Album Review: Shihad – Old Gods

Shihad Old Gods
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It’s no secret that I’m a big Shihad fan. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen them play, but the figure is near 20.  I’ve got all their albums on CD, as well as bunch of special editions, a live DVD and a handful of EPs and singles. They never quite “cracked America”, but to me, they embody the dream of a NZ rock band who have achieved the dream of making a successful career from their music. They’ve toured the world, shared the stage with rock heavyweights such as Faith No More, AC/DC, Pantera, Motorhead and Black Sabbath; and have just released their tenth album, Old Gods.

The band has changed a lot throughout their 30+ years. Their debut Devolve EP features blistering speed-metal and a Black Sabbath cover. The first time I heard one of the tracks I honestly thought it was a cover of a Metallica song I wasn’t familiar with.

Churn beckoned a more industrial sound, thanks in part to Killing Joke front man Jaz Coleman in the producer’s role. Killjoy was less metal, but still raw and heavy, boasting some of the band’s most enduring riffs.

The self titled record (known by many as the fish album) introduced a more radio-friendly rock which the band honed and perfected with the commercial alt-rock giants The General Electric and Pacifier.

Pacifier was derided by many fans and critics who viewed it as evidence of the the ultimate sin: selling out. I’ll always remember reading a passage written by Grant Smithies, in which he stated he’d prefer to rub himself raw with a cheese grater and throw himself into shark-infested waters than listen to Pacifier. Harsh words, but fantastically evocative writing.

I personally loved Pacifier. I was a teenager obsessed with bands like Linkin Park and Foo Fighters so I couldn’t understand how anyone could find fault with the music.

Love Is The New Hate was considered a penitent return to form, and although much of it was angry, there was a lot of sadness and mellow moments to be found. Beautiful Machine, by comparison, was very much leaning towards the pop side of things. It’s a lot softer, almost 80’s feeling at times. I enjoyed it, but it was more Foo Fighters than AC/DC.

Ignite was the most forgettable album of Shihad’s catalogue. “Sleepeater” was a hit when played live, but the rest of the album seldom gets a mention. When looking at an overall trend, it feels like the quality and “rockiness” of the band’s output had been in decline since the beginning of the 2000’s.

Shihad’s last album FVEY came out in 2014. It’s the first album review I wrote when I started this blog. I raved about the album and how it felt like a return to form with the sheer heaviness of it all. Admittedly, I did tire of it when the new songs featured so heavily during the band’s ensuring tours. It felt a bit too chug-heavy and I wanted more dynamics. But I’ve given the record a few spins recently and I stand by what I wrote seven years ago: it’s a killer album.

The Adults Meow Wellington

The Adults at Meow, Wellington. Image: Will Not Fade

Front man Jon Toogood has a side project called The Adults. Their second album Haja stands among my favourites. I was fortunate enough to catch that iteration of the band at their first show in Wellington, and they even used one of the photos I took to promote that tour [although they didn’t even credit me for my photo, naughty!]

The Adults revealed a different side to Toogood. Stemming from when he married his wife in Sudan, Haja is a feminist pop/hip-hop album featuring contemporary NZ musicians and Sudanese drumming. A real departure from the hard rock of Shihad. And I learnt something else new about Toogood last year that arose from his marriage – he has become a Muslim.

I don’t wish to come from a place of judgement, I think it’s great that he has found a faith. It just came as a surprise. Look at this list of Shihad songs: “Missionary”, “Sport and Religion”, “The Bible and the Gun”, “Waiting Round for God” and “The Prophet”. I don’t claim to understand everything that these songs are about, but they are certainly anti-religion to an extent. And that’s fine that Toogood could write those songs, and then later change his beliefs. People are allowed to change. But I do find it interested that Shihad would name their new album Old Gods after hearing that Toogood has found a faith. To be fair, it sounds like the title track is aimed at those who have traditionally been in positions of power, rather than an attack on any specific religion. But Shihad are still taking potshots at churches, with one song on the album, “The Hill Song” taking aim at a group that shouldn’t be hard to figure out.

FVEY came from a place of unrest. There was never any doubt that the songs were written from a space of defiance against corrupt governments and world powers. I found it really amusing to see that National MP Chris Bishop featured on a podcast about Shihad recently. Bishop is allowed to enjoy whatever music he choses, but I certainly see an irony, considering that Shihad’s last album had songs that were essentially a middle finger directed squarely at his political party.

Old Gods comes from the same space. Sure, world governments have changed over the past seven years, but there’s still a lot to get angry about. If anything, people feel even more oppressed. One big movement from recent years is #blacklivesmatter. The movement sparked international demonstrations against racism and police brutality.

Another occurrence that sparked the rage was in 2019 when a scumbug came to from Australia to New Zealand and went on a shooting spree at two mosques in Christchurch. This horrifying event shook us a country and highlighted how New Zealand as a nation is more racist than many would like to admit. Toogood played a number of gigs to raise money to help those affected by the attacks, coming public with his recent conversion to Islam.

In a recent conversation with Grant Smithies (the same guy who wrote the scathing Pacifier review), Toogood shares how he was watching footage of an English crowd tear down the statue of an historic slave-trader. He wrote a song about it. To quote the interview: “That song is about the fact that many of us aren’t prepared for such people to be portrayed as heroic anymore, especially in the middle of the streets where we live.”

I live in Shihad’s hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, and a lot of streets here are named after wealthy colonials who first settled here. It sounds like a lot of these men were not good people. (Here’s a funny song about Wakefield, by local band Housewitches) I’ve got a magazine sitting on the table in my lounge. The magazine is called Massive – the Massey University student rag – and the main head line of the cover is about how former prime minister William Massey was a racist. They’re outing their own namesake. I think that gives a pretty clear example of how far some elements of society have come. So-called heroes are being scrutinised and some of us have decided that we don’t want to glorify people who were responsible for atrocities.

“Tear Down Those Names” is a thunderous cry to action. Sonically, it’s extremely similar to FVEY, with dense, downturned riffing.

My personal favourite, “Feel the Fire” harkens back to Beautiful Machine, with an synth-drenched uplifting feel. I love it so much. It makes me happy and I can happily play it on repeat. It stands out on an album of heavier tracks. There’s still that omniscient bass tone from Kippenburger, but there’s a lot more treble in the guitars, and the song exudes vibes of hope.

“Empire Falling” is also one of the better tracks, with interesting palm-muted rhythmic strumming and a lighter feeling chorus. It’s about how Toogood is kept awake at night worrying about raising his children in a world dominated by so many bigots.

Maybe I’m being a bit dismissive, but some of the themes in FVEY came across as overly paranoid. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the government needs to be held to account more than they are. But naming the album after a collection of spy agencies gives of vibes of conspiracy theories. I leveled the same criticism at Killing Joke in my review of their last record. There’s distrusting authority figures and then there’s going full-blown antivaxer. Head too far down the conspiracy route and people just aren’t going to take you seriously.

I’m trying to say is that the themes of Old Gods seem more realistic than they did in FVEY. Complaining about governments spying on us sounds a bit too James Bond-fantasy. But it’s harder to deny racism when we’ve recently witnessed extreme nationalism under Trump, Brexit, #blacklivesmatter, mosque shootings and so on… And I think that makes more sense given Toogood’s personal situation. But Toogood has a Sudanese wife and two bi-racial children and now he’s witnessing forms of discrimination such as racism in a different light. Suddenly the message seems a bit more targeted than ‘sticking it to The Man’.

In an 2014 interview with NZ Musician, drummer Tom Larkin discussed the impact of Green Day’s American Idiot, and how it was a vehicle for getting planting dissenting ideas in the mind of a demographic of Americans who may not have otherwise been questioning the status quo. Lead guitarist Phil Knight namedropped Rage Against the Machine as a big influence on the new album in a Guitar World profile too.

I’m not sure how much I buy into the whole message. I’m not opposed to the message of fighting the bankers and the politicians, but it seems a bit futile. “Eat the Rich” is a great sentiment (Motorhead and Aerosmith both have songs with that name), but not sure it’s so great in practice. Look at America, where the last president organised an attack on his own government. Nothing appeared to changed for the better or worse.

Voting doesn’t appear to make much of a difference – neither of the two big political parties in NZ appear interested in making changes to improve the lives of their citizens. And governments have refused to acknowledge what the people have voted for in a majority of the referendums we’ve had over the past few decades. Maybe I’m just cynical. Maybe we need more bands like Shihad spreading the fire of discontent so that the population don’t become as jaded as I am.

Final verdict?

I went through Shihad’s albums earlier and explained how the band have continually evolved throughout the years, changing their sound as they progressed. Each record had a unique sound. This has earned them accusations of selling out every step of the way, but it has also meant that they’ve never felt stale.

Interesting then, that after their longest break between releases, Shihad haven’t altered their sound. In many ways, Old Gods feels like an updated version of FVEY. I’d argue that the topics seem more relevant with this album, but the sound and themes are very similar. The gang vocals outro of “Kill! These! Old! Gods!” may as well take the place of the “GCSB!” cry from the previous album.

Remember how I said I got a bit tired of FVEY being so chug-heavy? It does feel a bit more like more of the same. It’s weird, I would have found the premise of an album’s worth of “My Mind Sedate” very exciting as a teen. But I’ve since learnt that too much heavy riffing gets old. Variety and dynamics go a long way. Old Gods is a good record, but could use a few more tracks like “Feel the Fire” .

I’ve got a ticket to see Shihad play next month. It was originally going to be in November but had to be postposed. I just hope that the concert actually takes place, because I could sure use something to make me feel amped up for once.

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Ranges – Cardinal Winds

Ranges Cardinal Winds
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Regular Will Not Fade readers should need no introduction to Ranges. I’ve been covering music from the Montana post-rockers since they released “Night & Day” in 2015. I also joined them on tour across America for their 2017 tour in support of their breakthrough album The Ascensionist, and again when they went on tour in Europe and played dunk!festival the following year. CJ (guitar) and Wilson (art direction) also co-own A Thousand Arms, the screen-printing company come distro/record label responsible for the awesome Open Language and Hemispheres post-rock compilations that come out every year.

Most Ranges releases have an underlying concept. “Night & Day” was a 24 minute song that mirrored the 24 hour day. Gods of the Copybook Headings was inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name.  I’ve always liked how their music had extra elements that you could chose to delve into and find deeper meaning in.

CJ playing guitar for Ranges in Lyon

CJ playing guitar for Ranges in Lyon

The albums often have amazing physical elements as well, especially with the two most recent albums, The Ascensionist and BabelHandmade booklets for liner notes on recycled paper; ceramic mugs and shot glasses; screen printed b-side records, wall banners, t-shirts, guitar pedals, cassette tapes with riddles and maps, black market currency…   Seriously, the band made their own coins which could be redeemed in exchange for exclusive merch items that were only accessible on certain days discovered by decoding a calendar.

Loads of their releases and merch have cryptic hidden puzzles and codes and meanings that hint at upcoming releases or unlocking more secret b-sides. I know Aaron “Foofer” Edwards was the first to decipher on of the puzzles that came with a cassette tape the band released.

So it’s interesting how they’ve approached this record. It seems clear that something is coming. They’ve dropped a lot of singles in quick succession over the past month. But no clear news about what was coming. No album title, no pre-order. I guess they’ve always loved the air of mystique attached to their music, and now they’ve built up a big enough fanbase that they can really have fun keeping people speculating.

They’ve even kept me in the dark – and for all intensive purposes I’m an honorary band member. I’ve been able to listen to the album for a month or two, but they haven’t given me any hints. I guess I can review the music, but any true Ranges fan knows that the music is only one component of a release. I guess information about artwork and physical media will be revealed in good time…

Ranges Hard Style

L-R: Joey Caldwell (guitar), Wilson Raska (art direction), Jared Gabriel (bass), CJ Blessum (guitar, band dad). Front: Me (Joseph aka Baggins), Mark Levy (NYHC drum legend)

OK, here are some juicy details you’ve been after. You’ve actually heard most of the songs if you’ve been keeping up with their recent releases. There’s the four tracks we’ve already heard; four interlude tracks named after the directional points of the compass; and the title track: “Cardinal Winds”

CJ was responsible for a lot of recording and mixing duties in the past because he ran a studio, The Low Country. For Babel they chose to give CJ a break so he could focus on songwriting, rather than worrying about taking on too much responsibility. They drove down to Texas and recorded with Chris Commons, an experience that they all enjoyed. But the a global pandemic made it harder just to get out of the house, let alone out of the state, so Ranges went back to self-recording.

This album also saw Ranges reduced to a trio of musicians. Jared Gabriel was the the bass player in Ranges for quite a while, but he moved from Montana to Ohio last year to live with his fiancé, so doesn’t feature on this record. Hope you’re doing awesome Jared!

“Deluge” was the first track we heard, featuring on the recent Open Language compilation put out by A Thousand Arms. It’s a great song to create first impressions with, but actually features as the last track on the album. It starts out with a murky sound that makes me think of whale song, and a great bass tone that gives off Kerretta vibes. The guitar line is fantastic. You can always trust Joey to come up with a great melody and it’s what makes this song what it is. Mark plays some tasty rolling beats on the toms that sound thunderous but not overpowering. And CJ brings the swells and ambience. It’s a solid song but watch out: that melody will get so stuck in your head!

The actual album opener “Abyss” (debuted on Everything is Noise) comes in strong and intentional.  We’re hit by a barrage of overdriven guitar. I remember CJ saying how he wants to incorporate more tremolo strumming into his playing during the writing of Babel, and I can picture him here rocking back and forward, hands a blur as they flutter over the guitar pickups.  Mark is really laying into his cymbals too and you can feel the intensity of his hits.

This subsides somewhat to allow an opening for the melody line. Joey and CJ work well together, both playing just what they need to complement the other. There’s some lush beauty that the two work together to weave throughout the song, a very rewarding listen. “Abyss” is a strong statement as an opener and it works brilliantly.

We have four tracks that I’ll call the ‘compass’ tracks. They serve as interludes, giving breathing space and breaking up the album. They sound like samples of cassette tapes; of needles on record grooves; static on the radio; or of some forms of analogue media at the very least. It’s ethereal and we hear gales of wind howling through “North” atop a speaker crackling. It’ll be interesting to hear how the four ‘compass’ tracks sound on vinyl. Very meta, I assume.

Ranges dunk!festival 2018

Mark is one of my drum heroes. I have so much love for the guy. I even have a photo of him up on my bedroom wall. He gave me advice when I needed to buy a snare drum, and often recommends music to listen to. My old band just released an album that I drummed on and in all honestly, Mark’s thoughts are the main thing I care about. If Mark approves of my playing then that’s all I need. Mark has a custom drum company named Duradero and if he ever makes me a snare drum I will die a happy man.

Mark had been accused of ‘playing it safe’ in the past, and he openly confesses that it was true. But it’s not true on this album. His playing is just what the music needs. It’s driving and passionate. You can hear the energy of his strokes and how it propels and elevates everything. It sounds great. It’s tight, it’s creative, it’s musical. He’s a beast but his playing serves the music instead of overshadowing it.

Mark playing drums for Ranges in Lyon

Mark playing drums for Ranges in Lyon

“Sojourner” [featured on Heavy Blog is Heavy] feels majestic and powerful, with a pulsing beat. There’s some really cool electronic sounds at play – a wavering, shimmery sound and some warm synth bass – that provide nice textural elements for the guitars and drums to build upon.

Title track “Cardinal Winds” is the song that they’ve saved for the big reveal. I’m guessing that they wanted to keep the album name secret. It commences with a neat percussive sampled intro before launching into the big crescendo sound that is recognisably Ranges. It comes in at just under nine minutes long, so it’s fair to say it’s an epic, comprised of a number of movements.

In fact, there are two other songs of similar length, the aforementioned “Abyss”, and “Solace”.

“Solace” [premiered on the YouTube channel wherepostrockdwells] gives of feelings of solitude freedom, as the name would suggest. 2017’s The Ascensionist was the soundtrack to conquering a mountain, and we return to similar feelings of finding ourselves reckoning with the wild forces of nature here. This is the lull in the album, focused more on ambient textures and tender guitar picking than sheer force or melody. Of course, there’s the obligatory crescendo, but “Solace” is the song that helps you catch your breath.

It’s a shame I can’t comment on the artwork, packaging or merch. Wilson always knocks it out of the park with that side of things. They did such an amazing job with Babel that I’m excited to see what they have planned. I feel that my review is incomplete, but I can at least assure you that the music is worth your time.

These guys are my good friends. I’ve spent 3 weeks in a tour van with them traveling around the world. Of course I have favourable things to say about them. But I truly mean it when I say this is a great album. Their last album Babel was their best work to date, but Cardinal Winds tops it. This record really is a triumph of songwriting. I can’t wait to receive a physical copy and let me neighbours experience it as well when I blast it on my turntable.

Joey playing guitar for Ranges in Ypsilanti

Joey playing guitar for Ranges in Ypsilanti


Cardinal Winds is out on Friday 27 August. There’s a countdown clock at https://www.rangesmusic.com/ but I’m not staying up til 3am local time to see what happens. I imagine there’ll be some awesome content available to purchase at the A Thousand Arms and dunk!records websites.


Ranges links:

A Thousand Arms store (USA): https://www.athousandarms.com/collections/ranges

dunk!records store (EU): https://dunkrecords.com/collections/dunk-records-on-vinyl/ranges?sort_by=manual

Bandcamp: https://ranges.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rangesmusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rangesmusic/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBJg41ELchEChCEtIRKz4NA?app=desktop

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rangesmusic

 

 

Joseph James (Baggins)

Live Review: Jakob at San Fran, Wellington (June 2021)

Jakob Hiboux San Fran
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Jakob

w/ Hiboux
Saturday 5 June 2021
San Fran, Wellington

Hiboux San Fran Bern

Hiboux San Fran Tom

More recorder!

Hiboux San Fran Declan

Hiboux San Fran Duncan

Hiboux San Fran Lester

Local post-rockers Hiboux have gained a lot of great support slots over the years – Alcest, Tortoise, Head Like a Hole, and recently, Mono. But it seemed overdue that they’d get the chance to play with Jakob.

Something I like about Hiboux is that they’re not afraid to play with the lighter shades of music. They’ll get a good groove happening without resorting to loads of riffs and distortion. It’s quite refreshing for me, as someone who likes to listen to lots of heavy music. Their music is meticulously crafted and you can tell. I couldn’t help myself though, and heckled them with a shout of “more recorder!”. I got a few laughs, but I meant it, I love the sounds they come up with and would happily listen to more.

Jakob San Fran Jason

Jakob San Fran Jeff

I’d actually flown to Auckland after work on Friday to see Jakob play at The Tuning Fork, so you you may as well give that review a read too. It was the same deal in Wellington: Jakob playing their legendary opus Solace from start to finish. They even played the same two encores, “Blind Them With Science”, and “Resolve”.

I’ve seen Jakob play here at San Fran at least half a dozen times now. Many times it has been their own gigs, and I’ve seen them support Russian Circles twice and co-headline with local doom heroes Beastwars. They’ve gone on record stating that San Fran in Wellington is one of their favourite places to play, and considering a Jakob gig at San Fran is never shy of perfect, it’s understandable.

Jakob San Fran Jules on guitar

Jules on guitar

One punter was getting extra into it, waving his arm up over his head like you see people do at hip-hop gigs. I have no idea what was going through his head, but he began to try and crawl up onstage from the side, earning him a few menacing looks of disapproval from Maurice on bass.

The lighting was especially cool at this gig, with each member of the trio standing with LED panels directly overhead. It looked like the stage fog was actually coming out from these panels too.

Jules from Spook The Horses came up for a stint on guitar, the same role Jason from Sora Shima had played the night before in Auckland. There were a few gasps from those in the crowd who knew Jules and were surprised by his appearance, which much have earned him major cred amongst his friends.

I don’t have too much extra to say that I didn’t cover in my review of the Auckland gig, but it was still a real treat seeing them play the same set another time. The bass was louder this time, which was good. All though it was earth-shatteringly loud for a period, making the room shake and causing the band members to cast alarmed looks amongst themselves and dial a few knobs on the speakers.

I think everyone there had a great night. A few of us had been to Auckland as well and it was still a treat.

Sam from the band distance with the set list.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Jakob at The Tuning Fork 8th Birthday Celebration

Jakob Tuning Fork
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Jakob

w/ Proteins of Magic
Friday 4 June 2021
The Tuning Fork, Auckland

The Tuning Fork Jakob

It’s been quite some time since our Aotearoa instrumental heroes Jakob have treated us to a gig. They opened for Alice in Chains in Auckland back in March 2019, but I went to Download Festival in Melbourne to see AIC, so it’s definitely been a few years since I’ve seen Jakob last play

.And what a way to emerge after such a break, playing their seminal record Solace in full to celebrate the 8 year anniversary of Auckland venue The Tuning Fork.

This was my first time at The Tuning Fork and I thought it was a great venue. Nestled in the wing of the march larger Spark Arena, TTF offered a better setting for those medium tier acts. Nice and long with a bar situated at the rear on the side. It was an ideal size for a gig of this size, feeling intimate but not too tight for the sold-out crowd. Festoons were strung across the ceilings, and although they weren’t on until the end of the night, I thought they looked great.

Proteins of Magic Tuning Fork )

Opening act Proteins of Magic started the night with her haunting music. Maurice from Jakob was gushing to me about her, saying how he’s been listening to her music heaps lately, and that she’s got some serious cred as the former bassist for Dimmer.

She used her synth with some backing tracks to create a sparse sonic base, and then built upon it using a looping pedal, adding layered vocal harmonies. Oh, and she rocked out on flute. Not something that you see at most rock gigs. She cast a spell upon us during her set, with layered vocal on vocals and otherworldly sounds.

Proteins of Magic Tuning Fork

Damn, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy seeing Jakob play. There are moments where I just shout out loud because it’s so good, an exasperated cry. I can’t put it into words easily – I’ve been raised not to discuss my feelings like all New Zealand males – but their music stirs something deep within that I can only react to by tipping my head back and making weird noises. Am I possessed?

Ask any post-rock fan around the world, and Jakob’s album Solace is regarded with much reverence. Post-rock is a genre that initially was about surpassing the boundaries of rock music, but has in many ways become stale and uniform. But Jakob have always managed to sound like themselves. And they stand out. You’ve got to be pretty good if bands like Tool and Isis are inviting you on international tours.

Jakob Tuning Fork

Those opening notes of “Malachite” signaled that something special was about to unfold. The guitar builds, layer upon layer, slow and moody. The drums are primal and repetitive. The rumbling bass ties it all together. It’s mesmerizing and enveloping. And then they’ll unleash the distortion pedal. And the world unfolds and fall back on itself. You get knocked back by a sonic wall of fury. And you welcome it because it makes you feel something that you can’t describe, but at least you’re fully alive in that moment.

“That’s enough of that”, they joked, “We’re far too old for that kind of carry-on!”

They’ve got a great sound. I love watching them and seeing how it all unfolds. Watching guitarist Jeff Boyle letting the notes rise and swell and he deftly picks the strings and rolls the volume knob in one motion. Watching how Maurice Beckett – the once hairy behemoth – now shorn but still a beast of bass – drums and shakes on the body of his instrument to unlock those deep rumbling tones within. Watching how drummer Jason Johnston creates that percussive pulse by laying into his toms. Watching how the trio all communicate with each other onstage with knowing looks that only comes from years of playing with each other.

Jakob Tuning Fork

I’ve tried to emulate their sound myself. Johnston sometimes plays with mallets, and with the snares wires thrown off, opening up the cymbals and giving the snare drum a deeper hollow sound, as opposed to the usual “crack”. It’s such a cool sound that I copied this method when recording a single for my own band last year, aiming to replicate Johnston’s style.

Jason Lurman from the band Sora Shima came onstage for a guest spot during the song “Everything All Of The Time”, playing the guitar line first recorded by Tristan Dingemans of HDU. Lurman was clearly having the time of his life, grinning from ear to ear and rocking backward and forward as he held an e-bow to his guitar strings.The guys all exchanged a bit of banter onstage which caused a few laughs.

Jakob Tuning Fork

As you have probably gathered, I’m a big fan. There’s something special about a Jakob gig. That album, Solace, deserves a spot in the pantheon of the greats, and seeing masterful musicians deliver those songs in a live setting is something to behold.

They left us with a passing comment: “See you again soon, hopefully with a new record!”. We all responded with cheers.

Words and photos by Joseph James

More photos to come

Inside Voices: An Interview with Just Neighbors

Just Neighbors
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Just Neighbors are an awesome math-rock band from Gainsville, Florida. They play wonderful happy tappy music with care-free vibes. They are about to release a new album, Inside Voices, which showcases a slightly different sound for the band.

Just Neighbors

Will Not Fade: Here in New Zealand, we put a “U” in “Neighbour”. I read somewhere that Americans stopped putting “U’s” in some words because when putting listings in classified ads they had to pay by the letter, so began dropping letters that weren’t vital in order to save money. No idea how true that is, but it’s interesting. Also, partly off topic, but the band Living Colour has a “U” because their guitarist Vernon Reid is English. [Real talk, I discussed this in an interview with Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun, and someone cited me on the Living Colour wikipedia page. Am I an academic now?]

Just Neighbors: Interesting fact, we always assumed it was another way to rebel against the Monarchy.

I’ve listened to Inside Voices a handful of times now. It’s quite a departure from your usual style. What motivated you to write such different music? It’s still got the chill vibes, but it’s a lot more straightforward.

Inside Voices is beginning to feel like a detour as opposed to a departure. Some of these songs were written years ago and some came about during the process. I think we were partly motivated by wanting to try our hand at home recording and wanting to change up what we were doing. Another reason this album came together was that two members were moving at the time and we wanted to get some ideas recorded before they left. 

 

What is your stance on 4/4?

Overrated (we can swing it ;()

꧁༒•based•༒꧂

ᗷᗩSᘿᕲ

What artists have you been listening to lately?

Aerial M, Charlie Martin, Homeboy Sandman, Russian Circles, SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, Cassandra Jenkins

Who influenced your songwriting with this album?

Land of Talk, Silver Jews, George Strait, Fog Lake 

America confuses me. Places considered Midwest are on the eastern side of the country. Anyway… Do you get Southeast vs Midwest emo beef? Like West Coast/East Coast hip-hop where rappers do drivebys and gun down each other and also say hurtful things with their words?

While the west coast/ east rapper beefs died in the 90s, the southeast Vs Midwest emo beef is very much alive. Most southeast emo bands get labeled Midwest because they wrote a riff that sounds like American football. This is unfair because the last place we want our music to be associated with is the Midwest. 

Did you grow up on MTV Unplugged albums?

I am a bit young to really say that I grew up on the unplugged albums, but I did grow up getting ready for school and watching MTV. Like I remember when Dashboard Confessional dropped ‘vindicated’ for the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack – that was big for me. 

Just Neighbors Inside Voices cover

Just Neighbors is mostly an instrumental band. Do you find it scary or daunting writing music that features singing? [I’m a drummer. I did some backing vocals when my new band played recently and although I’d practiced a lot, it was terrifying.]

Justice Diamond: In a way it’s scary and daunting. It’s also exciting and challenging which has been the appeal to pursue it lately. It’s really nice to be able to add vocal melodies and lyrics to our songs.

Dan Lohr: It’s scary in that it’s so damn vulnerable. Rather than sitting, meditating, and writing a song based on a feeling and having the melodies do the talking – I am actually directly speaking about it; that’s a lot.

How did the writing and recording process differ with this album? Have you been stuck at home much over the past year?

Our past albums were huge undertakings for us with a lot of time spent preparing parts and tracking them in a studio. With this project we didn’t set out to make a Just Neighbors record in the traditional sense, we were really just interested in recording some song ideas we’ve been sitting on for a while. Inside Voices was recorded at home and was much more of an intimate recording process. We’ve all been stuck at home over the past year so it was nice to be able to continue writing and recording despite the circumstances.

I’ve noticed you have a visual theme of lights from what I’ve seen of this album. Do you have an overall theme or message with the music?

We don’t have an overall theme with this music but sometimes they emerge unexpectedly after the fact.

I remember that for your last album, If It Ever Comes Back, you made the album available for purchase and download on Bandcamp a week or so before you put it on streaming services. Talk me through how you settled on that decision.

We’ve always appreciated Bandcamp as a service that connects music supporters with the artist. Spotify and streaming services lack that connection, so we wanted to try and direct fans to our Bandcamp where they could purchase the music and more directly support us. It also helped us fund our tour to Mexico.

You also made extended versions of songs available for the people who supported you by purchasing your music. Is this like how Japanese CD’s often have bonus tracks?

It’s similar, we really wanted to provide something additional to anyone who bought the album and keep the streaming experience more succinct. Appreciate that you took notice! Those tracks have become some of our favorite moments from the album.

I notice that your URL link on your instagram leads to “Capture” on Spotify. So you still want Spotify streams?

Despite our criticism, yes. The fact is most listeners are on streaming services so it only makes sense to bring the music to the masses. It’s sad, because Spotify really has the opportunity to throw it back to the artists by *actually* paying them or integrating merch shops for any artist. 

While we are on the topic of different listening formats, I love that I can support you through Bandcamp without needing to pay for expensive shipping fees by buying digital music. But you also have CDs and Vinyl for sale. How do you personally prefer to listen to music? I have a record collection, but just can’t afford to buy records most of the time. I saw on the witter page that someone recently bought Weezer’s Pinkerton.

We love listening to records on vinyl. It’s also a good time to pop in a CD while driving. 

Have Bandcamp Fridays made much of a difference for you as a band over the past year?

In all honesty, not really. It’s a nice gesture from Bandcamp but it hasn’t made a particularly big impact on sales or revenue from us. 

What is your relationship with Refresh Records?

Refresh Records are good friends and partners. They pressed a limited vinyl release of Being Where I Thought I’d Be and have done a great job at managing orders. They have some other kickass bands as well, shout out Cuzco and Catholics. 

Tell me about the Gainesville music scene. I’ve never been to Florida but I have spent some time traveling around America with bands and I loved seeing DIY music communities and how the musicians support each other over there.

The Gainesville music scene is pretty eclectic and it has always felt very supporting. You can find just about anything here. Impressive how many scenes can exist in what started as a small college town. We were lucky enough to be a part of a mathy/progressive side of it. There are too many good bands we’ve shared the stage with getting started; you know who you are 😉

Have you got connections to the hardcore/punk scene? Do you know about the legendary band Jud Jud? [if not, please educate yourself and report back]

Not really and no but holy shit Jud Jud rocks.

My friends in Tides of Man are from Clearwater. That’s not a question, it’s just Florida related.

Go gators.

How are the local venues doing? Do you see yourselves playing shows or touring at any point in the future?

It’s hard to say at this point. It seems like shows are going to come back this fall so we are hoping our favorite spots survived. Shout out to the hardback cafe. As of now, we’re no longer all in Gainesville so we have no plans for shows or touring in the immediate future.

You featured on a Ripcord Records fundraiser compilation recently. Tell me about how that came about.

They actually reached out via email and we sent them a track to feature on the compilation. When the compilation dropped we couldn’t believe how good it was. It also raised a lot of money for a charity called Refuge that helps victims of domestic abuse. Both the link for the compilation and charity are below in case anyone is interested https://www.refuge.org.uk/

https://ripcordrecords.bandcamp.com/album/refuge-part-i 

What have been some of your most effective ways of reaching wider audiences? [ I can’t even remember how I discovered your band.]

Releasing music has always seemed to be one of the most effective. The internet has its ways.

Some of the best math-rock bands come from Japan. How was your time touring there? [I went to Tokyo in 2014 I think. It was incredible. Toe are also on top of the bucket list for bands I need to see before I die]

Our time touring Japan was incredible. It’s wild how different the shows are from the US and It’s honestly surreal we were there in the first place. We wholeheartedly enjoyed meeting so many new people and bands. We got to play with so many kick ass bands like Paranoid Void, Nengu, pFpG, momoku, and the enigma RIL.

And you’ve played in Mexico a bit, right?

We’ve played in Monterrey, MX twice and absolutely loved it. We’d like to extend further down next time but it is a massive country. Our friends down there have a collective called Monterrey Emo Club and play in a band called ‘Local Champion’.

Let’s hear some tour stories! Got any crazy things that happened to you on tour? Interesting foods you ate? Strangest venues?

Well on our first tour we all got Norovirus *redacted* after one member (Justice) ate street clams so things got pretty hairy. We also have fond memories of muffulettas on the Mississippi, tacos in Mexico, and ramen in Japan. We’ve played just about any venue at this point: Rooftops, apartments, basements, ballrooms, verandas, offshoots, fouriers, truck stops, bowling alleys, Applebees, Chuck e. Cheese, Red Robin, Ace Hardware, Amazon Fulfillment Centers.

Nintendo time. What are your go-to characters in Super Smash Bros? Favourite video games? Fave video game soundtracks?

Justice Diamond: Ice climbers are my main and falco comes second.

Dan Lohr : I run villager

Reid Casey: Lucas that guy

Justice Diamond : Spelunky and spelunky soundtrack

Dan Lohr : FORTNITE!!! Was a good game :c

My friends in Man Mountain managed to get onto the Borderlands 3 game. What game would you most love to get your music onto?

We’d love to get featured on the Borderlands 4 actually, dm us. 

Which band member is the most neighborly and why?

Jrok (Jarrett) because he was always the one to get the mail and he introduced himself to our current drummer (Reid).

If you were to get a face tattoo, what would it be?

(っ◔◡◔)っ ♥ based ♥

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks for taking the time to interview us, this was really well done!

Just Neighbors


Just Neighbors links:

Buy Inside Voices on Bandcamp: https://justneighbors.bandcamp.com/album/inside-voices

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jneighborsband

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JustNeighborsBand/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justneighbors/