Friday, May 8, 2015

Built To Spill - Untethered Moon Review - Brett Netson : Interview - Scavenger Cult Review - Shaky Knees Is Here

Today is the first day of the amazing Shaky Knees Fest in Atlanta and I am stoked to be attending all 3 days (hope to see you there). I had the pleasure of speaking with Brett Netson of Built to Spill who will be performing at the fest and I decided to post up my review of Built To Spill's Untethered Moon album, Brett Netsons side project EP Scavenger Cult and the interview at one time. So enjoy and go to the fest if you can! If you do get to go you will be making memories that will last a life time!

ALBUM REVIEW- Built to Spill- Untethered Moon on Warner Bros Records

Built To Spill is a bonafide indie institution and Doug Martsch and the boys latest offering Untethered Moon (and their first album since 2009's There Is No Enemy) only further cements their place in rock history. It is a deceptively dense collection of songs with all the dynamism that we have come to expect from Built To Spill and while I have always felt / heard / appreciated the upfront guitar elegance that shares that kindred Dinosaur Jr spirit, on this album (in particular) I felt the presence or faint ghosts of other inspired artists as well. On the opening track All Our Songs with the rabid tom tom beat and charged up reflections it is divine Americana rock in that R.E.M sort of way. I love the breaks and that old school guitar vibrotone / tremolo sound that reminds me of an ancient Sears Silvertone spring reverb.

C.R.E.B with it's 60's beat sway feels a bit like Mark and the Mysterians blended with the Smithereens. Another Day is a heady swirl, noisey, wistful with grunge rock bones. The somber tone of Some Other Song is a slow headbanger. The lead sounds penetrate and sound so lush. It will induce smiles and dreams. When the guitar mirrors the lead vocal you feel at once inspired to sing along. The slow dance that is Horizon To Cliff is poppy with proggy genes.Some of the beautiful lead melodies felt a bit like Be Bop Deluxe (Bill Nelson).  When I'm Blind is a ridiculously fun, disjointed, crazy jam. When you think it won't go any further it does and does again. Of all the songs on the album it sounds the most spontaneous, the most live. It is a dark sweaty smokey rock club of a song. Living Zoo with it's sweeping arc of tones, textures is inviting and pure Built to Spill. It beckons you, pumps you up, makes you dance.

My favorite song on the album, So, is absolutely beautiful in it's dirty sustains. There is nothing like the biggest bad ass dirty sounding guitar playing stunningly beautiful melodies and that is what you have here. When the heaviness falls head first into Martsch's sweet vocal melodies it is so engaging and lovely. It is Black Sabbath meets the White Album. The song induces true goosebumps when the lead lines wrap around you and when it suddenly erupts into full out pandemonium it is a blissful thing.

Untethered Moon is an album that might just take you back in your head. The sounds are embedded with life experiences, gnarly bruises, ennui, hope and lots of love. The more you listen the more you will hear things that will touch you.

Robb Donker

EP- REVIEW- Brett Netson and Snakes: Scavenger Cult

Brett Netson of Built To Spill second incarnation "Brett Netson and Snakes" are up on Bandcamp with a short but terribly bad ass EP called Scavenger Cult that you should check out. Play On almost feels like Tom Petty, that is if Tom Petty played heavy roots rock. It is like 70's rock with 90's post rock with 60 psychedelia as well. The death march, plodding nature of All Creatures Kill while feeling bruised and battered also is hauntingly beautiful. As cinema it would be a cross between a spaghetti western and a Rob Zombie horror flick and amazingly in it's guitar sounds it also has that Dark Side of the Moon quality. While from a feeling standpoint, All Creatures Kill might be my favorite song, the third track Sharpening Knives may be the most thought provoking. It has an unrelenting movement like a car driving at full speed but when the lyrics creep into your head it feels like that car is heading straight for a cliff with the brake lines cut. It is a noisey heavy track that seems to be about the industrial war machine, conflict, the dehumanization of people, the moral decay of government and America as a world salvage operation (cleaning up the messes we made).

Robb Donker

INTERVIEW with BRETT NETSON of Built to Spill

AP: I want to thank you for the opportunity to chat with you a bit.

Brett: awww, sure yeah....

AP: The new album is just killer. There are a lot of Built to Spill fans that have been waiting over five years for it.

Brett: (laughing) Yeah...

AP: The album has such a rich sound. It is so well engineered. I know Doug Martsch and Sam Coomis produced it but who engineered it for you?

Brett: They're were various engineers. I wasn't there for all of it that you know. A friend of ours from New York who plays in the band "Warm Air" - Travis at Serious Business Studios in New York, he engineered a fair amount of it.

AP: Well all involved did an excellent job.

Brett: Yeah cool. We focused on getting good performances with good guitar tracks.

AP: And the drum sound is so excellent and that tremolo or vibrotone sound on the guitar on "All Songs". It sounds so old school like a spring reverb on a Sears Silvertone or something.

Brett: Yeah- well that's just Fender, old Fender Stuff.

AP: The album is so varied. You obviously hear the Dinosaur Jr influence which you guys have always had but I think my favorite song on the album is "So" - It is so heavy, yet beautiful. It's like Black Sabbath meets The White Album.

Brett: (Laughing)

AP: It's really crazy...

Brett: Well, for me personally, that's my favorite part of Built To Spill when it does that trick.

AP: What does it feel like to be the enviable position to be one of "those" bands. I mean, clearly if it wasn't for you guys bands Modest Mouse or Death Cab and bands like that wouldn't sound the same because of your influence. That must be a pretty cool place to be.

Brett: Uh, yeah I don't know.... it might make me feel more awkward than good actually.

AP: You guys have had an amazing ride.

Brett: Cool yeah. Well one thing is for sure, is that we are very lucky to have been geographically where we were in the early 90's (laughing). That's all there is to it. Any band who were in that area who were any good at all and kept their shit together are probably still playing today, ya know and have a wide audience, that's how that went. So Modest Mouse, they were pretty good. They worked hard and now they are what they are now. I haven't really followed in quite some time so I don't know what they are doing but you know, you see them everywhere.

AP: Do you think the fact that you guys started in the early 90's before file sharing and all that, do you think that was a better time.

Brett:   Uh....., that's a tricky question. My first response would be absolutely of course. There is such a thing as the diminishing returns of technology.

AP: That's right.

Brett:  (laughing).

AP: And it's harder and harder for musicians to make money.

Brett: Yeah and it's just easy, I mean, yeah... just because you can doesn't mean you should. Also you may be getting in now because who knows what's coming next. That's whats interesting thing to me. It's a weird thing, it has almost become a patronage at this point through corporate patronage. That's how Modest Mouse made a lot of their money, TV commercials AND I am not a big fan of that myself sooo.... I prefer a direct relationship with the audience, the people who buy your music. Even a label is fine, ya know, because they can be doing all the selling business for you which would be great. I am not a big fan of selling myself either. But when you have a patronage system and bands get money for corporations making television commercials that's problematic and unsettling. And all the old Jello Biafra's in the world that taught us how to be musicians. I still take that stuff to heart. I'm not totally psyched on the online thing.

AP: It's a double edged sword- on one hand people can rip your music off easily but at least you can self publish (for people who are starting out).

Brett: Well that's true but it's also bad because it is so saturated with everybody else who may just be a casual hobbyist.

AP: The bedroom recorders...

Brett: That's fine but like if people really want to work hard, tough it out and go on tour, those people should be noticed instead of people spending everyday on the internet. It would be cool if the physical reality of bands playing shows only came towards the internet instead of the other way around where if you spend more time on the internet you get more people to go to shows... whatever (laughing). But, uh these things like Bandcamp are actually fantastic.

AP: As a matter of fact I was checking out your new project Scavenger Cult on Bandcamp. The music is unreal. I'm really enjoying it.

Brett: Cool... Thanks.

AP: The first track, "Play On" has that real Americana rock thing going.  It's funny, I was almost getting a Tom Petty vibe IF Tom Petty did really heavy ass rock.

Brett: (laughing) sure. Cool, I thought it sounds like Christian Death or something to me but that's cool that people get different things out of it.

AP: For sure. Music is like a sonic Rorschach test that people put their own stuff on.

Brett: Yeah

AP: And the second track has got that bruised and battered plodding heavy sound. Sounds like you had the drum kit in the middle of a huge empty warehouse at the back end or something on "All Creatures Kill" - I always think of weird things when I listen to music and I thought of a Spaghetti Western meets a Rob Zombie Horror Flick when I listened to that song.

Brett: (laughing) yikes, that's perfectly acceptable. That drummer is really good and the drum kit was actually by itself in a big room but.....

AP: What's interesting about that song, it has a Dark Side of The Moon quality too.

Brett: Wow... really?? Cool.... yeah that song,  I have been listening to a lot of underground metal stuff and it's just so beautiful and it's too late for me to ever learn how to play metal sounding guitar but I was really into trying to do something like that cuz there is a band called Mournful Congregation from Australia and it's just like this metal that is sooo beautiful and sad. It's the coolest thing.

AP: Going back to Built To Spill, that is why I love "So" sooo much because there is nothing more beautiful than a dirty heavy bad ass guitar playing a beautiful melody.

Brett: Oh Yeah sure.....

AP: I gotta talk to you about "Sharpening Knives"

Brett: Ok

AP: It's got this unrelenting movement to it and then when you start listening to the words, it is like a car heading straight for a cliff and then driving off of it because it's got some pretty heavy lyrics about the industrial war machine, you know and the dehumanization of people, turning people into numbers. What are the thoughts behind that song?

Brett: Well, that is what it is. For me personally, after a period during the Bush administration trying to be sensible and paying attention to facts when all that madness was happening. Any decent kind of person would think that facts would matter but now where we are now and especially living in Idaho. That song is post politics mobilize your tribe or your cult or your whatever and just get on with it and hope for the best. That's just talking to my friends.

AP:  Yeah it is...You gotta get on your soap box sometimes... it's important.

Brett:  That's not what it's supposed to be... I mean it's post politics. That's not even a soap box, that just like saying the obvious and get with it, you know. Post politics would hopefully be the last when there are no..... like fuck shit up and mobilizing, take what's ours, you know that kind of stuff.

AP: I like the line (from Sharpening Knives) "America's salvage operation" you know. Some parts of it you could apply it to, unfortunately any time because we keep getting in these messes but I was thinking for some reason about Vietnam when I was listening to a lot of the song.

Brett: Yeah, yeah totally. It's like that too, like we've been doing these same mistakes over and over again forever so which time do we fuck up so bad that it's gonna be the last time. Who the fuck knows?....... meaning extincting ourselves. I have the feeling it could be coming soon but I could be wrong. (laughing) I try to have a sense of humor about it and continue to just have a good time, a good kind of dark wild ass good time. I'm just tired of being mad.

AP: So how are you splitting up your time, I mean I am so looking forward to seeing you (with Built To Spill) at the Shaky Knees Festival but with this other side project are you doing a lot of live shows with that as well?

Brett: Well that's the thing, with Built To Spill we are doing so many shows this year.

AP: (laughing) Why don't you just have Scavenger Cult ( Brett Netson and Snakes ) open up for Built To Spill??

Brett: Cuz you know what? We were gonna do that but these days with corporate influence being what it is there was issues with insurance and workers compensation.

AP: What??

Brett: Which just started happening a couple of years ago we had to deal with that miserable bullshit! It ended up being a huge hassle. I was thinking about doing a tour in the fall with Helvetia you know Jason's band.

AP: It's weird that workers comp somehow stifles music.

Brett: It's the bigger corporate conglomerate owned venues. It's a miserable bunch of bullshit.

AP: You guys are still on Warner Bros. right so is there any pressure from the label to put out stuff or do they give you free reign to do what you want to do?

Brett: They've been so awesome. Again, you know I think Doug was so lucky to be where he was in the early 90's and dealt with the contracts at that point. You know bands had leverage because that scene was starting to make money. That community was being bought and there was major labels that wanted to buy "it" - so therefore you got a little bit of leverage and Doug did a fantastic job you know and some other people did a pretty good job. I, myself, Caustic Resin could of been up there but we just sucked (laughing).

AP: Sometimes the hippies win and sometimes the hippies lose.

Brett:  (laughing) We were too crazy, on too many drugs and too drunk. Doug did a fantastic job of making it work for him and for all his friends.

AP: It was a pleasure speaking with you and I hope I get a chance to meet you. Have a great rest of the day.

Brett:  Cool, Thanks man.

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