Interview: Blurring the punk rock lines with Ohio pop songsmiths The Sidekicks (playing The First Unitarian Church tonight)

the sidekicks smallerHad I heard last years Awkward Breeds LP without knowing anything about the people who created it, I would not have guessed that Columbus, Ohio four-piece The Sidekicks had such strong ties to the punk / hardcore world. The DIY group plays basements and house shows, releases split 7″ singles with bands like Tiger’s Jaw, makes the annual pilgrimage to Gainesville, Florida for Fest, and are generally scuzzy and raw performers. The album, on the other hand – polished production, total hooks, very poppy and infectious, connecting the dots between Weezer, The Replacements and Elvis Costello. (That split actually has a fantastic cover of the latter’s “Angel’s Wanna Wear My Red Shoes.”)

The band is currently on a late summer tour with Philly’s Hop Along – the two were also tourmates this spring on a run of European dates. Tonight they make their way through Philly to play the First Unitarian Church, and I swapped emails with singer-guitarist Steve Ciolek about Columbus, new music and The Sidekicks’ place in the punk rock world.

The Key: Tell me about the Columbus scene. The only other current band I know from there is the folk-ish group Saintseneca, which is also very DIY but with a totally different sound. Is there much cross-pollination between the different DIY players? Does OSU wind up being a hub?

Steve Ciolek: Columbus is great, there’s really a lot of different little scenes depending on what you’re into. But yeah, we definitely have existed more in the house-show DIY scene there until more recently when we’ve been playing a couple clubs and stuff. I’ve been playing with Saintseneca for the past couple years (as have a lot of other Columbus folks intermittently), so you’d be right about the cross-pollination. Our band has also had various players in the underground scene fill in at shows for us (including Saintseneca members actually). It’s pretty awesome how many different bands include members of other bands too. Ryan (Starinsky, bassist) plays in a band called Nasty Habit with the drummer of Tin Armor, and there’s lots of bands that offshoot from the pop punk band Delay, intermingling with all sorts of folks. OSU keeps things fresh and keeps the punk scene from being too samey and jaded. Continue reading →


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Hop Along / The Sidekicks at The First Unitarian Church, Future Islands at World Café Live Wilm

hop alongIndie rock outfits Hop Along (from Philly) and The Sidekicks (from Columbus, Ohio) play a double header show at The First Unitarian Church tonight. Don’t miss it because Hop Along has two new songs they plan to debut on this tour. Check out show details and get tickets here. Watch The Sidekicks perform “Grace” in their Vegas Stripped Down Session and Hop Along’s video for “Sister Cities” below.

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The Week So Far: 10 must-read stories on The Key (incl. David Wax Museum, Pill Friends, At Fest)


This week’s show announcements include The Last Bison and David Wax Museum at World Cafe Live, Hop Along and The Sidekicks at The First Unitarian Church, Man Man at Union Transfer [linklink and link]

Stream and download Laura Stevenson‘s Folkadelphia Session [link]

You gotta hear “Find a Way” by Elastic Bond this week [link]

Get a free download of Wild Ones‘ bubbly “Curse Over Me” from their debut LP [link]

Local dream-poppers Lockets share b-side “Girl” from their upcoming single release [link]

Steady Hands release new video, free download for “I Swear Like a Sailor” [link]

Get inside the studio with Jesse Baker Band in the video for “We’re Gonna Make It” [link]

Stream two new tracks from Pill Friends‘ new LP Blessed Suffering [link]

The Trocadero will screen the world premiere of Philadelphia Folk Festival documentary At Fest on 8/7 [link]

Explore Alex Savoth’s new direction with The New Black [link]


Just Announced: Hop Along and Ohio’s The Sidekicks playing The First Unitarian Church on 9/3

Pretty awesome news from the Guild Shows crew: Philly’s Hop Along and Columbus four-piece The Sidekicks – who toured Europe together this spring – will reconvene here in Philly to headline the basement of the First Unitarian Church on September 3rd. Tickets for the all-ages show are $10 in advance, $12 at the door and go on sale this Friday the 19th at noon via R5 Productions, and more information can be found at the show’s Facebook event page. Below, listen to tracks from each of the bands and watch an interview with Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan filmed on the European tour.


Watch Hop Along perform “Kids on the Boardwalk” at House of Vans

HopAlongHop Along, the Philly art-punk three-piece who recently recorded an outstanding Shaking Through Session, played at House of Vans free concert series this past weekend in New York.  As first of three acts, Hop Along warmed up the crowd for Title Fight and Fucked Up, showing some real energy in summer heat of New York City.  Below, check out a video of the band performing
“Kids on the Boardwalk” at the show; you can also see Title Fight playing “Shed / 27″ here.


A conversation with Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan about creating “Sister Cities” in a day for Shaking Through

FrancesEarlier today, the folks at Weathervane Music debuted the latest installment in their Shaking Through series – a gritty, poppy number from Philly’s Hop Along called “Sister Cities.” The song is loosely based on Günter Grass’ book The Tin Drum, it was written this winter and recorded over the course of 24 hours at Fishtown’s Miner Street Studios. This is something of a change of pace for Hop Along – frontwoman Frances Quinlan is an admitted perfectionist, and their excellent 2012 LP Get Disowned was the result of two years of hard work at Headroom Studios. What was it like going into a situation where they had to finish the song in a day? How did “Sister Cities” grow from its solo beginnings we heard at Quinlan’s PhilaMOCA show in January to the rager we hear today? And will this experience change how Hop Along works in the studio? I caught up with Quinlan at Johnny Brenda’s last week to find the answers to these questions and more.

The Key: How would you say songs, this one in particular, change between when you first write and when you have a finished / recorded project?

Frances Quinlan: This was really different from songs I’ve worked out in the past; it’s been a while since I’ve really felt like I had to beat the shit out of a song. I remember reading this interview with Tom Waits and he was talking about how some songs come to you in a dream and some songs are like a dance. And some songs you have to drag kicking and screaming and, like, fight with them. I really felt like this song was a fight. I remember we were jamming it a while back and everyone was like, “yeah, you know, this is cool.” But we really did not have strong feelings about it until we got in the studio and hashed it out. The structure was the same, but the feeling of it changed in the studio.

TK: So when you say, “when we got in the studio” do you mean you got to Miner Street and didn’t know that was song you were going to record?

FQ: No, we knew. We had no other song that I really felt confident enough to say, “oh sure we could make this work in a day”. This one started out as a very straight song. I thought it was mellow! To me it was like a uniform feeling all the way through, but it was steady and I was like, “that’s what we have, this is what we can work with, we can do something and it won’t be terrible”…you know? But no, we got in there and it was like 75 percent, 80 percent done. It needed some character to it. But that’s why you take that shit to a studio and figure it out! [laughs]

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Philly’s Hop Along debuts a raging new song, “Sister Cities,” in this month’s Shaking Through session

HopAlongWe’ve been pretty geeked out about this month’s installment of Weathervane Music’s Shaking Through series since telltale hints about it popped up on Instagram a couple months back. Philly’s Hop Along – architects of the best album of 2012, Get Disownedstepped into Miner Street Recordings this spring with a brand new song, “Sister Cities,” in tow. If you caught Frances Quinlan’s solo set at The Key’s Tuesday Tune-Out back in January, you heard her perform a very early version of it – one that the band fleshed out to tremendous effect with engineer Jonathan Low and producer Brian McTear. It’s simultaneously Hop Along at their poppiest, most anthemic/accessible, and also their most raging. Listen and download the track below, watch the documentary video and be on the lookout for our interview with Quinlan about her Shaking Through experience later today.

Shaking Through: Hop Along from Weathervane Music on Vimeo.


Review: The Thermals, Hop Along and Cayetana wow a devoted crowd at Union Transfer

Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Portland indie-punk power trio The Thermals returned to Philly on Saturday with their new album, Desperate Ground, in tow. Before the band played to a teeming crowd of devoted fans, local favorites Hop Along and Cayetana turned in impressive performances.

First and foremost, shout outs to Cayetana for their opening set. I saw this Seattle-esque punk three piece play an awkward set in a north Philly basement earlier this year that left me skeptical of their merits. This time, everyone outside Union Transfer was raving about how much they rocked the crowd, particularly Kelly Olsen, who pushed her heart out on the drums and into the crowd.

Hop Along was even more impressive. Frances Quinlan’s raspy siren voice leads me through a raw, childishly uninhibited path. Her abstract lyrics and pounding rapid riffs take my heartstrings for a leash. Mark Quinlan’s work on the drums honestly sent me into a trance for “Young and Happy,” and supported the ensemble of Frances, bassist Tyler Long and second guitar player Joe Reinhart (formerly of Algernon Cadwalader). Hop Along opened with a brand new song called “Sister Cities” – it’s a rager and it’s catchy, and will be released in next week’s installment of the Shaking Through series – rightfully finished with their biggest hit, “Tibetan Pop Stars, but the whole album resonates with this writer. My only complaint is they played at a faster tempo than what’s released on Get Disowned, but I also understand the time crunch and anxiety muddled into being an opening act at Union Transfer.

The Thermals took the stage permeating electricity and facing honest-to-god crowd worship. The Oregon three-piece’s whole set was intense; lead singer Hutch Harris and drummer Westin Glass repeatedly jumped into the crowd to dance and be surrounded by their Philly devotees (because there is really no other way to describe the crowd’s reaction to when they started playing). Harris has the rawest face I’ve ever seen playing a set. It contorts into a pleading frown, and it shoots through to his pulsing neck veins and rigid shoulders every time he slams down on his guitar. The pit swelled when they started playing “How We Know” a few songs in and lasted until their final encore of “No Culture Icons.” By “Here’s Your Future,” the pit spanned the length of the stage in a clapping, dancing, nodding moshing mess of human beings. Check out a gallery of photos from the show below.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Sundrop Music Festival at The Fire, The Thermals at Union Transfer


Back for its third year, the Sundrop Music and Arts Festival is happening at The Fire this weekend.  Juston Stens & The Get Real Gang, Andrew Lipke, Up the Chain and Satellite Hearts are among the bands billed for the two day event, which continues tomorrow.  In addition to the ticketed, 21+ shows inside The Fire there will be free all-ages concerts on an outdoor stage on Liethgow Street with craft booths and food.  Tickets and information can be found here.  Below, download a Key Studio track from Juston Stens & The Get Real Gang.

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