Tag Archives: jazz

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 inĀ 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:

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Knowledge Is Power With A License To Read/Library Card

I was flipping through the CD collection at the BPL in Copley Square today when a curious kid no older than ten caught up to my perusing area in the Popular Music Section.

“Have you seen a My Chemical Romance CD?” The boy asked.

“No, but if I do I’ll let you know,” I replied in all sincerity.

Unfortunately, nothing to be found. However, online, there’s quite a catalog listing for MCR:

1.
The black parade [sound recording] Show details
My Chemical Romance (Musical group)
Burbank, CA : Reprise, 2006.
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Location Collection Call No. Type Status Due Date
BPL – South Boston CD M1630.18.M933B6 2006x 21 day loan In Library
Add to "My List"

2.
The black parade [sound recording] Show details
My Chemical Romance (Musical group)
Burbank, Calif. : Reprise Records, c2006.
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Location Collection Call No. Type Status Due Date
Malden Public Library Rock and Roll CD CD #2751 21 day loan In Processing – New
Add to "My List"

3.
The black parade is dead! [sound recording] Show details
My Chemical Romance (Musical group)
Burbank, CA : Reprise, p2008.
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Add to "My List"
Location Collection Call No. Type Status Due Date
BPL Central Library – Copley Square CD Pop/Rock M1630.18.M9 B53 2008x 21 day loan In Library
BPL Central Library – Copley Square CD Pop/Rock M1630.18.M9 B53 2008x 21 day loan Due 01/23/2009
BPL Central Library – Copley Square CD Pop/Rock M1630.18.M9 B53 2008x 21 day loan Due 01/20/2009
BPL – Connolly CD Pop/Rock M1630.18.M9 B53 2008x 21 day loan In Library
BPL – North End CD Pop/Rock M1630.18.M9 B53 2008x 21 day loan In – Recent Return

And it looks like their live album should have been there…

If that isn’t enough to get you to pick up a library card, perhaps the sheer number of albums by James Brown, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, The Beatles, and any number of indie rock, hip-hop, classical, jazz, blues, showtunes, and world music are available to pick up and listen to. And the book collection ain’t half bad either…

Nothing About Vonnegut

Sometimes life feels like a Kurt Vonnegut book, the way seemingly random events and lineages come together in unknown ways. It also helps when you checking out a heaping helping of Vonnegut novels from the library and his particular method of story-telling seeps into your life.

My current fix

My current fix

Let me explain:

Having recently graduated and awaiting the days before I enter the world of employment, I have to amend some of my routines in life. Specifically, I have to watch out for what I spend my money on. As I don’t do anything in the ways of illegal downloading, my music collection has grown in odd ways and forms in the past few months. As I rarely have the chance to buy anything new, I’m always on the hunt for free albums that musicians have circulated online. And more and more, my newly-acquired musics are within the realm of hip-hop. And justly so.

Mixtapes have always been a key tool within hip-hop circles as a way to circulate music. As each day passes, it seems that more free mixtapes are cropping up online, completely free of charge (at least, for a short span of time). And so, in my quest for free music, I happened upon a very Vonnegut-like happenstance: I discovered a great hip-hop artist that hit very close to home.

Wale

Wale

Wale (not to be confused with the irresistible Pixar film Wall-e) is a DC-based rapper who has recently signed with Interscope. For years I searched far and wide for a hip-hop artist who managed to break out of the confines for DC. Because in the world of DC hip-hop, if you don’t make it out of town, you’ll be on the out in town. I remember spending years clipping articles from The Washington Post about the search for DC’s great hip-hop hope… or hype. For some reason, of all the big cities in the union, DC was practically the only one without a well-established hip-hop artist or scene to call its own. Punk, jazz, funk, soul and any number of other genres had some great member who called DC home. But not so much in the ways of hip-hop.

As soon as I left DC for college – only to return for short breaks – Wale began to hone his craft. In 2006, Wale released “Dig Dug,” which grew into a huge hit in the DC metro area and its surrounding states. Since then, Wale has been heralded in everything from The Fader to XXL to Rolling Stone to Entertainment Weekly and my faithful Washington Post. Wale’s gotten chummy with the big kids such as The Roots and Lil’ Wayne, performed his song “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.” at the 2007 MTV Music Video Awards, and announced his signing with Interscope this past March. And all this time I was trapped in the college bubble.

And then this past weekend I noticed Wale was among a number of artists performing at Rock the Bells when it rolled through Massachusetts on Saturday. And I noticed he was from DC. Today I found myself a link to Wale’s most recent mixtape, The Mixtape About Nothing, a creative ode to Seinfeld. The mixtape was released back in May, but it’s never too late to discover it.

The Mixtape About Nothing

The Mixtape About Nothing

As numerous critics (and there are a ton that have turned their heads to hear this one) have commented on the mixtape’s peculiar relationship to Seinfeld, I was more taken by Wale’s intricate use of go-go. Go-Go is a DC-creation, one of the two dominant strains of music that have made their root in the city these past few decades. While emo eventually made its way out of the DC area after toiling in the underground punk circles of the nation’s capital, for the most part go-go has yet to really survive outside of the city’s limits. Go-Go, a subgenre of funk known for its call and response involvement with the audience, its syncopated rythms punctuated with a mass of percussive instruments, and its ability to draw out funk-grooves for lengthy amount of times (it’s ability to “go and go” in effect) has mostly spent its lifetime in the DC area. The two most recognizable go-go names/phrases outside of DC today are Chuck Brown – the genre’s creator – and the song “Let Me Clear My Throat.”

Chuck Brown

Chuck Brown

Remembering all those years back, reading articles proclaiming that DC’s best hope for hip-hop haven, The Washington Post noted that the individual that does make it should do so by making use of the city’s beloved sound, hip-hop’s distant cousin – go-go. And correctly so. Wale does this flawlessly on The Mixtape About Nothing and with enough gusto to (hopefully) impact a generation of international hip-hoppers. While “The Opening Title Sequence” is a great sampling of the Seinfeld introduction and has taken the critics’ cake, “The Feature Heavy Song” practically steals said cake with its go-go driven beat that takes a crack at all the morbidly uncreative instrumentals that have plagued mainstream radio stations.

Wale is being proclaimed as the next big thing. But for right now, my encounter with The Mixtape About Nothing is a tale for how I found my way back home through a musical entity I wish was produced when I still could hop on the Metro and go-go around DC.

Wale – The Mixtape About Nothing

Wale – W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E. video: