BlackBook (er…) Welsh Premiere: Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard Glam it Up in New ‘Late Night City’ Video

 

 

Despite being surrounded on all sides by the most fertile breeding ground for rock & roll ever, Wales has a deplorably rotten track record when it comes to keeping up with the Glaswegians, Dubliners, Mancs…you get it. Badfinger, Super Furry Animals and Manic Street Preachers aside, the words “Welsh” and “rockers” come together about as frequently as coherent sentences are spoken by that bloke in the White House.

That’s why we’re particularly psyched to have discovered Cardiff’s own Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard last year, a quartet (and 2019 Guardian Best New Artist pick) who have no problem cranking the SG’s to 11 and letting fly with a saucy dose of ’70s inspired mayhem. Their latest single, “Late Night City,” of which we’re premiering the video for here, is a T-Rex flavored stomper that singer/guitarist Tom Rees told NME is their “best song to date.”

After having The Non-Stop EP on, well, non-stop repeat (we mistook the title for an instruction), we connected for a quick chat with Rees to explore just what it all means…but we’ll ultimately let you decide.

 

 

Tell us the inspiration for “Late Night City”

I wrote it whilst working as a sound engineer in this dive bar in Cardiff. The city is quite famously known for the level of debauchery that it unleashes on a Friday and Saturday night—the scenes can be likened to a Renaissance painting in many ways…

We’re picturing that…

…and whilst observing the hedonism and Satanism and heroism, I wondered how people justify late night behavior; after about ten minutes I decided—I’ve made my mind up, don’t try and change it—that it was by submitting themselves to daily subservience at the hands of bosses or partners or whatever you like. And the song is just an exploration of that idea, and whether one really does justify the other. In actual fact, I just wanted to rip off “Born on the Bayou” by Creedence.

How have you been dealing with and/or surviving quarantine?

We’re very lucky and have our own studio in Cardiff, so we’ve been able to keep working on new music. We’ve been writing and recording for the past couple of months, which has been a pleasant tilt of the scales in the opposite direction, from its previous place at “the world is fucking doomed and we’re all going to perish in this godless wasteland.”

Not that we’re necessarily advocating it, considering our current political climate…but have you ever been to or played the States?

We haven’t toured the US, but honestly I want to be there as soon as we can. It’s really strange, but I think a lot of Europe idolizes American pop culture, and I’m not exempt from that. The majority of my favorite musicians and bands, bar John Lennon, are American. And I’ve had such an affection for American music all my life that it only feels right that we get over the Pond and start rocking. So with that in mind, I think the first thing we’d do post COVID is get over to America.

 

Gagosian Launches Season II of ‘Artist Spotlight’ w/ New Works by Ed Ruscha

ED RUSCHA
RIOT BOX, 2020
Dry pigment and acrylic on paper
11 1/8 x 15 in
28.3 x 38.1 cm
© Ed Ruscha. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen. Courtesy Gagosian.

 

 

Created in response to this year’s everything-changing pandemic, which forced a multitude of terrestrial businesses to amp up their online offerings, Gagosian’s Artist Spotlight series was a conspicuous success, featuring the likes of Dan Colen, Jenny Saville, even Damien Hirst. And inspired no doubt by said success (isolation, for some, has revealed new opportunities) the very high-profile gallery is this week unveiling “season two”—and although we can’t wait to step into a physical art space again much sooner than later, we are sort of hoping Artist Spotlight carries on long after that.

“During the first season of Spotlight we offered 14 works to the public, and sold 49,” reveals Alison McDonald, Gagosian’s Director of Publications, seemingly defying the laws of mathematics as we had been taught them. “So much interest was generated each week that we were able to invigorate a series of private sales as a result of the public presentation.”

 

ED RUSCHA
IRON CLAD, 2020
Dry pigment and acrylic on paper
11 1/4 x 15 in
28.6 x 38.1 cm
© Ed Ruscha. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen. Courtesy Gagosian.

For those who prefer to think in terms of sheer numbers, the Spotlight campaigns generated nearly seventeen million impressions on Instagram, and caused the readership of Gagosian’s online Quarterly magazine to increase by more than 50 percent.

And so it all kicks off again this week with the mighty Ed Ruscha. The accomplished, multi-disciplinary Nebraskan has been an art world fixture since his debut in the late ’50s, as an Abstract Expressionist who deftly moved on from any such limiting classification. Having mastered and exhibited works of photography, painting, printmaking and film, it’s no surprise that even at 82, he is fully embracing the possibilities of the virtual art experience.

Ruscha’s five new works for Artist Spotlight (digitally on view through 9/22) present engaging phrases—like Riot Box and Odd Ad—with text that is smudged as if scrolled by too quickly, a comment on our constant and often blurred online lives, no doubt. That he’s first showing them in a virtual environment must be some sort of metaphysical coming together of meta and irony.

 

ED RUSCHA
Artist Spotlight featured works on paper IRON CLAD, RIOT BOX, AT THAT, IT FITS, and ODD AD, all from 2020
Artwork © Ed Ruscha. Courtesy Gagosian.

 

Artist Liaison Leta Grzan explains, “The English language, which Ed has used in lieu of brushstrokes, products, etc., is as relevant today as it was in the 1960s. He continuously observes the world around him, and makes work that responds to it. He didn’t just pick an artistic lane and push it to its end, his lane is his own observations of the world, and art is his method of communication.”

Putting a period at the end of the dialogue around the new works, Lisa Turvey, editor of the catalogue raisonné of Ruscha’s works on paper, will also host on online conversation featuring herself, artist Adam McEwen, and Gagosian director Bob Monk, September 22 at 5pm EDT. To join the free event, register at zoom.us.

Image by Kate Simon. Courtesy Gagosian.

Interview – L7’s Donita Sparks: ‘We Kicked Off the Feminist Era in Music’

 

 

It’s a little disconcerting to realize that the halcyon days of grunge are three-decades-plus behind us; but rather fascinating that some of the bands that defined the scene and sound circa 1990 (it was primarily a West Coast movement, initially), are still relevant enough today to be deserving of re-releases.

Certainly the big boys, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, have continued to be revered, long after their expiration dates (tragically, the lead singers of all three have died of suicide or overdose); but admittedly the memories have started to fade a bit, especially when it comes to bands with girls. After all, in all its maleness, grunge absolutely had a female problem. (The more sensitive Kurt Cobain famously remarked of the scene, “Because I couldn’t find any male friends I felt compatible with, I ended up hanging out with girls a lot.” But that was Kurt.)

 

 

Luckily there was L7, a loudmouthed, all XX chromosome quartet (Donita Sparks, Jennifer Finch, Suzi Gardner, Dee Plakas) from LA who built a Puget Sound sized bridge between punk, metal, and…well, more punk. And metal. They tore it up at Lollapalooza. They had a legit hit with “Pretend We’re Dead.”

The Seattle boys, and everyone else, stood up and paid attention.

L7 survived better than most, and 35 years since their first gig they’re back together with a newish album (2019’s Scatter the Rats, via Blackheart Records), and a remastered 30th anniversary re-release of their 1990 classic Smell The Magic, via (of course) Sub Pop, out September 18.

We caught up with lead hellraiser Sparks to chat about junkies, hair bands…the usual.

 

I guess the reason we’re talking is that it’s been 30 years since this record first came out. It went by pretty quickly.

I don’t know. I don’t think it went pretty quickly. It’s just amazing that it’s…

Been 30 years.

Yeah, it just sounds ridiculous. I remember my mom would have, like, high school reunions and it was like, “It’s my twentieth year!” And I’m like…20?? So now I’m a person who starts to say, “I’ve known him for 20 years!” I’m one of those people now. Just throwing the decades, the multi-decades around.

It was interesting to be reminded that Smell The Magic actually came out before (Nirvana’s) Nevermind, right? It was a year before.

Our first album came out in ’87, but this one had more momentum. The underground scene was very strong, very independent, and all over the country there were different scenes with corresponding labels that were regionally based. It was an exciting time, it was like…post-post-punk, or something that was sort of…very strong in its DIY-ness.

You were an LA band on the ultimate Seattle label.

Yeah, I thought it was cool about Sub Pop that they had a visual aesthetic, they had a musical aesthetic, they had a sense of humor…and we sort of fit right in, even though we were an LA band. I think we were a little more punk in our aesthetic, our clothes were a little more punk; but yeah, it was a good place to be. 

And listening back to this record I was reminded of how, while punk in attitude, it was really very heavy hard rock. 

Yeah, we were basically…Suzi (Gardner) and I were sort of from the art punk scene, and we were punk rockers who were trying to do…who were doing heavy rock. Our ability to play came out sounding kind of like…we came up with this weird, deconstructed metal performed by punk rockers. We were also hanging out with weird junkie artists, you know, in LA. Speed freaks and stuff like that.

 

 

They were just regular junkies in Seattle.

And I think maybe that came into their scene a little bit later. We were kind of a little bit more in an urban kind of mix, where Seattle was a bit less urbanized than certainly it is now.

I’m guessing that X, The Germs, all that early LA punk was an influence on you?

Yeah, certainly, and that was before the really hardcore bands came in and it got very sort of…sucked some of the fun out of it, in my opinion.

I want to ask about a word that has been used in your press release, and that’s ‘feminist,’ or ‘feminism.’ But I’m wondering if when you were in the middle of it in 1990 and 1991, was that a conscious effort to promote feminism and to call yourselves feminists?

I think we always led by example. Our agenda was to be a really good rock band, regardless of our gender. We chose a genderless name. We refused to do “women in rock” issues of anything.

That’s a good answer.

Yeah, and we just…I think that we were an inspiration for Riot grrrl, but we do not consider ourselves Riot grrrl. However, I do think that era was really, really important to young women, and also very, very important to gay kids and trans kids, and so I think it may be appropriate that that word is attached—even though this record is pretty universal. We bitch about things equally.
People assume that Riot grrrl kicked off that feminist era in music; but we kind of kicked it off. We started Rock for Choice; and we loved Riot grrrl, but we weren’t having meetings—like, Riot grrrl, they [literally] started bands to deliver their political message. We started a band because we wanted to be a good band. We were in LA; they were on college campuses. It’s a very different thing. But more of the same team, you know what I mean?

 

 

And at the same time there were many more macho bands around. So the point was you helped other young girls see an option that they could embrace.

But I think the fact that we weren’t hitting people over the heads with it constantly—I think the dudes just like the rock and they don’t really care. I think we deliver the rock and they know it, and that’s why they’re fans of ours. 

Were you involved in this remastering of Smell the Magic?

Yes, I was involved, and part of the remastering happened because—first, Smell the Magic was an EP, and it was on vinyl. Then CDs came out the same year. It was like, new technology! So all of a sudden, Sub Pop wanted a CD, but asked if we had more songs. So we had an extra three or four songs or something. But those songs were never on vinyl, so this record was re-cut, and mastered to have all songs available on the vinyl edition for the first time.

It sounds really great.

It does sound great. It sounded great when I played it out of my computer with headphones on, and through a system. It sounded loud, it sounded energetic, and lively. So that was good enough for me.

Are there plans to do another one? Maybe Bricks Are Heavy?

It’s weird, when we signed to Slash, that was also with Reprise/Warner Brothers, and they sent our catalogue to Rhino. Rhino’s been, like, licensing it out to anybody who wants to license our stuff, and I find it hard to believe they’re cutting them from the master. You’ve got to go into the vault and actually find the physical masters to work off of.

 

Image by Charles Peterson

 

So you had more control over Smell the Magic, in a way.

No, we had complete control at Slash. Nobody ever tried to fuck with us, you know what I mean? They knew better. That was also at a time where if you had some momentum and you had a legitimate audience, it was harder to get fucked with than if you were a band that just got signed and somebody was rolling the dice and taking a chance on you. We had lines around the block. It would be been really bad if someone tried to fuck with us, because we had a legit audience. Nobody fucked with us until later.

One of my favorite lines of Kurt Cobain’s was, if he could, he would’ve been in a new band every two to three years, because those first few years of playing all the shitty clubs are the best time of being in a band.

Ours were incredibly, incredibly difficult years. It took us over five years in complete oblivion. Even though we had a record on Epitaph, it went nowhere, and we had no following. We were just floating it out in the clubs. We were spending money we didn’t have to rehearse. It’s a big money investment when you’re working shitty jobs.

And in LA there was still Poison and Ratt around, the hair bands.

Yeah, but they were playing on Sunset Strip, and we were more sort of Hollywood and Silver Lake and downtown LA. Listen, I got a kick out of those bands. But it was very much like, there’s us and them. And those guys were very accepting of L7. Even though we never played with them, they liked our raunchy t-shirt, and they liked that we were chicks that weren’t wearing bustiers. They kind of accepted us—not all of them, I guess, but the ones who had something going on were not threatened by us.

You’re a real success story surviving more than 30 years in the music business.

Yeah, well, you know, we got our asses kicked there, and we broke up for awhile, and that was really tough. But we’re having a really good time, and hopefully next year…it’s so weird, all of our shows that were scheduled for 2020, we have the exact dates in 2021, so it’s like…it’s just very fucking weird.

 

Swedish Psych Rockers Blues Pills’ New Single ‘Rhythm in the Blood’ is the Catharsis We All Need Right Now

 

 

 

There’s a scene in David Lynch’s 1990 American Gothic soap opera of a film Wild At Heart, where Lula (Laura Dern) goes berserk at the continuous stream of violent reporting she hears as she scrolls through the radio dial in her ’65 T-Bird. Thankfully she has a sleeping Nic Cage in the back seat to calm her down, and he does just that in finally finding a station playing music, thrash-metal band Powermad to be precise.

Blues Pills‘ new single “Rhythm in the Blood” conjures a similar feeling in its intro, which also utilizes the scrolling radio station tactic to instill anxiety. The addition of macabre imagery in its video—a knife-wielding silhouette, skulls, a grinning visage—only adds to the sense of doom. Yet as in the movie we are redeemed by the power of, well…rock-and-fucking-roll.

 

 

In their productive, decade long career, Swedish quartet Blues Pills have trod a distinctive path of psychedelic, bluesy retro-hard-rock, and their new album Holy Moly!, which hits today via Nuclear Blast, definitively stays the course. And “…Blood,” with its refrain of ‘there’s a killer on the loose,’ and lead singer Elin Larsson’s frequent use of horror movie screams in place of actual singing, ensures that there’s no question that serious catharsis is taking place.

“These songs are from a very dark period of our lives,” guitarist Zak Anderson says of the album. “So much loss, anger, and anxiety. Sadness and change. A separation into reincarnation. We stand behind every note and every word. This album was created in darkness and it guided us into the light again. One can only hope it will give you comfort too.”

We’re happy to report, it’s already working.

 

BlackBook Premiere: Ready Steady Die!’s Haunting New ‘Deep’ Video

 

 

 

The progeny of the famous can be a dissolute lot, always trying to match the achievements of those who brought them into this world. Certainly, there are exceptions—but for every Miley Cyrus and Jaden Smith there are ten Weston Cages, alas.

But having grown up in a house full of platinum records and Grammy awards, Morgan Visconti has talent that can truly stand on its own. Proof: his recently unveiled new project, the intriguingly named Ready, Steady, Die!

Of course, father Tony‘s 50+ year career helped birth pretty much all the good Bowie albums, while also inventing T Rex, and sonically imprinting on records by Paul McCartney, The Stranglers, Perry Farrell, Morrissey…the list takes up almost two Wikipedia pages. But Visconti Jr’s career as a successful composer, session musician, and video producer has spanned over two decades…and in 2001 he co-founded the record label arm of the creative agency Human. Ready, Steady, Die! is his electronic collaboration with singer/instrumentalist Sam K, and perhaps a chance to deal with some of his demons.

Dark and tribal, they stagger a course well-strewn with seeming references to The Knife, Garbage, and even Heart, with K’s sturdy voice cutting through the aural atmospherics with sureness and confidence.

 

 

“Deep” is the latest single from their early 2020 album Pleasure Ride, and BlackBook here premieres the accompanying video. The song itself is a spooky rumination on the self that explodes with the heaviest of choruses, and seems prepped to appear on the soundtrack to some future Batman film. The ominous clip is a cinematic masterpiece of absorbing tricks and fantasies composed with CGI, photo scans, and infinite zooms (you’ll know it when you see it).

Sam K recalls, “Morgan spent every day for two months right after lockdown taking a morning stroll up the same road, and would stop to take 3D scans of tree hollows. It became an obsession. There was no real filming involved, only tons of photographs taken on a Nikon DSLR or iPhone made into 3D in various ways.”

Oh yeah, we didn’t mention the swarms of insects, spooky humanoids, and geysers of blood—the perfect visual accompaniment to our current apocalyptic reality.

“We initially had reservations about releasing such dark material in such dark times,” she continues, “but we thought, fuck it, this is who we are, and this is what we’re feeling. The news is truly horrifying, and we’ll never be able to compete with that.”

Happy Monday.

 

BlackBook Premiere: Kaya Stewart’s Raw, Quarantine-Conjured Video for ‘California’

 

 

 

Lockdown, for those of us mature enough to comply with it, has been a bitch; but we’ve been constantly impressed with the creative ways artists have adapted to our group solitary confinement in getting their work out—maybe reference the Alison Mosshart lockdown to fully grasp our point.

The latest contender for “best use of time during a pandemic” is LA-based rising pop starlet Kaya Stewart. The daughter of Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, and mentee of other Eurythmic Annie Lennox, burst on the scene in 2015 with her hit “In Love With A Boy,” the success of which begat a near constant road show for the next few years, including a slot on the Warped Tour.

Now with her new track, a more laid-back and grownup sounding “California,” Stewart had to conjure a clever way to make a video that captures the Golden State vibe of the tune, while only being allowed out of the house one hour a day. The result is the clip BlackBook premieres here, a muted grey and white study of our girl wandering around a concrete backyard / basketball court, intoning a plea to a sometime lover. While the refrain of “Let’s move to California” has been a known cure-all for bands from Led Zeppelin to the Beach Boys, it now comes with an even greater sense of the unknown; yet we’re guessing that there would be plenty of takers for Ms Stewart’s offer.

“The best advice I ever got about writing songs was to be as honest as possible; and I don’t think I’ve ever been as honest as I am in ‘California’. This song felt like therapy to me.” Says the artist, check it.

 

 

 

 

BlackBook Interview: Brooklyn’s Nation of Language are Canny Post-Punk Revivalists

 

 

 

The decline of guitar-based rock & roll is so far behind us as to be almost not worth bringing up—although we raise a glass to The Strokes for their recent attempt at keeping the flame flickering (honorable mention to Jack White, naturally). The six-stringer has been replaced, of course, by electronic apparatuses that are so much easier to master, making for a decade of bedroom wannabes churning out repetitive electronic beats in staggering quantities. It’s simplistic to describe this type of music as “’80s sounding.”

Of course that was the decade that inaugurated keyboard heavy bands’ dominance of the charts and airwaves; but the likes of Human League, Gary Numan, New Order, and others who helped define the ‘New Wave’ during that time, came to their electronics not just for ease of use, but through a need for newness and rebellion, just as visceral as had the Clash with their guitar-bass-drums-politics in the late ’70s. They, also, meant it man. 40 years later, while the majority of electronic pop is just heartless bleeps and bloops strung together for maximum marketability, thankfully some synth bands also still mean it; to wit, Brooklyn’s Nation of Language.

The artful trio may have only recently released their debut album Introduction, Presence; but they are being genuinely heralded as masters of their electronic domain, as if they had been at it forever. It appears they might just be savants. So to further investigate, BlackBook caught up with songwriter/vocalist Ian Devaney from our mutual quarantine positions. We learned much.

 

 

 

Hey there, where are you and what are you up to today?

I’m in my Brooklyn apartment. Just finished a bike ride and then later I’ll be going to some protests.

The protests are continuing in Brooklyn?

Oh, yeah. There’s, like, a whole slew of them. I have to choose which ones to go to, because there’s one every couple of hours.

Do you think it has made its point? How does the timeline of protesting go?

I think for me, it’s something that you kind of keep doing until you’ve seen that you have shown the people who make decisions that minor signifiers won’t cut it. I remember last week, the governor was like, “Okay, you guys have made your point. You don’t have to come out anymore.” And everyone was like, “We haven’t really changed anything.” So I was looking back at and comparing the time these protests went on versus protests in the…

Sixties?

Yes. And some of them went on—particularly the bus boycotts—went on for so long that it’s kind of like, “Let’s keep the pressure up until more things happen.”

We have an apartment in Greenpoint, but we’ve been hiding out in Connecticut, and I feel a little…I don’t know…that I’m not doing my civic duty.

I think it’s—I, for a long time, wasn’t going to the protests because I just had a lot of corona-induced anxiety about being in crowds. And so, I totally sympathize with the desire to not be surrounded by thousands of people.

 

 

 

I’m looking at other countries and just feeling very cut off and abandoned, I guess in a way, by American society.

I bounce back and forth between being so crushed, and then so hopeful. It’s just this very extreme thing going on that can be pretty exhausting.

But oh, your band…we got no high-pressure pitch, we just loved what you’re doing.

That makes me very happy because that’s always sort of been my—I’ve traditionally been super bad at telling people about the band. I’ve always kind of hoped that we would sort of have developed in such a way that we could be like, “Hey, check it out,” and people would actually check it out.

My facetious answer to bands who ask “How do we get attention?”…sometimes is, “Well, you just have to be awesome, and then people will like you.” Who’s in the band and how did it get going?

We’re a tight three-piece. It’s my wife who plays synths. I guess it was like a songwriting exercise sort of idea that I was kicking around, and our bass player is just…he has more technical knowledge than I do, and is just the sort of person to be like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

So, if it evolved kind of naturally like that, obviously your sound is very much…I don’t know if influenced is the right word…but references a definite period. One would guess that you set out to do that?

Yeah, it was definitely a conscious thing. I have listened to this kind of alternate version of the OMD song “Electricity,” and it was…you know, synth music, but very stripped back and focused on the bass a lot, and was kind of rough and not everything is totally synced up and in time. It just kind of really struck a chord with me because I always associate synth music with being something that’s so tight and lush and maximized. So, I was like, I wonder if I can with just, like, my dinky keyboard that I have, I wonder if I can write a song that captures that vibe. I did, and then was like, well, let’s try another one. And then after a while, we had five songs.

 

 

NME described you as “new wave revivalists.” Is that an apt description?

Uh…I mean, I think it’s in kind of an easy shorthand. I wouldn’t push back on it too hard, certainly.

You’re obviously fans of Joy Division and New Order. I don’t know if you have posters hanging up in your room…

No, no posters. But it’s certainly just…new wave and post-punk sounds are like a palate that I really like—that resonate with me a lot.

What’s it like being in a band and kind of having your wings clipped a bit with this coronavirus lockdown situation? Is the August show (8/21, The Sultan Room, Brooklyn) potentially happening, and would that be your first gig back?

Yeah. The August show seems—it’s sort of touch-and-go, but it seems like we’re leaning toward it happening. We’ve been kind of discussing how to do it with a socially distanced concept in mind. So, we’re thinking maybe we’ll do two nights, two shows a night.

That’s an idea.

So, we can do a half and half thing. But yeah, we’ve been a band that’s always relied a lot on the live show as what felt like the primary hook that drew people in. We were three shows into a tour when all of this happened, and we completely canceled and came home.

Where were you supposed to be going?

We had just finished playing Montreal and we were supposed to be going to…Cleveland maybe, or Columbus. I can’t remember now. So, when it became clear that live shows were not something that were going to be happening for quite a long time…there was definitely a period of total hopelessness. And then, shockingly, it’s gone far better than I ever expected. Radio stations have been very welcoming for us. All across, not just America, but everywhere, it seems.

 

 

It seems like radio…

Is having another moment.

And has been slightly revitalized by this.

Yeah, between radio and a lot of publications writing very generous reviews, things have really taken off in a much more amazing way than we expected.

That’s great. Not everyone gets an NME review.

Right. And it feels particularly special because we’re an unsigned band; and so just being sort of reminded of that when we’ll look at radio charts or lists of reviews…you look at the other people on these lists and are like, I can’t believe we’re being mentioned alongside any of them.

Figuring that bands can maybe play out a bit in the fall, what’s the plan?

We just signed on with some booking agents, and so we’re obviously…it’s very much wait and see, but we’re a band that loves touring, and so we’d love to hit the road as fast and as hard as possible.

For now, what else are you spending your time doing other than protesting?

I mean, there’s a lot of writing, I would say. It’s definitely gone back into writing mode. I don’t know that I ever really leave writing mode, but now that I have all this time, it’s what I spend so much more of my time doing.

 

 

Are you the main songwriter? Do you come up with the basic melodies and words?

Actually, I put everything together. We’re talking about once restrictions lift a little bit, getting back into the studio and working on some songs that would be for the next record, and just kind of getting everything set so on the word “Go,” we can move forward and keep it going.

You’re weathering the storm of this pandemic okay as a band. A lot of bands don’t do so well on the road anyway.

It’s true. I’ve always been thankful that we are a band where everyone likes to tour, because even if there’s one member in the band who doesn’t, it can make life very difficult.

You obviously have gotten some good word of mouth. Do you show up in Boston and Cleveland and Berkeley and people just come out?

I mean, it’s been a little while, because we had to sort of invest our money into making our first record,; which is why we were so excited about this tour we were on when it got called off. But yeah, we’ve done a number of tours both here and in Europe and we’ve been very fortunate. I don’t know the degree to which the people there knew who we were, but we’d play shows and people would just be showing up.

If you wanted to get signed, was there a particular label you have in mind? Too bad Factory’s not around anymore.

I don’t think there’s any one sort of dream label in my mind. We’ve been in talks with a couple at this point. But we’ve been able to do so much on our own that it’s still something that I’m sort of cautious about. I’m not opposed to the idea, it’s just really nice to have the sort of freedom to do what you want to do whenever you want to do it.

BlackBook Premiere: New Crown Lands Single + Video Draws Attention to Violence Against Indigenous Womxn

 

 

It’s a tragedy years in the making, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. For over four decades, women have been continuous victims of serial violence along a specific stretch of highway in northwest Canada dubbed the Highway of Tears. There are killers on the loose and everyone knows it.

Yellowhead Highway 16 runs horizontally for 450 miles across British Columbia, it’s breathtaking country; it is also home to over 20 Native American settlements where life is very difficult, and young people frequently resort to hitchhiking, since cars, and even cell phones, are often cost prohibitive. Perhaps like priests with choir boys, vulnerable girls are an easy target.

There are numerous initiatives in place to bring greater awareness to these this terrible reality; but until now, no voice from the rock & roll community that we know of. Enter Crown Lands, the glammy prog duo from Oshawa, Ontario, who rock out with impressive abandon, recalling everyone from Led Zep to Rush to Wolfmother, with whom they could readily share a stage. And in anticipation of their debut album release in August, the stylish twosome are dropping “End of the Road,” a driving rocker of a track that calls attention to these tragedies, and whose video employs native style dance and native dancers.

 

 

“‘End of the Road’ is an outcry for awareness and action surrounding the colonial horrors of the missing and murdered womxn, girls, and Two-Spirits that still haunt Indigenous communities today,” explains the band’s Cody Bowles. “Violence against Indigenous people is something I have witnessed firsthand throughout my life. It’s up to all of us to make this world a better place for future generations, and this song is a small message of hope adding to the rising wave of Indigenous resistance throughout this land.”

He himself grew up Mi’kmaw, and lived out his childhood in and around Alderville First Nation. Identifying as Two-Spirit, his dream is simply of a better world for Indigenous womxn, girls and 2SLGBTQ+ people.

Bandmate Kevin Comeau adds, “It’s a message of solidarity for people that Canada has turned its back on. The Highway of Tears is a symptom of a much larger issue in our country, Indigenous womxn are disproportionately affected by violence in Canada. We want use our voice to bring awareness and help make a difference.”

 

BlackBook Premiere: New Elephant Stone Video Meditates on the Faded ‘American Dream’

 

 

Life in these United States is sobering enough these days…not that we’re sober that frequently lately; but for an even more visceral take, talk to a non-American. From foreign business associates unable to even enter the country where they have offices, to expats seriously questioning why they’re here in the first place, those with less compulsion to pledge the allegiance are making no secret of their displeasure in the face of the barrage of violence and deadly decisions we seem to be facing down daily.

Montreal’s Elephant Stone’s incisive new track, from their eerily dystopian album Hollow (released in March) questions just that: how anyone can still believe in the so-called “American Dream,” when the reality is so…hollow.

 

 

Sitar and bass playing frontman Rishi Dhir puts it thusly: “Growing up in Canada, it was hard to not feel like an ‘also-ran,’ when you’re constantly sold the glitz and glamour of America. Over the years, many of my Canadian friends moved south of the border in search of the American dream, only to find that it really was just a dream. And now, with the dangerous path America is on, I wonder if my same friends are questioning their move and longing for home.”

The video for the track, which BlackBook premieres here, was, Dhir explains, “filmed in isolation in my garage with a green screen, my son, queue cards, and an obvious nod to Dylan. The video compiles archival footage of immigrants in search of that American Dream.”

The result is heart-wrenching but compelling, and yet another reminder of the “systems” that have done little to further the lives of the people they swore to support. Sigh.

 

 

Image by Bowen Stead