Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Square Zeros #3: Kaleen Reading (Mannequin Pussy, The Amputees)

I first started playing guitar as a fourteen-year-old kid with too much time on his hands. I'd sequester myself in my room for six hours a day just plugging, wrecking my fingers, trying to figure out why nothing sounded right. That's an old and familiar enough story: a boring beginning for a bored kid.

I reached out to Kaleen Reading about an interview for two reasons. One, obviously, is that she's way talented and her bands rip. She plays drums for the noisy post-grunge outfit Low Fat Getting High* and punk rockers The Amputees. But more importantly, her story — learning to play rock and roll as part of a series of bands in the School of Rock program — is a relatively new, comparatively unfamiliar story, one that should become more and more viable with time.

Judging from the quality of the recordings, there's a lot of talent being groomed in this program. We listened with Kaleen to two songs from her band Dyslexicon. "The Sea" (thus named because it was in the key of 'C') hits familiar enough territory: with its shreddy tones, galloping drums, and big guitar harmonies, it's definitely School of Maiden, with a vocal nod to Sabbath. The key difference is, the singer is a little deeper-throated than Ozzy, and thirteen years old. Here's the part where you try feebly to wrap your head around that.

The other Dyslexicon track, "Lorraine's Kitchen," has all the hallmarks of the teenage writing process. It's a ballad about Burger King, with humorously thrown-together lyrics put over the biggest, boldest chord progression available. The dueling solos — wait, is that a steel pick? Is that first dude on some Brian May shit?! — are positively soaring, and the softer harmonic parts that bridge them are everything and the kitchen sink. There's a lot to chuckle about here, and we joked a lot, but here's the thing: the musicianship's there, the production is still sterling, and I'm willing to bet that there are some Black Crowes fans out there who would drink this up like so many "black golds."

We closed with Kaleen's senior year with the doom metal band Destructotoad, while high-school Jon carved "four-syllable concatenated band names 4 lyfe!!" into the top of his desk. In the interview, we compared it to Sleep's legendary sixty-three-minute magnum opus "Dopesmoker," in that it's huge, it's heavy, and it doesn't quit. We dropped in for a few minutes on the eighteen-minute "Shed Sessions" and grabbed this absolutely enormous riff, with Kaleen on bass. You could play this at a show tomorrow night in Brooklyn (or in my apartment right now), and people would go off.

Or, better yet, you can just go see Low Fat Getting High and The Amputees. Or take a class at the School of Rock, where Kaleen now teaches and directs shows. I'm gonna drop in at least long enough to figure out how you tell what key a song is in.

— JM

*As of September 2014, Kaleen informed us that she no longer plays in Low Fat Getting High, but that she now plays in Mannequin Pussy. We've changed the title of this episode to reflect that, but will leave the rest of the post unchanged. — eds.

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