In the late 90s, I started getting promo CDs from the Indiana-based labels Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar. This ended up pointing me in the direction of a lot of the music that I’m still fond of. Somewhere along the way, I saw the band Drunk play a set full of heart-rending, musically rich songs; I was intrigued, and ended up talking with the group for the zine. I’m pretty sure that this was after a show at either Mercury Lounge or Bowery Ballroom; I’m also pretty sure that I also did a feature on them for NYU’s newspaper.
Also? Really good use of an accordion, if I remember correctly.
This was one of the last interviews I did when I was still in college; it was a weird time, and I think some of the questions I asked the group ended up mirroring that. (Looking back on this now, it’s a lot more bittersweet, given the repeated mentions of Songs:Ohia.) Amusingly, note the question to Rick Alverson about his experience studying film–he’s gone on to direct several acclaimed films, most recently The Comedy.
This interview appeared in Eventide‘s sixth issue.
In an era when hardcore bands were smashing together melodic elements with brutally aggressive ones, Grade stood out for the density of their sound and for taking an unexpected route. They weren’t the only band doing what they were doing, but they were a lot smarter about it than most, and they did a fine job of juxtaposing the personal with the political.
This interview with Matt Jones was, I believe, conducted over email–if not, my younger self was really fond of incorporating slashes into conversation. Separate the Magnets was recently reissued on Dine Alone Records, and the band has reunited; this 2014 interview conducted by Jonah Bayer is worth checking out.
This appeared in the gargantuan fourth issue of Eventide.
For a few years, there was an amazing record store called Sound & Fury on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side. They also hosted numerous live performances (some collected on a VHS tape that someone really should digitize one of these days). It was there that I saw a political hardcore band by the name of Yaphet Kotto, shortly after the release of their first album, The Killer Was in the Government Blankets.
It was a good time for political hardcore, and the bracing, tautly played songs that this four-piece played were among the best out there. This piece at Punknews makes the case that Yaphet Kotto was”the best band many of you have never heard of.” This interview was conducted at Sound & Fury with singer-guitarists Casey Watson and Mag Delena, bassist Scott Batiste, and Pat Crowley.
More albums would follow The Killer Was in the Government Blankets; there is also a Wikipedia page for the group, albeit only in French. This interview originally appeared in Eventide‘s fifth issue.
This interview with Bluetip singer/guitarist Jason Farrell was the second time we spoke for Eventide. The first had been an interview with Sweetbelly Freakdown. While the two groups shared some members, each had their own idiosyncrasies, and their own obsessions. Bluetip took a guitar-driven post-punk sound and added a pervasive air of paranoia to it. One of Farrell’s lyrics in particular — “stamps make shitty band-aids” — is about as grittily evocative as you can get. The moods created by this band are still inside my head, fifteen years later; if that isn’t a testament to what they got right, musically speaking, I don’t know what is.
These days, Farrell is currently making music as one of the members of Red Hare. This interview appeared in the fifth issue of Eventide. And if you’d like to see what the original pages look like, Dischord’s Tumblr has you covered.
Swiz were a band that I’d often see cited as an influence by bands I liked, but — as of 1996 or so — I hadn’t actually heard them. Somewhere in there, I heard the debut 7″ from Sweetbelly Freakdown, which found the reunited lineup of Swiz making music under a new name, but with a relatively similar aesthetic to their predecessor. (I soon tracked down the discography that Jade Tree had released.)
Sweetbelly Freakdown recorded a seven inch and a self-titled album; its members went on to such projects as the memorably-named Jesus Eater and Retinsonic. A few years later, I would also talk with guitarist Jason Farrell about his other band at the time, Bluetip. More recently, 3/4 of the group’s lineup has reconvened as Red Hare, and recorded an album that was released by Dischord.
This interview took place in February 1997, after Sweetbelly Freakdown had finished a show at Wetlands with Texas is the Reason, Promise Ring, and Rocket Science. It appeared in Eventide’s second issue.
The first question I asked Jesuit’s Nate Newton when I interviewed him in 1998 was about his stint playing bass for Converge for a tour. Fifteen years later, that’s turned out to be a little more of a regular thing: I suspect that more people recognize Newton’s name as the bassist of Converge than they do from anywhere else. It’s worth remembering Jesuit as well, though — they were a brutally loud band, quietly pushing at the limits of what might be considered hardcore.
And, if memory is any indication, they were also a terrifically nice bunch of guys. I saw them in New Jersey a whole lot in the late 90s, and never saw a bad show in the bunch. More recently, I was able to see a reunited Jesuit take to the stage at Santos Party House, and show that they hadn’t lost any of the vitality that first impressed me. Magic Bullet Records released Jesuit’s discography in 2011. More recently, Newton’s other band Doomriders released a terrific album titled Grand Blood in late 2013.
This interview was conducted in spring 1998, and appeared in Eventide‘s fourth issue.
I did a lot of interviews for Eventide, but only one was conducted through an exchange of letters. That was with Jason Molina, whose early work as Songs:Ohia had already caught my ear, and whose albums made after this — particularly the utterly stunning Didn’t It Rain — have rarely left my stereo. I’d been struck by Impala, Songs:Ohia’s second album — though describing exactly why I find these albums so powerful is hard to do. The best advice I can give is to listen and let the songs sink in; Molina’s songwriting has a powerfully atmospheric effect, and at its best — which it often was — it was hypnotic.
At the time that this interview was conducted, Molina was on the verge of releasing Axxess & Ace, Songs:Ohia’s third album. Molina would go on to release numerous fantastic albums through numerous projects — including Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. — before his death in early 2013.
This interview was conducted through the mail, and appeared in issue 5.
Few records have held up as well for me as Strand, the second album from The Spinanes. I first saw said band in their days as a two-piece — Rebecca Gates and Scott Plouf — sharing a bill at the Westbeth Theater Center with Elliott Smith and Versus. Two years later came Arches and Aisles, which found Gates working with a new group of collaborators, many of whom were associated with Chicago’s post-rock scene. I believe a feature version of this appeared in NYU’s newspaper — which may explain the haphazard transitions between certain questions.
Thirteen years later, I would interview Gates again; she continues to make and play vital, essential music, and her album The Float was one of my favorites of 2012. Also, it should be noted that Gates can play an absolutely stunning Lungfish cover.
This interview was conducted person in spring 1998, and appeared in issue 4.
Getting to talk with J. Robbins was a huge thrill for me: I’d been a big fan of his work as the singer and guitarist in Jawbox, who emerged from the Washington, DC punk scene and combined a solid knowledge of the loud/quiet/loud dynamic with a stealth talent for beautiful musical moments. Around the time of this interview, Robbins’s post-Jawbox band Burning Airlines had just released their first album, Mission: Control!.
I was excited to talk with Robbins both in terms of his work as a musician and because of his work as a recording engineer and producer; the interview focused on each. These days, he’s making music solo and with Office of Future Plans, who are making some of my favorite music from any of Robbins’s projects. (I interviewed Robbins about OFP in 2012.) And he’s still recording tremendous albums.
This interview was done over the phone in the summer of 1999, and appeared in Eventide‘s sixth issue.
I first heard of Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s film Half-Cocked through its soundtrack, which contained an impressive array of indie bands circa 1996: the Grifters, Unwound, Helium, and Versus. Not long afterwards, I saw the film, in which a young woman living in Louisville (played by Tara Jane O’Neil) who, along with her friends, steals the van belonging to her older brother’s band. (Said older brother is played by Ian Svenonius, in a wonderfully self-parodying mode.) The ensuing film is a hybrid, somewhere between a story of a young band on the road and a low-key take on the “young outlaws on the run” plot.
I was in film school at the time — something that will become very clear as you read the interview — and was deeply intrigued by the idea of an indie film that touched on a music scene for which I felt a strong affinity. The film itself was reissued on DVD a few years ago; since then, Galinsky and Hawley have made such films as Battle for Brooklyn, about the controversy surrounding the Atlantic Yards project; and Horns and Halos, about the process of publishing the book Fortunate Son in 2000.
This interview was conducted by phone in the summer of 1997. It appeared in issue 3 of Eventide.