The Chain Gang of 1974, Geographer, Pretty & Nice
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
This event is all ages
Miniature Tigers’ sound was forged in the bedroom of frontman Charlie Brand, only to quickly outgrow the space, with the band soon finding itself on stage, in the studio and signed to Phoenix’s Modern Art Records in short order. Brand’s lyrics – a mix of deeply personal insights and playful references to the disparate cultural artifacts that have informed his existence – and effortlessly constructed indie-pop arrangements have made fans in his native Phoenix and beyond. The fans stretch to Los Angeles, where Brand reconnected with drummer, collaborator and fellow charter member of the band Rick Schaier while living in Hollywood, and far beyond thanks to the Internet, which it seems people are into these days.
Miniature Tigers’ debut album “Tell it to the Volcano” runs the lyrical gamut, taking inspiration from and referencing TV’s Lost (which rates a Dharma Initiative sticker on Brand’s acoustic) as easily as it probes the joy and heartbreak of Charlie’s own life, while managing not to take itself too seriously. Brand wrote the album while on the lam – not from the law, but rather from a relationship he described as “brutal.” He left Phoenix to clear his head, landing in Los Angeles and collaborating with his friend Rick to complete the long-gestating album. It was his catharsis – with cannibals and volcanoes stepping in for the real-world problems that had both beset and inspired him. In the end the album represents Charlie’s effort to codify, examine, and ultimately move past a 2-year stretch of his life.
Charlie and Rick are joined in their live incarnation by friends and collaborators Lou Kummerer on bass and Lawrence Hearn on lead guitar and keyboards, for performances that seem to give equal time to playing songs and intra-band joking. They aim for a controlled chaos aesthetic that eschews “auto-pilot” at all costs.
In an effort to further confound the expectations of those around the band, they chose to have their video directed by someone who had never helmed one before…or at least never an authorized music video. The band tapped “Yacht Rock” creator JD Ryznar to direct their video for Cannibal Queen in the hopes he would recreate the magic of his wildly popular Internet video series. Ryznar quickly assimilated the band’s aesthetic and turned in a video equal parts “Weird Science” and “Frankenstein,” to the band’s delight.
The Chain Gang of 1974
“My brothers and I were surrounded by music growing up,” explains Kamtin Mohager, the genre-jumping singer/multi-instrumentalist behind The Chain Gang of 1974. “Not Beatles albums or anything like that; more like the Persian records our parents played all the time. And when we got older, it was up to us to discover everything.”
Born in San Jose and raised in Hawaii, Mohager spent his first 13 years playing inline hockey and dreaming of being drafted by the NHL. His thoughts shifted to music soon after a move to Colorado, however. All thanks to the sinking feeling he felt after seeing the final scene in Real Genius. That’d be the part where “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” kicks in, tugging at the audience’s collective heartstrings like only the finest Reagan era records can.
“That’s definitely been the goal with my music all along,” says Mohager. “The emotion isn’t just in the vocals or the lyrics. It’s in the songwriting itself.”
That’s abundantly clear on Wayward Fire, a record that’s nearly as restless as The Chain Gang of 1974’s last two self-released LPs, White Guts and a collection of early cuts called Fantastic Nostalgic. The way Mohager sees it, his debut was “all over the place, from a piano ballad to songs that sound like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Primal Scream or Justice.” And while White Guts funneled three years of instrument-swapping, sample-splicing experience into a lean, focused listen, Wayward Fire melds the standout moments from that release onto Mohager’s most fully-realized vision yet.
“From Phil Collins to Fleetwood Mac to the Stills, all of my favorite artists have put out albums,” explains Mohager. “I wanted to do the same thing, not just release a record you kinda skip through.”
No wonder why the laser-guided synth lines of “Undercover” and the rather epic “Hold On”—crowd pleasers that hint at everything from LCD Soundsystem to Talking Heads—make perfect sense alongside such shifting soundscapes as the shimmering keys of “Don’t Walk Away,” the hands-in-the-air hooks of “Taste of Heaven,” and the choruses that cut through the rain clouds in “Matter of Time.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Mohager balances his minor-key melodies with bold, bloodletting lyrics.
“Lyrically, it’s a dark record—all about fear, jealously and love,” he says. “Even the parts with hints of happiness have some doubt thrown in.”
Some closure came with the final cut, though, as Mohager moved to L.A., severed the ties of the two-year relationship that fueled Wayward Fire, and raised the curtain on what’s next, proving that this particular film has just begun.
"Some of the best pop this city has to offer." --The Bay Bridged
"Layers of bubbling synths and winding guitars and cellos, and Mike Deni's haunting vocals ride above the electro-acoustic fracas wonderfully. Simply stunning." --KQED Mix Tape
"One of Three Undiscovered Bands You Need to Hear Now." --SPIN
Pretty & Nice
Tucked away in a basement somewhere on the outskirts of Boston, there is a secret lair filled with motley recording equipment, and a neatly organized cache of guitars, synths and other flashing electronics. The stockpile of gadgetry is owned and operated by three young gentlemen who call themselves Pretty & Nice. Hardly art (Sub Pop)