Wall Of Sound : A Conversation With Post Child’s Bryan Alvarez

by EA Poorman

 

Can you feel it? It’s the roaring warmth of summer coming just around the corner, folks. Temps in the 80s, balmy breeze blowing through the car window as you sit at the stop light waiting for the green to tell you to go, go, go. The best thing about the oncoming season change is that first great rock show of the season. Maybe you think you’ve seen it already. At that point maybe it was, but boys and girls there’s a show happening on May 26th at the Brass Rail that will knock your socks off. Local heroes Heaven’s Gateway Drugs and Girl Colors are warming the stage up for our Ohio pals Water Witches and Chi-town’s Post Child. And even better, cruise over to Neat Neat Neat Records at 6pm and watch Water Witches christen Morrison’s all new Hi Fi Lounge with some of their psychedelic magic. Yep, NNN has the Hi Fi Lounge up and running so leave the house a little early and grab some suds courtesy of CS3s pop up bar while you soak up some Water Witches magic.

Post Child are new to the Brass Rail stage and Fort Wayne in general. But if you’re like me and you were drunk a lot in the 90s, alternative rock has a special place in your heart. Post Child capture that post-grunge, in-the-red, hooky indie rock that made so many of us fall in love with rock and roll all over again in the early days of the Clinton administration. When I listened to their newest record Wax Wings I instantly thought of bands like Local H, Marcy Playground, Imperial Drag, Tiny Music-era STP, Blur, and some of the gnarlier Beck. The trick is to take those influences and make it original, which is exactly what Post Child does. They add that Chicago flavor to the sound; it’s that Midwest moxy that is equal parts working class gusto and big-hearted earnestness.

I talked to Bryan Alvarez, Post Child’s singer/guitarist about the band and their show at the Rail.

EA Poorman: So tell me about Post Child. How did you guys get together?

Bryan Alvarez: Post Child was started by me back in 2011 from the ashes of a previous band I was in. I’ve been in a bunch of bands over the years that were group efforts. Post Child was started as a way for me to really hone the sound I’ve been searching for over the years. I wanted something that I could have full creative control. But with that being said, we wouldn’t sound how we do without the guys in the band. They take my songs and transmute them into something bigger and better.

EA Poorman: So who else is in the band? Are you guys all from Chicago?

Bryan Alvarez:  The band is me, Bryan Alvarez, on vocals/lead guitar, Jared Olson on guitar/vocals, Mustafa Daka on drums, and Victor Riley on bass. We’re all from Chicago or the surrounding towns.

Photo by Alen Khan

EA Poorman: Are you all in different bands besides Post Child?

Bryan Alvarez: Everyone is in multiple bands. I used to play in the band Peekaboos (who have been around for a while now), only recently leaving to concentrate more on Post Child. Jared is in Elephant Gun and Dirty Bird, Mustafa is in The Brokedowns and High Priests, and Victor is in Salvation.

EA Poorman: Where are you guys pulling inspiration from? I hear a lot of great 90s alternative bands in your sound.

Bryan Alvarez: I grew up listening to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Blur, Beck and the Flaming Lips. And I think we all can bond over these bands, who when we were younger were larger than life. But I think a lot of our current sound is influenced by local Chicago bands, like Meat Wave, Peekaboos, Milked, Rad Payoff, Velocicopter (RIP), and Closed Mouths. All of these bands come from the realm of rock and post-rock but are all unique in their own way. Seriously, you should all listen to them and see them live when you can.

EA Poorman: So tell me about the newest Post Child long player Wax Wings. Where did you guys record the record? What’s the songwriting process like for you guys?

Bryan Alvarez: We recorded Wax Wings at Kildare Studios in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago with Joe Gac of Meat Wave behind the board. We recorded it at the end of Sept 2015 and spent 2016 doing overdubs and mixing. I usually try out different methods of songwriting for each album. For Wax Wings, I spent a lot of time trying to write lyrics that were meaningful to me, using music as a way to add impact to them. It was a very introspective and meditative process, trying to get deep into my mind. I was reading a lot of esoteric books on meditation and psychology at the time. The music was a much longer process, sometimes rewriting a song 3 or 4 times over before I was satisfied with it. At that point I would bring all of this to the band and have them add to it and make it sound even better. I think I wrote maybe 30 songs for Wax Wings, we recorded about 20 tracks, and ended up only using 10.

EA Poorman: So you guys are playing the Brass Rail on May 26th. How did this show come together? Is this your first time in the Fort? Who else is playing?

Bryan Alvarez: Corey from Brass Rail had reached out and invited us to come and play. He liked the band. I didn’t actually ask him how he heard of us. We’ve never played Fort Wayne before, so we’re excited to come out and play for everyone. We’ve had friends come through and tell us it was a good time. So the details, It’s Friday May 26th. Girl Colors are opening, then us, and Heaven’s Gateway Drugs are headlining.

EA Poorman: What other shows do you have lined up for the summer?

Bryan Alvarez: Locally, we’re usually booked up a few months in advance. We have some really great shows coming up this summer that I can’t quite announce just yet that are really cool. But we’re trying to get around the midwest a bit more and play places like Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and so on. We’re working on a longer tour for later this fall. If you are reading this and want to help us book a show in your town please reach out to us!

EA Poorman: Any new music on the horizon?

Bryan Alvarez: I’m actually writing the follow up to Wax Wings right now. I write a lot of music. Much more than we’ll ever release probably. My goal for the next album was to write at least 15 songs before I considered doing any recording. I got to about 14 songs and ended up scrapping almost all of them. So I’m down to like 5. It wasn’t sounding the way I had wanted it. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time on these new songs working on rhythms and beats. We sometimes play a new song or two at our live shows. Otherwise, we might try to put a new tune out later this year.

EA Poorman: In one sentence, how would you describe Post Child?

Bryan Alvarez: We’re really loud. Bring ear plugs. It wasn’t even intentional to be as loud as we are, but it just kind of happened that way. We played a show the other night and someone came up to me and described it as “wall of sound”. I think we write really poppy music overall, we like to do vocal harmonies, double guitar solos, but just to do it really loudly. I like the idea of using sound to take people out of their comfort zone a bit.

So don’t forget earplugs, folks. It’s gonna be great, but loud. And make sure to hit up NNN and the Hi Fi Lounge at 6pm for some pre-main event music goodness with Water Witches and some brews courtesy of CS3. The main event starts at 9pm at the Brass Rail. Get acquainted with Post Child over at https://postchildmusic.bandcamp.com/.

 

Last Night I Dreamt I Saw The Flaming Lips In Fort Wayne, Indiana

What a strange dream.

Last night I dreamt I saw the Flaming Lips at Headwaters Park in Fort Wayne, IN. What a bizarre thing to dream, right? But man, I’m telling you it was so realistic. The sights, the sounds, the smells…I even clearly remember the name, “Middle Waves”. That was the name of the music festival where the Lips were headlining.

The dream started with my wife and I leaving the kids at home armed with phone numbers and a couple frozen pizzas with directions not to burn the house down. We made it to Fort Wayne a little after 5pm and found an incredibly close spot to park, right next to Headwaters Park. We only had to pay $5 to park, too(so yeah, this was obviously a dream.)

Our first stop was the St. Josephs Stage to see local Fort Wayne band The Orange Opera. Kevin Hambrick and company killed it, blowing the sweaty crown away with his mix of solo John Lennon and mid-70s power pop. The Orange Opera are a Fort Wayne music institution and they plowed the sweaty Middle Waves crowd down with their musical prowess(at least, in my dream they did.)

After the Orange Opera we quickly made our way to the Maumee Stage(in the dream there were three stages, The St. Mary’s Stage, The Maumee Stage, and The St. Josephs Stage, all of which had bands playing throughout the day.) Fort Wayne’s Heaven’s Gateway Drugs had just begun their set. They mine some pretty heady psych sounds, complete with a tambourine-playing shaman and reverb-drenched guitar. Live, HGD are a much heavier and headier band with the rhythm section of Brandon Lee Zolman and James Francis Wadsworth laying some serious grooves down for guitarist Derek Mauger to lose himself in. They plowed through some of their new album Rubber Nun, as well as some classic HGD tunes. There was a nice crowd for the set, with everyone ranging from teens to old people like me.

After HGD, the wife and I were ready to eat so we headed to a place called The Village. Cool area where there were local food vendors and Lagunita’s Brewing was serving up IPAs(the details in this dream were amazing, right?) While in The Village I ran into R. Mike Horan, a legendary figure in the local music scene. In real life we’ve communicated through social media, and he was even there for my band’s first and last live gig at Wooden Nickel Music back in 2010, but never an actual conversation with the man. It was nice to shake his hand see him face to face, even if it was just a dream.

After a pulled pork sandwich and being swarmed by bees the wife and I caught local band Void Reunion. A great band that’s made up of some truly amazing local band alumni. Their sound is a mix of dreamy pop and jangly guitar. Imagine This Will Destroy You being heavily influenced by REMs Murmur and you might have a little idea of the sounds these guys are cooking up. The local Fort Wayne bands were all class acts. They all sounded like they should’ve been playing the big stage(regardless if this was a dream or not.)

After Void Reunion ended their set the wife and I headed to the main stage and saw the band Tanlines. A Brooklyn electronic synth dance/pop band that I quite enjoyed. I’m a sucker for the electronic synth thing, and these guys did it very well. The band was just two guys, one handled the synth/percussion end while the other guy played guitar and sang. Pretty catchy tunes that didn’t require much of the audience other than to just lose yourself in the music. I must add, that apparently in the dream it must’ve rained pretty hard earlier in the day as the field was still pretty wet with lots of hay spread out throughout the grounds to help soak up some puddles.

I’m telling you, this was one detailed dream.

One of the highlights of this lucid dream was to see DC rapper/producer Oddisee. I’ve only recently in the last few years found a love for hip hop, and Oddisee is one of the artists that’s made an impact on me(his newest instrumental album Odd Man Out is pretty great.) Oddisee, and his DJ Unknown started their set a little early and jumped right in after finishing their soundcheck. His lyrics are of the socially conscious variety, which I dig. He interacted with the slowly growing crowd and even kept it cool after a beach ball had been knocked up on the stage twice( he kept it the second time and gave it to Unknown as a gift.) It was a great set and made me all the more a fan of the man.

So finally the moment came. The Lips were on stage doing soundcheck. When we saw them back in 2011 in Chicago(not a dream, btw) they came out on stage and were part of the crew, setting up their own instruments and in this bizarrely realistic dream it was no different. Wayne Coyne walked around the stage checking props and cables with his crotch covered with colored balls, while a caped Steve Drozd tinkered and toyed with his keyboard corner and played his guitar along to Pavement’s “Summer Babe” as it played through the loudspeakers(the music playing through the loudspeakers while they set up was an early 90s indie fan’s wet dream, btw…Built To Spill, Sebadoh, Pavement, as well as T. Rex and Gang of Four hit our ears as we patiently waited.)

The crowd slowly grew as my wife and I stood amongst young and old, drunk and stoned, dazed and confused, waiting for the Oklahoma psych freak heroes to take the stage. Then, the moment arrived. To my great surprise, Drozd started the show on the drums as the band opened with a glorious rendition of “Race For The Prize”. Coyne conducted the band as they brought the song in with a slow burn before the song exploded with confetti cannons and hand held confetti guns. There were two guys behind the wife and I completely tripping balls. I mean, one of them was laughing maniacally as the giant blow up creatures came out onto the stage. I heard one of them yell loudly to the other “I need some more motherfucking mushrooms, man!” No sir, I don’t think you do. “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part. 1” came up and at the “karate chop” part Wayne stopped the band and told the crowd that part was our moment to shine. It was our moment to be a part of the experience. “Once more, with feeling” was the vibe I was getting from Wayne, and the crowd ate it up. They also ate up the massive balloon sign Wayne presented to us that stood nearly 15 feet high that said “Fuck Yeah Middle Waves”. Coyne flung the balloon out into the crowd and it made the rounds as the crowd pushed it and flung it across the field.

Other songs that made an appearance were “What Is The Light”, “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate”, and “Waitin’ For A Superman” off of The Soft Bulletin and a killer version of “The W.A.N.D.” off of At War With The Mystics. There were others, but the dream gets a little hazy. Last thing I remember is the Lips covering “Space Oddity”, with Wayne taking the bubble for a ride out into the crowd. His mic stopped working, but Drozd kept the vocals going. The wife and I made our way to the car as exhaustion set in, as well as a mild contact high.

It was a surreal feeling seeing one of my musical heroes The Flaming Lips on a stage in a park a mere 45 minutes from my house. It’s too bad the Middle Waves Festival was only a dream. It was indeed a glorious, sweaty, ear-numbing dream. Too bad none of it was real.

Or was it?

Orange Opera
Orange Opera
Void Reunion
Void Reunion
Flaming Lips
Flaming Lips
Flaming Lips "Fuck Yeah Middle Waves" balloon
Flaming Lips “Fuck Yeah Fort Wayne” balloon
Flaming Lips
Flaming Lips
Oldies but goodies
Oldies but goodies

 

Heaven’s Gateway Drugs : Rubber Nun

For four years now there’s been something brewing in the Midwest. A sound. A sound and a movement. Call it dark magic. Call it a cult. Hell, call it voodoo if you want.cover But whatever you call it one thing you can’t do is deny the force of it. The whisper within the vibes that pulls you towards it. The catchy grooves and otherworldly pop sensibilities that mask a deeper sense of the universe. These reverb-drenched apostles come in the form of Heaven’s Gateways Drugs, a band that began as one thing, fell apart, then reformed into another. Yet despite internal stress and band member changes they still retained the essence that those three seemingly harmless words strung together formed, and the mantra that should be echoing in your skull right now:

“You are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.”

Rubber Nun is the band’s newest record. It’s their best yet; fully formed, sonically richer, and filled with all those psychedelic sweeps and quirky pop moments that’s made them one of the most interesting bands to emerge from the Midwest rock scene in some time.

“The Heathen Twist” opens up with a meditative drone before sitar-like guitar and tribal drums force their way into your brain. The psych rock crew of Derek Mauger, Ben Carr, Brandon Lee Zolman, and James Francis Wadsworth know how to put together an eerie psych rock banger, and that’s just what “The Heathen Twist” is. The takeaway from it? We’re all doomed, so do what you want. You bought the ticket, so you better enjoy the ride while it lasts. “Copper Hill” has the swagger of Brian Jonestown Massacre and the melody game of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, complete with Leslie speaker-affected backing vox. “Fun & Games” has some groovy rhythms courtesy of Sir Wadsworth and a seriously magical vibe mined right from those classic Nuggets collections. The guitar sounds like its hanging in the air courtesy of some seriously milky reverb. Title track “Rubber Nun” is a psychedelic powder keg, blasting at the seams like the Banana Splits on the verge of a psilocybin freakout. It’s a nonsensical, giddy pop concoction that you’ll find hard to sit still to. “Dear Charlotte” is a ghostly track that morphs the ‘Village Green’ with ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’. And “Utah Spirit Babies” is the heaviest I’ve heard these guys yet. Despite being a hell of a song title, it’s also a call back to some serious Fort Wayne music scene history.

Jason Davis of Off The Cuff Sound has done an exquisite job of bringing these tracks to life in the studio. He’s given them a sonic depth and offered the guys just enough studio wizardry to allow for a rich and heady headphone experience. “The Horrible Tale of Edwin Crisp” and “Knowing” prove to be worlds unto themselves under the guidance of some seriously bulky Koss headphones(or ear buds if you’re so inclined.)

Rubber Nun is a honing in on the strengths and dark magic that makes Heaven’s Gateway Drugs the magical group of musical occultists they’ve become. You’re not going to hear something out of place on this record. No piano ballads or blues rockers. What you will hear is a band that has found their sea legs, as it were. Casting spells, laying down mystical grooves, and generally freaking out in the best way possible.

8.2 out 10

 

Midwest Freakout : Echo Chambers, Hot Tubs, and Heaven’s Gateway Drugs

by EA Poorman

Photo by Adam Garland

 

Heaven’s Gateway Drugs has come a long way since the release of their last album, Apropos. Between that record’s release in 2014 to now(2016 for you folks just waking from a two year coma) the band was deconstructed and reconstructed. Derek Mauger and Ben Carr were the two remaining original members left to continue to fly the HGD freak flag high, and they have indeed flown that flag. With the loss of guitarist/singer C. Ray Harvey, bass player Joshua Elias, and drummer Eric Frank, Derek and Ben put together HGD 2.0 like some psychedelic Frankenstein, bringing in bassist Brandon Lee Zolman and drummer James Francis Wadsworth. They hit the road and tightened up as a band and spread the word to hungry ears. In-between gigs and that thing we call life the guys would hit Off The Cuff Sound and work on what would be the re-christening record for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. Well folks, that record will soon be here. It’s called Rubber Nun and it’s a scorcher. HGD finally sound like the band they were meant to be. No disrespect to HGD 1.0, but it seems as though the mojo has most definitely been found.

Derek Mauger sat down with me to discuss the record, the band, and their upcoming Middle Waves Festival spot.

EA Poorman: So it’s been two years since ‘Apropos’ was released. How have things changed since October of 2014?

Derek Mauger: Two years ago we were essentially a brand new band. 3 of our original members had left the band due to family, school or work reasons so Ben and I were left to decide if we wanted to carry on. We felt like we had more to do – including release ‘Apropos’ – so we enlisted James Wadsworth for drums and Brandon Zolman for bass and off we went. Two years on, it really feels like we have come into our own with this line up.

EA Poorman: Do you feel like this is where HGD is supposed to be now?

Derek Mauger: Absolutely. Even with a line up overhaul it really feels like we are still journeying down the same path we set out on 4 years ago. ‘Rubber Nun’ doesn’t feel like a re-hash of what we’ve done before but it feels right at home with everything else we have done.

EA Poorman: Let’s talk about the new LP, ‘Rubber Nun’. First off, where did the name come from?

Derek Mauger:  The name ‘Rubber Nun’ came out of nowhere while I was working on the song that became its namesake. Originally, it was just a nonsensical term that I was using to flesh out the melody but since then I have my own interpretation of what it means. I like hearing what other people think a ‘Rubber Nun’ is. Some have metaphoric interpretations, but a lot of people just think it is some kind of sex toy. Both work.

EA Poorman: How long has the writing process been happening? Was this record conceived completely by the current crew?

Derek Mauger: ‘Rubber Nun’ is 100% the result of the current incarnation of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. Basically from the time James and Brandon came on board in the summer of 2014 we started working on new material and by that December we were in the studio working on the first batch of songs. The album was recording in 3 big chunks with that first session in December 2014, then 2 more sessions in the spring/summer of 2015. Typically, I bring a riff or some fragments of an idea to practice and the group builds the songs up from there. Brandon also does the same and a few times songs grew out of the noodling we all tend to do while we tune up for practice.

EA Poorman: Last time out Heaven’s Gateway Drugs recorded at Tempel Recording Studio, with mixing help from Jason Davis. This time though you guys holed up at Jason’s Off The Cuff Sound recording studio and laid tracks down there. I imagine Jason Davis is a perfect fit for you guys. How was the experience working with him?

Derek Mauger: The first songs we ever recorded as Heaven’s Gateway Drugs were with Jason Davis at Off The Cuff so returning to his studio for this album just felt right. By this point, Jason is basically a member of the band – he even sat in for a handful of shows last fall when James was on the injured list – so working with him is incredibly easy.  Jason is also someone that we all have an immense amount of respect for, so when he gives us a suggestion we don’t hesitate to try it out. Off The Cuff is our happy place. There’s just a vibe there that is almost impossible to explain. It is a living museum of vintage equipment full of tube amps, tape machines, wonky old keyboards, there’s even an echo chamber. Plus there’s a hot tub.

EA Poorman: An echo chamber and a hot tub? Hot damn. Okay, so back to the album. So you’ve spent the last couple of years patiently writing and recording the new record. ‘Rubber Nun’ is done and now it’s time to share the work. When is the album officially released? Where will the album be available to buy?

Derek Mauger: The album is available for pre-order right now through dizzybird records. When you pre-order the record, you also get access to the album digitally so you can load/stream it onto all your things. The records will ship out early September and our official release show is 9/9 at the Brass Rail. You will be able to get physical copies from us then and starting the next day you will be able to find copies at Neat Neat Neat Records in town.

EA Poorman: This time around HGD gets the vinyl treatment. That’s gotta be a pretty great feeling to know you can spin your own tunes on the turntable. If any band needs to be enjoyed on vinyl, it’s Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.

Derek Mauger: Thanks! It was surreal when we finally got to sit down and listen to the test pressings. This is the first time any of us have ever had our music on a full length vinyl record.

EA Poorman: I can only imagine. So what’s planned for the release show? You mentioned the Brass Rail?

Derek Mauger: Our release show is happening on September 9th at the Brass Rail. So far the plan for the evening is Streetlamps for Spotlights opening, then we will play the record start to finish followed by Joshua Elias who is going to DJ some 60’s/70’s soul/funk/psych jams. Jason Davis is the ringleader of Streetlamps so it seemed natural to ask him to join us and Josh was our former bass player and all around good time fun guy who happens to be an amazing DJ. Getting this album made was a huge undertaking so our goal for the night is to celebrate and party with all the people who helped make the record happen in one way or another. Not going to lie, really really really looking forward to dancing our asses off after our set. There will be a lot of surprises too.

EA Poorman: I know HGD have become road warriors over the last couple years, playing quite a few out of town gigs and converting folks everywhere you go. Will there be any extensive touring to promote this “rebirth” of an album? 

Derek Mauger:  So far the plan is to keep up our schedule of doing as many out of town weekends as possible through the end of the year. We definitely want to try to hit some new cities but really excited to go back to some venues where people have asked us for vinyl in the past and finally deliver them the goods.

EA Poorman: What’s the rest of 2016 looking like for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs? Converting as many souls as possible? Mass freakouts? World domination?

Derek Mauger: Always always always looking for converts. Always always always down for freakouts. The rest of 2016 is going to be a whirlwind of shows, including some festivals like Middle Waves here in Fort Wayne and playing with some of our favorite groups like the Flaming Lips (at the aforementioned Middle Waves), Morgan Delt up in Chicago, and some shows we have to keep hush-hush about until their secrets can be revealed. We will most likely hibernate at Off The Cuff during the winter months and record some new material. Then it’s back on the road in 2017…

EA Poorman: Yes, Middle Waves. How did that come about. Sharing the bill with the Fearless Freaks themselves?

Derek Mauger: Wow for sure. We were approached by the guys in the booking committee in the weeks leading up to the big announcement party and thought it was some kind of practical joke. The Flaming Lips are easily one of our favorite bands and them here in Fort Wayne? And we get to play that weekend? Insane. But they assured us this was the real deal, then the hardest part was not immediately telling everyone we knew. Unreal and totally lucky that we get to be a part of the start of something really amazing happening in Fort Wayne.


Go see Heaven’s Gateway Drugs September 9th at the Brass Rail and hear their amazing new album Rubber Nun live. Then grab a vinyl copy from HGD and tell them how much you dig their music. Don’t forget you can grab a vinyl copy at NNN Records the next day for that friend that couldn’t get off work. And if you haven’t yet, buy your ticket for Middle Waves Festival so you can see the HGD dudes tear it up, along with some other amazing Fort Wayne bands. Oh, and the Flaming Lips, too.

Preorder Rubber Nun right here, if you like.

 

Fort Wayne Spins: My Favorite Local Albums of 2014

 

spinsby E. A. Poorman

It’s that time of year again. The end of the of year, that is. That time of year when we reflect on everything that went down during the last 12 months. The good, the bad, the meh. I personally like to sit back with a scotch, a cheap cigar, and my favorite slippers, sit out on the freezing front porch and reflect on the year in my favorite smoking jacket. The fact that it’s 51 degrees and I’m wearing shorts and a beat up hoodie sweatshirt doesn’t deter me one bit.

2014 brought some really great local music to our ears. I am always impressed with what the local guys and gals have to offer each year, and 2014 was no different. Here’s a few of the truly great ones, in no particular order.

Bonfire John : College

 

bonfire johnBonfire John is this guy named Owen Yonce. There are others in the band, but when the songs are made it’s basically just Yonce drinking some beers, playing some instruments, and singing some songs. The songs on College are breezy, stoned, and precise. They sound like some otherworldly collision of John Prine, Pavement, and The Old 97s. Yonce’s voice sounds aged beyond his barely 21 years. Like it was left outside in the rain, sun-dried, and whipped coarse by the Midwestern wind. There’s plucky acoustic jags and jangly indie buzzing, and some help by a few of Yonce’s friends.

This is Bonfire John’s second album, after 2011s Bonfire John and the Majestic Springs Band. College makes good on the promise that record made, and then some. Carmel, Indiana’s finest has made one of this area’s finest records of 2014.

Heaven’s Gateway Drugs : Apropos

HGDApropos is both an end and a beginning for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. The album was written and created by the original members and completed last December. The record sat for months and saw three of the original members move on to other things, leaving Dererk Mauger and Ben Carr to rebuild and reboot. Now, revitalized and reborn Heaven’s Gateway Drugs are stronger and freakier than ever.

But what about Apropos? Well, it’s a soaring, freaky, and rocking ode to HGD 1.0. It builds on their debut, and even revisits some of the grimier, grittier moments of their cassette release back in 2012. “Gone To Ground” sounds like a death march through the hazy desert, while “Apropos” is pure pop bliss in classic Kinks fashion. This record is nine tracks of psychedelic jams and pop confections, served up in a cocktail of fruit and acid.

Streetlamps for Spotlights : Sound and Color

Alt_Web_IconSound and Color is a sonic slap in the face. It’s a post-punk snarl and a jangle rock shriek from the dark. Jason Davis, Jay Hackbush, and Ryan Holquist make music that lurches forward and just as quickly stops inches from bulldozing you to the ground. “Ready Already” comes charging out of the speakers like a drunk bull, all red-eyed and fuming. Then just as you think you’re about to get the snot kicked out of you “Right Back” takes over with a gritty pop feel and a daydreamer’s wide eyes. It’s this push and pull that makes this record such a fun and inviting listen.

Davis and company have made a rich and dense rock and roll record.

The Dead Records : The Dead Records

tdrIn case you missed it, The Dead Records put out a new album this year. It’s pretty damn great. It’s straight up kick ass rock and roll. It’s fists in the air, screaming at the top of your lungs, lose yourself in a crowd of sweaty strangers kind of music. It’s also a beautiful memorial to their friend and guitarist Chad Briner who left this earth way too early.

“Hooks” is beautiful and intense, while “Don’t Wait Up” is drowning your sorrows in a piss-warm beer. TDR write anthems for the lonely and soundtrack personal awakenings. This album both reminisces about and mourns that thing we call youth. The Dead Records is a hell of an album.

Grey Gordon : Forget I Brought It Up

forget I brought it upGrey Gordon’s Forget I Brought It Up is a pop record disguised as a salute to Bob Mould’s many musical disguises. There’s the harsher Husker Du moments in “Barstools and Haircuts”, the Sugar pop melancholy of “Learned Helplessness”, and the self-reflection of “Apologies”. But really, it just sounds like Grey Gordon being Grey Gordon. It’s a grudge match between guitar fuzz and Gordon’s anti-hero storytelling. Dig in.

Fucking Panthers : Two Ways of Life

f'ing panthersHere’s a band that really doesn’t care what you think of them. I mean, with a name like Fucking Panthers that pretty much sets the tone, right? So when you listen to their sophomore album Two Ways of Life you’re beaten and bruised with a mix of hardcore and metal. Something like Suicidal Tendencies morphed with South of Heaven-era Slayer. “Rise” sounds like Henry Rollins fronting Tad; or Helmet. There’s more than enough angst and guitar riffage for everyone. Just crank up “Frozen In Carbonite” and let your ears bleed in ecstasy.

Thematic : The Endless Light

endless lightIf you like your metal on the conceptual side, look no further than Thematic. The progressive metal band that hails from the Fort and Chicago dropped their debut record The Endless Light this year and it’s a progressive metal lover’s dream. A mix of serious metal riffs and syncopated Dream Theater-like time signatures, The Endless Light is a serious shred fest that harkens back to classic concept records from King Crimson, Rush, and Dream Theater.

The Snarks : Night At Crystal Beach

snarksYou want some old school punk attitude to go with that rock and roll? Look no further than The Snarks. Kendra Johnson leads the Snarks on a search and destroy mission throughout their just-released Night At Crystal Beach. It’s four songs of punk bravado and sweaty rock bliss. It’s great to hear Johnson back spitting attitude into a mic, like she did with her old band TIMBER!!! This time the post-punk angularity is set off to the side for more garage and punk muscle. “Suntanning Bitches” seems like it could be the summer hit you didn’t know you were looking for, while “Human Sacrifice” sounds like The Germs on overdrive.

The Lurking Corpses : Workin For The Devil

the-lurking-corpses-working-for-the-devil-album-coverIf you like your metal as campy as you like it heavy, look no further than Workin For The Devil. The Lurking Corpses have outdone themselves on there newest record, filling every nook and cranny with sound clips and Hammer Films darkness. Heavy metal riffs and speed metal drumming mix with the occult and Misfits-like B-movie flair. If you like Iron Maiden, early Metallica, Danzig, and anything that would’ve been aired on Nightmare Theater then look no further than The Lurking Corpses’ Workin For The Devil.

Pink Balloon Band : Eating Crow

PBBWarsaw, Indiana’s Pink Balloon Band put out the short-but-sweet EP Eating Crow. It’s only two songs, but suggests a newer, bigger sound for Ian Skeans’ musical project. Over the years he’s put out several releases of mostly acoustic-only recordings. Very intimate versions of his songs. This worked to his advantage as it allowed him to take his tunes anywhere and play for a sweaty crowd in a basement or garage, or the darkly lit confines of coffeehouses from here to Fort Wayne with nothing more than his acoustic guitar and amazing head of hair. But PBB can also get pretty loud and raucous when it wants to. Mainly when Skeans brings along John White and Ian Ruisard to the gigs. Now we have recorded proof of this rocking three-piece with Eating Crow. “Zap Rowsdower” sounds like Helmet ate Weezer and coughed up this amazing song, while “Mobin’s Child” is more melancholy and angry where it counts. Let’s hope this means a full length is somewhere on 2015s horizon for PBB.

 

It’s been another great year for Fort Wayne music, and the above list proves it. Get out there and pick up some local albums from some local music guys and gals. They make great stocking stuffers And if you can, get out and see these bands do their thing on a local stage.

Happy Holidays, folks. See you next year.

“What It’s Like To Die”: The Return of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs

2014-10-27 09.54.09
Photo by Adam Garland

by EA Poorman

Way back in April of 2013 Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Heaven’s Gateway Drugs dropped their full-length debut called You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. It was a psych-pop menagerie of both late 60s psych and garage rock and British Invasion pop with a modern twist. HGD hit the road and played a few festival dates and countless other shows promoting the record, as well as making new fans and friends along the way. Becoming weekend road warriors hitting pavement and stages as close as Muncie, IN and as far as Austin, Texas, the guys honed their chops and dug in to make album number two. By December of 2013 they had completed what would be their sophomore record.

Then, things got a little quiet.

Fast forward to October of 2014, and the boys in Heaven’s Gateway Drugs have finally released their sophomore record into the universe. Apropos is every bit the record you’d imagine it to be; tripped-out psych pop, desert death trip rock, and heavy, gritty garage rock done up all acid-burnt and sundazed. But the band didn’t get to this point without a few scratches, bruises, and even an existential crisis or two.

“It’s been a weird year”, says Derek Mauger as we discuss Heaven’s Gateway Drugs’ long road to Apropos. “Our original bassist Josh Elias and his wife had a baby and he understandably wanted to devote his time to being a family man. Eric Frank and C. Ray Harvey left separately over the course of the next few months to focus on their jobs. When C. Ray officially announced he was moving I asked him what he thought we should do. Ben answered immediately by saying, ‘I think it’s obvious that we have to keep going.’ Had he said it was time to stop, it would have broken my heart, but I would have pulled the plug. The silver lining to losing all three of those guys was that all of them were supportive and encouraged the rest of us to keep the project going. So when it came time to find a new drummer, Eric played a part in teaching James the songs and the same was true with C. Ray helping Brandon out. So the transition between the original members and the two new guys ended up being pretty seamless.”

I asked Mauger about the making of Apropos and how the loss of three original members of the band affected that creative process. “We went into the studio in December of 2013 to record all the songs that would be on Apropos. At that time we knew Josh would be leaving but we felt it was important for him to be on the record since he was instrumental in developing that batch of songs. The songs were then mixed by C. Ray and sent out to a few labels to see if we got any bites. Around the same time some heavy personal drama came up outside the band, the mix was played around with some more but never quite finalized. Weeks and months went by, Eric announced he’d be leaving to focus on school and his job and it was looking ever more apparent that C. Ray would be moving and we still didn’t have a final mix of the album. Enter Jason Davis(owner/operator of Off The Cuff Sound, as well as being guitarist/singer for Streetlamps for Spotlights) to save the day. He recorded and mixed the first EP we did and offered to clean up and finish what we had. We agreed that what we left his studio with would be the final mix and from there it would be sent out to be mastered. By this point it was now Summer of 2014, I looked up open dates for the Brass Rail and picked Oct. 18th and worked backwards from that to line up artwork and the printing process so we could finally have a tangible finished copy of the album.”

So what are some differences between You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs and Apropos? “The biggest difference between the first full length album and “Apropos” was with this record we were more comfortable with the fact that some of the things we wanted to do in the studio we wouldn’t be able to pull off live. For example, a lot of my guitar parts ended being overdubbed by strings or keys on the record.” I immediately asked Mauger how the transition was for the new guys in the band. “Transitioning James and Brandon in to the band was incredibly easy, almost too easy. They are both fantastic musicians and really have a great understanding of what we are trying to do musically. Both of them palled around with us to out of town shows before they joined and those trips were initiations/interviews of sorts to see how they handle being on the road. They passed with flying colors. James first show with us was the end of June and Brandon’s first show was early on in August. So the majority of this summer was spent rehearsing our back catalog and getting the new guys up to speed on enough songs to have a solid set for shows. From August to October we really focused on hammering out all the songs from Apropos that would be regulars in our set with Brandon picking up the vocals on songs C. Ray sang. Along the way we wrote a few songs new songs but since the release show that’s been are sole focus.” Has the band’s sound changed at all with the new guys? “I would describe the new sound as a natural progression of what came before it. While every song is written it goes through Ben for processing and that gives everything a certain cohesion. The wheels roll on.”

I asked Derek how the songwriting process worked before with C. Ray Harvey and himself, and how it’s working now with the new line-up. “For the most part, our songwriting process has been that I bring some idea to the table- whether it be a riff or a fleshed out song, and the rest of the guys help fill the song out”, said Mauger. “C. Ray excelled at presenting possibilities. If I showed up to practice with a riff, in a few minutes he would have 3 different options for what we could do with it. He was also a huge asset in the studio when it came time to arranging keys or strings on the songs. So the original communal aspect remains unchanged. I still show up with some kind of idea and let the other guys make their mark on the song. As we work more and more on new material, James and Brandon are putting more of themselves into the songs and it is really starting to show with some of the new songs we’ve written.”

On October 18th Heaven’s Gateway Drugs had their official album release show at the Brass Rail in Fort Wayne and it was an amazing experience for all involved. Derek went into a little more detail about the show. ” I don’t think I can adequately articulate what the release show meant to me. “Apropos” was my Moby Dick this last year. It seemed like the universe was conspiring against us for reasons we still don’t understand. We had this album that all of us, past members and present, were incredibly proud of that was just collecting dust. On some level, the release show was like getting the proverbial monkey off of my back. It would have felt that way if 5 people showed up, but the fact that the Brass Rail was packed with people who were there to celebrate with us completely overwhelmed me. And to add an additional emotional punch, our friends in Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor from Detroit showed up unannounced to celebrate with us. Now that we’ve released the album, it finally feels like we can move forward.”

I asked Derek what the band has planned for the remainder of 2014 and beyond. “We are crazy busy from now until the end of the year. This week besides the Wunderkammer show, we will be at the Brass Rail on Thursday night playing with the Paperhead from Nashville who are on Trouble in Mind records. Saturday we head down to Muncie to one of our favorite venues, Be Here Now for a show. November we’re also going up to Grand Rapids and Detroit for Echo Fest.” And what about new material with the new band members? “Yes. We’re recording new material starting the first weekend in December at Off The Cuff with Jason Davis. “Apropos” was a real learning experience, so expect the new stuff to be out early in 2015.”

Get out there and grab a copy of Apropos at either Neat Neat Neat Records on South Calhoun St in Fort Wayne, or order a copy at http://heavensgatewaydrugs.bandcamp.com. Keep up with all things HGD at https://www.facebook.com/HeavensGatewayDrugs, and if you can make the trip, head up to Ferndale, Michigan on November 15th and see HGD at Echo Fest. It should be a hell of a show. Check out the line-up at https://www.facebook.com/EchofestDetroit.

 

 

 

Heaven’s Gateway Drugs :: Apropos

HGDApropos is the sophomore effort by a band that for all intents and purposes no longer exists. It’s a swan song for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs Version 1.1. Since recording Apropos last December the Fort Wayne psych/freak cooperative have cocooned themselves and have re-emerged a new kind of freaky beast. Three of the five original members have slipped into the ether, leaving guitarist/vocalist Derek Mauger and band shaman Ben Carr to plant seeds and grow new members from the Holy ground that lines the murky St. Joseph river. The results of these changes? What will Heaven’s Gateway Drugs Version 2.1 sound like? We will have to wait for that. For now, let’s raise a glass to what was, shall we?

First things first, Apropos sounds like an album made by a band that has learned a few things since they first started making music back in 2012. Nearly everyone in the band played in other bands so there’s no newbies here, but it takes awhile to lock in with the guys(or gals) you play with. CPF Cassette was a rough and gritty beginning with the vibe of some flea market find in an oil-stained cardboard box that you guffaw at on the drive home, wondering how you’d never heard these guys before. Last April saw their debut full-length We Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. While a solid effort and beautifully-produced, it lacked some of the gritty fire and mystery of that short run cassette release. Apropos is the culmination of time on the road, festival dates, and general touring grit under the fingernails. “Read Between The Lines” has the swagger of the Kinks in 1967. A paisley-covered track that ebbs and flows between light-headed glee and oxygen-deprived madness. “Gone To Ground” sounds like a highway death trip, much like something more ominous found on that first cassette. The Black Angels abide. “Apropos” is a hallucinogenic pop track that is catchy as hell and has a piano line that brings the Kinks’ excellent “Do You Remember Walter” to mind. Piano is a welcome addition to the HGD sound. A full-time keyboardist would be tops. “Hate/Love” is another pop gem. Mellotron guides the technicolor track through some excellent Zombies territory before making a detour with some Ennio Morricone vibes in a spaghetti western guitar riff. “What It’s Like To Die” has a druggy, desert death trip vibe courtesy of some jangly guitar and an ominous riff. “Fall Back Down Again” benefits from some wonky drums and a fuzzy riff that helps to make the faux British accent and Doors-like organ sound even more sinister than they really are.

In a way, this album is bittersweet. Knowing this Heaven’s Gateway Drugs no longer exists makes how good Apropos is a little sad. The thought of what these five guys could’ve done next will echo in fans heads every time they hit play on this album. Still, it’s a hell of a swan song for version 1.1. Looking forward to what Mauger, Carr, and their new freaky friends have in store for us in the future. In the meantime, get freaky with Apropos.

8.2 out of 10