Smash Magazine Presents
Minus The Bear
Cursive, Girl in a Coma
3771 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV, 89109
This event is all ages
Minus The Bear
Taken from their website
Minus the Bear have always avoided easy classification, preferring to tread their own inimitable path defined by energy and invention. OMNI, the Seattle-based band's fourth full-length recording and debut Dangerbird Records release, sees a stunning evolution to their sound and vision. As evinced by the album's all-encompassing title, Minus the Bear have merged their myriad influences into a sweeping collection marked by its slinky and sensual melding of city-stomping rock and deep funk grooves. That spirit of sonic lasciviousness is mirrored in the album's raw take on human sexuality – a theme as intricate and elaborate as the band's extraordinary music. Boldly experimental yet instantly accessible, OMNI is Minus the Bear's most provocative and potent work to date.
"I think it's a real leap forward," singer/guitarist Jake Snider agrees. "It's an impactful sounding record."
Founded in 2001, Minus the Bear earned immediate attention with their distinctive spastic prog-pop hybrid, all serrated rhythms, swirling synths, and guitarist Dave Knudson's multi-layered, pedal-hopping acrobatics. Prolific from the start, the band let loose with series of EPs and albums, each drawing escalating acclaim and a host of new fans. 2007's Planet of Ice was followed by the band's most intensive touring thus far, repeatedly traveling the US, as well as Europe, Australia, and Japan. The non-stop roadwork served to increase the band's kinetic power and intensity – a mindset they were determined to bring with them when they returned to the studio.
"One of the things we wanted to do was capture more of the live energy," says Knudson. "We feel like the live show is really where you get to see what we're doing."
Work officially began on the new album in mid-2008 as the band reconvened to begin shaping and developing Knudson's early demo tracks. This time out MTB wanted to collaborate with an outside producer and began interviewing potential candidates. Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, The White Stripes, The Shins) flew up to Seattle for his meeting mere hours after accepting a Grammy Award for his work with The Raconteurs and the rapport was immediate, with producer and band in agreement about how to proceed.
"We played the songs for Joe in our rehearsal space and he had a ton of ideas," Snider says. "He had a great sense of where things could be trimmed, so he was a good set of ears to help us edit what we were trying to get across."
On April 27, 2009, Minus the Bear began sessions at Seattle's Avast! Recording Studios, opting to take a more organic approach towards recording. A conscious effort was made to play together as much as possible, eschewing the usual scratch tracks and overdubs whenever possible.
"He was really awesome about wanting to find the perfect sound before we even started tracking the songs," Knudson says. "That was a big thing for us, changing the way we record, trying to keep as much of the performances that we were doing in the studio together to maintain the energy."
"Joe kicked a lot of us in the ass more than any of us had ever been kicked in the ass before," Knudson says. "We were doing 10 or 12 takes, more than any of us had ever played, but obviously all those takes paid off. He broke us down and made us evaluate what we were doing and maybe made us think of it from a different perspective."
Where Planet of Ice was deeply informed by the band's unified passion for classic prog-rock, OMNI sees each member bringing a diverse tableau of individual influences to the table, with keyboardist Alex Rose, bassist Cory Murchy, and drummer Erin Tate expressing a significant interest in jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and 70s funkadelia.
"Those underlying elements seeped through," Knudson says, "whether or not we were cognicent of the fact that was happening. There's a lot more groove, a lot more soul, a lot more feeling that comes across."
The new music's pulsating energy inspired a kind of sensual sprawl and carnal abandon. "Secret Country" features MTB's most propulsive riff to date, inspired by Knudson's purchase of a baritone guitar while on tour, while "My Time" – the album's first single – is a rush of pure electro-pop lust, built around the glorious sound of another of the guitarist's new toys, a vintage Omnichord synthesizer.
"The music just lent itself to dealing with these erotic themes," Snider says. "There wasn't a conscious idea to keep it all that way, but I didn't really fight anything that came up when I was trying to put something to the music."
None of which is to say that the quirky time signatures, hyperactive riffs, and prodigious hooks have left the building. The eddying tri-climax solo of "The Thief" and the album-closing "Fooled By The Night," with its flowing arc and song-with a-song structure, reveal that MTB's trademarks have simply been morphed and molded to fit a more straightforward – though no less ingenious – songcraft.
"We always wanted to see just how weird we can make a pop song," Snider says, "but I think at some point we abandoned that and just started wanting to write really good songs."
With OMNI finished by summer's end, the band's next step was choosing the right label to put it out. Fortunately, the band ultimately united with the Silverlake-based independent label, Dangerbird Records.
"We really care about this and whoever was putting out the record had to be a cool, awesome, artist-friendly, happening place to be," Knudson says. "Once we met up with [Dangerbird co-founder] Jeff Castelaz and those guys, it was just kinda like, 'Why would we pick someone else? This is exactly what we've been looking for.'"
The brazen and irresistible OMNI will undoubtedly bring Minus the Bear to scores of new listeners, keeping them on tour for the foreseeable future. The band are now ready to return to the road, knowing that their ever-increasing fan following awaits. Having built its base in no small part due to their exhilarating live shows, MTB have an advanced appreciation for the intimate connection between band and their audience.
"We've got a lot of fans that really care about us," Knudson says, "that just love the music and keep coming out to show after show after show. I think about it every day, I think about how fuckin' lucky we are."
"The main thing we try to accomplish is putting together something that we're going to enjoy playing forever," Snider says. "We always make sure that we want to hear the song as much as anybody else."
Cursive is the longtime trio of Tim Kasher (vocals, guitar), Matt Maginn (bass), and Ted Stevens (guitar, vocals), with Patrick Newbery (keys) and Cully Symington (drums). I Am Gemini (out February 21, 2012 via Saddle Creek), the band's seventh LP, is the follow-up to 2009's critically praised Mama, I'm Swollen, which caught the attention of publications including Alternative Press, Billboard, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and Time Out New York, among others, and earned the band their network television debut on The Late Show with David Letterman. Cursive has released six full-length albums – including the heralded Cursive's Domestica (2000), The Ugly Organ (2003), and Happy Hollow (2006) – two EPs, a disc of rarities, and numerous singles since the band's 1995 inception.
The band is also known for their vital, magnetic live show, earning rave reviews from outlets including the Cleveland Scene's C-Note music blog ("[Tim Kasher's] effect on the crowd was chilling last night…Cursive was focused and on-spot, composed and gripping"), Nuvo Weekly ("…the five-piece slashed through a near-perfect set of songs from their last nine years of albums"), and the Orlando Sentinel's Soundboard blog ("…the band still knows how to rock on stage…[Cursive] thrashed away with an abandon that heightened the passion of Kasher's dense, emotionally charged wordplay.").
I Am Gemini is the surreal and powerful musical tale of Cassius and Pollock, twin brothers separated at birth. One good and one evil, their unexpected reunion in a house that is not a home ignites a classic struggle for the soul, played out with a cast of supporting characters that includes a chorus of angels and devils, and twin sisters conjoined at the head.
Recorded in the summer/fall of 2011 at Omaha, NE's ARC Studios and mixed at Red Room in Seattle, WA with producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Minus The Bear, Isis), I Am Gemini marks the first time front man Tim Kasher, holding the completed story already in mind, wrote album lyrics in a linear fashion, in order, from song 1 to song 13. The result is thirteen singularly cohesive song chapters that blend effortlessly into one unique narrative. The moody and playfully sinister I Am Gemini is Cursive's musically heaviest in years, with alternately muscular and angular guitars, pounding drums and driving bass. From the eerie introductory sounds of epic barnstormer "This House Alive" and the irresistibly catchy, insistent "The Sun and Moon", to the searing "Double Dead" and the split personality prog-pop of "Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton", to the roaring, mournful closing track "Eulogy for No Name", the album is a dynamic, mind-bending, and imaginative ride.
Girl in a Coma
Girl in a Coma, hailing from the Lone Star State, formed when best friends Jenn Alva and Phanie Diaz met in Jr-high school art class over a mutual love of the Smiths, Nirvana, and skipping school. All they needed was a singer. Enter Nina Diaz, Phanie's then 12-year old little sister. Nina blew them away with her mesmerizing vocals, a powerful voice some critics have compared to Bjork, Patsy Cline, and the band's hero, Morrissey himself. The trio practiced for three years, gigged at local punk rock clubs, played a High School talent show, one kid's birthday party, and then hit the road, building up a solid and loyal fan base across the country.
In 2006, the Girls played for Joan Jett and long-time songwriting partner and producer, Kenny Laguna, at New York's Knitting Factory as part of a cable TV show featuring unknown bands. Jett and Laguna were so impressed with the band that they signed GIAC to their label, Blackheart Records, on the spot. The band's 2007 debut album, Both Before I'm Gone, was a critical hit with raves from Alternative Press Magazine, the LA Weekly, Bust magazine, among many others, with the album reaching No. 23 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and No. 21 on iTunes. "Clumsy Sky," the band's first single, won a 2007 Independent Music Award in the Best Song-Punk category. The last of the four singles released, "Their Cell," was recently voted by TV viewers into the Top 10 on Logo's The Click List show.
Since the CD's release GIAC has been headlining shows in venues coast-to-coast, playing on Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" tour, as well as opening for the Pogues, Social Distortion, Tegan and Sara in a cross-country national tour, and with Morrissey in both Europe and the U.S.
In between the constant touring, the band was busy writing songs for their new CD, the upcoming Blackheart Record's release Trio B.C. The creative process was a new and liberating experience for the Girls.
"The challenge for this record was having to come up with songs in a matter of a year," Jenn explains, "with Both Before I'm Gone we had 7 years with that material. For this new CD, a little over 18 months."
As with their first album, the end result is a unique amalgamation of eclectic influences: oldies, rockabilly, 90s alternative, and contemporary bands both indie and mainstream. And in a nod to their San Antonio, Texas background, the Girls place their cutting-edge rock sound in a familiar context.
"We chose Trio B.C. as the album title because it was the name of our grandfather's Tejano band way back in the 50s," Phanie Diaz explains. "He was our first musical influence. He would play us guitar and sing and we would love to watch him in the garage with a cold beer in his hand playing his records and singing along like he meant it. His passion is our inspiration. We hope to make people feel that way about our music."
Trio B.C. includes tracks produced by Grammy-award winning producer Greg Collins (U2 and Gwen Stefani) and Gabriel Gonzalez (formerly of Sparta and one of the producers of the band's debut Both Before I'm Gone). Joan Jett and Kenny Laguna produced two special tracks on the CD, "Vino," and "Joannie in the City," a snarling, post-punk rock cut featuring Joan Jett on guitar along with Jett's distinct vocals on background.
"The song is about females in the music business," Girl in a Coma's writer/singer Nina Diaz explains about her song, "having that tough attitude and doing what you want. Joan was the door opener for us all."
The rest of the album's cuts explore different styles and tempos with tracks ranging from the eerie and poetic love song "El Monte" to the fast and hard rocking "Static Mind." Other tracks include the delicate ballad "Pink Lemonade" and the more sonically experimental "Ven Cerca," Girl in a Coma's first Spanish language song, a cover of a bright 1960s Mexican pop song, but made modern and dissonant with feedback and fuzzy guitars reminiscent of Sonic Youth at their grungiest best.
When not on the road Phanie likes to Ghost Hunt. Jenn paints pictures. And Nina has a stuffed bear named Güenther. They all love tattoos.