Review: Jovontaes - "Roll The Dice"

Jovontaes - Roll the Dice
(Burger Records/Gnar Tapes 2013)
"Jovontaes fully embrace the surf rock style they've often dabbled in"

Update: Swan City Sounds

An interview with Clifford Parody, one of the brains behind Swan City Sounds, a tape label from Florida.

So, just as an introduction, what's the story behind the label? Where did you come across the resources to start it? What would you say is Swan City Sounds' mission?
Last July, my buddy Brandon Adams and I decided we wanted to start up a tape label. The very next day, a cassette duplicator appeared on Craigslist. Together, we drove to the middle-of-nowhere home of a doomsday-prepper/conspiracy theorist who was in the process of selling off his possessions to move to Black Mountain, where he planned on hunkering down to wait for the financial apocalypse to hit. He said ‘golly’ a lot and had numerous charts and graphs. We left there $35 broker, one cassette duplicator richer, and with heads full of doubt about the shape of American society.
Where we live in Lakeland, Florida, you can’t go anywhere without seeing some form of Swan – whether it be a statue, a painting, a street sign, or the real thing – the Swan represents our city. Knowing that, and with a desire to pull all of the sonically and artistically inclined folks in the community together to help us out, we decided to name our label Swan City Sounds.
Our music and arts scene here is, in my opinion, pretty vibrant, but at the same time we have remained rather isolated over the years. Most of my friends either play music or make art and they do it pretty damn well, but there isn’t really one specific place that could showcase all of this talent. The goal of Swan City Sounds from the onset was to create something that would accomplish this – to get all of the talent in Lakeland in one place so we could show likeminded folks in other places what we’ve got going so maybe they would want to come hang out with us and play shows and shit.

One thing about Swan City Sounds that I find the most interesting is the art. Who does the album covers and layout currently? Who made the collages on the first 4 releases?
The album artwork is done by a few different folks in town. The first five releases featured artwork by Leif Langford, who Brandon and I have known for years. He is an incredible artist and was the first person we both thought of when we decided to source local work for the cover art. I am sure we will be using his work again at some point. Some other super talented folks have also donated their work: Olivia Lewandowski, Charlie Reese (of Pilgrimage and FSBTB), Aaron Corbitt (of LeapFrog and The Pocket Symphony(s)), and Justin Lewis and Jeremy Thrush, who tag-team paintings together.
Currently, Brandon and I both work together on the layout but Brandon, who had a solid background in graphic design, is pretty much the brains behind that whole side of the operation. I just sit and drink beer with him while he makes shit happen.

So 3 SCS releases dropped in the past week, each sounding vastly different. Tell me about each one.

“Deep Creek”
California Baseball Band is a group that I have wanted to put out since we started the label. They are just stellar musicians and writers and the live show they put on is fantastic. You can tell when you watch them playing that they are all just good friends having a good time. I was super excited to finally get their tunes on tape and I think the medium works really well for their sound. Anyone who has a penchant for folk/alt-country should check them out. Olivia held down the cover art.

“Pilgrimage EP”
Pilgrimage is a band that rose from the ashes of two Lakeland bands that each killed it in their own time. Clint Wooley (who plays drums open handed like a boss) and Jeremy Cranmore played in the Colorside like a decade ago. Matt DeOliviera and Charlie Reese both played in Fire Spoken by the Buffalo, a band we put out a little bit back that has since dissolved. The music falls within the post-hardcore/post-rock/math-rock type vibe, which they have kinda mastered. All of them have real diverse tastes in music and I think it shows through the tunes. Plus they wrote and recorded the whole album in like three or fourth months. Early on I would go and peep their practices and it really floored me well they meshed instantly and how quickly they progressed from there. Jeremy and Justin donated the art for this one.

The Pocket Symphony(s) is Aaron M. Corbitt. I first met Aaron probably ten years ago when he was going by the name Jim and it wasn’t until two or three years ago that I realized Jim wasn’t his real name. According to the legend, he recorded all these songs during his travels up east coast and around NYC where he was homeless for a time. His SoundCloud has something like 300 tracks on it so even though this is technically his first solo release it’s almost acting as a “best of” of sorts. The music is mostly acoustic/folk stuff but other elements are tossed in there as well. Aaron is also a singer, songwriter, guitarist in LeapFrog and an unbelievable talented and prolific painter. He is the kind of person that makes you realize how lazy you truly are.

Which releases have been the biggest successes so far?
It’s hard to say which released have been the most successful. FSBTB and Glad Animal Movements have both sold out at this point, but Jay Tholen’s tape has been downloaded like a million times and Existentia Cicada has managed to get thousands more plays than any other release we have put out. Aside from a core group of folks that consistently buy everything we put out, the attention we get seems to be really sporadic. We are cool with that though for now.

Are there any labels that you feel are inspirations? Who are the raddest purveyors of tapes out there today?
Absolutely. From the start Patrick McBratney of Lava Church and Christian Filardo of Holy Page Records were and remain incredibly inspirational. When we were first getting going both of them would
(graciously) answer all kinds of silly questions I had about how to get things done. One of the coolest things about putting out tapes is getting to talk with and exchange ideas with other labels. It’s that free exchange that makes us not just want to keep moving, but to keep stepping our game up as we go along. It’s really cool because now I am able to talk with folks starting up their own labels and share what little wisdom I have with them. Holy Page, Lava Church, Purr Tapes, Crash Symbols, Already Dead Tapes, Moon Glyph, Tolmie Terrapin and Juniper Tree Songs have are all doing some seriously dope work. All of those labels don’t just put out super rad music; they also pay close attention to the aesthetic elements of the cassette, which I, and I think everyone who has caught the tape bug, greatly appreciates. Also, I have to say everyone involved in the Living Room Visions Collective is constantly churning out neat stuff, and when you see other people being productive, it makes you want to be more productive.

Do you have your own band?
Currently, no, I don’t, but Brandon makes some sick nasty beats under the name Hahaha Etc. His tape will be coming out very soon.

Going into the second half of 2013, in what direction is Swan City Sounds headed? What new releases are lined up, if any?
On top of Brandon’s release we also have tapes coming out by Tetro Veteran and Adieux and have a beat tape in the works as well.
We are also in the beginning stages of a very large compilation project that we were hoping to have done for our year anniversary but it’s looking like it may not be for another few months.
I will be starting graduate school in North Carolina in August, so we are trying to figure out how to do things from there. We are thinking about starting to put out seasonal batches of tapes with like 5 or 6 in each batch? That’s the current idea at least.
AND we are gearing up for our first two splits released on the Swan City Friends sub-label, which will offer a platform for folks outside of our hometown to release with us. As of now, it’s looking like the first few tapes are going to be noise-oriented, which is pretty exciting as we haven’t done anything in that realm yet (Lost Trail/Proud Father will be the first and NYKDLN / (I don’t know how to make Japanese Characters)AUTO/MJ & Linkcoln/Lasership Stero will comprise the second). These are going to be released in much more limited edition runs (20-36 a pop) and, for the most part, much more minimal design wise.

Any plans for releases on vinyl or CD?
No plans to release on CD, but I like to think that vinyl could be somewhere in the future for us. We are going to have to bring in a lot more cheddar before that can become a reality though.


Interview: Mat Cothran of Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly

An interview with lo-fi singer/songwriter Mat Cothran, who operates under the names Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly. Thanks to Ben Wiley for conducting this Q&A session.

Between Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly you have garnered an incredibly devoted following: did you expect anything of this magnitude?

When I first started making music it was purely for my friends to hear. A few of my friends had some success sending their music out to blogs (before all the blogs were inevitably killed my the corporate tastemakers) and I gave it a shot. the amount of people listening to my music now is vastly beyond what I ever thought it could be. I'm still just doing this for me but it's nice to have people there to encourage me all over the planet.

Did having an established fan base during the creation of Posthumous Release affect your creative process?
It sort of wore on me during the last album "blue suicide" but i've learned to let all that go. I haven't gotten a single negative response from a listener about Posthumous Release. regardless of that album's financial failure it is an artistic success for me and i stand behind it completely.
From your Twitter posts to your lyrics, your words are often shockingly honest. Did it take time to let go of inhibitions? Does it take work to be so honest?
I think it takes a self awareness that is detached from self obsession. honesty is almost a defense mechanism for me now. The ugly truth will get people to leave you alone a lot faster than a ruse. I feel responsible to be honest with my audience because they are honest with me about themselves and their opinions. It's a two way street.
The lyrics on Posthumous Release seem less impressionistic than those found on earlier records. Was this record written with specific events in mind?
Definitely. This album references certain very important and sometimes traumatic events in my life. It's all about how to survive when you're homeless, poor as fuck, addicted to bad shit and trying desperately to keep going. It's the most cohesive thing I've done. I saw no need to get symbolic...everything is pretty literal...the book of revelation when taken literally makes the most sense to me. we are in the end times.
Did the writing of Posthumous Release feature much collaboration?
Delaney Mills (who is 1/3rd of Elvis Depressedly) wrote all the music for "Lee" and Rachel Levy of R.L. Kelly was integral in finishing these songs. Also the guys from TV Girl wrote a lot of the drum parts and percussion, on top of engineering the album. everyone knew we had a job to do and acted accordingly. They're very professional like me...I don't fuck around and I am NOT a hobbyist.
Reviews for Posthumous Release were overwhelmingly positive except for a somewhat sour write-up from Pitchfork. What was your response to the review? Did you gain any audience because of it?
The review didn't sell any records or garner any followers, but i don't believe it was sour. I think it was a well written review and I have no shade for Ian Cohen. I do question the relevancy of Pitchfork for any artist that isn't white bread indie.
In those reviews you are often compared to Elliot Smith; both of your songs share a focus on things broken and cast out. Do you agree with these comparisons? Does your music attract a certain type of person?
Elliott was a living angel and I miss him a lot. While in LA, I visited solutions audio where the cover for figure 8 was shot. Elliott has always been in my mind when i write songs. I think we had the same goals. 
If you could play a show anywhere on earth, where would it be?
I've really gotten to play every venue i could ever dream of playing. It'd be nice to play during bike week at Daytona...or on television...
What's next for Coma Cinema? Will Elvis Depressedly be seeing action soon?
Coma has said what it needed to say. there will be an Elvis Depressedly full length this year called NEW ALHAMBRA/11th COMMANDMENT
Thanks again to Mat and Ben for the awesome interview. Listen to Coma Cinema's new album below.


Review: The Socials - "The Beast Bites EP"

The Socials - The Beast Bites EP
(Centsless 2013)
"Exemplifies everything I love about punk"


Looking for submissions for a compilation tape!

Hey Half-Gifts gang! I've come across a few 90-minute cassette tapes, and I'm thinking about pressing a compilation album onto them. If you'd be interested in submitting a single, cover or demo for consideration, e-mail me at jude.noel3@gmail.com. Otherwise, leave a link in the comments. Hopefully there's enough interest to do this!


Review: I've Been Franklin - Total Yang: The End of Franklin

I've Been Franklin - Total Yang: The End of Franklin
(2013 Holy Page)
"Sounds like it should be stored in a Nintendo 64 cartridge rather than a cassette tape."

Interview: Wyatt Shears of The Garden

A few questions to Wyatt Shears, one-half of Burger Records drum and bass duo The Garden. Read the short but informative interview below.

  • 1) What made you guys decide to start a band that exclusively bass and drums? Do you feel this makes songwriting a challenge, or does it actually make it easier?
    Part of the reason was so we didn't have to deal with anyone else. The two of us know exactly what we want music wise, therefore there would be no reason to add anyone else. The song writing is simpler, in my personal opinion.
    2) Your newest album, The Life and Times of a Paperclip, is about to get a proper wax pressing. Is recording your third album different that recording your first two, which are said to be the most important for a band?
    The first two were recorded after this upcoming one. The order of the albums is technically all screwed up. L&TOAPC was recorded in a real studio versus the last two that were in our garage.
    3) Getting more specific about the recording process: many of The Garden's songs are under a minute long, with repetitive (and sometimes nonsensical lyricism). What inspired this sort of song structure? How do you go about writing them?

    Overly long songs have never been my interest. We like to make songs in a "Theme Song" or "Catchy Jingle" kind of sense for the most part.
    4) I know that both of you have solo projects with tapes out on Burger, each having a sound quite different from the other. What are the stories behind each?

    I began with Enjoy a while back for no reason really. I wanted to see if I liked my voice on recording, so I tried it and I liked it. I don't think there is much a story behind Puzzle. I wouldn't know though, it's not my thang.
    5) With the songs being so short and frenetic, I'm sure seeing The Garden live would be interesting to say the least. What's the energy like at a show?

    The energy can vary. It really depends on the circumstances. We don't play or do the same thing every show , so it's hard to say.
    6) What’s it like being in a band with your brother?

    What's it like? It's fine. We get along.
    7-8) Who’s the best bassist of all time? Which cereal box monster is your favorite, 
    Count Chocula, Boo Berry or Frankenberry?
    If there was a bassist for "Honey Bunches & Oats" I'd pick him.
    9) Mike Watt (of Minutemen) named his bass the “Thunder Broom”. Do you have any names for your instruments?
    No, I don't have a name for the bass.
    10) What’s next for The Garden? Will we see a 7” or something of that nature this year?

    After this upcoming record, we have a 7 inch' from Big Love Records in Japan coming out directly after.

    You can listen to the demo version of the new album below.


Review: Geodesics - "Geodesics EP"

Geodesics - Geodesics EP
(2013 Self-Released)
"Voluminous, though not dense"


Review: Cedar Skies - "Out of Reach"

Cedar Skies - Out Of Reach
(Self-Released 2013)
"Pointillist guitar, earthy drone brushstrokes"


Overview: Hot and Ready Records

Hot and Ready Records

Label Overview: I assumed that the days of sending away for a tape or record were long gone now that it's so easy to create your own website with Bandcamp and Tumblr. The package I received from California's Hot and Ready Records this week proved me wrong, and I couldn't be happier about it; it's interesting to see music distributors and artists paddling against the current of technology. The label, whose name may or may not be a nod to Little Caesar's Pizza, operates from a bare-bones webpage (you can view it here) which is little more than a list of titles to order with no cover art provided. I really like the idea of focusing on the music while also creating a bit of mystique. I also find it quite interesting that the catalog the label mails its customers actually lists much more music than its internet counterpart and includes a description of each release. It's as if it reveals all its secrets and quirks to you at a gradual pace; you'll get as much out of Hot and Ready as you put into it! You can also buy some rad zines and comics from the same address, my favorite is Throat Culture, which features rather conversational reviews of lo-fi bands like The Shivas, Hunx and Cassie Ramone's solo project.


Overview: Lost Sound Tapes

Lost Sound Tapes

Label Overview: As a packaging geek, the first things to catch my eye as I opened the latest batch of cassettes from Lost Sound Tapes were the cases the tapes were housed in. The Seattle-based label's owner, Jon Manning, tells me they're called "soft poly boxes". Rather than swinging open on a hinge, these cases are made of one piece of pliant plastic, shutting tightly with a satisfying snap. There is also a small circle lightly imprinted on the face of these boxes, which remind me of the cases harmonicas come in when you win them at a carnival game. Though it may just be the novelty of seeing them for the first time, I think these soft poly boxes are really cool! Don't let them distract you from what lies inside them, though. Each of the four new tapes I've listened to channel the fuzzy, DIY ethic of the early 90's and should be a treat for fans of bands like Yuck and Teenage Fanclub. You can buy the tapes listed below here: lostsoundtapes.com


Interview: Duane Pitre

I'm a fan of his sparse, slowly evolving musical compositions. My dad was a fan of his skateboarding style in early 90s. It doesn't matter what medium Duane Pitre's working in; the product always leaves an impression. I recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his music. You can read his answers below.