Friday, February 21, 2014

Square Zeros #9: Amanda B. (Crazy Pills, Adolescence, Nakanaka Yaru Na, Yamamba, Useless Chairkicker Loves Dawn)

For most of us, bedroom rock stays locked away in the bedroom. Fortunately, that isn't the case for Amanda B., who has a handful of 10-plus-year-old shoegazey tracks that crisscrossed the Pacific Ocean and eventually got put to tape here in New York.

Amanda is the guitarist and singer for the Brooklyn-based power trio Crazy Pills, which plays a surf-tinged blend of rockabilly and garage pop. They call up aspects of The B52s, The Pretenders and even some early Ted Leo for me, especially in the guitars. And that's Amanda's doing. She's a guitarist's guitarist — not in the Guitar Center let-me-show-you-how-much-I-shred sense, but in her clear obsession with tone and timing. Crazy Pills' 2013 full length Restless features a rich assortment of sounds and textures from Amanda's mauve mist Jazzmaster (check 3:15 in the podcast), alongside a bouncy, rock-solid drum and bass. It's an irresistibly catchy record, and each of the ten tracks will keep you on your toes. Check it out here, pick it up on wax.

Amanda started playing guitar young, training on classical in high school and figuring out her style and sensibilities largely on her own. Apart from some guitar sidework in a boyfriend's band, it wasn't until after college, when she relocated to Japan, that Amanda started playing in outfits where she had more ownership. The first track she brought us, "The Stars Above," is a song she wrote at 19 and later took to Japan to play in a group called Useless Chairkicker Loves Dawn. Years later, after she'd moved to New York, she recorded the song with a four-piece called Adolescence, and that's what we get here.

In Japan, Amanda also spent time in a cover band called Nakanaka Yaru Na, which (roughly translated) is a Japanese phrase you say when someone performs better than you expect them to at something they're not good at. Nakanaka Yaru Na covered T. Rex, Blondie, The Clash and a host of others, and even did some recordings, but regretfully their GeoCities page has been lost to the ether.

Following that project, Amanda joined a band called Yamamba, meaning Mountain Witches, that played original songs and dressed in Yamamba garb on stage (this paints a good picture). Here, we get "Bebe," a song Amanda wrote for and performed with that group before moving back to the states and laying it down in the same session as "The Stars Above." They both have a sweet, wistful sound, shimmery guitars and drawn out vocals — all stuff that's reemerging in a big way now, giving these tracks some real staying power.

Crazy Pills recently finished tracking a new EP, so keep an eye out for that, and they've got a series of spring shows in the works. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter for more. Thanks Amanda!

"Look Alive" from Crazy Pills' LP Restless opens the podcast and the single "Break It Down" from the same record closes it.


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