Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Interview with POOR ME!

Critical Mass: Thanks taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. For anyone new to POOR ME, can you give our readers little history on the band and how you guys got together?

Brett: Of course!  Well, we formed at the end of 2010.  The band started with a few aimless jams at Nick's place, just the two of us.  We added a drummer. He didn't stay long. We added a guitarist.  He left, too.  We were kind of bummed at that point, as you might imagine, so I got a hold of my old drummer, Jimmy, from a previous band. He joined right away and also introduced Nick and me to Mike, the bassist. We had a couple other roster changes since, but it's been Nick, Mike and myself since the beginning.  It feels like GIR has been around the whole time, but he's relatively new. Otherwise, we have two records out and have toured the western U.S. a few times over those 5 years.

CM: Your newest album, "Cosplay", was just released in December. And it's a conceptual piece about comic book super hero's. How did you come up with such an original idea for a concept album?

 Brett: I saw a sweet documentary series on PBS about superheroes, actually.  They described our infatuation with comic book heroes and the cultural saturation of summer blockbusters. It got me thinking about why I never really liked Superman. I can't relate to the guy, honestly.  He doesn't seem to struggle emotionally or physically in comparison to, say, Batman or Spiderman.  So, the PBS special gave some clarity to my long held beliefs that there is often more to learn about yourself when something is a struggle, and that there is often more to learn about others when you share in their struggles. It seemed logical to put the two together by writing songs from the comic hero's perspective, forcing me to exercise some empathy into their story arcs. It also keeps songwriting fresh,

CM: When it comes to songwriting, is there a primary songwriter? Or does everyone contribute when it comes to writing?

 Nick and GIR write the guitar rhythms, which is where we start. Nick will usually start something cool and GIR will finish.  Otherwise, GIR will do the whole instrumental section in a single sitting.He has an art brain specially tailored for melodic hardcore.  It's nuts, actually.  Past that, though, I simply play the guitars on repeat and write all the vocals and lyrics, tweak song structure, etc.  Mike and GIR contribute their own bass and drums somewhere along the line, and voila!

CM: Who are some of your personal musical influences?

I'm just gonna give you a random list here because we love so many bands : The Gamits, Queens of the Stone Age, Rise Against, Thrice, Against Me!, The Flatliners, Bad Religion, NOFX, Anti-Flag, Hot Water Music.

CM: You're no strangers to the touring cycle, having toured in the past. Will we see POOR ME doing some more live dates around the U.S. this spring and summer?

Brett: Yes, a summer tour in support of Cosplay is in the cards. We chatted about touring as far as Chicago again this summer like we did in 2013. We released both records since then, so we are definitely overdue to get back up there.

CM: In the past the bands played SXSW and Riot Fest. Are there any fests that you'll be involved with this year that you can tell us about?

Brett: Well, we didn't really try to book SXSW this year despite doing it in the past. I'm not sure why. But, we will try to get on Riot Fest again and start touring more so that FEST is a real possibility in 2017. We will do some local stuff like FoCoMX and see about UMS this year, too. Otherwise, we will just try to soak up as many well-promoted shows as possible to get POOR ME out there.

CM: I think you guys are well on your way to establishing a name for yourselves in our scene. Has there been any label interest in the band as of late? And do you intend on releasing your own albums in the future?

Brett: Yea, we've seen a real increase in support from the kids in Colorado. Cosplay has landed really well, we think. Still, I don't think we are label-ready at this point. There are still some aspects of how we operate that we want to address before we start looking hard for a label. We want to be taken seriously, of course, so we try to evaluate ourselves through the lens of a label and evaluate from there. I'd say we will probably see how this summer tour goes and re-gauge this question at that point.

CM: Is there a website you guys wanna plug where fans can get up to date news, gig dates and get merch?

Brett: Yea, we need to shamelessly plug ForTheLoveofPunk.com The site is run primarily by a handful of genuinely good people in the Denver and Chicago areas. They have a really good media ethic where anyone can submit news and have a fair shot to be published. If you want punk news you won't find on every other site, check this one out.; they are always experimenting with creative new segments, promos, and a cycling cast of writers interested in different things (myself included).

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass guys. Stoked to get you out to Chicago for a show soon. And I wanna wish you all nothing but the best in 2016! Thanks guys.

We will reach out to you when we get Chicago lined up so maybe we can hang!

Interview with Rick Barton from Continental (former Dropkick Murphys)

Rick Barton: Hello Whitey! Just so you know we are simply Continental! 😊
The new album is being mixed this first week of Mar and will be released on June 1.

CM: You've said via Facebook that this particular album has some of the best material you've ever recorded on it. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

RB:  Well basically I believe there are 3 or 4 songs on the album that are worthy of upper echelon mention! By that I mean I've (we've) finally entered into the arena of the bands I grew up listening to. It's one thing to make up a song and record it and think it's good and all of that. But for me I've always considered everything I've done (up until now) to be a couple notches below those cats! And here's the best part; we recorded and mixed the album for under 2 grand! Tom Petty couldn't record and mix one song for that amount! 😊

CM: Once the albums released do you guys plan on doing any touring to support the record? It will any shows be more local for you guys?

RB: We only tour and only do 1 local show at the end of the tour. We're doing a U.S. Tour from June 1 til July 4. Then we'll be doing an extensive European tour from Sept 7 thru Nov 15.e only tour and only do 1 local show at the end of the tour. We're doing a U.S. Tour from June 1 til July 4. Then we'll be doing an extensive European tour from Sept 7 thru Nov 15. only tour and only do 1 local show at the end of the tour. We're doing a U.S. Tour from  1 til July 4. Then we'll be doing an extensive European tour from Sept 7 thru Nov 15.

CM: People may remember you as being a part of the original Dropkick Murphys lineup. When you guys formed the band, did you have any idea how important you guys would be to the punk movement of the mid/late 90's?

RB: Nope!

CM: 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of DKM's formation. Do you and the guys still stay in touch? And are there any plans to work together again in the future?

RB:  I mostly stay in touch with Al and I still work with Mike! Kenny and I have a few laughs every 6 months or so. I see the rest of the band once in awhile and another of my old bands Everybody Out did 3 tours with DKM back in '08 & '09. I'll only say that you never know what the future holds! 😊

CM: Growing up who were some of your personal musical infuences?

The first record I ever bought was Killer by Alice Cooper in 1973 when I was 12 yrs old. I'm an old rocker at heart but at the same time I really gravitate towards all the amazing songwriters of my time like Paul Westerberg, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zant, Shane McGowan, Pete Shelley, Jake Burns, Frank Black etc. The list goes on and on!

CM: You recently played with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones at their Boston show. How far back do you and those guys go? And what was it like playing with them for a couple songs?

RB: Joe Gittleman use to roadie for my old band the Outlets back in the early 80's! And of course Dickie was no stranger to the front row at an Outlets show and would make occasional road trips with us! We were all part of the same crew!!!

CM: Are there any new bands out there that really get you excited? Anyone we should be looking out for?

RB:  I'm into an amazing country guy named Sturgill Simpson. He's not "new country". I love John Grant. The last sort of punk band that I really got into was Against Me. I'm sure you'd know a lot more new punk bands than I do! 😊

CM: Is there any websites or links you wanna plug where people can stay up to date on your new music, shows and merch?

RB:  Just Continentalband on FB I suppose!

CM: Rick, I wanna thank you again for talking with Critical Mass. I'm excited for the new record. And I hope we can get you guys out to Chicago for a show. Thanks again man.

RB: We love Chicago! We've played there the last 3 yrs with The Tossers. Def one of our favorite bands!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Music Reviews: POOR ME - "Cosplay"

With so much crummy music being stuffed down the throats of the general public in recent memory, it's really hard to imagine a time when REAL music was being created in bedrooms, basements and garages. So when I see a young band with some actual potential, I get all giddy inside. And that's exactly how I feel when I hear POOR ME, who just released their second album "Cosplay".

Hailing from Denver, CO, POOR ME are giving a much needed kick in the ass to the same old same old we've come to expect from new bands on the scene. Gone are your typical Blitzkrieg Bop rip offs and your Green Day wanna be's. In its place there is an album that showcases a band ready to make you stand up and take notice with frantic rhythm and monsterous riffs that make this listener wanna tear shit up. Songs like "Clean My Head" and "Smash It Out" make me glad I'm still in love with our scene. And it's refreshing to see a new generation of punks that GET IT!

At the end of the day great bands are are not manufactured, pre packaged and sold to the highest bidder. They're working at their craft, fine tuning it and making a difference in the way we hear music. And POOR ME are well on their way to being one HELL of a great band!

4/5 stars

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Interview with Darren Chewka from Teenage Bottlerocket

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Darren. I know you're a busy guy, so I'll just jump right on in. You're officially the new drummer in Teenage Bottlerocket. How did this come about? Did the band contact you about trying out? Or was there an open audition process that took place?

Darren Chewka: Thanks for having me. It's been a crazy couple weeks for me but I still remember Ray contacting me on a Monday afternoon. I knew it was a Monday because I was still in my underwear lying in bed watching TV or playing video games. Mondays are my only day off from everything... My job and the 4-5 local bands I'm usually in. He asked if I wanted to come down and see if it'd work. This all came about as I think every time TBR rolled through Edmonton Old Wives would open. We just became friends from that.

CM: With the tragic passing of Brandon in November, TBR fans worldwide wondered if the band would ever regroup and perform live again. Now that its official, how have the fans reacted to the news of your hiring?

DC: The reaction I've gotten from people everywhere has been amazing! I've felt the love from all over the world. Edmonton has been great, everyone has been so supportive. And without them, I wouldn't have any of these opportunities given to me now. It's been so overwhelming, but in a great way.

CM: Now you guys already have new show dates scheduled for March. Will we be seeing a full blown TBR tour in the near future? Or are these more warm up gigs than anything?

DC: Yeah, we got a Two'ur in March that I think are gonna be bananas. Laramie on the 11th and Denver on the 12th. Both shows with Gamits and the Nobody's. Not sure how to label these shows... Ray has a solo record coming out soon and he may get busy with that for a bit and we need to see what we got before things get hairy. Look for an announcement in March regarding on what's up for the summer with TBR... should be a ton of chances to see us.

CM: You also play in the band The Old Wives who are based out of your hometown of Edmonton Alberta. Will you continue to play with TOW as well as TBR? And if so will it be difficult to not only juggle two band's, but two band's in different countries?

DC: Shaun and Ryan are my two best friends. I'm going to try to do my best to juggle both. Like I mentioned, I'm usually juggling a pile of bands in Edmonton... I've only screwed up scheduling a few times so I'll just have to be on top of that a little more. The whole Edmonton to Laramie thing was pretty easy for the first weekend. It's a quick flight, and then a couple hours drive to Laramie. Compared to playing shows in different cities in Canada that's pretty quick.

CM: I understand the new Old Wives album is complete and the band is shopping it around looking for a label. How's that coming along? And is there a possible street release date for the new album?

DC: We literally just got back the masters so we haven't shopped it around quite yet. It's the best Wives record yet. We have a couple labels in mind but we'll see how that pans out. With the delays with vinyl lately, I don't see it coming out till summer.

CM: Who were some of your musical influences growing up? And how have those influnces helped shape your style and sound over the years?

DC: Oh man, that's a loaded question. I was and still am all over the map when it comes to music. Dave Grohl was probably my first huge influence but once I started finding music (which was hard growing up in a small town in Alberta) it really expanded. I had a friend who started ordering all kinds of shit from the SST catalog and that got me into Black Flag and Descendents. I remember hearing the drums on "ALL" and going "Whoa... they are so loud, and huge sounding..." and they were up front and in your face. I had another friend who started diving into the Lookout! catalog and I think the first record he got was "My Brain Hurts". The drums were so simple but so perfect at the same time. I had to get everything Dan Panic ever played on. That spun off to Aaron Cometbus from Crimpshrine and Pinhead Gunpowder. Looking back now, I can't believe how much of a nutbar I was over Screeching Weasel. I even flew to Chicago with my then girlfriend to see a one time only Weasel show at the House of Blues back in 2000. I froze up when I saw Dam Lumley after the show, he probably thought I was going to attack him with a knife or something. Anyways, where was I? Oh, yeah I really got into that Lookout! stuff. And Dinosaur Jr. Oh yeah, and a friend of mine also had Fugazi's "In on the Kill Taker" that I think I borrowed off him more than he had a chance to listen to it. I could go on and on... I'm just rambling now. Atom Williard for president.

CM: As of right now have you and TBR even started tossing ideas for new songs? Or will that be a work in progress?

DC: No new songs in the works as of yet, but there is talks of something... That's all I can say about that .

CM: Any chance of a Bottlerocket/Old Wives tour in the future?

DC: Maybe? Who knows! Anything is possible.

CM: Now its time to let you plug away any and all projects you're currently involved in. Are there any band's, websites, pages or online stores you would like to plug?

DC: Look for the Old Wives album in the early summer, I didn't think we were ever going to get it done and we faced a lot of adversity in the process. I'm really proud of it and the guys I got to do it with.

CM: I can't wait to see you guys in Chicago! All the very best to you, TBR and The Old Wives. Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass, Darren. I greatly appreciate your time.

DC: Thanks for having me. Maybe I'll see you July 23rd!