Hello, My Name Is…

Our first note-and-name-worthy band, Indian Jewelry, hails from Houston, TX.  Sharp criticisms of modern society and keen determination to live upstream have established a powerful public image for the band, just as much as their electro-psychedelic music has. Like the surrealists of the 1920’s art movement, these musicians strive to create pointed social and spiritual commentary through blending nonsensical or childlike associations with deeper layers of difficult truths, creating a kind of comic/cosmic puzzle. This motif runs through everything surrounding the band, from their poster art to the music itself—sonic seascapes that swallow you and trigger a simultaneous urge to both escape and surrender.

Speaking of names, this particular group of musicians, currently consisting of core members Erika Thrasher and Tex Kerschen—joined for their upcoming tour by Richard Durham (bass), Rodney Rod-riguez (drums), Mary Sharpe (percussion), and Brandon Davis (guitar)—seem to have a unique relationship with names. Since 2002, they have toured under several different banners, from Turquoise Diamonds to Perpetual War Party Band (indeed, the band’s website is still a different name, the mysterious “Swarm of Angels” from whom they have mythologically evolved), finally staking their restlessness with the fitting “Indian Jewelry.”  Here, Tex expounds on their identity crises, and how he and Erika came to settle down:

“Names are just names. We used to change our name nearly every show until we realized that nobody (of the twelve or so people across America who were interested in our music at the time) could keep up with us that way. For years we did this. We performed as Perpetual War Party Band, NTX+Electric, Electric Fuck All, Corpses of Waco, Diamond Dethmongers, Turquoise Diamonds, Hong Kong, Benzene Lotion Rash, Bialystok Playaz, Gaza Boots, ChudTown, Tomball Dandies… Before that we were part of Swarm of Angels.”

He continues, “After a lot of hardcore touring from 2003 to 2004, we figured out that we could eat better and buy nicer watches if we stuck to one name. So we picked Indian Jewelry because it sounded nice, because we’d already been going by Turquoise Diamonds before noticing that there were an awful lot of diamond bands going around at the time, and because we liked its many different connotations- certain aspects of Native Americana, roadside attractions, East Indian mysticism, the mythical ‘sale’ of Manhattan for a handful of trinkets, the fraud inherent in all commerce, etc. And we kept seeing the phrase on signs as we crossed the desert states. We weren’t trying to jack Native American culture per se, we were aiming more for the ersatz, ambiguous nature of knockoffs and off-brand markets.

We picked this name for this band in 2004. It was one in a long list of names. One of the big reasons we chose it was that at that time there were very few bands if any with similar names. (A recent curse of the past decade or so is the Malthusian fact of bands springing up on the internet and claiming every inch of poetic space.) In 2004, the only bands we were aware of with a similar name to ours was ‘Universal Indians,’ the proto-Wolf Eyes band who’d been around several years before we started.  And now, the underground music ghetto is flooded with countless horrible band names that sound just like ours. Some of it is probably coincidence. Some of it maybe not. Some of these bands even sound like us. We get confused. We ask ourselves questions like ‘What’s the point?’ and  ‘Why go on?’  The answer is obvious: Money, Fame, and Power.  Anyhow, we have a new project ‘Future Indians’ in cooperation with Future Blondes that addresses this issue.  Furthermore, we also have an altogether new band, PERSUASION, getting ready to do some big-time business re: sound and vision. FYI. We’ve trademarked the word. We tried to apply a trademark to the entire historical concept of Persuasion retroactively but the patent courts threw out our application.”

These wandering poets are out on the road again, this time in support of their latest release Totaled, out this past May on the We Are Free label.

You can catch them in their name-hopping rehab days at one of these fine venues:

Indian Jewelry Live
June 11 – Mississippi Studios – Portalnd, OR
June 12 – Vera Project – Seattle, WA
June 14 – The Aquarium – Fargo, ND
June 15 – 7th Street Entry @ First Ave. – Minneapolis, MN
June 16 – The Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
June 17 – Sneaky Dee’s – Toronto, Ontario
June 18 – La Sala Rossa – Montreal, Quebec
June 19 – Great Scott – Boston, MA
June 20 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
June 22 – First Universalist Church – Philadelphia, PA
June 23 – Sung Harbor – Charlotte, NC
June 24 – 529 – Atlanta, GA
June 25 – One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA
June 26 – Red 7 – Austin, TX
July 9 – Khon’s – Houston, TX
July 10 – The Mohawk – Austin, TX
July 11 – Tree’s Lounge – Dallas, TX

We all know you should never judge a book by its cover.  Well, sometimes you can. In the case of our next band, who wear their musical heart not on their sleeve, but (even more boldly), right on their name tag, the cover fits the content perfectly.  Zeus is a Toronto-based group that delivers power-house rock with its four members:  Mike O’Brien, Carlin Nicholson, Rob Drake and Neil Quin.  In an age of hyperactive genre reinvention, it was refreshing to hear O’Brien, one of the group’s three songwriters, describe their work as straight-up “rock ‘n roll”. Theirs is a sound that calls to mind classic influences like the Kinks and Queen, and lends itself well to reinterpretation (like the irresistible cover of Genesis’s “That’s All” on their 2009 EP Sounds Like Zeus) while staying current with their methodology and fresh material.

There’s a lot of muscle to a one-word band name, a sort of salutary punch, so it was surprising to hear about the lighthearted origin of such a majestic identity.  Mike O’Brien relates the roots of Zeus:

“The band sort of started by accident. Carlin and I are old friends and we started demo-ing some of my songs and some of his songs at our studio.  As we were demo-ing these songs, we realized that they sort of fit together nicely and it became a project that we were working on without really knowing what it was.  And at the time that we were doing that, we kept using the name, or the word, ‘Zeus’ to describe the sounds. We always use rhyming words in our speech and when we’re talking to each other to make each other laugh, and while we were doing it we were saying, you know, you’d lay down a guitar part and say, ‘Aw, that sounds so juiced!  It sounds like Zeus, it sounds Zeused!’
Anyway, we used the word ‘Zeus’ quite a bit at the time.  Not long afterwards I showed some of those demos to my friend Peter Elkas, who’s a songwriter in Toronto. He was playing a show, and he said, ‘Do you want to open the show?’ and I said, ‘Well, I don’t have a band per se…’  But then we just kind of threw something together, and he called me up a couple weeks before the show to say, ‘I’m making a poster—what do you want to put on the poster for your band name?’  And Zeus was sort of the first thing that came to mind.”

Whether happy accident or divine intervention, we’re sure glad the fate stepped in to bring about this rockin’ band. They just finished up a tour and are currently playing at-home venues only, but don’t be too disappointed—I have it on good authority that there are new songs in the works.

In the meantime, if you’re up Toronto way, you can catch them here:

Zeus Live
June 17 – Rivoli – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
June 19 – Olympic Island – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
July 9 – Mariposa Folk Festival – Orillia, Ontario, Canada
July 17 – Ness Creek Music Festival – Big River, Saskatchewan, Canada
July 23 – Hillside Festival – Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Thieves Like Us have, in some ways, lived up to their begging and borrowing name. The band members—two from Sweden, one from America–met in Berlin in 2002. Through a series of unsatisfactory encounters with the local dance and music scene, the three men (Andy Grier on vocals, Björn Berglund on keyboards and Pontus Berghe on drums) started DJ-ing sets of music that they liked and thought other people should hear. Eventually, they grew dissatisfied with that music and decided that the only proper course of action was to make their own.  They gradually gained attention with several singles and a short debut album, and released Play Music, their first full-length, in 2008 with Sea You Records. Their sound, not surprisingly, steals from several different genres and decades including ‘80’s German techno and ‘90’s shoe-gaze, but the resultant blend should be satisfactorily unique for even the most discriminating musical palette.

“Thieves Like Us” is both the name of a 1974 Robert Altman film and a 1937 novel by Edward Anderson, but band member Andy Grier stumbled upon the trademark in another way—he was driving through the Bronx and saw it scrawled in graffiti on the side of a building. When pressed to comment on its significance, Grier admits that the band used a fair amount of samples early on in their work, but wisely points out, “It’s only a band name.  Better to focus more on song titles and lyrics.”

Catch these thieves in their act as they play France & Switzerland—if you gotta stay state-side, lucky for you they’re doing the East Coast’s Atlantis Festival at the end of July!

Thieves Like Us Live
June 16 – La Marquise – Lyon, France
June 18 – Supermarket (DJ Set) – Lille, France
June 18  – La Malteria (LIVE) – Lille, France
June 23 – Social Club (DJ Set) – Paris, France
June 25 – Flèche d’Or – Paris, France
June 26 – L’Heretic – Bordeaux, France
July 24 – Stone Hill Festival – Alterswil-Fribourg, Switzerland
July 30 – Atlantis Festival – Split, CT

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– Britt Sondreal


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