Over the line to cover the Huntington scene

It recently came to our attention that Taylor Kuykendall and his friend Cory Jackson had combined to put together a book on the Huntington scene with their photos and words. The book, Sometimes You Find Yourself Over the Line, features photos of rockin’ Huntington acts that Kuykendall got while blogging about local bands for the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, and brief bios on the acts provided by Jackson.

We caught up with Kuykendall to learn more about the book and what’s up with him these days.

WVRS: What are you doing in Mississippi, when did you get there and how do you like it?
TK: I came to Mississippi looking for a job following some big layoffs at the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington. I felt that with only two months left to finish school and no job, it was time to finish up at Marshall and start exploring. My passion is to learn and tell stories, musical and otherwise. So, I applied for jobs across the nation. I got a call back at a few places and came down here for a visit. I fell in love with the blues culture here in the Delta and saw this as a wonderful opportunity to explore a culture and place I really knew nothing about.

I came to the Delta for the same reason I came to Huntington from Moorefield, W.Va.; I wanted to experience more that what I had. I work at the Greenwood Commonwealth as a reporter and photographer now, and getting to know a whole new group of people and music scene has been incredibly exciting. How could I ever aspire to be a writer if I have no experiences? That’s exactly where I am in life now. I am soaking in every new thing I can find and right now I’m just in the Mississippi phase of that exploration.

WVRS: What gave you the idea to compile your photos into a scene book?
TK: Sitting in Mississippi, I began to miss the music and friends from Huntington. At the same time, I constantly ran over these reminders of what I was doing there. Some people flip through their high school yearbook to try to relive some sort of abstract sense of nostalgia, but honestly, my high school yearbook doesn’t do that for me. I guess what I wanted was something more tangible to remember what I -- what everyone I associated with in Huntington -- was experiencing during a few random months. It may not mean much to the world, it may not mean much to Huntington, but it means a lot to me and hopefully my friends.

WVRS: What was it like working with Cory Jackson of The Good Fight on the book?
TK: Cory was a huge inspiration through his music, writing, friendship, and general debauchery. If I hadn’t met and become friends with this guy I may not have switched to journalism, wouldn’t have become as involved in the music scene and could have been homeless for the last two weeks I spent in Huntington.

WVRS: You covered Huntington through the H-D TSMS blog, what was the experience like doing that? Pros/cons?
TK: Though I garnered a few compliments for that blog, I felt that I never really gave it the justice it deserved. I wish I would’ve written more. I wish I promoted it more. It was just so hard to write for something when it felt like no one was reading it. It came to the point where I was trying to structure a story that would get attention and I found it hard to write smaller, probably more useful updates, just to get the word out that the blog existed.

I really hope that one day Huntington can appreciate the glut of musicians that are so dense in that city. It’s a wonderful scene with a terribly fickle audience. I had fun at the blog in its high points, but there were spots where it felt like I was pouring a lot of energy into something that only a handful of people would end up reading. Now, I know those few people that were reading it were the ones that mattered anyway.

WVRS: You’ve got a ton of bands in the book, any particular favorites? You’ve got Jeff Ellis first, it looked like.
TK: It would be hard to pick a favorite. All of the featured bands -- Jeff Ellis, Bud Carroll, Attack Flamingo, Jordan Andrew Jefferson, Browning Automatics, The Good Fight, Whirling Dervish, 40 lb Snapper, Mark Smith, Benji Taylor, Vance Lintlock, Sarasota, Qiet, Luke Jivetalker, Good Ol’ Boys and a Girl and Bad Employees were favorites of mine that I know needed to be highlighted. Believe it or not A LOT of guys were left out. These were the ones I feel like are making the heaviest impact.

I can’t really name a favorite of those, but I will say that the first couple selections have a lot more to do with the way the rest of the scene interacted with those artists. They made a big impact, especially Ellis, Carroll and Sean Knisely from Attack Flamingo. It was hard to pick the order because they were all people I would call friends and great musicians. The order, after the first few, is completely random though.

WVRS: Taking the Huntington scene and MU as a whole, what do you think about "the scene" and the people you met or knew covering the bands?
TK: The Marshall/Huntington scene is a young one. They’re still trying to figure out their collective style. Most notably is a lack of music business in the area. The musicians are there and I think a record executive or label could potentially make a lot of money if they spend a few weeks in Huntington.

WVRS: What were your experiences putting it together, and plans or goals for getting the book out?
TK: Putting it together was fairly easy. It was like a pictorial walkthrough of some great moments in my life. As far as getting the book out, I’m going to try to sell a few copies online and then hopefully get enough capital to put the book in local stores in Huntington. Of course, if WVRockscene knows any interested investors, my ears are wide open.

Sometimes You Find Yourself Over the Line can be previewed here. Taylor can be reached at taylor.kuykendall@gmail.com.

Friday @ the V Club

Tomorrow night Karma To Burn returns to Huntington with Shepherdstown's Demon Beat, and The Scrap Iron Pickers will release their new CD at The V Club.

You can clearly see all this in the above placed flyer, which looks like it was designed by Jimbo at Amalgam Unlimited (he does good work).

Awesome show.


CD REVIEW: "Matador"

CD: Matador
ARTIST: Arms and Sleepers

On their new 10-song CD Matador, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ambient duo Arms and Sleepers (Max Lewis & Mirza Ramic) return with more of their trippy, sleepy, piano-based atmospheric airport lobby music, this time bringing more friends on as guest musicians, with way more vocals than we've heard on three of their previous seven releases, each of which we've loved and treasured.

After opening with "Orly" and then hearing the title track and "The Architekt" that's the first thing that will jump out at longtime listeners of A&S: the increased vocals. At first we were cautious of more singing on the A&S tunes; sometimes -- and especially in the case of A&S' cinematic, mainly instrumental output -- words can get in the way, maybe getting in the way of the trip these guys want to take you on.

But no, Lewis and Ramic bring in the guest vocals smoothly, and with rich results, on the aformentioned tracks and "Twentynine Palms," "Helvetica" and "Simone," which is why we'd have to say this is the duo's best work to date: moving their music forward, not afraid to share the creative process with others and not sticking with any particular formula.

Compared favorably to a few acts we've dug in the past, Portishead, Air and Radiohead, we'd have to say A&S comes down closer to an Air-Radiohead type hybrid on Matador, but spitting it out in their own unique fashion.

"Kino," "Words are for Sleeping," and "The Paramour" round out Matador, and like all of our favorite releases (theirs especially) we're always asking ourselves "Is that all?" when the 41 minutes worth of Matador is done; left wanting to hear more.

What does Arms and Sleepers have to do with WVRockscene? We got to see 'em at the Glass a few years back, chatted up Lewis and Ramic, affable chaps each, and have been in love with their music ever since.

Maybe they'll come back through someday, maybe not, but you should definitely click on the link and check these guys out.

-- thanks to: Emile @ nice promo

related: Our feature on Arms and Sleepers


The Demon Beat @ the Glass Thursday

Our friends Adam, Tucker and Jordan in Shepherdstown's Demon Beat are slated to return to the Empty Glass in Charleston Thursday night, with Universes and local punks The Concept.

The Demon Beat have just uploaded a few new songs off their soon-to-be released new CD Shit We're 23 on their MySpace page. That's a CD we're looking forward to rocking out (on or around Nov. 12), so check them out and check the show out if you're out.

photo: Rachel Molenda


'85 Flood releases Junkbone tonight

‘85 Flood releases Junkbone Friday night at 123 Pleasant St.

As his band prepares to release Junkbone Friday night at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown, ‘85 Flood’s Aaron Hawley is straightforward about the Flood’s sophomore release, and his band’s progress since releasing Toolshed Shangri-La.

“Putting out Junkbone is just so exciting,” Hawley said. “We can’t wait for everyone to hear it because we think it’s just so much stronger than the last record.”

A staple of the Magic Town scene for a few years now, the Flood helped ring in the 2009 WVU school year at 123 recently with their friends in The Greens, with new tunes from Junkbone.

“Man, it was great. I mean, really really good. The best show we’ve had at 123 in a while. Big crowd, but more importantly, everyone was receptive to what we were doing and totally dialed in. People enjoyed our ‘surprise cover’ and Adam’s new tune “Not Good Enough” just killed it. That one is rising to the top of the stack rapidly. Just a really great rock song.”

Hawley noted the Flood’s growth since Toolshed is readily apparent in all aspects, from songwriting to recording.

“When we did Toolshed, we’d been this acoustic band for about a year, and really quickly added electricity and drums, and Charlie [Meeks] left and [bassist] Dusty [Hays] signed on. We felt this need to go in and record really quickly so we could show people where were as a band. The majority of those songs had been written without any kind of band in mind, let alone the one we had become.”

“Now, it just feels like the songs are more developed and we’re a lot more comfortable as a band. One of the best things about this record is that I really think it sounds like us. The first one was the product of a weird transition, but Junkbone is really representative of where we are right now.”

As ‘85 Flood has progressed, Hawley noted the increasingly shared songwriting duties between Hays, VanScoy, and himself.

“Sharing songwriting duties has been great, and being in a band with such strong musicians as Adam, Mike and Dusty is an enormous blessing. When we got going, I had this backlog of songs that we could whip together pretty quickly and suddenly have a record and a live set. Since then, we’ve shared duties pretty evenly and the new songs everybody’s bringing to the table are all better than the last. I’ve always loved bands like The Grateful Dead and The Band and the Drive By Truckers where the lead vocal is passed around. I think it gives the band the opportunity to develop a more rounded personality as opposed to just what I might have to say.”

The Flood recorded Junkbone where so many Morgantown bands seem to go, Mark Poole’s Zone 8 studios.

“Mark is such a great guy, and an absolute treasure that Morgantown is very lucky to have. Playing in bands can put you in some uncomfortable situations sometimes, but with Mark everything is just so relaxed. He’s got such a great ear and he wants you to sound your best and really tries to make that a reality. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine recording anywhere else.”

Hawley said he was also excited to have the Sam Lamont Band and Clint Sutton’s Slop Models sharing the bill as openers.

“Sam is a great friend who has played with our band throughout all its incarnations. His group right now is so good, and in a way that we just don’t compare to. Their playing is so relaxed and laid back while they deliver these great tunes and make you move. Ray Cook is Morgantown’s most underrated guitar player and Sam’s rhythm section are total pros. The final product is fantastic and we’ve been looking forward to having these guys on the bill for a long time.”

“Slop Models haven’t played out in over a year and we’re honored to have them on this show. Clint Sutton is a phenomenal songwriter, and his self-titled record is probably the best local record to come out of Morgantown in the last five years…Mark Poole is taking over the second guitar for the Models, and it’s exciting because of his involvement in making the record. Just having him play the show, even as a sideman, is a great thrill. Trey Curtis of Librarians and Big Ass Manatee holds down the drums, so it’s really a group of A-List musicians.”

Having grown up in Morgantown, Hawley said that the Flood’s place in its music scene is special to him.

“Morgantown is a very special place. There are always great bands here. Adam and I are from Morgantown originally and I know we were both influenced by the fact that we could go see rock n’ roll shows at a young age. The first time I ever set foot in 123 was back in the days of the Nyabinghi and I went to an all ages show that featured a band from my high school. That’s an empowering thing to begin with, and then you add this influx of college kids who come in and bring their bands, it’s a really great breeding ground for rock n’ roll. Also, you factor in great institutions like 123, and U92 and Zone 8, and all of a sudden you have a great place to play music. Morgantown has so many great bands, it’s a fun place to live and a great place to play music.”


The Renfields play Zombie Walk Friday nite!

Friday night in Morgantown, fans of horror films in general and zombies in particular converge for the third annual zombie walk. Dressed as any and all assortment of zombie themed characters, starting on North High Street and ending at the Warner Theatre with a showing of Dawn of the Dead, the undead participants will first be treated to the undead punk rock stylings of Transylvania (via Fairmont) band The Renfields.

The band, kept together through various incarnations by singer-guitarist Vincent Renfield, has been working overtime to release “Stalk and Slash Splatterama Pt. 2: Exploitation Extravaganza” in time for the zombie walk, which Vincent said means a lot to the band.

“We don’t feel like we’re part of any specific music scene,” Vincent said. “The Renfields are more concerned with promoting the horror scene, so an event like the zombie walk is a huge deal for us. Basically people will gather at the parking lot on North High Street next to the Chi Omega sorority house dressed in their best zombie formal wear. Once all the zombies are assembled they’ll start the long haul down High Street in all their shambling, leg dragging glory. The journey ends at the Warner Theatre where they’ll all gather for a showing of Dawn of the Dead.”

“There’s nothing like playing songs like “Night of the Living Dead” and “Zombie Wasteland” to a horde of 300 zombies; just like being back in Transylvania.”

Vincent said that he was excited about the latest incarnation of their bassist, The Fiend, and the band’s current lineup.

“Other than the Fiend, who just got his new body two months ago, we have had the same lineup for about a year now. We decided to take a break from shows and even looking at bass players for a while because I got so tired of teaching people those old songs. For about a month straight we just worked on new stuff. When we finally started looking at bass players the audition would consist of showing them a new song and letting them write their own part for it. It helped the rest of us avoid burnout.”

As always, for The Renfields, there is no burnout when it comes to motivation and influences for their songs: horror movies. Like all their releases and songs, “Stalk and Slash Pt. 2” is an homage to some of Team Transylvania’s favorite horror films.

“It’s our salute to the trashy drive-in films of the late 60’s-80’s. We tried to stay true to the spirit of those films: gory, smutty, gritty, and completely over the top. We really wanted to capture the tone of each film in the song as opposed to just having lyrics about the film set to three chord punk rock.”

“We did a bit of this on the first “Stalk and Slash” but this time it’s much more blatant. As of right now all of the tracks have been recorded, two are fully mastered but they all still need to have the movie samples inserted. Our goal is to have the EP available at zombie walk in a “double feature” with the first Stalk and Slash EP but we still have a lot of work to do mixing and recording some vocal stuff here and there. If not by zombie walk, it’ll be available at our next show on October 25th.”

The Renfields decided to do a one-day recording blitz DIY-style to best capture their “blood curdling” mono sound.

“We knew that if we were going to release the EP before Halloween we would have to get moving right away, so we ended up renting out a small venue/studio called Fairmont Music Theatre. We still used all of our own recording equipment but it offered lots of space and a productive environment.”

“Everything was done in true Renfields style: lots of writing and adjusting parts on the spot, lots of single takes. I wrote “Deadbeat at Dawn” literally two days before and then worked on it with Fiend and Jaymee Lee that next day. Everyone else had to learn it in the studio the day of the recording, it ended up being our favorite song on the EP. Whenever things would get stressful we would just say “Bastard sons of Ed Wood” and deal with it.”

It also helps to have a band member with recording experience, as is the case with their drummer.

“Dr. Herbert [Von Renfield IV] already had experience recording bands in the past and was confident that he could match the sound quality from the last EP. We went into a studio to record the first “Stalk and Slash” and it was a great experience but any time we have a chance maintain autonomy within the band we’re going to take it. Plus we’ve never been too concerned about having that “produced” sound. Especially not when we’re singing about ultra low budget horror films.”

In addtion to the new bassist, and new CD, The Renfields are looking forward to playing Rich’s Fright Farm in Smithfield, Pennsylvania Halloween night with one of their own favorite local punk bands, The Concept.

“Obviously we’re incredibly excited to get the Halloween slot. They gave us the option of bringing another band or playing it alone. We were tempted to be selfish and keep all the stage time to ourselves but the idea of hanging out with those guys won out. Plus we’re out of Concept stickers (Dave!) and we miss hearing “Guitar pick in my Kool-aid”!

For Vincent and the Renfields, through all the incarnations and bassists, it’s all about the horror films.

“Sometimes it feels like we’re Spinal Tap -- especially with bass players. The Fiend has had a total of seven bodies since his inclusion into the band. Ultimately what ends up happening is that someone will join up, learn all of the songs, start practicing and everything is fine. It’s when they finally play their first show the grim reality hits; playing in a burlap sack with one eye hole, no ventilation, covered in blood and grease paint, wearing a ratty suit jacket that hasn’t been washed in five years worth of shows.”

“After the show most other bands hang out, flirt with girls, and have some drinks or whatever. The life of a Renfield is going home and spending an hour and a half in the shower trying to get all the crap off. For a lot of people it’s a big turn off, those of us who get it will continue to charge forward holding the blood stained banner.”

Related: DA article on the zombie walk

Vincent talks with us about the movies that motivated the songs on the new EP


Porkchop fundraiser Sunday nite!

A fundraiser for Eamon Hardiman's new film Porkchop will be rockin' Sunday night at the Glass with one of the more promising sounding new bands, The Madbats (ex-Big Bad, Rose City/Pistol Whippers), and one of our longtime faves, The Concept, among others.

We normally don't like scary movies, but Hardiman is one of the good ones and this looks like a hit. Check it out and look for more from us sometime on the Madbats hopefully.


Arms and Sleepers release "Matador" 10.7

Arms and Sleepers (Mirza Ramic and Max Lewis) release Matador next week
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ambient duo Arms and Sleepers obviously aren’t from West Virginia. But they have swung through, and we were lucky enough to catch them at The Empty Glass a few years back.

Since then, they’ve been one of our favorite acts, as we’ve slowly compiled a small collection of their releases, from Bliss Was it in That Dawn To Be Alive, their limited edition EP, and most recently The Motorist, Mirza Ramic and Max Lewis’ musical output has been in steady rotation in the WVRockscene home stereo.

Now, together for just four years, after touring all over the U.S. and Europe and receiving wide critical acclaim, as the duo is set to release Matador next week, and nationwide in mid-November, Ramic and Lewis said they’re looking forward to getting it out and going on tour.

“We’ve been working on this record for a long time, and it feels good to finally release it and play some of these songs live for the first time,” Ramic said.

While not a whole lot has changed with their daily lives, Lewis described the renewed focus that helped forge the new 10-song release.

“Our circumstances have been fairly similar to those surrounding the makings of Black Paris 86 and The Motorist, the only real difference being that we were able to dedicate ourselves more fully to the writing process in the case of Matador. The making of this album was the first time that we were both able to focus on our music full-time, which has been a really good experience -- no distractions!”

Ramic said that while A&S incorporated more vocals and guest musicians and continue to expand their sound on Matador, Arms and Sleepers is still basically just he and Lewis.

“The music we are working on now is definitely different from what we originally began with; there are more people involved now, which has given our sound a welcomed transformation, but this is still very much our own little project and we are certainly happy with where it’s going.”

Lewis explained the sparse vocals in Arms and Sleepers releases.

“Regarding vocals, it wasn’t a very big change for us as we’ve been in bands before Arms and Sleepers that had prominent vocals, and also in our past releases we’ve always had at least some vocals present. We’re not necessarily that big into instrumental music, so we were very excited to be able to work with singers on this album.”

“The only reason really that we did not have more vocals before is simply because it was hard to find the right people, and we ourselves cannot sing. Things kind of fell into place with Matador in terms of vocals, and we’re very happy about that. Collaborating with other artists has been a great experience, as we have always really valued other people’s ideas and input.”

So a process that began with writing in November 2008 and recording this summer is now complete. Arms and Sleepers has a cool teaser video for Matador on their MySpace page, which brings you to one of the more awesome parts of the A&S experience: the video they project as background accompaniment during their live shows.

“We consider the visual aspect of the live performance to be very important,” Lewis admitted. “It’s something that we’ve been doing since we started this project in 2006. Seeing as our music is heavily influenced by visual arts, it only made sense that we would try and present it with visuals at live performances.”

Lewis said that the duo plans on having “a proper music video” for the first single off Matador, "The Architekt" before 2009 is done, so look forward to that.

In addition to any video for their music, Arms and Sleepers is taking a bit of a step back, and releasing a limited pressing of Matador on vinyl, Lewis said.

“Matador is perhaps our most organic-sounding record yet, and we feel that analog media will best be able to convey the sound that we were going for with this album.”

Ramic summed up the pride and joy he and Lewis have in the current state of Arms and Sleepers in general, and Matador in particular.

“…the band has obviously been a central focus for us for a while now, and has been very present in both of our everyday lives for the past few years. It’s certainly very special to us and it’s really nice to be able to see it grow and expand.”

--- photo: Fanny Giroud


The Gentlemen come calling Saturday

Pretty cool show lined up for Saturday night at Shamrock's out in Huntington, as Morgantown's Celt-punks The Gentlemen return to town.

These guys have one of our favorite CDs of 2009, Stick To Your Guns, and are no doubt gaining fans near and far. Appearing with The Gentlemen will be The Wizards of Ghetto Mountain and Sweatband.