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Interview With Shaun Durkan of Weekend!

The door to the green room at Club Dada in Dallas swang in and out as the all girl punk band The Coathangers, brought their instruments up onto the stage to prepare for their set. Meanwhile, Pretty Neat Grooves co-founders Michael and Jon, and a friend walked in, amongst the rock stars and festival staff, to the artist lounge. The cold air smelled of fresh tacos, cigarettes smoke and beer, and in the corner stood San Francisco black metal/shoegaze band Deafheaven, chatting amongst themselves near their instruments over a few beers in Pabst Blue Ribbon cups. Approaching the couch, we sat down and chatted with the lead singer and bassist of the San Francisco shoegaze/lo-fi band Weekend Shaun Durkan about musical influences, Dawson’s Creek, nature, Natalie Portman and San Francisco.
 

PNG: Your music sounds very[ grounded] in the 80s. Do you try to form [your music] to reflect 80s music, or do you keep it updated with modern techniques?

Shaun: I grew up listening to a lot of music from the 80s, a lot of post punk, my dad was in a post-punk band, and he’s from London. So I just kinda grew up hearing that kind of stuff, you know: Joy Division, uh Killing Joke and The Cure. So I think that, you know, when we all met we sorta just found that common ground and started writing songs just because that’s what we were interested in and it’s what we grew up listening to. With that being said, I think we’re always conscious that we want to make a record that doesn’t sound like a throwback, or a tribute record or something like that. Everything we’ve done so far has been a modern take on these influences from the 80s.

PNG: Sweet. You guys are from San Francisco, where it’s normally sunny, yet your music is very murky and cloudy, does San Francisco influence the way you make your music or are there other influences at the wheel?

Shaun: You know it’s kind of funny, people always think of San Francisco as a really sunny place but it’s really not. It’s pretty much always, like, grayish and has a pretty legendary fog that-

Jon: Oh, I’ve never been

Shaun: Yeah, that’s what the tourism board wants you to see. The reality is that it’s always in the 50s and there’s a lot of fog that sorta shrouds a lot of the Bay Area. That stuff was really an influence on the earliest record, for sure. I think being close to nature was really important to us too as far as influences in music. We live in Brooklyn now, I can’t remember like the last time I saw a forest or something. (laughs)

PNG: (laughs)

Shaun: yeah, but in the San Francisco and Bay Area, you can drive 15 mins and find like a red wood forest or state park or something like that. I think that that sort of variety of landscapes were very important when making a record.

PNG: …and were there any new influences for your new record?

Shaun: yeah, if anything Jinx was like…the last thing we wanted to do was make Sports again. You know, we’re a band that thrives on forward momentum and challenging ourselves. I think people wanted to hear a record just like Sports and we never have been interested in repeating ourselves and doing what someone else is doing. So, if anything, the main goal is to progress as a band-

Jon: Yeah, Jinx sounded a lot cleaner-

Shaun: Yeah, the production is a lot cleaner. That was a conscious decision, yeah. [Jinx] was recorded in the exact same studio where we recorded Sports with the exact same producer. It was just a conscious decision to make [the album] a bit more direct. I think songwriting was much more important this time around as far as lyrics go, arrangements and stuff. You know, when people make their first record it’s like you spend two years in a rehearsal space just jamming and then you spend a week just trying to record what [inaudible] those jams sound like. Jinx was more about creating songs in the studio via the recording process rather than just trying to document what we had done before .

Michael: So speaking of murkiness and San Francisco stuff, you think that murky environment helps you determine what you do pedal-wise? Cause you guys use A LOT of crazy effect pedals.

Shaun: I think the pedals and production stuff was lie, we just wanted to make extreme, melodic music. Around time we were writing Sports, there were a lot of sunny beach music and stuff going around: Real Estate, Girls, who else, Best Coast. You know? And we weren’t into that, we basically trying to make a record that was like “F*ck You” to that stuff, and especially a record coming from San Francisco, which was always though to be a garage city or something, or like a coastal beach vibes kind of town, we wanted to make something dark, brooding, and aggressive and create a kind of schism in the expectation of what we were gonna make.

Nate(Our friend): What are you putting your bass through?

Shaun: Like effects wise or something?

Nate: Yeah

Shaun: It goes through a tuner, MXR Double Shot distortion, Boss guitar chorus pedal, Deluxe Memory Man, Digital Delay like a DV-7, a Hardwire Reverse Reverb, and a Holy Grail…and a Freeze pedal… and an EHX Freeze Pedal…it’s a lot of sh*t.

PNG: (laughs)

Shaun: …a lot of guitar pedals.

Michael: So a quick non-music question: Have you gotten to do anything cool around Dallas?

Shaun: We got here at one, so we haven’t gotten to do much. I really want to go to the Grassy Knoll…

Jon: It’s really close

Shaun: Is it?

Michael: Yeah it’s….(to Jon), Do you know where it is?

Jon: Yeah it’s just straight down Commerce, wait, no, Elm. Head down Elm.

Shaun: Oh OK, I gotta check it out. I’m gonna check out some of the other bands later today. We have the day off tomorrow so we’ll probably go tomorrow and the next day.

Michael: Who else are you excited to see?

Shaun: Nothing just played, we’ve been touring with them. Really excited to see our friends Deafheaven a-

Nate: Oh you guys know them, cause I was gonna ask you guys, cause San Francisco… you guys know them?

Shaun: Deafheaven? Yeah, we toured with them in Europe, they’re really good friends of ours, we played a bunch of shows together when we were still in the Bay Area. They’re cool dudes…

Jon: Yeah, we’re hoping to get interviews with them later tonight…

Shaun: Well (points to corner behind couch), they’re right over there, maybe you could talk to them…

Jon: Sunbather was one of the first albums that got me, no, it was THE first album to get me into metal. Ask Michael, I’m was more of an indie kid-

Michael: Yeah he loves Best Coast, Vampi-

Jon: Yeah, then he showed me Deafheaven and stuff

Michael: Yeah that’s why I was laughing at him when you said “f*ck you” to Best Coast cause he loves them an-

Jon: Well, cause every song reminds me of California so much. I first heard them on the Santa Monica beach in the summer and stuff, it was that carefree, you know, nothing to do today, nothing to do tomorrow kind of vibe-

Shaun: I have nothing against what they’re doing, I respect that and stuff-

Jon: I can see why people hate them and stuff-

Shaun: I don’t hate them at all, I think what they do is great. It’s just we wanted to do something that was the polar opposite of [their style of music]-

Michael: Do you think they’re accidentally stereotyping the San Francisco scene?

Shaun: I mean, not that (to Jon) Best Coast, what, lives in LA right?

Jon: Yeah..

Michael: Oh I just thought…

Shaun: I think San Francisco is mostly known for like psychedelic music and garage music, but uhh, it’s funny, I don’t think San Francisco is known for anything now, other than tech sh*t. Like every single band that I know, from San Francisco, has moved out. Even Kerry from Deafheaven lives in LA now. You know, (Whacktiles?) is gone, (Tamarind’s) gone, Girls are not really together anymore, S-

Michael: What happened to Girls?

Shaun: I think Chris and JR decided not to write music together anymore. I think JR’s doing some production stuff on his own now, producing stuff. He’s working on a Melted Toys record, which is good. He’s done stuff with Smith Westerns before and he did a little bit of work with Dive. Chris is just doing stuff on his own.

Michael: Just a couple more questions…

Shaun: Yeah sure..

Michael: When can we expect new material from Weekend?

Shaun: Hopefully next year, c-

Jon: Jinx was just released…

Michael: What’s it like working with Slumberland?

Shaun: It’s just one guy, Mike Schulman-

Jon: Of Queens of the Stone Age? (For the record, the bassist for QOTSA is Mike SHUMAN, honest mistake)

Shaun: No, Mike Schulman, he was in Black Tambourine.He’s the ultimate music lover, label guy. He’s just so focused on the art side of it, he’s not gonna tell you what to do: if something’s too loud, too quiet. It’s great. he signs bands cause he loves them, and he loves what they do, sort of like the bottom line for him.

Michael: Ok, one question from me: What’s the one question you want to be asked that no interviewer ever asks you, ever?

Shaun: Uhh, I don’t know. I’m so used to the generic questions everyone asks. I think you’ve had some good ones already. I don’t need to throw you anything, you’ve got some good questions. Maybe if it’s an attractive girl that asks me for my number or-

Michael: OOH! Thanks for reminding me. We both go to an all boys catholic school-

Nate: I don’t-

Michael: (laughs) -but we’re still high school boys, so celebrity crushes are a big thing for us: So who was your high school celebrity crush?

Shaun: Like when I was in high school?

Michael: Yeah, or even now (laughs)

Nate: Yeah high school girl now haha

Shaun: Oh yeah! I have a list! No, but uh, when I was in high school, I was oddly into Mandy Moore for some reason. But uhh, I went through a phase where I would watch that movie, A Walk To Remember and for some reason-

Jon: (laughs)

Shaun: – I mean that’s really embarrassing. I was really into Mandy Moore at some point. So I would have to say that, or Natalie Portman or something predictable, boring guy sh*t.

Jon: Yeah watching A Walk To Remember isn’t embarrassing (points to Michael) he watches One Tree Hill.

Michael: You wanna hear a really girly show with an AMAZING soundtrack? One Tree Hill. They named dropped Fugazi, Hot Water Music, Sparta and the term straight edge in one episode-

Jon: -in like the same five minutes

Shaun: That writer was fired . (laughs) Never wrote another episode.

Michael: I mean, that’s not why I watch it, it’s an added bonus. There’s this one character on it and she’s like a (12/10)

Jon: (laughs)

Shaun: When I was in school, I got really into Dawson’s Creek, for a little while-

Jon: I hear that’s a good show, but I never watched it. Katie Holmes right?

Shaun: Yeah-

Michael: It was like 90s right?

Jon and Shaun: Yeah

Jon: early, early 90s

Michael: I gotta get into that… But you gotta start One Tree Hill

Shaun: Yeah, I’ll give it a shot

Jon: It’s on Netflix, go to episode one…go to episode six haha

Michael: It’s one of those shows where you like it, but you don’t know why you like it

Shaun: (laughs) I know what you mean. That’s how Dawson’s Creek was for me. I threw a party at my house in San Francisco and someone stole my box set of Dawson’s Creek…

Jon: What?!

Shaun: It was the only thing that was taken…

Michael: They didn’t take anything else? Just that…

Shaun: I didn’t really have anything valuable I guess, but yeah I had many other DVDs and that’s the one they took.

Michael: That is crazy! Someo-

Shaun: Someone out there has them-

Michael: They probably knew you and how much you liked Dawson’s Creek and they were probably liked “I’m gonna mess with Shaun”-

Shaun: -like a cruel ex-girlfriend or something.

Michael: yeah, like “You don’t have time to love me but time to love your favorite TV show” kind of crap

Shaun: (laughs) Yeah you’re just talking about Joey all the time.

Michael: (laughs) Well, I don’t think we have anymore questions, do yo-

Jon: I think that’s it, Thanks!

Shaun: Ah, don’t mention it. Enjoy the day, no problem man. Hit us up when we’re in town again.

Watch Weekend perform “Coma Summer”

 

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“Forcefield” Tokyo Police Club

Tokyo Police Club

Forcefield Album Review

Released March 25, 2014

Mom + Pop Records

Genre: Indie Rock, Alternative Rock

Do you remember that Simpsons episode called ‘Lisa’s First Word’? There’s a scene where Patty and Selma are forced to watch an infant Bart adorably sing, only to pause and confer with each other: “The older they get, they cuter they ain’t”. Although it’s a hilariously candid thing to say about a needy toddler, there’s a certain profundity, as with all Simpsons jokes, embedded within; and the relevance resonates true for Canadian Indie outfit Tokyo Police Club, and their regression into adulterated adolescence with their third full release, Forcefield; like a grown man in a onesie, it’s not cute and it’s kinda pitiful.

Before I puncture Tokyo Police Club with an onslaught of rhetoric groan, I have to give credit where credit is due. Back in 2008, Indie music was starting to roll the stone off the tomb, the sediment of blog-rock was being chipped away and a refreshing sound of clean-cut riffs and jaunty grooves was the order of the day, hence the universal adoption of TPC’s charmingly crooked debut, Elephant Shell.

Jump six years ahead to present day, and the trend has been flipped on it’s head. Immediacy has been exchanged for a dynamic-centric and more psychedelic sounds, because that’s what’s cool. Which doesn’t seem to matter to TPC. Front-man David Monks has outright stated that they’re not a ‘cool band’, and I agree. Although a distinction must be made, the framework for the not-cool-but-still-kinda-cool band was and always will be carved by Weezer. Their carefree dorkiness and riddled anxieties are what made the band so relatable, not to mention that their brand of power-pop punk (1994-1997 only) completely changed the landscape for Indie bands.

And it would appear as if TPC have gone back in time relative to their progression. A Benjamin Button style reversal has led them to this purgatory of still grasping to remain relevant while simultaneously paving a youthful naivety soundtracked by flaccid and quiver-lipped pop punk. Take the recent and brain-drilling power-pop single ‘Hot Tonight,’ where harsh pin prick guitar tones and sickly vocal melodies seep out of the speakers like a caustic syrup.

“Argentina (Parts I, II & III)” was the eye-catching prospect of this record, an eight minute track of three parts is always intriguing, especially for a band that rarely venture out of the under three minute long paddock. The micro-symphony of eclectically diverse key changes and quirky instrumental breakdowns that I had pictured was torn up before my eyes. What really floats this track and this album from drowning in banality is TPC’s tight and precise rhythm section. Quirky bass riffs and technical drum grooves are the dependable adhesive that keeps the basic ideas within Forcefield grounded since Monks appears adamant in catapulting half-baked ideas off the roof hoping they’ll land safe and unharmed.

Punctuated with some fond memories of TPC’s past like the surf-tron lead guitar on ‘Tunnel Vision’ or the clashing stabs on ‘Through the Wire’, there are surprising splashes of authenticity among a dank pond of glitchy guitar pop. A bold but bootless manoeuvre placing lacklustre and strung-out “Argentina” at the forefront of the record, taking up nearly a third of the total run time was a straight-up ignorant move. I get that the band are trying to channel a younger and foolish aesthetic to fit in with the whiny and malnourished maturity of the album, but did they go too far? Did they play the fools so well, that they became the fools making fool moves? All I’m saying is that you wouldn’t have caught Weezer making those mistakes… (though I still can’t explain why their music stopped being good after Pinkerton)

Falling back on satirical quips I’m going to close with final track ‘Feel the Effect’. Warm and reverberated vocals and swelling synth tones attempt to be the last sucker-punch to entice a reaction or make any impact upon the listener; as with this track and the record as a whole, it barely made a dent.

 

FAV TRACKS: TUNNEL VISION , THROUGH THE WIRE

LEAST FAV TRACKS: HOT TONIGHT, MISERABLE , GONNA BE READY

SCORE: (4.6/10)