Local thrash / metal band Surgeon has been readying its long-in-the-making new full-length Chemical Reign for the past couple years – since we had them in for a Key Studio Session, as a matter of fact – and the day has finally come. This weekend the band plays its album release show at Johnny Brenda’s, and you can get a taste of the shreddery in store with this video performance of “Greed” at Garage Mahal earlier this year, filmed by The Angry Mountain.
Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze, the latest from Philadelphia psych-songwriter Kurt Vile, has generated international acclaim since its March release on Matador Records. And rightfully so; it’s an ambitious double album exploring a plethora of ideas, and doing them all masterfully. It’s expressive and expansive, but also tight and poppy. It’s deeply personal – “Too Hard,” Vile’s reaction to experiencing fatherhood, has him promising to “do my duty for god and my country,” a vow Boy Scouts know well – but elsewhere, you’ll find clever wordplay equating codeine with Springsteen in a manner both playful and universal. His backing band the Violators – guitarist Jesse Trbovich, bassist Rob Laakso and drummer Vince Nudo – craft layers of gripping instrumental interplay, stretching near ten minutes on the title track (and over on closer “Goldtone”); but the record also makes use of haunting minimal space and experimental textures. In short, it’s Vile’s strongest work to date, and tomorrow night he headlines a sold-out hometown show at Union Transfer with Angel Olsen and Steve Gunn opening after a lengthy spring tour. I got a chance to sit down with Vile before tour kicked off, and we discussed the record, its monumental artwork, and making music of epic proportions.
The Key: Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze sounds great, there’s so much going on. But song that really jumped out at me from the get-go was “Two Hard,” the one where you incorporate the Scouts Promise into the lyrics. Were you a Boy Scout when you were growing up?
Kurt Vile: Yeah. I mean, barely. My dad bribed me. I said I wasn’t gonna go into Boy Scouts and he said -like later that night, real smooth – he said if I joined Boy Scouts, he’ll get me a Swiss army knife. [laughs] So I don’t know, I was at the impressionable age. But yeah,that’s sort of just like a childhood reference. It’s such a dorky reference in a way too.
TK: Well the way it plays out in the lyrics, it kinda feels like you’re an adult looking back on this thing that you had to recite as a child in Boy Scouts, and seeing how it plays out in adult life.
KV: Yeah totally, that’s basically what it is. And then you basically just brush it off. I’m the king of brushing off exactly what I just said. [ laughs] You say you’re just human, so basically you’re just making an excuse for why you’re gonna screw up.
TK: It’s a great song. I love how expansive it is, and how expansive a lot of the record is.
KV: Yeah it’s definitely expansive.
TK: How did you come to like delve into that side of your songwriting again this time?
KV: I guess just cause that’s a natural thing to do, to just get lost in what you’re playing. Obviously there’s set verses and set, you know, sections, there’s all kinds of meticulous…it’s not jammy but if you can just let something go, the chords are simple enough to have that controlled improv in there. Not improv like jam band music, you know. More like jamming in the Velvet Underground sense. Continue reading
JEFF the Brotherhood kick off a two-night stand at Kung Fu Necktie tonight. The Nashville band of brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall got the music bug from their father, who has written / produced for Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire. The younger Orralls’ brand of music couldn’t be much further from that of Swift’s though – with a raucous live show and a sound that inevitably finds itself described as grungy, scuzzy and sludgy, JEFF the Brotherhood attract attention through a barrage of loud and distorted but equally quirky and endearing rock songs on their latest Hypnotic Nights LP. Tickets and information for tonight and tomorrow’s shows can be found here. Watch them perform “Sixpack” on Late Night with David Letterman below.
Vampire Weekend released their new album, Modern Vampires of the City, on Tuesday and recently performed a 12 song set at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio in Santa Monica for KCRW and NPR Music. Vampire Weekend play the Firefly Music Festival on Sunday, June 23. Video, set list below.
“I Stand Corrected”
“One (Blake’s Got A New Face)”
On their way to SXSW in March, Philly’s Thee, Idea Men stopped by WRVU in Nashville, TN with tourmates Katie Frank & The Pheromones, Dan Orlando and WC Lindsay. The group of local musicians performed a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” live on the Vanderbilt University radio station, with Orlando on keys and Lindsay behind the camera. Check out the footage below and see Thee, Idea Men live at MilkBoy on June 13th. Dan Orlando will be at Kennett Flash on June 1st. Tickets and information for both shows can be found here.
Having released their last record in 1985, Black Flag – whose Greg Ginn-led reunited lineup plays Union Transfer on June 20 – unveiled their first music in 28 years with two new songs this week. First came “Down in the Dirt,” a single in exchange for an email address. Then there’s the newest song, “The Chase,” which features a super low-rent music video and lyrics that are massively vague. Given how young these guys were when they rose to fame, we have to wonder what the original Black Flag fans think of all this recent activity. Check out “The Chase” video below, and let us know your reaction in the comments. Black Flag plays Union Transfer on June 17.
Alex Shaw is the band leader of of Philadelphia eleven-piece Brazilian music ensemble Alo Brasil. He’s also a vocalist, member of the Spoken Hand Percussion Ensemble, educator who works with the Live Connections nonprofit at World Cafe Live, and also teaches at University of the Arts. This week, he’s our featured guest at the Philly Local busker’s series at The Porch at 30th Street Station.
This will be a rare opportunity to see Shaw perform as a solo artist – usually, he’s performing in a large ensemble, or leading a large ensemble (or teaching a roomful of curious minds). Today, however, he performs with only a guitarist as accompaniment.
The hour-long show begins at noon at The Porch at 30th Street, right off of 30th and Market Streets in University City. To get a taste of the unaccompanied Shaw, watch him performing “Dia de Praia” in the video below. For more, listen to Alo Brasil’s Key Studio Session from earlier this month.