Monday, October 22, 2018

Ulrika Spacek Played Baby's All Right with Honduras and No Swoon, 10/17/18

Ulrika Spacek by Rose Lamela

A Breezy Fall Night

Words and Pictures by Rose Lamela

Going out during the week is hard for me as I have settled in my ways of kicking off my shoes after work and relaxing in my cozy dwelling. I've been embracing the older me, so it only bothers me part time. When it starts to get cold out, I get even worse. I growled to myself a little when I saw Ulrika Spacek playing on a Wednesday; but, when my second thought came in,  I was immediately reminded how much I love this band.

I left my shoes on this past Wednesday and set my mind to Brooklyn. I usually hit shows on my own, but this time I had a companion. Hitting the streets of Brooklyn with someone to enjoy the over-priced coffee and thrift store creatures is definitely rewarding. Introducing someone to a new band and then bonding over a live show is priceless. If the rock gods are listening, thanks for the plus one on the guest list!!

Baby's All Right is a sweet venue. It's very spacey and has a specific room for the live music madness. I especially loved the decor and found myself with a feeling that this was what it was like in the 1960s in London when Pink Floyd was playing the psychedelic circuit. Ok, maybe that's not accurate, but the desire for it to be real is serious.

No Swoon started off the show with some soft vocals over the crunchy sounds of a guitar. In and out weaved the synthesized keyboard sounds of what was a good start to a show. Very mellow and a precursor to what was ahead. Honduras woke us from our meditative state only to kick it into a solid gear. There was a woman in the audience that struck up a conversation with me just to tell me that this was her favorite band. I smiled and understood immediately.

No Swoon
No Swoon
No Swoon
No Swoon
No Swoon

A little after Honduras walked off the stage, a weird mix of synths and a french-speaking woman started playing as the stage got super dark and a projector lit up the back of the stage. Maybe I am on point when I thought Pink Floyd in the 1960s. It looked like a live show I watched on VHS of Floyd playing "Interstellar Overdrive" back when Syd Barrett's acid problem was still manageable. Or was it?


Ulrika Spacek took the stage, and I looked behind me to see a packed, dark room. They were worth coming out for on the first cold day of the fall. They played a few songs from their latest album, Modern English Decoration, which has been playing in my car for most of the year. The best jam session they had was during the song "Everything, All the Time." I try not to compare things when I listen to bands, but their live performance was very reminiscent of Radiohead but way more raw and louder. Lead singer, Rhys Edwards, stopped playing at one point to make a comment about the decibel restrictions in NY and London. I had no idea what he was talking about as my sensitive aging ears found it rightfully loud. I am not complaining, as I love my music loud; and this band damn well deserves to be as loud as they want. I was especially delighted to hear the song "Full of Men."

Ulrika Spacek
Ulrika Spacek
Ulrika Spacek
Ulrika Spacek
Ulrika Spacek

We exited the room and witnessed a completely different universe of happy Brooklynites dancing around after midnight. I got myself together, and we walked into the cold breezy fall night. It's these nights where you swear the next morning will not hurt but it always does. Even though I woke up feeling like my eyes would never fully open, all I had to do was put Ulrika Spacek on my car speakers for the commute to work, and everything was just right. I'm ready to hike it back to wherever I need to go, where the wallpaper screams kaleidoscope dreams and the music is louder than my thoughts.

Check out Rosi's full photosets over at her Flickr account.

Premiere: Live In-Studio Performance of "Dark City Lights" by Bulletproof Belv and Matty Carlock

"Dark City Lights"

Last year, Asbury Park's Bulletproof Belv (aka, James Anderson) released 11:11 Wishful Thinking. That collection gave us single "Dark City Lights" featuring Matty Carlock. The song paints a picture of both the daily struggles and the carefree nightlife of living in the city. It's, ultimately, a message of perseverance in the face of everything that life can throw at you. Today, we're sharing a new video for the duo's live, in-studio performance of "Dark City Lights." This take transforms the song into a moving piano ballad.

I sat down at Abury Park's Cafe Volan for a chat with Belv and Carlock. We had a wide-ranging discussion over coffee about each artist's background and what led them to collaborate on a single. Matty was preparing to head out on a short Canadian tour, and both he and Belv are readying new albums. Carlock's Jailbirds, featuring guest appearances from Jared Hart, Danny Clinch, and Jesse Malin, is due early next year; while Bulletproof Belv has already given us "Every Night" from his upcoming end-of-year release. Another collaboration, "F Being Friends," is also in the works.

Check out the live version of "Dark City Lights" right here. After that, read on for my interview with the duo below.

Belv and Carlock will be joining The Cold Seas ft. Drew The Recluse and Sonic Blume at Asbury Park Yacht Club on November 16th as part of the Makin Waves Hunger Benefit for Food for Thought.

Just to start off, you've both done so many different things. Matty, you were a hardcore frontman and have evolved into a singer / songwriter. Belv, you've released a lot of music and had some pretty big-time collaborations. But, going back, what made you want to do music?

Matty Carlock: My parents raised me in a Springsteen religious household. I grew up around Backstreets and Born To Run and the whole cheesy Asbury Park, Red Bank thing. My mom used to follow Springsteen's tours. My dad even looks like Springsteen.

I just grew up always with a guitar. It was a blessing to be around that at 5 or 6. My grandpa would play piano in the house. My older cousin got me into hardcore. He showed me Shai Hulud and bands like that. So I got exposed to Springsteen and hardcore at the same time.

Bulletproof Belv: I was raised in the church. My mom made us do choir. I think, in my own eyes, I was the lead singer in the choir. I just found a love of music since then — Michael Jackson, a lot of R&B — the love of music was always there. It was instilled in me since I was a child. I always wanted to be an entertainer. Every event, Thanksgiving or whatever, I always had to do something to get everyone to watch me. I knew what I wanted to be since I was a child.

So, you were the center of attention at family events?

BB: Well, I thought I was.

How did this collaboration come about?

MC: Through my hardcore travels I linked up, when I was younger, with my friend Joe None of Second To None and Shattered Realm. He tapped my band and brought us out on the road. Belv had been on a Shattered Realm song, and we knew of him for a long time without knowing him.

I was always interested in hip-hop, like an Eminem kid. I've always wanted to try that. I always made beats. Joe would always talk about "My friend James, my friend James." I had this beat pack with all these hooks that I did, and I reached out to people including Belv. The one beat that ended up being "Dark City Lights" just locked in.

BB: Like he said, we met through Joe None. I went to college. Got kicked out. My mom was like, "You gotta get a job. You can't just sit around the house." I hooked up with Joe at a job. We had the same kind of lifestyle outside of work. He mentioned this friend he had, and I told him to email me.

At the time, a lot of tragic stuff happened in my life; and we didn't get to work together. Like six months to a year later, Matty reached out again about the beat. I told him to send it right over. Then, I think, we were both at the same place mentally and spiritually; and this song was just our way of letting it out.

MC: Now that I think about it, I was upstate following a really bad break-up. I went to the Poconos to record the Jailbirds album which is coming out now. It was like a folk / Americana / rock album. That style of music just wasn't fulfilling at that time. I was like, "I don't want to listen to guitars. I don't want to listen to pianos. I don't want to listen to Springsteen. I want to listen to angry rap / hip-hop." So I was listening to a lot of Schoolboy Q, a lot of Biggie because it was making me feel better. I was like, "I don't want to make this Jailbirds album right now. This is for people who are in love. And I just got dumped."

That's when I reached out to Belv. That's when we made "Dark City Lights." I think he was going through some stuff, too, and that's why it came out the way it did.

The two parts of the song play off of each other so well. The hook sounds happy and carefree. There's a positivity to the verses, but there's also the day-to-day struggle of living in the city. How did you guys write the song?

BB: On my part of the song — I think through 6 albums or mixtapes or whatever, I've always tried to say the same thing. This was the first time, I think, I said it in a way that every listener could be like, "Oh let me listen to it." All of the other times, it was vulgar with a lot of cursing and stuff.

It was a build up. I was going through some tragic things. Like, I went to a show. I was performing. I met an A&R rep, and they were interested in me based on my single "My Operation," but then two of my brothers were injured in a fight at this event and hospitalized. I was going through a break-up. My dad passed. My friend died in his sleep. Somehow, I was strong enough to live through it. I would have thought it would have killed me, the pain inside. I wanted to put that in the track. All this stuff you go through, at the end of the day, you still live through it.

I overwrote every verse. He told me, "There are too many bars!" There was so much stuff coming out. He sent me the beat, and I literally wrote it in 30 minutes. I called him and said, "I'm done." He said, "What?" I said, "I'm done."

I wanted to get those emotions out. It's about feeling. Like the lyric "Tell your girl you love her / Hope she feels the same." She might not say it back to you, but you hope she feels it. Music is the way I let that out. When he sent me that, I was like, "Oh my God. This is my chance to release everything. Let me say it in the most humble way."

MC: And the hook sounds so carefree because that song used to be called "London." I wrote that staring at the London Eye while on tour with Shai Hulud. A massive sold-out tour. I wrote that at the most carefree point in my life. So, when I came home, I sent him "London."

BB: And I'm not a fictional rapper. I'm a realistic writer. I have to have been through something to talk about it, so I was like, "We have to change the London thing. I've never been to London."

MC: So we decided to make it an anthem about where we're from.

BB: "Dark City Lights."

Asbury has — and I've been as much a part of this as anybody — kind of marketed itself as a rock and roll town, but there is an active rap and hip-hop scene around the area. Do you feel like the different music scenes are becoming more aware of each other?

BB: I just booked a record release show at Asbury Park Yacht Club in November; and, since the song came out, more stuff like that has been happening. I don't want to say that "Dark City Lights" started that, but it does show that it's possible to reach new people.

You're both from the area, and you've seen the changes Asbury is going through. What are your thoughts on that?

MC: My bands cut our teeth here in Asbury years ago before all the re-development. We were here when things looked pretty bad for Asbury…

BB: I'm from Asbury Park. I'm kinda sad that this took so long. I was deprived of a normal childhood, of being able to walk from my house to the beach. My brother and I were shot over on Bangs Avenue…

MC: …just like two blocks from here.

BB: There's good and bad, but the city deserves to have some success.

What do you say to people who say things like, "I like all kinds of music except country and rap?"

MC: I say they're probably not that into music. I like all kinds of music. Like I said, I didn't want to listen to folk or Americana after my break-up. I went to Belv and told him not to hold anything back on this song.

BB: I think, if you listen to a song that features someone like me, and you like it, you'll start digging and realize, whoa, that's a hip hop artist. To each their own, but people have the same problems. There are different issues on the different sides of the tracks, but people still deal with problems; and that's the same.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

What's Going On: 10/18, 10/19, 10/20 & 10/21, 2018

Night Birds are part of a stacked bill on Friday at Brooklyn's Market Hotel with Radioactivity, Spiritual Cramp, and No Love.

Sweater Weather

Fall is finally kicking in around here. Dig out your warmer clothes and head out to a show.

Cool stuff this weekend with Thee Oh Sees in Brooklyn. There's a record release party with Big Bliss. Night Birds are at Market Hotel with Radioactivity and Spiritual Cramp. The Bouncing Souls are on a boat. The Psychedelic Furs are back in Red Bank. Just tons of cool stuff.

Have fun and don't drink and drive.

THURSDAY (10/18)

ALPHAVILLE. (Brooklyn): Holy Tunics / Your Dream / Joy Cleaner / Algebra II, 8pm, $8-$10

The Anchor's Bend (Asbury): So You Want To Be A Comedian? Open Mic, 8pm

The Asbury Hotel, Soundbooth (Asbury): Open Mic, 8pm

Asbury Park Brewery (Asbury): Hora Douse / Ragged Lines / Feeny, 7pm, $10

Brighton Bar (Long Branch): PK Lavengood / Ashley Delima / Your Kids / Frank Bang / Collin J Rocker, 6:30pm, $7

Cianfano's Bar (Elizabeth): NEEDS / Worldsucks / Mindful Hate / Keef Chamber, 8pm, $10

Debonair Music Hall (Teaneck): Tyler Hilton, 8pm, $15-$20

FM (Jersey City): Plastiq Passion / Kev Rio / Daddies, 8pm, FREE

House Of Independents (Asbury): Jay Critch, 7pm, $30

Pet Shop JC (Jersey City): Party For Peace 3 ft. Jigsaw Youth / Abi Ooze / Crazy & The Brains / Young Billionaires / Theo Hill, 7pm

Pianos (NYC): Ruby Bones / Ultra Major / The Royal Arctic Institute / Yawn Mower, 7pm, $8

The Project Matters (Freehold): Dan Amato & The Sentimental Gentlemen / Foes Of Fern / Taylor Tote, 8pm, $10

The Saint (Asbury): Added Color / Thee Idea Men / Aristocants / Ellis Wilkinson, 7:30pm, $8

The Stone Pony (Asbury): Sebastian Bach / Monte Pittman / One Bad Son, 7pm, $24.50-$30

Warsaw (Brooklyn): Thee Oh Sees / Landed / The Flying Luttenbachers, 8pm

FRIDAY (10/19)

The Asbury Hotel, Soundbooth (Asbury): Biranna Musco / Foxanne / Centennials / Finding Feebas, 8:30pm

Asbury Park Brewery (Asbury): Restorations / Wild Pink / Toy Cars, 7:30pm, $15

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Microfossils / Sister Ancestor, 9pm

BoonTunes (Boonton): A Beautiful Somewhere / Tarnished / Old Currents, 7:30pm, $10

Brighton Bar (Long Branch): Tempt / Metalland / Marvin Sunk / No Phizz / Kenny K & The Way, 7pm

Chubby Pickle (Highlands): The Daily Rituals / Serious Matters / Mat Raspanti, 8pm

Clash Bar (Clifton): Silence Equals Death / Lufthansa Heist / Hundreds Of AU / Point Blank, 9pm

Count Basie Center (Red Bank): The Psychedelic Furs, 8pm, $29-$49

Flemington DIY (Flemington): Joy Cleaner / So Over It / Algebra II / Toads, 7pm, $5

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): LEEDS / We're Ghosts Now, 9pm

Liberty Belle (399 South St., NYC): The Bouncing Souls Cruise, 7pm, $45-$50

Market Hotel (Brooklyn): Night Birds / Radioactivity / Spiritual Cramp / No Love, 8pm, $15

Meatlocker (Montclair): Change√∂rder / Corot, 9pm

Millhill Basement (Trenton): Donaher / Cryptkeeper Five / Nikki Nailbomb, 8pm

New Lanes (Asbury): Sunflower Bean / The Vaughns, 8pm

The Saint (Asbury): Covey / Sonic Blume / I/O, 7:30pm, $10

Starland Ballroom (Sayreville): Zoso (Zeppelin Covers), 7pm

Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken): Kero Kero Bonito / Crumb, 7pm,

The Stone Pony (Asbury): The Damned / Radkey / The Darts, 7pm, $26.50-$31.50

Stosh's (Fair Lawn): Shithead's Rainbow / The Good Silver / Donnie Law / This Bliss / pioneer the eel / Dharma Plums, 7pm

Warsaw (Brooklyn): Thee Oh Sees / Landed / The Flying Luttenbachers, 8pm

White Eagle Hall (Jersey City): Jonathan Richman, 9pm, $20-$25

Wonder Bar (Asbury): Pimps Of Joytime, 8pm, $20

SATURDAY (10/20)

ALPHAVILLE. (Brooklyn): Big Bliss (Record Release) / Grim Streaker / Gustaf / FLEXI, 8pm, $10

The Asbury Hotel, Soundbooth (Asbury): Audra Mariel, 9pm

Asbury Park Brewery (Asbury): Halloween Cover Show, 7pm, $10

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Coach N Commando / Cryptkeeper 5 / Atom Driver, 9pm

BoonTunes (Boonton): Suburban Zombie / Scared20 / Dumpweed / Pheller / Deviant Youth, 7pm, $10

Brighton Bar (Long Branch): Don Jamieson's Costume Contest ft. Triple Addiction, 4pm, $13-$16

Championship Bar (Trenton): Molly Rhythm / Lost Love / Guerilla Poubelle / Coach's Son / No Sugar, 7pm, $8

Chubby Pickle (Highlands): Sunshine Spazz / Village Green / Taylor Ray, 9pm

Clash Bar (Clifton): Disposable / In The Meantime / Claudia & The Jimmies, 8pm

FM (Jersey City): Ghost Of Uncle Joe's After Party, 9:30pm

Forest St. (Montclair): Fall On Forest Fest ft. Lowlight / The Porchistas / The Big Drops / Bone & Marrow / LKFFCT / more, 1pm

The Historic Jersey City & Harsimus Cemetery (Jersey City): The Ghost Of Uncle Joe's Halloween Fundraiser, 1pm, $12-$15

House Of Independents (Asbury): Emo Night Brooklyn, 9pm, $12-$15

John & Peter's (New Hope): Lowlight / Matt Dubrow & The Captives / Dave Vargo / Major Player, 7:30pm

Krogh's (Sparta): The Anderson Council / The Jenny Pilots, 10pm

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): The Doughboys, 9pm

LITM (Jersey City): Ghost Of Uncle Joe's After Party, 9:30pm

Low Fidelity Bar (Jersey City): Ghost Of Uncle Joe's After Party

Millhill Basement (Trenton): Goddamnit / Traverse / Doc Hopper, 9pm

Monty Hall (Jersey City): Wake n Bake Benefit Art Auction ft. Sunshine & The Rain / Gary Lucas, 8pm

Music Hall Of Williamsburg (Brooklyn): Swearin' / Empath, 8pm

New Lanes (Asbury): Murder By Death / William Elliott Whitmore, 9pm

Pet Shop JC (Jersey City): Ghost Of Uncle Joe's After Party, 9:30pm

PhilaMOCA (Philly): Lovelorn / Don Devore / Russain Baths / Korine, 8pm, $10-$12

Pino's Gift Basket (Highlands): Nylund / Moosejaw Muldoon / Brie Sullivan / Genevieve, 8pm

Porta (Jersey City): Ghost Of Uncle Joe's After Party

The Saint (Asbury): Where's Tino / Brian Massa, 7pm, $10

Starland Ballroom (Sayreville): Mushroomhead / Unsaid Fate / Dose / Trip 6 / Not My Master, 6pm

Transparent Clinch (Asbury): Anthony Michael / Katherine Quintana / Dave Mooney, 4pm

Trans-Pecos (Brooklyn): Weakened Friends / Nervous Dater / Good Looking Friends, 8pm

Wonder Bar (Asbury): Cosmic Jerry, 7pm, $5

SUNDAY (10/21)

The Asbury Hotel, Soundbooth (Asbury): Sandy Mack, 4pm

Asbury Park Brewery (Asbury): Matt Dubrow & The Captives / Jeff Linden & The Black Spot Society / The Hell Yeah Babies / Sailor Boyfriend, 7pm, $10

BoonTunes (Boonton): Bunny Love / Hal Guitarist / Tedd Hazard, 7pm

Brighton Bar (Long Branch): Jaded Past / Ham By The Pound / SYKU / VX, 5pm, $10-$15

Christ Church (Shrewsbury): I'm Glad It's You / latewaves / Grayling / Halogens, 6pm

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Arlan Feiles / Keith McCarthy, 1pm

Scarlet Pub (New Brunswick): Town Clock Community Benefit ft. Zoochie / Sad Lips / Bad Blooms / Old Joy, 8pm, $5-$10

Starland Ballroom (Sayreville): Stabbing Westward / Gathering After Ashes / Dead Fish Handshake / The Clay People, 6pm

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Interview: Matt Chrystal Talks with William Elliott Whitmore Who Has Three Area Shows -- Including Asbury Park -- with Murder By Death This Week.

Photo by Chris Casella

Sit Down; Eat an Ice Cream Cone, and Be Glad, Right Now

By Matt Chrystal

William Elliott Whitmore, an Iowa farm-boy by day, an alt-country troubadour by night, has long been known from coast to coast for his authenticity, DIY work ethic and his prowess as a singer-songwriter. But on his latest album, Kilonova, he has, perhaps, just made his most punk rock move of all: Performing a collection of other people's songs.

Kilonova, a collection of ten cover tunes, finds Whitmore colliding head-on with his influences to the point where both the songs and the man sound like something new. "My brain opened up during this album and put me in a different spot than I usually am," he recounts of the experience.

Mr. Whitmore speaks with the utmost reverence of the artists that influenced him, a heterogeneous hodgepodge of heroes that are highlighted on the album, including the likes of Bad Religion, Johnny Cash, Bill Withers, and Captain Beefheart. Mr. Whitmore also speaks with the utmost sincerity when he makes it known that, when he does a cover, he wants do it in his own voice and own style and make it his own.

Hearing artists like Waylon Jennings cover other artists like Billy Joe Shaver led William Elliot Whitmore down a rabbit hole of discovery, and he hopes Kilonova will do the same for his listeners.

I caught up with Mr. Whitmore, while he was on a break between legs of his current tour. He answered my call from his grandmother's farmhouse in Iowa. From there, we got to talking about his career in the music business and the making of his latest album. He shared some of his philosophies on life and his love for astrophysics.

Uncool Uncle Matty: Your new album, Kilonova is made up of ten cover songs. I am assuming these are your Top 10 favorite songs. Was it difficult to narrow your selections down to just ten?

William Elliott Whitmore: Yeah, it was really difficult. Out of the thousands and thousands of great songs out there, to take it down to ten was hard. There were some that were always going to be on there, some that I have done live for years like "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Don't Pray On Me."

It was a winnowing process to narrow it down, but it was also just super fun. It was like the old days of making  mix-tapes. I mean, I still make mix-cds for friends. That seems like such an old school thing to do now. I guess it's all about playlist now. But, whatever format it is, it's just fun to curate a little list of songs for someone, maybe a girl you like, or whoever.

UUM: Were there any songs you regret having to cut?

WEW: There was a John Prine song called "Sam Stone" that I was maybe going to put on there. It's just a really great song. There's also "Sally Bangs" by J. Roddy Walston and The Business that I have done live. I was going to put that on there and then didn't. Those are just a couple examples of songs that either didn't fit in with the rest or just didn't make the cut.

UUM: You pay homage to artists ranging from Bad Religion to Bill Withers to Captain Beefheart. And, now, you are also talking about John Prine and J. Roddy Walston. That is quite an eclectic sampling.

WEW: Like most people who are into music, I have a really diverse record collection. And I do collect records. Sure, I have some cds and mp3s but I love vinyl records. I look through them, and I see the Monks, and then I see Thelonius Monk, and there is everything in between. I wanted this album to reflect that diversity.

UUM: The title of the album is Kilonova. I haven't seen this discussed much so I wanted to ask about it. Kilonova is an event where two stars merge with a black hole. Is this an accurate metaphor for how this album came to be?

WEW: I became really interested in the kilonova phenomenon. Apparently, one of those happened that scientist were actually able to observe. It was about a year or two years ago. I heard about it in the news. That word, "kilonova," just came into my brain. I have always been fascinated by space and celestial happenings and all these things that are going on in the universe that are just so hard to wrap our minds around, they don't hardly seem real.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson has this great book called Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, and it really breaks things down for a dummy like me or maybe for dummies like most of us that don't quite understand all that stuff. So, anyways, that word was stuck in my brain the whole time I was working on this album.

To me the word represents two stars coming together and making a black hole, but it's also where all precious metals are from. Like millions or trillions of years ago, there was a kilonova that made heavy metal. It made gold, silver, and platinum. I mean, however far away those stars collided, they made this dust, this essence made it here. Any piece of gold you have ever held in your hand is here because of stars exploding. Stuff like that just trips me out. So, really, for this album, it represents two things coming together to make something else. Two stars collide and their lives are done, but they came together to make something else. That energy didn't just go away. It changes, and it moves, and that dust floated through the galaxy and became the gold wedding band that was on your mother's finger. I just love stuff like that.

UUM: Whoa. I feel like I was just talking to Neil DeGrasse Tyson for a moment.

WEW: That's high praise; he's a hero of mine. And to stretch this metaphor out even further, think about your parents, right? Those are two people who came together to make you. Things come together to make something else, right? So, that's why the cover of the album is of my great-grandparents holding a fishing string between them. I deliberately chose that photo because of that theme. Those two people got together to make my grandpa, who got together with my grandma and made my mom and so on down the line. Nature is just full of those examples. I started to think about that musically, like what had to come together for me to make these songs and give them to the world.

UUM: Speaking of things coming together to make gold, you recently signed to Bloodshot Records. You are an artist known for punk rock influences and an alt-country sound, so it sounds like BSR is a label that was tailor-made for you. How did it take six albums and fifteen years into your career for you guys to find each other?

WEW: When I first started out, I was on Southern Records out of Chicago. They were mostly known for weird, artsy rock. The woman who ran Southern saw me at a show and offered to sign me up. She rolled the dice on a guy playing banjo who didn't fit in. I was playing shows opening for hardcore bands. I never played punk. I was just a big punk fan, but I loved playing country. I didn't come up in the coffee-house scene. I was playing country music in the middle of DIY punk scenes.

I did three records with Southern then got involved with Epitaph Records. That's the label started by Bad Religion's Brett Gurewitz. They had this thing called Anti Records for the more oddball stuff so I got involved with them as just a natural progression. I felt at home between Nick Cave and Tom Waits.

I've stayed on good terms with all these labels and people but it all just ran its course and it was time for me to do something different. Then Bloodshot Records offered me a slot on their 20th Anniversary triple album of people covering Bloodshot Records songs. I did this cover of an old Neko Case song, and that was my foot in the door. One of the guys at Bloodshot used to work at Southern Records and asked me if I wanted to work together again.  It was a case of something coming back around to me fifteen years later. That's a long story of how I got here, but it just had such a natural, organic way of happening. It is the perfect home for me. Bloodshot is the nexus of rock and punk and country. It was a long path to get here but it just makes sense that I got here.

UUM: You are currently touring with your label mates, Murder By Death, can you share how that experience has been so far?

WEW: It's been great! We were just on the West Coast. I got a little break and now we are heading East. It's been really fun. I've toured with them before. We started out together and I remember playing a show in the singer's [Adam Turla], basement in Bloomington, Indiana. They stuck out immediately to me back then. They had a cello! They had this gothic, western, folky, chamber music that became rock n roll. It's been a few years since I toured with them, though. It just so happens that they have a new record out and I have a new record out, so we thought we should work together on a big tour and fly the Bloodshot flag! The folks in Murder By Death and I have been touring a long time, so we just know what we are doing out there, there's no weirdness. It's just professional and that just makes it more fun.

Murder By Death by Tall James Photography

UUM: Getting back to Kilonova for a moment, most of the songs were originally recorded with full band accompaniment; and, on your record, there are some moments that find you with a back-up band. How do the songs change again when it's just you and your banjo on stage?

WEW:  There's been times in the past where I had a band. My friends would come along with me and play. But for almost my entire career on the road, it's just me. All of my records have at least a song or two with a band, and it's a real struggle for me about how much to do that because when you come out see me live, it's just me.

I try not to drench the albums with too much instrumentation; but, sometimes, it's just fun to bring my buddies into the studio. Just know, that no matter what the album sounds like, if you ever come see me, it will usually just be a stripped down thing. Hopefully, people can dig too.

I have had that push-and-pull for years about how much to add to each record. With Kilonova, I wanted plenty of songs with just me but some of the songs like "Ain't No Sunshine" just needed a funky backbeat. These records will be around long after I am dead; so, if it's going to be repeated forever, then it should live in a certain way on record. There's the immediacy of the moment in a live show, and then there's that long term thing with a record.

UUM: Speaking of getting together with your friends, you have a new video for the Harlan Howard-penned song, "Busted." It is similar to your video for "Healing to Do," where it's just you and a couple buds hanging out and jamming. Is that a pretty regular scene back on your farm in Iowa?

WEW: That's exactly it. The "Healing to Do" video was actually shot in my grandmother's house. She passed away, but her house is still here with all her stuff in it. It's kind of like an open house. We keep beers there and just all get together there. After she passed, I just felt like I should make a video in her house. I feel like she would have loved that. It was super fun. The video for "Busted" took place at a friend's farm, but it had the same vibe. We just wanted to get together like we do anyways. Just play and film it. I wish I was better at coming up with ideas for music videos, like maybe try and come up with some creative narrative or something. I mean Kendrick Lamar videos are like little movies, but I don't have the budget or creativity to do something like that. Yeah, just film us playing.

UUM: Is that your dog in the video?

WEW: Nope. That was my friend's dog, and that was his cool '57 Chevy. It wasn't my house, dog, or car. It was just some trickery to make me seem cooler than I am.

UUM: We have talked a lot about cover songs, so I'm wondering which of your own songs have you heard covered that really stuck out to you?

WEW: I take a lot of pride in my songwriting, so it was kind of weird for me to do an album of all covers. I can think of two top notch examples of my songs getting interpreted in a beautiful way, and it just happens to be by my friends.

Murder By Death covered "One Man Chain" that really stood out to me. And my friend, Esmé Patterson does my song "Not Feeling Any Pain" and just makes it her own. That song belongs to her now.

I have also seen kids covering my songs on Youtube and that gets me emotional. That is just so nice. There wasn't Youtube when I was a kid, but that is what we did. We would sit and play Johnny Cash songs or Pearl Jam songs. I learned to play guitar by playing the songs of my heroes. It's such a satisfying thing to hear someone else play my songs. I hope people that I am covering now feel the same way when they hear me.

UUM: Have you gotten any feedback from any of the original artists?

WEW: Brett Gurewitz from Bad Religion told me he loves my version of "Don’t Pray on Me." He liked how I made it a folk song. It was really touching to hear that he liked it.

UUM: You brought up having so much pride in your own songwriting. So do you already have plans for a follow-up album, or are you trying to just live in the moment?

WEW: The whole time I was working on Kilonova, I was writing for the next one. I try, to varying degrees of success, to write every day or at least think of stuff to write. My brain opened up during this album ad put me in a different spot than I usually am. That helped me with writing my own songs. Maybe I will record that new shit next year. I want to give time to this tour and enjoy this current album and, when that ends, just move on to the next thing. There's always part of me that is working on the next thing, and then there's part of me that wants to just sit down, eat an ice cream cone, and be glad, right now.

UUM: Sit down; eat an ice cream cone, and be glad, right now. Words to live by.

WEW: Well, I won't say to live like each day is your last because, sometimes, you have to live like you have many more days left, because you probably do. So maybe eat an ice cream cone and be glad, but make sure you also have some groceries in the fridge for tomorrow.

UUM: Last question is actually about today and tomorrow. The collection of songs you put together on your Kilonova mixtape work well as a soundtrack to the world around us. With that said,what are your thoughts are on today's America and your hopes for the future?

WEW: Oh, man. There's a cynicism and a hopefulness that coincide in my brain. There's a strange comfort in just knowing that we have all made it this far. I have always had some sort of unsettling feeling of disillusionment when it came to the state of the world. Now, it just seems to be more heightened. I just have to remember that it was ever thus. On the other side of my cynicism and disillusionment is optimism. It's not rose-colored glasses optimism, it's a sense that I know people every day that are cool and nice and loving and are just as sick of this shit as anyone else is. It like there are always two opposing football teams out there. Red, Blue, Republican, Democrat? It's all an illusion, we are all just people.

I have friends on both sides. I have relatives I disagree with, but we are all just trying to figure out what's for supper and trying to live the best we can. We are all just people. We will make it through! We just need to be a lot cooler to each other.

Unless, of course, if you are some Nazi extremist piece of shit then sorry. I can't get with you, dude. Those people gotta go to hell.

The new album, Kilonova, is available now on Bloodshot Records.

William Elliot Whitmore and Murder By Death will be performing at:

Bowery Ballroom, NYC on Oct 17
Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Oct. 19th
Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park, NJ on Oct. 20th

For more info go to