Last week, I went to see an in-store/record-release show by The Muffs at Amoeba. They played most of the great new LP and were as aweseome as ever–combining ultra-catchy girl group melodies with no-holds-barred punk rock attitude and out-of-this-world musicianship. So it was an honor to see one of my pictures printed full-bleed on the insert. Kim and Ronnie had asked me for the file but I wasn’t sure how it would be used or if it wound up on the cutting-room floor. My photography is far from great but the photo looks pretty damn good printed 12″ by 12″ and there is some poetry in the situation.
You might recall that Giant Robot mag was spawned in the era of punk rock zines. Before starting it, Eric Nakamura and I had both contributed to publications like Fear of Grown-Ups, Flipside, and Fiz, and he actually has had photos printed on Muffs 7″ singles. (So did early GR contributor Vicki Berndt.) The print version of GR has run its course but I still go to shows and take and share photos, so it’s very cool that one of them would be used by one of my favorite bands and I would join the esteemed ranks of Eric and Vicki. Thanks, Muffs!
I went to some other shows, too… I think it was Pabst that sponsored a night of heavy music at The Echoplex. Deep Six band To The Point opened, featuring members of Fetus Eaters and Spazz. I only caught a few songs but their powerful brand of hardcore was straight-up, filler-free, and a perfect way to fire up the evening.
Next up was one of my favorite bands and the new-school kings of skate rock, The Shrine. Does anyone rip harder or have more fun onstage than the trio from Venice? And are there nicer dudes anywhere? So what could be better than having the homies practically in my backyard at a six-dollar show. No, they didn’t play “Symptom of the Universe” (Sabbath, of course). Yes, they sang, “The Duke” (by friend and supporter Chuck Dukowski). Friends on the East Coast and in Japan, don’t miss them when they head your way.
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.
Holy crap, our third Save Music in Chinatown benefit concert for music education at Castelar Elementary came and went and it kicked ass! The co-headliners Chuck Dukowski Sextet (above, featuring the legendary bassist of Black Flag) and California (with members of Jawbreaker and Green Day) were stellar but first there was Bitter Party (below).