Welcome to the latest installment of our weekly feature, Sound Off, in which Jason P. Woodbury is joined by a different guest each week to listen to and discuss three tracks from local Phoenix artists. If you would like your songs to be considered for future Sound Off columns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week's guest is Henri Benard, known mostly for his work with Dry River Yacht Club, but also for being a drummer around town, playing with group's like The Whisperlights and even Sedona's Decker.
Benard talks quick, and had plenty of say about tunes from St. Ranger, Tintype, and The Pübes.
St. Ranger are set to release a new EP, Life Coach, in February 2012. For more information visit them at their official website.
Up on the Sun: What did you think?
Henri Benard: It was a cool song. Really dig the album art work, too - that's phenomenal. Looks like it's somewhere in Northern Arizona. It's really beautiful.
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I want to go there, where ever it is.
The ambiance of the song kind of captures that cover, too. You know, I think it was a good tune. Most of it was awesome, [but] sometimes I feel like some of the vocals got lost, with the extra chorus effect on it, but that's not really the point of the conversation.
I see bands like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear mentioned a lot in conjunction with these guys, and I hear that, but I did an interview with these guys and they all talked about how they were in math rock bands, these complex --
They are young too, these guys. 20,19.
They talked about being in bands like that, and I still hear it in the music. There's a rhythmic complexity, but not at the sacrifice of feel or flow; they still sound like honest-to-goodness "songs."
Exactly. I really liked, in getting into the math rock thing, I can totally hear those elements, especially listening to some of the percussion, you can really hear the [mimes drums] -- it's almost choppy, but it still flows. Sometimes when you're listening to the math rock thing -- I'm always impressed by math rock players-- but it doesn't flow the same way. This sounds cleaner than they have live --not that it's been a bad show, but this was a bigger step than some of the songs I've heard.
They are great live. There's five of them, and four of them are just constantly singing.
It was a nice piece of music. I'm not sure what "Tranquilo" means, I don't know if that's tranquility in Spanish, but it definitely exudes that feel - I'm closing my eyes and listening, and it's kind of wavy, kind of spacey, kind of ambient...then it goes into some heavy rock stuff...then it breaks down to this super minimal stuff. I like songs that go a few different places. It shows a lot of promise, they are doing good things, getting good gigs. They are definitely in the mix.
I like that they pop up on different bills: Crescent, Trunk Space, Long Wong's. They are playing with other bands and not stuck in a specific niche. There's something to be said for a band that can work in a variety of settings.
They're like a festival band. That reminds me of a day set at Coachella. It's not like the aggressive thumping of the nighttime, you know, it's like on of those daytime groovers, were you're like "Ahhh, yeah, I'm chilling on the lawn, enjoying myself, the music sounds beautiful." That's really what it comes down to, I think.
HB: Certainly more intense than the last tune. I had a feeling, based on this artwork too, it was going to be in that very metal, proggy realm. This sounded like it was recorded in a garage, or on a four-track. It's so raw, and at the end -- I don't know if they are going for this or not -- but I couldn't even really get what the vocals were doing. Everything was so much louder than the vocals. Sometimes people treat the vocal like an instrument as opposed to a lead, so maybe they are doing that. That's a cool thing to do. But the audio quality was not as good as the last thing we listened to, recording-wise.
Up on the Sun: It's definitely a rougher take, but even though this is a different world than the St. Ranger tune, they accomplish the same thing: It's complex, but it doesn't sacrifice soulfulness. Seriously, there was this post-rock thing going on, but vocally and song-wise, it had a classic rock feel. Super melodic, just super strong. This is just bad ass. I really, really like this. It blows me a way that a band like this exists in Phoenix but I'm just finding out of them. Bands like this are why it pays to keep digging around and actively listening.
Absolutely. There's a whole thing - when you get outside of Phoenix and Tempe, there are all these other little scene, Mesa, Glendale, bands doing huge things that I know nothing about because I don't live in those parts of the city. That's not where my music flows, but I agree with you. They accomplish their deal - that little bridge/breakdown with that bass? That was rad.
I really love the dual guitars, the kind of Rolling Stoney "woots." I don't understand why this band isn't all over radio. I guess this song might be too long --
Radio time is 3:30 [Laughs].
But I could see this being huge on X103.9 or KUPD. It's ballsy, and heavy as shit, but it's not stupid. I don't understand why people would need to listen to dumb rock when there's stuff like this that accomplishes the same visceral, gut punch sound but has good melodies, is exciting. I think it's awesome. There's parts that remind me of records I was really into when I was younger, At the Drive In, Cave In, Quicksand - and there's this whole "Steve Albini could have recorded this" element. I'm so excited I know about this band.
It has a classic rock, but new feel, but not like nu-metal, it's way more raw. I wish I had long hair and could swing it. I reminded me of this band called Health at Coachella - I have a friend who is always wearing a Health shirt, and he was like, "You need to see this band." It didn't sound like Health; [Health] is like [prolonged high pitched scream] but this had a groove, and was so intense. I bet it's unreal live. Just get crazy, get sweaty. Get ready to dance. Have fun.
Up on the Sun: That was the Pubes -- "queercore comedy, rock your pubes off" -- and their song, "Cameltoe". What did you think of that one?
HB: That was awesome. Everybody needs to see this video. It's so good, plus, it's a great little pop song. I loved the theatrics, and not just the video, the musical theatrics with the breaks and spaces, the goofiness, the "serious-but- not-serious" [feel]. I really liked that. A lot of fun, more than anything, just straight fun. I would love to go to one of their concerts and have a few drinks. If they say "dance," I'm gonna dance. I would listen to everything they say. They have a cool look as a group, too.
It has a great riff. Theatrics, too, and the harmonies on the chorus are great, sort of "Jesse's Girl", and totally great. Any time you go at the LGBT thing people are going to wonder what they are in for -- because it could be anything. It could be fun, or very serious, and I like that they are starting conversations in a way that catches people off guard. You're thinking about topics before you realize you're thinking.
It's one of those things that could be a cultural bridge. There are some people who look at a band like the Pubes and see what they're about and say, "I'm not down with that, I'm not cool with that." There's this huge wall but if you just walk into a bar and hear them playing, you are just won over by their music and their show. Catching people like that, and getting them to a place that might make them uncomfortable --certain folks, not all folks -- but certain folks will get freaked out, and bands like this help eliminate those cultural and political barriers, because people are people, and they are just making music, making a great joke about this. [They are taking] something that someone might be ashamed of, and just joking about.
It's a shitty thing to imagine someone being politically against something this harmless --
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But yea, people do have problems. There's no way around it. But that's what's great about this. You don't have to be anything for this song to be home. You can have whatever political beliefs you want, but you hear this, you just hear a great riff. It's very easy to get into it, and you don't have to have that internal conversation about "Is it okay that I'm into this?" until it's too late, and you're already in it." Plus, it's always nice to see videos shot at local places like the Rogue.
Oh man [laughs]. The shots underneath the legs and the huge package just right in the girl's face [laughs]. Oh god! [laughs]. I hope that wins an award for local videos, because it should.