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There’s something very exciting about entering a venue to see a band that has somehow managed to eluded you for the better part of 24 years. That band, a long time favorite of this site, Swervedriver have been back on the grid since returning to action at 2008 after an eight year hiatus. The Oxford U.K. shoegaze titans are just about to wrap up a U.S. tour in support of their first new album in 17 years, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, released earlier this month and there was no way we were going to squander the opportunity to be present and accounted for.

The band walked on stage to a near sell-out crowd and launched right in to Autodidact, the opening track from their new LP. Flanked by guitarist, Jimmy Hartridge and Mick Quinn (formerly of Supergrass), Adam Franklin led the band through a nearly 2 hour set that featured an effective blend of new material and tracks from the bands early work, including stunning performances of Rave Down, MM Abduction, and Son Of Mustang Ford. As I stepped back to scan the crowd a few times throughout the performance, it was impressive to see the same feverish response to the bands established material as well as the new tracks. This was especially evident during the bands performance of their lead single off I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, Setting Sun.Going into to my first Swevedriver Live experience my expectations were stratospheric, I was potentially setting myself for disappointment, but the band managed to exceed my lofty expectations and deliver one of the most dynamic and exuberant Live shows I’ve seen in recent memory. The night came to an exhilarating close with the one, two punch of Last Train To Satansville and Duel from the bands high water reaching, 1993 LP, Mezcal Head. Well worth the 24 year wait.

 Los Angeles outfit, Gateway Drugs delivered a strong performance of engaging and inspired psych pop with a liberal dose of guitar fuzz that seemed to resonate with the early arrivals.

Photo courtesy of LA Record, due to ours coming out like rubbish.

Since the release of their debut single last summer, Boston based noise-gaze quartet Coaches have garnered some well deserve praise in and around the Boston music scene. We first heard the band on WZBC’s Flyweight radio program when the track amisarewaswere stopped us dead in our tracks, with its fuzz covered pop hooks and fist pumping chorus “ Massachusetts Summer Nights”, it was a formidable introduction to say the least.  It’s had clamoring for what the band will deliver next.

In advance of tonight’s Coaches and Ash Gray Proclamation collaboration, Noise For Toys we caught up with  Coaches fronter Brady Custis to discuss among other things, his bands plans to release a new EP, The Pixies, and his best Christmas present. Thanks to Brady for taking the time to answer a few question and to Jay from Clicky Clicky Music for providing the introduction that spawned tonight’s Noise For Toys benefit show.

The Ash Gray Proclmation: Last summer Coaches seemed to come out of nowhere with the AmIsAreWasWere single can you tell me how the band came together?

Brady Custis: We all just kind of met through school and got along well enough to where we had some chemistry, musically speaking. Pretty much everyone in the band has a very different musical background and while that makes it really difficult to arrange a song sometimes, it can force us all to rethink our own connotations of how a song should sound. Everyone has to make compromises and that helps us think about whats best for the song instead of what each individual person would or should typically play.

AGP: Did you have firm vision of what your were aiming for with Coaches first recordings?

Brady: I did and I didn’t. “Amisare” was the first song I wrote specifically for the band after we started playing together. We recorded it no more than 2 weeks after I brought it in and we arranged it. I think most bands will understand that you can have as much vision as possible in the studio but there’s only so much you can do because of time and money constraints. It’s a delicate balance between fighting the sounds on tape to bend to your will and embracing them for what they are.

AGP: What type of affect has playing in the Boston underground had on the bands sound?

Brady: A huge affect. Everyone is shaped by their surroundings and we’re no exception. I’m originally from just outside Washington DC and I was admittedly homesick from the scene I grew up with for a long time. Actually, The Pixies are what helped me turn that around. They we’re always one of my favorite bands growing up and when you live here, you realize just how fucking Massachusetts they sound. I hope that makes sense to anyone else. They just capture the feeling of this state perfectly. I think bands like Pile, Speedy Ortiz, and countless others I’ve seen manage to capture that same kind of feeling The Pixies did, which I can only really attribute to Massachusetts itself.

AGP: Are there any plans to release new music in the coming year?

Brady: We’ve got an EP in the works. Four songs, I’m mixing it now. One of them is a (I hope not creepy) love song called “Elizabeth Warren”. It’ll come out when people want to hear it. Hopefully soon.

AGP: Tomorrow you will play the Noise For Toys, a Toys For Tots benefit at TT The Bears Place, a show you helped organize. What motivated you to get involved with an event like that?

Brady: There are so many positive reasons to be involved with benefit shows I could talk for hours about it.
First and foremost is that Toys for Tots is an incredible organization that works extremely hard to help families who have hit hard times have a happy holiday regardless of their financial situation. It doesn’t just benefit the children, but the parents and all of their relatives also since they’re able to focus on family instead of some unnecessary disappointment or guilt over merchandise. Beyond that, benefit shows have the uncanny ability of weeding out all of the ego and machismo that goes along with so much of any music scene these days. That’s not what we’re about and I don’t want to be involved with that. Making sure everyone knows that the night is not about them, but for the good of the community instead, is an added benefit.

AGP: In spirit of the season, can you tell us your best and worst holiday gift?

Brady: Am I gonna lose some cred for this? I just have such a vivid memory of walking downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing that Santa had left me both The Blue Album and Pinkerton sitting on the couch, unwrapped, when I was about 12 or so. I had only ever heard The Blue Album (on loan from my older brother Kevin), and seeing the cover art for “Pinkerton” for the first time just blew me away. I remember wanting Christmas to be over faster just so I could go listen to it over and over again. I’ve never really stopped doing that.

For the worst, I’d have to say: A gun rack… I don’t even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack. What am I gonna do with a gun rack?

But really, any gift is a good gift, right?

You can catch Coaches tonight at T.T. The Bears Place, as they co-present Noise For Toys,  A Toys For Tots Benefit alongside The Ash Gray Proclamation and in association with Clicky Clicky Music. The evening will also feature can’t miss performances from recent Carpark Records signees, Chandos, Yonkers noise pop outfit Palehound and Western MA’s skuzz punks Worms. Noise For Toys is free with an unwrapped toy or $10, but we want all the toys.

Coaches – amiswasarewere/let it happen

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With the year winding down it’s easy to get caught up in year end list, consumerism, and holiday parties. Because really, who doesn’t love and ugly sweater and an open bar? However we are compelled to point you to these 11 tracks that are taken from a few excellent new releases as well as tracks from what is sure to be our favorite LP’s of early 2015. There within you will find brand new tracks from Krill, Male Bonding, New Highway Hymnal and  a new scorcher from Chandos.

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It’s been another banner year for Massachusetts’ own Speedy Ortiz. The quartet started the year with the release of the Real Hair EP, followed by Bigger Party released as part of the Adult Swim single series and toured the free world relentlessly. The band is currently putting the finishing touches on their follow up to 2013’s astonishing debut LP, Major Arcana in a Brooklyn studio. We’re hearing the band intends on playing some of the newly recorded material throughout their holiday residency.

It all kick off tonight with your hosts Sadie Dupuis (vocalist/guitarist), Mike Falcone(drums), Devin McKnight(guitarist), and Darl Ferm (bass). Speedy Ortiz has assembled a white hot supporting cast for night #1 featuring frantic post punks, Chandos,angular garage pop outfit, Bent Shapes and sludge punks, Idiot Genes. Each night will feature a special secret guest. Just announced: Tonight’s super secret guest is Mean Creek. Missing this will make you sad, don’t be sad.

Residency Run Down:

December 5 with Bent Shapes, Idiot Genes, Chandos

December 12 with The Shills, Shark?, Sneeze

December 19th with Lemuria, Krill, Two Inch Astronaut

21+ // Doors 9PM // $12

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We first stumbled onto Bristol, UK based indie pop outfit Trust Fund last summer when they teamed up with Joanna Gruesome for an excellent split 12″ release. Since then Trust Fund principal, Ellis Jones has signed on with Turnstile Music, readied No One’s Coming For Us, Trust Funds debut full length , and next week the band will open a handful of shows for  AGP favorites, Los Campensinos!. In advance of the release No One’s Coming For Us on February 9th, the band has issued Cut Me Out, the track is ripe with melancholy, waves of distortion and a soaring chorus.

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As mainstays of the now defunct Death By Audio set,it only made sense that the Brooklyn indie outfit Grooms play the final show at that venue. After all the band, in various incarnations  spent that past seven years honing their off kilter pop in that building and fronter Travis Johnson ran the Death By Audio effects pedal company with A Place To Bury StrangersOliver Ackerman.

On February 17th Grooms will release Comb The Feelings Through Your Hair via Western Vinyl. The album not only marks a new sonic direction for the band, bu it also features the new line up of Johnson, former DBA sound engineer Jay Heiselmann, and actor/comedian/drummer, Steve Levine. Earlier today the band offered up Dr. M which finds the trio delivering balanced pop structures over a sprawling six minutes psych collages and ambiance.



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Over the past seven years and four LP’s, Boston’s The Hush Now have delivered a remarkably consistent catalog of intelligent and captivating indie pop. The band’s latest offering, Sparkle Drive, released just last week finds the quartet delivering their most diverse and engaging album to date. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the bands founder, Noel Kelly about the recording of the band’s new album, the collaborative process, and their record release show happening this Sunday at The Davis Square Theater.

Bryan Hamill: On Sunday you and your bands mates will celebrate the release of your new album Sparkle Drive, the album sounds to me as a true collaborative affair. Can you tell me what the writing process was for the album?

Noel Kelly: Overall, the writing process with this line-up has always been collaborative.  But this particular album has been a long time coming.  Immediately following our Memos tour a couple years ago I came down with a pretty nasty dose of the chicken pox.  I remember lying in ball on the floor of my apartment in isolation and having dropped about 30 pounds in 2 weeks thinking I wasn’t going to make it through.  It took quite a toll and really knocked the wind out of any momentum we had with the release of Memos.  When I eventually recovered and we could get back together as a group, we each brought sketches to a listening session.  Thinking back, there must have been over 70 ideas bounced around between all of us. We eventually whittled that bunch down to about 22 songs which we recorded over the course of 18 months between Mad Oak and Q Division.  We definitely started to feel a stronger, singular voice for the album as we worked through the process.  For example, of the initial 13 tunes we recorded, only 3 made the album in the end.  All that being said, once we start working on tunes as a group, that’s when the song really starts to come to life.  We really do feed off one another and it is a joy to work with other musicians that listen to each other and who create opportunities musically for each other, knowing when to step forward or lay back with the song being the final arbiter of what makes sense.  It does seem to come quite naturally for this group.

Bryan: With other members of the band contributing material to Sparkle Drive as they did on Memos how do you as a band decide what songs end up making the record?

Noel: There are many factors that go into choosing what songs make a record.  The first usually is the strength of each song to stand on its own.  But that is then weighed against how a song exists within the whole.  Does it fit on a record?  It might be a terrific song, but doesn’t make sense when placed in context with the other songs on the album.  So there is a bit of that.  However, on this album, another key factor was that I wanted to showcase the different vocals from each member of the band.  Past efforts have been predominately my vocals, which was the logical progression at the time.  But Pat, Barry and Adam are also terrific vocalists in their own regard.  We flirted with this notion on Memos a little bit, but I wanted to really try and create an album that had more diversity to it while maintaining a solid core or vibe. So there was an intentional effort to have songs sung by each member of the band on this album.  I sing lead on 4 tunes, Barry is lead on 3, Adam has 3 tunes and opens the album with  Panda, and Pat is showcased for the first time on Spyglass.There was the conscious risk that this might alienate some fans, but I really saw the future of the band as something much more interesting by embracing this variety.  I guess I must have been listening to The Band a lot at the time.

Bryan: Once again you chose to record with Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, what was the recording experience like this time around?

Noel: It’s always a pleasure working with Benny and Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering.  The recording sessions were broken out over 18 months.  I think I probably drove poor Benny nuts.  We were all very proud of Memos. It’s an amazing sounding album, but we wanted to move away from the big stadium sound and Benny had to navigate us through as we found our feet with a sound that we truly wanted.  He was always professional through all the revisions and turns of direction that I threw at him.  I really dug in on this album, most likely because we weren’t playing out live and I had way too much time on my hands.  I just didn’t have energy for live shows after the pox and spent most waking hours pouring over this album.  In the end, I think Benny knocked it out of the park.  I’m so proud of this effort and only Benny could have seen it through.  Although I can honestly say that not only Benny, but the rest of the guys in the band were relieved when I settled on final mixes.  It was sort of a running joke, that I was the only one listening to the updated mixes in the end.  There does come a point where you just get burned out on the process and Jeff Lipton didn’t escape either. I think I had him do 3 different versions of the masters over a couple months.  Again, Benny and Jeff helped us realize the vision of this album and I can’t praise them highly enough.  I’ve since apologized to all for putting them through my madness.  But I definitely had a vision for this album and was aware of the perils of introducing 4 different lead vocals and still have the album work organically.  There was a huge risk that it could come off sounding disjointed in an indecisive patchwork fashion. I think it’s our finest effort to date.

Bryan: Sparkle Drive seems to be an even more varied song cycle than it’s, predecessor. What do you attribute that to?

Noel: I personally think there’s always been a lot of variety in our albums.  From our first release to Constellations.  Memos was a bit more of a straightforward affair, but even on that album there was a tune like Sitting on a Slow Clock.  I think what makes this album seem more varied though comes specifically from the fact that more people were directly involved in the songwriting.  I would not have written a song like Panda which Adam penned or Just Because You Can, which is a Barry tune.  Thinking back, Slow Clock, from Memos evolved from a Barry tune although I’m singing lead on it.  So, yes, having different folks offer their ideas to the song catalogue is a big reason for the sense of variety.  What’s interesting with this is, just because somebody wrote a song, doesn’t mean that person sings lead on the tune.  For example, I came in with the germ ideas for Parade and Spyglass, but it made much more sense for Barry and Pat to sing on those songs.  And I think, as mentioned previously, this is the other main reason why there is a greater sense of variety with the album.  Just more interesting, diverse and unique vocals across the board.  Adam has an almost Neil Young quavering quality to his vocal approach which I love, Barry brings a David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) vibe and Pat is flirting with an almost John Lennon feel.  Add my Irish-Morrisey like croon (not my comparison, but I’ve been told this is the case) and it’s a very interesting mix.  I think our vocals work very well together.  It also brings a much richer dynamic for background vocals.

Bryan: How do you feel The Hush Now has evolved in the 3 years since you released your last LP, Memos?

Noel: Well, we’ve all gotten a bit older.  I’ve personally slowed down a bit.  Honestly, I don’t feel a need to chase the dream, anymore.  Sure, it seemed futile in some respects, but it’s also the realization that what truly makes me happy is writing and recording music, which I’m doing.  And with a great set of musicians and friends.  I don’t need any validation beyond that.  I used to think I did, if I’m being honest, but not any longer.  So I think that has driven the evolution of the band somewhat.  Also, by not touring the last couple of years, we really learned a lot more about ourselves as a group and have tightened our collective approach to our music.  We no longer have a keyboardist and I think that really opened room for Adam and me to fill the space sonically, at least on this album.  We’re at a point where we can walk into a room after months apart and within 30 minutes, be right back on point with a new tune springing to life.  You don’t find that with a lot of folks.  It’s truly pretty special and the best part of being in this band.  There’s nothing like the feeling when you’re clicking as a unit and something new just happens.  Hard not to smile when that happens.  As far as evolution for the future, we’ll see.  Everyone in the band is a multi-instrumentalist and now that we’ve gotten the idea that we can all sing out of the way, I think it opens all sorts of opportunities.  It’s going to be interesting to see where it goes from here.

Bryan: Last spring you released a cover of Neil Young’s Motion Pictures and earlier this week you released a version of Guided By Voices’ Redmen And Their Wives. Do you have a vision of how you want your rendition of the material to sound or is it more of a trial and error approach with covering other artists?

Noel: Honestly, I have a pretty simple home recording set-up that only sometimes works. So I’m limited to some extent with covers.  I bought a 1958 acoustic Martin for my birthday last year and just fell in love with it.  I think the first time I played a cover in my life was at the Ash Gray Proclamation Toys for Tots benefit last December with Motion Pictures and just haven’t stopped finger-picking since. So when it comes to covers, at least at this point, it usually comes down to me, the Martin and my cruddy computer which has a tendency to lock-up in the middle of a take.  Not to mention the lovely sirens blaring throughout Allston.  On my cover of Motion Pictures I went back the next day and thought, this song needs some accordion and trumpet.  So I added accordion and trumpet.  I’m always looking for an excuse to break those two instruments out. So maybe not so much a vision as much as a product of what’s available and a notion to take the song in a different direction while remaining true to the inherent beauty of the song I’m covering.  Once I choose a direction though, I’m pretty much locked in.  Don’t have much patience for trial and error, especially with a recording system that locks up constantly.

Bryan: What are your current plans to support the new LP, Sparkle Drive?

Noel: Well, We have a CD Release show at Davis Square Theater hosted by the Clicky Clicky Music Blog and The Ash Gray Proclamation which we’re really excited about.  It’s also for a great cause, benefitting MS which is near and dear to everyone in this band.  We also have a CMJ show on 22 Oct, but beyond that we haven’t decided if there will be additional shows at this point.  We’ll see.

Bryan: For those who have never seen the band or perhaps haven’t seen them recently, what can they expect on Sunday at The Davis Square Theater?

Noel: I believe Adam will be wearing gold bedazzled leotards with high-tops and fat laces. That should be interesting.

Tonight The Hush Now will celebrate the release of their new album at The Sparkle Drive Release Show and MS Benefit along with Slowdim and Emerald Comets at The Davis Square Theater.

 The Hush Now’s new album, Sparkle Drive is now available as a pay what you want download at their  Bandcamp site.

The Hush Now – Sparkle Drive