Whenwolves, who self describe as “Brooklyn art rock to be blasted while howling at the moon,” grew out of the isolation and pent up creativity of the early days of the pandemic when Bobby Lewis found his band, Mustardmind, left idling in 2020. What resulted was a new project unencumbered by the expectations of what came before as Lewis explains the onus of “picking up the pieces and starting work on new music fell solely on his shoulders, as there were no other bandmates to develop the songs with at the time.” What resulted was a new angular project that incorporated the familiar electronic elements of his previous project but with a new focus that forged a new direction and in doing so, their debut EP, Recon for the Weirdos, was born.
Ahead of the record’s 3/3 release date, lead single “The Minutes” is a cool and slightly mathy track with bouncy corners awash in synth and electronic piano to set the dreamy mood as it plays off the underlying bass groove. It’s as much God Lives Underwater as it is Church Crush, but at the same time it feels like a trolley ride through the Land of Make-Believe. Eric Slick (of Dr. Dog) was scooped up to play drums, Kristin Slipp (of mmeadows and Dirty Projectors) contributed backing vocals, and the 2022 live lineup became complete as Kelsey Rodriguez and Bobby’s brother, Billy Lewis, joined the group to play bass.
We here at Full Time Aesthetic are super happy to be premiering the track “Minutes” ahead of its official release and will be keeping close tabs on the band’s give song EP as we approach the 3/3 drop date. The band will play a release show to celebrate on 3/1 at The Broadway. Take a listen to the brand new track below and check out the art for the EP.
FTA recently sponsored a group photography show, Live Survives, which was curated by local photographer/booker, Jeff Schaer-Moses. What better way to demonstrate the persistence of the arts than to bring photography and live music together under one roof to celebrate the NYC community? The photographers were in the trenches these past few years alongside the musicians documenting the ever-changing conditions and challenges faced during the pandemic.
To quote our EIC, Kate Hoos (who also had work in the show):
“Music photography is many things—a window into the dark and subterranean world of live music and the various scenes that surround it, an obsession for those partake in it, and even more than that, it was a living archive and a lifeline when we were all sidelined during the early days of the pandemic and all shows were shut down.”
A lot of photographers whose work I love and respect and who’ve shot my bands over the years before and during the pandemic were on display. And many bands I love and respect were showcased with many of them there to support too. There of course was live music at the event too, with performances by noise punk band Red Tank! and singer songwriter Juan Soria. There was a cool moments while I was watching Soria perform and to my right was Brad Wagner of Paste Magazine in the flesh with his wife and to my left was a video screen of mixed media art with Brad Wagner interviewing musicians.
Soria, who hails from Argentina and who has traveled the world playing music, shared that he had spent the last 30 hours traveling from Argentina to Chile to the US only to catch a couple hours sleep in NJ before performing at the show. That truly represents the spirit of live survives to a “t.” Red Tank! was supremely woven into the fabric of the show as a performer and also as a photo subject in the show, and their singer, Clipper, designed the poster for the event.
As for some of my favorite photographers, Pete Perry and Aleksei Postinov were both huge huge documenters of the scene throughout the pandemic and I worked with them both separately on various events related to the war in Ukraine. I met both of them from them shooting my band, Nihiloceros, at many many outdoor, backyard, rooftop, street corner, public park spaces and they eventually followed us back into the venues when music came back to the stages. I believe it was the first time for both of them showing their work in a physical way at an event. And both of them graciously went out of their way to find me and individually thank us for coming out and supporting.
Photos by Pete Perry
Photos by Aleksei Postinov
Live music returning to the BIG stages was definitely a thing too and to document that, our very own EIC, Kate Hoos, had a collection of photos from artists such as IDLES, Bikini Kill, Otoboke Beaver, Julien Baker and more, all of whom hit the road post pandemic; she blended this work with coverage of the local scene as well. Jeanette D. Moses (of Frida Kill) also did a piece on bigger stages that focused on her time touring with hometown heroes, Thick. And for me, that really reinforced the “underdog success story,” since the pandemic hit right as they were about to make good on signing to Epitaph. They released their first album with the label, 5 Years Behind, on March 6, 2020 and right as their biggest dreams came true, it was all torn away…almost forever. But…fortunately, Live Survives, it always does.
Photos by Kate Hoos
Photos by Jeanette D. Moses
At the end of of the night, we kept talking in the back of the room as BandNada and Full Time Aesthetic came together to brainstorm ideas to sustainably support each other and be a resource for the music scene. If that’s not the epitome of the spirit of the night, I don’t know what is.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
New York’s Skull Practitioners recently released their first full-length album, Negative Stars (In the Red), almost ten years into being a band, and it was well worth the wait. The sludgy-pop-psych-noise trio perfectly teeters between grime and sugar on this latest release, a slightly slicker follow up to their 2019 lower-fi Death Buy EP.
The band itself was born out of a Craig’s List ad and a band idea misfire. All the members were playing in other bands at the time, most notably Jason Victor in The Dream Syndicate, when Kenneth Levine (bass), put out an ad for more members to expand his then current project. “We wanted to go to a five-piece, and needed a drummer and another guitar player,” he says. “We put an ad out on Craigslist and met Jason (Victor, guitar/vocals) and Alex (Baker, drums/vocals) that way. Alex was just two weeks into living in New York. We played together for a while, and then it just sort of dissolved. Jason, Alex, and I actually had more of a shared, common musical perspective, and the three of us decided, ‘Let’s stick together with just us three.’”
So Skull Practitioners was born and they quickly recorded a limited cassette-only debut, st1, which they self-released in 2014 and out of necessity left sole vocal duties to Baker while behind the kit. And thus began their search for someone to front the band to provide the right voice. “We kept looking for a new singer, and that person never came,” says Victor. “None of us wanted to sing at all. After a while, we had been together as a three-piece for so long that we had our thing, and it became difficult for someone to fit into it. So we pulled a Genesis! The best thing about it is that now all three of us will sing, and that takes the pressure off just one of us.” Levine adds, “Whoever writes, sings. It’s their expression, so they should say what they have to say.”
The opening track “Dedication,” sung by Levine, is a garagey post-punk masterpiece full of discord and resolve. Its thunderous tom-tom onset, pounds through a wall of noisey guitars and snotty quick vocals, letting you know from jump that this record isn’t fucking around. By the time you get to the lead hook and octave anti-chorus fakeout, it’s the perfect pop overdose. I barely get to expertly syncopated guitar solo 4/5ths of the way through before I gotta start the track over to re-up my fix.
No stranger to long songs (the tracks on 2019’s Death Buy range from two minutes to well over ten), on Negative Stars the band seems to strike balance for the most part somewhere in the middle. You’d think the heftier run times would fall to the instrumental tracks, “Fire Drill” and “Nelson D,” which both allow the trio to really flex their skill over myriad musical landscapes. However, it is in fact the standout slower stripped back groove, “Intruder,” sung by Victor, swirling in X-esque chorus effect for seven and a half minutes that feels like late night driving through the shitty parts of the city in your rusted out Pontiac Firebird.
From start to finish, Negative Stars is buried in so many catchy melody layers that erode away and crack in all the coolest places, carrying along with it an underlying hint of doom. And while on this LP, the band may have reached their truest form to date on record, nothing beats seeing them shred live. Says Levine, “I think the band is represented at its best in a live setting. That’s where we’re in our element. Playing live, we’re out for blood.” Victor adds, “With the live thing, we just want to destroy, in the nicest, most friendly way—we’re nice people. Someone said about us, ‘These guys look like a bunch of accountants.’ People don’t really know what to expect before they hear us. I think they’re all a little surprised, maybe, and we like having that element of surprise— ‘We’re gonna blow your minds a little.’”
The thing I love about Heavy Lag is that their music, which they lovingly refer to as “dirt pop,” somehow manages to crank all the knobs of my punk rock nostalgia loves straight past 11 without losing focus or sounding like a throwback. At times Von Zippers, at times a little Squirtgun, sometimes Dillinger Four, and other times almost Descendents and certainly The Wipers too. You might say, Mike, aren’t those all just punk bands? But any punk will tell you that’s categorically untrue; there is so much more nuance to it than that. And the Brooklyn garage punkers in Heavy Lag clearly understand those nuances and play to them extremely well. What Another Year Closer to Whatever really manages to do is do everything at once without doing anything at all other than rocking the fuck out.
The guitars are loud and dirty but less overdriven than you’d expect, allowing the rhythm section to punch and the guitar leads to pierce right thru the pop-sensible wall of sound. In fact, the vocals are probably the most distorted thing on the record, perfectly skirting that line between garage rock and punk rock sound. Catchy standouts like “Dirtpop” and “Splitting Headache” not only embody this, but also have the perfect titles to sum up what this fun record is all about, while slower mid-tempo grooves like “Heist” only add to its character. The album was recorded by Pete Steinkopf (of The Bouncing Souls) who lent his stellar studio sensibilities for capturing great punk and power pop records and gave it that extra push.
Bottom line, this is a really good rock n’ roll record. It’s not trying to do anything other than that, and in doing so, it really delivers. Another year, another great band, and another Heavy Lag record closer to whatever.
It’s not too often we get an indie pop rock record with this much organic swagger. But record label Trash Casual has a reputation for strictly releasing records that scream authenticity and Wabi-Sabi is no exception.
According to their Spotify bio, the band is described as “Employing lush, hypnotizing guitars, reverb-drenched melodies, and an arsenal of diverse, heady instrumentation, the NYC-based dream-pop singer/producer spins a web of 60’s inspired dreamscapes that bring the tensions down and the tranquility up.”
The LP exists less as a mere collection of songs and more as a carefully constructed universe of the artist’s imagination. Over the years Shiitake has become extremely skilled at surrounding himself with talented collaborators and possesses quite a knack for setting up the the proper environment for a killer song to present itself. That’s the world of Papi Shiitake, and that’s the space we are invited to occupy on Wabi-Sabi.
From the very opening track, “Punch Buggy,” you can feel a summery sadness like sinking your toes into the sandy shores of something that’s just slipped away. The vocal delivery throughout the album has a relaxed vibe to it that feels both extremely welcoming and painfully real. Mellotron-drenched “Mountains Red” and groove-driven “Mexican Moonlight” wash over us like a dark soulful wave, leaving us exposed to feel Papi in those specific moments. It’s beautifully rare that an artist can so honestly take us back to such a particular emotional instance, to capture a fleeting moment and build a space around it to exist and breathe.
Wabi Sabi is full of these complex truthful moments. Sometimes it veers a bit from the somber towards introspective acceptance as we see on the sleepy melancholy-adjacent highlight track, “Hideaway.” Other times it doubles down on the tragic beauty like on the powerful closer “Do What You Say.” Shiitake told Buzz Music, “Before every relationship ends there’s this moment when something turns inside of you. You realize that it’s over, but you’re still in it. There’s such power and sadness at that moment. What once was so bright has dimmed and the cold night is fast approaching.”
Papi Shiitake has spent years in and out of musical projects, traveling both geographically and artistically to find his own voice. I’m probably best acquainted with his previous garage/pop/surf band, Best Behavior. But in 2020, he turned a corner with Quarantine Dream, an EP that allowed Shiitake to break out and approach things with a whole new foundation of freedom. The result was Wabi-Sabi, a bigger and more confident record that serves to take even further down the rabbit hole of Shiitake’s swagger and maybe catch a little sunshine along the way.
Wabi-Sabi is out now via Trash Casual and available on all major streaming services.