Monday, May 13, 2013

The Breeders - LSXX [Last Splash 20th Anniversary Reissue] (Album Review)

While most album reissues are content to showcase a band within the context of just one individual component of their overall catalog, some really go the extra mile to capture a true sonic snapshot of their “before and after” phases as well. Such is the case with the monster 7-disc vinyl edition of LSXX, the 20th anniversary reissue of Last Splash from The Breeders (also available in a 3-disc CD version). You may remember Last Splash as the album that spawned “Cannonball,” one of the quirkiest radio hits of 1993. However, LSXX does an unbelievable job of showing just how many more creative layers there are to The Breeders.

But before we unpack all of the awesomeness awaiting your ears in the LSXX box, humor me through a quick Breeders refresher. There’s no question that The Breeders are cut from some serious alternative, post-punk cloth. The band was originally formed when Pixies bassist Kim Deal and Throwing Muses guitarist/co-vocalist Tanya Donnelly were on tour together in Europe in the late 1980s. Deal and Donnelly recorded a demo and got signed to 4AD, the independent label of both of their respective “other” bands. Their Steve Albini-produced debut album, Pod, was released in 1990. While the critics gave it pretty lukewarm reviews, it garnered a strong following on college radio and was mentioned as a highly influential album by the patron saint of alternative music himself, Kurt Cobain. After Pod was released, Deal and Donnelly went back to their previous projects – Deal recording Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde with Pixies and Donnelly starting to form what would eventually become the band Belly. As Pixies started slowing down, Belly started picking up and Deal recruited her twin sister Kelley to take over on guitar. After opening for Nirvana’s 1992 European tour, The Breeders went in to the studio to cut their second album, Last Splash.    

Which brings us back to LSXX. Here’s exactly what’s covered in the beautifully sprawling 7-disc, 46 bonus track, all-inclusive gem of a vinyl box set.

Last Splash (12” LP) – The original 15-track album that went Platinum and spawned hit singles “Cannonball,” “Divine Hammer” and “Saints.” You may also recognize a snippet of the original guitar line from “S.O.S.” as the source of Prodigy’s “Firestarter” sample from a few years later.

The Stockholm Syndrome (12” LP) – This live concert album was recorded in Sweden in 1994 on the band’s final European tour. While some of the tracks originally appeared on a fan club release, this is the first time the entire concert has been available in full. Standouts include a frantic “Head to Toe” and their killer covers of Guided By Voices’ “Shocker in Gloomtown” and The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” from Pod.      
Demos, Rare Tracks and Sessions (12” LP) – Compiling The Breeders impressive 4-track BBC Session, a handful of pre-Last Splash demos from 1992 and a couple of compilation-only songs, this LP is the true hidden gem of the whole bunch. Their live version of “Iris” from the No Alternative compilation is super cool to have but the crowning jewel of this disc is “Grunggae,” the embryonic demo version of “Cannonball.”

Safari (10” EP) – This EP is super special as it is the only Breeders release to include contributions from both Tanya Donnelly and her replacement, Kelley Deal. It predates Last Splash by a little over a year and it’s a really cool transitional piece in the catalog. All 4 songs are exclusive to this EP, including their driving cover of The Who’s “So Sad About Us.”    

Cannonball (10” EP) – No matter if you consider it an EP or a single, this release celebrates what would become The Breeders’ biggest hit and most well-known song. It was released a couple of weeks before Last Splash and features “Cannonball,” “Cro-Aloha” (a demo version of Last Splash’s “No Aloha”), “900” and an early-70s Aerosmith cover “Lord of the Thighs.”    

Divine Hammer (10” EP) – Released as the proper single for “Divine Hammer,” it contains the exclusive, single version of the title track, b-side “Hoverin’,” an acoustic cover of Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” and an alternate version of “Do You Love Me Now?” featuring J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.) on backing vocals.

Head to Toe (10” EP) – This J Mascis-produced EP came out almost a year after Last Splash was first released and features the first solo writing credit of Breeders’ bassist Josephine Wiggs in the wonderfully thrashy “Head to Toe.” They also continue the tradition of tasty cover songs on their EPs with “Freed Pig” from Sebadoh and “Shocker in Gloomtown by Guided by Voices. “Saints,” the third single from Last Splash, is included as well.

Also included among the three 12” LPs and four 10” EPs is an enthralling 24-page booklet that contains some amazing pictures and stories from the band members, as well as recollections from such luminaries as Kim Gordon and J Mascis. Not only will you feel like you were right there in the studio as Last Splash was being recorded, but you'll also get to learn a couple of cool, completely random nuggets along the way: that sound at the beginning of “S.O.S.” is Kelley’s sewing machine run through a Marshall amp, Kim’s wardrobe for the “Cannonball” video was inspired by Mick Jagger’s character in the 1968 film Performance, the vinyl color for the “Head to Toe” EP was inspired by a cheap toothbrush found in a rundown drugstore, and on and on.

As far as reissues go, you won’t find many that can match what LSXX has to offer - a fantastic album, an exciting concert, a wide variety of additional b-sides and covers, and an interesting booklet of pictures and stories accompanying the whole thing. While I don’t think you have to be a devotee of the 90s to enjoy LSXX, it will certainly transport you back to the time when Last Splash was hitting the radio and “Cannonball” was all over MTV. All the components of LSXX seamlessly work together to capture the unique essence and spirit of The Breeders - a band doing their own thing, on their own terms, for everyone else to enjoy and take part in.

You can officially pick up LSXX on May 14th and you can find out where to catch The Breeders out on the road for the LSXX tour HERE.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Interview with Sherri DuPree-Bemis of Eisley

As far as sibling-based bands go, the track record usually yeilds more rivalry then revelry. But for every Oasis outburst and Black Crowes blowout, there's also the charming success stories of bands like Eisley. Comprised of four siblings and a cousin, Eisley has been cranking out rich indie pop/rock since before many of its members could even vote. 3 full-length albums and 10 EPs later, they're back with Currents, their most ambitious and self-stamped project to date. Currents represents a band that has fully taken the reigns of the recording process as Eisley crafted the album on their own in their own studio. 

Eisley's Sherri Dupree-Bemis was nice enough to take some time out and talk to me about Currents, producing the album themselves, their current Kickstarter campaign, and our shared love for the EP format.  
NoiseTrade: You’ve described your new album Currents (May 28, Equal Vision) as the first time you’ve had complete and total control over the recording process. As artists, what does that freedom look like at the beginning stages of recording and did those initial definitions change at all after the album was actually finished?
Sherri Dupree-Bemis: I think, if anything, it was just better than we could have imagined. It was so refreshing to realize that, after doing this for over a decade, we found a group of people (our label – Equal Vision Records) who trusted our artistic vision enough to let us take on the challenge of doing it ourselves. And it was challenging, to be sure!  Luckily all five of us in the band are very like-minded with our tastes/ideas musically, so I think it really unified the sound of the album. I'm not saying we would never work with a producer again because I'm sure we will - there are reasons producers exist. We might not have the big names or brightest musical minds as contributors on this project but we feel that, at this point in the journey, 100% Eisley is what we needed and we're pretty confident that our fans will agree. I know we accomplished what we set out do to with these songs and on this record.

NT: What ended up being some of the prouder moments of the self-recorded/self-produced experience? Any lumps in the learning process? 
Sherri: The proudest moment for me was seeing the drum/bass section (my brother Weston DuPree and cousin Garron) really step up into leadership roles, musically. On past projects, when working with producers, this wasn't always the case because there was so much focus on my sister, Stacy and I, who do most of the songwriting. Producers were less likely to involve the guys and by default, we ended up making a lot of the artistic choices. On this record, there were no real time constraints or pressures. So it really allowed the guys the freedom to step in and flex their creative muscles. We got to pick their brains and I think they really brought these songs to a level. The recording process is a learning process and you always take your lumps along the way, but I'm really proud of our band for working together as a team to overcome the obstacles that arose.     

NT: Much has been written about the familial bonds (four siblings, one cousin) that make up your band. Does this add uniquely difficult layers to the struggles of self-production or does it somehow make them more manageable?  
Sherri: I would say... absolutely more manageable, at least, for us. We're an extremely close-knit family and the benefits far out way the negatives due to that. It's extremely fun. Not to say we never disagree or have our small upsets here and there. But our friendships are so healthy and so important to us that we really work on choosing our battles carefully. We confront issues as they arise… before they turn into anything very serious. 

NT: Due to 4/5ths of the band recently becoming parents, you’re currently running a Kickstarter with a $100,000 goal to help assist with the ambitious touring of Currents. To give a little peek behind the curtain, what new plans do you have for this tour and what all goes into touring with 4 new infants? 
Sherri: The whole idea behind the Kickstarter (if those reading this haven't read our page) is to basically help us tour our new record, visit other countries we haven't been to in years and also enrich the live experience (shows) for fans by increasing production. We're on an indie label (that we absolutely love), but indie labels don't typically have the means to provide tour support or help build your live show production, so we're trying to do that ourselves.  Yes, having four new babies to bring on the road definitely ties into those costs because we can't travel around the country in a van any longer…it's just a fact. Someone said, "So don't bring the babies". I think once you have a baby, you know that leaving them behind for months at a time isn't an option. You want to be a part of every step of their childhood. You can't be in a band and not tour.   The reason we tour is to go out and meet our fan base and thank them for their constant support of loving and buying our music. We always knew we would come to the point of having children in our lives and always knew it would be a challenge, but it's something that's so important to us as a band, and as individuals.   The Kickstarter will simply help us bring our music to our fans. We just want to meet them and be able to look them in the eye and thank them and also be unified in the joy of playing/singing music together with them. That's something we won't ever stop trying to do – come hell or high water.   

NT: The final question is purely self-serving as I love when bands believe in the power of the EP. As a band that has released ten EPs since 2000, what’s your take on the purpose/function of an EP and what role does it serve for you as musicians and songwriters? 
Sherri: I think it's such a fun way to break up the 2+ years that generally lapses between entire albums. Having a smaller-scale, low stress outlet/format for putting music out into the word that, otherwise, might not end up on an LP seems smart to me. It's also just a cool way to be constantly providing music to your fan base and allowing them to grow with you, through those sometimes awkward periods between full-length records. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Interview with Chad Howat of Paper Route

 If you didn’t catch Paper Route’s The Peace of Wild Things during its celebrated release last year, then here’s your chance to make up for the missed opportunity. Paper Route is currently offering the much buzzed about album here on NoiseTrade in its entirety. Their dance rock guitars, sizzling synth grooves and slick beats play the perfect foil for the emotive vocals and rich songwriting found within each track. 
Paper Route is currently out supporting The Peace of Wild Things with Imagine Dragons and you can find their full list of show dates HERE.

I recently spoke with Paper Route’s Chad Howat about The Peace of Wild Things, tour life and Wendell Berry. 
NoiseTrade: You guys are currently out on tour with Imagine Dragons and then have a nice run of solo shows following that. What's included on your personal pro/con list regarding tour life? 
Chad Howat: Pros would be local food/coffee/drinks from a variety of interesting and unique cities around the world. Our guitarist, Josh, always finds the best local breakfast place and that's always the first priority of the day. Cons would be lack of sleep and lack of personal space. There’s less time to be creative. Also, not having phone service in other countries. 
NT: By the time an album finally gets released to the masses, bands/artists have usually already started planning for their next adventure. What's been brewing in the Paper Route camp post-release of The Peace of Wild Things? 
Chad: We've toyed around with a few different ideas but right now it seems like trying to block off time to start writing a new album. We want our third LP to be the best yet so we are anxious to see what pours out of us this time. We have a few other auxiliary ideas we want to do but right now writing seems to be the first thing after touring. 
NT: Prior to the album's release, you mentioned that this was the first time you were ever nervous about the content of your songwriting. This far out, has the feeling changed with night-after-night shows and fan feedback? 
Chad: We aren't nervous anymore. Jitters are common anytime you are about to release something to the public. The songs are vulnerable and honest and JT's voice is front and center. There's not much to hide behind on this album. The feedback has been great, though. People come up and will say "this is my favorite song of the last year" or things like that, and the cool thing is that I think we've heard that about every single song on the album. People aren't gravitating to one song and one song only, for better or worse. We've released probably 40 or 50 songs so far in our career and I don't think you'll ever get fans to agree on which is their favorite. I think that's a good thing. 
NT: The Peace of Wild Things shares its title with a Wendell Berry poem. Was that a direct nod to him and if so, how has his work influenced the band? 
Chad: It was absolutely a nod to him. Jayber Crow was our favorite book when making Absence and when it came time to title this album, his poem popped into our heads. The title seemed to sum up the previous 2 years of making this album. 
NT: All three of you have multiple creative outlets outside of Paper Route. How do you decide what is/isn't a good fit for Paper Route and what else can your fans being looking forward to from these other endeavors? 
Chad: I think Paper Route is all of first loves. We get to express what we are feeling inside and we are in control of everything from start to finish. JT put out his solo record at a time when he needed to release something for sanity's sake and he had mine and Gavin’s support in doing so. I'm always trying to write and whether or not those things become Paper Route songs remains to be seen. We try to play to our strengths and if a song feels like a "happy accident,” then it's usually a Paper Route contender. If it feels well-crafted, but is missing the je ne sais quoi, then it probably needs to get destroyed and reborn to have a shot. Sorry for the tangent… fans can expect us to tour hard for a few more months, and then we will figure out our next step.