Tuesday, April 6, 2010

TVD's Ten Weeks of Record Store Day Vinyl Giveaways | Week 9

(We couldn't let a week go by without offering you guys some vinyl. We care that much. —Ed.)

As many musicians have been moving away from the raw-grungy sounds that have shaped and defined alternative music today, it’s always refreshing to hear a new band that brings us back to that sound. The Red Pens are that band. They are a deep breath of nostalgia, a band that will inspire you to not wash your hair for a week and maybe even buy a chain-wallet.

The Red Pens are guitarist Howard W. Hamilton III and artist/drummer Laura Bennett, who have blurred the lines between visual art and music. Following the recent release of their debut LP, 'Reasons,' the duo will be performing at the highly anticipated exhibit Everything by Guillermo Kutica at renowned Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. 'Reasons' has been praised by Pitchfork for its ‘wall-rattling feedback’ and its sound has been compared to bands such as Sonic Youth and Guided by Voices.

We got a chance to ask Howard a few questions about the sound, the band and of course, vinyl…

How would you describe your music to the people out there who haven't heard it?
Our sound is kind of a stew of indie rock influences but without any direct rip offs going on. Take the wall of sound of Jesus and Mary chain, the tunings of Sonic Youth, the holding on to the vibrato arm of My Bloody Valentine, and toss in some Guided By Voices worship in there and it might sound a little like Red Pens.

You may or may not get this question all the time but... how did you come up with the name the 'Red Pens'?
We were thinking about when our teachers in school would write "see me" on our homework with a red pen and how powerful that was.

Your song Weekdays was rated a 7/10 by Pitchfork which is quite the exceptional review. Considering Pitchfork is frequently thought of as the ‘mother of all indie music blogs’ how does it feel to be praised by the site?
It was a huge honor to be given a 7 and to have them talk about the recording was really cool. I think it made some people give it a listen that wouldn't have normally hear us so it was great.

How did you make the transition from art to music? How do you think art has helped shape your music?
When I met Laura I had pretty much given up on making music in a band. I loved her art and I could see a similar feeling being conveyed in both of our paintings so I contacted her to collaborate on some work. All she talked about was wanting to start a band so eventually it just happened that we started playing music and the art was the thing that brought us to each other. Without knowing each other before, our art is similar, and the music sounds like the art, we paint what sounds look like.

As you probably know, TVD is the official blog of Record Store Day. Do you have any specific Record Stores you are partial to? Do you or have you ever collected vinyl? If so, what are a couple of your favorites?
We love Treehouse Records here in Minneapolis it's one of the last perfect mom and pop record stores left. They really love music and keep it authentic old school no frills no bs.

We both collect LP's. Laura loves Wings, and Nick Lowe, and Roy Orbison records best I think. My favorites tend to be 60's fuzzed out bubblegum type stuff, anything on vinyl by The Fall also, I have some 90's Spare Snare 7"s that I listen to over and over lately.

TODAY the Red Pens are releasing 500 copies of a highly anticipated 'Reasons' on limited edition vinyl, which you may be able to get your distortion loving hands on here at TVD.

Drop us a line in the comments section, letting us know your favorite genre of music to listen to on VINYL—with email contact info!—for a chance to win this sweet rarity, delivered right to your mailbox. We'll choose our winner next Monday, 4/12!

Red Pens - Hung Out (Mp3)
Red Pens - Baby Alligator (Mp3)

TVD Live Tease & Ticket Giveaway | The Caribbean w/Twins of a Gazelle & Ryan Holladay, Friday, April 9, Velvet Lounge

The truth is we thought about actually posting the lengthy email exchange—the pixelated hoops and hurdles—it took to set this feature up. It was that protracted and convoluted that it became art unto itself—a marvel at generating content before the content.

So, it will be that much more of an event as The Caribbean, Twins of a Gazelle, and Bluebrain's Ryan Holladay converge for a free-for all at Velvet Lounge this Friday night. You'll be there? Right - I thought so.

In the free for all spirit, we asked Ryan to choose a few tracks and blindly bounce them off The Caribbean's Michael Kentoff, Twins of a Gazelle's Dave Mann, and myself and let a four-way G-Mail chat ensue. (We were going to try to guess the tracks as well - but ah, that fell apart.)

Despite the emails to coordinate this lil round table perhaps being a bit more compelling, our gee-let's-chat is posted below for your scrolling insanity and by way of inducing you out this Friday night for what's certain to be a great evening of music.

We're sweetening the pot too—we've got a pair of tickets for one winner who responds to any of the myriad of topics we stumbled over this past Easter Sunday which was oddly the one day we were able to pull this off.

Leave your comment—with email contact info!— and we'll notify the winner by noon on Friday, 4/9.

And uh, we're off:

thevinyldistrict: You've been invited to this chat room!
dcbooking: nice!
thevinyldistrict: this is my first 4-way
rholladay: sweet!
thevinyldistrict: be gentile
dcbooking: hahah. no leather here
rholladay: this is actually working!
michael: Hey!
rholladay: Michael your name comes up as "The" ha!
dcbooking: The SITUATION ha
michael: The Michael or just The?
rholladay: just The
michael: Must be b/c thecaribbeanisaband.com is the email it's keyed to. Dunno.
dcbooking: lets do this gents!!!
rholladay: cool. Alright, well It's great to finally chat with you all at once
thevinyldistrict: ha - yes
dcbooking: indeed
rholladay: I'm gonna kick this off by sharing a song with you all
michael: Yeah. Glad you're able to join, Dave.
rholladay: and just leave it open for your reaction.
michael: down
thevinyldistrict: shoot

michael: I remember this well. I would have actually gotten this one!
rholladay: I wanted to start it off with this track because, well, I hadn't listened to it until recently and this record was a big deal for me....but I never ever talk about it with other musicians. Maybe James are not actually cool?
dcbooking: i felt like such a bloke when i head this one for the first time :)
rholladay: (correction: hadn't listened to it again until recently)
thevinyldistrict: i never got james...is it me?
michael: I never really in for James, but I always like that they were a band called James.
rholladay: Ha! I dont think so, Jon. You aren't alone.
thevinyldistrict: my band 'brian' never took off either.
rholladay: Ha, Jon.
dcbooking: yeah, i bought this album for this song (like many albums bought in the 90s) but i don't remember any of their other songs.
michael: I don't if us not liking them makes them uncool.
rholladay: But I feel like they came along at a time when falsetto singing was very cool and appealed to me. Like when I first heard "Fake Plastic Trees."
michael: GOD -- I keep leaving words out!
dcbooking: yeah.....is there a chorus to this song or is it that falsetto part? i hear one progression.
michael: The man can fucking yodel!
rholladay: Yeah, I think the chorus is the falsetto part. Yeah, he certainly has a voice!
dcbooking: i'm writing a falsetto chorus for friday's show!
rholladay: What were you guys listening to at this point? Mid-nineties that is...

I do like the fact that he refers to his therapist, but it still isn't enough to make me like James.
thevinyldistrict: Supergrass...
rholladay: Supergrass. Nice!
dcbooking: you guys can sing harmony with me...i'd like some bass to back me up pls.
michael: American Music Club, My Bloody Valentine.
dcbooking: yeah, revisiting that song isn't enough to make me want to get kicked in the manhood to sing along
rholladay: I remember Billy Corgan mentioned MBV in an interview and I had to go out and buy their records, like that day.
dcbooking: so if billy corgan mentioned James you'd be all over them huh?
michael: Miracle Legion. Lots of non-rock, too.
dcbooking: ha
rholladay: Ok question: Which 90's band is way overrated? Which is underrated?
dcbooking: nada surf is underrated
michael: Actually, I could never stand Billy Corgan. His voice sounds like a rash to me. Overrated: Smashing Pumpkins.
thevinyldistrict: Michael for the win.
rholladay: Did you guys ever go to the HFStival here growing up (for those of you who grew up in the area?)
dcbooking: i will say though, siamese dream, is still one of my fave records of all time.
michael: Underrated? Miracle Legion would be up there.
thevinyldistrict: I've been here since 85. so did my time at HFstivals
dcbooking: people grow up in DC?
thevinyldistrict: Tibetan Freedom RFK-y
dcbooking: whoa!
michael: I grew up Montgomery County. IN Montgomery County.
rholladay: Ah, interesting! Ok, anther song:

michael: Yeah!
dcbooking: were the HFstivals free? ooooooooooooooo
rholladay: No not free...
thevinyldistrict: LOVE Television
dcbooking: i like television!
rholladay: Alright! Now we're talking.
michael: Well, this is an all-time favorite. Television is a template band for me. Saw them in Georgetown in '93. Amazing.
rholladay: No way! That's amazing. How was it?
dcbooking: i am a new television fan.....like maybe a year or two but i like them a lot. im always late in getting into cool bands.
michael: They played at Gaston Hall and it was an all-time great show.
dcbooking: lets cover this song ......all 3 bands ....this friday!
rholladay: So I absolutely love this record...it continues to grow on me even more as I get older. But the other day, as I was putting this together, I realized I'd never heard another album by them. And looked it up. They only did 3! And apparently the other ones weren't any good.
thevinyldistrict: I came to Television late too - but like Big Star, fit like a glove...
rholladay: good
dcbooking: i'll orchestrate the handclaps....well, add them in
michael: Their last record (from 1992-93) is absolutely amazing. No "comeback record" but the real thing.
rholladay: Really? Whats it called?
dcbooking: the guitar line reminds me of Interpol
michael: It's a GREAT record. Stands up to Marquee Moon.
thevinyldistrict: Dave - vice-versa
michael: Television must have time traveled and stolen it.
dcbooking: or rather....Interpol reminds me of this guitar line.
rholladay: So you said you are a new Television fan? 2-3 years? How did you get into them?
dcbooking: a friend sent me over some songs.
michael: Needless to say, this song ... um ... works live.
dcbooking: i was instantly hooked.
rholladay: Have you guys seen any great concerts recently?

thevinyldistrict: Does Anvil count?
rholladay: Sure!
thevinyldistrict:Well, then no.
michael: I thought you guys and your video magic were pretty kick-ass at Story/Stereo.
rholladay: Haha! Have you guys been to the synogoue on sixth and i? I went there for the first time a week ago! What an amazing venue.
thevinyldistrict: Not yet...this month...
michael: I have not. Would love to do something there (aside from praying).
thevinyldistrict: For whom?
rholladay: I saw the XX which was fantastic!
michael: How were they? I kinda like their record.
rholladay: So great. Very young, lots of energy
thevinyldistrict: is it me or should they be better given the hype?
michael: I think they might be a grower. Give 'em time.
dcbooking: ugh...my computer keeps freezing
rholladay: I saw Spoon earlier in the week, and they were interesting bookends. Spoon is such a well oiled machine, but I didn't feel like they wanted to be there. They were going through the motions. The XX was the opposite. Yeah the XX is a grower. I wasn't sold when I first heard them but Hays urged me to give it more of a listen. Then I fell for them. Hard.
dcbooking: anyways...my time is up guys...this is way cool though and i am bummed that i cant stay on much longer....cant wait to read the blog posting!!!!
michael: Saw Spoon in Baltimore a few years ago and really liked it, but it was a Professional Show. I liked it for what it was.
dcbooking: later guys...
michael: See you Friday, Dave.
rholladay: See ya!
thevinyldistrict: see ya dave
rholladay: Thanks Dave. Alright, another song?
michael: Sure.
thevinyldistrict: yes!

dcbooking: btw...i am covering a grandaddy song "stray dog and the chocolate shake" - if any of you want to hop on the song with me on friday you are welcome to. later guys...see you all on friday....
rholladay: Great, see ya!
michael: I would be 3 for 3 by now. Of course, Chad is practically family for both of our groups. This is sort of a Beauty Pill rock record.
thevinyldistrict: i wouldn't have been able to guess this blind.
michael: I would BE 3 for 3 now.
thevinyldistrict: but love it. drummer's killing
rholladay: I thought this would be good to play since we all have the personal band connection. I have to say, Chad wrote some music for this boombox thing we put together yesterday. First thing Ive heard from him in a while. Absolutely incredible.
michael: Chad & I go back to previous bands. We also go back to one of the greatest shows of all time: American Music Club at the Birchmere in 1993.
rholladay: Cannot wait for a new album. Oh yeah? That's interesting Michael.
michael: Chad is in a total soundtrack, epic, 3-D zone now. In a zone.
rholladay: Yeah! It was very string heavy. I've been meaning to ask him how he recorded it actually. It sounds so good.
thevinyldistrict: Live strings? ah...
rholladay: I don't know! I'm so curious...
michael: The new stuff's going to very different. Different band members, lots of sequencers, strings, found sounds, midi.
rholladay: Hays and I agreed, if they are not real strings they were the best sounding synth strings we've ever heard.
thevinyldistrict: Can't wait...
michael: He just finished mixing our new record and he's just a fucking crazy man.
rholladay: I'm pumped to hear that! Where did you record it?
michael: I think he wants to use real strings, but his arsenal of software is hard to fathom. And he knows how to use it. Really well!
rholladay: Maaaan.
michael: We recorded here (The National Crayon Museum) mostly.
rholladay: That's insane. Wait, what? Is that the name of the studio?
thevinyldistrict: Right - The National Crayon Museum?
rholladay: Or is it actualy what the name implie?
michael: The name of our little basement studio is a long story.
rholladay: haha! Awesome. I love the name!
thevinyldistrict: ha - ok...me too
michael: Chad did some work on Beauty Pill here, too. John Davis did a little bit of his Title Tracks record here as well. It's modest. Really, I live here.
rholladay: That's really cool! I didn't realize.
thevinyldistrict: me neither...
rholladay: So I missed your set at Story/Stereo, but I heard you had a really awesome stage set up. Will you be doing something like that for Friday?
thevinyldistrict: That's some basement party...
rholladay: Yeah seriously, Jon!
michael: Me? Well, ours wasn't officially Story/Stereo since we were the first one. It'll be similar, but better.

thevinyldistrict: Should we talk about friday? What should people expect?
rholladay: Oh right. But it was at the theater. Cool, sounds good Jon!
michael: Your sync of video and music was light years better than most things I've seen/head. Dug it.
rholladay: Thank you!
michael: I just enjoyed the whole set from top to bottom. Yeah. Friday. Dave isn't aboard to discuss what he's doing. What are you doing Ryan?
rholladay: I'm excited to see both of these bands on Friday. I'm honored that I was asked to do something. The music I'm making solo is quite different than what I do with my brother in Bluebrain. It's very mellow and ambient. It's all based on cut-up samples of solo harp music. So, as you can imagine, it's quite the aural sedative. But it should be good, hopefully. I think it can serve as a good "palette cleanser."
michael: WOW. Looking forward to that. I was going to bring Xanax, but sounds like I'm cool either way.
rholladay: Hahahaha!
michael: I love your reference to it being a palette cleanser; that sounds like something we would say.
thevinyldistrict: So Ryan - your set's in the middle?
rholladay: You know, I'm always so much more interested in seeing diverse bills anyways. I'm not really a fan of when club's book multiple bands that sound really similar. I like a bit of musical diversity.
michael: I think it is.
rholladay: Oh I don't know. Whenever I'm told to play. :)
michael: Agreed 100%.
thevinyldistrict: Ha -
michael: Ours is a work in progress. We played a couple of times at SXSW and recently in Blacksburg and are sort of in the process of integrating songs from our new record into the set. Also, working in some new equipment.
rholladay: How was SXSW by the way?
michael: It was great. It all depends on who you spend time with. We're super close to our label and most of the artists on it, so it's really great socially and aesthetically.
rholladay: What label is that?
michael: Hometapes. They're out of Portland, OR.
rholladay: oh right!
thevinyldistrict: Either of you have vinyl in your collective futures?
rholladay: Did they have a showcase down there?
thevinyldistrict: Curious...
rholladay: Funny you should ask!
michael: In some ways, SXSW is just like any other music festival. In other words, you seriously consider quitting music, but then you see your peeps and some other great acts and you're like, yeah, I remember.
rholladay: We were just talking about releasing our album on vinyl with our label. I just want to make sure we could sell them. I agree Michael
thevinyldistrict: We'll help you sell em...
rholladay: Sweet, thanks!
michael: We're having a similar discussion with ours. What's your label, Ryan?
rholladay: Lujo Records out of California
thevinyldistrict: Let me ask both of you then - why vinyl? What's the pull?
michael: That's right. I knew that.
rholladay: You know, I'd almost prefer to just do vinyl and not press CD's next go around. CD's are just landfill!
thevinyldistrict: totally agree...
michael: Vinyl -- good vinyl -- sounds great. Mostly, I like it because cool cover art is bigger.
thevinyldistrict: Was by CD Cellar yesterday and that the name alone is so archaic...
michael: Yeah, like the CD Crypt.
thevinyldistrict: YES
rholladay: Gosh, in Falls Church?
thevinyldistrict: Arlington
rholladay: i can't believe that place is still around AND has 2 locations!
michael: I like pretty much any music delivery format, but our label is very focused on packaging, so vinyl can be really great for them.
thevinyldistrict: see, now they're selling vinyl tho...
rholladay: ah! But do they get new vinyl ever? I felt like they werent for a long time
michael: I should fix the turntable in my car ...
thevinyldistrict: Not sure about the new vinyl...I have to think so though. Michael, it's called an ipod adapter...
michael: Got me.
rholladay: Hahah...
michael: I like old analogue formats. We run guitars through a reel-to-reel sometimes in recording. Ran drums through a cassette deck. Still, I love Digital Performer and recording and editing on an iMac.
thevinyldistrict: Ok - that's artistry right there...
rholladay: Wow! Really? How did that sound?
michael: It sounded wonderful. Electric guitar, run through a consumer reel-to-reel (even a dodgy one) sounds great -- it sounds glued together.
rholladay: How cool!
michael: I also sort of like a little bit of hiss on my digital recordings.
rholladay: Yeah, gives it character!
michael: The first song on the new record has a drum kit run through a cassette deck. Super compressed. I dig it.
rholladay: do you use much outboard gear or mostly software?
michael: I don't use a ton of software, in part b/c I let Chad have his way in the mixdowns and he has 187,000 plug-ins. I'll use some delays and EQ. I used Transient Designer a lot (yoi\u can hear it on the latest Portishead record). I use some soft synths, especially M-Tron.
rholladay: that's rad. chad is using DP right?
michael: I made my bandmates crazy with the Transient Designer plug-in; they'd thought I lost my mind. Turns out they were right, but still ... Chad uses DP. I learn a ton from Chad every single time I even watch him use DP.
rholladay: Yeah he knows what he's doing. we used to use DP but switched about 3 years ago to ProTools full time
michael: Chad's a fucking scientist. He does some stuff in ProTools, too. The whole big rig or LE?
rholladay: started with LE, eventually went big rig. DP was crashing so much on us me: That's the only thing I'd leave DP for.
rholladay: almost to the point where we couldnt work
michael: Really? I've never had many crashes in DP. Of course, now that i say that . . .Do you have another song to play us? If people know how audio geeky we are, they may never come out to see us!
rholladay: Haha!
thevinyldistrict: That's WHY I'd come - ha...
rholladay: True. yes.
michael: And that may well be our audience.

thevinyldistrict: Mixed feelings...
michael: Don't know if I would've gotten this. If so, it would have been a bit of a guess.
thevinyldistrict: I'm with 'The.'
rholladay: I've actually never really listened to Daniel Johnston. I was hoping one of you was an enormous fan. Haha.
michael: This is an interesting thing. Do people like Daniel Johnston b/c they really enjoy listening or b/c he's touched?
rholladay: I'm not sure.
thevinyldistrict: C'mon.
michael: Is there some status in digging Daniel Johnston?
rholladay: I think there's an honesty to it that people relate to
thevinyldistrict: Agreed. But like Dylan...i 'get it' but i don't listen to it.
michael: There's an honesty to lots of things. What's the draw here?
rholladay: I read somewhere that he didnt know how to dub audio cassettes, so whenever someone wanted to hear his album, he would just record a new one for them on his guitar. Definately a diferent approach.
thevinyldistrict: Right...The documentary was good though...
michael: That's interesting. Daniel Johnston is interesting, no doubt. I just don't know that I can listen to him for more than a few minutes at a time.
thevinyldistrict: ding!
michael: I'd like to see the doc.
thevinyldistrict: It won't change how you feel in the long run tho.
michael: Understood. There's a much larger question about "outside art" in that -- what do we value, the art or the outsider?
rholladay: Totally.
thevinyldistrict: the art for me...
rholladay: I actually had the opportunity to spend a day with Wesley Willis some years back.
thevinyldistrict: But ask me again in 15...
rholladay: You guys ever listen to him"?
michael: Wesley Willis. Very little. But I have the same question.
thevinyldistrict: Who is he?
rholladay: Oh man, we could go on about this guy for a while. He was a total outsider artist. He died a few years ago. He was a musician playing on the street. I think someone from Red Hot Chilli Peppers saw him and took him on tour and he became this cult celebrity.
thevinyldistrict: There's another band I never got: RHCP
michael: I loathe the Chili Peppers.
thevinyldistrict: can I toss a track into this mix?
michael: Do it man.
thevinyldistrict: YES
rholladay: here's a little documentary

michael: Oh cool. A doc.
thevinyldistrict: interested to see how you guys respond to:

rholladay: Nice - I love Ryuichi Sakamoto
michael: Wow, Wesley Willis to David Sylvian. I think I have whiplash. I like David Sylvian. Sometimes a lot. Blemish is a great and disturbing record.
thevinyldistrict: Agreed...much love in these parts for Japan too.
michael: I'm much less familiar with Japan than Sylvian's solo stuff. I know that's sort of odd.
thevinyldistrict: Oh, I have Mp3s for you then...
michael: I need the education, man.
thevinyldistrict: Done...
michael: Cool. Thanks in advance. Maybe you can make me a mixed cassette...
thevinyldistrict: used to have them down as an art form for pretty girls, y'know
rholladay: Hey guys I gotta run. Sorry to split. Family just showed up. Easter and all... Thanks for chatting dudes!
thevinyldistrict: see ya!
rholladay: Talk this week
michael: Happy Easter! Really appreciate you guys taking the time. This was incredibly fun and we can pick it all up again in person!
thevinyldistrict: Agreed...see you all Friday...
michael: Definitely. Thanks for ending us with this song. I like it. It's very of its time and yet works in a timeless way.
thevinyldistrict: a fine melody is a fine melody...
michael: Right-O. This all makes me very interested in the mix of things to be performed on Friday.
thevinyldistrict: Me too! Should be great...
thevinyldistrict: i should go too - ol' pete the dog needs a walk as do i
michael: Take care. Will be in touch.
thevinyldistrict: yes - have a good night - thanks for doing this!
michael: Thanks to you as well. I think we made a well-rounded roundtable.
michael: Bam!
thevinyldistrict: bam!

The Caribbean - The Go From Tactical (Mp3)
Twins of a Gazelle - Sugarcane (Mp3)
Twins of a Gazelle - Take It Or Leave It (Mp3)