Thursday, April 10, 2014

Later, Season 1

Dear friends,

Today, Square Zeros is closing the books on its pilot season. When we started this thing back in January, we had a fairly good idea of what we wanted to accomplish in our first round of episodes. Whether people would actually want to listen or participate was a mystery. Thanks to your support, we're beginning to feel like we're onto something. 

As much as we laugh and crack wise during our interviews, we recognize that asking musicians to share their early recorded songs with the entire internet is a serious request. You may have wanted the whole world to hear your lo-fi Zeppelin rip-offs and riot grrrl covers and Biggie imitations when you were 16, but those things can take on a certain sanctity as you get older. It’s not easy to be so candid about your humble beginnings — especially at a time when social media has made us more and more obsessed with branding and image building. It takes courage.

With that in mind, we thank all the courageous musicians who resurrected old hard drives, dug through jewel cases, and tracked down long lost Angelfire pages to share some of their earliest artistic endeavors. Making music is a shared experience, and our goal, if we have one, is to celebrate that — even if it means embarrassing each other a little bit.

— DJH + JM


Season 2 starts next week, so stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some of Derek and Jon’s random accolades from the first season.

Most delightfully sophomoric song: Jordyn Blakely
Jordyn brought us the innocuously titled “Mandy’s Song,” which turned out to be an ode to BBW porn. The opening line gets right to the point: “Your legs ARE SO BIG / I like the way that they JIGGLE.” The chorus is timeless: “Masturbation! / Masturbation! / I jack off every day!” But what really gets me is the bridge with the male groaning, fart noises, and ska breakdown. You’ve really just got to hear it for yourself.

Best song title: Marisa Cerio
This could’ve gone a lot of ways. Marisa doesn’t necessarily win on the strength of the title alone, but she annihilates on the backstory. The story of her band Murray's “Lady Lyandria” begins with Marisa in a writing workshop where everyone read each other’s stories: an opportunity one male participant took to write full-on soft-core porn; Lady Lyandria was the titular character, who “stared in the mirror at her soft pink self.” Honorable mention goes to “Trying Vegetables” off of the children’s album Jordyn Blakely worked on, and yes - had Marta DeLeon’s The Getter Flash song “The Days of Living Velvet”  kept its original title, “Woody Allen Bangs His Daughter” — she might have unseated Marisa.
— JM

Most unintentionally prescient songs: Amanda B.

Amanda was writing sweet, wistful shoegazey hits WAY before you bought enough pedals to ape Loveless without making it sound like you were trying to ape Loveless. You've got nothing on Yamamba or Nakanaka Yaru Na. I'm getting all genki just thinking about them.
 — DJH

Greatest bandname-to-song-length ratio: Aileen Brophy
There’s bands out there like …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead who will willingly craft the entire second side of their record into one seventeen-minute song with several movements and common themes throughout. Then there are bands like The Violent Against Themselves and Others whose songs only threaten to scrape the two-minute barrier when someone dares to ask afterward whether the song had the word “whore” in the lyrics. (Spoiler Alert: It did not.)

— JM

Best bio: Keenan Houser 
On the meaning of his stage name, Spaghetti Blacc: "Cubic centimeters of disgusting, sauced-up spaghetti realness." Enough said. (23:31 in the interview.)
 — DJH + JM 

Favorite early song: Louis Ramos
This was really tough. What surprised me most about the music I heard across these 14 episodes was how legitimately good some of it was. It was also humbling to realize what a hopelessly sincere dork I was compared to other musicians when they were adolescents. Overall, the track that stuck out to me most was "Pigman" by Louis's band Mrs. Whitehead. It's really unhinged, and Louis goes into some wild theatrics at the end. Recalls some My War-era Rollins. For being so young, his voice has a ton of character, and he has a lot of control. He also improvised the vocals, which is really impressive. The way he wails "I am the pigman! / Understand!" is fucking deranged and I love it.

Best high school bandname: Stephen Perry
I still can’t believe you brought in Epinephrine to play for Square Zeros when you were in another band in high school called Craphead. You’re a real son of a bitch, Perry.
— JM

Most high school bandname: Kaleen Reading
There are certain pleasures available in youth that simply can’t be recreated in adulthood. The innocence of first love. The sense of safety: of a world without consequences. And of course, having a doom metal band, and naming that band Destructotoad.

— JM

Best extracurricular instrument: Marta DeLeon

Not only does she shred on cello and bass, and not only does she sing beautifully, but she played melodica on one of her tracks. Barely edged out Will Waikart of Typefighter, who played washboard on a cut from his early college band, Politicks.
 — DJH + JM
Best soundbite: Chris Tracy
Chris made the broadest, most stunning rhetorical leap of the entire season in discussing the Lord of the Rings-themed subject matter of his high school band Shire.  Chris did a quarter-turn from discussing Shire’s need for “pant-shittingly sick guitar solos” into a forty-five-second discourse on the Battle of Pelennor Fields that would make Stephen Colbert applaud. (cut to 17:06 for Chris, 4:26 for Colbert)

— JM

Least high school song: Stephen Selman
After listening to Stephen's high school Jackson Browne-esque ballad, "Road Song," I asked my good friend in our inaugural interview, "What on earth motivated you to write this particular song?" It's really heady and laden with old soul lines like, "I can't wait till these slow days in my life are gone." Fortunately, unlike most of us, Stephen had the advanced musical chops to support lines like that — which, of course, makes it even less high school-sounding. But it's well composed and recorded, and that riff is pretty damn catchy.

Best music-related aside/reminiscence: Mario Viele

We're not often ones for nostalgia, but Mario’s discussion of going to his local music store spoke to a moment that we're sad to see go.  Mario met Kyle, his band’s singer, because Kyle worked as a manager at the local record store and “curated” to an extent the music that Mario and his younger bandmates listened to, introducing them to new music.  This, Mario points out, wasn’t something record store guys did just to sell records, but because of a genuine desire to hip people to new music that was going to blow their minds.  As the Internet increasingly governs our reception of music, that interpersonal aspect of going to an actual place, looking for an actual person, and having an actual conversation about new music (while listening to it with them, collectively) is something the Internet can’t provide. (9:30 in the interview.)
— DJH + JM
Best non-music-related aside/reminiscence: Ryan McLaughlin (Typefighter)
Oh, god: Ryan getting frosted tips. 24:45 in the interview. No contest. Next.
— DJH + JM


Season 1 playlist:

[0:00] "Beaner" – The Amputees

[2:47] "Tear The World Apart" – The Planes
[5:15] "Wedding Rings" – Crazy Pills
[8:31] "No New Friends (demo)" – Clean Girls
[11:17] "Pay Tribute" – Spaghetti Blacc feat. E Fury
[14:33] "Police Cop" – Low Fat Getting High
[16:27] "Dear Jimmy" – Jimmy Doyle And The Engineers
[19:09] "Another One For The Record Books" – Big Quiet
[21:59] "Bike Lane" – Mayor Creep

[24:14] "She Never Screams" – The Meaning Of Life
[27:30] "Time Out (demo)" – Stephen Selman
[30:48] "All The Royal Years Are Gone" – Clouder
[33:11] "Bender (demo)" – Hounds Basket
[37:04] "Procrastination" – Jackal Onasis
[40:46] "Eviction Notice" – Sunset Guns

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