Like a lot of guys, I’m guilty of mostly listening to all the old bands I grew up on, but holy crap I love The Shrine. The young power trio from Venice plays unironic, razor sharp, and totally fun metal in the tradition of Motörhead with cosmic riffs from outer space like Thin Lizzy and the good times of Van Halen. Yet they are also informed by the stony heaviness of Sabbath and aggro DIY spirit of Black Flag–which is why they have a bitchin’ split 7″ covering songs by both of the bands. But even better is their amazing new LP, Bless Off, which takes off like a rocket straight into your nearest earhole and flies out your ass. The quality of songs, chops, and riffs blew me away.
I met the guys after their killer set at The Roxy a few weeks ago and they happened to be the coolest dudes ever. I went ahead and asked some questions to singer and axeman Josh Landau afterward…
MW: Can you hypothesize why Bless Off shreds so hard when many bands fall short in their second effort?
JL: We’re influenced by stuff with roots–ripping off guitar riffs from old stuff that’s withstood the test of time–and there’s an infinite well of inspiration in that shit. We’re not looking out for what wave is popular right now for 5 minutes.
MW: While you guys always seem to have fun, you are a super tight band. How did you guys meet and how long have you known each other? How would you describe each guy’s contributions to the combo?
JL: We’ve been a band a little over 5 years now. I met our drummer Jeff when he moved out here from Baltimore ’cause he couldn’t get a band together out there. Court and I had flipped out over Thin Lizzy at a party a month or two before that. When we all jammed together for the first time, I realized that just the three of us could make enough noise and decided to just get shit going. We had all been playing music for years, and liked the power of being tight and hitting the nail on the head all together at the same time. So we practiced, I started singing, and we worked at it until we could do it in our sleep.
MW: Is writing songs something that just happens when you’re hanging out and jamming? Or are you killing yourselves, fixing, refining, battling amongst each other?
JL: We used to jam a lot more, like 5 or 6 hours a day, 5 times a week. The first few years of the band we didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want to do anything else. We didn’t tour yet, and had to work really hard to get on a show or to set up our own shows, so we just spent a lot of time jamming and tripping out. The songwriting usually comes out of riffs I make up while sitting on the toilet playing guitar. Nowadays, we’ve been learning new songs as we record them, trying to catch some of the good mistakes that come out and the energy that happens when ya play something new for the first time and are still fighting to get it right–before you totally wire it into your brain and get confident and lazy.
MW: The title cut is amazing. Kinda reminds me of C.O.C.’s “Holier” or Slayer’s “The Crooked Cross” but way more upbeat. Can you talk about being skeptical yet stoked at the same time?
JL: For sure. Around every corner and on every news headline you can’t help but feel in your gut that the human race is totally screwed and on its way out. When ya look at history, freedom seems to build–civil rights, womens rights, segregation, the church’s influence on people–for the last hundred years, all that stuff in this country seemed to really change for the better. But now it kinda seems like it’s all being removed secretly and no one talks about it. I’m not an informed person at all, but it just seems like police brutality and the people in power’s actions toward poor people, sick people, and unfortunate people are at an all-time fuck you. I’m totally skeptical of anyone with “answers” or conspiracy info, too. People and their Internet statistics are shit. Some 9/11 conspiracy site I saw once also had some bullshit about the recreational swimming pool for the guests at Auschwitz. What are you gonna do with that info anyway? I’m super thankful of where I grew up and where I live, and that people aren’t dropping bombs right here and I don’t have to steal to eat or get clean water. As fucked as things are, a lot of people I see complaining have got it so much better than most of the world and they don’t appreciate it. If you’re not gonna fight to try make some kinda positive difference that’s fine; you don’t have to. I don’t really do much. But at least be stoked on what you do have and fucking live. When the lady on the corner starts preaching to you about needing God in your life and a tie around your neck, you can tell her to bless off.
Back in the stone age/print era, we used to have a section of Giant Robot mag where we would invite friends and family to share My Perfect Day. Sometimes they were were artists, musicians, or filmmakers providing a glimpse into their awesome lives. More often they were regular dudes like you or me, simply enjoying and showing off their beloved hometowns.
I’ve been blogging a lot about the rad bands that are playing our next DIY punk matinee (The Chuck Dukowski Sextet, California) as well as how it’s going to benefit public schoolkids in Chinatown by paying for their music education. So you already know about it being a killer show for a great cause. But it’s also important to me is that people come to the neighborhood where my grandparents, in-laws, and now my daughter have spend time and have a rad day.
One of the raddest things about FYF is that the fest doesn’t just give up-and-coming or outsider bands a chance to rip it up in front of huge, curious crowds. They also promote indie and DIY culture in general, with the presence of craft tables and zine and mixtape contests. I think the fact that they give a photo pass to someone like me is part of that. There I was in the photo pit with my little GX1 and pancake lens, surrounded by professional shooters with thousands of dollars worth of bazooka-like gear… Somehow, I got some pretty good shots that I didn’t use in the FYF recap blogs (parts 1 and 2) but still want to share–like the one of No Age, above. The L.A. duo is known for weirdo ripping, but I was going to cry during “I Won’t Be Your Generator” because it sounded so gorgeous when given the fuzzed-out Replacements’ “Answering Machine” treatment. You can tell this outtake was from early in the set because drummer Dean Spunt is still wearing a hat.
I was grateful for the three songs that we were allowed to stand in front and take photos during. But, especially with a band like METZ, I knew certain musicians were just getting warmed up and that the real rocking out would happen toward the end of the set. In the outtake above, the Sub Pop rockers aren’t even covered in sweat yet. I considered setting up shop in the front row for certain bands’ entire sets but never followed through for hygiene reasons.
Since I’m not one of those guys with a hefty lens trying to get a close-up of the singer’s face, I like to stay on the side where it’s uncrowded and try to get the entire band in the frame. Actually, Charles Bradley was on the fest’s biggest stage so I didn’t get the drummer for this particular shot, but I like how you can see the remaining members admiring the former James Brown impersonator’s dance move.