Saturday, February 28, 2009


After the show in Glasgow, hometown of Donovan and the Youngs of AC/DC, a woman came up to Eric and said, “You guys made me pogo! I haven’t pogoed in years!” The vibe was one of ancient relics being unearthed at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, the storied venue where Oasis are said to have been discovered. But the atavistic charge likely had little to do with our band and a lot to do with a local band called the Elvis Suicide, and it didn’t hurt that they sounded like the Misfits. The sign on the front of the venue boasted that it was once called “The Best Live Music Venue in the UK—Radio 1.” This seemed as valid a claim as “Utz: Best Potato Chips—Potato Chip Review Board 1987,” ie, so definitive within as to be necessarily specious. But it was a nice place to play, perhaps the nicest we’ve seen in the UK so far, and we had a sizable little room to relax in, a rare treat. Well-named, too: "on the original Batman TV series, there was a villain called King Tut, whose lair was called the Wah-Wah-Hut." Chris Merok said the show sounded good, so hey. Before the set we came to loggerheads with the sound guy, upon whom was imposed a strict 98 db limit. Little Death had it worse off: their snare drum alone was clocking in at 105 db. Posters on the inside advertised Glasgow’s heritage: the Jesus and Mary Chain, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura. Wowie!

Eric, Bo and I passed some of the time watching this very funny cover of Blink 182’s “All the Small Things” by a fabulous group called Sometime Next Tuesday. Feel free to watch that here.

Chris commented that ironically this video has more views than our music video for the song "Titus Andronicus."

On our way to Leeds we passed a sign for a place called North Cowton. We were playing a show there at a venue called the Cockpit. As we pulled up an American guy came up to us and introduced himself. So we thought to ourselves, what a nice guy! Brian, his name is, be our friend! But when he discovered that we were not playing in the big room with his show, that we were playing in the little room upstairs, he proceeded to be a huge jerk. “I have to make sure my bands are taken care of” at our expense, “don’t park here,” “do this” yadda etc. Perhaps we have been spoiled by only meeting people who share our youthful idealism about this whole r&r thing, and so we found ourselves so put off by this “every band for itself” mentality. I felt like a nerd in high school again, with that feeling one gets just after a swirlie. None of this was a big deal, truly, but the whole thing was so principally discouraging. Bands should be embarrassed to have themselves represented as such. We’re all abroad, on the road, having a difficult time being away from friends, lovers, family, etc., but isn’t that all the more reason to treat each other with a little more respect? Gimme a break!

We cowered off to get some lunch—twofer Cajun veggie burgers at the Hog’s Head—before loading into our tiny room upstairs. Many people remark that our album sounds like it was recorded in a tin can. The humor was not lost on us when we saw the room in Leeds, which, as Ian G pointed out, was shaped like half a tin can overturned on a wood floor. We were like bugs trapped by a sadistic child. Cold seeped through the aluminum roof, and everything within was bitesized—the soundboard, the storage room, even the sound guy was a little person (no he wasn’t). The Fosters they gave us were tiny, not-so-fun-size—we each must have had three dozen, and for what? The empty calories? Thimblefuls won’t do. But the show went well. Little Death’s last of four sets, in spite of some technical difficulties, was the best one they played, and we were sad to say goodbye to those nice guys.

LA’s The Bronx were there with part deux of the Shred Yr Face tour, with Rolo Tomassi and Fucked Up. On our most recent American tour with Los Camps (who were incidentally on the first installment of Shred Yr Face tours) we saw posters in virtually every venue for the upcoming Fucked Up show that was to take place just days later. Thus Fucked Up came to hang over us like specters, and our desire to see them grew by turns. They were a myth. When we heard we discovered that we would play in the same building as them, we were nothing if not amped—as we approached, I felt as Marlowe must’ve felt on the Roi de belge, creeping up the Congo in anticipation of meeting the dark Colonel Kurtz. When time came to see their set, we were excited to see that the club had made some sort of exemption for those of us in the band so that we could go see Fucked Up, but as it turns out, the small sign was there to stress that we in particular were not allowed into their show.

Today is our first day on our own, just the five of us and the road. Ian faced a great trial this afternoon, just out of Chris’ driveway, where he had to get the van going uphill from a complete stop. He’s taken these tribulations in stride and so we’re back on the Chunnel again, Patrick’s sitting down playing guitar just outside the sliding door, next to Bo and Eric, who are playing Egyptian Ratscrew, and up front I’m sitting by Ian, who is plotting the course to Amsterdam. Full tilt!

Today also marks the halfway point in our European travels.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


We spent the last three nights in the Earl’s Court section of London at a Holiday Inn Express. Since we left France the croissant quality has suffered, wine is less available and never free. Tradeoffs have been that we have been able to communicate with people, the beer is warmer, and we know some people. We spent our full day off, our first in a long time, in London, doing our own personal things. There was napping, billiard playing (tiny balls!), and bar-going. I went to visit a friend who lives in Oxford, who showed me the scene that is said to have inspired the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: a lion carved into a door, two nymphs carved into ceiling supports, and a lamppost in the distance. I also saw Thom Yorke on rollerblades and in hotpants, pulling a little salamander with a leash.

We were fortunate to be asked to do a radio spot with BBC Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq the next day. All of this went down in studio #4 at BBC's Maida Vale Studios, which is said to be famous. Led Zeppelin may or not have once been there. Outside the studio hung a portrait of none other than John Peel, the man who is responsible for, among countless other amazing things, my favorite Galaxie 500 recordings. All of these sessions took place in this very room! It was renovated in the early 90's, but the microphones were the same as the ones that many of our idols sang into at some point. If you listened to the recordings, the quality and pace of our repartee with Lamacq likely suggested that we were looking this man in the eye, but nay, he phoned in just as we were about to record our three songs. We were standing up the studio room, speaking into microphones covered in festive windbuffers. When we finished, Simon the cool engineer played back the tracks and we pantomimed, sort of, the songs we had just played for the benefit of a team of cameramen who had descended upon the scene. Reasonably enough, the engineer stopped us halfway through the second song because our pantomimes were too ridiculous, à la Nirvana on Top of the Pops. Simon's voice came in from the control room, “There’s rock and roll, and then there’s being a bunch of twats.” A funny man, and also a wizard of an engineer.

Stay tuned for info about how to hear that session and see the videos, if that's ever possible.

Here's a video of Nirvana pantomiming "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on Top of the Pops. Note Kurdt's voice has been brought down an octave.

All this before a good show at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, a black and white room within a posh bar. Ticket presales were encouraging, and the room was filled nicely for our third ever London gig. The man who runs visual design at the bar at the club goes by McDeath, a nice Irish boy, who e-mailed us days in advances to see what we had in mind for visual design. Nobody knew what he meant, and so the e-mail went unacknowledged. When we arrived and McDeath once again asked us the question we did not know how to answer, Bo arranged it so that McDeath projected images of the American Civil War on the screen behind us. The band before us projected images from the movie Badlands, Martin Sheen in chains, a close-up of Sissy Spacek with the desert in the background. But its gravitas was undercut by interspersed family photos of people standing before the “Welcome to Badlands National Park” sign. In particular, there was a picture of a fat man hiking at that park. McDeath’s Google image search, it seemed, was cursory. Nonetheless, when we were at the plate a picture of Abe Lincoln popped up behind us just when we played a new song that is roughly about him.

We are traveling for four days with Little Death from London, who we are traveling with for four days here, and who like true punks took the bus to Manchester last night and will do the same to Glasgow this evening. I believe their name is the anglicization for the French phrase “Petite mort,” little death, their term for an orgasm. They are orgasmic in the bonhomie they each emanate, and their band is good too. Net effect, Manchester was fun. I got the impression that it was sort of like the Chicago of England, where the vast infrastructure of a shattered industry has been reclaimed by culture. It is said that Mancunians love to fight. Eric and I were looking for falafel when a man yelled at us, “Are you looking for pussy, then!?” He wouldn’t go away, and Eric said, “No man, we’re just looking for falafel!” The man was incensed but was soon distracted by something that made him even madder than the fact that Eric and I wanted falafel. Our last time there we played at an Irish club where there was a 21st birthday party downstairs. The girls there insulted for our band: “What are you, the Ting Tings?” Some of the girls made fun of Ian’s pants. I spent too much money on beer, etc. Last night was better, for some people had come out to see the band and were highly complimentary, and beer was free. Nobody’s feelings were hurt. The kids enjoyed themselves. No harm, no foul.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Here are some pictures from our most recent tour. Not the one we are on now, the old one.

1. Patrick points to a can of grape Faygo in front of an automobile accident somewhere in Mississippi. Note his surprise: the soda is rumored to only have distribution in the greater Detroit area.
2. Bo laughs as Patrick and Gareth sing one last Pavement song at the Bottletree in Birmingham, AL. The best venue in America? Maybe, maybe.
3. The stoned girl drew us a map in New Orleans. Eric displays it. We did not find what we were looking for. (Catfish po’boys.)
4. Our friend Blair from Hattiesburg, MS brought us a king cake in New Orleans. In this Mardi Gras tradition, whoever finds the plastic baby Jesus in his/her segment of cake gets a year of good luck. Congratulations, Ollie! Ollie plays drums in Los Campesinos!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Beach fills the air in St Malo. But L’Omnibus is two doors from a McDonald’s and a strange supermarket, miles from the water. We were there for the Route du Rock festival, whose winter session is designed to introduce people to new music. (The summer session is for established rockers and rollers like Sonic Youth.) We were last to play, at 1:30 a.m., which led me to believe that the room would be full for our set. Headliners, wow, I thought. We are important rockers/rollers, people like our band, etc. But au contraire—the room was busting at the seams for the Archie Bronson outfit, viva la brawn-rock. Pretty good, though. By the time we got on stage ten minutes early the bitch had sprung a leak: the rafter seats were vacant, great fissures from which only misery and loneliness would spring forth grew on the floor, a tot and an elderly man slumbered in the corner, the latter snoring loudly. But we were well received, all things considered, by the audience that as it turned out had been mostly outside smoking cigarettes between sets.

Most notable among the Route du Rock revues was a two-piece called John and Jehn, who made the stage slippery, unsafe even, in a performance that amounted to the realization of Eros’ wet dream. John is magazine gaunt and his forearms filled with diagrammatic tattoos and Jehn is a moonfaced French beauty with a nouvelle vague coiffure. Allure! Patrick had to go to the bathroom and splash cold water on his face at least once during their set. I had to take a nap afterwards. So it is said Beckett first wrote in French and then translated himself to English to avoid the clichés of modern language, but there is a certain sense in which strangers to a language are more sensitive to its conventions. Such was the case with John and Jehn—their titles always sounded familiar, “Sonny Boy,” “Black Train,” “Johnny.” I couldn’t hear the words, but the whole thing was sultry and LA, 1956, Chinatown, the dame died in tommygun crossfire, private dick tails you from the motel lot and you were due home an hour ago. Jehn searched their van for a C harmonica for Patrick to borrow but could not find it, but that was okay. We loved them anyway. (

We stayed in a hotel in some historical district, a museum-city for tourists. Imposing walls on the beach suggested that perhaps it was a naval base. Saint-Malo during the Middle Ages was a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance River, controlling not only the estuary but the open sea beyond. The promontory fort of Aleth, south of the modern centre in what is now the Saint-Servan district, commanded approaches to the Rance even before the Romans, but modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by Saint Aaron and Saint Brendan early in the 6th century. Its name is derived from a man said to have been a follower of Brendan, Saint Malo. (I stole the last three sentences from wikipedia.) Sand dusted catamarans lay near the water. Beaucoup de creperies, cobblestones, etc. The vermicular grey alleys were such that I would not have minded having some petty crime perpetrated against me; par exemple, if a waif tried to steal the baguette that protruded from my paper sack of groceries and in doing so busted open the bag, I could but smile to myself as the lad made off with my bread, tripping on the busted soles of his shoes, my pears rolling across the cobblestones, my jar of preserve shattered near the curb. Had we been there longer I would have liked to know something about our environs, but alas, the road beckoned and here were are on our way out of France driving to a train (!) upon which our van shall go and be delivered to England. Imagine that.

Friday, February 20, 2009


1. Packing up behind Jack’s house in Glen Rock. Eric secures a skullcap upon his dome.
2. Winter in Glen Rock.
3. Alligator heads for sale at the rest stop in Florida.
4. The van takes a short break outside the Florida Information Center. Trash begins to take over the dashboard.


Played last at L’Abordage in Evreux, FR, a small night club within a youth center. Drinks were served. We were well provided for here, as we have been everywhere in France. In a room upstairs we were served a full vegetarian meal, Indian food, from a woman who later said, “I know how it is to be traveling and to have no nice things to eat, but you have good food and drink and then you are happy, and you play a better show.” There were even some leafy greens, and at least I was happy to have the fiber after having eaten nothing but bread and cheese for two days. Also in attendance for the devout gormandizers were bizarre green vegetable cakes, cold boiled carrots, and shredded cabbage.

Drunk kids with studded belts thronged outside before but were weeded out during the show, leaving an older crowd than we are used to. Nor snoots nor farts nor codgers, they were an assembly of enthusiastic and kind people. The stage and room are small, and we were expected to play for an hour and a half—we only know an hour’s worth of songs, so when, for perhaps the second time in our careers, the small audience demanded an encore, we asked “Connaissez-vous Les Misfits” and “Aimez-vous Weezer” and played songs by each of those bands. Poor Bo’neil has been working (not working) with a busted Marshall valve amp that blows out each time the fuse is replaced and was forced to leave the stage in shame before the final song, “Undone.”

We have still had some fun trying to communicate with folks here. When someone last night asked “How did you get to French,” I responded “en avion” which I thought was the answer to their question, “by airplane” and the whole group shared a laugh. Real cute. Someone who had bought an LP later asked if we could sign the sleeve for his friend Frank, who is “The ODB of France.” He had something better to do that night.

A taste of tour’s naggy bits. I found myself briefly at odds with my friends when I noticed they tend to ask what X is like “out here.” To say “out here” is to suggest, boy, here we are in the middle of the fucking desert, I’m dying of thirst and civilization is a thousand miles away. Everybody believes it is an acceptable phrase, which is fine, who am I anyway?, but have since switched to “over here,” which in my estimation is better.

Four hour drive today from Evreux to St. Malo on the northwest coast of France to play the Route du Rock festival with such bands as Women, The Magnetic [wait for it] Friends and Chairlift, who through a strange series of events we played with at a wedding party at the Lit Lounge in New York. Not a moment ago we were at the Esso station when my internalities were goaded by last night’s fiber and this morning’s café long, and I was forced to, as the French say, faire caca. I had to consult Bo and Jack re the geometric realities of my b-hole vis-a-vis the lidless & rimless toilet, but the situation resolved itself before I crossed emergency’s filthy threshold. I grabbed the coathook before me and bent like a praying mantis and voila!

A motif: French are not puritans like we Americans. We saw a durex dispenser in the street in Montbeliard, tampon baggies beside hotel toilets in plain view, and the club in Paris even had a unisex bathroom. Point taken, mes amis. Why hide it?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Greetings from our first ever European tour. France now. Over a plastic cup of vin rouge at the dinner, Ian G reminded us of a time in North Carolina when a man, who was on his way out of the show, said that he can shotgun a bottle of wine by sticking a straw up his nose. And the French say we’re the philistines. Tonight’s show is part of the GENERIQ FESTIVAL here, along with Deerhunter, The Walkmen, and Au Revoir Simone, though they’re all playing somewhere else, and on a different day. Regardless, the festival goes on in this club not a week before the FUCK GOD FESTIVAL swings through. I can’t help but feel we’ve come to Montbeliard at the wrong time.

We just finished a meal of scalloped potatoes, baguette and wine. None of us had the pleasure of trying the sausage that is peculiar to this part of France (as far as I could tell from what some French folx said), but it looks and apparently tastes just like kielbasa. So says Eric. The meal was set out on a long table in the middle of the club, and we ate with the sound crew and the folks from the other bands that will play tonight. We all want to practice our French, they want to practice their English, but it’s hard to get more than a sentence deep before we must resort to English to explain. Sometimes they appreciate our efforts, which is nice, and then sometimes they don’t. We are often so cursory as to be insulting. Are hand motions too much? In that vein, Patrick has been wearing a huge winter coat that he got from Mike Simonetti, who put out our second seven-inch and first full-length on Troubleman in NJ. The young homme who plays in a band called the The Electrix, who will play tonight, mentioned in conversation that his band is a three-piece, to which Patrick replied, “Like Nirvana!” as he produced a cassette single of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from one of his many deep pockets.

Getting into France was easy, in stark contrast to our last international tour. Upon flying the UK way back in late 2008, we had been denied entry because we hadn’t figured out working papers. Our friend and kind-of boss Chris, who works at Merok records in the UK, picked us up at the airport yesterday afternoon. He has foolishly agreed to come with us for most of the tour and as such has become a de facto chauffer. Chris will be with us until our show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam two weeks from now. Then we’re left to fend for ourselves (we’ve only ever driven automatic) in countries whose signs we cannot read. Adventure, indeed. Tonight he drove us into Paris, parking hell incarnate, and we played at a club called La Fleche D’Or. One band was very remarkable, called I Arkle. Slow grooves! Brushes and mallets!

French trends, as far as I can tell after two shows, are as follows:
1.All sound checking takes place in the early afternoon.
2. At sound check, the French sound guy begs us to turn down our guitar amps. We do this for sound check, but turn them back up when we do get on stage. (Tonight the sound guy stepped out from behind the board and pleaded, “It is impossible to sound good in this way.” Maybe he is right.)
3. People who are in bands dress like they are in bands.
4. Every other song that every band plays has a dance punk beat, which is fine. Interesting, though.
5. Folks carry baguettes.

The Electrix just started playing and I must watch. Their drummer has a broken arm and has rigged up a bass drum pedal with a proper drumstick so that he can play a vertical snare. He is quite good. They are covering “Come Together” in a way that I can imagine Crucial Taunt from Wayne’s World covering that song. Blast off!