Kool Kat of the Week: Jeffrey Butzer Delivers A Lynchian Tour de Force with His “Club Silencio: Music From the Feature Films of David Lynch” Kicking Off Its Southeastern Summer Tour at The Earl

Posted on: May 30th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

It’s been exactly half a decade since we shot the breeze with Atlanta’s own jack of all musical trades and film score junkie, Jeffrey Butzer (The Bicycle Eaters/The Compartmentalizationalists). So we caught up with him once again to get the scoop on his upcoming venture into the bizarre land of Lynch. His “Club Silencio: Music From the Feature Films of David Lynch” tours the southeast this summer with a killer kick-off at The Earl this Friday, June 2 at 9 pm, featuring the “Ladies in the Radiator” also known as Butzer (guitar); T.T. Mahony (synth/piano); Bicycle Eaters Matt Steadman and Sean Zearfoss (rhythm section); Ben Davis (sax), Jade Poppyfield and Renee Nelson (rotating vocalists). Club Silencio promises an unconventionally surreal evening sending you dangling head first into The Pink Room. And if you just can’t get enough Lynch-madness after the June 2 date, you can catch the tour at its stops at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL on June 23, at Saturn in Birmingham, AL on July 8, and at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens on July 15!

ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey Butzer for a quick tête-à-tête about “Club Silencio,” his love affair with film scores and film in general, and what he and the Bicycle Eaters/The Compartmentalizationalists have been up to in the last five years. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Butzer, why not listen to a bit o’ Butzer and The Compartmentalizationalists’ “Mother’s Gray Dress.”

ATLRetro:  It’s been nearly half a decade since we spoke to you about the release of The Bicycle Eaters’ new 7-inch HIDING PLASTIC SPIDERS. So much has happened since, and now you’re diving head first into David Lynch’s land of the bizarre with your newest musical escapade, CLUB SILENCIO: MUSIC FROM THE FEATURE FILMS OF DAVID LYNCH. What draws you to Lynch’s film scores?

Jeffrey Butzer: What I love about Lynch’s work is his element of surprise. The new TWIN PEAKS series is a great example of that. I love that every week I have no idea what I am getting into. Will it scare me or be hilarious?  …Who knows?

Your CLUB SILENCIO tour was originally slated for 2008, as a follow up to your BEAUTIFUL LOSERS: THE SONGS OF CAVE, WAITS AND COHEN and A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS tours. Of course we have to know, what took so long and why now?

I am not sure? It wasn’t feeling right in 2008. I never could get in to the mindset to put it together. As Lynch would say, “The ideas weren’t coming.” I had a set list, which really hasn’t changed very much. But that was it. Earlier this year, I had a conversation with a musician who was sort of pushing me to finally do it. Then Julee Cruise and I sort of discussed a mini tour, which neither of us could make happen but, at that point I was really into the idea again, and with the timing of the new TWIN PEAKS it was easy to get everyone motivated.

Can you tell our readers a little about “The Ladies in the Radiator” who will be performing with you on the CLUB SILENCIO tour?

Yes, my longtime collaborator T.T. Mahony is playing synth/piano, Bicycle Eaters Matt Steadman and Sean Zearfoss are the rhythm section, Ben Davis (Purkenji Shift/Noot d’Noot) on Sax, Meghan Dowlen a.k.a. ”Jade Poppyfield and Renee Nelson (Jarboe) are both singing on different dates. I am playing guitar. It is a really great band. I am really happy with all the arrangements.

Film scores are a big influence on your music, with the Bicycle Eaters and The Compartmentalizationalists, et al. It seems many musicians are influenced by particular musicians (past or present) or a particular type of popular music (the art being the whole), but film’s scores tell a different kind of story, as accompaniments or pieces or carriers of the whole. Can you tell our readers what it is about film scores that influence you and the part they play in carrying a film?

I am a film lover in general. I like when films have no music, like in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN or films by my hero Luis Bunuel. But, I also like when music is almost like a main character in a movie, like THE MASTER or films by Fellini, for example. I am not sure how film music influences me exactly. I guess I like the abstract nature of creating feelings out of noises. Mood is my primary goal in the music that I create.

We see that you’ve composed several scores as well for films such as Raymond Carr’s WILD IS THE WIND (2011); HITORI (2014); GOOD GRIEF SUICIDE HOTLINE (2015); ABACUS, MY LOVE (2014); BIRDCATCHER (2006), etc. Do you prefer composing behind the scenes, or playing in front of a crowd? Pros and cons?

I enjoy both for different reasons. Making a score is really strange to me. I really never know what I am doing. I still do not have a method of working and I don’t write out music. Matt Steadman (producer, musician) and I normally meet and see what happens and eventually we come up with music we are happy with. Live shows are very thrilling for me. Something like Club Silencio is fun, because we get to have our own Lynchian spin on expectations. We created this as massive admirers and fans of Lynch and have put together the show we would want to see. I’m getting really obsessed with details like stage plot, lighting, clothing. We put a lot of thought in to these types of shows. We really want them to feel special and fun for people.

Which film score(s) influenced you the most before you began composing your own, and how did it influence you?

Nino Rota’s 8 ½, Michael Nyman/Peter Greenaway scores and the spaghetti westerns by Morricone and Luis Bacolov were all influential to me.

Who are your top five favorite film composers and the film scores they composed that moved you most?

In no particular order my favorites would be Nino Rota (8 ½); Angelo Badalamenti (most Lynch films); Ennio Morricone (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST/ THE GREAT SILENCE); Michael Nyman (A ZED AND TWO NOUGHTS/ THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER); and Carter Burwell (FARGO/ BARTON FINK). However, it is difficult to speak about influence. As a musician I strive to not show my influences. I can say that when I sit down to write, music is the last thing on my mind. I am typically thinking about a story, sometimes my own, sometimes a book or film. Then, I try to musically paint a picture. I am very bad with narrative, which is probably why I am drawn to filmmakers like Lynch, who seems more concerned with mood.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be listening to right now–past or present, well-known or obscure?

1) Rowland S. Howard, the guitarist from The Birthday Party has a great, dark, and beautiful album called TEENAGE SNUFF FILM; 2) the singer Lhasa, especially her song Rising, and a song called “That Leaving Feeling she recorded with Stuart Staples of Tindersticks. She passed away a few years ago. Her voice is one of my favorite things; 3) Leonard Cohen’s underrated album NEW SKIIN FOR THE OLD CEREMONY is an all time favorite of mine; 4) Emiliana Torrini’s version of “If You Go Away” has been in my steady rotation. I love Brel’s version of course, but hers in a wonderful modern take; and 5) Rennie Sparks (The Handsome Family): Many now know of them from the theme from True Detective, but do yourself a favor and delve in to their world. Rennie’s books and paintings are so strange and vivid and their last album is one of their best. Rennie, as a writer is one of my biggest influences.

Back to the surreal. If you had to choose just one (I know it’s hard!), which Lynch film would be your absolute favorite?

I honestly cannot pick one. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is always in my top three. BLUE VELVET is the first one I fell in love with. INLAND EMPIRE is a misunderstood masterpiece. If you’ve only seen it once and are on the fence or don’t really like it, see it three more times. It is so dense it demands multiple viewings.

You’re taking this epic and eccentric beast on a trip across the equally bizarre south this summer after your gig at The Earl on June 2, with shows at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL (June 23); Saturn in Birmingham (July 8); and the Caledonia Lounge in Athens (July 15). What exciting things can folks expect when they come to one of your shows? And will this be the last of the tour, or will you be giving Atlanta an encore presentation in the near future?

If this goes well, we plan to make it a summer tradition. We are doing our best to make you feel like you are visiting the Pink Room/Black Lodge and deliver the best renditions of these iconoclastic songs as possible.

And last but not least, any other exciting plans in the future for Jeffrey Bützer? The Bicycle Eaters? The Compartmentalizationalists?

Bicycle Eaters have our first vocal full-length in the editing room as we speak…er, type. I’m also writing a play/screenplay entitled “Partialisms” that I plan to bring to a stage or screen in the near future.

All photos are courtesy of Jeffrey Butzer and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Chad Shivers, Guitar Slinger of the Surf-Rock Variety and Founder of Atlanta’s Infamous Southern Surf Stomp!, Catches a Wave and Dishes on the First Ever Southern Surf StompFest!

Posted on: Sep 15th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew11990633_10101892377367613_5371082659938104787_n
Managing Editor

Chad Shivers, purveyor of that infamous high-energy reverb and maniacal mayhem a.k.a. Surf Rock, will be reviving Atlanta this Saturday, September 19, retro-style with his Southern Surf StompFest! at Little Tree Art Studios (Avondale Estates), from noon until 8 pm! Catch a wave and raise a ruckus with a whole lotta vintage vendors (our swanky retro pals, 2the 9’s Retro and Jezebel Blue [see our Shop Around feature here]; Uncle Daddy’s Woodworks [see our Shop Around feature on Dirk Hays here], Beachcomber Cory’s Tiki Hut; THE SURF King Surfwear, and more!), tasty vittles and of course one helluva rockin’ line-up, featuring El Capitan & the Band with No Name, Ouroboro’s Boys, Kool Kat Caroline & the Ramblers, The Beech Benders, The Surge!, The Gold Dust Lounge, The Mystery Men?, Aqualads, and DJ Dusty Booze spinning surf, rockabilly and ‘50s/’60s rock between sets, and so much more! And why not round out your weekend with Southern SurfStomp’s surf-tastic bookend events; the official pre-show at Sunbrimmer Records (Avondale Estates) with Chad’s current project, MOONBASE, Genki Genki Panic and Vacations; and the official after-party rockin’ out at Kavarna (Decatur), featuring Kool Kat Jeffrey Butzer’s surf-rock outfit, The Compartmentalizationists (SUTURES CD release); Band, James Band; and Gemini XIII! So, come on down and rock out surf-style at the most rock ‘n’ roll weekend-long beach party around!

Chad is no newbie to Surf Rock, or rock ‘n’ roll in general. His musical journey began at age 14, when he jumped head first into his first band, The Squares, in 1995 (active until 2002), releasing two records and extensively touring the Southeast. After selling his soul to the rock ‘n’ roll devil, he built a revved up repertoire with Sorry No Ferrari (2005-2011); joined Kool Kat Jeffrey Butzer & the Bicycle Eaters (2010); joined The Mystery Men? (2012); founded the Southern SurfStomp! (2014); and currently fronts his own group, MOONBASE [George Asimakos on guitar; Eric Balint on bass; Sonny Harding on drums and Chad Shivers on guitar], debuting, CREATION MYTHS, in August 2014. And if that isn’t enough, Chad has also performed with Jeffrey Butzer’s, The Compartmentalizationists, Sleep Therapy, the Insect Surfers, The Madeira, and his own Surf Rock Christmas outfit, Chad Shivers & The Silent Knights, dishing out The Ventures’ and The Beach Boys’ Xmas albums every season for the past five years.

Photo by Jamie Galatas, Moonbase at Jacksonville Surf Fest, (L-R) George Asimakos, Chad Shivers, Eric Balint

Moonbase at Jacksonville Surf Fest, (L-R) George Asimakos, Chad Shivers, Eric Balint – Photo by Jamie Galatas

ATLRetro caught up with Chad Shivers for a quick interview about the Southern Surf StompFest!; Surf Rock’s history and resurgence; and his craft of spreading the infectious rock ‘n’ roll vibes of the Surf Rock subculture far and wide! And while you’re takin’ a peek at our little Q&A with Chad, get an earful of his current surf-rock outfit, MOONBASE’s “The Serpent” from their debut album CREATION MYTHS; and a sneak peek at The Compartmentalizationists’ “Blurry Eyes” from their new album SUTURES!

ATLRetro: Who doesn’t love surf rock?! And of course the Southern Surf StompFest! is right down ATLRetro’s alley! Can you fill our readers in on the history or your monthly Southern Surf Stomp! events? And how did you put together that righteous rockin’ line-up you’ve got waiting for our eager readers/listeners?

Chad Shivers: Southern Surf Stomp‘s inception was inspired by multiple factors including Greg Germani‘s incredible Ameripolitan shows; festivals such as Crispy BessInstro Summit held in North Carolina; and the desire to showcase the vast amount of talent within the Southeastern surf music community. Our first show was in April of 2014, and has been going strong ever since, featuring some truly great artists such as Eddie Angel (Los Straitjackets), Ivan Pongracic (The Madeira), Daikaiju, Kill, Baby…Kill!, Aqualads, and even a The Penetrators tribute. For the festival, I wanted to include Atlanta staples (El Capitan and the Band With No Name, The Surge!, The Mystery Men?), groups that have previously performed at our monthly event (Aqualads), and some fresh new faces (Ouroboros Boys, The Beech Benders, Gold Dust Lounge). I’m particularly excited to see Gold Dust Lounge from Miami, as I’ve been practically begging them to come up for the past year or so.

You’ve been devoted to the genre for quite some time, beginning in 1995 with your first band, The Squares, at the ripe old age of fourteen. Can you tell our readers how you became 11986326_10101879470463153_9095156251446565570_naware of surf-guitar and what drew you to the genre?

As a freshman in high school, I attended a house party where a cover band played a number by The Ventures and was completely enamored. Upon seeing my excitement, my friend Jeff, with whom I attended said party, later introduced me to Dick Dale (see ATLRetro’s feature on Dick here) and Man or Astro-man? and that was it. We started The Squares very shortly thereafter. Surf for me just has the energy of punk, the technical prowess of heavy metal, and the melodicism of pop music but (mostly) without lyrics; allowing the listener to create their own narrative.

You’ve been a member and have performed with surf rock and semi-surf rock outfits galore over the years [The Squares; Jeffrey Butzer & the Bicycle Eaters; The Mystery Men?; Sleep Therapy; The Insect Surfers; The Madeira; Chad Shivers & the Silent Knights, etc.]! What exactly is it about surf rock that keeps you coming back for more, even when you’ve stepped away for a bit?

I think it’s just that it’s so much fun to play and there’s an unbelievable amount of variation within the genre from lo-fi garage to highly technical, almost progressive rock and everything in between.  Not to mention, the people involved within the surf scene are among the friendliest, supportive, talented and interesting people you could ever meet.

Although the genre and its subculture hails from Southern California and has even been dubbed “SoCal folk music,” who or what would you say brought that particular sound to the Southeastern US?

Chad Shivers performing with the Penetrators T.R.I.B.U.T.E. - Photo by Jamie Galatas

Chad Shivers performing with the Penetrators T.R.I.B.U.T.E. – Photo by Jamie Galatas

Surf music in the South actually dates back to the ‘60s, and of course there was a later resurgence in the ‘90s with bands like Man or Astro-man? But any ‘scene’, I believe, can be attributed to The Penetrators. They were the jumping-off point for many including myself, aligned themselves with like-minded groups, and were absolutely instrumental – pun intended –in the development of the global surf rock community. What a bunch of incredible songwriters, instrumentalists, and just downright fun guys to be around. Their influence can still be seen, heard and felt greatly even today, and one cannot attend a surf music festival in the US without at the very least a mention of them.

Who would you say are your top three musical influences and why?

That’s quite a difficult question, as the answer will most likely change day to day.  But as of right now, in the most general sense: While not necessarily the greatest influence on me as a musician, hearing Social Distortion for the first time was really a game changer. They brought guitar music to the forefront of my mind and introduced me to punk rock, with which I still greatly identify and has led me down so many wonderful new avenues. Man or Astro-man? was the band that made me want to play surf. Yes, and more specifically, Steve Howe‘s playing has been a huge influence on me in more recent years.  They’re all just such masterful players, yet lyrical and serve the song.

Are there any noticeable differences between current surf rock and the sounds that were spilling out of the ‘50s and ‘60s?

Most definitely! I mean, there are guys out there still trying to recreate the sounds of the ‘60s, but I think for most of us it’s quite difficult to ignore the music of the past 50 years and avoid its influence.

How cool is it that your band, MOONBASE, shared a stage with the granddaddy of surf-guitar, Dick Dale, as well as Man or Astro-Man? at the Surf Guitar 101 Convention in California. Can you tell our readers a little bit about that experience?

We opened for Man or Astro-man? last year and Dick Dale earlier this year, both at The Earl. It’s a bit hard to believe and feels like everything has come full circle; from idolizing

(L-R) Stick Stechkin (of The Penetrators), Chad Shivers, Richard Whig (The Fringe Factory), Eddie Angel (of Los Stratjackets), Richard Hawes (of The Mystery Men?), Trace Luger (of The Penetrators), and Bob Walk (of The Surf King Surfwear) – Photo by Jamie Galatas

(L-R) Stick Stechkin (of The Penetrators), Chad Shivers, Richard Whig (The Fringe Factory), Eddie Angel (of Los Stratjackets), Richard Hawes (of The Mystery Men?), Trace Luger (of The Penetrators), and Bob Walk (of The Surf King Surfwear) – Photo by Jamie Galatas

those guys as a kid to sharing the stage with them, it’s quite the dream come true. When we were approached about performing at the Surf Guitar 101 Convention this year, I was absolutely shocked!  I had no idea we were even on anyone’s radar out there and with our being more on the progressive side, wasn’t even sure how we’d fit in. The response was overwhelmingly positive however, and the opportunity to play with the likes of Davie Allan and The Arrows at the convention for their 50th anniversary and then the following day at the Huntington Beach Pier while people surfed behind us just miles from where it all began was truly a magical experience, never to be forgotten.

Can you tell our readers a little about your collaboration with our Kool Kat Jeffrey Butzer and his new surf-rock project, The Compartmentalizationists?

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Jeffrey Bützer and his music. He has always been so supportive and highly influential on me. He had performed with his trio The Compartmentalizationalists several years back, so of course I had asked him about resurrecting the project to perform at a Stomp. Other members being unavailable, I offered to back him and enlisted fellow Bicycle Eater (as well as Silent Knight, Small Reactions, and Gold Bears member) Sean Zearfoss on drums. After that initial show in June, we all had such a great time we decided to keep going which has led to Jeffrey to finally The Compartmentalizationalists ‘ debut album SUTURES, which we’ll be celebrating at the Southern Surf StompFest! after-party at Kavarna along with Gemini 13 and Band, James Band.

If you could put together a dream line-up of musicians to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?

I stepped away from surf music for about 10 years in the early 2000s and regret missing many of the great shows that happened during that time. The biggest regret of them all is never getting to meet Eddie Bertrand (of Eddie & the Showmen and The Bel-Airs) or to see him perform.  Although Dick Dale holds the title of “King of the Surf Guitar,” Eddie is my favorite from that first wave in the 1960s. So I would have to say backing him either with his band, The Showmen, or quite possibly with Ivan Pongracic (The Madeira) also on guitar, Dane Carter (The Madeira) on drums, and Carol Kaye on bass.

pre stomp flyerWhat can ATLReaders expect to experience when they catch a wave and rock out at the Southern Surf StompFest? this Saturday? Anything special planned?

They can quite certainly expect to hear some of the finest surf music in the country and possibly even the world, performed by astounding musicians.  While there, grab some tasty food, enjoy your favorite beverage from The Beer Growler, and shop with our fine vendors. Of course, this is a free event, so please bring some cash to donate toward raffle tickets. We have some amazing prizes and contributions go toward helping us to pay the bands.

What’s next for Chad Shivers?

Hopefully after the festival I’ll be able to spend some much needed time with my family. The Spooky Surf Stomp! with Fiend Without A Face, The KBK and Bad Friend will be October 10. I’ll be doing my annual performance of The Beach Boys and The Ventures Christmas albums with my group the Silent Knights at Kavarna on December 12. I know it may be a tall order, but in 2016 I’d like to see the reach of the Southern Surf Stomp! expand beyond Atlanta, to include other cities in the Southeast and the monthly podcast to become a weekly affair, with revolving hosts. Also next year, be on the lookout for new releases from The Mystery Men? and Jeffrey Bützer and the Bicycle Eaters!

Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about yourself, surf rock, etc.?

Nothing other than to ask them to please come out to the Southern Surf StompFest! or one of our monthly shows and bring plenty of friends and family! If you’d like to learn more about what’s happening in this wonderful community please visit our Southern Surf Stomp! website, ‘like’ us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter (@SouthSurfStomp)!

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

I’m not sure the question exactly, but it would most definitely involve a wealthy benefactor!

All photographs are courtesy of Chad Shivers and used with permission.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Is What It’s All About: Jeffrey Butzer and TT Mahony’s Jazzy Musical Tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s PEANUTS Score Comes to The Earl & Nine Street Kitchen

Posted on: Dec 10th, 2012 By:

Nostalgic adults and kids will dig Jeffrey Butzer and T.T. Mahony’s jazzy musical tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS.  This year, the duo will be presenting their holiday treat at The Earl Fri. Dec. 14 and Sat. Dec. 15 and performing a more family-friendly reprise at Nine Street Kitchen in Roswell Mon. Dec. 10 and Thurs. Dec. 20. All shows will start with an instrumental set by Jeffrey’s band, The Bicycle Eaters and also feature surf favorites from THE VENTURES CHRISTMAS ALBUM  rendered by Chad Shivers and the Silent Knights.

As noted last year, the seasonal sell-out shows of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS are a labor of love for Jeffrey, a musician/composer whose solo works tend towards the minimalism of the simple Christmas tree in the iconic Charles Schultz special. His band, the Bicycle Eaters, takes a different bend, inspired by Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores, klezmer and gypsy. And he’s been collaborating with recent Kool Kat The Residents’ Molly Harvey lately, too. Frankly that’s just a small taste of the musical adventures of this diverse Atlanta performer and affirmed cineaste, who was our Kool Kat of the Week last March.

ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey to find out more about this year’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, and what’s next for him with The Bicycle Eaters and as a solo composer/musician.

How old were you when you first saw A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS on TV and what did the show and its music mean to you when growing up?

I don’t remember a time NOT knowing who Charlie Brown was. It is like Bruce Lee, Elvis or Grandma, something that seemed to always exist to me. Growing up, it was always my favorite special. I liked how blue it was. Both literally and figuratively. Cartoon music in general affects you strangely. Like Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott with the Looney Tunes, I wasn’t aware of them until I was older and started playing music. But again, it is hard to remember a time when I didn’t listen to that record every year.

How did you and TT Mahony get the idea of developing A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS holiday show, and for how many years have you been doing it?

This is year four. I approached TT after he played a Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits/Nick Cave tribute show I worked on. He is an amazing piano player, very witty , too. I had kicked around the idea of doing a holiday show in the past but never really knew a pianist that could handle Guaraldi. Robby Handley is the best upright bass player I know. Great hair, too. And here is an odd fact about TT. He can jump really, really high. I’ve told him he should find some way to compete. I once saw him jump from the ground onto the top of a Toyota.

I understand last year’s shows were packed. Are you surprised that so many adults are so enthusiastic about music from a 1960s kids TV show/Christmas LP? What kind of comments do you get after your performances?

Yes, we were hoping for the best, that our fans and friends would enjoy the show and hopefully some new faces would come out. But the response has been overwhelming. Last year we had to start doing two nights. As far as comments, the one we get the most is “Can you do an all-ages one too…for the babies?” The reason we haven’t is because. the mood we set in The Earl seems to really suit Snoopy and the gang. It is cozy, dark, and has energy almost like a rock show. We are really looking forward to playing Nine Street Kitchen, it sounds like it is going to turn into a great venue. And playing for children will be a blast. My 3-year-old son Francis is happy he can come out to “Dad’s Show.”

What can audiences expect at The Earl this weekend?

Cookies, dancing… It is basically a big Holiday Party with 300 of your closest, newest friends.

What are you doing at Nine Street Kitchen (in Roswell) to make it even more kid-friendly?

The show will not change much.

Why pair Peanuts with The Ventures? 

Well, the albums were released around the same time for one thing. They are both classic ‘60s albums. They are both easy to dance to.

And what about that opening set from Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters?

My band (The Bicycle Eaters) play Frenchy-Jazzy-Spaghetti Western-inspired instrumentals. We are releasing a limited EP at the show

What else are you and the Bicycle Eaters up to? Any more collaborations with Molly Harvey or new 2013 recordings you’d like to tell readers about? 

We have a vocal album on the way called collapsible with our new singer Cassi Costoulas and French singer Lionel Fondeville, as well as several other great guests: Brent Hinds, Don Chambers. Possibly Molly Harvey.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Playing with Scissors, Dreaming of Unspiralled Stairs and Hiding Plastic Spiders with Jeffrey Butzer

Posted on: Mar 28th, 2012 By:

Jeffrey Butzer with accordion. Photo credit: Melissa J. Butzer.

Cinematic. Haunting. Minimalist. Unique. Perfect.  All of these words could describe Jeffrey Butzer‘s eclectic sound rendered with such unusual instrument choices as accordion, toy piano and glockenspiel. The motto of his live shows might be “expect the unexpected” in the best possible way, and his previous recordings and videos, solo and with bands The Bicycle Eaters and The Compartmentalists, have attracted praise from Canadian film director Guy Maddin (THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD) and film critic Roger Ebert. In other words, if all you know about Jeffrey is his Charlie Brown Christmas tribute show (read our article about it here), you’re in for a real treat at the release party for Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters’ new 7-inch HIDING PLASTIC SPIDERS (The Great Big) this Saturday night March 31 at The Earl.

ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey recently to find out more about HIDING PLASTIC SPIDERS, the influence of Spaghetti Western scores and scissors on his unique sound, and what it was like to wake up Roger Ebert in the middle of the night.

Just the title HIDING PLASTIC SPIDERS suggests a story behind the music. What’s on it, how did you come to write the songs and is it true it will be on red vinyl?

This might not be as mysterious as a back story as one might want to hear, [but] the title refers to something my wife and I did when we first met. We worked together, and at our job we had a bunch of magnetic spiders that were a promotional item for a film and we would hide them from each other. It is a fond memory of us getting to know each other (13 years ago, now). It is on red vinyl; it looks like a Jolly Rancher.

This is the first release as Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters, these are all songs that I came in with the basic structure and melodies, and they “fixed them up.” Kristin [Jarvis] and Chad [Shivers] are amazing with melodies and counter-melodies. Eric [Balint] is like a secret weapon; he knows just what to and not to do and the right times. And William [J. Brisby] has played bass in almost every project and has never missed one single note. That is not a joke.

What was it like recording with a band and a producer?

It was wonderful. I’ve known Luci, the producer, for a very long time, and he is patient and a perfectionist. He slows me down in a good way. He really excels at everything he tries. He’s an amazing photographer, musician and a great dresser. And recording with a band in the past has been impractical. Normally I multi-track the parts, then bring in other musicians after the fact. On this, it was really nice being able to record with most of us in the room; it added a nice mood to the record.

How did you hook up with Gea who directed the video of Case of Unspiralled Stairs ?

I’ve known her for several years; we are both big film enthusiasts. I liked her artwork and asked her if she wanted to do a video for the record, and thankfully she did and it turned out really great.

So Roger Ebert posts the video for “Case of Unspiralled Stairs” on Facebook and says “I woke up in the middle of the night. Jeffrey Butzer had sent me this. That was the perfect time to view it. My mind was still halfway in dreams.” How cool was that and was that the response you had hoped for from it?

It was very cool! I didn’t really know what to expect. He had never really commented when I sent him videos before. I “know” him through a secret society that he and I are both members of. Along with Ken Keeler (FUTURAMA), Neil Gaiman and Guy Maddin.

Speaking of Guy Maddin, how did you meet him and get him to do alternate cover artwork for HIDING PLASTIC SPIDERS?

I scored a film called BIRDCATCHER that Guy saw, and we sort of became friends. I am going to hang out with him in New York in a couple weeks! I saw the collages that he made, and he agreed to let us use [one of] them as cover art!

When your music is paired with video, it reminds me of a lost 1950s/60s existentialist French film. Can you talk a bit about how film has influenced your sound and visuals?

Film has always been the band’s biggest influence. All the greats: Buster Keaton, Fellini, Bunuel and Penny Marshall… well, maybe not her so much. I think when I first started making music I wanted to sound like certain artists. But as I got older, other mediums began to influence my music more, especially film. The instrumental music that we make is mostly about mood, much like the film style you mentioned. So I think the approach and what we are trying to achieve isn’t that far apart.

Some have heard the influence of Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western scores. Are you a Spaghetti Western fan? What are your favorite films/scores from that genre?

I’m way more into Spaghetti Western music than into the films. There are several I really enjoy. They’re so style-driven that you can really just watch scenes from them isolated from the movie. If I were to name some I like: THE GRAND DUEL and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. The other band I’m in The Compartmentalizationalists touches more on the genre than the Bicycle Eaters.

Scissors play a key role in your video for “Lucy 5’s Egg” and I understand you dangle them on stage as well in some of your gigs. Why scissors, and will scissors be part of this week’s show?

I wrote lyrics to a song a really long time ago that had the lines “on a pillar in the sky, a sleeping woman lies, dreaming of the garden of scissors.” I really liked the image. I wrote a screenplay and an album based on that line, and it has sort of stuck as a motif over the years.

An image from the haunting video for "Case of Unspiralled Stairs."

The toy piano, accordion and glockenspiel are unusual instruments for a contemporary musician. What drew you to them?

I like how whimsical they sound together. I never wanted to make music that is old-fashioned or heavily referenced by something from the past. But on the other hand, nostalgia interests me a lot. I first heard toy pianos used a lot by Rob Burger and Margaret Leng Tan.

Why the “Bicycle-Eaters”?

That is a bit of an inside joke. The short version is just that my friend Matt Benard, who plays bass with us, sometimes knows a guy who, in fact…ate a bicycle.

Your gigs are known to include the unexpected, but without giving any big surprises, do you have any special plans for this week’s show at The Earl?

We have a couple OF guest singers and an unusual cover song we are doing. If I tell you anymore, it won’t be unexpected. ZING!

When will your new CD “COLLAPSIBLE” be released and what can you share about it?

I’m not sure. I am hoping for a May release at the Goat Farm. It is a collection of songs played mostly with small arrangements. So far it is just a solo album. I have had a few songs floating around for a while and I record at night after my son goes to sleep. Some are new interpretations of songs I have releases before – only a few though.

I have an odd process. I always set out to make an album with a list of songs in hand. Then when I’m done, as with this one, I cut half of the songs I originally wanted on and record a bunch of new things. For this album, which has between 12-15 songs, I recorded around 35… so far.

What else is up with Jeffrey Butzer? We’ve heard you’ve done some interesting collaborations lately and even dipped into film and theatrical scoring. Any more team-ups planned with Molly Harvey (The Residents)? And aren’t you going to Poland?

Molly and I are planning some shows. Some as a duo and some with a band. Other than that, I’ve got the score for PETER PAN at the Center for Puppetry Arts that starts playing April 5. I am recording a Compartmentalizationalists album with Claire Lodge and Nico from the band Places. Then I am taking a break in June when my second son will be born!  The Poland trip has been put on hold. Hopefully later on we will still go.

 

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Is What It’s All About: Jeffrey Butzer and TT Mahony’s Jazzy Musical Tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s PEANUTS Score Comes to The Earl & The Earl Smith Strand

Posted on: Dec 16th, 2011 By:

Jeffrey Butzer channels Schroeder & Vince Guaraldi in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, his annual holiday show with TT Mahony.

Not just nostalgic adults, but kids, too, will get to enjoy Jeffrey Butzer and T.T. Mahony’s jazzy musical tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS this year with the duo presenting it at two Earls – first at The Earl Fri. Dec. 16 and Sat. Dec. 17 (both 9 p.m.) and then at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta Tues. Dec. 20 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.). All shows will feature an opening instrumental set by Jeffrey’s band, The Bicycle Eaters, and surf favorites from THE VENTURES CHRISTMAS ALBUM  rendered by Chad Shivers and Friends.

The seasonal sell-out shows of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS are clearly a labor of love for Jeffrey, a musician/composer whose solo works tend towards the minimalism of the simple Christmas tree in the iconic Charles Schultz special. Inspired by melodic French musette, pieces on two albums SHE TRADED HER LEG (2006) and THE GARDEN OF SCISSORS (2009), both released by Lona Records, incorporate such eclectic instruments as accordions, bass drum, piano, glockenspiel and—perhaps inspired by a childhood admiration for Schroeder—toy piano. His band, the Bicycle Eaters, takes a different bend, inspired by Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores, klezmer and gypsy, the former suggesting that their opening set will be more than appropriate for a vintage art deco movie theatre like the Strand. He’s also down a film soundtracks (Raymond Carr’s WILD IS THE WIND), collaborated live with Molly Harvey of The Residents and has ventured lately into the world of live scoring to Buster Keaton’s THE BALLOONATIC. And frankly that’s just a small taste of the musical adventures of this diverse Atlanta performer and affirmed cineaste.

Today though, ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey to chat about A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, what to expect at The Earl and The Strand, and what’s next for him with The Bicycle Eaters and as a solo composer/musician.

How old were you when you first saw A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS on TV and what did the show and its music mean to you when growing up?

I don’t remember a time NOT knowing who Charlie Brown was. It is like Bruce Lee, Elvis or Grandma, something that seemed to always exist to me. Growing up, it was always my favorite special. I liked how blue it was. Both literally and figuratively. Cartoon music in general affects you strangely. Like Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott with the Looney Toons, I wasn’t aware of them until I was older and started playing music. But again, it is hard to remember a time when I didn’t listen to that record every year.

How did you and TT Mahony get the idea of developing A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS holiday show, and for how many years have you been doing it?

This is year four. I approached TT after he played a Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits/Nick Cave tribute show I worked on. He is an amazing piano player, very witty , too. I had kicked around the idea of doing a holiday show in the past but never really knew a pianist that could handle Guaraldi. Robby Handley is the best upright bass player I know. Great hair, too. And here is an odd fact about TT. He can jump really, really high. I’ve told him he should find some way to compete. I once saw him jump from the ground onto the top of a Toyota.

I understand last year’s shows were packed. Were you surprised that so many adults were so enthusiastic about music from a 1960s kids TV show/Christmas LP? What kind of comments did you get after your performance?

Yes, we were hoping for the best, that our fans and friends would enjoy the show and hopefully some new faces would come out. But the response has been overwhelming. Last year we had to start doing two nights. As far as comments, the one we get the most is “Can you do an all-ages one too…for the babies?” The reason we haven’t is because. the mood we set in The Earl seems to really suit Snoopy and the gang. It is cozy, dark, and has energy almost like a rock show. We are really looking forward to adjusting it for a sitting crowd at The Strand. We love the room. It is like a miniature Fox Theatre. And playing for children will be a blast. My 2-year-old son Francis dances every time he hears “Linus and Lucy.”

What audiences can expect at The Earl this weekend?

Cookies, dancing… It is basically a big Holiday Party with 300 of your closest, newest friends.

What are you doing at The Strand to make it even more kid-friendly?

The show will not change much. We do have a kid’s choir with us at the Strand!

Why pair Peanuts with The Ventures?

Well, the albums were released around the same time for one thing. They are both classic ‘60s albums. They are both easy to dance to.

Jeffrey Butzer. Photo credit: Melissa J. Butzer.

And what about that opening set from Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters?

My band (The Bicycle Eaters) play Frenchy-Jazzy-Spaghetti Western-inspired instrumentals. We are releasing a limited EP at the show

What else are you and the Bicycle Eaters up to? Any 2012 gigs or recordings you’d like to tell readers about?

We almost all have children, so we’ve been laying low, only doing select shows. But we will have an official release for our new 7” at The Earl in March. I’m also working on a score for PETER PAN at The Center for Puppetry Arts. Then I have a solo record coming out named COLLAPSIBLE. Then off to play some dates inPoland.

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