Friday, September 28, 2012

Interview with the Epilogues

The Epilogues have been called the hardest working band in Denver. They've played almost every venue in Denver and have put their foot down solidly in the local scene. Earlier this year they were signed by a local label and shortly thereafter got national attention with the debut single, “The Fallout.” We are lucky enough to have them come perform for us, here at Twist & Shout on October 2nd, and they were gracious enough to answer a few questions for me.

Who or what got you into music to begin with?
I think most of us grew up with music in the house. Both Nate and I (Chris) had mothers who sang, and I know Jason’s dad played the drums. I’m not sure about Jeff’s family, but I do know there was A LOT of pop punk in his upbringing. We don’t hold it against him, but we do tease him about it from time to time.

What is it that first drew you to the synthesizer?
I remember buying my first real synth. It was like 2000/2001 and those stupid all-in-one workstations were a huge craze at the time, but they sounded like complete shit. I remember trying out about 15 different keyboards until I came across a Roland JP-8000. At the time I was listening to NIN’s The Fragile and Moby’s Play. Again, it was the year 2000, haha. But I finally found a synth that spoke to me, and was tonally comparable to the style. In the long run, I’m really fortunate that I chose the JP-8000. The synth itself has like 40 knobs and sliders on the front. At the time I had no clue what the hell I was doing, but it forced me to learn about synthesis from the ground up.

Who were you inspired by growing up?
I listened to a lot of The Beatles growing up. There was a good amount of Billy Joel and George Michael as well. I know Nate listened to a lot of Soul/R&B. Jason listened to pretty much anything. I think mainly punk and other rock music. But Jeff, pop punk all the way!

What have you taken with you into who you are now from those inspirations?
I put a lot if stock into our songwriting. There are so many bands out there that I call “soundchasers.” They put so much focus into their sound, but there isn’t much going on with the song itself. Ultimately, once the trends change, they’re left with nothing. I definitely appreciate good songwriting. If the song is good, it doesn’t really matter how it’s produced. It will always be good, and it can always be re-recorded/produced to sound a specific way. I think the Beatles are a perfect example.

The Epilogues have been called the hardest working band in Denver; you guys have played every venue in town. What are some of your favorites?
Red Rocks was hands down the most impressive. However, we probably played 30+ shows at the Marquis Theatre. That place will always be a home to us.

How do you feel the band has grown since its inception in 2004?
Considerably! We started out right around the time The Killers blew up. At the time, they were really the first band that used synth in dance/pop. We listened to bands like NIN and the Prodigy, but this was the first time that synths in indie rock made sense. I think we latched onto their sound as a starting point, and grew from there. Granted, we were just awful when we started out, but we were passionate and driven. Over time we learned to refine our sound, and it eventually became what it is today.

In April 2012 the band was signed to the Greater Than Collective label and in July got “The Fallout” accepted by MTV and VH1. How has this changed The Epilogues’ vision of themselves as a band?
It’s a great feeling having the resources and support to follow our passion. We’ve been DIY for most of our careers, and to finally have a team as involved and supportive as Greater Than is absolutely incredible. I think “The Fallout” was just a stepping off point – we just premiered our first single, “Paradigm Shift,” in Rolling Stone - and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the album is received.

The video for “The Fallout” is beautiful. Where did the idea come from and who worked on it with you guys?
Dillon Novak was the brainchild behind all of our videos. Dillon came to us a few years ago needing a band to fill in for a video shoot. We actually missed the opportunity and Brightwood got the video. However, it gave us the introduction we needed. I remember we wanted to film a video for “Hunting Season.” So we (Dillon included) literally scrapped together all the cash we could. We had about twenty people on crew volunteering their time, and we shot the video in one day. It was one of the best times we’ve had in this band. After that we followed up with a video for “The Fallout.” We brought on Greg Ephraim as cinematographer and had a considerably larger budget thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Dillon drew up the treatment again and we shot in two days. Despite the cold, it was a great experience!

As often as you guys play how hard is it to find time to sit down and write?
That’s actually one of the hardest parts about being in a band. It’s a full time job keeping the business side thriving, so it can be tricky keeping up on practicing. We’ve had to become more diligent about fitting in practice, despite our hectic schedules. When we don’t practice, we tend to lose focus and forget why we enjoy this in the first place.

What's your process for songwriting at this point?
Typically I (Chris) do the initial songwriting. It’s more like giving the band a roadmap. From there, everyone gives their input and it usually takes on a new sound or direction.

It's been a little while since The Epilogues have released a full album. Can we expect one soon?
Yes, our new album, Cinematics, will be releasing in Denver Oct 2, 2012 at Twist and Shout. We’re playing our release show on Oct 6, 2012 at Summit Music Hall. Cinematics will release nationally on Nov 6, 2012.

            - Natja

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'd Love to Turn You On At the Movies #48 - Hard Boiled (1992, dir. John Woo)

Some exercises in genre simply transcend the genres they are part of – such is the case with John Woo’s 1992 action-crime film Hard Boiled. The story is pure pulp, modeled after your standard issue American cop-buddy films. On the one hand we have our loose cannon cop who plays by his own rules and gets results but is constantly at odds with his supervisor who has assigned him to a gun-running gang case, on the other an assassin working for an established crime family under siege from a ruthless up-and-coming crime boss who wants all the gun-running business in Hong Kong for himself. Our loose cannon is a cop named Tequila, played with inimitable cool by Chow Yun-Fat, introduced in the opening scene in a raid on the up-and-coming gun-running gang. The raid goes horribly wrong and turns into a civilian massacre in which his long-time partner is killed. Before this 10 ½ minute scene is over, the body count in the film (which is probably impossible to accurately keep) already exceeds that of most full-length action features. Our cunning assassin is Tony, played by Tony Leung, introduced in the next scene in a flawlessly and soundlessly executed hit in a library that Tequila is then assigned to as part of his work with the gun-running case. And we’re off!
            Hard Boiled works with many of the clichés of macho action-thrillers you’ve seen before, but there’s no film I’ve ever seen that pushes everything to the extreme – and even beyond to the point of almost comic absurdity – the way this one does. Sure, you have your codes of honor binding both cops and criminals (except for the really bad guys with no honor whatsoever), you have your jokey camaraderie (except when everyone suddenly gets deadly serious), your endless supply of bullets and no stops for reloading (except at crucial moments when someone’s empty chamber is needed for dramatic effect), and you’ve seen those before, but the combination of the constantly roving camera, the basic goodness and likeability of the heroes, the pure, non-stop kinetic energy of the film have no parallels I’ve ever seen – outside of John Woo’s catalog, anyway. Or perhaps since the release of this film and Woo’s other masterpiece The Killer (also starring Chow Yun-Fat in the title role) action movies have changed. The kind of crazy, stylized violence on display here has raised the bar for what can be done in action films, and just how intense they can be. And despite the intensity, there are still moments of humor throughout – though sometimes you’re chuckling because it’s a release of tension as much as actual humor. But you know there’s some tongue firmly in cheek when one gun-runner complains about another with “His low prices are killing my market, I’m losing out.” Or when Chow Yun-Fat, in a raid on an arms arsenal, shoots a motorcyclist speeding toward him with gun drawn, then leaps over that cyclist’s skidding bike to shoot yet another cyclist in midair (that bike explodes) then lands on his feet to dodge the flaming remains of the second motorcycle, it’s clear that Woo and company know when they’re skirting the edge of the ridiculous – that it’s simultaneously exciting and chuckle-worthy is one of the great accomplishments of the film. It’s also worth noting that the stunts throughout – especially the many shots done in close quarters with explosions or shattering glass – are hair-raising and I hope these stuntmen were paid extremely well.
The film comes charging out of the gate with scene after scene of action until it hits its middle. At this point it slows down just long enough to shift our perception of who are the good and bad guys and to set up the rest of the plot, then it shoots forward into its final set piece – an assault on an inner city hospital that lasts about 45 minutes. It’s the culmination of everything the film – and additionally John Woo – has been working toward to this point and it’s a remarkably sustained bit of tension, humorous bits notwithstanding. Especially notable is a virtuoso continuous shot that must have been a nightmare to choreograph – a 2 minute and 40 second sequence that travels with our heroes from floor to floor while they work out dialogue, have a sustained shootout with the bad guys, and move around the hospital chasing one of the toughest and most violent members of the gang. Everything that’s been set up to this point from the opening shootout and the iconic imagery throughout is merely leading up to this closing sequence and it’s worth every second. The whole film is a thrilling, exhausting, extremely violent ride, but it’s also one of the best and most exciting action films you’ll ever see.
- Patrick Brown

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fables of the Reconstruction: Hawkwind

In 1977, NASA launched a pair of LPs made of copper and gold into space. Both were attached to the Voyager I and II, a couple of spacecraft that examined Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus and are now drifting past the outer reaches of our solar system, and they’ll continue doing so, presumably forever. The records are for whoever or whatever finds them. They contain images from earth encoded into their grooves and about 90 minutes of music that was chosen to give a sense of what humankind is like. There are Western masterpieces by Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, of course, and prime examples of music from the Far East, Middle East and Africa, and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”. As wonderful as this gesture was, I can’t help but believe that they made a grave error by not including any Hawkwind. I think that of all the music from our little blue ball in space, Hawkwind’s would best speak to the souls of extra terrestrials, because they were the lords of Space Rock.

            Other fans might argue with me, but the Hawkwind record I’d choose for inclusion on the interstellar comp would be In Search of Space. It’s their second album, released in 1971, and the first where they fully embraced the sci-fi aesthetic. When the aliens figure out how to play the golden record with the diamond stylus that comes with it, they’ll hear familiar cosmic sounds: the light ticking of radar signals, blobular pulsations like those from a vast cloud of cosmic dust, the built up pressure of pent-up nuclear energy, a metronomic countdown and then, blast off! Their ears will be rocketing though space like intergalactic bandits on a star-faring hot rod. In earthly terms, the opening track, a 15+ minute epic called “You Shouldn’t Do That,” has an early heavy metal/proto-punk feel -- a couple of chords played fast and hard, but all throughout are strange oscillations and vibrations of space tones, like the sound effects from movies where little green men shoot laser beams and photon waves. And all these sounds weave and meld together into a singular force of forward momentum that’ll likely please the ears and minds of whatever ultra-intelligent beings happen to find them.
            I’d caution against including Hawkwind’s third album, though. Upon listening to the 1972 release Doremi Faso Latido, they might think we mean them harm. The punk and heavy metal elements are more pronounced here, so it’s much darker, more sinister (though the flying saucer sounds remain). To my ears, it’s like the soundtrack of an interstellar warlord civilization on a mission to conquer the universe. The vocals remind me a bit of Ozzy—high-pitched but flat, and shouted. The heavy guitar riffs pulsate and drone like a lot of metal and hardcore, but there’s enough variance across both sides of the album—a bit of acoustic guitar and saxophone and some shifts in syncopation—to keep it from feeling monotonous and redundant. In fact, there’s so much going on in the music, between the pulse and drive of the songs and the weird noises that float around it, that it starts to form aural moirés that are so intense they set your head to spinning. Fun for a wild night on earth, to be sure, but probably not appropriate as a greeting to fellow space beings.
            I definitely do not recommend sending Hawkwind’s first self-titled record, though in some respects it’s my favorite. I vote against it only because it reveals the band in their pre-space days, when they were more of an acid rock group. Pondering the heavens, to be sure, but still lacking the wherewithal to fully escape the earth. The opening track, “Hurry On Sundown,” has a bluesy/folksy feel. It begins with a bright riff strummed on an acoustic guitar, then a blaring harmonica kicks in and dances along with the melodic vocals. On the second track, they venture a fair distance into space, but it’s a feedback-based approximation of space that’s still rooted in earthliness. There’s less artifice; you can picture ragamuffin stoners making the music in some groovy pad somewhere, tripping out. The shape of some of the songs is less streamlined and symmetrical than on their later records, too. The third track, “Be Yourself,” for instance, has an odd three-beat form that’s kind of arty in a punk-rock sort of way, the punkiness due mainly to shouted lyrics. Side two has a similar form, only in reverse, going from off-centered, dark melody and rhythm, through several interludes of guitar-and-amp cosmos (with a touch of crazy saxophone from the gates of hell thrown in), and it ends with another down-to-earth tune, “Mirror of Illusion,” which verges on pop, in a hippy sort of way. It’s a great album, but probably not the best hello for whoever might be out there, millions of light years away. Better to wait to play the space creatures Hawkwind’s first record when they finally arrive at our home planet, where we can have them over for supper and wine and maybe even some of our precious herbs for a long night gathered around a real turntable.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I'd Love to Turn You On #65 - Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade

Now is a good time to talk about Hüsker Dü. Well, I think any time is a good time but they seem especially relevant these days, maybe even more than when they were actually making music.  Bob Mould has just released a new solo album that's the best work he's produced in nearly two decades.  This follows up his autobiography of last year.  The influence of the band on rock music in the years since their demise seems to grow all the time.  So why not take a look at what is arguably their masterpiece, 1984's epic, double album, the semi-conceptual Zen Arcade.
The idea of a hardcore punk band doing a double album, much less a concept album, was somewhat revolutionary back in those days, yet it was also inevitable.  Punk and hardcore in their purest forms are both fairly simplistic musical styles.  In order to stay relevant, artists must push the limits of the genre.  The Clash realized this five years previous when they shook up the world with London Calling.  Now it was time for the next wave of punks to make the leap.  It made sense that it would come from one of the bands on SST Records, the label founded by Greg Ginn of Black Flag.  The artists on SST, such as Meat Puppets, The Minutemen, even Black Flag themselves, never tied themselves to punk rock orthodoxy and were always open to experimentation.  Hüsker Dü took the lead, for a time anyway, with Zen Arcade.  It claims to be a "rock opera" in the mold of Quadrophenia or The Wall, telling an angst-filled personal story.  The "plot" is not easily deciphered, something about a computer hacker whose girlfriend OD's, but the amazing collection of songs takes listeners on a journey through their sheer power and creativity.
The main strength of Hüsker Dü is that they had two outstanding songwriters in Bob Mould and Grant Hart.  In fact, I believe it's the rivalry between the two that pushed them to such great songwriting heights.  Each was always trying to outdo the other and both produced outstanding work as a result.  The album kicks off with two Mould classics, "Something I Learned Today" and "Broken Home, Broken Heart" followed by the first real change-up, Hart's acoustic "Never Talking to You Again."  This awesome 1-2-3 punch establishes the tone right off the bat.  The harder rocking numbers stand with the best hardcore of the era, but there's a lot more going on.  Hart's psychedelic "Hare Krishna" closes what was side 1 back in the vinyl days and establishes the band's penchant for being both trippy and noisy at the same time.  Side 2 opens with a blast of four Mould short/fast/loud numbers, then Hart's sing-a-long anthem "What's Going On."  Album 1 concludes with the haunting "Standing By The Sea," a song anchored by the repetitive bass line of Greg Norton.  Norton is often the forgotten member of the band but his musical contributions are just as essential as Mould and Hart's.
Album 2 is a mix of interesting instrumental interludes and classic anthems from both Mould and Hart.  Hart delivers "Pink Turns to Blue" and "Turn on the News" while Mould counters with "Newest Industry" and "Whatever."  For a band to come up with just one of these amazing tunes is achievement enough.  But all four, on top of all the great songs that came before, is truly a remarkable accomplishment.  The whole thing concludes with the 14 magical minutes of "Reoccurring Dreams," an instrumental number built on a fairly simple riff, jammed out with intense power.  It’s the perfect conclusion to an epic album.  Zen Arcade was a very important album to me in my youth and still resonates with me today.  More important than the lyrics or concept, it’s the variety and creativity of the music that inspires.  It seems various music scenes, already fragmented back in 1984, become moreso every year.  Zen Arcade is a reminder to always look beyond labels and genres.  When you do, whole new worlds of sound and experience await you.
- Adam Reshotko

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review of the New Bob Dylan Album "Tempest"

I got an advance of Tempest and here are my immediate thoughts after one listen

There’s no doubt it is modern Bob Dylan. The music hearkens back to some indeterminate point in American history. Part blues, part folk, part jazz, part some hybrid feeding trough of all roots music filtered through the sensibilities of someone who was there for all of it, every moment of the last 50 years Bob both reveled in and created. He has never been a nostalgia act, he has been his own act; making his own music that encompasses everything that came before and predicts all that is to come. Tempest will not divide fans. I believe if you are a believer in Dylan, all of it - the old, the middle the new - you are going to FLIP FUCKING OUT over this album. It has everything you want and a level of lyrical density that has been gone for a long time. If, on the other hand, you find the modern Dylan to be an impenetrable frog’s croak compared to Blonde On Blonde look elsewhere. You will find this to be the same. It is worth noting that his voice is actually less rough than it has been in recent years, and the musical accompaniment (his touring band with the addition of Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo) is as lightly sweet as Love & Theft but it does not sound like a man in his 20’s.

That aside, I am swooning after only one listen. Dylan’s lyrics are as intense as evocative as they have ever been. They are poetic, historic, intelligent and informative. It is Bob at his best. The album is beautifully produced by Dylan himself and shows a man so comfortable with his own musical skin that “fashion” isn’t even a consideration.  I can’t wait to listen to this album obsessively for the next few months to unlock all its mysteries, but here a few immediate impressions.

1) “Duquesne Whistle” - upbeat tune. Impossible to think of it now except in terms of the amazing, weird video that accompanies it - watch it HERE. Nostalgia and dread mix nicely to form something like…Dylan’s version of normal. Would have fit nicely on Love & Theft. A very pleasing musical arrangement hides a viper’s eye.

2) “Soon After Midnight” - slow, lots of pedal steel. A lonesome cry for companionship.

3) “Narrow Way” - repetitive, guitar driven tale of weary resignation and retribution with the ominous chorus. “If I can’t work up to you, you’ll surely have to work down to me someday.”

4) “Long and Wasted Time” - an embittered cry for lost love, and lost everything else. So many great couplets: “I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there’s secrets in ‘em I can’t disguise.” An amazing vocal performance.

5) “Pay In Blood” - “I pay in Blood, But not my own.” Wouldn’t have been out of place on Infidels musically. But a deep set of ominous lyrics.

6) “Scarlet Town” - Lyrically, this one is so deep, I can’t even begin until I’ve heard it more. Clearly he is under the influence of another poet here. A vision of the natural world gone mad under the influence of a corrupting mankind? I don’t know - this is one heavy song.

7) “Early Roman Kings” - a groovy, stone blues. One of his best modern lyrics. There is so much going on here, I can’t begin to pick my favorite of the amazing lines that crash the modern condition head on with the ancients.

8) “Tin Angel” - A tale of corruption and betrayal. John Ford meets John Dos Passos.

9) “Tempest” - it sounds like a Stephen Foster epic, but it is pure Bob Dylan. History unravels and spills over the floor like so much unspooled film as Leonardo Dicaprio rubs elbows with the real participants in this tragedy that seems to never lose its appeal. Yes, Bob examines the sinking of The Titanic in 14 minutes of hypnotic storytelling. Getting lost in the dream-like lyrics and lovely musicianship it might be easy to miss the fact that Dylan’s voice is more compelling on this song than it has been in years. As fascinating as the actual story and twice as revelatory. James Cameron eat your heart out. Dylan tells the story with such comparative brevity and absolute poetic superiority, it seems like HE should get the Oscar.

10) “Roll On John” - A tribute to John Lennon. Bob is openly broken-hearted about the senseless loss of one of the few people on earth who could have really understood what it was like to be Bob Dylan.

- Paul Epstein