We the Music

Every movement
has its own distinct sound. Music helps capture the time and people of a
movement. It reveals who they are, what they believe in and expresses what’s on
their minds. 

Folk songs and
rock became platforms for anti-war sentiments during the Vietnam war, Hip-Hop
and rap were born from the inner cities of New York City highlighting social
issues over beats to get down to, punk and grunge were generations of young
teens resisting societal norms expressing their fears of a bleak future.

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Today we are in
the middle of yet another time of great change. A new movement born out of the
political and social climate is being created. It is my intent to share and
discuss some of the music that is being made and that is helping to define this
movement’s sound, the people’s sound. 

The first song I
want to highlight is the cover of the folk classic “This Land is Your Land”. It’s
a simple, timeless tune that grade school kids learn when they talk about
inclusiveness. Woody Guthrie wrote the song 77 years ago on February 23rd in 1940
according to this NPR article. It was written in response to “God
Bless America” which was a jukebox favorite in the 40s. As a frequent
hitchhiker, Guthrie developed a unique view on what was going on in the country
and it differed from the America portrayed in “God Bless America” leading him
to write the tune.

Countless
musicians have covered this alternative national anthem but one of the latest
bands to do so I think does one of the best versions. Chicano Batman debuted their cover of “This Land is Your Land” at
the end of January for a Johnnie Walker commercial. The Los Angeles band puts a
slightly psychedelic/rock spin on the classic tune. It’s got a synthesizer
going on giving it an element of funk and with a chorus in the background a
hint of soul. If you didn’t know what you were listening to you might have
thought it was a new hit on the Alternative charts.

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What makes
Chicano Batman’s cover especially important is what it represents. A Latino
band from East L.A. takes a classic American folk tune and puts their own spin
on it. The lyrics are sung in English but they slip into Spanish by the end
singing “Esta tierra es para ti y para mi,” the famous line “this land is made
for you and me.” It’s as much of a statement of resistance as it is about hope.

When our head of
state has declared their intention of creating barriers for people wanting to
make a better life for themselves and their families, this song becomes
undeniably relevant. The members of Chicano Batman come from both L.A. and
countries in Latin America. Without their different backgrounds their sound
wouldn’t be the same. When cultures collide it results in better art, new
perspectives and new ideas.  

Guthrie wrote “This
Land is Your Land” as he witnessed a side of America that was struggling during
the Great Depression, that didn’t have the blessing of God on their side. Today,
we aren’t going through a Great Depression but we are going through a time of
great division. “This Land is Your Land” sung by Chicano Batman reminds us with
the words of Guthrie that all people
of America that they belong too.

Chicano Batman’s new album Freedom is Free is out March 3rd. They play The Crocodile on Thursday the 23rd, tickets available here.

-Grace Madigan

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

Feeling funky? You Might Need Some Jungle Fire

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(Photo from KCRW)

Hey y’all. It’s a new year, which means we should be pumped about all the new music headed our way in the coming months. I welcomed 2017 in search of some seriously gritty, deliciously zesty funk, and I set out to see what I could uncover from the Internet troves. Not too far in, I discovered a band called Jungle Fire. And let me tell you: these guys have probably the most fitting name ever. Eleven members strong, Jungle Fire fuse Afrobeat and Latin elements with their LA funk roots. The result is red-hot and explosive and so, so funky. It’s the kind of music that gets you moving wherever you are.

The group was originally founded as a one-off project for a festival in LA’s Chinatown. That was six years ago. Since then, the band has released one full-length album, Tropicoso. “Comencemos”, a cover of Fela Kuti’s “Let’s Start” and the record’s second track, gives a nod to the band’s Afro-funk influences. Bold horns and a punchy rhythm section pull together a raw, cumbia interpretation of Fela’s original. The rest of the album expands on this beat-driven sound, drawing on Afro-Caribbean percussion instruments. My personal favorite is the title track, “Tropicoso”. The baritone sax in this is great. (Apparently this guy can also play the flute?!)

Next week, keep your ears peeled. Jungle Fire is dropping a new album, Jambu, on February 3rd. If you’re looking for more fireball funk, then this is for you. If you’re not, check it out anyway. I highly recommend.

Find Jungle Fire here: Facebook / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

-Emily Tasaka

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

Outlander in the Emerald City: Helvetia (Artist Profile)

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After the dissolution of the LA-based space rock band Duster, former drummer Jason Albertini moved up to Seattle and founded the experimental indie rock group, Helvetia.  Named after the female personification of Switzerland (Albertini’s childhood home), Helvetia’s music combines the reverb-drenched guitar effects of space rock with the percussions of a classy jazz outfit.  With a lineup seemingly stuck in eternal rotation, Helvetia’s music is anything but homogenous.  Albertini’s songwriting partners have included other former Duster members, bassist Mike Johnson of Dinosaur Jr., Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, and many, many more.  The band’s breadth of songwriting ability and large music catalog is impressive: since their full-length debut A Clever North Wind dropped in 2006, Helvetia have released four other studio albums and three compilations, and continue to release new songs on their Facebook page about once a week. 

Due to the difficulties I would no doubt face attempting to summarize the full-blown Helvetia musical experience for you, I’ve picked a few of my personal favorites that I feel exhibit the most important themes.  Here goes nothing:

Old, New Bicycle”:  This was my first favorite, and continues to give me chills every time that tasty rolling tom fill introduces the song.  This track (like many others) can be categorized by its cohesive yet dueling nature.  The jazzy percussion hardly changes throughout the entire track, allowing a strong surface for the multiple guitar and vocal parts to “duke it out” on.  The rhythm guitar is smooth, unfolding easily into the lo-fi atmosphere the drums have created.  But before long, the lead guitar rips an off-kilter solo that builds with intensity and cuts out just when it was ready to burst, giving way to the higher-pitched vocal melody, both of which complement the lower tonality of the rhythm parts perfectly.  The lead guitar continues its competition for space throughout the song, challenging the other parts ferociously but intelligently conceding when the overlap would be too much.  This allows the song to ebb and flow intensely and gracefully, leaving the listener panting for more by its finish.  

RyBro”: From their latest album Nothing in Rambling (2012), this chunky alt-rock jam incorporates two rhythm guitars, this time working with the vocals in rhythmic stops.  Just as before, the theme of competition persists, with the lead ripping in once vocals drop out.  This track’s bridge part is entirely unique, taking cues from space rock predecessors in order to create a temporary dream-world for the listener to float around in for a little while.  The trance is broken with a classically intense (and fantastically groovy) solo to bring us all back down to earth.  

In Every Hour” [BONUS TRACK]: After an especially long day of drowning myself in spacey jams, I came upon this gem in the depths of the internet – a previously unreleased track from who knows when.  Unlike the others mentioned above, this song is as mellow as Helvetia’s music gets, featuring parts that actually work together for its entirety!  Although periodically interrupted by rhythmic blasts from the chorus, the lead is entirely complementary of the laid-back vibe this tune gives off.  Albertini’s vocal harmonies give a haunted hue, turning this dream into a wonderfully creepy nightmare. 

Although they haven’t toured in a while, Helvetia’s Facebook page and SoundCloud are fairly active, featuring rough demo releases once a week.  

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Katie Hanford

Rad Report: Experimental Label–Danger Collective Records–Expands to Seattle

There are very few times that a dream is captured and transformed into reality. So often we realize that we’ve aspired our whole lives toward one goal and never fully achieved it. This is clearly not the circumstance in the case of Danger Collective Records—an experimental record label started and based in Los Angeles—which was created on a brilliant principle of “by artists for artists” in January of 2014. A few old friends of mine from high school created this label—Reed Kanter is the original founder with help from Michael Lewis, Jackson Katz, Patrick Jewett, and Nolan Pearson. “When [Reed] started the label [he] was trying to put this idea of…‘talent without fans’…into motion” 

(Reed Kanter), and the dream seems to have come true. After growing up in a somewhat isolated area in the mountains surrounding the LA area where there wasn’t a strong market for small shows and live music, Reed gathered a group of his friends and changed that with a goal in mind “to bring people together over music and make a difference for bands” (Reed Kanter). He created a record label, which is now expanding across the country. I’ve been lucky enough to stay in touch with Reed—who is currently living in New York, and I’ve also stayed close with Michael as we both made the move from LA to Seattle this past fall.

I, myself, have enjoyed jamming to the indie rock/garage punk music that I’ve experienced at the Danger Collective shows down in LA; but what really caught my attention was when I heard from Michael that Danger Collective is no longer solely concentrated in LA—and is actually expanding to both New York (courtesy of Reed) and Seattle (courtesy of Michael)! The moment I heard this, my excitement grew—just knowing that I might soon have the opportunity to jam out to the awesome tunes being produced by this innovative label whether I’m in LA, my home town; Seattle, my true love and current home; or New York, just visiting.

When I heard about the expansion, I naturally had tons of questions for Michael and Reed about this big move up north and back east. So I set up a time to meet with Michael in hopes that he could give me some inside information on the extension of the label in our very own backyard; I later was able to contact Reed as well to hear about how the expansion is progressing in New York.

Michael is now the CFO, and is mainly in control of the money and distribution in the newly forming Seattle branch. I asked him what inspired him to expand the label further north and he explained that it was mostly a mix of the convenience of being able to go to an awesome school like UW and being able to further develop the label in a remarkable city such as Seattle with such an established music scene.


The Collective’s punk bands duel it out at INSIDELANDS 2014

Danger Collective generally signs bands with a very ‘Los Angeles-esque’ sound, but the label has been really good about not boxing itself into any group of specific genres or subgenres. Danger Collective actually signs bands on an extremely wide spectrum of categories—examples of these varieties include “garage rock/post punk (Slow Hollows and Bobby T and The Slackers), Punk (Cool Runnings and P.H.F of New Zealand) psychedelic rock (Casinos and Te Amo), ambient trap (Polo Club and Best Friend, experimental (Nirvanus), singer song writer (Salmon), pop punk (Rexx), and more,” according to Reed Kanter.

However, when I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Michael, he noted that “eventually the Seattle sound, the really weird, like…electronic-y thing will…seep” into the label’s unique mix of music that they represent, which I’m really looking forward to. Despite being open-minded to the idea of letting in new genres and moods of music, Michael admitted to me that “LA had a really big influence on [the label] because that’s what [the creators of the label] were used to [listening to their whole] lives.” It seems that these LA vibes are making their way up to Seattle as Michael has gotten Danger Collective’s “releases into several record stores” in the Seattle area (according to Reed Kanter).

Reed currently does a lot for the label in addition to being the original founder; despite his role in “[managing] artists, [booking] shows, [promoting] bands, [contacting] pressing factories for vinyl, [pressing] cassette tapes, [reviewing] submitted demos, …[managing] the social media, and [taking a role in] anything else that needs to be done,” he humbly told me that he “can’t take all the credit” for the label’s success, and he is very grateful for his friends’ help and support.

He is currently busy in New York getting shows together and spreading word of Danger Collective to the east coast. There’s actually already been a New York show presented by Danger Collective in which Reed took a different approach than the label usually does as he “went for a more electronic genre. Nirvanus opened and he was followed by Best Friend, Eaves, Tele/Visions, then Young Ejecta who headlined.” It sounds like it was a fucking rad show, and I seriously recommend checking out all of these artists. It made me wish I could’ve been in New York for it, but got me extremely enthusiastic about the future potential Danger Collective has right here in the amazing city we live in.

Michael let me know that once a couple more Danger Collective representatives make their way up to Washington, he hopes to have the resources to begin signing local Seattle artists and putting together shows—so keep your eyes and ears peeled for more information on that! In the meantime, get a taste of Danger Collective’s artists in a video playlist from the New Radio presentation, Battle Show IV:

Currently involved in the label are Reed Kanter, Michael Lewis, Jackson Katz, Nolan Pearson, Patrick Jewett, Dylan Thinnes, Franklin Newby, and Nick Fenjves. The label has come a long way in just a year, with their expansion spanning across the country. According to Reed, “Danger Collective Records now has music in stores across the country and [the label has their] artists featured on iTunes and Spotify.” I’m obviously thrilled about what’s to come for the Seattle branch of Danger Collective Records, and can’t wait to see where all divisions of the label go in the future. Be sure to follow Danger Collective Records at dangercollectiverecords.com and on Facebook, and keep an eye out for upcoming shows presented by Danger Collective Records in the Seattle area (or in LA/New York if you’re ever stopping by)!

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Rad Rebs