By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
Nothing's more frustrating than interviewing a rock band en masse.
Everyone clusters around your tape recorder and blurts out stuff all at once, but rarely does anyone say anything revelatory. Generally too inhibited to criticize or too diplomatic to take all the credit for the sounds, musicians tend to respond like sports athletes: always deflecting glory back onto the other teammates. Some good-natured ribbing at the expense of the star player might ensue, but then it's quickly followed up with a sobering compliment to keep you focused on the idea that the team's the thing! No wonder Oasis never has trouble getting cover stories.
Some professional interrogators try circumventing the BMT (Boring Musicians Together) syndrome by plying their subjects with stimulants. This usually results in either tedious observations about belly lint, if they're lucky, or puke-encrusted shoes if they're not.
That hasn't stopped this hack from trying. Last year, tearing a page out of the Brian Wilson Pop Psychology handbook, I had the idea of immersing the Beat Angels up to their necks in pool water. According to Wilson, who used to conduct Beach Boy business meetings in his pool, people can't lie or bullshit when they're completely wet.
The net result of this watery experiment? Two Beat Angels dipped their toes for about a minute and a half. And oh, yeah, they left behind two fun-filled C-60 cassettes with neither a tear shed nor a confession made to a painkillers addiction.
So here I am with Jim Andreas, Chris Kennedy, Jason Sanford and Bob Smith of Trunk Federation trying yet another technique, interviewing the group in total darkness. Actually, it's not by design that we're sitting in the stage area of Jackson Street (better known as Jackson Hole) with only the exit signs to illuminate us. Jackson Street is where the March 27 release party for the group's second Alias Records CD, The Curse of Miss Kitty, will take place. Steve Naughton of Medical Presents is staging this event and needs to take his lighting board home with him.
But it's only fitting, reckons Andreas. "We are a dark band, after all."
Dark, yes. Team players? Certainly. But boy, are they ever interesting.
This CD is sure to put Trunk Federation on the same exalted playing field as indie darlings The Grifters and Flaming Lips. When you hear the trippy magnificence of this new record, replete as it is with everything from Oscar Mayer penny whistles, squiggly synths, compressed horns, fuzz bass, amateur fiddle playing and car-alarm guitar lines, you can hardly believe the band's from the Valley. "Naw," you wanna say to yourself, "surely these guys've gotta be from Michigan at the very least!"
But why let the music do the yakking? Just listen to this enthralling verbal exchange between Andreas and Kennedy:
Andreas: "You know what we fight about on the road more than anything is socks!"
Kennedy: "I start the tour with five pairs of socks and I leave with three. Where do they all go?"
Andreas: "You should see us at Laundromats. 'Those are my socks! Those are my socks. Well, fuck it, just take all the socks.' I bought some blue socks yesterday because I know no one's got any blue socks."
Kennedy: "I've got blue socks."
Andreas: "Great. Just great."
Want more? Sure you do. Here are other Trunk revelations revealed under the pitch-black security blanket:
1. Trunk Federation isn't angry anymore!
Gone is the homicidal rancor of last album's "Young Cherry Trees" ("Chop you into little parts! Chop you into little parts!"). Nope, if Andreas screams his head off at all this time around, it's about the neighborhood collecting "apples! Baskets full of apples!" Even then, it's with an "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream" exuberance the band never allowed for previously. Often Andreas delivers his cryptic word puzzles in a childlike whisper, as if a newborn infant has just been installed in his dysfunctional home and he doesn't want to disturb it just yet. Add in the calliope organs and glockenspiel keyboards that abound on many of the tracks, and you have the perfect soundtrack for a sinister kiddy party.
But doncha unruly little lynch mobbers worry that Trunk has gone soft around the middle. The Curse of Miss Kitty still meets the minimum daily requirement of violent acts demanded by alt-rock, but even on a cover of the ultimate "honey, where have we failed?" anthem, the Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays," the violence is anesthetized to the point of catatonia. It ain't just nepotism at work when Andreas says, "My nieces love our new record." Sanford says, "I got an e-mail from this computer-literate 8-year-old kid that said, 'Your new CD is sooo coool.'" Indeed. With Miss Kitty, Trunk has come of age. Having stopped picking at the scabs of adult dementia, the band came up with something equally unsettling for the kids.
2. Trunk Federation can't get the hang of this "bandwagon-jumping thing."
"We put out a rock record right at the beginning of the electronica wave," says Andreas of the group's debut effort, last year's The Infamous Hamburger Transfer. "And obviously that's what you're supposed to put out now. So we jumped on that bandwagon, and here we are."