Nashville doesn’t have a reputation as a hotbed of weird music, but maybe it should. Between Here Come the Mummies, H-Beam and now our latest Weird Band Poll winners, The Chewers, Music City U.S.A. has been flying its freak flag at full mast of late.
The Chewers are Travis Caffrey on (mainly) guitar and Michael Sadler on (mainly) drums, although their songs also feature a lot of programmed sounds and the occasional oddball instrument. (We’re particularly fond of the instrumental track “Don’t Go in the Tent,” which manages to make the usually goofy Siren Whistle sound like it’s coming to suck the breath from your body.) They describe themselves as “two freaks from the woods of West Virginia” and there is definitely a creepy, Deliverance-y quality to their off-kilter tunes, as though a couple of tattooed hillbillies decided to retire early from the bathtub speed trade and form a band based on the Residents and Tom Waits records they found at a yard sale in Wheeling.
But just because they’re hillbillies, don’t mistake them for rubes. There’s a smart, satirical edge to a lot of The Chewers’ best songs, like this two-for-one send-up of organized religion and the pharmaceutical industry (if you can’t see the SoundCloud players below, click here):
Then again, they’re also pretty great at just grunting salaciously, basically turning the first 30 seconds of The Doors’ “Back Door Man” into an entire song:
Finally, here’s a more recent track, “Burn It Down.” The vocals have gotten even weirder, but the music’s gotten groovier, too. We’re digging it.
They also make pretty good videos. Here’s one for “Techno-Slaves,” a track from their latest album, Chuckle Change and Also. We especially like the little saloon-keeper singing trio croaking away in the lower right hand corner.
So congrats on winning our April Weird Band Poll and keeping Nashville weird, guys. And if you see Brad Paisley, please bitch-slap him for us, OK? That “Accidental Racist” song might be the worst thing we’ve ever heard.
Let me just begin this post by saying: You people are awesome. And by “you people,” I mean not only our regular readers but fans of all the bands in our most recent Weird Band Poll. The response to this latest poll was unprecedented and finally led to a little band from Toronto called Barbara being crowned the winner, narrowly edging out the equally weird H-Beam from Nashville. So congrats, Barbara! And to H-Beam and all their fans: Don’t you worry. We’ve got a consolation prize in store for you guys. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but we can tell you it’ s not a pony.
So who are these Barbara guys, you ask? They’re a brother duo named Tyler and Raynor Semrick-Palmateer and their music could perhaps best be described as pop music for schizophrenics. There are lots of distorted, layered yet occasionally soulful vocals, head-nodding beats and melodies that might have once been downright catchy before they got stretched like Silly Putty. It’s sort of The Residents meets “Bohemian Rhapsody” meets five episodes of Intervention all playing at the same time. They also appear to be partial to creepy-looking masks, which adds to the air of
Barbara haven’t released a ton of music yet; their one and only EP, Stuck to the Ground, is just three songs plus a handful of kooky little interstitial tracks in which a lady friend of theirs (Barbara herself, perhaps?) asks pertinent questions on behalf of the audience, like “Does anyone know who these people are?” and “Do you have any more songs?” The answer to that last one: Yes, actually. They have a non-EP dance mix of a song called “Fidelio” that, Tyler tell us, is comprised entirely of quotes from Eyes Wide Shut. And they perform a dance-off to it at the end of their sets. Here, watch.
Is it just me, or is the most unsettling thing about that whole performance the fact that one of them is carrying a briefcase?
So it turns out we kinda had a ringer in our last Weird Band of the Week Facebook Poll. At the time we added Ghostigital to the poll, we literally knew almost nothing about them, except that they were from Iceland and had an awesome video called “Hovering Hoover Skates” that appeared to feature an Icelandic ladies roller derby team. Well, it’s since come to our attention that the dude behind Ghostigital is none other than Einar Örn, the even-weirder-than-Björk co-lead singer of that most legendary of Iceland bands, the Sugarcubes. So don’t feel bad for losing our poll, other bands! You were up against weird band royalty.
Einar started Ghostigital as a solo project about a decade ago, although his producer Curver has since become the band’s full-time second member. Their music is heavily electronic and generally features Einar delivering rambling, semi-coherent monologues over pulsing synths and a mishmash of techno, dub and hip-hop beats. “Masses of dark!” goes one typical Ghostigital lyric. “I could slice it up and eat it like a cake.” At least I think it’s a lyric. We pulled that from a live Ghostigital performance for KEXP, and honestly, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether Einar is delivering lyrics or just spewing improvised rants off the top of his head. And yes, I mean that as a compliment.
Not surprisingly, Ghostigital was briefly hooked up with Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings, which released their second album, In Cod We Trust, in 2006. Einar then apparently took a break from music to start dabbling in politics; he even got himself elected to Reykjavík City Council in 2010, an office he still occupies. He’s a member of the Best Party, which sounds almost as wacky as Ghostigital’s music. Among the planks in their campaign platform: free towels at all public swimming pools and a polar bear at the Reykjavik Zoo. And, y’know, ending political corruption and improving living conditions for the poor and lots of other important stuff less “wacky” political parties all over the world seem only too happy to ignore. But…a polar bear! Even the New York Times couldn’t get over that part.
Last November, Ghostigital finally returned with a third album, Division of Culture & Tourism, releasted on Einar’s own Bad Taste label. You can hear the whole thing on Soundcloud. It’s pretty dope. It’s got cameos from David Byrne and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and there’s a Dougie reference in the very first song, which is called “Don’t Push Me,” on which Einar hoots and hollers and makes it abundantly clear that it would be a really, really bad idea to push him. He’s like Mark E. Smith, Andy Kaufman and Eminem all rolled into one cantankerous former punk rocker who’s been deprived of sunlight for the past six months.
We can’t decide which of these two Ghostigital videos is weirder, so we’ll include both of them. First up, from In Cod We Trust, we give you “Northern Lights.”
Next up: “Hovering Hoover Skates.” You didn’t think we’d tell you about a video full of roller derby girls and not show it to you, did you? We wouldn’t play you like that.
So congrats on winning our latest Facebook poll, Ghostigital! Although we’re pretty sure that in your list of lifetime accomplishments, this probably doesn’t even break the top 10,000.
Man, I love our Facebook polls. If it was up to me, we’d do one every week, but my partner in crime Andy is a fucking control freak so we only do them every month or so. The rest of the time, we get to pick the bands. But honestly, you guys out there in Readerland kinda do a better job at it.
Case in point: This month’s poll winner, a one-man/one-doll band from Vermont called Caring Babies. Actually, this is the second winning band in the past few polls that features inanimate objects as band members. Your Fuzzy Friends, who we featured in November, are a one-man/three-animal-hand-puppets band. We should find a few more and organize a festival. We could call it Fluffstock or some shit.
The human member of Caring Babies is apparently a dude named Matt Mazur who sings like David Byrne and, as you can see, has excellent taste in sweaters. He had this to say about being our Weird Band of the Week: “I will wait as patiently as I can for this article, but I am doing some dances because it’s cool and because I’m excited.” Well, wait no more, Matt! But keep doing those dance moves anyway, because judging from your live show, you need all the practice you can get. (I kid! If it wasn’t for spazzy white-guy dance moves, this whole blog wouldn’t exist.)
The non-human member of Caring Babies is a Cabbage Patch-like doll named Redgei. She had nothing to say about being our Weird Band of the Week, but since she’s a doll, she’s probably not real good at writing emails. Then again, she’s credited as playing all the band’s computers, so who knows? Maybe she’s just less impressed with us than Matt is. As she should be.
Caring Babies have been around since 2009 and are from a town in Vermont called Wilder, which is so fucking appropriate I can hardly stand it. Their songs are catchy little synth ditties that mostly seem to be about friends and balloons and generally happy stuff. They also have a song about cell phones, which by their standards gets kinda dark: “Mr. Cell Phone, I thought you were talking to me.” It’s biting social commentary you can spazz-dance to.
For more on Caring Babies, check out their Blogspot or peep the videos below. Oh and go vote in our next poll, OK? I’m pretty sure this one is 100% doll, hand puppet and stuffed-animal free. We try to mix things up.
P.S. We’re taking next week off to go torture our families during the holidays, so this is our last Weird Band of the Week for 2012. All kidding aside, thanks for supporting us so much these past 12 months and get ready for even more weirdness in 2013. We’ve barely scratched the surface, people!
The results of our latest Facebook poll are in and once again the ballot-stuffers…uh, I mean voters have spoken. By a wide margin, Baby Seal Club beat out Charles Manson and two bands you probably never heard of to become our latest Weird Band of the Week. Congrats on beating my namesake cult leader, guys. That’s no small feat in these parts, especially since this video surfaced.
We first heard about BSC when their singer-guitarist, Fudo, wrote to us and shared the band’s video for “Zeroes and Ones,” which you can see below. Fudo admitted he was “hard-pressed” to claim his band’s music was weirder than most of what we blog about around here. But any band that does a video about a marauding band of chickens trashing an Apple Store gets our attention.
Baby Seal Club hail from a podunk town in Northern California called Sebastopol (come for the wineries, stay because you’re too drunk to drive back to San Francisco). They dress in carnival/steam-punk/Burning Man chic and play a style of music I’m gonna call quirky outlaw power-pop. I’m not even sure what that means, but it sounds about right. You can check out samples of their 10-track debut album on their official website. I’m partial to “Mama Delphi,” which starts out with the line, “She didn’t know she was made of Play-Doh.” Man, if I had nickel for every time I’ve dated that chick.
Since writing to us, Fudo and his bandmates (Choklit Chanteuse, Wizzbang Mahnkae, Nashish, Nectar and occasionally a guy called Uncle Stabby, which is now officially my favorite band alias ever) have been on a roll. They’ve opened for The B-52′s (bet Fred Schneider loooooved them) and were voted Best Rock Band at the North Bay Music Awards. We like to think being named Weird Band of the Week is just as prestigious, but who are we kidding? They’ve probably forgotten about us little people already.
Fun bonus fact: Their fans are called “FlipperTrippers.” We’re sure that’s just because seals have flippers and is not in any way a drug reference.
Anyway, here’s “Zeroes and Ones.” Insert your favorite “cluck” joke here. Oh, and go vote in our next poll, OK? The fate of four more bands rests in your hands.