Melodic Rockers The Kickback Unleash New Breakup Album, Tour

Chicago melodic rock band The Kickback knows how to write a catchy pop song, even through the pain and heartbreak of divorce. Their sophomore album Weddings and Funerals just dropped Friday, and is almost entirely about the end of frontman Billy Yost’s marriage.

A universal, relatable breakup album for sure, but this is not sad bastard music like Elliott Smith or Bon Iver. If you don’t listen to the lyrics, the upbeat tone could seem almost the opposite. It starts off loud and fast and doesn’t let up for 32 minutes.

The Kickback Weddings and Funerals

In late 2009, Yost moved to Chicago from his home town of Beresford, South Dakota. He made the move for a girl, whom he ended up marrying. Fast-forward a few years and divorce was imminent.

They’d met at the University of South Dakota when he was a 19-year-old freshman and she was a junior. “We were together for about 10 years and married for the last three,” he recalls. “The band was just gone all the time and dictated our ability to really do much of anything. I don’t fault her for leaving. I was just so blindly in love while not being able to understand how hard it was for her to prop us both up for so long.”

This past December, The Kickback traveled to Los Angeles to record Weddings and Funerals with multi-Grammy-winning producer/songwriter Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Animal Collective, The Walkmen, Ben Folds) at DTLA Recording, an expansive open space in the historic Arts District that Yost believes used to be an illegal marijuana grow house. 

“It’s a very non-traditional studio,” says Yost. “It’s giant, it’s open-air. There are these big garage doors that are up most of the time unless you’re recording really loud stuff. The ceilings are probably 30-feet. It’s just this big room. Everybody’s just in the same room at all times. If you’re not the one recording stuff, you’re still in the middle of everything, which was a really cool way to make a record. You always knew what was going on.”

So the band arrived at the studio with a handful of partially written songs and got to work. “Our first record, we went in with every part completely written and ready to put on tape. But for this record, we showed up in LA with the verses and choruses and bridges but no idea of how everything was gonna come together,” he says. “That was scary, but it was also weirdly kind of freeing.”

Herring had a hand in helping the songs take shape. “It was good to work with someone who’s as bull-headed as we are,” says Yost. “We were hoping we could work with someone who would fight for songs, and Dennis was definitely that guy. He said, ‘When you’re recording, your feelings don’t really matter.’ He just wanted the songs to be good.”

“Dennis had a song-by-song approach, which I liked,” says Yost. “It takes longer, but Dennis works a little chaotically. At any given moment you weren’t sure if you were gonna spend the whole day reading a magazine, or if you needed to be ready to record drums on a song that had been reworked five times already and you weren’t really sure what the part was.”

“Especially for the other guys. I think it was 30 days of having to be on your toes at any possible moment, which I think was a little stressful for everybody, but it’s the way Dennis works.”

Despite his powerful singing voice and energetic promo videos, Yost is soft-spoken over the phone today. But he’s also super hilarious. Never once laughing at his own jokes, he delivers anecdotes and one-liners with a deadpan even tone.

“Dennis is kind of like that guy where they did that experiment where they would give a kid one donut now, or if they could wait, they’d give them two donuts an hour from now. That’s kind of how the workflow wound up working.”

The first track of the album, Will T, was also the first single they released. Will T starts off with a “La-ha-ha-ha” hook Yost describes as “the obnoxious one.” The track sounds like it just as well could have come from now-defunct Philly rock band Free Energy, if Free Energy had swapped the cowbell for sleigh bells and lasted long enough to suffer the demise of a wedded union.

“It’s the kind of hook where if you don’t like that song, you’re gonna fucking hate that song, and I get that,” he says. ”It’s one of those hooks that you wake up with in your head and wind up beating yourself over the head with a frying pan trying to get out.”

He started playing with the verses of Will T in college when he was 18, writing about “being scared of always eventually being disappointed in a relationship.” He put the song away for several years until it crept back in during his divorce. “We stuck that scary laughing chorus with it because the whole song just seemed like a joke. When I pulled it back out to look at it, the whole thing just seemed weirdly true, weirdly naive, or probably a little bit of both. So that laugh part just kind of made itself, and it’s really annoying. I think it just might be so jarring, it just forces you to listen to it whether you want to or not.”

The song False Jeopardy hits with a pretty big Pixies vibe, especially for the first half, but Yost says that wasn’t an intentional influence. “I think you spend a lot of your time ripping off bands you love, and hopefully you get to a point where they just become a little part of you. So I think I maybe years ago would have been actively trying to rip off the Pixies because I love them so much, but now I think it’s just a little part of our DNA.”

“(False Jeopardy) was the first or second song that got written for the record. That song’s kind of about blindly hoping everything’s gonna be okay and trying to talk somebody out of leaving. I think it’s a point a lot of people reach in their relationship where you spend most of the time trying to convince the other person they should stay, even though it’s probably not the right decision anymore.”

You can hear a demo of False Jeopardy during the fist two minutes of a movie starring Keanu Reeves called To the Bone, streaming on Netflix right now. “We didn’t even have the album version recorded yet,” says Yost. “But they liked the demo so much they wound up using it in the movie.”

Along with False Jeopardy, Rube was one of the first couple tunes written for the album. “I wasn’t sure how the record was gonna work yet. I started working on it right when I found out my marriage was ending, so I wasn’t sure whether I was gonna try and write about that yet, or just write about anything else but that,” says Yost. “So (Rube) wound up being a hybrid, sort of, about Lee Harvey Oswald, who I was reading about at the time, and this lady falling in love with him. But it still ended up being also about the end of my marriage. But people dancing to a song about Lee Harvey Oswald seemed like a funny proposition to me.”

Pale King  was one of the last songs written for the album. Yost wrote it after watching the four-hour documentary Tom Petty: Runnin’ Down a Dream. “As we were getting close to finishing vocals, Dennis kind of put on his California night scarf and was just like, ‘I want you to get the last two choruses done and we won’t do many vocals tomorrow because you shouldn’t be able to talk very well.’” The song title was borrowed from the unfinished David Foster Wallace novel, which he was writing when he committed suicide. “It’s mostly just about hating what you are,” admits Yost. “I think that’s probably what a lot of these are about.”

Yost says the track Reptile Fund is an example of Dennis Herring’s work method. “We were working really hard on something else one night. Dennis had been gone for a day or two, so we’d been left to our own devices. And Dennis rolled in about 7:00 one night, and we thought he was gonna just pop in and say hey. But he said, ‘let’s stop everything we’re doing and record this really ornate part.’ You can’t really hear it on the choruses of that song, but there’s this countermelody going on with a glockenspiel and a piano and a sped-up guitar line and like two other instruments. That’s just what he felt like doing at that moment. I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts of that song.”

So what was it like to write an entire album about the dissolution of your marriage? Turns out it’s not always the salve we’ve been led to believe.

“When I was writing the songs, I didn’t ever feel better,” admits Yost. “I felt like I just kept churning out all of this horror that seemed to just keep going on and on. I didn’t feel better. It wasn’t cathartic, just tiring. It wasn’t until the record was close to done that I just became grateful those feelings had somewhere else to go.”

The Kickback are currently on tour and possibly coming to your city soon. They’ve been on the road for much of the past few months and will continue for a several weeks more. They recently ended about seven weeks opening shows for ‘90s alt-rock heavyweights Bush (as in Glycerine, Machinehead, Everything Zen) and have recently begun their own tour of headlining dates. 

July
18 — Raleigh, NC — The Pour House Music Hall
19 — Charlotte, NC — The Evening Muse
20 — Charleston, SC — The Royal American
21 — Atlanta, GA — Vinyl (Center Stage – The Loft – Vinyl)
22 — New Orleans, LA — Gasa Gasa
23 — Houston, TX — Warehouse Live Greenroom
25 — Austin, TX — Stubb’s Austin
26 — Dallas, TX — Gas Monkey Dallas
28 — Kansas City, MO — recordBar
August
4 — Appleton, WI — Mile of Music Festival
5 — Appleton, WI — Mile of Music Festival
9 — Indianapolis, IN — HI-FI Indy
10 — Cleveland, OH — Grog Shop
11 — Columbus, OH — Rumba Cafe
12 — Chicago, IL — Thalia Hall “TKB Thalia Brawl”
16 — Horicon, WI — Horicon Phoenix Program Summer Concert Series
17 — Minneapolis, MN — 7th St. Entry (First Avenue & 7th St Entry)
18 — Sioux Falls, SD — White Wall Session
19 — Fargo, ND — The Aquarium
22 — Seattle, WA — High Dive
23 — Portland, OR — Doug Fir Lounge
24 — San Francisco, CA — Brick & Mortar Music Hall
26 — San Diego, CA — Soda Bar
29 — Los Angeles, CA — Resident
30 — Las Vegas, NV — Beauty Bar Las Vegas
31 — Salt Lake City, UT — Kilby Court
September
1 — Denver, CO — Lion’s Lair
2 — Sioux Falls, SD — Icon Event Hall + Lounge

Photo Recap: Low Cut Connie Get Weird in Columbus

Dead in the center of the Rumba Cafe stage, surrounded by guitars resting on amps in a sea of wires and cables, stood Shondra. The well-worn upright piano’s wood frame is tattooed with travel character and bears scars from years of delightful punishment under the hands and heels of Low Cut Connie‘s frontman, Adam Weiner. This esteemed partner in musical crime played host as the crowd slowly filled the front of the room. It was clear to see that everyone was excited to catch the infectious energy of a Low Cut Connie stage show. This Philadelphia five-piece is known to pull off some serious antics on stage. Several fans in the crowd pointed to the large steel structural beam running overhead, extending over the center of the stage’s very low ceiling. Would they be able to rock out to maximum effect without causing serious cranial damage?

Shondra Low Cut Connie Piano by Mara Robinson
Shondra by Mara Robinson

Will Donnelly (rhythm guitar), Luke Rinz (bass), Larry Scotton (drums), and Jimmy Everhart (lead guitar) filed onto the stage, limbered up, and settled into their instruments. Adam Weiner strode to center stage and straddled Shondra’s bench. After tuning up, he immediately climbed the face of Shondra and stood as tall as he could on her top, cautiously testing his head clearance.

“People of Columbus,” he shouted as he pointed to the steel rafting above him, “If I die here tonight, you’ll know why!” Then a few moments later, to cheers in the affirmative, “Are you ready to get weird tonight?!”

Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Everyone in the crowd was getting down as soon as Adam, Jimmy, and Will laid into their first chords. Their bluesy garage boogie sound distills the best elements of rock ‘n’ roll’s finest roots and delivers with a blast of frantic heavy soul. The entire band kept the energy high from the start and didn’t let up the duration of the set.

Low Cut Connie live in concert photo by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Low Cut Connie’s blistering set featured a solid selection of songs from Dirty Pictures, Part 1, their new album due out May 19, including Dirty Water, Am I Wrong, and the album’s first single Revolution Rock n Roll. Mixed between this tour-de-force were fan favorites from their past three albums, including Shake It Little Tina, Me N Annie, Boozophilia, and Rio.

Low Cut Connie live in concert by Mara Robinson
Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Adam Weiner commanded the stage as he pounded, stood upon, leaned across, and backbended over Shondra’s sturdy frame. His daring keyboard acrobatics recall the showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis combined with the glitter blues style of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and Elton John. Adam conquered the crowd with the same outrageous intensity of Mick Jagger mixed with the soulful sex appeal of Prince. He didn’t hesitate to join the party on the floor and get down with those in attendance. The whole crowd was totally into the whole vibe for the entire night. They grooved and danced with smiling partners, sang along to nearly every song in the set, and lifted their glasses in cheer and praise.

Low Cut Connie live in concert
Adam Weiner, Larry Scotton, James Everhart, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert
Adam Weiner, Larry Scotton, James Everhart, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert
Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie, by Mara Robinson

It was hard to believe that this was Low Cut Connie’s first time in Columbus. Based on the incredible reaction from everyone in the room, it was easy to see that their music knows no bounds. The band took a moment to thank the welcoming support from long-standing and new fans alike, and the local radio station for their continued support to “help us little guys.”
“Without you,” said Adam, “we can’t compete with Bieber and Twenty One Pilots.” He reached his hands out to the crowd and shared some gospel truth: “Columbus, I swear to you, I swear to everyone here, if you stick together, if you stick with LCC, you’ll never lose!”

Low Cut Connie live in concert
Will Donnelly, Adam Weiner, Larry Scotton, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

The night drew to a close, but Low Cut Connie showed no signs of letting up. “We’re gonna do something kinda fucked up,” Adam said, with a wry smile. “Something from my favorite band in New Jersey, who got together for like five seconds.” And with that, they launched into a ferocious rendition of “Where Eagles Dare” by The Misfits, chanting the chorus, “I ain’t no God damned son of a bitch,” at the top of their lungs. Following that surprise, they laid into the staccato, funky rhythm of the classic Prince hit, “Controversy.” The rest of LCC continued to jam out as Adam jumped down to spread his sexy mojo into crowd, giving hugs and high-fives in every corner of the floor.

Low Cut Connie live in concert
Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert by Mara Robinson
Will Donnelly, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert by Mara Robinson
Larry Scotton, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie concert photo by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert by Mara Robinson
Will Donnelly, James Everhart, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Low Cut Connie once again made a new congregation of freaky believers to spread their lively message far and wide. With their upbeat groove and electrifying stage presence, don’t miss an opportunity to see this band live. You won’t regret it.

Low Cut Connie band photo by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie band photo by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Goldmines Interview and Photo Recap

If you ask anyone in Goldmines how they’re doing, chances are they’ll say that they’re really busy. Cleveland’s femme foursome of Mandy Look, Jeanna Lax, Heather Gmucs, and Roseanna Safos are ready to keep their momentum going into 2017. After spending the end of last year supporting their self-titled EP release, Mandy and Roseanna took a moment from their relentless schedules to speak with Blown Speakers, before their recent performance with R.Ring and Split Single at the Happy Dog in Cleveland.

So R. Ring, are you excited to play with them?
Mandy Look: Yeah. Roseanna’s like, “What, one of my main idols is stopping through?”
Roseanna Safos: My only main, I mean, her, and the other one is Kim. You know what I mean?
ML: Yeah. And she’s like, up there for me.
RS: If I really explained how happy I am, it’d sound scary. We’ve played with Kelley. We’ve played with The Breeders before, and then we played with R. Ring, too. And then I’ve played with R. Ring too, with other bands. So we kind of know each other. My friend plays drums for her, so they asked us to do the show together, and I was really, really happy.
ML: Yeah, it was awesome!
RS: We were all just like “!” — Also Kelley Deal shared a Goldmines video, and that was pretty cool. So we’re excited for the show. I can’t wait.
ML: I do appreciate how political Kelley Deal has gotten, too. Not incredibly political, but for the right reasons. Speaking for musicians, and about how we need healthcare, and how we need things like the ACA. We’re going to try to work different angles to be friends with her. So I may talk to her a lot.
RS: Yeah. You do that.
ML: Yeah, I’ll do that, and be like, “If you ever need a guitar player or a drummer, we’ll drive down and practice!”

Do you feel the same kind of commitment to those kind of issues? You know, being a band from Cleveland and experiencing everything that’s been going on lately?
ML: Definitely. One thing that’s happening now is that you can’t do just one thing. It’s like the gig economy. You play in a band, but you also have to work a day job, and if you wanna be able to pursue any kind of art, you’re gonna be poor. Unless you’re born rich, you know? For the most part, like 99% of people. So I think those things are very important, to continue the arts and affect the community. Because, I mean, communities will just die out if you don’t have the artists, and they’re not really making money. I mean, not like they used to. Being in a band, I think a lot people don’t realize how much playing live music brings to the community. When you come see a band, you’re going to the restaurant next door to eat dinner, or you’re going to a nearby store to pick something up, you’re tipping the bartenders, you’re helping a small local business.
RS: And you’re gonna spread happiness.

Goldmines Cleveland band by Mara Robinson
Mandy Look of Goldmines by Mara Robinson

Ready for the split

The Thursday night dinner crowd at the Happy Dog comfortably occupied the back tables and choice spots along the bar. While most folks were enjoying a tall draft or a tricked-out hot dog, Roseanna and Mandy were both sipping coffee and fueling up for practice later that night.

ML: We’ve all been so busy lately! We can’t get together and speak!
RS: But we’ve all been the busiest we’ve ever been, I feel. But we still do it.
ML: Yeah, sort of. Yeah. We make it work.
RS: We gotta get back on a regular schedule. We all want it.
ML: I’m sure, as you know, everyone’s lives just get in the way. And it seems like we’ve got the most attention this year when we’ve been the least active, in a way. Which is cool. I guess it’s cause we released a record, so that helps push out things.
RS: And it took forever for the split to come out.
ML: Yeah, but it’s coming out at a good time.
RS: Our split’s coming out with Shitbox Jimmy. Well, our record just came out, but our split with Shitbox Jimmy is coming out. Do you know where I booked the show for the release? You don’t know. But I booked it at The Phantasy Theater, just to be fun. I used to play there in the ’90s and had a ton of fun, and I know what it’s become. So I got a hold of them, and I’m like, “We’re gonna do it my way.” They were so excited to do it! We’re going to do it with my cover, one of my door people, no pre-sale, no credit charge. It should be a really fun show. A good excuse to go to the Phantasy before it turns into condos probably.

That’s a shame. It’s good that you got something going on with it, though.
RS: I know! Actually the guy who books there, he was in my very first band in high school. So he was like, whatever you want. You can book it or play it, you can do whatever you want. That’s cool.

Goldmines Cleveland band by Mara Robinson
Heather Gmucs and Roseanna Safos of Goldmines by Mara Robinson

RS: The songs, that record, our split, Heather made like how many? Like, Heather does the Wax Mage thing. And I think they’re all sold out, the ones that she made. How many did she make?
ML: I think 50?
RS: OK, so that’s just her own thing, like she’ll make like 50 cool albums. When do we get them?
ML: I think she said she was putting them into production.
RS: It’s exciting! It’s gonna be really good. Shitbox Jimmy side is awesome, too.

So Wax Mage is Heather’s project?
ML: Yeah, she and Sarah Barker, and they kinda just run it out of Gotta Groove. Gotta Groove lets them do what they want, and they just pay Gotta Groove for it in their time, which is awesome. For Gotta Groove, too, because they’re not taking ownership of them. It opened up a whole new world for Heather where she was kinda running a label. It’s just something she always wanted to do. Even though it’s not officially a label, but I think with Quality Time, they partnered up in a way, where Quality Time, they’re doing the work to do the distribution and stuff, and Heather does pre-sales to help pay for the record production. It seems to work.
RS: And they do cool compilations.
ML: And it’s cool for Cleveland, because people around the world are following them. With the Goldmines record, people have bought them across the country just because they’re more interested in the record art, in a way. But then they get the music and Heather’s like, “I’ve been getting a lot of feedback on the record.” And that’s cool. It’s good they’re not disappointed in the record they’re buying. So it’s very symbiotic.

Goldmines Cleveland band by Mara Robinson
Roseanna Safos of Goldmines by Mara Robinson

Back in the van

On top of all of these preparations for their new release, Goldmines embarked on a tour of the Midwest through the month of April in support of acclaimed songwriter and Cleveland music legend, Craig Bell, formerly of Rocket From The Tombs, The Down-fi, and Mirrors.

RS: When I played with Bim in Obnox, he was just like everywhere. And The Gizmos. He saw Goldmines play at Studio-A-Rama. Mirrors played there, and he remembered when he saw me play with Obnox in Indianapolis. And then, when Goldmines played in Indy, he would go see us. So we know each other pretty well, but he just loves Goldmines. So he asked us to do it. He actually wanted to do more shows, but Mandy’s been super busy with her work. Craig Bell is the nicest man on Earth. He’s so active in so many projects like all the time.
ML: I wish we could’ve done more. We were supposed to do a couple more.
RS: Indiana would’ve been fun, but Mandy’s just busy. I mean, we’re all pretty busy. Very busy. But, that Columbus show we’re playing with DANA, too. Have you ever heard of DANA? Columbus band, DANA. They’re really cool.
ML: Did you tell me about them? Or have I heard about them?
RS: Uh, they’ve been playing a few times, they’re on Instagram and stuff. But they’re cool. They’re kinda harder. The lady plays like a Theremin.
ML: Oh! Heather was showing me a video, she saw them playing on a thing. She said it sounds amazing. Oh she’s going to be so happy.
RS: Well, I told her. And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve known that band for a long time.”

RS: I got a new van. Well, I got a 2015 Dodge Minivan. Pretty new. It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever had. I’ve had, this is like my seventh one. Transmission issues. Always transmission. But that’s why I built my credit up like crazy. Because I never had credit. For this reason, for this van. So I got the van, saved up money. It’s pretty cool. We’re gonna hit the road and not be fearful.
ML: Which is really exciting for our band.
RS: So we don’t have to rent.
ML: That stopped us. Actually, you wouldn’t think a van would stop you, like not having a vehicle to travel in. We used to travel so much because in HotChaCha we had a van, and going out of town was not a huge ordeal. You don’t take two or three cars. It’s like, now we can just hop into her minivan like a family.
RS: One of the other things we did, we rented. And it sucked. And it’s so expensive! And then, before there, we borrowed a van, and then we had some trouble. And it wasn’t our van. We were responsible but felt kinda shitty and we kinda felt like, “What? Why are we..?” So I got a van.

Goldmines Cleveland band by Mara Robinson
Jeanna Lax, Mady Look, and Roseanna Safos of Goldmines by Mara Robinson

Riding the next wave

While Goldmines continue to promote their latest releases, they’ve also focused on crafting new songs and sharpening their musical ideas. Their signature sound of sixties-style vocal harmonies doused in reverb-driven guitars and supercharged with hard garage rhythm comes from a wide range of influences.

ML: I think when Goldmines started I had this idea of us being ’60s influenced, kinda like the girl-group thing, but more like ’60s garage rock, you know? I just love it. Now, I’m like really into this idea of us being more like a Heart-esqe, glammy band.
RS: Yeah, that would be cool.
ML: Our new single on the split is really rockin’. It’s probably my favorite song I’ve ever written. It’s really tough and cool and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s cool, very cool. So that’s kinda where I’m drawing from. I mean, of course, I like everything. The ’90s is probably my prime time of growing up music. I’m trying to get back into that. I don’t really go on my iTunes. I don’t know, it sucks with technology. You get rid of all your CDs and you have all your iTunes. I don’t really even look at my iTunes anymore. But I need to get into it. Like, there’s too much Sebadoah I haven’t listened to, and I’m like, “I used to love that album.” Then I always think of all these other albums that I want to listen to, or these weird bands.
RS: I gotta force myself to go buy a record this week. There are some new artists that really, really grab me, and I just have to have it, but not so much like I used to.
ML: (to Roseanna) Are you drawing from anything?
RS: Like in, us, in Goldmines?
ML: I don’t know. I guess.
RS: I’ve been trying to get into like a post-punk kind of thing. Well, because I heard some old HotChaCha stuff, that split we did with We Are Hex. And we were just fucking around, and it technically wasn’t that great, but what you did on your part was so good, well because you’re so good at that style, too.
ML: I felt that kinda in Goldmines. Now I can play chords.
RS: Well, yeah, because we’re not that band. You know what I mean?
ML: In HotChaCha, I didn’t play one chord ever. I was just playing notes.
RS: But you’re so good. You’re creative.
ML: I don’t think I knew how to play chords. No, I did, yeah, I did! I just liked technology.

Goldmines Cleveland band by Mara Robinson
Jeanna Lax and Mandy Look of Goldmines by Mara Robinson

RS: (Notices song playing in the background.) Oh, I love this song.
ML: We’re looking for a song to cover.
RS: Oh my God! I would love to cover this!
ML: I think we could cover this.
RS: We’ll do it our way.
ML: You know, we’ve had a lot of ideas. And then we try and do it, and like if it just doesn’t fit into how we are, you know, we don’t push it. Usually, honestly, I think everything I’ve covered we’ve been at a bar together and was like, “We should cover it!” We’ll probably end up covering this, because it’s just gonna — It’s like always a magical happenstampede.

Goldmines will perform next at the release show for their upcoming 12″ vinyl split release with Shitbox Jimmy on Friday, May 5th at the Phantasy Theater in Lakewood, Ohio. The “Cinco De Mayo” celebration is presented by Panza Foundation, Wax Mage, and Quality Time Records, and will include Goldmines, Shitbox Jimmy, Dime Disguise, and The Safeties.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour Review

No one knew David Bowie was dying. When he assembled Tony Visconti and jazz saxophonist Danny McCaslin in 2015 to work on the album Blackstar, he kept his growing cancer a secret from his band. He insisted on recording live with the full band. His mouth opened up with the now classic lyric from Lazarus: “Look up here/I’m in heaven,” and the band played on. Whatever doubts, questions, regrets or fears he felt as cancer shut down his liver, he expressed as he said everything in his life through music. Mystery and excitement were the hallmarks of a wide and varied recorded and performance output. But then, within days of Blackstar’s release, the unavoidable happened to the surprise of friends, fans and collaborators.

No one who has seen Brian Wilson on this most recent tour will be surprised.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson by Mara Robinson

This was my sixth time in the last twenty years seeing Brian Wilson in concert, hereafter referred to affectionately by just his first name. Brian, the sad, chubby guy at the piano, singing about surfing for half a century. Brian, with melodies and harmonies that came straight from God. Brian, who when he looks in the mirror, sees his late brothers every day. Brian, whose songs have dug themselves into my heart since birth. My parents were fans, and played his music often growing up. His expression of innocence is my own innocence. I like “Fun, Fun, Fun.” I’ve covered Surfer Girl with my band. Caroline, No hit me right as I discovered girls could be sad.

Brian Wilson, Al Jardine by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson, Al Jardine by Mara Robinson

I include these things in the preface to draw out a distinction between Brian and pretty much every other artist in existence. You listen to Brian with your heart. Sure, in attendance last week were those old rich people who will see any live act to cross them off a bucket list. They were listening with their wallets. Also, there were maybe a couple of nerdy music students who can parse out every harmonic interval and key change, and appreciate them for the innovations that he brought to early 1960s 1-4-5 pop music. They listen to Brian with their well-trained ears.

But I think Brian really lives in the hearts of people who love his songs. I think of my mom, who when she hears the intro to I Get Around starts waving her hands to the beat and start singing, even if she can’t get up to dance any more. There is a purity in her joy that grew from the seed Brian planted. Being my mother’s son on many different levels, I can’t say I reacted any differently last week, dancing in my seat, and bringing an embarrassed smile to my wife. I love these songs, and his band is able to execute them in such a way that hits that button reliably, year after year. There’s a lot of people like my mom out there.

She couldn’t make it this time. My mom has been sick for a while, and in all honesty, will probably be this sick until she dies. I wheeled her to that 2012 Beach Boys reunion show at Blossom, and she couldn’t stay the full time, so we left early. Even in the parking lot, she could hear the distant strains of Do You Wanna Dance? and thought about staying a little longer. I told her I was going to this show last week, and some part of her thinks maybe she could have managed to go, somehow, someway, but decided against it.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson by Mara Robinson

Brian had to be walked out to his piano. I’m pretty certain he didn’t actually play the thing. He often started songs, with a voice pure but short, and then handed off the second verse to a younger singer. He’s sick. Any armchair doctor could suggest possible diagnoses, but who cares? He can’t walk, he can barely sing. He’s going to die.

The disconnect between Brian’s sadness and the sunniness of the Beach Boys sound is a turning point. When you unlock that mystery, the world opens up a little more; it’s a little fuller, more real. The program was a complete performance of his 1966 album Pet Sounds with its aching centerpiece I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times. He mostly spoke the lyrics, but his heart was heavy. He’s waited fifty more years, and it’s still not his time. It’s important to note the distinction between “sadness” and “darkness.” Another great legend of song who left us last year, Leonard Cohen, said until the very end “You want it darker.” That’s never true for Brian. As sad as he can be, confronted with abuse and drugs and death, he never let darkness pull him. His music continues to be filled with love and joy.

Brian Wilson live in concert Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour
Brian Wilson by Mara Robinson

Is Brian being exploited? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leonard Cohen resumed touring in the 2010s because bad managers left him broke and touring was the best source of income. Brian’s struggles with managers, starting with his own father Murray and continuing on to Eugene Landy, are also well known. Under his wife Melinda’s guidance, he appears to be financially stable, but there might be more people with their livelihoods tied to the Brian Wilson touring industry.

I bring this up because I think the answer hints at why this show last week was so great. I think Brian was up there not to make money but because he loves us. I can clearly see the scene in my mind. Brian gets some bad health news, and he says to his family “I think people want to hear these songs one more time, and if I can give to them, I should do it.” He knows it’s going to be hard. He knows his voice isn’t what it used to be. But he’s a giver, and when faced with hard times, he does what he knows he can do.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson by Mara Robinson

The only reason this works is because whatever Brian has given us, has given me, we’ve all repaid him more. What hope exists in this man? What faith? To launch his sadness into the void with just some pretty chords and harmonies. But it’s worked every time. His voice has landed on my fertile ears, who return not just the adoration of a rock star, but true genuine love.

The set last week closed with Love and Mercy, the title of a recent biopic, but the song is from the 1980s. He’s closed with it the last few times I’ve seen him, and I think that’s by his design. It’s a piano ballad about a dopey man going through his day, watching movies and getting dinner and trying to make people happy. Brian has always put himself openly and completely in everything he’s done, but this is Brian 2017. “Love and Mercy to you and your friends tonight.”

Al Jardine (The Beach Boys) by Mara Robinson
Al Jardine by Mara Robinson
Al Jardine live in concert
Al Jardine by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 2017 by Mara Robinson
Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour 2017
Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson live in concert
Al Jardine, Blondie Chaplin by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson live in concert
Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour 2017 by Mara Robinson

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

 

We like to rock