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.
Peachcake is no stranger to the Sound Off treatment. DJ Pickster One and I reviewed the band's track "Who Are These People and Why Do They Suck" back in September. Peachcake frontman Stefan Pruett e-mailed saying he'd love to sit down and listen to some music, so I tried to pick three tunes that sounded as unlike Peachcake as possible.
To his credit, Pruett was game, showing up sporting bright pink pants and a fistful of leftover Halloween candy. We listened to tunes from AZ rapper Moe'Z Art, metalheads Hemoptysis, and lo-fi folkie Decker.
Peachcake is scheduled to perform with Peter Murphy and She Wants Revenge on Thursday, November 3 at the Marquee Theatre.
Moe'z Art, "The Beast"
Moe'z Art is a Phoenix-based rapper. He recently released his debut LP, The Beast. He is scheduled to perform Saturday, November 12, at The Fixx in Tempe.
Stefan Pruett: I like that synth work, kind of the timbre of it, sort of the way it's bouncy. It has a synth-pop component to it, so I appreciate that. Is he white? Not that it matters or anything, but sometimes it changes your perception of something.
Up on the Sun: Yeah. What did you think?
I thought it was good. It really captured me for about the first half of the song, but halfway through, I started to lose some interest. I felt like it's got really good melodic components going on, and the melodic structure of the song is good. It's pretty straightforward, too. The hook is pretty good, too. I felt like the female vocal was one of the stronger parts of the song, but as it hit about 2 1/2-minute [mark], I really started to lose it.
It never went to the next place; it was verse/hook, verse/hook.
The verses didn't totally capture you.
I didn't really like the hook.
I liked the electric piano bit a lot. But the melody of the vocals was just too predictable. It was a super "pop hook," and it sounded good, was performed well, but it didn't excite me. In hip-hop, if you're going to have a hook, it needs to be the thing that people aren't going to be able to get out of their head for the rest of the day.
The thing that caught me that was unique, but also sort of problematic about the song, was that it's not produced like a commercial hit. It kind of has a indie-vibe to it. With the verses, there's sort of this indie hip-hop vibe.
So it's somewhere on the cusp of being commercial and falling back into indie. Which is what I think confuses the listener after awhile. You're like, "Oh, the song's still on." There was a certain point where it hit and I was like, "Oh man, we're still listening to that song."
It is cast somewhere between the backpack/indie rap and a bigger thing. That didn't bother me, production wise, I liked the choices. I enjoyed that it was laid-back, it is a little...
It dragged a little.
One or two bridges doing something different could have really broken it up. But overall, the sound quality I really liked.
It's a good recording. I think that it wasn't hitting in the way a song could hit. That excitability was lost, and some of that was because the production. It wasn't because it was low-grade or lo-fi; it was just that [the] quality wasn't it was in the pocket. It just felt like there was an extra oomph missing.
I would be curious to hear if he gets more aggressive, or if it's all kind of mellow...
From what I understand, we have a guy who writes for Valley Fever who caught him last weekend, and he was blown away. He saw him live at the Yucca and he really, really liked it.
I would be curious what his live set up would be like, too. That could make a big difference.
I don't listen to the radio all the time, but I do just hit scan sometimes when I'm driving. I heard the latest Nicki Minaj track 'Superbass,' and the hook in that song is just ridiculous. So much of modern pop really emphasizes this really strong [melodic hook].
It needs to explode. That's the summation: There was nothing explosive about that hook. The verses were suited for a laid-back party vibe. This would be perfect for a chill kickback with 10 or 20 of your friends, maybe 30 tops, and everyone is just kind of hanging out drinking or whatever, doing elicit things [laughs]. This fits right in there, but there was nothing that was boom -- holy shit. It seems [more] introspective, and that's cool.
Hemoptysis is a Phoenix-based metal band. They recently released a full length LP titled Misanthropic Slaughter. The band is scheduled to perform at Chasers Bar & Night Club in Scottsdale on Saturday, November 5.
Stefan Pruett: Sometimes I have very conflicted thoughts on metal.
Conflicted thoughts are good. You know, I think he said "allergic to death" at the end there.
Does that mean he will live forever?
I think that's what that means. So the first thing that struck me about that, is that we're two minutes in, and more has happened in that two minutes than a lot of other bands' entire albums. It's already the most epic thing, and he hasn't even started singing yet.
It just continuously builds. The thing that hit me is that there's this big huge build for roughly two minutes, and then the vocals come in and they are nothing like what I was expecting.
What did you expect?
What I like about this song is that it kind of has this classic metal vibe -- that I love. There's this band called Dream Evil, and they have this song called "The Book of Heavy Metal," and it's amazing. The thing about them, they are the same realm -- realm; how metal -- as Hemoptysis, musically speaking. They both have a really classic metal thing going on, but I like the screeching, wailing, high-pitched singing thing -- that kind of vocal which kind of makes my heart melt. That's the weird thing about metal; it pierces you in a special way. It's a very raw [and] strangely intimate feeling. When the vocals came in, I kind of lost interest in it a little bit. I was like, "Yeah, yeah," and then I was like, "Oh."
I like the vocals. They are more classic in the death metal sense. I like a lot of different types of metal. I loved the guitars, the dual guitar work was so sweet, the drums were great. I don't normally do videos with Sound Off, but I liked that as the video went on, the guitarist got progressively sweatier. I thought, "Man, that's awesome." This was just locked in and laser-guided.
It sounds rehearsed in that they are right in the pocket of their sound. Like, I was commenting on earlier, the production quality in this instance -- it's obviously a very different genre, but it was really right on. Everything sounded like it needed to sound. Not in a cliche way, but it was just really good. Even if it was instrumental, looking back on it, I could have sat through the whole 6 1/2 minutes like, "This is badass."
It was hard to pick up on the lyrics, but it seemed to be about metal things: death, dying, not dying, "either way you'll die."
Here's the thing -- and I don't want this to sound like I'm coming at it from an overly critical angle -- but there's a lot of hard rock or metal bands in Arizona. There used to be more of a plethora, but I think some of it has died down a little bit. But I've seen many of the bands that are from here, and for various reasons, they don't really have their shit together. This is a band that -- whether or not I liked certain aspects of their music -- has its shit together.
Decker is a Sedona-based singer/songwriter. His album, Broken Belts, Broken Bones, is available from Mescal Porch Records.
Stefan Pruett: I saw these guys getting a lot of requests on KWSS, and I was like, "Who the fuck is that?" I usually know most of the bands that they play, either through word of mouth or catching them live. [KWSS] has been really cool and supportive, so I'll go back and kind of browse through who people are asking for. So I checked out Decker, and I listened to "Wichita," and I only got a about a half-minute in, and I was like, "Aw, this is kind of samey, folky indie with the sort of bluesy thing going on." It didn't captivate me. [But with] this song, I appreciated the sound a lot more, the production in terms of that dirtier sound quality. I really liked the vocal production on this song a lot. I thought it was very fitting.
In the press materials I got, it lists Decker as being for fans of Ryan Adams and Iron and Wine. I like Ryan Adams and Iron and Wine, but I don't like a lot of bands that say that's what they sound like.
That's what I'm getting at. Bands who position themselves with that, it's a detriment. Because people like the cream of the crop, and they are immediately turned off. It doesn't get much better than Ryan Adams or Iron and Wine [in that scene]. You can can take influence from those things, but turn it in a way that's a little more unique or interesting. That style can only go so far.
Part of that is to try to appeal to the broadest audience, the people who are going to see those names and think, "Hey, I'm into that." Listening to "Telephone Wire," to me, it sounded more like Vetiver, Califone . . . bands that I really, really like.
Yeah. Reminds me of this band The Glands.
Very Fruit Bats, and, seriously, I love that sound.
Kind of M. Ward, to me.
Oh, man -- it says M. Ward in the press stuff, too. I feel like an asshole. It very much has that kind of feel.
But if you try to emulate it, more or less spot-on, and that's easy to do for a local audience. There's a lot of stuff that is folky and indie in Arizona, but you could go the more Fruit Bats route and separate yourself more in Arizona.
I liked the anti-chorus -- the way it stops and starts -- at first, but at the end it did too much of that. The first time it happens, you're like "Oh, the car is breaking down," but it started to drag on me toward the end. It started to sound less like a conscious choice and more like . . .
Just the songwriting broke down, a little. I loved that high-lonesome slide guitar. Listening to this, it doesn't sound like a lot of the AZ folk stuff, the River Jones-type groups. It was more Pacific Northwest, but also a little more "desert-y." I listened to some of the record he recorded before this, Long as the Night, and it sounded good -- but this is way better. I wonder what the next record brings.
I have to admit -- I'm a bit jaded when it comes to music like this. Because I feel like there's an abundance of it in the United States. And along the coast, there's a lot of stuff like this. Even though Peachcake is electronic and dance-y and stuff, we tend to play with a lot of bands like this, toured with a lot of bands that have this sort of sound. Which is why we've managed to make a name for ourselves within the kind of indie world.
But like, a lot of fans of this like a lot of different types of music. But his song -- going back to what I said earlier -- this song jumped out at me. It seemed more like a signature sound. You got less intrigued by the antithetical chorus, I became more intrigued by it as the song went on. Initially, I couldn't tell if it was a mistake, but once I realized it, I was like, yeah. Going back to the pop song -- it's all about big choruses and big hooks, and big layers, and this was the antithesis of that, and I really appreciate it. However, once it hit the outro part, it was like, this song could have ended 20 seconds ago. But I liked it.
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Me, too. The country/folk thing should be a little bit creepy, it should be a little spooky.
It did have that vibe.
That's what I like, some of the bands I mentioned can be pretty and a little unsettling.