – who sounded like a robotic female voice – reciting twenty-five points about the one-percent and wealth redistribution. I don’t know how long the recording was, but it felt like forever, trust me. Probably sensing the crowd is restless, the group burst from the backstage, flaying their arms and torsos while the loudspeakers blasted the most Earth-shattering bass ever. That was enough to snap the crowd out of it before ending their set.

 

Next up for us were The Bombpops. Holy shit, The Bombpops. The name is fitting since this female-fronted LA band were popping bombs of raw, sonic goodness for the hefty sized crowd that afternoon. To give you an idea of their lyrical prowess, they played a song about shitting their pants called “Dear Beer,” a song about traffic called “Brake Lights” and, at one point, they talked about the heat giving them the “pussy sweats”and “sweaty assholes”.

Shifting gears, we got old-school hip-hop trio Digable Planets. Backed up by a live band, the group played the classic debut album “Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space).” Of course they played their hits “Rebirth of Slick (Cool like Dat)” and “Nickle Bag of Funk.” After twenty some-odd years, the trio still had the chemistry that made them popular in the first place. The band were no slouches either , with the bassist just going off on the slap bass solo that make Flea nod his head approvingly.

Atmosphere’s set seemed to complement Digable’s perfectly, with Slug’s dropping bars from a more introspective place. The seminal “God Loves Ugly”and “Fuck You Lucy”were definitely bangers for the large crowd as the sun ended its shift for the day. Slug’s charisma held the crowd’s attention throughout the set, with his words being more sermon and less hype, with gems such as “I wanna have as much fun as you’re having.” He did deviate from the serious by telling the crowd to raise their hands if they ever masturbated and touch take said hand and touch their neighbor with it.

Head below to check out more of our photos from Day One, including shots from Blood People, Lagwagon, Face To Face, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly!

(All photography by Meredith Goldberg. Words by Frederic Hall.)