It’s no secret that 80’s infused synth-pop is making a comeback. Increasingly danceable synth jams have appeared and faded into the background. ÆON RINGS stands out from the crowd as synth-pop with a dark edge, a gritty sound that is at the same time catchy and gothic. We recently got the opportunity to sit down with frontman Davey Partain and synth master Chuck Flores to talk about their long-awaited debut EP, their musical influences, and more.
Violent Success: What is your musical background? Have you had any formal training?
Davey Partain: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10. Then I joined the school band, playing trumpet. My guitar playing was really influenced by Metallica; until I got into the synth pop that really formed what sound I want to make now.
Chuck Flores: I had four piano lessons when I was younger and that was it. So I’m primarily self-taught. But I did go to school for audio engineering.
VS: You used to be Night Visions, why the change to ÆON RINGS?
Davey: Well, we wanted something with more depth. More, I don’t want to say epic but…
Chuck: Yeah, something more epic.
Davey: And that definitely comes across with ÆON RINGS. ÆON being eternal, an eternity, forever and ring as in a resonating sound, so itsmeant to invoke a sort of eternal ringing. Like a sound you never forget.
VS: Who are your main musical influences?
Davey: As a kid I was mostly into Metal and Goth music. Then I started to really get into 80’s synth pop, dance synth stuff like The Faint and Fischerspooner. Dance punk, but heavy on the synths. The combination of those really made an impact on the music I make now and the music I want to make in the future.
Chuck: I work as an audio engineer, so my influences are pretty varied. I grew up listening to a lot of post-punk and semi-hardcore. Since then I’ve shifted more to post-rock, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, really any post-rock, post-punk – the whole post genre.
VS: How is the recording of the EP going? When will it be released?
Davey: We’re done recording and mixing, just going through the finishing production stages. It should be out sometime in late Spring.
VS: What was the writing process for the EP like?
Davey: I had some older songs that we went through and improved. Some of it was written from scratch over the past year or so. On this EP we really wanted to make a distinctive sound for ÆON RINGS, different from our sound in Night Visions. It’s definitely a process developing a sound, that’s really what we focused on. In all the bands I was in in high school everyone wanted to sound exactly like one band they idolized, like ‘Let’s sound just like Metallica!’ but we really wanted to mature our sound and break away from being pegged down to sounding like one band, or one genre. We took our time recording the EP, we wanted to make sure what we release is the highest quality.
VS: What genre would you classify your music as?
Davey: I don’t want to just say synth pop because that’s always connected with a sort of Pet Shop Boys peppiness and that’s not what we’re doing so I like to add ‘dark’ on to the front of it. Dark synth pop. Dark dance pop. Synthy and dark. Although I always did want to be a Pet Shop Boy when I was younger.
VS: What’s your dream show? Who would open for you?
Davey: I don’t think I’m at the point where I could think about having anyone open for us, but my dream hands down would be to open for Ladytron. I love female vocals and there’s something so ghostly and aural about their sound. It has the feminine element of her voice but at the same time is so dark. Opening for Ladytron would be a dream come true!
VS: If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?
Davey: Something I already do and love – doing hair.
Chuck: I would be a Producer.
VS: What are your favorite albums or artists?
Davey: OK Computer by Radiohead, Louder Than Bombs by The Smiths, and Witching Floor by Ladytron.
Chuck: Ah this is the hardest question! I listen to such a wide variety of music, its hard to pick just one! But I do love Explosions in the Sky so let’s go with that.
VS: Anything you want to say to the fans?
Davey: We love you all!
Regardless of genre, it’s safe to say that the Minneapolis music scene has contributed a great deal of undeniable talent over the years. You’ve got your folk heroes, pop mainstays, rock legends, etc. And now, twin cities natives, Buildings, are making a name for themselves in the world of punk music. With their unique brand of aggressive, high-energy noise rock, Buildings have amassed a following that extends far beyond the reaches of Minnesota’s borders.
‘Gold’ comes to us off the 5-song EP, It Doesn’t Matter, the highly-anticipated follow-up to 2011′s Melt, Cry, Sleep. The track kicks into high gear immediately with the introduction of frontman Brian Lake’s commanding vocals and doesn’t let down throughout its duration. The chant-like chorus almost sounds like a call to action as the dark guitar chords swell underneath the words and the raucous drums carry on. The band’s own bio describes their 2008 debut as “a punch in the face that takes you on the ride of your life and makes your mother cry all at the same time”; fast-forward to now, and their new track ‘Gold’ can be described in the same way. It is a gripping track that pulls you in and drags you along on a roller coaster ride. With music this engaging, it is a ride you won’t want to get off.
On Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing The Mercy Beat live in Los Angeles at The Echo, an intimate venue where one can see a variety of bands and DJs on any given night. The Mercy Beat is the new endeavor by The Bravery frontman, Sam Endicott. While comparisons will certainly be made, they won’t be made just yet.
The doors were set to open at 8PM but we weren’t let in until almost 9. Live music is not an exact science and we could hear the strains of sound checks through the open doors. A sizeable crowd snaked out the doors and all manner of live music enthusiasts were represented, from hipsters ready to see relatively new music acts, fans of The Bravery, and people drawn to the promised “pop music club night”, pleasantly titled “Pop Shop West”. There were two other bands scheduled to perform but I was there for The Mercy Beat.
The Echo is a great place to get up close and personal with standing room only and a smaller stage. It’s great for journalists and enthusiasts alike and it was fairly clear who was who when we were let in. Most went to the bar, the rest of us crowded each other near the stage. The room was not yet full, but no matter, they took the stage almost unnoticed and after a quick count off from the drummer, the show began.
While I’m sure there was a fair amount of interest in seeing if The Mercy Beat was anything like The Bravery, I believe that the purpose of starting a new project, with little-to-no buzz, is to try something different and get a fresh start with neither the blessings nor curses of past efforts. From the first song it seemed to me that perhaps Endicott was tired of hearing himself every ten songs on all the “alt” radio stations. Indeed, Endicott’s voice is familiar but there’s a softer, Jeff Buckley-ish tinge to it. It fits the music perfectly, which itself is softer and more chill, with dreamy synths over pleasantly upbeat tempos. It’s not a strong departure, but it’s a step in a much different direction. Their warm synth work, delayed guitars, and sweet vocals captivated the audience quickly and those standing in the back of the room soon crowded to the front to swoon and be bathed in the reds and blues of the stage lights.
While Endicott himself is fairly restrained with his stage presence, landing somewhere between Morrissey and a shy shoegazer, the rest of the band rocked out in appropriate measure. I do feel that the size of the stage (and perhaps the sound system) hindered them a bit. The drummer was completely obscured by huge amps that bookended the stage and at one point the bass player asked for more vocals and bass. Again, live music is not an exact science. But with a band as nuanced as The Mercy Beat, their sound should come across as a tapestry, not a blanket. Their set lasted somewhere under an hour and honestly I did lose track of time because this band generates waves, auras if you will, that draw you in. So when the last song came and everyone dropped their instruments and left the stage, and looped feedback drowned out the confused voices, I was shaken out of a strange reverie. It wasn’t pleasant but it did have a noticeable effect.
It’s a bit difficult to find much about The Mercy Beat online, and it’s made only more difficult because there’s another band with the same moniker and let’s just say their sound is markedly different. So I was truly glad to have an opportunity to hear more from this dreamy, ghostly, sad and yet wryly joyful band. Fans of The Bravery may or may not follow, and I don’t believe Endicott has or will purposely shun them, but The Mercy Beat appeals to a much different audience and I would venture to say that’s the aim.
If you are in the LA area, The Mercy Beat is beginning their Monday residency at The Echo starting May 5th. If you want to catch what will certainly become a popular band, I strongly suggest you check it out.
In support of their thirteen-years-later sophomore album, Two, Owls has released a video for “I’m Surprised…” (Dir. Todd Mattei). Tim Kinsella’s lyrics are like talking to the most brilliant kid in a smoke circle: non sequitur, absurdist, and profoundly piercing. Not so much cryptic as they are idiosyncratic, his words are complemented by the tightly loose starkness of the guitar/bass/drums instrumentation. An indirect riff on “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” Kinsella sings “I sing like a crooked seahorse/I float like a cello.” The video perfectly encapsulates Owls’ choppy changing time signatures and deadpan sense of humor with rhythmically coincided editing and kitschy props. Thanks to lighting and angling, each band mate’s face is shown without revealing their eyes. This showcases the coolly removed omnipotence their sound casts expertly. It doesn’t sound quite like anything else, yet manages to be catchy in spite of itself. Make sure to check out their new album Two, and catch them on tour in the US this Spring and Summer.
05/16 – Chicago, IL – Subterranean (ALBUM RELEASE SHOW) http://bit.ly/1gP9Rz7
06/27 – Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room * http://tktwb.tw/1mbcZZo
06/28 – Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy Theatre * http://ticketf.ly/QnZFHa
06/29 – San Francisco, CA – Bottom of The Hill * http://bit.ly/1rLul3i
07/11 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom ^ http://bit.ly/1hEzimm
07/12 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr. Small’s Theatre ^ http://tktwb.tw/1myBaUF
07/13 – Washington DC – Black Cat ^ http://ticketf.ly/1f0QK7b
07/14 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer ^ http://ticketf.ly/P1KhPG
07/15 – Cambridge, MA – The Sinclair ^ http://bit.ly/1gK52Lt
* w/ Into It. Over It.
^ w/ Hop Along & Glocca Morra
It doesn’t get much more intimate than the Rockwood Music Hall in NYC. The stage is but a small thing; it’s elevated just enough so that everyone in the room can easily get in on what’s happening. The walls of the venue were lined with people shoulder to shoulder and eagerly awaiting live music. But, this particularly Friday Night was all about the Brooklyn 4-piece, All Forces. Rockwood was housing the release party for their brand new EP, Sons & Daughters. Check out our review of the fantastic album here.
All Forces took the stage right at 9PM and did what most bands these days never do when you go see them: start on time! They blazed through an hour-long set of songs from the aforementioned Sons & Daughters. Even though the set was extremely tight, the band played with a genuine excitement and young nervousness that is so rare and beautiful to capture these days. They really sunk their teeth into tracks like ‘Sword Swallowers’ and ‘Ornithologist’ which both have a ton of musical/vocal intricacies that would be tough to pull off live. Yet, the band did so with style.
One of the standout moments was the lead single ‘We Have Arrived.’ That song is already so ambitious and multi-layered that it’s just begging to be played live. That very ambition is exactly why All Forces is a force to be reckoned with. As a relatively young band, they still don’t have it all figured out quite yet. But, that’s what makes them so exhilarating. They’re in that wide-eyed stage of their career that you’re gonna wish you were around to be a part of down the road.
‘Buildings’ was another impressive moment during All Forces’ album release show. The ending of the song was particularly impressive as lead singer Johnnie Morlock and drummer T Almy absolutely nailed those vocal harmonies. Needless to say, all the pieces came together like a puzzle and All Forces put on an impressive live show. It’ll be interesting to see where the next stage of their musical careers take them if and when they start working on an LP.