Author Archives: Ryan Orvis

TVD Live: Spindrift
at Echoplex, 9/8

Los Angeles psychedelic rockers Spindrift have never shied away from proclaiming their love of cinema, particularly spaghetti westerns, noir, exploitation, and other cult genres.

Their previous album The Legend of God’s Gun became the soundtrack to a movie after its initial release, thanks to the intervention of director Mike Bruce. For their next album, the band chose to work with several different filmmakers, creating soundtracks to a series of short films. The result was Classic Soundtracks Vol. 1.

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The TVD Interview:
Jeff Martin of Idaho

Los Angeles resident Jeff Martin has been recording and performing music under the moniker Idaho for close to two decades. He originally formed the band with guitarist John Berry, releasing the cathartic “slowcore” album Year After Year in 1993. Subsequent releases found Idaho existing as both a solo project for Martin as well as a full-fledged band. In the second half of the 90s, Martin collaborated with guitarist Dan Seta to develop a more subtle version of the Idaho sound.

Since 2001, Martin has primarily worked alone in his Laurel Canyon studio, splitting his time between Idaho releases and soundtrack work. His latest album You Were A Dick is available in a variety of formats: Vinyl, CD, mp3, and even a bonus DVD of high resolution files via Martin’s label Idahomusic.

We spoke with Martin about his recording process, current film projects, and even got into some tech stuff for the audiophiles out there.

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TVD Live: Local Scene Night at the Zoo, 7/15

Last Friday at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the air echoed with the usual sounds of animals and children crying out in the night. Yet there was another sound, something less familiar to this setting: guitars and drums. It was all according to plan, as the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association presented Music In the Zoo: Local Scene Night.

Eight bands performed Between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., spread throughout the zoo on different stages: Abe Vigoda, Big Search, Hands, Pollyn, Allah Las, Kitten, Mini Mansions and HoneyHoney. While the animals were still the main attraction, the families strolling through the grounds seemed to welcome the addition of something new to the menu.

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TVD Ticket Giveaway: Big Harp at Satellite, 7/19

Stefanie Drootin-Senseney should be a familiar name to Los Angeles indie rock fans. Her impressive resume boasts touring and recording work with Bright Eyes, The Good Life, She & Him, and Azure Ray. Before joining The Good Life and helping out other bands from Omaha’s Saddle Creek label, she served time in L.A. punk outfit Consafos. Now she’s back with a new L.A.-based project, Big Harp, whose first album White Hat will be released September 13 on Saddle Creek.

Big Harp is a collaboration between Stefanie and her husband Chris Senseney, who previously played together in Art in Manila. The music is a hybrid of folk, country and blues highlighted by Senseney’s gruff vocals. Comparisons to Tom Waits and Dr. John spring to mind, but ultimately White Hat sounds timeless and fresh. It’s a perfect soundtrack to a sunny afternoon spent hanging out on the porch with one’s kin and beverage of choice.

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TVD Recommends: Army Navy at Bootleg Theater, July 13

Fans of tight harmonies, vintage guitar tones and flailing drumsticks will want to head straight to the Bootleg Theater on Wednesday, July 13 for the Army Navy record release show. This L.A. power pop quartet are celebrating the release of their second album, The Last Place, which has already amassed an impressive collection of favorable reviews and been featured as an exclusive pre-release download on eMusic.

Also performing is A Silent Film from the UK, and Boris Smile from Long Beach. The Bootleg Theater is located at 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. 21+. Tickets are $10.

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TVD Exclusive Track Giveaway: Oslo

California band Oslo is playing West Coast dates to promote their new E.P., High Mountain Sessions: Volume One, which goes on sale tomorrow. The music has a fuzzed out, decadent vibe that brings to mind early Psychedelic Furs or late-period Jesus and Mary Chain.

We’re pleased to offer an exclusive download of one of the tracks, a remix of “Fever” by Sam Fogarino (Interpol, Magnetic Morning). Oslo plays July 16 at Satellite in Los Angeles.

Oslo Tour Dates:
July 12 San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill
July 13 Santa Cruz, CA – The Crepe Place
July 14 San Luis Obispo, CA – The Frog and Peach
July 15 Santa Barbara, CA – Muddy Waters
July 16 Los Angeles CA – Satellite
July 17 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
July 22 Portland, OR – Backspace

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TVD Recommends: Magic Mirror at Casey’s, Friday June 24

Local favorites Magic Mirror have settled in at Casey’s this month for a free Friday night residence. The Irish pub serves as a fitting backdrop for the band’s weary, soulful psych rock. Last week they brought along special guest Jason Simon of Dead Meadow, who performed a haunting acoustic set accompanied by members of Magic Mirror and Lower Heaven.

This Friday Exploding Flowers and DJ Tami are along to help close out the last night of the residency. Exploding Flowers features former members of The Moon Upstairs. Word has it that the spacey Floyd-isms of that band have been supplanted by a healthy love for Guided By Voices and jangly guitars. Tami ‘s specialty is spinning deep cuts from rock’s beloved cult heroes, so with any luck Nikki Sudden and Ian Hunter will take turns serenading the crowd between sets.

Casey’s is located at 13 South Grand Avenue, Downtown L.A. 90017.

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TVD Live: Swervedriver Returns to Los Angeles

We were lucky to catch British guitar heroes Swervedriver during their Los Angeles stop at the Echoplex in Echo Park., one of four exclusive shows the band performed in the States last week.

The Black Watch opened with a gently hypnotic set of psychedelic pop jangle, whetting our appetite for more unhinged sonic explorations. This preceded a lengthy but somehow appropriate DJ set that bobbed and weaved between 60s pop and 80s post-punk. We had never noticed how much Swervedriver borrowed from Public Image Ltd.’s namesake tune “Public Image” until this evening.

Finally Swervedriver hit the stage with “Last Train to Satansville,” a roaring classic that married guitar feedback to a locomotive beat. They had been unable to play the song during their previous visit, when their encore was cut for time, so it was an appropriate way to kick things off. Vocal monitor difficulties prevented singer Adam Franklin from fully delivering on the dark balladry of the lyrics, but the band played on much like a runaway train.

This set the tone for the evening, as Swervedriver plowed through a collection of some of their most complex music. Obscurities like “Out” blended nicely with fan favorites “Girl on a Motorbike” and “Sandblasted.”

The small tour coincided with the re-release on vinyl of the first two Swervedriver LPs, Raise and Mezcal Head (both albums were previously reissued on CD). It is also the 20th anniversary of Raise, which may have been one reason why the band reunited with their original drummer Graham Bonner (who played on Raise and several EPs leading up to its release) for a series of dates in Australia earlier in the year.

Bonner was scheduled to play the four U.S. dates as well, but had to cancel at the last minute. Mikey Jones, who normally plays with Adam Franklin’s band Bolts of Melody, did an admirable job of filling in. The set list seemed to favor material that Bonner originally played on, so Jones had his work cut out for him. Raise is filled with time changes, breakdowns, and lots of really fast beats – not an easy thing for any drummer to master in a few days.

Overall, it was a raw and intimate show in comparison to the group’s previous visit to L.A., when they performed at the Henry Fonda Theater in 2008. That show had marked the band’s triumphant return after a ten-year hiatus, and brought some much-deserved hype along with it. This time out, the stage was smaller, and expectations may not have been as high. Swervedriver still managed to display the jaw-dropping combination of melody, noise, and musical dexterity that makes them one of the greatest surviving bands of the 90s alt-rock gold rush.

(Photo by Cecy Orvis)


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TVD’s Backspin: German Psych Reissues

The early 1970s was a fruitful time for popular music. Genres like art rock, glam, progressive, fusion, funk, folk and jazz were mixed together liberally, making this era a goldmine for music fanatics and record collectors.

Some of the most exciting music of this time period came from Germany. The avant garde was embraced by the mainstream, resulting in the birth of “kosmiche muzik” or “krautrock.” It’s been very trendy to mention Can and Neu for some time now, but it wasn’t always that easy to track their records down on vinyl. There are now plenty of German psych records available thanks to the reissue market. Here’s a brief guide to some of these discs.

NOTE: The popularity of vinyl reissues has led to the appearance of many unofficial bootlegs. These are often close replicas of the original LPs, down to the date and logo on the label. The Vinyl District will make every attempt to only promote legitimate releases where the artists are involved.

Kraftwerk – The Man Machine (Kling Klang)

I grew up with an aversion to electronic music that came from being bludgeoned over the head with techno and hip-hop throughout the 1980s and well into the 2000s. The Man Machine recalls a time before all that, when electronic music was made by robots in a top secret laboratory in Germany. OK, not quite – but you get the point. Many synth pop bands tried to re-capture the hypnotic beauty of this record in the ensuing decade, but few came close to the warm waves of analogue sound present on this disc.

As great as the sound is, the packaging also deserves praise. The Man Machine features a thick cardstock booklet with color photographs of the band in all their synthetic glory. The whole “produkt” was overseen by Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk, making a great argument for involving the artists in the reissue process.

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Eagle Rock Gets a New Record Store, Chicago Style

Permanent Records has been an institution in Chicago for several years. Owners Lance Barresi and Liz Tooley recently relocated to California to set up a new location in Eagle Rock. The shop will be open for business starting June 1st, with a grand opening party taking place June 4th. Festivities will include live performances from The Cosmonauts and Francis Harold and the Holograms.

We spoke with Lance and Liz about the history of Permanent Records, their limited edition vinyl-only record label, and their motivation for moving to California.

TVD: What brings you to L.A.?

Lance: Liz and I have run Permanent Records in Chicago for about five years. We just wanted to get out of that climate and come west. We looked last time we visited and found Eagle Rock, which we loved as a neighborhood. The space kind of presented itself. So we’re starting Permanent Number Two June first.

TVD: Is someone else going to stay and run the Chicago store?

Lance: Yeah, we have a whole staff in place. We have a web store, and all of our mail order is done from the Chicago location for now. There’s a manager and four employees keeping that store rocking. I’ll be doing a lot of the buying from afar. Both locations will sell similar new products, whereas the used stock will be determined by geographical factors.

We stock mostly vinyl, but we carry CDs as well. A lot of rare things; lots of obscure, hard to find limited releases. We carry a few DVDs and cassette tapes, and a fair amount of magazines and DIY zines.

Aside from the stuff we sell, we’ll be hosting weekly in store performances by local and touring bands. The grand opening party June 4th will have The Cosmonauts, a local band that we’ve dealt with before. We put their debut EP out on our label. So they’re playing along with an L.A. based weird punk band called Francis Harold and the Holograms. Britt and Manda from Not Not Fun are going to be joining in some way. Manda wants to spin records, so she’ll probably be DJing for it. We’re still talking to a few other bands. So it should be an all day affair with freebies, giveaways, and all sorts of festivities. There will potentially be food, snacks, and free beer to those with proper identification.

TVD: What made you want to expand, in this economy where many stores are shutting down?

Lance: Our Chicago store has done well for the past five years, and it always gets better and better. Honestly, the expansion is just as much about the store doing well and Eagle Rock needing a good record store as it is about our desire to live in a nicer climate. We wanted to move here anyway, and this is what we do, so we figured, “why not just do it here?”

We were thinking about running the shop from afar and working from home. Then we stumbled across this storefront and a killer landlord who has been nothing but amazing for us. He’s got a wood shop a few doors down, so we’ve been able to go back and forth. It’s an ideal situation that fell into place, as opposed to us being astute business people. We have this feeling the store will do well here, and we found this space, so we’re gonna give it a whirl. The Chicago store will be able to pick up the slack for awhile, and we’ve already got some really good feedback from people here.

Liz: We love records, and getting to work with records is enough for us. Having live music in-stores combines two of our favorite things. We’re not high rollers, but we’re really happy with where our life is. The rent’s affordable and it’s a wonderful neighborhood. Since we’ve been here, we wake up smiling every single day.

TVD: Tell me about the record label.

Lance: We started in 2007 with an LP by our friend’s band Warhammer 48K. Those guys broke up immediately after we put the record out, which did not help sales at all. But we didn’t start a label to make money either. The guys from Warhammer went on to different things, one of them being Cave, a repetitive psychedelic rock band based out of Chicago. We put out their first record and their first split 10”. They moved on to Important and are now on Drag City.

After that we just started putting out things we liked that weren’t already on vinyl. We do vinyl only releases, no CDs unless they’re included with the package at the request of the band, although most of our releases are also available digitally.

Liz: We’ve done a lot. We’re up to 26 releases. We’re taking a small summer break to set up the shop.

Lance: Our first California release was The Cosmonauts, and they’re from L.A. It was weird doing that record before we’d even thought about moving out here, and now they’re our neighbors. Our next release is by a California based guy from Sacramento named Charles Albright. He does real blown out, lo-fi psychedelic punk. His new 7” is next on the agenda.

It’s mostly limited releases, 500 or less. Some of them have been repressed multiple times, and some have gone out of print.

Liz: It’s a labor of love on that end too. It’s cool after we’ve been selling records for awhile to help give back to some of the bands.

Lance: It’s worth it at the end of the day to get that shipment of finished records in the jacket with 12×12 physical artwork.

Liz: Hopefully they haven’t been smashed by UPS…

Lance: …which has happened more times than we’d care to talk about.

Liz: It’s been a wild ride. We’re interested to see what waits here in Los Angeles.

Permanent Records is located at 1583 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, California.

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Urge Overkill Launches Submarine Tour at Troubadour

Urge Overkill appear to be on a mission to make sure they aren’t just known as the band that did a Neil Diamond cover on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. For starters, they’ve released a great album called Rock & Roll Submarine, their first in 16 years. Urge founders King Roeser and Nash Kato recruited a new rhythm section for the record, and Hadji Hodgkiss and Bonn Quast more than hold their own on bass and drums. It seems like the band has been resurrected with a new sense of purpose. Far from being a tired reunion act, the U.O. of 2011 is actually in better shape live than they were during the last days of their 1996 tour for previous album Exit the Dragon.

This was evident at the Troubadour last week. After solid opening sets by Roll the Tanks and Astronaut Academy, the revamped Urge took the stage and launched into the title track from Rock & Roll Submarine. A driving rocker distinguished by a cool echoing guitar lead, the song is as good as anything the band has done in the past. They followed this with another bold choice: “Mason/Dixon,” the first song on the new album. It was obvious this wasn’t a typical reunion act. Luckily, this crunching Civil War-era anthem also stands alongside their best material.

Having more than justified their rebirth, the band tore into the back catalog. This included fan favorites like “Back On Me,” “Erica Kane” and “Positive Bleeding” from Saturation, as well a couple of older classics like “Vacation in Tokyo” and “(Now That’s) The Barclords.” New songs “Effigy” and “Poison Flower” fit nicely with material from Exit the Dragon (“Take Me” and “Somebody Else’s Body”), showing that the band has pretty much picked up where they left off.

Dual front-men Roeser and Kato traded off vocals and riffs throughout the set, frequently grinning from ear to ear. They were obviously back in their element.

No one would doubt that Urge earned an encore that night. The presence of Tenacious D members in the crowd led us to assume we’d be hearing the cowbell-heavy sounds of “Sister Havana,” but instead we were treated to “Woman 2 Woman” and a scorching medley of “The Break” and “Stull Pt. 1.” Jack Black failed to join the band onstage like he did the last time they played the Troubadour in 2004. Few seemed to mind. We’d come there to see Urge Overkill, and they did not disappoint.

(Photo by Cecilia Orvis)

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Reissues: Alt-Rock Classics Get the Vinyl Treatment

It’s always great to see new music being released on vinyl. Equally exciting is the current selection of reissues of older material being offered by labels such as Rhino and 4 Men With Beards. Hardcore collectors may scoff, but for the average listener, the chance to own one’s favorite albums on pristine vinyl at a reasonable price is often too good to pass up.

In most cases, I prefer to seek out the original issue of a record, but some titles are simply too difficult to find without resorting to eBay or similar auction sites. Sellers will often jack up prices if they know a particular disc is hard to come by. Such is the case with many indie rock, shoegaze, or Britpop acts from the mid-’80s to the early ’90s. This was a time when the vinyl market was slowly dying out in favor of CDs. By the time grunge hit, vinyl was being pressed in very small quantities, if at all. The discs that were pressed became increasingly rare (and expensive) over the years.

Thankfully, some choice records from this era are starting to show up as vinyl reissues. Plain has issued LPs from Ween, Spiritualized, Flaming Lips, and My Bloody Valentine among others. Rhino released Ride’s first full length album Nowhere in December. Warner’s Original Recordings Group has been working their way through the Nirvana and Sonic Youth back catalogs, and recently released a new pressing of Teenage Fanclub’s celebrated Bandwagonesque. Swervedriver’s first two albums have even shown up again courtesy of Hi Speed Soul.

Established indie labels have also taken to reissuing their own catalogs. Matador and Merge have done an excellent job with artists like Pavement and Superchunk respectively. UK labels Fire and Too Pure have made several classics from their vaults available, including titles by Spacemen 3 and Stereolab.

Fans of ’60s and ’70s soul, folk, psychedelic, punk, and new wave have been in luck for some time now, as many excellent reissues have touched on these genres. It’s nice to see more ’80s and ’90s bands joining the ranks. In this column, I hope to review some of the best of what is currently available. I’ll try to keep it as diverse as possible: expect some ’70s funk and German psych, ’80s post-punk, and good old fashioned indie rock to show up here.

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what forthcoming reissues you’re excited about, and what your favorites have been so far.

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