Split Single, R. Ring Hit Road Together

Jason Narducy’s solo project Split Single and R. Ring [Kelley Deal (The Breeders), Mike Montgomery (Ampline)] are heading out on tour together.

This joining of forces came about because Laura King, who techs for Superchunk, will be playing drums with R. Ring on this tour. King knows Narducy, so she asked each group if they’d like to play some shows together. They agreed, and booked
12 shows in 12 days.

Over the years, Narducy has played with Bob Mould, Superchunk and Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices), Liz Phair and Telekinesis. He formed 4-piece rock group Verbow after college, featuring cellist Alison Chesley, and punk band Verböten when he was 10 years old—only one year after receiving his first guitar.

Thirteen-year-old Dave Grohl saw ten-year-old Narducy play in Verböten, and credits him as the catalyst that made him want to be a musician. “Watching Jason was the first time I thought I could start my own band and write my own kind of music,” says Grohl. “Jason totally set my life in this new direction. It wasn’t a Jimmy Page or KISS poster I had — it was fuckin’ him!”

Working solo under the name Split Single, Narducy collaborates with other artists to record his songs and play shows.

On his latest release, Metal Frames, Narducy is joined by John Stirratt (bassist for Wilco) and once again by indie rock’s busiest drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, Bob Mould, The Mountain Goats, and comedy duo Sharpling and Wurster. 

For this tour, Narducy will be joined by drummer Tim Remus (Sweet Cobra) and Billy Yost (The Kickback) on bass. Certain dates will feature a second guitarist.

When Narducy set out make Metal Frames, he knew he wanted it to “be a little bit more rocking than the last record. I mean, I’m really proud of Fragmented World, it’s not like I have any regrets about it. But playing the Fragmented World songs live— I just wanted there to be some more loud rock songs.”

Split Single Metal Frames

Narducy has brought a good sense of humor to promoting his music through a series of videos.

“Some of them are self-deprecating, some of them are poking fun. The Sexiest Elbows in Rock pokes fun at exploiting sexuality and making oneself vulnerable in order to promote music,” he says. “So just thinking about the absurdities of being a musician and having fun with that. And it’s a nice creative outlet for me to do something different from music and also collaborate with other people… whether it be comedians or actors or other people that I look up to. And if they’re interested in doing something absolutely absurd and silly with me, then it can be a lot of fun.”

For the video for Untry Love, Narducy enlisted the help of two friends, comedian Dave Hill and songwriter Anya Marina, who try to mold him into “the ultimate between-song frontman.”

The video was shot in New York the day after Trump’s election.
“The crew was not sure if they were willing to do it, and I don’t blame them,” recalls Narducy. “Everybody was in shock, especially in New York. I mean, there were people weeping in the streets. It was a very dark day. But we all said, ‘we can go home and feel bad about ourselves, or we can collaborate with friends and be amongst friends and do something creative and try to not think about it for 12 hours.'”

The album’s shortest song, White Smoke, about the Tamir Rice murder in Cleveland, is also one that came the quickest to Narducy. 

“I’m fortunate that most of my childhood was in Chicago and in mixed neighborhoods, so I’ve always felt comfortable in diverse cultural surroundings,” he says. “Then I went to college in Baltimore, which is below the Mason-Dixon line, and I learned a lot about racism there and how real it is in America.”

“Trayvon Martin really struck home for me, that judgment.  Then Michael Brown right after that.  There’s so many. But Tamir Rice felt like the third one where they say that someone has a gun or they were going for a gun and they gave them a warning. You know, it’s sort of the same script. All of a sudden, with Tamir Rice, a video shows up that proves they were lying. It’s really difficult to watch that video, to watch a 12-year-old boy playing by himself. You know that was one of the lies; they said he was amongst all these other children and he wasn’t, he was by himself. And the cop car drives up into the park on the grass and the cop kills him in 1.7 seconds and then doesn’t help him. It’s just brutal. And then on top of all that, no one is held accountable for his death. So it’s a reminder that there need to be changes so that people in public feel safe, especially people of color.”

“I didn’t set out to write a song about that, it just sort of came out really fast,” Narducy continues. “It’s a short song and I might have written it faster than even the length of the song.”

“It’s important to me that that is discussed and that we move forward. It adds to my disgust with this current administration that Jeff Sessions, the new attorney general, is basically wanting to remove oversight for a lot of the actions that police officers take.”

“And listen, when I talk about these things— I’m friends with police officers. Just because you talk about something like this doesn’t mean you’re anti-police officer. I think 90 percent of police officers are doing the right thing, and sometimes they’re put in really horrible situations, and I couldn’t even imagine how scary they are or how much courage they take. It’s just— I don’t care if you’re a cop or not, if they murder someone, an unarmed person, they should be held accountable.”

R. Ring
R. Ring photo by Kristian Svitak
 

R. Ring duo Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery have been making music together since mid-2010. Their first full-length, Ignite the Rest, is set to release April 28 on SofaBurn Records.

Deal and Montgomery have a free podcast on iTunes where they discuss genre-defying Ignite the Rest track-by-track, sharing stories behind each song and talking about their history and the people they met along the way.

“We really go into each song,” says Deal. “Where the seed came from. Who had it. Did it start as a vocal thing or a guitar thing, or did one of us bring it more fully formed? Because it feels like each one has been a little bit different.”

R. Ring Ignite the Rest album artDeal and Montgomery first met when he recorded the version of Scalding Creek she did with Cincinnati’s Buffalo Killers for Guided By Voices tribute album Sing for Your Meat.

When they got together, they agreed they didn’t want R. Ring to be like their other projects. “It’s not like there’s a process that’s set in stone,” says Montgomery. “It’s that there’s an idea that we should leave ourselves open to explore an idea to its own end, and let a song go where it wants to go.”

“When you are in a band that has defined roles, like there’s a singer, there’s a drummer,  there’s a bassist, there’s a rhythm guitar,” he continues, “You end up almost subconsciously, inadvertently steering an idea to a destination with those roles in mind. You think, ‘Well I could do this part, but what does the other person play? Oh, the bass would go here. Okay, the drums would go like this, this is the beat.’ And before you know it, you’ve crafted a song. You’re not even done with the melody and you’ve got a full arrangement worked out in your head. It kind of takes it to a place that maybe it wouldn’t have gone if you weren’t a conductor and songwriter at the same time, trying to define the elements of the song.”

Just a couple months after meeting, R. Ring did their first show. “Someone asked us to get up there, and that’s what we did… We had fun, which was the most important thing… It was a totally open-ended thing,” Montgomery explains, “Like, this isn’t a band, there’s nothing proper hanging over us… It’s the idea that we could do something just for our own amusement and enjoy the process. That’s what the first show and the genesis of the band was all about.” 

“Yeah, and it’s kind of been keeping that,” agrees Deal. “Because especially in this day and age, you hear plenty about the industry. It really is all about the process more than ever. More than ever. It really is like, ‘are you enjoying it? Are you enjoying who you’re hanging with? Are you enjoying the process of creating music? Playing with somebody else. You know, getting in a van and driving somewhere with somebody. Because that’s a really wonderful thing.”

Montgomery agrees, “This is what the album is about. This is what the podcast is about. Talking to you right now is as much a part of being in a band; it’s as key or as relevant or as focus-worthy as anything else. Doing music is really about making art and creation and expression a part of your life.  So anyone that’s involved, whether you’re a poster silkscreener, or photocopying things at Kinkos, or a journalist—”

“Or a photographer,” chimes Deal.

“All of that stuff. All of these interactions, these relationships, this humanity is really like a small experience of the creation of a song,” Montgomery continues. “It’s not just playing a song live at a show, it’s everything that goes into it. All the neat people we meet along the way… from the person selling tickets to the roadie to the bartender to the opening act to the mechanic who did the oil change. All of that stuff, that is music to Kelley and I. And that’s what R. Ring is about, acknowledging that music is woven into the fabric of your life. A band is not defined by the narrow parameters of a single, an EP, a record, a tour. Being in a band is really your life.”

“There’s a lot of collaboration and cooperation that needs to take place, so you might as well enjoy it and you might as well surround yourself with people that you like being around,” he says.

This holistic outlook and openness led them to the musicians who play with them at shows and on album tracks, including drummer Laura King and cellist Lori Goldston.

Montgomery met King a couple years ago when she bought an R. Ring t-shirt online and his small one-man operation forgot to send it, so she emailed to remind him. “They just got to talking,” says Deal. “So when we went on tour last year, we had her band, Flesh Wounds, open some shows on the east coast. That’s how we started hanging with her.” 

“Now we’re like soulmates,” agrees Montgomery. “We’re on a team. We’re buddies.” He recalls that King was “instrumental in pulling (the song Cutter) together” while recording the Ignite the Rest album, when he and Deal weren’t sure it was shaping up.

Lori Goldston played cello on four tracks: Cutter, 100 Dollar Heat, Steam and You Will Be Buried Here. Deal met Goldston when The Breeders were touring with Nirvana for their In Utero tour. Goldston was Nirvana’s touring cellist. “I reconnected with her when Mike and I did a show in Seattle,” recalls Deal. “I walked in and there’s Lori Goldston. She happened to be in one of the local bands playing with us that night. I invited her to join us. I listened to her set and it was just beautiful. I said ‘Hey, can you just keep your stuff up there and just play along with us?’ She said ‘Sure!'”

“She put her cello through pedals and an amp,” continues Deal. It wasn’t like ‘I’m going to find a melody and play countermelodies that you can hear distinctly through everything.’ It was more like an ambience or overtone. Swells and meanderings. So it was really nice and atmospheric stuff that she was doing. And ever since then I was like, ‘When we do our record, we’re definitely gonna have her come out.’ And we did, and she came, and it was awesome.”

Kelley Deal (R. Ring) photo by Mara Robinson
Kelley Deal (R. Ring) photo by Mara Robinson
R Ring by Mara Robinson
Mike Montgomery (R. Ring) photo by Mara Robinson
Kelley Deal & Mike Montgomery (R. Ring) photo by Mara Robinson
Kelley Deal & Mike Montgomery (R. Ring) photo by Mara Robinson

Split Single and R. Ring play Cleveland’s Happy Dog Sunday, April 23. Local favorites Goldmines open (featuring members of Hot Cha Cha).
Check back with us after the show for our review and photo recap.

April 19: Newport, KY at Southgate House Revival
April 20: Columbus, OH at Rumba Café
April 21: Detroit, MI at Trinisophes
April 22: Chicago, IL at Schubas
April 23: Cleveland, OH at Happy Dog
April 24: Philadelphia, PA at Everybody Hits
April 25: Kingston, NY at BSP Kingston
April 26: Brooklyn, NY at Babys All Right
April 27: Baltimore, MD at Ottobar
April 28: Washington, DC at Comet Ping Pong
April 29: Chapel Hill, NC at Night Light

 

Photo Recap: Glen Phillips at Music Box

Best known for his talents as the lead singer and songwriter of Toad The Wet Sprocket, Glen Phillips has continued to perform as an independent artist focused on honest storytelling and compelling songwriting. The latest stop on tour in support of his latest album, Swallowed by the New, was to a packed but chilly crowd at Cleveland’s Music Box Supper Club. The biting cold and rain on a wintery March night couldn’t stop his passionate fans from sitting in on this show.

Amber Rubarth live in concert at Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland
Amber Rubarth photo by Mara Robinson

But first, wrapped in comfy scarf, blue dress and rose cowboy boots, Amber Rubarth took the stage and warmed up the icy crowd with a selection of acoustic numbers. The comforting blend of indie country and folk rock from her upcoming new album Wildflowers in the Graveyard were lovely and her light, soft voice captured the intimacy and strength of her songs. Even her gentle spin on REM’s Losing My Religion recast the classic song in a new light. Later in the set, the crowd got a preview of Glen Phillips as he joined Amber onstage for a stirring guitar and vocal duet. Amber will be returning next month for the Cleveland International Film Festival in support of her starring role in the movie “September 12th.” The film discusses people’s compassion and coming together following the events of September 11th. Amber and co-star Joe Purdy will perform after the screening in Tower City on April 1st and 3rd.

Glen Phillips live in concert at Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland
Glen Phillips photo by Mara Robinson

Glen Philips was excited to finally feel better for once. After just getting over a recent bout of sickness, he was finally able to let loose, bringing smiles and laughs to the crowd and his friends onstage. Joined by talented musicians/songwriters Amber Rubarth and fellow Toad collaborator Jonathan Kingham, Glen featured a majority of the tracks from Swallowed by the New, while taking time to weave their stories and settings between songs. At one point, he told the story of how Baptistina was named for the original source of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, only to find out the source was later disproven.

Jonathan Kingham and Amber Rubarth live in concert at Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland
Jonathan Kingham, Amber Rubarth, photo by Mara Robinson

Even though Phillips’ songs are emotional, the night was filled with fun and good spirits. His priceless reaction after his mention that the tour would be ending in Pittsburgh the following night was met with jeers and boos. “Is it a sports thing?” he asked innocently, before getting briefly educated about the infamous rivalry between the two cities. He started a new song, only to stop and remark, “You know, back in the day, this kind of hate was reserved for someone else breaking into your town and stealing all your sheep or something.”

Jonathan Kingham live in concert at Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland
Jonathan Kingham photo by Mara Robinson

The standout moment of the night belonged to Jonathan Kingham. Before turning the stage over to Kingham for a song, Phillips asked the crowd what they wanted to hear him play. Unanimously, we voted for “funky freestyle,” which Kingham obliged with a solo acoustic version of Every Little Step by Bobby Brown, complete with dance breakdown and off-the-dome freestyle lyrics. Bars included having the meatsweats from his pre-show shortrib dinner, and apologizing to the guy stage right for having to pay full price for a seat with a direct view of his ass all night. “You won’t normally see that at a Glen Phillips show!” he quipped at song’s end.

Glen Phillips, Amber Rubarth, and Jonathan Kingham live in concert at Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland
Glen Phillips photo by Mara Robinson

Glen’s voice is still as distinct and expressive as ever, with touching and tragic lyrics about love, loss, faith, his divorce, and hope combined with his signature folk-inspired songwriting. Even while Glen admitted on stage that “my songs are mainly about how sad I am,” each song of the evening’s set illustrated a wide range of feeling: from the forlorn lighthouse love song in the album’s opening song Go — which muses that sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to let them go — to the closing inspirational, stomping, hymnal chorus of Held Up. Glen also played several popular songs and fan favorites from his Toad The Wet Sprocket years, including All I Want, Walk On The Ocean, and an encore crowd request of Crowing that got the room singing along and ended the evening on a high note.

Glen Phillips live in concert at Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland
Glen Phillips photo by Mara Robinson

Photos: Howard Jones Plays Cleveland

New wave/synthpop musician Howard Jones is on a North American tour and made a stop in Cleveland last night at the Music Box Supper Club.

The English artist is known for 15 top-40 hits in the 80s and early 90s, including No One is to Blame, Everlasting Love, New Song, What is Love, Like to Get to Know You Well, and Life in One Day.

Howard Jones by Mara Robinson
Howard Jones photo by Mara Robinson

Whereas past tours have featured simply Jones and a piano, this tour adds the flavor of a second synth player and an electronic drummer for a fuller, more rocking sound closer to the way we hear them on his albums.

Jones is a fantastic performer, and he peppered his set with just the right amount of between-song storytelling. He introduced Life in One Day as a song that is full of lies. “The old man said to me don’t always take your life so seriously? That’s a lie, my father never said that. The record company asked for another hit so I made this up,” Jones admitted. “No. Take your life seriously, especially in this day and age.” Although he agreed that learning to “play the flute and dance and sing your song” is pretty good advice, especially given the flute stylings of Ron Burgundy.

A couple times he’d interrupt a song to tell a quick story, like when he stopped New Song‘s chorus to talk about how much the critics hated his music back in the day, but how the public loved it.

For an encore he played Things Can Only Get Better, bringing a fantastic evening to a close. He described it as a mantra for when life isn’t going so well. But after such a fun and inspiring show, things were just about as good as they can get.

Howard Jones by Mara Robinson
Howard Jones photo by Mara Robinson
Howard Jones by Mara Robinson
Howard Jones photo by Mara Robinson

Photos: Death From Above 1979 at Cleveland HOB

Death From Above 1979 performing live at the House of Blues Cleveland October 11, 2016.
Death From Above 1979 features Sebastien Grainger (drums, vocals) and Jesse Keeler (guitar, vocals).

Death From Above 1979 played in support of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (photos here) and along with Deap Vally (photos here).

See more images from this show and others at MaraRobinson.com.

Death From Above 1979 by Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 at House of Blues photo by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 by Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 at House of Blues photo by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 by Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 at House of Blues photo by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 by Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 at House of Blues photo by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 by Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 at House of Blues photo by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 by Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 at House of Blues photo by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 by Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 at House of Blues photo by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 by Mara Robinson
Death From Above 1979 at House of Blues photo by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson

Photos: Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues

Deap Valley live at the House of Blues Cleveland, with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Death From Above 1979.

Deap Valley features Lindsey Troy (guitar, vocals) and guest drummer Lia Simone filled in last night for Julie Edwards.

See more of last night’s photos here: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Death From Above 1979.

All photos by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson.
See more images from this show and others here.

Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues Oct 11, 2016 photo by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues Oct 11, 2016 photo by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues Oct 11, 2016 photo by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues Oct 11, 2016 photo by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues Oct 11, 2016 photo by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues by Mara Robinson
Deap Vally at Cleveland House of Blues Oct 11, 2016 photo by Mara Robinson

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