BOAT Call It a Comeback


You probably don’t know this, but I was a member of BOAT for a very brief time. I showed up for one of their album release shows, I think it was for the Dress Like Your Idols album at the Tractor. To my surprise the show was sold out. D Crane spotted me in line and I told him I didn’t have a ticket. Immediately he grabbed M McKenzie, got his wristband and gave it to me and gave his own wristband to my buddy who was also without a ticket.  A little apprehensive about impersonating members of BOAT, D Crane told me not to worry because the opening band had about 12 members and there was no way the door guy would know if we were really in the band or not.It’s a great example of how down to earth this band is and how they don’t take themselves too seriously (Their Instagram is called Sloppypopstagram and they still book shows using their fictitious manager H. Fozzleberry).

It’s been seven years since BOAT put themselves into storage. In the meantime they’ve collaborated with Math & Physics Club as Unlikely Friends for three albums and some shows. When a band with a low-profile like BOAT reforms, it doesn’t really bring with it the massive expectations concocted by fans and the media. This seems to have played in the band’s favor as D Crane and J Long traded demos back and forth. The songs for album came together in secret and with zero expectations from anyone except from the band themselves.

So what do we get with the new BOAT LP in 2020 as the band enter their 40’s (their golden years)? Believe it or not, we get the best BOAT LP yet. It’s not a concept record per se, but you could argue that it’s their mid-life crisis. Most folks have panic attacks and nervous breakdowns, BOAT writes a bunch of hits about it, infusing self-effacing humor, drum loops, bleeps and bloops, killer guitar riffs and chest thumping choruses. Metabolism, In the Water, the title track, So Many Reasons Your Turns Gray, I believe In the Principle, Loneliness Kills and the Ballad of Gaz Coombes all deserve to be considered as some of the best songs the band has written.  The guys are obviously rejuvenated and at the peak of their pop powers and make a good argument that older guys can still bring it.


The Big Takeover has D Crane giving a play by play for each track on Tread Lightly worth checking out.

Midway and Buried in Records- Part 1

This week we are featuring some of the best records of the first half of 2013. I don’t think I’ve done a mid-year roundup before, but this year is not typical. It’s on a trajectory to overwhelm any attempt at a year end list so I’m splitting it up. Some of the albums I’ve mentioned on these pages, others I’ve been keeping to myself. Everyday this week I’m going to feature seven records that deserve your or someone else’s attention. Here are the first seven.

Hookworms – Pearl Mystic (Gringo)
What do you get when you combine the 13th floor elevators with the Spacemen 3. I’m sure many bands have tried this approach, but none have ever succeeded as wildly. At this point Hookworms are sitting on top of the best record of the year.

stream: Hookworms – Since We Have Changed

BOAT – Pretend To Be Brave (Magic Marker)

When D Crane sings in the song Problem Solvers “We’re just another average America band” with such earnestness that you wonder if he’s thinking about throwing in the towel. Think about it, what if Boat were average? The masses would like them and they’d be rich. I like to think of them as standing on the top the belle curve fighting off the hordes with their indelible pop and unbridled charisma.

stream: BOAT – Problem Solvers

The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave (Slumberland)

The Mantles hark back to a to the 60’s and the Byrds. They are like the Greene and Greene of current day rock and roll. Architects of a back to basics approach that adorns with earthly tones to create a thing of beauty. When I heard that the  album was to be produced by Kelley Stoltz, I had it pegged as a winner from the start and yet somehow it still exceeded my expectations.

stream: The Mantles – Hello

Bleached – Ride Your Heart (Dead Oceans)

“After that last Best Coast album, you probably thought the SoCal girl group beach thing was played out. I did, but then along come former Mika Miko sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin with their new band Bleached. Just to get past your initial eye-roll they need to be pretty good. They would have be a little different and bring something new to the game, right? I think Bleached realize this and they justify their sound by infusing it with some twang and dust. Like they’ve lived the seedier side of L.A. and maybe even been to Bakersfield more than a few times.”

stream: Bleached – Looking For a Fight

Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London (Yep Roc)

“If you would have said to 20 year old me that I would someday think that a record made by a 60 year old guy was was one of the best records of the year I would have scoffed at you and said disdainfully that I don’t do old guy rock.”  I was an idiot when I was 20.

Stream: Robyn Hitchcock – Be Still

Songs – Malabar (Popfrenzy)

A band named Songs is questionable, but luckily I didn’t let their poorly chosen name stop me from listening to to this fine psychedelic pop album. Parts of it remind me of Game Theory, but being Australian they probably have been influenced by the Go-Betweens and the Triffids. This is their second album and it drips confidence and probably would have been a hit back in the major label heyday garnering a US deal and tons of play on college radio in a college town near you.

stream: Songs – Boy/Girl

The Sleaze – Tecktonik Girlz & Other Hits (Floridas Dying)
You often hear the argument that punk rock is played out, or worse dead (shudder). Usually I don’t argue, because it isn’t often that I hear a new punk band that isn’t. The Sleaze are here to tell you that ain’t the case and renew your faith in the underbelly of rock n’ roll. The Minneapolis band’s output has been sporadic since unleashing their killer debut single Smokin’ Fuckin’ Cigs back in 2008, but the Total Punk label has corralled these foul mouthed, snot nosed adolescents and gotten them to put out an 8 song 12 inch.

stream: The Sleaze – Tektonix Girls

Two Left Turns To Get Home


It’s hard to believe that Seattle’s BOAT have just released their fifth album. I can remember like yesterday when Songs That You Might Not Like came out. In the early days, they wrote songs about centipedes, lobsters and donkeys and had tons of confetti and giant bagels coming out of toasters at their shows. It was fun and a little bit silly. As the years have progressed and the band has evolved they have started to mature a little. Don’t let the “M” word scare you off because Boat still know how write a hook and they haven’t lost their odd sense of humor. Album number five, Pretending To Be Brave is a slightly more subtle affair. Well, the sense of humor is subtle, the hooks are still very big and grab you by the collar.

Life themes, life changes, growing older and wiser. God, it sounds so boring, but BOAT take it all on with their sense awe and wonder. They pull you into their obtuse and seemingly weird world and let you see it all swirling around you like you are at the center of the vortex making you realize that weird and obtuse is not just you, not just them, but everyone everyday.

Sharpshooters opens the album and is a heartfelt ode to companionship and approaching lifelong partnerships with optimism of persevering with your partner. The backing vocals courtesy of Shelly Short reinforce the theme of the song and it’s nice to hear a female voice on a BOAT album. There’s also a surprise guest appearance on The Big, the Bright from Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows which solidifies my hunch that BOAT are disciples of the seminal, unsung and unheralded Fellows. Interstellar Helen Keller may be my favorite song on the album, rivaling Forever In Armitron as my favorite BOAT song. it has more vocals from Short and some excellent guitar leads from Josh Goodman. Goodman has emerged as their secret weapon. His leads are amazing throughout the album and really put the exclamation mark on Cranes melodies.

BOAT have this ability to bring the everyday into their songs and make anthems out of them. They have been called twee, emo, and powerpop. We’re all aching to make sense of it all . Even the metal guy has a little bit of twee in him, though he probably would never admit it. BOAT are growing up and taking you with them.

You can buy BOAT’s new album Pretend to be Brave from Magic Marker.

If you are in Seattle, BOAT play the Columbia Theatre this Friday, March 29th.

stream: BOAT – Interstellar Helen Keller

stream: BOAT – Sharpshooters

Dressed For Success

BOAT, Pickwick, Concours D’elegance at the Tractor, Seattle | 25 March 2011

Some bands wear their influences on their sleeves, Seattle’s BOAT choose to put them on the cover of their record.  Album number four, just released last week, Dress Like Your Idols contains D. Crane’s renditions of some of the band’s favorite records.  Before you even hit play you know where they’re coming from, and that is a slightly odd corner of indie rock nestled up here in the upper left hand corner of the US. A place where a band like Boat can exist with a lack of light, an overabundance of diet coke and lots of pizza. That’s the fuel for the engine, what comes out are slightly idiosyncratic sometimes emotive songs that are immediately catchy and almost always containg big choruses  If any band in Seattle could be called the direct descendants of the Young Fresh Fellows Boat are it.  Like YFF, Boat nimbly walk the line of humor and emotion in their songs.

On record and live Boat come across as guys having a blast at what they are doing.  Enthusiasm and a good time is the rule of the day. On record you can hear their enthusiasm and good nature, live you actually experience it. Friday’s show at the Tractor was their record release party, and a sold out one at that. I’ve been to a lot of Boat shows but I don’t ever remember one selling out.  Late Friday afternoon when I heard that the Tractor had sold out, my first thought was: impossible. My second thought after confirming it was: Oh shit I don’t have a ticket. I headed down to the tractor hoping that there would be someone at the door who had an extra ticket. Hanging out in by the door hoping for an extra ticket was beginning to look fruitless when I spotted D. Crane of Boat. Soon thereafter some fortuitous Boat magic occurred, my friend Jonathon and I were temporaily members of a soul band and somehow transported inside the Tractor for the show.

The band had made a banner at the back of the stage that read BOAT: Poppy Slop All-Stars with a big picture of Ringo Starr in the middle of it.  Starr along with Pollard, Smith, Reed, Vedder, Moore, Spenser Malkmus and Marsh are the patron saints and the band and Boat delivered a set to make them proud. The new record was on display front and center and as their writing gets better and better I wasn’t disappointed with the focus. They did step back a couple times, once for Greased Hariclip form their first album and another for I’m a Donkey for Your Love from their second.  Crane dedicated the short and sweet L-O-V-E to his mom and they hit all of the highlights of the new record including Forever In Armitron, Classically Trained, King Kong and Landlocked. The last one they had to do without the Help of the Long Winters‘ John Roderick who guests on the recorded version. They did get some help from audience members inviting them up for another song.

This being their first ever sold out show, the band were kind of surprised and joke about how it must be because the Police were playing after. There were no cops but Pickwick who opened seem to have quite a following themselves with their Commitments brand of soul.  Singer Galen Disston kind of looks like like a spectacled version Epstein from Welcome Back Kotter and a voice that is guaranteed to make women weak in the knees.  The folk band turned soul have three singles out to date and the next time they play they probably won’t be opening.

With Dress Like Your Idols Boat continues their move towards higher fidelity that they began on Setting the Paces and the new record contains a batch of their best songs yet.  You get the feeling that they are firmly in the lead (after previously setting the paces). It has elements of a concept album starting with Changing of the Guard, and continuing the theme of taking over for their old masters by the records sheer quality. They may not be eclipsing their idols in record sales, but their songs and live show are continuing  on a trajectory that for me equals many of their idols.

mp3: BOAT – Forever in Armitron (order Dress Like Your Idols on vinyl or CD)

Set List: Kinda Scared of Love Affairs | Greasedip Hairclip | L-O-V-E | Forever In Armitron | Friends Since 1989 | Bite My Lips | The Name Tossers | (I’m A) Donkey for Your Love | Frank Black Says | We Want It! We Want It! | Classically Trained | Landlocked |  Lately | Dress Like Your Idols | King Kong| Encore: Children of the Revolution (T. Rex)

Upcoming BOAT Tour Dates (Look out east coast and Chicago):

4/09 MERCURY LOUNGE – NEW YORK, NY (Early show)

Sons of Kong

I have Boat news and bad news.  The BOAT news is the band have a new single out on Magic Marker, the bad news is that after landing in Federal Way, King Kong is in Seattle. He just busted down Denny, and has now climbed to the top the Space Needle. He’s plucked a Kenmore Air sea plane from the sky and is wreaking general havoc at the Seattle Center.  Where’s Fay Wray? Why does Kong look like he’s bigger than the Space Needle? Which version of King Kong is this exactly?  Obviously it’s a “B” movie version,  Plan 9 from Outer Space style. I think I see a zipper under Kong’s arm.

Ok, I’ll cut the monkey talk. The new BOAT single is called (I’ll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong and is available on glorious red, black, and  white 7-inch vinyl. It’s obviously their “A” list material and is a taster from their upcoming fourth album Dress Like Your Idols.  You can order up the single now from Magic Marker and put a reminder in your smart phone to buy the album on March 22nd.

mp3: Boat – (I’ll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong

Gold-Bears // For Ex Lovers Only

A couple excellent singles have recently hit the street courtesy of the fine folks at Magic Marker down in Portland. Gold-Bears are from the South.  Atlanta, Georgia to be exact. They have a kind of manic energy that the Judybats seemed to posses in abundance, and singer Jeremy Underwood has certain similarity to John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats. With that said, you might assume they subscribe to the REM and Let’s Active school of thought.  What did your mother tell you about assuming?  Drop the needle on the record and you quickly realize they are firmly in the Wedding Present/Boyracer camp of blistering guitar sonics and feedback.  At first I thought they had figured out the secret to the patented Boyracer feedback, but then I saw that they had enlisted Stewart Boyracer Anderson on the b-side Jezzer.  Nothing like having a secret weapon.  Their debut Magic Marker single is three songs, over in a little over five minutes.  Gold-Bears don’t dilly-dally with their short songs that draw you in, knock you over then leave you with little birdies and stars in a halo around your head.  Look for their next single on Cloudberry.

mp3: Gold-Bears – Tally

Grab the white vinyl from Magic Marker

For Ex-Lovers Only hale from a strange place, Orlando, Florida.  If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that geography doesn’t matter.  Kids in Topeka have the same access to (once) obscure indie music as those in New York or Chicago.  First thing’s first, yes they’re named after a Black Tambourine song and yes they kind of sound like it, especially the a-side Coffin which is a everything an a-side should be: short, scorching and catchy.  The two b-sides are a little more restrained.  Scraps is an acoustic song displaying the band’s strong sense of melody and restraint, defying the their rookie status.  If they’ve got 5 or 6 more like the these then they’ll be making kids swoon and breaking hearts real soon.

mp3: For Ex-Lovers Only – Coffin

Another one on white vinyl, grab it from Magic Marker.

Interview: Setting the Paces With BOAT

BOAT: Working on the paces

BOAT who are poised to release their third album Setting the Paces this week are like one of those new and improved products: Now better sounding and with more pop hooks! Not that the old version was inferior by any stretch of the imagination, and not to worry long-time fans, Boat is still Boat. The animal imagery, falsetto choruses, and sincere yet over the top delivery is all still there, only now it sounds so much better. Setting the Paces is like a rush of sugar to the head. The band is now officially a four piece with the addition of J. Long on drums.  Long who also works at Two Sticks Studio in Seattle produced the new record and the results are immediate and winning.

When I contacted their fictitious manager H. Fozzleberry about interviewing the band, D. Crane responded graciously accepting my request and suggested we meet face to face.  So we sat down in a big red booth at Piecora’s on Capitol Hill, where the band are obviously regulars and the diet coke flows freely.  I wanted to find out about the new record so I stole the modus operandi of Lars Finberg and his interviews over at Terminal Boredom and started by going through the new album song by song to get a better idea of the approach the band took in recording their new record. Thanks to D. Crane and J. Long who sat in the booth, ate pizza, drank diet coke, and talked all things Boat.

The official Boat record release party for Setting the Paces is this Thursday (22 October) at Neumo’s.  It promises to be quite the production (we talk about it below).  They also have a second release gig scheduled for Portland at the Woods on 5 November and some rare east coast dates coming up.  Check their MySpace for details.

Friends Since 1989

J Long: One of the first songs done I’d say, for the record. But what do the lyrics allude to?

D. Crane: It’s kind of a secret. It’s about one of the guys in the band, but they don’t know.  Josh and I always battle back and forth.  We always get in these epic battles.

J: Because they’re brothers in law.

D: Yeah we’re brothers in law. So the song’s kinda about him and battling with him. But we’ve been friends for long time. It’s deep.


J: My favorite Boat song, and a favorite to play at shows for the past year, but it was the last one that got finished for the recording because we had tried it early on in the process and then we ended up re-recording it with all of us, me Mark and Dave playing it together at the studio.  Actually, what was really fun during the last piece of recording Dave was doing, he still had to do the middle Lately vocal things and I had I had you do it like a million times.  It was funny because my wife was over when we were doing it and she was like, “Wow he really goes for it when he does the vocal takes.”  It was really funny going back and listening to some of the vocal tracks solo.  They were so hammy but so authentic too.

Toby: That’s kinda like Boat in a nutshell: Hammy but authentic.

D: I’ll take it.

J: that was the one that I really, really liked and people liked at shows. We’d been playing it over a year and half.  It was just finally getting to the point that it lived up to the greatness in my head or something, or the greatness of the shows maybe.

D: Yeah, because when it was demo it sounded like a UB40 song.  I was singing it like lately, lately kinda weird chorus.

J: Not Rasta.

D: Kinda slightly English white guy reggae.

J: With some bad reverb.

D: Yeah, so it was questionable.  Strange that it made it.

Tough Talking the Tulips

D: They all have a bunch of different starting points but…

J: I want to know about the lyric. The line about blocking out the sound, cover your ears maybe you can block out the sound?

D: I think some of them are kind of strung together with the other lyrics, but it’s mostly about um (laughing).  These are all about you guys and myself.  I guess. But this one again is about uncomfortable dude stuff, a lady leaving town on a guy, heavy stuff.

Waiter arrives with our slices bringing Dave an extra slice on the house. I think they come here a lot.

Interstate Five

T: Is this your Wedding Present song?

D: I was not aware that the Wedding Present had song called Interstate 5

J: I remember Chris in my old band had a big I-5 shirt.

T: Gedge was living here when he did Take Fountain.

D:  I’d never heard it, and I still haven’t.  I would like to.  I actually kind of frustrated now, because I wanted to call it something different.

J: The song?

D: Yeah, I wanted to call it Beat Me, Break Me.  It would have had a single cover drawing or painting of this guy smoking.  It was going to be like he took on this kind of tough oath, but It never really happened.

J: The beat me break me, bound and gag me kind of reminds me of Seal.  There was some song on a soundtrack, like Batman Forever?

D: That’s Kiss from a Rose, right? I know that song and If We’re ever gonna survive.  Those are the only two Seal Songs I know.  Plus he’s married to the lady on Top Model…or Project Runway.

We start off on a tangent about Seal, Project Runway and Heidi Clume and Tyra Banks, whether or not my wife watches Project Runway and the importance of having the rock and roll encyclopedia in the bathroom.

100 Calorie Man

J: My favorite one to record.  One of the times I was working (Jackson works at Two Sticks Studio recording studio) we really couldn’t dive into the vocal track, but I had enough time to try something else.  Dave always does these interludes that were used pretty heavily on Let’s Drag Our Feet and somewhat on Songs that You Might Not Like, a little bit. So 100 Calorie Man was one that he had had a demo version of. It was cool because, I think Dave turned on the organ, cranked up the beat, and then played to the beat with the guitar amp. It was just very live.  That was the song I got to actually do something.  I made the little loopy, backwards-y thing, but I think the really cool thing about it is that it’s one little nugget.  We finished it in a day, and it’s really satisfying.

D: I think you finished it in a half an hour.

J: It came together quick.

D: I’m not gonna say what it’s about.

J: No, no let’s hear

D: So much of my day is repetitive; waking up at the same time; going through the same routine. So I got on this thing of having the same routine every morning.  Instead of breakfast I started eating these 100 calorie snacks.  It’s the lamest conception of a song ever. It’s kind of like, getting ready in the bathroom, it would be dark. It’s the horrible time in the morning when you realize you’re just at the beginning of that routine and you still have 90 percent of the routine to go through.  You get to that point, you know.  I do like my job, but at 3:00 it’s the best time when you’re done.

We Want It! We Want It!

D: I was going to have a band with my wife. She plays the drums. I don’t remember why I was going to have a band with her. It was kind of a period of inactivity maybe?

J: I think maybe it was I was just being too slow.

D: No, no there were a couple months where we didn’t do much last winter and I was trying to force her into doing a band and we made this song.  I had this sucky guitar because I get all these crappy guitars.  So I played those chords and we made this song, and then I ended up liking it so much that I stole it for Boat.  Then she didn’t want to have a band anymore because she felt like the second best.

J: She’s still pissed about us stealing it.

D: Yeah, she’s still pissed.

T: So you guys had a name for the band?

D: It was going to be called Genuine Diamonds.  We almost played a show, but we had to cancel it.

The Name Tossers

J: that was one of the last demos we put together. I kind of latched onto it a lot because I thought it sounded very Motown.  I was looking for ways to have that sort of vibe on the song. so I think we just tried to throughout the whole process of recording it, we tried to make it sound like not necessarily Motown, but kind of 50’s-esque.  That was one we actually played together. Mark’s guitar part with the little whammy bar, I don’t think he had done that before.

D: It sounded like Interstate 8, Modest Mouse guitar part. It was awesome!

T: It sounds like the hit single to me.

D: It was weird, Kurt at Magic Marker, I think he didn’t like that one.

T: It’s got kind of a sound to it that isn’t typical of [what you expect to hear on] Magic Marker.

D: I think he kind of feels that way about the whole album, but he likes it. That’s pretty fun. We just started playing that.

Jeff Fell Dream (Grow Into Your Scene)

D: I can’t believe we’re getting away with the parenthesis

J: That was another interlude.

D: Yeah, It was just thrown together real quick.  It’s the first draft lyric, first draft everything. Not that it was a toss-off; we liked it kind of as it was.  It was one of those ones, like why try to make it something bigger?  Just have it be that.  We played with Jeff Fell from Tullycraft for about six months a couple years ago because we didn’t have a drummer, before Jackson joined the band.  He just helped us out.  He’s the nicest guy.  The Tullycraft people are all nice, but he was the most genuine.  If I had a big brother, I’d want it to be him.  He was just super awesome and we never did anything to thank him.  He didn’t really want to join the band necessarily, but we just kind of said goodbye and really didn’t hang out after that and we feel bad. So it’s supposed to be a tribute to him in some way.  I don’t even think he’s aware that it exists.

Prince of Tacoma

T: Lyrically this song reminds me of Clogged Castle (from the first record).

D: It’s kind of the same…my dad.

J: Who is the Prince of Tacoma?

T: That’s a good question.  I should have asked that.

J: I have a journalism background.

D: Did you take journalism? I didn’t know that.

J: Yeah, that was my major.

D: Yeah, I guess I am [the Prince of Tacoma].  I want my friends to move there.

God Save the Man, Who Isn’t All That Super

T: This is the audience participation song.

D: Yeah, it’s got the shaker part. That was all his (Jackson’s) idea.

J: It was?

D: It was kind of like Last Cans of Paint.  It was very much straight strum. Then we played it as a band and thought how we could make it more interesting. So you came up with the idea of some kind of drop out, but it was going to start with the drop out, and then you had this idea to have the second verse be the drop out and have this big shaker participation part.

J: It’s got the faux Who part.  What song was it, Genius that had the faux Live at Leeds version?

D: They played stuff, not badly, but a lot rocky-er than the recording.

J: I can’t think of the words to this one.

D: Really?  It’s a pretty memorable song.

J: No, it is, but we haven’t played it in a while.

D: It was supposed to be a big rock song with the shaker part. I’m big into whenever we can get the shakers going.  It’s really cool the way you recorded it because you did one shaker and then that shaker would stay and then there would be another shaker, and then I think there’s a third, and then a fourth would pop in. From a recording sense it was pretty phenomenal.

J: Thank you.

(do the) Magic Centipede

D: It’s a Pearl Jam reference

T: So it’s not a dance?

D: It was going to be.  It was going to be like the Locomotion.  Very seriously that was the idea.  It was gonna be like the Locomotion.  I guess that’s where the “do the” comes from. But then we both were really into Pearl Jam growing up, so it reminds me of Do the Evolution where Eddie Vedder pretends he’s a character singing it.  I thought it was their most awesome song because of that. It seemed kind of silly and over the top and so I kind of wanted that song to be over the top too.

J: It sort of compares with Name Tossers because it’s hammy and sounds kind of 50’s. At least that’s what I’d like to think.

D: Like the Rodney Dangerfield ooohs and stuff in Back to School. It really is hammy.  You’re right, there’s a ham element, but it’s natural. We shouldn’t be getting away with it. I’m not sure how much longer we will.

Calcium Commuter

J: Our orchestral piece.  Z. Duffy thought that it was a diss on Chicago, and I told him I thought it was about you going to work out.

D: I always thing that every album needs some variety of sounds.  I don’t know if we achieve that always, but still not everything’s fast or not everything’s loud.  That was supposed to be kind of a mellow song.  The other thing I think of is that I made it when I use to go to the gym a lot the last couple years.  I would just run on the tread mill for a half hour, do the chest press, do maybe 25 sit ups and leave. It’s not the most intense.  It’s like the married guy’s work out. We (referring to his wife) both do about the same and then we go somewhere and eat a bunch of food.  So I had this Shakey Hands t-shirt that I love and I would always wear it to work out.  I would check myself out in the mirror, I didn’t necessarily mean to, but it would just have this little sweat.  You could see the shadow of the sweat. Whenever I’m at the gym, I think about is that song.


J: It took eight hours to mix. We did a lot of shaping after the fact with that one.  It started as song that Dave and this guy Ricky who plays with us, he’s from Portland.

D: I stayed at his house in Portland and we made up a song together, and that was it.  He does the high pitched harmonies.

J: it would be fun to do a mix of that where it’s just Ricky’s overdubs.  There’s toy piano, and gloc.  They’re independent. They don’t work [separately], but together they’re totally twinkling back and forth

D: He’s got a weird basement full of funky little instruments

T: Is he in a band?

D: He’s was in this band the Galactic Heroes on Magic Marker.  I think he longs to be in a band again so we always invite him to play with us.  He’s a band nerd guy where he can transpose anything, sing these harmonies.

T: He’s like a utility guy.

D: Yeah, definitely a utility guy. We can just tell him to learn these songs and he totally does.  He just shows up! 

You’re Muscular!

J: That one had been around a long time. I always thought it’s a great chorus, but where does it go? We’d get to the chorus within 10 seconds. We had to expand it and make it big in the right places

D: I think the ending is almost, I wouldn’t say bad rock, but it just kind of continues

J: Well it’s got J. Goodman’s guitar.

D: So Josh in the band can play the guitar like none of us can, so we kind of let him just pour it all on at the end of the album. In the past I’d always go let’s end with a quiet song, but this time it seemed like let’s go with a crazy ass song. I think it might be my favorite song on the album.

J: That one got the full cocktail, a whole slew of shakers and tambourines.

D: Yeah and it kind of sincerely references China! It’s kinda got corny motivational lyrics.

T: Anthem-esque.

D: Yeah, it’s corny, but it was intentionally a motivational kind of lyric, maybe not for a generation, but for 30 year olds everywhere. (Laughing) That’s totally not it.

J: A sort of a “you can do it”?

D: Plain as it can be. You can do it song.

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Patience Please

It seems like nine times out of ten, I end up buying a CD at import prices because I can’t wait, or have doubts that it will ever get released domestically.  That is not the case with two excellent new albums that saw the light of day earlier this year over in old Europe.  Patience has finally paid off with Cats On Fire and Wake the President making their domestic appearances this week.  Is it serendipity or just dumb luck?  No matter, we have two stellar west coast indies to thank for this godsend. So if you live in the US and had the restraint or foresight to not buy these at import prices, you are now presented with the perfect opportunity to get two great albums at domestic prices.
Wake the President
I remember during the presidential primaries, the question that Hillary Clinton posed to try and differentiate herself from Barak Obama was: Who do you want to take that 3 o’clock in the morning call? The answer of course is Wake the President.  Fronted by twins Bjorn and Eric makes them doubly capable. Portland’s Magic Marker records has provided the fix that all Orange Juice fans need by putting out Glasgow’s Wake the President debut album, You Can’t Change that Boy in the USA. The album was released earlier this year on Electric Honey Records which you may remember as the student label at Stow College in Glasgow that discovered Belle and Sebastian.  How’s that for pedigree?

mp3: Wake the President – Mail, Alice (buy You Can’t Change That Boy from Magic Marker)

Cats on Fire

You may think that Cats on Fire is kind of a bad name for a band, but since I don’t speak Finnish I’m giving the benefit of the doubt that there was something lost in translation in the name of this Finnish band. If you are one of those people lamenting the fact that Morrissey has finally gone off the deep end with his worst album ever, then Cats on Fire will be a refreshing breeze on your uncompressed pop sensibilities. Incorporating rockabilly, janlgy guitars and delicate smooth voice of Mattias Björkas, then Cats On Fire are going to be your cup of tea.  The first Cats on Fire album, The Province Complains came out on German label Marsh-Marigold and was relegated to import status here in the States.  That is no such problem with album number two, Our Temperance Movement.  Matinee, will be doing honors of putting out the album at very reasonable price.  Cats on Fire will also be at the NYC Popfest in May for the second year in a row, if you are so inclined.

mp3: Cats On Fire – Lay Down Your Arms (buy Our Temperance Movement form Matinee)

Magic Marker Records Interview

Happy Birthday Magic Marker

Headquartered down the I-5 in Portland, Oregon, Magic Marker is getting ready to turn ten years old.  Ten years may not seem like much, but for a record label it is no small feat.  Magic Marker is run by Curt and  Mark, two music obsessed gentlemen who have over the last  ten years built quite a fine little record label, consistently putting great record after great record.  I think they may have been a bit bewildered when I asked them what it takes to run a  successful label, but in the world of indiepop Magic Marker is one of the best.  Yeah, they’re not raking in the bucks and taking over the world, but  like their inspirations (Merge and K) they have developed a name you can trust by putting out stuff they truly like.  You know when you buy something from Magic Marker that it’s going to be quality pop.   Their longevity, consistency, quality packaging and general enthusiasm for music is something to truly celebrate.  They started out by putting out records from Portland bands like Galactic Heroes, All Girl Summer Fun Band, Dear Nora, Kissing Book,  and Boy Crazy and a few from other corners of the United States like Vehicle Flips from Pittsburgh, Walker Kong from Minneapolis.  In recent years they’ve gone international with excellent records from the Manahattan Love Suicides (UK), Faintest Ideas (Sweden), Bats (NZ), Minisnap (NZ) and newest signings Hello Seahorse (Mexico).  With all of the uncertainty surrounding the record labels these days, one thing is for sure Magic Marker aren’t throwing up their hands calling it a day. Last year saw records from Minisnap, Tullycraft and the Manhattan Love Suicides to name a few and this year I’m looking forward to a new record from Boat.

So in honor of the past ten years as the flagship indiepop label of the Pacific Northwest, Magic Marker is throwing  a party down in Portland next Saturday at the Someday Lounge.  It promises to be a hell of a lot of fun with an all-star line-up that includes Tullycraft and Boat,a reunited Dear Nora, and the Galatic Heroes.   Curt and Mark have also promised a few DJ sets for this all ages show as well as a very limited edition (200 copies) set of 7 inch records of Magic Marker bands covering each other’s songs that will be for sale.  I recently sat down with Curt and Mark over a keyboard and fiber optic wires for an interview about how they got started, how things have changed in Portland and what they’ve been up to.  Happy Birthday guys!

What the impetus for starting Magic Marker?

Curt: For me it was just finding another reason to get to know bands that I liked. I wanted to have something to talk about after a show.
Mark: I remember always being interested in what running a record label entailed.  I had a few friends at WIUS (Indiana University) who released some tapes and compilation cds. I went to a few Secretly Canadian meetings when they were first starting out, and thought, I can do this myself.  Of course mm never came to until Curt came on board.

What other record labels have inspired or influenced Magic Marker?
Curt:  I was very inspired by K records and Merge records. These two labels release music locally and globally and without a specific sound yet you knew you could trust their taste.
Mark:  At the time, Simple Machines was my favorite label.  They were the best DIY inspiration I could think of.  I am  currently still inspired by what Merge is doing.

It seems like a lot of independent record labels are started up by one person, Magic Marker is two people, how does that work?
Curt: Two seems the way to go. K Records: Calvin & Candace, Merge: Laura & Mac . I think you really need that other person to bounce ideas off of. I also think  you need the other person to help out on a lot of the work that needs to be done or help pick up the slack.
Mark: I think it’s important to do something like this with a partner. It’s easier to get excited about releases, showcases, etc. when you can share it with somebody who is equally involved.

What would you say that are the top one or two essential things you need to run a successful label?
Curt: Well that all depends on what you mean by “Successful” . I would say a huge fan of music and a discerning ear is essential. A large trust fund would be helpful as well (anyone have one they don’t need?)
Mark: Keep releasing music you love, and I think that is a success. The longer you can do that, the more successful you become I guess.

You guys put on a lot of house shows and documented them with A House Full of Friends double CD.  Are house shows in Portland a thing of the past or are you still doing them?
Curt: When we initially started putting on house shows it was to fill a need in Portland. There wasn’t an all ages club at the time and most bars either didn’t want our type of music or didn’t want to pay the bands. Portland has come a long way since then and not only supports many all age venues but most over 21 places are hosting bills of pop and wildly experimental music. I moved out the house awhile ago and we have only had one show at the new house since then which didn’t go so well with the neighbors so thats probably it for putting on house shows. I still attend them though.

How has the Portland music scene changed last 10 years with regards to indie pop?
Curt: When we started our label in Portland there seemed like a lot of like minded indie pop bands. Boy Crazy, The Crabs, Dear Nora, Kissing Book, All Girl Summer Fun Band, The Lookers, The Minders and New Bad Things to name a few. Most of these bands knew each other and would play shows together pretty regularly. Since then I don’t think we have been able to repeat that as a community.
Mark:  I was in California for a few years in between and I agree, the community of what we had here in the late 90’s is now different.  I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing, but the close knit pop community we had here was pretty special.  There just seems to be so much music here in Portland that in a way it has lost some identity. I am not saying more music is bad by any means mind you, it has just been hard to get used to.

With bands from the US, Sweden, UK, New Zealand and Mexico, Magic Marker has a diverse roster, without giving away any secrets how do decide what you want to put out?
Curt: Its not a secret. I devour music. I listen to music all the time. I scour blogs and myspace pages to hear new music. A big help is bands we work with recommending us bands they have played with or are fans of. There is so much music out there that if something sticks with me it must stick out in some way as different or interesting. If we get a demo I listen to it once or twice and if I find myself going back to it I think it might be a potential Magic Marker release.
Mark:  The Internet has definitely helped with the ease of finding new music.  It’s funny to think about not too long ago all of the packages we used to get of demos.  Now it is just an email with a myspace link.  Makes sense though.

I’m so glad you guys put out the last Bats album and the Minisnap record, how did you connect with those two bands?
Curt: Sadly when The Bats decided to put out their comeback record ten years later the world had kind of passed them by. I think they were having a hard time finding traditional methods of finding a label.  Mark claims to have made contact with Robert via a Go-Betweens message board. I have to say working with The Bats was really a dream come true as they are one of my favorite bands even before we released that record.
Mark:  Well, that is true Curt.  It was very indirect though.  A fellow Bats/Go-Betweens fan mentioned something about the Bats finishing a record and was looking for US distribution and a label.  Through him, he gave Robert Scott our email and that was that. For me, releasing the Bats was one of those moments where I thought, “wow, this is a real record label.”  Haha.

How do you view the rise of the internet?  There is the prevalence of file sharing  vs. making it easier and cheaper to promote your label?  Has it made it easier or harder to sell records?
Curt: I like the internet. I hear a lot more music than I did before the MP3. Our band’s music is being distributed in the largest music stores in the world. While I still love a physical product and the craftsmanship that goes into it, I am happy that more people are able to find and hear music.
Mark:  I think for me it is all about adjusting to the times.  I know of other labels that are soon going to the all digital sales format, and it does make sense.  I have been stubborn about this in the past, but I am in full acceptance now.  Kids don’t really have record collections like we did when we were younger. Instead of walls of records and cds it’s how many gigs are in your lacie drive.  And from all of the times I have moved, I am so jealous.

Thanks Curt and Mark, and here’s to the next 10 years.  There are show details and some mp3’s after the click…

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Single of the Week: Boat – Topps

BOAT return with a slab of vinyl and it’s just about the perfect thing to start your summer. It’s got songs, baseball cards and bubblegum, and I bet if you buy it from them at one of their shows they’ll autograph it too. When D. Crane sings I’ve got a wife, I’ve got a job, a record store that knows my name, I can’t help but love him. Plus the fact that BOAT are pop geeks that learned to read from Baseball Cards and Comic Books, well it just hits a little too close to home. Are they singing about me? No, they don’t even know me! This is the catchiest BOAT has ever sounded, starting off with echoey keyboard, and ahh-ahhs, and then comes the killer guitar hook that really clinches it. Easy, single of the week!

mp3: BOAT – Topps(buy the record)

You can buy the record from Magic Marker or directly from them on their upcoming tour. It really does come with bubblegum and baseball cards, hand drawn ones at that! I wonder if the gum is hard, crunchy and stale like the sticks that came in packs of baseball cards? And if you want autographs, they’ll be making their way across the country to a town near you. Here are the dates for the ‘We Jam Super Econo and a Bit Cramped’ Tour:

July 5th–Showbox w/ Long Winters and Cops–Seattle, WA
July 12th–Sunset Tavern w/Tullycraft and Fishboy–Seattle, WA
July 13th–Club POW–Sacramento, CA
July 14th–Sue’s Java Lounge–Redding, CA
July 15th–The Knockout–San Francisco, CA
July 16th–Mr. T’s Bowl–Los Angeles, CA
July 18th–Biko’s Garage (All Ages)–Santa Barbara, CA
July 19th–TBA–Oakland, CA
July 20th–The Someday Lounge–Portland, OR
July 31st–Neumo’s–Seattle, WA
August 15th–Johnny Brenda’s–Philadelphia, PA
August 17th–The Cake Shop–Brooklyn, NY
August 18th–PA’s Lounge–Boston, MA
August 20th–Union Hall–New York, NY
August 21st–The Lantern–Blacksburg, VA
August 22nd–TBA–Pittsburgh, PA
August 23rd–TBA–Chicago, IL