Tag Archives: Karate

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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The Internets Is Down!

A quick little post for the evening/day… I’m running into some odd technical difficulties for posting pieces of the latest interview for America Is Just A Word… but for some reason I keep running into some virtual hole in my idea. I’m just trying to combine some element of clean design and easy access for folks to listen to the interview.

And who is the interview with? Why Geoff Farina, formerly of Karate and Secret Stars and now frontman for Glorytellers. I’ll post more about the interview once I can actually get some of its contents on the greater web… until then, take a gander at a little in-studio performance by Farina.

Geoff Farina – “Some Sinatra” (live):

Way To Go Joe

Lally on bass...

Lally on bass...

I’ve got some more stuff over at Bostonist today, this time with some big names in emo and underground music history: Joe Lally and Glorytellers. The former is the bass player of Fugazi, the later is fronted by Geoff Farina of Karate (who I’ll be interviewing for America Is Just A Word when the tour wraps up). Also in on the show was The Soft Drugs, fronted by the singing drummer who goes by the name of TW Walsh (formerly of emo Christian-rockers Pedro the Lion), though I didn’t mention the band in my review, partially because my pics of them just weren’t up to snuff. What’s interesting was that between sets whoever was behind the music selection had an ear for Pedro the Lion-esq songs…

Anywho, for a recap, head to Bostonist. That’s all for now!

Yes, I Am Talking To You: An America Is Just A Word Update

More news on the progression of America Is Just A Word. Since the previous announcement of a few folks being involved in the writing process through personal interviews, a handful of other people have also shown their interest. New to the bill are Matt Anderson of Heroin and Gravity Records; Sam Zurick of Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Owls, and Make Believe (among so many others); Rob Crow of Heavy Vegetable, Thingy, and Pinback (and countless others); and Geoff Farina of Karate. It’s a great feeling that all of these individuals are interested in the work and giving their feedback, especially when many are busy touring or working on various projects. It should be quite interesting when it’s all said and done!

Heroin – “Moving Parts” (Live):

Cap’n Jazz – “Oh, Messy Life” (Live):

Rob Crow – “Up” (Music Video):

Karate – “In Hundreds” (Live):

Double Double

In one corner, weighing in at 6 members is The Mae Shi, with support from The Death Set, at Great Scott.

The Mae Shi live

The Mae Shi live

In the other, pulling together as a duo is No Age, with a little help from High Places and Abe Vigoda, at the Middle East Downstairs.

No Age

No Age

It is a challenge to behold… For music fans of Boston, tonight’s concert calendar will have a tough choice, but either event will provide a winner. This may be a match for an individual’s night, but it is no way a battle between acts. This cavalcade of musicians rolling through town represents some of the brightest acts from the three pivotal underground music communities today.

The Mae Shi, No Age, and Abe Vigoda mastered their craft and honed in on their acts out in LA. There, they (along with a multitude of other acts) formed a community dedicated to furthering the boundaries of art and punk. It’s a living, breathing unit that can be seen in the 40 Bands 80 Minutes documentary (it is what it says – 40 bands performing 2 minute songs in a sweaty LA venue) or on any regular evening at The Smell, the all ages venue that No Age placed smack dab on the cover of their 2007 album Weirdo Rippers. With the critical acclaim these three acts – alongside peers such as HEALTH and Mika Miko – have been receiving, the LA underground scene has once again been thrown into the national music limelight.

The Smell

The Smell

Although LA has received a considerable amount of attention, so has Brooklyn (home of High Places) and, more than any other area, Baltimore (home of The Death Set). Forever cast in the shadows of nearby, larger areas (Baltimore has DC, and although Brooklyn is a part of NYC, Manhattan has always dominated the other burroughs), these tiny, seemingly-culturally deprived areas have burst with creative ingenuity in all forms of the arts. Baltimore has built an insular community to match its small sized, and has since been propelled to the national level thanks in part to the Wham City collective and its unofficial head Dan Deacon; in little pockets of a city that most residents have either forgotten or never cared about, out came a sprawling arts basin that seems as communally inbred as it is creative. Venture north a number of hours and you hit Brooklyn, itself a sprawling mass of space that’s cheaper – and therefore, more attractive to aspiring artists looking to make it in the big city. Any busted-up storefront could easily be turned into an art gallery or performance space, and a good number of them art (at least in the Williamsburg area). Out of it has formed numerous art-punk acts as wide spread, yet communally linked; TV On The Radio, Battles, Parts & Labor, and a ton of others all call this place home.

Baltimores Video Hippos at Brooklyns Death by Audio

Baltimore's Video Hippos at Brooklyn's Death by Audio

Both Baltimore and Brooklyn offer scenes that are in close proximity to areas of cultural resonance, but their chance location has given both places an almost-secluded quality which has allowed these communities to prosper and trade ideas amongst one another without the eye of the mainstream music world staring down upon them. LA, though a mainstream cultural capital in its own respect, is so spread out that over the past few decades, it has allowed for numerous musically-based culture movements to spawn and spread out of little pockets in the vast city side and across the suburban sprawl. These communities are created and developed in the guise of complete creativity, without the influence and impact of commercial interest to hinder, attract, or distract anything or anyone from the ultimate goal of creation. These qualities are the typical stamp-of-approval for the development of underground art communities in the US; the resources are there in almost every location in America, but it takes a special formula of location, individuals, and atmosphere to make it work.

This is an important aspect of the development and continued thriving of emo as an underground cultural force. It’s still one that drives the many different voices of emo in its current underground status. True, emo has become a fashionable commodity, but it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t continued to thrive as an underground culture, one separate from its mainstream state. It’s the ideas of creativity and independence that the innovators of the culture imbued into its artistic essence that not only kept emo in the underground for so long (around 15-17 years, depending on when you choose to mark its beginning and entrance into the mainstream). When what became known as “emo” began in the ashes of DC’s hardcore scene, a good chunk of the punk music community scorned it as hardcore had yet to hit its dramatic fall on the national level. DC was (and in many ways, still is) ignored by the music industry as an important place, so emo transformed, unfettered by outsiders and made for the better by community members. As Fugazi became the scene’s main touring act and magnet, their sound became a beacon to anyone looking beyond the convention of punk and broadcast a vibrant and diverse aural image of emo around the world.

Fugazi

Fugazi

From there, communities outside of the insular DC scene began to form around the idea of emo. The strongest cross-state emo community to arise didn’t occur until the mid 90s. While connections formed among artists from different scenes (Sunny Day Real Estate and Shudder To Think as touring partners comes to mind), the mid 90s provided a time when scenes across the country formed their own little pockets and ideas of emo, yet would come together to share them. Outside of DC (which added Chisel and The Dismemberment Plan to their list), the East Coast had pockets of sound; NYC had Texas Is The Reason, New Jersey had Lifetime, Boston had Karate and Jejune (who later moved to California), and down in Florida (if you want to count it as the East Coast) there was Hot Water Music.

Mineral

Mineral

But the mid 90s and emo will forever be associated with the Mid-West, where the bands were as connected to their hometown scenes as they were with the rest of the middle-country-divide. Cap’n Jazz, The Promise Ring, Jimmy Eat World, Mineral, Christie Front Drive, Braid, The Get Up Kids, Boy’s Life, and dozens more upon hundreds of those which may never be heard by the masses have formed a dominant portrait of a land and time in the emo narrative. The places they came from are all different and so are their ideas, but they all came together to form a variety of sounds that continue to exist within popularized forms of emo today. Consider it the time of multiculturalism in underground American punk. While the national hardcore scene transformed local sounds into one big rule-based notion of musical defiance summarized in a minute and a half of screams and thrashing guitars, the mid 90s Mid-West emo scene allowed for individual pockets to develop their version of emo undeterred by outsiders all while coming together to form bonds and trade ideas to enhance their individual perspectives. This can be seen in everything from split singles on vinyl (such as the Jimmy Eat World/Christie Front Drive split that attracted the attention of Captiol Records) to a shared creation of lyrics (The Promise Ring’s “Picture Postcard” attributes some lyrical content to Braid’s Bob Nanna), to simple ties of friendship that extend past inter-state routes. Just as the movers and shakers of today’s underground music scenes breach state lines to form communities while continuing to build their local ones, emo became a strong presence throughout America before it became a mainstream phenomenon. Those connections kept it a living, moving center of a community, and that notion continues to drive like-minded individuals who operate under whatever label they choose to this very day.
No Age – Eraser

The Mae Shi – Vampire Beats (video):