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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Vintage Vacation: Rum Roaming at The Hukilau, the World’s Most Authentic Tiki Event

Posted on: Jun 3rd, 2015 By:

by S.J. Chambers101x54fb77e2
Contributing Writer

The 14th annual Hukilau shimmies and shakes this June 10-14, in Fort Lauderdale, FL, promising to be bigger and grander with new digs at the historic Hyatt Regency Pier 66. This vintage venue is celebrating its 50th anniversary as one of South Florida’s iconic hotels and features a groovy retro-tastic space-age design and rotating cocktail lounge. Last year was nearly the premier Polynesian Pop Fest’s swan song, but, Tiki fans, you are in luck! Two of the festival’s long-time attendees and lovers of the luau lifestyle refused to let the festival set sail into the great beyond, so they did what any business gentleman would do – they revived the revival and are giving means to the festival, allowing it to grow bigger and more diverse, which can be seen in this year’s highlights, listed below: 1) Shipwrecked with Mary Ann. This year’s special guest is Dawn Wells of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, who will host a three-hour South Seas-styled cruise aboard the Lady Windridge Yacht on the waterways of Fort Lauderdale’s historic Pier 66. 2) Lounge Luau-Style! The Tiki Tower Takeover will kick happy hour up 17 notches as Tiki’s best barmen— Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans) [See ATLRetro’s Happy Hour & Supper Club feature on Berry here], Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), Paul McGee (Lost Lake, Chicago) and Brian Miller (Tiki Mondays With Miller, New York City) — will be pouring signature drinks to loungers enjoying the rotating view over the Fort Lauderdale sky and shorelines. 3) Tiki University. Six symposiums include Disney artists Kevin & Jody (Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily), Oscar-nominated filmmaker Arthur Dong, author Domenic Priore, author Jeff Chenault, Jon Bortles and Tiki Gardener, as well as thirst-quenching explorations with guest bartenders: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Brian Miller, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, Dean Hurst, and the Straw Hat Barmen. 4) Surf ‘n’ Tiki Tunes. Musical guests and performers: Alika Lyman Group, The Intoxicators!, Gold Dust Lounge, Pablus, Slip and the Spinouts, Kinky Waikiki, Skinny Jimmy and the Stingrays, King Kukulele, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Lila Starlet, DJ James Brown’s Sweat. Special ATLRetro correspondent S. J. Chambers attended last year’s Hukilau (June 11-15, 2014) with publisher Anya Martin, and the following dispatches give a tantalizing tropical glimpse into what fest-goers can expect from this year’s Tiki haven!

* * * * * * *

For five days, “Tikiheads” from all over the U.S., and even as far as Japan and Belgium, gathered in Ft. Lauderdale, FL at the Bahia Mar Resort for the 13th annual Hukilau which served up sunshine, camaraderie, music, symposiums and the ever-tempting Tiki cocktail. Tagged as “The World’s Most Authentic Tiki Event” and founded by Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, Hukilau has been keeping this retro culture of Polynesian kitsch and tropical libations alive and kicking since 2002, when it sprang to life at Atlanta’s own Trader Vic’s.

The Disasternauts and a very green lady friend.

The Disasternauts and a very green lady friend.

The event ventured South in 2003, to honor the Mai Kai Restaurant. One of the last remaining original Tiki establishments, the Mai Kai serves Don the Beachcomber’s original recipes while entertaining diners with an authentic Luau floor show. Each year has always outdone the last, bringing out performers such as Robert Drasnin and Los Straitjackets, renowned artists like Swag and Bosko, and the foremost Tiki gurus like Sven Kirsten and Duda Leite. Last year’s event was no different, and of course, it was impossible to experience it all. However, our correspondents tried their darndest, so come take a peek at what they pulled from this vast Tiki sea!

We ran into artist Derek Yaniger, who designed ATLRetro's logo, in the vendors' bazaar.

We ran into artist Derek Yaniger, who designed ATLRetro’s logo, in the vendors’ bazaar.

Music and Performers While surf was king with shreds by Florida bands The Intoxicators, The Disasternauts, and Skinny Jimmy & the Stingrays, there was also an air of jazz fusion, punk and Ska coming from Miami-based Gold Dust Lounge and Atlanta’s own Grinder Nova. Les Baxter would have been proud of Belgium’s Left Arm of Buddah, who gave a heck of an exotic show that featured multiple dancers performing Arabian and Asian-influenced moves. The early days of the cocktail were represented as well by Japan’s The Sweet Hollywaiians, whose 20s and 30s-inspired sets gave Hukilau-goers a relaxing atmosphere to really deconstruct the Mai Kai Mai Tai.

angiepontani

The presence of Burlesque and Go-Go dancers kept the crowd moving.

One favored moment was seeing Angie Pontani perform. Her fun Go-Go vibe melded perfectly with the Hukilau, and her movements and demeanor reminded me of later bombshells like Bridget Bardot and Sophia Loren. She did this one thing with a scarf was reminiscent of the Marilyn Monroe photography session with Bert Stern that just completely put Salomé and her whole seven scarf shtick on notice. Seminars Alas, we did not arrive at the Hukilau in time to catch Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s symposium,  “Tiki’s Dark Ages,” which he gave at the legendary Mai Kai Restaurant, but we heard from the general chatter that the sold-out event was remarkable, and we will make sure to catch it next round. We did get our books signed by the “Beachbum” at the Cocktail Kingdom table, and got to meet Steven Yamada, co-manager and head bartender of the Beachbum’s new New Orleans Tiki restaurant Latitude 29.

Grinder Nova

Grinder Nova

I was able to catch two symposiums, Philip Greene’s “To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion,” based on his book of the same name, and “RetroRenovation.com presents: Create Your Own Suburban Savage Paradise!” Greene’s presentation began with an interesting question: Was Hemingway a Tiki guy? Sort of. He definitely shaped the associations we have between drinks and lifestyle; so much that he was one of the inspirations for the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World. Why? Like Don the Beachcomber, Papa traveled the world and brought back food and cocktail recipes as souvenirs for the rest of us. He also was close friends with rumrunner Joe Russell, who was also the owner of Sloppy Joe’s in Key West, and who inspired TO HAVE AND HAVE ANOTHER. Perhaps most important to the cocktail crafting debate, he dabbled in recipe-making so much that he ruined Floridita’s Constante Daiquiri perfection—depending on who you ask—by adding another shot and cutting the sugar for what is known as the “Papa Doble.”

band

The Sweet Hollywaiians.

Greene was witty, and his slideshow presentation was filled with jewels, like a manuscript from a nine-year-old Hemingway, who even then had the mission statement of wanting to grow up to write and travel. Greene also served the audience two drinks from his book, the “Josie Russell Cocktail”, which Greene uncovered from Hemingway’s fishing log, and the infamous “Papa Doble”—both served with Papa’s Pillar Rum, a new libation from Tampa blessed by the Hemingway estate and for whom Greene is now a spokesman. “RetroRenovation.com presents: Create Your Own Suburban Savage Paradise!” was also a very fun symposium and a historical benchmark for the Hukilau. Hand-picked by Tiki Kiliki, the panel was comprised of Tiki Designer Deities Bamboo Ben, Danny Gallardo a.k.a. Tiki Diablo, U. K.’s Jamie Wilson & Anjy Cameron of Cheeky Tiki, and David Wolfe a.k.a. Basement Kahuna.

Tiki treasures abounded in the vendors' bazaar.

Tiki treasures abounded in the vendors’ bazaar.

RetroRenovation.com’s authors, Pam and Kate, were moderators of the panel, and they led the audience through beautiful examples of the various styles of Tiki (from Swiss Family Robinson to Asian-fusion) from restaurants like Mahiki by Cheekytiki to private residential dens done by RetroRenovation.com readers. To attest for the growing rise in commercial Tiki design, Anjy Cameron remarked that Cheeky Tiki has designed 21 bars in eight years, and that “the crowd is young, and they are enjoying it and it’s like going on holiday.”   The Jungle Queen Cruise On Friday, attendees wishing to take a break from the hotel were able to do so via The Jungle Queen cruise. This antique riverboat is a tourist staple at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, and is considered one of the oldest roadside attractions in Florida. It definitely maintains that bit of kitsch, with snarky commentary on the landmark homes dotting the canal. Normally, a three-hour dinner cruise, it was truncated to an hour and half and was transformed by The Straw Men serving up welcome cocktails including Josie Russells and Witch Finders (maybe my first complex punch I’ve ever had with spices like nutmeg), and the funny ditties by King Kukulele and Crazy Al TikiMania on the coconuts. Mai KaiThe Mai Kai and Luau The centerpiece of the Hukilau is the Mai Kai Restaurant, which opened its doors in 1956 and is one of the few remaining, original Tiki restaurants. There were parties every night with bands in every room, symposiums, and of course the Saturday night dinner show featuring an authentic Luau. It really is something to be experienced. With its main window-waterfalls, nautical decor, and Polynesian artifacts, the bar felt like you were below-deck in ship quarters. gardenThere is also an impressive tropical garden with orchids and lush palm fronds flanked by flaming torches and various wooden Tiki totems. It is very easy to feel separated from the busy highway beyond the fauna. I let myself get lost, to just sip meditatively on my grog and listen to some hidden ukulele player, when I came across a group of elegant older women standing on the lagoon bridge. They were dressed in sarongs and wore blooming, dewy tropical flowers in their hair. They were talking amongst themselves, but every once in a while, they would break away, as if summoned, to dip their hands into the water. When I later learned that they were retired mermaids from the Weeki Wachee golden age, and guests of the “Cocktails and Fishtails: The Untold Story of the Porthole Cocktail Lounge” event by Vintage Roadside and Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid, their inability to resist the water made sense and became a metaphor for the entire Hukilau experience. The word “Hukilau” refers to the traditional Hawaiian fishing festival where the community would gather to cast large nets into the sea that would ensnare a variety of fish. The celebration and feast that would follow not only nourished the community but also brought the villagers together to celebrate kinship. That is what the Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale has accomplished over its thirteen year run. It has brought together all the tiny villages from Polynesian Pop–the mermaids, the bartenders and scholars, the performers, and the collectors–to celebrate, collaborate, and corroborate on the continuation of the grand Tiki tradition.

Mai Kai Floor Show

Mai Kai Floor Show

For more information about Hyatt Pier 66 and the Hukilau (including schedule and tickets), check out the official site here. S. J. Chambers is a writer from Tallahassee, FL. When not found drafting pool-side, she is sublimity-seeking on the road, or in the air, and sometimes in a glass. She blogs irregularly atwww.selenachambers.wordpress.com. ATLRetro Managing Editor Melanie Crew also contributed to this article.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Digging Deep to Her Rockabilly Roots for a Breakthrough Album: Why It’s Worth Following Kim Lenz to Smith’s Olde Bar

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2013 By:

Kim Lenz. Photo credit: Joseph Cutice.

Los Angeles-based rockabilly-roots musician Kim Lenz  and The Jaguars are no strangers to Atlanta, having played heard numerous times since she launched her career in 1998, but her return to Smith’s Olde Bar on Wed. August 14 is more than a little bit extra special. Her current US Tour supports a new album FOLLOW ME, due for release on Aug. 20 from Riley Records, which has received considerable advance budge beyond the roots community including from Country Music Television’s “Edge” Website.

Reflecting the impact of some recent life challenges for Kim, the new LP’s lyrics are a bit more serious and emotionally heavy and like so many great rockabilly and country women before her, a nice dose of female empowerment. The title track, “Follow Me,” is being compared to a range of amazing vocalists from Wanda Jackson to Amy Winehouse. The scarlet-tressed songstress also has some serious musical muscle behind the scenes since it’s produced by roots music icon Carl Sonny Leyland and recorded by Los Straitjackets bassist Pete Curry. In other words, despite some serious subject matter, it still puts the rock in rockabailly.

Kim has always been a mighty Kool Kat to ATLRetro, so we decided to catch up with her this week to find out more about her new songs and why you should follow her to her and The Jaguars’ Atlanta gig, which incidentally is opened by Chickens and Pigs with special guest Mark Johnson of Delta Moon.

ATLRetro: Your new album FOLLOW ME has been getting some pretty exciting advance buzz. How does it build upon your prior work and take you to the next level? 

Kim Lenz: I love American roots music and that’s what I’ve been doing via rockabilly for a number of years. My new record goes a little further into the roots and I also stretched myself as a songwriter… digging deeper into personal places.

You opted to record FOLLOW ME on vintage tube gear to two-inch tape in mono. Why stay retro when there have been such advances in recording technology?

There is a certain magic when dealing with tubes and tape and plate reverb and such. Modern technology has its place, but starting with yummy ingredients is important in my opinion.

The title track, “Follow Me,” is one amazing female empowerment anthem. I understand it comes out of a recent dark time for you, including learning that you were adopted and the death of your long-time guitarist Nick Curran last fall. Can you talk a bit about the genesis of the song and what you hope others will take from it?

Most of my life I felt like I was so tough. But the last couple years knocked me down. So far I wasn’t sure I could get back up. Music has always been the best way for me to cope with life in general.  I dealt with quite a bit of abuse growing up. This song is about taking back the real power of being a woman.

“Follow Me” is not the only song on the album that deals with life challenges. There’s a long history of female country vocalists who met hard issues head-on. Was there any one who has especially inspired you recently?

Strangely I rarely think of myself as a “female” musician. I think all artists use what they do to deal with life head-on. The ones I respect anyway. If I had to list he people who inspire me, it would be too many to print.

I take it, however, that this album is hardly a downer. You’ve said that producer Carl Sunny Leyland “took these sad songs and put a sparkle on them.” What was it like to work with him and can you expand on what you mean by that?

Carl is a genius. One of the if not the best roots musician on the planet. I brought these songs to him. He easily was able to see my vision but brought them out of the dark.

Any other songs on the album you’d like to single out for listeners to especially look out for?

We just finished making a video for “Pay Dearly.” It’s really dark and cool!

Kim Lenz. Photo credit: Joseph Cutice.

Do you and the band have anything special planned for this tour and/or your Atlanta stop?

Record digging!!!!

You’ve toured through Atlanta quite a few times over the years. Do you have any favorite must-do things when you’re here?

We usually rock out and drink too much!!!

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Down At The Well Of Wishes: Slim Chance Celebrates Jon Byrd’s Return to Atlanta With a New Album and Hopefully a Dream Come True

Posted on: Dec 6th, 2011 By:

By Slim Chance (James Kelly)
Contributing Blogger

Jon Byrd celebrates the release of DOWN AT THE WELL OF WISHES at Kavarna in Oakhurst on Saturday Dec. 10. Slim Chance & the Convicts play at 8PM. $6. Facebook Event Link.

Chasing your dreams can be a long, arduous, and often frustrating journey, which usually ends in regret and disillusionment. But perseverance, and commitment, and dedication can often fuel that desire into fruition. Last month, as I sat in Nashville’s hallowed Station Inn, surrounded by a few old acquaintances and a room full of strangers, I watched my dear friend Jon Byrd take the stage to a rousing reception as he celebrated the release of his second solo album DOWN AT THE WELL OF WISHES. It was a project two years in the making, and the payoff was evident in the maturity of the songs, the catch of the hooks, and the look of sheer pleasure on the faces of all in attendance. But truthfully, this dream was hatched many years ago, and I got to see it take shape.  From his early days playing guitar in local Southern “alternative” bands like the Primitons and the Windbreakers, Jon searched far and wide for his musical footprint, and he ultimately found it in country music.

In the late ‘80s, I lived right behind Jon and his girlfriend (at the time) in Little Five Points, and there is no doubt the sounds of Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard blasting from my stereo made their way up to their windows. Compound that with the rowdy, scattered and musically schizophrenic practice sessions of my own band, Slim Chance & the Convicts, it was inevitable that curiosity took over, and we became friends and collaborators. Jon eventually joined the Convicts full time, and through our shared fascination and mutual exploration of the roots of country music he developed a unique and crafty lead guitar style, steeped in traditional twang, but with a twist here and there.

Jon Byrd plays at Red Beet Records in East Nashville. Photo Credit: Stacy Huckeba

Jon always listened to the nuances, and picked up a few tricks while creating his own. And the man can sing. His run with the Convicts resulted in three well-received albums, more incredible shows than we can remember, and a stellar reputation. Stints with other Atlanta acts like Greta Lee and The Ratchet Set proved that Jon was a consummate picker, and his newfound love of real country music was his foundation for all these years. But in Atlanta, it’s really easy to be a big fish in the little pond of the Redneck Underground, and Jon had other plans. He relocated to Nashville, where all of a sudden he found himself on the fringes of a very polarized world, quite different from what he was used to in Atlanta.

The musical pilgrimage to Nashville is a well-worn tale; some make it, most don’t. Those shooting for “the big time” often go home empty-handed, but those who hold their ground often find their niche. Jon struggled for several years in the talent overloaded town, playing pick-up gigs when he could get them, sitting in when he had the chance, and ingratiating himself into the very tight and somewhat insular social scene on “other side of Nashville.” Making friends and connections, he worked hard, and in the 10 years he has been in Music City, he gradually nurtured and shaped a deeply respected place within the alt. country music scene, mostly centered in East Nashville.

Jon released his first solo album BYRD’S AUTO PARTS in 2007, and immediately people who were not already familiar with his work took notice. Joined by a crew of musicians pretty much in the same place he was professionally, the record was done on a shoestring budget, and with a lot of help from his friends. It was good enough and respected enough to motivate a second release, which again became a pure labor of love. Juggling a full-time job, frequent gigs and basic survival, Jon somehow pulled his support group together one more time, and with a fancier studio, the production expertise of the popular R.S. Field (Billy Joe Shaver, Webb Wilder, Allison Moorer, etc.), and a lot of favors from his talented friends, DOWN AT THE WELL OF WISHES has finally arrived.

Jon Byrd. Photo Credit: Michael Pittman.

Is this country music? Well, yes and no. It’s not what radio programmers call “country music” today, but it is the kind of country music you hear when you listen to a Dan Penn record, or a Willie Nelson album. It is music from the heart and soul, full of songs about real things that matter to everyone. The dark imagery of the opener, “In A Chest Of Skin And Bone,” co-written with Jon’s Nashville drinking buddy Butch Primm (an amazing songwriter as well), sets the tone for a journey through emotional valleys and caverns. The poignant and beautiful melody and harmonies on “When It Starts To Rain” enhance the rich metaphorical lyrics, and drive the message of solitary pain over missed opportunities straight into the listener’s mind. Each of the nine tracks is a defining moment, whether a reflection on Jon’s roots in “Alabama Asphalt,” or a sweet eulogy for for a favorite watering hole in “A Fond Farewell”.

Recorded at Ocean Way Studio, Jon’s friends are all over the place. Former Los Straitjackets drummer Jimmy Lester handles most of the percussion, the keyboards are courtesy of Georgia native Adam Wright, whose lovely and incredibly talented wife Shannon Wright also adds harmony vocals. The pedal steel is shared by Newnan boy Alex McCollough (who also mastered the record) and the incredible Pat Severs, who works with Bill Anderson and the Everly Brothers. Ed Atkins of the Derailers adds some bass, along with Duane Blevins. And when Jon isn’t playing lead guitar, that is handled well by Milan Miller.

So who will hear this great record? With no big publicity machine behind it, that relies on word of mouth, website reviews and indie radio DJs to create a groundswell. Jon just returned from a successful solo European tour, and is a participant on a Grammy®-nominated album, I LOVE…TOM T. HALL’S SONGS OF FOX HOLLOW . Those are sure to increase his exposure. But regardless of the challenge of commercial success, Jon has accomplished many of the goals he set out to achieve when he left Atlanta, and we are all very proud of his amazing work. Sometimes wishes come true, and Jon Byrd deserves it.

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The Rebel Surfers Are Ready to Rockabilly Luau: Happy Talkin’ with Guitarist Pete Jamestone

Posted on: Jun 16th, 2011 By:

This Saturday’s Rockabilly Luau (noon-8 PM at The Masquerade Music Park) promises an island paradise of musical entertainment from Atlanta bands such as Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho DeVilles, The Atomic Rockets, Pelvis Breastlies, The Mystery Men? and C.N. i. Cow to eclectic regional acts such as Alabama’s Japanese-monster-inspired band Daikaiju and Asheville’s The Go Devils. One band you may know a little less about because they’re new and from Nashville is The Rebel Surfers. But ATLRetro is guessing if you don’t, your ignorance won’t last very long. Like this week’s Kool Kats, Luau founders Chris Mattox and Jessica Vega, guitarist Pete Jamestone and Manda Lou are a dynamic duo of seasoned musicians who mean to cause some mighty fine trouble in the Retro music scene.

The Rebel Surfers Peter Jameson, Manda Lou and new drummer Vera Herten.

Both aren’t Music City natives but they were raised in music. Pete hails from Motor City, where he was a producer, writer and guitarist for such seminal rock and punk acts as Nikki And The Corvettes (Bomp Records), The Motor City Rockers ( The Romantics’ original incarnation), The Original House Of Blues Allstars (Boston) and Nick Kane (The Mavericks), as well as sessions with Rockin’ Ronnie Weiser and Ray Campi (Rollin’ Rock Records), Susan Tedeschi, Annie Rains, Ronnie Earl and Was (Not Was). Manda Lou (sax, bass guitar and lead vocals) comes from the Big Apple and led her own rockabilly band in Nashville which has included Johnny G. d’Artenay and Harry Fontana. Manda Lou also toured Europe with the American Music Abroad Empire Tour and played sax with Pete in Nashville’s Soul Reputations.

Maybe it’s that diverse background that makes them so ready to rebel against the idea of riding the wave of any particular rock genre. Don’t call them simply surf or rockabilly or psychobilly or surfabilly or any label. Or better call them all of that all of once and quite a bit more (see Pete’s thoughts on being boxed below). They’re also more than a little excited about the Rockabilly Luau. ATLRetro decided to sit down with Pete and get a sneak preview of what tiki-philes can expect when the Rebel Surfers come to town.

How did a Journey Man Detroit Guitarist and a New York Rockabilly Sax Kitten end up in Nashville?

Well I was on my way to LA and Nashville got in the way, and it just made sense to stay. Manda Lou moved here from upstate NY to play music. Eventually we crossed paths, followed the Muse, and it all took shape

The Rebel Surfers play The Mercy Lounge in Nashville.

You’ve worked as a producer, writer and guitarist for a lot of big names in Detroit. Is there a different flavor to the music scene in Nashville and what do you like about it?

Detroit is down and dirty where you play every note as if your life depended on it because it does and it has always been that way. Nashville is full of great musicians of all kinds. The unique and like minds seem to organically find each other and make something cool! I’m so lucky to be from the Motor City. It defines everything I do

What’s the origin story behind the Rebel Surfers?

The Rebel Surfers evolved from a recording project into a live act over the last year or so, The name just made more sense than some of the bad ones people come up with!

Your Facebook page describes your sound as “Rock and Roll, Surf, Rockabilly, Spy, Blues, Garage, Instro, Spaghetti, Hot Rod, Exotic, Fuzz, Tropical, Instrumental”? That’s like all my favorite Retro rock music styles meshed together into one happy sound, but is it challenging when you try to describe your sound?

Well, it’s pretty easy to wear our influences on our sleeves, We just love all the “kool” music and culture so much it’s impossible to limit ourselves. So we just go with it. People have to put things in boxes. You just can’t worry about it. You just have to do your thing. Happy Sound. I like that!

I just had the pleasure of interviewing Dick Dale last week for ATLRetro (read it here). How much of an influence is he on your music, and have you had a chance to catch him on his current tour?

Interviewing him must have been something. No, our hearts are sad as we will not get the pleasure of seeing Mister Dick Dale on this tour. Being a card-carrying Fender Man, The Stratocaster, Fender Reverb, Amps—all of it, he truly invented a timeless art form with the tools Leo gave him. His influence is beyond measure, as a performer, musician and human being. In fact, Manda Lou wants to marry him!

Any special plans for the Rockabilly Luau?

We now have our new permanent drummer Vera Herten. We did our first big show with her last week with Los Straitjackets, and we are just reborn as a stripped-down, lean machine. She was the true missing link we have been searching for. We have to pull out all the stops at the Rockabilly Luau as we will be following opener Daikaiju who will just destroy the place. Atlanta, here we come. We can’t wait!

Are you and/or Manda tiki collectors, and if yes, what do you love about vintage Hawaiiana?

We are mostly collectors of musical instruments and vintage clothes, but everything inspires us. Right now we are all living in Tiki World!

When I visit Nashville and want to hear great music like yours, where should I go?

There is some amazing rockabilly on Sundays down on Lower Broad at Robert’s Western World with The Chris Casello Trio. Layla’s, The Basement, The FooBar Too and The Mercy Lounge are my favorites!

What do you and Manda like to do when you’re not performing?

We are always working on something. Right now it’s putting the finishing touches on our first full proper all-original studio album. It should be out around the end of August just before we go on our East Coast tour, You can preview much of it on Reverb Nation and Facebook, as well as see our videos. Our “Live Bootleg” Limited Edition CD will be available at the Luau. Thanks!

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