Sarasota: By The Wayside?

Like the more, reputable, professional news outlets, sometimes here at WVRockscene we have to track down and confirm someone's baseless allegations and/or rumors. Sometimes, the rumors or just the misplaced hopes of people need to be verified.

After seeing Wizards of Ghetto Mountain singer Chuck Fowlord post something about a Sarasota reunion show needing to happen, we thought, we need to see if this is happening, so we picked up the WVRockscene red phone.

Our hopes were up; the Huntington-based "booze-fueled" punk rock outfit's self-titled CD was and still is one of our favorites. And if we hadn't have left the memory card on the bar at the Blue Parrot, we would have footage of these dudes. But, unfortunately they're now defunct, but hey, everything changes, right?

So we emailed guitarist Jay Thomas to see what is up: can he either confirm or deny Fowlord's Facebook post?

Thomas actually remembered talking to me at the Parrot that night, and how awesome I thought The Decline t-shirt he was wearing was.

But here's what he said about Sarasota getting back together...

"A reunion show isn't really in the works. People in this town would like to see one, as well as everyone in the band. We've kind of kicked around the idea, but just talk. We haven't all been in the same room together since our last show, which is odd, considering our disbanding wasn't on bad terms at all.

"A reunion show would be great. If it does happen, I will definitely let you know. We would need help with getting people out to the show and what not as well. Lots of things would need to happen to make it work.

"Hey, here's to possibly doing a reunion show one day.


--- Jay Thomas
So maybe the fans and some venue out there could help make this happen. There are a few bands that it just seems like we'll always love, and for as long as these dudes were together, they nailed what they were going for. You can hear "Boy You Never Learn" off Sarasota's CD on the pullout player at the bottom left, and here's to them getting back together.


Back From Ireland & Scotland, The Fox Hunt Still Won't Slow Down

The Martinsburg, W.Va.-based band The Fox Hunt will perform at 9 p.m. today, July 29, at Shamrock's Irish Pub in Huntington. The band consists of John Miller, Matt Kline, Matthew Metz and Ben Townsend.

Reposted From The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

A lot of people would love to visit Ireland and Scotland, see the sights, and maybe spend some quality time in the pubs.

The four guys in the Martinsburg, W.Va.-based string band, The Fox Hunt, spent a few weeks touring over there recently, making friends and fans on what could be called a working vacation.

John Miller, singer and guitarist for the band, had just been back a few days, and was ready to talk about the trip - the highlights and the headaches.

The band returns to Huntington today, July 29, for a show at Shamrock's Irish Pub.

So many of the songs on The Fox Hunt's latest CD "Won't Slow Down" are about life on the road, and now, they have the experience of flying.

"Suffice to say I didn't like the idea of it before, and I hate it now," Miller admitted.

But the flying was definitely worth it, he said.

"We had a great time," Miller said. "The first week, after rehearsals with The Henry Girls, with whom we were collaborating for the Ireland shows, we'd go out and drink or stay in and play Monopoly Deal. We got to go to a few really great pub sessions and play with some incredible musicians; a great experience."

It's been a good year for The Fox Hunt. The band released the CD in the spring and played Mountain Stage not long after that.

While The Fox Hunt has been making fans all over thanks to its old time fiddle-centric mix of bluegrass, country and roots music, it was a different crowd across the pond.

"The reception was quite good," Miller said. "We got the chance to play for a lot of great, responsive listening audiences. Quite different from the bar scene we'd gotten used to, so it was a bit intimidating at first."

Aside from the shows, there's the scenery. And the guys in The Fox Hunt, "total tourists" as Miller described them, got to soak it in.

"During the day when we'd get to a town we'd often run around and see the sights," he said. "Scotland's history and structures were amazing to see. The castles in Scotland, as well as the beautiful landscape in the Highlands, were two highlights for us. We spent a lot of time rehearsing and staying at a B&B (bed and breakfast) in County Donegal in Northwestern Ireland, which is a truly beautiful part of the world with a magnificent coastline and relaxed, friendly country folks, with whom we fit well."

Then, there's the whole driving on the wrong side of the road thing.

"Learning how to drive on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the car was difficult," Miller said. "Two of us, I won't name names, busted the hubcaps on the left side of our rental car on curbs. Not a highlight I guess."

Miller said the guys managed to squeeze in a little partying.

"One of my favorite nights was after our last Ireland show in Letterkenny," he said. "We had been drinking in the green room of the theater we were playing, then all went across the street to a big bar to see this great band, The Pyros, play. That was probably one of the wildest all around party nights, we missed our stay at the B&B in that town and had the festival get us a hotel downtown, which we, most of us, made it to."

The interweaving history of the Scots-Irish, Appalachia and bluegrass was something that became even more apparent to Miller and the guys in The Fox Hunt in Ireland.

"It's special to us that we got to go over there and play with people who share the same kind of respect for traditional music there as we have for old time music here," he said. "We even shared a few tunes in common; some tunes came from Ireland and eventually adapted to old time styles of playing them. Overall it's a history I don't think we considered very much until we got to go over there and see it firsthand, play with people, and share our music."

Miller said that on the whole, life on the road in The Fox Hunt is pretty good.

"Any band that really hates touring is in the wrong business," he said. "It's a necessary evil and if you don't embrace it, not only will you miss out on a lot of wonderful life experiences, but you probably won't be able to take it anywhere. It's certainly a lifestyle, sometimes incredible, sometimes not so much. But there are those of us who, if we tried to quit doing it, would be pretty miserable. So we keep doing it for better or worse."

--- photo: Brian Muncy

If you go:
WHAT: The Fox Hunt, Sasha Colette and The Magnolias

WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursday, July 29

WHERE: Shamrock's Irish Pub, 2050 3rd Ave., 304-523-5825


ON THE WEB: www.myspace.com/lefoxhunt, http://www.myspace.com/sashacolettemusic

Sissonville native returns to his 'Roots'

Jonathan Glen Wood moved from Sissonville to Louisville, Ky., 14 months ago. He’s back in town Friday for a concert with John Lilly and Sasha Colette at LiveMix Studio.

Reposted from
The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jonathan Glen Wood seems country enough; he loves whiskey, moonshine, Hank Williams and Merle Haggard, although not necessarily in that order.

The 31-year-old Sissonville native and Louisville resident brings his version of country and folk to LiveMix Studio on Friday for a singer/songwriter showcase, “Roots to Boot,” with Olive Hill, Ky.’s Sasha Colette and Charleston’s John Lilly.

Getting the three performers together for an evening show is a great idea, Wood says, and performing with Colette and Lilly isn’t so bad either.

“It’s nice to play an early show and be able to invite folks out who normally wouldn’t make it due to late bar starting times,” he said. “Sasha’s great; I’ve played with her a few times now, and her songs continue to grow. I’ve known John for a while now; he’s one of the greatest singers and songwriters in the country. This show is a dream for me.”

Wood moved from West Virginia to Kentucky in May of last year after years of wanting to do it.

“It just got to a point where I knew I had to do it or I’d end up going crazy,” he said. “I was so frightened to leave the security that I’d built in West Virginia. It took me a few months to really prepare my mind to make the decision my heart had wanted to make years earlier.”

Getting started in songwriting also took some time for Wood.

“I’d always sung and written poetry but never really had any interest in learning instruments,” he said. “My dad bought me a guitar when I was 13, and it got placed in a closet for seven years. One day, I borrowed a Hank Williams album from a friend, and everything made sense. I pulled the guitar from the closet and called up Robin Kessinger for lessons. Through Robin, I also met Jenny Allinder, who is another huge inspiration. Both Robin and Jenny really pushed me to sing and write.”

For Wood, like many other artists, songwriting is his release, his way of getting out his stress and frustrations. That might be why his songs are less than happy.

“The hardest thing for me to do is write a happy song,” he said. “Anything I try and write that’s happy just feels canned and corny to me. Everyone that has inspired me from the beginning has been tortured.”

While in town, Wood plans on recording some songs for a vinyl 7-inch and catching up with friends and family. Vinyl only? In today’s digital age?

“I’m pretty vinyl-centric, and my old soul tells me that it makes sense to have vinyl-only releases,” said Wood, who works at the renowned Louisville record store Ear X-tacy.
His idols, Hank and Merle, are pretty old-school, too. Wood says that Merle Haggard, who he recently saw perform in Renfro Valley, Ky., is one of his biggest songwriting influences.

“I can’t imagine how it must feel to have been writing for such a long period of time. His body of work is just so vast,” Wood said. “It’s always fantastic to get to see him.”
Such a massive song catalog makes it tough for Wood to choose his favorite Haggard tunes.

“Picking a favorite Haggard song is tough,” he said. “My rotation of favorites changes with the addition and subtraction of life conditions. Currently, the three that I’m spinning the most are ‘Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You,’ ‘California Cotton Fields’ and ‘No Reason to Quit.’

“Why these are currently my three favorite is sort of a mystery. I’m not pining for an old love, and I’ve never even been to California. The third may make the most sense; I really have no reason to quit.”

John Lilly, Sasha Colette and Jonathan Glen Wood
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday (Doors open at 7)
WHERE: LiveMix Studio, 1033 Quarrier St., Suite 505
COST: $10
INFO: livemixstudio.com or 304-415-2947

--- photo: John Rott


Spirit Shine: Sasha Colette Q&A

We recently got to catch up with Olive Hill, Kentucky’s Sasha Colette in advance of her upcoming shows. Winning praise far and wide for her own slice of Americana, and in particular, her voice, she’s been ultra-busy recently, finishing up her new CD and celebrating her birthday. Overcoming her own doubts, and life’s own ditches in general, she’s able to stay positive, and above all, very nice.
WVRS: So did you have a good birthday? Get to do anything awesome or take it easy? How old are you now?
Sasha Colette: Well, Birthdays were good when I was young, which, I’m still relatively young, but the past three birthdays have been surprising tearjerkers for all the wrong reasons but it definitely gives me the interest and the push to get some creativity flowing. Music is pretty much the only thing that is stable even when birthday’s aren’t. One thing I can say is that my mom always loves my birthday and that’s all that matters.

What did I do for my birthday? After other plans fell through miserably, I went to the drive-in in Winchester, leaned my seat back, put my legs out the van window and dozed while watching Despicable Me and Inception. Worthwhile! Oh to now be 22. This is supposed to be my golden year, being 22 on the 22nd of July. Jose Oreta the bass player of the band informed me of that. We’ll see!

WVRS: You mentioned maybe getting close to wrapping up the new CD, when will it be ready?
SC: We have eight songs recorded for the album and we have recently decided to put two others on it; “Saint’s Marching Drum” and “The Blues” so the record can be considered a full-length album. With that said, I imagine that we’ve got a little more than three weeks to go. It’s going to be a Fall release I’m sure, but as far as a month, my best guess would be September.

We're thinking of having “Saint’s Marching Drum” as the title track to the album, it’s quite the encouraging type and this album has been surrounded by nothing but encouragement whether it be from good friend and business confidant, Adam Harris or from the producer of the album, Bud Carroll. Those guys have been total believers in what has been the musical product of my life thus far. I really appreciate them and their opinion so when they say I should keep the faith when things are looking low or that a certain song is the way to go, I know it’s just me being my worst enemy again and that I just need to step back with a fresh view and take it from there. There’s a lot to be said in life when you’re able to keep the faith.

WVRS: So you’re from Olive Hill, all your life? What role growing up in Eastern Ky. do you think made you want to make the kind of music you do?
SC: I have lived in Olive Hill all my life until recently. I’ve became a professional camper for the summer, that’s what I’d call it; I’m in a moving limbo but so far that’s been one of the many stories of my summer!

Sooner rather than later, I’ll be settled down in Morehead, Ky., I think, running around in the woods, playing in the creek, spending time with my great grandma eating big bowls of cereal on the front porch, hearing simple melodies in church, seeing people struggle, seeing people who seemed like they didn’t really have much to worry about and seeing people get old; all those things helped me to grow up knowing that it’s up to me; what I want to be, what I want to do, where I want to be, who I want to be, there’s no reason why I can't achieve anything I desire to. Everything is possible with the right mind frame.

Life can be a gut kicker sometimes, but I’m pretty sure I’ve probably given life a couple low blows so there’s no reason I shouldn’t get one from time to time. Some things are just more challenging than others. I’ll admit so far with this album I have had a few moments of tears out of frustration and doubt among other things, of course I’ve questioned what I’m doing investing all this time and money into music, but the answer is always that if I didn’t I’m pretty sure I’d lose the spark that makes me feel like I’m worthy of this poetic life that I’ve been given.

As far as influences go, I grew up listening to Top 40 radio and can fondly recall dancing to “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred back in the day. Neither of my parents play music, though my dad is a big fan of Billy Joe Shaver and my mom can be caught listening to anything from Rod Stewart to the latest hot bassy single! I have a fondness for Billy Joe Shaver, he’s had a rough road which makes his music that much more unstoppable. I get inspiration from all kinds of music, hip-hop that stems from the Gangstarr style, the sounds of The Beta Band, the timeless spirit of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen; those boys really make me want to find some cool shades and play some kickin’ electric guitar. Then there’s Tom Waits, who always fits a road trip. I think a lot of him.

WVRS: You recorded with Bud Carroll, how cool was that?
SC: Working with Bud has brought several things to light in my recording and songwriting knowledge. One of the first that come to mind and touches with both recording and songwriting would be bridges. Most of my songs do not have a bridge and Bud, along with a lot of other folks, dig a bridge that can take your whole song and rocket launch it into an energetic jam that everybody can go with.

Working with Bud was very encouraging for many reasons. If he’s working with you, he believes in what you do because there’s a passion behind it and if you’re passionate about it, Bud is gonna put his best into it, as well. We recorded all the tracks in a live take kind of setting. We played tunes over and over until we got the take with the “magic” and it’s a cool feeling to play a song and have it groove so well that after the last note is played your automatically saying “Yeah, that’s the one.”

Bud’s ability to suggest different chords, beats or rhythms that can trademark a song is uncanny. His ear is so versatile. He came up with the riff to one of the more edgy tunes on the album, “Mercy Moment.” The song really has a stomp and drive sound to it and it took Bud a matter of seconds to come up with a really busting, tell-it-how-it-is kind of riff. We were all making jokes about that song in general. It has such a grime to it that it sounds like Swamp Thing should be trudging through some dirty water with a mission.

This is the first time I’ve ever enjoyed recording. There has been very little stress in the process, me and the guys were generally stoked each day before and even after we were done. We always came out very satisfied. Bud has the ability to create such a great atmosphere because, like I say, If you’ve got the passion, Bud will double it and relieve you of any doubt you have. His coffee’s not half bad, either.

WVRS: So Bud plays guitar on the new CD? How awesome is that? Will he play live with you on any of these upcoming shows?
SC: Bud played electric guitar, keyboards, pedal steel and did the programming on the album. That is him on “Victory!” His style has a way with feeling its way through a song, adding that much more soul. Before the guys and I came in to record, Bud and I got together, and I played some songs for Bud that I really enjoyed the production of. Some of which were Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hearafter with LLL, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds with Breathless and Samantha Crain with Scissor Tales. He got the idea of the sound I was hoping to find and sculpted out a style with each song that I couldn’t have been happier with.

Bud will be playing a show with us this weekend at Shamrock's on the 29th billing with The Fox Hunt, then we have LiveMix Studios on the 30th with John Lilly and span Jon Glen Wood, and later that night we’ll be heading over to The Empty Glass to bill with The Fox Hunt and for the 31st, I’ll be doing a solo set for a benefit in Lexington that’s helping Dames for Dogs. Busy weekend! Bud will only be at Shamrock’s, though. Whenever the album comes out he’ll be doing some more shows with us as well.

WVRS: You’ve got this songwriter night booked Friday for LiveMix with John Lilly and Jon Glen Wood; lookin forward to that?
SC: Absolutely! I admire both of these men for not only their style but their ability to sing a melody that puts fire to the coals. Jonathan Glen Wood uses descriptions and story lines for his songs that I find myself wishing I could demonstrate myself! His style is like the story of dusty boots that traveled some long weary miles to end up on some Kentucky porch beside a screen door. Sunset and all.

I like John Lilly’s general stance in any form. His music is consistently proving that a musician can always be a creative engine no matter what weather is raging or what crowd you’re yodeling to. He has so many regulars at his shows because he's such an ace of a person plus one heck of an entertaining artist! To co-bill with these guys I feel is a very big honor just being among such great songwriters and more over to be playing with such close friends.

WVRS: Adam Harris told me that he thinks the LiveMix show is a good way to introduce people not part of “the bar scene” to your music. You play bars and coffee houses, do you think either “scene” as it were is more amenable to your music, or are you just able to make fans wherever?
SC: I have to say that usually scenes aside from the bar are always more drawn to the music we do, seeing as how it is singer/songwriter material for the most part. The older more chill crowd has always been more apt to appreciate a show more so than the folks in a general bar.

We aren’t usually out of hand, our shows have traits of straight up performance melted together with musical and lyrical improv of the rooted kind. We do have good luck at most all venues as far as expanding our fan base goes. There are people in every crowd who will truly enjoy your music, whether they make it to another show or not, they still put their stamp of approval on the night and that usually means drinks or handshakes all around! As you can imagine, we have no problem with that!

WVRS: What, if any expectations do you have for getting the CD out and touring; great expectations or more laid back? You started off the year with a broken shoulder and now you’ve got the new CD coming out, with praise from all over. Got to be excited, right?
SC: I spent a large part of the first of this year on the couch with a banged up head, shoulder and spirit. Making this record has been not only what my year needed, but what I needed. I now feel that no matter what happens with all the chatter about the album, at least I know that all is soon to be well and once again, life has shown me that it’s always on the up and up. I know that the collection of music that is going to be featured on the record will be easier to push to venues in more out and about territories that we’ve skimmed through in the past. I think there’s a lot on the album that will be appreciated from a recording stance now more than ever for us.

All this praise definitely has me excited, it’s cool to have this kind of reaction from so many people. Like I said, life is always on the up and up, so we can only go up from here and that, I believe, is going to be a lot of fun for all of us.


For John Lancaster, The Fire Has Just Begun

Singer/songwriter John Lancaster is no stranger to the local music scene as he's performed in multiple Huntington-based bands. He's released a new solo album called "Phantom Moon."

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — John Lancaster is no stranger to the Huntington music scene.

So, when it came time to record his debut solo CD, the former singer/guitarist for Chum, these days married with kids, didn’t have time to mess around.

He enlisted an all-star lineup of guest musicians both near and far and used available technology to record the heavy, melodic, richly textured 14-song “Phantom Moon.”

Lancaster, more recently in Huntington bands like Earth To Eros and with his old Chum friends in Hyatari, said he has been looking forward to releasing the CD. Answering questions over the phone thoughtfully, yet excitedly, you might even say he’s tired of talking about it.

“It seems like this project has been in the works for so long, and it’s really been a small circle of friends who’ve even heard anything off of it,” he said. “I’m excited to get it out and put it in someone else’s hands for a change, you know? It was a lot of fun to make though. I’m curious to see what people think about it.”

There’s already been praise for “Phantom Moon” on social networking sites. Songs like “Liars” and “This Fire Has Just Begun” have been well received, and Lancaster said it’s appreciated.

“It’s exciting. It makes me want to get it out even sooner. When I post certain songs on ReverbNation or MySpace, people don’t get a sense of the whole thing, though. It’s cool, though, to give just a little taste in advance, especially since I’ve been talking about this record so long, like ‘I really have been working on this, I swear,’” he said, laughing.

He worked on “Phantom Moon” with some big names from the Huntington music scene and beyond, including Bud Carroll, Matt Wolfe (Byzantine/Scrap Iron Pickers), Jude Blevins (Hyatari/Satchell), and old friends and band mates Barry Smith and Rusty Knight from Guru Lovechild and E2E.

“It’s an honor,” Lancaster said of the lineup. “When you get a little older, you don’t have a lot of spare time. But with technology you don’t have to book a studio and arrange everybody’s schedule; they can work on their own time, and e-mail me the tracks.

“People like Dug Pinnick from King’s X, he’s not from around here. It was probably my favorite part of the whole project, getting to work with these people,” he said.

Another neat experience for Lancaster was being his own boss when it came to writing, allowing his more authoritarian tendencies to take over.

“I liked the fact that everything was my decision. It must have been the control freak in me,” he said, laughing again. “I knew that I had to do the best I could with it, since it’s my name on it.

“I used the opportunity of doing the solo record to try to blend whatever influences were hitting me at the time,” he added. “Sometimes, when you’re in a band, you’re like ‘I want to try such and such,’ and it may not fit, because you’ve painted yourself into a corner with a kind of label for your music.”

Lancaster spent long hours recording on his “modest” setup in his basement, as his kids have taken over the attic where he once recorded, he noted with amusement. A few of the songs that make up “Phantom Moon” grew out of, and branched off from, his more recent work with Smith and Knight in Earth To Eros.

“I started demoing stuff with the idea that I’d maybe do a solo record, maybe two or three years ago,” he said. “And, I sat on some for a while, because at the time we were doing the Earth To Eros thing. When that went down, that’s when the idea for a solo record really started to surface, because I was like ‘I’ve got all these songs here.’”

From the basement, the nascent songs were taken to Route 60 Music in Barboursville, where Smith added bass and recorded main tracks.

“With the technology, you can record pretty much anywhere, so we took advantage of that,” Lancaster said.

He applied the same do-it-yourself recording ethic to starting his own label, High Fidelio Recordings.

“In this day and age, the idea of having a record deal is not appealing to me,” he said. “That’s why I started High Fidelio, to put my own material out on in the future. We’ll see what happens with that. It’s fun.”

With all the time and effort Lancaster and friends put into “Phantom Moon,” and the anxious wait to get it out and the uncertainty of what the future may hold for him, musically, Lancaster said that’s what it all adds up to for him: fun.

“Playing music, originally I did it for fun,” he said. “Now, it’s kind of come back to that.”

--- Lancaster pic: Laura Gregory

Lancaster on the web:
You can hear more from artist John Lancaster at www.johnlancaster.com, www.reverbnation.com/johnlancaster and www.myspace.com/johnlancastermusic. The album is available at www.johnlancaster.com and Route 60 Music in Barboursville.


CD Review: "Phantom Moon"

CD: Phantom Moon
ARTIST: John Lancaster

It would surprise nobody that the guy who used to front Chum would release a rockin’ solo debut of richly arranged, groove-based melodic hard rock songs. What may surprise you is how Huntington’s John Lancaster pulled it off, and who came along with him for the ride.

On the whole, the songs on his 14-song effort Phantom Moon sound like Scott Weiland singing for old Sevendust, with more layers in the sound. At least enough atmospheric (sometimes haunting) synth and neat little stereo tricks to make things interesting with the headphones on.

Phantom Moon features a star-studded lineup of Huntington-area (and beyond) guest musicians. With all due respect, to list them all here would take too much space; see Lancaster’s site for the details, but the list just clues you into who Lancaster is.

If you’re into checking out cool Tri-State area rock outfits (and have internet access) you may have already heard three of the standout tracks on the CD, “Liars,” “When Shadows Grow Teeth,” (w/King’s X’s dUg Pinnick singing; nice changeup) or the opening track, “This Fire Has Just Begun.”

But there’s more than just those you’ll want to check out.

“A Burning Farewell To Us All” is maybe our favorite track; haunting, ethereal synth, the Weiland-esque vocals over space rock, with super-neato synth blurbs panned left to right, passing through your head like a wormhole, with “smoke signals outside the void, a burning farewell to us all.” Really cool synth on this track. Lotta smoke and fire imagery on the lyrics.

Lyrically, like a lot of songwriters, Lancaster makes Phantom Moon almost nebulous, conceptually. You could take them, on the whole, a number of ways. Singing of lies speaking volumes, burnt offerings, smoke signals, the panic setting in, and 24-hour alarmism in general, it could be he’s being apocalyptic. Maybe not. Maybe he’s just looking to make up for what he feels is lost time in the rock game “the terrors of the empty page,” on “Liars,” “Time exploding in the sky/our names in faded lights,” on “Millions.”

Maybe this phantom moon is getting ready to float into the sun.

“Mercurial” has great, angelic harmonic parts and pummeling breaks, a cool song.

“The Impersonator” is probably the most hard rockin’, uptempo type track on the CD, with Lancaster, seeming to sound more like Weiland in parts, singing “The mirror lied to you…the truth has cursed you.”

“Strange Ghosts” has a kind of creepy, but catchy guitar progression (that sounds like that song “hey hey we are the monsters”) with funky bass; cool song with nice hooks and droning in parts, emotive in other vocals from Lancaster:
“One day I won’t come back at all, to all these strange ghosts of the world. The angels of desire, I’m not seeing visions anymore.”
“Millions” has cool (but largely undecipherable) vocals by Dave Angstrom, something about “Empire,” and it maybe ain’t so good for the empire. But the vocals are rockin’.

“Forever the Alarmist” reminds us of a Queensryche song from back in the day; maybe the bass line for some reason. Listen to it, maybe you’ll think the same way, maybe not. “Stare in the face of the sun…primed for a revelation,” Lancaster sings.

There’s 90-second instrumental tracks like “No Waking World” and “Your Cautionary Tale,” the latter sounding something like you’d hear off NIN’s The Fragile, thrown in just to keep us off our toes.

The title track closes the CD nicely, and quite rockingly.

Aside from the guest musicians and the coherent tone over the duration of the record, probably one of the more instantly noticed aspects of Lancaster’s sound is the low end. Bassist and longtime Lancaster friend and band mate Barry Smith (who recorded the main tracks) lays down fat, deep punchy bass lines throughout, driving the sound. At first, we played the CD in a kind of generic CD player/boom box, and thought the speakers were gonna blow; that someone had hit “xtra bass” or something on it. There was no such button. Then, we put it in a kind of high end flat screen TV, and the same quality; killer bass guitar on this CD.

Look, WVRockscene is not a radio station. Nobody is going to run out and buy Phantom Moon if we’re all like: “Go out and buy this CD!” But, these songs remind you of something you’d hear on any rock and roll station interested in rocking. We wouldn’t be surprised if you heard one of these tunes on X106.3 if you haven’t yet. And not just Loud & Local (which has recently played some Bud Carroll and Byzantine, each act represented on this CD) -- the regular play list. During the week.

And hey, in this digital day and age, you can just swing by one of Lancaster’s many sites and hear a few of the tunes; not bad.

But come what may, with this debut effort, Lancaster proves the fire is still burning, he‘s seen it through; it’s an effort all involved should be proud of. Phantom Moon puts Lancaster back on the map for sure, whatever he does next.

mp3: “A Burning Farewell to us All” by John Lancaster

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Sunday! SUNDAY! Sunday! (New CD roundup)

In our normal role putting stuff together for legitimate press and/or news organizations, we got a little bit of a scoop on two pretty cool Charleston-area bands, as they prepare to record new CDs.

We first heard from Roadblock, talking to him about Empty Glass Records, and about The Scrap Iron Pickers progress with their new CD.

Roadblock said the band has about four new songs ready to go, and here’s the scoop; they’re working on getting Bud Carroll on as a part-time member -- as a drummer! The Pickers have been writing material with Matt Wolfe on guitar (you may remember he had a guitar part on Byzantine’s Oblivion Beckons) and depending on Bud’s availability, he’ll either sit in on drums, or be switching off with Wolfe to no doubt jam on guitar.

If you heard the Pickers Redeeming Metal/Union CD, you’ll remember Carroll’s contribution; it’s not a huge surprise, just one of those promising developments we hear about.

Maybe you’ve already heard about it. Why didn't you tell us? Now we think you don’t like us.

If you’re interested in helping fund the Pickers’ next CD, you can pledge some money towards their sophomore CD (see right), which, given what you just read, sounds even more promising. It’s not a donation and they’re not begging; you can get anything from the Pickers new CD, tattoos, or even cooler stuff.

Of course at this point you’ve heard of Aaron Fisher and 101 Productions in Sissonville. Well, he’s started up a rockin’ alt-country band called Ghost Fleet, and they’re recording their debut EP, likely finishing it up as you read this sentence. Hey, it’s always good when you’re in Aaron Fisher’s band; at least he knows a good producer.

But the band sounds cool, from what we’ve heard on their site. Fisher threw this little blurb at us to tease the public.

“Ghost Fleet is close to wrapping up our self-produced debut EP release Jesus is from Texas. We’ve been hard at work writing, arranging, and recording this thing. We’re all just itching to get this out to the people, and start playing like crazy. With the recent addition of Jason Bays on lead guitar, we feel that we’ve stepped things up a notch. The music is a little bit of everything, we are proud of it, and hope people respond well to it.”
Fisher added that Ghost Fleet should have content online and copies of the debut EP available at its shows at the Parrot and Glass August 13th and 14th, so look for that and look for something more on these guys from us around that time.

--- Pickers' pic: Toril Lavender


Smells Like Team Spirit: Spirit Night Q&A Pt. 2

In part two of our Q&A with Dylan Balliett and Pete Wilmoth of Spirit Night, we get more background on who and what influenced What We Will Be, and what the future may hold...

WVRS: Dylan, the song “Green Street,” that’s in reference to the actual street in Morgantown, right, with the DIY venue? Talk about how the college town influenced the songs. Would there be a Spirit Night if you hadn’t been there? Why did you name the whole thing Spirit Night?
DB: Yep. I had that riff kicking around for years but didn't have any words. I decided one night that I really wanted to make a song, so I went over to Green Street, where we all hung out all the time, and sat in the basement with David Bello and just wrote out the words as we recorded it. We got really drunk and our friends came over and joined in on the recording process. I don't remember who exactly was involved, but I know Pat Manzi and David Bello both had a big part in it. Anthony [Fabbricatore], Tyler [Grady], and Kyle [Vass] were there, too. I named it "Green Street" because it was written there, but also because I think that song and that house both kind of captured our youthful craziness symbolically. It seemed when it was done to be a song about the things we had done in that house, so I thought the title was appropriate.

I'd like to think I'd have made music anywhere I went, but I guess I couldn't have made this exact album without Morgantown. I might never have been sad enough somewhere else to write these songs. Haha. They're definitely all about specific people I met in Morgantown, so for me it's always going to be an album about the time I spent there.

"Spirit Night" is a phrase I saw on a sign outside of Chick Fil-A advertising what I assume to have been a pep rally type event for a local sports team. I think the words are very beautiful together on their own, but I like that they also signify something that to me is kind of ugly, or at the very least tacky -- a sporting event at a fast food chain restaurant. But it got me thinking about the idea of "spirit" and how these events are almost spiritual or religious in a way, a gathering of people to ritualistically chant in worship of something that they love. And this is not me snobbishly judging them at all; I think it's awesome. So I thought about the ways I let my own spirit show, and it's always through music and art, and I do it with my friends in that same group gathering sort of way.

So many people contributed to this project that I see it as a kind of collectivist thing like that. I think it's spiritual in this very down to earth, American way, but it's represented by this phrase that sounds more creepy or otherworldly, "Spirit Night." I also think the term "night" plays into it similarly. I think about the ways night is represented in literature or in horror movies and then I think about all the drunken nights that influenced this record and how when my friends and I were drinking, this "spirit" would kind of come out of us from deep within. You know, werewolf shit.

WVRS: Looks like members of Librarians played an important role in getting this out; would you count them as a kind of local influence? Did working with Klug, and from his past work with Librarians, make it easier for you to arrive at a final sound you were comfortable with? Some of the atmospherics sound like it could be Librarians. Wrong or right?
DB: I don't necessarily think this album sounds like Librarians, but they had to have had an influence on my music somewhere along the line. I've probably seen them 30 times in the past six years or so, and I lived with Ryan for a little while and could hear their practices and stuff. Seeing them as a younger person, I think they made me want to be in a good local band because their shows were so fun. We've played in other bands together as well. I think I'm generally influenced more by my friends than anything else, so yeah, I'd say watching what those guys do has had an effect on my music. And this album wouldn't be anything without Dave Klug's work, so thanks to him as well.

PW: I don't know that I really hear the parallels to Librarians, honestly, although I'm certainly cool with that association. Klug's contributions to this record are immense. The difference between what we sent him after tracking and what came back to us is staggering. I would recommend him to any upstart bands in the area.

WVRS: What about shows? Did I miss something or are there Spirit Night shows?
DB: Yeah, we live about three hours apart right now so it's not exactly feasible to do shows just yet. However, I'm sure we'd both like to, and I'm hoping when I start traveling to Morgantown to work on this next album, we'll end up doing a show or two. Maybe more!

PW: No, there haven't been any shows. In fact, we just kind of surprised everyone with the record when we were done with it - it was fun. Dylan and I have talked about doing some shows, though. (see below)

WVRS: The CDs, you’ve got some pressed, how many do you have and do you envision running out?
DB: Our friend Jordan Hudkins helped me print a bunch of promo copies that I'll be sending out to review sites/radio stations/etc. It's actually an extremely small run just for that purpose. I really just want to focus on the digital release for now, though I wouldn't be opposed to releasing it on some other formats in the future.

WVRS: The atmospherics and layers on the songs, you can pull those off live, right? Mainly acoustic based, do you (Dylan) plan on being able to just play these solo? Will/would there be a bigger lineup if there’s a Spirit Night “full-band” show?
DB: I'm totally opposed to doing the songs solo. Haha. I guess It's kind of a weird thing, but I just don't think they work without all of the elements going on. They're so based on shifting dynamics that I think most of what makes those songs what they are would be lost with just one guitar and one voice. However, I do have a lineup in mind that kind of excites me and I totally think we could pull the songs off. It would be more guys than just me and Pete, but probably not any bigger than a regular rock band.

PW: I think we could manage some approximation of the record, yeah, although obviously, many of the songs are really sonically dense. I think we can go one of two routes with it. One where it's mostly Dylan singing and playing a guitar and me backing him up with percussion, vocals - maybe a little keyboard and guitar, too. I've listened to the record with that in mind enough that I think we could get most of the crucial parts between the two of us, although it would take some multi-limbed, multi-instrumental, Marinelli-like ambidexterity on my part.

The other option is to really try to do the whole record with a bunch of our friends. Obviously, this would be a blast, and it'd be cool to split up the percussion parts and give myself something easy to do, so I can sing the whole time.

I think when/if we do a show, it'll probably be somewhere in the middle: friends will join us here and there, with only a couple songs necessitating a crowded stage, but other songs will be mostly me and Dylan.

WVRS: The latest review from Obscure Sound mentions “clumsy interweaving of keys and guitar,” that said, the guitar isn’t entirely shred-tastic or complex; there’s a catchy, touching, laid back vibe (mostly laid back vibe), with the lush tones and drums overtop your mostly acoustic songs. Now, all that said (if you agree with that generalization) compared to the more in your face, amps to 10 type rock acts, why would/do you think this kind of vibe be so well received?
DB: Well, I don't think we sound too much like any one band, but I think we use time-tested elements from all kinds of popular music in our songs, and maybe that's why it's successful. Just because it reminds people of songs or musical styles they already like. And I guess I agree that there is kind of a laid-back vibe in a lot of songs, but we also throw in plenty of surprises to shake people out of that feeling of complacency, and maybe people like that our songs have those unexpected turns, or that the record has them (going from something so quiet like "What I Will Be" into a rocker like "Green Street" so late in the track listing, for example). I really can't say why people like it though. I'm just glad that they do.

PW: I feel like I can tell you why. I think the timbres on the record are great - again, another nod to Dave Klug here, as well as our friends in Morgantown (Brian Spragg, Ryan Hizer, and Trey Curtis) who actually know how to track stuff properly, unlike us. But for me, it's the melodies Dylan writes. I know you don't hear this too often from drummers, but melody is everything. Always and forever. Period. If you don't have a great melody, I'm usually not that interested as a listener. And as a percussionist, I'm always listening to the melody when I write my own parts - sort of "in service" of where the song is trying to go. Lucky for me, Dylan really knows how to craft a hook.

WVRS: Pete the drums on “Last Cigarette” (among other songs) how they fade in and build are killer. “Brains” has what sounds like xylophones or bells; between recording DIY and with Klug, how proud of you are you with how your contribution(s) in the percussion department sounded on the CD?
PW: Thanks, dude. I mean, I'm really pleased with everything. It was a new thing for me, because I haven't really done anything other than drum set in rock bands since high school, when I was doing orchestral and concert percussion. So it was a nice change of pace and a new challenge to just listen to the song a lot and say, "I don't think I'm going to put any kit on this song at all, but I know some staggered tambourine with reverb will sound really haunting right here."

And it was just fun to get back into written music. On the songs where there's a billion percussion tracks, I had to put Dylan's demos on loop, sit down at my desk with a bunch of staff paper, and figure out what would best serve the song and how each of my instruments should be interacting with one another.

WVRS: You guys have made a great CD, lauded by reviewers, together. Between Dylan’s songwriting and Pete’s contribution, what do you think makes this sound so infectious and effortless? Chemistry?
DB: I definitely think there is chemistry between me and Pete. Or maybe just a mutual appreciation of each other's style that makes it easy for us to agree on things. We definitely "click" immediately in a lot of cases, but other times we'll have to talk through something, or I'll have to do a good deal of explaining about what kind of mood I want for a certain song or part. Luckily, we're both comfortable enough with each other and confident enough in each other's abilities to do that talking, which I think is what matters most. So yeah, it's a mixture of chemistry and mutual understandings that make ultimately makes our music work.

PW: The one thing I know is that I really enjoy making music with Dylan. We've always been completely on the same wavelength at every step of the process, so it's just smooth sailing. And somehow, I think we both make each other better, despite how similar our tastes are.

WVRS: Each of you; what does it say that this kind of DIY effort, seemingly out of nowhere win so many fans? You obviously didn’t spend a lot of money in some studio. But just doing it, and people liking it, how proud are you to have accomplished that much, and do you think it could/should influence some other college student(s) peeing in gatorade bottles, wondering what they will be, to do the same?
DB: I'm extremely proud of it, and sure, I hope it encourages other people to do the same. I think everyone who enjoys music should attempt to record their own album at some point in their life.

PW: The praise has been really flattering, for sure. I'm just glad people are listening to the record. It's one of those luxuries of the Internet age; like, there are people in Spain listening to our record and talking about it on forums. How cool is that?

Of course I'd recommend that anyone who wants to make a record give it a shot. Even if after a couple years, you think you have little to show for it besides a couple boxes of CDs under your bed, at least you made some music, just for the sake of doing it. That's always a worthwhile endeavor, no matter what the end result is. Oh yeah - and it's fun!

WVRS: You’ve got nothing but stellar reviews for the CD, and praise from just the general public too, how neat is that? Has the praise kind of changed what you may have thought of as goals or what not for the duo? Is Spirit Night just a kind of project, or is it, for you Dylan, something you want to keep moving forward with?
DB: It's really hard to say what Spirit Night will be. I initially formed it as a separate entity from Russian Tombstones that would be just an alias for my own solo songs, so that if I ever moved or otherwise couldn't play with Pete anymore, I could still have all of my songs under one name. It was very much intended to be a "solo project" but I can't deny Pete's importance to the project and I foresee us working together on a lot of the future stuff under this name. Hopefully he will play on everything I do.

Mostly though, I'd say this is a vehicle for the songs I write and it will probably end up meaning different things at different times. We could get intense and start touring with a band under this name, or I could record a whole album of just guitar songs by myself under this name. It's really hard to say right now where we're going, but I do know you should expect another album with me and Pete and friends sometime in the next year or so.

PW: I definitely plan on making more music with Dylan. I know we both want to do another record together while we're both still in the same state. I'll be done with grad school in a year, and I don't really know where I'll end up. Dylan's immediate future is similarly up in the air, but I bet we make something work out. When you find someone you click with musically - well, that's not something you should let slip if you can help it.

Related: Part one of our Q&A w/Spirit Night


CD Review: "What We Will Be"

CD: What We Will Be
ARTIST: Spirit Night

If Shepherdstown’s Dylan Balliett doesn’t do anything else with the education he received at WVU, he’ll at least have something to show for the time he spent in Morgantown.

Together with his friend, FOX Japan drummer Pete Wilmoth, calling themselves Spirit Night, the ex-Russian Tombstones members have released one of the best CDs we’ve heard in our time here at WVRockscene.

The songs, whether you call them ambient acoustic or twee pop, or, as a few reviews do, compare the sound to Beat Happening, serve almost as Dylan’s soundtrack to his years as a college student, and all that entails.

Friends, females, drugs, peeing in Gatorade bottles, machine guns with bunny rabbit ears, and just not knowing what the future holds after school; it’s all here. And like most great records, What We Will Be seems to flow nicely as a whole, from beginning to end, with uptempo catchy pop favorites of ours like “Bear Costume” and “Brains” allowing the more mellow, reverb and ambient feel of other songs like “Don’t Miss Me” and “125” to sink their hooks into yer noggin.

Balliett sings on “Bear Costume”
“Of all the boys living in your body,
The one I love, I never get to see.
He’s hiding out of sight down on his knees
In a crowded room
Thick with black balloons.”
The echo-laden ambience of the touching “Don’t Miss Me” is a nice example of the kind of “Keep It Simple” approach to the harmonies and lyrics in Dylan’s songs. “125” has a mingling room full of people sample overtop of acoustic, making you check if about a dozen or so people showed up unannounced while you were hanging insulation, listening to the CD.

Balliett sings, evoking for us a great line from the Foo Fighters song “Everlong”
“I will give you all that I have and some that I don’t.
I won't let go until you do. I hope that you won’t.”
“Stage Lights” has the mellow ambience overtop Dylan’s acoustic, as he transitions away from a relationship.

“Brains” is our favorite song on the CD, as Dylan rocks the acoustic, belts out the lyrics, and Wilmoth comes in with pounding, driving drums, half-way through the two-and-a-half minute long hit. This is a CD that we’ve listened to over and over recently, and this is the song that we listen to over and over again. Every great CD needs a song like that, and this one will definitely get inside the old noodle.

Just because Dylan and Pete are the main players on the CD, the songs have a much deeper, richly textured feel than you’d expect from two dudes on a four-track.

Wilmoth’s contributions as a percussionist alone are clearly on display. It’s not just a kick, snare and cymbal; with all the bells and whatnot he breaks out, he is his own drumline on What We Will Be. Synth and samples (and sometimes a glockenspiel) are laid on top of the catchy acoustic songs Dylan has composed over the past few years, with rockin’ results.

The duo are also joined by some notable Morgantown rockers whose names you might recognize. Most notably as far as the contributions, are various members of Librarians, It’s Birds, and David Bello. Sean Gibat (BAM, Shoe) joins Spirit Night on the Eastern, sitar-sounding “The Medicine,” with trippy sounding reverse cymbal rides.

What We Will Be was mixed and mastered in Pittsburgh by Dave Klug, who has worked with It’s Birds and Librarians, among others. He even provides synth on what seems to be the title track, “What I Will Be,” and while we won’t compare the arrangements on What We Will Be to what is on Librarians’ recent Present Passed, the atmospheres and ambience Spirit Night is going for may seem similar to what’s on the recent Librarians CD. Maybe. Grat job on his part.

“Green Street,” with guitar provided by It’s Birds (and ex-Russian Tombstones) George Zatezalo, evokes the trippy yet rockin’ 60’s. “Gone Down” is probably the prettiest song on the CD, if we had to award a title for that, as Dylan sings:
“But it’s still snowing now out there down beneath the trees.
You can see it now, it’s falling faster than the leaves.
I’m warm in this winter breeze.”
The CD builds to a climax and finishes nicely on “The Last Cigarette,” just over two minutes long, it seems like a great end to the CD.

Not only can you download the CD off Spirit Night’s bandcamp site, there, you can also read the lyrics and read about where and when the songs were recorded at, and who may have sit in with Dylan and Pete on the jams.

So, not only are the songs great, these two dudes, with the help of their friends, have put together a great CD and put it all up online for free, with all the info you’ll need on the songs. Kudos to them. Oh there are physical copies available, which we recommend you pick up.

There are CDs that we actively seek out because we know pretty much what to expect and think the acts rock. Then there are times when people contact us about their music.

Although we had heard about Russian Tombstones, when Dylan emailed us about this CD, we had no clue how much we were going to like it. It’s times like these when we are able to spotlight an act that we didn’t know anything about, but ended up in love with, that we are glad we do whatever it is we do here.

If WVRockscene married one band this year, it would be Spirit Night.

--- Related: Spirit Night Q&A Pt. 1

mp3: “Brains” by Spirit Night

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Friday Night Roundup: Marinelli Does Morgantown

Anytime J Marinelli comes to town, it's roundup time, so let's crack that whip, and get the lasso out! Yeah, Marinelli is swinging through Magic Town Friday night for a show at 123 Pleasant Street. He'll be joined by Depresbyterians and D.C.-based George Karos, as you can clearly see from the flyer to your right.

We recently went back and forth with Marinelli on Facebook about the July 19 123 show with Lexington's Idiot Glee ("some call it "Chillwave" - I call it weirdo Beach Boys lysergia recorded on a broken boom box. Or something,") and Tiny Fights ("if Joy Division and Swell Maps had more of a glitch/noise fixation,") Marinelli summed up excitedly. Dave Bello opens that show.

"Both come highly recommended from me," he said. "Both consist of ultra nice dudes who do LOT for the Lexington music community through booking shows and through their involvement with WRFL."

"At any rate, I'd really like to see this show work out for these guys, especially Idiot Glee, whose James Friley is an individual for whom I have a massive amount of admiration because of what he does for Lexington's underground music community."

"Plus, Idiot Glee, I believe, are about to blow up (as in: get hugely popular, at least in an 'indie' sense.) Morgantown is their last show before a UK (yep, merrie olde England) tour with WOMEN (a killer band on Sub Pop records.) Couldn't happen to a nicer dude.

And Marinelli's upcoming-but-as-yet-still-unreleased record Pre-Emptive Skankery would be out sometime soon, he assured the editorial staff here on a conference call.

"[Skankery] will be out soon," he said. "It was recorded and mastered ages ago. I'm still waiting on the cover art (which I've seen some early versions of,)" so, the best things come to those who wait. Since we're on the Marinelli kick, why not check out Marinelli footage from his February show at The Sound Factory, "shot" by someone who doesn't talk to people or go anywhere.

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

Out Huntington way, Bad Employees will join Charlie Brown Superstar at The V Club Friday night. Andy Rivas (who we can only assume had pants on) filled us in on Bad Employees' recent werk when we caught up with him about Enoch.

"BE have taken time off to work on a new album. Starting with this show we will be bringing out these new tracks live, but not all at once, as we want to book more shows from now on, try out these new songs on people, and finish the album over the next couple of months."

So look forward to new Bad Employees stuff. Cool.

In Charleston, the Brooklyn-based Americana/alt-country band Yarn comes to The Empty Glass with their critically acclaimed new CD Come On In. If all goes according to plan there should be a thing on the group in Thursday's Gazette.

So, no you know. And something something something something.


Catch The Spirit: Spirit Night Q&A Pt. 1

Shepherdstown's Dylan Balliett spent a lot of time in his bedroom (and others) recording what would be one of the most out-of-the-blue surprise great CDs we've heard here at the blog. With help from his friend, FOX Japan drummer Pete Wilmoth, together as Spirit Night, on What We Will Be, their 11-song debut, these two guys are winning a lot of fans, fast. Before we reviewed the CD, we caught up with Dylan and Pete on a Facebook thread to get some background info on this very fruitful collaboration...

WVRS: So how did you guys meet? How did the collaboration that is called Spirit Night come about?
Dylan Balliett: I'm looking forward to reading Pete's answer to this question because I honestly can't remember how we first met. I know I was a fan of his band FOX Japan and that he had talked to my best friend and collaborator David Bello about playing drums on his songs in a new band. I think we might have met for the first time at the first practice for that band, which unfortunately never saw the light of day. Later I decided to start a band called Russian Tombstones and asked Pete to drum for it. I was very happy when he said yes.

Spirit Night is kind of an extension of Russian Tombstones. The album features a lot of songs that didn't quite work with the Russian Tombstones style, songs that I really wanted to release but thought I needed to just record myself, or with just one other person, who in this case ended up being Pete. We work really well together so it was just logical to ask him to be on it.

Pete Wilmoth: I THINK the first time Dylan and I met was through Dave Bello. He, Dylan, Sean Gibat (Big Ass Manatee, Shoe) and I started playing music together when I first moved to Morgantown in the fall of 2007. Anyway, that project fizzled out, but Dylan and I became friends and eventually talked about starting a band (Russian Tombstones).

WVRS: So Dylan you’re from Shepherdstown and went to WVU; get to become good friends with Pete?
DB: Yeah, I was in Morgantown from the fall of 2004 until earlier this year. For four of those years, I was studying English at WVU. There was plenty of hanging out with Pete in there, too.

PW: Dylan moved to Shepherdstown right at the beginning of 2010, which was right around the time we started recording all of the record. (Only "Bear Costume" was recorded when we both really lived in Morgantown and was originally a Russian Tombstones song.) We only see each other now if I'm playing a show in Shepherdstown or if Dylan is visiting Morgantown for the weekend, which has been a couple times. But yeah, definitely really good friends. I miss having him in Morgantown, that's for sure.

WVRS: For people who may have got snuck up on a bit by Dylan Balliett, have you (Dylan) played in any bands previously? Coming from Shepherdstown, there are one or two killer acts, any influence you to make music?
DB: Yeah, I'm back in Shepherdstown for a minute or two until I figure out where else I can go. There are definitely some great bands here and a lot of my best friends play in them. They influence me in the same way all music influences me. I get really excited watching them and want to run home and play guitar.
As far as other bands I've played in, I've been in David Bello and His God Given-Right, Nirvana 2, Super Sargasso, The Black Giraffe, and Russian Tombstones.

WVRS: For people who may run sites dedicated to covering WV bands, why did they miss this entirely? You operated under the radar, no?
DB: Probably just a failure on my part. I'm promoting the record myself and I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm hoping some of the coverage we have been getting makes other sites aware of it and they pick it up. I'd like as many people to give it a listen as possible.

WVRS: Pete, obviously you weren’t snuck up on by this guy, as Dylan may have introduced you to the songs and they took shape, how excited were you? What have some of your friends or acquaintances who may know a thing or two told you about the music?
PW: Dylan's songwriting prowess definitely didn't sneak up on me; I've been lucky enough to be making music with him for a couple years now. I was very excited about the project. It started when he and I recorded "Bear Costume" with Brian Spragg, basically in one sitting, kind of on a whim on a Saturday afternoon. It was really fun to pile on the vocal and percussion tracks, and we were both really happy with the final product. Later, it made sense to make a whole record with that aesthetic (as opposed to Russian Tombstones, which was more of a punk rock outfit) so that's what we did. We had played "Stage Lights," "Green Street," and I think maybe "Don't Miss Me" with Russian Tombstones prior to recording What We Will Be.

WVRS: Dylan, how long have you been working on this material, just writing the songs? Looks like some songs date back to 2006? It seems like the songs are all great. Can we expect a sophomore effort to be more spotty? WILL there be a sophomore CD? What IS 125 and LHQ?
DB: The opening track, "Smigel," was the first song I wrote in college after about a three year songwriting dry spell (I had previously led middle school pop-punk and emo bands whose names I will not mention). I've written plenty of songs since then, but I always kind of felt that I would be releasing these specific eleven songs together for this project, which has been kicking around in my head for the past five years.

They all came from the same part of me and expressed this same kind of wistful, lonely mood. As for the sophomore album, that's been kicking around in my head as well, as I've been kind of sorting all my songs by mood in that way I just described. This next one is going to have "bigger," less claustrophobic sounding songs, a lot of rock songs. Probably more traditional/standard instrumentation, but just as weird despite it. It's not all written but I don't think it will be spotty compared to the first one. It's the third one I'm worried about.

125 is an apartment I lived in above 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown and LHQ is a house I lived in down the street from there. It stands for Librarians Headquarters because three members of that band lived there for a long time and they practiced with all their bands there. I lived there eventually and recorded a good amount of the album there.

WVRS: It seems like sometimes there are songs left off a CD, or run as B-sides, that are still great, sometimes. Are there any songs that you did not put on What We Will Be? If so, why?
DB: There was ONE song I had on the track list for a really long time and ultimately decided to cut. I've since decided to put it on the next record though, so it'll eventually be heard. There are really no leftover scraps of recordings or anything though. I think a lot of people record a bunch of stuff for an album and then decide what makes the cut after the fact, but since these songs have been kicking around for so long, I really knew what I wanted and I just focused directly on that.

PW: Answering both of the above: We're definitely going to make another record. In fact, we spoke over the 4th of July about some songs we already have ready to go. 125 is 125 Pleasant Street, right by 123. It's kind of a crummy apartment, I think Dylan lived there long before I moved to Morgantown. Where you can pound beers on the roof and fire water balloons at the PRT if you're good enough with those three-man slingshots things?

WVRS: Where exactly did you record at, bathroom and bedroom wise? Obviously at some point you (dylan) fell in love with Anthony Fabbricatore, no? I mean, you married him, haha... (It says that on Dylan's Facebook page) Seriously, how much time went into just recording the material, using what equipment?
DB: I'll try to remember all of 'em. We recorded in a warehouse on the road out of Morgantown, I recorded in my friend Will's bathroom, in two bedrooms and two living rooms at LHQ, in my sister's room at home, in my grandma's room at home, in The Demon Beat's basement and practice space, and maybe somewhere else I'm forgetting in West Virginia. Then I recorded the vocals on "Don't Miss Me" by singing into my laptop's internal microphone in a hotel room in St. Paul, MN. The warehouse and bathroom recordings were for their acoustic properties; otherwise, it's just wherever I happened to be at the time.

I did it all on my laptop using Digital Performer 5 because that's what the Librarians guys used and they were able to help me out whenever I had a(n annoying) question.

And yes, I love Anthony Fabbricatore.

PW: If you go to our bandcamp site and click on the tracks, there's listings of where, precisely, every song was recorded. But I think our favorite destination is this giant warehouse practice space that FOX Japan, The Overcoat, Depresbyterians, and Juna rent. Most of my favorite drum and vocal sounds from the record owe a lot to the natural cacophony there.

WVRS: Pete talk about recording for Spirit Night as opposed to with FJ; more ghetto, or what?
PW: It was actually kind of similar in that with FOX Japan, we're often recording songs we just finished a few weeks ago. Only this time, things were even more fly-by-night, at least for me. Dylan has had a lot of these songs written for years, and I knew some of them. But for the most part, he would send me really rough demos (often just vocals, guitar, maybe a keyboard) and I would write out what I was hearing for percussion on staff paper and make notes, just to keep everything straight. Later, he and I would discuss vocal harmonies, small tweaks to the form, etc., and then we'd just do it. I think we were okay with it being "imperfect," or, if I'm going to spin this another way, "human."

--- In part two of the Q&A, Dylan and Pete talk about the songs, help from friends, the good reviews already in, and exactly what the future will be for the duo...


Just In: An Entirely Promising Development

Well, at the very last minute we heard about this ambient/drone act calling themselves Enoch playing Saturday night at Shamrock's with DGF and The Renfields. Made up of Chris Tackett (Hyatari), Jude Blevins (Satchell/Hyatari/Skinfork) and Andy Rivas (Bad Employees), it sounds like something awesome so we got on the red phone for quotage and/or nut graphs...

Andy Rivas:
I have never rehearsed with them. Monday morning I got an email from Jude inviting me to join the sound, and of course I said yes. I have some synths in the studio that I never take out with the Bad Employees shows partly due to their age, and also that we already have so much gear on stage.

In order to try something different, I decided to bring out a unique gem (vintage synth) that has not been working properly for quite some time, but is still used for BE recordings and is one of our secret weapons. I’ll be running that with some choice effects and just feeling out what’s going on with Jude and Chris. Also, Jude will be bringing some gear that I use as well and am familiar with, so when he decides to jump on his drums, I may help myself to some Moog action.

Jude Blevins:
Yeh Satchell was scheduled to open the show this Saturday but John [Vanover] injured his hand so we had to cancel. I talked to Ian [Thornton] about some stuff that me and Chris has been kicking around during Hyatari rehearsals and he was up for it. Chris thought of Andy and we went from there, yeh so it was pretty much last minute.

We haven’t rehearsed together as a whole and really to be honest it will be more of a improv set than a structured set. I love to improv, it keeps me on my toes. I think it keeps a connection between the players too, you need to know when to change it up a little when it’s not working.

As far as I know we will be doing one set around 45 minutes give or take.

I’m excited to be playing guitar, which I’ve wanted to do for a while now. I’ll have a bunch of Moog pedals and a Moog synthesizer too, then I’ll move over to the drum kit near the end. I think its gonna turn out cool. We have a plan but it’s nothing we’ve rehearsed as mentioned.

Chris Tackett:
I’ve wanted to do something like this for years, but this particular idea just came up this week. So yeah; no rehearsal for this. There won’t be any songs per se, nothing’s been planned out. We have some ideas about what we’d LIKE to have happen. Whether or not they do is anybody’s guess.

...on similarities to Hyatari:
It will probably end up being somewhat similar at times, just less structured. I would expect more drone and noise than a Hyatari show. Other than that, I don’t know what to expect myself.

...on the chance for more Enoch shows, and the design:
I hope to do this again for sure. The unpredictability factor is totally exciting, and a little scary to be honest. But that’s what makes it fun. The graphic is something I came up with just a couple of days ago. I thought, if we’re actually gonna do this, a visual might help get the idea across.


Undead Transylvania Pogo Punk Band Invades Huntington Saturday Nite

If there's one thing The Renfields know about, it's horror movies.
That, and turning their favorite horror flicks into catchy punk rock songs.
The undead Clarksburg, W.Va.-based "Transylvania pogo punk" (horror-based punk music where the listeners dance up and down) outfit comes to Huntington Saturday, July 10, for a show at Shamrock's Irish Pub with a new CD and a re-animated lineup.
You can say that on their new release, "Stalk and Slash Splatterama Part 2: Exploitation Extravaganza," they've taken on more of a death metal or thrash sound. But, just because there's a werewolf in the band, you won't catch The Renfields at the new "Twilight" movie.
"Absolutely not a fan of the 'Twilight' series," said singer-guitarist Vincent Renfield in a telephone interview. "It's not horror. It's some sort of romantic fairy tale for teenage girls.
Without a doubt, vampires playing baseball is (expletive). We're not big vampire fans. There are no vampires in The Renfields, and never will be. Of all the people in Transylvania, vampires are the most whiny and least desirable to be around, kind of like emo kids here in the states."
While bands are known to write songs about their favorite kinds of rims, Satan or who they want to be president, all of The Renfields' songs are about horror movies. That, and life as an undead teenage punk band growing up in Transylvania.
Fitting into a particular music scene with their fun, horror-themed punk rock stylings and onstage costumes has not always been easy for the band. But Renfield said that events like the Zombie Walk at West Virginia University and horror conventions like HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati, and Cinema Wasteland in Cleveland are and will continue to be friendly environments for The Renfields to play.
"Whenever we go to a horror event, I always feel like that's our scene," he said. "When we can walk around and meet people in horror shirts, they understand the lyrics, and they get the music, they understand exactly where we come from. If there's anything I focus on, it's the lyrics, and making them relevant to the movies and including as many quotes from the movies, and having little "in" jokes; it's always cool."
While The Renfields were originally more influenced by the fun and catchy punk sounds of bands like The Ramones and The Mummies, more recent influences include King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, Renfield said, explaining the harder, scarier tone on the new CD.
"I wanted to reflect the tone of each film in the songs, and just being that it was the exploitation genre, it came out more death metal or thrash or whatever," he said. "When I sat down to write "New York Ripper," it's violent, with over the top gore, and in my mind I wanted the song to make me feel the same way when I watch the movie. Trying to make every song fit the movie and make it feel like another aspect of watching the movie instead of fitting lyrics into the standard four chords.
"We didn't intentionally try to get heavier, I just think it was based on the subject matter," he added. "I thought it was kind of cool we could go the opposite way, away from the past punk sound."
The Renfields' love of all things horror includes playing extended samples of the movies in between and inside of their songs about the same horror movies. It's a total package, he said, one that they'll never stray from.
"As protective as I am about the samples and keeping them intact, I am about making sure our songs are about horror movies or Transylvania," he said. "I want to make sure that that we stick to what we're doing. A lot of times bands get to the place where they've done whatever it is they're singing about and they get pretentious or sing about something ridiculous. But for us, horror is the cause. If we're ever gonna ever organize a rally, it will be to protest some awful horror movie remake."
So, after turning what was a one-man operation, recording songs on a four-track with a drum machine in mono, Renfield said the band is where it will always be, on the couch watching horror flicks, and making music in true punk rock fashion.
"I don't know if it has to do with setting your goals ultra low," he said of the band's journey. "I don't know really how to play guitar or really know much about music. It's my basic rudimentary skills, and wearing pumpkin makeup just to get out of the crypt or the basement.
There were no expectations or anything, we just wanted to play songs about our favorite horror movies."

If you go:
What: The Renfields, Down Goes Frazier, Enoch
Where: Shamrock's Irish Pub, 2050 3rd Ave., Huntington
When: 10 p.m., Saturday July 10
Cost: $5
Online: www.myspace.com/renfieldsmania, www.myspace.com/downgoesfrazier


CD Review: "Stalk & Slash Splatterama Pt. 2: Exploitation Extravaganza"

CD: Stalk & Slash Splatterama Pt. 2: Exploitation Extravaganza
ARTIST: The Renfields

There are a few local bands that we’ve got to cover, that, it wouldn’t matter if they never played another show or put out another CD, we would be rocking ‘em out years from now.

Maybe no other band falls better into this category than the Clarksburg-based “Transylvania pogo punk” outfit known as The Renfields. Having, over the course of the last three or four years, snagged copies of The Night THEY Came Home, Bastard Sons of Ed Wood, and what is now Stalk and Slash Splatterama Pt. 1, we’ve quite honestly fell head over heels in love with Team Transylvania’s version of fun, horror movie-themed punk rock influenced by bands like The Ramones, The Mummies and The Misfits.

Not unlike The Ramones, each undead or somehow re-incarnated member of The Renfields take the last name of Renfield, after its progenitor, founder, and singer-guitarist the Abominable Vincent Renfield, whose voice just might evoke an undead teenage Glenn Danzig for the most part, and who has brought The Renfields from a one-man project recording on a four-track with a drum machine, sampling horror movies onto songs about the horror movies.

Maybe no other band has seemed to have wrapped up their music into such a coherent package over the course of their CDs in this age of mp3 releases and singles, we actually want to listen to entire Renfields CDs precisely because they make it fun to do so.

And even though these kids love the grisliest of the most underground type horror and slasher flicks, you’ll never meet a nicer dude than Vincent. So many musicians, as some readers of this blog may know, take themselves waaay too seriously, on top of that somehow trying to maintain an air of elitism or whatever. If we never reviewed one Renfields CD, it would seem unfathomable that Vincent would have the temerity or hubris to, for one reason or another -- threaten us in any way.

All that said, the songs on this new Renfields EP are in some ways better, but still not as good as what is on their past releases. There is no “Prom Night,” “Dawn of the Dead,” or “Halloween Night,” as Team Transylvania has taken on more of a hardcore punk or even metal bent over the seven songs and maybe slightly more than half an hour’s worth of material on S&S Pt. 2, away from the more fun, pop-punk sound that we’ve loved for so long.

But -- they’ve taken steps forward in the production and arrangement departments. The hardcore, double-kick sounding drums will be the first thing that jumps out to longtime Renfield fans. There’s also upgrades and more ambitious layering and effects on the vocals, which lend to the eery, scary feel. The spooky organ seems, on the whole, to fit in well underneath the sound, and as far as the samples go (always such an important part) the band seems better able to, well slice and/or slash them up more acutely inside of the songs, where in the past, it was just like someone was sitting there with a DVD or whatever pressing “play” before and after the songs.

They seem to be not only getting away from the pop-punk sound, but may move past the (maybe out of necessity) use of “blood-curdling mono” recording style.

After the spooky, detuned intro, From Beyond is kind of a “Renfields GO!” type opener, introducing listeners to their exploitative version of terror and perversion. Sorry kids, no one under 17 admitted. Everything survives, and everything is ugly. But, it’s only a record. It’s only a record.

Night of the Creeps has more of a more traditional, fun, Renfields punk sound with machine gun lyric delivery. Danger: Diabolik is a good example of the increased use of distorted, lo-fi vocal parts.

New York Ripper is straight up hardcore mosh type stuff, with growl core lyrics in the verses (with some nicely placed “whoahs” in the choruses). If it sounds like a duck, it just might be someone getting to get killed off.

On Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS Vincent sounds as much like Glenn Danzig as he ever has, singing about “go-go Gestapo” girls with vocals added by Jaymee Lee overtop funky bass lines.

Deadbeat at Dawn has the spooky organ, sample, and hardcore punk sound w/lo-fi vocals not like much any Renfields sound we’ve heard.

If The Renfields are ever able to settle into a lineup, with this new Fiend’s body, it’d be great to see what they do. But the great thing is, we wouldn’t care if Vincent was making music on a four-track in his bedroom with a drum machine and a sampler, recording onto cassettes; we’d likely still gobble up the output like so many zombies do brains.

But don’t take our word for it; if you like punk rock and/or horror movies, go back and see if the band can hook you up with the past releases. As much as we do not like gory, scary slasher flicks, we love The Renfields. Renfields GO!

mp3: “Deadbeat at Dawn” by The Renfields

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