Novels, featuring members of Born Ruffians,
Tokyo Police Club and more


A new Born Ruffians release is one of many albums I’m looking forward to in 2010. (It’s called Say It and it’s due out early in the year, by the way.)

In the meantime, Ruffians singer/guitarist Luke Lalonde has new material out in the form of a side project called Novels, a collaboration among five Toronto musicians — Lalonde, Graham Wright (Tokyo Police Club), Will Currie (Will Currie & the Country French), Dean Marino (Ex~Po) and Jason Sadlowski — whose goal was to write/arrange/record a five-song EP in a 24-hour period.

Here’s what the band had to say about the project:

In January of 2009, five of us locked ourselves away in Chemical Sound Studios in Toronto with the goal of writing, arranging, and recording an EP from scratch in one marathon session. When we stumbled out the door in the wee hours of the next morning, we found ourselves with what we’re now calling NOVELS.

NOVELS won’t be sold in CD stores, on the internet, or anywhere else. Instead, we’ll give them away, or put them places. Maybe you’ll find a copy sitting on a park bench. Maybe a masked man will hand you one as he passes you on the street. Maybe none of these things will happen. But we’ll make sure that everyone gets a chance to listen if they want to.

As such, they are offering a free download of the EP and an inside look at the process via video shot by documentary filmmaker Wade Vroom and photos from the studio.

Lymbyc Systym: Ghost Clock (video)

On Tuesday, I’m supposed to talk with brothers Mike and Jared Bell of Lymbyc Systym for a Q&A I’ll post on this site in advance of their Jan. 13 show at Sail Inn in Tempe.

The stop is part of a West Coast tour to support the Arizona-bred duo’s 2009 album Shutter Release (Mush Records), a wonderful collection of evocative soundscapes that has convinced me there is indeed a certain allure to a wordless record.

The first single, Ghost Clock, now has a video, directed by Jeff Kolar, who spins a modern sort of Noah’s Ark tale.

Modified memories: Jared Bell (Lymbyc Systym)
I Used to Love H.E.R.: Mike Bell (Lymbyc Systym)

Source Victoria: Slowburner (Traindead cover)


Would you ever consider a cover as a song-of-the-year contender? I did for a serious moment on Sunday.

Since seeing Source Victoria perform Slowburner, a standout track by now-defunct Phoenix band Traindead, about 10 days ago – with guest appearances by members of Traindead, no less – I haven’t been able to put down the song, to which I’d already given heavy rotation since its release on the When in AZ benefit compilation earlier this fall. (Disclosure: Source Victoria is my brother’s band, but at some point – and that point has passed – my brother’s band stops being “my brother’s band” and becomes like any band I admire whose music deserves praise, bloodlines or no.)

Though cover songs typically do little to excite me – haven’t we had our fill of soulless rehashes and ironic gimmicks? – a great one can morph into something of its own, turning the original inside out while still paying proper homage to it. That Source Victoria picked Slowburner in the first place for the compilation, which features Phoenix-area bands covering each other, says something about the respect they have for Traindead. But nobody wants to hear one band ape another. Where’s the imagination in that?

Source Victoria wisely grasps that concept. Where Traindead’s original is a buzzsaw of tension and fuzz, Source Victoria lets the air out, guiding a “slacker anthem” of distorted greatness into a deliberate, wide-open space, completely reimagining the whole thing. It’s like two absolutely different songs that just happen to have the same lyrics. (For the record, Taylor, who opened the aforementioned show with a solo set, and Chad of Traindead came up to sing on the “la-la-las” at the end of the track. Sadly, a request for a Traindead reunion and a brief set was rebuffed.)

Rob Dickinson played the Rogue and covered
the Smiths (video)

I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous: that I went to YouTube this morning expecting to find video of Rob Dickinson’s show at the Rogue from Friday night — a mere 10 hours or so after it ended — or that it was actually there.

So far, the only clip I can find of the former Catherine Wheel singer’s set is his cover of the Smiths’ Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, which he released as a single earlier this year. But I did see one guy take video of the entire show … so, come on, guy, get it up on YouTube already!

Speaking of the show, Dickinson unsurprisingly drew heavily on the Catherine Wheel catalog, especially 1997′s Adam and Eve. From what I can remember off the top of my head, he played at least four songs from that album: Future Boy, Delicious, Phantom of the American Mother and Thunderbird.

I’m not much for logging set lists, but I can tell you other Catherine Wheel songs he performed included: Heal (the opener), Crank, I Want to Touch You and Black Metallic, for which he generously invited a member of local opener Thousand Yard Stare to play with him.

While I’m fond of the acoustic setting and Dickinson’s solo venture — he, of course, dipped into tracks from the 2005 album Fresh Wine for the Horses — it’s hard not to think that he’s itching to plug in and crank the amps the way Catherine Wheel tracks should be heard. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, I’m still hoping for a new Dickinson album in 2010.

UPDATE: The Rogue Bar has uploaded pretty much the whole damn show to YouTube. Check it out.

Incoming: Megafaun, April 23 at Sail Inn


The Stateside Presents spring concert calendar is filling up faster than I can possibly ask for all these days off from work.

One of the newest additions surely will please the beard lover in all of us: Megafaun, who won over a packed house at Mesa Arts Center in September as the opener for Bon Iver, is coming back to the Valley for the third time in less than 10 months when they play the Sail Inn in Tempe on April 23. The guys seemed truly appreciative of the attentive crowd in Mesa, so it’s nice to see a return visit as a reward.

My wife swears the Bowerbirds/Megafaun pairing at Rhythm Room in August was the show of the year, and she still hasn’t stopped talking about Megafaun. It’s easy to see why, though: Aside from their kind/grateful on-stage demeanor, the guys put an intriguing experimental spin on their Southern-bred folk picking.

Tickets for the 21-and-over show are $10 and available here. Breathe Owl Breathe opens.

In more concert news, Stateside Presents used Twitter to tease to a major show announcement on Monday:

“Shhh it’s a secret…a huge show will be announced on Monday!!! I’ll give you a hint…they are in Pitchfok’s top 10 albums of 09′! ;)”

That leaves us with nine educated guesses because I think we can logically take Raekwon out of the equation. Our remaining options are: Girls, Fever Ray, Phoenix, Bat for Lashes, Grizzly Bear, The Flaming Lips, The xx, Dirty Projectors or Animal Collective.

I’m going to eliminate Dirty Projectors because they were just here a couple months ago. The Flaming Lips, who performed at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in April, would qualify as a “huge show,” but so, too, would Grizzly Bear, Phoenix or Animal Collective. Both Grizzly Bear and AC played in Tucson in 2009 but not Phoenix (the city). Phoenix (the band) hasn’t been here in at least two or three years. Guess we’ll have to wait til Monday to find out.

New Retribution Gospel Choir: Hide it Away


I just spent the past three days traveling to and from New York, so I’m catching up on some e-mail, the most intriguing of which is one from Sub Pop offering an mp3 from Retribution Gospel Choir’s forthcoming sophomore album 2, due for release on Jan. 26 (the same date for new Spoon … 2010 is gonna be good).

Led by Low frontman Alan Sparhawk, Retribution Gospel Choir also includes bassist Steve Garrington from Low and drummer Eric Pollard. But RGC is hardly the second coming of the slowcore stylings of Low. RGC is bigger and louder, an outlet for Sparhawk to push the volume and extend his range.

2 is available for pre-order on CD and LP at Sub Pop.

ALSO: We have winners in the Port O’Brien vinyl giveaway. They are: Hubert S., Shawn A., Kathryn M., Jeremy I. and Gabe S., all of whom have been contacted. Thanks to everyone else who entered.

Modified memories: Scott Hessel (Source Victoria, Let Go)


Modified Arts, an all-ages venue in downtown Phoenix that has been a staple of the local music scene and a vital venue for touring indie bands for nearly 11 years, will change direction and transform into a space focused mostly on art. (Read more here and here.)

As such, I am collecting thoughts and memories from the musicians who played there and the fans who attended its many shows. This is less an obituary and more a celebration of a less-than-perfect but charming venue that, as we know it now, will be missed.

This entry comes from longtime Valley drummer Scott Hessel, who currently keeps time for Source Victoria and Let Go and used to drum for Gloritone (among others), once making a name for himself (and the band) with a fairly shocking 2001 appearance on the Howard Stern Show.

When Let Go (ex-Stereo, Pollen, Gloritone) returned from a tour that lasted several weeks in the dead of summer, we were scheduled to play at Modified.

We were dog tired, cranky, and ready for quality time in our own beds. Instead, we rolled into Modified for a sort-of-homecoming show. Because I had never played there, it felt like we were on the last stop in a foreign city.

In sports, some of the best individual performances have been achieved by athletes who were sick or fatigued. Sometimes, the same can hold true for musicians. This was one of those nights for me and the dudes in my band.

This picture illustrates the aftermath of a very memorable, sweaty night at Modified.

(Left to right: Chris Serafini, Jamie Woolford, Scott Hessel.)


Mos Def: Supermagic (video)

Mos Def’s The Ecstatic was one of the few hip-hop albums I really connected with this year, and the leadoff track, Supermagic, is a highlight — even if the song’s producer, Oh No, simply recycled the sample/beat from his own track Heavy off the 2007 album Dr. No’s Oxperiment.

No matter, though. Mos gives the production a worthy lyrical complement, and the newly released video is a no-frills affair, keeping the attention focused squarely on the song itself.

Modified memories: Jason Woodbury (Soft Drink)


Modified Arts, an all-ages venue in downtown Phoenix that has been a staple of the local music scene and a vital venue for touring indie bands for nearly 11 years, will change direction and transform into a space focused mostly on art. (Read more here and here.)

As such, I am collecting thoughts and memories from the musicians who played there and the fans who attended its many shows. This is less an obituary and more a celebration of a less-than-perfect but charming venue that, as we know it now, will be missed.

This entry comes from Jason P. Woodbury, a local musician in upstart trio Soft Drink and a frequent contributor to this here blog.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the Modified, and exactly what memory resonates most with me. I played a lot of shows at the venue, in a couple different bands. I guess what really strikes me is how often things were the same, no matter what band I was in or what show we had managed to hop on. It always smelled bad. Really bad, the sewage smell was consistent. And it was always too hot. If it was a show for a touring band, there would be beer in the fridge, and we would always get in trouble for drinking too much of it. If it wasn’t a touring act, there we had the parking lot. Tailgating bands and fans could congregate there. I wonder how many Stella bottles I tossed into the dumpster back there.

I played a lot of good shows at Modified. I played a lot of bad ones, too. There was one, on a Saturday afternoon, where we literally played to the other bands, and they were all one-man bands minus us. I think the promoter still owes Ami and Kimber for that one. But even if the shows were crap, it always felt good to play there. I grew up in Coolidge, about an hour south of Phoenix. Drives up to the Modified were a special occasion, and I saw some great bands. I saw The Hold Steady while they were touring their second album. They were too loud for the venue, too loud even after they turned their amps away from the crowd. The Modified felt like somewhere. Each time I played there, it felt a little like I had arrived, a pretty remarkable feeling in a place that smelled like ass, with a underpowered sound system, a sagging stage and no paying customers present. It was all the spirit of the place, I guess.

I convinced Jeremiah to let my band Hands on Fire open for Blitzen Trapper there. I was excited; their album “Furr” had been getting a lot of play in my car stereo. I figured their sloppy rock would work well with ours. A newer band called Fleet Foxes were scheduled to open. We played an OK set, and after we cleared off, the members of Fleet Foxes shuffled on stage. We chatted about gear and the Velvet Underground. When they started playing, of course, I was mesmerized. I knew I was witnessing something important, a band that would do more than just entertain a crowd. Within a few months they would release one of the decade’s finest albums. Within a couple months they’d be touring the world and selling out venues far bigger than Modified. But tonight they were playing to a hushed 50 people in downtown Phoenix. I remember Kimber telling Zane, my bass player and best friend, and I to shut up as we tried to explain to a crazy woman over our merch table that no, we weren’t signed to Sub Pop. But it was nights like that at Modified that made me think that maybe I could be signed to Sub Pop, or something equally awesome. Because the bands on stage at Modified shared that feeling, that we were going somewhere, even if it was just another Modified gig a couple weeks later. Especially if it was another Modified gig.

Ami Johnson (booking manager)
Jared Bell (Lymbyc Systym)
Stephen Chilton (Psyko Steve)
David Jensen (Art for Starters)