Tag Archives: Deadbubbles

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Shonen Knife Ready to Destroy Denver, with a Little Help from Denver

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Shonen Knife will attack Denver - and win - Thursday night, October 16, starting at the Oriental Theater.

Shonen Knife will attack Denver – and win – Thursday night, October 16, starting at the Oriental Theater.

“Just the idea of a trio of Ramones worshiping Japanese girls roaming the earth playing their own brand of J-Rock, J-Pop, Pop/Punk Fun Time Soup, was good enough for us,” recalled local musician Arlo White, of Denver’s Sparkle Jetts. “When we finally heard them it was exactly like what it sounded like in our heads: Pure Innocence, Straight forward Rock and Roll Fun!”

It’s a pretty perfect way to describe Shonen Knife,  one of the ’80s and ’90s more obscure, but most delicious, Japanese exports. You may think that bands like Guitar Wolf hold the J-Punk torch (and they do, handily – but not completely), but it’s Shonen Knife that made the first real stab (pun fully intended) of Ramones-powered pop from Japan into America. Shonen Knife – and particularly Naoko Yamano – have enjoyed 32+ years of existence, and haven’t wavered once from their original happy, poppy, cat-, food- and youth-loving brand of punk rock. And they’re not about to slow down.

The latest incarnation of the trio, featuring Yamano on guitar and vocals, Ritsuko Taneda on bass and Emi Morimoto on drums, is touring in support of the band’s 20th release, “Overdrive,” and they’re appearing at the Oriental Theater in North Denver this Thursday night. Not a show you want find out too late that you missed! Tickets.

“Overdrive” is solid, just like it sounds, focusing on ’70s rock a la Kiss, Deep Purple or Thin Lizzy, but with the same naive, happy charm that the Knife has always been known for. Kittens, noodles, green tea win out over heartbreak, overdose, alcohol or endless groupie groping on this record – but the charm we’ve all come to love far outshines the gritty, grimy shortcomings (after all, we get plenty of ’70s lubed-up glam porn from all the Kimye crap, don’t we?).

We had a chance to reach out and touch Yamano while she was on the road, between nearly 7-day-a-week gigging, to ask her a few questions. She was kind enough to reply – and we love her and the band all that much more for it. Read on:

DenverThread: Wow – nearly 33 years, and 20 albums, all amped full of consistently catchy, unavoidably addictive Ramones-y power punk. Any end in sight? Do you plan to retire, or keep kicking ass until you just can’t anymore?

Naoko: Keep kicking ass is ROCK! But if there will be no Shonen Knife fans, I have to retire.

DT: Many of your dates on this US tour are back-to-back. Is it exhausting – just how you like to roll?

Naoko: Actually, long drive makes me exhausted but once I see our fans at our show, I get power.

DT: Since the happy, positive power behind your output hasn’t, how has your world view changed over the past 30+ years?

Naoko: My world view hasn’t changed. I just get well experienced.

DT: So much rock n’ roll is heavy, emotional, overbearing (especially in the US), yet you are constantly able to maintain a light, carefree feeling in the subject matter and feel behind your songs. Do you think that comes from your own personal outlook, or your upbringing in Japanese culture?

Naoko: It comes from my personal character. Many bands are singing about love in Japan and US and  sometimes about social problems in US. I don’t want to be the same with others. I like to make one and only unique music.

DT: There are so many to choose from – and they’re all great – do you each have favorite Shonen Knife songs/albums?

Naoko: I always prefer the latest album. Thus “Overdrive” is the best so far. I especially like “Black Crow”, “Shopping”, “Like a Cat” and “Jet Shot”.

DT: Your songs often have a food focus – and the USA spreads a giant table of wonderful, tasty – and sometime just plain weird – food choices. Anything in your travels that fits in the “weird,” “super-weird” or “just plain crazy” category?

Naoko:  “Weird” — “chicken cutlet waffles and hazelnut chocolate cream on the side”. I like the taste of both chicken cutlet and waffles but the combination is a little odd. Waffles should be separated from chicken. “Super-weird” — too colorful artificial colored sweets and cakes.

DT: Is there any American food you just couldn’t do without?

Naoko:  I don’t have any particular food but American Rock.

DT: You seem to be cat lovers – why is that? Are they more preferable than other animals in your opinion? More preferable pets than dogs? (Full disclosure: I love both, but prefer cats).

Naoko:  I love both two but for dogs, I have to take them outside for walk. Cats are more free and independent.

DT: Your sister Atsuko used to design and make all of your costumes – does she still influence the onstage costumes?

Naoko:  She made our new costumes. Her design and sewing is the best!

DT: Did you know any of the opening bands for the Denver show – Sparkle Jetts, Sonic Archers 0r 9 Volt Fatale – before hearing they were opening for you?

Naoko:  I don’t know them but I’m looking forward to play with them.

DT: Do you often find bands on tour that you end up really liking, or following? Any that stick out from other sites on this tour?

Naoko:  I like [The] Mallard that they opened up for our US tour in 2012 in the west coast.

Don’t miss this one, presented by local promoter Girl Wreck Presents, at one of Denver’s classic, beautiful venues – the historic Oriental Theater. Besides the headliners, there will be an impressive collection of Denver local bands warming up and filling out the lineup, including glam rockers Sparkle Jetts, Mod-Brits The Sonic Archers and noise merchants 9 Volt Fatale.

Continuing from above, Sparkle Jetts’ Arlo White – also the host of Radio 1190‘s Hypnotic Turtle Radio, and a Denver celebrity in his own right, had a few things to say:

Sparkle Jetts are… “Whitney Rehr (guitar/vocals), vocal/guitar goddess and one of Denver’s most underrated performers, also plays in Gata Negra, I’m A Boy, and Meta Lark. Arlo White (lead vocals), flat-footed, rock and roll mephisto, formed DEADBUBBLES and The Pretty Sure, and currently hosts Radio 1190’s Hypnotic Turtle Radio. Hope Bertsch (drums), crazed, primal powerhouse, also plays in The BlackoutsChris Keift (bass), lays down the low end with post-punk devotion, was the bassist for The Dirty Lookers.”

“We’ve all been around the Denver music scene for a long time, playing in various bands, and the stars finally aligned,” White went on to explain. “Our uniting of superpowers came about almost a year ago, and we’re now ready to use our powers for good!”

“SPARKLE JETTS are currently playing a mixture of songs from my previous bands DEADBUBBLES and THE PRETTY SURE, plus SPARKLE JETTS originals,” he continues. “I want SPARKLE JETTS to be Denver Rock City’s go to band for the pure Rock and Roll experience!”

Once again – you don’t want to miss this one. We’ve been fans of Deadbubbles and The Pretty Sure since their get-go. We know what you’re going to like.


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The Outfit - Broken West Wishbone Test

New Threads – From Denver: Deadbubbles, The Outfit; from Oakland: tUnE-yArDs

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This week we offer a look at a few new threads that run the gamut in sound and intention, and we like just about all of it. From a well-deserved (if awfully early in the their life) tribute to Denver’s Deadbubbles, to The Outfit’s indecipherably titled debut – still full of promise, to tUnE-yArDs, an act that needs to be in your headphones by virtue of both its innovation and unlikely attraction – or maybe its sheer weirdness. Read on, and listen to a few – we’ll leave that last judgement up to you.

Deadbubbles' Tribute - "Reclamation Now!"

Deadbubbles' Tribute - "Reclamation Now!"

Deadbubbles – Reclamation Now! A Tribute to Deadbubbles

Deadbubbles‘ frontman Arlo White tends toward gritty, proto-punk sort of vision, one that fits his look, spirit and personality to a “tee.” When it’s not reeling from drummer changes on a Spinal Tap-ian scale, his band has  been a perfect mashup of early Stooges-era proto-punk with a glam attitude and White’s appreciation (read: obsession, at least reputedly) for Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard. The songs on the band’s two releases are short, simple and powerful anthems based around Paul Humphrey’s resilient power chords stapled onto no-nonsense rhythms and White’s ‘70s rock vocals.

And, in the true egomaniacal form you might say is intrinsic to the visionary lifestyle, White recently began soliciting local bands to appear on a tribute album. No matter that the band had then only been in existence since 2006 – homage knows no time limit. The result: Reclamation Now!, a strong disc that features a collection of thirteen covers (plus one hidden live track from a 2007 show White did with Drowning Dolphins) by local bands that not only pays tribute to Deadbubbles, but in some cases even lends even more legitimacy to some of the band’s work.

The gamut of musicianship in itself on the disc is impressive enough to get a copy, and it features a widely varied mix of genres. The Babysitters’ opening cover of “Dream Hard!” from Deadbubbles’ debut album “Reclamation Forklift Provider,” starts off as a pretty close mimic of the original, but evolves quickly into a Breeders-esque version with even more inspiration than White was able to put behind it. The childish jaunt of “Zoo Kicker and I” is covered twice, and both are wildly different.  While Matt Shupe’s version floats along in an almost Echo & The Bunnymen-meets-Jonathan Richman folkiness, The Firebird 4000 Project pull off a version that recalls early Beck four-track mixes with an almost Elephant Six flair.

Twelve of the thirteen covers on the record came from Deadbubbles first album – which likey attests to the strength of the more indie nature behind it. The one tune from “Frienemies” that is covered is a brilliant homage to the Stooges-ian punk by local legend and Elvis Presley pal Ralph Gean. Take a listen to both and see what you think.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Deadbubbles_Straightliner (Ralph Gean).m4a” text=”Straightliner – by Ralph Gean”]


[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Deadbubbles_Straightliner.mp3″ text=”Deadbubbles – Straightliner”]

As a tribute, “Reclamation Now!” works well, and paints a great picture of Deadbubbles’ comedic complexity. Better, as just a disc, the project makes for an impressively entertaining listen – whether or not you’re the least bit familiar with the band.

Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on the tribute and the re-birth of Deadbubbles this Spring and Summer. This band is still clawing its way into fullness, and we’re counting them as one to watch in the Denver scene.


The Outfit - Broken West Wishbone Test

The Outfit - Broken West Wishbone Test

The Outfit – Broken West Wishbone Test

The Outfit want to “. . . make music that people can connect to and, possibly, move to.” With their debut album, “Broken West Wishbone Test,” which comes out next month,  they’ve moved a whole lot closer to succeeding on both accounts. This four piece of locals makes a huge sound on the new record, thrown up into a wild cyclonic pitch by Casey Banker’s signature big guitar sound and Eric Johnston’s wailing, but anchored by Pat Lawless’s relentless bass and RJ Powers’ locomotive drumming (for the record, Mike King is now the bass player for the band, and has been for quite some time. Long story is that, for the recording of the record, Lawless joined the band in LA in ’09, but then quit, and was replaced by King. Whew!). Unfortunately, but not surprisingly for a young group, they seem to get a little lost in that conquest for bigness. It’s only a momentary lapse, but it is one toward which the album’s incomprehensible title seems to hint.

From the wholly misleading guitar flicker at the first seconds of “Intro,” clear through the multi-catharsis of “Out of the City” the rhythms are solid, pounding and growing. Johnston’s vocals start to recall Mark Lanegan (from ‘90s Seattle band Screaming Trees) and Kings of Leon‘s Caleb Followill – low, smoother, mostly confident in the lyrics. Meanwhile, Banker flails overtop with his signature Buzzcocks-featuring-J-Mascis guitar and King and Powers build, destroy and rebuild the foundation.

Overall, the result is a strong record, though it seesaws in and out of focus, and shows some derivative  – two minor drawbacks that should just be chalked up to freshman jitters.

When they’re strong, the songs feel invincible, but the band begins to meander at time and loses momentum, which is picked up again in another song. “The Cold,” for instance (which they’ve posted for your perusal on their Facebook page) is full of poppy hooks, and just the right length. It’s a palate cleanser after the sometimes too-heavy “Old Riot” that just seems a hair short of the angry, exhausted mark it seems to be trying to hit. “Strange Bones” is another piece that comes close, but just falters with a little too much of Banker’s constant, though always impressive, axe presence. After the frenetic riffs of “Softsided” wipe that clumsiness away, the rise and fall between great and almost-there songs continues. Heaviness drowns “Hi-Lo,” which is just a tad too close toKings of Leon for me, but the Strokes-induced “Washed Out” redeems the flow. The melancholy of “Cavalier” thankfully succumbs to the pogo of “Crave,” and so on.

The Outfit are currently involved in a kind of collision that’s hard to take your eyes off – it’s a good thing, not a cataclysm  – and I wouldn’t recommend looking away just yet. This record shows a band ready to explode, just as soon as they polish a few thorny inconsistencies.

The Outfit will be celebrating the release of “Broken West Wishbone Test” at a party onMay 6th at Larimer Lounge, along with local bands Colfax Speed Queen, The Knew and The Dig.

Check out “Crave” while you buy your tickets for the release show!

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Outfit_Crave.mp3″ text=”The Outfit – Crave”]


tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (out April 19, 2011)

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (out April 19, 2011)

tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

Could you put together a more seemingly incongruent mix than John Cage, John Coltrane and a ukelele? The thought brings to mind a project infused with Laurie Anderson/Yoko Ono innovation and frolic. Unique? intriguing? Sure. But entertaining? Not always. In fact, more likely frustrating.

Yet, Oakland’s Merrill Garbus and her band tUnE-yArDs make the mixture a perfect emulsion, and add strong Afro-pop rhythms behind millions of time signatures along with a sexy and ironic wit to boot.

Garbus’ project – named with the goofy upper-lower casing shown – released their sophomore w h o k i l l” (also punctuated and spelled EXACTLY in that challenging way) on April 19 (TODAY!), and had already been making plenty of waves on NPR, SXSW and in other rock worlds, mostly because they simply don’t fit.


But that lack of correlation, often so easily frustrating, actually provides a comfortable match, almost from first listen.

Once you get past the initial double-takes and knee jerks that prevent you from leaving the record’s sphere of sound, its charm is already subcutaneous. Garbus coos, howls, whispers, whistles, whoops and hollers, recalling vocalists as disparate as Nina Simone, Harry Bellafonte and Elizabeth Frasier, as well as an entire African chorus. The melodies, full of ukelele, horns and more – clashing early on – are strung wildly across and through discordant rhythms peppered with all kinds of drums, sticks, bells and other percussion instruments.

It shouldn’t work.

Like a lot of Coltrane’s meditative improvisation, it should sound like a mess, at least at first. Unlike Coltrane, though, tUnE-yArDs doesn’t require that you learn to scuff off rational thought to truly feel the groove they’re laying down. All you need to do is let it take over, and in this case it’s simple. Almost immediately addictive, “w h o k i l l” is good enough to even outweigh the frustration of typing the title. If ever a band’s sound came close to replicating the semantic universe verbally illustrated by e. e. cummings, this one may be it.

tUnE-yArDs will visit Denver for a show at the Hi-Dive on May 4. listen to “Gangsta” and get a dose of Merrill’s universe, then go and see it.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Tune_Yards_Gangsta.mp3″ text=”tUnE-yArDs – Gangsta”]




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Threading the Scene: Denver’s Deadbubbles’ unbeatable live show comes easy, but packs plenty of raw power

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Deadbubbles are bringing the raw edge back to rock. (Photo: Deadbubbles)

Deadbubbles are bringing the raw edge back to rock. (Photo: Deadbubbles)

Arlo White has always wanted to be in a band. “Ever since I was a kid,” he told me during a recent discussion, “I’ve always been focused on the idea of being in a rock band . . . .” After years of trying repeatedly to pull friends, friends of friends, people he’d meet at shows – and just about anyone else – into his dream, he’s finally met it with Denver’s Deadbubbles. This band is one that Jack Black’s character in “School of Rock,” die-hard rock ‘n roll fan Dewey Finn, would be proud of – one that mixes passion and simplicity with solid knowledge and respect for the classics.

DenverThread caught up with White, frontman and central energy source for the band, along with bassist Matt Martinez at the Skylark Lounge recently, to discuss the band’s history, future and philosophy. Sadly, the interview replaced the only show they’ve ever had to cancel in their three year history, due to illness.

“We’ve always tried to keep things simple,” White told me, “but powerful. And maybe it’s ‘cause I’m such an egomaniac, but I know what we bring to the stage every show. It’s strong, simple and powerful, also really sexual. . .” and exactly what he always wanted to bring.

“We’re proud of our ‘in your face’ sound and attitude,” added Martinez, “something we’ve always wanted to be. Not so much like your average hardcore punk band, though, more Stones-y, or like The Faces.”

“Yeah, every time I think of how I want to sing a ‘bubbles song,” said White, “I try and imagine how Rod Stewart would’ve done it.”

Deadbubbles does a damned good job at it, too – not just mimicry, but realm honest-to-god absorption and re-working – and not just of the pre-glam legends. Listening to a ‘bubbles record is like a walk through some mythical pre-punk section og the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame dedicated to The Stooges, MC5, David Bowie – all of the greats that fertilized the punk genre. But they also filter in a healthy dose of heavies like The Who, The Rolling Stones, Ozzie’s Black Sabbath and T. Rex that gives their compositions significant weight.

“Purity is really important to us, especially in the live show,” he explained. “We don’t have nay need or desire at all to mess things up bay adding too much. All we offer is pure music, and a strong sage presence, to raise the audience up.”

Still, it’s all simple three-chord progressions – sometimes even one chord (see Frienemy’s “Intro,” for a sample) – backed with pounding, basic drum and bass riffs, all behind White’s cocky and intense vocals that grab your attention, and keep you entranced and jerking, feet stomping and fists pumping, until the end of the last track.

Deadbubbles' live show is incomparable, wild, frenetic, and raw. (Photo: Deadbubbles)

Deadbubbles' live show is incomparable, wild, frenetic, and raw. (Photo: Deadbubbles)

Live, they’re even more of a phenom. At first the four piece  – made up of White and Martinez along with guitarist Paul Humphrey and (latest) drummer Robert Newman – seem a relatively unassuming, jeans, t-shirt and jacketed bunch. Not for long, however. As soon as Humphrey’s guitar starts into its Stooge-tinted progression, White transforms into a rock ‘n roll beast. Often dressed in a ruffled tuxedo shirt and with lox that Robert Plant would covet, the singer punces around the stage and howls into his mic, channeling the spirits of Iggy Pop, Rob Tyner and Ozzie behind his psychotic, oversized eyes and maniacal grin. It’s the kind of performance that draws you in, and doesn’t let you get back out, until White’s good and done with you.

“Purity is really important to us, especially in the live show,” he explained. “We don’t have nay need or desire at all to mess things up bay adding too much. All we offer is pure music, and a strong sage presence, to raise the audience up.”

The band started out in 2006 when White asked Humphreys, who he’d met at a number of parties around town, to come by and work out some tunes, and to form a band.

“For the first time,” said White, “after so many other times I’d tried to get someone to help me get a band started, this guy actually showed up! I was floored! We started recording in my house, just Paul and I and his guitar, and a little Casio I have.”

Bassist Martinez, a long time friend of Humphreys from a boarding school in Fargo, North Dakota, joined soon after, and then the band began an almost Spinal Tap styled quest for a regular drummer – they went through eight – until Newman stepped in. Since then, the band has maintained that lineup, and solidified their sound, stage presence, and camaraderie.

“Our friends are really, really into us,” said White. “I think we offer a sound that brings freedom, purity, and more than a little sexual energy back to the stage, and they seem to identify with it.”

And, after only two records, 2007’s Reclamation Forklift Provider and 2008’s Frienemies, White has begun soliciting other bands to record a Deadbubbles tribute album. Another sign of egomania? Perhaps – but I think it’s brilliant, and wonder why more bands aren’t doing the same -regardless of their sphere of influence. And, he’s already got more than 8 tracks submitted.

“Our friends are really, really into us,” said White. “I think we offer a sound that brings freedom, purity, and more than a little sexual energy back to the stage, and they seem to identify with it.”

Deadbubbles is playing one more 2009 show, on Saturday, November 14, at Meadowlark. The show is a farewell for band Six Months to Live, and also features Dario Rosa. Don’t miss this show – the small venue is as likely as not to explode with the band’s fury, and it’ll be well worth it to say you were there.

Check out one of their best: [wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/6669.mp3″ text=”Deadbubbles – 6669″]


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