Shooter Jennings fuckin’ rocks. His music is tremendous and more so all the time – Black Ribbons was the Impound’s favorite album of 2010, a reinvention of the best, most successful kind – and the man just exudes a roughhewn kinda rightness. Shooter’s on a mission to seize back real country from the slick ass corporate clowns and their circus dogs. He’s spearheading a new music format with Give Me My XXX and releasing Family Man next January (Dennis wrote the liner notes and can assure you it’s one of the strongest classic country albums in many years), but not one to rest on his laurels, he’s just released this single/video which lands a neat haymaker to the hat acts, pseudo-rebels and all the pretty boys who couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat.
2011 has seen a number of striking debut releases but perhaps none so instantly winning or bubbling with future promise than Bitter Blood, the first long-player from Vermont’s Chamberlin. Comparisons to Dawes’ dazzling 2009 debut, North Hills, are apt, though Chamberlin slides a fair deal further into the modern rock realm than their L.A. peers. What the bands share is a clear, classic musical identity and an emotional foundation that’s raw, honest and affecting, an experience that informs one’s own experiences. Chamberlin catches how we really are with one another, or even how we are alone in our heads wondering how it all fits together and if we might be the odd piece out when all’s said and done.
Chamberlin began the year touring with Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, whose lead guitarist Scott Tournet produced Bitter Blood with a sure hand and unfussy overall sound. Live, the band is an energetic, already potent force to be reckoned with, definitely keeping the rising mainstream stars on their toes throughout their time together. Tender tales like “Turn Around” and ‘Sixty Days” along with spinning, chrome plated gem “Paper Crown” and defiant, dented “Souvenirs” are the kind of songs that demand attention, and while many who caught them opening for the Nocturnals may have come in unfamiliar they left hungry to know more about Chamberlin. Dirty Impound left their first show with the band at SF’s Fillmore utterly swept away by their vocal richness and general character, certain we’d seen one of the next great rock bands popping off today.
The band begins a new national tour opening for Carbon Leaf today, August 30, in Santa Barbara, CA. Find full tour dates here. And Chamberlin is currently cutting a series of stripped down, quite nifty covers that they’re letting folks vote on. Check out the video for their version of Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets” below the questionnaire and head over to vote on future installments and snap up free downloads here.
Here’s what Chamberlin singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Daly had to say to our inquiries.
If we had our way this sweetly grooving little ditty from Blitzen Trapper would top the charts every ol’ where. It’s wistful, well played and altogether wonderful, much like the rest of their forthcoming new joint, American Goldwing (arriving September 13 on Sub Pop), an album we’ve been devouring addictively since an advance copy came into our hands. DI has an exclusive track-by-track commentary with Blitzen Trapper main man Eric Earley coming up release week in September, and right now y’all can enjoy the first video for the new album’s lead-off single and get smitten right along with us.
Holly Golightly seemed older than her years from the moment she rolled into our listening lives in the early 90s with Thee Headcoatees. Her reach extended back to the wild, unruly rock of the 1950s and even further back to its roots in country blues, church music and unpolished country. Dappled with the pure pop confectionary pleasure of great 60s radio fare as well, Golightly’s music never for a moment seemed to give a damn about what was hip or selling or anything of that ilk. It’s music for the unbridled joy of it, songs scratching to the surface of her soul – she has that in abundance, too – often expressed in a most intoxicating way, an immediate reminder of how 2-3 minutes can be one’s whole sweet, intense world.
Not much has changed with Golightly in the intervening decades. The music and the woman behind it remain steadfastly original – a sound both instantly appealing and original as all get out. In recent years she’s been making music as a duo with longtime partner Lawyer Dave as Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs, which shows off even more unvarnished rootsiness, though old 78s don’t have a just-rough-enough, smoked honey voice like hers – if she’d been a young woman in the heyday of Phil Spector there’s no telling what that loon might have done to get a hold of her. The latest Brokeoffs album is entitled No Help Coming (released April 26 on Transdreamer), and it’s predictably a thigh slappin’ corker. Seriously, if you don’t amble around and reach for a mason jar of something strong, well, we worry for your health.
Dirty Impound puts Holly in the same line as Joan Jett, Poly Styrene and Wanda Jackson – take charge gals who cut their own musical swath – and we were tickled many shades of pink to get a slice of her time to discuss the nature of the music consumption, living on a farm and much more. Smart lady and a damn fine artist, so even if you’re not up to speed we think you’ll learn a few things from this chat (and subsequently dive into her back catalogue with undisguised gusto, we trust).
You’re a veteran in the music world and yet I get the sense that a lot of people don’t know how long you’ve been doing this.
Well, it depends on how you present it, I think. If every record seems like the first one you’ve made, if that’s how it’s presented, then people aren’t going to be any the wiser. I think perhaps a large plump of what I’ve done has gone completely under the radar. I haven’t done anything that monumental in my own right. I think a lot of people know I did The White Stripes song [“It's True That We Love One Another” on Elephant] and some people might know I did some stuff on the Broken Flowers soundtrack, but for the most part, that’s about as mainstream as it’s got; everything else has been pretty underground. It’s not surprising really, but sometimes I read something that says, “This is the third album by Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs,” with no mention of anything that came before. And sometimes it says it’s the 20th album by Holly Golightly!
Sadly, there’s a lot of general ignorance amongst people who write about music, which is especially annoying with someone like you who has a rich depth of musical history in your work.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but I do think a lot of people who write about music’s main reference point is something that happened in maybe the early 90s, so we’re speaking at extreme cross-purposes because I can’t make any comment on a band they ask me if I like since it’s a small miracle if I’ve heard of them. So, the chances are one in a hundred I’ll have any idea what they sound like. What can you do but laugh?
You throw your roots back a lot further, especially with the recent work with the Brokeoffs, where you seem to be going back to the music that inspired rock ‘n’ roll – early country records and raw blues sides that lead into rock.
That’s how my progress or regression rather has happened. I grew up in a time where the first records I bought were the first Buzzcocks records. That was what was current and happening and what I spent my pocket money on. Then, when I got to be 14 or 15 I went to see bands play. I remember going to see the The Rezillos, and I didn’t really know what they were all about but they looked great. And they did “Hippy Hippy Shake” or something like that and I didn’t realize it wasn’t their song and would search out the original song. This was the days before the internet so it was a tenuous process, but you’d find the original and realize even they weren’t credited with writing it. And often I’d find out that many of these tunes were just a rip-off of a church song! And that’s how I got to the realization that all decent music came from church.
There’s a quality and malleability to that music that can be changed into vastly different shapes decades down the line.
Rock ‘n’ roll is hymns, whichever way you pick it apart. That’s where the formula is from, that’s the parent of the formula.
Rock is as close to a church as many of us have anymore. Turning up our stereo or stepping into a rock show isn’t far off from Sunday service for certain folks, myself included.
It’s a form of human rejoicing, but we don’t have a single deity at the top of it all. Anybody truly interested in music will see a common thread. There’s always an element in all types of music that will connect with people. If music is an important part of your life, you’ll eventually hone it down to something that reaches you, and I guess I did that at a very early age and that’s what everything has come from. I did the research after growing up listening to punk rock music. It’s all so subjective – talking about music or writing about music or even making it. It’s only good to your ears isn’t it? I started out collecting records and dancing long before I thought making music, so I came from a different place. I wasn’t an aspiring rock ‘n’ roller, but I did find a formula I can relate to. I gravitated towards what literally moved me because I was a dancer.
Music begins with people dancing and chanting to a drum around the fire.
I’m not a music nerd by any stretch but as I get older I’m more interested in music before records were made, when one person on one side of the mountain didn’t know what people on the other side of the mountain sounded like. Everyone had their own interpretation. Today, people are just swamped with choices. There’s ALL this stuff available and nobody knows where to start. If they’re just getting into something then the internet makes it easier, but also harder in a way. Before musicians would go from town to town and play and all people had to go on was what they remembered from the live performance. And then they’d rip them off and produce a million different versions. That’s what really interests me, though that’s more a sociological aspect than a sonic one.
That social aspect is important and it gets downplayed a lot in the era of recorded music.
People don’t listen to music the same way they used to. The way they can carry a whole record collection around in their pocket and the way they flip through songs today is different. They don’t have to listen to a whole album straight through or even a whole 45 single on both sides. People’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter. So, I stick with the format that works for me, and three minutes is enough of any song. That’s what I know and I’m going to stick with it [laughs].
There’s a purity of form that comes from drawing inspiration from these older, original sources of music and bringing them into the modern era. I hear a lot of this in the Brokeoffs records, where that church connection is more readily apparent in your work.
That’s because it’s a collaboration with somebody who had a hideously oppressive religious upbringing. I didn’t fortunately, so that element has probably been brought in by the other half. I don’t have church to rail against. It doesn’t really exist in my tunnel vision. It’s not a world I know anything about and it wasn’t enforced on me as a child, so I don’t have problems with it. But since this is a true collaboration, this is how it manifests itself [laughs].
The cover shot on the new album has this Dust Bowl Depression imagery that plays into this element, too.
The first record we did together had a photograph on it and subsequent records had a painting and a little piece of artwork a friend had made for us. I was trying to get away from just having photographs on record sleeves because that’s what I’d generally done for my own records. It seems to be important to everybody but me that a photograph was to be had. But for this lastest Brokedowns record, we used this photograph. And what you say about it is totally accurate but to me it’s like a photo of my nan and granddad. I think it’s my grandmother’s apron I’m wearing. So, it works as a collaboration between us. We couldn’t be from two more different worlds the two of us. There’s something quite nice about the two of us glued together.
The back story spotlights the difference between reality and perception.
It was just something that represented both of us, and I was under quite a lot of pressure to come up with a photograph.
Sadly, that’s our culture – driven by image.
It’s bollocks really, and I don’t like music videos either. I don’t think music is for looking at. It matters to a lot of people – what somebody looks like – they need to feel some attachment to fashion or a fad, and I think that’s really juvenile. When I was 15 it really mattered to me, but some people don’t get beyond that and think it matters what clothes you wear.
Most real musicians make that journey away from surface impressions, like The Beatles, who were very conscious of image and dress when they began and eventually became a studio bound, disheveled bunch by the end.
It became very secondary. It was no longer THE thing they were being sold on. If you’re fresh faced and you want to capture people’s attention, it’s the only way to do it now. They put up billboards of the latest, greatest boy band or young girl and it’s so much a part of the package that the music is only small bit of it. That commerciality and pressure for people to look good has always existed but The Beatles were the first time everyone really cared about what musicians looked like, and it hasn’t gone anywhere since. But the photograph on [No Help Coming] is just a snapshot and I thought it was quite nice. I like that it’s anti-rock ‘n’ roll. It’s like, “Here’s what we look like,” and it is. We kinda dressed up and I picked one of the chickens up and that’s it.
You’re actually set up on a farm.
It’s something I did in the U.K. as well but it’s made more possible here by having more space. It was Georgia by fluke. We were looking in Kentucky and Tennessee for more acreage but this was what we settled with because I couldn’t bear to be more than a day’s drive away from an international airport. We’re northeast of Athens in the foothills. Everyone says it’s such a music town but we’ve played Athens once since we lived there, and I go into Athens once a month, if that. If someone is coming to visit I’ll show them Athens.
Does it change the kind of music you make living away from the big city?
Well, I never really have. I was born and bred in London but I’ve always strived very hard not to live in London [laughs]. But it’s a lot more expensive to live outside of London in the country. It’s the opposite of America. It hasn’t really changed how I do everything. I just uproot everything and put it in a 40-foot container and set up shop somewhere. Aside from being in a different place geographically, I’m in the same place musically. I’ve always worked in isolation, and I haven’t really regularly gone to see bands for 15-20 years. It’s not something I’m hankering for; I just miss my friends really. I’m not a bar person and never have been. So, when I play that’s my interaction with the world of live music.
Do you have any urge to go back to the garage rock stuff you’re associated with earlier in your career?
The Brokeoffs was a side project. Dave’s been my bandmate for about 13 years or so in the U.S. touring lineup. We’d talked about doing something with just the two of us for years, and the first album was done purely for fun. I used to live in a barn in the U.K. and we did it there. We did a tour afterwards that was really fun and easy, and we can travel really light and it’s cheap to do. So, we saw where we could maybe do another tour, make another record, and so it went on. But I still play with the full band on occasion. So, it’s not really a willful decision to do things differently. It’s just circumstantial and it’s gained its own momentum. I will, invariably, make another record when we’re all in the same place at the same time.
There’s a direct line in your solo records that travels back to the music that inspired rock ‘n’ roll, the stuff that inspired Chuck Berry and Wanda Jackson, the people who made this music what it is and put it on the radar of people around the world through sheer force of will. I feel like you have the same stuff in you.
That’s very flattering. It’s funny you should mention Chuck Berry because someone once said that the way I trod the boards and pick up musicians around the world – “This is 12-bar in G. Okay, go!” – reminded them of him. It’s a really old fashioned way of touring, just you and your guitar and whoever’s in town and has some gear can be your backing band. I’ve done plenty of traveling around like that. I’d usually take Bruce [Brand] with me because as long as your drummer is good most things can be covered up. I’m still playing with the same people who played on my first record, sort of on rotation and as they’re interested in doing it [laughs]. If I go back to England now, the three people I’d go to first are the three people who played on my first album, and that energy you talk about comes from that. It’s playing music with a bunch of friends primarily. There’s no bickering about how something should go or ego problems generally. This is just what we do and we do it really good and we enjoy doing it.
I’ve seen you many times over the years and your joy in what you do is infectious.
That’s quite good isn’t it? If I’m doing it 20 years later and I’m still enjoying it then I must be doing something right. That’s the way I look at it. It’s not a drag to me to get up and play. I do think if I was under any sort of pressure to sell records it might be a whole different story. If I’d jumped on the commercial bus, I don’t think I’d still be doing it. I’m doing it because I do what I please.
One’s first impression of Simon Allen might well be that he’s a touch wild, maybe even charmingly loopy, but altogether sweet. The man simply seems down for everything, ready to get his hands sticky in whatever the world is serving up. However, when The New Mastersounds drummer sits down behind his kit he’s lock-tight lethal, a lanky English answer to African-American forebears like Idris Muhammad, Zigaboo Modeliste and Clyde Stubblefield. What’s also refreshing about Allen is how he nearly always seems to be having THE best time of anyone onstage, whether he’s in his main groove with NMS or sitting in with any manner of funk or rock performers. What it all boils down to with Allen is his innate ability to swing and swing hard. Rather than dazzle folks with complex fills or crazy time signature shifts, he finds the proper pulse and pumps it beautifully. You can hear this on group’s new album, Breaks From The Border, or flying off stages as the quartet tours worldwide.
Here’s what Simon had to say in the Impound’s new drummer survey.
Cosmic American Music. It’s evocative as hell even if you don’t know its origins with the late, much missed Gram Parsons, a phrase merging tradition and the blown-open mindset of the 1960s. And the music that’s come out of this phrase lives up to this idea, joining the hands of hippies and hicks, serious pickers and serious slackers as they stir and share a true melting pot of sounds. While the loss of Gram to an accidental morphine overdose in 1973 remains a serious blow, his legacy is one of the strongest, coolest and just downright inspirational ever. He is in the bones of what’s come to be known as Americana, lurking inside the ever-growing marriage of rock & country in the mainstream, and there smiling and crying in all his exposed beauty on albums of his own and with The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers.
One of the greatest tributes to Gram Parsons has been going on in San Francisco for years. Sleepless Nights is the brainchild of Eric Shea (Mover, Sweet Chariot), an annual evening that celebrates its 10th anniversary tomorrow night, Saturday, August 27, at the Great American Music Hall in SF. Tickets and full info on the lineup, which includes Impound faves Chuck Prophet & Stephanie Finch, East Bay Grease and Paula Frazer, can be found here.
Here’s a little Gram to get ya in the mood, and we hope to see some of you at the GAMH on Saturday night. You shan’t be disappointed – this is ALWAYS a great night of music centered around one of the great beacons of popular song.
Their name would seem to make them a natural for this segment, but DI was still happily surprised when we came across this shot of Badfinger setting birds to flight. This is a band we love inordinately, a band whose members’ birthdays we’ve celebrated, a band whose losses we continue to mourn – the world really is a lesser place without Pete Ham, Mike Gibbins and Tom Evans. If the legend of their start as a handpicked group for The Beatles’ newly formed Apple Records isn’t enough to spark one’s interest (if you’re not already as smitten as us), then dive into No Dice (1970) and Straight Up (1971) and discover why this band has been such a blueprint for SO many others. But we also like that they weren’t too nice to raise a middle finger if the spirit took them.
Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal, also known as Boots Electric, is one of the inspirations behind Dirty Impound. He exudes all the musky, manly mayhem we love in rock, and he wiggles his moneymaker like a man with James Brown trained ants in his pants. Boots is releasing his first solo album, Honkey Kong, on September 20. We’ll have a ranging, wild conversation with Jesse around then, but in the meantime y’all enjoy the first porn-wise video from Honkey. Oh, we’ve been blasting the whole album for a bit now and it is a freakin’ blast WITH tons of lover man soul. Even more reasons for the ladies to love him besides that epic moustache.