Inter Arma aare one of those groups that excel at challenging listens. Each one of their records has been better than the last and have been consummate examples of the slow burn, each listen revealing more nuance and intricacy in the bludgeoning walls of sound. Sulphur English, at first, is no different in that respect. But displays the band with synthesizing and perhaps even perfecting the perfect alchemical mix of doom, black, and death metal into a cohesive bit of vibrant gold.
Inter Arma have been around long enough to not need much of an introduction, but for those of you not in the know, the band seems to be the heirs-apparent to the mantle Isis let down when that band took a decidedly more melodic route with In the Absence of Truth (not to mention their breakup, of course). A deeper, more death-metal inspired version of Neurosis, that is interestingly more akin to post-Isis group Sumac, the band has been on a roll releasing critically lauded records back to back to back. Paradise Gallows, their most recent release from 2016, was their best yet in my opinion as they embraced an ever more expansive sound. Sulphur English is the logical next step–a more honed and polished version of their best efforts to date.
It’s not all ups, however, as the record’s crushingly heavy first half does a bit of dragging the record down. Its not until “Howling Lands” that Sulphur English really hits its stride, encompassing a wide breadths of genres and allowing the songs space to breathe and have a swelling, sea-like rhythm and waves of sound and quiet. As “Stillness,” the absolute stand-out track of the album ebbs and flows, it takes on almost Tool-like magnitude. The kind of song best suited for stadiums. “The Atavist’s Meridian” and “Blood On the Lupines” are equally as measured and obliterating, the distant echoing black-metal vocals playing dynamically with the cookie monster death metal growls, all laced just ever so delicately with melodies and deep vocals akin to Cult Leader’s most recent effort A Patient Man.
This is one of the best records of the year thus far. While it starts a little slow, the end half of the record is a stellar effort that deserves recognition.
It’s already been a week and Beachlife Fest feels like its only barely wrapped up. The beach-set California culture festival spanned three days of incredible artists and surprisingly incredible amenities, but the clear and inarguable highlight of the entire weekend was Willie.
More and more fests, to their absolute credit, are taking pages out of the KAABOO playbook–with nicer amenities and an array of artists geared slightly older, the fest actually can really create a great experience for concert-goers and not be a trial of will and endurance like so many fests are. Beaclife’s laid back vibes perfectly suited its lineup of artists including Brian Wilson, Ziggy Marley, Bluestraveler, Berlin, and Sugar Ray. People happily wandered the grounds or camped and waited for their favorite artist at either of the two main stages, drinking the day away in the partly-cloudy beach weather that always threatened to get hot but never quite made it.
Brian Wilson headlined Saturday night, an entire songbook of hits that are indelibly etched into the minds of every single American with hearing. While he looks a little the worse for wear, the audience were swept away and I heard more than once on the following day how much people loved his set.
Sunday, however, was the clear highlight of the weekend. With back-to-back sets by Ziggy Marley and Willie Nelson, the old stoner crowd was out en force, happily singing and swaying along to every single song that came up. While many of Ziggy’s own songs are unknown to me, he had a strong cadre of fans who mouthed every word, not to mention he could get by simply on strength of charisma alone.
Willie, on the other hand, was a delight and a consummate showman. He wandered out with a huge smile and launched into his songs one after the other with barely a pause for breath. The audience ate. it. up.
La Dispute touched down the other week at the Regent, bringing their brand of literary post-hardcore to a sold-out show. I have seen the band countless times over the years, but each time they bring their absolute a-game, weaving their complex, compassionate narratives with a fervor live. At the Regent they played to a fully immersed audience; longtime fans who’s rapturous attention was carried away as much by songs from their recent full length Panorama as from their oldest releases.
They brought hardcore upstarts Gouge Away in tow, a band who, similarly, every time I see them threatens to steal the show of whatever band they happen to be opening for. They have spent a long time paying their dues and opening for legacy act after legacy act–I hope the band explode onto the scene as soon as possible because god damn do Gouge Away deserve it.
“Would you be upset if I told you we were dying?” Starts the song of one of ska powerhouse Streetlight Manifesto’s best known numbers. Bandits, while of course not being exactly Streetlight itself, has always been inextricably tied to the long-running ska act. But telling us this is the end of the side project is exactly what they are doing, and moreover they are going out with a bang.
The Dolby Theater is hosting the Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution Orchestra (the band, accompanied by a fully-backed orchestra accompaniment) for another round of shows akin to their 2018 outing in both NYC and LA. THe amount of time and care that the band has put into throwing together these shows as well as writing and arranging accompaniments for an orchestra for an acoustic ska project is mind boggling. BOTAR deserve to go out on the highest of high notes. So don’t be upset, get yourself to the Dolby Theater this Saturday 5/18.
One of my favorite things to do after attending themed festivals is coming up with hypothetical bills for the next year’s iteration. Back to the Beach this year was an absolute blast–so much so that I am already fully planning on going again for next year’s. But who would make for a great show? Here is my wishlist.
Back to the Beach’s positioning as a Ska festival first and foremost is perhaps its greatest strength and appeal as well as its weakness. Ska is still beloved and people will still turn up for any of the bands that have already played either 2018 or 2019. Ska fans are nothing if not loyal. But this doesnt preclude an audience–even Huntington Beach, one of the capitols for ska–from getting burnt out on the same list year after year. Much as anyone (and I count myself among them) loves Less Than Jake or Mighty Mighty Bosstones, a more general audience is going to lose interest eventually. So who do you bring in? How do you adapt a festival without losing its roots?
The answer, actually, is seemingly already being addressed by the festival. This year saw the inclusion of a number of both legacy and current darlings of pop punk. While the genre is still popular for the most part, a lot of the fervor has seemingly died down. Even for headliners like The Story So Far. The festival did something smart, though in diversifying their bill and including bands like Blink 182, the Used, Story of the Year, and the Wonder Years. They gave themselves a bit of space to maneuver by going big by jumping to a relatively popular genre like pop punk, which might allow them not only to maintain a hold on their Ska origins, but may allow them to expand or host other more niche subgenres in the coming years.
So lets get into the nitty-gritty. Who could the festival tap to keep up the quality of the last two years, and perhaps even up the ante? Besides pulling from their 2018 lineup (Mad Caddies and Suicide Machines PLEASE) First up, the ska bands;
The New Kids: Bite Me Bambi, Kill Lincoln, Run and Punch A cursory search of the internet will take you down a rabbit hole where ska is the plucky but resilient underdog valiantly soldiering on despite the estimation that the genre is “dead.” It only makes sense to fill some of those early slots with the genre’s nascent talents.
The Dad Bands: The Skatelites, The Specials, Derrick Morgan Ska fans are getting older. I find that as I get older I am enjoying the easier side of listening nearly as much as I enjoy the crazy aggressive and fast stuff. The Specials are celebrating their 40th year, Derrick Morgan is still touring, and The Skatelites would be a treat any time. But make no mistake, these bands would be much more suited to easy beach vibes than the punk show that B2tB normally inhabits.
The Easy Money’s: The Slackers, The Pietasters, The Toasters Each of these bands is some of the best and brightest the genre has ever offered. The Toasters even played Its Not Dead Fest a couple years back, and The Slackers seem to pop up all-too-sporadically.
The Go-To’s: Suburban Legends, We the Union, The Selecter These guys are the obvious choices. Ska stalwarts bridging the old school to the new.
The Long Shots: Leftover Crack, Slapstick, Dance Hall Crashers Look, a couple years back I would have said that the possibility of seeing bands like American Nightmare, Jawbreaker, or a handful of other groups was flat-out impossible, but here we are in 2019 and we’ve had them all…some with new music. Hell we have a Dio hologram regularly making tours…stranger things have happened. Leftover Crack probably wouldnt be too into the festival vibe, Slapstick were barely a thing to begin with (but hey The Falcon brought Dan Andriano into the fold), and Dance Hall Crashers have been on radio silent for years. But…who knows. We live in a strange universe.
The Obvious (If Contentious) Headliners: No Doubt, Rancid No Doubt abandoned ska a long time ago for pop superstardom, but with Blink 182 playing Enema of the State in it’s entirety seeing Tragic Kingdom or their self titled front-to-back seems like just the spectacle to be a big draw. Rancid, on the other hand, have headlined a number of similar festivals already and are already accomplished at the job. Both avenues have some downsides, but both contain distinct possibilities.
The New Horizon: Psychobilly The only genre that comes to mind who’s popularity seemingly fell as precipitously overnight as ska is the horror-punk tinged rockabilly genre inspired by the likes of the Cramps and Social Distortion. But it, similarly, has such a strong underground presence and visual aesthetic that it practically begs for its own themed fest. Rounding out the bill with a headliner like Social Distortion and padding the day with big names like Tiger Army, The Nekromantix, (pray, god) The Horrorpops, and The Creepshow could bring a whole new dimension to the fest.
Chromatics kicked off their Double Exposure Tour this past Tuesday at the Santa Ana Observatory, playing their first public concert in over five years. The ethereal, synth-pop outfit will be performing at the Wiltern tomorrow night, marking their second stop on a six-week, North American tour.
Prior to Tuesday’s show, Chromatics’ last on-stage performance was for the season premiere of David Lynch’s 2017 Twin Peaks revival. Their particular brand of wistful, atmospheric dream pop felt particularly at home on a series known for its otherworldly, enigmatic nature.
The multi-talented musicians directed the music video for their latest single “Time Rider,” which features psychedelic imagery juxtaposed over a sepia-toned canvas, as lead singer Ruth Radelet rides a motorcycle that bridges time and space.
With an obvious affinity for surreal abstractions, their live performance will coincide with a visual display, featuring a series of films directed by Chromatics producer and multi-instrumentalist Johnny Jewel, mixed live by video artist Danny Perez (Antibirth, Panda Bear). Their setlist consists of the band’s favorite tracks from their three studio albums Night Drive, Kill For Love, and Cherry, as well as the forthcoming LP Dear Tommy.
Chromatics will be supported by Italians Do It Better label-mates Desire and In Mirrors.
The band is advocating for a vital cause, putting $1 from every ticket sale towards school supplies and resources. They’ve partnered with PLUS1 for the initiative, and you can visit their website for additional information or to get involved.
Tickets for tomorrow night’s show at the Wiltern are still available, and can be purchased online via the link below. They will be performing at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown this Friday, 5/3 before heading to San Diego on 5/4.
We are less than halfway through the year and already some of the spots in my end-of-year list are starting to solidify. A Broken Heart is an Open Heart fell unexpectedly in my inbox and I truly have been unable to stop listening. A dark, sultry, doom-influenced pop powerhouse that inhabits a confident middleground sonically between Lana Del Rey and Chelsea Wolfe, albeit with the kind of pipes that would put just about anyone around to shame.
At times warm, crushing, heartening, gutting, and all the while possessing an eerie grace, ABHIAOH is easily inhabiting a spot high on my list this year. Ms. Lemon graciously spent some time answering my questions from across the world.
LAMB: One of the things that has really resonated with me about your record is just how carefully and intentionally written and thought through it is. You seem so focused on telling all these stories and types of doomed love and broken love stories from different angles. How do you get in the right mindset to write from different perspectives? What made you want to tackle such a huge
topic so wholly?
Louise Lemon: My life. I think writing is about trying to find that inner core of yourself and I really tried to reach that place while writing this record. I try to not censor myself. When daring to open up like that and facing these feelings I get to own these event in my life that I might have felt haunted me. This, of course, makes me take charge of the not-so-beautiful
things in life and I can actually make them beautiful in the end. So I wrote about these
feelings, those desperate feelings that makes me want to leave my own body, as well as
those where I realize I have a part in creating this.
I try to find these small things that are the most important things. When you miss
someone you can say you miss them, but what you really miss are those simple quirks
that as a whole make up this person, I try to find these small but so important things
when I write. I also try to let myself be free—to write from the perspective of how
something felt for me.
LAMB: I think I saw somewhere you speaking about the recording process for some of these songs–
recording in a mansion maybe? I was wondering if you might speak a little more to that and how
your environment helped shape the songs.
LL: The album was recorded in a beautiful studio in Copenhagen. It really was the perfect
place to record, a big open space, big windows with sun flowing in, built in the ‘60s and
filled with vintage equipment. The environment really affects the way I feel and this
studio was perfect for me and this record. I felt very at home and this place made it very
effortless yet focused to record. The week after recording I went to New York to mix it
and it was nice to change the scenery for the mixing, to hear it with new ears in a way.
LAMB: What was your upbringing like? The blend of genres you’ve dubbed “death gospel” obviously is a pretty specific blending of subgenres–how did you get there? What helped lead you down that
path of creative expression?
LL: Yeah I have a really specific music taste. I am very hard to please but what I love I really
love. I think that’s my general feeling towards most things in life, I am very black and
white about things. I grew up listening to a lot of music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, I guess
that’s why I love the organ so much. We listened to Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The
Doors, Led Zeppelin, Allman Brothers. These kind of bands really influence what kind of
sounds I enjoy.
I think I’ve also always had a melancholic side to me. I am very reflective and very
emotional, which makes me think so much about feelings. This kind of way of being is
the main reason to how I’ve found the way I am writing.
LAMB: You clearly have a lot of amazingly skilled collaborators–from your backing musicians to the artists you choose to work with (the album art is gorgeous by the way)–who gave you the best
creative advice or critique during the writing process and what was it?
LL: Interesting question… I am very meticulous about my work and who I collaborate with. I
am my best is when I work with people I really trust and admire. This makes the creative
process very easy when everyone is on the same page and working towards the same
I think my band I work with are the ones that have influenced the record most. They are
definitely my compasses and we have grown so much trust together. Anders
Ludwigsson that plays keyboard have always done the arrangements with me, Johan
Kvastegård colours the music so much with the way he plays the guitar, he is really a
emotional musician just like me, Petter Nygårdh that plays the drums possesses so
much knowledge about music and has a very strong inner compass that I also really can
rely on. Randall Dunn who produced the album also made the record sound the way it
LAMB: When can we start planning on a US tour to see you play?
LL:I’ve been to the US to record and make videos several times now so it is definitely time to
come back and play real soon.
On the heaviest stacked tour of the very early summer so far, current scene darlings Knocked Loose headed a bill of hardcore’s hardest bands including Harms Way, The Acacia Strain, Sanction, Higher Power, and Absence of Mine. Check out the photos after the jump (obtained from a safe distance, gratefully)
Beach Life Festival is coming up next weekend, May 3-5, touting a lineup that should be the envy of just about every other festival around. Not only does it boast to be hosting two certifiable living legends in Willie Nelson and Brian Wilson, but a veritable who’s-who of headlining acts with heavy California ties including Ziggy Marley, Slightly Stoopid, Sugar Ray, Blues Traveler, Violent Femmes, Everclear, and Donovan Frankenreiter. That’s an insane list by any means, but there are some incredibly exciting acts appearing further down the list as well…
The Hollow Legs are perhaps the best example of the kind of amazing new talent opening up the festival. An LA-born hard-driving rock and roll trio with such irrepressible talent that it will be a damn surprise that their instruments don’t catch fire during their set. While comparisons to the strip-downed sounds of bands like The White Stripes could be made, The Hollow Legs’ brand of flat-out rock and roll fury feels infinitely more authentic and organic than that project’s endeavors. I got a couple of moments with them to ask them a few questions in preparation for their appearance next week.
LAMB:I thought your video for “Shiver My Bones” was so great–simple and really cleverly done. Who were your collaborators on that? What was the shoot like?
THL: I collaborated with body painter, Paul Roustan to come up with a cool concept of doing show where we were painted in glow-in-the-dark paint. We wanted it to be an element of surprise for the fans, so for the first couple of songs in the set we just looked normal until the lights went off. My nickname is Bones so Roustan thought it would be fun to channel that motif in his painting. This incredibly fun shoot was shot and recorded live at Studio 637 in Hermosa Beach. We will be collaborating with Roustan for another project soon, so be on the lookout for that!
LAMB: Your bio mentions you all growing up here as well as having been touring around all the local venues–how has it been playing venues that you guys no doubt partially grew up in? What are your feelings about the LA rock and alternative scenes at the moment?–is there a sense of community?
THL: We’ve been playing around town for many years now so naturally a little community amongst local musicians exists. We’ve all played in other bands and sit in on friends’ sets when we can, while still having our main focus on creating original rock n’ roll with The Hollow Legs. It’s important to find that community wherever you’re based out of and I hope it continues to grow with the more people and bands we play with.
LAMB: What’s it like experiencing traction and attention–or indeed opening for such a heavy-hitting festival?
THL: We’re excited to share the stage with such amazing artists we grew up listening to! I never thought I’d be on the same bill at Willie and Ziggy! Such legends!
LAMB: You guys seem to all be multi-instrumentalists or musicians with lots of experience–what brought you guys together?
THL: I met drummer, Zach Bozeman randomly at a dinner party where I was writing music for an artist and I happened to be in need of a drummer and someone to record my solo album. So it was fate how that worked out and we’ve been playing together ever since. I met Hugh DeFrance years later through this singer-songwriter showcase I used to host at Saint Rocke. We all come from different musical backgrounds so it’s great to mold our rock n’ roll sound with all of our influences.
Go Betty Go have been a mainstay in LA’s punk scene for almost 20 years. They recently have been on tour, playing shows with more regularity after a time of sporadic activity. Coming up in the early 00’s class of punk alongside bands like Tsunami Bomb, The Distillers, and The Explosion, the band released two full-lengths on Side One Dummy during the label’s absolute peak. They answered a couple questions for me, check out the interview after the jump
LAMB: Perhaps it’s just because it was when I was first getting into independent music, but I feel as if you guys really came up in almost the heyday for punk. Now that we are living in a post warped tour world and punk (and rock in general) are experiencing a return to the underground, what are your hopes for the future for the scene in general?
Go Betty Go: Punk as we know it, is already 4 decades+ old, so we’ve been fortunate to be able to participate in it over the last 19 years we’ve been a band. I love what we’re seeing with punk festivals, popping up all over the world and seeing both old and new punk bands headline and see that there still is a place for punk rock no matter your age. My hope is that we’ll see that going for years to come.
LAMB: One of the things I’ve always appreciated about your band is the incredible breadth and diversity in sounds and genres even per song. How did that come about? and what inspired the pirate song?
GBG: Well first off, thank you for acknowledging our diverse sounds – in my view that’s a good thing. It’s just fun to think outside the box. You can only imagine how many idea’s we’ve had over the years, that we’ve had to tame down because they were a little too far out. We see no rules and as long as we’re having fun with something and like the vibe, we just run with it. The Pirate song was born that way, a simple guitar riff that we built a story around.
LAMB: In the light of Me Too, songs like “Go Away” take on a new and vital context. The intention was clearly there in the songwriting, but do you feel like people are coming around and reading the lyrics in new light? Do you see the punk and la punk scenes as having changed or bettered throughout your careers in terms of issues of harassment, awareness, or safety at shows?
GBG: The fact that conversations and dialogs have opened-up and people feel more comfortable acknowledging this problem exists is a step forward. Does this mean the perpetrators will change their ways? I’m not sure, but maybe people will feel safer to call them out.
LAMB: Instead of “what’s it like to be playing shows again,” cause I know you guys have played with some…sporadic consistency (?) over the years, I will ask instead what it’s like to be playing again in a time where not only your contemporaries have returned or are still around (tsunami bomb, the Distillers, the casualties, hit water music etc) but also bands you helped inspire? Not to mention have the bands that I’m sure inspired you still around?
We simply love to play music and make music and we’re grateful that there are people out there who are just as into what we do. I imagine those around us in the scene must feel something similar, so if being in a band brings you joy – like it does for us. Why not?
LAMB: Place and community have always been a strong theme in your songs—“I’m from la” being easily the best example—is that pride in region, in community, in heritage still an important part of your lives? Do you still see it reflected in the la and punk communities? Is regionalism more vital in these times of nationalist policies or does it carry with it still too much division?
GBG: As people, I think we all have a wanting to belong and be part of something, so we tend to tell stories from those parts of our identities like we did in “I’m From LA”. The idea was to poke fun of ourselves a bit and tell a story of a day in the life of an Angeleno. Bands and song writers have been doing it forever, so I think listening to songs like that, is a way to step into the shoes of that person and get a perspective of their life. I think it can create unity as someone may be able to relate to what a song is describing, even if it’s not literally about something you connect with.