I first encountered Naked Giants two years ago. The raucous Seattle trio came through my hometown on a break from tour, and ended up opening a show at the local watering hole. I showed up at the request of a mutual friend and — let me tell you — I was absolutely stuck on Grant Mullen’s energy as he slammed the pick into his guitar strings and whipped his head around. Gianni Aiello’s lanky figure towered over the crowd as he played bass and lifted his legs like he was marching. And Henry Lavallee’s drum playing was absolutely spot-on, a big grin on his face the whole time.
Recently, AdHoc gave Naked Giants a ring during a few days off from their tour supporting — and playing as the backing band for — Car Seat Headrest. We spoke about cheesy van jams and Vitamin RBY. Make sure to see them at Alphaville on May 10, and be sure to grab their latest, Sluff, over at New West Records.
Can you tell me a bit about your new album, SLUFF?
Grant Mullen: We took “Easy Eating” from [our EP] RIP. The rest of the songs were just collected when we started working with a label. We sent them all of our demos and stuff. We had an idea of what the track listing would be and then we just negotiated and compromised with them and found what we thought would be a good album.
Gianni Aiello: As far as context or meaning of the album, as Grant said, they are all just songs that we’ve been playing or writing over the last couple years. I feel like this album is kind of more just us learning how to put an album together more than anything else. It’s not like we were going in with any sort of mission; we were just kind of throwing the songs down because that’s what time required of us.
Grant: We wanted to make a pop album. That’s also part of it. We were like, let’s make this first one appeal to the masses as much as possible. So we were down with that and then we were able to just let it happen and take input from the label because we figured they knew what kind of songs would [work].
I’ve seen Baltimore natives Ed Schrader’s Music Beat many times over the years and have always been captivated by their unique brand of euphoric alt-rock. I remember when Ed would play a floor tom with a can light underneath, giving himself a creepy, ghostly look. Ed told AdHoc he “play[s] the drums the way Bowie plays the saxophone: it’s a hobby!”
Ed has since given up playing the floor tom, but Devlin Rice has been solidly plucking the bass the whole time. With their new album, Riddles, Devlin has started writing guitar parts, synth parts, and other arrangements. This is their most theatrical and well-conceived release to date. Yet, it still retains the same pureness and honesty of their earlier work. They’ve shown they are just as willing to experiment and play with their style as they are to crack jokes and have an amusing time. Between Ed’s “Frasier Pic O’ The Day” antics on Instagram, the “Cats on the Lake” shirts and totes, and the band’s passionate stage presence, it’s hard to get bored when you’re keeping tabs on this act.
AdHoc recently called Ed and Devlin for a serious conversation about celebrity look-a-likes, being knighted, and mixing meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Catch them at Baby’s All Right on Sunday, April 15, and pick up a copy of Riddles via Carpark Records.
AdHoc: So you’re currently on a national tour supporting the release of your newest album, Riddles. Where are you right now, and have you seen anything interesting on tour?
Devlin: We’re in LA right now. We saw Lake Tahoe—that was pretty cool.
Ed: We saw a person who we thought was the lead singer of Korn, but was only like 22 years old, so that wouldn’t make any sense.
Devlin: Um… Yeah, it definitely wasn’t that guy. It wasn’t Johnny Korndog.
Ed: Kornman! You heard it here first. They’re now called Kornman.
Taylor Mulitz, guitarist and vocalist of DC post-punk group Flasher, likes a challenge. Whether it’s building a darkroom in his parents’ basement or stretching his time between music, school, a day job, and freelance design, his hands are consistently full. AdHoc was lucky enough to catch a moment with the former Priests bassist to talk about this issue’s cover, an abstract piece that grew out of working on the art for an upcoming Flasher release. You can catch Flasher at AdHoc’s unofficial SxSW Showcase in Austin, Texas on March 14.
AdHoc: What got you into design?
Taylor Mulitz: It started out in high school. Mostly because I didn’t want to take a science class anymore, I did double AP Art. I was really into trying to figure out how to make band t-shirts, so I would watch a bunch of YouTube tutorials. I tried to make a really crappy darkroom in the bathroom in my basement, and I stained my parents’ floors. My dad got really upset. So I started designing to make my own t-shirts, and then I went to art school after I graduated high school.
Where did you go?
First I went to Parsons, in New York, and I did two years there. I ended up transferring to MICA, in Baltimore, because I was just too broke to live in New York City. I did a year there, and then I dropped out because I was too busy doing Priests stuff and was getting terrible grades and it became a waste of money and time. So I have three years of graphic design undergrad, but no degree to show for it.
Your style is very angular, reminiscent of tattoo flash, and there are also some TV static elements to your work. What inspires you?
I definitely like bold graphic design. A lot of heavy-handed typography is what I’m into. I definitely was into illustrating more flash kind of stuff, but I’ve leaned away from that in the past few years. A lot of what I’ve been working on recently is collage-based, a lot of halftones, that static kind of thing. The stuff I’ve been designing is being printed by silkscreen, so that kind of shapes the decisions I make. I’ve been looking at a lot of paintings recently and drawing inspiration from that. Right now, I’m into Paul Klee, David Hockney, Jacob Lawrence, Ellsworth Kelly, Stuart Davis, and Madelon Vriesendorp.
You were in Priests. You’re in Flasher. How do you juggle all that with your day job and your freelance design work?
Well, I’m no longer in Priests, so I’ve just been focusing on Flasher since August. It just became a thing where it was hard to do two full-time bands. Flasher has some music coming out soon. Getting ready to release anything new is always a lot, and I’ve been working on the art for that, too; I think I spent a month and a half on it. The AdHoc cover actually came from an illustrative experiment that I did that ended up not working for the release. I made a bunch of stuff that I was into [while trying to figure the art out], so it was cool to have the opportunity to use some of it.
San Francisco punks Spiritual Cramp are deeply connected to home. You can hear the influence of the original Bay Area punk sound within their songs, which are all honesty and no bullsit. They recently channeled their California roots and made a playlist for AdHoc. "The people in Spiritual Cramp listen to a ton of different music which comes through in many ways that go beyond our songs," the band told AdHoc. "Inspiration is a funny thing that appears in all kinds of shapes and forms not limited to sound. With that said, here is a playlist of songs from California artists who inspire us to keep creating."
Brendon Avalos, the bassist and vocalist of Brooklyn rock band B Boys, has given us a present with solo effort Gift Wrap. “Either Way,” the first single from his upcoming full-length, Losing Count, is a no wave gem. The percussion is gleaming, a shimmery metallic base for the blanket of synths and vocals he weaves overtop. He chants the chorus like it's a mantra, the repetition reflecting the song's inward-looking gaze: "Self-reflection, dissent is normal."
“The song is about trying to understand yourself better through meditation," Avalos told AdHoc via email. "I took some drugs that messed with my head, so I started meditation as more of a restorative thing, and then kept pursuing it because it really helped with some other anxiety-related problems I was experiencing. This song in particular is more of an ode to how meditation was really helping me through some stuff at the time.”
Losing Count comes out on March 2nd on Captured Tracks.
Philly natives (and Eagles fans) Dark Blue are gearing up for their next seven-inch release, out February 23rd on 12XU. The A-side, “Fight to Love," feels like a dark cloud after a drought, a much-needed cleansing. Over a steady beat and melodic fuzz, Singer and guitarist John Sharkey narrates a tricky love/hate relationship with a gentrifying Philadelphia. Toward the end, the underlying wash of guitars gives way to a beautiful acoustic rendition of the tune, picking back up and reiterating the song's central message: “You shouldn’t have come here.”
“Philadelphia is a great city but it’s being overrun by developers with tax abatements and snobs from the outer suburbs," Sharkey told AdHoc via email. "This song is a direct response to all the muppets who move from what might as well be Iowa and complain when we have a parade for the city’s most beloved sports team because their kids (I mean dogs) won’t be able to get to get to yoga. GO BIRDS!” This reflection on their hometown's current state is an apropos look at the way the things we love change as they grow and morph. Even as our homes begin to change and our old haunts disappear, we still have a love for where we came from.
Catch them on February 15th at Saint Vitus, opening for American Nightmare.
Big Bliss are speeding into 2018. Named “New York City’s Hardest Working Band of 2017” by Oh My Rockness, they played a whopping 150+ shows last year. On February 2, they're releasing a 7-inch double-single through Exit Stencil Recordings. Their newest music video, “Contact,” is a testament to their ability to plunge you into a dream world with their effects-laden post-punk.
"Contact" is a driving whirl of sound. The pinging guitars perfectly accentuate the shimmering cymbals. The gently insistent timbre of the vocals pulls at you and lulls you into a trance as Tim Race and Wallace May plead, "Give me every moment, give me all your time." The video is gorgeous in its own right. Haze and rich colors engulf the band as the camera cocks from one angle to the next. The band pushes themselves into panes of glass, contorting their lips and noses as if they're trapped. They rub their faces, then rub red and black paint onto the glass.
Over email, guitarist and vocalist Tim Race told AdHoc, “'Contact' is about attachment and anxiety of distance, and how it’s dealt with considering modern communication. In the video, we used a giant piece of plexiglass, paint, and a ton of smoke to gradually obscure the image in between us and the camera to illustrate the idea."
Big Bliss plays with Psychic Selves, You’re Jovian, and Birds at Alphaville on February 8th.
Casey Weissbuch is a busy guy. He’s drummed for Diarrhea Planet, Colleen Green, gobbinjr, Mitski, and a slew of other fantastic acts, and curated Infinity Cat’s famed Cassette Series.
Today, we're excited to debut a track from Casey's new solo project, Greatest Champion Alive, which crystallized during a trying time. The band’s bio reads that Casey “started Greatest Champion Alive while he was recovering from brain tumor surgery last year. The project moved around in different wobbly forms until it all made sense while he was touring in Japan, alone in a hotel room. He put the songs together, sent them to some of the best musicians he knew, and came out the other end ready to blast what he’d been working on." He has now decided to loop us in on the fun.
"Same Light," the first single from Greatest Champion Alive, is a funky pop odyssey that has the potential to become a total earworm, its punchy keys making way for Casey's gentle voice. The song also has strong basslines that keeps the song afloat on a pillow of cloudy grooves. "The more warped I could make the keyboard sound, the further behind the beat the hi-hats were, the better it felt when I’d listen back,” Casey told AdHoc over email. He also gave us some hints about the lyrics: “It’s just about the differences in people but ultimately what ties everyone together in the end. Crazy stuff ya know, lights and things, bing bang bosh.” This song’s warmth and fuzziness will encapsulate you—check it out below.
Greatest Champion Alive opens for Homeshake on 2/13 at Market Hotel.
When an artist remixes a track, it can come out of the process bearing little resemblance to its former self. This new Yoke Lore remix by Blondage, however, uplifts the original without throwing away its meat. Blondage replaces the song’s dark synths with a more percussive tempo, adding on punchy drums and synth choruses that amplify the track’s underlying melody. It feels like a new pair of shoes, primed for the dance floor.
“Sometimes I'm afraid to play someone else's game for fear of losing or coming up short,” Adrian Galvin of Yoke Lore told AdHoc. “All I can do is me, I feel as though sometimes I'm relegated to my own instincts. This remix takes ‘Goodpain’ to the opposite side of the ring for me. It goes against all my better judgment and I love it.”
Yoke Lore plays with Vita & The Woolf and Elijah at Park Church Co-op on February 2nd.