Spirit Vine @ The Echo
Los Angeles, CA
Published originally on LA Record
It wasn’t that hard to convince a friend to accompany me Monday night and catch the second round of Spirit Vine’s residency at the Echo. After he answered my call with his usual warm welcome of, “What. What do you want?” I asked if he wanted to grab a drink and see a very Jonestown-ish, droney, down and out rock band. He replied, “Sounds promising…Plus, you owe me a drink.”
We arrived after the stupendous and always entertaining Dante vs. Zombies had finished their set. If you have never seen them before, picture a scene out of American Bandstand, where a mass of teens are shimmying around to the modern version of the Seeds. Infectious melodies, catchy hooks and the occasional matching uniform makes for a serious dance party. As Spirit Vine started to set up, I made good on my friend’s condition, rewarding him with the finest alcohol four dollars could buy, a PBR. As more souls found their way to the stage after sprint excursions in chain smoking and enjoying the best of four bucks, LA’s new answer to garage rock took the to the stage. As the band started to let loose, a video projection close to what you would get in an Alejandro Jodorowsky film began to paint the band an eerie blue. Watching the scenery on stage, I felt as if was transported back to the heyday of San Fran’s Civic Auditorium as lead crooner, Jacquelinne Cingolani’s deep and lusty voice bellowed through new material. Her pipes and swagger can make any boy weak in the knees.
The band’s sound is influenced by the heavy weights of psych and classic rock, but similar to rock revivalists, like the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Angels, Spirit Vine adds a bit of their own flare to the standard formula. Bassist Scott Bassman’s deep and rolling baseline began to make the glass in my hand vibrate a bit. As the band played on, Bassman’s belly rumbling bass lines were met by the sharp snap of drummer Jalise Woodward’s snare. As the old, grainy, 8mm footage swirled back and forth over Cingolani’s flowing hair, it made for the perfect backdrop for their performance. A few note sparse notes rang on the guitars, backed by echo and reverb, leading into choruses that will loop in your head.
Closing the night’s festivities was the psych-surf rock sounds of Rumspringa. The name is derived from the Amish rite of passage, where Amish teens are allowed to “sow their wild oats.” If they’re anything like the Catholic school kids I knew, they will become quite close with a character by the name of Jack Daniels.—Getting back to the band, lead vocalist and guitarist Joey Stevens is the sort of musician you would give your first born to be able to play like. He has the growl of a young Iggy with the riff expertise of a Jimi. Watching him finger pick on “Criminal Love,” it was as if he ran on auto pilot, as his little magic fingers squeezed out a riff that even had the sound guys taking notice. This would have been a great night to take your dad out, to finally prove to him that you listen to stuff that he would consider music. You can’t listen to Black Flag forever, or wait, strike that from the record, yes you can.
Monotonix and Ty Segall, at The Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA.
Thursday, January 27, 2011.
Published on LA Record
I think I’m now legally deaf, I really do. Well, maybe in just one ear, but none of the less, still partly deaf after surviving the kilowatt blaring experience that is a performance by Tel Aviv’s Monotonix. The experience must come close to the thrill of scaling a mountain top or sailing the seven seas, plus the excitement of being left partially deaf. Recall your first concert that left your ear ringing? Well its day two and I still need people to repeat words to me.
The three-piece, trash rock assemblage takes the idea of audience participation to a whole new level. As the world wide web or just able anyone that has seen them can contest. The band is capable of everything from lighting their drum set on fire, having 46 year old vocalist, Ami Shalev riding the bass drum as his royal carriage as its hosted high above by the crowd, enlisting audience members to play their instruments and leading the whole venue on a crazed parade via a Hebrew chant. Following a personal philosophy that sets the hectic tempo and head-banging in unison, the band sets up on the ground floor, neglecting the stage and fully encircled by the crowd.
As Hendrix like guitarist, Yonatan Gat’s first note rings out and drummer and Borat look-alike, Haggai Fershtman began to pound the skins, sending splinters of wood flaring into the crowd. Cue Shalev, appearing from the rafters, as he crowd surfs his way to the center of what seasoned journalist would describe as “the crowd going ape shit!” They’re a tough act to open up for, leaving San Fran’s Ty Segall up for the challenge. Segall and company were recently featured in VBS.tv’s garage rock revival documentary, among the likes of the late Jay Retard. The fresh faced, card carrying member of the East Bay’s thriving garage scene led his comrades in a Tommy James and The Shondells-ish, down and dirty rock explosion. As the stage lights turned to a blood red, Segall palm muted chords and belted out lyrics through “CENTS” and “Imaginary Person,” as locks of unkempt hair bound around below the stage. As the crowd thrashed around, displaying a mere warm-up for the cream de la cream of bare-chest bravado and sweaty gym shorts that awaited them.
The crowd soon grew dense around Fershtman’s drum set, waiting for the simple nod from Gat, turning the Echoplex into a frenzy of mashed bodies, bouncing off one of another, leaving holes in the Echoplex’s ceiling and leaving looks of amazement on the faces of some. The band chugged through “Before I Pass Away” and “Fun Fun Fun” off of 2011”s Not Yet, the band third release. In typical fashion, the band relocated three times through out the show, moving the chaos among the Echoplex’s entire floor plan. As crowd held Shalev high above the Echoplex’s sound booth, Shalev growled and hissed among to the crowd favorite, “Body Language,” a track of sheer hypnotic rhythms that forces any idle bystander to join the fray. Midway through the track, Shalev attempted a handstand on the heads of a few crowd members, ending with a few souls getting close and personal with the 46 year old.
As the band found its way back onto the stage, they piped the screaming mass down enough to lead a chant in their native tongue. Afterward, Shalev dropped a bomb on the tried and sweaty masses below; this would be Monotonix’s last tour. The band will be calling it quits after their U.S. tour. The band has been touring nonstop for the last six years; Ferhtman is expected a new bundle of joy to join his family and frankly, Shalev said he wasn’t a young buck anymore. As the crowd moaned in disappointment at the news, Shalev request one last thing. He wanted to float back to Tel Aviv upon his magic carpet, where he threw a large red rug onto the crowd, sending Ferhtman and Gat back into a spastic jam. Shalev went for one last magic carpet ride over his adoring fans, riding the jittery waves of hipsters, coming together for one of the most memorable nights of their lives. A special thanks goes to Sean Carlson and the FYF Fest crew for bring back Israel’s second greatest gift to world, behind Natalie Portman, back to the States for the last time. We were all part of rock history.
A interview with High Dials’ guistarist, Trevor Anderson. Originally published on October 20, 2008. On larecord.com
The High Dials sound like the Creation if they were on Creation Records. Their newest self-released album Moon Country is out now. This interview by Carlos Villarreal.
Anton Newcombe said you guys were the best band in North America. Do you agree with that?
Trevor Anderson (vocalist and guitarist): You caught me off guard with that first question! Umm—no? How can I answer that? I’m totally the worst judge on how good we are because I’m in the band. It’s a nice compliment. I obviously believe in what we do or I wouldn’t soldier on like I do.
How do you think your new album Moon Country will fare compared to your last album War of the Wakening Phantoms? It got a lot of great press—no one dared to bash it.
I’m kind of caught off-guard with this recurring question about all the good press we got from the last record—whether we were feeling a lot of pressure for the new one. The idea of pressure hadn’t really occurred to me until the last couple of weeks. When we were recording it, we didn’t feel any expectations or anything—only the ones placed by ourselves. Now that the record is being released, I’m realizing that there are these fans out there and they loved the last record. They are expecting something at least on par or better and I hope they are not disappointed. For our part, it definitely is our most satisfying album. We feel like we have achieved sonically the kind of sound we wanted on War of the Wakening Phantoms. I’m very happy with the last record but I feel like this new record is a little closer to what we wanted to sound like—a bit more murky, dark, moody and ambient. Those are all adjectives that I would use. The song writing is still essentially much the same—a balance between folky, introspective kind of stuff with psychedelic rock tunes. I don’t feel like it’s a huge departure from the last record, but it defiantly feels like a step forward.
<b>Do you stand out a lot from other Montreal bands?</b>
We were definitely overlooked in the whole hype surrounding Montreal bands. For whatever reason—and even though we got some great press—we were never lumped up with that group. We were never considered in the same scene. Which I think is a blessing because anytime you get hyped up or associated with one thing like that, it can obviously backlash or work against you later. We just have been building up momentum quietly and the fan base for about five years now. But we are all die-hard Montreal-ers—probably more so than some of the bands that have been trumpeted from the scene. We are also sort of an anomaly because we don’t really fit into the sound that was coming out of here. We always sort of felt like we were cut-off in our own thing, even though we are on good terms with some of bands that are notorious from here. I’m personally more comfortable that we didn’t get caught up in the Montreal scene.
What has been the best tour you have had so far?
The best tour, in terms of adventure, success and just enjoyment has to be the tour with Brian Jonestown. We did a couple with them—one in the U.S. and another in the U.K. The crowds were really good and it was the right kind of people that would that would most immediate be receptive to our music. The craziest experience we have had has to be when we played Little Steven’s Festival in New York and with some legendary bands like the Stooges and the Strokes. Some how at the end of the night we ended up on stage with the Stooges dancing around as a hurricane was approaching. That was pretty surreal—I was just thinking about that about that couple of hours ago actually. Iggy Pop is an intense guy; I hear he’s vegan and straight edge. He still got those pale eyes with his intense stare. I wouldn’t want to mess with that guy. After the show I called out to him as he came off the stage, he turned and gave me a really tough look. Then we talked for couple seconds but it was definitely like I was glad we weren’t going to have a fight—he’s still in really good shape.
How is traveling with band mates?
The key is sarcasm; it relieves the tension and keeps things peaceful. This upcoming tour is the first with the new lineup, so nothing sarcasm and alcohol can’t solve. I feel a real kinship with L.A. for our band. I guess it makes sense because of the psychedelic tradition has been real strong there, going back to Love, the Byrds and the Doors. Also now there are great bands like Brian Jonestown, the Warlocks, Spindrift, and Darker My Love. When I go down to L.A., I want to see all these bands that are into the kind of thing that I’m into. It goes back to what I was saying about Montreal, I have a lot of friends in bands here and the city is a big part of what we are, but I always thought we are really different from the scene here. I’m excited about the upcoming tour because we have like seven stops in California and we’re going to get to play some places we haven’t played yet. I’m also very drawn to the coastline. Just the whole west coast—there is that feeling of possibilities there compared to the east coast, where there is more an old world mentality.
I love L.A. too, but if McCain is elected as president, I’m moved to Canada. Can you make room on your sofa for me?
You interested in moving here? The stock market isn’t doing too great either—that’s some scary stuff. I don’t really understand it very well, but you won’t be safe here. It could have a ripple effect all over the world; hopefully people still want to buy CDs and t-shirts.
What’s next—playing Japan?
There are always plans brewing. We’re not a lazy band at all. We definitely want to play a lot and play to a lot of people. We always get letters from people all over the place, I’m pretty idealistic—confident we can do go a lot of places. Japan and Asia feel like a couple steps ahead right now; we just have to be realistic. I feel like we are rebuilding the band because three years is sort of like a lifetime in the indie rock world. We need to build up the awareness and visibly of the band; I’m excited to get back on the road. I definitely get emails from people asking us to come to certain area. I guess we got pockets of fans in places we didn’t know. I thought we were really well received in England when we went over there with BJM.
What’s up with thehighdials.com? I didn’t know you guys moonlighted as a metal band.
We just let our official domain name lapse. It didn’t really seem there was much point since Myspace is the reference point for everyone in music. So we didn’t renew our domain name and some metal band got it. Hopefully it’s pretty obvious that it’s not us. Maybe it means that we’re rock stars since someone wanted our domain name.
Maybe they’re holding on it for a few years, so when you guys hit the big time they’ll sell it back you.
God, I hope not. It could be something like that, domain names are like real estate and ours was more valuable then we thought. Now you got me all paranoid, I got to look into that.
You guys get associated with the Britpop sound—is that something you aimed for?
I don’t aim for anything other than a pure expression of whatever I’m feeling or want to do. I am not a calculating musician in the sense that I sit down a write a song that sounds like a certain band. I got to a point now that I feel confident on our sound and what I want to do with it. I have influences that will shine through; maybe they are not as obvious to me. It is tiring to have deal with that issue, for some reason the type of music we make is perceived as very retro by people. Even though I think everything that you hear in today’s music is retro—it was all drawn upon the past. I don’t feel like we are more retro than any other band. As for us having a Britpop sound, I wouldn’t deny that. I’m half-English and I grew up with that culture. Most of the bands that I love in my lifetime have been from England—I’m definitely drawn that way. I don’t think we sound anymore British than like the Shins. These categories shouldn’t really matter as much as they do, but then that’s how people perceive you. It’s just another game of the music business. I’m just always shocked and disappointed on how fast these labels get applied to you, because I feel like we are doing something original with our music.
Do you own a Canadian tuxedo?
You are the second person I ever heard use that expression. The first time was in reference to Anton Newcombe, who is a big fan of the denim tuxedo. I didn’t realize it was associated with Canada. I don’t see a lot of people wear those, but it is true when it comes to the hockey haircuts. We are all huge hockey fans. That’s the one true stereotype—that it is pretty hockey crazy up here. It makes winter bearable. I’m actually recovering from a broken ankle I got from playing hockey this past summer. On this tour I will be wearing a big plastic boot till it heals. I was even thinking of getting a cane to go along with the boot—it would make me look pretty eccentric. Has there even been a rock star with a cane? That’s something someone should have done.
Or could you could speak French and get the babes.
A French guy with a cane is a pretty cool combination. Do people in the states think French is sexy and cool?
If you are in Hollywood or something.
Well, our drummer is French, so he might get all the babes then.
Where do you guys see yourself in the next five years with the way the music industry is going?
It’s hard to know, but I feel like we are in a really good position because we are not releasing our new album on a label. We kept ownership of our record and just hired a publicity team to market it—we’re now looking for a distribution deal. It’s sort of like having a record deal but without having to give half the money to a record label. We’ll see if this is like a brilliant stroke of genius or the worst decision we ever made. The record industry is definitely changing; it’s on the verge of collapsing, which is strong way to view it. The music industry on the other hand is not going to be recognizable like it used to be, but it is going to survive. Music will always have value and people are going to want to buy it. So as long as people want to pay for it, I think we will be ok. People will also want to always see live shows, which is an experience that cannot be duplicated, as where the circulation of your recordings is something that you may not be able to control. Record labels are definitely facing hard times, as where bands are not. Maybe we will have to be more creative and start to sell stuff other than CDs and t-shirts, like coasters or men’s underwear. It really is a punk rock world now—like in the old days when they did everything themselves. I just have this blind faith that things will work out and we’ll make ends meet and keep touring.
Lastly, do you drink?
I enjoy it quite a bit.
I’ll buy you drink when you guys play L.A.
Make sure to mention that in the article.