The Far West – Any Day Now

www.micahalbert.com
What originally attracted me to both folk and punk music was the simplicity of the production. There’s a lack of pretense in those genres that allows songs to stand naked and be enjoyed without any added fluff or bluster. It’s this rawness that immediately caught my ear when I first heard the new album from The Far West, Any Day Now. The album’s opener, “On The Road,” has a relaxed western atmosphere and you can nearly feel the dry heat of Los Angeles as Lee Briante sings, “I can see the mountains out my window. The Hollywood sign is out there too.” The whole album is chock-full of solid songwriting, great arrangements that bring out the darker elements of the songs, and production that fits the band’s aesthetic just right. Let a little California sun into your life on this cold February day and check out Any Day Now.

With The Grain: A chat with Lara Hope of Tiger Piss

tiger with glassThis month I grab the tiger by the tail and rock the stripes off.

The head is pure white, the beer itself is bright, clear gold; it’s a little darker than the straw yellow typical of beer’s like this.
The smell is a little husky, there’s a sticky, fruity aroma of apple juice with light grains against a little husk and dry bread with a hint of corn . Carbonation is pretty high, and crisp. Very refreshing, a good beer to drink at a tropical beach or with spicy food. Tiger Beer brewed by: Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd.

tiger piss band

Most people are busy working a few jobs in the current economic climate. This is especially true for recently graduated college students. For one SUNY New Paltz alumni, busyness is an afterthought. Lara Hope is more concerned with entertaining, while also helping people along the way.
Twenty-something Lara Hope,  a 2006 SUNY New Paltz graduate with a Bachelors in communications and media, now a Rosendale resident, is constantly on the move. Of all the things she does, perhaps it is her day job that is the least interesting. By day, Lara Hope is an entertainer at the Rocking Horse Ranch in New Paltz where she is known as Lara Hope-A-Long. But by night she is the front woman for four bands, the host of several different open-mic nights in the area, a children’s guitar instructor, the organizer of the Zombie festival in Rosendale, the music-booking agent for Cab’s in New Paltz, and can even be found on the pages of Ulster magazine. It’s a long list of responsibilities, but as Hope puts it, “I don’t like to be bored.”
One other thing that she does is probably the most important, and meaningful. A few years ago, after starring in the SUNY New Paltz production of The Vagina Monologues, Hope decided that she wanted to direct the play herself. It wasn’t long before the bar formerly known as The Basement in Kingston allowed her to stage her play in 2010. Two years later, in February, Hope was at it again, and this time it was for a another cause. In two consecutive weekends, Hope and her crew raised $5,700 for the Family of Woodstock Domestic Violence Services and Vagina Day.

Because of Hope’s great aversion to boredom, her other endeavors are equally as consuming. Her four bands, Tiger Piss, The Gold Hope Duo, Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones and Lara Hope and the Champtones are beginning to receive a lot of attention. Tiger Piss, is her rock band that was started in New Paltz five years ago and has done 10 national tours. They have released three albums, which consist of two EP’s and one full-length record. The band members went into “hiding” for a few months, but are now gearing up for a tour with the Coney Island Rock ‘n Roll Show, which isn’t a band really, but as Lara put’s it, “they’re more of a troupe.”

Lara Hope and the Champtones are her pride and joy. Although the rockabilly band has only been in existence for half of the life of Tigriss, she refers to her experience with the Champtones as “the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.” She blames the sentiment on how well they have been received. Dressing up, making money and music videos help, too, but who can tell what is next for her? After being asked if she was only in two bands she responded, “maybe three or four in the next few minutes. I’m kind of serious about that.”

The Gold Hope Duo  Foot Percussion! Kazoos! Banjo! Guitar! Upright Bass! Fun! They bring you their unique brand of stripped down upbeat Rhythm & Blues, Country, Folk, Rockabilly, and a pinch of humor. In a joint effort between front-persons Lara Hope and Matt “The Knife” Goldpaugh, Lara strums the guitar while Matt slaps the Upright Bass or picks the 5 String Banjo. They share percussion duties with their fast feet and live by the motto “If you can’t do it, kazoo it!” Their powerful voices intertwine, harmonize and amaze.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones are The Hudson Valley’s premier Rockabilly/Rhythm N Blues/Rock N Roll outfit, an all-star cocktail of musical talent, driven by Lara Hope’s powerful and sultry vocals, Matt “The Knife” Goldpaugh (of the Arkhams)’s relentless upright bass slapping, Dave Tetreault’s undefeated drum stylings, the guitar heroics of Chris Heitzman, and co-starring the cheery attitudes of all of the above members. This fun-loving bunch packs the dance floor with reworkings of rockabilly and rhythm and blues classics and standards as well as their own original musical offerings, sure to please listeners of all ages and walks of life.

Tiger Piss since forming in 2007, Kingston, NY’s they have become an exemplary band to hold up for those seeking fun sing-a-long rock n’ roll that still matters. Bourne from from a true DIY asthetic, Tiger Piss has self promoted their way into many hearts over the course of ten national tours

Theater isn’t out of the picture just yet, either. In a few weeks Hope is bringing The Vagina Monologues to Oneonta for some more fundraising and entertainment. She also plans on putting on a production of Cry-Baby the musical in the next nine months to a year.
Whether she is singing on stage to fill the silence of an empty bar on open-mic night, or singing in front of a crowd of hundreds – Lara Hope is a performer at heart. It’s great to know that her passion can also provide thousands of dollars to community organizations that need it.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with founder and whirlwind Lara Hope about stuff and such.

Popa: Your bio reads like something most people would take a life time to accomplish, have you ever been able to be contained or were you born running?
Lara: To be honest, I feel like I was a bit of a slacker until about 4 years ago. Sure, I had a band since college, but it took a while for me to start to take the whole thing more seriously. “The whole thing” meaning my music, myself, my life….but never take anything TOO seriously!
Popa: Of your four bands naughty humor and fun plays some part in each, though Tiger Piss seems to take it up another notch do Danny Mark Asis and Rev. Kev egg you on to let loose? What is the process for the songs coming together on the new EP?
Lara: When Tiger Piss started it was almost 7 years ago. We had our first show booked before we even had a song written. It was for a cancer benefit and we only need to do a short set. My drummer Rev Kev came into our first practice and said we call ourselves “Tiger Piss”. The name stuck! It was Danny who suggested our first song be about his love of Pancakes, which turned into a song about eating pancakes to cure a hangover, and next came The Porn Store (both songs from our first EP “Ear To The Wall” from 2007). But really, we always just had a lot of fun together and the naughty humor just came naturally.
Popa: What’s the story on the name change from Tiger Piss to Tigeriss and recently back to Tiger Piss?
Lara: The easiest answer I usually give people is “we were a bunch of sellouts!”. A few years back we wanted to try to hit the radio market harder and we thought having “Piss” in our name would make it more difficult to get air play. If we knew two years ago when we know now, we probably never would’ve changed it. We didn’t want to stray too far from the original name so that people who have followed us over the years could still make the connection, but time and time again we were told to change it back to the Piss…and so we did.
Popa: The new EP Alcoholiday screams ‘turn me up to 11’ and your vocals are so powerful when you rock and roll, as of yet is only available at live shows, when can we expect it to hit the earholes of the world? When will you be on the road promoting it?
Lara: The only reason that’s it’s not available digitally yet is because I haven’t had the time to do it!! I’m on the road now with my other band The Gold hope Duo on an 8 week national tour, which pretty took up all of my time booking for the past few months! As soon as I get a little downtime, I plan to get it up on CD Baby, Amazon, ITunes, MOG, etc…hopefully by the end of the month!
Popa: So far the only genre I haven’t heard you tackle is soul, is there some Motown sounds in the future?
Lara: Wait until The new Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones record “Luck Maker” comes out in June…I think there’s some soul in there!
Popa: Ok now for the mandatory with the grain questions, you’re relaxing what’s your beverage of chose? Its last call what do you order?
Lara: It’s usually a whiskey on the rocks (Irish Whiskey or Bourbon) and whatever beer is dark and made locally!

Tracklist: ALCOHOLIDAY
Download Alcoholiday
Better Off Than Yesterday
El Bordello De Europa
My Friends Are STILL Better Than Yours
Wash It Away

Q & A with Scott H. Biram

nothing but blood
Grit, dirt, booze, and 18-wheelers are often associated with country-blues-punk rock foot-stomper, Scott H. Biram. Not often do you link him with a baptism, but you’ll find Biram emerging from a crimson river in some state of ecstasy, guilt, or deliverance on the cover of his new album, Nothing But Blood. Recorded at his home in Austin, TX, Nothing But Blood is a catalog of hardcore stories of wrongdoings and redemption with a shit-ton of soul and spirit. Although no one knows whose blood is in those baptismal waters, we are certain that Biram is no stranger to it, second chances, and rebirth. As a life principle, blood is an integral part of our lives (obviously) and religious rites as it is usually used as an offering for atonement and blessings. So, whether this is what Biram intended, I’m unsure. But, there is no doubt that Biram offers his blood, sweat, tears and soul sacrificing himself to and for his music, and Nothing But Blood is a loud and spiritual declaration of just that.

With that being said, Biram was kind enough to answer a few questions about himself and Nothing But Blood.


CFM: What can you tell us about the new record, Nothing But Blood?


Biram: I’m excited for it to be coming out. It’s been finished since July ’13 but we had a few speed bumps on the business end of things and had to hold off. I’m ready to see what the people have to say about it. It’s a typical “Biram Release” for me. A little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll…a little bit blues, a little bit heavy metal.


CFM: What influences your music and drives you to continue performing?

Biram: My two biggest influences in my songwriting are probably my growing up in a small country town, and being on the road. I write about a lot of stuff and I’m influenced by a lot of things but these two are what I seem to go back to the most.

As far as continuing to perform. I have to. It’s built in to me. I have to play for people and perform. I’ve always been like that. Also my bills aren’t going to pay themselves!…and it takes money to make money.


CFM: What do you think has been your biggest break or greatest opportunity?

Biram: I hate to say it but I think my head-on collision with an 18 wheeler back in 2003 got me a lot of press! Heh. I don’t recommend it though!

Honestly, I think the biggest thing that has given me the little bit of success I’ve experienced is that I have worked very hard for all this. I have never treated this like something that should just be handed to me. There’s a lot of kids out there these days that think that’s how it works…that one day somebody just sees your band and says “Hey, here’s a shit ton of money. Keep doing what you’re doing.” I’m sure there are people that this actually happens to but it’s not typical. Also people who let others take the reins for them on the music business aspect have a tendency to get ripped off. I’m in this for the long haul. Even if I had a big hit, I’ve come too far and done too much already to be a one hit wonder. I’m a no hit wonder! Ha!


CFM: What song would you most like to be known for? Why?

Biram: I don’t have any one song. They’re all important to me.


CFM: What has been the wildest thing that has happened while touring?

Biram: Crazy stuff happens all the time…or not. My mind always go blank when I get to this question. Meeting Billy Gibbons back stage a couple years ago at my show in Hollywood was pretty awesome. He’s a big guitar hero to me. Playing on The Tonight Show was pretty awesome. I think the most intense thing to happen on tour was the time I went out by myself and drove through four blizzards. I saw a bald eagle flying through the snow in a little break in a whiteout I was driving through. I knew I was going to be ok. ‘merica. Heh.





Purchase Nothing But Blood
Scott Biram: Website; Facebook; Twitter

Ben Fisher – Charleston

benfisher
So, this is my first “real” post of 2014 and I can’t think of a better album to start with than Ben Fisher’s Charleston. Since his first album, Heavy Boots & Underwoods, Ben has been a favorite here at CFM headquarters for his ability to spin stories through song and his strong voice from years of busking in the streets of Seattle. But, since his first album, Ben has grown from great to greatness with Charleston.

Charleston is an impressive collection of engaging folk-rock songs like “Mason Jar” and “Charleston” and ballads like the nostalgic “Magnolia Lane” and the Biblically somber “Rare Desert Rains” sometimes feeling like an anthology of short stories about the American South. Produced by Noah Gundersen, the album is exquisitely engineered and crafted to showcase Ben’s immense talent for imagery and music. His crystal clear voice ringing throughout every corner of this album and filling each of his short stories with life and interest has made Charleston one of the best albums I’ve heard so far in 2014, and I’m sure I’ll carry this album with me throughout the year.





Ben Fisher: Facebook; Twitter
Pre-Order/Purchase Charleston

Tales of Olde

Tales of Olde band pic

The first song I listened to by Boston-based six-piece folk-rock band Tales of Olde was their cover of Justin Timberlake’s ode to being high on love, “Pusher Love Girl,” the leadoff track to the first of his 20/20 Experience albums released last year, and arguably the most soulful and old-school sounding song on that album. I love the idea of an indie folk-rock band covering a Timberlake song, and Tales of Olde’s version does not disappoint. Watching the video, you realize two things: one, this is indeed a band, and two, it is comprised of some very talented singers and musicians. The video has been viewed over 51,000 times on YouTube; you can check it out below. The original song is an eight minute long behemoth, but it’s been condensed to a quickly watchable two-minute forty-second video by Tales of Olde. I must admit, I would not be disheartened if a cover of the full version appears at some point in the future.

The band, who is currently recording, is set to release their debut EP in the next month or two, and on their Bandcamp page they’ve posted two teaser songs to whet your appetite. They call the teasers a “softer side” of their sound, but while both songs do start out gently enough, they build into foot-tapping, just-shy-of-bombastic conclusions. “This Place,” a meditation on home, the earth, and the simple blessing of being alive is filled with pastoral imagery and eventually rollicks its way to a la-la-laden ending. “Little Bird” is a rumination on the simple pleasure of listening to a bird’s song and imagining the stories behind it. It all stands for something larger, as the song ends in a chorus of voices pleading to the now departed creature, “Sing to me bird,”  which seems to symbolize the loss of something intangible yet important, and still utterly desirable. Both songs are solid both musically and vocally, with refreshingly understated lead vocals that subtly rise in volume only when the harmonies call for it. If these tunes are any indication, one of Tales of Olde’s themes is: Life can be difficult, but it’s largely to be celebrated.

Made up of two married couples—Lucas (lead vocals) and Evelyn (background vocals) Cortazio, and Ellen (fiddle) and Drew (guitar) Story—who met in 2011, and keepers of the beat Jeff Kinsey (bass) and Al Cleveland (drums) who came on last year, Tales of Olde are ready to release their songs to the world. Drawing on influences as varied as the aforementioned soul-pop of Justin Timberlake to the folksy harmonies of Of Monsters and Men and even the anthemic rock of Kings of Leon, I’m excited to see what they come up with. Keep checking their website and/or social media pages to keep track of when their forthcoming debut will be released, and enjoy “This Place” and “Little Bird” below.

 

Tales of Olde: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp

With The Grain: Settin’ and Sippin’ with Cindy Emch of Rhubarb Whiskey

Whistle PigWhistle Pig 100-proof, straight rye whiskey, aged for at least ten years through a unique double-barrel process. WhistlePig was released in the summer of 2010 to great critical acclaim. WhistlePig embodies the perfect combination of proof, purity, and age — hitting “the sweet spot” in all three categories. In short: more rye, all the proof, and the perfect age.

cindy1I recently sat down with the talented Cindy Emch (Emchy) for some virtual sippin’ and convo.
Emchy is the affectionate nickname of accordion player and poet Cindy Emch. Emchy is a cat person who fervently loves her dog, a midwestern girl who is hella west coast after 15 years in the Bay Area, a punk rocker who loves country music and experimental jazz, and a walking bundle of contradictions. For day jobs she’s burnt beachside hot dogs, patrolled cemeteries, worked an old school phone switchboard, done accounting for a kinky leather shop, programmed films for one of the world’s biggest film festivals and worked for MTV and Yahoo!(among other things). Cindy’s writings have been been published in the Can I Sit With You project, LodeStar Quarterly, There Journal, Tough Girls 2: More Down and Dirty Dyke Erotica edited by Lori Selke, It’s So You: 35 Women on Fashion, Beauty and Personal Style edited by Michelle Tea, and numerous chapbooks. She also founded, hosted and curated San Francisco’s Queer Open Mic from 2004 – 2008.
She believes that art can create change in the world and that it’s not so hard to be nice to people. She also thinks that dirt smells like magic and gets lost in the woods on purpose

Popa: Besides Rhubarb Whiskey you are involved with many other projects, right off the bat let’s plug them and maybe make some news?
Cindy: Sure, I love talking about my projects *laugh*. There are five total. I guess I like to be busy! First would be Vagabondage,  which is a mixture of stompy drinking songs and beautiful soul shaking maladies with balkan and punk influences. I play accordion and do secondary vocals in that band. The press has said some really nice things about us, and those guys really make me laugh just all of the time. We’re releasing our fourth recording early in 2014. Next would be the Oakland Wine Drinkers Union, we call our music drinking songs for the proletariat. Just a trio on acoustic instruments having fun. We trade off who writes what and who plays what and make little love songs to our time with pals in Oakland. A newer project is a true Rhubarb Whiskey offshoot. Sizzle la Fey the Rhubarb fiddle player and I put together a project called Sinners Tonic . The sound is a bit like if Mazzy Star and Jane’s Addiction had a country band. We’ve got our EP recorded and are planning to release it early in 2014. Last would be my solo project, Emchy, I called in some favors and some of my favorite collaborators from Canada and the Bay Area and got a nice 5 track EP recorded. It’s called Feral, since I kind of went rogue on my other musical projects while I was working on it, and it’s very rootsy and (as usual) a bit dark. It’s in the mixing stages now, but it should be fully born in 2014 sometime.
Popa: What/who influenced you to pick up the accordion and strangle that unique Emchy sound out of it?
Cindy: Well it’s a funny thing. My mom played accordion when I was young and I used to sing along to her practicing. It’s part of where my love for old 1920′s music and culture came from I think. But also how I learned to follow pitch, read music, etc. She tried to teach me when I was seven, but man, accordions are big and heavy. I just wasn’t up for it yet. Fast forward a couple of decades and I was running an open mic. A friend emailed me in a panic, some musician friends of hers had their SF gig cancelled last minute and could I throw them on the bill for my show. I said sure, and so Yankee Sheila (a side project of the Dandelion Junk Queens) brought their musical saw / accordion magic to my stage. I was enchanted. I hadn’t heard music so magical and surprisingly fresh / honest / sincere in a long time. A few days later my friend Whitney asked her people to celebrate her birthday by joining her at the Monsters of Accordion show. Playing were Jason Webley, Mark Growden, Geoff Berner, and a few others. Again, I was blown away by the accordion itself, the sounds that these people were making with it, how powerful and passionate the music was. So that night I went home and blogged about it, mentioning that I wanted to learn how to play it. Within a day I had an offer of a free accordion and someone who wanted to start a band (that band became Vagabondage). From there it all just came from improvisation. Aside from a few weeks of lessons from the amazing Skyler Fell (Accordion Apolcalype / Hobo Gobbelins) I’m primarily self taught. The way you play it though – how the buttons are laid out, how to get the best sounds, it changes how you write music completely. For me it pulls me into the sad beauty of minor chords all of the time, even when the songs are about happy things.
Popa: Rhubarb’s songs come from some dark corners of bars and life, obviously the three of you couldn’t drink all the time and get anything accomplished, what is the creative process between you and your bandmates Sizzle La Fey and Boylamayka?
Cindy: Well with five bands I do tend to be in bars too often *laughs*. Primarily how it’s always worked is that I write some lyrics down and bring them to Boylamayka and we figure out how to extract the melody from my brain into instruments. From there we start to workshop the song as a trio and the arrangements are born. For us, mostly, you can assume that whoever is singing wrote the song. Boylamayka is also an accomplished horn player and ex-punk rock guitarist, so often his song drafts come to the band more fully formed and then sometimes I help massage words so the phrasing works, or in songs like Whiskey Neat, he just has a perfect piece of music and brings it to the table for us to learn and put our stamp on it. Covers are always hilarious for us though, because nothing ever stays in its normal key, and we’re always trying to figure out what to do to make it Rhubarby – aside from just turning it minor of course. It’s been really fun playing with harmonies, vocal gender roles, and things like that to really turn and bend the songs into something that sounds like ‘us.’
Popa: I’m a huge Greta Garbo fan, besides blues and folk you list German cabaret as an influence, that seems far removed from what others list as influences how did that come about?
Cindy: Well like I mentioned earlier, singing along with my mom’s old songbook with its 1920′s songs definitely turned my aesthetic in that direction. The other thing is that I’m a huge film buff, and for whatever reason films set and made in the 1920′s and 1930′s just capture my imagination. The height of decadence that was Weimar Berlin before the Nazi’s took over. The wildness of the American speakeasies. Perhaps some of it lies too in the sudden freedom women were taking for themselves by joining in the party without apologies, smoking, drinking, gambling, performing, and just embracing life outside of the uptight Victorian corsets of the generation before. I find it fascinating. And the music – it was gorgeous. How American blues and romani rhythms and the oomm pah pah of German drinking songs all started coming together to make this new hybrid of cabaret music. Oh it’s just so sensual and intoxicating to me, even to this day.
Popa: You’re a veteran of the SF Bay Area punk rock scene are you a SF native? I also wonder what you may have been like as a younger youngster, were you a rebellious hellcat?
Cindy: I’m not a native to SF. I’ve lived in the Bay area since 1995 and the first place I lived was a big punk rock house in Berkeley with about 10 other people. One of whom was actually Boylamayka though he was in his punk band Subincision at the time. As a youngster I was… a bit of a hellion. Primarily I was a political agitator I would say with rowdy musical leanings. I was also a competitive dancer and (still am) a poet. So I was always keeping up with things academically while raising as much hell as I could. Let’s say I was the friend who helped make sure we all got away with it and got home alive.
Popa: Ok some whiskey questions, this is a with the grain series.
A. What’s your favorite whiskey?
Cindy: Whistle Pig is my favorite if my wallet is fat. Otherwise I go with Old Overholt Rye or Bulleit Rye.
B. Sipping or slugging?
Cindy: Always sipping. Preferably with one rock.
C. What bartender has the fattest three fingers? (without getting them into trouble)
Cindy: Dave at Broken Record in San Francisco, Everyone at Honor Bar in Emeryville, Amber at Lucky 13 in Alameda, and the very nice gentleman with the tattooed face at Eli’s in Oakland.
D. It’s last call what do you order?
Cindy: Ha! If I’m driving I get tonic water. If not, it’s a rye on the rocks every time. Gotta go out with a bang!

Same Sad Day is an album of dichotomies. It is the glint of a switchblade held to your throat; it is the friend whose flask is always full and whose shoulder is always there to cry on. It puts new spins on old songs, and makes new songs sound timeless. From the sad and beautiful title track, Same Sad End (with guest vocals by Carolyn Mark) to the rowdiest, most foot-stompin’ version of St. James Infirmary Blues you ever heard, this album has it all – dark, sexy killing songs (Gravedigger), boozy ballads (Mendocino), off-kilter anthems to drinking with pals (Bottles), blues-grass with a danceable groove (Knock ‘Em Down), and country weepers (My Rifle, My Pony, and Me; Ella). It will break your heart and heal it all over again – and you’ll love every minute of it.
Released 23 January 2013
Conceived of, written, and performed by Emchy, Boylamayka Sazerac, and Sizzle La Fey.

groupEmchy: accordion, vocals
Boylamayka Sazerac: guitar, mandolin, upright bass, vocals
Sizzle La Fey: violin, mandolin, banjo, piano
Special Guests:
Carolyn Mark: backing vocals
Lulu Darling: backing vocals
Whitney Moses: backing vocals