L.A.Drones!

L.A.Drones!
Photo by Amy Darling

Another Weird Band Poll is in the books here at Weird Band HQ, and the band poppin’ bottles this time is from right here in our hometown of Los Angeles. So give an imaginary high-five to L.A.Drones! I wasn’t shouting, by the way…their name has an exclamation point at the end. Just thought I’d clear that up.

L.A.Drones! (not shouting, I swear) are a synth duo who perform wearing black bandit masks because one version of their name, “ladrones,” means “thieves” in Spanish. And because, as they told us, “we steal samples from the music we like.” I thought that was pretty much every synth band these days, but maybe L.A.Drones! are more thievish than most.

In another version of their name, it means “Los Angeles drones,” which could be a reference to the droning sound of their music, or the fact that we Angelenos increasingly live in a police surveillance state. Seriously, the cops here have drones. Which are supposedly not in use at the moment, but if there’s one thing every halfway intelligent American just learned in the wake of all that shit that went down in Ferguson, it’s that we should not trust our local police forces with all their new high-tech gadgets. You may as well give a box of fireworks to a bunch of 10-year-old boys and say, “Now you be sure to find a grown-up and get permission before you light these.”

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. L.A.Drones! So far, the duo of Vulcanito and Tormentas Gonzalez has only released one track, an ass-shaking little jam called “Horrible Dreams,” which you can watch in the performance clip below and also buy on Bandcamp for less than a cup of gas station coffee.

When we asked if they had any other songs, Vulcanito explained that L.A.Drones! really has to be experienced live. “Horrible Dreams” is just the first part of a 45-minute “capsule” of music called “The Dreamlike World of the Midnight Walker,” which they never perform the same way twice, and any versions of it they release online will just be recorded live in the studio. They’re working on other “capsules” of music, each of which will be played at a different BPM. “Midnight Walker” is at 127 BPM, apparently.

Here’s a live clip of the second part of “The Dreamlike World of the Midnight Walker,” which is called “Give Up.” Musically, they’re not the weirdest band we’ve ever featured, maybe. But I do dig that their music is kind of freeform and dancey at the same time, and the whole concept of an electronic act that never plays anything the same way twice. Some of the “live” dance music acts Andy’s dragged me to over the years should really take a page from that playbook.

So congrats again to L.A.Drones! for winning the poll. I believe that makes them the first L.A. band ever to win a Weird Band Poll. About damn time somebody represented!

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Well Worn Boot

Well Worn Boot

I know a lot of you foreign types read this blog, so let me explain something. Here in America, we have this thing every year called “March Madness” where suddenly everyone is expected to care about college basketball. It’s a tournament and the team that wins gets to bone every chick at the losing team’s school…at least I assume that’s what happens, because there’s no other explanation for why everyone gets so fucking excited about it.

Anyway, around here we had our own little version of March Madness with our latest Weird Band Poll, and the band that gets to cut down the net (look it up) is a little combo from Upstate New York called Well Worn Boot. I am excited about this because I grew up in that part of the world and these guys represent my favorite part of Upstate, which is the white trash part. They’re from Buffalo but they may as well be from Pigfuck, Arkansas. Except they’re probably a little too weird for that.

Well Worn Boot’s lead singer is a flute-playing hillbilly named The Plainsman. Their guitarist is a horse called Horse. Their bass player is a big baby called Baby Buckingham. Their drummer is a dead guy named Billy Klubb who, for reasons no one can explain, wears a tiny cow-colored top hat. They play music that has been described as “Johnny Cash meets Captain Beefheart,” and yes, it is very nearly as awesome as that sounds. Especially when The Plainsman lets rip with a flute solo. Then they’re like a cowpunk Jethro Tull.

They release comic books with their EPs, which chronicle the adventures of Well Worn Boot like they’re a bunch of drunken Upstate superheroes. The first comic/EP was called Fully Torqued and you can preview it here. The next one comes out next month and will be called Boot in Space. I assume it’ll be set in space but from what I know so far about these guys, it might just be set in Billy Klubb’s basement and guest star a nitrous tank.

Oh and they also have their own festival. It’s called the Wild Wild Fest and it’s happening this year Aug. 29-30 at the Willow Creek Winery in Silver Creek, NY. I’m usually more of a beer and bourbon guy, but I’ll drink whatever that place is pouring.

We’ll leave you with the video SoundCloud stream for “Drunk on the Highway,” which is pretty typical of the WWB catalog in that it features aliens, drinking and sex. Not necessarily in that order.

Actually, hold up. That one didn’t have enough flute in it. So here’s another one.

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Drunken Forest

drunkenforest2

I guess we have a lot of readers in Brazil, because for the second time, a band from the land of Carnaval and Christ the Redeemer is the winner of our monthly Weird Band Poll. And unlike previous Brazilian winners Skull and Bones, he’s actually pretty good. Meet Biaggio Vessio, aka Drunken Forest, and prepare to be wowed by some serious guitar chops.

Vessio, a São Paulo native, started Drunken Forest as a band project in 2009, but went solo in 2012. So far, he’s really only released four tracks, on a self-titled EP that covers a lot of stylistic ground in 11 scant minutes. The music of Drunken Forest isn’t hit-you-over-the-head weird, but it’s definitely unique, mostly thanks to Vessio’s guitar style, which cuts on a dime from melodic finger tapping to metalesque shredding and back again—as if Kaki King were trading licks with Kirk Hammett. Even in this early, lo-fi video, you can tell the man knows his way around a six-string.

You can download the Drunken Forest EP for free from Bandcamp. For a little taste, here is the album’s most frenetic track, a smash-cut tour through progressive metal, post-rock, bossa nova and jazz, all set to Zappa-esque mutating time signatures. Vessio plays everything except the saxophone. So yeah, he’s got some serious percussion chops, too.

So congrats on winning our poll, Biaggio! We hope to hear more Drunken music from you soon.

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BB BlackDog

Photo by Laurine Clifford
Photo by Laurine Clifford

We had our own little British Invasion here at Weird Band HQ last week. Not only did steampunk Brits BB BlackDog win our latest Weird Band Poll, another English act named Ben & Amy finished a strong 3rd. The lone American act in the poll, Fartbarf, finished dead last. What is wrong with you people? Do you hate farting, barfing and America? Sometimes I don’t recognize this country anymore.

But anyway, yes, BB BlackDog crushed the competition fair and square, so they earn Weird Band of the Week honors. And they are indeed a pretty fucking weird band, though not for the obvious reasons. I mean, if they were just another WWI-fighter-pilot-goggles-wearing steampunk act, we would pass them by with a resounding “meh.” There’s entire fucking conventions of bands like that now. But here’s what’s awesome about BB BlackDog: The visuals don’t match the music. At all. It’s like if Slipknot came out onstage and starting singing One Direction songs. Except way less sucky than that.

So yeah, when you first look at BB BlackDog, you probably assume they’re going to break into a John Philip Sousa march, or maybe a little ragtime, or they might get really crazy and bust out the chap-hop. Wrong! BB BlackDog play good old-fashioned bluesy psychedelic/stoner rock. And they do it in full steampunk regalia, with belly dancers and shit.

Here are some other interesting factoids about BB Black Dog. They’ve been doing this since 2007. They’ve written 76 original songs. They don’t have a guitar player…lead singer Dale Rowles plays “lead bass,” John Ferguson Mike Bower plays rhythm bass, and Axel Boldt plays the drums as hard as anyone can without the pink boa flying off his black leather cowboy hat. They list Black Sabbath, Prince, Pink Floyd and death metal among their influences. They have an album called No One that you can buy from (duh) Steampunk Records…or from Amazon.com if you prefer to pay in U.S. scrilla. One of their members is German. Oh and they seem to occasionally feature a fourth member who dresses up like their namesake “Black Dog”…although honestly, he looks more like some kind of steampunk gimp who just escaped from an H.P. Lovecraft-themed sex dungeon. Which actually makes sense, because they have a song called “Gimp.”

If you clicked that last link, you saw that as recently as 2009, BB BlackDog was pretty much just another scruffy stoner-rock bar band…albeit one with a vaguely old-timey burlesque dancer. Apparently, they’re recent converts to the whole steampunk thing. I guess you could argue that this makes them steampunk carpet-baggers or something, except I’m pretty sure there needs to be a carpet worth bagging for that to make any sense. It’s not like everyone’s riding the steampunk gravy train to major label deals and Bud Light endorsements. The likelier explanation is just that they stumbled across the steampunk scene and went, “Hey, this is fucking cool! Let’s join in!” Just because they didn’t swap out the basses for banjoleles doesn’t mean they’re not totally into it.

BB BlackDog have a ton of live videos on YouTube, and many of them are definitely worth checking out. But it was this video for the track “What You Need” that I’m pretty sure scored them a win in our Weird Band Poll. What’s more steampunk than a motorized shopping cart? Lots, but who cares? Motorized shopping carts are awesome.

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Pan

Pan

Meet our latest Weird Band Poll winners: Pan! These guys just moved last year from sunny Los Angeles to cold, desperate Detroit, so you know they’re weirdos.

Pan’s music kinda sounds like post-economic-meltdown Detroit, too: Junky, spooky, broken down but not without its charms. John, one half of the duo, describes their music as “musique-concrete folk,” which sounds about right. There are lots of weird, ambient noises and out-of-tune guitars that sound like they’re being played with kitchen utensils. It’s not for nothing that when John told us about Pan’s music, he put the word “music” in quotation marks.

So far Pan have released just two records: a self-titled 2011 EP and a 2012 full-length called Pan 2. Both are available on Bandcamp here and here. For maximum weirdness, start with the EP, which makes me feel like I’m watching the Deliverance sodomy scene over and over again after one too many Vicodins.

John and his partner, Dithyramb, run a label called Homotown Records, which has a Facebook page but not much else.  They haven’t shot any videos for Pan or posted any Pan tunes on YouTube, but here’s a Soundcloud for a non-album track called “Dithy” that should give you an idea of why they pretty much crushed it in this month’s poll.

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The Chewers

The Chewers

chewers

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.

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Barbara

Barbara

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 psychosis intrigue.

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?

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