Hello friends. Greetings from Ghent, Belgium. I know it has been a long time since we have spoken here - some 55 days or so. It isn't because I don't care about you - things have just been busy lately, and time is always finding new and better ways of slipping through my fingers. I'm sorry - I shall try to be more dilligent. I have detailed some of our adventures in a tour diary for the website of Paste magazine - you can read the most recent of those (which itself isn't all that recent) here. I will write another one soon to close the book on the tour that it is concerned with, which I would just do now, but this Belgian keyboard on which I am typing has got me totally baffled, mostly because the A is where I think the Q should be, and vice versa. Crazy! Should you ever get tired of waiting for me to get it together, our always quotable guitarist Amy has got plenty of her thoughts flooding the internet these days - you can hear a lot more about our adventures, among other things, by reading her Twitter or Tumblr. Hey, those two words kind of sound alike! I wonder. She also made a very fine record called "For the Sky" under the name Solanin which you can listen to and learn all about here. Yes, Amy's control of the internet is truly masterful, though she doesn't embed enough YouTube videos for my taste. After all, isn't that what blogging is really all about?
So, as I said, we are in Belgium now. Ghent is a nice city, a college town; some 60,000 students live and learn here. Probably a nice place to do so - lots of nice castles and old churches and other such architectural jewels. I got the pleasure of listening to two older gentlemen, who had a violin and an accordion, play such chestnuts as "Down by the Riverside" and "If I Were A Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof - very pleasant listening. I also saw some kids fencing in full regalia - that is something young kids do over here, it seems! Our concert here last night was kinda cool. We played with a local band of youths who called themselves the Curvy Cuties Fanclub. Here is a video of them playing their song, "Nasty Sound."
We have been on this continent for about a week now. We arrived in London a few days prior to any scheduled concerts, onstensibly to speak to the press or something, though very little like that actually materialized (priceless video-game playing-ti,e squandered!). We did, however, go to see a concert by popular British rock group the Big Pink. You have to understand - the Big Pink's knob-twiddler or "electronics player," or "Knight of the Square Table," as our boy Pete would call him, is one of the owners of our British record label, Merok, and so when we are in London, he generously lets us stay at his house in Dallston (where Penny Rimbaud and Gee Vaucher of Crass apparently now live, though I haven't seen either of them around). So yeah - we went to go see the Big Pink play at this greqt big concert hall and there were lots and lots of strobe lights and fog machines and all that sorta thing. It was pretty cool when they covered "100%" by Sonic Youth, so here is a video of them doing just that, though at a different concert.
The real news of our stay in London, though, was Double Dagger, beloved heroes of Baltimore and truly one of the greatest punk bands in the world. Of late, I have been enormously enjoying their new EP, Masks, available now from the good people at Thrill Jockey. In what is becoming a recurring motif, it is another massive leap forward in DubbDagg's artistry, simultaneously growing in both melodicism and intensity, with their messages becoming directer and more effective. All in all, a great little slab of badass rock. As happy as I was to welcome this music into my life, I was equally upset to learn that I had recently slept on a DubbDagg concert at Death by Audio which occurred a couple of weeks ago, so when I found out that we would have the opportunity to see the band make their London debut on one of the nights where we had no other obligations, of course I just about jumped out of my skin with excitement. Indeed, they did not disappoint. The whole climate of the performance was exemplary of DubbDagg's magical powers - the audience started out happy to reinforce stereotypes of London punters, with their arms-folding, "prove it" sort of attitude, but between the gnarly riffs and Nolen's extremely confrontational stage presence, it wasn't long at all before the room was a tornado of sweaty glee. Mirabile visu! Truly, Double Dagger doesn't take "no" for an answer, and thank God for that. Besides that, the company of the men in the band was as pleasurable as ever (did you forget that Nolen designed the artwork for our most recent album?), and we all enjoyed the adventures on the steel wheels of DJ Genuine Guy, who kept us dancing the night away. Awesome. Haven't seen any videos online from this concert, but that is probably because the DubbDagg live experience is so engrossing and visceral that trying to capture it on yr cell phone is as fruitless as trying to catch lightning in a bottle. I did see that someone dared a couple nights previous in Cardiff, so here they are, performing "Surrealist Composition With Your Face," from last year's excellent long-player More.
Speaking of Double Dagger, I saw the film Hype recently, a documentary about the alternative rock explosion that consumed Seattle, WA in the early nineties. Remember that? No, me neither. Anyway, one of the artists featured in the film was a group not from Seattle, but rather Olympia, called Some Velvet Sidewalk. At first glimpse, they seemed to have a lot in common with DubbDagg. Observe:
I had read that in DubbDagg's press materials for Masks, they list 74 bands they have been compared to in the press, so I was sure that I'd find this Some Velvet Sidewalk band somewhere on that list, since the similarities were obvious - manic, bespectacled man fronting a bass-and-drums duo who play badass riffs. They weren't on the list though, so either I was smarter than any journalist on Earth, or there was more to this Some Velvet Sidewalk than met the eye. I did some more research, and it turns out, their other music doesn't really sound like Double Dagger at all, but that is okay, for it totally rocks all the same. You know how indie rock historians are always talking about the Olympia-DC axis? That's fair enough, ideologically speaking, but Some Velvet Sidewalk actually makes noises that suggest a cross-pollination of musical ideas as well. To me, they bridge the K Records and mid-80's Dischord aesthetics pretty seamlessly, combining great earnestness with typical K foppishness... or something like that! Fuck if I know. Their song "Peel" should demonstrate what I mean, in addition to totally rocking you.
Okay, that kicked ass. Speaking of kicking ass, when arriving in the Netherlands, we got to play a show with the Canadian band Think About Life, who I had seen open for Wolf Parade several years earlier. They didn't sound very much the same, but they were still pretty cool, and their singer, Martin, was one of the most affable fellows you'd ever like to meet. What a ray of sunshine that guy was! In honor of his kindness, and in remembrance of the group's earlier sound, now largely abandoned, here's a video of them performing their song "Paul Cries," which used to be my jam back in the day.
A couple of days later, our paths crossed with "alt-bro" phenoms Surfer Blood, which was cool, because we spent a lot of time around the house listening to their record when it came out. Sweet. We played a concert with them in Amsterdam, and a good time was had by all. They were real nice fellows. So young! The world is truly their oyster, and they played a new song which was easily the equal of the material on their album - looks like everything is falling into place for Surfer Blood. Good luck, lads. Here's a video of that new song as performed at the concert.
Well, that's pretty much the scoop. In Paris, we will play a concert with Juliette Lewis, of Natural Born Killers fame. Wild, huh? Before we go though, let me share with you the three most beloved "viral videos" of our North American tour. Man, are they awesome. Enjoy!
3. Slack-Jawed Cat Can't Believe Its Eyes
2. "OOBE: Out of Body Experience" by Joe Sandler
1. "A Glorious Dawn" by Carl Sagan f/ Stephen Hawking
Those videos started out funny, but then they turned out to be just awesomely life-affirming. Fuck yeah. Okay, let's speak soon. Take care now.