Chemical Elements : March On, Comrade Ready New Album ‘Our Peaceful Atoms’

March On, Comrade are a hell of a band. They’ve been a band since 2015 when indie pop band Ordinary Van disbanded, but a few of the members decided to keep things going. Ryan Holquist, Charles P. Davis, and Chris Leonard started up March On, Comrade with John Ptak and Ben Robinson. They cut a great self-titled album in 2016, and then at the beginning of this year they played the Sums & Differences show with a 12 piece chamber orchestra. They recorded that concert and released it a month later.

In a relatively short amount of time they’ve achieved quite a lot.

But what do they sound like? They travel in post-rock terrain, but they embellish with crystalline pop hooks. Imagine This Will Destroy You, Sigur Ros, Auburn Lull, and the studio curiosity of Brian Wilson all rolled into one comfortable blanket of noise. It’s dense enough for the headiest of space cadets but there’s an air of romanticism that reels in even the casual channel surfer.

The guys took some time over the spring and summer and wrote and recorded their new album, titled Our Peaceful Atoms. They don’t retool their sound more than they hone it in on all the buzzing beauty and pop confections that they’ve created and culled over the last two years. March On, Comrade have made a lean and precise 6-song album that will go well with both existential pondering alone in the dark, and as a background score to conversations and beers.

I spoke to Charlie and Ryan about the Sums & Differences show, the new album, how it came together, and what we have to look forward to in 2018.


J. Hubner: The last time we spoke March On, Comrade were gearing up for the Sums & Differences show at Artslab. For those that don’t know, this was the March On, Comrade with a 12-piece chamber orchestra show. How did the performance end up? Were you all happy with how it turned out? Is it something March On, Comrade would consider doing again?

Charlie Davis: It turned out great! It actually surpassed my expectations. I expected us to have a good turnout but we were the only band on the bill and it was more expensive than a typical local show so for it to actually sell out in advance was amazing. We got terrific feedback on it. I think we’d like to do something like that again but we also don’t just want to do the same show twice so it is a matter of finding the time to come up with a way to do something similar but unique.

Ryan Holquist: It was very rewarding.  It came together really well, and it’s flattering how well-received it was.  We quietly snuck the audio onto Spotify and Bandcamp.  The only down side of the experience is that we set the bar pretty high for ourselves, and now every time we play we want to have an orchestra and video projection.  We didn’t want to record the exact same arrangements, but we were happy to have the same string quartet and percussionist on the new album.  Sums & Differences definitely changed our compositional style, and you can hear those elements a lot more on Our Peaceful Atoms.

J. Hubner: So with “performing live with a chamber orchestra” marked off the band’s bucket list, you guys headed back into writing mode and we are now getting ready for the brand new March On, Comrade album Our Peaceful Atoms. How did the album come together? Where did the band record the record?

Charlie Davis: We had started working on a lot of new song ideas around the time of the Sums and Differences show, and that show really gave us a lot of inspiration moving forward. We wrapped up songwriting in early summer and started recording around July and August. We recorded drums at the rehearsal space of our friend Jon Ross, which sadly just burnt down. The rest was done at our own home studios, primarily John Ptak’s and my own.

Ryan Holquist: A couple of the songs basically finished writing themselves as they were recorded.  We committed to leaving a certain amount of space and replaced some more standard guitar/drums/keyboard parts with other instruments and atmospheric sounds, such as accordion, kalimba, electronic percussion, and effected samples.  We also gave a lot of leeway and freedom to Robert Cheek, who mixed the album.  There’s a huge benefit to having outside ears involved in some capacity, and we knew we could trust Robert’s decisions based on his aesthetic and resume (Band of Horses, Tera Melos, Doombird, By Sunlight).

J. Hubner: Four of the six tracks on Our Peaceful Atoms were performed live for the Sums and Differences performance. Do they differ, if any, from those first live renditions? How long have those tracks been around? Do “Path” and “Lost” go back as well or are those newer songs?

Charlie Davis: Of the new songs we played at Sums and Differences, only one had been played at multiple shows before that so the others were definitely in infancy and have had some tweaks done to them since. Doing that show really showed us how well the orchestral arrangements filled them out, so doing them in a way that would leave room for those elements to be recorded was something we made a conscious decision about. “Path” is one we’ve been working on for awhile and has been played out a couple of times now, while “Lost” has never been played live and is the newest song.

Ryan Holquist: A recording puts things under a microscope, so there’s less need to fill things in with extra strums and drum fills.  A couple of the songs are pretty close to the live arrangements (“Westlake” and “Terra”), but even some of the others we’ve played live have an intentionally different vibe on the album.

Photo by Jen Hancock

 

J. Hubner: Stylistically you guys still balance nicely between post-rock and dream pop. I’m hearing a lot more Auburn Lull than say, This Will Destroy You, especially with the vocals. Maybe neither of them play into the sound (could just be my old dude ears), but you guys have done a great job on Our Peaceful Atoms of creating these expansive songs while still giving them a very modern and inviting lean. You seem to be having the cake and eating it too while offering a slice to everyone else.

Going into this record, what were you guys wanting to achieve this time around? What were some influences and inspirations?

Charlie Davis: I don’t know that we set out to achieve anything specifically but we all wanted to push on the boundaries of the last record and see if we could do something different. We weren’t looking for a genre shift or anything like that, but we didn’t want to make songs that would be confused for anything on the last album. I think we accomplished that. These new songs seem to fit into our live show perfectly but if you listen to the two albums they have some very clear differences.

Ryan Holquist:  I think we’ll always have a desire to keep certain post-rock elements, but we’re not so committed to that genre that we want to ignore appealing melodies or pop-oriented song structures.

J. Hubner:  If you can, could you dissect the creative process with the track “Path”? I’m hearing a lot of electronic flourishes in this tune. How did this track come together? What were some of the artistic inspirations behind the song?

Charlie Davis: Ben was doing some work with a new sampler and came up with this really ear-grabbing beat that sounded like something heavy trudging along. He made a demo that he sent to us that had that beat along with some keys and other electronic elements. We all loved it right away and were actually able to finish that song very quickly. Any band at some point can start to feel a little formulaic in their songwriting and having something that started from a more electronic standpoint was very inspiring and allowed everything else to come about very naturally.

Ryan Holquist: Ben came into the band after most of the songs on the first EP had been written, so he was largely trying to squeeze into the gaps and create atmosphere.  “Path” is a great example of how his contributions have morphed our sound, as is the presence of a lot more piano and prominenet synth parts.  Ben’s chord progression and electro twiddlies from the OP1 made us all think outside our usual boxes for ways to contribute, which bled into our parts and overall approach to some of the other songs.  It’s also pretty obvious that at least a couple of us really love the Valtari album by Sigur Rós…

J. Hubner: “Westlake” reminds me of The Beach Boys. To my ears, Smile is one of the most complex pop albums ever made. “Westlake” has moments that put me in mind of the song “Surf’s Up”. You guys pull off both progressive rock leanings while still making this a beautifully spaced-out pop song. Besnard Lakes do that very well, too. How does pop music play into the writing process in March On, Comrade?

Charlie Davis: We all listen to it in some form or another so I’m sure it finds it’s place in our music. There are a few parts of that song that Ryan would tell you are essentially Genesis tributes, so maybe we get some influence from the pop of other eras as well. Most pop music nowadays is very computer oriented in terms of the songwriting process as well as the instrumentation and arrangements. This album definitely has a larger emphasis on electronic elements that could be found in a lot of pop music while still sounding like a rock band.

Ryan Holquist: Beach Boys, interesting! I wrote most of “Westlake,” and I don’t know that I had any particular vibe in mind for it.  When Robert was mixing it, he warned me that he was going for full-on Fleetwood Mac.  I think I’m the only band member who would count himself as a particular fan of progressive rock, and as Charlie mentioned, I ended up with a subconscious nod to Steve Hackett (Genesis) in my guitar part.  I suppose it’s fair to say that on “Westlake” in particular, we played pop-oriented harmonic content and groove, in a progressive rock arc, with enough space and ambience to qualify as post-rock.

J. Hubner: On December 8th March On, Comrade will be having a CD release show at the Brass Rail. Can you give us some details on that show? Who’s playing with you guys? What sort of merch will be available? Will minds be expanded?

Charlie Davis: We just completed the line-up recently, and we’ll be playing with our friends in Trichotomous Hippopotamus and The Be Colony. We’ve played with both bands before and they’re both amazing bands with their own unique sounds. We’ll be selling whatever is left of our t-shirts, old EP, and of course we’ll have copies of the new album. Since most of the new songs have either not been played live much, or never, we’re hoping everyone will really enjoy them and maybe get some mind expansion from them.

Ryan Holquist: To give you an idea of how much minds will be expanded, Our Peaceful Atoms will be born on the same date as Diego Rivera, Nicki Minaj, Sinead O’Connor, and Ann Coulter.

J. Hubner: Are there any other shows on the books for March On, Comrade you can tell us about?

Charlie Davis: We have a couple other shows on the books at this point. We didn’t get to play out much this last year due to our own scheduling conflicts so I’m hoping we can be a bit more consistent in 2018. Our next show after this will be on January 20 and is a benefit show for a good friend of ours who is trying to raise money for her and her husband to adopt and we have some great bands in store for that one as well.

J. Hubner: We’ve almost put another year behind us. 2017 has been kind of a dumpster fire to say the least, with a few moments of beauty scattered here and there. What do we have to look forward to in 2018?

Ryan Holquist: If we would have known when we first started playing together in 2015 that there would be so much talk about ties to Russia, we might have reconsidered our name!  We are proud to have had no part in the dumpster fire of 2017.

Charlie Davis: It was a very intense year to say the least. I’m hoping it will be an exciting year for Fort Wayne music. I’m sure the veteran bands will continue to put out great music and there are always new bands getting started that amaze us with their creativity. As for March On, Comrade, we have no plans of stopping anytime soon so I’m looking forward to working on new songs, playing shows, and seeing what the five of us can continue to come up with going forward.


Don’t forget to get out to the Brass Rail on December 8th for March On, Comrade’s CD release show for Our Peaceful Atoms. They’ll be playing with Trichotomous Hippopotamus and The Be Colony. And be sure to grab a copy of the CD. If you can’t make it or you are weird about physical media, then just go to https://marchoncomrade.bandcamp.com/album/our-peaceful-atoms and download it on December 8th.

Real Estate : In Mind

Real Estate have always come across as indifferent to the world around them. They seem to be completely aware of the what’s going on, but despite the good and bad that comes crashing down all around they breezily strum and sing their songs of nostalgic navel gazing and pining for something they may never get. 2011s Days felt like the moment where the New Jersey crew came into their own. Melancholy jams with an east coast jangle that seemed to pay tribute to both Springsteen, the Grateful Dead, and the Feelies all in the course of a single song. 2014s Atlas solidified Real Estate as the kings of bleary-eyed jangle, taking their worldview of early 20-somethings looking for the next kegger and wanting to impress that unattainable childhood crush to almost 30 and wondering where do you go from here? Martin Courtney, Alex Bleeker, and Matt Mondanile all followed their muses to solo projects but always found their way back to those summertime New Jersey barbecues and late night rooftop ponderings that Real Estate turned into stoned meditations on suburban upbringings.

But now with their newest album In Mind, Mondanile packed up and moved away from the neighborhood for good, leaving Courtney and Bleeker to keep that porch light on for us to find our way through the fog of memories. Along with Jackson Pollis, Matt Kallman, and Mondanile replacement Julian Lynch, Real Estate have made their best record yet.

I think there has always been a progressive side to Real Estate. Not in a 2112, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway sort of way, but in the way Courtney and company used the themes of growing up, dropping out, and wondering what it all means as a narrative throughout their albums. And musically, however breezy and pleasant the band comes across, there’s something very meticulous and forward thinking in their guitars and melodies. Lead single “Darling” is instantly recognizable with those pristine guitar lines and clean drumming, but with the addition of synths that hang over the song it feels like a step into new territory for these guys. Courtney has the most pleasant voice in modern rock and roll. He could sing directly from a phone book and there would be something mildly existential about it. This song is no different. They’ve set phaser(pedals) to stunning. “Serve The Song” has some distorted guitar opening the track before we sink into pining for childhood haunts and a pleasant dip into electric piano 70s lull. “Stained Glass” sounds like the Byrds, but without that southern California shine. It’s more like hungover melodies for the regretful morning after.

Timing has always been Real Estate’s biggest strength. Sure, the crystalline and chiming guitars, sweetly melancholy vocals, and overall dreamy aspect of their songs are great. But how they lock into each other as musicians is one of their biggest strong points. There’s a heft to this music that in other band’s hands might come off more twee. Maybe it’s that New Jersey upbringing. Take a track like “After The Moon”. There’s a certain sway in it that without that Real Estate magic might come across too soft rock, or a poor man’s Band Of Horses(as if a rich man’s BOH is any better.) In the hands of these guys quiet moments like this become almost existential. As good as each of their solo projects are, together is where the magic truly is.

Elsewhere “Two Arrows” blossoms over the course of nearly seven minutes, revealing chiming guitars, longing vocals, and an almost tome-like feel. “Holding Pattern” moves along on an early 80s feel, complete with icy synths, jazzy chord structures, and groovy drumming. It’s part Alan Parsons Project and part Motels. “Time” is completely new and engaging, with a space-y bossa nova feel and breathy keys. “Same Sun” shimmies like a midnight stroll home, while “Saturday” is the definitive period at the end of album.

Real Estate continue to move along in interesting musical directions. In Mind captures a group of guys at their best. A snapshot of “good old days” pondering, but never in a pretentious way. Real Estate are the guys at the corner bar happy to drink a beer or two with you and talk about the old times. They’ll even buy the next round. In Mind is an open invitation and a testament to that.

8.1 out of 10

 

Nightswimming : Mark Hutchins Talks New Pale Swimmers Digital Return

by EA Poorman

Mark Hutchins used to make the rounds as one of the premier Fort Wayne songwriters. He started making a name for himself in the band Vandolah, which to my recollection recorded one of the best local albums to grace the cd racks at Wooden Nickel Music called Please. Hutchins also made a little album called Sleepy Furnace, the first album he put out under his own name. Another stellar local album that stands up among the best. But in 2006, Hutchins followed the muse to the way of 4-track cassette recording. New Pale Swimmers was a GBV-inspired 4-track project where Mark would hit record on a little Tascam cassette recorder and just let ideas fly. It was a short-lived project, but one that if you ever had a chance to hear the music you never forgot it.

Recently Hutchins was asked about New Pale Swimmers, which got him thinking about the old tunes. He figured why not digitize the songs and put ’em up on Bandcamp for all to enjoy, which he did. Along with some brand new music he recorded over the last year, Mark has put up all the full-lengths and EPs he recorded as New Pale Swimmers. I sat down and talked with Mark about the New Pale Swimmers, the digital releases, and being a 21st century artist.

EA Poorman: So it’s been quite a few years since New Pale Swimmers have made a sound. You’ve recently put together a Bandcamp page that’s collected most of the albums and EPs from your side project to a convenient place to binge them. What made you decide to unearth these tunes now?

Mark Hutchins: A few people had asked about it, so I put the two full-lengths and an EP up on Bandcamp. Then I got the itch to go full-on 4-track cassette recorder and combined freshly recorded stuff with a few tunes I’d done last year. Now folkscan FINALLY experience the entire NPS catalog. And pay what they want. Or just listen for free. It’s okay; I’m a 21st-century artist. I live under a bridge.

EA Poorman: For those not in the know, can you give me a little background on New Pale Swimmers? How did the project come about? Who was involved? What was the inspiration for the NPS sound and aesthetic? How long did it last?

Mark Hutchins: I decided at some point to challenge myself by coming up with an album title and all the track names in sequence… then write and record all the songs in a week or two. It’s always just been me. I can’t tell you exactly what triggered this, but I’ve always been a fan of DIY, unfettered and unfiltered music. I’ve done plenty of projects that were second guessed, fussed over, refined and tweaked to death. This isn’t necessarily a reaction to it as much as it is a vacation from it–it’s the closest feeling to being a kid again, musically. Hit “record” and go nuts. Tape hiss is comfort food.

EA Poorman: So how many full lengths did you record under the NPS moniker? How many EPs? What was the typical recording process like for a NPS joint? Were you the sole songwriter?

Mark Hutchins: I did two full lengths, self titled and then Buzz Cat. A few years later, I did an EP called World Beater Takes Five. Then there are three more EPs I pulled together this year. The first NPS projects were a mixture of 4-track cassette and computer-based recording program. Some songs even morph from one to the other.

EA Poorman: With this being such a personal project, how often did you take NPS out into the Fort Wayne night life? The mid-2000s were a pretty happening time in the Fort Wayne original music scene.

Mark Hutchins: Except for maybe a gig or two, I never took this stuff to the street. But when NPS started in 2006, Fort Wayne was humming. There were so many original bands at the time… I’d venture to guess that Fort Wayne rivaled Bloomington and Indy at the time. It was really inspiring.

EA Poorman: So besides the old school stuff, you recorded some new NPS material and included it on the Bandcamp page?

Mark Hutchins: I did! Three of the EPs are almost all brand-new music. It’s like having a fit… I recorded a bunch of tunes that I titled first, then back in the closet goes the 4-track, for who knows how long. Don’t ask me how I managed to get a closet under a bridge.

EA Poorman: Probably the same way I did, which we’ll keep a secret. So besides the unearthing of New Pale Swimmers, you’ll also be playing a songwriter’s showcase on March 24th at Deer Park Irish Pub. Can you tell me a little about this show? Deer Park is one of your old haunts, isn’t it?

Mark Hutchins: Oh yeah. I love the place. It’s very cozy. I really hadn’t planned on booking any live stuff but Adam Baker (who is a really good musician and runs these showcases) invited me to play. So I’m going to do an acoustic set with my friend Lee Andrews on mandolin and possibly a special guest from Toledo. I hope to remember the words.

EA Poorman: So if someone strolls along on the web and comes across the New Pale Swimmers BC page and their interest is peaked, what would you recommend they start out with? Where should the NPS journey begin?

Mark Hutchins: A pint of hard liquor with a chaser, headphones, and the first one, The New Pale Swimmers. As you move through the catalog, I’d suggest you add opioids. By the time you hit the latest EPs, you’ll “get it.” I’m not condoning drug abuse here, but being in the proper frame of mind is key.


Head on over to https://newpaleswimmers.bandcamp.com/ and check out the entire New Pale Swimmers catalog newly minted in digital form for you to enjoy. Don’t wait too long, though. It won’t be there forever. And make sure to head out to Deer Park Pub on March 24th for Songwriter’s Showcase and check out Mark and friends break out some tunes.

 

No Ordinary Comrade : A Talk With March On, Comrade

 

by J. Hubner

Photo by Adam Garland

So let’s say you start a band with some of your best pals. You work hard and write some great songs. You play some shows, decide to cut an album and really go for it. Then, right after you give the world the gift of music one of those pals(the pal that does most of the singing and a good portion of writing) moves away. A lot of bands would find it hard to keep the forward motion going and continue on, but none of those bands is Ordinary Van.

Ordinary Van did all of the above, and indeed lost a key voice and good friend in Paul Bates when he moved to the West Coast last year. But instead of packing up the amps and calling it quits, remaining members Ryan Holquist, Charles P. Davis, and Chris Leonard got a new thing going with John Ptak and Ben Robinson. That new thing is March On, Comrade. The guys sat down to talk with me about the band recently.

J. Hubner: So tell me about how March On, Comrade came to be? It seems there’s some similar personnel between March On and Ordinary Van, correct?

Ryan Holquist: Three of the five of us were in Ordinary Van, and when Paul Bates moved to California fairly abruptly, the rest of us decided we’d like to forge on.  John Ptak had been an ancillary member of Ordinary Van on and off.  Between the five of us, we’ve been in five or six of the same bands together for the past 8 years or so. So while the lineup is new, it’s also very much established. Ben is the newest member, and while none of us have been in a band with him before, we’ve all known him personally for years.

Charles Davis: The origin of the band stems directly from Ordinary Van. Paul, for a variety of reasons, moved to California which removed the principle songwriter and vocalist from the band. We had just finished doing a Radiohead show with John Ptak playing bass and had been working on bringing him on as a full time member anyways, so the fact that he was also a great vocalist worked well for us. We wrote and rehearsed for about 6 months as a 4-piece and then brought on Ben to fill everything out.

J. Hubner: With March On, Comrade being Ordinary Van without Paul Bates plus John Ptak and Ben Robinson, where does the sound lie? Is this a continuation of Ordinary Van’s vibe, or are you going in a different direction with the music? March On, Comrade has a post-rock ring to it, which makes me happy. What or who is influencing the direction the band is heading in?

RH: March On Comrade’s sound has some definite similarities to Ordinary Van’s – still ambient, lots of reverb and delay – but is overall a little more dynamically varied and less poppy.  We all have different influences musically, but we’re not hesitant to draw some perhaps obvious inspiration from the post-rock stalwarts like Sigur Rós, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, etc.  Being a drummer first, I’m personally having a great time writing songs and navigating arrangements from a different instrument.  

CD: For the folks that liked Ordinary Van, I think they will find similar things with MOC that they will  gravitate towards. In OV, Paul basically wrote the songs and then presented them to us to fill everything in. The writing in MOC is much more group oriented. One person may present a general idea but everything is basically built up as a group. Our goal musically was to take the direction of OV and push it to much further extremes. The standard post-rock giants definitely serve as influences but we all bring our own musical backgrounds and likes to the table which has helped us write songs that don’t sound exactly like copies of another band.  

Ben Robinson: I recently joined the band when I saw the influences on the what was minimal Facebook page.  Right up my alley, ambient post-rock music with and ethereal flow.  That’s what I look for in a band.

J. Hubner: The material you guys are currently working on, are they new songs you guys as a band have worked up together? Or is their material left from the Ordinary Van time frame? How does the songwriting process work within March On, Comrade? Are you working out songs live or is their one or two main songwriters bringing ideas to the band?

RH: All of our material has been newly fleshed out, beginning in February 2015.  Some of the songs originated from demos that have been laying around since 2008, and others have been written by the group on the spot, sparked by a single riff, chord progression, or even guitar tone.  We do all of the arranging as a group, which is much more rewarding than being handed a fully thought-out recording and essentially learning someone else’s song.  

CD: Everything we’re playing is technically new. During OV, we were essentially playing Paul’s songs, but the rest of us were still writing on our own. I personally had a good half-dozen song ideas hanging around, as did Ryan. So some of the songs we’re playing now came out of things we wrote during OV, but anything we played live or recorded with OV is no longer being played. We all still love those songs, but it is a new group so we’re moving forward with all new material. Given his role in the writing, it definitely would have been weird to play any of those songs without Paul.

marchoncomradeJ. Hubner: March On, Comrade recently had their live debut at the Brass Rail on November 7th. Tell me about the show. Great turnout? You were on a bill with Void Reunion and The Meat Flowers, right? 

Chris Leonard: The first show was incredible. Everything went pretty smoothly and the amount of people crammed in there was nuts. You know you’ve had a good turnout when it’s difficult to move around!

RH: It was a lot of fun to play our first show along with Void Reunion, who were playing their first show.  Our styles aren’t particularly the same, but we both have a good vibe.  It was great to mutually support each other on our new ventures.  We’re also similar in that every member has previously been in other bands that have played shows together.  Same with Meat Flowers, for that matter!  The show was sold out, which is a great and humbling display of support for the music scene in Fort Wayne.

CD: The show is was incredible and we got a lot of great feedback from the people that came out. It was a great experience and let us get a good guage for what we’re doing right, and what we’ll need to work on. Overall, the show sold out, which I had only seen happen a couple of times so it was great to see so many people come to see new bands. Void Reunion was excellent also.

BR: It was my first time at the Brass Rail.  I heard its not normal to sell out there and was really happy and surprised by the turnout.   Everyone enjoyed it and actually listened to the music.  You don’t get that often!

John Ptak: I thought the show went really well. We didn’t really know what to expect for a turnout with most of the bands being relatively new, but we couldn’t have been happier with how things went.  With nobody hearing us before, I was really excited that people seemed to be interested in it.

J. Hubner: How has the overall feedback been from friends and fans? I’m sure there’s expectations to some degree from folks that loved other bands you’ve all been in before. Are they digging the new band and new tunes?

RH: We had been working away in Charlie’s basement, and really only a handful of friends and our girlfriends had heard a couple of sloppy iPhone recordings.  I don’t think anyone had any real specific expectations, but I was humbled by the positive reception.  Our hard work was very politely rewarded; now that we’ve set an expectation, the challenge is to keep the ball rolling and keep the bar set high!

CD: The feedback has been excellent. I think we’ve found a way to write songs that have some hooks, but still push boundaries and challenge a listeners expectations. And it seems like people seem to have an appreciation for that.

J. Hubner: To date, how many songs do you guys have worked out? Are you looking at possible studio time to record? What’s the plan for recording? An EP or full-length? 

CL: We have 5 songs completed at the moment, with a 6th in progress. We’re at a point where if we were to record the 5 songs, we’d probably call it an EP. But if we added a 6th, with the length that post-rock songs tend to be, we could probably call it a full-length. So it’s yet to be decided.

CD: We’re going to start recording in December and the idea now is to record 5 or 6 songs. That would typically be an EP but again, with our song length it will probably have the feel of a short full-length.

RH: We’ve all been in bands who work hard to prepare one 40-minute set’s worth of music, and then just sort of slow down.  I don’t want that to be the case for March On, Comrade.  I think it would be fun to have something new for each show, whether that’s a new song, something new with the light show, an intro, interlude, whatever it is…but something new to keep it interesting for us and the people who see us.

JP: All of us have been in enough bands that have waited a while to record that we’re all on the same page about not making that mistake again.

J. Hubner: As far as other band gigs, is March On, Comrade everyone’s main thing now? Are you guys still dabbling in other bands?

RH: I’m always pretty busy musically, but March On, Comrade is certainly what I’m putting the most work into at the moment.  I’m still playing with 2 Before Noon, and I recently recorded an album of Lee Miles’ new material. But March On, Comrade is new, so it needs the most work, and the positive reception at our first show was very motivating to keep pushing forward even harder.  It’s also the only band I don’t play drums in, so it’s very new and interesting for me.  Jason Davis knows how the story goes…

CD: Ryan still plays in his jazz group, Chris is playing in another post-rock group, although slightly heavier I believe. I fill in for a cover band in the area occasionally and I’m sure John and Ben are working on other things as well. Overall, I think we’d all agree that this is our main focus going forward.

BR: Of course we all work with music on a daily basis so projects come up and we help other bands and musicians out locally when we can.

JP: For me, this is the only band I’ve been working with. That may change at some point, but I’m really enjoying focusing on just one thing instead of juggling multiple bands.

J. Hubner: Now that the band has gotten that first gig out of the way, are you guys filling up the calendar with more shows? Any dates you could share with us?

RH: We’ll be back at the Brass Rail on December 10 with Eric McMiller and the Dashville Sound from New York, along with Barky & Speaker.  We’re also putting together a hell of a bash at CS3 on January 2, where we’ll play with Void Reunion again, as well as Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.

CD: We’re definitely getting more gigs booked. As we continue to write new songs, we want to play them out and get feedback from listeners.

J. Hubner: So what’s the long term goal for March On, Comrade? Where do you see the band in a year? Five years? 

CD: I see this band having some longevity. I expect within the next few months we’ll have an album recorded and we will have a handful of shows under our belt. Our goal is to not fall into a rut and keep playing the same songs every show. We want to keep writing and let the band/music evolve. As long as that happens and no one gets bored, I don’t see any reason why we would stop. Obviously, life happens and sometimes the unexpected can disrupt your plans, but overall we have a really good group of guys who have a lot of history with each other so the foundation is in place for a long term project.

BR:  Rich and famous!  But all joking aside, I really want to make music that relates to people on an emotional level.  Whether it’s lyrics, music, the feel, the speed, everyone reacts and interprets music differently.  I want it to matter.

RH: Just keep swimming.


 

Make sure to check out March On, Comrade at the Brass Rail on December 10th and clear January 2nd for that CS3 show with Void Reunion and Heaven’s Gateway Drugs. Seems like a pretty stellar way to kick of 2016. Keep up with the band at https://www.facebook.com/marchoncomrade/?fref=ts.

 

 

 

What Is A Grey Gordon?

Photo By Ryan Russell
Photo By Ryan Russell

 

by E.A. Poorman

I was sitting in my office beginning to write this story when I suddenly flashed back to being a little kid and I was at my grandma and grandpa Poorman’s house in Amish country. They weren’t Amish. My grandma was actually a wasp-y broad from a rich family that resided in Metropolis, Illinois. They lived alongside the Ohio River and enjoyed the good life; ferry rides, barbershop quartets in the gazebo on Sundays after church, and the wonders of speakeasies during weekend Chicago outings. My grandpa on the other hand grew up with nothing much. German immigrant parents and a hell of a right hook got him into lots of trouble and a few featherweight boxing matches. He used to load 100 lb bags of concrete onto rail cars by hand for a living in Laporte, Indiana. He met my grandma on one of those weekend jaunts to the Windy City and the rest is history. What does any of this have to do with Grey Gordon, the Fort Wayne singer/songwriter that’s featured here today? Well, this one time I was at my grandma and grandpa’s house visiting. I had my Walkman and a few cassettes with me. I happened to have Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade. My grandma looked at me and said “What is a Hüsker Dü?” I didn’t really didn’t know what to say as she scared the hell out of me, but my grandpa piped in before I could mutter anything. “Leave him alone, Dorothy.” And like that, I was off the hook.

Grey Gordon in a lot of ways reminds me of my grandpa. No, he’s not old and grizzled with meat hooks for hands. But Grey does exude a certain confidence and casualness that one might mistake for lackadaisical. You’d be wrong to think that. He’s anything but that. I don’t think there’s a moment when Grey isn’t working on something; whether it’s with the Wickerwolves whom he plays guitar with, working on his own music, or contemplating the existential lean of Nas’ Illmatic. Gordon comes across as someone that shares everything. He comes across as an open book, yet in this writer’s eyes I believe there’s a few chapters he hasn’t revealed just yet.

One chapter he recently revealed is called Forget I Brought It Up. It’s eleven tracks that get in and out in less than thirty minutes. They don’t wear out their welcome and welcome repeat listens. Luckily your ears will welcome them as well. I spoke to Grey about the album recently and he was nice enough to speak back.

EA Poorman: So tell me about Forget I Brought It Up, Grey. Give me the low down. 

Grey Gordon: “I recorded it out it Sumner, WA, just north of Olympia back in March and April. It was produced and engineered by Benjamin Barnett and Pierre Ferguson, and I truly cannot understate the importance of their work to how this record turned out. They were absolutely invaluable to the creation of FIBIU. Ben is a singer/songwriter under the name Kind of Like Spitting, and has been going strong since the mid 90s. He was a huge influence on me growing up, so it was a real honor to be able to work with him on this. Josh Maroney, Tate Garringer and Kiah Gerig all played on the record, who are the guys who comprise the other band I play in, The Wickerwolves, and they were also crucial to the record in innumerable ways.”

EAP: This album is quite a bit different from Still At Home Here. While that record was quiet and acoustic-based, Forget I Brought It Up is a big rock record. Lots of crunchy guitars and pop hooks. Very much reminded me of latter day Hüsker Dü. Did you go into this record thinking you wanted to go bigger this time around?

Grey Gordon: “First of all, thank you so much for the Husker Du comparison. One of my favorite bands, and Bob Mould’s work with one of his other bands Sugar was actually a big influence on certain aspects of this record. I love playing acoustic jams, but I’ve always wanted to make a loud indie rock record. The great thing about being a solo artist is that I can really do whatever I want. Take Ryan Adams, for example. That dude has such an eclectic discography. I just felt as if, since I had the resources at my disposal, it would be a shame not to make the record I’ve been waiting to make my whole life. There will definitely be more lowkey songs in the future, and more loud ones, and most likely some experiments with other sounds. I never want to be stagnant. I want to challenge myself and my listeners constantly.”

EAP: So who or what influenced the new record?

Grey Gordon: “Sonically, I’m taking my cues from the late 80s/early 90s indie rock scene with this one. I grew up listening to bands on Merge, Sub Pop, Matador, Rough Trade, etc., and that’s where I wanted to draw influence from with these songs. You can hear all sorts of influence from Superchunk, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Sugar, Archers of Loaf, Ride and even The Pixies if you listen for them. Beyond that, everything I create aims to be a synthesis of all of the varied and eclectic things I enjoy, from literature to film to strange life experiences. Ideally, any record I create will be a semi-cohesive document chronicling the period of time over which the songs were written. I think FIBIU accomplishes that.”

EAP: Is there a tour planned? Loading up the van and hitting the open road?

Grey Gordon: “I’m leaving on September 13th and won’t be home for about 80 days. I’ll be doing 45 days with Fossil Youth, and then will be doing another month or so on another as of yet unannounced tour. For this one, I’ll just be going out acoustic, but I’ll be trying to plan a full band tour in support of the record sometime after the New Year. The Wickerwolves dudes will be my backing band on that, whenever it happens.”

EAP: Since I have you here, how are things going with the Wickerwolves? Anything new on the horizon?

Grey Gordon: “Things are great. We’re gearing up for a split with our homies Fossil Youth, which is dropping this month. We also recorded a 5 song EP, and that’s just in the process of being mixed/mastered. We’ll be dropping that sometime next year.”

EAP: Do you have any new songs already cooking for the next solo album?

Grey Gordon: “Oh yeah. I plan on trying to do an EP of full band stuff next year at some point to lead up to another full length. No set schedule, but there are already a few songs that are totally done. Been trying to find a way to fit in some Big Star, Teenage Fanclub and Stone Roses influence, while still keeping it heavy and putting my own twist on it. I’m so excited to be working on new stuff. I already think it’s leagues better than ‘Forget I Brought It Up’. I’m stoked.”

EAP: Before you go, what have you been listening to lately that’s been blowing your mind?

Grey Gordon: “Lately, I’ve been on a lot of classic British stuff and things from my youth I haven’t listened to in a grip. Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream, Big Star, Her Space Holiday, Sugar, Portastatic, Eric B and Rakim, just to name a few. As far as contemporary stuff, been rocking the new Code Orange, “Guilty of Everything” by Nothing, Pity Sex, the new Hostage Calm, the new Underachievers, and I’m anxiously awaiting the Joey Badass full length.”

As of press time, Grey is out and about rocking faces across the nation. He’s hardstylin’ it with whoever will drop to their knee and offer a hand. Like my Grandpa Poorman, Grey Gordon is keeping it real. Go out and get a copy of Forget I Brought It Up today. Go to https://nosleeprecords.com/artist/grey-gordon for more info.

 

 

Plaxton and the Void :: Still Alive

plaxtonBack in late 2012 Warsaw, Indiana’s Plaxton and the Void made their music debut with the great Ides. That album was filled with expansive, cavernous songs written with their Midwest roots in mind and proudly displayed. No trends or fad-filled songs; just songs written with heart-on-sleeve and ready to sing along to. Plaxton and the Void have returned to the album fold with the six song e.p. Still Alive. They’ve stuck to the Plaxton formula they did so well two years ago, this time only tweaking a bit to create an even more focused and sublime listening experience.

Singer and guitarist Joel Squires writes earnest lyrics and simple, strummed songs that allow for the rest of the band fill in the between the words with lush instrumentation. “It’s You” is the kind of song that would sound great on an open mic night with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a vocal or with a full band blasting through a PA system. “Drive” is a song with emotional momentum and music that builds into a big chorus. “Drowning” has a country rock tinge to it in the jangly riff as Squires sings “He’s been sniffing too much coke/yet another line is on the drawer/And he’s been chasing down a high/Yet another low is just behind”, later stating “He’s been drowning way too long”, a song about hitting rock bottom and maybe or maybe not getting things right. There does seem to be a little more darkness in the lyrics this time around. Things seem more personal on Still Alive, with the song “Bitter and Frail” telling a tale of loss and loneliness. “Coraline” is lilting and gentle while “Winter Waltz” ends the album on a more raucous note with a belted out chorus and some great guitar noodling. Keyboardist John Faulkner adds some great otherworldliness with some wobbly synth at the end.

Plaxton and the Void continue to put out solid tunes that are part coffeehouse strum and part arena-ready rock. Still Alive is a great chunk of dusty Midwest indie rock. Check them out and grab Still Alive at http://plaxtonandthevoid.bandcamp.com/.

7.2 out of 10

Self-Titled :: The Dead Records Find Their Sound

tdr

 

by E.A. Poorman

The Dead Records make music that is hard to define. It’s hard and heavy like a classic punk rock record; yet it has pop finesse all over it. Much like a great recipe -where you can taste so many familiar flavors, yet you can’t put your finger on just exactly what’s making it taste so damn good- The Dead Records have so many elements in their music but make all those elements their own sound. The band recently released their newest album, a self-titled nugget of urgent, straight up rock and roll that if there was ever an album to push them to the stratosphere, this would be it. I recently got a chance to talk to Sean Richardson about the album, the tragic passing of their guitarist and friend Chad Briner, and the state of rock ‘n roll.

“I have never gone through the loss of a friend as close as Chuck before, so the whole experience was new to me and in all the wrong ways”, Sean says when I ask how the band is coping with the loss of their friend and bandmate Chad Briner. “Chuck will never be replaced in this band.  Aaron and I were friends with Chuck long before The Dead Records were even a thought, so losing a band mate was really the last thing on our minds. The hard part was losing a good friend.  With that said, what Chuck brought to our band musically will never be duplicated.  Chuck passing away was no doubt the worst thing that has happened to our close knit circle of friends, but we were lucky to have a close knit circle of friends to lean on and share stories and get better.  We have no plans of stopping anytime soon.  We feel like we have finally found a sound that is ours and what we have always wanted to play and that is good enough to gain recognition from folks outside of Fort Wayne.  When we started our goal was to play big venues with big bands to big crowds, we have not reached that goal yet and it remains the same.”

The new album, simply titled The Dead Records, is something of a tour de force of big riffs, blasting drums, and huge vocals. If you’ve heard any of The Dead Records previous albums you wouldn’t be surprised by this, but this time there seems to be a precision in the delivery that was never this razor-sharp before. They’ve honed in on the sound they’ve been looking for up to this point and each track is like a punch to the gut. Richardson explains further, “The thing we are so proud of with this album is that we wrote the songs we wanted to play.  We did this with our first two albums, but unfortunately we were not at the musical level we are now so the songs fell a little short of being completely satisfying to the band.  Don’t get me wrong, we love all of our songs and the process it took to write them, but this new batch of songs just fell right into place.  I remember when we started writing this album we had a conversation to play the genre of music that we wanted to play, that we wanted to hear.  It wasn’t about mimicking what other popular bands were doing, or even trying to find the next big thing in indie rock; it wasn’t about reinventing anything.  When we wrote these songs it was about writing loud and energetic rock and roll songs.  I guess in a way we knew we wanted to go harder on this album, but that was the natural progression for us.  There is very little rock and roll on the radio anymore.  I feel like most popular music falls short of being naturally aggressive and energetic.  I love and listen to music all over the board, but unfortunately I feel like the board is missing some good quality rock and roll music, so hopefully we will be able to fill that void.”

And indeed there is more of an aggressive feel to songs like “Better Yet”, “Calendars”, and “I Want Your Money”, but along with that harder edge there’s an urgency that’s palpable. I asked Richardson if that was indeed what I was hearing. “The urgency from this record is very prominent and it comes from an urgent place.  We had a sense of urgency writing this album because we know we can’t play at this level forever.  We are adults now, we have real jobs and real bills.  The plan has always been to figure out a way to pay those bills through music; to become completely independent on our band.  After 6-7 years of that not being the case we have started putting pressure on ourselves to make something happen or maybe realize that the end might be near.  This album was proof of that attitude because we don’t want to stop making music. We love playing music so our choice was to get better and I think we did.  We also figured that if we were going to be done as a band at any point in the near future we wanted to go out loud and with songs that we can listen to for the rest of our lives and be really happy with how we played them.  If it ended tomorrow we could all look at this new album and say, “this is exactly what I wanted to play,” but it will not be ending tomorrow so I guess none of us have to worry about that.”

The Dead Records have built their sound around a four-piece. A two-guitar attack is what makes their sound so powerful and visceral. With Chad Briner’s passing, they were stuck not only with the loss of their close friend but also with the loss of an integral part of their sound. In May they had their first show without Chad at The Brass Rail as a three-piece. Not knowing what to expect or how they would even pull it off Richardson explains how the show came to be and what a positive experience it ended up being. “We considered going forth as a three-piece, but I don’t think that is how it will be.  We played the Brass Rail show as a three piece for a few different reasons.  I had a handful of shows booked in May and had to cancel all of them because we were not ready to play.  I almost canceled the BR show but I just couldn’t.  We wanted to play so bad and we knew that with what happened with Chad a show was a good way of reminding everyone that even though the worst things happen to the most amazing people there are things in the future to look forward to.  For us as a band it was the ultimate healing process.  There is absolutely nothing better than getting on stage and playing as a hard as you can for 30 minutes.  We felt like we owed it to ourselves, to our fans, to our friends, and to Chad to get on stage and play at least one show without anyone trying to play his parts.  I am sure our set lacked in the overall sound, but that show wasn’t really about how well or how tight we were as a band.  The BR show was about getting on stage and having a real time of enjoyment in a month that was filled with so much sorrow for so many people who have become like family to us through music.  Music is naturally healing. Everyone knows what to play to make themselves feel better, or what to play to make themselves want to punch a hole through a wall. We hope we played the music to make everyone feel a little bit better.  We tweaked a few small things in the songs to cover up some really boring spots without Chad’s parts, but like I said, we were not too concerned with people hearing us and thinking, “Man, they could use another guitar.”  That show needed to happen when it happened and how it happened.  We are just really lucky to have a group of people who come out and support show after show.”

The Dead Records, if you haven’t heard it, is a tight, compact album that goes by quickly which begs for repeated listens. I asked Sean where they recorded this excellent album. “The album was recorded at Digitracks studio here in Fort Wayne.  We are lucky to have a friend by the name of Matt Riefler who is way too talented to be recording bands at our level, but that is the way he likes it so I will not argue.  We went in late a night and recorded until the morning numerous different nights.  Recording with Matt is so much fun, he has tons of energy and since you know he is going to make everything you play sound really good, you want to match his enthusiasm and skill with how you play.” And as far as future gigs for The Dead Records, they’re in the works. “I am in the process of getting things booked right now, both in town and out of town”, says Richardson.  “Nothing is in the books yet, but keep checking for posts about shows and what not.  We are kind of regrouping and figuring out what to do next.”

Before we end our conversation I asked Sean what he wants folks to take away from this new album and the The Dead Records. “We wrote these songs based on how we grew up and the experiences that we gained living in a small town in Indiana, and always dreaming about being something bigger than what we were and still are.  This is not to say that what one group of people does is any less important than another group.  We think that what we play, what we say, and how we play it deserves to be heard on a national level.  We really believe in the importance of music for everyone and the greatest satisfaction you can achieve as a musician is knowing that you helped somebody get over something, or inspired someone to do something by simply writing songs.  The lyrics on this album will not lead anyone to answers.  The most important thing to take from this album and from the songs on this album is that you are not the only one going through what you are going through.  Sometimes just knowing that makes it easier to move on.”

Do yourself a favor and pick up The Dead Records. It’s what rock n’ roll should be: which is no gimmicks, no choreography, and no put-ons. Straight up heart and soul with a one-two punch that’ll knock you back a few feet. Check the album out at http://thedeadrecords.bandcamp.com/ and buy it. Follow the band on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thedeadrecords and check out their website at http://www.thedeadrecords.com/