Someone else's song: Billy Matheny Q&A 2011


Ages and entire lifetimes have seemingly gone by since I got to meet Billy Matheny at the Empty Glass in Charleston. I guess it was like four years…? Even before that fateful night, where Matheny quite unwittingly became the first (and last) musician to fall for my devious “treat me to a PBR because I’ve covered your band favorably” scheme, (for the record: he offered, and it would be impolite to refuse) I’d already procured Born of Frustration and the swooning fanboy status only grew fiercer after seeing him open with “Christless Streets,” just absolutely slaying the end of the song.

I was out of my chair and on my feet, fists in the air, and as Matheny (along with the Frustrations) channeled everything great I’d ever felt about rock and roll, I thought he may have spiked that PBR, maybe that ‘twas me that was the target of a vast far-reaching rock and roll conspiracy with Matheny quite literally pulling the strings.

Well, I say all that because ever since hearing Born of Frustration and seeing him live, I’ve just been a huge fan of the uber-talented Matheny. While there’s been an absolute dearth of Frustrations releases since then, much to my dismay, Matheny is still busy being a rock star, just in other people’s bands. He’s been in the Athens, Ohio-based folk rock outfit Southeast Engine for a few years now; has been rocking out steady in Mark Poole’s band The Phantom Six (formerly Moon) and he just sat in with Prison Book Club on their sophomore release. This, in addition to other projects you’ll read and hear about, and of course, his Frustrations play Gene’s Friday night up in Morgantown with ‘85 Flood.

There’s so much going on with Matheny, we thought we’d throw some (hopefully) fun and (maybe) informative questions at him. Being such a gentleman, Matheny obliged with maybe the best Q&A of 2011…

WVRockscene: How busy/fun has 2011 been for ye, whether touring with Southeast Engine, or any other highlights?

Billy Matheny: 2011 was my favorite and busiest year since 2010. It’s been great. Southeast Engine was able to tour twice, once by ourselves and once with our good friends, These United States. Got to play some fun shows and hang out with some old and new friends in various places. I think my 2011 highlight was learning to make restaurant quality tikka masala. It was a real feather in my cap.

WVRockscene: Southeast Engine just played Mountain Stage, how cool was that, especially playing with your friend Todd Burge?

Matheny: Mountain Stage was very nice. Obviously, Todd and I go back a long ways and I have a bunch of other friends on staff there. The whole crew does a great job of making you feel really comfortable and welcome. It makes it easy to do your best. Taping the show in Athens was particularly cool since Southeast Engine was formed there and we had a definite hometown contingent in the audience. For me personally, it was thrilling to play with The Jayhawks. They’ve made some of my favorite albums ever and have really influenced my playing and songwriting. I first heard them when I was a freshman in high school and it was a total “come to Jesus” moment where I immediately discovered the kind of music I wanted to produce myself. On top of all that, they were very nice and patiently listened to all of my fan-boy gibberish.

WVRockscene: SEE did tour a lot, and “Canary” was quite warmly and critically received it seems, how good a year was it to be a part of Southeast Engine in particular?

Matheny: 2011 was a great year to be a part of Southeast Engine as opposed to 2010 and 2009 which sucked (kidding!). But seriously, I love the music and Adam, Jesse and Leo are some of my very best friends. Being in SEE is always a pleasure even if I’m sleep deprived and it’s raining at 7AM in DeKalb, IL.

As far as critical reception is concerned, it was very vindicating to see “Canary” get such good press. To some degree large or small, I think all artists are concerned with people liking what they’re putting out there. Some people just so happen to write for newspapers or have music blogs or something. I try to remember that every review is just one person’s opinion, but some people’s opinions are read by lots of people.

I probably shouldn’t say this out loud, but I’m among friends, so what the hell. Every time I release something (whether it’s one of my own albums or a band that I play in) and the reviews are positive, I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet. It’s like I’m just waiting for people to call me out on all those blatant Velvet Underground plagiarisms.

WVRockscene: The Frustrations just had another song, “It’s Up to You,” on this most recent Blind Pigeon Records comp, I know that the band has kind of been on the backburner with all your other projects, but what’s up with new recordings? Are you sitting on some treasure trove of Frustrations songs?

Matheny: The BPR folks asked us to contribute something for their comp CD, so we recorded “It’s Up To You.” It was nice to record a single song without having to worry about how a track will fit in contextually with a whole album.

I have a new album’s worth of material written for a new Frustrations record, so it’s finished except for recording, mixing, mastering and artwork. I wish I could give good reasons why it’s been six years since I’ve released an album of my own. It would be a better story for me to say that I did 18 months in rehab or that I’ve been recording piano in the middle of a sandbox.

The fact of the matter is that Haley [Slagle], Adrian [Larry], Walt [Sarkees], Woody [O’Hara] and I are all involved in a multitude of different projects and it’s just difficult for us to make the time to record another album. I used to say that our new album would be out before “Chinese Democracy” but then GNR actually released “Chinese Democracy.” At this point, all I can promise is that a new album will come out eventually. I swear that I’m not going to be a one album wonder like The La’s!

WVRockscene: What would Facebook not let you post about some obscene hat you saw recently? Can you mention it here? Of course you can…

Matheny: I don’t know if you can actually print this, but here goes: It was a day like any other when I saw a guy at the bank wearing a hat that read “SMILE if your not wearing panties.” Both offensive and grammatically incorrect!

WVRockscene: You contributed to Prison Book Club’s sophomore release, how good of a friendship have you developed with those dudes and how cool was it recording with the band?

Matheny: I’m so close to the members of Prison Book Club that I actually let them borrow my van. I’d like to think that I’m a generous soul, but I wouldn’t do that for everyone. I’m honored they asked me to play on their record. John Miller has a very captivating voice and they’re really evolving very quickly as a band. In fact, I’ve seen them since “Prison Book Club” was released and they have a whole new set of songs that are even better than the record if you can believe that!

The recording was a trip. I live in an apartment, so I can’t really turn things up much before I become a bad neighbor. For that reason, my keyboard parts were recorded in my parents’ basement in Mannington. It definitely brought me back to when I was a teenager and my bands would practice there. In fact, Prison Book Club’s album holds the rare honor of being the first thing recorded in my parents’ basement since a Limp-Bizkit influence rap-core band called Sadism came over to record on my four-track when I was 15 or 16. I’d like to clarify that I was not a member of Sadism, I was just facilitating their demo tape.

WVRockscene: The Phantom Six played 123 Friday, how much do you look forward to jamming with Poole and Co., and how stoked were you to see “Plastic Rain” get released last month, after what looks like a lot of time going into the band (obviously) and the songs in particular?

Matheny: “Plastic Rain” has been at least three or four years in the making. Mark and I joke that we both work glacially when it comes to putting out albums. At least in his case, you can never argue with the results, every album he releases is start-to-finish fantastic.

The Phantom Six is very much Mark’s vision, or in the words of Spike Lee, The Phantom Six is a Mark Poole joint. I’m just happy to be involved. We practice every Monday, so our rehearsals are kind of like my poker night. The rest of the band is so seasoned and so talented that it makes everything very easy. I just play some bass and sing a little bit.

WVRockscene: You had that cool quote for the H-D article, about there literally being hundreds of dollars to be made in the world of indie bands. How much do you love playing in all of these bands? Because it sounds like you’re not in it for the money right?

Matheny: Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I don’t have expensive tastes! I’m blanking on the actual quote here, but Flannery O’Connor once described her life’s work as sitting at a typewriter, grinning ear to ear and amusing herself to no end, having a great time and miraculously getting paid for it. I feel similarly. I love everything about being in bands and playing music. I love writing, rehearsing, recording, doing shows. It even affords me a chance for travel, which under other circumstances, I probably wouldn’t get.

WVRockscene: All the bands you’re in, or sit in on with, is it so much time and focus that sometimes you feel spread too thin?

Matheny: As long as I love the music I’m playing, it never feels like work. It probably doesn’t look like it, but I don’t just take any gig that comes down the road. I have to enjoy it. The bottom line is that playing music should be fun. If playing music feels like a cross to bear, you’re probably doing something wrong.

WVRockscene: You’re in all these bands, and you’ve been staying busy in 2011, what’s up for 2012 that you might be looking forward to?

Matheny: Southeast Engine is going back to SXSW in March. That’s a great time, if a little on the over-stimulating side. It’s kind of like indie-rock spring break.

In February, I’m recording an album with The Love Me Knots with the great Adam L. Meisterhans in the producers chair. The Love Me Knots lead singer, Brian Porterfield, is the best songwriter I know and I think I know some good ones. The Knots are kind of a band that are under most people’s radar, which I think is kind of shame. But anyway, it’s been like 12 years since Brian has released something, so we’re going to record about 40 songs “Zen Arcade” style over the course of three days. After that, we’re going to release it as a big album in the “69 Love Songs” tradition, spread out over a couple of discs, with a booklet and a bunch of photos.

WVRockscene: The Frustrations play the Very Townie Christmas show with ‘85 Flood 12.23, seems like you’ve made that into some kind of tradition, right? Fun times? Lookin’ for Santa to bring you anything in particular this year?

Matheny: This is the 5th annual VTC! It’s definitely become a tradition for us. Each band does a full set and then it sort of evolves (or maybe devolves) into a big open jam thing with all kinds of people chipping in.

It’s sort of like the Morgantown musicians office Christmas party. The Frustrations set is kind of special simply because we’re doing some special Christmas material. As far as Santa is concerned, I can’t decide if I want inner peace or some video games. Probably the video games.

--- Billy Matheny and the Frustrations join ‘85 Flood for “A Very Townie Xmas” this Friday night at Gene’s Beer Garden in Morgantown...


Top 10 CDs of 2011

It’s always a fun challenge putting together the WVRockscene Top 10 CDs at the end of the year. But in 2011, it definitely wasn’t easy.

From the many EPs that came out, to rock solid releases and stellar concept records, 2011 was packed with great music from local (and regional) bands. Since we started doing this thing here in 2008, there has not been a better year to be following West Virginia bands.

Just as a quick introduction to the hard fast rules and metrics to selecting the illustrious WVRockscene Top 10: there are no hard fast rules. Basically it’s how much I like the songs + production value divided by the number of songs. Many bands put out great EPs this year, but more songs = more chance of something being a “great record” or something like that.

And production -- having help in the studio is always a plus. But then there’s killer garage/punk rock stuff and more lo-fi type recordings that, as long as the songs rock, might come in ahead of overproduced type stuff. ‘Nuff said there.

One big thing I’ve noticed with this year’s batch of releases is the almost gravitational pull of great regional releases into the West Virginia rock scene.

Some Morgantown area dudes might move to Pittsburgh, and still either play shows here or have some stamp or influence on “the scene” or whatever. Then there’s nearby cities, like, say, Athens, Ohio, and Lexington, Kentucky. But, as long as a particular band, be it from Pittsburgh, Lexington, or Athens, plays a few West Virginia shows in a year, in addition to having state residents or natives in the band, they should be included in the top 10, right? I think so.

Another thing that’s been entirely promising to witness is bands getting their music out on bandcamp sites. There were all kinds of cool EPs that came out in 2011. Up in Morgantown, Brian Spragg’s bands (Pat Pat/Single Dads) released four EPs, two apiece from each respective unit, this, in addition to his work as an engineer, helping other cool bands record. It’s a challenge just to keep up with all the music being released, and I personally would rather hear short EPs once or twice a year than wait two years for a band to get a full-length out.

And again, this is more a “my own favorite releases” top 10. Some listeners and fans might disagree and that’s cool. More than a competition, this is more a celebration of the great bands that got their music out this year.

So without further ado...

10. Sasha Colette and the Magnolias: Leave It Alone

The young Eastern Kentucky songstress brought her Magnolias into Bud Carroll’s Trackside Studio, had him join in on guitar and pedal steel, and walked out with eight songs worth of rockin’, bluesy folk and Americana. Longtime fans of Colette’s sweet, soulful voice, catchy, alternately poetic and lovelorn bar ballads were rightfully stoked to get this back around April, and likely weren’t let down.

Although only eight songs, with standout tracks like “Sacrifice,” “Rock of Ages,” “Victory,” and the most awesome “Mercy Moment,” evoking a Janis Joplin-Led Zeppelin combination with Carroll on guitar, Leave It Alone rightfully takes its place in the top 10, and Colette fans can look forward to the follow-up in January of 2012.

Related: Sasha Colette can’t ‘Leave It Alone’ (Feb. Gazette article)


9. Prison Book Club (self-titled)

Prison Book Club is a band that never got the memo that said side projects are to be relegated to second-tier status. And this is saying something considering that The Fox Hunt’s John Miller and The Demon Beat’s Adam Meisterhans and Tucker Riggleman, with Andrew Ford on drums and Morgantown’s Billy Matheny sitting in on this sophomore effort, continue to make fans by steady touring of their own.

With a more southern rock and alt-country flavor than what you’ll hear from The Fox Hunt or The Demon Beat, on this 10-song August release, with Miller’s instantly recognizable country tough voice, still sharing the singing and songwriting with Riggleman and with Meisterhans’ guitar (and studio) work, Prison Book Club both expanded their own sound and continued to prove that side bands don’t always suck.

Standout tracks: “Do As I Say,” “Too Much Livin’,” “Six Pack,” “Sons of Heaven,” “Coming Down”

Related: Dave Mistich’s live PBC review from June, and his review of the new Prison Book Club CD from Graffiti Magazine

8. J. Marinelli: Stone-Age Kicks Vol. 3

If you missed the first two volumes of the Morgantown native’s (not always) angry one-man band’s cover series, you can jump right in and fall in love with his own versions of the Ramones’ “Judy Is a Punk,” Guided by Voices’ “The Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory,” and my own favorite, “And Then He Kissed Me.”

Just as the Ramones covered so many songs and made them their own, Marinelli, on the Stone Age Kicks series, takes his favorites, puts his own sonic stamp on them and simultaneously turns his fans onto bands they might not have been into. Two of my favorite songs on the release, “Virginia Plain” (Roxy Music) and “Flying Pizza” (Swearing at Motorists) are good examples of this for me.

As Marinelli has followed up on 2007’s Keep It Fake and last year’s most awesome Pre-Emptive Skankery Sessions, he’s broadened his own sonic palette from caveman guitar and maximum stomp and swing with banjo, stripped down vocals and just a softer side overall, still keeping things weird. It’s been ages it seems since I bought his Pity the Party EP at Budget, and I’d like to think Marinelli fans can look forward to his own version of The Emergency’s “I’m Not Angry” on volume four.

Is it wrong to have a CD of cover songs in the top 10? If it’s wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.

7. Rozwell Kid: The Rozwell Kid LP

I can honestly say here that if you liked Jude Universer’s 2009 release Lingering Blue, you’ll love Jordan Hudkins’ now renamed project Rozwell Kid. The Demon Beat’s drummer again steps out to front his own rock band, and this time, with The Demon Beat’s Adam Meisterhans providing lead guitar parts, The Rozwell Kid LP takes you back to your own personal Weezer-Rentals hybrid band.

It really is 1994-ever on this 10-song (complete with a totally 90’s hidden track) effort of raw, catchy, almost always hilarious power pop slacker anthems. And remember: if it’s too loud, turn it down.

Standout tracks: “Rocket,” “Dylan, Don’t Do It,” “My Saturn,” “‘93 Connie & Ronnie,” “Ace Ventura Pt. 3”

6. AC30 (self-titled)

Two years in the making, one Monday at a time, this Huntington power-pop super group met at Bud Carroll’s Trackside Studio, and this September released their 10-song debut, the result of all that work, to awaiting fans.

What was originally a studio project slowly congealed into a live band, as Carroll joined forces with Ian Thornton and Ryan Weaver and welcomed drummer Alex McCoy and guitarist Doug Woodard into the band. Sharing the singing and songwriting on songs like Weaver’s “I’m Free,” Carroll’s “Miss Misery,” and Thornton’s “Sure To Win,” AC30 proved that the best things come to those who wait.

Related: Hanging out and jamming with friends became a regular thing for AC30 (July Herald-Dispatch article), AC30 gets CD release party, columnist’s full attention (Sept. H-D article by Dave Lavender)

5. FOX Japan: Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!

The fourth studio release from the brothers Wilmoth and Andrew Slater (“Slater-Wilmoth”) is at once more welcoming, appealing and catchy as a follow-up to last year’s Reenactment, almost making that great record seem almost lo-fi compared to the rich, near-orchestral arrangements on this 12-song November release.

Singer-guitarist Charlie Wilmoth’s irreverent, insightful lyrics, on subjects ranging from the personal/religious to the cultural/political, (just take the first three songs, “Casual Sex,” “On Christmas,” and “Not My Car,” the subtly disguised title track, as fine examples) make FOX Japan one of my favorite bands. Think Talking Heads-meets-The Pixies and you’re kind of close. Released just in time for Christmas, Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! has the warm feel of something you’d rock out for the holiday season. Or, any season.

Standout tracks: “Casual Sex,” “Above This City,” “On Christmas,” “Not My Car”

Related: WVRockscene Q&A w/Charlie Wilmoth of FOX Japan

4. The Demon Beat: Bullshit Walks

The fifth release in as many years from these three Shepherdstown dudes is arguably their best. Following up on last year’s eight-“movement” concept record 1956 with 10 songs worth of soulful, bluesy, badass garage rock, incorporating some of the more retro tones from the most recent release, (with all appropriate fuzz and feedback) Adam Meisterhans, Tucker Riggleman and Jordan Hudkins continue to embody not only rock and roll like it used to be, evoking something like The Who (Meisterhans nails Townshend’s windmill guitar live) and The Stooges but embrace a totally DIY aesthetic as well.

Recorded by Meisterhans, released on Riggleman’s Big Bullet Records label and on vinyl in conjunction with Caustic Eye, with artwork again provided by Hudkins, Bullshit Walks only builds on and adds to the band’s impressive discography, and further cements the band as West Virginia’s hardest workers and hardest rockin’ as they are even now in the studio recording new stuff. Total rock stars that don’t seem to give a shit about being rock stars or where they end up on end-of-the-year top 10 type blog posts.

Standout tracks: “Give Me All Your Money,” “Get It,” “Bang,” “Totally Blissed Out,” “I’m Not Really There”

3. Southeast Engine: Canary

Calling Canary, the fourth Misra Records release from the Athens, Ohio-based folk rock four-piece Southeast Engine “rustic” is close, but almost a disservice. Singer-guitarist Adam Remnant, with brother Jesse on bass, drummer Leo DeLuca and oh-by-the-way Morgantown’s Billy Matheny on piano and organ, capture the feel and paint a picture of life in Depression-era Appalachia over 11 “rustic” yet rockin’ songs.

Songs like “Cold Front Blues,” “1933 (The Great Depression),” and the beautiful “Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains” and Canary as a whole remind me of Wilco’s Being There in that it’s deliberately roots-oriented, mainly acoustic-based with great melodies, but not at all minimalist, and is a great concept record to boot without some contrived feel. One of the best records I heard all year.

Related: Southeast Engine w/Todd Burge on Mountain Stage 11.24

2. The Phantom Six: Plastic Rain

Since one band (AC30) in the top 10 is named after a Vox amplifier, it’s fitting that The Phantom Six takes its name from a 60’s-era Vox guitar. Formerly known as Moon, Mark Poole’s Morgantown-based power pop five-piece starts fresh on this 13-song effort that, if nothing else, helps them make a new name for themselves.

With Poole joined by talented musicians and songwriters like Billy Sheeder, Woody O’ Hara and Clint Sutton, not to mention Billy Matheny, making this, his third appearance on a band’s CD in this year’s top 10, playing bass and providing sweet vocal harmonies, Poole’s songs stand out as evoking something like Matthew Sweet jamming in some awesome garage band with British Invasion nods here and there, singing mainly songs about love. Poole, describing The Phantom Six’s musical output in one interview as “catchy songs that rock pretty hard,” sums it up best for those unfamiliar with the band.

Not only has Poole been fronting various incarnations of Moon for over twenty years, Poole no doubt helped steer The Phantom Six through his own Zone 8 Studios. As great as the richly arranged songs are, and they’re all pretty much standout tracks, the production captures an energy and a raw feel that helps make Plastic Rain arguably the best record of the year from a West Virginia rock band.

Related: CD review: “Plastic Rain”

1. Dream The Electric Sleep: Lost and Gone Forever

They say the best things in life are free, and such was the case in March when I was clued into the free download that Lexington, Kentucky’s Dream the Electric Sleep had made available.

Some bands are around for years and years, and don’t come up with such a coherent vision for a concept record. That DTES did this as their debut effort, only a year after singer-guitarist Matt Page and drummer Joey Waters welcomed Huntington native Chris Tackett (Chum/Hyatari) into the band is even more impressive.

To say that Lost and Gone Forever though, is epic, is almost an understatement.

Lost and Gone Forever is as much a story as it is a record. Told in three acts, Page weaves the split narrative of Clementine and Jack, an Eastern Kentucky coal miner into and over 14 songs worth of vast, stunning sonic landscapes that may bring comparisons to something like Pink Floyd, only heavier, with nods to Radiohead and Muse.

As the story, recalled originally by Clementine on her deathbed, unfolds from young love, marriage and hope into a desire to leave the danger and hard life of the coalfields, the fear of the unknown, of leaving Appalachia, and evolves into Jack’s untimely death in a mining accident, it seems on its face plainly a heart wrenching, well told tragedy. Listen to it repeatedly, even if you’re not from Appalachia and don’t know any coal miners, and you’ll find it’s really a treasure.

With samples from the documentary Harlan County, USA sprinkled throughout, through the story of Jack and Clementine, with album art that masterfully captures the very real world that Page and DTES have pulled out and shown to listeners, few concept records are so deftly woven together into such a complete, beautiful picture; sonically, lyrically, visually, and emotionally.

Reviewing CDs at the end of each year, sometimes you can catch yourself liking the more recent releases. When it became clear after hearing Lost and Gone Forever for the first time back in March or April, the scope of what Dream the Electric Sleep had done, I knew it wasn’t likely just going to be number one on my list, it was one of the best records I had ever heard.

It’s appropriate that they gave away something so sublime for free.

Related: Drama, tragedy, love, life and death: Dream the Electric Sleep brings new concept record to V Club Saturday (4.8.11 DTES H-D article), Q&A w/Matt Page of DTES “Lost and Gone Forever” dissected aptly at danteprog.com


CD Review: "The Whiskey Daredevils"

CD: The Whiskey Daredevils
ARTIST: The Whiskey Daredevils

Reposted from The Charleston Gazette

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Whiskey Daredevils could be described as Elvis Presley meets Glen Danzig singing for Dwight Yoakam fronting The Cramps. Cleveland’s kings of cowpunk are back with album No. 8, and not a whole lot’s changed -- sonically, at least -- for this staple of the rockabilly scene.

That’s not a bad thing. On the self-titled effort, the Daredevils return (via Detroit, Wheeling and Santa Fe) with 12 new twangy, road-weary and sometimes downright desperate tales.

Standout tracks include “Bakersfield,” where the band finds “country music heaven” littered with 7-11’s; “Moderately Lucky Watch,” the down-and-out “Pawn Stars” theme song that will never be; “Santa Fe” and “Girl I Left Behind.” The record closes with two morbidly sweet tales of rebuked love: “Time Marches On” (the album's best song) and “Cold Dead Leaves.”

After nearly a decade together, the band underwent a few personnel changes this time around. Lead guitarist Gary Siperko is once again the front man (back for his third studio effort with the band), and Lords of the Highway bassist “Sugar” Wildman is filling the void left by singer Greg Miller’s brother, Ken, who left the band after recording the album this summer.

Despite those changes, “The Whiskey Daredevils” fits right in with everything the band has been doing these past few years. It would be easy to say it is the Daredevils’ “Greatest Hits” record . . . except the band already called its first release that.

The Whiskey Daredevils play The Empty Glass, 410 Elizabeth St., at 10 p.m. Saturday with the Judy Chops. Cover is $8.


Debut video: Matt's Song (NYC) by The Glorious Veins

New York City’s Glorious Veins, no strangers to West Virginia after repeated stops, release their debut video for Matt’s Song (NYC) today...

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that bands NOT from West Virginia, swinging through our fair state as part of a tour, are sometimes featured in some form or fashion in my freelance “work” covering bands for the Gazette, Herald-Dispatch, and WVRockscene.

Some bands you kind of lose track of when they leave, then, being part of the media catch up with when they come back through. Some bands, I’ve been lucky enough to keep in touch with at the same time becoming a fan of. The list of said bands is long and varied: Cleveland’s Whiskey Daredevils and Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Arms and Sleepers are maybe the best examples.

But I’ve become not only a fan of New York City’s Glorious Veins after talkin’ to em for the H-D earlier this year, I’ve been keeping in touch with drummer Lui “Wiggy” Colmenares on Facebook even when his band is not in town.

So in anticipation of the release of their debut video Matt’s Song (NYC) today, we thought we’d not simply repost it here, but talk to the people behind the song and the video. The song, off their debut LP, is the only one penned by guitarist Matt Howels, who hails from the UK, came to NYC, and promptly helped get the band started after they all met on Craigslist.

Howels lifted the lyrics from works by friend and NYC poet and writer Ryan Buynak, and the band welcomed Craig Holmes (Shutter Slice Films) over from across the pond back in September to shoot the video.

We caught up with Holmes and Buynak to see what it’s like influencing, working with, and being friends and fans of, NYC’s The Glorious Veins...

Ryan Buynak talks about becoming friends with the GV and the words behind the song...

WVRockscene: You said Matt is one of your best friends? How did you guys meet?

Ryan Buynak: Matt is my British brother. He and I met in the maze that is the New York City restaurant world, and instantly connected over our shared love of music and literature. The universe wanted us to be friends.

WVRockscene: You went out on the road with the band, how good have you got to know the guys?

Buynak: Let’s just say I have come to know the Veins quite well and that sharing the stage with such an amazing band is a long-awaited answer to an old dream of railroads and vagabond hearts.

WVRockscene: What were the poem(s) that Matt lifted words from into “Matt’s Song,” and how cool is/was it to know that your words resonated with him so much that he’d turn it into a song?

Buynak: I’ve always wanted to write a song, but I can’t play music to save my fucking life. It was Matt’s idea. He’s actually been in a few narrative nooses of mine, here and there. He came to me one day asking to use the poetry in a song and of course I said yes.

He picked through a dozen and ended up eating poetry from a few verses. The opening lines of the song are from a piece called Where is 12? which is in the next book. Another is called Midnight Lions. There were a few more but I forget. They all had this sad Manhattan vibe...and somehow they (The Glorious Veins) came up with this awesome fucking song. The record is framed in my apartment. It is an angel’s honor to be involved with cutting edge music and art. Coyote Blood will kill you.

Craig Holmes of Shutter Slice Films talks about the video...

WVRockscene: So you came to the States back in September to shoot the video for Matt’s Song, how did you like your time here? Fun or work or both?

Craig Holmes: I had a great time in New York. The last time I was there I was with my girlfriend at Christmas just gone. I loved it so much so I was stoked to go back. I spent a fair few hours each day shooting footage around the city to make sure I had all the shots I needed for the video. I made sure there was plenty of time for fun though, taking photos and seeing the sights and eating amazing food.

WVRockscene: How did you meet/know these guys? You’re from the UK right so I’d assume you were/are friends with Matt Howels? Know him or the band long?

Holmes: Well my girlfriend’s aunt and cousin, Mark and Maggi, live in Queens. Mark uploaded a picture on Facebook (of course…everything starts with Facebook) of the band playing a rooftop gig. I saw it and thought that would make an awesome video. So I asked Mark if he knew the band. Mark is great friends with Lui so he told me to add him. I started chatting to Wiggy and suggested me flying out. I loved their sound, they were digging my work so it seemed like a great idea.

WVRockscene: How easy was it to take their vision of the song and turn it into a video? What was it like sharing that vision of the song with the band, working with the band in that sense and how smoothly did it go? Are William Webb And Catalina Zbar the actors in the video? They do a good job?

Holmes: Well I didn’t get to talk to Matt until I met him in Queens. Then we chatted via email, I asked him what the premise of the song was from his point of view, everyone can interpret a song but I wanted to make sure that I was hitting all the right notes with the video.

The issue we had was that it was difficult to get everyone together due to other commitments, so the only decent filming I had with the band was the live gig. The rest of the footage that I had was of couples in New York, I spent a few days stalking people in bushes etc. trying to avoid getting punched/arrested. When I got home I was stitching the footage together and it looked good but there was definitely something missing.

Will [Webb] is actually a lifelong friend of mine, he is from South Wales also. His girlfriend Catalina [Zbar] is from Argentina and was visiting Wales for a few days. I showed them my footage and pitched the idea to them of this couple who meet, and fall in love in New York and they were super keen to help me nail it. A lot of the footage is actually filmed in Wales, I had to be quite cheeky with the way it was filmed, that’s why there are a lot of close, intimate shots. Ironically, Cat and Will were taking a trip to New York, and there was a few shots that I needed. So I gave them a camera to capture some extra shots, to make it look like they were living in NY.

As far as acting, they were superb. Can’t fault them at all, it was a lot of fun and there is so much good footage. They are as excited for the release as I am.

WVRockscene: It definitely looks like a professional job, how proud are you of the final product and how excited are you for GV fans and people in general to see it?

Holmes: I am really happy with the final piece and anxious/excited for the release. I have worked on a lot video projects, collaborating with other artists, but this is the first one that I have produced on my own from start to finish.

I’m hoping it gets some great feedback and me more work in the States. As for the GV fans, I think it’s something they deserve. The GVs have such a good following and the music is outstanding, they just needed something for people to see as well as hear to really appreciate how incredible their music is. I’m sure this will help them in their path to stardom, and I wish them the best of luck.

Colmenares, talking about the video and GV fans...

Craig made it all happen and we are very pleased with the results. Hopefully we get to do another one...Definitely easier for fans to share our music with friends. We’ve been wanting to do a video for so long but given limited resources, we’d rather record a song than spend money on a video.

I am grateful that we have friends from across the pond that would fly all the way to the US to help us out. THANK YOU! THANK YOU Craig of Shutter Slice! And to all our friends that have been helping us along the way.


Balliett/Bello split out on Garbage Days

Two WVRockscene favorites, Dylan Balliett and David F. Bello, recently teamed up for a split release on Garbage Days. You may have read all about Balliett's Spirit Night and Bello's rockin' here on this blog, be it in Sleepwalker or his solo efforts, and you may have heard about Garbage Days, mentioned in our recent chat with Charlie Wilmoth of FOX Japan, but not altogether in one big run-on sentence right?

Do check it out though. Balliett (now in NYC we believe) submitted the dreamy "25" and Bello contributed the Pixies-meets-Radiohead jam "Monster," killer stuff indeed. Thumbs up to Garbage Days for getting all this music out and thumbs down to WVRockscene for not covering it.

Wait, we are!


A Special Holiday Message From The Renfields

Our friends in The Renfields are releasing their two-disc box set All The Stuff And Gore, and to celebrate the band is welcoming one lucky fan to Crystal Lake for Christmas to, well quite likely be murdered and re-animated into the Renfields Choir.

Could not be more stoked to see this come out and hear all these songs. Click on The Renfields tab in the cloud sidebar to see all the past stuff we've done on the band and look for more on this soon on this here blog...


Q&A w/Stephen Barton of Close The Hatch


Onetime Sissonville resident (and friend/cohort of Aaron Fisher at 101 Productions) Stephen Barton returns to Charleston for shows with his new band, Close The Hatch, solo stuff (Oh Southern Stranger) and a new label, Red Moth Records.

We caught up with Barton to see what’s been up since we last chatted...

WVRockscene: What’s been up with you since we last caught up for Killing Chloe?

Stephen Barton: Killing Chloe went through a lot of lineup changes in the last two years, losing a few of its main and long standing members, leaving JP (John Paul Morris) and myself to fend for ourselves and keep it afloat. The two of us wrote and recorded another EP “Confront and Embrace,” which was a far cry from what Killing Chloe had been. Using electronics and less hook-driven writing styles, it became more of a darker, slower project. After playing a few shows and some more lineup shifts we made the choice to call it a night with Killing Chloe for awhile.

WVRockscene: How did Killing Chloe morph into Close The Hatch?

Barton: Basically we had become something else anyhow, so myself, JP, and Dan Malloy (the last bass player for Killing Chloe) decided to shift our attention to a new project and focus more on instrumental parts and more of a Neurosis vibe. We wanted to build something from scratch and create more soundscape-oriented material.

WVRockscene: Building on that, how is CTH different from KC?

Barton: It is heavier, slower and much more atmospheric than KC. Honestly they don’t seem relative to me listening to them. I think it’s just a natural growth in our musicianship. Killing Chloe had limitations, Close The Hatch does not we can do whatever we want -- basically it’s more artistic in my mind. Not to down play what was done in Killing Chloe, I’m really proud of that, but without the right parts it was never gonna work again. And you will not see our faces lol.

WVRockscene: You’ve started a label, Red Moth Records, what made you want to start that and what’s it been like?

Barton: The idea was to be the butcher in the market, and the cook, so to speak. We basically had already in the past, so I figured why not take it further? Myself and Brandon Ross (a close friend and fellow musician) had the idea to promote music we make and other bands we enjoy with vinyl and digital downloads and basically the idea grew from that. It’s been a slow process but we are finally releasing things and promoting some events like the ones at The Empty Glass on the 18th and 19th. It’s a lot more work then you would imagine lol.

WVRockscene: You collaborated with John Lancaster on a Close The Hatch song (“Manna Feeder”) -- what was that like and how did that come about?

Barton: That’s a weird story actually. Killing Chloe had played The Blue Parrot a few years back and OJ from Byzantine attended and told me about how we were kinda like Chum, whom I had only heard of from living in West Virginia for a short period, but until then not actually heard. I downloaded their record from iTunes on the trip home and not only dug it, I was really surprised at how close we were. They tuned the same basically and had a [similar] feel. It was scary.

I’ve become a fan since and I drove to Huntington from Ohio to see the Chum reunion show at V Club and was just floored by how massive they sounded. I added John on Facebook (that sounds really dumb) but it’s true and reached out. We chatted about some ways to work together, and I kinda last minute threw a bunch of tracks at him and that’s the one he picked, which was awesome since it was my favorite of the group anyhow.

He has been very kind and supportive, and what he did on the song is something I never would have thought of or heard in my head ever. I’m stoked he is on the EP! Plus we share an interest in music like Made Out Of Babies and King’s X. A lot more common ground than I’d have expected ever, it’s really cool.

WVRockscene: You released the Close The Hatch EP for free, right? What influenced that decision?

Barton: The EP release was something we decided to do last minute before we headed out of state for these shows, and our recent show opening for Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan in Wisconsin at The Rave. We figured why not make it free get it in peoples ears!

We actually have plans to release a handful of splits on the label with other artists and another EP in 2012.

WVRockscene: You’re coming back to WV for these Empty Glass shows with different bands, how cool is that?

Barton: Well we are heading back for two nights, the first night will be with our friends in Ghost Fleet and our fellow Dayton crew Life After Liftoff and myself (Oh Southern Stranger) playing original acoustic/alt-country material of mine which is nothing like Killing Chloe or Close The Hatch, haha. The second night is Close The Hatch and Let the Guilty Hang, with The Number Six and AK 40 Sexuals. Each night will be a totally different vibe and style of music.


CD Review: "The New Strokes Record"

CD: The New Strokes Record

It doesn’t get much more plug-in-and-go than The New Strokes Record by NU. “Written and recorded in minutes,” as it says on their bandcamp page, this latest killer side project and collaboration between The Demon Beat’s Adam Meisterhans and Tucker Riggleman, with Prison Book Club drummer Andrew Ford, only further cements these guys as pre-eminent West Virginia rockers, whatever band they’re in.

Yeah you can’t say Meisterhans and Riggleman ever got the memo that side projects are supposed to suck. While it’s not like they spent too much time thinking about the songs (the 10 songs average two minutes in length -- now that’s pretty punk) on The New Strokes Record, these three dudes capture a raw, abrasive garage rock sound (circa the 1970’s) and punk rock attitude that a lot of bands would do well to emulate.

Favorite tracks include, firstly, “Can’t Party,” “When I (get some)” and “Rescue You” -- but pretty much all of the songs run together in a sonically coherent fashion, and form a pretty great record. Don’t blink or step out of the room though: you’ll miss it.

But seriously, as you may have heard The Demon Beat approach something like The Stooges in the past, (think “This Is No Fun” off Shit We’re 23) and wish they’d explore that kind of tendency, flush that out, this is the record they never released. But now they have, as NU.

Pretty much all of the songs are catchy as hell, uptempo, with driving guitar, fuzzy, walking bass lines, Meisterhans’ near-patented, gnarly shouting and soulful voice ran through layers of reverb and echo all the whilst continuing his lyrical themes of losing in love -- nothing more straight ahead rock and roll than this has come across the desk of the WVRockscene home office this year.

Recorded (like everything else they do) in total DIY fashion by Meisterhans, with album art from Demon Beat drummer Jordan Hudkins, The New Strokes Record is both a step back and two thumbs up for rock and roll from these dudes.

After the “written and recorded in minutes,” liner note on NU’s bandcamp page, it says simply: “Turn that shit up.” Nothing better or more profound could be said here. Turn that shit up indeed.

Could you imagine hearing this, not having heard of The Demon Beat or any of the assorted side projects, each of which is indeed quite awesome? This would be your favorite “NU” band. Haha we’re here all week!

--- NU plays its debut show Thursday night at the Blue Moon Saloon (200 E. High St.) out in Shepherdstown with Sundown and Masquerade Manifesto.

NU: “At All” live @ Blue Moon Saloon 11.17

video: Bucket Of Rock Blog


Q&A w/Charlie Wilmoth of FOX Japan


FOX Japan (L-R: Sam Wilmoth, Charlie Wilmoth, Andrew Slater and Pete Wilmoth) plays 123 Pleasant St. Saturday night.

Slater-Wilmoth (aka FOX Japan) plays 123 Pleasant Street this Saturday night on the heels of releasing “Casual Sex,” the debut single from their fourth album, Glory, Glory Hallelujah, set for release Tuesday.

The indie rock outfit, comprised of brothers Charlie (vocals/guitar), Sam (bass) and Pete Wilmoth (drums) with guitarist Andrew Slater and evoking something like Talking Heads, with influences ranging from The Pixies to Pavement, is no stranger to Magic Town’s scene or readers of this here blog.

We caught up with FOX Japan frontman Charlie Wilmoth to see what’s been up with the making of Glory, Glory Hallelujah, what has changed (if anything) and what’s in store for the band...

WVRockscene: It’s been over a year since we last talked, where are you guys living at these days? Columbus? Pittsburgh? Morgantown? How far apart are you?

Charlie Wilmoth: I’m in Columbus, Pete is in Pittsburgh, and Sam and Andrew are in Morgantown.

WVRockscene: While there are projects that you may be involved with, be it The Overcoat, Spirit Night, Charlie doing solo stuff, how cool was it getting back together writing and collaborating for new FOX Japan material?

Wilmoth: We do it all the time, or at least we have recently, so I’m not sure it’s something we really felt like we took a break from. Speaking for myself, I just like making things and I probably always will, so I’ll always be writing.

WVRockscene: Charlie you’ve played out solo in recent months, how did that go and does/did playing solo either refresh or let you look at FJ writing differently?

Wilmoth: I feel like I should do it more. Fox Japan is about ten times more interesting to me than playing by myself, but I think Fox Japan also isn’t very easy to understand the first time you hear it, in part because the lyrics aren’t clear or audible. When I play solo, it almost feels like comedy. People laugh at the funny stuff. That doesn’t happen at Fox Japan shows.

WVRockscene: Speaking of solo, Charlie, the debut single “Casual Sex” continues the FJ theme of deeply personal, sometimes painfully honest and smart, insightful lyrics. Musicians talk about their craft offering some sort of catharsis, is just getting to write lyrics and share them pretty cool? Whether it’s casual sex (or lack thereof,) Glenn Beck or whatever cultural/religious/political observations, how much thought goes into the lyrics?

Wilmoth: A lot of thought goes into them, and thanks for noticing! One way this record is different from the others we’ve made is that the lyrics ARE pretty personal at times, whereas before I think they weren't. Thoughtful and distinctive, yes (hopefully), but personal, no, in that I was mostly writing about political ideas, or characters I dreamed up, not about myself. The original idea for “Casual Sex” was for the narrator to not want to have casual sex because of his brimstone-and-hellfire religious beliefs, but that felt like a cheap shot, and it seemed much harder and more interesting to actually make it about me and my own weird hang-ups. So that’s what I did. Most of the songs on Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! aren’t as much of a departure from what we did with lyrics before, but I’m also less inclined than I used to be to go after easy targets.

WVRockscene: I thought I’d seen a pic of you guys in the studio with Dave Klug in Pittsburgh, is that right? How did that go and how much smoother if at all has recording got for you after three prior releases?

Wilmoth: Actually, we recorded the album with Brian Spragg in Morgantown, and Dave mixed it in Pittsburgh. The photo you saw was probably from the Overcoat’s recording session.

The recording process isn’t smoother. It’s worse. We’re getting a lot smarter about it, but we’re also wanting to do crazier and crazier things. “Casual Sex” was the last song we recorded and we banged it out (so to speak) in a few days, so you can’t really tell, but in a lot of the other songs on the album, there’s just a million things going on. I felt a little bit bad for Brian and the amount of time I spent at his house. He really was a saint about it, and all I could really do to repay him was give him a few bucks and buy him lunch. There’s one song that has, I believe, 78 tracks. Dave just about had a heart attack when he saw it. I liked the way our last record, Reenactment, sounded, but it seems a little bit spare. This one sounds richer, and there’s also a lot more ear-candy stuff going on.

WVRockscne: Charlie when we talked for the Herald-Dispatch piece on FJ like 18 months ago, you mentioned you wanted the follow-up to Reenactment to sound minimalist in comparison or something like that. Given your classical music background, how satisfying/frustrating a process was arranging and producing the new songs?

Wilmoth: It was just kind of crazy. I think we might have started recording it even before Reenactment came out. It took a long time in terms of hours spent. I’m not sure whether that will be immediately apparent to the listener, in that this record doesn’t really announce itself as an epic rock album, but I do think all the weekends we spent in the studio make the new record sound more dense and warm and immediately appealing.

There really wasn’t a lot of arranging in the classical sense. It was more about listening to things and deciding whether six guitars was enough for a particular section, or whether there needed to be eight. Or whether there would be a way to drop a couple extra keyboards into a particular section to give the pre-chorus a little more momentum. That sort of thing.

WVRockscene: You’re releasing Glory, Glory, Hallelujah on Garbage Days, which has already put out some cool stuff from local/regional acts, how neat is it to be able to kind of share the new FJ record with not only your fans, but your friends who are running this label? It’s got to be cooler than dealing with some stranger somewhere who doesn’t care about your bands, right? Just your thoughts on labels these days?

Wilmoth: We used to concern ourselves with that kind of stuff, but we haven’t recently, and that feels a lot healthier. As for Garbage Days, there has been a lot of great music happening in Morgantown in the past few years, and it’s nice that Anthony Fabbricatore put together Garbage Days to help announce that to the world.

WVRockscene: On the FJ bandcamp page it says the new CD will be out Nov. 15, is that right or just a marketing ploy? Can fans expect to be able to get on there Tuesday and be able to order it?

Wilmoth: Yes, it should be up there on Tuesday. There might be some reason to delay it, but we’re not planning on it.

WVRockscene: Looking forward to this show Saturday at 123?

Wilmoth: Yes. We’re playing with Dave Bello and with a New York band called the Ditty Committee, who make these small but spectacularly bleak and well-crafted songs. It’s a good bill, and what unifies it is that all the acts on it are very serious about lyrics.


WVRockscene: Bands come and go, but it seems like, looking at you guys from the outside, that being brothers -- and you guys have said this much in the past -- precludes any real diva drama or chemistry issues. Obviously Slater is something of an adopted Wilmoth bro in FJ, but how cool/fun is it after all these years to still be together in a band making music you like playing?

Wilmoth: It must be good, because I can’t imagine doing it any other way. We just agree on so many things that rehearsals are pretty easy. And when I’m in Morgantown, I can always crash on Sam and Andrew’s couch.

mp3: Casual Sex by FOX Japan

photo: Nikki Rotunda

--- FOX Japan plays 123 Pleasant Street Saturday night with The Ditty Committee and David F. Bello, and will release their fourth album, “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah” Tuesday, Nov. 15 on their bandcamp page...

Related: Slater-Wilmoth (FOX Japan) vs. Glenn Beck Friday @ Shamrock's (Herald-Dispatch June 2010 article)


Knisely keeps to important things in new album (H-D repost)


Huntington’s Sean Knisely opens up and steps out on his own on his new 10-song solo acoustic debut Wilbur By The Sea, an unexpected change for the 26-year old singer-songwriter.

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Life, love and music. That pretty much sums up the story for Sean Knisely.

Known as the singer-guitarist for the now defunct Huntington-based electro-rock band Attack Flamingo, Knisely, for his 10-song solo acoustic debut, “Wilbur By The Sea,” stripped things down while keeping what was important after things with his band and in his life just kind of ran their course.

“We never officially broke up,” Knisely said of Attack Flamingo over the phone. “People were just in different life situations, and just had other things going on. It just kind of ran its course.”

While Knisely constantly wrote songs, be it in Attack Flamingo, in Coyotes in Boxes, or as a budding solo artist influenced by the likes of Iron & Wine and Bon Iver, with a voice like Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, it was his life and his place in the world Knisely found had changed after a very real breakup.

“So, I almost married a girl in December, and that fell apart,” the 26-year old said deliberately, to give some back story to the inspiration behind the songs. “That gave me a lot of stuff to work through within myself, and I wrote a lot about that, and that turned into a lot of music. Then, coming out of that I started to question everything. Like, that was the life plan at that point, that was what I was moving toward, and now, what am I doing? If I’m here I want to be here intentionally. I love this place, I have great friends, a family, church, a lot of support, it’s really a great community and I love it.

“But at the same time there’s this this feeling that if I’ve never really left home and left my comfort zone, not even moving but just branching out and traveling, then will I look back and wonder what might have been?”

Where Attack Flamingo’s faith-based journey was more interstellar, Knisely’s inspiration for Wilbur By The Sea took the form of an interstate love song.

“I was traveling down through Kentucky and Tennessee and down to North and South Carolina, visiting friends and writing the verses to those songs. At that point I was searching within myself, feeling stuck. I want to feel like the world is wide open. I want to follow my dreams and there’s a limited ceiling of opportunity with the arts in Huntington unfortunately. There’s a great community, but I really want to give it a shot to make music what I do,” Knisely said with emphasis on those last three words.

“In the context of how much I love Huntington, I feel like, myself and other people, need to be able to leave and explore.”

So getting out of Huntington was as much or more of a cathartic experience as it was an artistic exercise for Knisely.

“As I kept writing that stuff, and having been in the relationship and dealing with the aftermath of all that, it just became more personal and I went with it. And I just kept recording because I liked it, not knowing what I would do with it. And I realized that was what I wanted to do.”

Opening up his life to others by himself on a stage wasn’t something Knisely always envisioned.

“I never saw myself as a solo artist, maybe just because it’s more difficult. You have to push yourself, like ‘Here’s me, I play music, I’m going to get up there and play.’ It’s more vulnerable than having a band, where it’s like a team or a built-in support group. Really I’m more in my element writing a song and playing a song and recording a song than I am going out and promoting it all.”

Knisely didn’t need to look too far for a welcoming atmosphere and audience for his music, he just walked out the door of his apartment and played on his porch.

“We’re calling it porch unplugged,” Knisely said laughing. “My friend Joe, he’s always had the same exact mindset, only more intensely, of getting people together. Every other Thursday we get together, whether it’s his porch or mine. That kind environment suits singer-songwriter, and Coyotes in Boxes, well, just down home sort of folky community vibe. It’s where I think the music will thrive, in that kind of atmosphere.”

So from one comfort zone to a whole new atmosphere, be it solo musician or solo relationship status, his porch or another state, for Knisely, Wilbur By The Sea is definitely a welcome escape.

“There’s a really tiny town in Florida, and I didn’t even think it through this deep, but as you’re leaving Daytona Beach there’s this little sign and all it says is Wilbur By The Sea. It’s representative to me of traveling and seeing new things and escaping the comfort zones of life, sort of. I like that.”

Sean Knisely’s solo debut record “Wilbur By The Sea” is available for streaming or download at http://wilburbythesea.bandcamp.com/

photo: Russ Billo

Related: WildBlog review of Wilbur By The Sea


CD Review: "Plastic Rain"

CD: Plastic Rain
ARTIST: The Phantom Six

Remember that band that came along and reinvented rock and roll? These guys, man, they just made everything prior and everything that will be almost seem lame. That nothing would ever be the same, everything else sucks in comparison.

You probably don't.

Rock and roll need not be reinvented, but yeah sometimes bands come along that evoke a particular era, with a particular sound and energy that totally envelops and straddles the years, dissolving all the crap that you've listened to, all the shit CDs you've bought and relegated to the ash heap of your own history, simultaneously reminding you how much you used to be proud to love rock and roll, to invest something in it psychologically, and why you did: because you can feel it.

Hyperbole aside, The Phantom Six is one of those kinds of bands.

It's always great to just put a new CD in, press play, and in the first few seconds, after the first few chords, think nothing more than 'hell yeah,' and commence to rocking.

Rocking is exactly what you'll be doing listening to the debut from this new-in-name-only Morgantown-area power pop/garage rock five-piece, as the record kicks off with "Corianna," and likely won't be stopped until it's run its course.

While they're busy reinventing rock and roll for you, at least reminding you how much you can love it, over 13 songs, if you haven't heard about this killer new band The Phantom Six WVRockscene is creaming itself over, here is a surprise: they aren't a new band at all.

Operating as Moon up until recently, Mark Poole (lead vocals/guitar), Billy Sheeder (guitar/vox), Billy Matheny (bass/vox), Clint Sutton (drums/vox) and Woody O'Hara (percussion/vox), now renamed, on Plastic Rain, only prove that, while some things can change, some things stay the same: catchy, sometimes awesomely overdriven guitar-driven power-pop that evokes something like Tom Petty and Matthew Sweet circa British Invasion type stuff.

The Poole-Sheeder connection and chemistry dates back literally decades to 63 Eyes, you may know Sutton from his own recent solo work, but maybe talking about how awesome The Phantom Six is summed up thusly: Billy Matheny plays bass.

Sure, there are good bass players and there are dudes that kind of just show up; bassists have a long, rich tradition of being much maligned (think Murderface and Sid Vicious) but in a lot of the most rockin' of bands bassists really contribute, be it as songwriters, singers, musicians and performers.

We will include Matheny in the more favorbale category of bassists. If you've missed his solo output in recent years, questioned why there's been no follow-up to Born of Frustration in the lifetime since it was released, as he's more recently joined up with Athens, Ohio's Southeast Engine and joined on with Todd Burge, only cosmically seeming to seal up some cosmic, sonic circle now with Poole and Sheeder, among other projects, previously in Moon and now as The Phantom Six, he helps form what sounds like some super group or something.

Oh, the record. Make no mistake dear friends, okay, dear readers, Plastic Rain is a great record. Recorded at Poole's Zone 8 Studios, with a live and loud final feel, on favorite tracks like "Inspiration," the hard rockin' "About Love" and 70's rock sounding "Losing Control," to the more jangly Americana of "Shades of Sunday" and the somber "Big Airplane," (killer solo) with lyrics mainly dealing with some combination of chicks, love and small towns ("everyone wants to fall in love, if only for one day," Poole sings on "Inspiration") and with a plug-in-and-go attitude, people not familiar with Moon will be kicking themselves now.

With super-tight vocal harmonies, backing vocals, enough requisite "na-na-na's" the songs, describe them how you will, who they remind you of, what you call them, really just might remind you how much you can love a rock band.

While the songs are simply structured sing-along verse-chorus-verse types for the most part, there's enough instrumentation, enough of an ambitious sonic layering with reverse guitar parts and organ thrown in with the solos and the crashing cymbals, to make the songs great. Everything about a kick ass rock band is on display on Plastic Rain.

It's just a shame that the band had to wait until this cold Fall season to release Plastic Rain. This is a record that has a Spring/Summer feel to it. Like you could take some long undirected road trip with only the 13 songs as accompaniment, some sort of exciting new infatuation.

But regardless of the season, whatever year it is, most every fan of rock and roll will be falling in love with this killer new Morgantown band, The Phantom Six. This record not only transcends time, it kicks ass. "Favorite new band" is only a technicality for these guys.

--- The Phantom Six releases Plastic Rain Nov. 5 at 123 Pleasant Street with The Demon Beat.


Salad Days: Tyler Grady & David F. Bello talk about their new band Sleepwalker


Sleepwalker (above) will release their debut EP and play 123 Pleasant Street Saturday night

Having covered West Virginia bands for a few years at this point, the neatest thing is seeing new bands form quite organically out of bands that just naturally seem to run their course. Such seems to be the case with the new Morgantown-based band Sleepwalker.

Comprised of members of bands like Death Virginia, Mega Touch, Big Ass Manatee, Nirvana 2, Rifle Camp, and David Bello Band, the band (Tyler Grady: vocals/guitars; David F. Bello: vocals/guitar; Jason McCarty: guitar/vocals; Will Foreman: bass/vocals; Pat Manzi: percussion) is set to release their debut EP The Dark One digitally Saturday night, coinciding with their show at 123 Pleasant Street with Pat Pat and High Fives and Hell Yeahs.

We caught up with Grady and Bello to learn more about the band, the EP, and how post-apocalyptic tossed salad metaphors totally apply to Sleepwalker...

WVRockscene: You guys haven’t been together for very long at all -- your first show was back in June -- but are each veterans of more than a few Magic Town bands, what’s it been like being in a new project like Sleepwalker?

Tyler Grady: It’s really exciting forming a band out of your friends. It’s even more exciting when everyone comes into a project knowing what kind of role they’d like to fill, and having the chops to back up that role.

David F. Bello: It’s great, we didn’t have to spend a lot of time really on normal “Well we’re in a band, what do we do now?” type of things, we kind of just ran with it since we all know what we’re doing and we’ve all been friends for a long time.

WVRockscene: People who even casually follow Morgantown area acts will be familiar with the bands you’ve been in/come from. Following up on that last question, and segueing into the next one, what were some of the best parts of bringing in everyone’s own contributions into Sleepwalker? These bands you come from have a pretty diverse range it seems like, how special or unique do you think Sleepwalker’s sound is up Magic Town way?

DFB: I think it’s pretty unique. I think we each do a good job of making it a tossed salad kind of thing where we know what to do to mix our sounds together and have it sound good as a whole but if somebody wants to really pick it apart they’ll find our individual styles in there as well. Plus the tossed salad thing will be good for when we all eventually end up in federal prison for one thing or another.

Grady: I agree with David. We are lucky in the sense that each of our tastes individually lends themselves cohesively to toss our salad. As for how unique we are, I don’t really think there is another band in town that sounds quite like we do, but it seems like the general lack of bands has a lot to do with that

WVRockscene: Obviously you guys will have known each other for a while, (123’s LJ Giuliani is quoted on Sleepwalker’s Facebook page as saying you’re “a who’s who of the late night drinking circuit,”) how did the idea to get together as Sleepwalker slowly congeal and the band form?

DFB: Haha that quote is one of my proudest moments. We all do certainly drink a lot. We got together in a Mad Max kind of way -- I think Tyler will appreciate that connection. A lot of the people in our other projects recently left town, so in the midst of this wasteland we forged weapons and found a practice space. It worked out really conveniently because even before the other bands were kind of coming to an end, we were all kind of thinking of playing music together anyway.

Grady: On the record: Mad Max (the original) is my all-time favorite movie. As for how the band came together, the very beginning of it forming, for me, was seeing David play for the first time. I knew right away that I wanted to be in a band with that guy. I’ve always enjoyed playing with Pat [Manzi] too.

WVRockscene: It appears that to some extent you both share singing, what about songwriting? You guys being friends, what's the chemistry like just jamming and arranging tunes?

Grady: We still haven’t written a song from scratch together yet. We certainly have different writing styles, but I don’t think it would affect anything for when we do finally writing something as a cooperative. As far as jamming goes, we’ve always had fun jamming together. We have a fake/real “noise” band that we put together a long time ago as kind of a fuck you to the idea of jamming. It’s awful. Intentionally. I can’t say anything but this is our band when it comes to who has more creative control. We each pull our weight and work well together when one of us introduces a song. It’s kind of a Guy/Ian relationship. We both love Fugazi too. That has nothing to do with anything.

DFB: We definitely share things equally.

WVRockscene: You two made appearances in Ryan Hizer’s video for “Pushover,” how fun was that and was there any perks involved?

DFB: Jason [McCarty] is in it too, but just for a second and he’s got his hands over his ears. It was super fun. The guy who made it, Geoff Hoskinson had us all over to his killer office space with an outdoor deck and Pittsburgh beer on tap and basically let us all get in front of a nice camera and make funny faces. We got to listen to “Pushover” all day, which was really cool. Also, we’re all affiliated with Garbage Days who put out the Good Sport record and is working with me on a bunch of stuff, so it was good to work on something for that whole deal.

Grady: The video shoot was a great time. There were a lot of funny things that didn’t make the final cut. There was a scene that Adam [Meisterhans] was in where he was texting on his cell phone and then was pulled out of the frame. It doesn’t sound as funny as it was. Believe me, it was.

Good Sport – Pushover from Geoff Hoskinson on Vimeo.

WVRockscene: Hizer mixed the EP, which was recorded by The Demon Beat’s Adam Meisterhans, aside from the songs, and how the band and the songs came together, from Meisterhans to Hizer to Klug for mastering, how proud are you of the final product?

DFB: Man I am so proud of it. Those guys all did an amazing job the whole way through. It was awesome getting Adam up here for a weekend to record the whole thing and it was great that we were able to get our friends to work on this and do an amazing job with our sound.

WVRockscene: Will there be physical copies of “The Dark One” available at 123 Saturday or just on the bandcamp page?

DFB: Just the bandcamp page for now, and it’s on a pay-what-you-want setting. We’re going to press a 7” fairly soon, hopefully using the money we make from the bandcamp release and any shows we have coming up.

WVRockscene: I did see that this Saturday is the 123 13th anniversary show. It’s always seemed like a nice supportive college town atmosphere up there. Whether school is in or not, what’s it like for bands up there? Obviously having a bunch of college age kids coming out to see your band is a plus, but having “seen the scene” over the past 10 or so years how much of a plus is it being a band in Morgantown these days?

DFB: It’s always been great for me. It’s how I’ve made most of my friends in town and everybody I’ve ever dealt with in the music scene is super friendly. I wish there were more young bands in town, though. We’re old. We’re still cool! I SWEAR. But we’re old, and more people younger than us should be in bands, imho.

Grady: the Morgantown music scene has always been important to me. I grew up in the Eastern panhandle and there was really no music scene there at all. We would drive to Cumberland (30 miles) just to see a local show that was mediocre at best. Then some of my friend’s siblings started going to college at WVU and we would sneak out to Morgantown to party with the college kids. That’s where I discovered 123 -- and whip-its.

We would say we were going to Cumberland and drive to Morgantown shows and get drunk in the car. It was really formative, haha.

The party was always centered around the music, and the music at that time was much more abundant. I would really like to see more of that attitude. Certainly I don’t endorse that kind of irresponsibility, but I can endorse doing whatever is necessary to get to the music you want to see. I didn’t play on the stage at 123 until I had been coming there for many years, but when I did it was so satisfying because I had loved that place so much

WVRockscene: So you’ll get the debut EP out, play some shows, what’s up for the rest of the year? Plans to record a full-length? Anything special?

DFB: No concrete plans yet to do a full-length but I think in a year or so’s time we’ll have enough cooked up for that. We want to put out that 7” with songs from the EP, possibly go on a tour of the east coast.

WVRockscene: Bands form, break up and form new bands over time. Sleepwalker’s story is no different, obviously. Being veterans of the Magic Town scene, seeing bands kind of come and go, bands you might even have been in, how excited are you for the near future to be in Sleepwalker?

DFB: I am really excited. We’re either going to last forever or explode in our van.

--- Sleepwalker plays 123 Pleasant Street Saturday night with Pat Pat and High Fives and Hell Yeahs for 123’s 13th anniversary show.

Sleepwalker will release their debut EP The Dark One on a pay-what-you-can basis on their bandcamp page Saturday.


Occupy Shepherdstown Thursday. Specifically, the Blue Moon Saloon for the first ever Rozwell Kid show


We liked him as Jude Universer. We love him as Rozwell Kid. In anticipation of Jordan Hudkins taking his side project out live Thursday night out in Shepherdstown, we caught up with him over email to see what’s up with praise for The Rozwell Kid LP, who’s in the live band, different animals and collectors items...

WVRockscene: The Rozwell Kid LP has been quite warmly received by critical press types -- how cool has it been to know people have been rocking the LP out with thumbs up?

Jordan Hudkins: It feels great! There are some folks in the UK who love the album, so that’s really cool! The other day, according to my Bandcamp stats, someone in Canada Googled “Rozwell Kid” -- I’m going global haha.

WVRockscene: Who’s in the live Rozwell Kid band?

Hudkins: I’ve got an All-Star lineup of dudes... It’s going to be awesome! Adam Meisterhans will be recreating live all of those bodacious leads he played on the record. Andrew LaCara from The Resonators will be playing rhythm guitar. Devin Donnelly from Bitch Cave/Chick Salad fame will be playing bass. And Sean Hallock from Chambersburg PA’s The Shackeltons will be manning the drums.


WVRockscene: I think I’d seen you mentioning a Rozwell Kid rehearsal on Facebook; how did that go? Are you ready to take Rozwell Kid out live?

Hudkins: We’ve had three extended full band rehearsals, as well as two acoustic vocal practices. We’ve learned the whole record, front-to-back, and even worked up a surprise cover that should be a lot of fun. It’s one of those songs I’ve dreamed about playing live in a band since I was in 9th grade. We’re definitely ready.

WVRockscene: Is this the first AND last Rozwell Kid show, or will there be more going forward?

Hudkins: This is definitely the first RK show, but it won’t be the last. We’re all having a great time jamming out these jams. The calendar fills up pretty quickly between The Demon Beat, Prison Book Club & The Shackeltons, but we’re gonna work on fitting in some regional gigs this winter.

WVRockscene: I assume you will have many Rozwell Kid LPs for sale at the show?

Hudkins: I’ve whipped together a few physical copies of the record. I’ll have them at the show on a pay-what-you-want basis. I feel weird charging people for a burnt CD when they can wait until they get home to download the record for free. Now, if I had cassettes or vinyl, that’s a different animal altogether. Now we’re talking collectors items!

--- Rozwell Kid plays the Blue Moon Saloon Thursday night with The Continuals and Bratcore. Show starts at 9 p.m., and it’s free.