Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Me And The Devil

So, here we go.  The next few posts are gonna be focused on the mighty bands playing at The Robert Johnson Birthday Tribute show we have the privilege of being a part of .  It's gonna be a rockin' good night, and we'll expect to see all of you there!

Today's guests are the phenomenal Me And The Devil, a rollickin' hard-stompin' combo, guaranteed to bust yr ass and take you to the very crossroads.  But don't take our word for it.  Guitarist and vocalist extraordinaire Tony French was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.  And, as ever, there's a nifty tune at the end for yr enjoyment.

A Big Rock Candy Mountain Interview with Me And The Devil

Big Rock Candy Mountain: Who are y'all, and what do you do?

Me and the Devil:  We are Me and the Devil and we play the blues!  Live acoustic music is what we are all about, keeping the old stuff alive and creating new songs.  Our line up is Tony French - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar; Mark Verbeck - Lead/Slide Gutiar, Vocals;  Eric McCabe - Harp, Vocals;  and Cody "Goose" Siragusa-  Upright Bass.

BRCM: Tell us about yr personal relationship with the Devil.

MATD: Funny thing about that, we tried to sell our souls to the devil but he said he already owned them.

BRCM: What/Who are yr influences? 

MATD:  Our main influence is pre-war american roots music when blues, folk and country were more entwined.  Bluesmen like Robert Johnson, Son House, and Leadbelly. Folk/Country musicians like Jimmy Rodgers, Woody Guthrie and The Carter Family.  We are an acoustic band but we also have a good dose of first generation electric blues in us from cats like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howling wolf.  I could go on and on on this one.   

BRCM: What song best defines Me and the Devil?

MATD: Probably our song Devil in her eyes, it's just a 3 chord song about a no good woman.

BRCM:  Drink of choice for Me and the Devil?

MATD: Whatever anyone else is buying.

BRCM: Yr playing the Robert Johnson birthday tribute show here in Chicago.   What does Robert Johnson mean to Me and the Devil?  

MATD: First off that's where we got our name from, his song Me and the Devil bluesRobert Johnson is such an important figure for many reasons first is his talent as a musician and songwriter. He had a truly unique quality to his sining and playing, almost haunting.  To me he also represents all the other bluesmen of that era that never got lucky enough to be recorded, he's that mythic bluesman who sold his soul to the devil, lived hard and died young.

BRCM: Have y'all been to the Crossroads?  If so, who did you meet there, and what did you sell?  What did you get in return?

MATD: I was just there a couple of weeks ago, it was a bit strange I found myself standing there thinking wow this is a real place.  Of course I always knew it was a real place but like Robert Johnson it's so mythic it's almost hard to believe it's real.

BRCM: Y'all are Chicago-based.  How does Chicago treat yr brand of  Blues? 

MATD: We always get a great response from audiences but I wouldn't say we're really in the Chicago "blues scene".  The tourist type blues clubs have a formula for success and white boys playing acoustic ain't it.  There is a lot of great roots music going on in the city these days though, we end up playing with a lot of different types of bands from alt-country to rockabilly to bluegrass. 

BRCM: How many angels can dance on the edge of yr guitar pick?

MATB:  Never use picks............or angels.

BRCM: How do you approach yr songwriting?  Which comes first, the lyric or the groove?

MATB: I usually have a rhythm and chord structure and then put lyrics to it but sometimes I'll come up with a lyrical hook then write the music and the verses.  Normally when I bring a new song to the band it's just a skeleton of a song with my rhythm guitar and vocals then everybody jumps in and does their thing and it turns into a complete song.

BRCM: What can we expect from Me and the Devil at the Robert Johnson birthday hootenanny?  And, following that, what's next for Me and the Devil?

MATB: Expect the unexpected! When people think of acoustic music they think mellow and we are anything but mellow. 
Next up on our schedule after the Robert Johnson Birthday show is another exciting show for us, we are opening for T-Model Ford at Reggie's Music Joint on June 1st!

Still not convinced?  Well, check out the following...

And, as ever, please support yr local, independent record stores, bands, and live shows!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shake A Tail Feather

Oh, boy.  Here we go again. Another round of  The Greatest Song Ever Written (At Least For Today),   where we highlight a song, for the sake of the song.  No wordy exposition.  No Mountainesque rambling.  The song is the star.  Of course, we always encourage folks to support the artists' (or their legacies) involved.

Today's Greatest Song Ever Written (At Least For Today) was composed by the very mighty Andre Williams for The Five Du-Tones.  The rest is history, of course, from covers by Ray Charles and Ike and Tina Turner, amongst others.

But the original is the one...A nasty slab of fried-out soul groove and holler, shake yr ass like the morning will never come, and all you've got is sex, sweet sex, baby.  Oh, yes.  This is yr weekend groove, baby, and don't waste it.  'Cuz the sun's gonna come up, and where will you be?

The Five Du-Tones: Shake A Tail Feather (mp3)

Ike and Tina Turner: Shake A Tail Feather (mp3)

Andre Williams: Shake A Tail Feather (mp3)

Please support yr local.   Record Store Day is tomorrow!  Get some bacon-fried wax!  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Beginning...

So, here it is...The Big Event The Black Oil Brothers!  Illinois John Fever!  Me And The Devil!  Woodrow Heart!  At the Abbey Pub!  In Chicago Illinois!  May 7th!  Oh, yes!

It's gonna be a killer show.  Book yr flights, trains and buses now.

We're proud to be a small part of this, in conjunction with The Black Oil Brothers and Hellhound Trail Booking, so come on out...

More to come on each artist...just had to give all y'all an advance notice...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Trouble In Mind

Howdy, happy troopers.  We're back in fine style today.  So much so, that we're almost giddy.

Trouble In Mind is a record label, run out of Chicago, no less,  by Lisa and Bill Roe, who y'all already know from the mighty band (and 'Mountain fave) Cococoma.  Trouble in Mind has been releasing some killer records over the past couple of years, featuring bands like The Liminanas, Wheels On Fire, The Hex Dispensers, Ty Segall, The Mean Jeans, The Fresh & Onlys, Charlie and the Moonhearts, and many, many more.  

They've got a new batch of rekkids out, and Lisa and Bill were kind enough to answer some questions for us.  We'll talk about the new records, and give you a taste, at the end, but for the moment, let's let Lisa and Bill speak for themselves.

The  BRCM Interview with Trouble In Mind Records

Big Rock Candy Mountain: Y'all have been on the radar for quite some time now as the band, CoCoComa.  What was your motivation in starting the Trouble In Mind record label?  
Bill: It’s something I’d always wanted to do for many many years... I guess it really started to become a reality when Lisa was pregnant with our daughter Ronnie. CoCoComa was going on ‘maternity hiatus’ & we were really uncertain if we’d even be able to continue the band after she was born (we knew we’d be busy as first-time parents, just unsure as to HOW busy). Finally deciding to start the label was a sort of way to keep music in our lives I guess...
BRCM:  "Trouble In Mind" , as a song, has quite a pedigree.  Was this taken into account when naming the record label?  Do you have a favorite version of the song?
Lisa: I’m not the biggest “blues” fan it the world, so for me it’s never been about a direct connection to the song. We actually went through a lot of ideas for a label name, knowing we were looking for something that seemed to fit with the visual aesthetic we had in mind. Somehow “Trouble In Mind” seemed to fit despite the musical and film connections.  If I had to guess, Bill’s favorite version of the song is probably by Jerry Lee Lewis, seeing as Bill does, or at least used to carry a picture of him in his wallet.
Bill: Still do!
BRCM:  You have a history of graphic design.  Trouble In Mind has a very unique aesthetic approach, seemingly "less is more".  The singles have a very minimalistic packaging.  What is your philosophy towards this end?  
Bill: (Allow me to get nerdy for a second) - When I thought about how our releases were gonna look, I definitely took a long look at our singles collection... the ones that really stood out to me were the ones that were packaged in “factory sleeves” (or PACS: “Period-Appropriate-Company-Sleeves”)... Stax Records, Motown Records, Stiff Records, Atlantic, White Whale, etc... I just thought that visually it was a striking aesthetic. Plus I noticed that everytime I came across one, I pulled it out to see what was on the inner label... so I guess really I wanted people to interact with our records while browsing through record racks... They’d see the sleeve & wonder which record it was & pick it up & look at it. I’ve definitely gotten a lot of good feedback on the design (which is always encouraging) - it’s nice to hear people say that they pick up our releases no matter what ‘cause they see the sleeve & buy it cuz they know it’s good.
Lisa: We were particularly drawn to the sleeves that were from the 60’s which often times seemed like out of touch label artists trying to appeal to the youth market which is sort of one inspiration for the sleeve design that Bill came up with.
BRCM: Trouble In Mind's output over the past (almost) 2 years has been mostly 7" singles/ep's.    Recently you've ventured into full length  records.   How did this come about?  Did you feel strongly about the artists that you wanted to release a full length, or was this a natural transition in the life of the label?
Lisa: Yeah, going into the label initially we thought just singles...which we still plan to keep on churning out, but LP’s are exciting on another level.  It’s kinda like going from dating to being married or something. The opportunity came because we were so in love with The Limiñanas music that strictly from a fan point of view we wanted to hear more more more.  So luckily they agreed to do their debut LP with us, which we are eternally grateful for.  And from there we’ve gotten to put out 2 more amazing debut LP’s by The Wrong Words and The Paperhead and we have lots more in the works. Wax Museums second record which is SOOO GREAT and The Night Beats which rules as well. Both will be coming out in late June.   Then not to go too far into the future, but, we are going to be releasing Mikal Cronin of Moonheart’s debut solo LP for which we’ve heard about ¾ of and with out a doubt it is going to seriously blow minds. He was in studio with Ty Segall and Eric Bauer (the guy that recorded Ty’s last couple of albums) last week and we really think this is going to show Mikal in a new light.
Bill: It’s true - Mikal’s solo LP is seriously gonna rule! Don’t forget the Estrogen Highs LP we’re gonna do soon! (seriously loved their ‘Friends & Relatives’ LP from earlier this year - if you haven’t picked it up - you should!)
BRCM: The inevitable vinyl question.   Your releases have been vinyl-only (with the digital download code for i-pod users).  Do you feel that vinyl is the best way to hear your releases?  Do you believe that the "single" is alive and well,  and you're reflecting the current market, or are you trying to make a statement  about how we listen to music?  
Bill: Well, the single has always been “alive & well” for myself & many others... I just think in alot of cases it’s the perfect format for listening to music on vinyl. DEEP grooves for maximum sound, 2-4 songs so you don’t get tired of a band over the course of a side, PLUS bands (I would hope) are more inclined to put their “A-material” on a single, so the song quality should be top notch! I really don’t prefer singles to LPs or vice-versa... I have PLENTY of both believe me (ha ha)... I wouldn’t say we really know what reflects the current market - don’t care really... we just like vinyl!
BRCM: Your roster of releases is rife with bands from all over the map, both musically and geographically.  Many of these are, what the generic music press would call, "hotly tipped " bands or artists.  How do you convince these bands that a release on Trouble In Mind  is a net plus?  
Lisa: Well, we haven’t begged anyone...not that we wouldn’t, I guess? Typically, we have said “Hey, we like your band. We want to put something out.” And 90% of the time people have said yes. Most every band is already a friend so that might help?  We know we are lucky to get to work with so many great bands and it’s something we don’t take lightly. We do whatever we can to have the bands benefit somehow from releasing a record with us.
BRCM: Do you have a favorite release?  Or is this like asking a parent who their favorite child is?
Lisa: Every single new record becomes my favorite. This is sort of the way it has to work for us since both of us have to agree absolutely 100% that we are in love with the songs or it doesn’t get released.
Bill: Yeah, the 100% thing is sometimes annoying (as I’m sure Lisa will agree) - there’s definitely been bands that one of us has been “They’re totally awesome - we NEED to release this!” & the other just doesn’t feel it at all. Despite that, I definitely feel like it’s helped us keep our focus & keep the quality of releases top-notch.
8.  A quick sidetrack...You've mentioned that CoCoComa is on "indefinite hiatus".  And that you've got a new project called  "The Marble Vanity".  Is there anything you can tell us about the new project?  What should we expect from y'all moving forward, band-wise?
Lisa: In a way it’s been a long time in the making all though the LP came together very quickly.  Bill and I listen to all kinds of music (Bill more than myself) but over the past 3 or 4 years we’ve really become enamored with baroque pop with a lot of the records we love being “studio projects” namely The Millenium, Sagittarius, The Clique then also things like Harumi, That Pretty Things with Phillipe DeBarge record (and The Zombies and The Left Banke of course) and throw in some psych-sploitation and an INDEX rip for good measure.  This winter in Chicago was exceptionally brutal and so we had A LOT of time cooped up in our apartment. At the same time our friend Andrew (formerly of The Hipshakes) was just out of grad school with no job and no apartment so he was staying with us for a bit.  We just started demo-ing stuff out as sort of a fun exercise like “Can I write a song that sounds like the Pretty Things’ “Hello, How do you do?” The answer is NOT REALLY, but the result turned out kinda cool in it’s own way. So as it went on we were kind of like “Hey, a lot this isn’t half bad” and it took this weird turn into something of a concept album which gave it some focus. Then we brought in our “ringer” (Emma from Hollows) who is a classically trained pianist and flautist to play harpsichord and flute to give it that final baroque touch. (SIDE NOTE: Be warned there are bongos on at least 2 songs!) It was lots of fun to make at least.We plan to play at least one live show this summer so watch out!
Bill: It’s our “twinkle-ding-dong” record!
BRCM: Trouble In Mind has 4 brand spankin' new releases out right now.  2 of 'em are LP's.  2 of 'em are 7" singles/ep's.  What can you tell us about these?  
Bill: Well, first off we have 
TIM022: The Wrong Words s/t debut album. GREAT great pop group from San Francisco. The guitarist & drummer, Josh & Layla used to play in a band called ‘White Music’ that we were going to release a single by (but they broke up)... Luckily Josh got back in touch when they formed Wrong Words & sent us more songs (which we loved) that became the single we released last Fall & the start of the LP. Sounds similar to Nick Lowe or Gentleman Jesse, but definitely with their own twist. Plus let’s not forget the RIPPING guitar work! 

Then we have...

TIM023: Alex Cuervo 4-song solo EP. Alex had mentioned something (on Facebook I believe - ha!) about working on solo material & I immediately emailed him about hearing it (since I am a huge Hex Dispensers fan). He sent me 6 songs that were all amazing (4 of which appear on our EP)... we hope to release a whole solo LP someday soon (right Alex?!?!?). It’s definitely in the ballpark of Hex Dispensers, but more new-wavish... Gary Numan, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Adam & the Ants (and some Danzig too - ha!).

TIM024: The Paperhead s/t debut LP is one we’re particularly proud of. These guys sent us this WHOLE completed album out of the blue under the recommendation of Jeffrey Novak (who produced it). They said ‘maybe we’d hear a single or something’ - Ha! We both were immediately blown away by the whole thing & decided right then that we needed to release the LP. These guys are all under 20 years old - so talented! Psych-pop like early Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, July... PSYCHEDELIC! 

Lastly (but not leastly) we have...

TIM025: Jeffrey Novak 4-song solo EP - Jeff & I had been in contact re: the Paperhead LP & he was telling me about all the things he had on deck for release: a 2nd solo LP on In The Red, Cheap Time’s 3rd album (which is already done & is AMAZING, btw) & then a fully completed THIRD solo record which he said he was going to not release. He asked if I wanted to hear it (and I of course said ‘yes’)... we liked it & I asked if we could use 4 of the songs as an EP. That’s sort of when the whole “Solo Series” idea came into being. 

We have a few more people that have agreed to do EPs which I’ll keep under the hopper for now... gonna be great though.
BRCM: What can we expect going forward from Trouble In Mind?  
Lisa: As we mentioned LP’s from Wax Museums, Night Beats and Mikal Cronin though more are in the works.  More singles and more “solo series” EP’s. We have lots of promised things that I think we’ll not talk about till we actually have tracks, but we’re pretty stoked to get to continue to put out stuff by brand new bands that people might not know so well, but also established artists that we are personally fans of.  Having a label is SOOO much work but it’s rewarding in so many more ways than just being in a band. 
Bill: Ditto.

Hooked yet?  Well, you should be.  We feel like Bill and Lisa pretty much laid out why you should care, but if not, they were kind enough to allow a couple or so tunes  for yr enjoyment.  But here's our humble take...

The four new records run a glorious gambit. From the EP's:, the scrunge-out Kinks-sleaze of Cheap Time's Jeffrey Novak to the surging splatter-punk grind of Hex Dispenser's Alex Cuevo.  (both part of the aforementioned "Solo Series").  

The LP's, from The Paperhead and The Wrong Words , deserve their own posts, of course.  Magnificent, and swirling psych 'n' trash (depending n which record yr listening to), filtered through a blender of guitar abuse and  nasty joy.  Each record is completely different from the other, the great thing about Trouble In Mind, but each with a defining vision, and, ultimately, tailor-made for yr Spring and Summer bump'n'grind, hatchback doors open, beer or Mai Tai in hand, and delicious.  

Trouble In Mind is an independent record label, puttin' out some great records.  Please keep that in mind when you download the following samples...if you like the tunes, the records are even better (and they come with download codes).  Keep that in mind, so to speak!

The Paperhead: Back To Those Days (mp3)

The Wrong Words: Summer's Gone (mp3)

Jeffrey Novak: Back At The Bottom (mp3)

Alex Cuevo: 2 Broken Fingers (mp3)

Again...Please support independent labels.  The above tunes are available for purchase, with a nifty record attached.  Something you can hold in yr hands and enjoy beyond an mp3 or cd.  If you don't have a record player, they come with a download code...so you get the best of both worlds.  How keen is that?