In the Key of Protomartyr

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Protomartyr on Friday at Underground Arts in Philadelphia

Text and Photos by K. Cecchini

I just saw Protomartyr on Friday at Underground Arts, which is (I say) Philly version of Brooklyn’s Rough Trade  where we saw them in October. I wrote a piece after that show and never posted it, so I will do it now.

Protomartyr vocalist Joe Casey took to the stage October at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade in his standard business casual attire. Throughout the set, he alternated between nonchalantly standing with one hand in his pocket, suit jacket pushed back and the other holding the mike to his face and intensely stretching up to nearly wrap his mouth around the mike on the stand. And then, with his hand still on the microphone, he will often hang his head down until the next verse.

With Casey’s vocals, drummer Alex Leonard, Guitarist Greg Ahee and Bass Guitarist Scott Davidson brought their richly textured sound to life in Rough Trade’s intimate space. Not letting up on the music, Davidson played right through a bloody nose. It was also really fantastic to already hear their brand new album The Agent Intellect live. On its own, the track, “Why Does it Shake?,” was worth the midnight trip into Brooklyn.

Protomartyr appears to have gathered a slew of attention in the past year and I would love to interview them before they get too big.

I only had my phone at the Philly and Brooklyn shows, so check out my photos from the Protomartyr set at the 2014 year’s Seaport Music Festival here. 

Protomartyr guitarist Greg Ahee, vocalist Joe Casey, and drummer Alex Leonard
Protomartyr guitarist Greg Ahee, vocalist Joe Casey, and drummer Alex Leonard (October: Brooklyn)
Protomartyr bass guitarist Scott Davidson
Protomartyr bass guitarist Scott Davidson (October: Brooklyn) 

 

 

Artist Spotlight: The Gotobeds

@KralTunes

Naming your band after a member of the influential English rock band Wire, AND releasing your album on a label named after a song by said English band, can be seen as either unshakeable dedication or grounds for a restraining order.  Fortunately for Pittsburgh post punkers The Gotobeds, option A is the more likely choice.

Comprising of former members of Pittsburgh native band Kim Phuc, The Gotobeds perfectly fit the role of class clowns that are waaay smarter than any of the faculty members give them credit for.  Underneath the guise of beer swilling, goofball punk rockers lie the souls of contemporary poets, offering up some of the more witty and insightful lyrics you will hear in modern music.

Underneath a parade of bouncey riffs, thrashing guitars, and boundless energy, the group rails against the homogeneity of the current music landscape,  a generation of iPhone zombies, and even offers up a thoroughly convincing argument against living in the Big Apple (“New York’s Alright”).

***This band has become my third favorite thing to come out of the Steel City, right behind  the 1970’s Steelers and 2000’s Steelers.***

The unrelenting greatness of their debut album, Poor People Are Revolting, has secured them a permanent place on my playlist.  Vocalist/Guitarist Hazy Laser was kind enough to take a few questions from my butt kissing self…

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Sub Pop Records’ own GOTOBEDS

KralTunes:  First off, Congratulations on signing with Sup Pop Records! How does it feel to be corporate music whores?!

HAZY LASER: FEELS GOOD MAN 🙂

KT: Lets get the most important question of the way…With the resurgence of the Pirates in recent years, do they have a legit chance of becoming the darlings of Pittsburgh, or will it forever be STEELER-NATION (and do the Penguins ever have a chance at being the city’s top team)?

HL: Steeler-Nation for sure, Pirates fans have had too many disappointments making them pretty fair-weather for our boys to ever trump football-mania. Pens maybe when Lemieux was in the game, but not currently, no matter how big Sid the Kid or Malkin are. (I like this answer!!)

KT:So how did you guys get together as a group?
HL: We pooled like loose change, just knew these various people who were interested in what we were doing even when the early stages were pretty rough and most smart people avoided it. Cary had never played drums and I couldn’t sing so we were a perfect fit to just fuck around until something made sense.

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KT:  What is the thought process when writing these songs? Is there one person responsible for the lyrics?  Is it a completely collaborative effort?

HL: Songwriting is usually in excited bursts and it usually led by either guitarist that has something on their mind. It’s fairly intuitive in that we don’t talk about it before hand we just show up and when there’s a minute of downtime someone starts playing something new and it just goes from there. Lyrics are my bag, baby. Don’t think anyone else cares to write ‘em though occasionally Gavin who plays bass and sings backups will change a line if it’s something he’d rather sing and he’s bigger than me so might makes right in those cases.

KT: Whats THE GOTOBEDS idea of the ‘perfect’ album?
HL: The Kinks ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ or the Buzzcocks ‘Singles Going Steady’ though that last one cheats a bit cause it’s a comp. Perfect Lp’s flow well, have amazing artwork and say something different beyond what their peers had/have said. One thing I think is important is having some downtime or songs that are less interesting, like ‘just sitting their by the riverside’ not being the strongest track leading into ‘Animal Farm’ does more to set up that song than having say a better song precede it. My little brother once said they all can’t be bangers or else you’ve just written a ‘Greatest Hits’ lp and then you blew yr load.

KT: Tracks like ‘To And Fromme’ takes shots at contemporary culture and how homogenous it has become. Is this the bands consensus on the current music landscape?
HL: Anyone denying that corporate rock & radio are homogenous or fed by the same few bullshit labels are as bad a climate change deniers. History will not look kindly on yr narrow-mindedness young man! I like lots of bullshit that is considered pop but there’s a disposable element that’s inherent in that stuff so giving it anymore thought or credit is a waste of time. Large music sites writing dissertations on it is pretty funny though.

KT:  I see a lot of people comparing you to the likes of Protomartyr (I don’t know if that is your experience, but I have heard their name brought up several times already when mentioning you). Do you find it annoying as hell that people, rather than appreciate what a group is bringing to the music scene, immediately have to compare them to something similar?

HL:  It’s an easy thing to say to someone ‘hey you like A so you should like B’ – though getting compared to the same thing wears thin but if it helps someone hear it at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. Not everyone that listens to music listens to it in the same way that the scene’s that’ve fostered us does: it takes some real steps like doing SXSW or having sub pop interested in order to get different people involved. And that’s not good or bad, just the way it is.

KT: Speaking of Protomartyr. You recently concluded a tour with the group. How was it touring with another underrated gem of a band?  Side note: Next time you come around to NYC, try not to schedule a show in the middle of winter on a Wednesday please!

HL: Protomartyr is the SHIT!!! Though this question is dated cause I was mostly drunk in a van and couldn’t eloquently elaborate on any of this shit on my phone but ideologically, musically and personality-wise those dudes were a great fit. We’re all fans of their band so we were honored that they asked us to come along on their magic bus. Though complaining about us being there on a Wednesday makes me laugh internally: we’re treating Brooklyn like most touring bands treat Pittsburgh – a midweek stop on the way to the REAL MONEY $$$$$$. 

KT: Yes, you just released a new album mere months ago, but being the content whores we all are, we demand more of your time! What are your plans in 2015?

HL: More songs! Some good! Some not-so-good! Really just recording for the next LP that’s title is so great I can’t spoil the surprise here, so look for it at the sub pop airport store in early 2016.

Find The Gotobeds Here:

BANDCAMP          FACEBOOK           TWITTER

Other Artist Spotlights:

WHORES.              MONOCLE STACHE                BRYAN McPHERSON                    HOWLING GIANT

Best of 2014, Part DEUX

Here’s the first part of the list

I’m sure you have all been driven crazy in anticipation for the second part?!

Without further ado, let us continue with the most important list you’ll see during this ten minute span:

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5.  GAZELLE TWINUNFLESH

UNFLESH is the sonic equivalent of a violent assault; a soundscape dominated by electronic buzzing and industrial beats, but there’s something more…troubling…lying just underneath the surface.

The majority of this album follows a similar path of tracks engulfed with menacing beats and cryptic lyrical poetry.
Elizabeth Bernholz (AKA, Gazelle Twin) is a British musician who wins the award for artist that scares me just a wee little bit.

HIGHLIGHTS: Belly Of The Beast   Anti-Body    Exorcise

 

 

 

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4.  THE TWILIGHT SADNobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave

Post rock droning and delay effects riddle this release and are aptly coupled with very dreary overtones, making this a perfectly suitable ‘winter’ album. This is a downer of a listen (in a great way), even those happier sounding tracks are dragged through the mud with well put together, yet dreary, lyrics

While you may not be inclined to put this album on at any old time, it may have the lasting power to be an annual favorite for when the days get shorter and those cold breezes start to pick up.
HIGHLIGHTS: Last January   Drown So I Can Watch  Sometimes I Wished I Could Fall Asleep

 

 

 

 

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3.  TOO MANY ZOOZ- F NOTE/FANIMALS

Having released three E.P.’s over the course of 2014 (the third being released a few weeks ago, and not a part of this review), NYC buskers TOO MANY ZOOZ has made quite the impact in this household, with their instantly infectious jams.

“To The Top” off of F Note is one of those songs that has my boss over @tonightatdawn moving and shaking her groove thang as soon as the percussion hits the speakers.

As good as the musicianship is on their first release, the arrangements on Fanimals sound more complex and mature. This time around, the band explored different genres and broadened their sound to include Latin (“Mouse Trap”), Mambo,  House (“Turtledactyl”), Dance and Middle Eastern (“Wet”) influences.

HIGHLIGHTS: The Whole First E.P.       The Whole Second E.P.  (They’re both short, get over it)

th-3 2.  COLD SPECKS-Neuroplasticity

DOOM SOUL; who would have thought a genre dubbed doom soul would ever exist, or be the least bit enjoyable.  It sounds like something Darth Vader unwinds to after torturing a village of Ewoks.

Cold Specks vocalist Al Spx is a 20-something who takes her musical cues from deep south Gospel (with a dash of Goth) and cites her musical influences as ranging from James Carr to Tom Waits.  In fact, the band’s second album reflects everything from Neo soul to modern jazz, R&B, and, hell, even indie rock.

HIGHLIGHTS: A Broken Memory   Absisto   Bodies At Bay 

 

 

 

 

th-41.  ProtomartyrUnder Color Of Official Right

Joe Casey’s ability to go from singing to forcefully barking out his words takes the tracks to another level.  These distinct low vocals contribute to his bandmates’ gritty sound. Although a little more polished than its predecessor, No Passion, All Technique, Under Color of Official Right is still far from the average pop punk record.

Musically, the band is all hit, no miss. It may not sound like the most challenging music possible, yet it is extremely well-played and perfectly fits the lyrics’ tone. There’s plenty of fuzz engulfing these garage rock songs. At 35 minutes, there’s no meandering to be found on any of these songs, which plays to the band’s strengths. Each track hits me hard and fast, and leave me with something to think about. Closing track ” I’ll take that applause” couldn’t be a more fitting end statement. As Casey boasts “And I’ll take that applause, cause I deserve it”, who could really argue with him?

HIGHLIGHTS: Maidenhead    Scum, Rise!   Bad Advice    I’ll Take That Applause

***BONUS TIME***

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR:

GONZO-FOXY SHAZAM

What the shit happened to these guys??  The eccentricity and theatricality of everything that came before was muted (more like suffocated) and transformed into this slow moving, boring, mis tempo, 80’s synth-filled atrocity.  At first I wondered why they were releasing their new album for free on bandcamp, and soon after hearing it, I understood perfectly.  And even though I have grown to appreciate some of these tracks as being decent, what a bummer it was hearing this for the first time. Its a pity that they recently announced their hiatus, but it may actually be for the better that they take some time and regroup.

BEST LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

QUEEN- LIVE AT THE RAINBOW

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As shitty as that Foxy Shazam record was, QUEEN’s long-awaited vault release is that amazing.  Made up of tracks from their first three albums, there are no blockbuster hits to be found on these two shows, which suits me just fine.  What you get is a band introducing themselves to the world.

The audio sounds fantastic, the accompanying DVD looks amazing for being 40 years old, and everything here is played to near perfection (especially the first live set, which is absolutely killer).  With this, the mighty QUEEN earns the KralTunes award for best live release for 2014  (Freddie Mercury can eternally rest easy now).

The Layman’s Review: Protomartyr–Under Color of Official Right

Text by: Joe K./Live photo by: Kimberly Cecchini

“He’s not what I expected at all,” that’s what my boss over at Tonight at Dawn said to me when Protomartyr first hit the stage during the Seaport Music Festival in New York City. Singer Joe Casey, with his ‘business-casual’ attire, standing in between a guitarist (Greg Ahee) who would not seem out-of-place in Vampire Weekend, and a bassist (Scott Davidson) that looks like he could walk onstage with Red Fang, do not look like how they sound (Drummer Alex Leonard, however, has the perfect look for Protomartyr. Don’t change a thing!).

But once the band starts into “Maidenhead”, all the pieces look like they fit.

Cryptic lyrics can be the sign of a true artist or bland imitation of good “art”. On the bands newest album, Under Color of Official Right, Protomartyr’s straightforward, simplistic guitar riff and drumming offer the perfect canvas for Casey’s baritone vocals and metaphoric lyrics. After listening to this album countless times, I still had a hard time figuring out what the hell he’s talking about on occasion….but I knew I liked it.

Once I started putting the pieces together, though, the pictures became clear. Songs like “Tarpiean Rock” on the surface sound nothing more than less-than-positive ways to describe humans strung together (e.g. greedy bastards, emotional cripples). After learning that Tarpiean Rock is actually an ancient Roman execution site (thanks, Wikipedia!!), suddenly lines like “Let them be shocked, by gravity, then the ground” and repeating “Throw them from the rock!” made sense. The History major in me likes this little ditty.

Other songs are much more to the point. In “Violent”, Casey frankly speaks to our more savage tendencies, “Cause if it’s violent, it’s understood”. “Overconfidence is a parasite” is one of my personal favorites from “bad advice” and it is also a less than positive commentary on Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Joe Casey’s ability to go from singing to forcefully barking out his words takes the tracks to another level. (It also justifies the choice of an angry barking dog for an album cover) These distinct low vocals contribute to his bandmates’ gritty sound. Although a little more polished than its predecessor, No Passion, All TechniqueUnder Color of Official Right is still far from the average pop punk record.

Musically, the band is all hit, no miss. It may not sound like the most challenging music possible, yet it is extremely well-played and perfectly fits the lyrics’ tone. There’s plenty of fuzz engulfing these garage rock songs. At 35 minutes, there’s no meandering to be found on any of these songs, which plays to the band’s strengths. Each track hits me hard and fast, and leave me with something to think about. Closing track ” I’ll take that applause” couldn’t be a more fitting end statement. As Casey boasts “And I’ll take that applause, cause I deserve it”, who could really argue with him?

PROTOMARTYR: Scum, Rise!

PROTOMARTYR: I Stare At Floors

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Seaport Music Festival – Protomartyr & Alvvays

Text and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini

Right before showtime, an eager crowd gathered on the astro turf in front of the stage nestled between the quaint port shops and restaurants at Water and Fulton Streets last night on the eleventh. The Detroit based punk band, Protomartyr, took the stage after the opening band, Alvvays, who hailed from Toronto. Both performances served as a great kick-off to the free summer music series at South Street Seaport In Manhattan.

Watch the videos on Tonight at Dawn’s new YouTube page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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