YouTube Playlist: Oct 2019

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DC’s music scene — past and present — is known for producing some of the most iconoclastic and fiercely independent music makers around. Of course, it’s hard not to mention Dischord or Chuck Brown in any discussion about DC music, but as this 15-track playlist can attest, there is so much more to celebrate.

Lovingly curated by WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE co-host Rick Taylor, and special guests Paul Vodra from Hometown Sounds and JosaFeen Wells from DMV KARS, these 15 tracks cover a wide spectrum of past and present DC music makers.

If you have a sweet tooth for wildly idiosyncratic old-school tunes, Rick has got you covered. For the new school music lovers, Paul and JosaFeen’s selections speak to the breadth of talent and creativity that continues to make our nation’s capitol one of the most exciting cities for music. Happy listening…

5 old-school DC picks from Rick Taylor:

Urban Verbs — “Subways” (1980)

Urban Verbs are one of the best kept secret’s of DC’s late 70s/early 80s post-punk scene. My friend Chris Goett, who runs Etxe Records and writes songs and plays guitar in Silo Halo, gave me one of their records as a gift. The band was fronted by Roddy Frantz, brother of Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz. Supposedly Eno was a fan. One listen to “Subways” and it’s easy to see why.

Tiny Desk Unit — “Couscous” (Live at Hurrah) (1981)

Years before Bob Boilen created All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts for NPR, he played synths in a quirky DC band called Tiny Desk Unit. The band had more in common musically with late 70s/early 80s U.K. avant pop acts like Family Fodder or Flying Lizards than their District punk brethren. “Couscous” shows off just how delightfully oddball this band can be. The fact that live footage exists of them is the most wonderful of small miracles.

Velvet Monkeys — “Everything Is Right” (1982)

Before Don Fleming produced records for Sonic Youth, Screaming Trees, Teenage Fanclub and Hole, he fronted Velvet Monkeys, an arty, minimalist post-punk band from the District that sounded little like else from the District. “Everything Is Right” is the killer title track from the band’s 1982 cassette-only release. It was recorded by the late (and truly great) Skip Groff at the legendary Inner Ear Studios with Don Zientara.

Chalk Circle — “The Slap” (1981)

The raw and rhythmic sounds of Chalk Circle were courtesy of two DC musicians: Anne Bonafede and Sharon Cheslow. Drawing inspiration from bands such as The Raincoats and Liliput, as well as go-go and jazz, the duo broke down gender barriers at a time when DC’s music scene was almost universally male. “The Slap” encapsulates what I love about the band — it has a percussive, angular edge and an energetic “fight the system” attitude that is contagious.

Black Tambourine — “For Ex-Lovers Only” (1992)

Black Tambourine are one of the most influential independent bands to emerge from the DC area, particularly on a whole generation of bands equally obsessed with smart pop hooks, fuzzy guitars and cavernous reverb. The band only recorded a handful of EPs in the early 90s, but the quality of these recordings has stood the test of time. “For Ex-Lovers Only” is simply awesome — a perfect 3 minute distillation of the thunderous power and might of indie vocalist extraordinare Pam Berry and musicians Archie Moore, Brian Nelson and Slumberland Records head honcho Mike Schulman.

5 new school picks from Paul Vodra…

Iza Flo – “Free Fallin’” (2019)

Isabelle De Leon’s expansive lady dance-rock ensemble Iza Flo looks like they are having mountains of fun on this soulful groove “Free Fallin'”.

Lisa Frank & Rez Ekbatan – Whisper (Outputmessage Remix) (2019)

Director Nigel Lyons caught this captivating single take of DJ & producer Outputmessage performing his remix of “Whisper” by Lisa Frank & Rez Ekbatan in a church, with a fabulous reveal at the end.

Wall of Trophies – “Something” (2019)

In “Something” by atmospheric duo Wall of Trophies, the deft, big production by Will Copps leaves singer Brittany Jean’s voice clear in the mix of the slow-groove dance floor killer, while the video evolves into deeper abstractions and filters.

Loi Loi – “Sliver Light” (2019)

Synth diva Loi Loi’s video for “Sliver Light” from director Jen Meller is a tale of four women (Alexys Forrest of (Alexys Forrest of Danger Sluts, Krystal Ashley of “Scenes from Backstage”, Jax Caruso of The Galaxy Electric, and Freddie Heinemann of Fisk) ditching unappreciative partners for a psychedelic dance party.

Honest Haloway – “Atonement” (2019)

Synthrock band Honest Haloway’s video for “Atonement,” shot by frontman Tim Kratzer’s wife Sara Nabizadeh on location in Namibia, is astounding and arresting in its beauty and mystery.

5 new school picks from JosaFeen Wells…

Amerie — “1 Thing” (2005)

This record was produced by Rich Harrison from D.C. grammy winner- wrote beyonce’s crazy in love. Amerie is from DC as well.

Garbagemen – “Crab Legs” (2018)

2 Girl EDM group from D.C. ladies play and sing with beautiful harmony and hypnotizing melody’s fun fact band member Leah Cage plays for local band BRNDA.

April + Vista – “Own2” (2018)

Who doesn’t like a dope male n female duo? April has an amazing voice and a true gift for songwriting. This is just dope flippin’ music!

2DCat — “I Feel You” (2019)

I ran across these guys and super glad I did. 2019. Synth. Wave. Period! Nuff said, but really this group makes me feel good and young again. Wait leave out the young part..I’m not old.

Beau Young Prince — “Let Go” (2019)

This young man is representing for the city for real. His stage presence is energetic and contagious. He has a beautiful way to tell his story and struggle but also delivers the feeling of hope. A true hustler and someone making major strides. Don’t sleep. Funfact…did a show at Songbyrd about a month ago.

Want more? Check out the Oct. 4th edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE featuring guest dj Paul Vodra (HOMETOWN SOUNDS) and JosaFeen’s awesome band DMV KARS!

And check out Paul Vodra’s excellent Hometown Sounds blog and podcast.

October2019

 

 

 

 

5 Questions: DMV KARS

DMV KARS

DC’s vibrant underground music scene is chock full of dazzling examples of true DIY idealism in action, but when it comes to dance music, it’s hard for me to think of a contemporary local act that exemplifies “do-it-yourself” values more than DMV KARS.

They may refer to themselves as two “goofy girls from the DMV,” but Carla Elliot JosaFeen “Jo-Jo” Wells and Kristina “Kbudd” Buddenhagen mean business when it comes to making and recording their own music. The talented duo specialize in the kind of 80s-inspired electro-funk concoctions that’s impossible not to move to — and they do it all using a Macbook, microKORG, Yamaha keyboard and a seemingly endless well of DIY creativity.

DMV KARS formed in 2017, when JosaFeen and Kbudd reconnected after taking some time off from the DC music scene. The two musicians had previously played in the D.C. band E.D. Sedwick with Justin Moyer, with JosaFeen on vocals and Kbudd on bass.

Now, the duo make their own elastic grooves. And rather than following a similar style to E.D. Sedwick, DMV KARS is its own wonderfully idiosyncratic mutant disco machine, with traces of classic 80s bombers like Chakka Khan and Shannon, but also New Order and other synth-friendly stompers, with more than a smattering of pure funk and disco. The band’s self-titled EP is a must listen for anyone who loves a good groove.

With DMV KARS slated to play the Oct. 4th edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE, I got in touch with the band to learn more about this most intriguing of dance acts…

1) What can you tell us about how DMV KARS formed? I know you previously played together in Edie Sedgwick with Justin Moyer.

DMV KARS: We were both out of the music scene for some quite some time and hadn’t seen each other for a while. We met up as friends, we were both going through a lot of personal shit, and we reconnected — we both really missed playing music, and decided we wanted to do a really fun project together.

2) DMV KARS is like a delicious ice cream swirl of all the best 80s sounds — there’s funk, electro pop, new wave and more than a bit of RnB. At the same time, DMV KARS has a vibrancy and edge that is unmistakably modern. How did you arrive at the DMV KARS sound?

DMV KARS: We had both been listening to electronic music individually (this was not what we were playing together in our previous project). We thought, hey, maybe we can make our own dance music? The new wave, RnB, funk elements just came out naturally, turning into this hybrid electro pop sound that i don’t really know how to classify. We worked a long time on the album, but I would say that the meat of the songs just poured out easily and took the direction that you hear now. We didn’t really know where it would go – we weren’t purposely trying to make a specific sound, just that we wanted people to dance.

DMV KARS EP cover

3) How do you approach writing songs together? Do you ever just jam out and see where it takes you?

DMV KARS: Yes, we usually start out with a drum idea — then play around on keys and bass. Once a musical structure is sort of in place, JosaFeen will improv over it with her voice. Then we add the little elements later to beef up the jams. It’s a really fun process, and whenever we get a snippet or idea that is really catchy, we praise each other with sheer adulation🤣🤣🤣-even if it’s only a 5 second part of the song, we walk away with a huge surge of positivity that the two of us made something we are really proud of. So in effect, the songwriting process is really, really, really fun.

4) One of my favorite tracks is “Fukumeen.” It has a fantastic driving rhythm, vintage synths, gorgeous singing and unstoppable hooks. It also has some witty things to say about a failed relationship. What can you tell us about it?

DMV KARS: This was the fastest song we ever wrote. KBUD just randomly started playing that melody on the microkorg, and JosaFeen immediately got the vocal idea. It is one of our favorites, and it’s the one that just poured out of us the easiest. I think most people can relate to this song.

DMV KARS making music

5) Let’s talk about the DMV KARS live show. What do you want audience members to feel when they see the band?

DMV KARS: We want them to laugh, smile, and dance. ultimately walk away feeling better than they did before the set started. everyone is going through something difficult in their lives — and if you can escape from that for 25 minutes by watching two silly women prancing around on stage with light-up ties sharing their hearts with the crowd, then i would say we achieved something really special.

Listen to and buy DMV KARS self-titled album on Bandcamp, follow them on Twitter and “Like” them on Facebook.

And don’t miss DMV KARS live show at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE on Friday, Oct. 4th, 2019 at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, Washington DC 20010).

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YouTube Playlist: WFTBO Sept 2019

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What’s that you say? You want some new tunes to listen to?

Well, you’re in luck. One of DC’s most interesting music makers and sound gurus — Jake Reid of Secret Wilderness and Screen Vinyl Image — is guest djing the Sept. 6th edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE. Jake was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to curate a brilliant 10-track YouTube playlist for Big One blog readers. As you can see, Jake’s picks range from moody post-punk classics to ambient experiments to idiosyncratic pop hits to off-kilter Nigerian music. The one thing a Jake Reid playlist will ALWAYS be: interesting.

Enjoy!

Echo & The Bunnymen – Stars Are Stars

“We lost some time, after things that never matter”

Jake: Echo were operating right out of the gate at a caliber most other bands took a few records to hit, and then they did it for another 4 albums after. There were two releases of Crocodiles, one had this as the second track and one the third. I’m used to the third, for some reason it feels like the right order for the song. It also highlights early on the shrouded mystery of both Ian’s deep environmental lyrics and Will’s guitar genius. 

Cocteau Twins – Persephone

Jake: I always have a CT record nearby. Lately it’s been Treasure. I can’t tell if Liz is trying to conjure or exorcise demons in this song (maybe both), but it’s absolutely all the things I love about early Cocteaus. Also, I’m a drum machine nerd so of course I found a link to Robin Guthrie talking about the machines he used. Highly recommended read.

Fred Schneider – Monster

Jake: When I was a kid I loved The B-52’s lyrics, there’s songs about counterfeiting money, rock lobsters, and strobe lights. How could you not think this was the best band in the world? Fred’s solo project in 84 features an appearance by the NYC drag queen Ethyl Eichelberger, Tina Weymouth, Parliament-Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell (co-producer too), and Keith Haring. Oh and the claymation pays clear homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing that came out 3 years earlier. For such a goofy fun song, it’s incredible how much history sits within the frames. 

Paul Parker & Patrick Cowley – Right On Target

Jake: I’ve been a huge fan of all the releases Dark Entries has been doing of the deeper psychedelic porn soundtrack stuff Patrick Cowley did. He could also crank out a dancefloor burner like this collab with Paul Parker. His style of playing and producing is unique, you can always tell a disco or Hi NRG song that he had his hands in. 

The Time – 777-9311

Jake: All the music here is Prince with Morris Day on vocals. According to some research the drum beat was a stock pattern on the Linn LM-1 and was programmed by the drummer of Tower of Power. This is also one of my favorite Prince guitar solos, I like how the guitar almost sounds like it’s warming up before it takes off.

Geddes Gengras – Ha’akulamanu

Jake: Gengras continually puts out top quality ambient music in a sea of ambient producers (that’s also not a bad thing imo!). The minimal approach here of a Korg Volca FM and a few FX and songs inspired from Hawaii provide an idyllic soundtrack for late summer vibes.

Drexciya – Aqua Worm Hole

Jake: RA did a great short on Drexciya last year touching on the legend and myth that surrounds the two Detroit artists. With obvious traces of funk, techno, and electro, Drexciya soundtrack their Afrofuturist world with aquatic synths and drum machines that breathe and come to life. This is techno and electro in its freest form and no one has been able to come close to the depths these guys went to. 

Max D – Shoutout Seefeel

Jake: DC’s full of super talented people making wonderful music like Future Times head Andrew Field-Pickering. I’ve been zoning to Andrew’s Max D (And Dolo) releases for their vast auditory exploration and jaw-dropping rhythms. This song drifts on gazey waves, pure late-night headphone bliss from the DC label 1432 R.   

Hama – Baoura

Jake: I came across this artist from Niger through Bandcamp Daily who are always curating interesting music with insightful research. The polyrhythms on this song really caught my attention from the rest of the album. There’s also something about the synth sounds that strike up some sort of nostalgic memories for me of Casio’s and Yamaha’s from the 90’s. 

Rachel Goswell – Coastline

Jake: For a long time I only listened to the Ulrich Schnauss remix of this which is brilliant. But, the original is almost pure homage to Everybody Knows This is Nowhere Neil Young (which also happens to be my fave Young record of all time). I also sometimes forget the UK is now an island (my song Doggerland on my latest record is about the area of land lost that turned the UK into an island), but I always enjoy how much Rachel and Neil’s lyrics in Slowdive revolve around their proximity to the sea (see also Mojave 3 and Neil’s solo material). It also just felt like the best damn song to end this WFTBO playlist with. 

Want more? Don’t miss Jake Reid’s guest dj set at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE!

Listen to Jake’s Secret Wilderness project on Bandcamp.

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5 Questions: Ice Out

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Frosted landscapes. Ominous winters. Solitary walks in the night. These are some of the visuals that play in my mind’s eye when listening to the compelling soundscapes of DC-instrumental duo Ice Out.

Ice Out are far from the only instrumental band in the DC area making music that drips with atmosphere. But what’s noteworthy about them is HOW they create these sounds. Using mostly two instruments — David Barker’s sparse guitar and Chris Zogby’s drums — with some tasteful synth accents — Ice Out somehow create fully enveloping atmospherics that would be perfect for a moody horror film.

Ice Out’s self-titled 4 track EP, which was released in April 2019, is an excellent showcase of what this band is capable of. The fact that just two individuals are responsible for such widescreen sonic vistas is a reminder that sometimes a minimalist approach can yield maximalist results.

Having experienced Ice Out live, I can attest that this is a band whose power takes on an extra dimension when it performs in front of an audience. With the band set to play WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE on Friday, Sept. 6th, I got in touch with David and Chris to learn more about how they create such chilly sounds…

1) What can you tell us about how Ice Out was formed? Had you known each other long prior to the band coming together?

Chris: We first met around 10 years ago when we played together, briefly.  I believe we reconnected 3 or 4 years later, then stayed in touch over social media ever since.

DB: A: We played in a band together briefly in 2009. I had a vision of doing something musically like Tangerine Dream, Tycho and John Carpenter. I wanted to do something more synthesizer based and have been incorporating that more into the music.

2) For the most part, Ice Out creates music with just one guitar and drums. I think it’s amazing what you can do with just these two instruments. Was the plan all along to impose limits about what instruments you would use? Personally, I think there’s an argument to be made that limiting the number of sounds can actually open up new windows of creativity.

Chris: I think the idea was to see what we could do live with Dave’s guitar set up and acoustic drums. There was a joint interest in keeping the sound uncluttered, but we also wanted to add some simple synthesizer parts to add texture and fill in some low end holes.  We were able to do this in a very low-tech way with results we liked.

DB: I am very interested in negative space in music. I went and saw John Carpenter play his film scores in Philadelphia a few years back. When I delved into the songs, there is an incredible amount of air in the music. A lot of musicians try to do moody horror movie soundtracks but completely miss the point by overplaying.

3) Speaking of creativity, do you have a particular process or approach to “getting into the zone” where you feel more creative? Clearly, it’s not something that can just be turned on or off like a faucet.

Chris: Listening to suggested instrumental music on Pandora, and poking around sites like Mixcloud has helped spark the creative process. Also, tinkering with gear (i.e. drum machines, sequencers & arpeggiators) and old fashion jamming live on new musical ideas also help.

DB: When I’m playing a lot and playing along to records that gets me in the creative space. Timing is something I work on a great deal.

4) Let’s talk about your self-titled EP. Compared to other recordings you’ve done, what was it like to record, mix and have it released? Would it be fair to say technology and things like Bandcamp are making things easier?

Chris: The process of making the EP was similar to other recordings.  Pushing it out for public consumption is probably easier than I remember.

DB: Yes and no. A positive is the ease of getting the music out to streaming services and Bandcamp. The negative is casting a line out into the ocean analogy, just a lot of mediums competing for everyone’s attention.

5) I’d like to ask you both about the Ice Out live show. Was it you want the audience to feel and experience when they come out and see the band live?

Chris: I’d like the music and performance to be engaging enough that the audience stops staring at their phones.  🙂  It’s a tall order, but I think we had some success in that department. We’re working on ways to make the live experience better.

DB: Something that is engaging for the audience. We are working on adding visuals and lighting to enhance the show. We want to show that instrumental music can be very engaging.

Listen to and buy Ice Out’s debut EP on Bandcamp and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. And check out their live show at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE with Guest DJ Jake Reid of Secret Wilderness!

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YouTube Playlist: WFTBO Aug 2019

The August 2, 2019 edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE is packed with great guests — Detroit’s excellent indie pop trio DEADBEAT BEAT, who are releasing their new album, “How Far,” Baltimore singer-songwriter savant HOTHEAD, and DC’s underground music scene photographic documentarian AHMAD Z. Plus, WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE DJs Rick and Brandon.

Naturally, if you’re going to put on a special event with so many music makers and record collectors, it stands to reason that you ask them all to collaborate on a YouTube Playlist. Presented below is a selection of tracks curated for your listening pleasure. Extra props to Laurie Spector who actually provided commentary for her selections.

Enjoy!

AHMAD Z

DEADBEAT BEAT (Maria, Alex and Zak)

HOTHEAD (Laurie)

Laurie: I checked out Wynonna Judd out of curiosity after hearing this great Cocaine and Rhinestones podcast episode about her insane life. A lot of her songs are really cheesy ballads I can’t get into but a few are upbeat and poppy, and this one sounds to me like it could have easily been one of those late 80s/early 90s classic pop songs if it was just produced differently. People seem to have largely written modern-day country off as irrelevant and bad but country was just as much at the forefront of rock ‘n roll as the blues were… it started well, there’s a cool legacy there and there are some great genre traditions that have carried through the years. Country has treated its women pretty well if you think about all the majorly successful country stars that made a career singing about their independence and strength in the face of adversity. I’m sure there was discrimination going on behind the scenes like all industries, but the archetypes accepted and celebrated in pop culture matter a lot, and country music celebrates its rebellious independent women. Wynonna is definitely one of those.

Laurie: I don’t usually have favorite “songs of the year” or anything like that but I’ve listened to this song so many times since it was released earlier this year. I love it in that way where it’s almost too much to bear, when you think “wow how could something like a song mean so much to me.” Somehow it encapsulates a lot about how I’ve felt lately. It’s bittersweet but more sweet than bitter, with an incredible energy that always makes me feel better about not feeling good. Hard to explain, but it’s my gem.

Laurie: Joe from Don Giovanni told me about this band when we were at SXSW this year. He just put out their album. This song is from their last album and I listened to it on repeat for pretty much the entire ride home to DC from Austin. So good.

Laurie: Alla Pugacheva is a massive Russian pop star I came across while studying Russian in college. She’s glamorous and iconic. For me she’s something like a cross between Kate Bush and Barbra Streisand. A true performer. Very famous and well-loved in Russia, it’s fun to just put her name into YouTube and watch what comes up.

Laurie: I just checked out David Berman’s new album and I really liked it. My vibe is he’s just gotten more vulnerable and less snarky as he’s gotten older, which I like. My favorite Silver Jews album was the last one cause I found it kind of sweet and silly. I guess it’s the only one I really connected to. This one’s pretty down but I love that contrast of the darkness of the content with his lyrical playfulness and bright sounding music. It’s like that amazing thing that happens when you make art or experience art while you’re feeling horrible… you start to like the thing that came from horror and it turns the bad thing into something you can live with.

WFTBO DJs (Rick & Brandon)

Like what you’re hearing? Want more? Check out WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St NW, Washington DC 20010) every first Friday of the month!

5 Questions: Deadbeat Beat

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There’s a certain strain of pop music that’s impervious to trends.

I’m talking about a particular brand of classicist, hook-laden guitar pop that draws just as much from the 60s as the independent side of the 80s — think The Clean or The Bats from New Zealand. Or the self-titled debut from The House of Love. Or a little more recently — the debut LP from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Or records from Veronica Falls or Crystal Stilts.

Detroit indie pop trio Deadbeat Beat share a spiritual affinity with these bands, and their beautifully constructed pop songs have been weather-proofed to stand the test of time the best possible way — through classic melodies, gorgeous harmonies and sprightly guitar chords that sound just as fresh and vibrant as they do familiar.

The band, which consists of drummer Maria Nuccilli, singer/guitarist Alex Glendening and bassist Zak Frieling, can trace its origins to a high school friendship between Maria and Alex. The two bonded over their shared obsession over music — creating their own sounds was inevitable. After moving through a number of projects and working with various other musicians, Deadbeat Beat really came into its own with the addition of bassist Zak.

Deadbeat Beat released its debut LP, “When I Talk to You” in 2011 via the cassette label Gold Tapes. There’s been a smattering of other releases since then, but it’s only now that the band is ready to unveil its second proper full length, “How Far.”

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The record was recorded in the basement studio of Detroit-based musician and engineer Jeff Else, with significant input from singer-songwriter Fred Thomas of indie pop heroes Saturday Looks Good to Me. Thomas not only worked with the band on the recording, but was involved with the mastering.  Rather than rush through the recording and mixing, the band took its time to ensure the end result was something truly special.

And boy did the band ever hit the mark. Check out lead single “You Lift Me Up” to hear what makes Deadbeat Beat so compelling. This is as classic as classic indie pop gets…

Deadbeat Beat is on tour to promote its new album, and thankfully, a stop in Washington DC became a possibility when our friend Laurie Spector of Hothead suggested them for WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe. I got in touch with Maria and Alex to learn more about this very talented group of musicians…

1) Deadbeat Beat’s debut album, “When I Talk to You,” came out in 2011. You’re just now releasing the band’s second record, “How Far.” Why did it take so long? And what have you been doing in the interim? 

Maria: The original band was put on hiatus in early 2013 when one of our members relocated for a job. We spent the next couple years with a few different folks filling in, but nothing stuck long enough for us to squeak out a full length. We did, however, release a tape EP in 2015 called “Only Time Will Tell.” We did a couple other tapes and singles in between now and then too. Between all of that? We were working, finishing up school, playing/touring in other bands and doing records with them too, namely Outrageous Cherry (me) and Tyvek (Alex).

2) Do you feel that being involved in multiple projects is a help or a hindrance in sparking your creative muse?

Maria: As a drummer, the variety is something I need. I learn new things from whoever I’m playing with.

Alex: Playing with other musicians is essential to growth. I’m the kind of person where things are going to happen when they happen, and I’ve learned to accept that instead of freaking out about it. I read on somewhere that Kevin Ayers was also the same way.

3) We can throw around subgenre signifiers like garage, surf or indie jangle, but at the end of the day, Deadbeat Beat play pop music. Do you have a concept in your head of the so-called perfect pop song?

Alex: “Sister Ray” is the perfect pop song. It’s catchy, it washes over you, it sounds cool as hell. It’s also fucked up. There are many other perfect pop songs too.

4) What is Deadbeat Beat geeky about – other than music? Or is it just music?

Alex: A lot of what we are geeky about is music. We got really into making memes about the band Television for a minute, you can still see them on our Instagram. One time Maria and I were having a very serious conversation while driving and she turned to me mid-thought and asked, “Okay wait but is ‘Younger than Yesterday’ your favorite Byrds album, I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

5) Life on the road – can you give us a peak into what it’s like for Deadbeat Beat? Have you stumbled upon any accidental life lessons along the way?

Alex: Every time I go on tour, no matter how long in duration, I always bring a shirt that I never wear once. It is so annoying.

Maria: Alex makes the most friends, Zak goes to the most museums, I’m just over here trying to stick to my skincare routine. We’re all trying to drink as much water as possible. The best thing we did this time was go to Coinstar with an entire totebag full of change Alex found during his move a few months ago – gotta pay those tolls baby!

Listen to and purchase Deadbeat Beat’s music on Bandcamp, “Like” them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram and Twitter, and check out the band’s own website.

And be sure to check out Deadbeat Beat’s live show Friday, Aug. 2 at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St NW, Washington DC 20010).  Hothead is also performing a live set. Guest DJ Ahmad Z will be spinning records, along with Laurie from Hothead and the WFTBO DJs!

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YouTube Playlist: Celebrating American Independents

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We love you America. But like many loves, it’s complicated — especially in the Trump era.

How does one feel any sense of pride in our country when so much is going wrong? The rise of white nationalism. The increasing incidents of racism and anti-Semitism. The growing acceptance of cruelty. The inhumanity directed at undocumented immigrants. America’s fetish for guns, gun violence and macho culture. A broken health care system that values profit over people.

But as heartbreaking as America is today, there is also a reason for hope. Art speaks truth to power. And American art strikes with a defiant, fearless creativity that gives us hope in dark times.

Take, for example, the below 17-track YouTube playlist curated by yours truly and Teen Beat Records insider Chris Callahan (Sexual Milkshake). These slices of “American Independents” represents just a smattering of our favorites from the U.S. underground music scene. Most of them were recorded during another dark time — the Reagan years.

While these tracks aren’t overtly political, the bands’ artistic defiance of pop music norms can be read as a metaphor for rejecting the worst instincts of Gordon Gecko-capitalism and the Reagan regime. And we could all use a little more defiance right about now.

Our current political era has been referred to as “Reagan on steroids,” only worse. That’s a charitable way of putting it. But where’s there is art, there is hope. Even art made more than 35 years ago.

Feast your ears, then, on a soundtrack that rejects Trumpism and the worst parts of America. This is the soundtrack to our battle. A battle we will win.

Happy Birthday America!  cropped-buddies-leipzig-l.jpg

Devo – Modern Life (1981, Warner Bros.)

Suburban Lawns – Baby (1983, I.R.S. Records)

Get Smart – Eat, Sleep A G-Go (1981, Syntax Music)

The Method Actors – Do the Method (1982, Press)

B52’s – Dance This Mess Around (1979, Island)

Crash Course in Science – Cardboard Lamb (1981, Press)

ESG – U.F.O. (1981, 99 Records)

Abecedarians – Ghosts (1986, Southwest Audio Reproductions)

Suicide – Speed Queen (1981, ROIR – but recorded in mid-70s)

Ike Yard – NCR (1982, Factory America)

Implog – Holland Tunnel Dive (1980, Infidelity)

Human Switchboard – I Can Walk Alone (1980, Square Two)

Pylon – Volume (1980, DB Recs)

BBQ Killers – His and Hearse (1986, clip from “Athens, GA–Inside/Out”)

Black Randy & the Metrosquad – I Slept in an Arcade (1979, Dangerhouse)

Wall of Voodoo – Ring of Fire (1980, Index)

The Residents – Stars & Stripes Forever (1986, Ralph Records)

Want more? Join us Friday, July 5th 2019 at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St NW Washington DC 20010) for WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE with Spirit Plots and guest dj Chris Calla-sham!

5 Questions: Spirit Plots

(Photo: Nestor Diaz)

It’s reassuring to know that fiery, frenetic and wildly idiosyncratic rock and roll is alive and well in our nation’s capitol.

DC’s Spirit Plots specializes in a particular brand of it — the kind that calls to mind the best of spiky post-punk from the late 70s/early 80s (think The Fall and Wire) and ramshackle indie rock from the 90s (think Guided by Voices and early Pavement), but with a joyful exuberance all its own.

The band, which includes “Irish” Dave Johnston (vocals, bass, guitar, synths), Javier Diaz (guitar, vocals) and Sammy Ponzar (percussion, vocals) formed in 2014, and released an impressive self-titled debut LP two years later. So impressive, in fact, that it was included in WAMU 88.5’s Bandwidth’s list of “15 Recent D.C. Records You Don’t Want to Miss.” In May 2019, Spirit Plots released its second album, “Exit Acts.”

“Exit Acts” builds on the strengths of its predecessor. The record is a shrapnel sharp collection of rambunctious rock n’ roll, the kind that comes delivered with unexpected twists and turns, hooks aplenty and unmistakable glee. Spirit Plots is about as far removed from po-faced punk as it gets — this is a band that celebrates the sheer joy of causing a raucous, and leaving behind a trail of indelible earworms in its wake.

From a production standpoint, “Exit Acts” sounds fantastic. The record was recorded over a weekend at Treehouse Studio in Washington D.C., and brought to life by the great engineering and mixing skills of Devin Ocampo (The Effects, Beauty Pill, Medications).

I wanted to know more about this excellent band. Thankfully, percussionist extraordinaire Sammy Ponzar and chief band songwriter “Irish” Dave Johnston were only too kind to field five questions via e-mail…

1) Congrats on a corker of a second album. What can you tell us about how the songs on “Exit Acts” came together? When did the songwriting process begin?

Sammy: Thank you good sir! We were lucky enough to recoup the money spent on the first record so we could afford to make “Exit Acts.” Irish Dave can speak more on the songwriting process.

Irish Dave: I have a little home studio in the basement. If I get an idea for a song, I’ll make a very rough recording and play all of the instruments (badly) myself. I’ll save the results to a shared dropbox folder and then forget about it. After the first album was finished, we trawled through this list for new Spirit Plots songs and began re-working them as a band, recording demos as went, until we had enough for an album. We continued to tweak the songs up until we went into the studio. Some of the lyrics were being reworked up until the very last minute – I’d sit scribbling with beer in hand, shout them into microphone, then get out my crayons again for the next song.

2) Going into making “Exit Acts,” was there anything you wanted to do differently from your self-titled debut?

Sammy: We were going for more of a raw sound with “Exit Acts.” We felt our first record was more polished. We wanted to capture the energy of these songs. A lot of that was accomplished by doing 3 takes or less, and banging out all tracking in under 3 days.

Irish Dave: I don’t think there was a significant difference to how we approached this record. We were definitely more proficient at playing the songs this time around, so were able to knock them out quickly once we got into the studio. We were excited to record with Devin (Ocampo). He was really great to work with and he understood how we wanted the record to sound. I put full faith in his judgement while in the studio – whether we could get a better ‘take’ or should move on, or if an idea was worth exploring or should be jettisoned. He also made everything, especially the drums, sound really great.

 

3) “Exit Acts,” like its predecessor, is chock full of catchy, kinetic and energetic idiosyncratic rock — mostly under 3 minutes each. What is it about these short bursts of aural joy that you find so appealing?

Sammy: The concept is to hit them hard and hit them fast. Any good punk or post-punk hit is under three minutes. If you think back to the classics like the Ramones, the Clash, XTC, Wire, etc, it’s hard to find a song that is over 3 minutes. We try to keep it fresh and interesting by leaving out the filler. However, I would say as a whole, “Exit Acts” has songs that breathe a little more. There’s slightly more vamping than the first record.

Irish Dave: I’m all for hip priests and hallogallos. Maybe if there’s a third album we’ll aim for a Sister Ray side B. When writing a song, I normally crank up the metronome and the resulting verse/chorus/verse/chorus/outro almost always clocks in at around the two minute mark. I have a short attention span. It’s normally easier to move on to a new song than try to drag something out.

4) Recording vs. performing live — which do you prefer and why?

Sammy: My vote is for performing. Maybe since I don’t really do sports, I’ve always had a competitive nature when it comes to performing live. My goal is to destroy the other bands on stage. That doesn’t happen all the time (we play with some great bands), but when it does it is a magical feeling. If the other bands blow us away, I try and learn from what they were doing that was working.

Irish Dave: It is good to hunker down in the studio to focus on nothing but music for a few days, but with a limited budget, recording has been an exercise in knocking out songs as quickly as possible. For the next album, I’d like to record it at home – partially to justify the amount of recording gear I’ve bought over the years, but also to allow time to expand on basic drums/guitar/bass arrangements.

I’ve grown less of a fan of playing live. I’m unable to divert focus from the negative – the technical hiccups, performance fuck ups, the awkward silences – most of which are usually my fault. When people had less stuff going on (i.e. when we were younger), playing shows was a good excuse for a piss up. Now it’s more of a hassle to get out and get other people out – the joy of getting older.

5) What’s one ambition you would like to achieve for the band?

Sammy: It would be great to open for some bigger bands that come through town. I also love getting out of town. We do a little bit of that, but it has become tougher with careers and families. One of my favorite things to do is play a town where I don’t know anyone, and relish the adventure and challenge of trying to win people over. If we can achieve that, then we know folks are not just there out of obligation or friendship.

Irish Dave: I’m fine just slogging along. Hopefully some people will stumble across our records and like them. Maybe in the year 2030, somebody will include one of our songs on a Killed By Death-style compilation of unknown bands from the DC circa 2019.

(Photo: Nestor Diaz)

Listen to and purchase “Exit Acts” at the Spirit Plots Bandcamp page. Don’t forget to “Like” the band on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Catch Spirit Plots live at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE on Friday, July 5th 2019 at the Marx Cafe (3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, Washington DC 20010). Show is at 11pm. No cover, but you must be at least 21. For more info, check out the FB event page.

YouTube Playlist: WFTBO June 2019

The June 2019 edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE was an especially memorable event. Not only were we treated to a live set from one of our favorite local artists — TWIN JUDE — Brandon and I had the pleasure of spinning records with HANNAH BURRIS from DC’s COVEN TREE, TEETHING VEILS and TADZIO.

For your summer listening enjoyment, here is a 10 track YouTube playlist inspired by our dj sets, followed by a complete set list. Happy listening!

Stanton Miranda — “Wheels Over Indian Trails” (1986, Factory Benelux)

Tones on Tail — “Lions” (1984, Beggars Banquet)

Simple Minds — “This Fear of Gods” (1980, Zoom Records)

Flasher — “Pressure” (2018, Domino)

Sneaks — “Hong Kong to Amsterdam” (2019, Merge Records)

Danielle Dax — “Cold Sweat”

Fad Gadget — “Lady Shave”

Human League – “The Black Hit of Space”

Pussyfoot — “Dancer Dance”

A.C. Marias — “One of Our Girls Has Gone Missing”

Below is a (nearly?) complete list of tracks we played on June 7th…

Brandon set #1:
Kongas – Anikana-O
Stanton Miranda — Wheels Over Indian Trails
Nancy Nova — The Force
Danielle Dax — Cold Suit
Flash and the Pan — Midnight Man
Disco Circus — Over and Over

Hannah set:
Tony Cruise — Replica
Sir EU — Ocean
Sneaks — Hong Kong to Amsterdam
Ultrabeauty – Powerade
Abdu Ali – F.U.F.M.
Bend – Baby
Gauche – Running
Tony Cruise — Paid
Moor Mother — deadbeat protest
Go Cozy – Body Boarding
Kelow Latesha — Can’t Loose
Broncho — Big City Boys
Flasher — Pressure
Ariel Pink & Weyes Blood – Morning After
Br’er — Help Me Live
Hailu Mergia — Hailu
Xiu Xiu — Amargi ve Moo

Rick set:
Savant – Using Words
Comsat Angels – Be Brave
Colin Newman — I’ve Waited Ages
A.C. Marias — One of Our Girls Has Gone Missing
Human League — The Black Hit of Space
Jeff & Jane Hudson – Los Alamos
Can – Oh Yeah
Vivien Goldman — Launderette
Tones on Tail – Lions
Cocteau Twins — The Spangle Maker

Brandon set #2:
The Dance – Do Yourself A Favor
Chrisma – U (12 inch)
Simple Minds – This Fear of Gods
Pussyfoot – Dancer Dance
I’m So Hollow – Touch
Disco Circus – Over and Over
Drowning Craze – Storage Case
Fad Gadget – Lady Shave
Alien Sex Fiend – Hurricane Fighter Plane
Dead or Alive – Flowers
Tantra — Hills of Katmandu

Now Hear This: Rupa — “Aaj Shanibar”

I love discovering unusual and odd stories behind my favorite songs. Take, for example, “Aaj Shanibar” from Rupa Biswas, which was released in 1982 on the LP, “Disco Jazz.”

“Aaj Shanibar” is an incredible song — a one-of-a-kind mixture of Sarod and synthesizer, a perfect fusion of East meets West. Admittedly, the track is “barely disco and hardly jazz,” as Numero Group recently said. The label has just reissued “Disco Jazz.”

But let’s talk a little more about “Aaj Shanibar” and the wonderful Rupa Biswas…

The stunning track, like the rest of the LP itself, was recorded at Calgary’s Living Room Studios by a combination of Indian and Canadian musicians. While nothing else from the era sounds like quite it, the record did not achieve commercial success. Apparently, music listeners weren’t ready for melodies intrically played on the sarod atop a disco beat and synth playing.

“Aaj Shanibar” languished in obscurity until Internet fame beckoned.

It was only when Ruba’s son, Debayan, searched for her record online that they found it had been uploaded to YouTube, that original copies of the record were selling for more than £500, and that it was being reissued by the US label Numero Group.

It had earned new fans, such as Dan Snaith, AKA Caribou and Daphni, who brought it to wider attention after including the track Aaj Shanibar in his DJ sets. That track has now had more than a million streams on YouTube.

Ruba