In the near future, a 200-foot-tall machine called The Mantis rises to power. The Mantis has eighteen individual computerized eyes and rules like a bad queen. She's quickly ill tempered and eats the court entertainers when they displease her—musicians rarely leave her royal domed listening chamber. When Seattle foursome Irene Barber, Jamie Aaron, Samantha Wood, and Andy King are summoned to perform for The Mantis, they are unafraid. They set up in a sliver of moonlight spilling through the window and play their song "Mares"—the peculiar sonic beauty leaves The Mantis riveted and rapt. She eats no one. She loves it, and she appoints them her court band. Eighteen Individual Eyes, as they are known, are a band of balance and counterbalance. Their dual guitars drive indie-sutured progressions through onyx-coated chutes. Songs are hypnotic and full yet also full of sparseness. Live, they're completely in their element and the compositions have no ceiling. Vocalist Barber casts a glossed and pleading vibrato over the clean melodic runs and distorted panels of Aaron's Fender Jaguar reissue. The bass and drums of Wood and King batter and plant a well-ordered pulse. This past March, they released a glistening full-length called Unnovae Nights produced by Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon, Minus the Bear, Blood Brothers). Aaron and Barber answered 18 questions. No one was eaten.
1. Where does your name come from? A 200-foot tall computer monster with eighteen eyes? Called The Mantis?
Irene Barber: The summer we were coming up with a band name was the same summer I decided to read The Bell Jar. Eighteen Individual Eyes is a misquote from The Bell Jar. The text is, "I walked in and found nine pairs of eyes fixed on me. Nine! Eighteen separate eyes." I liked "Eighteen separate eyes" as a complete sentence. But when I relayed it to the band I said, "Eighteen Individual Eyes." Sorry, no Mantis.
2. Plath is nice and all, but what about compound eyes, commonly found in arthropods and insects? Hundreds or thousands of tiny lens-capped optical units called ommatidia. Or there's the mantis shrimp, which possesses detailed hyperspectral color vision and is reported to have the world's most complex color vision system.
Jamie Aaron: Who are you?
IB: Can we steal this information to put in our press kit?
3. How and when did you know you were going to play your particular instrument?
IB: When I would pretend to play guitar on this blow-up guitar I won at the fair in third grade. I also attached a flashlight to the top of a broomstick as my pretend mic. The full vox/guitar experience.
JA: I picked up the guitar when I was 10 because the violin was a pain in the ass to carry to school every day. And because I wanted to be like Wynonna Judd.
4. What is your song "Octogirl" about? You know Octomom does porn now?
IB: Octogirl is part girl, part deadly octopus. Can you imagine falling in love with that? Octomom does porn? Link, please.
Eighteen Individual Eyes play the Sunset Tavern tonight with Mr. Gnome and And And And.
Some call the music of Other Lives folk, but it's wider than folk—pieces are more orchestrated. The longing in the acoustic passages isn't orchestrated, however; the longing is innate, and lives in the voice of Jesse Tabish. Sounds of Other Lives are like an old piano, weathered but not threadbare. Live, the Stillwater, Oklahoma, five-piece continually shift instruments—violin, cello, keys, trumpet, clarinet, drums, bass, and guitar; they move yet remain fused. This past February and March, the band opened for Radiohead and even had Thom Yorke remix a track. Something Other Lives do embodies déjà vu. The ninth song, "Desert," from their second album Tamer Animals, for instance—as it unfolds, you imagine a late October day. You take a book you've never seen before off a shelf in a used bookstore and randomly flip to a page. What you read is familiar, too familiar, because you wrote it in a previous life. You had worked for Norfolk and Southern Railroad as a conductor and had recurring dreams that you were an ant. Then you felt a need to visit the Onon River in Mongolia, where you met someone, married, and settled as a pear farmer. Jesse Tabish spoke. He was in Stillwater, not Mongolia.
Everything you say is now on the record. So talk dirty. Tell me something disgusting, with as much profanity as possible.
Let's just straight up shit-talk. Really slam some people.
Talk shit on Thom Yorke right now.
[Pauses.] That guy. Man. Okay. I can't [laughs]. I don't have anything bad to say. It's impossible for me to shit-talk him.
He has no talent whatsoever.
He's never influenced me, ever.
What have you been in your previous lives? Maybe you were Genghis Khan. Maybe you were an ant. I take it from the name of your band that you believe in reincarnation.
Not necessarily, but I'm not opposed to it either. I've given reincarnation some thought, yes, but I don't totally subscribe to it. If I have had previous lives, I'd like to think that I was some sort of animal—something that had a 20-minute lifespan. Some sort of small fly.
This is a playlist of music referenced during Mayor McGinn's Sound Check interview:
1. Big Bill Broonzy: 3 Songs (1957)
2. Bruce Springsteen: Greetings From Asbury Park
3. Shuggie Otis: “Inspiration Information”
4. The JB’s: "Givin' Up Food For Funk"
5. Blue Break Beat Vol. 2 - Gene Harris: "Higga Boom"
6. The Grateful Dead: “CC Rider”
7. Lead Belly: “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
8. Children of Jah - the Chantells: “Desperate Time”
9. The Temptations: Psychedelic Shack
10. The Doors: “Riders on the Storm”
11. The Clash: “Washington Bullets”
12. John Coltrane: Blue Train
You've known Romy since you were 3 years old. What's the first memory you have of her?
There are loads of pictures of us when we're little. It's hard to distinguish between what's memory and what I've made in my head. I remember kindergarten. It was a pretty new age kindergarten; half of it was outdoors. There were these baby turtles they brought in. I remember Romy and I playing with them.
Baby turtles are the last thing I would have imagined bringing your band together, but it makes so much sense.
It was the baby turtles, yes [laughs].
The xx play the Paramount tomorrow night.
Love Battery guitar player Kevin Whitworth offered some more perspective on the band’s history and sounds.
I asked Ron Nine how “Between the Eyes" came together. And the tremolo. What do you remember?
Whitworth: Ron had the bones of what was to become “Between the Eyes” at the first practice in our living room, and it didn’t take us long flesh it out and get an arrangement together. But it still seemed to be missing something. Then we were driving around in Ron’s car and we heard that Smiths tune “How Soon is Now” and he had a revelation about the tremolo. It was tricky getting it right, since the drummer has to cue off the effect, but we were eventually able to get it together live. When went into the studio to record it, Jack Endino didn’t think that it would work, but somehow it did. He also had this old amp that was great at feeding back that I was able to borrow. I said to myself, hmm, I like this feedback thing.
What was that first practice like?
After Ron’s band Room Nine dissolved he was shopping around for new folks to play with. Jason Finn and Tommy Bonehead and I were sharing a house, known as the House of Squalor, a block from Ron’s. Jason had hooked up with him for a practice, and Ron mentioned that he wanted to have another guitar player, and maybe a better bass player. Jason said, well, check out my roommates! The very next day Ron wheeled his Twin Reverb up to our place and we set up in our living room and had our very first practice. Ron had a bunch of cool songs already, and I had some stuff, and things just jelled. Since Ron and Jason were already kinda big guys in the scene, it didn’t take long before we were able to get our first gigs around town. The first big one was opening for Swallow at Squid Row. I think it was the record release party for their first Sub Pop single. There was a line down Pine Street. It was awesome. Jon Poneman came up and shook my hand and said, lets put out a single, or something to that effect. Ron was already good friends with Bruce over at Sub Pop, since they had worked together at Muzak. It was around this time that Jack Endino started calling to say that he was recording this amazing band, that we should all go and see. There were a handful of people to see them a Squid Row that night, and I remember thinking, "Wow, that bass player is really tall." Not long after, we opened for Nirvana at the Annex Theatre downtown. It was quite a night. Chris Cornell came up and said, you have a really great band.
Love Battery play KEXP's Concerts at the Mural tomorrow, Friday, 8/17 with Absolute Monarchs and Wayfinders
The Vox Mod fingerprint is forensic: Synth-inlaid tracks with sympathetic nervous systems are deposited on polar caps as wave-file test-tube monoliths, which he slices through driving an icebreaker. Porter also drums and plays percussion with Lazer Kitty, Alicia Amiri, Sports, and White China Gold. For this interview, we met and rode the Seattle Great Wheel. Porter had a picnic basket with him, and when we started moving, he broke out battery-powered mini-speakers, a circuit-bent Casio keyboard, Rainier cherries, red wine, Brie, and a pocket-sized Korg Kaossilator dynamic phrase synthesizer. As we rotated and spoke, he proceeded to perform a beat-veined version of Debussy's "Clair De Lune." When we crested, the Korg flickered in the setting sun and caught my eye. I reached to touch it, Porter played, and for a moment, the small piece of electronics wasn't electronic at all. The Korg and I held each other, and I fed it some Brie.
Describe Vox Mod in two words.
Does electronica get a bad rap? It's prone to conjure images of "dude standing there with a laptop. Zzzzzzz." Am I off in my thinking about that? How do you inject activity into your recorded music?
As far as names go, I like "electronica" because it implies a wide range of sounds, while "techno" and "dubstep" are at the forefront of media, and people pigeonhole that shit. Laptops don't bother me; it's all about how you use them. I do appreciate when a laptop producer can get down and do some live programming. Anything to mix it up. But of course I'd say that, because I was raised a drummer; it's in my nature to thrash about and let the electricity of the music flow through me. Motion and energy are crucial to experiences.
Vox Mod is playing the Capitol Hill Block Party tonight at 6:45 pm at the Cha Cha.
Codeine's songs are like scenes shown in slow motion. There's more time to ingest details. It's like car crash test footage, with the mannequins moving gracefully toward impact. Arms flail with an abnormal elegance as necks bend to breaking angles. Bodies without seatbelts flow weightlessly through the interior into pain. It's grotesque, but there's a beauty to it that's unique. This seems fitting for Codeine. Your tempos appear oblivious to the outside world. The pace is inside its own rotation. Does your music seem slow to you?
I like the point you bring up with crash footage. People ask us why we play slow. But we're not slow just for the sake of being slow. When you were describing seeing something that's usually fast happen at a slower speed, especially something that has violence, in slow motion, there's a sense of inevitability. That this thing is going to happen. I think that's part of what we do. When you hear it, and you feel what's coming—it's still a ways off, but you'll get there eventually. The space, the slowness, and the sparseness are meant to convey a distance. There's something to the way it all unfolds. The sound takes on another meaning than if we played it at a normal pop tempo. I think there's an inevitability that comes from playing so deliberately. The pace is more of a tool to bring across what we're trying to communicate.
What draws you to that deliberateness?
The feel. We came up with a conceptual musical approach, a band name, and an area of emotional states to write about and to draw creativity from. With John's guitar playing and what Chris was able to come up with on drums and guitar, it worked. We were always a three-piece. It's been interesting listening back to the reissues for rehearsal; so much of it has two guitars. That's not how the band sounded live.
Codeine plays tonight and tomorrow night at the Triple Door. Tickets are still available here.
Should I call you Meat? Or Mr. Loaf?
Do you know anybody named Chuck? Or Stew? Or Frank? They're all meat products. It's not that weird [laughs].
What was it like working with Chuck D and Lil Jon? Did they call you Meat?
For them, it was Meat. We went in the studio with Lil Jon, and he was expecting to be there for 12 or 14 hours. But he didn't know how we work. He was out of there in three hours and was thrilled. Before I met him, I didn't have the appreciation for hiphop and rap, which was my mistake. Now, my iTunes has been taken over by hiphop. I was an LL Cool J fan and I know him; we've been to hockey games and dinner, and we always talked about collaborating on a version of "Mama Said Knock You Out." But Lil Jon really made me appreciate hiphop. I think the rap and hiphop artists have more influence on culture right now than any rock or pop star. U2 used to, but not anymore. People go see their shows, but do they have that influence they used to have? No. Does Springsteen? No. Do the Stones? No. Does Katy Perry? No. Justin Bieber? No. The older acts, we're still playing, but are we relevant? I don't know.
Trent repeatedly attempts to loofah or be loofah'd the lovely and talented Shaprece, and she's not having it:
Your dad is in your band. Did you always know he was going to play with you?
No. I'd been writing and recording for about a year before I ever played live. My first show was at Neumos with Fly Moon Royalty. I didn't just want to do my songs to a track. I broke down and called my dad, Joshua Richardson, who's an amazing keyboard player and has been playing music forever. He said, "I got you," and put together a great band. I was kind of expecting it to be just for that one show, but I got a call for a couple other shows and had my dad head up the musicians for those, too. It developed and evolved into what it is now. I was hesitant at first because it's something that I wanted to do on my own. I had a pride thing with it. I wanted to develop my own sound before I got anyone else involved. When I showed it to my dad, I felt solid about it being my thing.
Would your dad be mad if you loofah'd my back?
Put the loofah down, Trent.
Go to 0.41 of this rough KJ Sawka track "Chronicles." It’s the Euphrates River. If the Euphrates River was the west end turn of the Large Hadron Collider. Through it, Sawka navigates a 40-foot Hunley Submarine Light Bike. His eight hands crank nucleons of the propeller shaft, quarking out pings of a submerged Mesopotamian wake.
On Feb. 16th, 1864, masked by darkness, the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic off Charleston.
On Dec. 31st, 2011 Sawka plays with Pendulum at the Shore Thing in New South Wales, Australia.
For the third installment of the Art of Drums series, Jane’s Addiction’s Stephen Perkins spoke. Perkins’ drumming spreads a spectrum with senses. His beats are a choreographed, primal torrent, running poised Arabian cycles of mortar that dive down to the cosmic pelvis of urges. For Jane’s Addiction, he perfectly drives the cadence of their erogeny. Very LA, very frenetic, very ravenous, but always holding it down. Perkins hoists the canopy well behind the erotic, psychedelic hyena brain of Perry Farrell.
What makes a great drummer?
Perkins: When great drummers play, they’re doing yoga, and killing a lion at the same time. You gotta have a quick Sugar Ray Leonard jab. But at the same time you gotta be a ballerina up there.
I see jellyfish rising. A face laughing. If I look deeper, I see goblins, and angels. Wings. You’re right, it’s interpretive. Some people might see a missile coming from China. I don’t see that, but someone might. In the images as a whole, I see my personality – hyper, bubbly, bubbly in a good way, like a champagne. I see me being alive. I like to travel around the drum kit. Just because kick, snare, and hi hat sound good on one verse, doesn’t mean I have to play them on the second verse. You can see that in this art, someone who likes to move around, someone who is mobile. And what is mobile in this world, is the ruin of the world, and that’s the fossil fuels, traveling by plane, trains, and automobiles.
What do you think about when you drum?
I think about what happens from below the waist. How do I make people move? I don’t think about mathematical drum parts that make people think, or about extremely fast drum fills that make people go, “Wow.” I’m trying to make people’s asses move. Especially women. If I get guys to move, great. But if I can get girls to feel that beat, that’s what I want. That’s my objective in life, to make people move. Most of those people in my mind should be women. When women dance, their hips move, and their hips are what make babies. As a drummer, that’s what I’m after.
Art of Drums is a project from LA based art group SceneFour using time-lapse photography and lighted drumsticks to capture the image of drumming. What does drumming look like? Not the sound of it, but the picture of it. With Art of Drums, the image of drumming is translated to canvas. Funkadelic and James Brown drummer Frankie “Kash” Waddy spoke in Sound Check about his participation. Today, we have Guns ‘N Roses and Velvet Revolver (and the Cult) drummer Matt Sorum talking. Sorum sees Jesus in one of his pieces, and a skull. He was in Brazil producing an album for Portuguese band Kiara Rocks. He says Brazilian country music is huge there right now. Sorum also has a new electro-ish band of his own called Diamond Baby.
How do you describe your images from the Art of Drums project? What does your drumming look like?
Sorum: I don’t want to get all heavy, but there are spiritual aspects to it. In one of the pieces I call “To Sail with Jesus”, it looks like a boat with the face of Jesus in it. In another one I call "Hearts of Ghosts", it almost looks like an animal with a large beating heart. Then there are ghost like images to the left. There’s contrast to the shapes. One is softer. Like me in some ways. I can be an aggressive thinker, and intense, but I’m also pretty sensitive. In the image I see both sides of the emotional offering.
Drumming is a lot like that. There are a lot of subtleties to it. At times, you have to bring on a lot of energy, and times you have to have more finesse. I try to be powerful when I’m doing rock. But I try to finesse it at the same time. It’s not Neanderthal caveman style pounding all the time. There’s artistry to it. Like the way you hit the cymbals. I see a lot of drummers that just bash the shit out of the cymbals. But there’s a whole range of sound to cymbals if you hit them lighter and in different ways.
Drumming is like painting in a way. The brushstroke is similar to what a drummer does with sticks. Similar to a conductor as well. If you look at a painter like Pollock. His brush never even touched the canvas. He splattered and threw it. I see some of that in these images. It’s really more an experiment in movement, emotion, sound, and light.
Did you find yourself playing differently for this than you would if you were recording for a song?
Swan’s Rolling Stones play Capitol Hill Block Party, Cha Cha Stage, tomorrow, Friday, at 11:30. Members include vocalist Jordan Blilie (Blood Brothers, Past Lives), Justin Deary (Whalebones), Devin Welch (Shoplifting, Flexions, Blood Brothers), Nat Sahlstrom (Chromatics), and reggae extraordinaire Chava Mirel. They put their own spin and take on the Stones’ songs and sounds. Swan and I met at Summit Slope Park to discuss. Cobras were in the clouds above.
Whose idea was it to form a Rolling Stones cover band?
Swan: Jordan Blilie and Devon Welch hit me up.
What was your reaction?
I thought it was a joke at first. I was like, “Hell yeah.” Then they hit me right back with the first four songs to learn and when our first practice was, and at that point, I knew it wasn’t a joke. When a homie hits me up to play some Charlie Watts shit, I’m down.
Growing up in Kirkland, what music had the biggest effect on you?
I learned how to play drums listening to Led Zeppelin records. I was a total Led Zeppelin nerd. My Dad played the Stones and Dylan all the time. My Mom bumped the Pink Floyd. A lot of these Rolling Stones songs are engrained in my head. When I was in second grade, my parents surprised me and pulled me out of school for a day to take me to see the Stones in Vancouver. It was the Steel Wheels tour. I got to see them with original bass player Bill Wyman playing. Devon Welch was actually in that class with me that I got taken out of.
Bill Wyman, who’s wife’s mother is married to his son, right?
Yeah, he’s like his own grandfather or something. I thought he married his ex-wife’s kid.
Whose idea was it to call your Rolling Stones the Rolling Stones?
It was last summer when we started messing around with it. We’d go down to Jordan’s rehearsal space in Georgetown, get drunk, and play Stones songs. We just always called it Stones rehearsal. When it came time to actually call ourselves something, that seemed like a natural name.
Do the real Rolling Stones know about your Rolling Stones?
I don’t know.
I think they know.
Yeah, Mick Jagger has satellites, and eyes in the sky. They’re watching.
What do you have to say to the real Rolling Stones?
It’s more like see what they say to us. It’s funny, when we realized we actually had a show, we didn’t want to suck, so we rehearsed a bunch. Everyone involved, we weren’t going to half ass it. Once we committed to performing, it got super nerdy. It’s just really fucking fun to rock out on Stones tunes. Growing up, my Dad always talked about how good Charlie Watts was. I understand more now.
Why is Charlie Watts such a good drummer?
He does more with less. It’s more about pockets and feels, than fancy fills. He’s one of my favorite drummers by far. And Keith Richards, in my opinion, is the best rock n’ roll rhythm guitar player ever. If you pick apart these songs, there’s a reason why people love them so much.
Gucci Mane: "Mouth Full of Golds" (Featuring Birdman) off The Return of Mr. Zone 6 out March 22.
Gucci's Ice Cream Face Tatt skyped me earlier saying, "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Strawberry, Vanilla, Chocolate, from the inside. If we stand together, as scoops, we can conquerrr the world."
1. Do you ever lick your bass?
I don't lick my bass. I'd have to clean my dried up saliva off of it all by myself. I think bass players who lick their basses have assistants for that kind of thing. — Cristina Bautista, Visqueen
2. How do you deal with requests?
Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes they don’t fit. I’m on a track, and I think we’re going in that direction, then somebody wants to hear R Kelly. I think, “What? Well OK, I was serving you oysters and champagne, but you want fishsticks. Fuck. Now what am I gonna do?” — Riz Rollins, KEXP
3. What is the perfect Spurm romantic Valentines scene?
Tight pants. Big boners. Pretty girls. And bales of hay. Plus food, steak, and Mary Jane. And horror movies. And red wine. — Gary Smith, Spurm, Partman Parthorse
4. You've been to fifteen straight Burning Mans.
Seventeen. — Sean Wood, The Spits
5. What's the worst question a music writer has ever asked you?
Someone asked me, “If you couldn’t make music, what would you do?” I said, “I’d be a cook.” And they said, “Ok, if you couldn’t cook what would you do?” And at that point, I was like, OK, this isn’t working. — Jimmy Shaw, Metric
6. If you were about to be mauled by a water buffalo, what would you do?
We would look it in the eye and tell it that it's beautiful. Then it would maul us passionately. — Tea Cozies
7. What's your least favorite thing about touring again?
The nervous pee before I go onstage that never delivers its promise. — Eugene Kelly, the Vaselines
8. Cyndi Lauper?
No. I did like her hair though. She had that wrestler Captain Lou Albano in her video. Totally hot. That guy had rubber bands on his face. — Troy Nelson, the Young Evils, Black Daisy, KEXP
9. How did you know it was a baby's grave?
It didn’t have a name. It just said BABY. And there was a picture of lamb. It needed a taste of blood, and Neil offered it some. - J. Byrum, Black Breath
10. What do you think of math?
Math is the worst subject ever made in the history of mankind. I have no patience with that kind of stuff, but we all have to get it done someday. You have to know math to buy stuff, basically. Right now I’m working on geometry and fractions. I’m a little behind in math. — Marshall Verdoes, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band
11. What do you think about that Jesus statue that just got struck by lightning?
Zeus 1, Jesus 0 — Shawn Kock, the Absolute Monarchs
Here’s your Monday afternoon post-lunch lobe ride. Take a seat. Put headphones on. Sharpen a pencil. Let John “The Falcon” McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension trip your balls for two minutes and forty-six seconds. Log out. It’s falconry time. And the falcon has spotted a mouse a mile away. The scent of its eyes is in the updraft. A fortress rides the wave. Usurp. At times lizardous.
John McLaughlin smiles widely and often during his set. He has a rapport going with the music and the sounds his band members are emitting. Humor is (must be) involved with this nonverbal commincado. Because they're laughing about something. An acknowledgement of, "Oh, you did that tonight. Haha. Just like in Denver. The old minor subjugated Y-wing. Try this scurried 7th on for size." It's a communication and an acknowledgment that only the most seasoned of seasoned players have. Most people can't tell what's going on, they just know it sounds complex and gliding. Inside, the players are working within and devising micro worlds of sonic roll play, and falconry.
Did I say dual drumming? There was much of it. Amazing. I couldn't speak for thirty minutes after, I didn't know where I was, and I could have used a pacifier. Mark Mondesir is an ambidextrous God.
McLaughlin is 68 years old. He's vegetarian and he exercises regularly, even while on the road. He will also make you aware of every animal living in the Amazon rain forest, with his guitar playing. I could have done with a little less of the cheesy synth sounds.
People eat at Jazz Alley. How can you eat while John McLaughlin is levitating a gyroscopic Pyramid of Giza over your head?
The Glass Notes: "Thunderous"
The Glass Notes: "Payment" (Demo featuring the custom Benford guitar)
Azure Ray: "Wake Up, Sleepyhead"
This week, when asked what music she is listening to, The Vaselines' Frances McKee says, "Jeffrey Lewis, Cornershop, Bridget Storm, Haight Ashbury, and the Treenails."
The Treenails. There is no information about them anywhere. So I followed up with her for clarification:
Who are the Treenails?
Frances: Ah, this is music from a friend of mine named Andrew Paine. He gave me a copy of it and I love it, but I'm not sure to what extent it's available. It's experimental music. I don't have the hard copy with me so I can't remember the label it comes through but it's great stuff.
** Updated. Thank you American Andrew Paine.