Sunday, August 26, 2012
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Monday, July 30, 2012
Last night we had the pleasure of playing in Columbia, MO for the first time at a great place called the Bridge. It's a real cool place, and real cool folks run it. (They also had this rad Bob Hartzell poster on the wall, check it out!) We had a great time playing there and got to hear the beautiful voices of Nicki Scruggs and Hilary Scott and the New County Line for the first time too. Good stuff!
Friday night was Kansas City, and just as before Kansas City was like a movie of a good night on tour. We played at one of our favorite venues Riot Room. La Guerre kicked off the night in blue and green stage lights that matched Katelyn's blue and green hair. We've been fans of Katelyn and her voice since last year when we toured with her other project Cowboy Indian Bear, but this was our first time hearing La Guerre.
It's always impressive (and enjoyable) to hear great voices and great singing, but there's something really special about hearing a voice like hers in a place like the Riot Room. This is a girl in a rock club, while people are drifting in and out getting their beers, singing. She clearly knows her strengths as a vocalist, but most apparent is that she was born with a beautiful voice– a gift, and she shares it so effortlessly with everyone listening during a 35 minute set. I was expecting a great voice and this still caught me off guard; this isn't Neko Case at the Pageant or Felicia Boswell in Memphis at the Fox where there's a degree of ritual built in that leads to high expectations, but a show you can just walk into off the street on a Friday night for $7. It feels like it opens so much up, and reminds me that there's all this potential in music in general. I feel lucky to have witnessed that set, so casually, so close up, and so completely.
So, the bar was set pretty high for the night. And Palace was next! Evan and I went to the van to make our set list, and did some vocalises on our way back. As I crossed the street doing "zing-ahhhhs" a man walking towards us gave us a funny grin. I smiled big and sang louder. As we passed each other (me still singing loudly), he looked over his shoulder and kept smiling and I snapped and pointed at him. For that moment we were Fred Astaire and Leroy Daniels.
We got back in the club and Palace was on stage. You'd have to be trying pretty hard not to crack a smile during a Palace set, and I don't suggest you try that. Sleepy Kitty loves Palace. They won our hearts on the patio of Copia at the RFT Music Showcase in June and we were looking forward to watching them win the hearts of everyone at the Riot Room. The phrase I keep returning to for describing their set is "simply delightful" and five people deep, they're enough of a crowd to show the room how to feel. With every high note you could feel the energy on stage rise, triggering the energy in the room. Palace sounds like Queen, if Queen had formed post internet and post major label economy. There is baroque-technicality on display but again, we're not in a stadium or studio in LA with a pre-Napster major label budget. We're in Kansas City and this band just drove 5 hours today and loaded in all their gear to do this for whoever showed up.
The final band of the night was Soft Reeds. I'd love to say I saw more of their set, but that same thing happens every time where by the time you load off the stage, deal with your gear, wipe the sweat off your face, drink a glass of water, and then another one, you go inside and when did they start?! and how long have they been playing? Luckily, there was still a large portion of the set to catch and the dance party that had been brewing all night was in full effect. They kind of had a fresh take on the Talking Heads and the B52s and everyone was feeling it. It was the perfect closer to a great night and another good reason to play in KC.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
It was a genuine surprise to us to discover last night that Sleepy Kitty won the title of Best Indie Band in the RFT Music Awards. Our category-mates were Old Lights, Bo & the Locomotive, Humdrum, and the Blind Eyes: we own and listen to albums by all of them. Cheers, peers! It's an honor to be in the midst of a scene so deep and wide as this one.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
We had a blast opening for Best Coast at the Firebird in St. Louis last night, and as usual Bruiser Queen was awesome. Check out the slide show and review from the RFT here, and if you didn't get a chance to pick up a poster last night, we've got a few more online here.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
Yesterday, out for a warm afternoon walk, we run into Beth Bombara unloading gear from the trunk of her car, just as Regan from Junque drives by on Lemp. He pulls over, covered in grime from work, and tells us about some free wood he'd just put out along the Broadway side of the brewery. We have nowhere to be, so we head over that way and find a big stash of good old wood—not that we need any, but there are some long, beautiful planks that had been painted blue and teal a hundred years ago and are gonna be great for something. So we pick those up and start walking back to the studio. The Lemp Brewery is monstrous, overgrown, dilapidated, irreplaceable, a giant historic hulk atop an ancient cave, and walking along its shadowed edge over uneven bricks, St. Louis feels old and unbeatable.
I'm looking across the street at the DeMenil Mansion, all tall columns and green leaves and southern elegance, trying not to accidentally clonk Paige with my planks, when she stops, staring down at the bricks. "What is THAT?" she says, and points. I'm a few steps ahead, so all I see is a dead black...beetle? Frog? What IS that? I get closer and we kneel down and the thing only gets less familiar. It looks like we've found a crashlanded, tiny alien. There's a snout, some teeth, some tiny clawed toes, and skin like Golum, darkly humanish. Suddenly it's obvious: this is a bat, a bat dead on its back on the concrete. We step back and see another little crumpled black shape between some bricks, and beneath a chained-up black iron door in the wall another one. What happened? We look up at the wall, the door, the loose bricks. Rat poison? We've been hearing for a couple of years now about how bat populations have plummeted, and how crucial they are to our ecosystems, and how there are people working full time just to keep bats alive so they can help control the mosquito hordes and keep the whole natural food pyramid balanced...and here are three, oh now four, there's another one, dead bats on this little corner of St. Louis. We get pretty close, just to see one of these creatures up close—I was always fascinated by bats as a kid, but I focused on their wings primarily, and maybe their giant ears, but hadn't ever really thought about their bellies, or their chins. And then the one under the door shudders, grips weakly at the concrete, chirps a quick blast of high-end notes, and collapses.
Oh. My. Suddenly these aren't just artifacts from a mysterious nature drama that just ended: that little guy is alive, probably just barely. Now the question: do we walk away, and let nature do whatever it was in the middle of doing before we got there, or do we intercede? I finally put the planks down and rub my dirty hands on my jeans. Paige fishes her phone out of her pocket while we try to remember what we've been half-hearing on the radio about bats, fungus, rabies, marsupials, mosquitoes, animal rescue... The things are so tiny, and so WEIRD. They really truly look like baby gargoyles, part newt and part dog and part monkey and part spider, and the guy gives another little struggle and Paige sees him pull himself up and yawn with his tiny little jaw and sees his teeth and his tongue and it's pretty much decided we're going to figure something out. She finds the number for the Missouri Wildlife Rescue Center (http://www.mowildlife.org), who are improbably manning the desks on a beautiful Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend, and we tell them about these bats on the ground, and the one still alive. Can we send a picture to them? We can. Include something in the photo for scale, and under no circumstance touch the animal. Got it. Paige puts her key ring down by the little bat—her studio key and the bat are about the same size—and we take a photo and text it to them. Here we stand beside a century old, mostly abandoned brewery made of brick and steel and rotting wood, and we're pulling devices out of our pockets that let us find phone numbers, take photographs, make calls, send our location... We spend a moment amazed on behalf of every human who came before us, and my phone rings.
"It's a baby bat," says the woman. "Very young, probably orphaned. Bats need to drop from something in order to fly, so if they're young and unprotected, they may have not been able to get back up to somewhere to try again." Fascinating. As she's talking the bat gives another heave and for a split second its wings are extended, we hadn't even really seen its wings yet, and now it makes sense as a creature. It still looks mainly like a baby gargoyle, somehow especially the back of its tiny head looks like a stone gargoyle from the heavy eaves an old church, but the wings are definitely recognizable: this is indeed a little bat. They're gone again in a flash and it's still helpless on the concrete beneath the door. "Can you bring it in to our center in Ballwin?" asks the woman. We look at each other. We haven't got a thing to carry it in, we're supposed to be going to a barbecue right this minute, we don't even know if it's got a chance... Oh man. The woman says she'll try to find a volunteer who can get out to us.
We're still talking it out as we walk briskly toward our studio. What else is there to do? We grab a cardboard box that once held an external drive, pop some holes in it, grab a couple of scrap tshirts, and jump in the van. When we get there the little guy looks like he might be all done—but when I get the tshirt around him, he grabs ahold of it with his half-grotesque, half-adorable weird arms and clambers into its folds. There's a little confusion as we try to stuff the shirt in the box, but we manage and pretty quickly we're back at the studio awaiting the volunteer animal retriever. His name is Stan, and he's dropped whatever he's doing on this beautiful afternoon in North St. Louis to come find us and our little bat. We wait out on the loading dock, periodically getting up to lift the lid and sneak peeks at the little guy. Now that he's got something to hang onto he looks a little less deathly, and a lot cuter—more monkey, less spider. He appears to prefer to back his way around the cloth when crawling, which I guess makes sense if you're an animal oriented toward hanging upside down. Even though he's only going to be in our care for another moment or two, he gets a name: Bruce Wayne, which morphs into Brucilla as well. We can't stop looking. There's an occasional burst of sonics. I know I'm not supposed to, but I really want the little guy to wrap himself around my finger. He would, if I let him. I don't, but man do I want to.
Stan shows up, and we hand him the box with Brucilla inside. Seems like a very nice guy, says he's 74 and retired but he'll never retire from helping animals. "I still climb trees and scale fences," he says, and I wonder if he's disappointed that this particular rescue is just a hand off. Probably not: there's a lot that's going to happen after he gets back to the shelter. I wonder if the bat's going to cling to Stan's finger while they're eye-droppering him some water. I wonder what other animals are getting fixed up there—what exactly has Stan been climbing trees to retrieve? He gives us a form and I fill it out, and we shake hands and he takes the box and jumps in his car to get the bat to safety. The form was simple and reassuring, and if there's a form there's a record now attached to the bat, and I can already tell that means I'm going to be calling in a week and see if he made it through OK. It was just a couple hours out of one Sunday in our lives, but both Paige and I now feel a sense of connection to this strange little beast—probably to the whole species, really—and we're going to be wondering a long time at the bizarre beauty of this formerly invisible neighbor, this baby gargoyle of St. Louis.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The lineup for LouFest 2012 just got released, and it turns out Sleepy Kitty's on it. Which is righteous! Especially because this year's lineup in particular resonates with us.
Some personal notes on some of those bands:
- I used to go see THE FLAMING LIPS way way back with the Harvey Dangers, when they draped the old Moe in millions of Christmas lights and the old guitarist with the crazy dark hair stood next to his seven foot tall wall of effects calmly destroying all the soundwaves in the room. I also saw one of their parking lot experiments which totally changed my life. They have made the world a better place.
- In my last band, Bound Stems, we found out about Park the Van Records, and their bands Teeth and DR. DOG. I was determined to play with Dr. Dog, who were then a mostly Pennsylvania band and just out of our van's driving range. Later I saw them in the corner of a bar at SXSW in the broad daylight, and they were every bit as arresting as I thought they must be.
- It may be that no one I know is familiar with COTTON MATHER, but not for lack of my trying. By pure chance I came across an album of theirs, called "Kon-Tiki," shortly before it was released in the late '90s. It was my roommate's advance copy for review, on a stack of other advance copies for review. The cover was really beautiful, and I put it in... and it's been in my player at least a few times a year ever since. There's something about Robert Harrison's voice that picks up on an angle of John Lennon I've ever seen anyone else explore, while cherrypicking some of the best details of Big Star compositions. Kon-Tiki is one of those under-appreciated classics that I've been proselytizing forever, and I'm going to be working overtime to make sure my musical friends know how important it is to be in the crowd when Cotton Mather gets onstage at LouFest. This is a mighty booking.
- HACIENDA opened for the Greenhornes at the Firebird not too terribly long ago (there's a great poster by Jason Potter from that show), and they have that psych-rock sky-filling reverby guitar that opens the night right up. It sounded like deserts, vultures, peyote, and medicine from the medicine man.
...That's as far as I can write tonight, though there will be more. This LouFest lineup is deep.
Monday, April 2, 2012
The freeways leading to New Orleans are mostly suspended over gator-breeding swamps and rivers, and it makes the van feel like a time machine headed as far backwards as sideways. Arriving to the Bywater neighborhood in New Orleans by night only confirms that feeling: narrow streets, foreign architecture, gigantic fragrant flowers, curving boulevards, tiled lettering set in the corners of the sidewalks with streetnames like Desire, Piety, Galliard... Where ARE we? When are we?
Euclid Records expanded down here recently, but they seem to have pulled the same trick as the city itself: in a little more than a year, they've created a store that looks like it's been there for decades. Credit James Weber, a guy who was moving out of St. Louis as we were moving in. We met him at the door of the shop and he loaded us in, then took us on a tour of the neighborhood bars. Nothing like a dark street on a warm night in the South with a (perfectly legal) drink in my hand to make me reconsider my life decisions: where has New Orleans been all my life?
We came to New Orleans ostensibly to check out the Southern Graphics Conference meeting that weekend. The SGC event last year happened in St. Louis, and the after-party on Cherokee Street was our neighborhood's shining moment to date. We also had an in-store at Euclid NOLA on Saturday, just a couple blocks from the Ironworks where SGC was headquartered. And: it was St. Patrick's Day, with a parade due to pass practically right outside the door of the store. So basically we were there to check out the scene and see what happened.
The Bywater is a completely different beast than the French Quarter—grimy, overgrown, and in a state of abundantly elegant decay. It's painfully beautiful. We stopped in at Frady's to get a potato po' boy, then wandered the neighborhood and poked into the thrift shops, on the hunt for something green to wear since we'd forgotten to pack for the holiday.
After our set at Euclid James introduced us to Jayson Knox, a guitarist around town who took us over to see the new instrument shop, Bywater Music, where half the gear was calling our name. The parade was starting to roll by outside, starting with a giant phalanx of fancy dune buggies with merry old men gunning the engines. A band played across the street from the crowd at Markey's, who spilled way past the sidewalk into the narrow street and made conversation with the motorcycle cops lining the way. There was just barely room for each truck or float to crawl past without crushing toes; beads abounded. Paige and I had managed to divide a green scarf we found into a hair ribbon and some wristbands, which was good because everyone was wearing some green or other. Matty and Eric Firecracker showed up to toast, and an hour or so after the final float of the proper parade drifted away the SGC procession went by in a blur of majorly detailed, hand-printed traincars. They looked dirty and really happy.
The night gets blurry. There was a looong dinner and a clothing-optional swimming pool, then another bar, then somehow the walking drinks led us to a venue in which a band of veteran punks backed an alternating pair of wizened, sharp-dressed black bluesmen. Then we were in the street with Jayson making our way toward a place that promised Hubig's, the locally made pie (!), and then to another bar, and then we were at last back on Desire, letting ourselves into the pad. The night smelled like all the hanging flowers we'd been walking under.
Good call on Euclid NOLA, Joe.
It's not that I've never seen lasers before. Or smoke machines. But I think this year at SXSW was the first time I saw them both deployed outdoors, overhead, on city streets, hazing up the entire town and its imported crowds. The whole scene felt somewhere between Disneyland, Mardi Gras, and a post-show arena parking lot. But there was definitely plenty of action, and more colliding instruments than a crowded practice space hallway. We ran into old friends like Marc Hawthorne and Chris Walla, met friends of friends like Beau Sorenson, and heard plenty of live music. One fine detail of SXSW is that a few venues are situated with the drummer in the back corner of the stage, as usual, but one giant open window to the street, so passersby see (and hear) the show from the drummer's perspective. It's a rare view, and some drummers handle it better than others. Best case scenario is a band like Cherri Bomb, who we happened across mid-set. Four foxed-up girls ("We'd buy you all drinks, but we're UNDER AGE!" the singer hollered before one song) blasting out a packed room, their surprise superpower was the drummer, who had collected her own crowd of admirers watching from outside. After watching a couple songs inside, I had to go out there too, just to watch her joking, flirting, gulping water, and flinging sticks while keeping perfect time on bashing drum parts. I don't know if I liked their music, but I totally loved their show.
Thursday started at Valhalla, where our friend Gary Pierson had helped us jump on a show with Santah, Static Jacks, and Stamps. Excellent. The show started—before the doors opened—with a hiphop set by a guy named Irrational Zac ("like regular Zac, but crazy"). Everyone was in a good mood, so that even when the booker looked over at me and said, "Did that rapper just light a blunt onstage?," the bartender just stepped up to the stage and snuffed it. Good for everyone. Playing a club stage with bright sunlight streaming in is a strange experience, but playing to friendlies made it an easy pleasure. We were familiar with Santah's music from Chicago, but Static Jacks were new to us, and they rocked super hard. I was outside with gear, but Paige testifies that it was righteous. We wanted to stick around for Stamps, but we were due at our next set across town.
The KDHX Twangfest showcase took place at Jovita's in the most charming section of Austin, across the river from the main madhouse. The weather was perfect, and the lineup was too: we missed Wussy (damn damn DAMN), but arrived to the sound of John Doe's set, caught a bit of Chuck Prophet, a bit of Water Liars, and then Brown Bird's full set. Man, their take on how to do a two-piece band should not be missed. We played next, then got to see the Figgs, who I've listened to over the years but never seen in action. Fine fellows, and they clearly started with the crowd on their side—people cheered the announcement of each song title. My favorite was their killer take on Buffalo Springfield's "Mr. Soul," a song I've loved since I was yea big. "Stick around while the clown who is sick does the trick of disaster," followed by a buzzy, wired Neil Young solo; oh my yes.
That night, after failing to get to the Flatstock poster exhibition in time, weaving our way toward Mike Musikanto's showcase, we stopped for some food-truck snacks. Projected overhead was a hiphop show in progress. From the sound of it, probably a million-selling artist, but news to my ears. The only lyrics I could make out were about good dank and good drank, leading to the chorus: "Purple sweat / sweat! / sweat! / sweat!" I couldn't help thinking about that color as a milemarker in the history of pop music, from "Purple Haze" to "Purple Rain" to, finally, "Purple Sweat." Who shall write the next chapter on colored bodily fluids?
But enough. New Orleans beckons.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Lots going on in the coming week! Tomorrow night we're totally psyched to open for JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound and Company of Thieves at Off Broadway in St. Louis. Next, we head to Austin to play Twangfest and the 88.1 KDHX SXSW day party on March 15. And before making our way back, we're going to New Orleans to play at the Euclid Records down there and hopefully have enough time to check out some of the events going on that same weekend for the Southern Graphics print conference. We even made a special 5 color screenprinted tour poster for the occasion. Check it out!
Friday, February 17, 2012
We're excited to announce that we'll be playing Kansas City's Middle of the Map Festival this year! It's April 5, 6 & 7 and should be a great weekend. Our friends Cowboy Indian Bear and Capybara will be playing, along with one of our new favorites of this year: mr. Gnome. Plus Neon Indian, Mission of Burma, Mates of State and many more. Check out the full lineup here!
Monday, February 13, 2012
...So we're releasing our cover of the Huey Lewis song "Doin' It All For My Baby" for free download. It one of the very first recordings we ever made. (Also, one of the rare occasions we've included bass!) It was never released so we're sharing it as a little audio valentine. It will be available for free here for a week starting at midnight tonight.