From The Desk Of Tommy Keene: Chris Slusarenko Of Boston Spaceships

tommy-keenelogo150frTommy Keene has been playing guitar hero for more than a quarter-century, both on his power-pop solo albums (his latest is In The Late Bright, out this week) and as a sideman for Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg. Keene, apparently weary of all the critical acclaim, agreed to dole out some of his own praise. He’s guest editing magnetmagazine. com this week and compiled a mix tape for us with a free mp3.

slushyv370Keene: I had the pleasure of being an auxiliary member of an exciting new band, Boston Spaceships, last year, playing guitar on their fall tour. Chris Slusarenko, along with vocalist Bob Pollard (MAGNET readers may know him) and drummer John Moen, is one of the chief architects of this awesome new combo. I recently spoke to Chris, who was also a member of Guided By Voices, about this project.

Keene: How did the idea of a new band with you, Bob and John originate?
Slusarenko:
Bob was having his art exhibition in New York City last year, and I was admiring this collage that has always haunted me called Brown Submarine. We started talking about how we needed to hear this collage as an album. It was the same thing that happened when we decided to do the TakeoversTurn To Red album. We got so obsessed with the collage as an album cover that we had it blown up to 12-inch vinyl size and drove around town looking at it. So Bob compiled 14 of his songs, some old and some new, and we started cranking on them. After the album (Brown Submarine) was done, Bob decided it didn’t sound like a side project but an actual band with the three of us as full-time members. He hadn’t been in a band since GBV, and he said it seemed appropriate for Boston Spaceships to be the next one to leave a legacy.

How do you and Bob decide which tunes will be Spaceships songs and which ones Bob will use for his solo records?
Bob decides which songs will be used for which projects. His solo albums tend to be a bit more mature and darker in tone. Boston Spaceships has a more pop side, but it’s a lovingly weird pop side. The songs are shorter and full of youthful, sometimes naive, energy.

I think the production on the albums is really strong. Where do you record them? Do you labor on guitar and drum sounds, or do you just turn on the tape and let it rip?
We recorded Brown Submarine with Brian Berg and The Planets Are Blasted with Jonathan Drews, both of whom live in Portland, Ore. They’re insanely talented, and it’s really easy to explain what I’m looking for in terms of sounds and approach. I can say, “This song will have ‘A Woofer In Tweeter’s Clothing’ ending” or “I want it to sound like we lost the mic in the back of a cave and I died looking for it,” and they get it. John’s drum parts are done really off the cuff—we tried to approach the drums like early GBV, where it’s done in one or two takes and we’re on to the next one. Since we don’t have our own recording studios, I just work on all guitar, bass and keyboard parts acoustically until I can get into the studio. Then I only have three to five hours to get all the ideas out, but it makes coming back for the next session excruciatingly exciting.

Does Johnny Moen have a lot of input as to parts and arrangements? You two seem to have a good working relationship and chemistry.
In terms of the parts and arrangements, it pretty much starts at Bob’s house. Before we start recording, I sit down with Bob a few times and we listen to his acoustic demos on the speakers at his house (called “The Bigs”). We get hammered and talk about ideas, influences and approaches. The next day, when I look at my notes, almost every tune always has the phrase “kick ass” next to what needs to happen with it, especially as the booze kicks in. Then I just go home to Portland and obsess about the songs. I listen to them over and over. I try to get all the little parts of his demos down so they still have that Pollard feel and magic in terms of phrasing and energy. I’ve known John since 1988 while he was in the Dharma Bums, and we’ve played together in the Cavemanish Boys and the Takeovers. Playing with John is always fun. He’s got drive and swing, which make the songs really leap. He’s also an insanely quick learner, which is a total blessing. There’s a lot of his personality in those drum takes.

When can we expect another monumental Spaceships tour? West Coast peeps especially want to know.
I don’t know yet. If and when it happens, it wouldn’t be until our third album comes out in October. It’s called Zero To 99, and it’s pretty fierce and catchy. Lots of Pollard hits and haunts; I mean, when you flip over an album and you see song titles like “Mr. Ghost Town” and “The Question Girl, Alright,” you kind of have to hear it.

Boston Spaceships’ “Go For The Exit” from Brown Submarine (download here):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/gofortheexit.mp3

Free MP3 From Broken Spindles

broken375Broken Spindles‘ sole member Joel Petersen sloughs off the Robert Smith membrane he acquired as bassist for hipster dance-rock staple the Faint on his recently released third album, Kiss/Kick. On the remixed “Beatdown Breakup (Cassettes Won’t Listen),” laptop-pop auteur Jason Drake (a.k.a. Cassettes Won’t Listen) backslashes the Broken Spindles tune all the way to minimalist electronic bliss, working the same vein as the Notwist or a riff-saturated Fischerspooner. Although he recorded Kiss/Kick at the Faint’s Omaha recording studio, the optically intense Petersen insists Broken Spindles is independent from his other band. Petersen kicked off his tour February 19 in the national capital of masquerade, Las Vegas.

“Beatdown Breakup (Cassettes Won’t Listen Remix)” (download here):

The Felice Brothers Ready New Album

felice540b11Coke or Pepsi? Jack or Jim? Avett or Felice? Insulted by the pedestrian grouping together of these distinct commodities? You should be. The sweeping classifications of the “the” garage bands (Strokes, Hives, Vines, et al) from less than a decade ago resurfaced last year with multiple bands of “brothers” competing for affection. Front-runners of the pack the Felice Brothers return this April with a follow-up to the 2008 self-titled release that propelled them up the charts of AAA radio. The Brothers’ fourth album, Yonder Is The Clock (Team Love), derives its title from chapter nine in Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger and, according to the band, “is a nod to all of the American ghosts that lend their narrative and characters to the forthcoming release.” Felice Brothers tour dates after the jump.

“Wonderful Life” from The Felice Brothers (download here):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/WonderfulLife.mp3

Continue reading “The Felice Brothers Ready New Album”

Free MP3 From Stinking Lizaveta

sl2375cA collective slap to the forehead occurred at MAGNET HQ when we realized our recent 15 In Philly coverage (a 15th-anniversary look at hometown bands) neglected even to mention Stinking Lizaveta. The West Philly trio has been playing instrumental prog/metal since 1996, and hardly a week goes by that the group—brothers Yanni (guitar) and Alexi Papdopoulos (upright bass) and Cheshire Agusta (drums)—doesn’t appear onstage at some local divehole. (In Philly, you don’t go see Stinking Lizaveta; they see you.) Steve Albini put them on the bill for All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2004, and Fugazi’s Joe Lally issued one of SL’s records on his label. So what’s MAGNET’s excuse for the glaring omission? We’re kind of scared of these people. They are technically superior musicians and they look like they have ties to the Russian mob. Besides, we’re sure our neighbors over at Decibel have it covered. Download the title track from the upcoming Sacrifice And Bliss (At A Loss, due March 31) here or stream audio below. Warning: The riffage will dislodge your Thor/Viking helmet beginning around the 2:00 mark.

“Sacrifice And Bliss” from Sacrifice And Bliss:

Free MP3 From Popup

popup370The sound of young Scotland—whatever it is these days; ranging from the excellent wobbly pop of Frightened Rabbit to the kinda-OK arena rock of Glasvegas—gets another voice with Popup, whose debut arrives May 5 via Conor Oberst’s Team Love imprint. Download A Time & A Place track “What’s The Matter Now?” here or stream below. This particular song has the jitters—Popup doesn’t always sound like it’s playing at 78 rpm—but it’s the best showcase for frontman Damian Gilhooly’s heavyweight Scottish burr.

“What’s The Matter Now?” from A Time & A Place: