FCKR JR. – “Frogs” | Premiere & Interview

FJRChicago’s slacker pop concern, FCKR JR. will issue their full length debut, I’m Sorry Mom and Dad on August 2nd. The quartet formed in 2017 and as last year came to a close they issued an impressive debut single Fog b/w Nine Inch Cakes. Helmed by Ben Grigg (Geronimo!, Future BiffWhelpwisher) FCKR JR. specialize in razor sharp melodies, substantial pop hooks, and liberal doses of guitar fuzz with intricate and engaging rhythms. Which are all on full display on I’m Sorry Mom and Dad’s opening track Frogs which we have the privileged of sharing today. In addition we recently caught up with Ben Grigg to discuss FCKR JR.’s forthcoming LP, his ongoing solo project, Whelpwisher and we even got him to share some of his favorite records of the year, so far.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: When writing how do you decide which songs will be released under the Whelpwisher moniker vs. FCKR JR.?

Ben Grigg: Well, I don’t really decide at that stage. I just like to write and record at home, those decisions don’t come into play until later. If a song turns out well and I’m feeling like doing a Whelpwisher release, then it’s a Whelpwisher song. However, I see anything Whelpwisher as fair game for FCKR JR. About half of FCKR JR’s songs started as something recorded under Whelpwisher. Since there really isn’t a live version of Whelpwisher, getting adopted by FCKR JR is the only way for a Whelpwisher song to be played Live.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Speaking of FCKR JR. can you tell me a little bit about the new album you’re planning on releasing next month? 

Ben Grigg: This FCKR JR record is our first formal release, besides a 2 song EP we recorded in my basement. The songs are really the bulk of what we’ve been playing live for the past year and a half. A lot of them are as old as the band, and we have them pretty polished at this point. Some of them are brand new though. It was exciting to see how the new tracks sounded, fully realized. The tape was recorded at a small studio in Chicago called Burn the Furniture. I’ve not always had great experiences in formal studio environments, but we had a wonderful time at Burn the Furniture. It was really an ideal experience. We’re also super stoked for the record to come out on Born Yesterday Records (Glued, Landowner)! They’re great people and we love the other bands affiliated with the label. 

The AGP: Can you tell me about the plans to support the new album on the road?

Ben: We’re planning a short tour to the East Coast in August. About half the band has never toured before, so it’ll be a fun experience for them. Tour dates should be announced shortly.

The AGP: Last week you released a new Whelpwisher EP, Good Fortune. What was the creative process behind those sessions ?

Ben: I’ve been lucky enough to live at a place with a basement for the past 4 years or so. I’ve set up sort of a makeshift studio down there and had lots of time to learn about recording. Whelpwisher basically started at the end of Geronimo! as a way for me to write and record music on my own. I’ve learned quite a bit in those years. However, I’m moving to a new place at the end of July. I’ll also have a basement space there, so nothing will really change. However, I felt like I needed to record a few more songs here (at Boozy Grin) before moving. Good Fortune is basically a goodbye to Boozy Grin. My process for Good Fortune was the same as my process for almost anything Whelpwisher. More or less, I come home from work, eat something, then go downstairs and don’t come back up until I have a complete song recorded. I start with drums. I’ll just hit record, and play drums until I have something worked out that I think I can write a song over, thinking about where verses, choruses, and bridges should go. Then, I’ll either do bass or guitar next. Very little is thought through beforehand, with the exception of the occasional riff. I might just have a vibe I want to convey, and that’s it. For me, if I have to take longer than an evening on a song, I find that it just doesn’t go together right and it’s best to move on. Either the bones of it are going to work, or they aren’t. Occasionally I find that vocal melodies or lyrics should be revised after some time to reflect, but generally everything else can be done all in a night. For Good Fortune, I followed this routine for a few nights in a row and bingo! Here’s an EP! The only track that was done earlier was Enough. I had recorded that back in March, but didn’t know what to do with it at the time, or whether I even liked it. 

The AGP: My introduction to your music was through the now defunct Geronimo! The band ended in 2015, but you’ve continued to work with your former band mates Kelly Johnson and Matt Schwerin on a few occasions. Do you expect to collaborate on future projects with them?

Ben: Yeah, I’ve certainly been lucky to be able to play music with both Kelly and Matt Schwerin. After Geronimo!, I think we all wanted to branch out and find different people to play with. It wasn’t out of any bad blood post-Geronimo, just out of curiosity I think. We’d been playing together for 8 years or so and maybe just forgot what it was like to play with other people. Kelly went off to start Milked with some friends of ours, and I tried to start up something that later became Future Biff. After a while though, I think we both realized that it was just much better to keep playing together. It was just more fun that way. Plus, we were so used to anticipating each other musically and knew how to work off each other. Everything was easier together. Milked ended up being the same lineup as Geronimo!, as did Future Biff, plus the addition of Ryan Wizniak(Meat Wave). Kelly even came to some FCKR JR practices early on, but his move to Eugene, Oregon was already looming, so he bowed out. I still play with Matt Schwerin in Deathsnack. I’d certainly love to play with Kelly again some day if geography allows, but for now, that’s not really a possibility.

The AGP: At the mid-year point it seems that everyone is sharing there favorite albums of 2019. Would you like to share some of your favorites of the year, so far ?

Ben: Yeah of course! I don’t digest music with the speed I’d like to, so I tend to listen to something over and over once I get it and not branch out too much. It makes it hard to really dive in to a lot or records, but these are the 2019 records I’ve been listening to so far (in no particular order):

Shady BugLemon Lime
GluedCool Evil
LomeldaM for Empathy
PileGreen and Gray

The AGP: Can you tell me a little bit about Frogs and the transformation it took from being a Whelpwisher to a full fledged FCKR JR. composition?
 
Ben: Frogs was a song I wrote in the fall of 2017. I just liked the simplicity of the chords and progression. It had a Dinosaur Jr./Ovlov vibe to it. The lyrics are about dealing with mental health issues. I don’t feel that I have been dealt a particularly bad hand in that regard, but I do get pretty down sometimes, to the point where I don’t want to feel better and begin to associate these feelings with “the real me”, which is of course total bullshit. I used frogs living inside my head as a way to separate these negative thoughts and depression from me, e.g. these thoughts aren’t me, it’s just those frogs again. 
 
Another fun story is that I had everything but the solo done on the Whelpwisher version and my friend Kelly Johnson (Geronimo!, Milked) came over. We were on our way to a party or a friends house or something and had about 15 minutes before we had to leave. I asked him, “hey, do you want to rip a guitar solo real quick?” He very kindly agreed and come down to the basement to record the solo on Frogs. It took all of 5 minutes, I really love how that turned out.
 
Frogs was the first song FCKR JR learned and started playing live. I think it was my favorite Whelpwisher song I had at the time, and seemed like an easy one to show everybody. It’s been fun seeing it evolve from my Whelpwisher demo to now. It’s picked up in tempo and Liz Bustamante is a far more creative and competent drummer than me. She’s added a lot of great details. Emily Wrong also added some really cool guitar dives throughout the song that I love, and Emily Bean rewrote the bass part. It’s sweet. I tried not to rip Kelly off too much in the solo, but I probably did, ha ha. I’m no Kelly Johnson. It’s also the first song we ever performed live. We played it at a kooky public access TV show, it was the first thing we ever did live as a band. We had to call ourselves “Effer Jr” for the show though, since it was on TV.
 
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8w8KufY3XA Linked: Fckr Jr.| Whelpwisher| Future Biff

Review: Sigh Of Relief – Injection

First as founding member of slowcore legends Bedhead and then with The New Year, Bubba Kadane along with his brother Matt have been responsible for some of the finest glacially paced pop songs I’ve had the pleasure of digesting over the past 27 years. So, at this point I thought I knew what to expect from a solo endeavor from Bubba Kadane. Even with words like electronic and ambient being used to described the album, I wasn’t quite prepared for the hypnotic and arresting 40 minutes that occupy Injection. According to its creator the creative process behind the LP, dates back to 2015 when Kadane was creating guitar-based ambient instrumentals along with some purely electronic pieces, but found himself drawn to the flexibility of creating from a blank palette while working on a electronic composition. The obvious reference point would be Brian Eno‘s 1978 masterpiece, Music For Airports. Although the music Bubba Kadane creates under the Sigh Of Relief moniker mines similar terrain, he manages to create something exquisite and uniquely beautiful. He displays a gift for creating captivating soundscapes with a knack for conjuring up both darkness and light with sections of tension and release. The piece flows by at a pretty quick clip due to Kadane not lingering in one place for very long. In the past I’ve been guilty of playing ambient music over dinner of even during house chores, but this album captures my full attention and is meant to be heard in full. Injection is stunning piece of ambient bliss that begs repeating.

The AGP Top 25 of 2018

A trying year politically delivered an incredibly strong year in music. With  excellent albums by some established favorites like Guided By Voices and Superchunk as well  formidable releases from rising acts such as Twin Foxes, Darklands, Ovlov, and Kal Marks we had plenty of sonic splendeur to keep us chugging along. In our first installment of 2018 in review we take time share some our favorites of the year. Most of these are available on Bandcamp, so if there something here that lands in your wheelhouse please consider supporting these artists in any way you can.

*Photo above taken at AS220 in Providence by Eleanor Dean

Heavy Rhythm: An Interview With Doug Gillard

dougThere has been many pivotal moments in the life of Guided By Voices. The bands 1993 performance at CBGB’s during CMJ New Music Seminar as well as when Robert Pollard scrapped what is now referred to as the “classic line up” (the first time) in favor of fellow Ohioan’s Cobre Verde on Mag Earwig and more recently Doug Gillard’s return to the line-up in the summer of 2016. Since that point Bob and co. have been on tear releasing a string of exceptional LP’s with GBV as well as with ESP Ohio, a project that features Gillard as well as current bassist Mark Shue and GBV producer and audio engineer Travis Harrison. On Monday GBV will play a sold-out show at The Sinclair in Cambridge for what will be their first Boston area appearance in over two years, a momentous occasion indeed. Earlier this week I had the pleasure of talking with Doug Gillard about the recording process for the forthcoming double LP, Zepplin Over China, the bands current 2.5 hour Live set, and his continued solo and production projects. A huge thank you to Doug for taking the time and fielding our questions.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What can you tell us about the next Guided By Voices LP, the 32 track Zeppelin Over China?

Doug Gillard: Its a double album (vinyl), and completely diverse. It ranges from heavy songs to songs with strings, to just one electric guitar with Bob singing. We are very proud of this album, and its not really like any Guided By Voices album released to date.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: With the band being spread out geographically, what was the recording process like this time around?

Doug Gillard: We recorded about a third of the album’s music together as a group to 2-inch tape, then others we individually played or sent in parts for at different times. When the music was completed, our producer/engineer Travis Harrison traveled to Dayton from NYC to capture Bob’s vocals for the album. I did some string, horn and piano arrangements for the album as well.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Is there track or perhaps tracks on the new album that stands out for you or one that you are eager to play Live?

Doug Gillard: We are already playing You Own The Night and Rally Boys live in our set, soon to put in My Future In Barcelona, which I think will be in by the time we hit Boston. I can’t wait to play Holy Rhythm live.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Before the release of the next GBV full length, there are plans to release two EP’s this November, Winecork Stonehenge and 100 Dougs. What was the creative process behind those EP’s?

Doug Gillard: There are 2 more EPs being released after those as well to complete the cycle, namely Umlaut Over The Ozone and 1901 Acid Rock. They all have songs hovering around 2 minutes or less, 6 songs per vinyl EP, and play at 33 rpm. Bob wrote the songs for each one fairly quickly, and we actually recorded a lot of the guitar/bass tracks while in the van on our tours. Travis is along with us, brings some gear, and we monitor through the rented van’s stereo speakers. Kevin did his drums at our friend Ray Ketchem‘s Magic Door studio in Montclair, NJ to kick it all off. Later next year after these vinyl EPs are released, all songs from the EPs will then appear collectively as an album imagined and re-sequenced by Bob entitled Warp And Woof.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: In terms of gear, your trusty black Les Paul has been your go to guitar for years. What is it about that guitar that keeps you reaching for it?

Doug Gillard: Its just dependable. Really durable (don’t jinx this, Doug), and the bridge pickup is a mid 70s DiMarzio Super 2 that just has a unique bite to it. Its a ’76 Custom I bought from someone in Akron when I was 19 and I keep it maintained a bit, but I don’t have to do much. Its heavy as shit, too, which I hate these days, but hey, you gotta sacrifice your sacroiliac for your life’s work every now & then.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What is your current gear set up on this tour?

Doug Gillard: Currently its the Les Paul, a G&L Tele as backup, an old Mesa Dual Rectifier Solo head, Marshall 4×12 cabinet and a bunch of pedals. Pedalboard is ever-evolving. Not so much evolving, as that implies some kind of goal or an end, but it will always change as our set changes, and as I discover new pedals & sounds.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How do you come to work with Eternal Summers over the years?

Doug Gillard: I met them when they opened for Nada Surf in 2012, and we exchanged music. They were gearing up to record a new LP, and asked if I would produce them. That became The Drop Beneath LP. They made 2 subsequent albums and keep getting better. Nicole Yun from Eternal Summers just completed a solo album and I play on a few of the songs. Its a really great record.

The AGP: What do you look for in a projects or bands you work with, weather producing or supplying instrumentation?

DG:I don’t know exactly. I have to like the songs and the vision or direction of the band. That’s a really subjective thing I know, so its just a vibe, generally.

The AGP: Since re-joining Guided By Voices in the summer of 2016 the pace of recording and Live performances has been unparalleled. Is that something you were prepared for going back in as full time member of GBV?

DG: I was to a degree! At that point, I think he felt rejuvenated a bit and started writing more frequently and knew that the band was now complete with no need to source outside people to do more experimental or prog colored side projects. Its all in-house.

The AGP: You recently played a set with Travis Harrison and Mark Shue in support of The Moles in New York City. Do you have any plans to record with that line-up or perhaps revisit ESP Ohio with Bob?

DG: I’m working on solo things, and have finished a couple here and there. I’d love to play more shows with Mark & Travis for sure. Bob hasn’t mentioned another ESP Ohio but we’re ready to do one if he calls one day and says he wrote that album. It was so much fun to do.

The AGP: Has your busy schedule afforded you the time to work on solo recordings for a future release?

DG: Yes, here and there. We have breaks, and when we’re not recording Guided By Voices records or overseeing a session for (Bob’s discovery) Cash Rivers & The Sinners (2 albums out now and available through Rockathon Records and Midheaven) there is some time to write and record.

The AGP: It’s been a little over two years since GBV played Boston, what can the sold-out crowd at the Sinclair expect from the bands anticipated return?

DG: We’ll be playing material from the upcoming 6-song EPs, at least 3 songs from Zeppelin Over China, several from Space Gun, and some ol’ fave chestnuts for a 2.5+ hour show. Wear your Depends™.



*Photo Credit: Ana Morales– Long Island City, Queens, NY

Premier: Nice Life – Stop ‘N’ Mart

LunchWe’re thrilled to premier Stop ‘N’ Mart from Portland, ME’s eclectic post-punk concern Nice Life‘s forthcoming new EP, Lunch In Le Mans out 10/18 via Dollhouse Lightning. Nice Life has a penchant for blending genres, influences, and delivering something refreshingly unique. From heavy 80’s punk drumming, jazz fusion bass racing to country twang meets West African guitar dancing. On Stop ‘N’ Mart the trio of Cory McWilliams (Vocal/Guitar), Dominic Grosso (Bass) and Chris Gervais display their collective gift for combining math time signatures and jazz infused post-rock on the sub-two minute instrumental.

[New Track] Milked – Dialudid

Milked bioMilked, the Eugene, OR via Chicago noise pop concern featuring former members of the late great, Geronimo! are set to return with a new album, Crawling Passed on September 28th. The new set was recorded last year in Chicago By Kelly Johnson and frequent collaborators Matt Schwerin and Ben Grigg and follows up their superb 2017 release Death On Mars which landed on our best of 2017 list and was reviewed here. The 12 tracks that occupy Crawling Passed were recorded just prior to Kelly Johnson’s relocation to the Pacific Northwest, so it’s unclear whether the band will tour behind the new LP, but we’re sure as hell gonna keep our fingers crossed. Milked have offered a preview of what to come with the plaintive and anthemic, Dialudid off the forthcoming LP. Stream it below.

Milked LP
[Stream] Milked – Dialudid

United Fox: An Interview With Honey Radar

Honey Within in seconds of hearing Philadelphia’s Honey Radar for the first time I had one those, stop everything, why I am just finding about this band now, who the fuck is this, moments.  Those early releases were such a revelation to me that I quickly sought out every recording available and jumped right in. Luckily , Honey Radar release a considerable amount of music in quick succession. Over the past 10 years Jason Henn has been writing and recording concise and compelling lo-fi pop songs under the moniker of Honey Radar. Their is a timeless quality to the music, as if these were long lost recordings of the mid 90’s 4-track renaissance or perhaps a shelved Elephant 6 project. Henn’s has a gift for recording songs that sound vaguely familiar yet, completely unique. At times Henn’s vocals seems to effortlessly float atop guitar fuzz and tape hiss while tossing out gigantic and lasting pop hooks. In advance of Honey Radar’s performance at Rhode Island Freak-Out I had the chance to speak with Jason about his creative process, growing up in Indiana, and how he came to release music with Henry Owings Of Chunklet Industries.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Back in April you released Psychic Cruise, can you tell me about the creative process that led up to the EP’s release?

Jason Henn: It was a pretty roundabout process. It came together almost like a comp. Alexa from RAYS visited around Christmas 2016, and we filled a tape with jamming. The song Moon Director came out of that. The song Knocked Out was dropped from our last album for reasons I don’t remember, and Medium Mary Todd was trimmed off our next album for reasons I don’t remember. The songs Psychic Cruise and United Fox were recorded last summer while I had the 8-track set up in the kitchen. I took over the downstairs of the house and had a lot of guests over to make noise. We’d done two other pressed singles with Henry Owings at Chunklet, and I knew he wanted to make it a trilogy, so the concept and artwork all came together with his encouragement.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Is writing a daily activity for you at this point or do the songs come in bursts.

Jason Henn: I definitely don’t write new songs everyday, but I try to pick up a guitar and play through my list of unrecorded song ideas everyday. Then, new songs will come as they come, sometimes a few at once. I keep a bunch of notebooks and record a lot of voice memos. I have two albums-worth of songs at the moment and hope to record them all before the end of the year and decide exactly what to do with them later.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Once again you have teamed with Chunklet Industries for the latest release. How did you forge that partnership?

Jason Henn: Henry (Owings) wrote me out of the blue a few years ago and asked if I’d consider doing a 7″. It was a surprise, because I’ve been a fan of his design work and writing for a long time. I always assumed he heard about us through Dynamite Hemorrhage magazine, Chunklet had an ad in the same issue where I did an interview, and it was really soon after that that we started working together a lot. At this point, Henry’s invited us down to Atlanta a bunch of times, crashed at my house in Philadelphia, and invited us to tour with him earlier this year with Bardo Pond and Major Stars. We’re on the bill for his 50th birthday party later this year. We’re lucky to know him.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: It seems most coverage of Honey Radar inevitably links you to Robert Pollard/Guided By Voices. Apart from the lo-fi aesthetic how much do you feel he’s influenced you as a songwriter?

Jason Henn: His volume of output is definitely inspiring. I think archival releases like Acid Ranch and the Suitcase boxes, the way they show how he gets from the germ of an idea to a complete song and the way he reworks and recycles ideas over time, have affected the way I brainstorm and some of the editing decisions I make. I probably have more confidence not to second guess and go with certain absurd lyrics or other strange ideas because of him.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How did growing up in Indiana effect your desire to create and make music of your own?

Jason Henn: I think my first role models for making music were my family. My dad attempted a career as a country singer and self-released a couple singles in the early 80s. So I had it demonstrated to me from a young age that anyone can make a record and send it out into the world. I forget about that sometimes, but it must be where I first got the urge to put out records. Some of my aunts and uncles also played bluegrass and gospel music. I grew up in Richmond, Indiana, and looking back, it had a more active music scene for its size than you might imagine. There were a lot of townie punk and hardcore bands like Dryrot, Kid With A Stick, and Dagmar’s Fiasco. There were artier bands that went to the college in town, and I made friends with a group called Melba that was sort of quirky and had weird songs about drawing animals and did Velvet Underground and Vaselines covers. They were legendary to my group of friends, because they had recorded an album with Kramer that was never released. Lance from Melba is the person who taught me how to use a 4-track.

The AGP
: You will play the inaugural Rhode Island Freak-Out at next week, what can those who have never experienced the Honey Radar Live experience expect?

Jason: People who haven’t seen us before sometimes comment that it’s heavier or noisier than they expected. We have three guitars buzzing pretty much constantly. We figured out at some point that we had to play to the situation and not try to replicate some of the weird arrangements on the records, so we mostly just rock things out.

The AGP: What’s in store for Honey Radar in the foreseeable future?

Jason
: We finished an album earlier this year called Ruby Puff of Dust, and it’s coming out sometime soon. We’re also doing a few more split singles before the end of the year.
Don’t miss Honey Radar at The Ash Gray Proclamation Presented, Rhode Island Freak-Out Sunday August 26th at The News Cafe. Event details can be found here.

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