!!! (generally pronounced “chk chk chk”) is a dance-punk band that formed in Sacramento, California, in 1996. The band’s name was inspired by the subtitles of the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, in which the clicking sounds of the Bushmens’ Khoisan language were represented as “!”. However, as the bandmembers themselves say, !!! is pronounced by repeating thrice any monosyllabic sound. Chk Chk Chk is the most common pronunciation, but they could just as easily be called Pow Pow Pow, Bam Bam Bam, Uh Uh Uh, etc.
White Arrows stands at these balmy crossroads like a vision from an alternate reality: classic without leaning on nostalgia, visionary but not unfamiliar. What should be a collision of sounds and styles – ritualistic rhythm and four-four thump, synth sequences and strummed guitars, garage-y grind and airy atmosphere – is, in this quintet’s capable hands, a fluidly seething whole. Call it Psychotropical pop, something both busy and breezy. Call it Paul Simon in space (others have). Call it what you will. This is White Arrows.
The White Arrows story begins with a blind boy. Singer Mickey Church was born seeing the world as an impressionistic smear. His vision was righted at age 11, but his imagination ran wild for the intervening years. His memory of growing up in L.A. is confined to smells, sounds and swaths of fuzzy color. With family back east, Mickey eventually left for NYU, and unexpectedly wound up creating his own major with a degree in shamanistic ritual.
The band consists of his younger brother Henry, who started playing drums for the band while still in high school, their old friend J.P. Caballero, previously of Dios Malos, on guitar, Andrew Naeve on keys and electronics, and Steven Vernet on bass. The five bonded over a shared love for sensory overload both aural and visual – essential to the White Arrows live show which currently employs plenty of fog, lights and visuals with hopes of making it bigger and better each tour. With only a 7-inch to sell, they toured with Cults, Those Darlins, The Naked and Famous, played Sasquatch, opened for Weezer, and held residencies at home and in London in 2011.
With the release of the album, “Dry Land Is Not A Myth” in June, the band has been on the road almost continuously this year with Beat Connection, White Denim, Givers, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra with no plans to slow down and trips to Australia, the United States, and both the UK and Europe to close out the year.
The Mallard are an inside-out-echo-laser-garage-psych-rock trio from San Francisco. Their home fried songs harness the naked abandon of 60’s punk (think earliest syd barrett era pink floyd), but inject the form with a deranged spirit all their own. Close attention to texture and dynamics allow the band to explore unusual terrain – to grant access into unexpected realms of beauty and terror…with dessert.
Greer McGettrick (guitar/vocals/drums) and Dylan Tidyman-Jones (drums/keys/vocals) met playing music in Fresno, California, and later moved independently to San Francisco. McGettrick helmed the Mallard through several incarnations (including stints as a quartet and a solo act) – and self-recorded an initial eight-song cassette tape – before inviting Tidyman-Jones to play drums with her in early 2011. Multi-instrumentalist Dylan Edrich (bass/guitar) came aboard in the autumn of ’11, filling out the low end of the sonic spectrum and heightening the energetic synchronicity of the ensemble. We’re proud to have released their full length debut, “Yes On Blood”, and we’re looking forward to more awesome shit from them soon!
THE YELLOW DOGS
Koory, Looloosh and Obaash met and formed the way of young rock bands since time immemorial: Hanging out at a local park as teenagers, among skaters and punk rockers, they bonded over their mutual tastes and began playing together. It’s a pretty standard, unremarkable story — except it took place in Iran, where, as Koory puts it, “you can find instruments, but the problem is that you’re probably going to get the shittiest ones, at triple the price,” and where the legality of pop music is, he says, similar to that of marijuana: You can buy the supplies, but don’t get caught fooling with the substance. In Brooklyn, where Yellow Dogs currently reside, forming a post-punk band with your friends is about as remarkable an activity as ordering Thai food. In Tehran, it was like more like a covert operation. And, lo and behold, the music they produced, the four-song EP Upper Class Complexity, crackles with more life, wit, tension and imagination than most of their peers. Maybe there’s something to be said for having to work for it.
The sound of Upper Class Complexityfeels a little out-of-step with the current Brooklyn-scene moment, but in the best possible way: While more bands are chasing hazy good vibes and New Zealand-inspired indie jangle (Real Estate‘s self-titled appears to be slowly morphing into some kids’ Is This It?), Yellow Dogs’ music harks back to a moment when every band had a busily riding hi-hat, rhythmic stabs of guitar, and a head full of frayed nerves: the brittle post-punk moment of circa-2003. Yellow Dogs songs are fiendish, caffeinated little puzzles of warily circling guitar and keyboards, each element feeling close and cramped, like riders stuck in a stalled elevator.
With their just-so vintage keyboard sounds, the echo-laden recording atmosphere, and the herky-jerk mid-song breakdowns, these songs seem to spring from years’ worth of close study of post-punk deep catalog. Imagine our surprise, then, when the members confessed to not hearing most of these touchstones until after they had found their sound: apart from Joy Division and the Clash, they learned at the feet of those who worshiped the sound with the same reverence they did: Rancid, in other words, was a big influence. But we can’t detect a single hint of attenuation in the resulting music. “The City,” which closes the EP, is a sneering, evil two-chord vamp that just keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller parts, until finally it’s nothing more than a spidery guitar line crawling up your backbone. The song could easily go on for nine minutes and never peter out — live, we hear, it sometimes does — but they cut it off, sharp and still sparking, before it hits five minutes: one last expertly deployed cold-water bucket to the face. It only proves that you don’t always need first-hand experience with the source to catch the spirit.