Japanese Voyeurs

London based 5-piece Japanese Voyeurs should’ve probably been born 20 years ago, in an era when ripped jeans and plaid shirts were all the rage and a disenfranchised youth of a generation X ruled the roost, but ‘hey!’ let’s not hold that against them, because Japanese Voyeurs have taken the sum core ingredient of Grunge and maximized it with their love of rock and raucous guitars, turning it up to number #11, with their own,  new ferocious slant. Resulting in a sound that is sure to make most other bands’ balls shrivel in comparison.

Japanese Voyeurs… be careful what you Google for!

Hopewell

Purveyors of the new psych-rock scene, Hopewell have been blending vintage fuzz pedal jams with their early space rock and shoegaze roots for over a decade, their 2001 full-length, ‘The Curved Glass’, being the perfect, noisy bridge between the epic psychedelia of ‘90s acts like Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev and a newer generation of bands that include Dungen, Dead Meadow and Serena Maneesh. Their sixth album, ‘Good Good Desperation’ effortlessly slips from cacophonous dueling piano passages, à la Stravinsky, to the Hammond-driven roots rock of ‘The Basement Tapes’, while creating something uniquely its own. ‘Good Good Desperation’ inhabits a world where The Album is not a lost art, and invites listeners on a journey from dirty downtown New York City scenes to blissful Californian deserts.

In between tours and throughout 2008 Hopewell set out to make a record that more captured their live sound. It was during this time that Jonathan Donahue invited the band to play a 30-minute segment of music on his WDST Woodstock radio program in upstate New York. For this show the group composed a structured improvisational piece, a composition loosely dubbed “The Opus,” which would become the progenitor for many of the songs on the album to come. Immersed in heavy doses of bands like This Heat, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music and the perennial favorite, Jane’s Addiction, Hopewell booked time in local Brooklyn studios Seizures Palace and Seaside Lounge (home to great records from bands like Akron Family, Angels of Light and Psychic Ills) and set about recording their own work.

‘Good Good Desperation’ could easily be considered Hopewell’s Meddle or Tago Mago chapter in a lengthy history that includes countless singles and compilations, and opening for My Bloody Valentine on their recent reunion tour, working in the past with producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), recording a Peel session live at Abbey Road Studio, and playing Reading and Leeds Festivals — all without the help of a large label, manager or booking agent.

With ‘Good Good Desperation’, Hopewell’s journey continues in a grassroots, homespun sort of way — albeit it’s their own noisy path — and as they learned after their negative brush with the mainstream, they wouldn’t want it any differently.

Goes Cube

Many bands get all uppity about how they hate labels and comparisons and all that, but Brooklyn’s Goes Cube don’t really care what you call them. They’re just unpretentious like that – no fancy gear, no fancy clothes or haircuts. They’re simply three friends who are obsessed with making each song heavier, more intense, more glorious, and just plain better than the last.

Goes Cube has steadily gained attention as one of the most intense bands in both their hometown of New York City, and beyond. Their music is a brutal blend of metal, punk, and full-on rock, and is performed with an urgency rarely witnessed or experienced anymore. None of the members have any sort of formal or traditional training on their instruments, and as a result their music—from the dizzying and unexpected drum fills, bizarrely and lowly-tuned guitars, and unrelenting bass—has a singularity in its sound and structure that simply does not exist elsewhere.

Call it metal, call it post-metal, call it quasi-metal-post-punk-pre-twenty-second-century-independent-art-sounds if you’re into that kind of thing. But just do yourself a favor: Take a listen.

Dinosaur Pile-Up

Even at such an early stage in their career, Leeds based trio Dinosaur Pile-Up can already boast a list of achievements as long as their sound is mighty.

With an NME Radar piece already under their belts, 2009 began with the release of their debut limited edition single ‘My Rock N Roll’ in January. Quickly selling out, the song enjoyed massive support from Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens and Steve Lemacq among others and quickly introduced the band to other markets including Germany, where, following a performance at Eurosonic in Holland, the band headlined the first Club NME in Berlin. The band also made friends in France where they toured as part of the prestigious Les Inrocks national tour in April. ‘The Most Powerful EP In The Universe’ came after that along with storming festival performances at the likes of Reading & Leeds.

Entering 2010 the band hit the studio to record their debut album, ‘Growing Pains‘; the result is a storming rock powerhouse of big pop songs driven by the kind of wall shaking undercurrent only a three piece can muster. Dinosaur Pile-Up band has a bright future ahead of them.

Dead Confederate

Atlanta, Georgia 2006 and a local five-piece consisting of friends tight since their school days are sick of being local. They’re sick of coasting. Sick of the jobs that barely keep them in guitar strings and barely cover their graduate debts. Sick of being little more than a jam band. So they take decisive action. They move to Athens, Georgia, they change their name, grow an exotic range of facial hair and they get serious. Dead serious.

Within eighteen months the newly-named Dead Confederate had found their voice via the new clutch music by songwriters Hardy Morris and Brantley Senn – a stirring combination of searing alt-rock with traces of timeless Americana and the darkest of country and heaviest of psychedelia buried in there too. They had built a fresh fan base from scratch and experienced that lucky break that can so often be the difference between greatness and obscurity.

It was while being picked up at an airport that former A&R man / Capitol Records boss Gary Gersh – who in signing Sonic Youth and Nirvana to Geffen in the early 90s effectively made underground alternative rock a mainstream concern for the first time – heard Dead Confederate demo’s playing on his friend’s car stereo. A few meetings later and the band were signed to his label The Artist Organization, their self-titled EP following soon after in 2008. Dead Confederate were up and running and haven’t paused for breath since.

Shows with the likes of Black Lips and Deerhunter followed, but it was their appearance supporting fellow Athens band REM at South By South West 2008 that made Dead Confederate one of the most talked about new bands in the US. The Daily Telegraph dubbed them as “a hairy American Radiohead” and while there are certainly shades of early Thom Yorke and co, we can hear Nirvana, Mudhoney, My Morning Jacket, Lift To Experience, early Pink Floyd, Screaming Trees, Drive-By Truckers and Soul Asylum lurking deep within their widescreen musical vistas – music that simultaneously stabs the heart and kisses your cheek.

And so the real hard work began. In early 2008 Dead Confederate hit the studio to make their debut album. Recorded over a month in Austin, Texas with producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, …Trail Of Dead) in the latter band’s miniscule rehearsal space-cum-garage (“It was about the size of an average hotel room,” laughs Senn) on ancient recording equipment, it was the culmination of ten years of work.

‘Wrecking Ball’ was the result and its release in September 2008 sent Dead Confederate spinning across America with their spiritual noise-fathers Dinosaur Jr then over to Europe with like-minded newcomers A Place To Bury Strangers in a touring cycle that hasn’t ended yet.

In late 2008 Dead Confederate dipped a foot into the big time when they appeared on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Aside from reaching the living rooms of America perhaps more importantly they showed to their parents that there was potential in this here rock business after all and that their college degrees – Dead Confederate are an academic and highly literate band – weren’t taken in vain. The lesson learned? Never, ever give up. Or maybe: build it and they shall come.

In early 2009 the quintet scored a Top 40 US hit with ‘The Rat’ – not bad for a protest song against the religious right – before they recently embarked upon another European tour with Dinosaur Jr then segueing straight into a tour with another legendry alt-rock band, Meat Puppets.

It all begins to make sense when you see Dead Confederate live.  Propelled by the crushing drums of Jason Scarboro, eccentric guitar work from Walker Howle, and ambient organ sounds via John “J5” Watkins….The band’s shows carry the torch for all the great hirsute underground freaks of the 80s and early 90s…yet Dead Confederate are a band that could only have been shaped by the 21st century.  Their wall of sound could be taken as a giant metaphor for modern America itself: simultaneously expansive, emotive, affable, troubled, paranoid, confused, confident, complex and resolutely dark of heart. As their moniker suggests, however, the only flag this band is waving is for themselves and their kind: the freaks, the forgotten, the hard bitten anti-heroes and the volume junkies.

By autumn of 2009 Dead Confederate’s beards and moustaches were out of control and their eyes squinting a thousand yards into the distance. The road can do that to you.

Bad For Lazarus

Brighton based Bad for Lazarus are the new noise-merchants to watch out for. Pitching their violent pop in an ungodly realm somewhere between Buddy Holly and Slayer, their sound straddles a wealth of punk, hardcore, Motown and doo-wop influences whilst maintaining a self defined mission to write simple yet brilliant songs.

They have already built a reputation as one of the South’s most bombastic and vicious live acts, leaving a trail of shattered glass and sweat stained walls in their wake. Now the time has come for the chaos to be committed to record and unleashed for all to hear.

On the subject of sometimes obtuse lyrical matter, Bad for Lazarus front man Rich Fownes says “It’s important to me that the lyrics are somewhat absurd as there’s always a raw, angry vibe to the music and the subject matter, and there’s nothing worse than woe-is-me, sullen, introspective rock bands / artists. I can’t read a Jonathon Davis interview without being sick in my mouth. Depression and self-loathing are the new sex in rock music, but I don’t find anyone being emotionally retarded and self-involved charming.”

Bad for Lazarus; the name is taken from the famous bible story in which Jesus lets down his followers by arriving too late to the deathbed of Lazarus to save him, only to later perform a miracle and bring him back to life. Echoing sentiments of previous musical endeavors ceasing (having previously played with Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, With Scissors, Nine Inch Nails and UNKLE) Fownes explains, “I liked the idea of reincarnation after the year I’d just had… and the idea of Jesus, the first celebrity, getting all the kudos for essentially getting there late”.

In starting Bad for Lazarus, Fownes was determined to create something he truly believed in, writing all new material and recruiting the finest and most charismatic musicians Brighton has to offer.

Alberta Cross

Alberta Cross‘ 2009 album ‘Broken Side of Time’ was released through Ark Recordings and features more than clever verses and catchy choruses. Truly timeless albums offer listeners the keys to another world; they catapult you into another frame of mind and jostle your soul a little bit along the way. ‘Broken Side of Time’ is one of those albums.

‘Broken Side of Time’ took root in an April 2008 jam session, guitarist/vocalist Petter Ericson Stakee and bassist Terry Wolfers’ first with three players they would quickly enlist—guitarist Sam Kearney, drummer Austin Beede and keyboardist Alec Higgins. With the aid of a little drink and a little smoke, the five jammed on a group of Stakee’s then-new songs, giving birth to Alberta Cross’ second incarnation almost immediately: “I remember thinking that night, ‘This is gonna be insane,’” reminisces Stakee.

Their well-received debut EP, 2007’s ‘The Thief & the Heartbreaker’, was a modest, folk-minded, acoustic-based disc that garnered glowing reviews. But, for Stakee and Wolfers, it was a baby step. This, meanwhile, is a giant stride ahead, one that marks the band’s official introduction to America. Recorded in Austin, produced by the band with Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Dead Confederate, Heartless Bastards) & mixed by John O’Mahony (Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Kasabian) at Electric Lady Studios, the album melds propulsive, throbbing bass lines and crashing waves of guitar to a haunting, impassioned voice that can sound ancient and Appalachian.

Something of an about-face from ‘The Thief & the Heartbreaker’, the album, says Stakee, bears the influence of years of frustration logged in the shadow of Manhattan: “It’s kind of a desperation album, a darker album; it’s definitely angrier. We’ve been in a crazy place during the whole album, and you can hear that.” Appropriately, Stakee was listening to Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and the grimmer, gospel songs of Depeche Mode while writing the songs of ‘Broken Side of Time’. On songs like ‘Rise From the Shadows’ and ‘Ghost of City Life’ he speaks directly of their situation and surroundings.
Alberta Cross have toured extensively through the UK, sharing the stage with Oasis, The Shins, Bat for Lashes and Simian Mobile Disco, among others. “If we weren’t playing for people every night, we would be going mad” Stakee says. Adds Wolfers, “we do it, because we need to.”

Story of The Year

If Story of the Year’s career achievements – from 2003’s smash debut ‘Page Avenue’ to headlining massive festivals such as the Vans Warped Tour and Taste of Chaos, to world tours with the likes of My Chemical Romance, Linkin Park and The Used – have been abundant, they’ve also been the result of the esteemed modern rock outfit’s tireless work ethic and willingness to push boundaries musically.

2009 saw the band release their first record for Epitaph ‘The Black Swan’. “It’s about our band,” Dan acknowledges. “Before we signed to Epitaph, things were up in the air for us. We knew we didn’t want to be on a major label anymore. We were like, ‘What does this mean? Is our band done?’ We really had to work through it and it was a weird time for us. But it’s also been a really positive experience. Like, ‘we’re going to get through this together and nothing can stop us!’”

Despite a back catalog that counts a half dozen radio staples (like 2003’s ‘Until The Day I Die’ to 2006’s ‘Take Me Back’) and a wall full of gold and platinum awards for record sales in North America, Japan and Australia, Story of the Year’s loyal fans are its principal concern. And the legions that discovered the group via ‘Page Avenue’ will be pleased to learn the group re-teamed with producer John Feldmann for a handful of tracks on ‘The Black Swan’. 

Rancid

Rancid – Tim Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Matt Freeman (bass, vocals), Lars Frederiksen (vocals, guitar), Branden Steineckert (drums) – as a band have always been imbued with a sense of place:  the blue collar neighborhoods where they grew up, their place as individuals within their band, their band as part of a movement and their evolving sense of place in relation to the world at large.

Born in the midst of the post-Reagan economic downturn in the San Francisco Bay Area, the East Bay region specifically, Rancid came to light as Armstrong and Freeman were moving forward after the first band they founded, Operation Ivy, reached a friendly demise.  Arguably the most influential band from the Bay Area, the West Coast, the late 1980s or ever, depending on who you talk to, Operation Ivy has been cited by everyone from Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong to Fat Mike of NOFX as the group that most affected the sound of their own bands.  But just as those fledgling punk rock superstars’ careers were getting started, Armstrong and Freeman were starting over.

Enter Brett Gurewitz, no stranger himself to blossoming from a rabid local following – in this case Los Angeles — to worldwide influence.  Gurewitz was first known to Armstrong and Freeman as the guitar player and songwriter in legendary Los Angeles hardcore band Bad Religion, but by the early 1990s, Gurewitz was splitting his time between being a touring musician, record producer and the head of a swiftly growing independent label, Epitaph.  A big fan of Operation Ivy, Gurewitz had once told Armstrong that whenever he started a new band, Epitaph would sign them, sight unseen.  A few years later, he had his wish.

Rancid’s self-titled first full-length and Epitaph debut came out May 10th, 1993 and was filled with the ferocity of three guys (Armstrong and Freeman, along with original drummer Brett Reed) still living in squats, getting around on bikes or in old beaters and viewing the world with all the hostility of the very young and opinionated.  Rancid had seen the American dream dwindle and fade in their country and in their community, saw its end trickle down into their families, and their early songs, like ‘Whirlwind’ were filled with vivid descriptions of the aftermath.

Though free from any of Operation Ivy’s signature ska/punk sound, Rancid took up the torch of social commentary and the examination of the local scene and instantly inflamed the newly revived punk community, setting the stage for what was to come.

Rancid’s ‘Let’s Go’ came out in June of 1994, just before Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ and the Offspring’s ‘Smash’.  Together, these records, along with Rancid’s next release ‘…And Out Come the Wolves’ a mere 14 months later, would provide the soundtrack for youth in the US — and beyond — in the mid 90s, as punk leapt from relatively isolated local scenes onto the worldwide stage.  Hailed by many critics as the next original phase of authentic American music, this catchy style of punk rock captured a moment in time and forever changed the face of popular, mainstream music.  For better or worse, Tim Armstrong’s mohawk was no longer a badge that would subject its wearer to suspicion and hostility on the street.  Rather, in all its glory, it was emblazoned across the cover of Alternative Press magazine, followed closely by Spin, Details and others.  Young kids rushed to copy it.  Punk had officially arrived, dragging Rancid along with it.

Further albums and magnified fame and recognition followed. A six year gap between 2003’s ‘Indestructible’ and the band’s next album ‘Let The Dominoes Fall’ saw the member’s of Rancid pursuing other projects.  ‘Let the Dominoes Fall’ is filled with songs that examine military service — timely in the midst of the US’s protracted war in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also written for Armstrong’s brother who served in Iraq.

New Found Glory

New found energy, new found purpose: that’s what ‘Not Without A Fight’ is all about. The first New Found Glory album to bear the Epitaph logo brims with fresh promise, showcasing a band comfortable in their own skin and eager to get back to basics and present it all to the world. ‘Not Without A Fight’ is arguably the strongest addition to an impressive catalog with no less than three gold records and some of the most memorable songs of the past decade.

“Nobody in New Found Glory loves anything as much as this band,” says guitarist Chad Gilbert, by way of explanation as to how they have managed to maintain the same lineup – Pundik, Gilbert, Steven Klein (guitar), Ian Grushka (bass) and Cyrus Bolooki (drums) – for over ten years. “You fight with your mom. You don’t hang out with her all the time. But you love her! You’re never going to hate her. We’re family. It might sound cliche, but that’s what it is.”

That family first came together in Coral Springs, Florida in 1997. ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ (1999) and ‘New Found Glory’ (2000) became classics thanks to hard-touring and good natured relationship building the world over, which ensured the next two albums (‘Sticks and Stones’ and ‘Catalyst’) would both debut in the Top 5 on the Billboard 200 chart.
As happens all too often, the uber-successful and beloved band found themselves delivering ‘Coming Home’ to a group of relative strangers who lacked the same investment in them as before. By 2006, many of the folks who worked with the band at the label had been replaced by new faces, from the president on down. “At major labels, people are always losing their jobs,” Gilbert points out. “Someone can love your band one week and the next week that person is fired.”
With their recording contract fulfilled and in between management, New Found Glory seized the opportunity to have some fun while weighing their options, releasing ‘From the Screen to Your Stereo Part II’  (something their most ardent supporters had demanded for years) and a split EP with their alter-ego, International Superheroes Of Hardcore.
“It brought this different attention to our band that we hadn’t had in a while,” Gilbert says. “Through the major label years, some of those lines got blurred because of some of the things the label did representing our band. With the release on Bridge 9 Records, we were able to do things how we wanted to do them. It was awesome.”

In the midst of all of this, the band continued to write their next album, which they ultimately decided to record before choosing a new label. That’s where +44 / Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus came in, agreeing to produce ‘Not Without A Fight’ at the studio he co-owns with Travis Barker. “He’s an old friend of ours,” Gilbert explains. “We had no money to make the record so we wanted someone with the confidence to do the album for free and get reimbursed later.”

Eventually, of course, the label situation needed sorted out, as the guys in New Found Glory have no desire to be in any kind of “business” other than than business of writing great songs, recording them and playing them live. “When we announced that we were no longer signed to Geffen two years ago, Brett Gurewitz was the first one to call me,” Gilbert remembers. “‘People at Epitaph are all music fans and have their shit together.”

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