Kuma’s Secretly Hearts Emo

I’d heard of Kuma’s Corner for months and have craved their metal-themed hamburgers and pretzel buns for many a month I’ve lived in Chicago. Tonight, I set out for the famous metal bar and was able to snatch a spot before the looming crowd grew larger than the small room had space for. And I noticed something so curious that the New York Times picked up on before I was able to get to my WordPress:

I DON’T know what I was expecting — guns? outlaw bikers? — but the restaurant, with its high ceilings and a pleasing corner location, didn’t end up all that threatening. Sure, there were drawings of half-naked female vampires on the walls, a scrawl reading “Die Emo Die” above the bar, and the incessant and propulsive fluttering of double-kick bass drums chugging under growled vocals on the sound system all night, but my girlfriend’s parents — not the target demographic, one assumes — described it afterward as “a hoot.”

Yep. “Die Emo Die.” The Times piece actually makes it a bit more prevalent than the three words actually are. They’re scrawled in chalk, are a bit small and sit atop a gigantic picture of a bear. And with all the other chalk descriptions (what charity they’re giving money to this month, the burger of the month), t-shirts and random ephemera on the wall, it isn’t terribly noticeable. I guess that is unless you’re me and it sticks out almost immediately. It also helps that I sat at that part of the bar directly facing those three words.

And yet, just after sitting down something curious blasted through the bar’s speakers. At The Drive In’s “One Armed Scissor.” At The Drive In, a band that is by any other means, emo. Sure, it’s hard as hell, but it’s emo nonetheless. So, I smiled to myself, made note to my roommate who joined me in the metal meal quest and awaited the arrival of my burger (the “Melvins” burger.)

And man was it delicious. The atmosphere there was great, and is certainly another fond reminder of some great metal acts that exist. It’s just another great place that only seems to exist so perfectly in a place like Chicago.

Is Jawbox Reuniting or What?

Ok, here’s the breakdown:

Today, Billboard had a little write up on Jawbox, which featured an interesting quote from bassist Kim Coletta on a potential Jawbox reunion:

“I’d love to,” Coletta tells Billboard. “It would be the coolest thing in the world.”

What’s this? Do explain!

Coletta says the Jawbox’s “Jimmy Fallon” performance will be “a safe way of seeing if it’s still fun to play together, or get back together. It’s an easy way to test the waters. I can’t say whether it’s going to lead to a full-length show or any touring, but we’ll see. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

Interesting… especially considering just a short while ago, J. Robbins told Buzzgrinder something completely different:

There were good and bad things about Jawbox, but we always held ourselves to a pretty high standard as far as playing shows. We would want to make sure we did it right, and we felt like we couldn’t take the time to do that. So that was pretty much the beginning and the end of the reunion discussion.

Odd… perhaps Robbins was just pulling our collective chain… or Coletta for that matter.

That’s the tough thing with all of these bands-getting-back-together-matters, and another reason why I really appreciate Fugazi’s extended hiatus: it’s a bit abrupt to just toss everything away and call it a day when who knows what the future may bring.

So, perhaps the band has been practicing together more since Robbins’ interview and they’ve collectively found their mojo, something to really work with, do a full show or a tour beyond Fallon. Perhaps. Let’s just say never say never.

Jawbox – “Savory”:

(Saudi) Arabian Nights

The Saudi Gazette‘s Khadija Mesh’al As-Sulaimi did a little write up on the “emo” culture that’s sprung up in the country:

Unlike the youthful rebellion of yesteryear, “Emo people” are much more difficult to define. Emo refers to a way of life which represents isolation and depression; Emo teenagers express their emotions through unusual – and in extreme cases, disturbing – means via the slogan: “Emotion is power, so do not be ashamed of it.”

True, the folks in Saudi Arabia appears to not go as bonkers over emo as the people in Egypt did a while back. Still, it’s a rather cut-and-paste piece, with snippets of paranoia of a youth-bred culture that “parents just don’t understand.”

Aside from the Rites of Spring reference (kuddos for putting that in the piece!), what is probably most alarming is the title of the article:

The Emo subculture invades Saudi society

What I’m harping on here is the word “invasion.” It promotes a certain fear-of-the-other, and isn’t that the kind of polarizing attitude that could potentially do more harm to kids with real depression versus those who dabble in the fashion of the day that’s merely perceived to be that of an individual who is depressed.

The rest is more of the usual… Still, it’s interesting to track the “spreading of emo” throughout the world. Or at least in the guise of the worldwide media.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

A little blog entry from a little emo band coming out of PA got me thinking:

Don’t expect a reunion show!

I write this because we recently celebrated our third anniversary. Three years are a long time for a band such as ours, especially when you take into consideration that many of our predecessors and inspirations barely made even one. By now, you’d think we’d have built for ourselves a solid fanbase, but the truth is, we still find ourselves playing to crowds of about ten people.

Far be it from me to pass judgment. I realize a lot of you simply can’t make it to all of our gigs, and I understand. We’re all working and going to school and engaging in other activities that prevent us from attending local shows. And some just aren’t into what we play, which is perfectly alright with me. If we were completely accessible to every last person, then we’d be doing something wrong. Do more people like Dashboard Confessional than Rites of Spring? Most definitely. But would Dashboard Confessional exist without Rites of Spring? Most certainly not.

Is it all so odd that a band entrenched in 80s and early 90s emo is somewhat making a humorous jab at the recent reunions of 2nd wave emo acts while placing themselves in something of a similar narrative. There’s something so interesting with all these tiny, almost neo-nostalgic, emo acts popping up in little “holes” around the country. The backwaters of Pennsylvania and Maryland, over in the Midwest… hell, there’s even a record label, Count Your Lucky Stars, the seems to focus on just these kinds of bands.

These little bands with such a similar sound popping up across the U.S. again is simply fascinating… It’s something to do with emo that I haven’t been fascinated with for a solid month. Which is partially why I haven’t really taken the time to update the blog, or work on America Is Just A Word. The passion for it is still there, I just don’t want to force it.

Time is a killer too. I figured grad school would be a time consumer, and a lot of the times it is. And when it isn’t, I just want to stop staring at a computer screen for the length of my day. And then there’s an entire world out there not strictly traced back to emo for me to write about. Like with True/Slant, or, now, The A.V. Club:

avclubdd

It’s been a fantastic experience writing for these outlets. It’s given me the chance to broaden my niche music-writing base into areas that I would otherwise not really be able to write about in the guise of this blog. Which is fine – I made this blog for a specific reason, and I’d like to keep it in the same general idea. And I like having the ability and opportunity to write for other places.

So, don’t call it a comeback… this stuff is always on my mind. Just sometimes I get a bit tired thinking about sifting through endless articles and blog posts about Twilight when all I want to do is uncover another Algernon Cadwallader or Shinobu. And darn it if a love of music isn’t what this whole thing is all about.

Kids Today

What is happening to the youth of today/tomorrow?

They say drugs have a negative impact on children; that video games and TV brainwash them; that violent movies desensitize them; that sexually explicit music cause them to do bad things. But does anyone blame the parents?!?!

Tis Brutal

Found this little clip in a Red Eye review of the Jack Black-themed/curated video game Brutal Legend:

jackblackvideogame

Hmm… Is it simply appropriate to say “no comment” at any point? ‘Cause when a description like “rap-metal-emo” pops up, it’s so blandly all-inclusive that it renders all terms rather useless. (I tend to overindulge in genre-name-dropping, but I hope I’m able to draw a line sometimes.)

Fin.

Interview with Darren Walters

I’m happy to post a selection from the ongoing email interview I’m having with one Darren Walters, co-founder of Jade Tree Records.

As a majority of my America Is Just A Word interviewees happen to be musicians, it’s great having Darren on board to give some perspective of the other goings on that helped transform emo through the decades. (Of course, an exception to all this is Ian MacKaye, who’s role as a musician and Dischord Records co-founder gives him a completely different perspective than most folks involved in the book.) When it comes to emo in the 90s, Jade Tree was one of the few places where things were really popping. The record label quickly rose to fame with The Promise Ring and continued to soldier on from there, releasing music from numerous indie emo “big names” (whatever that oxymoronic phrase means) such as Hot Water Music, Texas Is The Reason (a split with TPR), Lifetime, Jets To Brazil, Joan of Arc, Pedro The Lion, Cap’n Jazz (the label introduced many people to the band with their double-disc discography) and many a popular non-emo act such as Fucked Up and My Morning Jacket.

But, I’ll let Darren explain it all himself. Enjoy:

How’d you get into music and, more specifically, punk music?

Darren Walters: “A few things happened around the same time that finally got my fully into punk once and for all.
I had been into new wave, alternative and the like and eventually met a few people who were also into the same type of music, including punk.  In and around the same time, my best friend ended up being sent to military school where he became immersed in punk.  His friends at military school helped him stock up on great records which he brought home during his breaks and left with me.  Him and I quickly became 100% into punk rock in about 1985 or so and began going to shows and seeking out as much info as we could on punk rock and watching movies like Suburbia and Decline of the Western Civilization over and over again.

What was it like growing up in Wilmington?

DW: “Wilmington is at the northern tip of Delaware and the biggest city in the state.  Essentially, it is a suburb of Philadelphia as it is only about 25 minutes outside of the city.

It was-and is, for the most part, devoid of any culture during my childhood and continues to be so to this day.  It’s basically your typical American suburb and it’s the place that I still call home and have form most of my life.

Having spent most of my life here I’ve come to like it, which is interesting considering I spent those formative punk years trying to think of a way to get out.  Growing older and being able to leave, I got used to the idea of being in Delaware.  It also became advantageous for Jade Tree to remain in Delaware as it was inexpensive compared to cities like NY or SF where Tim and I had often discussed moving the label to (in fact, Tim lived in NYC for many years).”

On the Jade Tree site, it says that you and Tim were pretty involved in the DC punk community. Considering Delaware isn’t exactly a walk away from DC, how did you balance a life at home with going to shows and building on a community in DC?

DW: “I was involved in the DC scene in the sense that I was going to shows an awful lot in the MD/DC/VA area and Jade Tree worked with plenty of bands from there over the years.  DC was one of our support systems and one of our scenes and we of course looked up to many of the people involved in it both past and present.

It was easy enough to go back and forth from DE to DC.  Tim had grown up in DC and still had family there, I had a girlfriend there at one time, Jade Tree had bands there, tons of friends and so on.  It was just something that we did without thinking.  And it’s less than 2 hours away.  I used to be able to get to the Damnation house in an hour and 10 minutes on a good day. Granted, I was doing 90+ mph, but the point is that this was a drive that Tim and I made almost weekly, or at least monthly, for years.”

How did you and Tim meet?

DW: “My best friend growing up attended college in MD and met Tim at a show in DC.  They started a label called Axtion Packed together and that’s how I met Tim, through him.

Once my label, Hi-Impact, was beginning to fall apart, coincidentally so was AP, so Tim and I decided that perhaps it would be best if we combined forces to work on new label.”

What was it like being in high school and then college, trying to balance the life of a student and the work needed to run a label (be it Hi-Impact or Jade Tree) and a band as well?

DW: “It was crazy of course!  At times it would be fairly simple because there wouldn’t be much to do in the very beginning.  However, when there would be a new release in production or a record would need to be mailed out to radio or to all of the awaiting orders, it would take hours, if not days, to do so.  That could be intense.  Especially because for the first few Jade Tree releases, many of the records were put together by hand.  You can imagine how long it takes to hand assemble 4000+ 7″s & CDS for instance.  We would enlist every one we knew to come on over and enjoy free pizza, get the latest release and help us out.  It was a community thing and it helped Jade Tree get off its feet tremendously.”