COLD WAR KIDS / HANNI EL KHATIB / MANY MORE TBA
HANNI EL KHATIB, IN THE VALLEY BELOW, MERGENCE, SLOW MOSES, SIR SLY, STAN DEVEREAUX AND THE FUNKY SUNS, DINERS, SAREENA DOMINGUEZ
308 N. 2nd Ave.
Phoenix, AZ, 85003
Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:00 PM
This event is 18 and over
Watch & Listen
COLD WAR KIDS
Ten years have come and gone since Cold War Kids first took to the stage in their homegrown Southern California scene. Time is typically unkind to indie rock bands. So how is that Cold War Kids are still here in 2014, selling out tours and releasing their fifth album in a decade amidst these 40 seasons of torrential fate winds, while so many of their peers have vanished?
“We worked really fucking hard, that’s the answer,” says Nathan Willett. “We worked really hard and we were successful, which is freakishly impossible, and we should embrace it. That’s our story.”
From his post at the front, Willett—along with the band’s bassist and visual director Matt Maust—has led Cold War Kids through the tricky 21st century rock and roll landscape, soaring over the peaks and facing the valleys head-on while carving out a place of the band’s own. Reaping sky-high praise from a mid-2000s blogosphere then growing wings as a live show juggernaut, they stand now with their fifth studio album Hold My Home as both a different animal and an unaltered beast all at once.
The band wrote and recorded the album in their own San Pedro studio, with guitarist Dann Gallucci and Dear Miss Lonelyhearts collaborator Lars Stalfors at the production helm. It is at the same time a more pure and also more bombastic album than anything they have ever made, utilizing their environment, experience, energy and cohesion while still driving home the familiar Cold War Kids sound that has been honed and perfected over this past decade. “This record is a testament to some of my strengths—loving words and stories—but also getting out the other side and creating a fun song that is in the spirit of the band,” says Willett. “This fifth record is probably the most simple, in a way, since the first one.”
Cold War Kids began as a four-piece of college friends but has undergone a couple of lineup changes in the past few years, from the fulltime addition of guitarist/producer Gallucci (Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils) to the departure of two original members, including most recently drummer Matt Aveiro. Replacing Aveiro on the album and on tour is seasoned veteran Joe Plummer (The Shins, Modest Mouse, Mister Heavenly), and also onboard is touring keyboardist/vocalist Matthew Schwartz. Willett admits the alterations, while not easy, have been for the best. “For a band getting past that several-year hump, everyone figures out their role or contributions and are either content or not. The idea of what we’re doing evolved. It was the right kind of work for Maust and for me. We’re on the same tip that way; we want to live this artistic life.”
By now, it’s clear that Cold War Kids starts and ends with Willett, Maust and Gallucci, the creative yin and yang and three-chambered heart of the band. Willett stars as reluctant leader, like Moses in the wilderness, the cerebral center and refined song-crafter, shouldering responsibility; Maust is the spontaneous punk rock locomotive, constantly pushing the group forward as the conducting engine of their artistic spirit; Gallucci, who worked for Cold War Kids doing live sound for three years before officially joining, has the wide experience, taste and encyclopedic knowledge of music to make it all click. (“No one knows the sound of this band better than Dann,” says Willett. “He’s opened many doors for us.”) Together, they are the perfect complement; to wit, when Willett and Maust formed the side-project French Style Furs last year, that experiment only brought more energy and ideas to Cold War Kids.
“French Style Furs showed us how fun it needs to be making a record,” says Willett. “And that sometimes you have to tear something off to create a new energy.”
The rounding out of their main project’s lineup has created a dream team of sorts, hitting on all cylinders. As Willett says, “We have everything we need: hunger, energy, guys that come from bigger bands who know how things should work… There’s a lot of space for these guys as musicians to be creative, but we have our musical common ground in that we’re serving the song. As Maust understands about art, you elevate it to a place where it’s bigger than you and you serve it.”
The one-two elevated punch that launches Hold My Home is undoubtedly the band’s strongest leadoff since Robbers & Cowards. “All This Could Be Yours,” the first single, packs influences from Patti Smith and Them with its chugging piano chords and sing-along refrain, while the second song, “First,” is perhaps their biggest sound yet. One of the final songs to be completed and originally intended as a B-side, Willett calls “First” a “morning-after song with the usual Cold War Kids self-doubt: ‘Who am I, what am I doing, who are these people, do they love me, do I love myself?’ The songs that strike a nerve emotionally are the vulnerable ones. But it got an immediate reaction. I want to still learn what roads I can go down that are working.”
“Hotel Anywhere” is an escape from expectations and responsibility, a song inspired by an energetic experience listening to Oasis in the van after a gig. “There was this sense of abandon,” says Willett, “and I realized that’s what we feed off of as a band, that kind of energy that’s not cerebral. I feed off of Leonard Cohen but I feed off a good rocker, too. ‘Hotel Anywhere’ has a space and time and it’s poetic, but it has some Oasis drunken pub fun.”
“Harold Bloom” is an introspective number named after one of literature’s foremost critics and inspired in part by a confrontational moment in a John Lennon documentary. A torch song of sorts, it toes the line of the artist’s obligation to let go, regardless of who may be watching closely, while cautioning to not “lift your heroes up so high/that you can’t touch.” “You cannot let the potential for criticism come before your own creative release,” says Willett. “You have to make mistakes, and run forward knowing you may trip. Powerful art often happens accidentally and I have to work to make myself that way. I understand the dynamic of needing criticism or self-awareness but I am reminding myself to be childlike about it.”
In that sense, Willett and Cold War Kids have circled back to the beginning, as self-sufficient artists creating for the sheer love and joy of creation, surviving and thriving as they go, running off of the same steam they started on. Picking up some essentials along the way, they remain, ultimately, themselves—exemplified by the title track. “It’s about battening down the hatches when trouble comes and seeking control in a chaotic world,” says Willett. “To ‘hold my home/where the seasons never change.’
“We come from that time of bands that either don’t exist anymore or do in some smaller form. We’re somewhere in this middle ground, which is really great because we still get to do exactly what we want. In that way it does come back to Maust and me. We’ve existed 10 years and five records, we’re still making art that is very vulnerable and singular but we are ambitious and honest with ourselves, knowing that we want success and to reach people and have them understand our art. There’s something great that comes from having to knock on doors, and some of that hunger is back in this record. That’s where depth comes from, when you can tap into that place that has you digging deep and trying to find something true. I think Hold My Home is about all those things.”
HANNI EL KHATIB
Hanni grew up in San Franscisco, California. The son of Palestinian and Filipino immigrants and the first American in his family, he became obsessed with classic Americana and pop culture of the 1950s and 60s. Influenced by pioneers of early rock and r&b (Johnny Burnette, Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash), El Khatib created a musical aesthetic to match his vision. The multi-instrumentalist serves as singer, songwriter & producer for his one-man band (live he is joined by a drummer) that is part blues, part garage rock, part soul, part folk & part doo whop.
As the creative director for HUF and lifelong skater, El Khatib professes to a love for well-crafted objects: classsic cars, cans pomade and stiletto switchblades. This craftsmanship carries over into his music, where El Khatib is inspired and informed by the specificity of a guitar tone or the fuzziness of an amp sound . His background in DIY and skate culture manifests as a desire to "keep mistakes in" and make things "as raw as possible." Merging primitive rock sounds with punk aesthetics, El Khatib toes lines between all genres and ends up firmly in his own.
His diverse interests in music, zines, art, photography, and film, converge around his singular personal aesthetic, which reveals itself in all of El Khatib's work. Combining the old weird America with the brave new frontier of home recording, El Khatib bridges the past and the present to create music that already sounds timeless and were written for anyone who's ever been shot or hit by a train.
IN THE VALLEY BELOW
For In the Valley Below’s Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail, their Elephant EP represents the latest chapter in an ongoing relationship that is rooted in both the music they create and the family which has followed. Relocated from their tiny, one-bedroom Echo Park apartment in Los Angeles, the now-married pair have moved to a 93-year-old house they bought in Grand Rapids, MI. There, they installed a basement studio that served as the birthplace for their next collection of songs to be released on acclaimed Bay Area, ADA-distributed indie Bright Antenna, three years after The Belt and its worldwide alternative hit, “Peaches,” was released.
“After spending three years on the road, we wanted a place to come home to that was quiet, and not so claustrophobic,” says Angela about the decision to flee L.A. “We found Grand Rapids to be a city full of creative energy, fresh air, and rough edges. It’s been inspiring. A lot of people we’ve met here migrated at the same time we did from the West Coast. Maybe it’s some kind of human instinct.”
Solid touring in Europe and the US included festivals like Reading and Leeds, Austin City Limits, Rock En Seine and more. Appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan, and other international appearances all seemed to happen at once “like a dream”. However, this sudden success wasn’t sudden at all. They spent years in LA playing in bands looking for a break. They self released a 5-song EP and shortly after signed to several record labels across the globe. “Peaches” first found the airwaves in Europe, debuting on BBC Radio One and climbing the charts in France and Germany, becoming #1 on French Alternative radio. Over a year later, it became a staple on US alternative radio.
The Elephant EP continues the pair’s thematic concerns – sex, relationships, power, temptation, paranoia, existential angst and mortality. The hybrid, atmospheric dance-rock synthesis they introduced on The Belt– which incorporated Memphis native Jeffrey’s primal rock influences with Angela’s Stevie Nicks folk vibe – has now been seamlessly interwoven, the thick, drone-like buzz enlivened by surprisingly catchy melodies, sort of Jesus & the Mary Chain meets Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.
Listen close enough, and you can hear Jeffrey and Angela’s story on these tracks, from the sparking synth squiggles in “Hold on Tight,” their own meditation on the miracle of the birth of their son – which coincided with their debut album starting to take off– to “Break Even”, written in their touring van, a droning reflection of their gratitude for success and the inevitable highs and lows of following your passions.
The pair took advantage of the freedom of having their own studio to expand their songwriting and production capabilities“Elephant” is an ominous dirge about the push-and-pull of being together and the difficulty of communication that started as a lullabye, one of many they’ve penned for their own child. They traveled to Mexico City with inflatable elephants to film the accompanying music video. With picturesque land and cityscapes, they wanted to highlight the beauty of our neighbor country and its people. A timely statement during the current right wing border tensions. “The Pink Chateau” with its intriguing Memphis soul undercurrent is a metaphor for either erotic desire or the lure of hearth and home itself. “Bloodhands (Oh My Fever)” was inspired by the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO. A story they hoped would fade but continues to haunt with documented police violence and racial tensions that beg “tell me why we do it”. The song ends with the benediction of a soaring gospelchoir, which was recorded in Grand Rapids and led by local music phenom Debra L. Perry. The music video is a surrealist cinematic endeavor touching on race and sexuality and how we will all end up in the hands of our children. The story of this couple is rooted in their music – the thrill of finding one another, the pitfalls and setbacks along the way – are all exposed in the midst of seductive, slabs of buzzworthy pop that is at once a dream come true, and a glimpse at the reality within.
MERGENCE, is a four-piece band from Tempe, AZ with a sound that rivals the great classic rock bands while it full on rockets into the future. All four band members are from very different walks of life but come together as one for MERGENCE. Mixing melodic songwriting and strong vocals from Adam Bruce with screaming guitar from The Yod over a super solid rhythm section founded by Brandon Shupe and ...Jason Roedl give the listener pause to reflect on life and then rock out. Their debut album entitled "Those Vibrant Young People Are Dead" (Feb 2011) is a mix of pop, rock and blues taking you on a journey through life, love, and death. Recorded mostly live (who does that anymore) and produced by Bob Hoag and Mergence at Flying Blanket Recording Studios. You will definitely get your money's worth from this band whether in the studio or on stage. Their original sound is strangely familiar as you can sometimes place an influence of Zeppelin or The Beatles or The Black Keys but can never say for sure what influence you are hearing. Dynamite & Kerosene is a three and a half minute pop rocker that seems made for radio. My Prayer is the blues but… not. At the Salt is well; it needs to be heard to be believed. Look for more from this extremely talented and skilled band and for Pete's sake man go see their show! Believe it.
Slow Moses comes from Phoenix, Arizona. Charity Binge is a record made in an experimental rehearsal/recording space called the Dressing Room (or Droom) that sits across the street from a municipal mental ward in Downtown Phoenix.
"We're noticing the same vibes that ring true with our person when we listen to Empire Of The Sun, Foster The People, Work Drugs and The Neighbourhood." --Killing Moon
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