Event Horizon: Byzantine reunites

After achieving wide critical acclaim and releasing Oblivion Beckons in January 2008, Charleston metal band Byzantine abruptly disbanded. After being on hiatus for over two years, the band is reuniting for a string of in-state shows March 5-7. We caught up with singer-guitarist Chris Ojeda, bassist Skip Cromer and drummer Matt Wolfe about what happened with the band, where they are now, and what the future may hold...

WVRS: How has life been treating Byzantine since we last heard from you guys?
Chris “OJ” Ojeda:
All is great, I suppose. We are alive! We have all kind of done our own thing over the last two and a half years. Three of us entered the world of fatherhood. Skip moved back to Pennsylvania and Tony moved down to North Carolina. I started my own home renovation company. All of the guys beside me have also continued playing in various other bands as well. I haven’t stepped on stage since the last Byzantine concert.

WVRS: So you guys recently got back together for practice, what was it like to be back as a unit after so long?
Michael “Skip” Cromer:
After the initial shock of all of us being in the same room together after two and a half years, it felt more like we just hadn’t practiced for a month or two. After a few jams it was like being back in the saddle.
Matt Wolfe: Honestly, it felt like we never really stopped playing together. I was very nervous until about 20 seconds into the first song.

WVRS: OJ, have you and Matt been getting together in the mean time?
Yes, Wolfe and I started knocking rust off about three months ago by ourselves; trying to relearn the songs and get some sort of grasp of what we used to do. Sad to say, we have only had one full band practice in preparation for these shows! We are fucking retarded!!! We have all been working on the songs separately. The winter storms we keep having have restricted Tony and Skip from getting into town. It happens almost every weekend. We are hoping to God that we can get at least two more full band practices in before the shows get here.

WVRS: Getting back together, is there any new material you’re working on?
Cromer: We are working up songs that are from Oblivion Beckons that we never played live, but as far as new material that isn’t happening.

WVRS: Byzantine disbanded shortly after Oblivion Beckons was released. Now you’re back together for these shows; was this all part of a plan or did you guys really not know if the band would ever play again?
This was definitely NOT part of a grand scheme or plan. There never really was a lot of arguing in Byzantine but we did have a very bitter divorce at the end. But, mutual respect has always been an integral part of Byzantine and if you can respect each other, anything is possible. Every once in a while one member would bring up a reunion idea and another would immediately say “fuck that.” It took three of us getting together for drinks in Scottdale, Pennsylvania a couple months ago to really kick start this process. I had been one of the main roadblocks for this reunion. Once I knew that Tony was actually down for it, I was 100% in.

WVRS: And just to confirm, you guys disbanded due to what you felt was lack of label support; not infighting, drama in the band, or Skip being a diva?
No, it was Skip being a diva! But, we were willing to put up with his divaness simply because he made the band legendary! HAHA! The bottom line is that we did not disband because of lack of label support. We fell apart because of lack of label support. They are very different things. Being hungry, cold, sick, tired and broke is tolerable if you are 18. At 28, not so much!

WVRS: What about a label; is that something you can talk about or have thought about, getting on another label, or maybe starting your own?
Judging from our past experiences with record labels, I think that would be very much out of the question. Doing it on our own would be the only option.
Cromer: No talk of labels, we hate labels.

WVRS: OJ you mentioned to me over the phone around the time Oblivion came out that you could foresee Byzantine being a band without a label, touring regionally. Is that how things seem to be working out, a more DIY approach to booking/touring, and maybe even recording?
Right now, our focus is three shows in March. Getting these put together was hard enough. We are in no way at a comfortable enough position to think about anything further than that. All four band members know that the record industry and the mandatory touring regimen was the downfall of this band. Hypothetically speaking, if Byzantine exists after March 7th, it will be a complete DIY project. The fan base is already there. It is much too small a fan base for us to ever see any profits as a label band, but a large enough fan base for a DIY band to be extremely fruitful and happy.

"Cradle Song" by Byzantine (Salvation DVD by Donnie Searls/Every Second Pictures)

WVRS: Do/did you guys feel any bitterness about the level of support you may or may not have received; that if things had been different you could have been more successful, commercially speaking? Or are you just happy to have got out the releases you did out and gained the fans?
Cromer: Can’t speak for the other guys on this but I will say that Byzantine could’ve been the biggest metal act out there had we gotten the right push. For some reason the label didn’t really want to get behind this band and it was a disservice to us, and in the long run, the label as well.

Am I bitter? No. I got to be in the band I always wanted to be in, and saw more of the world than I ever thought I would with them. But make no mistake about it: we did not get the support we needed or should have gotten to be a successful group from our label.

WVRS: After your experience being on a label, what are your thoughts on the need to be on a label these days?
It was a necessary evil. We had no fan base before Prosthetic Records signed us. Being signed gave us an opportunity to open for some great metal bands across two continents and showcase our music. But, a smart musician nowadays can build that fan base without label support. It just takes time, if you are willing to spend it. A label is a glorified bank. They give you money to record on and tour on. Instead of “interest” your money is “recoupable” through album sales. Basically meaning, you won’t see a dime until they are paid back in full. Can you tell I’m not that fond of labels? HAHA!

WVRS: Speaking of other metal bands that for better or worse may have achieved some level of commercial success with label backing, without the critical acclaim you guys received -- what do you think of how metal has progressed?
Metal comes and goes in a cycle. Right now the cycle is going towards the worse. There’s a lot of cookie cutter bands coming out right now, saturating the market because labels are making money on that sound. Sooner than later, the listener will get sick of it and turn to something else. That’s what happened in the 90’s with grunge, and will happen again with the metal scene.
Wolfe: I don’t follow any of the newer groups out there, so I really can’t say for sure what any if them are doing as far as their success.

WVRS: So you guys have this contest where a fan can be Skip’s roadie for a day; what advice or warnings would you give to whoever ends up winning? WHY would anyone want to be his roadie???
Apparently no one knows about this contest because not one person has entered. Or maybe no one wants to be my roadie. I don’t know. Listen, being my roadie and setting up my stuff for free should be worn like a badge of honor. You have the chance to hold thunder in your hands when you handle my gear. I am like Thor on bass, okay? Plus you get into the show for free and we will give you free stuff. It is a contest after all.

WVRS: Your song about the Battle of Blair Mountain “Red Neck War” is a great example of an important part of West Virginia history. Do you have any thoughts about the state taking it off the national register of historic sites?
Ojeda: I had no idea that was an issue right now. That site should be hallowed ground in this state. Before I comment further on this subject I will have to do some reading to give an insightful opinion on the matter. I am saddened to hear this news, though.

WVRS: You guys looking forward to these shows coming up in March?
Cromer: I am ready for these shows. There are so many people I can’t wait to see again I hope they come out. I miss my friends in WV and I am really treating this like a celebration. Of what I don’t know but it will be fun regardless.

WVRS: How important are the fans you’ve gained, after the whole label thing, and being disbanded and now coming back? How important is it to you guys to keep Byzantine going?
When I play on a stage in West Virginia, it’s a high that I lack the descriptive language to tell you what its like. The fans and friends that come out and see us, I am grateful for in a way that they probably don’t know. It’s like being in a room filled with people that you respect and love, yet they are mostly strangers to me. It’s a bit odd, but it’s good, and I am mostly looking forward to that feeling again.

As far as the Byz is concerned, I don’t really know what will happen to it. I’d like to think that we could continue to work together and do new things but that may not be what we collectively want. I feel sad about it in a way because when we were fighting to be “that band” we were like a well tuned machine.

I can honestly say with no ego that there was not a band that could touch us out on the road. That was the best of times in Byzantine. It’s not like that anymore. We achieved what we wanted to, maybe not to the extent that I wanted but we did achieve our collective goals.

Our responsibility as a band at this point is to play the best show we can for the fans and friends that want to see us again. Once we do that, there really isn’t anything left to do. Being in Byzantine was hands down the most rewarding musical endeavor of my life. I can’t really ever see anything being better.

That being said, that doesn’t mean that we want to work together again. Let me be clear, I don’t want to speak for my band mates but putting together these three shows was a difficult process in itself. To have this band keep on doing things it would involve a level of commitment that I don’t think the four of us have right now. So it is a strong possibility that these three shows will be the last we do with this lineup.

But the old saying, “Never say never” is a popular phrase to this day for a reason: It’s true. Hopefully there will be more shows and a new album. It would be great. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t think of a more glorious thing than for the four of us to write the best Byzantine record totally on our terms. No labels. No B.S. Just great music by a great band. I would love it.

--- Byzantine plays The Sound Factory in Charleston 3.5, The V Club in Huntington 3.6 (w/BRDME) and 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown 3.7

Photo: Donnie Searls


The Fox Hunt @ the Blue Moon 2.20

Fox Hunters Ben Townsend, on the fiddle, and Matt Metz, on the uke, are illuminated by a fan's camera flash as they play to a capacity crowd at the Blue Moon Cafe last weekend.

The band has deep roots in Shepherdstown, from their days as the fondly remembered metal band The Red Oranges, known for their high-energy and musically intricate songs. A punk-metal energy continues to infuse their music, even as they tackle proto-bluegrass and American roots music with The Fox Hunt.

Their fans reflect this, and if one was to watch their shows from a distance, and with earplugs, it could easily be mistaken for an underground rock show. For evidence, I present the following video from last weekend's Fox Hunt show in Shepherdstown.

--- Michael Theis


CD Review: "Introducing The Whiskey Daredevils"

CD: Introducing The Whiskey Daredevils
ARTIST: Whiskey Daredevils

We didn’t set out this year to turn WVRockscene into OhioRockscene, but when there are bands we know about, and whose CDs we’ve rocked in the past, we are more than happy to take it any way we can get it.

At this point, the no frills cowpunk/rockabilly outfit The Whiskey Daredevils have released on average about one record a year since brothers Greg and Ken Miller, with drummer Leo Love, birthed the band out the side of The Cowslingers. Haling from Cleveland rock city, the Daredevils return with 13 songs and an awesome new guitarist (Gary Siperko) on Introducing The Whiskey Daredevils, a CD we were super stoked to get in the mail.

We were fortunate enough to pick up their Greatest Hits CD (their first, mind you) and catch them a few times at the Glass. Following up on the debut with The Essential Whiskey Daredevils and The Very Best of The Whiskey Daredevils, we were more than ready to be re-introduced to the new Daredevils lineup, rock the CD (their fifth full-length) out, and see how it stood up with what we’ve heard from these guys in the past.

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. Well, that describes not only the songs on the new CD, but the Daredevils infectious mix of high energy cowpunk, rockabilly, and country; songs that would work great in a remade Dukes of Hazard TV series, or, maybe CHIPS.

Introducing The Whiskey Daredevils opens with “Never Saw Johnny Cash” as singer Greg Miller takes us all on a stroll down memory lane, as he recalls growing up, going to parties, getting to see Bob Dylan with Tom Petty, but, when Miller got his chance to see the man in black in the early 80’s, well, he ended up tying one on at a party, kissing a girl with a mustache. Talk about a letdown.

For us, and for the sake of the band, the Daredevils take stories of all the crazy, hilarious, sometimes even painful times, and turn ‘em into good times! Whether it’s getting busted for drugs (planted on you by your buddy) coming back over the Mexican border or falling in love with a Polish senorita at a Taco Bell, it doesn’t matter what, you’re getting a good time with the Daredevils.

“It Ain’t Him” is a harrowing (yet still fun) story of a poker game gone bad, where we hear Miller’s perspective of being on the wrong end of witnessing a crooked poker game with too many aces, a murder, and too many witnesses. “Left Me On a Train” is a broken-hearted ballad about being on the wrong end of the whole love thing, being left in a beat up Cavalier.

The meandering shuffle of “Thicker Than Wine” is Miller’s story of betrayal, returning from Mexico, running into los Federales, and having his buddy (half lizard king, half Rod Stewart) stash his cocaine in Miller’s bag, unbeknownst to him! Fourteen years in a Mexican prison, pining to be out running around with his buddy again, we find Miller (Elvis + Glenn Danzig = Greg Miller), on a song that sounds like something from The Cramps.

Miller sings on the chorus:
Jimmy was like a brother, blood thicker than the wine
I wonder where those days went, I think about ‘em all the time
I’m sittin’ here in this jail cell, I’m starin’ out the moon,
Jimmy’s runnin wild like a coyote, I hope to join him soon...
This song features some of the coolest guitar tones on the whole CD, as Siperko lays down some haunting echo-laden solos, creating a whole ‘nother, dark atmosphere on the song.

Are you a female barfly who may have abused the privilege of being on the guest list at the show? Have you become a little too used to getting all the free drugs and/or alcohol, well then “Last Guest List” may be bittersweet and a bit too biographical for your tastes, as Miller sings “I guess it’s plain to see, you’re no longer a VIP, your name and face don’t get you in the door.”

“West Akron Shakedown” has a more minimalist type rockabilly sound, as the Daredevils recall getting haggled for merch, offered pork pie hats and alcohol, heavy set girls falling into Greg’s mic and drunken brawls breaking out in the dead of winter. Of course, knowing the Daredevils, they’ll do it all over again.

Tommy “Hit Man” Hearns makes an appearance in “Me and My Black Eye” after a drunken night out and about leaves a shiner, with the real mystery being: how did it happen? Who knows!

“Senorita” opens with a minute-long Spanish flavored guitar intro, before Miller falls in love with the Polish girl who works at the Taco Bell. This song is a good example of the band incorporating a nice Spanish flavor into their country and/or western cowpunk stylings, with the hard rockin’ bridges, solos and choruses and all. You will think Esteban joined the band, or that maybe Siperko’s nickname is “fingerbang” or something.

If you’re wondering how to have a good time in the Red Light district of Hamburg, Germany -- without getting robbed -- “Going Dutch” will clue you Yanks in on how to do just that, while indulging yourself with various substances from around the globe (Turkish cigarettes, French champagne, and Spanish cocaine).

Siperko takes his turn writing on the hard rockin’ instrumental “Railbender” and we have the Daredevils getting their “Party Plates” -- their hard charging interpretation of Motorhead meets country. Leo Love apparently takes his turn singing on the ZZ Top flavored “Empty out the Shake” to close out the CD.

From Cleveland to Mexico to Hamburg, and back to Akron, Introducing The Whiskey Daredevils (released on Knock-Out Records) is a non-stop cowpunk thrill ride, and with the Daredevils’ new lineup and this great new CD, we’ll look forward to what these guys get into next.

mp3: “Thicker Than Wine” by Whiskey Daredevils

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VIDEO: "Glenn Beck" by FOX Japan

FOX Japan - "Glenn Beck" (NSFW) from Andy Pickens on Vimeo.

Just heard about FOX Japan getting their video for "Glenn Beck" up, and with frontman Charlie Wilmoth's permission, we get to play it here! With art by Jesse Young and edited by Andy Pickens, we think this video will take its rightful place in the pantheon of all-time viral Glenn Beck video hits, such as:

2. 9/11 truthers threaten Obama in the White House, and are just as bad as the guy that shot the guard at the D.C. Holocaust Memorial, and
3. I really like this band Muse...oh wait, they called the show and told me to stop endorsing their band.

Those are just what he's said on his show, after he said Ron Paul supporters were domestic terrorists and should be arrested. We bet you'd sell your soul for $50 million dollars.

But kudos to FOX Japan and Young/Pickens for getting this out. And don't forget to check out FOX Japan's CD Reenactment, it really was one of the best CDs we heard last year.

Related: Glenn Beck is a Neocon (not a Libertarian), The Beck Deception


Introducing Greg Miller of The Whiskey Daredevils

In anticipation of their return to The Empty Glass this Saturday, and the release of their new CD, we caught up with Whiskey Daredevils singer Greg Miller to see what was up with the band these days...

WVRS: So the new CD “Introducing the Whiskey Daredevils” is the fourth full-length, right? What might longtime fans of the Daredevils expect?
GM: This CD is probably rootsier than our last one, more in line with what the last couple Cowslingers records sounded like. I have been really into the pure country punk thing again, and that is always greeted with enthusiasm by the rest of the guys. We cut all the initial tracks live in the studio, and Ken/Leo/Gary did a great job in nailing them early. That let me flounder around with the vocals and Gary layer in some monster guitar. This is a good record to play loud at your next party.

WVRS: Where did you record at and how did it go compared to past efforts?
GM: We recorded this in Detroit with John Smerek at White Room Studios. It’s in a big tall abandoned building in a terrible section of Detroit’s ample urban blight where drug dealers and amputee homeless people piss in the alley outside. Translation? A great place to make a record. John is really an awesome guy to work with. He moves quickly and lets us keep our energy up, and has a similar mindset in what sounds “good.”

He’s worked with all kinds of heavies in the biz like The Breeders, Kid Rock, Paybacks, and Detroit Cobras to name a few. If you like any of those records’ sound, chances are you’ll like ours too.

WVRS: Looks like you’ve had your current lineup together for a few years now; solid, cohesive unit? Last time we talked Gary was just auditioning with you guys, how’s he fit in?
GM: Gary has picked up our world of twisted country punk n’ raunch surprisingly quickly. He’s a real ringer of a guitar player and is adept at assimilating styles and licks when he hears them. I know he has been studying Junior Brown of late, so God knows where that will lead. I would like think that on a good night he is one of the best guitar players that will grace the Empty Glass stage in 2010.

WVRS: Is this new release gonna be on the German label (Knock-Out)? Lotta bands have trouble with labels, how has it worked out with der Germans?
GM: The new CD is being released in Europe on Knock-Out and in the U.S. on our own Drink n’ Drive Records imprint. K-O has been awesome to work with for us. Mosh (the label head) has been extremely supportive of us, and usually joins us on tour for a few shows when we go over there.

Selling music is really a losing proposition, and to have that kind of support is great. We just hope we can continue to keep it slightly profitable for everyone over there. As an aside, I just read a great essay in “The Big Takeover” where Jack Rabid discussed the importance of real music fans supporting the entire infrastructure of the music business.

If you like a band, buy their CD. If you like to read about these bands to learn more about them, purchase the appropriate magazines, etc. Producing a quality CD takes plenty of money. If everyone just downloads files for free, how can bands continue to pay for these recordings?

Everyone takes for granted all of this content that’s being created. You have to support what you like, or it won’t be there any more. You’ll be left with whatever corporate interests decide they can sell. No one is getting rich in world of indie rock, bnelieve me. If you like a band at a show, shell out the $12 and buy their disc. They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll help them create more of what you like.

WVRS: So you’re swinging through Pittsburgh before coming to the Glass, are you hoping for clear roads or would a blizzard make for a better story?
GM: Ken and I grew up in Erie, Pa., and Leo in Cleveland. We have no fear of the snow. We laugh in the face of blizzards. Over the years we have driven through storms that would reduce even the most hardened truck driver to tears. Danger is our opiate.

WVRS: You guys expect to catch hell in Pittsburgh (not necessarily being Cleveland fans) or are there big Daredevil fans there?
GM: Pittsburgh is one of those cities that has had an ebb and flow of Daredevil mania.

Hopefully we’ll trick some folks out of their homes next Friday. Regarding “catching hell,” usually no one cares that we’re from Cleveland. 1.) Our fans usually don’t like sports. 2.) The Browns suck so bad it really isn’t a rivalry for Steeler fans. Being total degenerates, we will gamble our take from a gig against the Browns any time. Well, we’ll also bet against the Steelers too. Those guys have trouble covering home point spreads. Little free advice for you…

WVRS: Last time you mentioned playing a Butthole Surfers cover, and there’s the footage of a Misfits cover you’ll do, what are some covers you’ll throw in your set from time to time to shake things up?
GM: We’ve always liked twisting around covers to make them fit what we do. We’ve been messing around with Elvis’ “That’s Alright Mama” by messing it into T Rex’s “Jeepster.” We also have been doing an old traditional tune Johnny Cash did called Chattanooga Sugar Babe” that should sound pretty cool. The key is, with a cover, is not trying to make it sound like the original, but bring what you do well into it.

WVRS: Has Leo become the voice of reason in the Daredevils yet? Still have his zen approach to being on the road?
GM: Leo is the heart and soul of The Whiskey Daredevils. There’s no better person to be with on the road than Leo. Does he get really fucked up on whatever intoxicants are available to him? Yes he does. Does he snore and sound like he is gasping for life when he finally passes out at night? Yes, he does. However, no matter what the situation is he will always come through at the gig. That guy is gold.

WVRS: Gonna have any limited edition Daredevil (or Leo) themed merch for sale?
GM: We have had so much $$$ tied up in working on a Japanese tour that we don’t have anything new right now except our CD. The good news is that this disc is so good, it’ll probably be the only thing Daredevil fans will need for the next few months.

WVRS: Are there Daredevil ringtones available? Maybe 360 deals or commercial tie-ins?
GM: We are working with a guy from West Virginia to develop Whiskey Daredevils tunes for Guitar Hero, but I don’t know where we are on that at present. What could be better than trying to master a suicidally fast guitar romp like our new faux-bluegrass “Old Uncle Dunkel?”

WVRS: Is there anybody you’d NOT want to hear the CD, maybe mentioned in a song or something?
GM: Not only would I not want to hide it from anyone, I would like to hear this CD transmitted from every broadcast facility in the world simultaneously. We have nothing to hide.

WVRS: What are your expectations for getting the CD out? Going back to Europe or just touring regionally this year?
GM: We are working on a tour of Japan in May, but I am starting to wonder if our choice of booking agents was a good one. We’ll see what happens there. Depending on how that goes will determine how much time we can spend in Europe. We will definitely get back to the road. We’re always in the van going somewhere.

--- The Whiskey Daredevils play The Empty Glass Saturday 2.20
Related: Our previous Q&A w/Miller


Prison Book Club Q&A is "Required Reading" @ WVRockscene

Shepherdstown-based rockers Prison Book Club (current & ex-Demon Beat, Fox Hunt and Resonators) released their debut CD Required Reading to critical acclaim in October. The southern rock/alt-country act plays the Blue Moon out there Thursday with a few friends. We caught up with (from left) John Miller, Tucker Riggleman, and Adam Meisterhans to learn more about the band. Drummer Jeff Birdsall (with toboggan over eyes) missed the email...

WVRS: How & when did you guys form?
Tucker Riggleman: The original get together happened back a couple summers ago when we all teamed up to play a friend’s wedding. We had so much fun that we decided to keep playing when we could. John and I had been doing a handful of shows with just the two of us and it was getting ridiculous with us passing around four or five different instruments; made more sense to get a full band and rock the shit out.
John Miller: The wedding was definitely the starting point, but at that point I mostly played covers and Fox Hunt songs. Started out with me, Tucker, and Jordan Hudkins (Demon Beat) on drums, then Adam started joining in. After that wedding we didn’t play together for about a year. Tucker and I both had songs we wanted to play full band, so we started up again. After a few shows Jordan left and we got our good buddy Jeff to fill in. Been having fun.

WVRS: PBC doesn’t sound like the Demon Beat or the Fox Hunt, what bands were benchmarks for you guys?
TR: I know that for John and I that bands like The Replacements, Lucero, and Drive-By Truckers are a big influence. Also, Adam really likes the twangier side of The Rolling Stones and music like that, so he gets down with shredding on this stuff.
JM: I know we all like Thin Lizzy. The Georgia Satellites are one of my favorites as well. Truth be told, the songs I play in the band are probably mostly influenced by the Satellites, The Replacements, and Slobberbone.
Adam Meisterhans: On my end, I’m thinking in terms of guitar players; George Harrison, Hubert Sumlin, Steve Cropper, Pete Townshend, etc. Mostly, I’m pretty much just trying to rip off Mike Campbell in any way I can.

WVRS: You’ve obviously been/are in other bands, what does being in PBC give you that the others don’t?
JM: I love the Fox Hunt; they’re all brothers to me at this point, but working within the confines of a stringband dynamic isn’t the easiest thing for a good portion of the songs I write. I grew up playing loud and I still like to do it. Plus it’s great getting to play music with different people; all the guys in Prison Book Club are dear friends of mine and it makes sense for us to play something together.
TR: Personally, it’s rarer and rarer for me to get to do solo shows anymore, and honestly, that was never something I wanted to “pursue” or to really play out. I love playing that stuff in Shepherdstown or the few places in Pa. where I started playing because those kids are familiar with it and they seem to like it, but it’s never been anything I want to tour with and play out very often. PBC is its own functioning band for me, and it’s a full-band outlet for my own songs, plus I love playing bass on John’s songs too. For me it’s just a party, and we have a lot of fun. I did a couple shows with a backing band before (Planned Parenthood) but everyone is kind of living in different places now, so this is better.

WVRS: So Required Reading was self-produced, right? How did the DIY approach to recording and releasing it make for a more conducive atmosphere? How long did it take, etc.?
AM: As far as I’m concerned, after having been in a couple of studio situations, I’m starting to prefer basements. The nice thing about a studio is great equipment, but time is money. In our basements we have moderately decent gear, but we can do whatever, whenever. In my opinion, it’s way more important for a record to be deliberate and thought out than rushed with nice gear. I’ve never listened to a record and thought, this record would be better if they used nicer shit. If it inspires you it’s good. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter if it sounds good. I don’t know exactly but it couldn’t have taken more than five days. Jeff didn’t even realize we were recording when we came over. He just thought we were shoddily recording practice with a desktop mic. So we just shoddily recorded a record.
TR: We recorded all the basic tracks (rhythm guitar/bass/drums all live) in one night, along with the bulk of the vocals. Then we finished up the lead guitars and vocals in the next day or two. It was super fast -- I think it kept us on our toes -- and some of those songs we’d barely played at all. I think that adds to the urgency or whatever, and sure it could sound better, but shit, we through that first tour together so quick. It’s rare for both of our main bands to have gaps in our schedules so we had to make the most of it.
JM: From what I recall it was originally just going to be a demo for us to take on a short tour we were going on. When we found out that people really liked the stuff, we decided to make more of them once we ran out. I think we’ll do a more proper album at some point this year, but everything I’ve ever done has been DIY; Fox Hunt and all. I don’t even know what it’s like to record in a professional studio. I prefer it that way, although having access to the kind of equipment and knowledge all our bands have access to is something we can’t take for granted.

WVRS: You got a good deal of favorable press for the CD, how satisfying was that?
TR: For me that was super surprising. Sites like Ninebullets.net doing such flattering reviews blew my mind. That’s a music blog that I’ve been reading for four or five years now, and then we had a site say that we reminded them of the self-titled Lucero record, which is one of my all time favorite albums; that was crazy. I never expected this kind of a response. Someone who works for the fucking Jay Leno show bought our album. What the hell?
JM: To clarify, it wasn’t FOR the Jay Leno show, but pretty funny nonetheless. It’s great that people really seem to enjoy what we’ve been doing, but I take all that stuff with a grain of salt (I think we all do). We have a blast playing these songs but that’s mostly the reason we’re doing it; it’s a lot of fun to do. That said, any time you create something and it’s received positively, it’s a good feeling.

WVRS: Seems like more and more cool bands are popping up out Shepherdstown way; where do you think/expect PBC to fit in, and how would you rate “the scene” out there?
TR: The scene in Shepherdstown could be incredible if there were more all-ages/rock-oriented places to play. Right now we have The Blue Moon which is great, but we are pretty much the loudest band that’s allowed to play there. Then, there’s Stonewall’s Pub, but they only do Friday shows. The all-ages spots around here cost a ton to rent out, so it’s a lot of money to front. The bands out here are great though, and they’ve been slowly getting out there more. Everyone should check out The Goddamn Hills, The Resonators, Brief Lives, Woodworkings, Cait O’Shea, Tanner Haid, Roma Renegade, Alisha Hanlin, Witchgrass, and all the other great bands around here.
JM: I don’t know that there is a scene per se. For the most part we all enjoy and respect each other’s music; we play together, try to help each other out where we can. Everyone here creates something quite different from everyone else and there really isn’t a whole lot of venue support, particularly for loud rock bands. There’s potential for a truly thriving musical community here, but without a bigger venue it’s difficult to really get the music out to a lot of people, particularly to the university kids. But I do like being based in Shepherdstown; the people who are into the music are really, truly into it, which could have a lot to do with it being a small town. No jaded “scene” kids getting in the way of what’s really important. It’s a good feeling being in a town where that’s the case.

WVRS: You’ve got this 2.18 show at the Blue Moon w/Woodworkings and Cait O’Shea, what do you think about those acts and the venue?
TR: Woodworking is our buddy Kyle Woodworth who moved here from Baltimore about six months ago. He makes some incredible ambient music, and he had a track on that BBR compilation we put out in the fall. Cait is a great young songwriter and she has a big following around here. She played our CD release show back in October. It’s always great to play good hometown shows with your friends. And as we said before, The Blue Moon is great. They usually don’t do many “rock” shows, but they usually let us get a bit rowdy and have fun.

WVRS: What is PBR-mageddon, and do you guys expect to be sponsored by them, or Miller Light, maybe?
JM: Ha, I thought that “word” was just funny. I used it to describe the aftermath of a party the Fox Hunt had on one of our tours. I have no idea how it got thrown into this, just a joke that went too far I guess. But hell, if they wanna sponsor us, I’ll drink that shit.

WVRS: Can we expect PBC to play some sort of literacy-themed, correctional facility charity show at any point?
TR: Haha, we’d be down for it. Johnny Cash style.
JM: I’d rather play a psychiatric ward. Seems that would be a more interesting experience.

--- Prison Book Club plays the Blue Moon 2.18 w/Woodworkings and Cait O' Shea

photo: Ashley Hoffman

mp3: PBC live @ Blue Moon 2.18
<a href="http://bigbulletrecords.bandcamp.com/album/prison-book-club-live-in-shepherdstown">White Plain by BIG BULLET RECORDS</a>


Lake and Ocean w/J Marinelli @ The Sound Factory 2.12

Lake and Ocean released their debut EP Pull Friday night at The Sound Factory

There are a few important lessons to take away from the Lake and Ocean release show for their debut EP Pull at The Sound Factory Friday night:

1. Lake and Ocean may be the second coming of the Pixies,

2. J Marinelli is indeed the man, and

3. Being sober around a bunch of drunken revelers is no fun.

So yeah, I simply had to get to Charleston Friday night to catch not only Marinelli, but Lake and Ocean, a band which regular readers of the site will not be surprised to hear I think rocks.

After arriving fashionably late, right after Elephant Child’s set and, I soon found out, right in time for Marinelli’s -- awesome! I pulled up a seat at the opposite end of the wall-mounted TV, which was showing the WVU-Pitt game.

Not surprisingly, considering the Magic Town bands scheduled to play, there was a heavy contingent of WVU fans, chanting “Eat Shit Pitt,” which, I already knew the Panthers consumed; found it out in grade school after reading about Penn State sucking and Pitt swallowing on a t-shirt. What they were supposed to be swallowing, who knew???

Sitting there alone in a chair near the stage, a disturbing trend began to emerge. Some guy sitting at the nearest table with some female friends, after announcing that “the one-man band” was next, got up, walked in front of me, and pulled on the fastened strap of my Eskimo/Russian toboggan I was wearing, quite drunkenly.

“It’s a strap,” I explained. “You look warm,” he responded. At this point I had an unstructured conversation on my hands. After asking me about my business at the show, who I was there to see, I mentioned being excited about seeing Lake and Ocean and this one-man band he was talking about, and pointed at Marinelli, who was setting up his rig onstage.

He then asked, “Are you the one-man band?” To which I replied: “If I was, I’d be setting my stuff up.” “That’s true,” he said. He kindly offered me a cigarette and I said I didn’t smoke cigarettes, but at this point considered taking him up on the offer just so he’d have one less -- but I couldn’t take the chance of leaving now: I was there to document the event, with poorly taken pictures and video for posterity’s sake.

By the time Marinelli (casually dressed aside from his own Eskimo-type headwear) had finished his quick sound check, the Mountaineers had lost in three overtimes and a crowd mingled toward the front of the stage as the angry-one man band from Lexington (via Morgantown) introduced himself and started rocking.

Marinelli rolled through songs his fans have come to know and love; “Last Year‘s Party,” “Weak Enuff, (My Mythology)” “Keep It Fake,” “No Kind of Fun,” “Rebel Without Applause,” “Hey Pinkerton,” “A Little Action,” and “Cleveland, Honey.”

“Rebel Without Applause/Hey Pinkerton/Hand Grenade Heart”

After taking a “rehydrate or die” drink in between songs, Marinelli bemoaned the poor quality of history taught to youngsters growing up in West Virginia, not really learning much about Matewan, before introducing “8th Grade.”

It may have been around this point that Marinelli’s toboggan flew off whilst he was rocking. After finishing the song, he explained that, driving in, he’d heard on NPR about how Willie Mays’ hat was designed to fly off while making big plays; such was the same with his Eskimo toboggan, he said.

“NPR?” Someone in the crowd shot back.

Marinelli closed his short set with his raucous cover of “She Said” by Hasil Adkins -- not The Cramps -- creating some nice feedback as he noise-jammed his way out of the end of the tune. That’d be something neat to see Marinelli incorporate somehow into his Appalachian punk rock sound.

Hearing him play a few songs after you’ve had most all of his CDs, you may not get a sense of his angry one-man band’s range. From time to time he’ll rework and kind of rearrange some of his songs with different accents; what was hard and fast may be softer and slower. If you picked up his mainly overdriven Pity the Party EP, then played the more subdued parts of his Stone-age Kicks cover CD, you may not think it’s the same guy. If you’ve got Keep It Fake you know how great it is, and if you get Pre-emptive Skankery before we do, please hook us up.

Irregardless nonetheless, with his caveman guitar, and his version of maximum stomp and swing, there’s no danger of getting burned out on the Marinelli songs you’ve by this point memorized. Seemed like he had more than a few longtime fans down in front, and I’m glad I got to catch him again.

After Marinelli was through, I grabbed a stool at the back of the bar, right next to two unguarded FedEx boxes worth of Lake and Ocean CDs. More craziness. Two dudes come up and sell a copy for $5, and I’m all like “I’ll have what he’s having,” and procure a copy of Pull. That’s not the crazy part.

A few minutes subsequently, a person whom I will just say introduced themselves as being romantically involved with a member of Lake and Ocean came up, said hi, and asked where I’d got the copy of their CD. I pointed out the guy and that was that, but, being totally sober, and naturally schizophrenic, the question arose in my mind, “Why would someone dating a member of the band need to buy a copy of their CD?” I kind of got the feeling this person thought I got a “house copy” if you will; that I’d stolen it!

By now, if someone had asked me who I was (trying to) take pictures and film for, I had prepared in my mind an elaborate plot where I would be the local correspondent for The Examiner. I had all the crowd clearing questions ready:

Q: This one-man band, is he more rap, or R&B?

Q: The CD, Pull, is it about Lake and Ocean’s authoritarian stranglehold on the record industry, or as they likely call it, “the game?”

Q: Are they pro or anti-Illuminati? Because, for crying out loud, after filling their auxiliary Lear jet hanger plum to the top with dollars, all that’s really left for them to do is to subtly hitch their message onto a half a millennia old uber-secret society seeking global domination? And a locally flavored follow-up: Where do you get your highly choreographed, dancing police state on ‘round these here parts?

Because those are the hard hitting questions I’d assume you’d get from The Examiner. Or at least they’d get people away from me, fast. If anyone found me out, and asked about my ruse, I would tell them that Marinelli told me to keep it fake.

Then, the Lake and Ocean merch dude(s) return with another unidentified accomplice, who begins picking and moving at the drawstrings of my hooded sweatshirt, as if moving them around will better allow this person to read the huge letters spelling out RUSSELL emblazoned across it.

The whole thing reeked of an orchestrated plot against your humble narrator, yet, none dare call it conspiracy. Except for me, that’s exactly what I‘ll call it!

It was right around this time that L&O was ready to play, and I’d asked the beardless merch dude who’d actually took my money for the copy of the CD, if he’d seen the Marinelli merch table that he’d briefly mentioned during his set. Much to my dismay, he had no clue. I guess it’s for the better; I’d blow as much money as I could on Marinelli merch, raking it into my backpack like I’d won big at craps. Never know when you’ll need a backup copy of Keep It Fake, but I had to leave with my hat and sweatshirt still on.

So Lake and Ocean takes the stage, dozens of people suddenly appear out of nowhere to swarm the front, singer/guitarist Bryan Newruck announces his mic “Smells like balls,” and they run through tight, nice sounding versions of the songs on the EP.

That’s one thing instantly noted about the band, aside from the sound; they seem to travel well, bringing a good bit of people in.

Speaking of the CD, a bigger looking dude not seemingly affiliated with the merch table around this time, leaving the rear platform where I was sitting, jabbed/patted me in my ribs and said “CDs -- five bucks!” By the time I tried to explain that I’d already picked one up (after paying for it) he was on his way; not seeming to care if I wanted one.

During their set, I had bestowed upon my tobogganed head a crown/tiara by someone affiliated with the band, to celebrate the Chinese New Year (?) and the new CD. I didn’t turn around to see who put it on, and I didn’t turn around when he took it off and put it back in the big party favor box to my left a few minutes later. I was crestfallen.

If you’re gonna pull on my clothes, imply I’m a thief and jab me in the ribs to get me to buy the CD I already have, at least let me walk to the Transit Mall at 2:30 in the morning with a tiara on my head to call a cab! The Examiner’s local music queen of the scene, I’ll be -- right before I’m robbed, beaten and left for dead.

Not having heard L&O live before, I was impressed with the power of their sound, the onstage chemistry between Newruck and lead guitarist Nick Bradley, and Jill Hess’ vocals. Not being far off comparing their sound to that of The Pixies, fittingly enough the band closed out their set with a ferocious version of “Tame.”

All in all a great show with a great crowd.


From "I Don't Believe You" to "When It All Hits You" -- Bud Carroll & the Southern Souls play Mountain Stage

Bud Carroll and the Southern Souls play Mountain Stage Sunday, February 21. We caught up with Bud to find out his response to being invited to play, his thoughts and memories of the show, how he thinks the show will go, and, if this is the actual final Southern Souls show...

WVRS: How satisfying is it for you guys to be playing Mountain Stage? How did you get the news that you’d been invited to play, and did you have to think long about saying yes?
BC: I can’t even describe it. It’s been a life long dream of mine to play Mountain Stage. Sitting in the crowd watching some of my favorite bands play, I’ve always wanted to be up there, especially in a project of my own. I always figured I might just play guitar backing someone up, but for me to be playing my own songs on there is just unimaginable, dream come true shit. Today your heart, tomorrow the world!

WVRS: How important do you think Mountain Stage is, to not only the artists who play it, but the state as a whole?
BC: You can go anywhere and say the words Mountain Stage and people will know what you are talking about. For example, I played a show in NYC with the Carpenter Ants opening for Andy Friedman, and Andy introduced Mike Lipton as the house guitarist for Mountain Stage and 75 percent of the crowd cheered.

Shit, Ray Charles, The Replacements, hell I remember hearing the R.E.M. show on the radio when I was a little kid. Gaston Caperton (West Virginia governor at that time) declared it R.E.M. day! Especially with terrestrial radio being such a pile of shit these days, more people are into NPR. At a certain point in my life I realized that anytime I got into one of my friend’s cars and there wasn’t a CD playing it was on public radio. It’s up there with Car Talk, well, not quite.

WVRS: Any particular favorite moments or shows you remember from Mountain Stage?
BC: Seeing Derek Trucks, Dr. Dog, Buckwheat Zydeco, Robben Ford, G.E. Smith, Buddy Guy and a laundry list of my other heroes and favorites on there. The best though was probably getting to meet Sonny Landreth back when I was 12 and him giving me a guitar lesson. One of the best slide guitarists in the world and he just didn’t think twice about taking time out of his day to show me how he did shit. It really stuck with me, I’ll never forget that.

WVRS: “Big Coal” had been prominently featured on local radio; how cool is it to have a song you wrote blown up so much?
BC: P.S. Jimmy and I co-wrote that! I better get my .002 cents, my BMI statement has been pretty low the last few years.

WVRS: We’ve heard about you helping local bands record, how’s that been going?
BC: It’s been fun, every time I do it I learn lots of stuff that I can apply to my own records. Sometimes it’s shitty; bands always expect you to be able to make them sound like something they aren’t, and I don’t play that game. You have to have your songs together and be able to play well. I’m not in the cut and paste business; I only work with bands that I respect and that have good songs.

I just try and do the best with every situation that I can. I mean, I barely charge enough money to make it worth while, but I think it’s important for me to help bands make good records so that there will be a better scene here. It helps them take themselves more seriously and gives them a good product so that they can be taken more seriously by others. I see it as a community service.

WVRS: Do you guys have any expectations about playing such a prestigious show? Will the Souls now blow up even bigger?
BC: I expect that Steve Barker will rim the first down beat and then I’ll get really pissed off and give him the death stare. Then I expect that we’ll kick ass for four songs and laugh about it afterwards when we are getting wasted. Even bigger? I’m always just glad that anyone at all shows up. As far as bigger, I mean maybe we’ll be a bunch of somebodys that nobody knows about as opposed to a bunch of nobodys that nobody knows about. Regardless, I can cross one more thing off the “to do before I die” list. Score!

WVRS: So the CD/DVD release (farewell) shows went well, got much favorable feedback from Wasted Words and/or the DVD?
BC: Most indie rockers don’t like the CD that much, most musician music fan type people love it. I’m indifferent; it’s not as good as what I’m working on now, so that’s all I care about. I mean shit, it got us on Mountain Stage; couldn’t have been that bad. The DVD gets rave reviews all around. If only it would have been as good of a show as it could have been if the asshole staff sound guy hadn’t harshed our mellows. I still need to pay that fucker back for that shit.

WVRS: Is THIS the last Southern Souls show?
BC: You never can tell. See you in the funny papers!

Bottle Rockets w/Lucero, Sons of Bill, and Bud Carroll & the Southern Souls @ Mountain Stage 2.21; 7 p.m., Culture Center Theater; $12.50 adv., $18 DOS (buy tix)


When the man comes to town (let's get awesome)

As far as we know, J Marinelli is still supposed to bring his angry one man band's version of maximum stomp and swing to The Sound Factory w/Lake and Ocean Friday 2.12.

Whoever has been booking shows at the Sound Factory in recent months, booking more and more Magic Town acts, deserve kudos. Elephant Child and True Colour of Blood should be dug out of the snow, and are scheduled to play. Hopefully Marinelli will be back when his new CD Pre-Emptive Skankery comes out, so we can pick it up.

Check out this awesome pic of Marinelli by Andy Pickens!

Related: Morgantown Does Marinelli

"Hey Pinkerton/She's My Cheerwine"

"A Little Action"

"Lying In State"

"Let's Get Awesome"

"Ex-Lion Tamer" by Wire & "She Said" by Hasil Adkins


CD Review: "It Leads to Poverty"

CD: It Leads to Poverty
ARTIST: Legbone

We’re such big fans of the Dayton, Ohio-based punk rock outfit Legbone that, despite them being huge Buckeye fans, apparently, we just have to review their new 10-song CD It Leads to Poverty. And in case any WVU fans were looking for an “enemy of my enemy” type reason to love Legbone -- don’t worry, they’ve got one.

So yeah, we’ve had Legbone’s last two CDs, Different Path and the now 10-year old Natural Light-themed Beer:30 CD. Different Path is one of our favorite punk CDs of all time, what with its 15 songs worth of of gnarly, high-energy skate punk -- seemingly merging the tempo and tone of Pennywise, with the irreverent, party-or-die lyrics of NOFX.

But for the dudes in Legbone (Mitch Lawson: guitar/vocals; Kyle Curtis: vocals; AJ Morse: guitar/vocals; Gee Gee Bradley: bass/vocals; and Kevin Hittepool: drums) -- together in various incarnations since 1991 -- this ain’t no Hollywood set; life is real.

The guys are getting older, lazier, having hygiene problems, (still) getting drunk, falling behind on their bills and, having signed with a management company a couple of years ago, they’re now back to the DIY style synonymous with punk. It Leads to Poverty, despite having five fewer songs, is a super-solid follow-up to Different Path -- these guys are still too punk for metal and way too metal for their version of hardcore punk. Screw those guys at the management company!

While there’s the standard hilarity and hijinks you’ve come to expect out of Legbone, there are glimpses of conscious punk (as opposed to gangster punk) in the lyrics.

“Think” is the opening anti-mainstream media punk rock tirade. Brainwashed? Give this song a listen. “California Screamin’” has the band seeking warmer climates, while bemoaning the millions of people dying in the streets. The best song, the instant punk rock classic “Pains” opens with a slow tom roll and verse before going into the catchy, anthemic punk rock:
“I got pains, and when I drink they go away.
I got things on my mind and my life is fucked up.
Every day’s the same.”
“Aladin” has Legbone getting three wishes, and using them to quit their jobs and write killer punk rock songs. Wishes well spent. “PGUT” has the dudes going on a date, to a punk show, naturally, with an alcoholic; works out well for them, sounds like. “17 Days” has the band forgoing drinking, concentrating on recording or Colonel Mitch will kick them in the ass.

The not so subtly titled bonus track “Tom Petty” is really Legbone’s cover of “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” ably done in punk rock fashion. Who said Tom Petty was irrelevant? Not us, ‘twas some tool writing for Yahoo about his Super Bowl halftime appearance.

And for those WVU fans who are still pissed over Rich Rod’s abrupt departure after the Pitt loss in 2007, there’s Legbone’s ode to the Buckeyes, the anti-Michigan polemic “Let’s Go Bucks” -- but make no mistake, after everything they say about the Wolverines and their cheerleaders, this song will never be played over the PA at the Horseshoe, and the guys in Legbone would fit in just fine in the student section at, say, a WVU-Ohio State game.

It Leads to Poverty, recorded at Refraze Studios in Dayton, like Different Path, has a full, deep, well produced sound. Hopefully with this release, the band will sell all the copies they can, and shoot straight outta poverty into punk rock diva status. Even though they’re from Ohio, we love Legbone.

It Leads to Poverty on interpunk