More TBD!

Sorry for the lack of updates recently.

I’ve moved to Chicago for grad school, and that’s sort of taken up a large amount of time the past few weeks.

I’ll write something soon. In the meantime, check out my new blogging position over at True/Slant. It’s a pretty cool site – a combination of a nicer looking Huffington Post with social networking – and I’m one of their music guys. It’s a nice opportunity to write about things that aren’t just emo related for a brand new audience.

But, don’t worry. As I said, more to come soon!

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Fashion Fallout

When little kids get their first haircut, there’s usually crying involved.

When Pete Wentz gets his hair cut (or shaven?), the crying apparently stops:

Take to the messageboards, Facebook feeds, and Twitter tweets, you FOB fanatics out there!

Wentz has proven to be something of an intelligent individual in music: his lyrics have the kind of verbiage that the College Board kills for, he’s proven himself a mogul in his own little music realm, and he’s probably a lot more articulate and well read in punk than people give him credit for. (His appearance as a player in a pivotal band included in Brian Peterson’s Burning Fight, all on 90s hardcore bands, is probably stunning for many who are not up on their hardcore punk reading.) With the emo-publicity train currently has its eyes focused on Brand New, Wentz picked the perfect opportunity to get rid of a fashionable doo that’s become the target of so much scorn. With the focus no longer just on his band, he can be free to play whatever he wants and wear whatever he wants. Hopefully, this will get some kids to rethink the emo-as-purely-a-fashion-statement, because I for one cannot see Wentz changing his tunes just cause his head has less hair.

Jimmy Eat World + Mark Trombino = Harmony

…or Clarity?

JEWtrombino

Big shout out to Pierre Wentz over at Washed Up Emo for catching this one. In any case, it sounds like JEW and the former Drive Like Jehu drummer and whirlwind producer Trombino are back together. Trombino produced the band’s first three albums, and his in-studio wizardry really helped morph the sound and image of Clarity into the kind of memorable record it’s become. And hey, he didn’t do too bad with Jimmy Eat World/Bleed American either.

The “Oral History of Jimmy Eat World” from Alternative Press a couple years back put a little light on the deteriorated relationship between the band and Trombino. Sort of. Trombino seemed to be really eloquent in his anger and confusion as to why the band had suddenly stopped using him as a producer and seemed genuinely hurt and personally offended. So it’s good to hear the relationship between the band and Trombino has at least improved to a working state, if not back to the friendship they once held. Let’s hope the later is true, because the magic those two entities held in their work together really helped bring out some fantastic tunes.

Clipzzz

Finally scanned these babies.

Facebook them.

Twitter them.

Love them.

Nothing Sounds Good If You’re Andy Greenwald

This is why I cannot respect Andy Greenwald’s opinion on emo:

andygreenwald

Obviously, taste is taste. Opinion, opinion.

But if this man is the guy who’s supposed to be the emo know-it-all (read: self-created title/Spin created title), I’m not buying it. The guy doesn’t seem to understand the impulse that emo acts have towards evolution, probably because the very thesis of Nothing Feels Good denies this concept.

He denied Sunny Day any post-Diary existence in his book, cramming much of their timeline into a brief paragraph and noting their later stuff for its prog leanings versus any relationship to emo.

He seemed happier to call The Promise Ring’s Wood/Water “joyless” than express the band’s need to let their music grow, saying when they performed it live opening for Jimmy Eat World, “When Davey strummed his acoustic guitar to thousands of eager teenagers at a sold-out Roseland Ballroom in New York City, he was greeted with implacable silence, the sight of an entire generation of music fans regarding him like they had just caught their dad moshing” (NFG, p 125). Opinions abound about Wood/Water, but Greenwald was more than elated to include this one show as evidence that TPR went “dad rock” and left emo, when in fact their new music retained much of the spirit of earlier albums, but held a newfound sense of wonder and exploration into non three-chord territory. And why did the kids greet the band with silence? How many big, sold-out shows did you go to for the opening act? It’s commonplace for fans at big ballroom/arena shows not to know a damn thing about an opener: when they’re playing music like what’s on Wood/Water, what’s a more appropriate response than simply watching in silence? (Go to an acoustic show where you don’t know the musician and see how you react).

Greenwald wrote this about Chris Carrabba:

“And I think: in some small way, it’s already past him. Dashboard Confessional was an emo moment, not an emo career. Carrabba may have many more years and songs ahead of him, but those frustrated, tormented ballads will live on. His worst moments may well outlive his best moments. He has pushed the punk/emo model as far as it can go…” (p 265)

He wrote that just before A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar came out, before Carrabba really broke emo into the mainstream, remade “Hands Down” into a genuine hit and a car commercial-worthy song, and became a Billboard-topping recording artist at number 2. And then again in 2006 at number 2. And then again in 2007 at number 18. And all performing music that, gasp, was in the exact same vein as before.

Greenwald got all that dead wrong, and he’s dead wrong about Brand New. Considering Greenwald is speaking for what is believed to be the voice of emo for critics, for some reason his voice holds some water, even after emo continued to conquer the Billboard charts in ways he hadn’t properly predicted when he wrote Nothing Feels Good. His opinion is his opinion, but to say that Brand New hasn’t written any new material as an “emo conessuire” all while practically every other critic has hailed the band’s last two releases, and fans have pushed their music to the top of the Billboard charts (number 6 just today). Something just doesn’t add up. Considering Greenwald considers himself the “voice of emo” and yet he cannot seem to fathom why or how or that Brand New could write their new material is plain laughable. I’m all for dissenting opinions, but I find his just kind of ridiculous.

Brand New – “Gasoline”:

Interview with Chris Simpson

It’s an absolute pleasure to bring Chris Simpson into the America Is Just A World fold.

Part of my inclination for adding more interviews and material to what I’ve already written for the book is to really uncover the narratives that have been overlooked, and no band’s lifetime has the same mixture of mild coverage and crass disregard for the group’s actual story like Mineral. For many, Mineral was a pre-eminent mid-90s emo act, if not the pre-eminent act of the time. And yet, a large portion of their story is generally unknown, despite the band’s importance on future generations of C chord pluckers.

Andy Greenwald dedicates three pages or so to the band in Nothing Feels Gooda whole three pages! On Greenwald’s terms, that’s an infinite space for a band to take up if the name of their project doesn’t start with a “Dashboard”. Without speaking to Simpson, Jeremy Gomez (bass), Scott McCarver (guitar), or Gabriel Wiley (drums), Greenwald conveniently tried to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Fortunately, Simpson has been kind enough to lend some time to this ongoing project of mine, and was able to jot down some answers to my endless stream of email questions. As you can see from just a sampling of this material, his perspective will be genuinely helpful for the final version of America Is Just A Word.

Here goes:

Tell me about your personal experience growing up. When did music first hit you, or was it something that was always a part of your life? When did you start playing music?

Chris Simpson: “I lived in Denver, CO from the age of 4-17, so it feels like where I grew up for the most part. I was really into sports as a kid and got into skateboarding in my early teens. My mom was very passionate about music and we always had to listen to whatever she was hot for at the time. My first musical loves were Lionel Richie and Barry Manilow. The first record I bought with my own money was Michael Jackson’s Thriller. At about 14 I think I ditched the sports and skating and decided to go full-on into the music.”

How did Mineral form?

CS: “I finished my last year and a half of high school in Houston, TX. I had met a few friends during school there from going to a lot of shows
and playing solo sets at clubs and coffee shops. I knew I wanted a band and not to perform on my own ultimately. I moved to Austin with my then girlfriend and some other people who were involved in music. Soon after doing so I met Scott and we started trying to write together. We had a very difficult time finding common ground at first. I remember that summer that two records came out that sort of
crystallized our direction, The Catherine Wheel’s Chrome and Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream. We were huge into U2 and Sugar and
Buffalo Tom and Superchunk, etc. We started out playing with a different bassist and drummer calling the band ‘I The Worm’ which was
an awful thing to call a band. Soon after this we started playing with Jeremy and our friend Matt who had also moved to Austin from Houston
that summer, and eventually Gabe took Matt’s place and Mineral, as it was known was begun.”

With The Power of Failing, the album artwork has such a stark, minimalist layout – just a white cover with a little text and a photo and a black inner-cover with a little liner notes here and there: is there any particular reason (artistically, economically, etc) why you decided to go with such a format?

CS: “I think there was a general aesthetic amongst all the bands we found ourselves peers with— Texas is the Reason, The Promise Ring, Christie Front Drive, Boys Life, Knapsack, etc. Everyone seemed to be interested in art work that was minimal I guess. I think we were just
more interested in letting the music speak for itself.”

Why did Mineral break up?

CS: “As we started writing the second record, I began to feel like we were growing apart as writers and personally. I just wasn’t excited about working together anymore. It didn’t feel free or inspiring. It’s like any young relationship I guess. You assume at 19 that the relationships you have in your life will always be there, but realistically, as you get older you start to move in different directions. It was basically me and Jeremy’s decision at the time to quit the band. It was not something that the other guys wanted or liked, so things were pretty sad at the end between all of us. I have ultimate respect for Scott and Gabe as people and bandmates and was sorry to be the driving force behind the end of the band, but you have to follow your heart and instincts.”

What are your thoughts on “emo” in general? When did you first hear it used in combination with describing the music you made (be it with Mineral, the Gloria Record, or Zookeeper)?

CS: “I’m confused and uninspired by it. I remember when I first heard it was when I gave a tape of Mineral to someone I respected who was also a musician and he asked what sort of stuff it was. I guess maybe I mentioned Sunny Day Real Estate as a reference and he said, “Oh, so it’s kind of emo?” I was confused and thought he was referring to the club Emo’s here in Austin where we played a lot in those days. I couldn’t figure out what he could mean by that as a description because as far as the bands who played at Emo’s at the time, I don’t think we were the norm. It was much more of a crusty, garagey, sort of punk sound for the most part. Soon after I realized what it was he was saying and that a lot of other people were saying it too. And they were referring to a lot of predecessors like Rites of Spring, etc that I was unfamiliar with. There was also a real tie to the hardcore scene, which seemed to me to be the farthest from what I identified Mineral with. So, yeah…”

In Andy Greenwald’s book Nothing Feels Good, he pegs Mineral as “a quartet of deathly serious young men,” yet, all lyrical connotations
aside, it doesn’t seem to be the case – the liner notes to the Power of Failing include a description that states “Mineral = pizza boys
gone rock.” Do you feel that the label of “emo” has done something of a dis-service to you (and various others) and your music?

CS: “My friend Chris Colbert said it was belittling to the content of the music, and I think that’s an accurate assessment. It was fun for a bit
to feel that there was this movement that we were considered a part of, but pretty soon you start to realize the danger such classifications pose to creative freedom. The fact is that it was a movement, but not one we were going through so much as one the people who listened to us and came to our shows were going through. As far as Andy Greenwald, I haven’t read the book but I think he was communicating something that a lot of people were also echoing. There was a seriousness and intensity to the material which was not necessarily mirrored in us personally. But most outsiders would have had no way of knowing it. We were, as the liner notes said, actually four pizza boys gone rock.”

…And I’m All Out Of Bubblegum

Oh, the many wonders of Goggle:

With all the video sites out there, I tend to forget Google video exists, but they’ve got some great stuff.

Like John Carpenter’s They Live, a fantastic cult movie that seems as ingrained in today’s society as the 80s. The protagonist is a wandering, jobless American who just wants to do things right and work hard (yada yada yada), the economy’s bad and people are living in shantytowns in LA (there was an NY Times article about tent towns popping up across California this summer), there’s conspiracy, fear of the other, fear of the government, etc. You can twist it into whatever socio-political perspective you want to push, but as a sci-fi action film, it hits it right on the head. And any Shepard Fairey fan might be able to see what he found so fantastic about this film and what certain images, ahem, “crop up” in his art.

I know, kind of a random post, but this is one of those movies that really lives up to whatever standards of cult fandom are out there… and there are a ton.