Tag Archives: Allston

Interview with Geoff Farina

I’d been meaning to post this up for quite a while, and here goes…

I met up with Geoff Farina, frontman of the now-defunct and beloved band Karate, for an interview to be included in America Is Just A Word. Karate is one of a handful of bands that really challenged the ideals for what emo can do and where it can go. Where other bands stayed their ground, traveling in much of the same sonic ranges, tempos, and even cliches that emo had wrought in the mid-90s, Karate moved into areas of jazz, indie, and slowcore all while growing to an organic stop at 2004’s Pockets. In the emoverse, there really is no other band like Karate.

In terms of how the band is perceived in the realm of emo, it’s a pretty close-focused view. Andy Greenwald halts the band’s evolution down to zero in Nothing Feels Good, hardly mentioning the band outside of their early roots in Allston and their first record. It’s with a certain frustration towards Greenwald’s single-mindedness towards emo that was, in part, a reason I decided to expand America Is Just A Word and get in touch with Geoff Farina in the first place. So much can be said for the depth, breadth, and places emo can go with the entire Karate catalogue, and they’re a fantastic band to put to print for the argument that emo is more than just melodramatic pop-punk rife with suburban angst.

In June, I met up with Geoff Farina at the Porter Exchange, a mall in Porter Square filled with tiny restaurants that specialize in various Southeast Asian cuisines. Farina is an intelligent, humble guy with plenty to say, and a lot of wise commentary to throw into the America Is Just A Word mix. Below are a couple of selections from the interview, with some pretty heavy stuff in the second clip. Enjoy!

On getting into music:

On inspiration for songwriting and personal experience versus autobiographical in song:

I Can’t Believe I Missed This…

Antz From BrokeNCYDE Arrested During Sold-Out

Original Gangsta Tour

Albuquerque, NM based Crunkcore innovators Brokencyde have been causing fans to go wild during their current sold-out tour alongside Drop Dead Gorgeous and Eyes Set to Kill, but the group drew a different kind of attention in Allston, MA when Antz of BrokenCYDE was arrested for alleged criminal mischief. On Tuesday, after appearing in court, Antz was exonerated of all charges and the group re-joined the tour for the remaining dates.

BrokeNCYDE has been cultivating a cult like following across the US on back-to-back sold out tours alongside Breathe Carolina, the Millionaires and Jeffree Star. The group’s highly addictive musical style of fusion blends screamo with Top 40 hip-hop to create a style that can only be defined as “crunkcore”. Registering a jaw-dropping 80,000 plays a day through the group’s MySpace site, BrokeNCYDE fans are so addicted to the group’s brand of crunk fueled booty shaking beats that they flooded MTV’s TRL with requests, landing the band a performance on the show where they played “Under The Radar” for millions of viewers.

BrokeNCYDE recently put the finishing touches on their debut full-length album, which is expected to surface in stores in early summer, just in time for the group’s spot on this year’s Warped Tour.

‘Nuff said. Thank you Absolutepunk.

Little People

Tonight, the Academy Awards will be passed out to folks who may or may not have made the best films of the year, depending on who you’re talking to. (Seriously though, nothing for JCVD? That was – surprisingly – one of the best films I saw last year.) Anyway, below are my predictions: many of these have no rhyme or reason, but are directed by who I think I should win and not necessarily may win (though it’d be nice if those that I chose do win). If you want the inside scoop and the opinion of one of the most heralded Oscar predictors, head over to Scott Feinberg’s blog, And The Winner Is… Though, I must note, I may have been the only one to predict MIA grabbing the nomination for Best Song in an earlier post. Anyway, without further ado, here are my picks:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Doubt)

Best Original Screenplay: Wall-E

Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz With Bashir

Best Animated Film: Wall-E

Best Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Song: “O… Saya” (Slumdog Millionaire)

*Other Happenings: Don’t want to watch the Oscars? Head over to Harper’s Ferry in Allston to catch P.O.S. tonight. Check out the concert preview I wrote for Bostonist here.

*Other 33 1/3 Proposals: I wasn’t the only person to post their 33 1/3 proposal online after not making the shortlist. (You can read my proposal for The Promise Ring’s Nothing Feels Good here.) A handful of other folks have plastered the Internet with their concepts for covering entire albums. Check some of them out by clicking the links below:

The Beach Boys – Smile

Alejandro Escovedo – More Miles Than Money: Live 1994-96

Pulp – Different Class

The Velvet Underground – The Third Album

Rudimentary Peni – Cacophony

The Nation of Ulysses – Plays Pretty for Baby

The Fall – The Nation’s Saving Grace

Screaming Trees – Dust

Graham Parker – Squeezing Out Sparks

The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Enjoy!

House

Next Friday, Allston shall have quite a show in the neighborhood:

House show flyer

House show flyer

House shows are the creme of the crop in underground punk… it’s where garage rock, hardcore, post-hardcore, emo, grunge… so many great genres came to fruition. And with Oh! Pioneers headlining, it should be a great one. Donate to support those who open their doors to those seeking down-to-earth musical experiences!

Don Dial

“I was twelve when that song came out!”

“It’s a free country, you can be any age you want.”

There’s stage banter and then there are the words that spewed out of Damon Che like a volcano. The drummer and last original member of Pittsburgh’s Don Caballero was absolutely trashed when the trio performed at Harper’s Ferry in Allston this past Sunday. Sweating and pummeling behind the drum kit in a button-down shirt and a pair of boxers, Che addressed the crowd in the same way his band’s songs did between the minutes of drunken balladry; relentlessly, maniacally, unconventionally, humorously, and spontaneously. Moreover, it was hard to tell what he would say next or what metal-meets-punk-meets-art-rock lick the band would blast the crowd with.

Don Caballero

Don Caballero

Sure, Che may have seemed like an asshole at the beginning, going on and on about how his band used to fill bigger places in Boston; hell, if a former member of your 15-year old band was pulling in larger crowds after one album with a new group (former Caballero guitarist Ian Williams of Battles), I could see how you’d get pissed off. Even though under different (sober) circumstances Che might have acted differently, it’s hard for me not to recall the time of unconventional concert-going in which Caballero came to life with their twisted take on rock. Back in ’93, Fugazi (as always, the biggest point of influence for the most outstanding, influential, and creative emo acts) were as well known for subverting the normal rock concert atmosphere by addressing the crowd in absurd ways. From hugging and kissing violent concert-goers to bringing the music to a complete halt if violence broke out on the floor to addressing all kinds of anarchic questions and behaviors, there was no arena-rock fourth wall when Fugazi played.

Ponytail

Ponytail

And the same thing happened the other night. Che’s moments of conversation with the audience weren’t epiphanies, but it certainly diverged from the rock ‘n roll attitude that many concerts always seem to hold as a token rule. Caballero were hardly alone as opener’s Ponytail – one of the best live acts out there – made a great ruckus of genre-melding art-punk as singer Molly Siegel constantly drove her body to the edge of the stage while addressing the crowd whenever possible. Musically, Ponytail one-upped Caballero. But phonetically? Well, you really can’t top Che’s question of the second for the audience:

“Would it hurt my career if I were to join the NRA right now?”

Don Caballero – Palm Trees In The Fecking Bahamas (live):

Ponytail – 7 Souls (live):

Peepin’ For The Full Effect

It was when I found myself staring at a nearby TV at Super 88 in Allston that I remembered a pretty reasonable realization: American television is at a creative low. Every moment I think it’s hit a nadir and then Wipeout gets an hour of airtime on ABC. It makes me pine a little for the programmes of the UK, specifically Channel 4’s Peep Show.

Mitchell and Webb of Peep Show

Mitchell and Webb of Peep Show

No, Peep Show does not have anything to do with porn. Or peeps for that matter. Instead, it concerns the daily mundane lives of Mark and Jeremy, two college buddies sharing a flat and London. The show’s name comes from the ingenious use of camera angles; the program only makes use of first-person perspective shots (and you thought Cloverfield was testing out new ground in film-making) so that it’s as if you are “peeping” in on someone’s personal life. The show – which recently aired its fifth season – makes excellent use of inner-monologues, dry wit, and unscrupulous/in-your-face social commentary in order to give a kick to modern sitcom styles. Its “humour” is as much about the truth according to the individuals as it is about the situations the characters find themselves to be in.

James Dewees aka Reggie And The Full Effect

James Dewees aka Reggie And The Full Effect

In the world of emo, no act is as provocative in truth telling and makes use of humor in order to convey a sense of sincerity as Kansas City, Missouri’s Reggie And The Full Effect. Reggie boils down to one dude – James Dewees. Dewees’ best-known musical project outside of Reggie was his role as the guy behind the keyboards in one of the names that pushed emo into the limelight – The Get Up Kids. It was during his time as a Get Up Kid that Dewees began to craft some songs that would become the first by Reggie And The Full Effect (later packaged in Greatest Hits ’84 – ’87). Packed with pop-paunch, abrasive blasts of dissonant guitar, 2nd wave emo’s caustic dynamic change-ups, and an introspective, wry sense of humor, Reggie And The Full Effect became the band for emo fans who could stand to laugh at themselves and those awful stereotypes.

Songs Not To Get Married To

Songs Not To Get Married To

2005’s Songs Not To Get Married To is perhaps Reggie’s best album. Whereas the earlier Reggie material was unabashedly filled to the brim with sincere and humorous takes on the stereotypical subjects in the emo cannon (namely, love), Songs Not To Get Married To took that combination of humor and truth to a self-deprecating peak. Inspired by the breakdown of Dewees marriage, the album puts all of Dewees’ frustrations and complaints with life and love up front, and just by the title, it’s clear that Reggie has some laughter left in the languished affairs of divorce. And with songs such as “Get Well Soon” and “Take Me Home, Please,” Dewees found his ultimate pop performance, filled with the kind of synth-based production the major labels could kill for.

Last Stop, Crappy Town

Last Stop, Crappy Town

Flash forward to today, and the music is about to stop for Reggie And The Full Effect. Noticeably darker from just a slight listen, Last Stop, Crappy Town was released near the end of June. And Reggie is about to embark on their last tour. Be sure to catch this if you can, although knowing Dewees’ up-front sense of humor, who knows if this really is the end for Reggie.

Peep Show – Series 1, Episode 1, Part 1:

…And The Two Best Reggie Videos…

“Congratulations Smack and Katie”:

“Love Reality”:

Taboo And Alphabets Too

Last night a bunch of my friends threw a show in their house… a comedy show that is. Whereas most young towns have a thriving music scene, the comedy community in Boston is everything that most insular scenes hope they can be; diverse, thriving, widespread, intimate, creative, and a network of people who are friends first and competitors never. And funny. Man are they funny. Everything from the quick-and-fast rules of delivery to hip-hop rhymes and beats about taekwondo to odd-ball rants by folks featured on Comedy Central, it was all enhanced by the intimacy of the tiny Allston-based house.

I capped off the night with what must have been an hour dedicated to playing the wordsmith worthy game Taboo. After some quick, catch-and-release trials, a group of us decided to play “hardcore,” where you could only give one clue in order for others to get the word in question in one guess. It’s a lot more challenging than the usual method of playing the game, but it sure is fun. In retrospect, the cap-off of Taboo featuring performers from the night’s previous comedy collaboration was odder than I had imagined at the time. Well, odder in recollection than experience; as most of us were all friends, it really wasn’t all that weird. But the boundaries that individuals often place on society with labels such as “performer” would elevate members of the community above others, when really it just provided for an interesting initial introduction for everyone present in the house. The atmosphere lacked any pretension associated with elevating members of the community, the intimacy of the event, the intelligence of the performance, and the humor involved made it all seem like any other night hanging out with friends… just some of those friends had the incentive to stand up and talk to a crowd for ten minutes.

Combining a general lack of pretension with musical intelligence, creativity, communal intimacy, and a warmth of humor is Chicago’s Cap’n Jazz. Though they broke up by the mid-90s, their impact has been felt throughout the emo world, most immediately in the then-growing presence of the Mid-Western underground emo scene that was about to reach a tipping point. Their influence had immediate impact with the culmination of post-Cap’n Jazz projects, most notably with 2nd guitarist Davey Von Bohlen’s side project The Promise Ring coming to the focal point of the national emo community. However, brethren Mike and Tim Kinsella have also had their fare share of impact with acts such as Joan of Arc and Owls (as well as American Football and Owen), two highly experimental groups that aren’t as well known as The Promise Ring, but certainly have their fare share of influence. Still getting shout-outs in magazines such as Alternative Press (last month’s cover story on the 23 most influential punk bands of the last 23 years had a great spread on band), the Cap’n Jazz legacy was compacted into a singular double-album release in 1998, Analphabetapolothology (now there’s the Taboo-worthy word).

Cap\'n Jazz

Brimming from end to end with unmeasurable catharsis, Analphabetapolothology takes some getting used to before you can grab those nuggets of mid-90s emo gold. Then again, Cap’n Jazz were never shooting for pop gold, just music that challenged themselves, made the band members satisfied with their own creation, and had a particular subcultural connotation. It’s a bit of a continuation of the hardcore punk tradition (and hardcore can readily be seen as a starting point for the members of Cap’n Jazz, not to mention countless of other alternative bands that continues on to today), where the band wanted to make something profoundly different then what was being pushed out on the mainstream and have it mean something to their particular community. But, while hardcore became uniform in all senses of the word, Cap’n Jazz’s hold on emo was as angular as the guitar-work involved in it. They called in the horns, lyrics that weren’t all there (at least, upon first glance), gritty dynamic changes that recall Sunny Day Real Estate played by a garage band, pop-worthy harmonies, and song structures that subverted all forms of the norm.

The best and brightest of emo today have Cap’n Jazz to thank for the fuel of creativity that somehow manages to bubble up, as if untapped, while the rest of the world thinks of emo as simply shallow. Musically, you can hear Cap’n Jazz’s influence on a vast array of emo artists. Tim’s almost-whispered, rant-singing at the start of “Puddle Splashers” recalls a more musically ambiguous version of what Taking Back Sunday vocalist Adam Lazzara attempts to create, while “Que Suerte!” sounds like a messier, more cathartic mix of what makes Thursday’s work so captivating.

Yet beyond later influence was Cap’n Jazz’s immediate impact on the community around them. The band appeared at a time just before emo began to solidify its main aesthetic elements, and Cap’n Jazz challenged every idea of singular aesthetic until its end. The biggest acts of mid-90s, Mid-Western emo not only came from disparate places on the map, but had disparate ideas in their musical take on the sound that originally had been birthed in DC. But under the musical heretofore of bands like Cap’n Jazz, they helped open the community to anyone with any original and challenging idea of emo, not simply to those who had pretensions to how to run a scene. It was more about the people involved in the community rather than following a guidebook, and for Cap’n Jazz’s musical and personal role in the national scene, it’s much greater than the first listen of Analphabetapolothology might lead you to believe. In a world where a post-hardcore sound could share space with bands who brought hardcore, pop-punk, pop, and whatever rule-based genre to the table, it was Cap’n Jazz’s original blending of ideas that helped emo form so many different strands and creative impulses for years to come.

Cap\’n Jazz – Little League

Say Anything About Science Fiction

There’s something about the 4th of July that screams “joy”. It could be the way that folks file out of the woodwork to aimlessly meander around Boston in numbers that rival a sports championship parade. It could be the atmosphere of happiness that bounces off porches and front lawns, where normally reserved neighbors suddenly take to the near-outdoors to share a laugh and an afternoon. It could be the way fireworks careen through the streets of Allston the moment darkness sets in, a venerable battlefield of noises raging through the air. It could be the familiar smell of meat (and your garden variety of vegetables) wafting through the air, almost as if it’s every individual American’s right, nay duty, to fire up the grills and fill our stomachs. It could be the way that Boston turns from a normal city into a communal playground, the kind of place where everyone does indeed know your name, or at least act like they do.

Or it could be The Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel. Seeing as I rarely indulge in TV on my own time and that the number of shows currently broadcasting aren’t what I’d pin down as “entertaining” (though I do watch my fair share of DVDs and random re-runs) it’s funny that of all the days of the year, I’d take the 4th of July to spend some quality time with the good ole’ Jawbox. I’d forgotten about the annual Twilight Zone marathon, and it wasn’t until I dropped by a friend’s cookout did it pop back into my head and on the TV.

Suffice to say, Rod Serling was a genius and the impact his program has had on popular culture and modern storytelling is pretty hard to underestimate. In just the first episode that I watched (of three), I saw shades of Toy Story, a better and more succinct version of what I think Lost is all about (truthfully, I’ve barely seen that show, and have no interest in continuing to watch it), and the strong influence of Samuel Beckett. Titled “Five Characters In Search Of An Exit,” the episode (part of which I’ve placed below) quickly reminded me just what made The Twilight Zone such an anomaly and a brilliant work of art.

Serling, like so many great artists, had his finger on the driving impulses of humanity. His work has the mark of absurdity, but in the way that what is accepted as normal within The Twilight Zone isn’t necessarily as absurd as what we accept in our reality. Just as many great works of science fiction point out the absurdity of the human condition through metaphors (such as George A Romero’s take on racism in Night of the Living Dead, although that is more horror than science fiction) or critique the absurdity of society (the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and it’s critique of the red scare), Serling’s work struck a chord either with the paradoxes of humanity, the state of our society, or simply played on our individual fears.

Absurdity is a great and oft-dangerous tool in art. Use it well and you’re a genius; misuse it and your work suffers (one cannot forget Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, which seems to both use and misuse absurdity in extremes; the film is a bumbling mess that’s both hideous and brilliant at the same time. Unfortunately, one half cannot be without the other). Of all the acts in emo, Say Anything is the one band to make excellent use of absurdity for the bettering of art (and sometimes, abuse it for the unfortunate nadir of art as well). People may complain about the state of emo today, but chances are, none have them would have bothered to pick up Say Anything’s 2004 effort …is a Real Boy (which was later re-packaged as a double album in 2006, with the second half labeled …was a Real Boy). The blogosphere is no stranger to hype, and hype is no stranger to frontman and perpetual mind of Say Anything Max Bemis, but …is a Real Boy is easily one of the best albums to come out this decade.

Still from the \

Epic, mature, humorous, brilliant, lyrically-intelligent, spellbinding, and yes, absurd, …is a Real Boy takes the idea of extremism in punk rock and hits it out of the park. For a first album, any band would be proud. But Say Anything is not any band, and Max Bemis is not any frontman. Here’s the skinny:

Max Bemis grew up in LA a punk-pop prodigy, told from a young age that he would be the next Bob Dylan. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young man, especially one who would later be found to have manic-depression. After putting out some independently-produced albums, Bemis scrapped all of Say Anything’s back catalog to make something, well, epic. Bemis concocted …is a Real Boy as a great emo rock opera. Quite literally. Bemis even went as far as to recruit Stephen Trask, creator of cult sensation Hedwig and the Angry Inch, to produce the album and what was meant to be a giant musical production of the record’s songs in conjunction with its release. The overarching story is of a boy who is struck to breakout into song when he reaches some climactic and passionate burst of fury over whatever he was agonizing over. Musicals are easily the most absurd form of modern art (honestly, nobody simply breaks out into song and is joined by a massive, perfectly-choreographed chorus in order to express their inner thoughts and then simply act as if said moment never happened afterwards), but the songs on …is a Real Boy made it work. The way a punk lifer described his iconoclastic ideals through passionate bursts of song that made the critiques on reality just as absurd as the moment of intensity of the performance was flawless.

Too bad the musical never panned out. Bemis had the first of many psychological breakdowns during the wrap-up of the album’s production; he got in a fight with strangers on a New York City street corner, believing they were actors in a film about the production of his album. Several nervous breakdowns later and a career in danger and Bemis is found to have manic-depression. A number of years later and Bemis has signed a major label deal, has his videos on MTV, and (rightfully so) has found his work on top of the Billboard heap. Call it what you will, but I was disappointed with the release of In Defense of the Genre; it may have landed Say Anything at the top of the pops, but it was an example of absurdity in unfortunate extremes. A double album with only enough good material to fill a single side, In Defense of the Genre is a good effort, but merely an effort in comparison to …is a Real Boy. The idea of defending emo is excellent, and the cavalry of emo stars who fill out the album’s guest spots is great (such as Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba and My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way), and the (ab)use of a multitude of genre aesthetics is an interesting concept. But ultimately, the performance and the ideas fall flat. Still, it is a valiant effort, even if Bemis is much more concerned with love (most songs on In Defense of the Genre) than, say, rightfully bashing elitist hipsters (“Admit It!!!”).

Sometimes I wonder if the absurdity, nay, even the brilliant social commentary of Say Anything ever really seeps into America’s tweens. But there’s no doubt that Say Anything’s best work has a certain staying power that most pop cannot achieve. Hopefully somewhere in the middle of America those who pick up Say Anything after hearing it through some Clear Channel station will play …is a Real Boy years from now and understand what Bemis is getting it. Or maybe I’m just not giving these tweens the right credit. Sure, Warped Tour is ground zero for shameless product plugs and hours upon hours of pop-punk. But with the cathartic live experience of Say Anything – Bemis is halfway between Andrew WK and a white, male MIA – there’s no doubt that those messages critiquing society’s ails can reach someone.

I’m in a video mood, so here’s the video for Say Anything’s “Alive With The Glory Of Love”, itself a critique on the important aspects of life during times of desperation (listen closely to the lyrics):