Kool Kat of the Week: 21st Century Punk Lives: Noelle Shuck of SHEHEHE & HAMMERHEAD FEST Turn Five This Weekend

Posted on: Mar 10th, 2016 By:
SHEHEHE. Photo credit: Gary Duddleston.

SHEHEHE. Photo credit: Gary Duddleston.

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Writer

About a dozen punk and metal bands are performing at the two-day Hammerhead Fest V this weekend at Star Bar. The Goddamn Gallows swing in to headline Fri. March 12 and Ramming Speed will close the festival on Sat. March 12. The first bands hit the stage at 9 pm both nights, and the mostly local line-up includes returning acts The Vaginas, Death of Kings and Bigfoot (Read our interview with Bigfoot’s Jett Bryant here).

Also back this year is Athens based ass-kickers SHEHEHE. Catch em while they’re close because who knows when they’ll be back around. About their Friday night Hammerhead slot, the band posted the following on Facebook: “Last Atlanta show until we’re not sure when! Come out and rage with us!” So we figured we’d better get a move on making guitarist and singer Noelle Shuck our Kool Kat of the Week.

Like Hammerfest, SHEHEHE formed in 2011 and have long been favorites among fans of the current punk rock scene, here and in Athens. They sound like the bands, the best ones, that became popular just as “punk” exploded in the late 70s, when the genre was still loosely defined. Still, Shuck says she and bandmates Nicole Bechill (lead singer), Jason Fusco (drums, vocals) and Derek Wiggs (bass guitar) don’t mind stretching the boundaries of the genre to make room for creativity. They are a punk band after all. So in addition to the genre icons you might expect (Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Stooges), they list as influences The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Kinks, Motorhead, even Tears For Fears and The Bangles.

hammerheadShuck took the time to chat with ATLRetro a few days ago about SHEHEHE’s specific punk pH, what the genre means to her, and the most punk rock thing she’s ever seen at one of their shows.

And why a clarification might be in order if ever asked if you’re an old school punk.

And briefly about dining locally.

How can people check out your music?

We’re on Spofity, Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, all that digital shizzzz. Links to it through our official Facebook page, too.

What’s the Hammerhead Fest?

A two-day festival that features regional rock bands put together by King/Tastemaker Amos motherfuckin Rifkin and Co

How did SHEHEHE come together?

Lots of practice (grins).

shehehe2How would you describe your music to those unfamiliar?

Describing SHEHEHE to people is difficult because we get so many different descriptions from people about what we sound like. But I would describe it as a mixture of early-’70s punk, kinda Ramones-core mixed with some glam. We get Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, L7 and The Donnas as well. If you’re familiar with power pop, that’s something people tend to agree on. Punk ’n’ roll also works.

Who are your influences?

Wu-Tang

Who do you listen to now?

My mom.

shehehe3What is punk? Plenty of aging rock fans say “real” punk ended decades ago. Thoughts?

Part I: Originally, a prison term for a guy who was at the receiving end of anal sex.


Part II: Real punk is relative to each individual. The words “real” and “original” aren’t necessarily the same. Punk to me is a response to mainstream conformist tendencies that tend to stifle creativity and expression. I think punk is just about being genuine.

Musically of course it’s a little narrower than that. We all have ideas of what punk music should or does sound like, but it’s cool to find new ways to stretch that and play with it some. Our band is a weird amalgamation of four people with different influences and backgrounds coming together to make something we all agree is good. But I never would have known this would be the result if you’d asked me what I thought a band with these four individuals would sound like. So for me that’s that idea of being genuine. Musically or otherwise. There’s too much sheepherding and being told what to like these days. Fuck that—like whatever the hell makes you happy.

How are the Atlanta & Athens punk-rock scenes?

They are fantastic. 10/10 would recommend.

What acts do you like locally?

It’s a tie between cunnilingus & Blondie from the Clermont Lounge.

shehehe4What’s the most punk rock thing you’ve ever seen or done at a SHEHEHE show?

I think the punkest thing was early on in the semi-original lineup when we still had a lead guitar player. Well, actually it was right after we lost our lead player. We got a guy to fill in for a show at Caledonia. He practiced with us once and everything seemed well enough. So we get to the show, and he shows up just completely wasted and proceeds to play leads in all the wrong places, something that would’ve been great if we were like Sonic Youth, Then he tries to sing along into Nicole’s mic even though he knows zero of the words. Jason unplugged him, but he kept plugging himself back in. Eventually Jason started throwing shit at him, a drumstick and a roll of duct tape, and told him to get off the stage before he beat his ass.

Some people in the crowd thought it was some sort of schtick up until this point, including our dudes from KarbomB. As soon as they realized it was real, they all helped keep the dude in the crowd so we could finish our set. People said we ripped it. Whether or not that was just in comparison to being an unintentional noise rock band or because we were all kinda pissed and full of adrenaline, I’m not sure.

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Kool Kat of the Week: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll But Ray Dafrico Likes It

Posted on: Jul 21st, 2015 By:

raydafricoDon’t expect any S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y N-I-G-H-T choruses at the Ray City Rollers‘ gig on July 24 at Steve’s Live Music. Not only is it Friday but Ray Dafrico‘s latest band owes more to The Kinks, The Who and The Stones, although despite his many years toughed out in a black leather jacket, he does admit an affection for the bubblegum rock of the ’60s and ’70s.

Ray is no stranger to Atlanta’s music scene. The last time we talked to the singer/songwriter/guitarist, he’d finished up a documentary,THE NIGHTPORTERS: TELL IT LIKE IT IS, about the early 1980s legendary Atlanta punk-alternative band which he cofounded. Born in New York City, Ray’s family moved around a lot, finally ending up in Roswell. Suburban boredom nurtured a restless among high school friends/musicians which spawned The Nightporters. They moved intown to Pershing Point, a now-demolished decrepit apartment building where Atlanta’s punk rock scene lodged and practiced, got their start at the notorious Blue Rat Gallery and became regulars at 688. They then proceeded to tour widely, including many New York gigs and opening for myriad alt-rock headliners from The Replacements, who became friends and slept on Ray’s floor, to The Clash‘s riotous concert at The Fox Theatre. This Friday’s show will reunite Dafrico with Nightporters drummer Paul Lenz, who has joined the Rollers and also has drummed for Drivin’ N Cryin’. Ray also played in Kathleen Turner Overdrive.

In other words, Ray’s one Kool Kat of the Week that’s way, way overdue. Because that was then and this is now, we concentrated on his current band, but we couldn’t resist the urge to ask him about what’s spinning on his turntable. Yeah, turntable.

ATLRetro: Your new band is the Ray City Rollers. What’s your secret origin story?

Ray Dafrico: Well, my solo bands have kind of been like the same band with different people. I have this pet peeve that you have to change the band name if someone leaves unlike most people who fight to keep using a name even though it’s not really the same band like So and So starring but only one of the original members. In my mind, I’m a purist not a tourist, so my bands, Shades of Shame, Kickstand, Soulfinger, etc., are really one band with different names. The Ray City Rollers were named so because I was going to just call it Ray Dafrico like a solo act with a band. But nobody can pronounce my last name right, so in the tradition of Kathleen Turner Overdrive – another band name I thought up – I just created some goofy name that I thought was hilarious. The only problem is people think it’s some kind of tribute band! I’ve actually had people say to me,”oh yeah, I remember you guys,”  and I have to say, no, it’s not the BAY City Rollers! Sometimes I don’t say anything to make them think I’m some rock star or something.

Ray Cirty Rollers copy 2So how important were the Bay City Rollers to your life?

I actually saw The Rollers in 1976. I thought they were great. I think I was the only guy there not wearing tartan and screaming. (laughs) Everybody says S-a-t-u-r, which I loved but “Money Honey” and “Rock and Roll Love Letter” were right up there. Woody had a punky shag and played a Telecaster, so what’s not to like? Not sure if a lot of people know The Ramones were also influenced by them and were trying to sound like them.

OK, really, you’re known for punk rock but you talk a lot about The Kinks, The Who, The Stones. Why the staying power for those bands for you? Was it a moment in time or are there any bands out there today who come close?

Well, after The Partridge Family and Bay City Rollers, those were the bands that I really go into. They took it up a level, quite a few levels actually. The combination of songs, image and raw energy by those ’60s English bands kinda defines Rock ‘n’ Roll to me. I was always an Anglophile even as a little kid. I used to watch THE THUNDERBIRDS, CAPTAIN SCARLET and THE DOUBLE DECKERS, so the bands were an extension of that, I think. Then I saw QUADROPHENIA and became a Mod when I was 17. Once you’re a Mod, you’re a Mod for life. I was into punk rock but always hated hardcore and all that Oi/Mohawk crap. Punk to me was ’70s style which was more like a Powerpop/Chuck Berry kinda thing.

Ray Double zero011As far as new bands, I try not to be a crotchety old man and say “all new music is crap” – which I do say from time to time (laughs) – but it is difficult to find music that really moves me. Fountains of Wayne are one of those bands. I like The Wonder StuffSpiritualized, Beth Orton, The Strypes, JET, The Mooney Suzuki, April March, Black Joe Lewis, etc. I’m pretty open-minded so I like all kinds of styles of music, but at the same time I know what I like when I hear it and instantly know when I don’t like it. Occasionally something will grow on me over time like any new Stones record. I won’t like it when it comes out, and then five years later it’s one of my faves!

How does the Ray City Rollers differ from your previous bands like The Nightporters and Kathleen Turner Overdrive? Do you have a musical manifesto?

Well, I was co-writer in the Porters and wrote half the songs in KTO. But with The Rollers and my other bands, it’s more focused and closer to how I hear the music in my head and I have more say as to how  to make it happen. My musical manifesto is a quote from Mike Campbell: “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”!

Ray City Rollers’ first album BABYLON BLUES (released in 2014) got a warm critical reception. Are you working on any new songs? A new album?

Yeah, it did. We didn’t press that many, although we’ve just made more. The feedback it received was great. It got a lot of online airplay, not sure about who else was playing it on the radio. I think it’s the best recording I’ve done so far, and I’m my worst critic so that’s saying something! I have a backlog of about three CDs worth of material, so I am always writing, but it’s difficult because you have to show the songs to the people who are playing with you. So they are new songs to them, but for me they feel ancient. When I play with new people, it’s great because I am reminded of how good they are, and they change depending on who I am playing them with.

raycity1You have been doing some covers also, at least at past gigs. What criteria do you have for the covers you play?

 I like to do obscure covers to test to see if people know its a cover or not. (laughs) I just do ones that I think are cool and are fairly easy to learn. We were doing stuff like “Come on Down to My Boat” by Every Mother’s Son and “Things Get Better” by Eddie Floyd. I really love Stax/Volt soul stuff and bubblegum pop

You’ve been touring a bit–California last year and you were recently in NC. Good to see you back in Atlanta. Any special plans for your gig the Steve’s Live Music?

Yeah, Steve’s will be Paul’s first Atlanta show with us and his birthday! We will also have Dave Biemiller on keyboards. I’ve been looking forever for a good keyboard player and I think I’ve found him. My songs are written with keys in mind, and the sound I’ve been trying to get for The Rollers is original with textures a la The Small Faces, The Attractions and The Band. The funny thing is Dave is my daughter’s boyfriend’s Dad. It’s small world after all. Maybe we should cover that.

nightportersThe Nightporters reunited for a benefit concert for Kat Peters last winter at The Star Bar. What’s it like playing with Paul again and any plans for another reunion show?

Playing with Paul is great. It’s like riding a bike with us. Telepathic in fact because the Nightporters played so much back then. We were also Michelle Malone‘s rhyhm section in the first Drag The River. Paul’s style and and energy has added a lot to the band. The other thing is we understand each others’ jokes and sense of humor and that is important. The door is always open for Porters shows, we had a good time and sounded great at the benefit, so if something comes up and schedules permit, we could do more shows.

Are you up to anything else? Solo projects? Any more film work to follow-up on your Nightporters documentary?

I always have multiple creative things going on but try to focus on one thing at a time. I need to revisit The Porters movie and do an edit and distribution at some point. I’m always doing photography, film/video stuff  and always thinking about doing solo acoustic shows, but I prefer with a band so I tend to talk more about that than actually doing it! Another thing I’ve been considering is DJing or doing a radio or podcast show.

rayd-laundryWhat are you listening to right now?

Well, Julie London on youtube; she’s a sultry dish! I have an addiction to thrift stores and try my best not to go to them, but wind up going in and buying a stack of LPs. Currently on my turntable: Soundtracks to THE IPCRESS FILE (1965), LADY IN CEMENT (1968) and THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. TV series, The Osmonds’ PHASE IIITHE COUNTRY SIDE OF JIM REEVES, Mott the Hoople‘s first, Richard Pryor, BAD LUCK STREAK IN DANCING SCHOOL by Warren Zevon and GERRI MULLIGAN MEETS STAN GETZ. 

Facebook Event Page for Friday July 24 show here

All photographs are courtesy of Ray Dafrico and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Fast Times at the Star Bar with Phoebe Cates and the Attractive Eighties Women

Posted on: Feb 26th, 2015 By:
Lazer Tag 2 by Josh Meister

Attractive Eighties Women. Photo credit: Josh Meister

Hammerhead Fest IV: Weekend at Burnouts thrashes the Star Bar back to the punk and metal glory days of the ’80s and ’90s Fri. Feb. 27 and Sat. Feb. 28 . Throw on your combat boots and get ready to thrash at this two-day event of bands, booze and debauchery. Co-headlining are comedy core “divas” Attractive Eighties Women (Fri.), who mix classic punk with ‘70s stadium rock, and self-described hardcore “jerks” The Vaginas (Sat.). Also on the killer bill are thrash metal Death of Kings,  Misfits-style punk SHEHEHE, Gunpowder Gray, Spray Tan, Hatestomp (from Tennessee), Bigfoot (featuring Kool Kat Jett Bryant), DROPOUT, Divided Heaven (featuring members of The Boils), Bottle Kids and Magoo’s Heros.

ATLRetro caught up with Phoebe Cates, recently to find out what happens when all that testosterone…er female power gets pent up in one bar. She’s one of the four Attractive Eighties Women, which also include Kelly McGillis, Christie Brinkley, Shelley Long, and Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher. The comedy-core band has rocked the Atlanta music scene back to MySpace days and are known for fun little ditties like “Mama Get a Mammogram,” “Murder Kroger” and “They Shoot Hipsters, Don’t They?”  “Lightning Bolt,” a jab at live-action-role-play, even made it onto AdultSwim’s FRISKY DINGO.

If that’s not enough to earn Phoebe a crack at Kool Kat of the Week, we’ve got to admit we sure dug her in GREMLINS

ATLRETRO: What’s the secret origin story of the Attractive Eighties Women?

Phoebe Cates: We were all fans of the Scottish prog-rock band Hot Eighties Ladies, so we decided to form a cover band. The seven original members of Attractive Eighties Women all met in 1997 in an IRC chat room for HEL fans.

How did you get your band name? We heard it had something to do with a self-help video so we assume you guys are pretty fit and stable.

The original name of the band was Guitars Aplenty—because we had four guitar players. Our friend Miss Lady Flex of Le Sexoflex suggested “Attractive Eighties Women” because our band is composed of some of the most attractive actresses of the 1980s. After she pointed that out, it was kind of a no-brainer.

Album Art by Mack WilliamsWhich of you is the most attractive and why?

Me, Phoebe Cates. Why? Because of this infamous clip which I’m sure you’ve seen. Christie Brinkley thinks she’s the most attractive, but she also thinks “Uptown Girl” was written about her. What an idiot. 

Classic punk mixed with ‘70s stadium rock sounds like an oxymoron. How do your reconcile the basic antipathy felt by each toward the other, or are you simply schizophrenic?

It’s 2015, who cares about multisyllabic words like “antipathy” and “schizophrenic.” Rock & roll is for the people, baby! Whether they’re in a shithole dive or the Georgia Dome, AEW is for everyone regardless of race, income level, gender, sexual orientation, smell, complexion, hair height, shoe size, IQ, political affiliation, blood type, dick length, vagina depth or BMI. Except Georgia Tech fans. They’re not welcome at our shows.

You’ve been getting airplay at major media outlets lately with the Murder Kroger getting renovated and cleaned up into the Beltline Kroger. So how do you feel about that makeover? Be honest, is Atlanta losing a landmark? 

“Murder Kroger” the song is far more famous than our band. That makes us a one-hit-wonder, just like Joan Osborne and Tag Team. If that song is our legacy in the city of Atlanta, that makes me very happy. Getting upset about gentrification or the death of small businesses is pointless. I prefer to spend my time contemplating the cosmos and writing songs about beer shits. Murder Kroger will live forever in the minds of those who experienced the filth and the fury themselves.

hammerheadfestShould hipsters still be shot?

No one cares about hipsters anymore. What’s a 2015 hipster? What was a 2007 hipster? I say shoot everyone under the age of 25.

Why should ATLRetro readers be sure not to miss Hammerhead Fest IV?! 

Attractive Eighties Women on Friday, and our friends The Vaginas on Saturday. I really like Death of Kings, too, and I’ve heard good things about Dropout and SHEHEHE, though I’ve never seen them myself. Is that Elvis Vault still there? Also, Shelley Long promised to whip it out during our third encore.

Looking at your Facebook page, can we expect Lazer Tag?

Yes, you can expect the hell out of it. 

OK, you don’t want to give away any spoilers, but for folks who have never seen you “ladies” live, what can they expect? And for those who have, why should they bother seeing you again?

Every Attractive Eighties Women show is unique, just like human dental records. Coincidentally, that’s what the authorities will need to identify the bodies in the audience after our sick riffs burn the Star Bar to the ground.

Hot Tub by Josh Meister

Attractive Eighties Women. Photo credit: Josh Meister.

What else are you up to now? Tour? New songs? Album?

There are no plans for any of that stuff at the moment. Immediately after the show is over, I’m being whisked offstage and flown back to Thailand, where I’ve been living for the past five years. I am doing a lot of meditating and training at a Buddhist temple. It’s very similar to the beginning of RAMBO III.

What question do you really wish someone would ask you? And what’s the answer?

Q: What’s the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? A: What’s it like to be a virgin in your 40s?

All photographs are provided by Attractive Eighties Women and used with permission. The cover gallery photo credit on the ATLRetro home page is by Josh Meister.

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Kool Kats of the Week: Pillage & Plunder, the “Musical Mad Scientists” Rock The Earl While Promoting Raucous Reptilian Love With Gamera and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Posted on: May 19th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Contributing Writer

Pillage & Plunder, “weaned on the teat of comic books, video games, jazz, mathematics, punk and prog” will be rockin’ to the tune of Turtle at The Earl this Friday, May 23! It’ll be a night of mischief and mayhem with a celebration of the release of their debut LP, “The Show Must Go Wrong,” out August 5, along with Atlanta’s Slowriter and Mice in Cars, in conjunction with World Turtle Day! You won’t want to miss Pillage & Plunder’s rockin’ reptilian ruckus at The Earl this Friday!

Pillage & Plunder, Atlanta’s indie-prog/jazz-punk trio is made up of Gokul Parasuram (guitar/bass/vocals), Hsiang-Ming Wen (bass/guitar/vocals) and Noah Kess (drums/vibes). In no way are they newbies to the indie, pop-culture scene, having shared the stage with Tennessee’s indie, “rock n roll fablers” and Mega Man fanatics, The Protomen and Paper Route. They’ve also been rockin’ around town delivering their “rock magic” and “beautiful chaos” at several of Atlanta’s rockin’ venues: The Star Bar, Under the Couch, WonderRoot, Smith’s Olde Bar, 529, the Masquerade, the Inman Park Festival, just to name a few! And they’ve been busy recording since 2009 [2009 – “The Artisan/Blue” single; 2011 – “Look Inside For The Prize” (EP); 2012 – “Summer Days/Hit & Run” single; 2013 – “Goodnight Jack” (acoustic EP)]. Pillage & Plunder is a rockin’ band and chaotic force you won’t want to miss!

ATLRetro caught up with the fellas of Pillage & Plunder, for a quick interview about their rockin’ retro sounds, their love of all things geeky, the importance of the preservation of our 200-million-year-old turtle pals and their August 5 debut of their LP, “The Show Must Go Wrong”.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with the band, take a listen to Pillage & Plunder’s “Summer Days” here.

ATLRetro: What’s in a name? Pillage & Plunder sounds more swashbuckler than comics, retro video games, jazz, math and punk. Is there an adventurous story of rock behind the name? Does “X” really mark the spot? Come on and fill our readers in on how you earned such a name!

Gokul: When we started, we had trouble thinking up good names. Every week, I’d bring new band names to a buddy of mine who’d always laugh at our ideas. This friend always suggested (jokingly) that we name ourselves Pillage & Plunder. It sounded corny and had no obvious connection to our music at the time, but we honestly couldn’t come up with anything better. Ten years later, nothing has changed.

How did you rockin’ dudes come together as a band? Was it rock love at first sight or was there a little shakin’, rattlin’ and rollin’ along the way?

Gokul: Let’s go with rock and roll love at first sight. Hsiang-Ming and I sat together in our eighth-grade history class. We became buddies. Watching movies led to video games and anime conventions, which led to guitars and ultimately to writing/recording demos in our bedrooms. Early Pillage & Plunder rehearsals comprised of covers and jams, but we picked up some momentum as original material started entering our repertoire. We gigged around with a drummer who was a high school friend until 2011, when Noah joined the band. I would describe Noah as rock and roll love at first phone conversation.

How would you describe your sound? We’ve seen the band described as paying homage to ’50s martini lounge, ’70s psych-prog and ’90s pop punk. What should our readers expect when they come to your show?

Gokul: We pay homage to these sounds and more on a nightly basis! It’s the byproduct of having three genre-hopping musical hoarders in the same band. Generally you can expect a lot of variety at our gigs, but all of our songs tend to have at least one big heavy riff moment. Look out for the big heavy riff moments!

We see that you ‘navigated the dreams of Frank Zappa and King Crimson’.  What about these artists influenced you the most?

Gokul: The most captivating thing about the music of bands from that era is this sense that both anything can happen and that almost everything does happen. It’s fun to see artists explore what they can and can’t get away with, and that mindset is more prevalent in experimental forms of music.

Tell our readers a little about how you navigated the music scene.  What drew you to music? Have you always had a desire to play in front of big crowds or was it something you came to love later in life?

Hsiang-Ming: We each come from different backgrounds of music. Gokul started out learning jazz guitar from an early age, Noah was a marching band geek playing percussion and I was an orchestra nerd playing violin from elementary school onwards, eventually diving into guitar and bass in high school. Music is something we all are extremely passionate about and feel comfortable communicating in. We love playing live and definitely feed off the enthusiasm and energy of the crowd. Shows are like a dialogue, and it’s no fun talking to a wall. Or maybe I’m just not talking to the right ones.

In celebration of ‘World Turtle Day’ we see that you’ll be rockin’ out alongside some classic turtle-lovin’ cinema.  We at ATLRetro love our vintage Kaiju flicks, so of course we’re super giddy you’re including 1969’s GAMERA VS. GUIRON, and it’s totally tubular that THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES will be making an appearance as well! We think it’s pretty rad that you’re  not only promoting your rockin’ tunes, but are also promoting the preservation of some rockin’ descendants of prehistoric creatures.  Can you tell our readers about your love for turtles and why you’re interested in promoting and preserving them at this show?

Hsiang-Ming: YES!! This is going to be a great show! I don’t have a really good reason for loving turtles other than the fact thatthey’re AWESOME and have been around since over 200 million years ago! I just learned about World Turtle Day this year by chance and I think any event or organization that promotes the preservation of an endangered species is a cause worth talking about. We decided to do a show about it to have some fun and shed some light on a topic that is largely out of the public’s mind. The TMNT and Kaiju films are an added bonus that we tagged on not only for their pure entertainment value and because they’re amazing, but also to give people something to relate to, because kicking Foot Soldier butt and being an oversized tortoise is clearly something we’ve all dealt with in life. You can learn more about the American Tortoise Rescue and donate to their cause here. 

Can you tell our readers a little about your debut LP, ‘The Show Must Go Wrong’ coming out in August?

Hsiang-Ming:The Show Must Go Wrong” is our debut LP that we’ve been working on since 2012 and we cannot be more excited to finally release it in August! The title comes from an episode of the TV show “Parks & Recreation” that we felt reflected the songs and general mood/state of the band during the making of this album. From parting ways with our original drummer, getting all of our equipment stolen at SXSW and coping with failed relationships along the way, we’ve hurdled through a decent share of obstacles to realize that life will always throw obstacles at you, but you just have to keep on chugging and push forward, even if you make a fool of yourself in the process.

Any special plans for your show on the 23rd at The Earl?

Hsiang-Ming: Yes! We will be playing with fellow locals Slowriter and Mice in Cars who are both amazing bands if you’ve never seen them. Aside from the music, as you know, we will be screening the original 1990 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES film along with GAMERA VS. GUIRON (1969). Local turtle-loving brewers Terrapin Beer Co. have also generously teamed up with us to donate a few cases of free RecreationAle to attending guests [Supplies are limited so come early!]  Also, if you come to the show wearing green we’ll give you a little souvenir to take home with you! A portion of the proceeds from the show will be donated to the American Tortoise Rescue as well. You can RSVP to the event here.

What’s next for Pillage & Plunder?

Hsiang-Ming: After our World Turtle Party on May 23, we will be doing a mini regional tour during the month of June and part of July, prior to our album release in August. Afterwards, we will tour more extensively to promote the new record. On top of that, we are also working on finishing our first music video and have started demoing some new songs for our next album.

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

Hsiang-Ming: Before Noah joined the band in 2011, Pillage & Plunder‘s original lineup competed against his old band Colorblind aka Colourblind in a traditional high school Battle of the Bands.

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

Hsiang-Ming: Q: “Why didn’t Noah Kess answer any questions?” A: “The voice of Noah Kess is too awesome for the universe to handle and has been known to cause black holes. For further inquiries regarding “He who has not spoken,” please e-mail pillageandplunderband@gmail.com”  

 

 

 

 

 

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Kool Kats of the Week: Wrestling with the Rock-Horror Connection with Ryan Howard, Derek Obscura and Jamie Robertson of the Casket Creatures

Posted on: Jul 3rd, 2013 By:

Derek Obscura of the Casket Creatures.

The Fireworks may be over but Monstrosity Championship Wrestling is back at The Famous Pub culminating in a Great American Monster Mash battle royal to determine the number one contender to Phantom’s MCW Championship. The festivities also include a live performance by the Casket Creatures, celebrating the release of their new CD, SEX, BLOOD AND ROCK N ROLL.

Being that there’s a long history of rock songs with horror themes back to Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” ATLRetro couldn’t resist inviting vocalist Ryan Howard and guitarists Derek Obscura and Jamie Robertson of the Gainesville, GA.-based punk/horror band, to be our first triple-threat Kool Kats of the Week.

ATLRetro: What was your entree (musician and song) into horror-themed rock and how old were you?

Ryan: I grew up fascinated by haunted houses, Halloween, horror movies and anything spooky. My dad is a big part of this; he raised me around rock n’ roll and horror movies, and I am a better person because of it. My first experience to the horror genre in music would be my dad listening to Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath around me as a kid.  I guess the rest is horror history!

Jamie: I myself was really into Danzig since I was around 13,  and from Danzig I heard about the Misfits. I think the first Misfits track I heard was “Die Die My Darling,” and since then I have been hooked.

Derek: I was a bit of a late bloomer into the world of horror-rock/punk, but better late than never, they say! I was 15 and highly obsessed with the band Slipknot. Then I hear about Joey Jordison having this side band called the Murderdolls. I went out and picked up their debut, and instantly it was like a spark was set off in my brain. I played that CD nonstop for at least two or three weeks. And then from there, I found Wednesday 13’s solo CD [and] came across the Misfits, Blitzkid, etc. And here we are!

Why do you think rock and horror go together so well?

Ryan: Because the horror kids and the rock and roll kids usually are the same! We wear black shirts, listen to evil music and enjoy the darker side of life!

Derek: I think they mesh so well because both are pretty obscure subjects. Well, they CAN be. If you say “I like THE RING and Five Finger Death Punch,” that’s not obscure, that’s just lame! But throughout the years, you know, it wasn’t the “cool” thing to like horror movies, or the “cool” thing to like Rock N’ Roll,” or even wrestling! But the benefits of it are that the people are into it and REALLY dig it and get it, those people are awesome ,and it makes for a great community of like-minded people!

Ryan Howard, vocalist, The Casket Creatures.

The band was originally formed in 2006 as Brain Buffet and then reformed in 2010 as “The Casket Creatures.” When and how did the Casket Creatures get started? And why did you change the name?

Jamie: Myself and Ryan are the only two members from Brain Buffet that are also Casket Creatures. Also we didn’t want to do the exact same style with the Creatures; we wanted to be darker but more upbeat. Also instead of being straight-up punk, we wanted to add elements of other musical styles like rock ‘n’ roll and a metal flare to certain parts. The name change was just something that needed to happen. In June 2010, Ryan and myself started seriously talking about starting a new horror project which we actually got up and running in August 2010. I thought of the name one night watching old school universal horror movies. I threw the name out to the other members. They all dug it and the rest is history.

Ryan: Me and Jamie were in Brain Buffet, but the project was mainly a Halloween kind of band. A lot of cover songs, campy songs about eating brains, etc. After the band kind of dissolved we decided to form a new band that would be all about horror year-round! We wanted to have a different sound, more original songs and a nonstop show schedule. That along with the member change [is why] we decided to go with “The Casket Creatures.”  Ever since we changed the name, we have had way more opportunities, so it’s been really good for us.

Jamie Robertson, guitarist, The Casket Creatures.

Who are some of your influences? In other words, for the uninitiated, are the Casket Creatures more Cramps, more Bauhaus, more Alice, more Misfits or a witches’ brew of them all?

Ryan: We have had people call us rock, metal and punk, but at the end of the day  I think we have a really different sound for this genre. I think you can hear many different influences in each song, but we really work it to create the Casket Creature sound.

Derek: I would say we are a witches’ brew of a bit of everything and even more! All of us bring in a variety of different influences that are all over the place, and I think it shows in our songs.

Jamie: For me, it’s The Misfits, Alice Cooper and Danzig. More recent bands also include Slipkot and Blitzkid.

You’ve opened for such bands as Wednesday 13, Static X and Michale Graves. What’s your favorite gig so far and why?

Derek: Out of the three listed, I would have to say the Static X show for the reason that we have friends in that group as well as Davey Suicide who was on the tour also. S o it was really cool to get to see friends and hang out and them being able to see our band play. We also had some extra props for that show thanks to our pal Sam, so it made it more theatrical.

Ryan: We have had many gigs that could qualify as my favorite. Rock N’ Roll Monster Bash, Six Flags Fright Fest and the L5P Halloween Parade come to mind first for me. But out of those three, I would say Wednesday 13. We played great that night, we had an amazing crowd, and we made some DIEHARD fans that night.

Jamie: Little 5 Points Halloween Parade 2012. The crowd was insane, and we played really well.

Your new album is called SEX, BLOOD AND ROCK N ROLL. What’s it about and where can we get a CD or download a copy?

Ryan: SEX, BLOOD AND ROCK N ROLL is the album I have always wanted to make. It really shows what the band can do, and it really sets the bar high for the next release! Which by the way we are already talking about. The new album can be picked up on CDBABY, ITunes, Spotify and just about anywhere you can download music. I would just buy a copy at the MCW show Friday personally!

Do you have any special plans for Friday night?

Ryan: Just a killer set that showcases a lot of new material that has barely been played out live!  Oh, and [it’s] the first show that our CD will be available at!

What else makes Monstrosity Championship Wrestling special, and why should folks come out to the show, whether or not they are wrestling fans?

Derek: Where else can you see someone get beat up by The Invisible Man?! It is a great time all the time. I think it’s just very entertaining, and for people who aren’t into wrestling, they can still enjoy it because it’s just a night of excitement. There is the wrestling, you have live bands playing, they give out prizes, and you never know what’s going to happen!

Jamie: MCW is something that can be appreciated by anyone not just wrestling fans. From music to horror and even comedy, MCW is a full entertainment package.

What’s next for the Casket Creatures?

Jamie: Getting back into the full swing of playing live shows now that the album is out. I would also like to work on an EP or split with the new line-up. There are also some side projects in this band I would like to get out for everyone to hear. Another [thing] I would also like to put out with the Creatures in the future is some kind of concept album.

Ryan: Hopefully more out of state shows! We consider ourselves an Atlanta band at this point because that’s where we feel at home. And honestly Atlanta has the best horror scene around in my opinion, but we have a lot of fans asking us to make it out to them and we hope to soon make that happen!

The Casket Creatures performing at a Nov. 16, 2012 MCW match. Photo Credit: Target Audience Magazine. Photo courtesy of the Casket Creatures.

What do you do when you’re not performing with the Casket Creatures?

Ryan: Work on new material, book shows and work to pay the bills! Pretty much all my free time from working goes into the band! Oh, and beer drinking, lots of that!

 

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Tell It Like It Is: Ray Dafrico Remembers a Special Time in the Atlanta Music Scene and a Band Named the Nightporters

Posted on: Jun 11th, 2013 By:

In late April, when THE NIGHTPORTERS: TELL IT LIKE IT IS premiered at The Plaza Theatre, it wasn’t your typical movie screening but a reunion. The crowd was mostly in their 40s and 50s. Many of these folks had families and didn’t stay out late any more. But that didn’t mean they never did and some still had the leather jackets to show for it. When they come out in Atlanta, you know you’re in for a special evening.

If you are old enough to have been part of the early ’80s nascent punk/new wave scene that revolved around the now-legendary 688 Club, you remember a handful of local bands that stood out. You never missed any of their shows, and they played all the time. Perhaps the coolest and most memorable of these bands was The Nightporters. That’s not to say they never had any crappy drunken gigs. They had plenty, but when they were at their best, they were as good as any band that topped the college alternative charts and many that made it big when real punk had faded into a careless memory.

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Ray Dafrico started with some raw found footage of the Nightporters performing, mostly at the Blue Rat Gallery, a notorious art space in the now-demolished Pershing Point Apartments which was ground zero for housing starving punk rockers back in the day. To that, he added interviews with band members and other key members of the scene such as Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Rick Richards (Georgia Satellites). The end result is a time capsule not just of a band but of the clubs and people that made that period in Atlanta rock history so unique and a frozen moment in time when it seemed like music not just mattered but meant…well…everything.

With the movie now available on DVD, ATLRetro recently sat down with Ray to find out more about the genesis of this home-grown rockumentary, as well as what was so special, as the subtitle states, about “a time, a place and a band.”

ATLRetro: How did the idea of a Nightporters documentary get started?

Ray Dafrico: I got hold of some early footage a couple of years ago by a guy named James Farmer, who was one of the Blue Rat’s artists. There was footage of us that I had never seen. I thought it was really amazing and somebody should make a film and add some interviews. I didn’t know anyone else that would do it so I took it upon myself to start making it.

There really seemed to be a special quality about the early ‘80s music scene in Atlanta. What do you think made that time so special?

I just think it was creative and kind of more innocent in a way. Maybe it was because we were so young that it all seemed new and fresh. Punk rock was fairly new. I was into music, but it seemed inaccessible. With punk rock, you could prove you could do stuff yourself. Once we started doing that, we had a small circle of people that just started growing. Atlanta was really small at the time. There were maybe 10 bands and everyone knew each other. Everybody pulled for each other for the most part and would come to each other’s shows. There was some competition between bands that played in midtown and bands that mostly played like in Buckhead, but eventually we got friendly with most of the bands in town. Nowadays it seems so competitive. There are so many bands. It seems like everybody’s out for themselves.

The Nightporters definitely had that punk rock spirit, but you had other influences, too. 

We were influenced by punk rock, and we kind of sounded like punk rock, but the Sex Pistols just proved that you could go against the system and the corporate  music of the 1970s. But the thing that brought the Nightporters together was more the ‘60s punk bands. Originally the Rolling Stones, but we really liked the more obscure bands that had one-hit wonders like The Count Five. So you’re right, we weren’t directly the late ‘70s kind of punk rock. We were sort influenced by it, but it was an enabling thing than anything else. Our sound was sort of garage mod rock with elements of glam, folk, country, ska and reggae.

How important was 688?

Very important at the time. They just booked some amazing bands. At first, we were underage and we couldn’t get in. It was the same with the Agora Ballroom. It was like we would go down there every weekend and try to get in. There was this long-haired guy at the door. He would call us “weekend anarchists” and kick us out. We tried to see the Plasmatics and all these bands. Finally he let us in to see the Ramones. We had borrowed fake IDs from Marines that didn’t look anything like us. By coming down and trying to get in there for six months, we earned our way in. But yeah, there were [a few] other clubs to go to, like The Bistro, Moonshadow, Metroplex and Rumors, but 688 had the great bands, $1.50 beer  and a lot of cool diverse people would go there. We used to go to this place every Sunday called Margaritaville on Spring and 14th St. We were there so much we talked them into letting us play and turned it into our own club. It soon turned into its own little scene.

Part of it was the clubs, like 688, were more into promoting local music. They were as creative as the bands and at least more willing to experiment. I know [clubs] are about making money because they took a lot of ours, but it just seemed more laidback. They were having fun just like the bands were. It seemed that way anyway.

When did the Nightporters first get together and perform?

We were still in high school, I think, in 1981-82. I was going to say this in the movie, but it was a big deal for us to get from the suburbs to downtown Atlanta. We thought playing Tuesday nights at the Bistro was success. We had started at high school parties playing our punk rock/’60s songs. We would play to rednecks and jocks, and they were always trying to beat us up. Tim [Neilson] and Andy [Browne] and I were all transplanted Yankees, and there was still a lot of hostility towards outsiders in Atlanta especially in the suburbs.We got really tough because we were always having to mentally and physically fight with these people. We thought by the time we got to the cool new wave/punk clubs that we had made it. Anything beyond that was easy for us. I think that kind of shows because we were a really rough band. We earned that.

Can you talk a little about the Blue Rat?

Well, we all lived in the Pershing Point Apartments at 17th and Peachtree Street, that are all torn down now. Andy and I had an apartment there. We didn’t know anybody initially. It was across from the art school I was going to. I dropped out of art school like every good rock guitarist and pursue the Nightporters full time. We were so poor we lived off of hefty bags of popcorn because we knew someone that worked at a movie theatre. It was that and egg rolls from the Chinese grocery on the corner. We rehearsed in our kitchen which we didn’t dare eat in as there were giant cockroaches everywhere! It wasn’t a matter of time before we met two guys named Clark Brown and Chick Lockerman. They were the artists who set up the Blue Rat Gallery in their apartment. They asked us to play one of their openings. A huge crowd came out to see us of really crazy and eclectic people. Like Andy said in the movie, it was like Andy Warhol’s Factory. There were tons of drugs and everyone was just crazy and doing whatever they wanted.

So we became kind of the house band at the Blue Rat. We would rather play there than a club because it was more fun. We didn’t even charge any money.

How well, or should we say “shitty,” were you paid back in those days?

Once we got better known, we started playing colleges. That’s where the money was. We actually had contracts, not that that means a whole lot. Sometimes people would stiff us even with a contract, but we could get $1000 to play a college frat or something. Even when we were fairly well known, there was one incident in south Georgia where the club owner pulled a gun on us and refused to pay us. I had driven straight back from California to play that show! It showed my dedication, but maybe my stupidity, too. We never made any significant money, partly because we never got a record deal.

But the Nightporters toured a lot, including a lot of gigs in New York.

Yeah, we toured a lot. We went to the northeast a lot and played New York all the time and Boston. We opened for all kinds of people, like Bo Diddley.

Do you have a favorite performer or band you opened for?

We had some good times with Cheetah Chrome and the Dead Boys. Jason and the Scorchers were always fun. We played with The Replacements a lot, but there was a lot of tension there because we were so similar that it was like a competition. They were fun to watch, but they had their good nights and their drunken nights similar to us. Opening for The Clash was fun, even if Mick [Jones], my favorite in the band, wasn’t in the band at the time.

Was that the time when the Clash played the Fox Theatre and there was a riot on Peachtree?

That was actually the time before that the Clash played Atlanta. But I was in the riot. We were in the front row. When we came out, there was literally a riot starting. Chris Wood of The Restraints was in the front with an American flag protesting their communist views or some crap. Somehow a fight started and police cars came from every direction. Everyone was so amped up from the Clash show that they were literally fighting with the cops. It was a blast. It was kind of scary, but it didn’t last long.

We played with them a year or two after that. I had gone to Nashville and met Joe Strummer and got us the show. I just gave them a demo tape because I knew they got local bands to open. We got the show a day or two later.

How close did the Nightporters come to cutting a full LP and getting a recording contract with a record label?

We did make a few records, but we never made a whole album. We did two singles on our own and an EP on Safety Net Records called OUTSIDE, LOOKING IN [1986]. We had a lot of material, but we didn’t have a vehicle to release stuff. Andy and I would go up to record company offices in Manhattan, and they would just look at our clothes like “you’re not Scritti Politti or Duran Duran or whatever was selling then.” They didn’t know what to make of us. We were just way too real for a big label to consider investing in us. That’s my theory anyway.

How hard was it to assemble everyone whom you interviewed in the movie?

The hardest person was our drummer, who I never did get in the movie. It was easier to get Peter Buck from R.E.M. than our drummer. Other than that, I just told people to come down to The Majestic [Diner]. I asked a series of five questions and listened to whatever anyone had to say. The idea for the movie was to try and make it a cross between a Jim Jarmusch-type film like CIGARETTES AND COFFEE or something and a little bit of Spinal Tap and The Rutles. I was trying to keep it real, but light-hearted and funny because that was the way the Nightporters were. On one hand, we really took things very seriously. On the other hand, we didn’t take it serious at all. It wasn’t too hard. The most difficult part for me was editing the four hours of footage.

Do you consider the cut you showed at The Plaza the final cut, or will you still be editing some more?

I wanted to tell the whole story. That’s why it’s two hours long, but some people said it could have been shorter. It’s hard for me because it’s so personal. I think I had to include certain parts, and I guess if I’m going to get it distributed, I am going to have to cut it to half the time. I’m kind of dreading that because by now I’ve seen it so many times.

Are there any outtakes or a blooper reel that could be extras for a commercial DVD?

Yes, there is enough for a blooper reel, which is way funnier than the movie.  I kept interrupting everyone during the interviews saying things like, “I remember that”! It took a long time to cut all that out of the film. So I learned to just keep my mouth shut. It’s my first movie, and I had a lot of fun just doing it. That’s the best part – trying to shoot things 10 times because you’re laughing so hard.

Do you have any regrets that the band didn’t go further on a national scale?

Yes, I definitely regret us not staying together longer. I think we could have been huge, seeing what happened with the Black Crowes after us. Our songs are a lot more original and catchier. They have a lot more hooks. Like I said, we were a real kind of band that fought a lot, and we had a lot of problems. It was extremely difficult to get through even the three or four years together that we were.

Any chance of another Nightporters reunion?

Oh, yeah. Maybe. Definitely maybe. But I don’t really know. That’s not up to me—one person out of the four—to say. Andy and I have talked about it. We both have our own lives now and live in different cities, which makes it all the more difficult. We had enough trouble agreeing on things when we lived in the same apartment. We’re working on it, but sometimes I think we have two different visions of what the band could be.

Plus we all have KIDS! Mine is 18 now so I have a bit of free time, but Andy has two little ones.

What else are you up to? 

I still write tons of songs. I don’t always do a lot with them, but I’m always writing them. I have been playing under my own name with different musicians—whoever is available. That’s the thing now. I’m 49. It’s not like I’m 20 anymore so it’s hard to pull people together for any reason, much less to do a show. All those years of rocking out have really done a number on us as well; we’re now paying the price. We survived but are not by any means very healthy!  I’ve been working on this movie for the past year. Actually I’d like to make more films. I like editing. It puts all the things I like such as art and photography—I do photography—all in one form. I’m trying to juggle all those things really and start playing out again soon.

DVD Copies of THE NIGHTPORTERS: TELL IT LIKE IT IS are available for purchase for $15, payable directly to Ray Dafrico’s PayPal account at Rockandrollray@yahoo.com and eventually also will be available through Ray’s ReverbNation store link.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Hooting, Hollyfesterin’ and Cockle-Doodle-Doom with Phil Stair of Grim Rooster

Posted on: Jan 31st, 2013 By:

Phil Stair, lead vocalist/guitarist of Grim Rooster. Photo courtesy of Phil Stair.

Every year around the anniversary of The Day the Music Died, the Right Reverend Andy Hawley gathers some of Atlanta’s best rockabilly and neo-honkytonk talent at the Star Bar for a righteous revival called Hollyfest! This year the fifth annual tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper is on Sat. Feb. 2, so mark your calendars for  a Groundhog Day you’ll want to relive with a 14-band line-up conjuring up rock n roll deja vu that includes many groups whose members have been previous Kool Kats from Cletis Reid to Andrew & The DisapyramidsThe Stumblers to Rod Hamdallah.

Also on the playlist is Grim Rooster. While the group has only been around for a couple of years, its members include Phil Stair (lead vocals, guitar), Dylan Ross (bass) and Nate Elliscu (mandolin) and Tigerbeat Tony (drums) who have been active in the scene here for many a corn season. Boasting a diverse barnyard of influences that range from Johnny Cash to Rancid, they’ve already got more than 30 original songs under their belt and the fireball audacity to promise this about their musical menu on Facebook: “just try not to drip any tobacco juice on the floor the first time you feast your ears on this blue-plate dee-light of mother-cluckin’ foot-stompin’ fun and your jaw drops wide open!”

ATLRetro caught up with Phil to find out how Grim Rooster got hatched, what Hollyfest is all about and just what the hell is honky punk anyway?

So how and when did Grim Rooster get hatched?

Grim Rooster came about in the spring of 2011. My band Rocket 350 was on its last legs, and I was fairly bummed about it. My bass player had moved to Nashville so I wasn’t getting a lot of playing time. Also our crowd had finally faded, and it  just wasn’t worth the effort of getting everyone together. At that point, my buddy Dylan asked if I had any interest in starting some sort of side project. I knew that I wanted to start either a straight punk band or do something very stripped down and roosty. Dylan wanted to play stand-up bass so it was settled. We asked one of neighbors to come play drums, and then I wrote about 20 songs for the project. I really got wrapped up in the music and was very excited to be doing something new. It had been about 15 years since I started a new band.

What’s in the name?

Grim Rooster came from a goofy brainstorming session. We wanted to use something with the word “rooster” in it, and that’s when we started coming up with ridiculous names. Obviously it’s a play on Grim Reaper, and it was meant to be funny at first, but it had a pretty good ring to it. We started coming up with crazy logos and realized we had a winner.

What the hell is honky punk?

We play honky tonk and bluegrass. We have an acoustic guitar, mandolin, upright bass and drums. The ferocity that we play our honk tonk is where the punk comes in. Although we have a real roosty sound, the punk rock still seems to slip in there. This is great when we play places like the Star Bar, but when we play to the bluegrass crowd, a lot of times they get a bit lost. We used to do a cover of Operation Ivy‘s song “Knowledge,” but it never seemed to go over too well even though we really honky-tonked it up.

What’s so great about three dead Retro rockers and was it really the day the music died? In other words, what do Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper mean to you personally?

The day the music died will always remind me of the terrible Ritchie Valens movie that they did in the 80s. “Not my Ritchie!!” But seriously I think out of the three, Buddy Holly was the biggest loss. He was a great songwriter, and he did a lot to help shape rock ‘n’ roll at its very beginning. I will have to say though, that I’m very happy Waylon Jennings did not get on that plane. I can only imagine how terrible this event was when it happened and what a blow to rock ‘n’ roll it was. It seems like we always lose the great ones, yet guys like Justin Bieber seem to stick around forever. As far as what they mean to me personally, I’m more of an Elvis man myself, but that’s a conversation for another day.

The Grim Roosters at Twain's. Photo courtesy of the Grim Roosters.

Have you played past Hollyfests? For the uninitiated, what happens at Hollyfest and makes it special? With all the Star Bar regular bands and Andy organizing, it sounds like it’s a big rockabilly/honkytonk homecoming. 

I have played many Hollyfests. One with Grim Rooster and a couple with Rocket 350. It is like a big homecoming, or more like the Atlanta rockabilly scene’s annual meeting. It’s always a great time, and its always great to see friends that I’ve hung out with for the past 20 years. It’s funny. I was sneaking into that place when I was 18, and here I am seeing the exact same folks. Something like that is rare, and I’m glad Andy and the Star bar are keeping it alive.

What will Grim Rooster be playing at Hollyfest – Holly classics or your own songs or both? Any special plans?

We are stripping down for Hollyfest because our drummer won’t be able to make it. We will be going string-band style. We are going to bluegrass up “Midnight Shift” and “True Love Ways.” Next we are going to do a slow-dance version of “Rave On.” Then, last but not least, we are going to do a Roosterized version of Weezer’s tune “Buddy Holly.”

How did you start playing guitar, and were your first rock influences the classics or were you more of a punk rock boy or a metal-head?

I started playing guitar in 7th grade but quit when I got a Nintendo for my birthday. I stupidly put it down, but hell, I was 12. I picked it back up when I was 19 because I wanted to be in a band and I realized that no one wanted just a singer. I started by trying to play along to punk rock records. It took a few years to start getting the rockabilly licks down.  When I finally did, I started Rocket 350.

I would say punk rock boy and metal head, or maybe just a lot of classic rock. I love Guns n Roses and the Ramones, what can I say?! I knew about the classics, but I didn’t start seeking out different genres till high school. I originally got into roots music through ska. That scene used to be huge in Atlanta, and there were a ton of shows. That pushed me to seek out rockabilly, and then I was hooked on that for many years. Through all of it though, I would have to say punk rock is by far my favorite music. That is probably my biggest influence. Then there’s a lot of old school country and just plain rock ‘n’ roll thrown in there.

What other bands have you played with?

Rocket 350 has been my main band; that lasted from 1997 to 2011. We went on four US tours and played hundreds of regional shows. We recorded five albums. I have yet to release our last record. Also I did fill in for my buddy’s metal band Grayson Manor once. That was fun as hell, but not exactly a good fit.

Other than Hollyfest, what’s your most memorable, fun, crazy or satisfying Grim Rooster gig? 

We enjoy playing an outdoor venue in Alpharetta called Matilda’s. Everyone calls it the poor man’s Chastain. They have roots music outside every Saturday during the summer. You play on the porch of an old house, and everyone brings their own food and beer. It’s all ages, so all of our families can make it out to the show. Those so far have been my favorite gigs, and they always draw a huge crowd. Just a really great vibe when we play there and a lot of interaction from the crowd. At the end of the day, we do this for fun so when you can get people out and involved, it makes it worth it.

The Grim Roosters shake up Matilda's. Photo Courtesy of the Grim Roosters.

Do you have a day-job?

I do, but I don’t want to ruin the illusion. Ha, yes in real life, I have a wife and two kids and live in the burbs. I work as a financial advisor, so me playing music has become a way for me to release a ton of stress. If it wasn’t for the release of playing music, I would probably be in the looney bin. I was very lucky to have been able to play music for a living and go nuts. In my late 20s, the writing was on the wall. I realized I wanted other things.

What’s next for Grim Rooster?

Just trying to find more gigs. If you know of any, let me know. We do have a big one on Feb. 6 at Smith’s Olde Bar. We are opening up for Corb Lund, and we are super excited about it. We will be playing our usual set of originals with a couple covers thrown in. Should be a great night of honky tonk.

Also, Grim Rooster is on Facebook if anyone wants to check us out. We have a three-song demo up there for everyone to listen to and download.

 

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Kool Kats of the Week: A Romance by Design: Artists Caryn Grossman and Chris Buxbaum Collaborate in Life and at MODA

Posted on: Dec 7th, 2012 By:

Chris Buxbaum and Caryn Grossman.

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

Have you ever known two people from utterly separate times and places in your life, and then one day you learn that your worlds collided and they have become a couple, and it’s one of those rare “aha” moments? It happened right before my eyes. Caryn Grossman and Chris Buxbaum are two wonderfully creative and fascinating people. Then suddenly BANG! They are collaborating on an installation as part of “The South’s Next Wave: Design Challenge” at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). The special exhibit  began November 11, 2012 and runs though March 31, 2013

The sum of Caryn’s and Chris’ creative energy is formidable, making them the perfect candidates for Kool Kats of the Week. So I took the opportunity to chat with them about their dynamic cross-pollination

Torchy Taboo/ATLRetro: Chris, when I first met you, you were a DJ with an amazing record collection and a lifelong David Bowie fan. Is there a fave Bowie period? How have his styles influenced you creatively?

Chris: If pushed, I would say my favorite period was the “Berlin Era” (Low/Heroes/The Idiot/Lust for Life) – all that angst and faded glamor. Other than the “lost decade” (most of the ’80s), I love all Bowie’s work. The fact that it varies wildly in sound and vision is what attracts me to it. And never sticking to one look or genre – borrowing like a magpie from a wild variety of sources, both high and low art, is the most important thing I took away from it.

I see Glam-rock influences in the MODA installation….

Chris: Everything I did as a young fashionista in London (glam/early punk/ club kid/fetish pioneer) informs what I do now – an obsession with androgyny and fluid identity being the main thing that carried into this project. The photos in the installation, from a yearlong collaboration with supermodel David Richardson, are actually from another project that is nearing completion called “Schizophrenic Photogenic.” We are in talks with some galleries with a view to presenting these early next year.

You’ve both been shop keepers and lived the retail life. Thoughts on that?

Caryn: I think we both really miss it – I know I do. There’s something about the hunt for a fantastic mix of things, and then watching and interacting as people come through. We’re about to open a little retail space in Paris on Ponce, and I can easily see it growing into something more.

Chris: What I learned from being a shopkeeper is that while I am very good at creating a “look” and an atmosphere, I am no business man.

Chris and Caryn's installation "Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue" at MODA's South's Next Wave exhibition.

Chris, when did photography become part of your picture?

Chris: I have always carried a camera since i was a teen, but originally just to document what I was doing. It stemmed from having such a bad memory – just so I could remember where I had been. I only started getting “arty” about it when I had my Gallery “Boho Luxe.” The advent of digital really freed me up to experiment and learn -not so much for the ease of manipulation, but because you could now afford to make lots of mistakes and learn by trial and error, which is the only way for me. I don’t think I have ever read an instruction manual in my life. Meeting Caryn was the final ingredient. She pushes me to achieve and then is wonderful in helping me collate and publicize the work. She really is the magical final ingredient.

Caryn, tell us a little about how cross-pollinating your fantastic interior design skills with Chris’s photography. Talk to me about the mixing of your styles.

Caryn: On a job, there’s actually this wonderful synergistic flow; we both have an eye for color, shape and form, so the projects we do for our clients come together really easily – and beautifully. As far as a personal style, I love a sense of irony in design, a surprise tucked around a corner. It’s really evident in the MODA installation, and pretty much the same here at home.

My space is always a reflection of how I feel, and when I met Chris I was in a very melancholy, introspective kind of place. The loft I was living and working in really reflected that – lots of soft tones and heavy drapes to envelop me. Some things were overly lush, others were worn by time, but overall the space had a very soothing vibe, which was exactly what I needed it to be. I’d had a number of artists come through, so there was a lot of graffiti on the walls, so I think the sense of color and joy was there, it was just tucked away a bit more.

When Chris and I moved into our first loft together, the space was quite a bit smaller, and things had to condense. All of a sudden the graffiti wall was center-stage and Chris’ leopard bar was kind of integral to the mix. We still have a pretty soft surround, with the heavy drapes, but the space is much livelier, much more colorful, and much more in keeping with the boldness of Chris’ photos. I love it – it’s a happy space, really filled with a lot of laughter and love.

Caryn and David Richardson at MODA's opening night party.

I know that you are both versed in the organizing of unique events. It’s apparent that projects like this huge MODA event are second nature for you as a couple.

Chris: Before I discovered photography as an art form, I would say that putting together events, club nights, parties was my only talent – it’s like cooking – you have to have the right balance of ingredients and a pinch of magic. Caryn moved in very different circles from me, and she has a knack for publicity and finessing the right people. She can really write, and she has the education, technical skills and connections to make crazy ideas become reality. “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” was a true collaboration in every sense of the word. We worked shoulder to shoulder for five months to make that happen. Then we called in all our amazingly talented friends to make it real:  Milford Earl Thomas to make the film, Timo Evon and James Hoback for their artisan skills.

Caryn: I’ve always believed a collaborative process is the best, so even when I was working alone I always had other artists in and out of the space. Sometimes we shared the space and produced events together, sometimes it was just me inviting an artist in to show or play. It always brought me joy, and I loved seeing the creative process of others. It’s what makes my own work thrive, so producing events just came naturally. For a number of years I did it quarterly, opening my space up for all kinds of works, and all kinds of people, and I know my own creativity grew exponentially.

Happy Blue Family Chris Buxbaum, Caryn Grossman and Henry Jack Buxbaum!

What exactly is the MODA event?

Caryn: The exhibit, called “The South’s Next Wave,” is actually a design contest:  each design group chose or was assigned a color (ours was blue) and then assigned an object.  Ours was cake.  The only directive the curators gave was to design a monochromatic setting for the object. I envisioned ours as a room.

I thought it’d be great for Chris and I to do the space together. Chris had the idea to have a silent film made so that the “set” would remain animated after the opening. The film was shot on black and white 8 mm with a handheld camera and then tinted blue, frame by frame.

There were actually three openings: one for the press, one black-tie for wealthy patrons, and then the grand opening night.  The first two were so serious we decided to go all out on the third night and have David in the space as Marie Antoinette.  People loved it – they went nuts!  The event was sold out.

And how did you get involved?

Caryn: Sixteen designers from across the Southeast were chosen by the curators, Tim Hobby and David Goodrowe of a firm called Goodrowe/Hobby.  They had put out a call for entries for the object designers, so I approached Tim Hobby and asked him how the set designers were going to be chosen. I knew Tim from some design work we had done together years ago. He said the designers were going to be individually selected based on innovative style and merit – I presented him with some of my more recent work, and we were in.

David Bowie and a young Chris Buxbaum.

Give us more of the juicy details and logistics about the MODA installation.

Caryn: Creating the space for MODA was an amazing process. I had a vision of something over-the-top, kind of an ironic play on Marie Antoinette, and Chris’ photos were just a natural fit. Glam, punk, drag and my vision for design all came together almost seamlessly. Chris’ work and aesthetic was the perfect irony and surprise I was looking for, and the rest of the project kind of rolled on from there. I’ll let Chris tell most of this one, as once the vision came together, he really took it that step further by assembling this amazing team that ultimately included a filmmaker, drag performer, artistic finisher, Chris’ photos of course, and some pretty over-the-top furnishings and these unbelievable cakes by a company called Couture Cakes Inc. The museum crowd went nuts over it, especially the second opening night, which was the night we had our own Marie Antoinette – all seven-plus feet of him in platform heels, in the space.

I guess MODA is the perfect example of how our styles mix, and how we work together. I’m hoping it’s the start of a lot of great things.

Chris: “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” came together really organically. We went with blue because we were in the middle of a big project for CG CreativeInteriors [Caryn’s interior design firm]. When we have a project, we cover the walls of the loft in paint chips, fabric samples, inspiring pictures, etc, so we literally have to look at it all day. Since we were loving the colors we had chosen for this residential project, we decided to pull them over into the MODA one. We decided to use my pics of David Richardson to pull it out of being just decorative and give it an edge (and also to get them a wider audience). When we learned that our featured product was to be high-end designer cakes, the Marie Antoinette theme seemed the obvious way to go. Caryn worked tirelessly to find fantastic furniture and architectural products – the floor alone took almost a month to sort out [and] our first two ideas (mirrorball tiles/glitter wall paper) would not come together. In the end she sourced 40,000 silver rose petals. We drained six whole wedding stores of their supplies.

Tell me more about your crew selection and how they fit together.

Chris: The final thing that helped separate us from the pack was having David in the vignette live on opening night. It’s hard to ignore seven-and-a-half feet of drag queen with a Marie Antoinette wig and a birdcage on her head. And the cake maker, Lisa Humphreys, of Couture Cakes Inc.,  did an amazing job – even those shoes are cake.

We were also very honored to have Milford Earl Thomas (CLAIRE: A SILENT MOVIE) make a short film for us also featuring David. It turned out so beautifully and was designed to hold the viewers’ attention when David himself was not in the installation. I would love to work with him again in the future.

Caryn Grossman.

Share your vision of the future five or 10 years from now.

Chris: Vision for the future: an April wedding on the rooftop of the Telephone Factory, a solo gallery show for “Schizophrenic Photogenic” early 2013;  a group show with Rose Riot at Cherrylion and, last but not least, to grow CG Creative into a flourishing modern design firm.

Caryn: Wow. I have no idea, expect I know it will include the two of us, and some amazing intriguing happenings going on. I can easily see what we created at MODA taking on a life of its own. Whatever it is, and wherever we’ll be, I’m sure it will be fascinating – and happy.

Visitors to MODA get to vote on their favorite vignette and object. Chris and Caryn’s installation, “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” is #6. The voting ends February 15.  Each vignette is set up with the Skovr app, so that viewers can access facts and video about the designers while in the galleries or from home.  More info on the museum hours, etc., can be found at www.museumofdesign.org.

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‘Tis the Season To Be Merry: Hark the Honkytonk Devils Sing! Whiskey Gentry Throws a Merry Y’All Tide Celebration at Variety Playhouse.

Posted on: Nov 28th, 2011 By:

When a band named The Whiskey Gentry throws a Merry Y’All Tide Celebration for the holidays, you might be expecting the same old twangy country renditions of favorite carols. But this spirited band loves to defy expectations, and their seasonal shindig at the Variety Playhouse this Friday Dec. 2  is no exception to that raucous rule. It’s not that The Whiskey Gentry aren’t influenced by the kind of ballads that came down from the hills of Appalachia, but like a certain rebellious red-nosed reindeer, they’re bound and determined to be musical misfits with a diverse list of influences that spans from Patsy Cline to Bela Fleck to Social Distortion. Yeah, that Social Distortion. The accent is on the Whiskey in this Gentry who speed things up with some fiery, high-energy licks that suggest punk and old-time rock ‘n’ roll and even a touch of vaudeville in their stage shows.

The Whiskey Gentry’s 3rd annual Merry Y’All Tide also features The Packway Handle BandShovels and Rope and My Three Keanes, an act made up of veteran producer John Keane, who has produced CDs for R.E.M., the Indigo Girls and The Whiskey Gentry’s 2011 CD, PLEASE MAKE WELCOME, and his two daughters. All proceeds from the $15 in-advance/$17.50–at-the-door benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and fans are encouraged to bring at least three cans for donation. As an extra incentive, the band will be giving our a specially designed poster to everyone who participates.

While The Whiskey Gentry prefer not to nail down their sound into any one genre, ATLRetro managed to corral lead singer Lauren Staley and guitarist Jason Morrow—a couple both musically and in real life—into a sneak preview of Merry Y’All Tide. While sitting an spell, they also opened up more than a bit about the band’s origins, why they love the holidays and their favorite whiskey. And when you’re done reading, check out this this nifty little video they made about this Friday’s show.

ATLRetro: How did Whiskey Gentry get started?
Lauren: Jason and I met around Christmas 2007, and we were both in separate bands at the time. Once we started dating, we decided to join forces and begin writing tunes together. We both came from different musical backgrounds, but we immediately found a niche together with this style of music.

For those who haven’t heard the band before, how do you describe your sound, how did it come about and how does it relate to what’s come before musically?
Jason: Describing our sound is probably the hardest thing we have to do in this band. We’re not country. We’re not bluegrass. We’re not punk or rock or old-timey. Yet we ARE all of these things at the same time. I think we take the formula of an old country tune, turn it up to 11, give it some punch, add pretty vocals, and top it off with a few of the best pickers in the southeast. This came about from all of our shared love for country and bluegrass, but we wanted to really dig in and add the fire behind it.

The Whiskey Gentry. Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Gentry.

Many contemporary bands couldn’t rush further away from the sentimentality of Christmas, but you’ve become known for an annual live holiday show, which is even bigger this year. What’s the origin story behind the Merry Y’All Tide Celebration?
Jason: We love everything about the holiday season – anything from cinnamon broomsticks to watching our nephews and nieces open gifts. It’s a festive time of year, and we’re a festive type of band. We love this season whether it’s “cool” or not.
Lauren: I think people love to get in the holiday spirit in general. People go bananas over it. Did you see the Black Friday riots? I mean, come on.

At Merry Y’All Tide, will you be playing your own takes on traditional carols or original songs? Is it all Christmas music or will you be playing non-holiday fare, too?
Lauren: Back in the day, any artist who was somebody cut a Christmas record. Those tunes are classics, and we like to do our own takes on those as well as newer Christmas tunes. The majority of our set will be non-holiday fare, but we’ve got some awesome holiday songs picked out to cover. But we can’t tell you which ones they are – it’s a surprise. 🙂

What other shenangans are planned? Is Santa gonna be there, tapping his feet, clapping his hands and swigging a PBR?
Jason: We hired the crappyist Santa we could fine, and he’s going to be there chugging whiskey and PBR and trying to get pretty girls to sit on his lap.

Much merriment was had at last year's Merry Y'All. Photo Courtesy of The Whiskey Gentry.

Why We Three Keanes, Packway Handle Band and Shovels and Rope?
Jason: Shovels and Rope because they are our new favorite band, also a husband and wife duo. Packway Handle Band because Josh and the boys are some of our good friends and were part of our Christmas show last year. We Three Keanes because John Keane helped us make the best record of our career thus far, and he and his twin daughters will be doing a 20-minute, all-holiday song set promoting their Christmas record. He will also be sitting in on pedal steel with us.

Why did you want to partner with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Georgia Conservancy?
Lauren: We think the holidays are about giving, and we wanted to do our part to help out.

Why does your CD, PLEASE MAKE WELCOME, make the perfect Christmas present, and will there ever be a MERRY Y’ALL TIDE CD?
Lauren: Because it fits easily into a stocking and is also super easy to wrap—if you suck at wrapping like I do. And who knows—maybe we will have a Merry Y’all Tide CD for next year’s show!

What’s next for the Whiskey Gentry? You’re about to embark on a Southeast tour, right?
Jason: We are basically on tour every weekend, Thursday to Sunday. We already have 36 dates booked in 2012, so yes, we will be busy.

Finally, got to ask, what’s the band’s favorite whiskey, why and how do you drink it­- straight up or with ice?
Lauren: Ironically, I hate whiskey, so I’m a terrible person to answer this question.
Jason: If I had to speak for everyone, probably Jameson. In shots!

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