Tuesday, 29 November 2011

An interview of sorts with..... Sloppy Heads!

Sloppy Heads are a band from New York City. They make noise pop for the kids. They consist of Jarnow who plays guitars, Ariella Starmaiden who plays bass and Vape Stiles who plays drums and keyboards.

Right, the actual interview was conducted too long ago via e-mail so I've sort of chopped-and-shopped the whole sorry mess.
First though an ad verbatim rep from Sloppy Heads PR Dude Vlada in response to the question of what the future holds...

"I am not waiting for all that is in this future for the HEADS! We will be giving lots of big creamy RELEASE, sweet tunes, and delivering the goods near and far! These HEADS are having so much to give, I am hoping one day they do not burst open in dangerous explosion all over laughing loudly! Please to be watching for more HEADS music in the newest issue of very beautiful and very smart-making and really read it you'll thank Vlada YETI MAGAZINE (they are from Oregon) which is filled with LOVE from man we are to be much loving, Miguel McGonigal (the HEADS sing the song about the "Photo Album of Baby"). Also they are to be having the song "RESISTANCE, BABY" on the Brahject as VAPE STILES has told you and perhaps SPLITTING A 7-INCH UNIT with their secret HUNKY friend who is filled with EXTRAHYPNOLOVE. Vlada is to book them on COSMODROME TV PAGENT, laughs loudly!!!"

I first asked how they met and how the band came into fruition.

Jarnow: Vape and I met sometime in the 1980s on a baseball field in a part of our hometown known as The Pit, where sand had once been blasted for the Empire State Building. I turned him onto Weird Al [Yankovic], I think, and he hipped me to some cool Choose Your Own Adventure-type book. We met again in high school, start brahing about music one day outside class and haven't really stopped since.
I met Young Fizzy when I was in college via a semi-academically-orientated music listserv[?], that had been started by a mutual friend. I don't think it took too much convincing, but I convinced her to move to New York after she graduated. Vape had moved there, too. Along with a bunch of other heads, we started hanging out a lot, seeing a ton of bands, movies, eating, travelling...
We all played music, though not necessarily in bands, and definitely not with each other. Then Fizzy bought a bass and became Starmaiden. I started bringing my guitar over to her place sometime in early 2009 and we started playing pretty quietly in her living room. After like six months of doing that, and occasionally playing loudly through amps at a rent-by-the-hour studio, we got a gig at a freegan-anarchist pad around the corner from my loft.
A month later, my neighbours thre a New Year's bash. We decided it would be capital to play and that we should probably get a drummer. Vape was not a drummer. But then one day he was.

I then asked them about New York itself, as a someone who had grown up on a steady diet of all things musical and with New York being such a huge factor in all things musical, not forgetting the film, TV and just about every other damn thing about it that seeps into everyone's culture. I said I thought of New York as being either grotty clubs where everybody knows everyone else and you're always welcome to play, a hundred different bedroom labels ready and willing to put out your next release, or whether it was a much more do-it-yourself, fuck-you-and-get-on-with-it attitude...

Starmaiden: New York is a music-lover's dream, with multiple great shows happening at venues aroudn the city every single night. All three of us are pretty avid show-goers. If it weren't for band practice we'd probably be out seeing music seven nights a week.
Vape and Jarnow grew up together in Northport, Long Island. I was born in New York City and lived there until I was six, when my family moved to Miami, Florida. We all moved back to New York City soon after the turn of the millenium.

Jarnow: There's certainly oodles of music to see in Brooklyn. And I'd say both the ways you imagine New York to be are probably true. It's not terribly hard to get a show or set one up. And certainly every band seems to put out there own music (or is on a sometimes-existing label run by there friends), but for us and probably most bands our size, nobody's reallt beating down any doors. It's all pretty self-motivated. I sort of imagine it's like that everywhere, just on different scales.

I don't know if you've heard their stuff or downloaded the couple of tunes I put or here or even bought the 7" that is available through sloppyheads@gmail.com but, personally, I love it. I asked them where they recorded the EP, if they produced it themselves and what the experience was like...

Vape Stiles: We have been lucky enough to do all our recording to date at the Ocropolis, the studio owned/run by our friends/heroes Oneida (http://oneida.bandcamp.com/track/). First Gasp! [the debut EP] was recorded about three weeks after I joined, because there was an open date at the Ocropolis, and part of their philosophy is that it be wasteful to have a studio and not have it be in use 365 days a year. Kid Millions chose to spend a weekend recording a band that barely existed, and which he hadn't even heard, which is still humbling to think about.
We weren't remotely prepared by any convential standard, but the opportunity to record with him, there, however ludicrous a prospect it may have been at the time was not something we could possibly turn down. So we just went with it, which I think is exactly what they were trying to inspire us to do. Had they not been so generous with us, the course of this band has taken would probably be very different.
We were asked back into the Ocropolis about six weeks after we record First Gasp! to do a track fir a compilation Oneida had conceived called the Brahject (after their label, Brah Records), which came from the same idea that led them to welcome us into the studio in the first place. They set themselves a goal of doing six hour sessions with twenty or thirty bands they were friends with, because they wanted to share their environment and working method with as many other musicians as possible. That's finally coming out sometime soon [Editor's Note: this interview was done about six months ago] as a digital release to benefit the victims of this spring's disaster in Japan. Kid [Millions], having also played with the Boredoms and spent time in Japan with them, felt that catastrophe particularly acutely, and, Shinji from the Boredoms hasa started a charity for the people affected. We're pretty stoked about how our tune turned out, even more so to be on the same compilation as Akron/Family, Liturgy, the Notekillers and a bunch of other awesome bands. 
We haven't been back in a proper studio since then (and the Ocropolis will soon be gone, because the entire Monster Island complex it's a part of is closing, tragically), but we obsessively record all our rehearsals and gigs, and have produced some stuff we're proud of. Notably the ultra-limited-edition Custy Blaster cassette and the Headsquarters Vol. 1 CD-R... the first release from our live archival series, Road Heads, is percolating, and will come out approximately whenever we feel like it.

Then to finish the interview I asked my all time favourite interview question, and quite possibly the most boring and cliched... "What are you currently listening to?" "Who are your favourite bands?" etc etc

Starmaiden: My favourite bands are Dump, Oneida, Sightings, Albert Ayler and Moondog. I am really excited because I found a copy of one of my favourite record City of Glass, a record from 1953 by Stan Kenton playing the compositions of Bog Graettinger, an astonishingly advanced and mysterious collection of music. I'm also very excited about the recent vinyl reissue of Yo La Tengo's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, which I've been searching for forever. I recently fell in love with a heretofore unknown by me pianist called Mal Waldron, who was profiled on local station WKCR. I was just blown away and it renewed my interest in jazz piano. I also love the Flesheaters, Flipper and the Byrds. Also every record collection should contain a copy of the double-LP, The Mathematical Genius of Pep Lester. And I adore the compilation that the Numero Group released for the Twinight label. Every artist and album mentioned about come highly recommended by me!

Jarnow: Current rotation of new stuff includes: Oneida - Absolute II, The Ex - Catch My Shoe, Akron/Family, various bmbz [sic] mixes of S/T II. The Feelies - Here Before, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings - The Harrow and the Harvest. Lots of projects related to Lambchop (Kurt Wagner and William Tyler Solo and side projects, The Mattoid). Old stuff: Neil Youngs - Old Ways, Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate's pre-Tall Dwarfs band, Toy Love. Lots of Mississippi Records cassette mixes (also available on popular reissue label, Mediafire). Swamp Dogg, Ween - Quebec demos. The Raincoats. A girl-group anthology. WFMU DJ compilations. Grateful Dead, August 1971.

Vape Stiles: The three touchstone influences that we all share, and which probably come through our music in ways both intentional and not, are the Grateful Dead, Yo La Tengo and Oneida. The latter two of those bands we all see basically whenever they play in town. I'm the psycho Ween fan of the bunch but Jarnow and Starmaiden both like them as well, and that's another name that comes up often when we're rehearsing; they've probably influenced us more than we even realise. All three of us regard the Basement Tapes as holy document... I personally find them (and John Wesley Harding) to have an almost mystical power, like Dylan found a way to unlock something in the human mind (or mine, at least) with words and music; somehow, his lyrics can be almost irreducibly obtuse and yet prodoundly powerful and affect you deeply emotionally even if you don't know why. We can pretty much always be sidetracked in practice by learning a new Dylan or Dead cover, and I think we'd all love to someday have a big songbook of both at our disposal.... We're already well on our way.
Aside from all that, I listen to a lot of commercial hip-hop, noise/drone, dub, old rock, garage, reggae and soul. All of us have listened to a ton of sixties and seventies international psych, and I'm particularly obsessed with Japanese rock of all eras.

And with that the interview was over. They disappeared into the interweb and have been on steady rotation on my headphones ever since. I'll end this with a quote I extracted from very early in the interview... I just thought it would be good to end with

"Sometime before our first show, a man came unto us on a a flaming pie in the traditional manner and told us we were Sloppy Heads, but the band existed for a long time before that"

http://www.myspace.com/sloppyheads for more info

Monday, 28 November 2011

Ryan Garbes 'Sweet Hassle'

I've recently been digging around and discovered a group called Wet Hair. Spacemen 3/Spectrum fans will really dig their keyboard drone rock styles, but it's the recently released solo album by one of their members (I think the drummer) that has got me all hot and bothered. Here's a review I wrote of it:

It's been a while since I've truely engaged with a contemporary album for any length of time. I have been listening to 'Sweet Hassle' continually since I bought it. There's something about the sepia-toned cover that seeps into the music. I hate reviewing music in the context of drugs but it's impossible not to. This album is so high. This music is so fucking high. Like if ecstasy got you high but made you feel a little hatred instead of a little love. Codeine and bourbon. The songs begin like sloppy home demos, but are layered upon and seeped with a real, tangible, edgy emotion that it ends up sounding like a new kind of rock 'n' roll. Bewitched keyboards and organs feature predominantly throughout adding a production sheen that is half twisted. I don't know what Ryan Garbes set out to do but all I do know is he's created a true modern classic of alternative rock.