Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Low Red Land's Midweek Mutiny: Ben

Editor's Note: This post was written by Ben Thorne of San Francisco's Low Red Land. It is part of a series of posts that the band will be writing for the site today. At the bottom of the page, you can find the links to the rest.

one of the more exciting and rewarding aspects of being in a band, is the people we meet through playing shows. there are a lot of good people in good bands playing in this city, and i feel fortunate to know them all. from a personal standpoint, they're good guys and gals who know how to jam, chill, hang, laugh, and have something to say. from a musical standpoint, their vision and dedication are inspiring, as is their music, which is too good to go unheralded. for what it is worth, this is my attempt at raising awareness about all of the great bands and people that i have come to know in the bay area (in alphabetical order, with appropriate website links).

birds & batteries
the three of us who comprise low red land used to play together in another band in what seems like a lifetime ago. during that time, we played music with a band called dusky silo, and we got to know those gentlemen well, particularly mike sempert and joel cohen. when our old band broke up and low red land formed, dusky silo also dissolved and birds & batteries was born. we decided to pick up and move to california, and because mike loves to copy us, he decided that he would too, though it was a couple of months after us (he stayed in the east to make the "nature vs. nature" album). (joel, unfortunately for us, stayed in boston, but fortunately for him, is having a lot of fun playing in a great band called the glass set.) it's been good having mike out here. since relocating, birds & batteries have added drummer brian michelson to the lineup, who is known for his boyish good looks and drunken hilarity. the current birds & batteries lineup is fleshed out by neil and myself, though my love of this band has nothing to do with the fact that i am currently playing in it. mike says that birds & batteries is "gary numan meets randy newman," and i think that's pretty accurate. drums, bass, guitar, pedal steel, rhodes, synths, drum machines, a laptop, and some vocals. it's darned good, and we're lucky to be touring with them again. check it out.

birds and batteries - code orange
the glass set - death mask

dame satan
these guys are the real thing. lucky for you, they're on tour right now (editor's note: they are out east through halloween and play 10/29 in baltimore), so if you're on the ball with this blog thing, you're going to check their site and you might find out that they're playing in your town tonight, and then you'll go out and have what will probably be the best night of your life. brendan, andy, greg, and mike are four of the nicest and most talented young men you'll come across. (andy, greg, and brendan also play in the everlasting arms) we met them through mike's other band, sky pilots (more on them below), and we've been down ever since. mike and andy live a few blocks away from us in ghost mansion, along with members of sky pilots and last of the blacksmiths. good stuff comes out of that house. dame satan's music has a layered, ethereal quality. they say that when they're not singing, they're breathing. when you hear them, you'll realize how much sense that makes. they could be folk, or americana, or indie rock. definitions don't really work. they're something else altogether.

dame satan - plans for the sun
the everlasting arms - brother

or, the whale
we met this guy, will, at one of our shows. he started coming out a lot and he always told us, "you guys have to come out and see this band, or, the whale. they're great." through the wonders of myspace, we befriended them and did the usual we-should-play-a-show-together thing. that finally happened in the middle of this past august, on what was the release party for their 7", death at sea. i was first struck by how awesome it was that they decided to make an actual record. then they played. they were energetic and genuine, tight when they needed to be and loose and loud at all the right times. there are seven members in the group, but it's not a case of quantity over quality. they play as a true band, simultaneously layering the music and giving each other room to make the songs work. the songs are well-structured and vocal harmonies abound, making for honest and compelling compositions that really engage the listener. some would say that they're a country band playing rock and roll and some would say they're a rock and roll band playing country. it doesn't really matter, because they embody the best aspects of both genres while avoiding the cliched trappings of either. on top of all of this, they're great people and we're happy to have their friendship and support. they're totally deece. we should listen to will more often.

or, the whale - life and death at sea

silian rail
my first introduction to silian rail came through lynne and brian of tartufi (see below) when they approached us about starting thread productions. i had heard of silian rail but i had never met them or seen them live. i'm glad that situation has since changed. eric and robin play drums and guitar, respectively, and they make music that doesn't really fall in line with what you'd expect from an instrumental duo. firmly rooted in indie rock, progressive elements frequently pop up and song structures shift and turn on themselves in a way that never seems forced. they're both good at what they do individually and, what's even better, they play well together. it's easy for instrumental groups to mistake individual virtuosity for quality music, and it happens all too often. it's an arena that avails itself to over-intellectualization, but, luckily, silian rail feel as well as think. it's an important balance and robin and eric do well by each other, creating songs that are challenging and technical but never inaccessible or academic.

silian rail - brown is a bear

sky pilots
residents of ghost mansion, we played our first show with these guys in december of 2005. many chapters have been added to the story since then, and all of them are good. sky pilots are riffs upon riffs upon riffs upon drums under two vocals. they are rock and roll. there is no better way to describe them. the chemistry that pat, mike, and bill display is fantastic, and the songs they play are driving, complex, and totally rocking. they're more punk in attitude and execution than they are in style, progressive without the pretension, and in love with volume without sacrificing dynamics. they know how to dial it in, on and off the stage (or floor, or living room, or wherever they're playing). there have been inter-band collaborations between our groups to varying degrees of seriousness and the talk never stops. when we get back from tour, there is a strong possibility of the formation of the low red land/sky pilots big band, which would fall somewhere in between complete volume worship and musical nirvana. in the meantime, send them messages and tell them to get off their butts and tour the states. you'll be better for it.

sky pilots - 90 x 90

tartufi are somewhat of a san francisco institution, though they have undergone a major overhaul in the last year. now pared down to a two-piece, they employ multiple looping devices to flesh out their sound. the result is sometimes dense rock that is noisy and abrasive, sometimes sparse ambience that is beautifully soothing, and always well-constructed, organic, and unique. the impeccable musicianship on display is matched with their humble attitudes and welcoming personalities. of all the bands mentioned, they have been at it the longest and they've likely seen more than all of us combined. a lesser band might let the local and national success they've experienced go to their heads, but it speaks to their quality of character and their spirits as musicians that they are still two of the kindest, most genuine people you could ever meet. if two people ever deserved your support, it's these two, so get on it. fans of prog, math, dragons, quiet, melody, rock, loud, polyrhythms, layers, and megaphones, should drop everything they're doing and go on over to their site now and order a copy of their new disc, us upon buildings upon us.

tartufi - until the ocean swallows the stars

so, there you have it. a quick rundown of several bands from our area that are making music that matters. this is not to say that there are not more bands doing great things around here, but these ones are my favorites. they are also my friends. it's awesome that i have had the opportunity to share the stage, my house, dinner, beaches, ideas, and my time with these folks. please take some time and check them out for yourself. thanks for reading this.

Read The Rest of This Week's Mutiny:
Joe's Introduction
Band Intro

Previous Versions of The Midweek Mutiny:
What Is This?
Faster Faster Harder Harder


Blogger Lauren said...

I heard about Low Red Land through! I can't wait to go to one of shows! Maybe we can meet up and jam ;)


Monday, February 25, 2008  

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