First Avenue Presents
JOYCE MANOR with VUNDABAR and PEACH KELLI POP
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 / Doors 7:00pm / Show 7:30pm
$18 Advance / $22 Day of Show
This is a standing show with an open floor. Tickets are available online, by phone, and at Depth of Field, Electric Fetus, and The Cedar during shows.
Let’s start the story of Joyce Manor’s Million Dollars To Kill Me at the end of Million Dollars To Kill Me—at the last not-even two minutes of “Wildflowers,” a song about light and beauty and wonder that ends the record like a sunrise after a long exhausting night. It’s not a sing-along single or a bleaked-out slow-burner. It’s brief, understated, and simple but sophisticated as it says what it needs to say in seven sharp lines. And it ends the album with a question instead of an answer, because on an album like this, questions are more honest. If 2016’s Cody was about growing up, then Kill Me is about what happens next—the reckonings with love, money, doubt and confusion, and the hope that persists despite it all. That’s where “Wildflowers” comes in. Says Barry Johnson, band co-founder/guitarist/vocalist: “‘Wildflowers’ is my favorite song on the record—maybe my favorite song I’ve ever written. It’s about how something can be so beautiful it breaks your heart.”
That’s Million Dollars To Kill Me: an album that glides across that tension between two perfectly opposite feelings. That’s even how the guitars fit together. It’s in the way co-founding guitarist Chase Knobbe can somehow make a song sound sadder and tougher at the same time, says Johnson, or the way Johnson mixes minor and major chords to invoke a precise kind of overpowering melancholy. (“I like when songs have a feeling of yearning,” says Johnson. “It just feels good to me. Makes you wanna cry.”) It’s even in the way the album was made because it didn’t start as a Joyce Manor album at all.
After Cody, Johnson contacted Impossibles’ guitarist/vocalist Rory Phillips—“One of my musical heroes,” he says—to produce the next Joyce Manor album. Phillips couldn’t fit the commitment between work and family, but another idea materialized: what if Johnson and Phillips made a new band together? Over email, of course, since they were thousands of miles apart? So Johnson would send his half, and Phillips would send a whole song back, and it worked well. (“It was just really exciting to mail away for a song,” says Johnson.) Then it worked too well. When Johnson asked Knobbe to add some guitar—on the original “Wildflowers,” actually—he understood what was happening. What he’d thought of as “weird songs that were created with fake drums between two guys who were never in the same room with each other” were revealing themselves as the start of a new Joyce Manor record.
So they made a new Joyce Manor record. With Knobbe, new drummer Pat Ware—“Awesome new drummer,” adds Johnson—and longtime bassist Matt Ebert, they wrote enough songs to fill a full-length, and then worked to get the ones lifted from emails to match the ones written at full volume. (“Bedroom charm versus live rock band,” Johnson explains.) Their next step was a new step: their first time recording outside their L.A. hometown, at Converge’s Kurt Ballou’s GodCity studio in Salem, Massachusetts. They recorded daily 10-to-6 so Ballou could spend dad time with his kids at night, and then slept right upstairs in bunk beds: “Kinda felt like camp,” says Johnson. “It was a pleasure—I would recommend it to anyone.”
Kill Me kicks off with “Fighting Kangaroo,” part Jawbreaker wit and part Jawbreaker grit, while follow-up “Think I’m Still In Love With You” digs deep into that pit between pleasant memory and unpleasant present. (Or is that what “Friends We Met Online” does?”) There’s the instantly catchy “Silly Games,” the deadpan blue album Weezer-style pop song where Johnson and Phillips started everything, and the Britpop-py (or Teenage Fanclub-by) title track, with a final line that lands like a boulder toppling off a cliff. There’s the acoustic “I’m Not The One,” with equal connections to Big Star, Billy Bragg and San Pedro hometown hero Todd Congelliere, who could make a sing-song playground melody sound profound. There’s a little studio-inspired experimentation: e-bow on “I’m Not The One” and glockenspiel on “Silly Games,” both Joyce Manor firsts. (“I never once suggested putting glockenspiel on anything but I think it works!” says Johnson.) And finally there’s “Wildflowers,” that unexpected inspiration for turning weird songs with fake drums into real songs with real drums and real everything, really. That’s how Kill Me began, and that’s how it ends—clear, honest, direct and true. Which is about all you could ask for, whether you’re starting a record or finishing it. Or listening to it.
There's somewhat of a paradox inherent in Vundabar's songwriting - a conflicting sense of nostalgia contrasted with the realization that they couldn't sound more current. The music they make feels like something that should have been heard a long time ago, while simultaneously continuing to forge ahead sonically. Vundabar's high energy live show is the stand out quality of this band and is an art they’ve undoubtedly perfected by touring non-stop around the country. Vundabar’s shows never fail to be captivating, complete with infectious jams, guitar moves galore, intricate drum work, and humorous stage banter to top it all off, the band has become known for putting on an entertaining show.
PEACH KELLI POP is a band from Los Angeles, CA by way of Ottawa, Canada and was founded by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Allie Hanlon. The band is known for playing Ramones-structured rock songs: Fast tempos, 4/4 drums, layered with loud guitars, and laden with immediate, infectious vocal melodies. Hanlon’s songwriting is unique in how it encompasses great emotional profundity and the use of the abstract and imagination. Since Hanlon created Peach Kelli Pop in 2010, she has released 3 albums, a handful of 7’’s and tapes, and toured extensively (including annual trips to Japan). In that time, she also emigrated to Los Angeles where she met her bandmates: sisters Gina and Sophie Negrini (bass & guitar, respectively) and drummer Shelly Schimek.
After a lengthy hibernation, Peach Kelli Pop is returning with WHICH WITCH, a 6-song EP (to be released April 21), and GENTLE LEADER, a full length studio album (to be released May 25), both on Canada’s Mint Records.
Which Witch is akin to Redd Kross’ Posh Boy EP: both have 6 songs, each close to a minute long. All 4 members of Peach Kelli Pop are outspoken Redd Kross fans; which comes as no surprise: the band is named after a Redd Kross song. Hanlon recorded & mixed the EP over Christmas in her childhood home. Originally a drummer (most notably with the White Wires), she plays unadorned, archetypal punk drums, layers them with fuzzy, at times warbling guitars, elaborate basslines, and layers of fervent vocals.
Gentle Leader is Hanlon’s most refined work to date. Long-time fans will be content in that, stylistically, it is somewhat a continuation of past material. However unlike Hanlon’s past bedroom recordings, the production is significantly more polished. Gentle Leader is also a more collaborative effort than any previous release. In the studio, Hanlon invited the band as well as friends Andrew Bassett (Hound of Love, Mean Jeans) and Roland Cosio to perform on the album. The LP features 10 tracks, including a Violent-Femmes style cover of 80s UK band the Marine Girls, and a noisy post-punk song written by bassist Gina Negrini.