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There’s The Magic: Philly’s Dulls begins with shoegaze and branches beyond on their new Moon Violet

Dulls | photo by Emilia Randler | courtesy of the artist
Dulls | photo by Emilia Randler | courtesy of the artist

Last year, Fishtown four-piece Dulls played a couple shows with like-minded shoegazers, the Stargazer Lilies. However, neither band realized at the time of those summer and early fall gigs that the connection they’d made would bode so well, for Dulls specifically.

Dulls’ guitarist Evan Raab says the two bands just hit it off right away. He and drummer Jack Pfeifer had particularly liked the way the Stargazer Lilies’ albums sounded, and it just so happened that they were recorded by the band’s guitarist John Ceperano.

“I just like their sound,” Pfeifer says in earnest over a glass of water in a loud and crowded Fishtown Tavern. “So, I asked [drummer Tammy Hirata], ‘Who recorded this? Because it sounds really good.’ And she’s just like, ‘John recorded us, you should totally record with him.’ That was it. It just worked out like that.”

A couple months later, Dulls spent the first weekend of Novemeber taking in all Ceperano had to offer in his home studio in the Poconos. Raab, Pfeifer, singer and guitarist Erica Carter and bassist Kirk Bray, all agree that the experience left the band feeling positive. Even though it was just a weekend, Raab was looking forward to getting to the mountains. And as far as recording their first tape compared to this one upcoming, Raab says the setting couldn’t have been any more different. Continue reading →

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Documenting The Scene: Philly labels SRA and Richie Records on their parallel ethos

F.O.D. performs at Stalag 13 in the 90s | photo courtesy of SRA Records
F.O.D. performs at Stalag 13 in the 90s | photo courtesy of SRA Records

Around 2011, Bruce Howze, founder of SRA Records, had been looking for a singer to front his reverb-laden five-piece, Dangerbird, when he got in touch with Jim McMonagle of long-standing Philadelphia hardcore band F.O.D.

Howze would recruit him to help write, sing and play guitar on songs for a four-band compilation in the works. While in the studio McMonagle got to talking about F.O.D. material that’s been out of print since its original presses and that some people were interested in reissuing it at the time but McMonagle didn’t know them well enough to pursue it. Howze explained that he’d already been getting Dangerbird’s first two CDs and seven-inch into stores, so he was fit for the job. McMonagle agreed, and SRA Records was born.

A few years before that, in a similar recording scenario, Richie Records founder and namesake Richie Charles recorded some music to cassette with his friend just for fun. Charles’ friend made copies of the tape, wrote “Richie Records” on them and handed them out to other people they knew. Soon after that, a different friend approached Charles, mentioning the tape and its “Richie Records” moniker, assuming Charles was behind it. However, it was the first Charles had heard about it. Turned out his recording partner was passing the tapes without telling him he made copies, or even named them. After that, they made a couple more tapes together and distributed them informally because, “people wanted them for the novelty,” Charles says modestly.

When Charles was hit by a car in 2004, he used the settlement money to launch the label and Richie Records became more than a series of lo-fi home recordings circulating among friends. Perhaps Howze was in the right place at the right time, while Charles was in the wrong place at the right time. But even though these two records labels, each geared towards loud, hard-hitting and oft-abrasive garage, punk and metal, are completely unrelated to one another, they do overlap in ethos. Continue reading →

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A lesson in DIY with Nashville’s Natural Child

Natural Child | photo courtesy of the artist
Natural Child | photo courtesy of the artist

Natural Child printed a fresh batch of merchandise in September for a string of West coast tour dates. They were prepared with t-shirts, patches, buttons – what’s typically found on a merch table at a rock show. However, after only a few nights on the road, the country-leaning punk band was out of almost everything. Luckily they have some friends in high places.

“We hit up Burger [Records] and asked them if they knew anyone that could print stuff in like 24 hours,” guitarist and singer Seth Murray says over the phone from his Nashville home. “They were able to find someone quickly and they hooked it up. They’re the best dudes and would do a favor for anybody.” Continue reading →

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Welcoming Back the Boognish: A Megafan’s Guide to Ween

Ween
Ween | photo by Dana Distortion | courtesy of the artist

Beloved New Hope outfit Ween make a long-awaited return to a Philadelphia stage this Sunday, August 21st at Festival Pier. Producing nine studio LPs over a 30+ year career, digging into the band’s catalog can be a bit daunting. Thankfully The Key’s Brian Wilensky, a self-professed Ween superfan, has done the hard work for you, picking out the best and brownest from Gene, Dean, and co for your listening and educational pleasure.

ALBUMS, RANKED
Quebec
Chocolate and Cheese
The Pod
GodWeenSatan
Individual songs

QUEBEC (2003)

Just as the metal cracks the mirror Deaner’s yelling about the bender he roped you into on “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night.” Next it’s a soothing Zoloft and you’ll be feeling fine in no time. But really you’re just dumbing down the trauma from that night with the Ween guitarist, when suddenly you’ve stumbled into the wrong end of town and you’re paranoid, thinking to yourself, “So many people in the neighborhood/ Not sure if they’re really good people.” Well, things have gone awry for you, you’ve overstayed your welcome, and now you just want to get back home on, “Captain.” That’s how Quebec by Ween goes, and only you could save yourself.

Continue reading →

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Cassette Connection: A conversation with Dante Scaglione of Ardmore boutique label Third Floor Tapes

Third Floor Tapes
Dante Scaglione of Third Floor Tapes | courtesy of the label

Two years ago Dante Scaglione was digging through Bandcamp when he came across a music community he was unaware of prior — one of cassette-exclusive labels.

He was immediately intrigued by this idea of keeping tapes alive in this age in which streaming services, vinyl rebirth and digital downloads are king. Labels such as Gnar Tapes and Burger Records appealed to him in that when they started; they too were releasing their music on cassette only. Scaglione started buying music on the niche format and began his own collection when his friends in Joy Again (formerly Forever Lesbians) were talking with him about wanting to releasing their first album on cassette. They hashed out the details and Third Floor Tapes was born with the band’s first album, Sherry, a set of warbling lo-fi garage pop.

That particular sonic characteristic, one that’s most definitely unique to tapes, was another aspect that influenced Scaglione’s decision to keep the label tape-based. Continue reading →

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Point, Counterpoint: Kevin Morby talks expanding his sonic palette on the new Singing Saw

Kevin Morby | Photo courtesy of the artist
Kevin Morby | Photo courtesy of the artist

A piano was left behind in the house that Kevin Morby moved into in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles in the fall of 2014. He began using it to write new songs, and he may not have realized it at first, but it would play a major role in carving out his latest album, Singing Saw.

Morby’s new tool for writing allowed him to explore a new way of adding layers to his music, rather than just using a piano for texture. It combined with his then new home had afforded him more time and space he needed for writing an album much more lush and thought-out. It’s one that shines a brighter light on the poignant folk singer-songwriter through additional orchestration. Continue reading →

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Seizing the Moment: The Birth of Needlove Records

Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst
Needle Points | Courtesy of the artst

In the fall of 2014, Needle Points were approached by Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog with interest to produce their next album. It was to be the neo-psych ’n’ rollers’ second album, following up their six-song LP, Bom Tugangu, that they self-released the year prior. However, the album has yet to see the light of day.

After spending two weeks at Mt. Slippery studio with McMicken, the band spent the next year and a half shopping the end result around to multiple record labels. They received varying levels of interest, as local as Brooklyn and as far away as England. Ultimately the band decided it would be in their best interest to release it on their own. They would utilize it to get their own record label, Needlove Records, off the ground with plans to finally release the new album later this summer.

The startup record label will be run by Needle Points’ lead singer Colin Holloway and drummer Jordan Kaplan. Having already released their own Bom Tugangu debut and through their dealings with other musicians and labels through their work with McMicken, the two definitely have some do-it-yourself experience under their belts.

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Suite Life: Harsh Vibes on mastering the movements of their new psych opus

Harsh Vibes | Photo courtesy of the artist
Harsh Vibes | Photo courtesy of the artist

Not every album requires a significant amount of dedicated listening to find everything that’s lingering beneath its surface. And then there are others that reveal themselves in layers, a little more with every spin. But the latter doesn’t develop by chance. It’s the product of deliberate writing, tweaking and attention to sonic detail.

The latest Harsh Vibes release, You Left Me Far Behind, is exactly the that. The five-piece has stepped up its songs from being largely free-of-form jams to being some of the most detailed space explorations in Philadelphia. Guitarist and singer Chris Bergen is still the band’s primary songwriter on this two-song EP, and the songs still come from him arsenal of ideas he’s amassed over the years, but You Left Me Far Behind wasn’t recorded as improvised jams as their prior tape releases had been.

“This is the first thing that we’ve put out that’s fully pre-written material entirely,” Bergen says in the back patio of a Fishtown bar where a jazz band is settling into a groove just inside. “These are totally written ahead of time and then I was still producing stuff while we were recording so I’d add little parts here and there. I ended up doing that for a really long time. That’s why it’s so baroque or compositional. Really, it was kind of a pain in the ass.” Continue reading →

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Ruthless Recording: Lantern embraces limitations on its new Black Highways LP

Lantern
Lantern | Photo by Ryan Collerd | ryancollerd.com | courtesy of the artist

Two days after Philadelphia got buried in nearly two feet of snow in late January, Zachary Devereux Fairbrother, guitarist and singer of Lantern, is dressed for the weather. He walks into a Point Breeze coffee shop suited in a scarf, shin-height galoshes and his hood pulled atop his head. The cold is visibly lingering on him as he peels away the layers of clothing around his face. Emily Robb, Lantern’s bass player and singer, walks in shortly thereafter and performs the same peeling routine.

Lucky for them, neither were hindered much by the blizzard at their west and south Philly homes, respectively.

The snowfall came a little less than a month before the release of their second full-length album, Black Highways and Green Garden Roads. It’s an album recorded in 22 non-sequential days at The Bottle Garden in Montreal, Canada, over a year and a half. Lantern, a blues rock-leaning proto-punk three-piece, made a conscious decision to record the new album a bit differently than they had for 2013’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rorschach — strictly to analog tape.

“We were working with only eight tracks,” says Fairbrother. “That sort of put an inherent structure on how we would go on with the arrangements and mixing.”

Robb adds as if finishing Fairbrother’s thought, “It kind of locks you in a little more. Working with tape really informs the process because it’s not limitless. If you’re working with Pro Tools you can have as many tracks as you want.”

Recording in this nature forced the band to be more, “ruthless,” as Fairbrother puts it, in what takes they decided would make it onto the album. He likens it to the “paradox of choice” theory, a line of thinking coined by Swarthmore psychology professor Barry Schwartz, in which consumers experience less anxiety when there are fewer choices while shopping. Continue reading →

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Finding Total Freedom: The journey to Spacin’s turbulent new LP

Spacin packaging up the first vinyl edition of Total Freedom | photo by John Vettese
Spacin packaging up the first vinyl edition of Total Freedom | photo by John Vettese

Jason Killinger steps through the front door of Atlantis: The Lost Bar onto the Frankford Avenue sidewalk in Kensington. He’s all smiles and greets me warmly with a firm handshake on an unforgivingly cold mid-November night. The guitarist and singer of Spacin’ is feeling good because he has Total Freedom on his mind.  Continue reading →