Jesus

March 14, 2014

This is not a course on nor discussion of theology, but merely a reaction to another senseless murder in the U S of A. You can head over to Huffington Post to read what they’ve got on the situation so far, but the gist of it is that teenagers were being teenagers and a young man is now dead.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I was 15, 16, 17….um….keep going….my mind was preoccupied with sex, music, books, sex, money, sex, music, sex music, and sex, which means that this 17-year old kid did what nearly any other 17-year old would have done when invited over by a 16 year-old girl. Follow the trouser snake. Go. Hunt. Play. Frolic. We might be emotional infants during those lustful years but our bodies are about as ripe as they will ever be and primed for their purpose. This is normal shit. A kid being clandestinely invited into a girl’s bedroom is pretty much as stock-standard as it gets. It’s what being young is all about.

I have neither the time nor the patience (nor the verbiage), to get into the topic of guns and their sick stranglehold on America, but what has left me more emotionally unsettled than any other aspect of this entire bloody situation is her act of denial.  Of course I’m offended by the general sense of betrayal, even though there is a small part of me that can understand that, to a 16-year old girl in Texas, it makes more sense to lie to one’s own father (who happens to be holding a gun), rather than admit to having sex (or even being interested in sexual contact) with this young man who just happens to be standing in her bedroom.

[I gotta be honest though, if you have a 16-year old daughter and find a young man in her bedroom, is it really that far from your mind that she's probably getting it on.  Oh, right....he's an intruder. That makes much more sense.]

I’m no biblical scholar, but even I have picked Ye Olde Gideon’s Bible from time to time, and made my way through enough of it to recall:

-Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly-

The act of betrayal is a brutal, bitter thing to behold, and while most of our transgressions pass without consequence (except our late night drinking remorse and other acts of haphazardry), it is betrayal nonetheless.  Perhaps what is most egregious is the face-to-face, do-or-die nature of the confrontation.  Most of the time we are allowed to skulk away in silence. Sometimes, not so much. In this latest situation, there are only losers, and that is a sad, sad thing.

Jesus, help me find my proper place…

Three for me

March 4, 2014

Lately I find myself applauding and searching for competence. What sounds like resignation and a lowering of standards is in fact the exact opposite–I am in awe of someone who is getting it right without any fuss, every time, without fail, because it is so bloody rare. This might seem like an ode to journeymen the world over (and maybe it is that as well), but the older I get the more often I declare “Talent ain’t worth shit”.  The world is flooded with talented people (I find it hard to not put the word in quotation marks) , but it is work that makes the artist.  I might concede that one carries the germ of artistry during the long years of artisan apprenticeship [aka: getting the shit knocked out of you and growing a thick skin], but behind the awe & beauty of a masterpiece lies years and years of work, thought, revision, deliberation, and conscious effort to achieve or approach an artistic ideal.

I didn’t know Philip Seymour Hoffman, but his death affected me about as much as an artist can, which is to say it was a mild shock to the system but a damn sight more frustrating than that.  “Sad”, “Untimely”, “Tragic”–that goes without saying, as vapid as those words can seem at times, but now that a bit of the shock has settled and the initial outpouring of grief has passed I wanted to make my own small sad circle of flowers and remember him for the craftsman and artist he was.  The world lost a great actor, and I don’t use either term lightly.  I don’t know shit about acting, but I think I know enough to realize that he was an actor whom his peers thought highly of.  That means something in my book. I don’t go to the doctor and tell him what I think, and I don’t think art in any form should be exempt from the same standards. Know your instrument, know your craft, work harder, fail better, do it again.

With that in mind I wanted to share three of his performances that remain my favourites and are the images I will most likely see whenever someone mentions his name.

This one always hits me hard. Like, personally hard. I won’t tell you which character I relate to most in that sad relationship, but damn if my heart don’t break when Scotty collapses in the car and beats himself up.  Unrequited love is brutal.

I’ve been shocked that in all of the press surrounding his death I’ve yet to see a single mention of Love Liza, which is even more surprising given the circumstances of his death. The movie is one long awkward unraveling in suburbia, filled with the banal minutiae of human existence that continue even as the world collapses around you. Tragedy strikes, but the phone bill is still due.

The last is not a clip, but a personal anecdote, which I will try and keep as brief as possible.  In my former life [read: before I arrived in Australia], I always seemed to be surrounded by people involved with film & theatre. When Hoffman and John C. Reilly performed Sam Shepard’s True West in 2000, they alternated roles every night, resulting in a long run of sold-out shows along with both critical & popular acclaim. The awe and respect amongst the theatre world was unlike anything that I had ever heard before or since, and as I sat and listened to their excited chatter (saying nothing except to ask a question, coz what the #$@! do I now about acting?) it made me glad to know that even though I couldn’t truly appreciate the breadth & depth of their achievement they were at least being recognized by those that could.

That’s what I’ll remember, and what inspires me in my own endeavors as I play supporting roles on the big stages and my leading roles on the fringe. Thank you, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  For everything.

Video(s): Royal Chant + Twin Beasts + Cull + aheadphonehome + East Brunswick All Girls Choir + Waza

February 24, 2014

Originally posted on SoundlySounds:

‘Straya’s got some great bands, who make some great music videos. Check ‘em out, or I’ll do nothing, because this is the Internet, and no-one’s listening to my rants. But I’d recommend checking them out, because your life will be better from it.

Royal Chant-Shake, Shake

Deadset, Royal Chant are the shit. They’ve got the pop tendencies of Bluejuice, with the underground credibility of Guided By Voices, and the ability to harrow into my brain like early Metallica. If you’re any sort of fan of Australian slacker/guitar music, like Dollar Bar, The Stevens, or The Cannanes, then get behind Royal Chant.

And if you’re still in some freakish mindset that declines my way-ward descriptions, then look at the video. Sorry, masterpiece. The thing is like a kindergartener took acid at finger-painting, and then went to the beach. It’s fucking crazy to look at, and even crazier to listen to.

Twin…

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Happy Valentine’s Day, 2014

February 20, 2014

[Of course I forgot to post this in time...]

There’s been a lot I have wanted to write about recently, which of course means that I’m going to write about myself instead. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Laziness is not becoming nor conducive to being a writer, great or small.

Anyways, it has just struck Valentine’s here in Australia and that seems like the perfect time to release something new from the Royal Chant catalog, just to prove to the world that it’s not all about hearts & cupids & sappy poetry.  It’s about garage bands &  tour vans & sappy poetry.

So here is “Shake, Shake”, our new single, complete with our own DIY film clip.

Of course it’s free.  We know everyone is broke these days, so it’s all good.  We’re all just trucking along and thankful for the moments of happiness that we experience, which are actually far more abundant than we’ve led ourselves to believe.  That doesn’t mean that we should be pushovers, and yeah, the world is still seriously screwed up in a lot of ways, but we can sing & shake and forget, and what seems like nonsense is really just an inability to explain.

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Housewarming

January 2, 2014
  • Dear Jess & Mitch,

    Hello hello! I Hope you are both deep in the powder and having lots of fun on the slopes. Thanks again for letting us stay here! Your place is awesome.

    I thought I should warn you, before you get home, of the following changes to your lovely abode.

    I felt morally obliged to liberate the duck fat you use for cooking. It is now free range duck fat. Also, somehow all your beers and ciders were gone before we got here. Don’t ask me how I know you had some in the fridge, nicely lined up and in alphabetical order, just trust me, they’re gone and it wasn’t me.

    Despite being here for less than 12 hours and there being -1 ft of swell, a few of your surfboards have met with some sort of….fate. I’ve done a pretty decent patch job on most of them though, so I’m confident you’ll hardly notice anything amiss. Maybe don’t count the exact number when you get home though. I had a spot of trouble with recovery and I may or may not have been involved with a nautical tactic known as “scuttling the ship.” I do think I showed exemplary bravery in the course of action, doubly so since I was drunk. I mean really, really drunk.

    I hope you don’t mind, but we also brought Elliot up with us. Lozjust couldn’t bear to leave him behind. He leaped right out of the car and tried to make friends with the local protected wildlife immediately. With his teeth.

    Mitch, your kitchen is an absolute delight, a true cook’s dream! The omelettes I made this morning were a breeze. Actually, what I mean to say is that there was a breeze coming through the window and it sent the flames a little haywire. You do have fire & contents insurance, right?

    Other than that all is well here. We’ll leave the place spic & span, good as new. We’re also changing our phone numbers and will give them to you in a few years when the statute of limitations runs out.

    Thanks again!

    Mark & Lozza

    ps–I’ve moved one thing in your meticulously organized cupboard. One. Thing.

Misremembering

December 31, 2013

So in my dull wit I made a joke a few weeks ago on some other social media site(s) about having the misfortune of hearing “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” twice in one year.  It was a fairly innocuous comment, but buried in a sliver of personal truth, because I really, really, really hate that song. Really.

There’s nothing especially egregious about it, I mean it’s not like its horribly constructed or celebrates the glory of pedophilia or urges kids to assault baby seals after illegally parking in handicapped spaces, it’s just that it is/was a piece of mainstream alterna-pop pablum that was my personal whipping boy for everything wrong with middle-class, white bread America.  In my mind, it was for people that watched the sitcom Friends. I hate Friends. Shit, maybe I hate non-italicized friends too. 

Rather than delve into my personal past, which is kind of insignificant and pretty predictable (AKA: I hated everything but Bob Dylan and Lou Reed from the years 1994-1999), I wanted to comment on the fact that people have shyte memories.  Let’s face it, many of us are natural-born complainers, and that includes wailing away on the travesty of radio programming.  It doesn’t matter what’s on, we wish it were something else.  There are some exceptions to this, of course, like people who legitimately like everything they hear, in which case we can also become natural-born murderers, but among my peers I have noticed that many who grew up among the “alternative revolution” have been having a hard time of things lately. They are now surrounded by loads of new EDM, hip-hop, gnu-folk, and countless other bands and genres that have started taking up serious air-time in addition to the typical mainstream pop that has been the traditional nemesis. In essence: they’re feeling very scared and lonely, and SOMEBODY NEEDS TO PAY, DAMMIT!

Of course, in conjunction with being natural-born complainers, we also have amazing gifts for epic nostalgia, with some seriously thick rose-coloured glasses, which results in severe cases of misremembering. When caught in a 45-minute snooze fest of James Blake, Mumford & Sons, obscure blog rock, DJ Unpronounceable, and the latest withering sounds from yet another bedroom producer straight from the Czech underground, it’s easy to say, “This sucks! Back in the 90s….blah blah blah Nirvana blah blah Smashing Pumpkins blah blah Alice In Chains blah blah blah bitch moan curse weep [off]“. And then we sit in silence for the rest of the awkward car ride home.

But here’s the thing: Nirvana wasn’t on the dial 24/7.  As soon as it came out, it was surrounded by a swarm of grunge-lite acts that seemed to get just as much, if not more, air-time as the few heroes & saviors who we remember fondly and without malice.  For every Nirvana, there were 10 Deep Blue Somethings.  Remember American Hi-Fi? No? Good for you, because I hated them from first listen so passionately it has wrapped itself around the double helix of my DNA and will probably haunt me to my grave.

And this says nothing of those many, many bad songs we secretly liked, or the “great” bands we secretly loathed.  Alice In Chains? Yeah, not a fan. Same goes for Soundgarden. Call me crazy, call me any name in the book, I do not care in the least.  We all have our lines, as insane and illogical as they might be. 

So of course last night, as I’m watching the tennis here on the couch here in Australia (shut up, it only happens for 4 weeks of the year), lazily strumming my guitar and jotting a few lines down, I get the following text from one of my students (a lovely young man with heaps of enthusiasm for the instrument)

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Of course I had to laugh.  Yes, I will teach him the song, and maybe, just maybe, because we will be listening to it countless times over for 30+ minutes I will learn to hate it a little less.

But it’s not looking likely.

Since I have to suffer, I thought you might as well too.  Below are 4 music videos.  I loathe 2 of them, I adore 1 of them, while the other is a secret like that makes me hate myself for liking it.  I will let you figure out which is which. 

Anyone else notice they all have the same blonde/dishwater pretty boy for a lead singer, cheekbones from here until Siberia?

That’s enough bitching & moaning from me for one day. Have a very happy New Year! Holler back if it’s been a while? I do love hearing from you, wherever you are in the world. More music to come in 2014, but for now, stay safe and hang on to the ones you love.

-M

 

Bang & Beggar’s Gloves

December 9, 2013

First, a little theme music to keep you company through the course of this short post…

[And now on with the show]

Being in an independent band is rather the worst possible enterprise if one was looking to make money.  Not only is there not much money in music, (nor much music in money, if you think about it), but if you’re doing anything remotely artistic (or making a noble failed attempt), then there is a reasonable chance that the attributes & characteristics of monetary success are the very things repulsive to our sensibilities.  Even if one is a gutter poet reveling in visceral decay of the human soul, there is likely a streak of the romantic that keeps us from being dickhead money-mongers, and thus the problem: how does one survive?  Even further, how does one prosper?  Money itself is one of the many awkward evils that some of us have a hard time reconciling ourselves to, so of course we are often the most hapless & helpless when it comes to making, taking, keeping, and dealing with money.

In a perfect world, we would be so good that we would be free of the need for hawking and handouts, but the world is not perfect, and we are not that good.  With that in mind, James & I finally sucked it up and did the inevitable: we launched a kickstarter campaign.  We have recorded yet another EP, 7 new tracks that will comprise our upcoming Small Town Bruises EP. The problem (because of course there is a problem), is that we can’t afford to actually have them printed up.

We’d prefer not to have to do this at all, but unfortunately when we are playing shows we’re still getting people wanting to buy them from us, which is annoying because I think more than a few independent bands wish the world would make up its mind: ARE YOU GOING TO ACTUALLY GO ALL-DIGITAL OR NOT?!?!? The last thing anyone wants is yet another box of unsold CDs cluttering up our already cluttered flats, but it seems like it’s not time to give up on the physical formats of the world just yet.  We used to have CDs, then we sold them all (or gave them away in various states of drunken magnanimity), and rather than put the money aside like responsible adults we spent it on things like petrol, beer, & matching tuxedo t-shirts.

Small Town Bruises Kickstarter

So there you have it: a garage band with it’s hands out, asking you to have a listen and chip in to help us get our latest project out.  There’s lots of cool rewards, from the small to the mighty, and if you’d like to be the first to get your hands on our latest offering, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we could always be like a metal band or pop group, which has no problem whatsoever in selling themselves.  We actually mean that as a compliment, not necessarily equating selling with “selling out”.  Watch the way their man their merch stands, and the eagerness & enthusiasm with which they talk about their music.  They have just as much pride, conviction, and belief as any football team, and it’s enviable, to say the least.

It’s been a painful exercise, crossing this imaginary fault-line of actively begging for money as opposed to doing it passively like we always do, but not as bad as I would have thought.  It requires one to stand up and acknowledge to the entire world that: yes, this is what I do and I believe in it.  As much as we’d like to pretend our music says that for us, the self-deprecation, whether real or feigned, is just a mask that fools no one but ourselves, if that.

So, for a brief moment, I have stood up and said, loud & proud: I am in Royal Chant and I think we are worth it.

Big hugs & peace xoxo

-M

[lastly, we'll leave you with the first single of our upcoming Small Town Bruises EP to get you in the mood :)]

New: Guided By Voices-Littlest League Possible

December 6, 2013

slantrhyme:

Love this blog, love this band, and I love that this blog loves loving this band. It’s Woodstock all over again, but without Wavy Gravy.

Originally posted on SoundlySounds:

For the amount of time this I spend talking about bands that sound like Guided By Voices, I spend relatively little of my time actually talking about the band itself. At first, I had the excuse that they weren’t around anymore, but since re-forming in 2010, that excuse has been voided. And its not like they’re not prolific either, having released four albums in that time, three of them in 2012 alone.

I don’t know why I don’t talk about Robert Pollard’s merry band of slackers more because I do love them, but anyway, they’ve released a new song. It’s nothing especially out of the ballpark, but it reminds everyone why we love Guided By Voices so much. Pollard’s uniquer-than-a-sexy-Bill-Gates-impersonater voice, the constant theme of self-deprecation, and the awesome guitar, it all amounts to a big ol’ hard-on for GBV that never really left in the first place.

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Last gig of 2013

December 6, 2013

It has been a great year.  Not just for our tiny slice in the music, but for the generally warm fuzzy feelings the last 12 months have bestowed upon us.  I don’t care what else has happened, but if you get to meet and open up for Bob Mould: YOU’VE HAD A GREAT YEAR.  Tonight we are playing our last show of 2013 in Sydney, with a free gig at The Lansdowne Hotel.  If you’re reading this there’s probably no way you could possibly get there, so consider this a digital hug and a promise that we will do our best to try and play a show somewhere near you next year.

Royal Chant: last gig of 2013

Royal Chant: last gig of 2013

That’s all from us.  As always, there is more to say, but for now…

peace & love

-M

I have a dream…

December 1, 2013

Setting: the Autumn sun sets at the end of another quiet Sunday afternoon in Anytown, USA.  The smell of a home-cooked meal fills the air of a modest house on an unremarkable street, with the shadows laying long across the yard and the laughter of the neighborhood children fading by the calls of their respective mothers to come in and wash up for dinner.  A young man sweats nervously in his room, filled with a sick mix of relief and fear. He descends the stairs and enters the living room.  His father, drink in hand, is watching a football game of his alma mater while his mother flits back and forth between the kitchen and the TV.  He begins…

SON: Mom? Dad? There’s something I want to tell you.

FATHER: Yes son, what is it?

SON: I’m….I’m…gay.

FATHER: And? Do you mind? You’re kind of blocking the TV.

MOTHER (leaving room to check on dinner): Mmm-hmmn.  That’s nice dear.  Anyone special?

Son (gaining confidence): And….that’s not all.

Father: Can you make this quick?

Son: I’m…a Republican.

Father: OH MY GOD! WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO DESERVE THIS?!?!?!

Mother (weeping): Is it something we did?

Father: GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!

Finis


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