If I start on the word plays, I’ll run out of space before I get to their sound, so this is Spiral Pitfall

(A mighty big thank-you to Dan Holloway for this review on Spiral Pitfall, as Eric & I have been taking some time off, oops, happy New Year, but we’ll be back this week)

I usually write about UK bands I’ve discovered on cold winter evenings as support acts in the seamier venues of South East England. So how did I end up writing about a band I’ve never seen from San Diego? Well, first up, alt/metal band Spiral Pitfall aren’t actually from San Diego. It turns out they’re from an area called Sugar Camp in North Michigan/Wisconsin,and just happen to be hanging out in San Diego right now. OK, that’s till not exactly on my doorstep.

I “met” Ian Sheffer, the band’s vocals/guitarist, when he signed Spiral Pitfall up to Free-e-day back in November. Never one to skip a freebie myself, I listened to the band’s material and was blown away. I wanted to know a bit more about the band, so I sent them some of my usual weirded out questions, mainly about food, and we got talking.

Spiral Pitfall’s first full-length album will be out this spring. It’s taken them a long time to get to this stage from their roots in 1998 Sugar Camp, but as Ian runs me through the band’s history, and I begin to picture myself inside the shoot of Spinal Tap talking to David St Hubbins it becomes clear why the journey has been so long.

Just as the band was getting into its stride in the early Noughties, playing an increasing number of gigs and compiling more and more original material, the central combo in a regularly shifting line up, Ian and drummer Bill Schattner, were split up when Bill headed to college and Ian ended up in Denver. It was only in 2007 that they finally got back together, peddling the 6-song EP Cryptic Poetry that Ian had written during the separation.

Spiral Pitfall’s history explains, I think, a lot more than why it’s taken them 11 years to produce an album. As I listened again to their fabulous “Say What you Mean” after reading the band bio, the indefinable quality of their sound became clearer. There’s a clear metal background to the song (or is there? I always wonder about how we classify music on different sides of the Atlantic – without any cues from the band I’d have called them alt/electro, but more on that later). But over the top are some wonderfully paranoid, disembodied samples of people spouting political er, for want of a better word, bollocks. It reminded me a bit of the sinister matronesque voiceover on The Smiths’ Rubber Ring.

The sample/metal elements sit very well together. It turns out that during his time apart from Bill, Ian recorded a lot of material on his own, playing everything and layering it into a final piece. It’s surely this experience that’s led to the band’s current seamless blending of sounds.

Talking of the band’s influences, Ian mentions the likes of Black Sabbath. It’s clear why they call themselves alt/metal. Which is why I was so surprised I like Spiral Pitfall as much I do. I’ve never been fond of American bands who call themselves something/“metal”. I’ve always found them a bit, well, generic, and decidedly lacking the seedier, industrial edge I like. But Spiral Pitfall aren’t really like any American metal I’ve heard before. They’re much more like the industrial urban electro I love. Which just goes to show you should listen to the music and never go by labels. Further conversation on the topic reveals the band count the likes of Midnight Oil and Radiohead amongst their influences. Now we’re talking.

If I had to pick one band of whom Spiral Pitfall remind me, it would be one of the handful of genuinely exciting bands to burst onto the UK scene this year, The Big Pink. Which is praise indeed.

There are several lessons to take away from my meeting with Ian and Spiral Pitfall. If something new comes into your inbox, give it a listen! Listen before you’ve read any of the stuff people have posted on their myspace, or before you’ve trawled through the e-mail – let the music speak for itself. And finally, make sure you keep your ears to the ground for the release of Spiral Pitfall’s first album – this is a band that’s waited and waited and is now ready to hit the ground running with their hunger and their talent.

Spiral Pitfall’s music is available for free download from www.myspace.com/spiralpitfall

–Dan Holloway, http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com

I am lost in the sand building you a pyramid

this image is from INDYWEEK.COM, mmk?

Thanks to everyone who came to our blog today and helped us make 2,000 hits in the month of November!  We realize that in the scheme of the interwebs, we’re little babies, but this was a big deal for us and we’re excited that you guys are excited about The Indie Handbook.

Also, I want to remind you guys that no matter where you are in the world, Free e-Day has officially begun!  Check out the website for lots of wonderful & free bits of creativity.  We owe a huge thanks to Dan Holloway for his help with our blog–we’ve been proud to have him as a guest writer, and his work with Year Zero Writers is an amazing endeavor that we, who at least like to sort of think of ourselves as creative thinkers, can definitely get behind.

To reward you for faithfully reading our blog today so that we’d hit 2,000 hits, I will actually make a new post, and it will not be about how Camera Obscura is my new Belle  & Sebastian, but rather it will be about a lovely band I’ve recently fallen in love with that reminds me of hobbits.  Bombadil always makes me think of Tom Bombadil (Lord of the Rings?), and they have released their very first music video!  According to Bombadil, the video of “So Many Ways to Die” uses old public domain footage to “tally up all the different ways there are to die (and live!).”  That sounds depressing, I know, but I promise it is the opposite.  There is no living without risk, without chance.  I’m actually reading a book sort of about that right now, but it’s not self helpy which I feel like a lot of those types of books are, but all my feelings and thoughts about that will explode out of me into my other blog where I talk about my feelings and thoughts about things in a very rambly fashion that often seeps onto this blog, and I apologize.  I try to keep it contained on the other one, but it just erupts like a volcano inside of me.

ANYWAY I am watching this video and I FRICKIN LOVE BOMBADIL and I think maybe they have emotions and thoughts that erupt like mine.  Watch it now!!

So anyway, since we’ve never mentioned them before or anything, let me say that Tarpits and Canyonlands , the album containing “So Many Ways to Die” possesses all the most important qualities of a brilliant piece of art, a piece of human connection. You want to know what these qualities are, probably, and that’s fair, but I don’t have any energy tonight to say them poetically and I don’t want to just throw them out there with ugly words. They say they love the unexpected, they love, in a song, when everything changes; this much is most definitely clear. They build and they come down and they do what they want. They are wild, raw, and free–like Born Ruffians meets the Mountain Goats meets Yo La Tengo. Tenderness meets uninhibited emotion! If you have forgotten why you (yes YOU) love indie folk, if Fleet Foxes have been drowning out all other voices, if the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack just wasn’t enough for you, it is time for you (yes YOU) to listen to Bombadil.

Also, maybe it’s just “where I am in my life,” but Bombadil’s lyrics speak to me. They ask questions, and I think we survive on questions. Obviously having just gotten married, the songs “Marriage” and “Honeymoon” are both at least a little bit relevant, and I may even post all the lyrics to one of them just because I can. Sorry, is that too personal? I don’t think so. What lies behind that honeymoon? Are you the reason I get mad? If we fell in love in an aeroplane cabin pressure would you take my name? How many ways are there to laugh? Did you really think you had it the worst of all?

Anyway, they are poets. Enjoy them.

p.s. it’s funny that they have a prologue in the middle of the album

p.p.s. Bombadil, I’m sad that you were in Norfolk the week before I got married. I did not see you, nor did I see you play.

p.p.p.s. here are the lyrics to ‘Marriage’…because I can, I said.

what would you say to marriage

after the 200th time I told the same joke

and then I broke your favorite watch with my heel

what would you say of true love

after the 200th time I told you I loved

and then I blew your confidence with a lover that was in my past

I thought you knew, I thought you knew

this was marriage

would you still find me pretty

after the 200th time I wore the same skirt

and then I hurt your dream job offer because I was scared

would you still buy me dinner

after the 200th time I dropped my silver fork

and the nursery rhyme stork never brought a baby to you

I thought you knew

I thought you knew

this was

just two names on a court certificate

20 years and the same kiss

and I thought you knew

I thought you knew

this was marriage

It’s coming: Free-e-day 2009!

image copyright Dan Holloway

Sorry about last week. Kristin is still taking some time off, though she will be back soon (no one is more excited about this than I am). And while I had intended to keep things running here without interruption, a combination of factors both technical and personal (including, but not limited to, the fact that my laptop keeps dying bit by bit, every time I turn it on) led me to conclude that it was time I took some time off as well, though I’m sure you were all glad to be rid of me for a week anyway. But I am back now, and just in time, because there is something very exciting brewing in the near future, and you need to know about it.

Remember Dan Holloway, our reliable and, more importantly, brilliant guest contributor? Well, when we first introduced you to him, I believe we also mentioned that he was the organizer of the upcoming Free-e-day festival. After months of work, it’s about to blow up — next Tuesday, 1 December, to be precise.

What is Free-e-day? It’s a celebration of everything that is good (and FREE!) about indie culture the world over. In a genre that becomes increasingly hard to define as a result of it’s diversity, one thing remains consistent: the love of creating for the sake of creating. And on Tuesday, gathered in one place and for one purpose, you will have an opportunity to explore these labors of love from the comfort of your own desk chair or bed or toilet (the internet is a magical place). For 48 hours you will have access, free of charge, to some of the best emerging artists, writers, poets, and musicians in the world. Check the Free-e-day blog for more details.

Some highlights:

Sarah E. Melville, a brilliant artist and writer, will be giving away her poetry collection Improper Love Poems About Fruits. I was only introduced to Sarah’s work last week via the Year Zero Writers page and fell instantly in love. If you are not completely ravished by her work, you are probably a robot or a Thomas Kinkade enthusiast.

Musical contributions from our friends InLight and To The Moon.

Year Zero Writers will be offering their collection of 13 short stories entitled Brief Objects of Beauty and Despair. They are a collective who produce some excruciatingly gorgeous writing. If you’ve never read any, now would be a good time start.

And, of course, our dear friend Dan Holloway will be offering a pdf of his novel Songs From the Other Side of the Wall. Dan will also be taking part in a live event in Oxford that evening (that’s England, not Ohio or Mississippi) which will also feature the music of Mol Hodge, Nikki Loy, and The Joker and the Thief.

Excited yet?

I expect to see you there.

Shh, talk about Slow Club in your Library Voices

Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!
Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!

(Thanks to thepoptimist.com for the logo idea)

Guess what guys!  If you work at a semi-normal workplace, you get Friday off, so today is sort of like … not Wednesday, and tomorrow is sort  of like Friday!

And it’s “listen to indie music and have a great Wednesday”, which is my new name for “follow an indie band Wednesday” because I’m getting tired of calling it that.  I’m not very big on commitment.  That’s okay, though, because this day allows me to be as random as I need to be.  So with that, I have some highlights and some housekeeping things for you today!

1. 5 months f rom today, December 1st, is Free-E-Day, which is an online indie culture festival being hosted by Year Zero Writers.  This is a pretty freaking awesome idea, and I hope to see it come to fruition in an even more brilliant way than anyone expects.  Basically, artists will contribute books, music, photography, etc etc etc, and they will be available to the public for free!  If you’re an artist, this is a great way for you to put your stuff out there, and if you’re a lover of the arts (as Eric and I most definitely are), this is a great way to find something new and groundbreaking.  For more information, check out the website here.  Also, remember that when you talk about it, you have to say it sort of like this: “FreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Day!”  It’s much more fun that way, trust me.

2. Right now I am listening to Library Voices. I’ve been coming to a realization…it’s like waking up from a dream…that I have a thing for Canadian music.  How to describe them?  They’ve got the tension between playfulness and self-awareness that we all admire about the Magnetic Fields, with a brilliantly indie-pop sound and a free but catchy structure, which isn’t the easiest balance in the world to accomplish.  Their little a cappella melody at the beginning of “Drinking Games” is precious, and they also clap and ooh and aah and count off in Spanish and reference The Unbearable Lightness of Being and make the synths sound cool.  Yeah, that’s hot.

3. 5 days till the new Slow Club album! Yeah So will be released on July 6, 2009, and somehow I just know it’s going to be the most wonderful thing you’ve heard all year so far.  Can you believe it’s already July?  Yeah, me neither.  I can’t keep up.  Anyway, let me tell you what Yeah So is going to be like.  Charles and Rebecca are going to charm you with their vocal chemistry and their playful, creative, honest lyrics.  You’ll dance around even if you never dance, you’ll blast it from your car even though folk is not usually blasted, and you will make all of your friends listen to it.  Some tracks may also make you cry.  And if you have ever listened to the musical The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown, which is probably like…one of you…”Sorry About the Doom” is going to sound like “I’m Still Hurting.”  And if you check out “Dance Till the Morning Light” on their myspace, there is going to be an even better version.  Jus’ sayin’.  On Monday you better invest a few bucks in this album, because if Paste magazine comes to their senses, it will be on the top-25 list of 2009 at least.

4. Another gem of FAIBW is Ra Ra Riot. They’re from Syracuse but they have a bit of a London sound, reminiscent of the Kooks.  Violin and cello are prominent elements of their distinct ethereal indie rock, and even though the lyrics are kind of weird, they’re also pretty  cool.  I should have more to say about them, but I am getting antsy.

5. Here is a video of Slow Club to get you excited about the new album (if my writing isn’t exciting enough for you).  “Because You Are Dead” will be on it!