Halloween is approaching and the most terrifyingly grim thing you could possibly jam into little Jimmy’s candy bucket is a week in this dismal existence without the relief afforded him by seeing live music. Go to a show. Take little Jimmy to a show. Do it for the children. Here are this week’s Eugene Area Live Music Listings…Show Cal-page002

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Post image for Sacrament Of Flesh: A Talk With Embers

Oakland crust-punk act, Embers has been smashing up house parties and diy venues since 2004. They’ll be gracing the stage at Wandering Goat this Friday and we had the pleasure of asking Kelly Nelson (Bass/Vocals) and Steven DeCaprio (Guitar) a few questions about the tour, and the history of Embers. 

I’ve heard your music described as everything from punk to blackened crust to hardcore. How would you describe your music at this point?

Kelly: I think blackened crust is the most appropriate way to describe our music. Most of our listeners have referred to us as some kind of interpretive hybrid of black metal. While more our song structures tend to be more complex than crust, we have all been influenced by bands like Amebix. I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to our music as “hardcore.” I don’t think we have any really connection musically to that genre.

Steven: We definitely have strong roots in the crust and hardcore punk scenes. From the moment I picked up a guitar I have been inspired by both metal and punk, and everything I have played over the years has been a cross-over of the two genres. However since Embers was founded we have been more focused on composition. We don’t spend much time as a band discussing genre. We have always focused on writing songs that convey particular moods rather than emulate a particular style. That said we have community with and derive inspiration from the crust scene so it isn’t surprising that our music would develop along those lines so I would agree that blackened crust is an acceptable descriptor.

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Embers’ web presence outside of facebook looks something like that of a band currently on hiatus or currently inactive. A tour obviously says otherwise. How stoked should we be? Does a return to the road mean the possibility of a new record? Does Embers just have a strong distaste for self-promotion?

Steven: I would say I have a love/hate relationship with promotion. Before we formed Embers I had given up on the punk scene as a musician. It seemed that even in the punk scene there was an increasing trend toward a consumer mentality. After that Kelly approached me to start a new music project which would become Embers. What reeled me back in was the bond of family that Kelly and I have. I decided that it was more important to share the experience of making music with my friends than to worry about the music scene or music industry.

After playing with Embers for a while we decided that we wanted to “promote” the band. Since then we have taken turns doing promotion. Once we started promotion I would throw myself into it and found the challenge to be somewhat exciting. However all of us have other endeavors that take up a lot of our time outside the band so we are unable to maintain a constant presence.

Kelly: The Embers website needs to be revamped. Once a new site is up, we’ll notify folks via social media. The Bandcamp page  has been much more supported by the general public for merchandise sales and other relevant information. We do have plans to record another album in 2015. We’re all very much looking forward to that pressing and plan to debut several brand new songs on our upcoming tour. Anyone who would like to promote Embers is encouraged to do so. Most of us run our own businesses in the Bay Area and stay super busy so any additional support is greatly appreciated.

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What survival tips do you have for new touring musicians. How do we not drive our band mates crazy on tour? 

Steven: I’m not sure. Things have changed so much since I started booking tours. Do new touring musicians have any survival tips for old touring musicians? That’s what Embers could really use.

Kelly: Good question..it’s like any relationship really. Open communication and conflict resolution skills are important. Sometimes being on the road and in each other’s faces require stress management skills as well. My one biggest piece of advice, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and HAVE FUN!

Steven: There are things Embers does on tour, but I would hardly call ourselves a role model. The one thing that I would say is to not bite off more than you can chew. There is nothing worse than cancelling shows at the last minute or not showing up when you have agreed. You also don’t want to run out of money or return home to find that your life has completely fallen apart. Make sure you have a working vehicle, sufficient savings, a plan when you return home, and give yourselves huge time margin to make it to every show. 

I think the best approach is to focus on your local scene first, then expand by touring within the region, then try to make connections with folks willing to support you further out. Don’t just randomly book a tour in half way across the country or the world. If you build up some support in your region while promoting your music online then you should make connections eventually with supporters that will help you take that next step. 

As far as driving band mates crazy is concerned Embers is probably the last band you should ask. Perhaps that’s the other reason we always tour for less than a month.

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How do you think Embers has grown since Memoria In Aeterna

Steven: Most of the songs on Memoria in Aeterna were written by Kelly, Jerry, and me before the others joined the band. Because of this there wasn’t a strong emphasis on the harmonization between instruments. The layers on that album are derived from the various improvisations by Nine, Lillian, and Timm playing over the structure of the songs.

Kelly: Our music has grown as the co-creative process through intuitive connection in the band has grown. The new material is more rhythmically, harmonically and emotionally complex. Again, like any relationship, it’s a ongoing journey of exploration through expression.

Steven: With subsequent albums we focused more on harmony, and were much more intentional about the way the instrumentation was integrated into the song structure. In this way the newer material is more complex than our earlier material even though the instrumentation is less dense.

House shows or small venues?

Kelly: This tour I believe is mostly in venues but we always love a rowdy house show!

Steven: I hate to make a broad generalization because both can be bad or good depending on the situation. I guess at this point I prefer small venues because it seems that shows in small venues tend to be better organized more often than house shows.

New socks or new strings?

Steven: I just bought new strings, and my socks are threadbare so clearly I prioritize strings. Of course at this point I would pick socks because I’m doing good in the sock department. I’m sure Jerry would pick socks because what is a drummer going to do with strings anyway?

Kelly: That’s a funny question! I gather you are in a band and looking for advice. Don’t put on new strings in the middle of a tour unless you have the time to re-EQ your amp. New strings need to be worn in and can change your sound. Changing nasty socks will be appreciated by your band mates. If your band mates are happy, you will be happy.

Embers will be tearing down The Wandering Goat Friday the 24th at 8pm with Kaoxifer and Aether Wrought. If you aren’t in Eugene, check out their facebook for more tour dates.

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Post image for This Will Destroy You “Another Language” (2014 Suicide Squeeze)

Another Language starts off with an ethereal, calming mix of effects and synths before adding a light, percussive pulse that mixes melody as well as a reverb and delay drenched guitar line; something extremely par for the course in any This Will Destroy You album.  Then, a huge blast of thick, distorted bass and violent cymbal splashes added to a near blast-beat of toms, and the build begins.  This is where, as the listener, you take off.

I equate “Another Language” to the process of creating something worthwhile, and even more to the point, having sex.  The key word here is the process of these acts; when you create something, the time you took and the experience of its creation is often more valuable than the product itself, much like the act of having sex is so much more about the build and intimacy than the aftermath (no one wants to be done with sex).  This is the genius of TWDY; their ability to manipulate emotion and invoke intimacy for the listener using base rhythms and simple chord progressions is nothing if not remarkable, and at this point in their careers they have made it into a hugely copied, but rarely replicated, art form.

I have closely followed This Will Destroy You since I first heard “Three Legged Workhorse” some years ago in my new (at that time) girlfriend’s car.  Since then, countless hours have been spent melting into their discography, and eventually that first song I heard by them became our wedding song.  To this day I can’t listen to it without simply shutting my eyes and smiling.  Honestly, I’ve never had this intimate of a relationship with pieces of music, and they don’t even have (or need) lyrics.  And that is their ability as a band.

TWDY isn’t one for complex song structure or over-complicated rhythms.  You could even argue that their lack of ingenuity and severe use of repetition makes them not worthwhile musicians.  However, it is their lack of technicality that allows these aural paintings to come into fruition.  “Another Language” is a fucking delicacy of an album, filled with more soundscapes than individual tracks, its written more as a dream than reality, more of an experience than something you’re simply listening to.  And it is fucking beautiful.

 

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Post image for Viathyn “Cynosure” (2014 Self)

Comparisons to London power-metal showboats, Dragonforce, are inevitable when trying to wrap one’s head around Calgary, Alberta’s Viathyn.  Pronounced, I believe, like Leviathan, without the “luh” sound. I also want to believe that I’m wrong. This prog-power 4-piece drop their second full length like a ton of bricks, and by bricks I mean wizards and dragons glued together with viking magic. Seriously though, Cynosure (Meaning either a dude who gets a lot of attention, or Ursa Minor… weird) is a damn good record, if you can get past the occasional stereotypical power-metal campiness (becoming the millionth band to sample/riff on “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” anyone?)

Falling for a power metal record, for me, is like hanging out with, and openly mocking, geeks who play Magic The Gathering, only to find that you’ve spent your rent money on cards…. ok, maybe not a flawless analogy, but I guess I’m trying to say I have a hard time divorcing myself from the idea that power metal isn’t for the cool kids. Or that I myself might not be one.

Easily parodied, often laughable, power metal gets a bad rap. It’s just plain goofy sometimes. It’s the nerdy kid off killing imaginary dragons with a cardboard swords while the other kids are… well… getting laid. Yes, it’s grandiose and over-the-top, but the musicianship that is required to craft a sword- er, record of this caliber, is not to be scoffed at.

Positives here include knowing when to scale back a bit and let a song breathe. One thing Viathyn does well is to showcase some talent without beating the hell out of your senses with how capable guitarists Tomislav Crnkovic and Jacob Wright are. Any good guitarist knows that just because things can be huge, fast and epic, it doesn’t give you permission to ignore the existence of dynamics. If you feel that the aforementioned Dragon-band is synonymous with ear fatigue, Viathyn might be more up your alley. I definitely find that Cynosure remains engaging well beyond my typical 5-7 minute Dragonforce attention span.

My only real gripe at all is that, though Crnkovic’s vocals are a nice break from the monotony of all-high-singing, they could still stand to mix it up a bit. By the time a few measures of gruffer vocals come in on “Albedo” they are a serious breath of fresh air. Maybe Cynosure is a bit too vocally dense for my liking. Maybe I’m just nit-picking. Maybe you should just check out the record and let me know what you think. – Joshua Isaac Finch

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Post image for There Are Just Some Things That Can’t Be Forgiven: A Conversation With I Am The Albatross

Jesse Berkowitz fronts Austin TX based darkened country band, I Am The Albatross. This black americana three piece is gonna be storming The Wandering Goat on 10/25 and we thought we’d get the skinny on what makes I Am The Albatross such a force to be reckoned with.

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Your debut EP tows the line between 70′s rock and roll and country. Is that also where your personal roots lie?

I can’t speak for the other guys, but for me, yeah. At least to a certain extent. Growing up, when I started writing music I was very influenced by bands like Kyuss, Clutch, and Corrosion of Conformity. Bands that took a  heavy ’70′s, Black Sabbath inspired sound and really went to unique and unusual places with it. Those bands also had some punk and hardcore influences, and I was and still am a huge metal fan too. I was also very obsessed as a little kid with rock bands like the Who and Aerosmith.

On the other side of all that though, I had a lot of exposure to American folk music as a kid, mainly from my parents record collection. They lived in New York at the height of the whole folk revival thing in the ’60′s, and I grew up being exposed to Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Pete Seeger, Flatt & Scruggs…Stuff like that and all the older recordings that inspired those guys, like Robert Johnson and the Carter Family. We lived in Virginia when I was young and my parents took me to a lot of folk and bluegrass festivals there, so the sound of that music was very familiar to me from an early age.  I guess my influence is more folk and old-time oriented than country.

    Basically, I’ve always written a lot of heavy stuff and played in punk and metal bands, and at the same time written folky, acoustic, lyric-based things and performed solo. This band is sort of an attempt to bridge that gap.

Darkened country/americana music can be fickle. Bands like Murder By Death, or O’death have popped up and moved quickly on to more traditional sounding music, while, Wovenhand seems to have comfortably set up camp to stay. Does I Am The Albatross feel firmly rooted, or are you guys musically nomadic?

Well, I think we’ve already progressed the sound of the band quite a bit since the release of the EP. We’re always interested in moving forward and writing new stuff. That being said,  I don’t think we’ll ever make anything ‘traditional’ sounding. We just finished recording a full length album, and it’s definitely more of a ‘rock’ record than the EP…there’s a lot more guitar stuff going and it’s much more complex, both lyrically and musically. I don’t think there’s much on there that could be referred to as ‘country.’ I think with this new album it’s going to pretty difficult to label us. I just think of us now as rock band, in the same sense that The Who are a rock band. I think when people see us live they understand that. Not that I’m comparing us to the Who!

But there are still some pretty distinct references to American folk music in our style, and I think that will always be represented in my way of singing and my approach to  lyrics.

You’re about to pull a stretch of 20 dates. Is this your first tour of this magnitude?

Yeah. We’ve done a few two-week things here and there, but this is our longest run so far with this band.

Initially I stumbled across you guys by googling noise-rock band An Albatross. Has anyone contacted you for booking thinking you were them? Has there been any confusion?

I’m aware of them only through googling my own band! Still haven’t listened to them yet though. To my knowledge, no one has mistaken us for them.

People will often ask about your “desert album” record. We don’t care about that. However, what record would drive you to off yourself if you were doomed to listen to it for the rest of your days?

Um…whatever radio station they play over the speakers at supermarkets and Targets and Goodwills always gives me a suicidal urge. So whatever that stuff is, just gimme a mix of that and it’ll do the trick.

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The haunting cover piece for your record is the work of Rex Slack, and not originally created for your record, but, I feel, rather fitting. Were you fans of Slack’s work previously? How did the decision to use his piece come about?

Ah, really glad you asked about that!  For those who don’t know, Rex Slack is a Virginia-based American artist, and his work includes paintings, sculptures, miniature models and all kinds of other constructions. A lot of his stuff depicts scenes of small town, country life, which is his heritage.

Rex is one my favorite artists in the world and I’ve know him personally pretty much my whole life! As a kid I lived in Virginia, and Rex’s son’s are childhood friends of mine. Their mom is a great painter as well, Laurie Marshall. I spent tons of time in the Slack household growing up….they lived in a great, 100 year old house in Rappahannock county Virginia, and Rex’s art was always around. Rex is like family to me and I feel a very personal connection to his art.

When I started playing in bands, I always knew his paintings would be perfect as album covers .  I Am the Albatross is really the first band that I’ve played with though whose music genuinely seems to fit the mood of Rex Slack’s art. It felt like a pretty natural choice for us to use this image on the cover. Hopefully we’ll get to use more of his stuff on future projects.

 More than one of his pieces concern images of houses burning down. In the Virginia countryside, there are a lot of very old, wooden farm houses, and it’s not too uncommon for one to catch on fire. I remember seeing it happen once. It’s kind of a perfect symbol of irreparable loss, and the bonds of community and family.

Rex Slack is an incredible and often overlooked artist, everyone should check out his work.

For more on I Am The Albatross, tours and the upcoming yet to be titled full length record, click here.

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