News: Ear Buds

Exclusive Ear Buds Interview : Wheatus

By Nunzio Moudatsos

Exclusive Ear Buds Interview : Wheatus

(photo courtesy of Danny Allen)


By: Nunzio Moudatsos, Head of Artist Services


Ahead of their annual fall tour to the UK/Europe (which is currently taking place), I sat down with Wheatus frontman Brendan B. Brown and bassist Matthew Milligan for a little chat.

Let me preface this with some backstory. I first met the Wheatus folks back around 2011 while living in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. There was a great little network of musicians in our neighborhood, and over the next few years we collaborated on a few musical projects. In 2014 the band was gracious enough to take my previous band on a 5+ week tour throughout the UK and Europe which was just a phenomenal experience.

Fast forward to today - I wanted to feature the band because they are fucking rockers. There's just so much more to the group than just 'Teenage Dirtbag' and I want y'all to know it. We can all learn a lot from these folks, and they're some of the hardest working musicians I've ever been around.  

Happy reading, kids.

-Nunzio

So, it’s almost time - you're embarking on yet another UK tour in a few days. Congrats on that! You guys have always had a great following in the UK, and your albums have done particularly well there. What do you find unique about music industry over there as opposed to here in the US? 

Matthew: In our experience, UK fans have SO much loyalty. In the States it seems like people tend to move on to the next thing enthusiastically, but in the UK when you make a fan, they become one for life.  We have some folks over there who have been seeing the band regularly since the very first tour back in 2001.

You’ve definitely spent a lot of time touring there. Tell us about some of your favorite past touring experiences.

Matthew: Oh man, so many things come to mind. We got to play Wembley Arena a couple years ago with Busted... that was especially surreal. We're not the most exciting folks on the road... most nights after the gig you can find us on the bus binge-watching various TV series in the lounge. LOST, The Sopranos, and Dexter have all had some serious marathons over the years. We can also tell you the best cup of coffee available in virtually every town in Britain. 

It’s so cool that you guys have found a “home” there in the UK. I feel like people here in the US have this weird perception of Wheatus. One thing I personally wish more people knew about you guys is how much you fucking RIP live. You’ve got a bunch of super talented musicians and vocalists in the band. Why do you think the band is perceived differently over in the UK as opposed to here in the US?

Matthew: Dirtbag was a MUCH bigger song in the UK than in the USA. Virtually everyone you encounter in the UK knows the name Wheatus. In the States, that's just not the case. It puts us in an interesting position actually... it's harder for us to tour in the States, but when we do, audiences have much less of an expectation of what we do. In the UK we've got a platinum album that people know well and expect to hear. In the States, we can play a wide variety of material plus Dirtbag and have people go "Wow that was a cool set... and I think I recognized that one song!"  

That’s very true. I mean, I saw it firsthand. The fans over in the UK are really so supportive of you guys and you give it back to them by regularly touring over there almost every year, it seems. How have you been able to maintain that great fanbase there in the UK, and elsewhere abroad, for such a long time? 

Matthew: To a certain extent, we're not sure! We've made a 4-6 week tour of the UK/EU sort of our annual tradition, and each time we go back we worry that THIS will be the time no one comes because people have grown tired of us... but it still hasn't happened. Maybe it's because it's been covered a few times over the years, but Teenage Dirtbag has remained a major part of the culture in a few countries, the UK especially. We're grateful, that's for sure. 

I’m glad you brought the covers thing up. There have been some awesome covers of Teenage Dirtbag throughout the years. Maybe most famously, One Direction covered the song and included it in their "This Is Us" concert documentary. More recently All Time Low covered Dirtbag as part of their Green Room Sessions series. What’s it like to hear these covers for the first time?

Brendan: I've really never failed to enjoy one. The 1D thing was cool, when they morphed into superheroes. ATL seem to be closer to me personally in their ideas about it... love those guys. Chris Carrabba has done a great version and asked me on stage to play it with him one time. That was super cool ‘cuz I'm very much a fan of his. 

Do you have any favorites of the bunch?

Matthew: I was floored the first time I heard Weezer and Dashboard Confessional do it. Those are two acts who meant the world to me as a young aspiring musician... hearing them cover our song still just seems like a dream.   

Brendan: The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain probably take the cake for favorite along with SCALA, who did the choir version for the film Bully. Phoebe Bridgers and Mary Lambert are tied for a close second. And then there's Amy Shark who very recently smashed it. I can't decide... it's that thing where they inject their own lives into it and it becomes a better song for it.   

And you guys have done a bunch of covers yourselves, from Erasure's "A Little Respect" to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. I was also lucky enough to hear your ridiculously good renditions of “The Trees” by Rush and “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction each night on the 2014 UK/Europe tour. There’s a lot of pressure in putting a cover out since your version will always be compared to the originals, so how do you go about picking a cover to perform? 

Brendan: It has to be something that's meant a lot to me for some time, otherwise I can't do it justice. I liked “What Makes You Beautiful” the first time I heard it, so that was a no brainer. Rush songs are different though...very high stakes. There is no easy Rush song. Pat is also one of the best singers who's ever lived so the pressure is on. I enjoy the challenge of something I love and have to work very hard to accomplish. “A Little Respect” was a pretty big mountain to climb because of the bravery those guys exude and the challenge of migrating a synth track to a rock format. We did have to track it a few times before we got it right. Yeah, we take covers very seriously. 

Have you ever gotten any feedback of your covers from the original performers?

Brendan: Um, no. I'd be afraid to hear it honestly... especially from Rush. Oh my god, I'd die.  

Back to Teenage Dirtbag for a second - I mean it’s just such a timeless song. I really think that kids of any generation - back then, now, and in the future - can relate to the message and kind of claim it as their anthem. I love that the song enjoys these spikes in popularity every few years by each new generation of kids. So tell me, what's the true message behind the song?

Brendan: Wow...the real answer is: whatever it means to you. Obviously, when I made it, it came from my life as a kid. 1984, Long Island, Satanic cult murder and drugs, AC/DC and Iron Maiden being somewhat forbidden or very frowned upon, and finding my musical identity in that world. BUT, what it means to me isn't as important as what people make of it when they make it their own. The author is dead... that dirtbag poem survives only because people can make it their own story, that's the real message.   

Do you think the message of the song has a different impact now as opposed to back during the time you wrote it?

Brendan: Very much so. As I said, my contemporary identity as a fan of heavy music in 1984 put me into an exceptionally dark category. A “dirtbag” was decidedly NOT a good thing to be back then. Again, it doesn't really matter too much what I lived through and what made me write it. Everyone has their own struggle... everybody has to fight to be free, from bad ideas, or bad cultural pressure, or what have you. Mary Lambert's interpretation of it as a lesbian love story is particularly gratifying in that sense. I love that it can be taken that way.  

That is a really amazing interpretation, especially coming from someone like Mary. So why do you think the song is so relatable to people?

Brendan: Someone once said to me that everyone has to go through that first round of feeling like they don't belong to the rest of humanity, where their instincts about what kind of person to be, are at odds with norms or ideas of the herd. It can be terrifying. I looked to music back then to reassure me that my weird ideas about what kind of person to become were OK. I have Malcolm Young (RIP) and Neil Peart and Prince and Steve Harris to thank for the reassurance I needed through that time in my life, among others. 

You just named a few artists there who you admire, and I know that at least a few of them are former Columbia Records artists. Kind of goes to show just how much success you’ve had as a band, getting signed onto the same label as some of your heroes. Let’s chat about that because you’ve got an interesting story about being on a major label. Your self-titled debut album was released by Columbia Records [Sony] but despite its worldwide success, your relationship with the label ended on not-so-great terms when they unexpectedly shelved your second album. What was the major label experience like for you and what are some of the pitfalls?

Brendan: The Columbia Records thing was essentially a mismatch. Donnie Ienner [then chairman of Sony], Blair McDonald [then Director of A&R at Sony], and our A&R, Kevin Patrick, understood us and were cool with us producing our own records… but Donnie and Blair left before we finished album #2 and nobody else saw us the way Kevin did, so the relationship was over at that point. You'd think they'd find a way to keep a new band whose first record did well and cost next to nothing but, alas, that's not how it worked back then. It was all for the better though. There were tons of bad ideas thrown at us during that time. It was difficult in that regard, but we avoided most of them. Some of the people who work at labels do so for the wrong reasons. It can be an intensely political viper pit and the art sometimes doesn't survive the self-interest. I've seen some people manage it very well. I'm not one of those people. You have to be ready for that. It's not a situation where you can make of it what you can. A major label is a multi-national corporation; they're not interested in your art project. They're out to make money. 

Then once the Columbia deal ended, you began releasing everything else independently on your own label, Montauk Mantis. What do you like, or dislike, about being an independent artist?

Brendan: You get to craft your interactions and delivery of music to people who like it in your own way. That also means you have to do everything yourself. I've never really minded that, so it's a good fit. Sometimes things fall off the table. While I love making good records, I'm not a very ambitious person so I think the little ecosystem we have is designed from that energy. It's gonna be different for everyone, but that's what's cool about it... what works for us may not work for you, but you'll find your own ideas are better for you anyway. 

It’s a bit easier these days to release music independently, and here at INTHECLOUDS we work with a ton of those types of bands. We’re always trying to come up with ways to help bands do their own thing, get heard by some new ears, and continue to grow. What advice can you give to indie bands that don’t have label support?

Brendan: Always make your own records! Unique mistakes are better than copy-cat perfections. I love records that survive on their individualism. I think they last longer. Listen to EVERYTHING. There are good ideas everywhere. Also, make sure you have something to say; empathy and adversity can be renewable resources for humanity in your music.  That's why it connects, so do that! Listen and feel. 

Agreed, good advice! Once the music is created It’s super important that bands can get their tunes out there and get heard. That’s made a bit easier these days with streaming services. How do you feel about being an indie artist in this digital streaming era?

Matthew: As an artist it's definitely got its ups and downs. You can get your music out there so quickly and effortlessly that it's still a surreal process... but the competition to get the attention of listeners has never been more fierce.  You feel it as a listener too.  Unlimited access to everything is overwhelming, and I've usually got a huge backlog of new artists/albums I'm eager to check out but haven't had the time to sit down with yet. 

Yeah, that’s for sure. I think that’s why physical media is important these days. We’re in the midst of a vinyl resurgence that started a few years back and cassettes are starting to make their comeback too. It’s pretty essential to have a physical item for fans grab in this digital age. Thoughts?

Matthew: When I wasn't working with Wheatus I ran a record store for about 8 years... it's definitely been a wild time for physical media. I think it's a combination of things, including excellent marketing and creating a new collector's market. But more than that, I do believe that there's a whole younger generation of music fans who have grown up in the world of listening to music entirely on the computer, in the background, in a passive way. Actually playing a record demands your attention in a way that a Spotify link or YouTube clip just can't, in my opinion. It's an experience.  If you're a music fan, having that experience for the first time is really powerful.   

What platforms do you prefer to listen on, personally?

Matthew: I've got a pretty substantial vinyl collection at this point... in fact I've really got way more than my small apartment should have to handle. So, I always love getting to drop the needle on something. But when I'm out of the house I've got an Apple Music subscription that I've come to appreciate more than I originally expected.  

Completely random, but I have to bring this next topic up. We’re living in strange times and the political atmosphere is super volatile. Brendan, you’re a very active Twitter user and you certainly don't shy away from getting political on there. There’s a lot of discussion lately about artists/entertainers and their role in politics. How has the current, or past, political climate impacted your writing? 

Brendan: Well, I find myself illustrating the perils of monarchy more than I used to. It's too bad... that's not a joke. I'm also aware that there are a lot of people who are not benefiting at all from this nationalist populism asshattery we're in the middle of. I'm interested in those people, their view of things, and find myself writing on those narratives lately. Representative government is about maintaining a healthy argument, in the public sphere. Fugazi and Ani DiFranco, early, early examples for me and I feel obligated to speak. I also have a degree in history and find it impossible to ignore the re-emergence of deadly patterns from the 20th century. If you don't know your history, stick around and you'll get to learn by doing.

Right, and I personally admire that you use your platform to discuss these things. Just in general, I know there are people out there who hate when artists speak up about politics. So what do you say to those out there who believe that artists shouldn't voice their political opinions and just “stick to their art?”

Brendan: Fuck those people. Seriously, do I have to point out the idiocy of expressing the political view that someone else should keep their political views to themselves? Why don't those people keep THAT idea to THEMselves? Dingbats. But... in the interest of ending on a positive :) note...thank you very much for thinking of us and for reaching out. We do not take your attention for granted. Much love!

//end

I want to thank BBB and Matthew of Wheatus for taking the time to chat with me in the midst of their fall craziness. If you didn't already check it out, the band was awesome enough to curate our November Ear Buds cassette mixtape. Each song on the mixtape includes a solo or side project of each member of the band.

Wheatus is:
Brendan B Brown / Guitar & Vocal
Matthew Milligan / Bass
Brandon Ticer / Keyboards
Leo Freire / Drums
Joey Slater / Backing Vocal
Gabrielle Sterbenz / Backing Vocal
Karlie Bruce / Backing Vocal

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Ear Buds: Indian Summer Interview

By Kristyn Potter

Ear Buds: Indian Summer Interview
Not going to lie, it's super rad that our founder's old buddy from college and another friend started this sick festival - Indian Summer & Asbury Park Fall Bazaar. It happened this weekend, but amongst all of the planning and festival craziness, Joe from Indian Summer chatted with me on the fest, his friendship with Dan, and some advice for bands.
Alright, so it's kind of crazy you started a festival with your buddy - I can barely even get up and out of bed for work on time, how did you do it? 

Once the Anchors Bend got city approval to have a section of the beach as part of the bar, my buddy Colin said "Dude, we should put bands out there!" From there he came up with the name Indian Summer and we booked the bands we played in as well as our friends bands and our friends to DJ and there it went. The first year was a ton of fun and VERY DIY. I remember giving the security guards for the bar whatever cash I had in my pocket to help us load the sound and gear down onto the beach. It was... a learning experience!! But probably the most fun one of all of them.
After doing some heavy stalking of you on the internet, it seems like your whole professional life has been working in various parts of the music industry - wanna give a brief description for our readers?
HAHAHA Yup! Careful what you choose to get into folks, gets real hard to get out of.... I can trace it back to one moment. I was a sophomore at Rutgers and just got back from a Rugby game (I played for 3 years while at Rutgers) and went to my uncle Bill's house in downtown New Brunswick. He was a very successful prosecutor and someone I always looked up to. So I would try to go have dinner or a beer or whatever I could with him to pick his brain. I remember being on his balcony with blood in my ear and I think a broken nose  from my Rugby game that day and he asked me, "Joey why don't you just focus on the music thing? You don't have to go into law or anything you don't want to do..." It was soooo obvious but something that never clicked until then.. From there I interned at Universal Records in Manhattan and started my journey in music... for better or worse! From there, worked and interned for both reputable as well as not so reputable companies across a lot of different facets of the industry, management/booking/label/PR/marketing/radio and video promo/live venue/music rags/radio show/live sound/tour manager/doorman/bartender/talent buying....
Anything in the music industry you absolutely loved?
When I was younger, the free CDs and tickets to shows. The older I got, being able to to help in even the smallest of ways, a band or artist who was trying to make their living in music. The little victories were as important as the big deals that got done.
It's been five years of running this festival, have you noticed anything over the years and/or how have you grown through this?
I cannot believe it's been five years. Time flies the older you get. I think our biggest success was to partner with the Asbury Park Bazaar (which my wife runs) and to include camping on the beach (which we did not want to do at first, so we can't take credit for that one. Was all from the AP Boardwalk staff, they were right about adding it and deserve all the credit). It has made Indian Summer more.... balanced, and more then just some music festival. Aside from that, on the music side, my partner Colin curates all the music and he has always done a great job of bringing in some amazing talent from the local scene as well as from around the country. Dude knows his music.
Is Asbury Park your home?
Sort of. New Brunswick was always my home. But I moved to Asbury (3rd Ave) basically on a whim one weekend in 2008. Then I moved in with my girlfriend (now wife Jenny) in Neptune in 2010. We sold that house and lived in Lavallette for a year and now are back in  our new house in Shark River Hills (Neptune) since March of 2018. So we are about 10 minutes away from the downtown. We both work in Asbury and hang in Asbury so we basically call it home though! 
What are you doing when you're not planning this rad music festival/event?
Working all the time!!! hahaha No, but I help my wife with the Bazaar, I play in a band (The Vice Rags, and yeah I won Top Dummer in the Asbury Park Music Awards 2018... NBD....) work on the house and take our dog Edith on trips whenever we can. Bartend one night a week at Bond St. Bar (last remaining original bartend there... yeah Im old) and try to cook dinner and do laundry from my pregnant wife (baby is due Indian Summer / Fall Bazaar weekend... yup...)
Any advice for bands trying to get their music heard?
Play as much as possible (shows AND practice). Just be you and work hard AF. The rest comes with the hard work. Be yourself and honest and don't try to be something your not. There is SO much music out there but, I think, it comes down to people wanting to make a REAL connection with music. The lyrics, the performance everything. It's not easy and that's why there is only a handful of bands who make it to that next level. So try to have fun and enjoy the ride... Let the rest fall into place. 
You and Dan (ITC founder) go back for quite a while, what's your favorite Dan memory?
There are SOOOOO many, most of which I can't even talk about.... So let's just say, when he was the Eyeball Records mascot (full big black boxy suit, like a sports team mascot) at SXSW in like 2007. At the time he was (and I love to remind him of this), my intern when I worked at Degy Ent. the first time around. I was down there for for and he was tour managing our friends The Gay Blades but also earnign extra cash dressing up as this mascot walking around sixth ave. (That's right kids, you ALWAYS gotta find that side hustle, no matter what it is!).
Orrr, maybe it was at his wedding where he walked out with his mom to QOTSA "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar But I feel Like a Millionare" and his mom booty dropped and twerked up on him when it kicks in!!! hahahha was amazing. (that's also probably my favorite song if that were a question here...)

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Ear buds Interview with Chicago's Primo JAB

By Kristyn Potter

Ear buds Interview with Chicago's Primo JAB

“I want people to better themselves through the things I’m doing … make the world better through something I’ve done.”

 We chatted with the very smart, very talented, and damn good rapper Primo JAB on how he got started, his new album he just dropped, and what Jab means for those of us living under a rock. One of the sickest interviews I've done in a while, take a look.

 

ITC: So let’s start at the beginning, where are you from? 

Primo JAB: I’m from the West side of Chicago, called Oak Park. Born and raised. I’m a Sox fan … the voice of Homer Simpson went to our school—that’s my claim to fame: he spoke at my graduation.

 

ITC: How did you get started in music?

Primo JAB: I’ve always loved music, even as a kid. I’m sure my parents could tell you numerous times of using music to put me to sleep, and I remember doing little talent shows as a kid. I’ve always wanted to perform and be creative and use my imagination and have fun. As I grew up I fell into hip hop, and once I found out that anybody can rap, I’ve been perfecting my craft, and trying to get better and better.

 

ITC: Do you think anybody can rap?

Primo JAB: Anybody can rap. There’s various things anybody can do but to actually demonstrate at a high level, it takes a special something … that doesn’t mean everybody should rap. It’s different.

 

ITC: Yeah that’s completely true. Some people probably shouldn’t rap, but your stuff is really good. So you just dropped an album this year?

 

Primo JAB: On the Fourth of July, I put out my latest project, called The Book of Jab. I put a lot of work into it. I put out other albums and other projects before and each one of those I took notes on what I did the last time, and cleaned it up. On this album, I’m not perfect but I definitely feel like its 99.9999 percentile of a great hip hop project … it feels really good. I’m trying to tour, do shows off it; I’m working on a video for it next week.

 

ITC: Have your friends listened to it? What did they think?

 

Primo JAB: They like it, they’ve enjoyed it. So far everybody around me enjoys it. But it’s about strangers, I want strangers to love it, not people who don’t want to offend me.

 

ITC: Yeah I totally get that. So what is your ultimate goal with all of this?

 

Primo JAB:My ultimate goal is to be prosperous and take over the world and share my vision, through this music. And use this music to create a platform where I’m able to do other things, also music related… opportunities to help kids learn [about] entertainment jobs etc., help with socioeconomic growth and development. I want people to better themselves through the things I’m doing … make the world better through something I’ve done.

 

ITC: How old are you?

IPrimo JAB: ’m in my 30s.

 

ITC: And what is ‘Jab’?

 

Primo JAB: The jab is your product, it’s your brand. Whatever you’re pushing, that’s your means of making your way each day. Jab: its the foundation. Primo JAB, it’s the best jab. Numero uno jab.

 

I’m from Chicago and jab is street slang also … jab is used to describe commerce that might be happening in the black market. so it’s a little play on words.

 

Thats what I think hip hop has come away from … a lot of people trying to understand cycles; words come out and they get thrown around. Thats why I really like ‘Primo JAB’ too, primo sounds like family, primo thats your cousin, so primo jab is cuzzo, cuzzo jab. you’re family you’re my guy.

My producers name is godBLESSbeatz, everyone was confused. So I want to clarify that PrimoJAB used to be the both of us but I took the name to really cement the brand recognition.

[It] used to be two people, now its just me. But the same people who were involved are still involved.

 

ITC: Let’s do a fun fact or fun show story, you have any?

 

Primo JAB: I do trivia. I know all types of things.

 

ITC: Do you go to trivia nights?

 

Primo JAB: Yeah there is hip hop trivia I do. I go and dominate. If i don’t win, I’m always in second or third place. 

 

ITC: Favorite rapper out here right now - big and also underground

 

Primo JAB: I’ve been playing a lot of older West Coast stuff. Ice Cube and Redman are two influencers, they shaped who i am. I put the Wu-Tang Clan up there, Outkast, Tribe Called Quest, Nas. I really like Kendrick Lamar. I'm a fan of Future and Gucci Mane, I really enjoy their music and think they have been overlooked for what they contributed sonically. The Migos are decent as well. 

For newer rappers, Westside Gunn, Lil Eto, Crimeapple … a lot of people on the album (Flee Lord, Ras Kass, A. Flip, Blacksmith, El Camino, IceLord, Liym Capital, Daniel Son).  

ITC: Anything else you want to add?
Even though I'm from Chicago I also want to shout out Atlanta because Ive been here for a while and have well established ties to the city's cultural contributors. 
Thanks again to Primo JAB for taking the time out to chat with us. He's the real deal. Listen to The Book of Jab below.

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Ear Buds: Wilder Sons "In Between"

By Kristyn Potter

Ear Buds: Wilder Sons

We've got a very early Friday surprise for you from the homies Wilder Sons. Their new EP is hitting the interwebs and world tomorrow but in advance of that we've got the title track off the EP, and it's just dripping with nostalgia.

“In Between” is the kind of song you bump on repeat when the long drive home has you daydreaming of what was, is, or could have been. It’s sentimental, catchy, and elegantly performed.

The chorus blossoms while his melodic chant asks the age-old question if you can ever truly return “there again”? As your summer vacation comes to a close (RIP summer, what is life?), In Between fits cozy, nestled within your end of summer playlist. 

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Sounds x Interview: Switching the Label with TREADS

By Kristyn Potter

Sounds x Interview: Switching the Label with TREADS

Interviewed by: Kristyn Potter

“Clearly with a name like [Whiskey Bitches] there is a little bit of an image to keep up and all of that started as a fun joke band to me and I didn’t think it was something I could keep up.”

 On a very hungover Sunday about a month ago to the day, I ventured out of my bed (a feat I must say) and headed to a fancy hotel bar for brunch with the Brooklyn babes // badasses TREADS. I showed up late as usual (train delays, blah blah excuse) but they were more than understanding-and had already ordered a few mimosas. As I sat down, we almost instantly got into a conversation about John Mayer and how good of a guitar player he is (“who’s the emo guy who plays really good guitar ... he’s a sick guitar player from Berklee Music School” ... “Oh John Mayer, who I hate, but he’s an AMAZING guitar player) and as we all ragged on his emoness but also pure artistic talent, I knew it was going to be a Sunday well spent- my hangover was in good company.

And that’s what TREADS is; formally they came together as Whiskey Bitches (more on that later) but what kept them together was their love of music, their excellent caliber of playing, their desire to learn and grow as musicians, and their ability to work well as a unit.

I first came across them when we were putting together our cassette mixtape, and since then it was clear to me that these guys don’t just know how to rock, they also have a deep understanding of music, and aren’t afraid to show it- or experiment along the way. So without further ado, I present my second best hangover (my first was a few weekends ago on a beach in Monterosso) with the lovely TREADS.

“Before all of his stuff came out, I had a buddy in high school who was really into John Mayer and I was like ‘seriously’ ... he had all these weird demo tapes of him playing live shows, and he was doing like blues stuff, with other blues players and I remember being like he’s the biggest waste of talent, because he’s one of the best guitarists I’ve heard in a long time, but I HATE everything he does.”

Meet Mike, who I’ve been Facebook friends with for almost a year now and had no idea he was the same Mike until well after the interview. He’s the guitar and backing vocals in TREADS; unless you count the time Madge lost her voice and he had to fill in as vocals.

Which brings me to Madge. She’s the cool chick sitting in the back of the classroom in a leather jacket and like a Stone Roses shirt who visibly doesn’t give a fuck, but then also manages to graduate at the top of your class. She’s loud and unapologetic and strong in who she is, proud of what she knows and also capable of acknowledging things she doesn’t know; and it’s rad.

As the main vocals and guitar, Madge is very different than what you would think of her-if you, like me, associated her with her Whiskey Bitches days. She’s so far from just a whiskey bitch it’s almost insulting to put her in that same category; but we all have a past, and that’s the whole point of growing, right? She’s done classical piano for 15 years, stopping after high school, and instead studied recording at NYU-Tisch, and understands the whole business side of music.

She’s a silent killer if ever I met one, and in the weeks following the interview, she also kept in touch and asked about my sick puppy. A silent killer with a heart of gold.

“John Mayer’s music suckssssss. Well, it like good-sucks. It’s really good if you’re going through a breakup or something. You’re just at home eating ice cream or I don’t know a pita bread and crying listening to John Mayer.” Me - Left Bank head bitch, and occasion-specific John Mayer fan.

“We go through breakups really differently …”

Meet Glenn, drummer in TREADS, who fun fact KILLS it on the drums but hadn’t had a professional lesson until three years ago.

“My going through a break up was like spending the night skating against traffic in New York City. I didn’t put any John Mayer on … I just picked a northbound avenue and skated against traffic.” -Glenn

From then our food and more mimosas arrived, and we pivoted from John Mayer and skateboarding to things you probably want to read about.

Because Madge went to NYC for recording, we got on the topic of her involvement with the production of TREADS’ music.

“When it comes to the initial tracking and recording of things, we will go to a studio to do all of the drums because you need a drum room and a place that can do that well, so we will go to a place and I try to not get in the engineers way when we are his studio too much … its their studio, its still their session. But then all of the vocals and guitar production I do at home, and the bass I do in our practice space with Kris, and we do all of the bass tracking together.” -Madge

“So who mixes?” -Me, slightly less hungover

“For mixing you need a lot more gear, so we got this lovely human named Eric who has his own studio - he was a year ahead of me in school and was always very good, and its funny because Mike recommended him as someone he knew separately …” -Madge

“I worked with him on other projects and when we were talking about how we wanted to sound, he popped into my head as the guy who would sort of get it there.” -Mike

“He was like I dig the songs enough and I’m happy to work with this, and he’s definitely better at it than I am, which is helpful. And because we went to the same program we speak the same language, so the back and forth has actually been really refreshing and nice.” -Madge

Sidebar: because I’m late as shit getting this interview out, their EP has been released, and you can listen to it here.

Sidebar 2/Shameless plug: The conversation then pivoted over to the cassette that we put out, which Madge mixed due to the time crunch of getting our tapes out.  (Huzzah!)

“I think eventually I just need to buy a walkman,” -Glenn.

“So you listened to the cassette? Did you enjoy it?” -Me trying to boost my ego, one interview at a time.

“I enjoyed it, and the other bands too.” -Madge

Fair enough.

“This is really the first TREADS EP.” -Madge

“It’s [the new EP] the first one written as TREADS,” Glenn said. “[The first EP] was like spillover from Whiskey Bitches and those songs were all written before I joined, and I kind of re-wrote the drums, versus being written.”

“Yeah this EP is all stuff that we’ve done together.” - Madge “And its more of the direction that we want to keep going in.”

“So Left Bank interviewed Whiskey Bitches a long time ago, Alex Norelli did it during Northside, right when I launched the magazine, so I’m really interested to hear how Whiskey Bitches became TREADS.” -Me

“I was just growing out of the image. And I think that some of the other band members really wanted to keep going in that direction and Glenn and I are more on the same page, like what we are doing now makes more sense for who we are. We were getting heavier once [Glenn] joined the band.” -Madge

“Clearly with a name like that there is a little bit of an image to keep up and all of that started as a fun joke band to me and I didn’t think it was something I could keep up.”

“So was it an age thing?” -Me

“Originally Whiskey Bitches for me grew out of another band I had called Fuck Yeah, and it was my "serious band" and Whiskey Bitches was the joke side project, but then it started to get a reputation … the songs are kitschy and fun but that became my only band and when I tried to make it more serious it was clear that as a group it didn’t make sense anymore.” -Madge

It was during the time that they had a Rubber Tracks session originally for Whiskey Bitches that TREADS (at that time name TBD) had really started to evolve into its own direction.

“I joined the band because I really liked the band and was going to their shows and Madge was complaining about how she wanted to book shows but didn’t have a drummer.” -Glenn

“And thats a similar story of how I joined the band too. In my other project I had played shows with them and had been a fan for a while, Madge hurt her hand and they asked me to play guitar because I was familiar with the songs and had been to the shows, so I learned all of the songs in a week and played as the guitarist for a show, and then somehow accidentally we were like ‘hey its fun having two guitarists’ and thats how that happened.” -Mike

… and this was as Whiskey Bitches? Wait. TREADS? Anyone else a little confused?

“The name changed basically happened … so we recorded the EP, we put it out a year after we recorded it, by the time it comes out that September we’re already TREADS. I think Northside of that year was the last Whiskey Bitches show we played.” - Madge

Somewhere between all of this, our mimosas were refilled and Glenn mentioned how badly he wants to release a TREADS metal album. Which is kind of the beauty in the name change: they can do that. They can do whatever the hell they want to do.

“We suddenly have a band where the musicality is a lot higher, which is why its more of an exciting project for me personally. It’s no longer like 3-chord joke music, and I don’t mean that at all in a bad way … there is something a lot more fun if you come from playing for a long time, and you want to get better musically over time.” -Madge

“I mean you went to music school …” -Me

“And I was always shy about saying that out loud but as I’ve gotten older I’m more confident, and I would like to be considered a respectable musician not just a 3-chord punk player.” -Madge

“I also find that I’m surrounded by multi-instrumentalists, and when I replaced Eli in Whiskey Bitches, I remember he got a tattoo of a guitar on his arm and I was like why that and he’s like ‘oh I’m a guitarist, but I play drums, but you should definitely take that drumming role.’ I didn’t even realize he identified strongly as a guitarist, like that is his musical voice. And the more I work with good musicians, I think that good musicians play multiple instruments - Glenn

Sidebar fun fact: When writing music, Madge starts most of it on piano, but very recently she has started approaching and applying all of the things that come naturally on piano, to the guitar.

“And I’m the opposite, while the only lessons I ever took were piano, I would never play piano live because I’m not good enough. But while guitar is my first language, I write a lot of my melodies on piano because it makes me think of melody differently than I would with guitar.” -Mike

What became really interesting and apparent to me, was that not only were these guys good musicians, but they wanted more from the music they were creating through TREADS. Being that Madge is so classically trained, the way they compose their music is a lot more refined than your average punk band. So while on stage, you get the punk vibe or aura if you will, but behind the scenes, the composition of those same tracks is a lot more meticulous and strategic.

“This is the first band that I’ve ever played in where at the end of the show I can usually count the mistakes on one hand. Normally its like whatever mistakes happen, happen constantly but with this one they don’t. And I can tell you, we just played Knitting Factory last week, and I know two mistakes happened.” -Glenn

“Whats funny is that you’re one of those drummers that you’re so on that when you make a mistake, I notice, and you notice too. You’re consistent enough that its noticeable and we know exactly whats going on.” -Mike

“Mind you he’s playing with a sprained wrist and its like you’re really injured right now and shouldn’t even be playing, and you still only made just one mistake.” -Madge

The cool thing about this—just in sharing a meal and drink with them—is that they spend a lot of time together honing their craft and cultivating their relationship/friendship with each other. Its 100% obvious, and while I’ve been around a lot of bands during this time, it’s nice to see a band that is fun and badass, but also a serious fucking band. It’s very orchestrated, and it’s nice to watch.

“Whiskey Bitches was fun to play drums because you could kick over half the drum set and it would still be fine, it would be fun and silly and everyone would laugh but whatever.” -Glenn

“But is that kind of limiting do you think? That lack of freedom?” -Me, hangover finished and fully engaged.

“I think we are growing into it [freedom] more and more. My next aspiration is to get to a point where there are songs where we have longer instrumentals to give us more space. But when we say freedom, there were no solos in Whiskey Bitches … it was just we looked sloppy.” -Madge

“And freedom doesn’t have to be sloppy.” -Me

“It’s like adding places where you can start to play together more, and be like do we want to extend this another 8 bars, like how do we become the kind of musicians where we can get on stage and read a crowd, and react together, I think that is the next step. Now that we have a unit that is working together.” -Madge

“Watching where TREADS has gone before I was playing and being in it now, the evolution I am finding is very interesting and enjoyable.” -Mike

“I think we stopped focusing on how to play Northside and more thinking like how do we get to the Garden in 10 years? How do we got to a place where we all feel like we’re bringing something to the table that expresses the sum of all of this life and musical training and playing, and trying to make more room where everyone can come to the table and say ok this is something I want to play, this is something I want to do. And it feels really awesome.” -Madge

Catch them July 27th at Mercury Lounge, or August 15th at Alphaville. A huge thanks to TREADS for giving me (and now all of you) a glimpse into their world—excited to see what's to come. Listen to their brand spanking new EP below x

 

Cover Photo: David Burlacu

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Ear Buds Interview: Fecking Bahamas

By Kristyn Potter

Ear Buds Interview: Fecking Bahamas

We are thrilled to have partnered with the math rock blog Fecking Bahamas for the May Ear Buds Cassette Mixtape. We had a nice little chat with Nikk, one of the founders of the site, and discussed how the blog got its start, why they picked the bands they did for the cassette, and all-things math rock. This interview also covers a lot of ground, amazing links for your next rabbit hole, and some math rock blogs and YouTube pages as well. 

Let's start at the beginning, how did Fecking Bahamas get its start?

Fecking Bahamas started when my wife Kat and I were living in the UK. We had always been into math rock, but this was our chance to really interact with the scene. I started writing for Musical Mathematics, which was an amazing blog focused on math rock and the general UK scene. I guess my enthusiasm got the best of me and I started researching math rock heavily, even making a 'database' of math rock bands across the world. After a while we were sitting on so much writing and general data that we just decided to throw together our own blog. We decided to transform our math rock database into an interactive map, which people could use to find bands in the more obscure countries. At the time, the Japanese scene was super exciting but poorly documented, so we also released a Japanese math rock compilation on Bandcamp. I guess all of this stuff combined gave us our start, they got our name out. We also did this 'History of Math Rock' article series, which people tend to like.

Why math rock? Versus an indie blog or rock blog etc?

My attraction to math rock is similar to my broader love for jazz and experimental genres. I just love music that is unpredictable, stuff that requires multiple listens to pull it apart and parse the sound. However, while jazz is overburdened with improvisation and long-winded freeform instrumentation, math rock is punchy and to the point. It retains that raw energy and brevity of its punk heritage. In terms of making a math rock specific blog, I guess in addition to our love for math rock, we wanted to contribute to that particular community. It's small, friendly, and the people are open-minded. We were also enthusiastic about focusing on one genre and doing it well - researching it to the n-th, covering the entire globe, unravelling its history etc. A more general music blog for us wouldn't be as special and a bit cumbersome in terms of staying on top of things (we all have day jobs!). 

How did you guys come up with the name?

The name references a song by Don Caballero called 'Palm Trees In The Fecking Bahamas'. We were throwing a couple of ideas around like 'Tectonics' and 'Bear Tooth', but the Don Cab reference sealed it. It was Kat's idea. Admittedly, I was a little hesitant about having 'fecking' in the name, as I thought this might be deemed inappropriate. But in the end we went with it and people generally dig the name. Still, I seldom put the name on my resume. 

 

Let's get into the music ... Favorite band you’ve covered this year?

Giraffes? Giraffes! new album is easily the standout for me. It is exquisitely crafted right down to their choice of when to raise the guitar volume or hit the snares. I urge people not to sleep on this album. Some of my other personal faves we've worked with this year include sewingneedle, Cheer-Accident, Lingua Nada and Straya.

 

Now for a harder question, one of your favorite bands you’ve covered/discovered of all time

No, that's an easy question: Cardiacs. They were a wonky punk band that formed around 1977. They are my favourite band, and I've tried to infuse their legacy into Fecking Bahamas wherever I can. The frontman and mastermind Tim Smith suffered a combined stroke and heart attack in 2007, so the band have been on hiatus since. One of his side projects The Sea Nymphs put out an album unreleased of material in 2016, which we had the honor of covering. They are equally as wonderful.

Any funny or awesome fan/audience stories or comments?

I'm just generally stoked on the mail we get from people around the world regarding our site. We got a really touching e-mail recently from a kid in Thailand who was extremely grateful to us for helping him find music that he didn't have access to in his country, music that helped define him as a person. I got another e-mail from a guy who used to be friends with Matt Sweeney in Chavez, and he ended up giving me unreleased tracks from Sweeney's earlier band Wider (the band of which, according to folklore, is where the word 'math rock' stemmed from). I'm still figuring out how we can release the tracks to the math rock community. 

Oh man that sounds so cool! Please release it! And now for the cassette... how did you come up with these particular bands and tracks? Any theme for this selection or is it random?

Providing a global perspective of math rock is something we take very seriously. This is the basis of the 'World Of Math' interactive map on our site, and the region-specific compilations we release on Bandcamp. We do it to give math rock bands from less established math rock scenes or, I guess you could say, 'geographically isolated' countries a bit of a leg up. This also provides an opportunity to hear how cultural differences shine out in their music. That's the idea with this cassette. We put 8 spectacular math bands from 8 different countries all on the same playing field.   

Any song that you particularly love on the cassette?

'Jester In A Jar' by Stuck In November. These guys are really talented musicians, and they doing something left-of-center in an already left-of-center genre. There is some really interesting stuff coming out of Bangalore, India.  

 

 

Where are you guys located?

Everywhere. Australia, Japan, UK, South Korea, France, Germany, Russia, US. Location isn't a barrier to what we do.

Favorite band ever, no questions:

Cardiacs, as above. But I also love Kate Bush, I have to sneak that in.

 Anything you want us to hype/share/promote?

We try to be a well-rounded encyclopedic resource for math rock, but naturally we can't cover everything. No one blog can. So if people are into math rock, there are a bunch of really good blogs, podcasts and channels out there and they should check them all out. Some of my personal favourites are The Other Rock Show (radio/podcast), The Math-Rock News (Facebook page), Plenty of Swords (blog), and Let's Talk About Math Rock (Youtube channel). Definitely check these guys out.    

 

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Ear buds March Mixtape: Ruby Bones Interview

By Kristyn Potter

Ear buds March Mixtape: Ruby Bones Interview

While we are still gathering some interviews and cool shit for our April cassette with Left Bank Magazine, we still have some bands from other mixtapes that we wanna give a shoutout too (and a nice little feature as well).

Indie rockers Ruby Bones combine energetic rhythms with visceral, existential lyrics best digested in sweat-soaked clubs like the ones that define New Jersey and Brooklyn

Made up of vocalist/guitarist Chris Fox, drummer James Janocha, and South African import FC Spies on bass, the trio describes itself as "Bruce Springsteen on cocaine after a few drags off a helium balloon." 

We'll take it.

Check out their interview with us below:

Your Facebook bio mentions lots of pizza, so lets start there … Whats your favorite pizza topping?

Haha. I think it's in our interests, not our bio. We could write a new bio about how we met trying to devour the world's largest pizza only to be bested by Johnny Chestnut, which led us to rethinking our life's direction where we ultimately decided that we would form a band instead of being professional eaters. But I digress. Personally, my ultimate favorite topping is Bacon, but if I'm at a classic join in the city - a la Bleeker Street Pizza - I'm going classic cheese or pepperoni. You don't mess with that.

 

We have to ask, how do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

Not my thing. When I'm taking down a slice I don't want to pretend I'm being healthy. We all know what this is. Give me that grease all day. Chris on the other hand loves it... I'll just leave that there.

 

Who are your musical influences?

As a band I think that we all come through as a child of the early 2000s indie rock scene. Chris has a deep affinity for bands like Spoon and The Strokes. While FC and I come from a heavier background, I think you can trace the core of the band back to the early LES and Merge Records days.

 

Whats your favorite lyric (either in your song or others)?

I don't know that I could ever answer that question. I hate to take the cop-out, but lyrics - and what I may say are my favorite - all relate to a time in my life. The answer will be completely different today than it will be next week.. or it was last week.

 

The guys wanted to submit this one from Tom Waits: "You know there ain't no devil, that's just god when he's drunk."

 

Are you guys from New Jersey or just kind of ended up there?

Chris is originally from New Jersey and is our resident advisor. He's a pretty big deal in Rutherford (sorry, that's an inside joke you're not going to get). FC lives in Brooklyn and made his way here for school from South Africa. I was a little bid of a nomad for a while. I'm originally from Delaware and live in Nashville and Boston before making my way back down here after college.

 

Does making music in NYC/NJ bring more out in your sound? How does the city affect your music?

I think there's more of a Jersey feel to us than NYC. I don't think we fit the current New York/Brooklyn trend all that well and we're not making any conscious decision to try to adhere to that. There is something going on in Jersey that feels really special. Places like Asbury Park are embracing independent musicians and indie rock. It's a really fun time to be playing music around here.

 

HELL YEAH. Your favorite thing about making music?

There's a special energy that comes about when you're making music. I can't really explain it, but in those moments, nothing else matters. It happens to me the same when you listen to certain artists. Where you can almost zone out and feel what the artist(s) were feeling. And when you're in that moment with a band, and you're all on that same wavelength, there's nothing like it.

 

What does success look like to you?

I don't have these delusions of grandeur. If I were able to live off of making music, I would find that life successful. Being able to do what you love for the rest of your life. Not many people are privileged enough to be able to say that.

 

Have your parents been to a show and if so, what were their thoughts?

They hated it. JK. None of our parents have actually seen us perform as Ruby Bones yet. I'm sure they will some day, and I think they'll have a good time. I come from a family of musicians and they have seen me play in all sorts of bands over the years. Very little would catch them off guard these days.

Upcoming Dates

April 27 - Brooklyn (at Gold Sounds)

May - Teaneck NJ

June- Asbury Park

(Follow them on Facebook to get more deets)

 

 

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5 Minutes with Left Bank Magazine Editor

By Dan Marter

5 Minutes with Left Bank Magazine Editor

We sat down with our friend (and resident blog writer at INTHECLOUDS) to discuss this month's cassette tape. In her spare time (which we aren't too sure how she manages to have free time) Kristyn is also Editor of Left Bank magazine, an international art and music blog, and helped curated some artists and tunes for April's Ear Buds Mixtape.

How’s it going? Let’s start with the cassette tape - nice artwork!

Thanks! But I can’t take the credit, it’s by Anton Vitkovskiy, a Russian artist who is based in Bushwick. He’s got this perfect mix between Basquiat and Picasso, and really vibrant colors. It’s super expressive and I felt like it worked with the music really well.

 

 

Speaking of the music, how did you find the bands?

I actually came across most of them on the music platform we use for getting new submissions (cuz my email was getting a little out of control, not gonna lie). It’s called Submithub and they basically work with bands all over the world, so I came across Champyons, Canshaker Pi, and La Bête Blooms that way. TREADS reached out to us after a FB post. So I can’t hate Mark Zuckerberg TOO much.

I think when I was talking to INTHECLOUDS about this, I mentioned how I’m going to Berlin in a few weeks and so originally I wanted only Berlin bands, so I could meet them, take pics etc. but then other bands started rolling in, and I realized I wanted it to be more broad.

 

So how did you go about getting deciding the tracks?

That was kind of the easy part—they were all in the process of promoting certain songs, and TREADS actually gave us a brand new track that isn’t available anywhere. Seriously they finished recording and mixing and emailed us the final version, which I thought was amazing. It was all very organic and working with the bands has been awesome.

Where are the bands from?

Yeah! So actually we got a really good mix of bands: Champyons is from Berlin, TREADS is from Brooklyn (actually the lead singer was in Whiskey Bitches fun fact), Canshaker Pi is from the Netherlands, and La Bête Blooms from Hull. Their sounds all work together—very loud and in charge, with a little shoegaze mixed in thanks to Champyons

Finally, anything coming up we should know about?

Thanks for asking! Yeah we are putting out another zine soon, I’m working with this talented designer Erika Briggans-Jones who did the last zine. And Erika, myself, and this AMAZINGLY TALENTED photographer Cory Rice are in the process of putting together a nude art show and coffee table book. Keeping things weird for sure.

 

Thanks again to Left Bank for partnering with us for April’s Cassette! Check out their site here.

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