Tag Archives: post-hardcore

R&Bemo?

It seems that the Seattle Times‘ Andrew Matson has stumbled upon the formula that came to fruition in popular culture a bit over half a decade ago:

“random genre/culture/thing/idea/word” + “emo” = combination of the former two concepts!

Back when emo first really hit it big, it seems everyone was trying hard to configure the term with, oh, just about every other term out there for a while, such as emo rap. (Curiously enough, this was the same thing that occurred within post-hardcore punk communities in the mid-80s which begat the term emo.) There’s no question that this equation has yet to cease, but it’s certainly faded as a large chunk of the media limelight has hoped the “indie” bandwagon.

However, in a recent piece on the musician Drake, Matson doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact that he’s making pointed calculations to his audience. It’s all in the title:

R&B + emo = R&Bemo | Drake – “Successful”

So, what exactly defines R&Bemo?

“Successful” takes place in the most gothic of R&B batcaves. Vocals waft in, fade out, and a sparsely decorated hiphop beat is revealed. Snare and bass hits echo. A lone synth’s electro-organ warble is a single candle. The music is beautiful.

The music is also Drizzy’s cold, cold soul.

Mmm… sounds a lot like… well, R&B, potentially sans the echo. Also, “Drizzy?” Really?

Matson continues:

From the very beginning, “Successful” is broody and forlorn, a perfect example of the new R&Bemo (R&B + emo), a mini-movement in contemporary rap and R&B.

The new R&Bemo is different than singing the blues. It’s post-that. The blues is direct; it’s crying. The new R&Bemo is also about pain, but it’s post-crying. The new R&Bemo is psychiatric. It’s picking up where Prince’s “When Doves Cry” left off, marrying minor-key pop jams to lyrics that show an awareness not only of one’s own pathologies and neuroses, but potential causes and fixes. For the latter, the new R&Bemo is psychopharmacological. It’s about drinking, driving, smoking, spending, having sex, and sing-rapping your way through this crazy life.

At this point, it seems that the “R&Bemo movement” sounds a lot like, say, the new Kanye West album (and the oft-incorrectly attributed connotation to emo). (And I’m not entirely sure what Matson implies with the term “post-crying,” but isn’t the performance of music, blues especially, a means of psychologically dealing with one’s pain?)

It’s not just that Matson’s description makes Drake and 808s sound similar. They sound similar too. Take a listen…

Drake – “Successful”:

Kanye West – “Love Lockdown”:

All Drake needs is a little more autotune and a more grandoise fashion sense…

I’m not one to deny that this exists or to say “shame on you” to Matson for his emo mathematics after I’d put together heapings of words dedicated to scrunk. (After all, my Phoenix article was also up front about screamo + crunk = scrunk.) And I’m not one who’s well versed in the modern R&B world… I couldn’t have told you who Drake was before reading this piece. But, until someone shows me a handful of artists aside from Drake and Kanye who are making minimalist electronic beats to be crooned over – R&B style – and derive some musical inspiration from any, and I mean any, emo artist (ilk included), I just find this whole term, well, kind of odd. But, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.

Interview with Justin Pearson

It’s been a long while since I last featured an interview by an individual to be featured in the forthcoming book, America Is Just A Word. I’m pleased to present some snippets of the first part of an ongoing interview I’m conducting with Justin Pearson, a man who’s energy cannot be contained by the sheer number of bands he’s been involved in. Most folks may know him from his role in The Locust, a band I was lucky enough to see open for Andrew W.K. some odd number of years ago at the 9:30 Club in DC.

Though Pearson’s amassed discography certainly deserves its own book, America Is Just A Word will focus on his experience as vocalist for Swing Kids and as co-owner/creator of record label Three One G.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a peek at parts of the interview:

*How’d you get into music? At what age did you decide that you wanted to give music a try?

Justin: “i think at an age, maybe as early as i can remember, i was into music. i was into kiss for obvious reason as to why a 5 year old would be, they looked so cool. i think being drawn to them, was sort of a door opening to what i needed to focus my attention on. i remember being way into styz when “mr roboto” came out. then i remember being super into van halen’s “1984” album as well as michael jackson’s “thiller”. so all this was from age 5 or so up to 8 or 9. at some point, i realized that kiss sucked pretty bad and started to focus on the actual music and what i was drawn to. i think at that point, i stumbled upon skateboarding and that led me to the thrasher skate rock comps. so then i found myself listening to septic death and then bands like the cramps, suicidal tendencies and so on. at that point, i was totally submerged in music and more so, punk and metal. when i was 12 i met the cramps and they were the biggest influence on me to start a band. they were so cool to me and really showed me that i could play music, and that being a musician, even well known like they were, i could accomplish something as great as what they were doing.”

*You often describe your background as poor, white trash, etc. Do you feel that these circumstances helped form who you are as a person? Or even why punk music appealed to you?

Justin: “i suppose. its hard to say though. its not like i can try it another way and compare and contrast situations. however, being from the poor side of the tracks, i think it forced me to be more creative, as well as appreciate the little things in life. it also installed a strong work ethic in what i try to accomplish. as far as punk and its appeal to me, it makes sense as to why id be drawn to it. that was essentially what punk music was created out of and who it was created for.”

*How did you meet and become friends with Eric and Jose?

Justin: “jose i met at a p.i.l. concert when i was 14. then i got a job with him at a swap meet working for his uncle. then he started going to the same high school as me. with eric, i somehow met all these kids in the east county of san diego and eric was one. at some point, we started playing music together in struggle, then later on in swing kids.”

*Considering you, Eric and Jose were in Struggle together, what was the key moment, act, or idea that made you want to all play together again as Swing Kids? How’d you all determine how the band was going to operate?

Justin: “eric was in struggle at the start of the band then quit and started unbroken. later on, he rejoined struggle. once struggle split up, we decided to start swing kids. it had a lot to do with peoples changing interested in certain kinds of music and art.”

*There’s this general concept that seems to run deep in a lot of the people/bands I’m including in the book [America Is Just A Word], that being that the personal is political, that every idea and notion of what you do is no less political than the “screw the pigs”/”fuck the man” sentiments that a lot of played-out hardcore seems to push. How did you and the other guys in Swing Kids come to that conclusion on your own terms?

Justin: “i agree. with struggle, it was sort of that mentality of preaching to the choir. it was already said and done. granted, the things that we were saying were relevant, but we were 15 and 16 years old. at some point, we wanted to say things differently so we did so. but all of this was never preconceived, it just sort of happened and then in retrospect, all made sense.”

*When you wrote the lyrics for Swing Kids songs, where did you draw inspiration from, both for the actual content of your songs and for the point-of-reference for the material you were writing?

Justin: “well i think since it was my first stab at lyric writing for a band besides the occasional lyrics that id contribute to struggle. so now, looking back, i think that the lyrics, and even my voice in swing kids is the weakest part of that band. but it was what it was, i mean, i was still pretty young, and honestly had no idea what i was doing. i would not even have considered myself a musician or a lyricist. but the inspiration was drawn from all sorts of things. none were musical really. i think heroin was a great band, but i was more into political stuff. just at the time of me writing lyrics, i was looking for the not to obvious or overtly political things to draw from. i think i was also growing up and dealing with odd emotions and things from my childhood that were taking a toll on me coming into an adult, trickled into some of the stuff i was trying to convey in the lyrics. its interesting though, as swing kids just recorded two songs when we did the recent reunion. one was redone, or finally completely written, the song “situation on mars”. originally it was just a mess that we created in the studio. at times, even felt like filler. so we write it properly. the additional lyrics that i wrote had more meaning to me than ever. the song took a turn and could be applied to a few things in my life. the lyrics were also written for the band, and even for eric allen, who passed away after the band originally broke up. but i tend to leave the lyrics, specially in swing kids, open ended, for the listener to use them however they want to. the other song we wrote and recorded, “fake teeth”, is about a band in specific that caught wind of swing kids, sort of late in the game and cashed in on something that was not theirs, hence basing their career on something as obvious as culture theft. i think that we benefited in ways by disbanding at a point in time, then coming back to what we did, after we had created a legitimate fan base, and how we still managed to hold onto our dignity.”

Swing Kids – “Intro To Photography” (live, 1996):

Let’s Make A List: An America Is Just A Word Update

I’m happy to announce another addition to the America Is Just A Word roster of voices involved in the book. Chris Leo, frontman of The Van Pelt, will lend his voice to the evolving narrative. The Van Pelt were a part of the post-hardcore/emo scene in New York City in the mid 90s and were quite entrenched in the scene. They were signed to Gern Blandsten Records, buddies with Texas Is The Reason (and happened to give that band their name), and helped progress the general post-hardcore sound in the city. You may also recognize Chris due to a fraternal connection of his… to one Ted Leo, of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (who’s mid-90s emo act Chisel was also signed to Gern Blandsten Records).

The band has recently convened for a handful of reunion shows, so if you’re in DC or Philly, be sure to check them out at the Black Cat (Friday) and Kunfunecktie (Saturday). And stay posted for even more news about the book and the interview process as it continues!

The Van Pelt (live):

Cave In Reunion Show

That’s right! The Massachusetts post-hardcore metal maelstrom known as Cave In is doing a reunion show. So far, it looks like it’s just one show, at Great Scott in Boston. Tickets went on sale this morning at 10 am and sold out.

I’m currently trying to grab frontman Steve Brodsky for an interview for Bostonist. I put on a show with Steve and folkie Elijah Wyman last year at Brandeis, and it was quite a combo. Steve’s a wonderful songwriter and an excellent performer, and a nice and friendly guy to boot.

And as for Cave In? I was lucky enough to catch them before their current hiatus a handful of years ago, in Newbury Comics of all places! Though I wasn’t as familiar with their discography as I am now, it proved to be one of the best sets of that summer, and I can still distinctly remember the set being so loud that some of the merch fell down and hit one of the guys (Adam I think) partway through the set. I hope there are a handful of tickets leftover that I can grab!

Hilarious interview from years ago:

PS: Here’s what the band had to say on their myspace, a brief announcement concerning the reunion just two days ago

“Dear friends,

 

After 3 1/2 long years, Cave In has decided to end its hiatus. Please

join us for an EP release show at Great Scott’s (1222 Commonwealth

Ave., Allston MA) on Sunday, July 19th @ 9PM. Also playing will be our

friends Disappearer and Phantom Glue. Copies of the “Planets Of Old”

limited 12″ (recorded by Adam Taylor, Alex Hartman & Johnny Northrup @

Camp St. Studio) from Hydra Head Records will be available that night.

 

We hope to see your lovely selves.

 

Steve, Adam, J.R., Caleb

CAVE IN”

Man, talk about a viral response – those tickets went quick!

Exusamwa

I can’t believe I have yet to catch this band…. Granted, Exusamwa have only had three public shows, but still… they’ve got members of Fat Day, Life Partners, and the owner of Weirdo Records! And they’re as secretive as none other, nothing but a few online pics to do justice (that’s right – not even a myspace page to speak of).

Luckily, Dischord and Dynne posted this mp3 of their recent on-air gig at 95.3FM. Needless to say, it’s something else, a nice little mix of acoustic strumming, experimental aural noise, and Melt-Banana-esq juxtapositions of post-hardcore noise and bursts of sweet pop… a nice mix from a lot of bland emo-pop of today.

I’ll stand on watch for the band’s next gig… I suggest for others to do the same!

Last Year In…

Music-and-film based satire blog The Umpteenth Times posted a great piece involving stimulus plans and Fugazi. What a gag:

 

“Fugazi to Receive Stimulus Check from Government

By Frank Gurbleck

 

WASHINGTON D.C.—Earlier this week, the Washington D.C.-based band, Fugazi, received notice that they will be receiving a stimulus check as a part of President Obama’s attempt to boost the economy back into motion.  The government’s reasoning for singling out the band is due to Fugazi’s efforts throughout the years to keep concert costs at a minimum.  The band has decided to accept the check but do not plan on keeping the money for themselves.”

 

Great stuff and the article does just what The Onion does best with their satire.

The piece reminded me of an event that happened one year ago, nearly to the day. Last April, I brought Ian MacKaye to Brandeis to do an informal Q+A and it was easily a highlight of the year. Schwartz Auditorium was packed to the gills, with folks of all ages sandwiched into seats crammed on the floor, up in the rafters, and crouched in corners all to ask Ian the questions that they’d wanted to ask the guy for who-knows-how-long. Of course, Ian was insightful, hilarious, and down-to-earth, answering every question with a tone of respect no matter how many times he’d spoken about straight-edge or how innocuous the query may have seemed.

It’s partially because of Ian’s own actions that I was inspired to critique emo in the way that I have on this blog and with America Is Just A Word. I’d been working on America Is Just A Word for a couple of years, but it’s Ian’s own dedication to his fans and music in general that offered another inspiring cog in whatever multi-gear machine I’d been riding out at the time. One year later and I’m still at it! Hopefully, America Is Just A Word will be available in a short period of time.

Tune Travis Tune: An America Is Just A Word Update

I’ve got some exciting updates in the progress of America Is Just A Word.

While I’m content with what I’ve already written for the book, I must admit that, from conversations with other individuals and some time mulling it over, it does need a little something… more. In and of itself, I feel the book has plenty of information on the relationship with emo and American culture that would satiate both inquisitive emo novices and academic musicologists alike.

But, there is always room for a little more… and while the considerable literary attention paid to the 80s independent/underground/hardcore/post-hardcore/etc genre in recent years has only increased, there are plenty of acts that will get left out. Although it’s impossible to cover every band that was important to someone, there are certain groups that definitely need a look.

So, I’ve begun to seek out interviews from members of acts that will add a little more clarity to the culture of emo that I discuss in the book. So far, Chris Simpson of Mineral, Rick Froberg of Drive Like Jehu, and Travis Morrison of The Dismemberment Plan have agreed to be interviewed for some additions to America Is Just A Word. It’s quite exciting news, and it’s a great feeling to do some more creative work on the book versus the enormous task of editing that is ahead of me. Keep a lookout as some of these interviews may crop up as a post here and there. Until then, it’s going to be quite a treat talking to these three…

*Mineral – Gloria (live):

*Drive Like Jehu – Do You Compute? (live):

*The Dismemberment Plan – Time Bomb (video):