Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Interview with Tyrus Thompson from Stop Drop

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. For anyone new to Stop Drop, can you give us a little history on the band and how you guys got together?

Tyrus Thompson: Stop Drop started playing together about a year ago. It was formed by myself and Connor who were already playing together in the ska band 2 Tone Runts. I was looking for an outlet for songs that didn't fit the 2TR style and we both wanted to tour more. Brody was a co-worker of mine and I brought him in after jamming a few times. Brooklynn knew Connor because they were both local trombone players and she was looking for more gigs. We are currently working in a new trombone player, Tony Beaderstadt, into the mix. He played with us in 2 Tone Runts. We recorded our first EP, Stop Drop Is Distracted, together last spring and summer in our rehearsal space and released it for free download in August.

CM:  I recently reviewed the bands album "Is Distracted" and enjoy your mix of acoustic pop with a reggae feel. Who are some of the bands musical influences?

TT: Jamaican rhythms have always been a major influence from Toots and the Maytals to The Skatalites. I would also say modern bands like Against Me! and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists as well as legends like The Replacements and The Clash. When I'm listening to records at home I jump all over the place spanning multiple genres like folk to pop to ska to punk to RnB. The daily struggles of the working class and the fight for equality and justice to just growing up and trying to make my voice heard as well as all the teachers who ignored me or said I couldn't make it have all pushed me to keep going and spreading music.

CM: Now, the band is currently unsigned right? Has any labels, indie or otherwise, contacted you about possibly releasing some material in the future? Or will you continue to release your own material?

TT: We wanted to release something for free which is why we went the D.I.Y. route with "Is Distracted." We feel like in this modern age of home studios and accessible online distribution that band don't need labels. Labels need bands. That being said, if the right offer were to come around we may consider it but it's not a priority to us.

CM:  As far as songwriting goes, is it a group effort or is there a primary songwriter in the group?

TT: I'll come to practice with an outline for a song and the rest of the band will help polish it up. We might jam on it a couple times to find which ever arrangement comes naturally. When I write, it's generally when I'm home alone on my guitar or organ. I try to start with a chorus. Usually with a melody and lyrics that may have been in my head all day. The hook can be the hardest part. From there I'll find a chord structure for the verse. I try not to force the first verse and chorus. If I get stuck, I move on to the next song. Once I have a chorus and first verse, I might move on and write the rest of the lyrics and the bridge later. Other times I might just vomit up a whole song at once like with the Tour Song, which I think I wrote in less than 20 minutes.

CM: You have a great song on "Is Distracted" called Tour Song which I love! And the band hails from Minneapolis, MN. Now is Tour Song autobiographical? Has the band been out on tour in the past?

TT: I've been touring with bands for a while now. Stop Drop started touring the Midwest last spring and we did two weeks on the East Coast with Detroit based band Matt Wixson's Flying Circus in August. Touring is probably one of my favorite things to do. It's when I'm the most happy. I don't like being a tourist though. Traveling for me is much more enjoyable when there are people waiting to see you at every city. I like staying with strangers and meeting new friends and other bands. I like the long hours on the road and waking up somewhere else.

CM: Are there any plans to take the show on the road in 2012?

TT: You will start seeing us traveling around the Midwest again this spring. We have a bunch of shows in the works. We plan on doing even more touring this year to different places then we have been. We'll play everything from concert venues to coffee shops to basements. Hit us up if and we'll do our best to make it out to where ever you may be.

CM: Will we be seeing any new releases, full lengths, singles, 7"s or splits in the near future?

TT: We've got a lot of new songs in the works and will start demoing them this summer. No current plans for when or how they will be released. I would love to get something out on vinyl.

CM: Is there a website where fans get up to date news on upcoming releases, gigs and merch?

TT: Our website is www.stopdropmusic.com On there you can download our EP for free, check out our StopDropTV youtube videos as well as purchase our t-shirts and other merch. You can also follow stopdropmusic on Twitter. And starting Monday, 1-23-12 we will be doing a weekly live stream on our "ChatWithTheBand" tab on our Facebook every Monday night at 7pm Central.

CM: The new album is really kick ass, and I'm stoked to hear more from Stop Drop in the future. Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass. All the best to you guys in 2012!

Thanks for taking the time to check out our EP and we're stoked to make more music. Peace.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Music Reviews: P.T.'s Revenge - "Never Let Her Go"

After a decade of being off the scene and doing other projects Detroit's P.T.'s Revenge are back with "Never Let Her Go" (Whoa! Records). Even though last year saw the release of "Save The Drama" this is actually the first release of ALL NEW material by this amazing band. This 4 song EP is a sure fire sign of things to come.

The album kicks off with "Rockstar" a song about having to go out on the road and leaving behind your day to day life, friends and loved ones. Anyone who's been fortunate enough to get out there and tour will be able to identify with this song and it's honest lyrics. It's a strong song and a great way to kick off what's soon to be a classic record.

"JNJ" is an ode to a friend who's got talent and drive who "deserves everything that he gets when he dreams" even if his confidence isn't necessarily all there. I don't know who this person in question is, and the band won't come right out and give a name, but let's just say this person must be one hell of a guy to have such a great song dedicated to him and his fight to be the best he can be. A real barn burner, folks!

The band is still pretty much in tact after years away. Singer Kevin Sierzega is hitting each note perfectly and is truly a force to be reckoned with. He's a great singer with a passion for his craft. Mathew Edwards and Chris Doerr have a twin guitar sound that brings so much to the table without trying to outdo each other. And the rhythm section of bassist Jeff Sierzega and drummer John Kay are so tight and precise and hold the music together with professionalism and accuracy.

The album closes with a great song called "Coo Later Bye". This is a song about what the bands lived through the first time around, the break up, the reforming and the good times that still lay ahead! This is definitely the "heart on sleeve" track of the year. It's a tribute to the common bond these guys have and they're mutual love of the music they play and the fans they play for. When Kevin sings "We'll say goodbye, but not tonight!" all I can think of is how great it is to have them back. And I HOPE they don't say goodbye anytime soon. I'm sure I speak for all the fans when I say "welcome back gentlemen!"

4 ½ / 5 stars

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Music News: Sundails Hold Fundraiser for Planned Parenthood

Richmond, Virginia's own Sundials are having a fundraisers to promote the Richmond, VA. Reproductive Freedom Project/Planned Parenthood by offering copies of their CD "Never Settle" or a copy of their "First 3 Songs" 7" for anyone who's willing to donate $10 or more. We here at Critical Mass think it's a great cause and support this project 100%. You can find out more by reading the official announcement by the Sundials themselves below.

Hey everybody,
So, reproductive rights are a big deal to us. So should they be to you! We’re doing a fundraiser for the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project/Planned Parenthood, who are both currently having fundraisers. We’re giving away some stuff in return for your support! Here’s how it works.
If you donate $10 to Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, you get your choice of either the Never Settle CD or the First Three Songs 7”.
If you donate $15 to Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, you get both of ‘em.
If you donate $30 to Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project or more, you get both the CD and 7” and any other record you want.
Everyone who donates will be entered into a raffle at the end of the fundraiser. The winner gets a limited test press of Never Settle.
Donate here:
Donate here:
Once you’ve donated, send us your Transaction ID and we’ll send you a copy of First 3 Songs 7”!
Make sure to also post your Transaction ID to the Facebook page for 500 Richmond Residents for Reproductive Rights so we can reach the target goal!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Music News: Iggy Pop News!

The world has just become a cooler place! The Godfather of punk, the one and only Iggy Pop, has officially become Record Store Day Ambassador for 2012 according to the RSD website. In a prepared statement, "The Worlds Forgotten Boy" said...

"A person should have a personality. You won't get one dicking around on a computer.  It helps to go somewhere where there are other persons.  Persons who are interested in something you are. That's how a record store or any shop that's got some life to it should work.  It's not about selling shit. I got my name, my musical education and my personality all from working at a record store during my tender years. Small indie shops have always been a mix of theater and laboratory. In the 50's and 60's the teen kids used to gather after school at these places to listen free to the latest singles and see if they liked the beat. You could buy the disc you liked for 79 cents and if you were lucky meet a chick. Clerks in these places became managers, (like Brian Epstein), label heads, (Jack Holzman) and Faces on album covers (like me). Personally I feel best in a store that, while staying small and socially relaxed, still keeps a complete variety of music types and non musical recordings on offer. I'm aware though that a lot of great places are genre-specific, like dance hall shops in Jamaica or Compas here in Little Haiti. In Europe and on the West coast the same goes on for Punk and Goth. All of this is cool and has a much bigger future than most people realize today. When the record and record store businesses began to die at the turn of the new century, they deserved it because they got too big too boring and too plastic.
As Record Store Day Ambassador for 2012 I feel like a representative from some exotic jungle full of life and death and sex and anger, called upon to wear a leopard skin and translate joy to the world of the dead. --IGGY POP

Thanks God for Iggy Pop!

Music News: Hopewrecker Seek Label To Release Debut 7"

Recently I was contacted by Jeff Hancock from the band Hopewrecker asking if I would be interested in reviewing his bands, as of yet unreleased, 3 song EP. And I gladly agreed. Upon hearing the 3 songs, I couldn't help but be blown away by how great the band were and how well crafted and executed the songs are. I remember thinking to myself "Wow, these guys are really good! I can't wait to get my hands on this EP." That's when I realized that would be impossible...for NOW at least! You see, the band is currently unsigned and don't have a label to release this monster 7" of great punk rock! And that's why we need YOUR help!

The band started out in 2011 after Jeff, who also hosts his own punk rock pod cast called Needle Drop Radio, wrote some amazingly clever punk rock songs and needed an equally amazing band to help see his vision turned into a reality. So he recruited Wal Rashidi, Guy Julian and Jon Kurtz and Hopewrecker was born.

Hopewrecker have had their songs released on
two charity compilations alongside bands like Civil War Rust, Why I Hate, Lipstick Homicide, MxPx, The Haddonfields, Jetty Boys. And the band currently has about an albums worth of material already recorded. The 3 songs I heard are super catchy and musically fantastic. I'm shocked that these guys haven't been picked up yet. "Nightcrawler", "Farm Invasion" and "Planet Of The Year" stand toe to toe with anything coming out of the punk scene in the last 10 years. It's TRULY that good!

"Nightcrawler" starts out with a galloping bass and drum beat then kick in with Jeff's vocals over a killer guitar riff and it takes flight with smart lyrics and a harmonizing chorus that's just top notch punk rock! And if after listening to "Planet Of The Year" you don't think it's a monster hit waiting to happen, I'll pack up the plantation and close Critical Mass down. I believe in it THAT much! This is, as of right now, the top pick for EP of the year at Critical Mass.

You can hear these tunes (and download them for FREE) on the groups Bandcamp page. So now it's YOUR turn. If you know anyone who runs or works for an indie label, please pass on this bands music. This kind of music should not be ignored. We need to keep our scene alive with word of mouth and free press. Together we can all make a difference.

4 ½ / 5 stars

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Music Reviews: The Creeping Ivies - "Rock N Roll Party EP"

For any fans of Little Steven's Underground Garage or Howie Pyro's Intoxica Radio, which both feature amazing garage rock from the 50's up to the current day, will sure dig this new garage band from Scotland called The Creeping Ivies. The bands new "Rock N Roll Party EP" is 3 short burst of garage greatness made for people who find beauty in the simplicity of rock n roll.

The band, Becca Bomb (vocals/guitar) and Duncan Destruction (drums), mix sonic rock n roll,ala The Stooges, and mix in surf guitar riffs to make one hell of ruckus on the opening track "Buggin' Around" and the fun never slows down. Becca has a seasoned vocal styling that's part Patti Smith anger, part Big Mama Thorton attitude. Duncan finds the simple rhythm that fits the songs and just keeps that formula for these 3 tracks. Hey, why fix it if it's not broken, right?

"Head To Tail" is my favorite track on the album, and the longest track at 3:16. It's got a great beat and infectious guitar lines in the vein of Link Wray. But it's truly Becca's amazingly strong vocals that really carry these songs. She's got the passion and the fire in her delivery that will make you swoon and cower all at the same time. She's a feisty one, that's for sure.

With so many bands making clean, overly produced albums, it's nice to see that the simple joys of plugging in and letting go are still enjoyable for some bands. My advice, get back INTO the garage and rediscover how great dirty, blues and surf infected rock n roll can be.

4 / 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Music Reviews: Brendan Kelly And The Wandering Birds - "A Man With The Passion Of Tennessee Williams"

Brendan Kelly has been a rather busy guy as of late. He co-hosts a Chicago based TV show called JBTV with Red Scare founder Toby Jeg, has played some shows with his band The Lawrence Arms, reformed for a one off gig with his old band Slapstick for Asian Man Records 10th anniversary, opened up for Naked Raygun during Thanksgiving week with his side project The Falcon and has just released a new 3 song EP called "A Man With The Passion Of Tennessee Williams" (Red Scare) backed by a band he calls The Wandering Birds.

This new single may have some old Arms and Falcon fans crying foul, because this isn't what you would expect from the man who gave us "Porno And Snuff Films" and "La-Z-Boy 500". But I welcome change, and I'll tell you why. The new single is a departure from what BK normally does. Sure it's punk rock, but with a twist. The title track kicks off with what sounds like a drum machine before Brendan's signature gravely vocals come in sounding somewhat tired. But the song picks up with catchy guitar riffs, his signature style of lyrical babbling with lyrics like "I'm hot for teacher and the rhetoric. I'm hot for the well spoken mechanic. I'm hot like the gritty desert sand, man. I'm hot like Hawaiian Tropic tan's, man" and a crazy vocal effect chorus where Brendan sings "I ain't leaving till I get my fill". It's different, but I dig it!

Up next is the more upbeat and familiar BK we all know and love with "I'd Rather Die Than Live Forever". It's down and dirty production wise. But fast and lean at the same time. A real classic for modern times. Again, it's got the killer guitar riffs and a great backbeat that'll make you wanna fuckin just tear shit up!

Now it gets a little tricky. The last song isn't really a departure musically, as much as it is lyrically. "Suffer The Children, Come Unto Me" is a musically gorgeous acoustic track with Brendan completely solo with just his guitar in hand. But when you listen to the lyrics, you'll find it's a one sided song about killing children from a killers eyes. This will surely piss some people off. But if you really take it for what it is, it's a story being told by a story teller. Kinda like Stephen King with a guitar. I see that Brendan isn't condoning this type of behavior. He's just singing a song about how fucked up some people in this world are. But, to be honest, I think it's the best track on the album. Brendan sings and plays wonderfully. Sure it's sick and twisted...but not all stories have a happy ending...and that's what a storyteller does, tells you a story. Where YOU take that story is solely up to you.

All in all I am pleasantly surprised and happy with how this solo offering came out. Tip of the old hat to Brendan with hopes that this won't be the only new material he get from this talented singer/songwriter this year.

4 ½ / 5 stars

Monday, January 23, 2012

Interview with CHaMOMILE

Critical Mass:  Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. For those who may be new to CHaMOMILE can you give us a little history on the band and how you guys got together?

 BOTH: We Started in 2009 to play a show with some friends, it wasn't really serious.  We just wanted to play a show with them. We had two days to put a set list together and pull it off.  It was what it was.  CHaMOMILE wans't really serious, it was just a chance to play that show.  We just kind of kept going and kept getting offered shows.  We never tried to be popular, it just kind of happened. 

JON:  I've been in and out of bands for a long time...

CHRIS:  I was in a band called the HOMERS during high school.  I just decided to buy a kit to put in my basement after college. 

JON:  Being brothers we have played music on and off again together, since...4th grade or something.  We both have the same drive, interest, styles etc...  It just made sense to play in a band together.

CM: Your newest release is called "5 Year Nightmare" which refers to your drummers battle with cancer. First off, how is he doing?


CHRIS:  I recently just passed five years remission, and i feel better than ever.  It's just the bills that kill, playing music is a good way to forget about that whole mess.

CM: Do any of the songs on the album reflect Chris' battle and his strength to get better?

JON: No, not really.  Five year Nightmare was a band name we were throwing around before CHaMOMILE.
CM: Is the songwriting process a group effort or do each of you bring your own songs to the group?

JON: I write the songs, He writes the Drums.  I give most the ideas and sometimes I have the full song to bring and sometimes we just hash it out. 

CM: I love the bands sound and DIY ethic. Who influenced you guys as a musical unit?

BOTH:  Thanks, our biggest influence was probably Mid-West local punk bands.  Psycho Nubs, Dry Rot...Those guys have been and still are really fucking cool to us.

CHRIS: 80's punk rock, Screeching Weasel, Social Distortion.

JON: Definitely Bad Religion..Sonic Youth, Big Black.

CM: Will the band continue to release it's own material? Or are you guys gonna shop around for an indie label at some point?

CHRIS:  I don't know, is that how you get a label?  I thought they found you...

JON: I don't know how it works.

CHRIS:  We just play to have fun.  We had a four track and we could just do everything ourselves...

JON:  Until it caught on fire.

CM: Do you guys play out much? And are there any plans for a tour in the near future?

JON:  We did at first, but then it was getting to be a bit much.  We kind of went into the basement and I wouldn't say re-wrote everything..just kind of wood-shedded.  Came up with better songs.

CHRIS:  Right now we try to play once a month, but our vehicle situation is pretty fucked.

JON:  I think a tour could be expected and more shows...if things work out this year financially. 

CM: Will we be seeing any new material in 2012?

JON: Definitely.  As long as we have instruments and a place to play, we'll play. 

CHRIS:  We can write a song in less than an afternoon, we come up with new songs all the time. 

BOTH:  A new record is already in the works. 

CM: Is there a website you guys wanna plug where we can get up to date news on upcoming releases, gigs and merch?

BOTH: Facebook I guess.  One of us usually checks on it everyday.

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass. It's so great to see a young band out there doing it on their own and Kicking ass along the way. Keep at it guys, you're doing awesome! Thanks again.

BOTH:  Thank you.

Friday, January 20, 2012

"My Personal Top 10" - Marien Nicotine of The Windowsill

Today's featured artist is the lead singer and guitarist for one of the best new punk bands around, The Windowsill. He's also a former member of The Apers. Add to that, he's a HUGE Thin Lizzy fan. Here with HIS Personal Top 10 reasons why Thin Lizzy and the bands late lead singer/bassist Phil Lynott are one of the greatest bands ever is Mr. Marien Nicotine! Take us into the weekend, Marien!

"Ten reasons why Phil Lynott/Thin Lizzy is the man/the band, totally arbitrary."
By Marien Nicotine.

Chris asked me to do a top 10 on something I really liked. I decided to do it about Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy. I have been a huge fan of Thin Lizzy for years, and I’m advising everybody to study this band intensively and love them… No, not really… just do what you want to do (wink), but you may want to take it in account some day. 

Although The Windowsill doesn’t sound like Thin Lizzy at all, except for a twin solo here and there, I am influenced by this band a lot. Because of the sound, the great tell-tale lyrics, the hard songs and the ballads and for generally being the coolest ever. I will try and tell you why.
Some are musical, some are not but they deserve to be in here.
And remember this top10 is my just my personal opinion.

1 His hair
Phil has the best hair in a rock band ever (and mustache btw).
I asked Sander to play second guitar in The Windowsill because he can sing higher than me, play guitar at a good level, but also because his hair looks a little like Phil’s…You see?

… on top of that, Jerry’s hair looks like Scott Gorham’s…

… and unfortunately I guess I’ll probably look like Eric Bell (Founding member) in a couple of years…
  2 The cover for the album Fighting

It’s like any other punkrock cover, I mean: jeans, leather jackets, 4 guys standing almost in front of a brick wall, trying to look cool. Only there is one essential difference with your ordinary punkrock cover; where the Ramones only sang about baseball bats, Phil actually brought one, and is ready to fuck shit up. And if Phil isn’t the one fucking shit up it could easily be Brian Downey with the iron bar, or Brian Robertson with the knife… So watch out!

Scott Gorham just brought himself by the way, I guess he doesn’t need a weapon…

3 The absurd amount of internal rhyme, end rhyme in a lot of songs 

Listen to the first couple of minutes of ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’… it’s amazing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAuQw6enqAQ
Phil Lynott got some criticism for the never ending rhyming-galore, and for always going for the easy rhymes. I don’t agree at all….

4 Random Phil Lynott story

Once I toured the UK with The Apers when some guy told me a story about how he hated Thin Lizzy, but loved the fact that Phil, being a heroin addict, was married to the daughter of England’s most famous tv personalities Leslie Crowther, who hated the fact that his daughter was married to Phil because he was a junkie and black. At least, that is what this random guy in England told me…
(Later, Phil and the daughter got separated, and Leslie turned out to be a crazy alcoholic, so there was a little bit of ‘pot calling the kettle black’ stuff going on there, but who cares.)

5 Guitar harmonies

I don’t want to claim Thin Lizzy invented that harmonious solo guitar stuff, because I can’t have a lot of Iron Maiden fans hunting me down and doing all kinds of crazy metal stuff to me, but…Thin Lizzy was doing this very early.
Here, listen to this:
And check out the video too, who inspired Michael Jackson to wear that red jacket in ‘Thriller’, huh?

6 Shuffle

Ivo made me put this in the list…
Brian Downey (founding member, never left) uses ‘the shuffle’ (which is a way to drum a beat) a lot, which makes almost every song danceable to the max
Just listen to their biggest US hit ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’
7. The beat of this song

This is just too cool. If you can write a song to such a hard beat, you must be a genius. Bear with me here, I am a very limited musician and I usually think everything is hard when it comes to playing the drums or the guitar. I can imagine Pink Floyd experimenting with such a beat, but Thin Lizzy does it too, without making it seem hard.
(btw the first one to react on this top-10 and can tell me what kind of beat this is, will get a Windowsill record for free, I’ll send it to you.)

8. Johnny Thunders

Johnny Thunders recorded his first solo album ‘So Alone’ with Phil on bass in England. 
Phil really was a big fan of the whole punk rock movement, you can read that anywhere on the net. He gave away songs to punk bands and wore Swastika’s to parties. Played pinball with Lemmy and hung out and drank a beer. Sounds exactly like me when I was young, except for the swastika part.

9. Black

Did I mention Phil was black? In a world of hard rock dominated by white guys he was something different. So I was thinking, there should be a comic book series about him, together with Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and Lenny Kravitz called the BL-AXE-men, (get it?, they are black and play guitar and it’s a play on X-men…)
They would fight horrible evil white musicians like Nickelback and Creed… And they would pick on Lenny all the time, as a comic relief for the series…
Man, if Stan Lee doesn’t pick up this idea after reading this, I don’t know who will…
I mean, look at these covers… They’ve drawn him before… Right…?

10. 700 New old songs

And last but not least, this was in the news the other week
I mean come on, 700 songs! That’s insane… I’m looking forward to this one…
I can’t imagine it being true though…700!

Interview with Dan Vapid And Mike Byrne of Dan Vapid & The Cheats

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. I really appreciate it.

Dan Vapid: You're welcome!

CM: So the album is officially recorded and you guys are in the mixing stages now. When can we expect a release date?

DV: I don't know yet. We are talking with some labels right now, so whoever gives the best offer will be the one who puts out the record. So, right now what I really wanna do is finish up everything. It's 16 songs and we may use all 16 songs. We may not. But we'll definitely use 14. But when it's all mastered we'll figure out what label will release it. And I'm thinking we'll have the record out by early next year. probably January or February.

Mike Byrne: In the past our records were done slowly. But with this one, we went in and it was finished.

DV: Yeah, and we've already started the cover so, I think once we figure out who's gonna release it it should be a pretty quick process.

CM: Mike, you were telling me that this is some of the best material Dan's ever written. How do you feel this album compares, musically, to what you did in The Methadones?

MB: Well this record has such a wide variety of songs. I mean Dan pretty much had all these songs written before we even started this band. And the band would pretty much set the tone for what the album would sound like. So, like with The Methadones, the songs he would write would sound like The Methadones. And Sludgeworth songs would sound like Sludgeworth. So with this time he wrote some cool punk songs, some power pop songs, some new wave style songs and some Ramones style songs. And it's just a really cool record.

DV: Yeah with The Methadones we tried to make a conscience effort to not sound like the bands we were in before The Methadones. This time I'm doing Dan Vapid & The Cheats and it was like let's just write a record and see what happens. With The Methadones it was a case of "okay, we don't wanna sound like these other bands." And by doing that I kinda missed this whole idea of writing what came naturally. Not that those songs didn't come naturally. It did. But you would just kinda suppress that side. And now I'm just kinda over that whole thing. If it sounds like a Screeching Weasel song, that's fine. If it sounds like a Riverdales song, that's fine. And if it sounds like a Methadones song, that's fine. I'm just gonna roll with it and realize that the goal is to have as much fun as I can making the best music I can.

CM: When the album comes out, will it be released on vinyl?

DV: Yeah, I'll make sure of that.

CM: Colored vinyl?

DV: Colored vinyl, just for you!

CM: SWEET! What can we expect from Dan Vapid & The Cheats in 2012?

DV: Well, in 2012 we got offers to go to Spain. We got offers to go to Italy. We got offers to go to Canada. So we just have to figure out what we CAN do and see if it happens.

MB: We definitely have plans to tour.

DV: We have some plans to maybe go to the east coast. I'm a stay at home dad. I just had a baby so my time is a lot more limited. So I'm hoping to just try and do this while I can do it. Obviously things have changed from the way they used to be from like...

CM: Piling in a van and here we go?

DV: Yeah. We're a little bit older now you know.

MB: If we get to play Detroit or in Indiana we'll go. But I'm also limited in my time too with my job. Dan's the same. But with The Methadones we would do a pretty big tour. And it was good for us. But now we can't go out for weeks at a time and tour.

DV: It's like what can you
do at this point in life. You know I'm not 24 anymore and we can't tour on end. So now we gotta see what works for us where we're at in life. And I think we're doing that really well. And I think it's gonna be a lot more fun now because when we do what we do, it's fun. If it's fun and we're having fun, we'll do it. But we can still be an active band and I can still be a dad and I can still balance it out.

MB: We realized when Dan started this band it was gonna be called Dan Vapid so we knew it was gonna be a fun show. We kinda wanted to try and musically remind people of the old band. But we also wanna try and do something new and fun. It doesn't have to sound like anything we already did.
And if the stuffs fun we'll just do it. In the past it was almost like a job where we're like okay let's go punch the clock and do the show. It's no fun feeling like that.

DV: For me, based on what happened is that I got frustrated a lot because I wanted to take us to the next level but it just wasn't in the cards for us for whatever reason. So it kinda ruined the moment for me because it was like "It SHOULD be like this. We SHOULD be doing a lot better." Y'know this time around we know what should be done and to just accept the situation. And really just enjoy the band and try and make the best music we can and just have some fun. So what happened with The Methadones was we kept trying to go to the next level and trying to push that square peg into the circle and it just didn't work. But now the goal is no matter what we do is to just be a band and enjoy it.

MB: Back then, in Europe, we would play these great tours shows and then we would come home and we were just burnt out. We were all burnt out at different times. When I was burnt out from touring those guys were good. And then Dan was burnt out when we were coming back into it. So it was hard to tour as much as we would have liked. And it was just that way for the last 3 or 4 years. And that's just where we were at. We just kinda got as far as we could get. So in the end there was no one saying "Oh lets stick it out." We all just kind of agreed to it (The Methadones disbanding).

DV: I think it just ran it's course.

MB: When the whole Weasel thing fell apart the owner from Cobra Lounge sent me a text asking me if I thought Dan would be interested in doing a show that weekend that would have been Weasel Fest. And I told Dan "Hey, I'll play guitar for you and you can keep all the money." I have a job and Dan was out of work at the time so I'm sure he would have done the same thing for me. But he had to think about it for a few weeks.

DV: Yeah, I really didn't wanna do it at first. Actually I didn't wanna do anything at all. I mean, everybody knows what happened with Screeching Weasel and what a catastrophe that was. And when I got home I was thinking well, The Methadones didn't happen, and this didn't happen....maybe it's time to just stop. And then I said hey, wait a minute, I really don't wanna stop. I just realized, hey, lets try and forget about trying to take this thing to another level. Trying to make this thing happen. If it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. It's really that simple. Lets just go out there and try and enjoy the moment like we used to. Now I feel like this band symbolizes a new beginning, a new way and a different attitude.

MB: I'll tell you, that very first rehearsal with this band was the most fun I have ever had playing ever! We played Methadones songs, Mopes songs...it was just a lot of fun. And Dan was playing with Simon (Lamb, The Cheats bassist) before. And Simon and I were playing in the Cliff Johnson band. So for years Simon and I would talk about getting a band going too. So when Dan and Simon and Mike asked me to play it was just a fun idea.

DV: And I didn't wanna do a whole Methadones thing either. But when Mike called me and said that he was willing to play guitar it just seemed right. I mean he knows all the songs already anyway. So I just called Simon and see if he was interested and stuff like that. And then it came down to drummers. And we got Mike (Soucy). And at first it was like why is this like The Methadones with another bass player? And it's really not that band!

CM: When I interviewed Naked Raygun not too long ago, Pete (Mittler) had nothing but great things to say about you guy's He's really happy.

DV: I think he was thought at first "oh, well it had to be me". But he knows that it really wasn't that way at all.

MB: As far as Simon went, I mean Dan was playing with him, and I was already playing with him in the Cliff Johnson band. So it wasn't anything against Pete. And we're still good friends.

DV: Yeah, I mean it just kinda happened that way. It wasn't a planned thing.

MB: Plus we really love playing with Soucy. So it's great having him around.

DV: And he's local, which was cool because I wanted a band that was local. Because there was a point where it hit me that it would be a lot of hassle and a lot of money on gas to get to and from practice for each of us. So it just worked out that way. So we're really happy and excited about how things worked out.

CM: Awesome! Well, I wanna thank you guys again for talking with Critical Mass. It's been a blast and I'm stoked to hear the new album when it comes out. Thanks again guys.

DV: Thank you.

MB: Not a problem. Thanks Chris.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Music Reviews: Stop Drop - "Is Distracted"

I'm pretty open when it comes to different styles of music. Always have been. But there ARE certain styles that are either a hit or a miss with me. Reggae is definitely one of them. Sometimes it just feels forced and not really from the heart. Sometimes it's got a groove and feel you just know the artist wrote and played from the soul. I get that feeling from Stop Drop who's version of pop mixed with splashes of reggae.

The bands latest release is called "Is Distracted". And the band actually IS distracted by the different styles they mix into their music. In one corner you have the Elvis Costello "Watching The Detectives" fusion on songs like "Say Hello" and "Caffeine Culture" with it's funky organ and chugging guitars. I can tell they believe in what they play. And they want YOU to believe in their sound too. And, as odd as it may be at times...I DO believe in them.

They band, Tyrus A. (acoustic guitar/vocals), Brooke Nelson (bass), Connor Brummond (organ/trombone/vocals) and Brody Andersen (drums/guitar), who hail from Minneapolis, MN not only play reggae fusion. They also mastered the art of the sunny pop song on stand out track "Tour Song". It'll throw you for a curve, that's for sure. But it's such a great song that, honestly, I wanna hear more of on the next record.

You can download "Is Distracted" for free on the bands Facebook page. So why not give it a try and see if you can channel your inner Rastafarian. Like I said before, reggae is usually a hit or miss with me. But I like this band and this album. I'm excited to see what the future holds for Stop Drop.

4 / 5 stars

Music Reviews: Brandon Harrod - "Wide Open Sun"

Remember when Iggy Pop went from "the worlds forgotten boy" and hooked up with Ziggy Stardust to record pop and funk songs on albums like The Idiot and Lust For Life? Remember how weird you thought it was that the godfather of punk was going in such a drastic different musical direction? But it WORKED! The same can be said of Brandon Harrod.

Harrod, who's the drummer for garage rock punks The Larroquettes, channels his inner Gordon Gano on his new solo album "Wide Open Sun" with it's acoustic singer/songwriter on acid tinged tunes. It's such a departure from his day job as the hard hitting drummer in a fuzzed out garage band. So when you hear songs like "Like My Dad Always Says" and "She Has Her Doubts" you can hear the punk rocker, with the speed and fierce playing. But you also hear a guy who can sing and write some really catchy and great songs at the same time.

When I first heard this album I was taken aback by it's vibe and sound. But the more you listen to it, you hear the beauty in the playing. On "Fire In My Belly" you can hear his angst and desperation to be accepted when he sings "I would rather give a shit than not be shit. But this fire in my belly still burns bright". I think we've all been there. Brandon Harrod sings songs for the everyday man. Insecure, trying to find out who we are, the fight to make a better life...these are songs we can all identify with. And that's what makes "Wide Open Sun" such an amazing record.

Harrod plays all the instruments on this album which is pretty awesome in itself. Then you throw in the fact that this guy's got more talent than most bands who get played on Top 40 radio have in their entire bodies. This guy's a force to be reckoned with. If you're a fan on bands like Violent Femmes, Brandon Harrod's solo work will fit perfectly beside "New Times". Just saying.

4 ½ / 5 stars

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Interview with Gerald Rienton of Dana DeStefano & Dollparts

Here at Critical Mass we're always trying to find new and exciting bands making great music and helping them out by giving them some free press. And we've been lucky enough to hear so many awesome bands and give them a shout out! Another up and coming band from the suburbs of Chicago is Dana DeStefano & Dollparts. I recently had the chance to talk with bassist Gerald Rienton about the band. Here's what Gerald had to say.

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. For those new to Dana DeStefano & Dollparts, can you give us some history and how you got together?

Gerald Rienton: Me and Dana have always played music together, but she went to California to record a 3 song demo with Jimmy Messer last year that is up on our Facebook page. She recorded for about two weeks and everything started from there. When she got back from LA, we looked for members right away. Luke Ostojic was our very first guitarist and he helped us out a lot. He helped us with writing Spiders and Trouble Sleeping. Luke got busy with Fizzy Pops so we had to look for a new guitarist. He told us he was just going to help us out until we found a new guitarist from the start. We asked Brian Janecek, our lead guitarist now, to fill in for a show with The Blue Waves and he’s been with the band also ever since. Dana met Patrick, who plays keyboard, while she was teaching vocals at a music summer camp. We went through numerous drummers before we met Sean Sigurdsson. He’s been with us since August.

CM: I have had the chance to hear the bands demo, and was impressed by the sound and the bands true passion for music. Who are some of your personal musical influences?

GR: Exploding Hearts, The Beach Boys, Hole, The Muffs, and other pop/indie bands. We all listen to different genres so it’s kinda cool when we write a new song. Everyone have something different to contribute to writing the songs.

CM: When it comes to songwriting, is it a group effort? Or is there one or two specific songwriters in the band?

GR: Dana writes most of the songs with me. She likes the bass lines I write. We write songs that fit in with the demo all together as a band. 

CM: Is there any plans to record either a full length or en EP this year?

GR: Hopefully! As of now though, we are just busy with booking shows and playing at different venues. We're trying to build a fan base.

CM: If/when new material is planned on coming out, will you be releasing it on your own? Or will you shop it around to some local indie labels?

GR: We want to have a label help us out with releasing new material but as of now we have cool spray painted demos that we are selling for pretty cheap, with a free button!

CM: Has the band played out much since forming?

GR: Yes! We love The House CafĂ©, that’s like our second home. Dekalb is so cool; everybody’s so chill and relaxed. Jolly Baba owns the venue, and he’s probably one of the coolest dudes I have ever met. We've played at Game Pazzo in Downers Grove, and at Cairo Bar a few weeks ago and it was awesome. We've also played a few house shows here and there. We had a fun one at Sean's house on New Years Eve!

CM: Any plans on taking the show on the road for a tour of the Midwest in the near future?

GR: Hopefully we will over the summer! You can keep updated on the Facebook page.

CM: Is there a website you wanna plug where we can get up to date news on upcoming releases, gigs and merch?

Our website and Facebook. We post everything on our Facebook page! 

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass guys. I'm looking forward to hearing more from the band and seeing you live as well. Thanks again.

GR: Thank you! I hope to see you soon at one of our shows!