Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Interview: Alex Rosen and Mat Kiley of Hot Blood Talk Overcome Part 2 and Energy Drinks


Red Bank / Asbury Park political punk foursome, Hot Blood, will be releasing the second part of their Overcome trilogy of EPs with an all-ages show this Friday at Asbury Lanes.  The Pete Steinkopf-produced, Overcome Part 2 is a four-song quick hit that takes aim at some of the most prominent institutions of modern life. The longest track, single "Chemical Solution," comes in at just over a minute and a half. Somehow, though, the band find time to make their points; and they even throw in a few blistering guitar solos.

I sent a few questions to guitarist Alex Rosen and guitarist / vocalist Mat Kiley as they prepare for the release. They tell us about the ideas behind their songs. We get a little preview of what to expect on Friday night, and I even get Kiley into some good-natured trash talk about a competing show thrown by an energy drink company and a Brooklyn music blog (This series actually often features some of our favorite bands.).

Check out everything they had to say below. Then, on Friday night, head over to Asbury Lanes to celebrate the release of Overcome Part 2 where Execütors, Honah Lee, and Gangway! fill out the bill.

Hot Blood are this interesting combination of thrashing hardcore punk and lefty politics -- calling out the establishment, sticking up for the oppressed kind of stuff. But bubbling up from all of the anger, I’ve always sensed a slight strain of positivity running through your catalog. Is it important to you guys to leave people with the message that change is possible if we all wake up?

MK: I think that's the most important part of what we as a band are trying to say. It's really easy to say "HEY, SHIT'S FUCKED UP, AND WE'RE PISSED." What we want to do is express that we as people have the power to stand together and change the world for the better.

You put out Overcome Part 1 earlier this year, and you’re getting ready to release Overcome Part 2 with Part 3 to follow. What made you decide to do this as a trilogy?

AR: Mat really wanted to do an EP after [debut LP] No Kings. The idea of Overcome pretty much came from Mat and me working together on this commercial solar job. Doing multiple EP's gives room to work with multiple ideas and concepts. Also, for us, we tend to write fast and have a lot of tunes so it works to help get the music out faster than an album. 3 EP's just sounded solid and gives more room to experiment.

Part 1 dealt with the way in which corporations and the government work together to keep the masses quietly working for them. On Part 2, you take on other institutions like churches, the medical establishment, and the education system (in a total of about 4 minutes). Do you feel like all of these major institutions we’ve built up are ultimately working against us? If so, what can we do about it?

MK: Yes very much so. Religion: End the tax exempt status of religious institutions; pressure legislators to keep religion out of politics; and make "money for prayers" type schemes illegal (e.g. televangelist "clubs"). Health care: people are so afraid of Obamacare; but, ultimately, what the people of this country deserve is even further sweeping legislative reform. It's embarrassing how sick people are outright extorted in the US. Education: I'm not even going to get into student loan reform because it would take all day. Do away with the new common core curriculum. Focus more on learning and not just repetition.

Speaking of corporations, what are your thoughts on punk rock shows funded by big corporate entities and sponsored by big, out of town media outlets?

MK: Nothing says punk rock quite like corporate energy drinks and internet tastemakers. Sarcasm is hard to get through text, but I'm laying it on really thick here.

Poster by Alex Rosen
You’ll be holding the release show for Overcome Part 2 at Asbury Lanes on September 4th. The Lanes will be closing for “renovations” soon after, and nobody is really sure what it will be like when / if it re-opens. As a punk band, it has to be tough to lose another independently-run venue. Does that mean more shows in basements and other unconventional places for you?

MK: I certainly hope so. Some of the best shows happen in places a show isn't meant to happen. I have a feeling that, in the coming years, the VFWs and the like will make a showing as venues for displaced bands.

Can you talk a little bit about the other bands on the bill at Asbury Lanes and what people can expect from the show?

MK: Well, Execütors are local, so if you're from the area and haven't seen them you are severely missing out. They are fucking phenomenal. Honah Lee are good friends of ours from the Trenton area. Rad as fuck dudes and a seriously good time to see live. We've played with them a couple times and it is ALWAYS a blast. Gangway! Are from Long Island and are honestly one of my favorite bands on the east coast right now. They blew my mind out the first time I saw them and every subsequent time since. I expect a lot of brain matter to be exploded Friday night.

Not to get too far ahead of things, but what are your plans for after Overcome Part 2? Is Part 3 ready to go?

AR: We have two new songs that are pretty much done. We may put them on a remixed / remastered No Kings re-release which we may put out ourselves. Not 100% sure. We have already put out 3 things this year, so I think we will handle that after Overcome Part 3 haha. Overcome Part 3 we have been working on. We plan to get it out this year. It will be a bit tough. So far Overcome Part 3 is one song and it clocks in at about 11 minutes, which is about 10 minutes longer than most of our songs. We will be having someone else [other than Alex] do the artwork for it which is also a first for us.

And, finally, just to be clear, you guys are putting on the release show all by yourselves -- a local punk band and a bunch of their friends having a great time screaming at the institutions trying to keep us down, right? No RSVPs, no energy drinks, no vicious unmoderated comment sections.

MK: All ages. No corporate sponsors. No tastemakers judging the things you like because they ain't hip. No RSVPs. We're putting this show on ourselves; and, in doing so, we got our favorite bands together to give the locals a great show at our favorite venue in town. We're really looking forward to it. We may put on a pot of coffee for people that REALLY want caffeine.

Cool. Just wanted to make sure that was clear.

Thanks, guys. See you Friday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Asbury Lanes

I've got many thousands of shots from Asbury Lanes. I just picked the one that's on my wall.

The Happiest Place On Earth

It's September. Summer's ending. As we get into the fall, we get closer to the announced closure of Asbury Lanes for "renovations." There have been discussions of liquor licenses, boutique hotels, and  -- according to the PR piece placed in Condé Nast Traveler -- a "careful refresh" of Asbury Lanes. What that all adds up to is that, once we get to October, we don't really know what happens to Asbury Lanes. We've heard assurances that there will be bowling and that the site will remain a music venue, but that doesn't really tell us what a carefully refreshed Asbury Lanes will be.

I've only been doing CoolDad Music since 2012. Prior to that, I rarely went to local shows. I always loved live music, but I didn't pay much attention to what was going on in my own backyard. In the three and a half years that I've been an avid local show-goer, Asbury Lanes has become, simply, one of my favorite places to be. Not only because of the amazing show experiences I've had there -- King Khan, Screaming Females, Titus Andronicus, Dentist, The Battery Electric, Hot Blood, The Surf Music Festival, Full Of Fancy, Brick Mower, River City Extension, Laura Stevenson, Nightbirds, Smalltalk, Beach Slang, The Loved Ones, OFF!, Shellshag, The Baseball Project, The Julie Ruin, of Montreal, and on, and on, and on -- but also because of the amazing love and support the staff at Asbury Lanes have shown for my little vanity project.

And that's what has saved my life over the last three years. What Jenn Hampton and the staff at Asbury Lanes have given me over that time is something I can never repay. They welcomed me, a newcomer, into their community and made me feel like a part of something in a way that I've never felt outside my family before.

I'm an adult. I know how the world works. Businesses aren't charities. Corporations like to earn the best possible returns on their investments. Publicly-held corporations are legally obligated to do so. But there is just something so sterile about all of those places run by big, national promoters whose main concern is turning a profit. The shows can be great, but there's something missing.

In the summer, Asbury Lanes is hot. In the winter, Asbury Lanes is freezing. Currently, only a few of the lanes are functional. The place needs some renovations for sure. Year-round, though, Asbury Lanes is a place that welcomes me and hundreds -- thousands -- of other people into a community.

It's not just a place to see a show like some corporate-run room in the city. It's a place where you get a hug with your wristband. It's a place where you sit at the bar with Mike Mills and Peter Buck. It's a place where you spend an hour talking to Shell and Shag about how much they love those kids in Screaming Females. It's a place where you know you'll see friends at any show, no matter the genre. It's alive. It has a beautiful, beating heart and a sweet, sweet soul.

If those things get renovated away, then, yeah. We'll have a shiny music venue with bowling alleys. People will, ultimately, still go to shows there no matter how much they initially grumble about the changes. There will still be a sign out front calling the place "Asbury Lanes," but we'll know the truth.

I've got my fingers crossed. I'm hoping that, when we come out on the other side of whatever happens, what we end up with is still the place that took me in, helped me find out who I've really been all these years, and played a huge part in showing me what it feels like to be a whole person.

When I interviewed James Alex of Beach Slang before his band's headlining slot at Asbury Lanes a couple of months ago, he had this to say about the place:

"It's punk rock heaven. It is. I've met, hung out, bowled my lifetime high, played my dumb heart out, drank way too much, and laughed a whole lot more with the sweetest hearts in the whole world there. It means too much to too many. And those things have a way of sticking around."

Let's hope he's right.

Thank you, Jenn and everyone at Asbury Lanes. For everything.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Dogs On Acid Played The Saint w/ Pig Rypper, Wreaths, Dentist, and Grand Mariner, 8/30/15 (PHOTOS)

Happy Birthday Biff Swenson

It was a Sunday night party for Yawn Mower / Pig Rypper drummer Biff Swenson at The Saint. An extremely well-curated bill helped ease the transition from weekend to work week even if I am kind of exhausted today.

Howell lo-fi surf rockers, Grand Mariner, kicked things off and were impressive as usual. Dentist played to a large and enthusiastic crowd and didn't disappoint. New drummer Rudy Meier is fitting in quite nicely. Philly's Dogs On Acid (ft. members of Hop Along, Algernon Cadwallader, Snowing) are riding on the recent release of their excellent self-titled debut and blew away the crowd with their DIY, 90s-influenced rock. Wreaths filled the room with their psychedelic noise and included a take on The Cult's classic "She Sells Sanctuary." Swenson and Pig Rypper led The Saint in a huge sing along as they ripped through faithful interpretations of the best of Weezer.

Things went pretty late; and, as CoolMom and I made another unsuccessful attempt to get CoolDaughter #2 riding her two-wheeler early this morning, I was definitely dragging a little bit. It was worth it, though. Anytime you see any of these bands on a bill, make sure you check it out.

Here are highlights from all of last night's sets. You know where to find the rest.

And here are some additional shots of Dogs On Acid, taken by Dentist's Emily Bornemann.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Battery Electric, BOYTOY, and YJY Closed Out Our Sundown at the Carousel Series for the Summer (PHOTOS)

The Battery Electric closed out Sundown at the Carousel 3.

Thank You

On Friday night, we held our last Sundown at the Carousel show for the foreseeable future. We closed things out with up-and-coming fuzz pop quartet and CoolDad Minivan victims, YJY, our new friends in the psychedelic noise-poppy BOYTOY, and our dear friends, The Battery Electric.

We started things a little later for a Friday night, and YJY got to play right through the actual sundown. The combination of sunset and the small purple and magenta lights placed to illuminate the Haculla mural gave everything an eerie beauty. We got songs from the band's excellent Couch Surfin' USA (which YJY are auctioning off to support City of Angels NJ) along with stuff I'd expect to hear on an upcoming release.

Brooklyn's BOYTOY impressed the locals with selections from their self-titled EP and their upcoming debut LP, Grackle. The band sit right in a space -- noisy, lots of reverb, pop sensibility -- that wins me over every time. I saw more than a few people stopping by the merch table to grab music and T-shirts and to talk with the band after their set.

The final band for our summer series at the carousel couldn't really be anybody other than The Battery Electric. These guys are some of Asbury Park's favorite sons, and they're some of my best buds. The Battery Electric always leave everything on stage; and, on Friday, the band played for over an hour. The crowd sang along with set staples like "Heathen," "Lauren," and "The Heart and The Thrill." The band threw in covers that ranged from Sam Cooke to Misfits. Folks who had come specifically for the band and folks who just stopped in to check out the free show all eventually got to smiling and dancing.

I couldn't be happier with how this series turned out for us this summer. I got to work with people that I love in Little Dickman Records and Arcade Radio. We brought in the amazing Gentleman Jim to help us with sound. People got to hear great music from Asbury Park and beyond inside one of the structures that has always symbolized the Jersey Shore for me.

Some old and not-so-old friends of ours like YJY, Overlake, The Everymen, and Wreaths got to shake the cobwebs from the old space. We made new friends in Lost Boy ?, Sharkmuffin, and BOYTOY; and I hope that introducing these bands to Asbury brings more opportunities for us to see them here again. We got to bookend the series with Dentist and The Battery Electric, and I'm not sure I would have wanted to do this without getting both of them.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out and supported the shows. This will be a summer I remember forever. Things don't end with this, of course. Almost every night, year round, you have a chance to get out there and support some local or touring band. If you see me around at one of those shows, come say hi.

Here are pics from Friday night. The rest are at Flickr.