There’s been a lot of activity going on behind the scenes here at Presencia Del Sol. Mainly an identity crisis. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to bring you the best coverage, and I think with the help of some friends we’ve caught on to something. Enter: SIMPLEDAYS. My good friend John Olds is opening a cafe in Chesterton, IN called SIMPLEDAYS and it will become the hub of regional activity we all much needed. For the time being I’m going to be focusing on the website for the cafe, which will include a lot of the material I would be posting here. So for the time being, feel free to jump over there and get ready for another great year of material.
Today is our 49th post. We’ll be taking a break to work on the 50th post zine edition. Preorders for the zine package will be up in the coming weeks. Stay tuned..
Since today is a monumental post I’d like to write about why Presencia del Sol began. The underground punk community is often celebrated, but sometimes bands who are key elements to the movement are overlooked. Some of the most talented bands in the country go overlooked and often times suffer because of it. These bands are out there. They’re in the basement of the house next door. On the floor of the coffee shop you frequent. They’re in art galleries, living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, backyards, warehouses and storefronts. They are part of the reason hardcore, punk and doing things yourself are so great. They’re honest. They have no gimmick. They are simply here to share what they love to do the most.
Today I’m posting about seven bands I call our “roster.” This roster is by no means all inclusive of every band I believe deserves attention. Simply go back in the archives of this blog and see for yourself. Let’s get started.
Brighter Arrows – Chicago, IL
This band hasn’t been around for long but they took the time to craft a great first album. They didn’t create a Facebook, they created a reason to listen to them. With a super line up (members of Lautrec, Mans and Phoenix Bodies) this band is destined to continue on creating some of the most challenging music to come out of Chicagoland for years to come.
Canyons – Marshall, MO
The hidden gem of the Midwest. These boys have been puttin’ around the country for a few years now and have a whole slew of back catalog releases. Their live show is directly representative of their personal character: honest and to the point. There’s no bullshit. There’s no grand gestures. Just bone-breaking hardcore with messages about everyday life in the Midwest.
Cloud Mouth – Chicago, IL
Cloud Mouth is the main reason I started this blog. I feel like when people talk about their favorite Chicago bands, this band is not present enough on the lists. They play a truly unique and vivacious rendition of post hardcore, with every release being a step in the best possible direction. Please watch for their upcoming EP, it will change the way the genre is viewed as a whole.
Code Orange Kids – Pittsburgh, PA
I put most of my eggs into this basket. I firmly believe this band is destined to do great things. I’ve never witnessed such energy and enthusiasm in a hardcore act. They’re down to earth and excited for whats to come. They are open to playing any show everywhere, just to reach out to kids and share their art. These kids are truly living beyond their years.
Creeper – Toronto, ON
This band is truly surprising. I was always told that Creeper was “heavy as fuck,” but that was surely an understatement. Their most recent material is skull-crushing, unforgiving and flat out devastating. On their first tour of the United States they destroyed everything on their route (their Chicago date was left in ruin). This October marks their second tour of the US and they are sure to leave a lasting impression.
Droughts – Chicago, IL
I came across this band the first time I saw Brighter Arrows and I’ve been keen on them ever since. They fuse together a lot of elements I like: shoegazey guitar playing, intricate but hard hitting percussion and super aggressive bass playing. Their new material shows promise of making them a memorable part of the Chicago punk scene.
Slip – Chicago, IL
One of my dearest friends from childhood. He went away to school for two years and came back one of the best producers I’ve ever met. Watching him in the studio is inspiring. His sense of melody and percussion is unexplainable, he simply knows how things should sound. He’s in the midst of putting together a few albums that will turn heads and inspire change.
Here’s to these 50 posts and here’s to another 50. We’ll be on the prowl for more deserving bands and informative pieces. Hope you’ve enjoyed.
In spirit of my Nirvana themed week here, I’ve decided to do a list of my favorite Nirvana songs of all time. It’s funny to think about how much my list has changed over the years, but I guess it shows how much my musical taste has changed. I’ve strayed away from most of the pop songs and delved into their darker material. This list spans their entire career and is not exclusive to their studio releases. I think a lot of their b-side material and unreleased demos are their finest moments.
1. “All Apologies” from In Utero – Something about the guitar work and the super heavy chorus really gets me these days. I’m a huge fan of the outro, how it seems so structureless and everything is melting down, but there’s that one overdriven bass note that resonants for the final few measures.
2. “Come As You Are” from Nevermind – Definitely some of their finest moments for transitions. The transition from the bridge back into the last chorus gives me goosebumps. Using the back-up vocals to help usher back in the main stanza of the chorus was very well thought out.
3. “Drain You” from Nevermind – Probably my favorite of their poppy songs. The really Sonic Youth-esq bridge is awesome, totally out of right field. And of course the instrumental last verse is a very triumphant moment, it’s like the climax of the entire album in my opinion.
4. “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” from In Utero – Great verse, super memorable chorus. It’s really heavy but still there’s an outstanding awareness of melody. The bridge is really different from them, and is a glimpse into the experimental material they would have gotten into in their latter years.
5. “In Bloom” from Sheep – I’m not talking about the hit single from Nevermind, I’m talking about the version they recorded for their second full length intended to come out on Sub Pop. It’s out there floating around, there’s even a music video for it. Check it out, it’s all “Bleached-out” if you will. Totally fuzz.
6. “Old Age” from the Nevermind studio outtakes – The intro to this song gives me goosebumps. Actually the whole thing is just spine-chilling. The chord progression is really haunting, and the fact that this song was never finished gives it this almost mythical status. If only they finished it and released it, it probably would have been another single.
7. “Paper Cuts” from Bleach – The heaviest song they ever wrote. The feedback matched up with the fuzzed out chord hits is skull-crushing. Also how it transitions into the mid-tempoed verse is awesome. I like how they used feedback transitions for the whole song, but it worked just fine.
8. “Pennyroyal Tea” from In Utero – This is my favorite Nirvana song. When the first chorus kicks in it’s just so heavy. The bridge is so sad and powerful, it always gives me goosebumps. It’s moments like this that made Nirvana an extraordinary band, you can just feel the power and finesse they played with.
9. “Sifting” from Bleach – I think this should have been the last song on Bleach, such a conclusive moment. Something about the verse and chorus give off the vibe of a big “farewell.” It’s really melancholy, and provokes a feeling of fear. Really powerful track, both musically and lyrically.
10. “Verse Chorus Verse” from the Nevermind studio outtakes – I think I like this song slightly better than Old Age, only because the vocals seem a little bit more put together. The really clean guitar and chord progression is unsettling. I think since these songs were only talked about for song long that they carry this creepy vibe, like they are lost tracks or something.
On December 13th of 1993 Nirvana took the stage at Seattle’s Pier 48 and performed live on MTV. The set list included songs from the duration of the band’s career and is one of the their best recorded shows. They performed with great intensity an energy really feeding off of the ecstatic crowd. Pat Smear had joined the group as a live guitarist at this time, and the quartet really made great use of the stage. Choice cuts from the show would be “Drain You,” “Serve the Servants” and “Pennyroyal Tea.” It really shows what the band was capable live and how much of a total package they really were.
When I first got “Nevermind” on cassette my mom was upset that there was a nude baby on the cover. I actually tried to hide it from her, but she thought I was hiding it because there were swear words. She accused me of “pulling the wool over her eyes” and I felt bad, so I showed her the cover and all was well. She always did that parent thing, “You shouldn’t listen to that band, weren’t they drug users?” and I would have to do the “oh mom, I don’t care about that, I just like the music” (little did I lead on that I thought Nirvana were some of the coolest dudes ever). Anyway years later I’ve turned into a well rounded young man despite all the “devil’s music” I’ve listened to over the years and my mom is actually a Nirvana fan herself.
This album changed a lot of things for me. It really woke me up. There’s a definite energy throughout its duration that just shakes you and says “look, put down what you’ve heard and embrace what you need to learn.” It opened the floodgates for the sounds of the underground. Unfortunately these sounds became fascinated with everything that Nirvana destroyed, and now we have today’s alternative rock. But nonetheless “Nevermind” sparked a lot of good. It made everyone realize that the impossible could happen, that any punk band from the backwoods of the United States could dethrone a phenomenon and become the most important band in the world.
Take a listen to this album, but really listen. Listen to the strain in Cobain’s voice in the chorus of “In Bloom.” Listen to the spine-chilling transition between the bridge back into the chorus in “Come As You Are.” Listen to the raw production of “Breed” while the chaotic solo pans between your headset. Listen to the overproduced verse of “Lithium” counteract with the bled-out bridge. Listen to the way the bass line in “Polly” sews the guitar’s strumming pattern together like a sweater. Listen to the way “Territorial Pissings” interrupted the subtle pace of the album and probably pissed off Geffen Records. Listen to the way bridge of “Drain You” goes into the most perfect moment on the album, the instrumental measure of the last verse. Listen to the way Krist Novoselic got the best bass tone ever in the intro of “Lounge Act.” Listen to the way they seemingly destroyed the studio at the end of “Stay Away.” Listen to the way Cobain could pen a perfect pop song in “On A Plain.” And listen to Dave Ghrol’s hesitant but precise drumming in the chorus of “Something in the Way.”
Listen to this album and appreciate it for what it is: a major-label pop album with punk rock tendencies.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of this album, which will be celebrated by a collector’s box set filled with all sorts of goodies.
Boys being boys.
I recommend this album to anyone. It is a classic and truly universal.
When I was in fourth grade I wasn’t very aware of the world around me. I didn’t know much about cliques but they existed. I didn’t really know anything about the world around me. I watched television a lot and listened to the music my parents listened to. But I remember being at the store with my mom and seeing a Rolling Stone magazine with Kurt Cobain in it and thinking “hey this guy looks cool.” I didn’t know who he was, what he did or his place in the world. Some time later I recognized the same man playing in a band during a commercial on television. Through some unplanned investigation I came to the conclusion that this man was the lead singer of the band Nirvana, and I needed to hear them. That day finally came on a ride home from school with my father, when a local rock station played “Come As You Are.” I remember thinking “ok sweet, I heard a Nirvana song” and it was a huge moment.
I eventually became aware of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and like any impressionable young chap it rocked my world. I obsessed over the song and finally coaxed my mother into buying me “Nevermind” on cassette tape. The rest was history. This month marks the 20th anniversary of this monumental album, and a way to celebrate its history is to talk about the band that created it. Here’s my contribution to preserving musical history, here’s a compilation of thoughts on Nirvana:
“I used to hate Nirvana. Probably because it reminded me of all the music that killed punk. As I grow older I don’t really care anymore and realize that they have a few great songs, I’m not too into their noisy shit but the ‘hits’ are pretty cool for the most part. ‘I Hate Myself and Want to Die’ is fun, ‘Come As You Are’ has just the right amount of apathy. ‘Heart Shaped Box is awesome.’ Kurt Cobain was alright I guess but the guy didn’t really say anything new and shot himself. Probably the best thing that could have happened for the band’s career.” – Will Allard of Xerxes.
“I started listening to Nirvana when I was about ten or eleven, around the same time I started playing guitar. Alot of people will tell you ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is the one of the first songs they learned how to play, and this was the case for me as well. It’s a fairly simple song, but when you’re on the third or fourth week of playing, it can help you feel like a real badass to jam it out. I watched an interveiw with Nirvana once, and they said from the early days their sound was always taking their favorite parts of bands like Black Sabbath and mixing it with what they liked of The Beatles, ie, taking really heavy songs and still making them catchy and rememberable. I loved them for that and still do, and I have remembered that when writing with my own band. The fact that you can be unique but still make music people like and will remember is a wonderful lesson, and i’m thankful everyday my sister had the cassette copy of ‘Nevermind’ in her room.” – Matt “Black Iowa” Mabrey of Canyons and Drought Years.
“I first heard Nirvana in the mid 90s. I was hanging out in my friend Forrest’s basement and we were listening to his dad’s CDs. ‘Nevermind’ was one of them. I remember being totally blown away by how gross and loud everything sounded. The first time I heard ‘In Utero’ I thought my stereo was broken, but it turns out it just sounded that awesome. I also played drums for a band that ripped them off, that was fun.” – Ben Sears of Black God, Prideswallower and Mountain Asleep.
“Kids still want to cover ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ every year. Pretty amazing considering it was twenty years ago.” – Erin Leigh Burke-Moran of Caspian.
“I recall a girl I had a crush on trying to teach me the guitar line to ‘Come As You Are,’ and failing so miserably at learning it that it became immediately clear that I had ruined any chance of us ever rolling around in the grass at recess together like I had pictured. That bummed me out so I stopped listening to them for a while after that. I remember a friend of mine asking me if I wanted to go see some ‘cool band’ from ‘California’ named Nirvana down at a local YMCA. This YMCA was in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a town of no more than 20,000 people, more than 3,000 miles of course from their actual home of Seattle, Washington. I stayed home that night and didn’t think much of it. Perhaps the first time I remember really experiencing the raw power of their music though happened on my first overseas trip to France as a young kid some time in the early 90s. I was on an exchange trip with a French kid named Peter and his family. I remember going to a public swimming pool in his town on a classic hot and sticky summer afternoon, at which ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was blasting on someone’s boombox as women were sitting around tanning themselves topless. Of course, sitting around topless at a public swimming pool in France is customary, but to a sheltered American 12-year-old during his first cross-cultural experience, it was about as jarring as moments come. That sort of primitive sexual experience combined with the brash and aggressive tone of the song arguably crated my first true punk-r0ck moment, and to this day it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I hear that tune or hear the name Nirvana.” – Philip Jamieson of Caspian.
“I’m always changing what my favorite record by Nirvana is. In middle school it was ‘Bleach,’ high school it was ‘In Utero’ and now after much denial it’s ‘Nevermind’ (it pained me to admit to myself that the most popular record is my current favorite). How many other records can you think of where every single song was a hit, or the drums were panned to audience perspective. I hate that about ‘Nevermind,’ yet embrace it since it’s one of the best sounding records ever. When I was first starting to play guitar I thought I had to be a shredder in order to be ‘good.’ Nirvana changed my outlook on this completely. Although the music isn’t super technical, every member’s part compliments one another’s. Dave Grohl is always relentless with solid, heavy hitting drum parts. He is the master of ‘drum riffs.’ So many of his drum parts are instantly recognizable. In an age of Pro Tools and putting drums to the grid, such a truly solid, interesting drummer is a rare sight. Krist Novoselic is hands down one of my favorite bassists. As a kid I actually paid more attention to the bass lines of this band rather than the guitar. Dave and Kris always had a solid groove behind Kurt. Not to mention, Krist always had an awesome bass sound on every record. Kurt’s guitar parts are noisy, a little sloppy, fuzzy and yet controlled. He is the master of using feedback in a controlled and musical way. Just because he didn’t always have crazy chord progressions or cleanly played leads, doesn’t hinder the music at all. Not only is having a guitar lead/solo that just follows the vocal melody genius, so was his absolutely appropriate guitar playing. The music sounds as if it’s about to fall apart at any moment, whether it’s his mumbled vocals, or fuzzed out guitar, yet it all just barely stays together beautifully. I have bonded over Nirvana with almost every single one of my best friends at some point or another. No matter what other bands we may or may not like, there has always been that one common love. Nirvana is responsible for me really getting into music and leading me into whatever my life is – to disappointing my family by having ripped clothes and long hair, paying to see some pissed guy scream into a mic for 20 minutes, getting paid to record pissed bands and hating school. Just realizing I’m currently living my 14-year-old self’s dream and not complaining.” – Chris Teti of Silver Bullet Studios, The World is a Beautiful Place & I am no Longer Afraid to Die and My Heart To Joy.
“I had bought ‘Nevermind’ the day it came out and had waited til bedtime to fall asleep on the record. Trying to achieve shut eye for the better part of the first half of the album, I was amazed at the abrassive pop music that was filling the dark and otherwise dead room. ‘Breed’ in particular attracted my attention as its massive chorus and intense vocals. I cant really remember when I lost consciousness but I was abruptly taken from my snoring by the crazy piece of work that is ‘Endless Nameless’. Frightened and confused, it took me at least 20 seconds to realise what was going on and to this day I still feel weird when Is hear this masterpiece of a recording.” – Wooden Carpet of Carpet, Les Bois Francs and L’Oeil du Tigre.
“I have a tricky relationship with Nirvana. When ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ hit, I hated it. You could not escape that song. They even played it on the local rap radio station. I can trace my skepticism of hyped bands back to Nirvana. In fact, I can trace a lot of things back to Nirvana. Nirvana eventually became the first band that I ‘gave in to’ and grew to love. Nirvana made me think three-piece bands were cool. Nirvana started an obsession with reading music and guitar magazines. I had always like music, but Nirvana made me become obsessed with it. And Nirvana eventually became the first band that I got-over. These days I don’t hate Nirvana, but I don’t think I will ever care to listen to them ever again. They were lumped in with a few other bands that I liked before I discovered a certain British punk band (even though they had crashed and burned years before Nirvana) and made everything that I had heard prior to them, Nirvana included, seem silly. Having said that, I can still trace my discovery of this band back to Nirvana, and while I don’t have much of an interest in listening to them (Nirvana) ever again, I can’t deny the legacy that they left behind or their impact on my own musical path.” – Nathan Latona of Tera Melos.
“It isn’t something I’m proud of, but I was born a contrarian and have spent a large portion of my adult life battling those tendencies. I was not cool nor old enough to have gotten into Nirvana from their humble beginnings. Then the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video hit, complete with its Weird Al parody and they seemed like the biggest band on the planet. So, I did what I do with every ‘biggest band on the planet’ for as long as I can remember.. I was indifferent (at best). Looking back now with a more sophisticated view of the music AND industry, it really depresses me that I didn’t embrace a band that made so many ugly sounding records, that made so many decisions that I’m sure made managers, agents, record execs contemplate what was eventual Kurt’s fate (poor choice of words or poor taste, you judge). There will never be a band like that, that reaches that level of success ever again. They still aren’t as good as the Melvins but I’d argue that Kurt’s death was also the nail in the coffin for all pop music that was more art than product.” – Merrick Jarmulowicz of the Kenmore Agency.
I just recently posted about Carpet, a new shoegaze project from Montreal Quebec. Today Carpet put up four new songs on their bandcamp available for stream and download.
The songs stay true to the form Carpet has displayed in their other work, with over-driven guitar work, basic percussion and buried melody. The vocals are more layered now, giving the songs an almost garage punk feeling. But just as with their old material the stand out element would be the “distorted ukelele” tone. It’s so thick and hazy, like a really warm sweater for the rest of the parts of the song. The stand out track of the bunch seems to be “The Last Day of Summer,” which takes the noisy content in a structured punk rock direction. Carpet is appearing more and more to be a fusion of all things underground, really expanding their boundaries with every new release.
You can hear the four new tracks at their bandcamp account.
Find Carpet here:
We as music fans hate to see it. When the wheels stop turning and the creative elements stop meshing. All great bands come to an end but it’s truly unfortunate when it happens before it is supposed to. In the Midwest it has been a devastating 5 years. We’ve lost some great bands a mere few years after their formation. We do however have a handful of great albums left over to remember them by, and stemming from them thousands of thoughts of what could have been next.
1. Birth Rites from Iowa City, IA – This was the ultimate party band. If there was ever a show at a house with the word “Bro” or “Party” in the name, these guys were on the bill. The left us with their great debut full length “All Success Stories.” There are a lot of moments on the album that leave you wishing there was a follow up, such as the ultimate party riff in “Beringia” or the perfect verse chorus match up of “Singing to Myself.”
2. Cougar Den from Milwaukee, WI – A great punk band who made great strides and ended too early. Packed with songs of social change, they always delivered a super intense live show. The band departed on the note of their last full length, “Keepondrifter.”
3. Karma With a K from Chicago, IL – This band was a staple of Chicagoland shows when I was growing up in high school. From their energetic live show to their undeniable hooks, this band was always a crowd pleaser. Week after week they’d keep you on the edge of your seat, always wondering what they’d do next.
4. Lautrec from Chicago, IL – I remember first hearing this band’s instrumental demo and doubting they were a screamo band. There is just so much melody. But sure enough when I finally heard the finished tracks it was just right, it seriously worked really well. This band wrote some of the most emotionally provoking screamo songs I’ve ever heard come out of the windy city, such as “Word Problems” and “Caypo.” Try and get a copy of their 8 song LP.
5. Lion of the North from Northwest, IN – I’m pretty sure this band is on most of these lists. They were extremely influential, being a basis for most of the newer screamo bands to come out of the region. If it wasn’t for these guys I probably would not have known much about house shows and the underground punk community as a whole. Be sure and snag “The Compass Calls,” it’s a classic.
6. Mans from Bloomington, IL – This is the ultimate, I think the whole reason I decided to do this list. This band was so ahead of their time, writing post-hardcore songs from the future. There are hardcore, screamo and minimalist elements all across the board, fused up with an incredible sense of timing and melody. Their latter material was only heard live but still sticks with everyone who saw it. Hopefully one day the songs will be recorded. In the meantime checkout their split with Lion of the North to get a taste of what they tapped into before the end.
7. Mountain Asleep from Louisville, KY – While this band was very prolific during their time, they should have seen more of the open road and definitely more recognition. Giving a whole new meaning to the term “melodic-punk rock”, their tricky and quick songs shook basements across the Midwest for years.
8. Oceans from Urbana, IL – My favorite post rock band to come from the Midwest. They definitely had the funnest live set for a post rock band of all time. Huge sing-alongs and plenty of rock out parts that kept crowds moving. Their full length “Nothing Collapses” demonstrates their mastery of melody and dynamic.
9. Spread Sheets from Chicago, IL – This band only released one EP while they were based in Chicago, but it has four of the catchiest pop songs I’ve ever heard. Had they stayed together they’d be giving Grown Ups and Algernon Cadwallader a run for their money no doubt. Try and track down the “Chicks and Shit” EP.
10. A Suburban Blood Drive from Louisville, KY – I actually never saw this band but I think they were an incredible post-hardcore punk act. Their demo from the fall of 2004 is a no bullshit, 5 straight songs ass kicking. So many hard hitting parts in such a short time. Their full length “Arma-Get-It-On” never saw the light of day but hopefully will one day.
I met Max Moore at a show in Louisville a few years ago. At the time I had no idea that he did anything but jump off PA towers and know the words to every band’s songs. I soon discovered however that he was an incredibly talented musician and videographer. He lent his playing skills to Social Symphony and Mountain Asleep, and he continues to make great short films to this day.
Max has a knack for portraying ideas through film and storyline. The production is great, and the ending always leaves the viewer to think. His latest work, “Unsolved Phenomenons: the Legend of Goat Man” is a bit more light hearted than his other work but still displays his growing talent behind the camera. The short, which is a spoof of the Unsolved Mysteries series, has a true documentary feel and demonstrates Max’s ability to work in any genre.