Augustines

With its open-armed energy and elegiac grace, "AUGUSTINES" marks a colossal leap forward for Votiv/Oxcart recording group Augustines – no mean feat considering the extraordinary power of their breakthrough 2011 debut, "RISE YE SUNKEN SHIPS." Songs like "Now You Are Free" and the plaintive "Walkabout" are both immediate and engaging, joining joyously unrestrained arrangements with singer/guitarist Billy McCarthy's signature affective lyricism. "AUGUSTINES" marks a milestone on Augustines' amazing journey, the work of a gifted band ascending to new heights while simultaneously grappling with their place in the universe.

"You have to do some soul-searching when given the opportunity to manifest your dream," McCarthy says. "You're free to walk the walk you always said you could walk."

"If you struggle for a period of time to get something, there's obviously a feeling of pride that comes when you achieve it," says co-founder/bassist Eric Sanderson. "It's very freeing, but like with any kind of freedom, it comes with a sense of wonder and confusion."

Augustines was born upon the ashes of the Brooklyn indie rock band, Pela. That combo called an end to its collective trip in 2009, but founders McCarthy and Sanderson reunited to record a series of deeply personal songs chronicling despair, depression, and the untimely death of a close family member. They dubbed their intimate new endeavor, "Augustines," which trademark issues required be appended to "We Are Augustines."

"The name 'Augustines' resonates for us in many regards," Sanderson says. "The minute we gave the project a name is really when it birthed itself. To have that name taken away from us, or even modified in a minor way, was always difficult. Now we've come full circle."

"RISE YE SUNKEN SHIPS" – recorded and mixed by Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Super Furry Animals) – instantly set Augustines among modern music's most compelling new bands. Songs like "Juarez" and "Book of James" touched a collective nerve, their dark subject matter refracted and then elevated by Augustines' affirmative approach. Hailed by iTunes as 2011's "Best Alternative Album," "RISE YE SUNKEN SHIPS" was a critical and popular sensation, earning abundant praise and a fervent fan following. McCarthy and Sanderson enlisted the talents of British-born, conservatory-trained drummer Rob Allen and with that, Augustines became a fully-fledged band. The trio traveled the planet, performing innumerable headline shows, support sets, and show-stealing festival dates.

"We went touring together for two and a half years," Allen says, " Over two hundred shows…You can imagine the kind of bond you get from going on the road like that. You become a family."

By the end, Augustines felt akin to Archibald MacNeal Willard's "The Spirit of '76," bloodied but unbowed as they marched home from their long campaign. They paused to heal their dents and dings, with McCarthy embarking on an extended expedition that saw him visit such far-flung locales as Kenya, Turkey, Mexico, and Alaska. He eventually drifted back to the Applegate, California elementary school where he first learned an instrument. There he worked, observed by students and faculty as he put fingers on strings and pen to paper.

"I wanted to go back to the most stripped down form," he says, "to when and where music first touched me. It was very soothing, having been at this for 12 years, to limp back to this small town grade school."

Meanwhile, Sanderson and Allen worked on demos of their own, each still abuzz with ideas and experiences garnered on the infinite tour. In late November 2012, Augustines reconvened for a month of woodshedding at Temperamental Recordings, a converted 19th century country church in Geneseo, New York.

"It was like a music factory," Allen says. "You could just feel the creativity oozing. We'd been playing basically the same set for two years so it was just like an overflow of ideas, like lava from a volcano."

Fully armed, Augustines next headed to Bridgeport, Connecticut to record with co-producer Peter Katis at his residential Tarquin Studios. Katis (The National, Frightened Rabbit, Interpol, and – most importantly to Augustines – Jónsi) proved the ideal collaborator, helping focus the band's driven pace and ample vision.

"We needed to work with somebody that was mature and confident," Sanderson says. "Peter is very regimented and organized. He's level-headed and that helped us to be level-headed as well."

From the start, the sessions evinced a decidedly more optimistic point of view that the one which fired their heartrending debut, with songs like "Nothing To Lose But Your Head" and the buoyant "Kid, You're On Your Own" lit by positive vibrations and striking confidence.

"This was us moving on together," Allen says. "It was wonderful to come through the other end and record a new record. It was a huge accomplishment and looks towards a brighter future for us all."

"The depth and the place the first record came from is not something that is repeatable," says Sanderson. "It's not something one would want to repeat. We did everything we could -- as artists, as men – to learn from that experience, to become better people and move on."

Where their first record was created in relative isolation, "AUGUSTINES" was made "with the awareness that we weren't going to be alone anymore," says McCarthy. "This is us handing it over to those people that sang our songs back to us all over the world.

"The first record was obviously very personal," he says. "It was really for us in many ways. There was almost an exchange – we turned from the interior and started considering some of the breathtaking moments that happened to us on the road, in different countries."

Indeed, tracks like the thundering "Cruel City" and the album-closing "Hold Onto Anything" demonstrate a distinctly outward shift in sonic scope, interpolating the holistic experience of West African music into Augustines' sweeping, multi-faceted sound.

"It's not musicians up on a pedestal," Sanderson – who studied music in Ghana – says. "The audience is singing, the audience is dancing, they're all making music together.." That's what we've been trying to do our whole lives as musicians, but only recently have we been able to embrace that."

"It's all about being inclusive," McCarthy says. "Interaction is the lifeblood of what we think music is."

Now based in Seattle, Augustines are eager to bring their brilliant new album to a worldwide audience keen for their return. If "RISE YE SUNKEN SHIPS" provided much needed catharsis, "AUGUSTINES" now takes this very special band to an altogether new plane, transcendent and triumphant.

My Goodness is a Seattle-based blues/garage rock band that consists of Joel Schneider (guitar and vocals) and Andy Lum (drums). The band has existed since 2011, playing predominately in the Pacific Northwest and releasing one self-titled album that same year. My Goodness was on hold for the majority of 2012, but with the recent addition of Andy Lum on drums, it has found a renewed purpose and is ready to move forward with a heavier, more aggressive sound. Somehow straddling the line between raw and refined, MG doesn't sacrifice technical precision in the name of punk rock: they strive to marry both.

While teaching at the progressive International School in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, choral-music instructor Michael King had a very promising, if somewhat introverted, vocal student named Joel Schneider. "He was quiet and very unassuming," recalls King via phone from his office at Interlake High School, where he now teaches. "He didn't draw much attention to himself, and was almost a bit shy. However, he never had a fear of performing."

As a young teen, Schneider took in the sounds of Nirvana, Beck, Butthole Surfers and other alt-rock staples that local station KNDD kept in heavy rotation. But back in school, he continued to impress King with his work in choir.

"He had perfect intonation," says King. "He never sang wrong notes and he had great control over his voice." During his senior year, Schneider entered the soloist competition at the prestigious Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, taking first prize amongst tenors, and performing before 5,000 rapt audience members.

As an older teen his interest in punk and the local Seattle hardcore scene began to blossom. He began falling in love with the more caustic, progressive sounds of bands like Rites of Spring and The Blood Brothers. The latter was also a major influence on a fellow Bellevue teen and budding drummer, Andy Lum, who regularly attended all-ages gigs in Bellevue, drawing inspiration from bands big on that circuit, including Waxwing and These Arms Are Snakes.

Schneider first encountered Lum while they were playing in rival bands during a high school battle of the bands. "He was far and away the most talented drummer there," says Schneider. "I remember the janitor of the school coming up to him after the show and gushing over how amazing his drumming was."

The next time Schneider saw Lum was in 2011, when he was playing drums with Seattle-based primal art punks Wild Orchid children. "He stole the show for me," continues Schneider. "I knew if I had a chance to ask a drummer to play with me it would be him. He has the rare ability to be extremely technical but still flow and groove without sounding rigid or mechanical."

In early 2012, he got that chance when the two connected at SXSW in Austin, TX. Later that year Schneider was in search of a new drummer for My Goodness, and the possibility of collaborating musically with Lum was finally realized. The pair recently recorded at Seattle's London Bridge studios with esteemed Seattle producer Rick Parashar (Pearl Jam, Temple Of The Dog, Blind Melon). The 7-inch for "Cold Feet Killer" b/w "I've Got a Notion" is set for release in February, when My Goodness will also be returning to the studio to record a new full-length album with Parashar.

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Augustines with My Goodness

Friday, February 28 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at The Boot & Saddle

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