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Friday, February 7, 2014

New Music Crush: The Friday Prophets + interview

Umeå, European capital of culture 2014, is famous in the alternative music world at least, for spawning Refused, Meshuggah and several hardcore punk bands who were very serious about social issues and probably weren't that fun to hang out with at parties. Luckily, a beacon of hope has emerged, in the form of The Friday Prophets, who retain the sense of social justice of their predecessors, while mercifully allowing for a sense of humour and personality to shine through their European-style punk devotion.

What I like about these guys is that they are both as earnest about punk and ska as Europeans can be, but they are also having fun with it. Punk Rock Flu is all a European punk rock song should be. Imagine if Billie Joe Armstrong was born in Sweden, away from American things such as 'sarcasm' and 'irony', in a town where punk rock is serious business. You're halfway to understanding The Friday Prophets.

Regardless of the words I spew out here, my new found love of The Friday Prophets is actually very simple to explain. They're just a bunch of relatively regular dudes, playing really good ska influenced punk rock. I spoke to singer/guitarist Mattias about the Umeå scene, punk rock and clichés! They have just released a slightly baffling video for their song 'Amsterdam' and apparently the band themselves aren't sure what the message behind it actually is. Check it out!

GDAC: Why do you think Umeå produces so many alternative bands?

M: I haven't really thought about this very much. But I think in the 90's Umeå had a wave of straight edge and vegan hardcore bands that stirred the pot and an important ingredient was the band "Refused". The punk- and hardcore scene became a popular subculture, probably because people where fed up with how the meat production industry was run and they wanted to make healthy and active choices about their lives. From what I know, Umeå has for a long time been a very democratic and egalitarian city (compared to other places) where most people embrace equality. And since the world is not equal (in many aspects) the struggle continues and it's reflecting in what's happening on the music scene.

Did you get to see the famous Umea bands growing up?

I was born in 1988 so I was too young to understand what was going on in Umeå in the 90's. But now in my later years I sometimes enjoy seeing local bands like "Lesra" and "Håll Det Äkta", and about a year ago I saw Refused play their last gig here in Umeå. That was probably the best show I've ever seen.

What drew you to punk and ska?

The mentality of it. Many punk rockers challenge authority and question conventional beliefs and ways of being. It may sound like a teenage rebellion cliché but the fundamental philosophy of it is just as accurate as ever to me. I may not display it by wearing provocative clothing and a mohawk, I think it's more reflecting in what I do and what I believe. You can rebel on the inside without having the devil-may-care exterior.

How did the band get together?

The Friday Prophets started in 2010 and I had been playing punk/rock with our bass-player Isac since 2007 I think. We met through his sister. Simon, the drummer joined the band in 2011, I believe. And Edvin, our lead guitar player just started showing up when we rehearsed and wanted to join the band. He wouldn't take no for answer, luckily neither would we. I realized he was viciously more talented than me when it came to playing guitar.

Is there a story behind the name?

I wanted the band to be called something with "Friday" in it because then the plan at first was to play party oriented punk. So we typed in Friday in one of those band name generator sites and suddenly there it was: "The Friday Prophets". I love the band name, I think we all do even though it may not represent what the band is about.  

What are your influences? Are there ska-punk bands in particular you like, or do you like bands dedicated to each specific genre?

There are so many influential components and they do not only come in the shape of music. I take inspiration from people, books, articles, movies, philosophy, relationships etc. It's hard to find a common denominator for all of these things and at the risk of sounding cliché I would say everyday life is the biggest influence. When something inspires me a creative switch is turned on within me. Then of course there's a reason why our sound is the way it is and those reasons  are Bad Religion, The Bouncing Souls, Green Day, The Descendents, Against Me!, Rise Against and NOFX. Our ska-punk influences comes from bands like Streetlight Manifesto and Less Than Jake.

I get the impression, and I could be wrong, that the band is an escape from everyday life for you guys, is that the case?

I can only speak for myself, but yeah when I was younger it sort of was. That was when I started to write songs about apathy and feeling detached from society, which later became songs like "Good Things", "Daffy's Futility Routine" and "Wasted Days". But I wouldn't say that that's the case now. I enjoy everyday life most of the time and the band is an valuable part of it. Not because I have to escape from it, rather because I wanna add one more meaningful ingredient to it. 

What are your goals and plans as a band?

We don't have any grand plans or goals, we're all studying so we try to find time for the band when we can
because we all enjoy it very much. We sort of have a "let's take it step-by-step attitude" and time will tell
where that will take us. My goal is to try to keep The Friday Prophets alive for as long as possible simply because I love writing and playing music.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

This Cradle of Filth cover is interesting

I quite like Roadrunner-era Cradle of Filth. I'm not sure how I feel about this, though. Someone has a lot of time on their hands.  I guess it's funny in so far as it's a thorn in among all the classical piano covers by multiple, interchangeable goth ladies. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Dodgy Film Club: Thankskilling

Thankskilling is a low budget, self aware horror comedy about five college students on a road trip home for Thanksgiving, who are set upon by a murderous, eh, fowl-mouthed (sorry) Turkey.

Where has this movie been all my life? As much of an homage as a satire, it features a classic set of horror characters, including:
  • The Jock (comes with football)
  • The Redneck (comes with chin beard)
  • The Nerd (comes with health issues)
  • The Dumb Slut (comes with sex puns)
  • The Good Girl (comes with additional 'Sheriff Dad' character)
  • The Weird Old(ish) man (comes with ability to show up at any time)
Here are some highlights and things to expect:

  • The opening shot is of an exposed breast, belonging to an inexplicably topless mom-aged blonde woman, in, we are told, 1621.
  • Soon after we are introduced to the turkey, who can not only wield an axe, but can also deliver one liners like an anachronistic action movie star. (e.g. the line 'Nice tits, bitch', which is totally the language turkeys in 1621 would use, should they be able to talk)
  • Surprisingly little nudity, given the open shot
  • Vague Increasingly strong homo-eroticism
  • A punk and metal dominated soundtrack for some reason. I mean, it's sweet, but why would these 5 people be listening to it?
  • 'Turkeyologists'
  • Awful puns!
  • Graduates of the Alan Bagh school of acting
  • A lead character named Johnny (reference or no?)
  • The line 'Gobble gobble, motherfucker'
(Image Source:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

There was a SCOOTER version of Tony Hawk's

I thought Aggressive Inline was a stretch, barely clinging on by its fingertips to Tony Hawk's coattails... It seems that the money and trends people in video game HQ thought that skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX and yes, even rollerblading games weren't enough. There was also Razor Freestyle Scooter.

Apparently the storyline was that you are a scooter kid whose friends are kidnapped by an evil robot. Okay, that actually sounds cool. But we have to bend our interpretation of reality and believe that someone who chose freestyle scooter as an extreme sport would have any friends.

Anyway, let's get to the important part: the soundtrack!

I'm not sure where they found these D-list skate punk bands, but it's quite fitting that the songs got the general feeling of skate punk, without the company having to pay for the best of skate punk. Shades of Montgomery Burns looking for a 'non-union, Mexican equivalent'.

Some of the songs sound like they were recorded off the TV onto a handheld tape recorder..

The full album is only 28 minutes long, which is kind of sad. There are definitely some songs that teenage me would have consumed on repeat. In an alternative universe I might have played Razor Freestyle Scooter and listened to Never Too Late and Ex Number Five instead of Bad Religion and Alkaline Trio.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Symphony of Distraction Interview

Symphony of Distraction are, for my money, the best skate punk band of the modern era. Guitarist and vocalist, Jay, talked to me about the band, the shape of punk today, and what it's like to be an aging punk rocker.

Mr Sparkle!

What are SOD doing these days, are you writing any new material? 

Nothing specific right now. After we finished the last record and did a short tour, I moved to New York City, so I live across the country from everyone else in the band. We’ve had some conversations about doing some recording in the not too distant future, but as of yet nothing specific is planned.

What is the song writing process for you guys?

Steve and I split the song writing. When we had some song ideas, we’d get together and get right to recording guitar parts. We found that being able to listen to the guitar tracks helped us really hear the songs better than just playing them over and over. We were pretty much writing the songs all the way until they were done. The whole writing and recording happened in parallel. There weren’t any songs where I finished the lyrics more than a few minutes before I started recording the vocals. It’s a much better process for me than trying to write a whole record up front and not really hear any of it until I get into the studio. There’s so many times that I thought I had written a really great song and didn’t realize it sucked until I started recording it. Recording as you write helps avoid that situation

Some of your lyrics deal with frustrations and insecurities of every day life. Are your lyrics an important part of a cathartic process or do you just need to fill in the songs?

For me the lyrics definitely come secondary to the music, but I still consider them an important part. Bad lyrics can ruin an otherwise good song, so I always keep that in mind when I’m trying to rush through lyric writing. I think Steve takes it more seriously because a lot of his songs relate to what’s going on in his life when he writes them. I usually have a couple of lines of words that I find work well with a melody and then write around them. It creates for some random topics..

Speaking of which, 'New Cliches' struck a particularly loud chord with me. How are you finding becoming an adult and an adult punk guy?

I kind of relate getting older in the punk scene to the stages of grief. At first you’re in denial, then you’re angry and finally you just have to accept it. You get older and there’s nothing you can do about it. Punk rock is definitely a young person’s game but that doesn’t mean you have to stop listening to it or stop going to shows. For me growing older just meant that I didn’t have the urge to throw it in everyone’s face all the time anymore. I don’t need to have blue hair and piercings and wear a Sex Pistols shirt so that some stranger can tell how cool I am. The best part of aging is that you truly, honestly just stop giving a fuck what anyone thinks.

In terms of new music, personally I don't really get the whole hipster, retro, cassette tape trend, but I know that older people at the time hated bands like Nofx and Strung Out so I try not to get overly concerned about it..

Yeah, I had a conversation with someone not too long ago that was trying to tell me that cassette tapes sound better than CDs. I wanted to slap him in the face. I could see cassettes being cool from a collector’s standpoint, but to say they sound better is just stupid. But you’re right, everybody thinks that their generation of music is better than the next so it’s gets really hard to judge what’s legitimately appealing to the youth as you get older.

What are your thoughts on the future of the music industry and how do you feel about piracy?

Piracy is a bummer. It hurts the musicians, and I think it hurts the listener too. You can definitely have too much of a good thing. I’ve heard people brag about how they have 50 thousand songs in their mp3 library. Almost all of which are pirated. What’s the point of having 50 thousand songs? You can’t ever listen to them. It just perpetuates the short attention span that everybody has. So now you basically have access to all music and don’t give a shit about any of it. That being said, I’ve pirated some music that I was excited to hear and didn’t want to wait til the release date. So I’m not claiming innocence, but I’d happily give up access to free music if it meant that everybody else did too.

Who are your biggest influences and favourite bands, past and present?

As I’m sure you can tell by the music, we’re mid 90s skate punk nerds. Fat Wreck, Epitaph, Vagrant bands. Bands like Weezer, Green Day and Ben Folds Five. Really anyone that could write a great melody is what I was into in my most obsessive music phase. These days it’s more rare that I feel like a band would be a huge influence to me when I’m writing punk music. My writing habits are too hard wired at this point. I can still get inspired by a song, but it’s much more random how that happens now. It could be a Britney Spears song I hear in a movie that triggers a melody idea for me. Then I take that and just throw it over my old influences.

Had you guys got a set sound in mind when you started the band, and how did the band come together?

Steve was in SecondShot when it first started. We always wrote well together, but it just wasn’t working out at that point for other reasons and Steve got kicked out and went on to do some other projects. We didn’t talk for a couple years. When we finally did, we got drunk and talked about the idea of trying to record an EP by ourselves. Neither of us had any recording experience and I never really thought we’d do it. Some time later, I decided I wanted to demo out some songs and bought some cheap recording gear. After learning a bit, we got together and recorded the guitar parts to a song that Steve was messing around with, and we thought it sounded good. So we decided to go for it. Steve had been in a band called Allergic to Idiots that had Jimmy and Pat in it. We just recruited them to fill out the band and made the EP.

As far as the sound, we were pretty specific. All fast. We weren’t going to try to bother with making the record balanced. We wanted to do all fast songs, and that’s how the EP ended up being. There are a couple mid tempo songs on Call It Off, but it’s still generally a really fast record.

How did the name come about? Are you all just fans of Dave Mustaine and his work?

No. It’s a terrible band name and we came up with it when we were really drunk and thought it was funny.

To me, your music is exactly how punk from California and West coast America should sound. So, I gotta say, it's pretty weird that you guys seem more appreciated in Asia than at home. What was your Asian tour like and why do you think skate punk is still so popular there?

Yeah, when we first moved to the Bay Area, we thought that since it was the home of Fat Wreck, that people would be crazy for that style of music, but it just wasn’t the case at all. I think maybe southern California would have been better for us, but who knows. Asian tour was awesome. I love going over there. They have great fans. They come to the show before the first band starts, and don’t leave til the show is over. I don’t have an answer to why skate punk still does well over there.

What is it about this kind of punk that attracts you? Is there any other genres that you listen to or would like to play?

The attraction to punk music for me has always been that the songs are more streamlined than a lot of other types of music. You have a good melody and some good music behind it, you repeat it 3 times and you’re done. Obviously that’s a huge generalization and not many of our songs actually do that, but I’ve always loved how punk songs eliminate a lot of fluff from a song so that the core idea of a is the most important thing. As far as other genres, I tried to learn piano when I was young and failed miserably. So now I actually play a lot of jazz piano. I’m not sure if I like it or It’s just a personal challenge, but lately, that’s where most of my musical energy has been going. Once I’m good enough, I want to have a band that plays old punk songs in jazz style. No idea if that will ever happen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Zero Charisma: Compact Movie Review

A games master in need of a good therapy session loses what little control he has on life when a hipster joins his table. Role-playing games provide the background to a dark comedy-drama about mental illness. 8/10.