Today Red Pants, the Madison, WI lo-fi recording project of Jason Lambeth issues Gentle Centuries which follows up the excellent When We Were Dancing released early this year on Paisley Shirt Records. For those familiar with our pages may remember last winters coverage of Red Pants here. I recently caught up with Jason to discuss the new album and video which we’re thrilled to be premiering today to learn a bit more about how these songs came to life in Lambeth’s basement. “Gentle Centuries began in the early winter of ’22 when Elsa Nekola and I started practicing more and more in my basement. We ended up recording an acoustic version of the last Red Pants album live to my 4-track and that led us to want to continue recording more on the 4-track as opposed to on the computer like we usually do. Because we were in my basement instead of our usual practice space, I got to incorporate my acoustic guitar and my old Hammond organ as the main instruments. This was our first time playing with the organ and drum set up. Elsa picked up on my Stereolab/Krautrock vibes immediately on Century Phaser and that sort of busted the door wide open to try anything. One session, I presented Paper Moon as a couple new chords and we made it through it well enough on the second take that I was able to finish writing the song around the improvised take. ”
Check out the charming new video for Paper Moon. Highly recommended for fans of cassettes, ice coffee, not to mention intelligent and captivating post-underground pop songs. You can obtain both the limited edition tape or digital copies of the album at Red Pants Bandcamp.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been hearing rumblings of anonymous new hardcore act in the city known as DONE. The band has very little presence on-line and their bandcamp page doesn’t contain any music, but that’s all about change when the band releases their debut full length, Aged & Untreated next month. The band has issued the following statement to provide a hint or two: “It started off with J. writing riffs and programming drums until he got together with D. They then began to start the project writing songs remotely and matching up recordings during quarantine. Things began to open up so they got together a few times and immediately knew this was to be a full band. They teamed up with old friends B. & L. and recording immediately began. The full length was recorded through early 2021-2022 in our practice space. Having cut their teeth in more bands than you can shake a stick at, Done are both a reaction and a provocation to the ebb and flow of heavy music in Boston. They are equal parts His Hero is Gone and Boston hardcore with a spritz of 2nd wave black metal. On paper you’ll go Oh I know exactly what this sounds like, yet it feels fresh, like a recently opened cut. Crafted and performed with a ferocity that only age and dismay can produce. They are unfortunately still here, and angry about it.”
It’s a thrill to be premiering the sub two minute pummeling and enthralling advance track, The Wall In Every Door from DONE ahead of their debut release and that’s not all, on Saturday September 10th Tor Johnson Records and The Ash Gray Proclamation will present DONE’s tape release show at O’Brien’s along with Sexless Marriage, Deprogrammer Cult, and Glue Horse. Tickets & Info
I first became aware of J. Robbins through his seminal post hardcore outfit, Jawbox sometime in the early 90’s when I stumbled upon their debut, LP Grippe. A bit of a eureka moment that led me to follow along very closely to that bands initial run as well as the projects that J. embarked on after Jawbox disbanded in 1997. Robbins continued creating vital and inspiring work with both Channels and The Office of Future Plans. In 2014 Robbins released the Abandoned Mansions EP, the first release to use his name and hint of what would arrive 5 years later with his flat out excellent debut solo full length, Un-Becoming. J. is currently out on a short tour supporting Bob Mould that will bring him to the Provincetown Town Hall on Friday.
However, before that J. will be performing a special one-off headlining date tonight at The Haymarket Lounge at The City Winery along with support from Chris Colourn (Bufflao Tom) and Hilken Mancini (Fuzzy) tonight. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with J. about being back on the road, his writing and recording process, and the upcoming Jawbox tour.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can tell me a little about your songwriting process and specifically how the songs the occupy 2019’s Un-Becoming were crafted?
J. Robbins: Well, I’m forever trying to get myself into the mode of most of my favorite songwriters, which is to dedicate a little bit of time every day to the work. Unfortunately, that rarely happens, it’s more normal for a fragment of melody or harmony to pop into my head and then I’ll kind of steal time here and there to refine it. Where “Un-Becoming” is concerned, the biggest change in my process is that I wrote a lot of it on acoustic guitar, in an open tuning that is both forgiving (in that it just sounds great even when you strum the open strings) and takes away many of my guitar-playing fallbacks and habits. I was conscious of wanting to write songs (with an emphasis on what’s sung and on structure) as opposed to getting hung up trying to out-write and impress myself with clever guitar ideas. I was conscious of wanting to be more direct than I ever had before, both musically and lyrically.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: When writing do you know right off the bat that it will be a J. Robbins solo recording or are there times where you find songs come through that a better suited for the full band treatment?
J. Robbins: Well, the record is almost entirely in the format of a 4-piece rock band, and for better or worse most of the time that’s what I hear in my head. I can see it moving further away from that. I’ve been incorporating electronics more and more, for one thing, and this tour is also reminding me how much I love this acoustic solo/duo configuration with my friend Gordon Withers on cello. But one of the other main points of “going solo” rather than creating a new band entity is to feel unconstrained. I want to just make whatever feels good/right to make, period.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: That album saw you partnering once again with famed D.C. institution, Dischord Records. Would you mind revisiting how you first came to work with them and how they came to release your last album?
J. Robbins: Well, Dischord initially worked with Jawbox because we were friends with Ian MacKaye (Jaxbox bassist Kim Coletta and I both worked at Dischord in the late 80s), we were a highly active band in the DC scene and the association made sense. We are all still friends and basically, when I had finished working on Un-Becoming, I asked and Ian said yes. There is no other label I want to work with. There is real trust there and that is so, so important.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell me a littel bit about the work that’s being put into your next solo album?
J. Robbins: I’ve been working on it, right now there are 15 recorded songs in various stages of completion. I hope to have it all wrapped up, mixed and mastered etc. by Fall or by the end of the year if it comes to it, and hopefully release it as early as feasible next year. Lyrics are the main sticking point, I hear melodies right away as I’m writing the music but, the lyrics take me forever because I just don’t want to feel like I’m slacking or faking it or just throwing any old thing out into the world. Writing lyrics, in its way, is a bit scary. So, about 1/3 of the tunes are missing vocals.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell us the pairing and the current tour with Bob Mould came about?
J. Robbins: Well, Bob asked! I’ve been a huge fan of his work forever. I’d say Husker Du was a ground-zero formative influence on me. So, I’ve met Bob over the years a few times, and we know so many people in common, and over theyears I’ve played a couple of shows (Jawbox supporting Sugar, my band supporting Bob Mould Band). It turned out that Bob was actually a big fan of Un-Becoming, and he literally just wrote and asked.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: On this current two week tour you are being accompanied by Gordon Withers. Can you tell us what it’s been like for you to be performing to audience again and being able revisit your catalog?
J. Robbins: Well, my old band Jawbox reformed in 2019 for a reunion tour and are planning to play more shows this year. So, if you sort of factor out the world hitting pause for 2 years while everyone agreed there was a global pandemic we had to stay home for, I’ve actually been playing a lot. But all the songs Jawbox is playing at this point are quite old, and that material was all put together to some degree collectively when we were all a lot younger. So, this tour with Bob is really enjoyable for me because it’s actually not about revisiting stuff, it’s focused on more recent music of mine and on things I’m creating now. My sense of what I’m trying to express is a lot clearer, and feels somehow more pure or true, than it was in the initial incarnation of Jawbox. It feels great to play these songs to people. It’s been amazing to meet people after these shows who had never heard of me before but who were only there to see Bob, but who ended up feeling a connection with my songs in real time in that room on that evening. It’s fantastic to play with Gordon, he’s one of the most creative, astute and enjoyablemusical collaborators I’ve ever had, he’s an easy dude to be around as well. His contributions to Un-Becoming and to our previous band Office of Future Plans are just fundamental to the sound of those projects. He elevates everything he contributes to.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Is there any material in the current set that you hadn’t played Live before, due to the pandemic or any songs that you’re enjoying performing again?
J. Robbins: We’ve been playing some brand-new songs that are part of the work-in-progress second J. Robbins album, and we’ve been playing “Dead-Eyed God” which will be on the album but which I released on Bandcamp in 2021.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: In addition to the current solo tour you are about to get busy with this summer with Jawbox. Can you tell me about the idea to play a New York residency where you will play the bands catalog over 3 nights?
J Robbins: It was an invitation from the venue. They offered us a 3-night residency, and we decided to make it a more complete overview than we could just do in one set. But it’s not exactly the full record in sequence thing that some bands do, there will be some overlap and some songs that we just don’t do. The general form is to go from our earliest stuff on night one to our most recent stuff on night three. We are re-learning a lot of material we didn’t get to on the 2019 reunion tour.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: I’m sure at this point you almost expect the will we get another Jawbox record question, but I’d remiss if I don’t ask if that’s something the band would or has considered recently?
J. Robbins: Initially we agreed we wouldn’t even entertain the idea of writing new material, but we’ve all become much more open to it recently. We had a member change when Bill Barbot decided he didn’t want to participate in our 2022 plans. Brooks Harlan is playing guitar with us now and having new blood in the band does feel reinvigorating. I can’t say we have any specific plans, but Jawbox does feel unexpectedly like a living breathing band in the present tense, rather than some sort of victory lap, nostalgia thing, so we’ll see.
With today’s release of Guided By Voices’ 35th album and instant classic, Crystal Nuns Cathedral as well as their highly anticipated return to Boston tomorrow night at Royale, I thought it would be a great time to check back in with GBV’s Doug Gillard. This time around we focused our conversation on the creative process behind Crystal Nuns Cathedral.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Crystal Nuns Cathedral has been accumulating high praise from critics and fans alike and with just a few days until release day, I’m curious to know what makes CNC so special among the already impressive run of releases from this line up?
Doug Gillard: We approached this one with more of an eye to get slightly bigger sounds, slightly more homogenous throughout the album and deliberately less idiosyncratic mixes than usual perhaps. Its still us and all our same instincts, so there are still occasional synths, field recordings, amp drops, wild ideas, etc.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: On one of many standouts on the album, Climbing A Ramp offers a bit of orch pop before coming to an anthemic and rather exhilarating finish. Can you tell me how that track came together and what your vision was for both the string arrangement and guitar composition?
Doug Gillard: Bob’s demo had all the elements in it, plus his production notes. On this one, the cello line was something Bob already had in mind and sang it on the demo. I transposed it and wrote it out for the cellist Chris George, ex of the NYC string quartet Invert. For the song Eye City, those were cello parts I came up with. As far as guitar for this song, I just played Bobs chords on a couple electrics and acoustics, and already had the lead tracks done on a session at home so we used that instead of my trying to re-play it in studio. I could’ve tried, but it was one of those that came together so well I didn’t wanna fuck with what was already down.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: I read that on Earth Man Blues the band recorded their parts separately due to constraints of the pandemic. Was there a chance this time around for you all to get together in the same room to work on these songs?
Doug Gillard: We tend to do a great deal of remote home recording each album anyway, but especially during 2020 and 2021. For CNC, most of us were at the drum sessions one day or the other, and Travis Mark and I worked on guitar and bass parts at his studio. We did basics on select tracks all together for Its Not Them, Mirrored Aztec and prior, but not for Styles We Paid For or Earth Man Blues. Straynge dayze, you know.
The AGP: Did the process for recording Crystal Nuns Cathedral follow the usual process with Bob sending each of you demos to work on individually or was there any deviation from that or special instruction for this batch of songs?
Doug: Well, we receive the demos as a group at the same time, and that process didn’t change for this album. Bob usually gives us general production notes each record, so, nothing unique about this process with regard to past albums.
The AGP: As the band is currently in rehearsals for some upcoming East Coast show’s this weekend, what songs are you most looking forward to performing and can I cast a vote for Huddled?
Doug: Thanks, I agree, that’s a great tune! It’s a nice challenge doing Climbing A Ramp, which is sounding really great, and Excited Ones is such a great pop song that it’s really fun to play. Mad River Man has a special quality, so am looking forward to that one as well. Eyes Of Your Doctor is a slow boiler too. Total rock.
The AGP: What’s the rest of the year ahead look like for you personally as well as GBV?
Doug: Continuing to record, release records and play live shows, some side recording projects here and there, hopefully traveling to see family.
The AGP: During the last few conversations we’ve delved into some current listening habits. What albums have you been enjoying as of late?
Doug: Mainly, its going back and refamiliarizing myself with things I used to put on all the time but haven’t in a while. Lately its anything by The Groundhogs from ’68-’75. I’ve always been a big fan and can find a few things to love on all those records. Highly interesting stuff. Magazine- first 3 albums plus have been delving into their live performances from the time, TV appearances, etc., John McGeoch’s always been near the top of my favorite guitarists, and Barry Adamson’s career started here. All the Thin Lizzy output and solo Phil Lynott material. Probably prompted by news last year of a statue of Phil unveiled in Bromwich, UK which looks more like Vonnegut than Lynott.
Thank you to Doug for taking the time to chat during a busy week of rehearsals and travel to conduct this conversation.
Crystal Nuns Cathedral is available now via Rockathon
Don’t miss Guided By Voices Saturday, March 5th at Royale
Madison, WI post lo-fi concern, Red Pants will release their 2nd long playing album, When We Were Dancing on February 18th via San Francisco’s exemplary Paisley Shirt Records. The release will be available both digitally and on limited run of 100 cassettes. For the uninitiated, Red Pants is the solo project of Jason Lambeth: curator and owner behind Painted Blonde Tapes, avid 4-track cassette user, father, and all-around supporter of independent & DIY music-makers. Jason is joined by longtime collaborator Elsa Nekola on drums and vocals to complete their most spacious sounding album yet.
Today Red Pants give us the privilege of premiering their new song and video for Another Haircut. On the track the duo delivers massive hooks, guitar fuzz, and driving beats. The video for the noise pop gem has the feel of an adorable home movie, featuring Lambeth’s two daughters.
Red Pants forthcoming new album, While We Were Dancing is avialable for pre-order now.
While Boston’s pysch-shoegaze concern, Emerald Comets continue work on their next full length they have shared a day dream inducing new song, which will also seve as the title track for the Comets forthcoming longplayer, Memory Factory. The new track finds the quartet that features current and past members of such Boston rock luminaries as Guillermo Sexo, Ex-Hyena, Drab, and Sunken Armada delivering a liberal dose of dream pop over waves of buzzing guitar and lush instrumentation. We recently caught up with bands guitarist and vocalist, Reuben Bettsak to chat a bit about Memory Factory as well as what’s next for Emerald Comets.
” Memory Factory was one of the first songs I wrote for the 2nd album. This song is about memories. Like remembering a certain memory from the past, and trying to remember details. A lot of the songs from the 2nd album, also called Memory Factory explore different memory stories. We recorded this song similarly to how we did the last album. I recorded my vocals, guitar, and some synths, Tim O’Keefe added drums, then Jason Layne added bass, keyboards, mellotron, and added backup vocals along with David Altman. Justin Pizzoferrato mixed the thing in his magical way. As far as more new music, we are getting closer to finishing tracking the whole album and I’m hoping we can release the album early fall of 2022. There will also be another single probably coming out this spring.” – Reuben Bettsak
Melbourne’s rising post punks, Pinch Points have announced details around their forthcoming second album, Process which will be released jointly by Exploding In Sound Records here in the US and Misletone Records in Australia on March 18th. This morning saw the release of album’s second single and accompanying new video for Am I OK? Which features the band and thier alto egos promoting mental health wellness and selfcare. The 10 tracks on Process deal with “engaging with the fractures in so-called ‘Australia’ from catastrophic bushfires, gendered violence, mental health struggles to First Nations incarceration and deaths in custody – with clear-eyed directness, along with an uncommon nuance and empathy.”
Quite likely one of the years most hotly anticipated releases is now avaialable for pre-order.
It was sometime in 2015 when I received my official introduction to the music of Jason Henn and his recording vehicle, Honey Radar. Since then, the project has evolved into full-fledged band with Henn at the helm delivering one engaging and arresting song cycle after another. With several LP’s, EP’s, and split singles to their credit as well as Henn’s remarkable 2020 solo debut, Jazz Pigs In High School, Honey Radar can be a bit hard to classify at times. Early on they seemed to connect a lot with lo-fi acts that came before them, but as the band have continued to push their songcraft and sound in exciting new directions the Avant Pop and Sub-Underground tags have been tossed about. Regardless of the genre that gets pinned on Honey Radar the takeaway should be that they are a rare act that consistently offers up something wholly original, completely unique, and not to mention, catchy as hell.
On Sunday we will have the pleasure of welcoming Honey Radar back to Boston when they play AGP 15 at O’ Brien’s Pub alongside Thalia Zedek Band and Germ House. I recently had the chance to speak with Jason for a rare interview to discuss a handful of upcoming releases, getting back on the road, and what’s next for Honey Radar.
AGP 15: Sunday October 3rd with Thalia Zedek Band, Honey Radar, & Germ House at O’Brien’s, AllstonEvent Info
Special thanks to Reuben Bettsak for audio production assistance.
As I’m sure you’re well aware by now, that Guided By Voices were forced to postpone this weekends East Coast shows due to illness. Thankfully a new date has been announced for their return to Boston on January 15th at Royale. With a handful albums added to their cannon during a time where they were unable to tour this news hits particularly hard, but these continue to be truly strange times to live in. Taking measures to keep both the band, their fans safe and healthy is paramount. Last week I had the good fortune of connecting with GBV’s Doug Gillard via zoom to discuss the band’s recent output, the challenges of recording and releasing albums during a pandemic, and the forthcoming LP It’s Not Them, It Couldn’t Be Them, It Is Them. A huge thank you to Doug for taking the time chat and stay tuned for part two of our conversation coming this winter.
*Photo of Doug performing at the Telegram Ballroom, Los Angeles 12/31/19 as well as the image that runs throughout the interview (DG on the balcony) provided by Ana Luisa Morales. With audio assistance from Reuben Bettsak.