lfk music

Pink Royal releases Taps this weekend

I had the privilege to catch up with one of my favorite local bands, Pink Royal. Guitarist and songwriter Steven LaCour, vocalist Dylan Guthrie, and drummer Alex Hartmann invited me out while they were mixing tracks for their upcoming debut record Taps. Bassist Nick Carswell and guitarist John Dorrell were unable to make it due to prior engagements.

LaCour has been working on his baby Pink Royal for some time and originally recorded everything himself. Now, with the collaborative writing efforts of the band and recording a debut full-length with producer/Hembree drummer James Barnes, the project can be fully realized.
 
It has taken some time but the core of the band has now been playing shows and writing together for about 2-and-a-half years. You can really feel the chemistry during live shows with the way it feels improvised and raw, yet incredibly intricate. To describe what these guys sound like is pretty hard to do. They draw comparisons from Minus the Bear and As Tall As Lions, but as Guthrie points out, they are creating something completely unique. This is mostly due to their different musical backgrounds. "What's interesting about our musical creation or our synergy, if you will, is what we listen to by ourselves is completely different. Where as I am soul—Gary Clark Jr. and Allen Stone—Steve came from a background of progressive math rock. The synergy of that, I think, gives us a very unique sound.” LaCour continued, “It really feels like we're creating something different that people haven't heard before.”
 
Just by listening to the mixes and the subtle tweaks to get it just right, you can tell this is a well crafted work by some seriously talented musicians. For all its intricacies, it’s very groovy and poppy, which is usually hard to get out of technical acts. “From Steve's musical background, we have elements of math but we’re more groovy than anything, which makes it more palatable than most math rock is,” explained Guthrie.
 
Hartman said, “Palatable is the term I always use, because we want the songs first and foremost to appeal to everybody.”

The vulnerability of lyrics and sheer sexiness of the groove gives Pink Royal something truly special, and I personally can't wait till the world can hear it. The guys recently released the single “Give Me Something Real,” a very nice teaser until the record drops.
 
--Chris Mowry
 
 
Pink Royal will be releasing Taps tonight at The Granada in Lawrence, with special guests Sharp 9, Toy Cartel, and Spencer Mackenzie Brown. It’s a free, all-ages show presented by KJHK 90.7 FM and starts at 8 p.m. If you want to catch them in KC, you can see them at Middle of the Map Fest on Saturday, April 25, at The Riot Room at 3 p.m. for I Heart Local Music’s day party. Facebook event page.
 
 

 

   

Album review: The Dead Girls - Noisemaker

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
There’s a certain poetry to the way music communities ebb and flow. A band will manage to capture a certain something that attracts interest, if not devout fandom, but at some point the end of the road lies ahead. At this stage, many musicians decide that it was a good run but now it’s time to do something else. In other cases, band members go off on other musical pursuits. Sometimes a new band arises from the remains of those no longer working. Such is the case for The Dead Girls (formerly Dead Girls Ruin Everything), who came to life in 2004 when members of Ultimate Fakebook and Podstar combined their talents. For the past decade the band has been on its self-described search for “the perfect hook,” and they’ve been successful far more often than not. With their most recent (and perhaps final) album Noisemaker, the Lawrence foursome is hitting on all cylinders with an eleven-track offering that seems primed for radio airplay. I count at least nine of those songs as being ready not only for local airwaves, but much more widespread exposure.
 
The Dead Girls (Cameron Hawk and JoJo Longbottom sharing guitar and vocal duties, Nick Colby on bass, and Eric Melin on drums) take their powerpop pedigree seriously, listing Big Star, The Replacements, The Beach Boys, and Cheap Trick among their influences. It’s a lineage they are clearly determined to be worthy of, and Noisemaker provides 33 minutes that are saturated with crunchy chords, rock riffs, and vocal pyrotechnics that are super, super tight.
 
“I’m On a Mission” opens the album with a blast of all the aforesaid ingredients. From the opening moments it’s clear what that mission is—“to rock!”—and that mission is followed to the letter throughout Noisemaker. A bit later, “Downtown on a Nice Afternoon” offers a burst of jangly guitar sounds, but with an underlying sense of urgency, as if the singer has to be somewhere important… but, well, we’ve already started the song and it’s kind of important that we finish this too… so let’s get it done already! Those opening chords are reminiscent of the sound of early MTV commercials, which is a nice touch, and … oh, I’m sorry, I should explain: “MTV” is a television network that used to play music videos 24 hours a day, and … oh, right: “music videos” are brief vignettes that were made to give television viewers visual connections to the music they listened to.
 
Everybody caught up? Good. On we go.
 
“That Shit Gets Old” is a straightforward rocker that shows me hints of Gruff Rhys on vocals, which is never a bad thing. Perhaps if Hawk or Longbottom was Rhys’ younger brother it would make perfect sense. “Dress Up Dress Down” has almost a summery-surf quality, like it would be the soundtrack to a midnight drive along the beach. “Calling You Around” is a primer in how to blend powerpop guitars with classic-rock arrangements, and “I Don’t Wanna Hafta Hold Your Hand” closes the album with the most uptempo song of the lot, as the band realizes that it’s time to put the guitars and drums down, jump in the Barracuda, and head off to the next adventure – maybe that’s the midnight oceanside drive that I mentioned before.
 
Almost without fail, every album has that one song that stands apart from the others stylistically, as if the band is saying “See? We can do this kind of music too.” This doesn’t work for every band that tries it, but with “Sun and Rain” it absolutely works for The Dead Girls. The dual electric guitar and thunderous rhythm section is replaced by gentle acoustic strings, an ever-so-slightly-out-of-tune stand-up piano, sweetly earnest lead vocals, faraway harmonies, and tonal choices that give this song a very Beatle-esque feel. When a song not only offers a change of pace but shows the true musical talent and potential of the band, that’s when you know that said band is bringing its A game. This song does that for me.
 
The Dead Girls offer something special during their live performances as well, which is something that I’ve said before as being a prime factor in determining the legitimacy of a band or artist. Sure, they’re energetic and do their best to connect with the audience, as most bands at least try to do, but there’s something more here—and it’s evident on Noisemaker as much as it is on the stage of The Bottleneck. It’s the simple fact that you just know these guys are having fun doing what they do. They look like they enjoy every second of music making, and that’s a camaraderie that can’t be faked. Their sense of teamwork carries over to a very important off-stage pursuit that the four of them share: every band member is also a top-notch competitive air guitarist. This is especially true of Eric “Mean” Melin, who won the 2013 World Air Guitar Championship. These gentlemen take their fun seriously—and have serious fun doing so.
 
As of this writing, The Dead Girls only have a precious few shows left before going on an open-ended hiatus; Hawk is going to be teaching English to classrooms of eager students in China next year. There’s no doubt that he’s going to do very well—he could use his song lyrics as pop quizzes—but it’s my hope that he brings a guitar with him. I don’t know much about China, but I have a feeling they could use some rock ‘n roll in their world, and they would be all the richer for it.
 
I know I’ve had a blast listening to every bit of noise made by The Dead Girls.
 
--Michael Byars
 
Michael is looking for a handheld Yahtzee game for his mom. Because he cares.
 
 
 
Join The Dead Girls for their last KC show this Friday night at Harling’s Upstairs. Facebook event page. Their final show will be in Manhattan at Auntie Mae’s, next Saturday, December 20 with The Field Day Jitters. Facebook event page.
 

  

   

Spotlight on musician/songwriter Cameron Hawk

(Photo by Rachel Meyers)
 
“Sometimes I get kind of destructive, and music is part of how I keep everything together.”
 
Cameron Hawk already has quite an impressive resume: he’s been in a number of successful bands, he’s opened up for KISS, he’s organized the annual Lawrence Field Day Fest, and now he prepares to embark on a completely different adventure. In early 2015, Hawk will be taking off to China to teach English for 8 months.
 
“I’m 33 years old and I’ve never lived outside of Kansas in my life,” says Hawk. He’ll be going to China in early 2015 with his girlfriend Rachel, and stepping out of a comfort zone he’s carved out for himself in the 15 years he’s lived and made music in Lawrence. “I’m always going to love this scene and playing here and the music that comes out of here. But I know that as humans, we are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.”
 
After graduating from high school in 2000, Hawk and his band Podstar relocated from Manhattan to Lawrence. They released two albums on Noisome Records before calling it quits in 2002—right around the same time many other notable area bands broke up, including Ultimate Fakebook, The Get Up Kids, and The Creature Comforts. Hawk recalls, “A huge chunk of people integral to the scene moved away or went on to other things in life right at the same time, and it really felt like a musical ghost town around here for awhile. But that ended up being the best time to start Dead Girls Ruin Everything.” He—along with Podstar bandmate JoJo Longbottom and Ultimate Fakebook alums Eric Melin and Nick Colby—formed the group that same year. “By that time, we cumulatively had a lot of experience with band stuff, and we were all trying to take a more realistic approach to music and how we handled everything.”
 
More than 10 years and a name change later, The Dead Girls have become the area’s most heralded power pop supergroup. They’ve released a number of albums (4 LPs, 3 EPs, and a 7”) and have shared the stage with the likes of Motion City Soundtrack, Dinosaur Jr., and yes, even KISS. Hawk and Longbottom have shared songwriting duties from the beginning, while the entire group composes each song. “We are all such big music geeks that we have very vivid ideas of how a song or album should be,” he mentions. With that type of history, success, and knowledge, he’s learned a lot about being a musician.
 
“I learned how to step up and put myself out there for something I care about. I learned how hard you actually have to work to make something yourself, and how fucking awesome it feels,” he notes. “I learned to try to not rock too hard and to never scream directly into a microphone during sound check.”
 
 
He’s also been instrumental in his other two current bands: Stiff Middle Fingers and Many Moods of Dad. Stiff Middle Fingers injects a heavy dose of personality into their punk rock repertoire, according to Hawk. “We don’t worry about sounding derivative, and we just wear our influences on our sleeves and have fun.” In SMF, he comes up with guitar riffs and sends them to vocalist Travis Arey for lyrics. Hawk considers Many Moods of Dad to be a “psychopop hodgepodge of ideas,” and includes his other Podstar bandmates JP Redmon and Aaron Swenson, who co-writes much of the material with Hawk. “The whole idea behind MMOD was for us to do all the fun/dumb/weird stuff we always wanted to do on a record but never could, because it was always shot down for some reason.”
 
(Photo of Stiff Middle Fingers by Todd Zimmer)
 
(Photo of Many Moods of Dad by Quinton Cheney)
 
When he leaves, Hawk also leaves behind Lawrence Field Day Fest, an event that will be 4 years in the running come 2015. He hopes to continue planning the summer fest from China, and enlisting help from other supporters of the music community. “Even though our [scene] isn’t the biggest or the “hottest” or whatever, I have come to understand how special it really is. There are huge cities—hell, metropoli—that don’t have a music scene of this quality. There should be someone or something around here supporting that.”
 
But regardless of where he’s living and what he’s doing, Hawk will not be ready to give up on music. Since he’ll be out of the country, most of his projects will go on indefinite hiatus (SMF will likely continue with a different guitarist), but Hawk plans to release his debut solo album, entitled Dream You Forgot, in early 2015. “Music is not only what I love to do, but it’s my main source of sanity.”
 
And in this new phase of his life, Hawk plans to apply all of the experiences he’s had through playing and making music. “I think a lot of people lose sight of how every little experience they have in life eventually helps them in some way. We need to actively use all experiences as fodder for learning and growing, and pushing our own limits.”

--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is the editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.
 
 
 
The Dead Girls will perform their last Kansas City show this Friday, December 12, at Harling’s Upstairs. Deco Auto and Rev Gusto will open. Facebook event page. He’ll also be playing with Stiff Middle Fingers on Friday, December 26 at Replay Lounge. Facebook event page.
 
 
  
   

Spotlight on KC PsychFest artist: Your Friend

(Photo by Lindsey Kennedy)
 
This week, we’ll be highlighting some of the artists playing KC PsychFest from Thursday through Saturday nights at recordBar.
 
Taryn Miller’s intelligent songwriting and entrancing music is making its way around, and for good reason. Miller’s project Your Friend was signed to Domino Records earlier this year. With her debut album, Jekyll/Hyde, Miller constructs a simultaneously comforting and haunting atmosphere, fashioned around somber but colorful vocals. 
 
The Deli: Down and dirty: 1 sentence to describe your music.
 
Miller: The music itself has distinct differences when presented live or by the actual recordings, but I’d say it’s spacious and constantly evolving.
 
The Deli: Give us some background on Your Friend. Do you have a regular cast of musicians that play with you? How long have you been operating under this moniker?
 
Miller: I’ve been playing under the moniker for over 2 years now. When it began, the roster was always changing, and that was exciting. But I felt that in order to dig deeper over time, I wanted some sort of solidified group to explore with. I really enjoyed the risk in one-off shows but I wanted the trusting element to be more present. There’s always going to be some sort of risk playing with me anyway! It all happened organically though. We all work well together as friends and as bandmates. Nicholas Stahl, Chris Luxem, and Austin Swick are the gentlemen I have played with the longest. I can’t imagine playing with anyone else at this point. It feels like a group more than a solo project than it ever has.
 
The Deli: What inspires your music and songwriting?
 
Miller: In all honesty, just purely existing. I am very intuitive and tuned in to all that is happening around me at all times. This is my way of documenting it. It’s very cathartic for me to do this. I’m inspired by energy, and the lack of it, all at once.
 
The Deli: What have been your greatest accomplishments as a band?
 
Miller: Touring and still loving each other afterwards. It only made it more apparent that these are the people I should be surrounding myself with. It wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without them.
 
The Deli: Your debut EP Jekyll/Hyde was released on Domino Records earlier this year. What can listeners expect? Do you have plans to record again soon?
 
Miller: The most rewarding things about having this amazing company backing the project are that the music gets to be heard by people that wouldn’t otherwise know it exists, and the tools to make something that I am truly proud of. It’s the kind of support that I had always dreamed of. I’m in the process of finishing the writing process of the full-length. The plan is to record it by the end of the year and for it to be available next year. I’d hope that there will be a sense of growth that can be heard with the newer material. I’m definitely in a radically different headspace.
 
The Deli: What does supporting local music mean to you?
 
Miller: It means everything from what I’ve experienced. I’ve only had the opportunities that I’ve had from the support of the community. Being involved in it, there is some sort of magic that peaks out of so many different directions. I’ve gotten to grow as a musician and watch all of my friends do the same. I’ve learned so much from the local scene and talent within it.
 
The Deli: Who are your favorite local and non-local musicians right now?
 
Miller: Locally, everything coming out of SeedCo and a part of the Whatever Forever collective. I’m really looking forward to Karma Vision’s release. I fell in love with No Magic this year and practically begged him (Ben Sauder) to let me play live with him. KC-based, All Blood has been really killer to watch. I grabbed their earlier tape and really love how unique the material is. I’m also a big fan of Lazy, The Conquerors, and Shy Boys.  There’s also a guy, Nathan Dixey—he plays as The Dan Ryan—who also played bass on my EP and sent me his mixes of his upcoming release. I can’t wait for it to reach other ears. He lives in Austin now but he’s still local to me.
 
Non-local, I’m all over the place. To keep my head clear I find myself listening to a lot more droney things.  Although I have been really excited about the newest Caribou record. 
 
The Deli: Who are you looking forward to seeing at PsychFest?
 
Miller: The Conquerors, Gemini Revolution, Monta At Odds, Jorge Arana Trio, White Mystery, and I’m still holding out for some surprise Expo 70 appearance.
 
The Deli: What is your ultimate fantasy concert bill to play on?
 
Miller: This answer would probably change depending on what I’ve been most into. So, currently, Lower Dens, Timber Timbre, with Nils Frahm closing the show.
 
The Deli: A music-themed Mount Rushmore. What four faces are you putting up there and why?
 
Miller: Referencing the last question, it mostly depends on what I’m listening to the most at the time. I would say William Basinski, Steve Reich, Arthur Russell, and Leyland Kirby. William Basinski has transported to me to an entire different form of listening. I could say the same of all of them honestly. I’m definitely drawn to composers. Listening to their work is almost like a glimpse of what their brain appears like on the inside. Steve Reich’s arrangements require your attention and I respect that artform. Leyland Kirby has worked in so many different types of environments. I love his spontaneity and also his control and selection. Arthur had sort of the same trajectory. All of his records touch upon something different. From the absolute joyous to morose. He was always creating, and it inspires me.
 
The Deli: Where can we find you on the web?
 
 
The Deli: What other goals does Your Friend have for 2014, and beyond?
 
Miller: The same thing I tell myself every morning: finish this record. It’s been very challenging to make this next thing. Now that I’m aware of what ears it could reach I want it to be very representative of myself. I also want to make something that I can be very creative with in the live setting and keep it exciting. Those are the goals as of now. If I look too far ahead, the page in front of me gets blurry.
 
The Deli: Always go out on a high note. Any last words of wisdom for the Deli audience?
 
Miller: I’ll cheat and quote Allen Ginsberg. First thought, best thought. I’m beginning to learn what it means to trust your instincts. I feel as though I spend so much time trying to change what’s inherent. Stay true to who you are and surround yourself with the people that irrigate and continually inspire that.
 
 
Make sure you check out Miller with Your Friend. The group will be playing KC PsychFest this Saturday, October 11, at 8:00 p.m, at recordBar.
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle Bacon is editor of The Deli KC and plays in bands.

 
 

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Album review: The Sluts - Loser (EP)

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
 
Lawrence, Kansas (affectionately to be referred to henceforth as LFK) continues to be a source of the kinds of music that I want to hear more of and know more about. One band in particular has really caught my ear of late with a sound that’s raw, dirty, energetic, and undeniably attention-grabbing: The Sluts, a bare-bones twosome consisting of Kristoffer Dover on drums and Ryan Wise on guitar and vocals. Two musicians, no more, no less … but as the sounds you’ll hear on their new EP Loser will demonstrate, two musicians is plenty when it comes to making a substantial sonic statement.
 
Their mix of garage, punk, and grunge kicks things off with the opener, “Let Me Go,” as The Sluts tear things up with a grimy bounce firmly entrenched in 4/4 time. “Loser” starts with a tip of the cap to upbeat new wavey rhythms, but 25 seconds into the track, the boys re-establish the power presence that is their raison d’etre (how’s THAT for some damn NPR-speak, kids?). “Green” and “Linger” wrap up the four-track, barely-more-than-ten-minute EP with the sound that I’ve most commonly described as “Nirvana without Krist Novoselic,” as Wise’s sneering vocals and snarling guitar combined with Dover’s relentlessly on-point percussion give the music just a bit of Bleach-era homage while sounding very much of the present day.
 
I had the honor of introducing The Sluts during this year’s Midcoast Takeover at SXSW; they were on the roster of the I Heart Local Music / Whatever Forever day-party that featured more examples of LFK’s finest (Black on Black, Shy Boys, Josh Berwanger Band, and Oils/CS Luxem). After a couple long days of music and food truck fare and drinking, the abrasive grind of The Sluts was a much-needed Brillo pad to the brain. Give Loser a listen, and keep an eye out for this band.
 
Love me some dirty, filthy, nasty The Sluts. Awwww yeahhhhhh.
 
-Michael Byars
 

Michael can use the phrase “raison d’etre” in the same review as the phrase “awwww yeahhhhh,” because that’s how he rolls. 

 

 

 

 
Editor’s note: Loser was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Joel Nanos at Element Recording. Photos taken at Element by Todd Zimmer.
 
 

Catch The Sluts this Friday at Liberty Hall; they’ll be playing #ASSJAMZ: Bands That Will Make You Dance, along with Approach, Paper Buffalo, and Spencer Brown. Show starts at 8 pm. Facebook event page. If you’re in KC, see them this Sunday at Vandals. They’ll be joined by fellow LFKers Mr. and the Mrs., Mannequin Pussy (NYC), and KC’s Anson the Ornery. Facebook event page. 

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