Monday, December 19, 2011
A Christmas mix for the ages from your friends at the old dirt road known as the IRT, celebrating our 10th year in print this coming 2012. Happy Festivus, folks!
1. The Beatles "Christmastime (Is Here Again)"
2. RUN DMC "Christmas In Hollis"
3. Clarence Carter "Back Door Santa"
4. Hall & Oates "Jingle Bell Rock"
5. Otis Redding "Merry Christmas Baby"
6. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"
7. James Brown "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto"
8. Louis Armstrong "Zat You, Santa Claus?"
9. Ella Fitzgerald "The Christmas Song"
10. David Bowie and Bing Crosby "Little Drummer Boy"
11. Aimee Mann "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch"
12. Paul McCartney "Wonderful Christmastime"
13. Billy Squier "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You"
14. The Who "Christmas"
15. The Kinks "Father Christmas"
16. The Ramones "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)"
17. The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping"
18. Wham "Last Christmas"
19. U2 "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"
20. Eels "Christmas Is Going To The Dogs"
21. Billy Childish "Christmas Lights"
22. XTC "Thanks For Christmas"
23. The Pogues "Fairytale in New York"
24. John Lennon "Happy Xmas (War is Over)"
25. Sonic Youth "Santa Doesn't Cop Out On Dope"
26 Esquivel "Auld Lang Syne"
Saturday, December 17, 2011
IRT: Ryan, much of the music on The Gift Horse centers around your experiences while recovering from the rare blood infection you got hit with. Have you been able to find out anything more about your diagnosis and what you learned from this whole ordeal? Was it a one-time thing or something you have to implement preventative measures from letting happen again?
Ryan: It was basically—from what I understand—a freak blood infection they couldn’t figure out how to treat. Along the way they took stabs at every possible terrible thing I could have until something worked or I died. I lived, so that’s cool. It was thankfully a one-time thing and I’ve made a full recovery after putting in lots of hours at the pool to get my lungs back. So now I’m back to doin’ bad shit with my friends.
IRT: What was the biggest lesson or epiphany if you will that you learned or experienced coming out of this situation?
Ryan: That dying isn’t as painful as heartbreak. And always trying to control your world doesn’t allow you to exist in others.
IRT: What records were you guys listening to while creating The Gift Horse and how did these sounds influence the outcome of the record on a sonic level?
Aaron: For the most part we listened to the current mixes while working on the record. It’s not something that we set out to do, necessarily—it’s just how we work. If I we’re to go back to that time—or any time, really—and I just so happened to be in a bar with a juke box, my five bucks would have gone to the Feist version of “Lover’s Spit.” Five dollars worth of “Lover’s Spit.”
IRT: You guys recorded the LP in Folsom. What can you say about the town to sell it to someone who only associates it with the prison?
Aaron: For most people, the allure starts with a romantic idea of an old 49er town wedged into the rolling hills. Twenty years ago, Northern California was littered with towns very similar—nostalgia stores, B&Bs, ice cream shops, cowboys surviving like cockroaches—and if you ask around, you might get a story or two about how it used to be. There’s a draw, I get it, but the older I get the more I feel like the cowboy-cockroach. I could get in to how great it once was, but I think it’s better to just keep the idea of it upstairs, preserved and well-kept like a nostalgia store. It’s changed a lot, and now we just take it for what it is: a safe suburban city-town with a world-class prison and the best tap water in the US.
IRT: When you guys were kids, did you and your siblings ever scope out the prison?
Aaron: We did. Ryan and I used to sneak onto prison grounds, bb guns in hand, and get as close as we could before the guards would fire off warning shots. True story. If only we had bigger guns and could’ve gotten a good look at Charlie Manson or Rick James.
IRT: Why did you guys name the band Brown Shoe? What is the significance of this footwear?
Aaron: We really should have put more thought into our band name. At this point, it feels like our given birth name, and every time I hear it, it’s like hearing my first and middle name in a very stern tone. Like we’re all about to get into some serious trouble.
IRT: How does college radio fit into the world of Brown Shoe? Do you get play on the air and what do you think of colleges and universities cutting college radio programs from their budgets?
Aaron: College radio was the first thing that made us think that we could be a legitimate band, and without it, I’m not sure where we’d be. When we finished our first record, like most bands, we were lost and our only plan was to send out to a bunch of college stations. We ended up getting played on KCRW, which was my first “holy fuck” moment. Weeks later we charted on CMJ and I got a phone call from the CMJ editor asking us what we were up to—Do you have management, label interest, festivals, ect. For all he knew we had made calculated decisions to get to this point when really it was just dumb luck. So yeah, I hate to hear that such a valuable resource for exposing new bands is being cut.
IRT: You say you have a "massive aversion to minor, bluesy, psychotropic music." What groups or albums did you believe fit this description? Are there any exceptions?
Ryan: I just live in a world where I hear things in a major key. I like bittersweet music, and my lyrics are usually the bitter part of that combination. In my head, music should have a pull and a push, and a perfectly-placed minor chord can make the warmth feel warmer. I don’t mind minor, bluesy, psychotropic music. I just avoid it in our music.
IRT: What are your thoughts on the Occupy Wall St. movement?
Aaron: We have varied opinions about Occupy, so we’ll try and keep it short and on point. I’m an optimist and so I look for the good in things. The positives are easy: expression of free speech, fighting for equality, inciting national debate. These ideas are at the core of American ideals but the reaction I've seen from most of America makes it hard to be an optimist. I’ve watched people from both ends of the spectrum stand up against “The Fat Cats in Wall Street,” an idea that crosses party lines.
Yet it seems that from the start, OWS has been trivialized as a bunch of wackadoos with some crazy ideas like "The banks are a bunch of crooks". Which is just hilarious because I don't know anyone who hasn't been f'd by a bank. I guess for some people the idea of urban camping is just too much to handle. There are definite downsides to the movement, but I’ll take these faults over a bedroom culture whose idea of democracy is voting every four years.
Attached is a photo I saw in a Jimmy John's that made a lot of sense to me (left).
IRT: How did the addition of your brother Landon and Chandler Clemons impact the band sound overall, in your opinion?
Aaron: Chandler was our first fifth member. Our sound became larger, naturally. Landon adds an undercurrent of curiosity to everything we play. "Why?" is a very regular part of his vocabulary and will no doubt have an effect on our band for years to come.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
by Ron Hart
Anyone who has talked seriously with me about music in 2011 knows of my love for the solo output of Bill Orcutt, former guitarist for Miami's premier post-hardcore icons Harry Pussy.
On his own, however, Orcutt has re-imagined himself as a junkyard bluesman who, armed with an old beat-up Kay acoustic guitar and a discarded pickup, records some of the most visceral rotgut folk blues this end of Howlin' Wolf's scorched throat.
This year saw him sign with the excellent Editions MEGO, who reissued his 2009 debut A New Way to Pay Old Debts, in addition to its freshly released, completely unplugged follow-up How The Thing Sings, a pair of modern day blues classics that turns every cliche the last 40 years of white blues performers have inflicted upon the art form and essentially turns it inside out and upside down before dousing it in a vat of acid-drenched D'addario strings.
The following electronic conversation with Mr. Orcutt took place before Thanksgiving. A big thanks to Bill and his stateside publicist, Eric at Forced Exposure, for making this happen.
Both A New Way To Pay Old Debts and How The Thing Sings are available at better record shops everywhere.
IRT: When was the first time you ever heard the blues?
Bill Orcutt: The first time I really remember hearing the blues was seeing Muddy Waters in The Last Waltz. It fucked me up. I was probably 16. I went out the next day and bought his I'm Ready LP. I still have a really clear memory of standing in the record store holding the record in my hands. Much later I used the cover image for one of my own records.
IRT: How did you come into configuring the tunings you utilize for acoustic guitar?
Bill: Well, I remove the A & D strings which is the most distinctive thing about the sound. The tuning is basically the standard E/A/D/G/B/E tuning. On the old beat-up acoustic I usually play I tune it down to avoid snapping the neck, but the pitch relationships are the same. On electric or my other acoustics the pitch is standard. Removing the strings that way pulls the meat off most chords and just leaves you with the bone & some skin. It's a lonesome sound. I started doing it over 20 years ago and it's just become the way I play the guitar.IRT: What kind of amp settings do you use to gain the sound you achieve in your solo work and do you use any pedals?
Bill: The new record is completely acoustic so there's no amp or pedals there. The previous record I used a pick-up on the acoustic and mixed a bit of amp sound with the sound coming from the guitar itself. I think I wasn't completely comfortable yet with the idea of playing the acoustic. The amp wasn't very loud in the room – just enough to blend in with the sound of the acoustic. I think I was using an Mesa Boogie Mark I. I never use pedals even when I'm playing the electric.IRT: How did you link up with Editions MEGO? What is it about their ethos as a label that you admire most?
Bill: Peter wrote me to suggest a CD release of A New Way To Pay Old Debts. I was a fan & collector of the old Mego label and was aware of the Editions offshoot. I really dug the Blue Note-like vibe that goes into the mastering, pressing and presentation of their releases and wanted to have a record on the label.
IRT:What is the story behind all of those Stevie Ray Vaughan picks on the cover of How The Thing Sings?
Bill: I'm kind of obsessed with classic rock and when I was researching cover ideas for the Mego record, I stumbled across the Stevie Ray Vaughan picks on a pick collector website. It seemed like a good image to represent the culture of classic rock and white blues.IRT: Who are some of your heroes on the acoustic guitar and how do you feel they shape your own style?
Bill: I've got a ton of guitar heroes : Fred Gerlach, Joseph Spence, Richie Havens, Mississippi Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside's early acoustic records, Carlos Montoya, etc. I'm always looking for stuff to steal and these are guys who have something I need. I love 'em for different reasons, but they all have a certain freedom I'm looking for in a hero.IRT: Do you ever play any Harry Pussy songs live acoustically?
Bill: I wish. I can't remember any Harry Pussy songs.IRT: Has Harry Pussy been invited to reunite and perform at any of these festivals going down throughout the year? Are you adverse to the idea of reforming?
Bill: No, we've never been invited to reunite. Reforming seems unlikely because of our interests, schedules, responsibilities, geographic locations, etc.
IRT: Has there been any talk of reissuing the HP catalog?
Bill: Not from the band. Maybe someday if the right offer comes along…IRT: What kind of music are you listening to these days?
Bill: Same stuff I always do – As I'm typing this I'm listening to the Bartok String Quartets which is something probably everybody should hear. I just got the Miles Davis '67 quintet triple CD thing that just came out. That's a great record, been listening to that a lot. And Dylan always, probably everyday. I tend to listen to the same records over and over again for some reason.