underground since'89

send vinyl, tapes and zines for review to:

tobi vail P.O. Box 2572 Olympia, WA 98507 USA

email mp3's, links, photos and flyers to:


Monday, November 30, 2009

Porno Grows by Honey Bane

Hone Bane claims to have written the lyrics to Porno Grows when she was 12.

From her blog:

..I have finally managed to come by an MP3 of Porno Grows, which many of you have been requesting I put up here.

I hope you enjoy the nostalgia, also many of my new friends, this may be your first time.This song was from the ep I made on Crass Records when I was 15, however I was 12 when I wrote the lyrics.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Late Night Listening: The Slits

So I have a dub of a Slits bootleg on VHS and I think it's a bunch of stuff shot by Don Letts. This is on it. Does anyone know what the bootleg is that
i have? I have watched it many times at 3 AM as a perfect end to a late night out...

I recently read Typical Girls: The Story of the Slits and am working on a review for The Bumpidee Reader

check out Viv Albertine's website

more soon!

Friday, November 27, 2009

writer's block: the go team

photo by kathleen hanna (1989)

writer's block was one of the fanzines i read in the 80's.

check out this go team feature written by editor mike applestein from writer's block #6, which came out in 1990:

Let us now observe a moment -- not one of silence, but preferably one of pure crashing joy -- to commemorate the passing of the Go Team. After five years and a bunch of cassette releases, the Olympia, WA threesome broke up this past September, following a cross-country tour. Founding member Calvin Johnson shrugs it off with a simple "Oh well, five years is pretty long for any band." But for me, having the Go Team break up is kind of like meeting this great friend at the beginning of the summer, and then having him or her move away a few months later.

The Go Team got compared to Beat Happening a lot, largely due to the obvious similarities: Calvin plays in both bands, both recorded for the K label, both hailed from Olympia, and they both cranked out their songs with an infectious, hey-kids-let's-play-band enthusiasm. But there the similarity ends, for as good as Beat Happening are (indeed, one of my very favorite bands), they have never come anywhere near the depth and diversity of the Go Team. Part of it might be due to the revolving-door lineup changes, and myriad guest stars, on each release. Each song sounded completely different. One moment they were crashing through three-chord slices of pure pop, the next moment it was several guitars interlocking and creating a quiet tension, followed by crushing, near-industrial textures.

The first Go Team project, Recorded Live at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, was literally a tape of construction sounds as recorded by Calvin, who lived across the street from the theater as it was being built. Your Pretty Guitar, with Calvin and Steve Peters, and Donna Parker Pop, with Calvin and Tobi Vail, were more song-oriented. But it was Archer Come Sparrow, released early in 1989, that really turned my head around toward the Go Team--pure, direct and utterly addictive, all for less than half the price of a CD.

The only time I got to see them live, in September of 1989, was a rock experience like few others. For this tour, the lineup was Calvin, Tobi and Billy Karren, who were already onstage by the time I made it to Maxwell's. Calvin was plucking out a simple, tinny guitar line, staring the crowd down underneath his K baseball cap. Billy was wailing away on rhythm guitar and Tobi was hitting the skins with abandon. Three very distinct personalities at work hare. Tobi and Calvin then switched places, which all three members would continue to do in between nearly every song, and things really kicked into high gear. They seemed to be playing as hard as they could, fueled by adrenaline as much as what could have been sheer nervousness. At other times, they were on the verge of falling apart completely, but amazingly stayed in control. Calvin recited Black Flag lyrics before careening into the final song, which was highlighted by Calvin and Billy throwing down their guitars and dancing wildly. Twice. And finally it was over. It all added up to a performance that not only blew away headliners Yo La Tengo, but every other band I saw in 1989. Absolutely incredible.

to read my writing on the go team, check out my tour diaries from 1987 & 1989 on punk tour blog

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Late Night Listening: Pink Dollaz

Pink Dollaz
are from LA...really cool so far...I have to listen quiet because everyone is asleep...shhh. stay tuned. they are a part of this scene, which you have probably already seen on youtube i just saw that mad decent posted a track a few weeks ago here it looks like possible collaborations with diplo and maybe MIA are in the works.

visit this site for more underground girls of hip hop
here's what they have to say about Pink Dollaz:
Ya girl Shay-Nutt had a chance to catch up with the Inglewood bread group "Pink Dollaz". This group is trully new to the game and when I say new I really mean new. Starting the group less than 6 months ago these ladies have gain major recognition with over 3 millions myspace plays and millions of youtube views the fans want "Pink Dollaz" With hits like "Tastey", "Never Hungry" and my new favorite "Don't Need Know N*gga" these ladies are sure to make an impact on this new movement they call "Jerk Music". They're currently getting ready to shoot their first video to "Never Hungry" under the leadership of LanceAlot Management. The girls are currently seeking "the right deal" and with radio play and the fans demand i'm sure thats not that far away."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Summer Reading Split 7" (Chimney Sweep)

Summer Reading 7"is a split record put out on Chinmney Sweep featuring:

Eternal Summers: Secret Languages/Electric Blue
Reading Rainbow: Be Who I See/My Sunrise

reading rainbow side--echoe-y male/female vocals blend together to sing pretty, washed-out melodies..minimal drums, guitar, keyboards, the vinyl crackles, or is that the recording....the sound of a scratchy needle, a crappy stereo, a tinn-y cassette... willful aesthetic choices...question mark...now that we live in an era when everyone has access to digital technology do these sounds still retain their politicized "we lack access to the means of production" signification? what is it that we are meant to hear by the inclusion of this surface noise? is it nostalgia for 80's lo-fi indie pop or is it more of a nod to that tradition? if you are discovering that music now, as a younger person who did not live through that period, then do you realize that some of us deliberately made music with our fingerprints all over it as a form of class warfare, so as not to invisiblize the PROCESS of the making of the thing, so as not to pretend we were machines or rich, so as to encourage the disenfranchised to make their own music--to say that it can still sound good even if you record it on a crappy cassette 4-track in your bedroom? turn the song down, turn the static up. regardless of the why of it sounding like this, I like how it sounds, probably for the set of reasons I described that are historically associated with the aesthetic choices made here, but I don't know why these groups made them, and it feels a little odd--maybe even disingenuous--to hear records that sound like this that are being made now...there are quite a few as you probably know. There is a nice luminous-sounding quality of the Reading Rainbow recording--each small part played on a few different instruments come together minimally creating an aural landscape or impression. was the room big or small? I really don't know. crappy microphones or expensive? home recording or studio? is the band rich or poor? punk or preppy? college educated or working class? did they record this on a computer and then put it through some kind of effects-box to make it sound this way or did they record it on a hand held tape recorder on a late 70's Tascam they bought on eBay? really, it beats me. I guess what I am missing is the context in which this record was made...the why and the how and the so what. I wouldn't think this would sound good on an iPod and maybe that's part of the point but I'm really not sure. I listened to the Reading Rainbow side about 10 times in a row before I flipped it over. The Eternal Summers side is nice too, but it sounds more like an overcast Northern England town to me than sunshine; it's freezing cold, not warm or bright.
this record sounds like it was painted with water colors, not acrylic or oil or finger paint. it's good to listen to in the dark, in the rain, when you don't want to go outside and get your feet wet or whatever. it is pop music, but not so good for dancing. I don't think it would sound good if someone tried to play it at their DJ night. maybe that's also part of the point? just a guess.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with Marissa Magic

marissa magic is a writer (deep suburbia, FAB, MRR) and scream-y punk rock girl noise maker (awesomes, the punks, the divine feud) from the bay area. she used to live in olympia and now she lives in san francisco. this interview took place via email. i asked her about her current writing projects, feminism, punk, noise and what bay area bands she is excited about right now...i miss having her in olympia but there's a lot of cool stuff happening where she's at right now. here is what she has to say about it:

What writing projects you are involved in right now?

my most consistent writing thing right now is MRR. I do music and zine reviews, the occasional column and the occasional interview. I'm a writer for the bumpidee reader but haven't posted in a while, I am slowly working on another epic zine that's going to be similar to Deep Suburbia but it's going to be called Endless Bummer. I write for a literary zine called Deep Leap that comes out occasionally. Oh! and I am working on a script for a riot grrl zombie movie with my friend Gentry McShane.

How do you approach writing for MRR?

For the most part I do reviews. Cissie says I always reference the 90's. It's true. I can be kind of harsh and sarcastic but really, they sent their record for review and I review it. For interviews I tend to just try to talk about the things I want to read about. For the most part I don't really care about tour shenanigans and songwriting process, I wanna know if punk and politics work together, I want to know what the DIY community a band is a part of is up to, I wanna know about their thoughts on feminism and queer issues and class issues and race issues. These are the things I find most interesting to read about. When I write columns it tends to come from just talking about punk and feminism with Layla, and I'll make a point or explain one of my theories on something and she'll ask me to make it into a column. In all of this I also try to write like I talk.

What are some of the ideas behind Deep Suburbia?

The core of Deep Suburbia for me was a way to validate my writing for myself. Like most girls I constantly question whether my opinions are valid and that's such bullshit. There's something about having a physical document of your ideas, something you give to your friends and sell at shows and leave at libraries - there's something about that that makes your thoughts feel really real and worthwhile and important. It was also a document of being 25 and not only having grown up in suburbia but a lot of it was written when I was living at my parents house in suburbia for 6 months when I was 25. My long term plan for it is to write one every five years, and at some point after a couple cycles of that compiling them all into one document. A big theme for me when I was writing it was not only trying to prove to myself that my opinions were valid, but also to try to document how my theories and ideas would change and be different as I got older. The essays are basically my ideas about the world, society and my community when I was 25. To come up with the different subjects I mostly just did a lot of jotting down random ideas and then just writing more and more about those ideas everyday.

Can you describe the Awesomes band concept for our readers?

awesomes started out as mainly being about subverting female stereotypes. At this point that explanation seems kind of simple. We have different performances that we do before each set, like we have one where we dress up in work out gear and do aerobics to "let's get physical" by olivia newton john, during it we have mcdonalds burgers that are filled with fake blood that we chew on and spit at each other and rub on ourselves, and then we play, basically being about body image and consumerism, kind of playing with a theme of bulimia and the image of the all american burger and then making it really foul and animalistic. Another thing we do is put black tape over our nipples and then hand out toy squirt guns to the audience filled with fake blood, then they shoot at us, which is just a comment on mainstream medias habit of censoring sex and controlling women's bodies but not really censoring violence. As for the actual set we're usually wearing weird skimpy outfits, and if we're not we usually end up in our underwear, we're covered with something - sometimes blood, sometimes chocolate or whatever and then we're performing. We're making ourselves incredibly vulnerable but the music that we play and our stage presence is extremely aggressive. And then all our set up is is drums and a ton of effects pedals, things that I feel are traditionally kind of male things in music, you know we're not playing keyboards or a tambourine. It's fucking with the idea of what it is to be a woman not only as a performer and as a musician, but just in general what it means to be a woman in american society.

Do you think there is a feminist noise scene right now?

There are definitely feminists who play noise - I hesitate to call it a scene because that implies community, which I don't feel that feminist noise makers are very united and/or supportive of each other. I know some other feminists who play noise and there are definitely some ladies doing rad things like marlo eggplant doing a three cd ladies in noise comp or anna oxygen doing her performance/noise group or sharon cheslow doing sonic tryptych. I guess in reality is I don't feel like it's cohesive scene. I know people here and there but I don't feel like I'm part of a community which is a bummer. Though the other day awesomes played a show with schwule and american splits - mostly ladies, mostly POC's, mostly queer, mostly feminist bands and I felt like I was part of something really awesome, it was a fundraiser for girls rock camp. That was inspiring. I guess I just wish that would happen more and there would be more idea sharing and collaboration within that.

Who are some of your favorite women in noise?

I kind of feel like a lot of women just have this different way of approaching music and approaching art that comes off as noise but I always just think of it as really weird and noise-y punk, but when I think of noise I usually just think of one dude twiddling nobs. anyways- some noise ladies whose music I like - viki, MOM, stuff that azita is/has been involved in, metalux, inca ore, u.s. girls, magik markers (though I didn't like balf quarry), soft shoulder (I don't think the girl is in it anymore though), Marlo Eggplant, Pauline Oliveros, anything that erika anderson does, Bonnie Mercer...

What bay area bands are you really excited about right now and why?

Schwule are great, they are these three really radical ladies that play this really off-kilter hyper punk with weird instrumentation and lots of effects, they do weird skits too. American splits are really rad, my friend described them as drugs at the disco, basically super minimal disco and my friend meals sings like something between yoko ono and a valley girl and it's amazing.

TITS are really good, it's like five girls that play this super doomy metal drone and they all chant lyrics together. No babies are always exciting, kandis(drummer in my band) just joined them, they got kicked out of a bar show they were supposed to play at the other night so they played in the parking lot with the guitarists playing trumpet and clarinet and the singer running through the crowd and screaming, it was really exhilarating. The dudes from long legged woman started a new band that I'm not sure what its called but it's amazing doomy chaos. I just got dadfags record for review at maximum, realized it was an amazing mix of 90's girl indie rock and no-wave. brotman and short are completely amazing two dude darkwave! The dudes from that are in another band called base of bass thats super heavy and exciting, they run the vocals through this crazy speaker that is the size of a person and the singer wears it on his shoulder. Grass widow is good. Rank/xerox are really good, they have a split tape with grass widow thats super awesome. Shannon and the clams are a good time. and of course I love hunx and his punx and younger lovers!!! Those are the bands I am excited about like right at this moment.

What are some of your favorite things that happened in music in the past 5 years?
the feminist takeover of MRR (still going), the bus that has shows here,
being in all girl bands, teaching myself guitar and drums, watching the gossip get famous, Lady Gaga (I don't really like her music but her presence in mainstream media blows my mind!), everything that veronica ortuno does, the rad almost all-lady punk show in olympia, getting involved in girls rock camp, the solo show I played in portland where colin self unplugged all of his equipment midway through his set and he just spoke to the audience in a normal way and everyone was completely silent and mesmorized, feeling like part of the punk scene here but feeling like I still have my northwest membership.

How do you see the future of women in punk/noise/underground whatever?

I don't know. I have fantasies of all these girls who go to rock camp starting noise punk bands and RAGING. I wanna see more ladies playing music that rages and that has a point and a message. I hope for it. I'm kind of cynical. I want to have some level of feeling safe going to shows.

How do you see the future of punk/noise/underground/independent culture and feminism? More specifically, does punk etc have anything to offer feminism?

I think feminism has far more to offer punk then punk to feminism. I guess I was involved in feminist stuff for a long time but I didn't fully connect with it until it was in a punk context. But other than that in general I feel like the punk scene (here at least) is kind of highschool-ish. Theres dumb jocks who say dick shit to me, I mainly hang out with the weirdo stoner kids, theres lots of girls who are really concerned about being fat and unattractive and they're not really involved with making music or art, they're just hanging out with their jock boyfriends. My point is is that I feel like feminism is a way of calling that kind of shit out. feminism is a vehicle to say you guys are living your life basically in the same way that those assholes do. why? In some ways I feel like punk without feminism is just dudes drinking mass amounts and singing songs about fucking girls. Feminism forces the question of how are you going to live your life differently? what do you want? how will you get it? how can you help others around you?


the punkssssss - thank you for the alternative rock - 5RC

Punksssss - live cassette - 777 was 666
Marissa Magic - fuck off fer sure like totally - bumpidee
punxxxxxxx - unanimous bangers - 5RC

Marissa Magic - abeyance - self-released

The Divine Feud - drum machine demos - self released
Marissa Magic - vocal fuck place - self released
ladyz in noize - 3 marissa magic tracks - spleen coffin

awesomes - "we don't put out" - self released

marissa and me, back in the day:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Late Night Listening: The Girls At Dawn

photo borrowed from myspace

tonight's late night listening pick: the girls at dawn...i started out on a quest for the modern day punk rock shangri-la's, inspired by the dum dum girls and listening to 6T's girl groups today... girls at dawn are three girls from brooklyn. here's a recent live video where it sounds a little washed out and feels amateurish in the shagg's sense but you can get an idea of what it would be like to see this group:

here's another cool video:

they appear to have a 7" on hozac and a 12" on captured tracks.
The Girls At Dawn are:
Erin (guitar & vocals), Ana (bass guitar & vocals), Sarah (percussion & vocals), Mysterion (keys)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Remember: Walking (Anarchy) in the (Streets) Sand

Seeing Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound encouraged me to go to Goodwill and Positively 4th Street and hunt for used vinyl as a teenager. I really thought The Shangri-la's were tough, street-wise girls. I thought of them as punk. I was a big Sex Pistols fan at this time as well, but was troubled by their sexism, particularly on this record, Some Product, but I was also pretty obsessed with listening to this record over and over again. It was probably about 5 years before I would hear The Slits, so that gave me a lot of time to imagine what an all-female punk band would actually sound like and how they would present themselves. There really wasn't an example that I knew of. I also didn't hear or even hear of The X-Ray Spex until I was 18 or 19, which seems odd now, given that I was totally music obsessed and immersed in punk. I had heard X, of course, and I was a big Avengers fan, but both of those groups just had female lead-singers and that seemed a little limiting. All the Dangerhouse stuff was out of print, so even if you had heard of The Bags or The Controllers or The Eyes, there was really no way to actually get those records. So this idea of what it would be like if The Shangri-la's were playing their own instruments and writing their own songs really stuck with me.

I remember hearing that The Shangri-la's had played with The Sonics locally and this somehow cemented their reputation in my mind for being really tough chicks. I took this image with me when I would walk around downtown at night. I didn't have go-go boots or long hair and I rarely wore make up, but I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be a punk rock Shangri-la...a girl gang...towns full of girls in gangs...in groups...girl groups...teenage punk rock girl groups...ruling every town. Why hasn't this happened yet?

Blowing Up My Mind: The Exciters

The early 80's documentary Girl Groups: Story of a Sound introduced me to The Exciters and many other 1960's girl groups, producers and songwriters. I had a copy of it on beta and would watch it often as a young teen. In the movie, Ronnie Spector talks about being inspired by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1956). Written by the young group themselves, this was their biggest hit, possibly because the singer's voice had not changed yet; Frankie Lymon was just 13 when they recorded the song. Sadly, he never managed to surpass it and and was dead by overdose at 25. He had one of the most distinctive sounding voices in the history of pop music:

In my view, it was Brenda Reid from the Exciters, not The Ronettes, who sounded the most like Frankie Lymon. The Exciters Tell Him (1962) is one of the greatest sounding pop songs of the Girl Groups era (1960-4) and owes a huge debt to Frankie Lymon. Singer Brenda Reid has an absolutely outstanding tone to her voice and the melodic phrasing on this Leiber/Stoller produced song is very similar to Why Do Fools Fall in Love:

It wasn't until I went to England in the early 90's and discovered Northern Soul that I got to hear classic Exciters songs such as Blowing Up My Mind (1969-RCA Victor) and He's Got the Power (1962-United) By the late 90's I managed to find The Exciters: Something To Shout About, an essential CD compilation of the tracks they recorded for Roulette, but it was missing the really great early stuff as well as the later foot-stompers--though it did have some of the later'70's psychedelic soul tracks. Luckily most of this is on on youtube for all to hear:

Trivia: The Exciters were formerly called "The Masterettes"

Late Night Listening: Dum Dum Girls

tonight the dum dum girls sound nice...they sound great...i like this music

frankie (crystal stilts, ex vivian girls) plays drums in this version of the group:

dee dee (singer/mastermind) has a great voice and i dig her enid-from-ghostworld crazy bat girl get-up.

here's a sweet tribute to the ronettes:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Jigsaw Underground, 2009

Underground refers to music that has a different purpose and orientation than mainstream bands. Keeping underground as an ongoing description illuminates that there is an under to the over -- a distinction that implies motivations other than money and fame. To reduce underground to a description of current trends diminishes its potential power. I guess there are now indie bands on major labels, diluting the reason there were indie bands. Indie is now a genre where previously it was a stance. Maybe we'll have "undie" bands in the mainstream and the history of underground culture will likewise fade.

-Jean Smith, Mecca Normal

I started writing about The Jigsaw Underground as an entity in my fanzine Jigsaw around 1991. I would define it in each issue, but basically I would pick a different selection of bands to write about that existed for reasons other than "to make it big"....bands that I thought were culturally and/or politically significant...bands that symbolized what it meant to be independent or punk at that particular point in time. Looking through the back issues, this is something I was deliberate about from the beginning. Through the creation of my fanzine I hoped to be able to change the direction youth culture and punk was going. In the late 80's/early 90's when I started writing my zine, I felt a lot of people were into blatant marketing and career goals. Sub Pop symbolized this to me with their limited edition 7"s, insult-your-intelligence and tell you what to do ad campaigns and "professional" looking logo/graphics. From today's vantage point, it's a little hard to refer to what I was thinking at the time without writing a whole essay about it, but hopefully you can get the picture.

When I decided to start Jigsaw as a blog version of the fanzine one of the things I wanted to focus on was the "underground" part, particularly because of how the internet has changed things. Like Jean Smith, I don't think the idea of an underground has lost relevancy just because the internet has changed how we access information. I think the concern now, is to get people in bands to stand for something and to stand together against multinational corporations, global capitalism and consumer culture. How can we use independent-punk-underground music culture as a site of resistance? How do we define ourselves in opposition to the mainstream, when the mainstream is everywhere?

One of the challenges that I see in this era, as both a working musician and someone who works at an independent record label, is rooted in economics. On the one hand, I resisted turning punk rock into my job and try not to approach music from a careerist or commercial standpoint. On the other hand, as someone who has toured extensively and is dedicated to distributing independent music world wide, I want working musicians to be able to make a living wage and get health insurance. This is a tricky issue, because it involves capitalism, market forces and art making and so there is going to be some degree of compromise involved. Some would say there are irreconcilable contractions at work. But I don't think that just because bands are forced to navigate economic concerns we should abandon ethics. Part of this is about supporting touring bands when you go see them by buying a T Shirt or a record as an ethos. Why do so many people think it's totally ok to spend $20 going out to dinner and $20 on drinks and then totally freak out when they have to pay more than $10 to go to a show? Make a sandwich! Drink another night--or not at all, how's that for radical! Put your hard earned money back into the community don't fund the consumer bar culture and support the beer and cigarette companies. Let's make economic sustainability a value to work towards, something similar to "buy local", but in this case "buy underground music", "pay generously to see touring bands" "fund independent culture"...you get the drift.

I strongly believe that if there are people who are listening to your music and coming to see your band live that you should be compensated for your work. I also believe that you should not have to sign to a corporately owned major label in order to do so, especially not today, with digital music being a growing percentage of total sales. Of course with free downloads, it is harder for bands live off of royalties. Unfortunately, economic reality has made it difficult to make money on tour as well. This is largely because although the cost of gas, food and lodging has increased exponentially in the past 20 years, punk bands are still expected to charge the same amount at the door--locally, under $10, usually $4-$6. In Olympia it is actually really hard to get people to pay for shows at all because there are so many shows happening all the time and a lot of them are free. While on one level, this is really cool, it has a real, negative economic impact on touring bands. (Incidentally, this is largely the reason most bands that are trying to make a living off their music skip Olympia on tour, no one can get paid enough here to make it worthwhile.)

When asked about the economics of touring as an underground band today, Ian Svenonius (Chain and the Gang, Make Up, Nation of Ulysses) said:

I guess touring is harder now but I also think maybe it was always pretty untenable. Unless you're the hot band of the moment, its pretty ridiculous proposition. Four or five people hauling gear around in a van hundreds and thoudsands of miles to perform something that, by its own design, can be made by anyone (i.e. "punk"). The big diffrence now is that so many bands are touring all the time and that so many have promotin, tour support, and publicity or are internet savvy (i.e. phenomenon bands like "Wavves") in a way that some of us are not. But yes, the punk politics have disappeared but the inherent cheapness of that scene is still with us (i.e. everyone wants everything for free).

This begs the question, how do we change this, how do we bring "the punk politics" back or update it for the present/future? What would that entail exactly? What is our political platform? What needs to happen? What tools do we have available? What do we want to change? How can things be improved?

When I asked Jean to clarify what she meant in her original quote when she said "the history of underground music will continue to fade" if underground becomes another mainstream marketing category, she replied:

The history of the word indie continues to fade. People who hear it, and use it, forget that it meant independent from major labels. Now indie is mostly a description of a sound, like alternative is a description of a sound rather than an alternative to how the music industry operates. Alternative was a description of the way bands operated -- putting on shows, working with a label to get your music out as opposed to being a rock star on a major label with staff to handle such details. Both these terms -- indie and alternative -- have been assigned new meanings that relate to the descriptions of the sounds associated with them. I'm sure if there were "undie" bands it would almost immediately turn into something to do with underwear. Bands would play in their underwear. Calvin Klein would start making music videos in its newly formed record label division. The history and meaning of underground culture would no longer be there when the word "undie" is used. I don't believe people think about independent culture, independent from major labels and corporate concerns, when they hear the word indie. Grunge is a sound and a look -- perhaps a city and a handful of bands. Indie is a political stance whose history is being replaced by a sound, a look and an era.

I am tempted to make a joke about Hawnay Troof, who often do play in their underwear, as a proto-undie band here...I can imagine people writing dissertations on the intersection between "undie" and riot grrl based on outfits alone...but what I'm seriously getting out of this discussion so far, is that "underground" is now, more than ever, a political stance more than a location. If that's the case, let's keep talking about what it means to be "an underground band"... the interactive nature of the blog format makes it possible for us to talk about this here in the fanzine at the moment it is being made. I am happy to provide a forum where we can have this conversation.

I leave you with this encouraging statement from California based punk singer Robin Indar (Black Fork, Severance Package) about how touring in a lot of ways is easier now than ever before. I also asked her what it was like to go on tour as parents:

Well, from what I've seen, there's not too many people out there in our predicament (parents of two/ rock n' rollers) but I know of at least one couple here in town that does, but they're at least ten years younger. Without the added chaos of small children, I would say touring is easier than ever. You can post flyers on the internet instead of mailing them or hoping people will post them in their towns and you can make flyers easier, faster and in color (ooh!) without having to know someone at the local copy shop. Most of the booking can be done online as well so you save on all of those long distance phone calls from hand written wads of paper your friends lent you from their last tour. I'm especially fond of the option of burning a CD demo in 20 seconds versus dumpster diving old cassette tapes, covering the holes up and recording over them so you'll have demo's to sell at the show. We used to get the occasional customer that would return saying "that demo I bought was all psycho Christmas rap songs".
I've been really surprised to see bands on tour with van rentals that have GPS systems. That was completely unheard of ten years ago. Think of all of the combined hours of lost punks driving around on the wrong roads. For those without GPS, there's always google maps which will give you the exact directions, and weather.com to tell you exactly what to expect weather wise and what the road conditions are. Basically, anyone who complains about tour being hard in this new century is either riding a donkey with an amp on their back or they just have no idea how hard touring USED to be.
The only thing different for Josh and I, and any other parents out there rocking together in a band is that you have to have someone to watch your kids while you're away and you have to work with their school schedule too. Even our drummer Steve, has a teenage daughter so we're a pretty unusual band as far as responsibilities go. The van is too small to bring anyone but us at the moment so luckily, my mom has gone beyond her call of duty in taking the boys while we attempt small tours. She can even call us on our cell phones should the need arise, oh what I would have given for one of THOSE 15 years ago when we broke down in the scalding hot Arizona desert!

ok thanks to everyone who participated in this week's discussion about what it means to be underground in the digital era. you can read my earlier post here.

coming soon: interviews with marissa magic & joey casio

Friday, November 6, 2009

Going Underground

The public gets what the public wants, but I want nothing this society's got, I'm going underground...
-Paul Weller, The Jam

The Underground

This week I was asked to write a piece about this Decade in Music. It was a little hard because, for one thing, what is this decade even called? And for another, that kind of framing device is easier to see in retrospect...but it got me thinking about the underground...some people question whether there is an underground in the digital era...so that in and of itself sort of begs the question: is this framework still useful?

I think it is...but what do YOU all think?

more soon