We’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.
Milked, 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.
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.
This Sunday we proudly present Rhode Island Freak-Out, a full day of music, vendors, food, and refreshment at Pawtucket’s News Cafe & Parking Lot. At first our intent was to attempt a full day show that would incorporate some of our favorite acts from Providence, Boston, and beyond. We weren’t sure how or if it would actually come together. However, once we started to reach out to these acts, we were taken back by how accepting and enthusiastic they all were of the concept of the little pipe dream we’ve coined, Rhode Island Freak-Out. Motivated by some of our favorite Live music experiences and the desire to bring together as many musicians, artist and music obsessives in one place at the close of summer. With all proceeds from this event going to our performers this event and the ones that follow (we hope) will be a way to celebrate and support the local music community. Below you will find a brief guide to this years event, performers, and a playlist to get you prepped for what is sure to be a special day. We look forward to seeing friends, old, new, and yet to be made. Respect the space and most importantly each other.
1:30 Rye Pines
Bursting out the Allston basements earlier this decade, Rye Pines have evolved into a sinister and howling garage punk trio. The bands Live sets are something to behold, consisting of equal parts sweat, grime, and surf punk furry. Arrive early and bear witness.
2:15 Beverly Tender
The Providence by way of North Carolina duo of Molly Hastings and Tristian Brooks occupy a space filled with delicate atmospherics, jagged distortion, coupled with earnest and wistful vocals. I’ve been eager to book a show with Beverly Tender since discovering their debut EP and last years release of their remarkable full length, What Have You Done To My Water? only heightened my appreciation.
3:00 No Hope/No Harm
Boston’s 90’s emo leaning supergroup that features members of The Good North, The Shelia Divine, Field Effect, and Sebio. No Hope/No Harm appeared seemingly out of nowhere and quickly released two impressive singles and earlier this year the band issued, the Swimming In The Charles EP frontman which finds fronter, Luke O’Neil leading the charge on 6 infectious guitar pop anthems.
You may know Micheal Falcone as the drummer of Speedy Ortiz, but over the past decade he has been writing and recording under the moniker of Hellrazor. This is no side project, Hellrazor are a lo-fi fuzz punk trio delivering concise, varied, and catchy as fuck pop songs.
I originally discovered Halfsour a handful of years ago via debut cassette and followed along through bands evolution. The one constant has always been Halfsour write and record terrific and energetic guitar pop with nods to 90’s indie touchstones while delivering something wholly unique.
Providence’s dark pop super-outfit fronted by writer, performer, and 2017 FEMS Poetry Slam winner, Muggs Fogerty. With limited music on-line at this point when Lookers play out it’s an event to behold.
6:00 14 Foot 1
Providence’s venerable spastic math outfit were on a the short list for this event from day one. Sonic spender via dual guitar wailing and propulsive percussion awaits.
14 Foot 1 on Bandcamp
6:45 Twin Foxes
Sunday will mark our third show this year with Providence’s heavy indie set, Twin Foxes. So yeah you could say we like them. The band arrived on our radar back in 2014 and have managed to deliver terrific string of releases, most notably this years tremendous, Sleeping On The Attic Floor. Not to be missed.
7:30 Black Helicopter
Boston rock veterans and purveyors post-punk sludge, featuring members of Green Magnet School and Krudgel. After a stint on Thurston Mooore’s Ecstatic Peace! imprint the band has amassed an impressive discography most recently with Everything Forever (EP). Anthems for the downtrodden with big riffs and even bigger hooks.
The recording vehicle of Boston’s Kevin King, formally of Maura who offered his debut LP We Both Become The Sky, a collection earnest and captivating folk tinged introspection in 2016. Next month Kevin will team once again with Disposable America imprint for Saccherine’s sophomore release, Hollow Space. Perhaps he will treat us to some new tracks? Come and find out.
9:00 Major Stars
Boston’s venerable psych rock stalwarts made their Live debut at Terrastock in Providence way back in 1997, so it was a total no brainier to approach Wayne Rogers, Kate Village and co. to join us for our first installment of Rhode Island Freak-Out. For over two decades and multiple line-up changes Major Stars have consistently delivered their raucous, exceptionally adept, and singular sonic achievements.
9:45 Honey Radar
Honey Radar is the uber prolific and euphoric hook laden project of Jason Henn and the first band we asked to take part in this event so,we’re beyond thrilled that the PA lo-fi pop dynamos are taking the long drive down interstate 95. With elements of 60’s British invasion, psych pop and 90’s indie these songs feel oddly familiar and brand new all at once.
10:30 Kal Marks
We first Boston noise rock titans, Kal Marks earlier this decade at one their explosive Live shows and that’s all it took, we were all in. Led by vocalist/guitarist Carl Shane, Kal Marks explore darkness and personal hardship and offer a little bit of light through a unified concoction of crushing distortion, pummeling rhythms, and Shane cathartic howl.
///Sunday August 26th: Rhode Island Freak-Out at The News Cafe & Parking Lot///
12 PM ~ Doors 18+ $12 Event Details
How did Dayton, OH’s sensational lo-fi pop concern Smug Brothers exist for so long without me knowing? Perhaps there is no acceptable answer, but by the time I discovered them on 2011’s terrific Treasure Virgins EP they had a handful releases to their credit and we had the Smug bug bad, so as I’m prone to do I immediately sought out those early recordings as well as their subsequent releases. It’s been an impressive run for Smug Brothers thus far and with the news of new album and a fundraising campaign to assist with getting the new set, Attic Harvest pressed on vinyl I figured it was high time we checked with with the bands co-founder and chief songwriter Kyle Melton to talk about the new album, the gofundme campaign, and the evolution of Smug Brothers.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell me a little bit about the creative process behind the band’s new album, Attic Harvest ?
Kyle Melton: After we finished up Disco Maroon in fall of 2016, I was eager to get to work on new material, as usual. The process from writing to release of Disco Maroon had taken close to two years, which is a pretty long time for us. And as much as we enjoyed working with Micah Carli at Popside Recording for the last album, we were itching to get back to recording on the 4-track cassette machine and doing things a lot more quickly. We started tracking for what became Attic Harvest in March of 2017 and had two more sessions in July and August, although we didn’t have a clear direction of how things would be released when we started. These sessions were just Don Thrasher and I learning new songs from scratch and working up the rhythm tracks to add to later. We then invested in a computer recording interface so we could transfer from the 4-track to the computer and overdub further without having to go to another studio as we have in the past. From that point, it was myself and Scott Tribble doing guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, and vocals to get it all done. Having never worked with Scott before, we had a lot of fun just experimenting and trying things out that really took the album to some new places for Smug Brothers. Without any agenda or timeline for the tracking of the album, we were a bit more free to see what we could and not worry about whether the clock was running or if we could pull it off live. The last overdubs were put down in early June and I mixed it all by early July. We also had a bunch of older songs from as far back as 2009 that we finally found a place for alongside all this new material. We had around 40 songs that were in consideration for the album and we cut it down to a lean 18-song/39-minute sequence.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you catch us up to speed on the recent line-up changes to the band ?
Kyle Melton: By the end of last year it was clear Brian Baker and Larry Evans weren’t going to continue with the group. At the time, there wasn’t a clear timeline for a new album or any shows. It was really just me working on the album and sending rough mixes to Don. I had known Scott through my wife, Emily, and Scott and I ran into each other at the Wire show last fall in Columbus and made plans to get together. I played him some of the stuff Don and I had been tracking and he was into contributing to the songs. Once Scott and I started working together in December, the album took off pretty quickly. It’s obviously sad to see Brian and Larry go and we had a good run, for sure. Things run their course, and Don and I wanted to keep going and we’re glad Scott was able to keep rolling with us.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Smug Brothers have recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to assist with pressing the album to vinyl. How do you feel Attic Harvest differs from the Smug Brothers past releases?Yes, we are doing a GoFundMe campaign which is going well so far. We are honored people are contributing as they have been and helping us to reach this band goal of finally putting an album on vinyl.
Kyle Melton: As far as how this album is different from past releases, well, the new album doesn’t have Brian and Larry, for starters. Brian has been with the group since 2010’s Stock Romeo, so he’s been a big part of what we do for years. I think Scott and I took things in a different direction but it’s still the Smug thing. And with Larry leaving, I covered all the bass parts and I just do different stuff than Larry so that’s going to sound different than the last few releases. Other than that, I think this sequence is a really good one: a little more acoustic stuff, some different sounds than we’ve used in the past. Since it was all recorded to 4-track cassette, it’s a bit of a throwback to what we did on On The Way To The Punchline and Fortune Rumors but we’re better at doing things this way after all these years, so it’s still moving forward. It has some good rockers, it’s pretty in places, it’s weird in places. It’s all the things we love to do with Smug Brothers.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Other than the recent line-up changes, how has the band’s approach to writing and recording changed?
Kyle Melton: I still write all the songs and bring them to the guys to work on. I’ve gotten a bit better with demoing to the iPhone and sending demos in advance of a session, which Don seems to appreciate a lot. But once we get in a room and start hashing out the tunes, we just go with what feels right. Don and I have always enjoyed trying to capture the thrill of those first moments when a song takes shape, however that happens, and build from there. Our biggest thing is to not overthink it and capture the magic of the moment. Once you start putting a song together, you might realize a new direction with the arrangement, or Don might come up with something I never expected that makes the song work way better than I had envisioned. That’s really always been the big thing as far as how we work.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can we expect the band to head out on the road in support of the new album ?
Kyle Melton: Hopefully we can play a few more shows on this new album than we did for Disco Maroon, but that remains to be seen at this point. We will definitely keep everyone informed.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: What should your potential supporters know about the Smug Brothers and the forthcoming Attic Harvest LP?
Kyle Melton: We’re very proud of this new album and it was a lot of hard work learning all the new equipment and mixing an album myself for the first time since 1999. With the time it takes to press the album and everything, it likely won’t be out to everyone until the new year. We have also contracted with an Italian collage artist named Andrea Floris to do original artwork for the album. You can see the image for the front cover on the GoFundMe page and the other two pieces are equally impressive. While we’re waiting for Attic Harvest to be released, we’re planning to get to work on new recordings and keep pushing forward to the next release.
The AGP: Lastly what is on your turntable or headphones these days ?
Kyle: As far as new stuff, I’ve been digging the new Parquet Courts, Beach House, Breeders, and GBV albums that came out this year. There’s a great band called OMNI from Georgia I found out about recently. The new “lost” Coltrane album is excellent. Just got the Grateful Dead “Anthem of the Sun” remaster, which sounds incredible. Found some old albums from Heron, Please, Sparks, and Beauregard Ajax that get a lot of plays. Spent a lot of time with Joni Mitchell’s catalog this last year, which I regretfully had missed all these years. I spend lots of time listening to the electric-period Miles Davis albums, Eno, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. And I love digging around the Dream Catalog [thanks, Derl] and Analog Africa Bandcamp pages for new stuff. There’s always so much to explore out there, you know?
If you are able to assist Smug Brothers achieve their modest goal of pressing the forthcoming, Attic Harvest on vinyl you can head over to their gofundme site to lend them a hand. In the meantime the band has shared the track, Rare & Double Clutch off the forthcoming LP.
Robert Pollard is keeping his word by only releasing one album this year with Guided By Voices‘exceptional Space Gun LP, but he never said he would stop writing and recording at his usual and uber prolific pace. Today has been a banner day for fans of Robert Pollard, GBV, and even Cash Rivers And The Sinners. First off we have been given a taste of the 2019’s Zeppelin Over China with the premiere of You Own The Night via the A.V. Club. In addition Pollard has also announced the reissue of his second solo album, Waved Out and plans to reissue both Kid Marine and his masterful collaboration with Doug Gillard in 2019. There will be also be 2 6-song EP’s next year, but instead of recapping lets have a look at a letter drafted by Bob himself which details a ton of new releases that will be spaced out over the next 2 years.
Lest, we not forget last years reissue of Not In my Airforce which has just been restocked. We highly recommend heading over to Rockathon peruse the current Pollard offerings as they are as always, plentiful. He’s right we are “greedy little bastards” when it comes to Pollard releases. Just imagine for a moment waiting 2-3 years between albums from your favorite artist? Well that bar set long ago that would never be the case and I’m thankful for each and every release he delivers. Keep em’ coming!
Guided By Voices will pay a long awaited visit to our area this fall. Check the full list of upcoming Live dates below.
Guided By Voices Tour Dates:
8/8- Birmingham, AL – Saturn
8/9- Athens, GA – Athens Popfest – Georgia Theater
8/11- Jacksonville, FL – Intuition Ale Works
8/13- Richmond, VA – The Broadberry
8/14- Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
8/16- Brooklyn, NY – The Bell House Outpost at Industry City
8/17- Asbury Park, NJ – Asbury Lanes
8/25- Evanston, IL – Out of Space: Big Evanston Block Party *FREE*
8/26- Evanston, IL – SPACE *SOLD OUT*
9/14- Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
9/15- Columbus, OH – Skully’s Music Diner
9/17- Detroit, MI – El Club
9/18- Pittsburgh, PA – Spirit
10/19-Washington, D.C. – Black Cat
10/22- Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair
10/23- Holyoke, MA – Gateway City Arts
10/25- Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
10/26- Buffalo, NY – Asbury Hall
11/9- Los Angeles, CA – The Teragram Ballroom
11/10- San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
11/13- Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
11/14- Seattle, WA – The Crocodile
Certain recordings have the ability to stop you in your tracks and freeze time. For example I remember everything about the first time I heard Small 23‘s full length debut LP, True Zero Hook. I was sitting in the music office of my college radio station listening to that weeks new releases feeling a little underwhelmed with the task when the albums opening and title track came barreling out of the speakers. Hearing True Zero Hook was a genuine eureka moment and I was more than a little smitten. It was like I had been waiting for that moment, for that LP and for Small to arrive, but I just didn’t know it until it happened. I managed to see the band Live in the summer of 1994 and that was all it took, I was sufficiently hooked, pun intended. After the show, along with my brother and some friends we ended up drinking cheap beer around a bonfire with the band. One of those carefree nights that could have only happened in your 20’s. Its a great memory with some lifelong friends and a band I’ve admired for 25 years now. I recently connected with former Small guitarist/singer, Mike Kenlan on social media and couldn’t resist the chance to discuss his former band, the Chapel Hill scene, and a memorable night playing rock songs in the dunes of the Cape.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: After 1995’s Silver Gleaming Death Machine, Small ceased to exist, so tell me what have you been up to musically for the past couple of decades?
Mike Kenlan: Small officially broke up in early 1996. Silver Gleaming Death Machine had come out in the fall of 95, and we had an amazing national tour with J Church, and Garden Variety, followed by a great European tour. We were really proud of that record, but it just seemed like a good place to stop. For the next couple of years, I played with a couple of other local bands, off and on, and played on the Ashley Stove record All Summer Long in 2001. I’ve been writing, on and off the whole time, but slow to actually get any of the material recorded. One of these days.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Pipe seemed to coexist with Small for a time. What do you attribute the bands longevity to?
Mike Kenlan: Small ran from 1991 until 1996. Pipe formed in the Summer of ‘91, and I played in both bands until 1993. Chuck Garrison, who plays in half a million bands, played with Small from 1992 to the end, and Pipe the whole time. Clif Mann took my place, and played with Pipe until 1997 or 1998, when I rejoined the band. Pipe broke up in 1999, and got back together in 2009, and we’ve been active ever since. We actually have a new record coming out, sometime later this year. As for longevity, I think it boils down to just having fun with it. We still draw good crowds, and they enjoy themselves, so why not keep doing it ? It really is a hell of a lot of fun to play this stuff, and I think the crowd picks up on that energy, and throws it back at us.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell me a little bit about the forthcoming Pipe release?
Mike Kenlan: The Pipe album, it’s called Ball Don’t Lie We just finished getting it mastered, and we’re still trying to figure out who’s putting it out. It’s been many years since we’ve released anything, and in that time, the music world changed. We started the recording process in early 2014 at our friend Alex Maiolo‘s Seriously Adequate Studio, in Carrboro, NC, and then added some tracks and mixed with Nick Petersen at Track and Field
Recording, in Durham NC last year. We hope to have it out by the fall, but who knows. I suspect that we will do some limited touring to support the record. Probably some long weekend trips, up and down the east coast for starters.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: O.K. I’m chomping at the bit to really dig in to the history of Small 23. Can you provide a little insight of how the band came together, Eric Bachmann‘s early involvement, and your recollections of the bands early recording sessions?
Mike Kenlan: Small grew out of another band, called Cupcake U.K. that formed in 1990. We were essentially the same lineup as the early version of Small, but with a frontman/singer, Kelley Cox. Eric and I felt that the band, and the singer were headed in different musical directions, so we reformed as a four piece, with Matt Walter on bass, and Darren Hall on drums, joining Eric (Bachmann)and myself. Neither Eric or I had much singing experience, so we weren’t sure if it would fly. I think we recorded some fairly rough demos with Caleb Southern, before recording the first single at Duck Kee Studios in Raleigh in 1991. That first single was originally supposed to be Empty Room on one side, and a beautiful song of Eric’s called She. Both tracks were too long to fit on a 45, so we went with Nasty Little Chick, Makes Me High, and Somebody Owes Me Money instead. After the single, we changed drummers, and picked up Chuck, who was playing in Pipe.
Soon after that, Eric came in with a batch of great songs, and we went back to Duck Kee, and recorded the Cakes EP during the summer of 1992. What I remember most from that session, is that we recorded the music first, but neither Eric nor I had much down, as far as lyrics, so we took turns scribbling down words, while the other was doing vocal takes, and most are the lyrics are somewhat nonsensical.Eric left to concentrate on Archers Of Loaf, full time in November of 1992, and Dave Hollinghurst joined in January of 1993.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: How did the signing to Alias some about?
Mike Kenlan: Sometime in early 1993, they approached both us and the Archers. Neither band had much experience with the business side of things, and they seemed like nice folks, so we went for it. I remember talking to Eric about it, and we were pretty clueless, but it felt like if both bands signed, it would somehow be better than if just one of us did. It seems like, as soon as we signed, all of a sudden, all these other labels called us, and made us question our decision.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: To me all three full lengths have held up really well and I still find myself returning to those records frequently.Is there a release that stands above the others for you when look back or revisit those recordings?
Mike Kenlan: I’m my own worst critic, so when I hear that old stuff, I’m always thinking of things I should have done differently, or changed. Caleb Southern, who recorded us and the Archers, was always after me to clean up my guitar sound, and I wish I had listened to him. Every few years, I’ll pull out one of the old records and listen, just to see how it holds up to memory. Each of the records has high and low points for me, but I think True Zero Hook, and Silver Gleaming Death Machine are my favorites. I wish we would have gone in a different direction, production-wise on Chin Music, it sounds tinny and boxy to my ears. I have a soft spot for the Cakes EP too, especially Eric’s songs.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: What was the catalyst the led to the end of Small 23?
Mike Kenlan: The simple answer is burnout. We were three records into a five record contract with folks who were well intentioned, but not really the most savvy in terms of marketing. Our last couple of tours, we were playing to better and better crowds, and frustrated by the lack of support we were seeing. The musical landscape was changing too, as it does. When we started, there was a thriving indie scene, but by 1996 everything was getting more corporate, and the musical world was awash in Alanis Morrisette and The Spin Doctors, and we had no intentions of trying to sound like that, to woo those kind of fans. We had an offer to go out as an opening act for one of those hot, major label bands, which probably would have been a smart move, career-wise, but we didn’t do it, because it felt like selling out. I guess we showed them.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: In the summer of 1994 Small 23 played a day long show on Cape Cod with Blonde Redhead, The Dambuilders, Small Factory and many others. That remains one of my top Live music experiences to this day. What do you remember from that show?
Mike Kenlan: Yes, The Beachcomber in Wellfleet! I remember that show really well, we were really humbled to be included on such an incredible bill. The fans in MA were always so great to us, seemingly anywhere we went, but that was a really memorable night. The crowd was really intense, and all the bands I saw fed off of that energy. I seem to recall a late night bonfire on the beach, that turned into an all nighter, that forced us to cancel our drive home the next day, so we could take a recovery day.
The Ash Gray Proclamation: How much has the Chapel Hill scene changed since it was occupied by bands like Small, Polvo, and Archers? Is there anyone we should be checking out?
Mike Kenlan: I should probably point out that the Chapel Hill scene included a lot of bands from Durham, Raleigh, Greensboro, etc. and each town or city has its own vibe. We also have three major universities, each with really strong college radio stations, that help support the music scene immensely. The scene has definitely evolved and grown, and remains really strong. The Archers, Polvo, Superchunk, etc. all got national attention, but there were dozens more, lesser known bands that really made it a scene. Bicycle Face, Capsize 7, Zen Frisbee, and a bunch more, were equally loved by the locals. Southern Culture on the Skids, and LUD have been putting out great music, continuously since the early 90’s. There was a time where you could go out and hear really amazing local bands five or six nights a week. Since 1990 or so, there have been like two generations of young, up and coming musicians that kept the scene alive, and added their mark to it. Sorry About Dresden, Milemarker, and Jett Rink to name a few. Today, we have bands that are made of of kids of some of the older scene, as well as a bunch of us from back then, who are still making interesting music.Some of my current local faves are Spider Bags, No One Mind, Natural Causes, and Cosmic Punk. We’re really fortunate here, to have a culture which supports original music, and good number of venues for folks to play.