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.