Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band, Fake Problems, The Front Bottoms
128 Northeast Russell Street
Portland, OR, 97212
Doors 6:30 PM / Show 7:30 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
"With great power comes great responsibility." Surely a meaningful quote, but who can take credit for it? Thomas Jefferson? Sigmund Freud? Socrates? Nope. Spider-Man. It goes to show how something sort of profound can spring from an unlikely source. Any reluctant underachiever can make a difference: nerdy dude who gets bit by a mutant spider or awkward bipolar kid in a vaguely "indie" punk-pop band. That is the premise behind the band and the new self titled record Say Anything - we are in danger and any one of us has the power to save us. It's a fitting concept for a cult-favorite band who, on November 3rd, will release a definitive artistic statement aimed at the masses.
Like the origin of any unlikely hero, Say Anything was forged from conflict: a feisty young punk band from Hollywood formed during the birth of "hipster" elitism, always out of place. In that day any group of rich kids with a penchant for the Velvet Underground and enough five o'clock shadow could be paid millions of dollars to be walking billboards for "anti-culture" consumerism. Say Anything shunted pretension, choosing initially to play sincere and nervous rock music and opening locally for the touring bands they closely identified with (The Weakerthans, Rilo Kiley, The Promise Ring). A few years passed and songwriter Max Bemis continued to feel alienated from the collegiate "scene;" He witnessed young rebels devolve into the counter-culture clichés they sought to avoid in the first place, "reverse psychology" victims of homogenized humanity. By identifying this mass-marketed "hip" lie, Bemis found his "arch villain" and, imbued with purpose, Say Anything's music became a new monster - as theatrically pop-based as it was angular and dark. Influenced by bands like Fugazi, The Who, Botch and Smashing Pumpkins, Say Anything dually expressed its irreverence through sing along punk and almost awkwardly confessional Woody Allen-esque lyrics.
Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band
Coming up in the hardcore scene in Staten Island, where I grew up, we always cultivated a real us-against-them thing, and I've learned that's really narrow and defeatist. I learned that I can go and play with these different kinds of people - with Corinne Bailey Rae or Cursive and Bright Eyes or Brand New or the Hotel Café dudes - and I'm lucky I can do that. You just do your thing, present yourself your way, and you'll be fine.
These songs helped me figure out what I thought about the last year of my life," says Kevin Devine. I tend to write things down first and then, later, figure out what they were really about. In the last year, I got a lot a little dark with some personal things and now I'm trying to grow up a little and not be such a petulant brat.
So that's why the album is called Put Your Ghost to Rest. Because that's sort of an imperative. I can't live with all this stuff swirling around, because then I'm not going to embrace what's in front of me. I think the songs told me a story - and after going back and listening, it's pretty heavy to feel like the album sounds as good as it does and says the things that it says.
Evolution is a naturally occurring force in life, however there's nothing predictable about Fake Problems sonic journey from underground heroes to indie rock trailblazers. Since forming in Naples, Florida, five years ago the group—which includes vocalist/guitarist Chris Farren, bassist Derek Perry, drummer Sean Stevenson and guitarist Casey Lee—have released two critically acclaimed full-lengths, won over countless fans all over the world and toured and played shows with everyone from The Hold Steady to Frank Turner. However with their sophomore release on Side One Dummy Records, Real Ghosts Caught on Tape, Fake Problems have exceeded even their own lofty expectations by creating a cerebral masterpiece that sees the band fully reconciling all of their seemingly disparate influences and proving it's finally their time to step into the spotlight.
Recorded with Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem, Lucero) in California, the album sees the band stripping down the expansive orchestration of 2009's It's Great To Be Alive and discovering what magic lurks at the core of Fake Problems' collective psyche. "We wanted the album to be a little more subtle and let it speak for itself," Farren explains when asked how found the act found the inspiration to craft a unique brand of music that manages to incorporate elements of infectious indie rock & roll and '60s girl groups—the latter of which is aided by crooning vocals courtesy of Fake Problems' longtime friends/fans Arrested Development's Mae Whiteman and Alia Shawkat.
Farren also acknowledges that Hutt helped the band realize their Phil Spector-esque wall of sound production style they had in their heads, which allowed them to transcend the DIY punk scene they grew up in without abandoning their roots. "In the past we would jam so many ideas into one song and it would just be too much," Farren admits. "Ted helped us realize that while that approach is very creative, it's wasn't the best way to go about writing this record" he continues. "This album was a good exercise in restraint and filtering the ideas so we could make every good idea really count. "
From soul-inspired indie-rock experiments like "5678" and chilling compositions like "Ghost To Coast" to sparkling beach punk-inspired gems like "Complaint Dept," Real Ghosts Caught On Tape effectively shows how Fake Problems have organically developed into one of rock's most exciting acts and will undeniably see them attracting a whole new base of music fans who are looking for something in what they listen to that can't be easily described or marketed. "The song 'Complaint Dept' was such a different thing for us to do because all of the guitar parts are so intricate and noodly," Farren says when asked about some of his favorite moments on the album. "It was just so fun to be able to do that with our band because it's surprising for a Fake Problems song, but it works for us."
Real Ghosts Caught On Tape also sees Farren expanding his lyrical palette—and while he's become well known for his theological imagery, this album sees Farren exploring himself more as opposed to any external deities. "There's a theme in the lyrics of uncertainty," he explains. "There's an emphasis on fear, trying to persevere, not giving up hope and doing the best you can to stay positive," he continues. "It's more of a record about being yourself and living your own life than it is about any other person, concept or idea," he summarizes. Although lines like "When I reach the pearly gates of hell, I'll send those dimes back up the wishing well with a note tied to each that reads 'Nobody's listening.'" (from "Complaint Dept.") still display Farren's gift for wordplay and metaphor, "it's more of a conversation than a sermon."
That said, Real Ghosts Caught On Tape isn't going to make Fake Problems an easy act to categorize—but that's something that they wouldn't change for the world. "Creatively we always molded our band from the beginning so that we'd be able to do anything and tour with anyone from Against Me! to William Elliott Whitmore to even the Dillinger Escape Plan," Farren explains. "I think it's kind of hard to slap our name on a sticker and recommend us if you like another band, but I think in the long term it's definitely a blessing that we're not pinpointed into one thing," he continues. "We really don't ever want to be that type of band."
"Sometimes I dream of getting in my car and driving straight through the night," vocalist Chris Farren croons on the intricately arranged ballad "Ghost To Coast." Real Ghosts Caught On Tape is the perfect soundtrack to that journey from darkness to light, showcasing a band who have grown to new artistic heights lying on the other side of the horizon.
The Front Bottoms
What can we say about The Front Bottoms? We know we love them: a punk band that uses acoustic guitar, indie-rock dance grooves, Springsteen-y keyboard lines (this they might deny). It's hook-filled… it's anthemic… it's confessional. Maybe Joni Mitchell by way of Green Day? They must have heard some Replacements along the way, and it seems like what Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers did for the Boston suburbs these guys are doing for Bergen County, NJ. But they still leave us scratching our heads. Just what the hell have the Front Bottoms alchemized?
With the wonders of the internet and their obsessive gigging, they are now known from New Jersey to…Spain (?) where director Pablo Nieto found them online and asked to create a video for "Maps." The video features Williamsburg, a farm (where Mathew sometimes works), and that aforementioned Econoline as well as some "loveable" hand puppets. Word of mouth and great reviews has them fielding calls from promoters all over the tri-state area.
New Jersey's The Star-Ledger called them "one of the leading lights of the New Jersey pop underground. The group's amalgam of punk, guitar-folk, lo-fi experimentalism, imagist-inspired poetry (drawing heavily on Sella's upbringing in the Jersey suburbs) and playful humor (that betrays the singer's youth) has caught discriminating ears on both sides of the Hudson."