Warm things up with Bonfire!


Things are looking up for the Morgantown “Quiet Grrrl” band Bonfire. The band (L-R: Amanda Burris, Liz Toler, Chris Quattro, Jodi Hollingshead) has been recording with Brian Spragg, posting new demos, getting ready for all kinds of shows, and finding functional Fender guitars in the ice walking around. We caught up with Chris Quattro for an update in time for their Tiny Scissors show Friday in Morgantown...

WVRockscene: You recorded with Brian Spragg recently and you’ve got some demos up; how far along are you in the process? How many total songs did you get recorded and are you finished?
Chris Quattro: Almost done! We have about one more session. Then it needs mixed and master before it’s ready to be released. I believe we have eight songs total. The idea was to have an EP ready for a cassette release.

Brian is fantastic and endlessly generous. We are very lucky to call him friend. He does a fantastic job and is a pleasure to work with. We have several more songs since we started recording though. I hope to get those recorded in the near future as well.

rockscene: So you apparently found a guitar in a near frozen creek this week; how weird/awesome was that, and will you be able to use it at all?
Quattro: We did find a guitar! Jodi does photography, we were out for a picture walk and we saw something on the ice on Decker’s Creek. It ended up being a fairly beat up Fender Toronado. It will be rebuilt and given new life though. It’s amazing how people throw away or often destroy expensive instruments.

I am “lucky” about finding instruments. I look everywhere all the time though. It’s almost a second job. I adore the physical mediums of music and I am an avid collector of music equipment. So it’s always cool to find something interesting and I often find things thrown away or cheap. But never floating on a ice sheet!

rockscene: Bonfire has a mini-tour set up for mid-February with Big Hurry and you play 123 with them and Arcane Rifles; looking forward to those shows?
Quattro: Of course! We have become friends with Big Hurry. We played with them a little while ago at Hambone’s in Pittsburgh. We decided to exchange shows. That’s really what it’s about to me. Friends playing with friends. It may be hackneyed to say but it’s very rewarding. On that note, my longtime friend J. Marinelli is the drummer for Arcane Rifles. I can’t wait to see his new band and for him to see what we have been up to!

flyer art: Liz Toler

rockscene: You play this Tiny Scissors art show Friday evening at Blue Moose; which will feature collages from Bonfire’s own Liz Toler and Dwight Pavlovic, who helps run Crash Symbols. Are you going to end up releasing some music on CS? And how neat is it to play this kind of show to feature Liz’ art?
Quattro: Well, we are endlessly lucky to have talents outside of music in the band. I really like Liz’s work. She does almost all of the advertising for the band.

Dwight has approached us to do a release with him. I can’t say which label it would be released on. The release is still in the recording process. I guess when we have something finished, we will have more information.

rockscene: I understand there will be free coffee at Tiny Scissors, is the beer and snacks free or do you know?
Quattro: That’s a Dwight and Liz question!

Tiny Scissors starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, January 28 at The Blue Moose Cafe (248 Walnut St.) in Morgantown. Admission is free. Free coffee will be served, along with beer and snacks. For more information call the Blue Moose at (304) 292-8999

photo: Ron Hollingshead


Tiny Scissors art show (+ Bonfire) Friday in Magic Town


Liz Toler and Dwight Pavlovic, set to be wed in October, will share their love of art Friday at The Blue Moose Café in Morgantown, followed by music from Toler’s band Bonfire

Readers of the blog here may remember our recent chat with the Morgantown-based “cupcakewave” band Bonfire. In addition to getting some recording done recently, Bonfire is set to play a pretty cool art show in Morgantown Friday at The Blue Moose Café.

It is an extra special show for Bonfire drummer Liz Toler, as she and her fiancé Dwight Pavlovic will unveil some previously unseen collages at the opening reception of Tiny Scissors, starting at 6:30, followed by a Bonfire set starting at 8 p.m. We caught up with Pavlovic over email to see how art and music collide…

WVRS: How did the idea to have a split art/music show come about? How welcoming of an atmosphere does the Blue Moose Café offer for this kind of event?
Dwight Pavlovic: Having the band play wasn’t actually our idea. The suggestion came from Eli Pollard, who helped us organize the show. I told Liz and everyone thought it was a great idea. It surprised me to think that it’s not a more common occurrence in town – I know that most cities with active art or music scenes pretty commonly make the connection, which only makes the prospect more exciting for us. The Blue Moose is definitely the most relaxed venue for artists and music in town and given the high traffic, it’s a great place to imagine having your work displayed.

"Engaging Christ" by Dwight Pavlovic

rockscene: You put together a mixtape for 40 oz. Clothing, and Liz designed the cover. Putting together this Tiny Scissors show, what, in your mind is the nexus of your art and music? Whether it’s the mixtape, what you do with/for Crash Symbols, Liz designing flyers/art, or Bonfire playing the show?
Pavlovic: I think for both of us the nexus of our work is in those sorts of creative intersection. I’ve had a lifelong interest in media and culture, so the idea of making all of our activities communicate in some way is very meaningful to me. We made and hung the flyer for the show together, and both of us regularly collaborate on a variety of activities – I recently released a cassette that she designed packaging for and we’re preparing to collaborate on some t-shirt design commissions.

"The Angry Prow" by Dwight Pavlovic
rockscene: In your artist statement on the Tiny Scissors Facebook description it says you and Liz make your collages from the same supplies, but they end up obviously different. How cool is it to be able to share that kind of creative experience with your fiancé?
Pavlovic: Unbelievably cool, naturally. It’s one of our favorite things to do when we both have the time and energy and it’s ended up being a serious part of our extraneous projects. I think it’s great for both of us to be able to collaborate creatively and influence each other’s development as artists.

"Seedy Gold" by Liz Toler

rockscene: Couples are known to sometimes squabble; has there ever been a time where either of you gave thumbs down to the other’s art project or are you just wholly supportive of each other?
Pavlovic: Wholly supportive. It’s made easier by similarities in our taste, but that kind of squabbling – in my mind at least – defeats the whole purpose of the activity. Although we try to give each other input, when we collage together, we aren’t necessarily there to critique each other. We both have favorite pieces by the other, but I’m not trying to make Liz’s collages more like mine and she’s not trying to make mine more like hers.

"Party Dress" by Liz Toler
rockscene: Are these collages of yours posted on your Facebook page going to be featured? Are you trying to sell your art or just show it?
Pavlovic: Some will be, but we’ve done a lot of new work that hasn’t been shown anywhere yet, Facebook or otherwise. All of the pieces will be for sale, at as-of-yet undetermined prices, so God willing we’ll be able to sell a few!

"Big Tongue Candy Mountain" by Liz Toler

rockscene: Featuring/showing your art in public must be just as personal as playing a song, is this Tiny Scissors show even more personal since you and Liz are an item?
Pavlovic: I think it might seem more personal if Liz and I collaborating struck me as more of an admission to be made, than as an advantage. It’s a point of pride. How many people can exhibit artwork with their fiancé? I’m incredibly proud of all the pieces we’ve framed for the event, hers and mine… so it’s personal in the sense that people are getting to see things we’ve made in private, but we’re just excited to get some new feedback.

"Tiny Scissors" show flyer by Toler/Pavlovic

Tiny Scissors starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, January 28 at The Blue Moose Cafe (248 Walnut St.) in Morgantown. Admission is free. Free coffee will be served, along with beer and snacks. For more information call the Blue Moose at (304) 292-8999


Jason Sells (aka Slate Dump) coming to V Club


Reposted from The Huntington-Herald Dispatch

Talking to Jason Sells over the phone, you get the sense that he has an old soul.

The 33-year old Beckley native and Memphis, Tennessee resident’s humble Raleigh County roots come through loud and clear.

“I don't care to talk about myself, honestly,” Sells said from Memphis as he ferried Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Jam Messengers (Rob K and Uncle Butcher) about, sightseeing during a few days off on their U.S. tour, which Sells (also known as Slate Dump) jumped on.

The tour brings Sells and The Jam Messengers to The V Club, 741 6th Ave., Friday, Jan. 28.

“I’m going to show them around Memphis,” Sells said. “We’re going to hit Graceland, Sun Studios, visit some graveyards, record stores and Beale Street. When we get to West Virginia, Marco (Butcher) is a big Hasil Adkins fan, and we plan on going to go clean Hasil’s grave and maybe lay some hot dogs down in his honor. We’ll maybe see if my buddy Jesco’s home, see if he wants to tag along.”

While Jesco White’s family calls Sells “nephew,” they’re not really related, just good friends.

“People ask me if I’m his nephew, but I’m not, in actuality. He’s been a close friend for over 10 years; I’ve taken him to the store, the post office, I took him to get his I.D. made at the Kanawha Mall,” Sells said laughing.

Sells, playing out as the minimalist, bluesy, roots-based Slate Dump for about five years, described how he got introduced to these Brazilian acts.

“About four or five years ago, a good friend of mine and another one-man band, J Marinelli, gave me the ‘Attack of the One Man Bands’ compilation CD,” he said. “He told me about guys like Chuck Violence, Chucrobillyman, Fabulous GoGo Boy from Alabama, and Uncle Butcher, of course. And I just fell in love. They’re doing cooler things than a lot of Americans right now. I kept in touch and told them if they were ever in America I’d be glad to try to set them up some shows.”

For Sells, even though he's in Memphis, after calling Morgantown home for a few years, his musical roots lie in Raleigh County.

“Raleigh Hollow, growing up on McQuillen hill,” Sells said. “My great-grandfather, Hughie McQuillen, had eleven kids, and during the depression he worked in the mines and played stringed instruments in bars at night, and was able to support all of his kids. I learned all my rudimentary chords from him and my grandmother, Doris McQuillen-Bennett. She’s 73-years old and still plays guitar. She loves Chuck Berry, Bill Withers; my grandmother is rockin’. Yeah, I learned the only four chords I know from them,” Sells said laughing.

There was also inspiration from other sources.

“My mom and my biological father used to take me to blues and folk festivals and let me run around naked, that had something to do with it,” Sells said. “Her record collection had a big influence on me, too. My stepfather introduced me to the Ramones, the Kinks and Butthole Surfers, which really warped my brain.”

After playing in a few bands as a teenager in and around Raleigh and Fayette counties, Sells kicked off his career as Slate Dump with more help from his grandmother.

“It wasn’t until 2005, I picked up my grandmother’s 1960 model Gibson, and the songs started comin’. In about a 48-hour period I wrote five or six good songs and I didn’t even know what to do with them.”

After a tough period “couch surfing” in Morgantown “living on Ramen,” Sells has found happiness in Memphis with his fiancé, Marly Hazen, who he met while she was studying at WVU. Hazen penned the lyrics for one of Sells’ songs on his most recent release, 2010’s ‘Electric Punching Machine.’”

“Yeah, she wrote the lyrics for ‘Collarbone,’ which has been requested pretty much everywhere I play. It's one of my favorite songs to play.”

Sells said he can’t wait to bring The Jam Messengers through Huntington and Morgantown.

“The college towns should love these guys,” he said. "They’re everything; glam, trash, punk and blues, and raw. They’re the kick in the (butt) that America has been needing for a while. I hope to continue bringing in this Brazilian influx, because we need the rhythms. We need to get back to the roots. I flip on the radio here in Memphis and there’s no blues or roots stations. One station will play blues from 9:30 to midnight. There’s rap, pop crap and top 20 country. But the Jam Messengers are going to kick all that in the (butt), I can promise you that.”


Jeff Ellis draws a line in the sand, helps wounded veterans

Jeff Ellis, arguably the most talented songwriter in West Virginia, starts off 2011 like he has so many others; getting ready to release a new CD. Ellis has nearly finished recording his new seven-song EP The Line, songs written during his last stint in Iraq as part of his duties in the U.S. Army.

But Ellis is doing something cool with this release. To help get the new EP out, Ellis has teamed up with Pledge Music to raise money for not only EP-related costs, but proceeds from your pledges will benefit the Wounded Warriors Project. You may have already heard about this group, and a fine charity it is for Ellis to help. We love when area rockers do charity stuff, and this is a pretty cool one.

So not only will you get cool Ellis stuff like the new EP, by pledging more, you get more Ellis merch, schwag and even cooler stuff. Ellis will even play your house and let YOU decide the set list if you pledge enough. We caught up with Jeff over email to ask him about the new EP, Pledge Music, and the recent change in his marital status...

WVRS: So how has married life been treating you so far?
Jeff Ellis: It's amazing! We ran off to Hawaii back in December and had the most beautiful wedding. It was a private, intimate ceremony on Ko'Olina Beach on the island of Oahu. We exchanged personal vows as the sun set over the Pacific. Michelle is a wonderful person and very supportive. We're very happy and excited about sharing the rest of our lives with each other.

rockscene: Where are you at with the new EP, The Line, when can fans expect that and how would it fit in with your previous releases?
Ellis: The new EP is all but finished. We have a guitar solo and some backing vocals left to do and it still needs to be mixed and mastered, but that should all be wrapped up within the next two weeks. The goal is to upload one new song per week to the pledge page until the campaign is finished; then we'll release a hard copy sometime in the spring.

I think the hard copy will have seven songs; however those who make a $10 or more donation to the pledge page will receive access to all of the digital material as it is released, previously unreleased live tracks and studio demos, and a hard copy when it is released. As to where the EP fits in to the other albums, it has two functions. Lyrically, it would fit right in with anything from the second album, "A Front Seat for the End of the World", and it actually features a song from the 2007 demos that has been polished up a bit to fit the new batch. Musically, its the next step to transition into the upcoming full-length album.

rockscene: Did you record with Eddie Ashworth again? If so, how comfortable have you got recording with him?
Ellis: We did record with Eddie again, and we're already underway recording the next full-length album with him as well. Ed and I have become great friends over the past few years, and I think he and I see eye to eye on how we want the albums to sound. He's become a trusted source of inspiration and advice when it comes to making big decisions in and out of the studio, and I look forward to working with him for a long time to come.

rockscene: You’re doing something really neat with this Pledge Music site, where fans can not only pledge money to get your music and more, proceeds benefit the Wounded Warriors Project. It’s a well known group, and conditions at places like Walter Reed were reported to be not exactly perfect. How important is it for you to do this to help veterans?
Ellis: Being a Veteran and a student of psychology, I am very concerned with the rising number of suicides in the military. To my knowledge, 2009 and 2010 were both record highs for suicides in the Army. I believe that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) plays a large role in this. The Wounded Warrior Project website states that over 300,000 returning service members suffer from either PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The WWP is just one of many organizations that are working to help these men and women by raising awareness and helping to develop programs to study and treat these injuries. Most of the songs on the EP are about Soldiers dealing with these issues. Writing these songs was my way of raising awareness and probably helped me to sort out some of my own issues along the way.

rockscene: Aside from the new EP, what else are you looking forward to in 2011, musically?
Ellis: As I mentioned earlier, we've already begun recording the follow-up to last year's "The Forgetting Place". I'm very excited about that. Eddie and I have some big ideas for the way we're going to approach this record, and I think I have some of my best songs yet waiting to be heard. Expect lots of melody, jangly guitars, and BIG choruses!

rockscene: On the pledge site, it says if you pledge $500 you’ll play at someone’s house, what would it take for you to turn that money down?
Ellis: I think some of the additional pledge items are kinda funny. I don't really expect anyone to put down that kind of money for me to show up at their house and sing happy birthday to them, but hey, who knows? At that point, its more about making a donation to the WWP than it is getting to join me onstage. Hell, most people just do that for free anyway. I think the best deal is the $10 pledge to get the digital tracks, unreleased material, AND a hard copy of the EP. That's a hard deal to beat these days.

Ellis plays the Empty Glass in Charleston this Saturday (tonite) with Benyaro, and plays Tamarack in Beckley Sunday at 2 p.m.

Jeff Ellis @ Taylor Books 5.9.2008

“Something Bad’s Gonna Happen”


WVRockscene: mid-January update special

Yes, dear friends, WVRockscene is still fully operational. Been working on all kinds of awesomeness that we cannot at this time either confirm or deny.

There have been two promising developments in recent days WVRockscene related. We will spell them out thusly:

1. Our friend Whiskey Brian from the Whiskey & Waterbeds podcast recently did an hour-plus long interview with the head editor in charge of WVRockscene, Max Power. Whole lotta cool area bands songs got played, and Max stammered about regarding why people just don't like the blog anymore, assuming people liked it in the first place.

B. Always late to catch on to any cool technology trends, WVRockscene recently set up its own bandcamp page. On said page will be hosted some of our favorite CDs from bands that are either defunct or no longer selling the CDs. All CDs are uploaded as free downloads (with permission from the bands) and we're looking forward to posting more.

So, check that out, and maybe sometime in the spring we'll get around to posting something here.


Bad Employees do good work Thursday night

Bad Employees play for charity Thursday night in Huntington
We always love seeing bands we think are cool support great causes through benefit shows. It's two for two this Thursday night at the Thirsty Whale in Huntington, as our friends Andy Rivas and John McComas -- the Huntington-based electronic rock duo Bad Employees -- play out to help raise money for Stepping Stones.

Stepping Stones is a Huntington-area non-profit group that helps kids. We could go on, but why not get lazy and cut and paste the description of the event and the group from the Facebook page for it?

Yo, Yo Ladies and Gents!

The holidays have passed, but who's to say that we shouldn't keep up with two of my favorite parts--the celebration & "goodwill toward men"--all year long?

Bearing this exact combination in mind, the electronica/indie rock geniuses BAD EMPLOYEES will be gracing the stage of the Thirsty Whale (formerly Gumby's/Drop Shop/C&O/Club Echo) on Thursday, January 13th in support of local group home Stepping Stones. 100% non-profit, this amazing group helps foster kids (boys ages 13-17) who are between homes, and they do EVERYTHING (house, feed, clothe, and most exceptionally, genuinely care). The $5 door fee benefits monetarily, but they will also always accept donations of clothing, games, and sporting equipment (new or used, as long as it's in good condition), as well as food and grocery giftcards.

Doors are open at 11am for the Whale's everyday lunch, but this event will kick off at 9pm, show at 10pm. All in all, a good time for a good cause, so we hope to see your smiling face there!! Thanks!
--- Well, you read that, and it sounds cool, right? Well, hold on to yer pants because we caught up with McComas over email to learn a little more about the show and what's up with BE these days:

"Really the motivation for playing this show was, first, because it is a good cause and also because we will pretty much play any time we are available. We just really enjoy playing live for anyone who will listen.

It's a major plus getting a chance to actually help people just by showing up and doing what we love to do. We are really excited to play right now because we're trying out a few new songs which will be on our next album, due out some time this year.

We've been on this kick lately of writing a new song, trying it out live, recording the new song and then repeating that process. That's how the majority of this album has gone down so far.

We only want to write maybe one to two more before buckling down and finishing it. It's really exciting and fun for us because our new songs have mostly been dance-oriented.

It's great when people who are coming out to our recent shows tell us they enjoy the new stuff and even hit the dance floor. Hopefully tomorrow's (Thursday's) show will be one of those fun nights for everybody."

You've read this much, pretty much everything you could read on Facebook, with a scoop from McComas. So why not check out the September 2010 Herald-Dispatch article on Bad Employees, or, Justin Johnson's 1318 4th Avenue Aural History series?

Related: Magic Town helps MAYSP this 9/11

photo: Taylor Kuykendall

Update (1.18)
Check out this video for an older Bad Employees song, “I Must Break You,” filmed and edited by Don Yeater on helmet cam in Boston, Mass.


CD Review: "Black Diamond"

CD: Black Diamond
ARTIST: The Resonators

Funny story about The Resonators’ four-song EP Beard Envy laying around the house since getting it early in 2009: It’s common practice around the WVRockscene home stereo to take CDs out and place them in the case of the next CD we’d play. As Beard Envy was just a plain white CD with no discernable notation or label on it, every time we’d want to play Arms and Sleepers’ untitled EP -- which looked exactly the same -- we’d get blasted with the catchy, quirky garage rock of “Wishful Thinking,” which, among a few other songs off the debut EP, finds its way onto the full-length debut.

It’s cool because we liked both CDs, but totally different sounds.

Well, fast forward about a year, and, much as we liked the songs on Beard Envy (which you can download for free on The Resonators bandcamp page), the thing that was lame about it was that there were just four songs.

It’s not something you want to lead off a CD review with, referencing someone else’s review, which is why this paragraph is where it is. But, irregardless nonetheless, getting into the review of The Resonators’ 11-song effort Black Diamond, we direct your eyeballs to Mike Sizemore’s review of it at his Rock o’ Clock blog.

Sizemore makes the quite correct point that hearing Andrew LaCara’s band evokes something about the 90’s, referencing Weezer, among a few other acts. But it’s precisely the Weezer nod in the Shepherdstown-based trio’s sound that deserves some expounding upon.

Opening Black Diamond is the highly charged “Your Resonation,” which does indeed (along with a few other songs on the new CD) bring to mind the sound and vibe that comprises Weezer’s eponymous debut blue CD. Remember running out and buying that CD after seeing the video for “Undone (The Sweater Song)” the next day? Remember buying that DGC Rarities CD just so you could hear their version of “Jamie” -- like Sizemore notes, this was before the internet made getting one particular song so easy.

On the whole, Black Diamond may remind you of early Weezer stuff mixed with the kind of retro garage rock stylings of something like The Strokes. The whole point about referencing Weezer is that The Resonators, with an all new lineup (Charles House: bass; Joni Mason: drums) since the EP came out, still have LaCara as the driving force musically, and the sound is something Weezer fans should love.

Jangly-meets distorted guitars with catchy progressions, fat, sometimes muted but walking bass lines, nerd-core type vocals with a lot of loser-in-love type lyrics, rockin’ sing along choruses with no shortage of whoahs and backing vocals and a few rock star solos thrown in -- killer!

“Wishful Thinking” would be a track that may remind some listeners of The Strokes or something like that. Re-recorded versions of “Whatever It Takes,” “Gun For Hire,” and “Confessions and Lies” fill out the CD nicely. “Wasted Without You” is slower, fatter, and prettier. Is that even a good way to describe something? Slow, fat and pretty? Neat, dreamy kind of solo/bridge part as the song leads into the very awesome minute-long instrumental, acoustic (with xylophone?) interlude “I Took Too Many Drugs For The FBI” -- geez don’t tell ‘em that!

There’s a funny Mr. Show skit where David Cross is interviewing for an FBI job or something and Bob Odenkirk asks him about all his drug use and Cross openly and quite casually impresses him, detailing his past drug use. Great name for a song, and a hilarious skit. Would’ve been great to see LaCara flush this out into a full song, because it may have been something like “Island In The Sun” or something.

The acoustic-based “Enough’s Never Enough” is one of the sweeter songs on the CD, as LaCara finds himself at the end of his romantic rope and the song crests with overdriven guitar parts. LaCara ends Black Diamond with the driving, almost punk “We’ll Always Have Cusco.” While it’s nowhere near the song in terms of tone and style, this song seems to be LaCara’s own version of “Butterfly,” as he laments being a world apart from a long lost love interest in Peru, with only the memories to show for it. A really great song that finds LaCara learning it’s better to love and lost than never loved at all. The backing vocals and harmonies will evoke the original Cuomo-Sharp duo, maybe.

Recorded by Brian Spragg (It’s Birds/Pat Pat), mixed and mastered by Dave Klug (with art by The Demon Beat’s Jordan Hudkins), Black Diamond is, for a first official full-length, a great CD.

1994-ever? For some listeners, maybe.

Great rock and roll though, the kind that makes you write songs and be in a band in the first place.

--- Black Diamond will be available at midnight tonight on The Resonators bandcamp page

mp3: “Wasted Without You” by The Resonators

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