Saturday, November 19, 2011

State of the Renaissance

My fellow tune-addicts, keyboard ticklers, twangers, boppers, hipsters, hopsters, headphone heroes and all the rest, I assure you:
the Monrovia Renaissance lives on.

I owe you an apology, dear readers, as I had ceased updating my humble blog without notice or, until now, an explanation. My love of music in all its wild forms has carried me away from my hometown once more. For two months now, I have traveled with my trusted musical mentors across sea, land, and air in search of exciting new sounds. Needless to say, the expedition has proven most rewarding. Do not, however, take this as a sign that I have quit my role as self-appointed official scribe for the Monrovia music scene. This is not the case. I have simply taken a brief hiatus from which I will soon return with more tantalizing reviews, interviews, overviews, and rearviews. After all, we still have a lot to talk about.

As always, stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sounds From the Little World

As sad as it can be to have a good friend go well out of reach, it makes it that much more exciting when that friend sends you a bit of their craft. Such is the case with the little demo we received from Monrovia's own musical knight-errant, Jee Wallis. Jee's wild spirit brought him infamy among the town's more traditionally-minded (some would say "closed-minded" or, better yet, "boring") musicians, his music as well as his onstage persona being like a raging beast refusing to be tamed. While his abrasive music may have been an acquired taste, an intense feeling of satisfaction always awaited the listener at the end. That same infamous, wild spirit recently carried Jee away from home, to the misty mysteries of San Francisco. Whether it was to provide inspiration or a more like-minded audience, Frisco would be the perfect place for Jee to temper his craft. What we did not expect, however, was what he sent us only a month after his arrival. Jee Wallis' most recent demo, titled "Daly City",  sees a radical change in his approach. The gentle acoustic strumming heard here washes over the listener like the waves of a nearby beach. Though the emotions may be different, peacefulness replacing discontent, the intensity remains. That same satisfaction greets the listener, and will very well greet more than before due to the new, welcoming sound. We can't say just yet where Jee's music will go from here, but it will be sure to please. For now, take in the soothing sounds of San Fran:

Click here to download "Daly City"

We'll keep you updated on any and all of Jee Wallis' goings-on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Post-Teens With HEEPS Of Talent

Summer is just about over, and that means it's time to start packing away the sunshine melodies and bring out the sad stuff. Luckily, a new band has just the thing to slap a wistful look on that sunburnt face. The Heepers, made up of guitarist/vocalist Ethan Felding, Jr., bassist Lenora "Lenny" Walker, and drummer Cameron Culan, weave tales of woe sure to leave you with bittersweet longing. This should not be a surprise considering the band's history, however. Legend has it that Felding decided to start his new project the very morning after a catastrophic Valentine's Day left him without either a girlfriend or a band. His frustration fueled a flurry of songwriting, and he began taking his fledgling songs to coffee shops to help regain his confidence. A month later, he was noticed by Lenny Walker and Cameron Culan, who were on their way back from a trip to Santa Cruz when they stopped at Sierra Madre's Bean Town - just in time to catch Felding's performance. After the show, the two approached Felding and asked whether he was looking for a world-class rhythm section. "Or you could settle for us," quipped Walker. Soon enough, The Heepers were rocking every house, coffee shop, and garage that could hope to contain them. As for the name, none of the members are sure what it means. "We had a brainstorming session that turned into us just saying random sounds," recalls Felding. "Then out of nowhere we were all just saying 'heep!' over and over again. We must have gone crazy for a second." We're pretty crazy about The Heepers right now, so we invited Ethan Felding, Jr. over to our studios to cut a single. The first song is a new one for those who have been keeping up with the band, "My Pall Malls," which Felding is still in the process of writing. It features Felding's signature haunted narrator, this time leaving his presumed lover under unknown circumstances. The B-side is a cover of Beat Happening's "I've Lost You" that works lyrically as a continuation of the story. Head on over to the Singles Series page and get ready for some depressing goodness.

Click here to go to the Singles Series page and listen to The Heepers

Be sure to keep a keen eye out for shows and recordings from The Heepers (they don't have any websites yet).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Into the Planisphere: The Tale of Freak Funk

You cannot call yourself a true Monrovian if you have not heard the wild, infectious rhythms of the genre taking our beautiful city by storm: freak funk. For several years now, our young ne'er-do-wells have been feeding rock and roll to the dog to make room for an exciting, imaginative dessert. Freak funk began with The Star-Town Troubadours, one of the most famous bands to flourish in the Monrovia musical underground. Their approach was simple: take the rhythm section of funk, which almost dares listeners not to flex their groove muscles, and add to it the eccentric experimentation of psychedelia. The effect is something that excites both band and audience, which in turn creates more excitement. As uncomplicated as this combination may seem, there could be no denying its success. The Star-Town Troubadours had a top-selling album with their 2002 debut, Our Sunday Clothes. Soon enough, other artists were taking on the approach as well as adding their own personal flair. A small psych-pop outfit called Little Yogurt had found only moderate success until they teamed up with a rebellious young man from Finland who had a dual passion for James Brown and Sun Ra. After their legendary two-month "pure magic nonstop jam," Herb Bombgarden and the Little Yogurts (pictured) took the stage in the summer of 2009 to deliver one of the most dynamic concerts in Monrovia history, reinterpreting funk standards in their own hyperactive image. Sharing the stage that night were fellow legends Time Machine Modulus, who have since rejected being labeled as a freak funk band. Yet they need not be so defensive. There are currently hundreds of garage bands keeping the genre alive, some of whom, like The Wild Freak-Outs, Atomic Giants, and Boog, have worked tirelessly to expand on their forefathers' truly revolutionary visions. While this may just be a fad about to fade, it's an amazing ride for all who dare to explore the outer reaches of music.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Own Little Music Fest

The Monrovia Renaissance is proud to present our very own (hopefully annual) summer art and music festival: Jam Time! Most festivals are ridiculously long, some taking up whole weekends, and can cost hundreds of dollars. The Jam Time musical extravaganza will compress all that fun and excitement into just a few golden hours and will only cost zeros of dollars! Wowee zowee! Jam Time 2011 will take place at the parking lot of El Rancho Meat & Provision in the heart of lovely Arcadia, California. The company's loading dock provides a perfect stage for the audience to catch our team of expert rockers and rollers summoning up some mad energy. The tentative line-up consists of the anthemic Mellow Maniac, the cryptic Sunscribe, the rowdy Death Valley Saints, and the electric Transpose. We'll also be showcasing the finest of art from local mavericks. This show is guaranteed to knock your mock doc's socks off or we will give you a full refund. Count on it!

Click here for the Jam Time 2011 Facebook event page

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Death Valley Saints are unable to make it to the show. That doesn't mean you can't still check them out though! Our final line-up keeps Mellow Maniac, Sunscribe, and Transpose, and adds the soaring Savannah Van Band and the whoa-that's-actually-their-last-name Graves. As promised, there will also be several artists, as well as some live painting. That's where they paint something in front of you, not where they paint animals. Either way, if you miss out on this, we'll have Sam the Sham call you an L7. And no one wants that.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It Came From The Record Shop

When I walked into Family Affair Music, Monrovia's landmark record store, I had no idea of just how life-changing my trip would be. I was there on a mission: to find the legendary bootleg 7" of Grape Grape's first and only concert, which took place at the Library Park bandshell in 1995. Searching the shelves got me nowhere, but I had a very reliable source tell me the bootleg was here. I decided to go ask the Man if he knew anything about the record (though he would most likely refuse to tell me). The Man, however, had just seen something that made him quite upset. "Another one!" he yelled, waving a CD jewel case like it were some sort of cursed object. When I asked what the matter was, he gave me the story. It seems some person sneaks into the shop on a regular basis and places their homemade CDs in the counter's bargain box. Though the person comes in about every week, the Man is still unsure what they look like and only knows they arrived when he finds the disc. This certainly was strange, but I still did not understand why the Man would be so upset. Then he told me: "...And they are filled with the worst stuff imaginable! Not only is it crude, it's not even good!" As I'm also a regular at Family Affair (albeit a more conspicuous one), the Man knows that I write for a music blog and have previously reviewed albums for various magazines. This knowledge, added to his confidence in his opinion, led the Man to thrust the CD into my hands, asking me to write the bad review the strange character deserved in the hopes that he would see it and be shamed into quitting his trips to the shop. As much as I wanted to help my friend, I found myself unable to write poorly about the album for one simple reason: it's amazing. Yes, it may be a bit rough around the edges: it boasts no-fi production, and completely lacks any kind of rhythm, melody, or sense of cohesiveness, but this is the album's charm. The enigma behind these recordings is one Deeton Slater; no other details are given in the album booklet other than the track names (the rest is all cryptic doodling). The songs are fractured yet rambling, and downright spooky. Overall, they give the impression that Mr. Slater is on the verge of a mental breakdown. Yet it is undeniable that this man is a genius. In the hopes that Deeton Slater will overcome his fear of rejection and stand up for his music, two of his songs will become the next installment in the Monrovia Renaissance Singles Series. Far from the best Deeton Slater has to offer, these tracks were selected solely on commercial appeal. Listen to them here and let Mr. Slater know that despite some people not being able to understand his artistic approach now, there are those lovers of innovation that appreciate his efforts. Also, if anyone finds that bootleg 7" contact me at

WARNING: Deeton Slater's songs contain highly graphic content and strong language. Listener discretion is advised.

Click here to go to the Singles Series page and listen to Deeton Slater

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Check 'em Out: Sleepy Chameleon

The latest band to set off our radars is the hip and happening Sleepy Chameleon. We're not yet sure if dance-friendly bands with animal names are this year's trend, but we can guarantee that this group's sounds are out of this world. Sleepy Chameleon's music lies somewhere between the DJ set for the club in a daydream and the ambient sounds played in an extraterrestrial day spa. While the first part of Sleepy Chameleon's name holds true - these songs are sure to put you into a peaceful trance - the band displays little in the way of shapeshifting soundscapes. This adherence to a somewhat set formula may work to the group's advantage, however. When acclaimed electropop group Fancy Guppy took a nervous step into the dank waters of horror folk with 2006's Backwoods Melodies, the response of the group's rabid fans (particularly those from New York City) was relentless. The most vile remarks were spat upon millions of blogs, restroom stalls, and library books despite mildly warm critical reception. At the same time, The Wild Freak-Outs have found much success (both commercially and critically) in their many ventures into other genres, especially with 2008's electric double LP Oh My Holy Pizza. Either way, hop on over to Sleepy Chameleon's SoundCloud page and let your brain do the hustle or get a massage from a Martian. No happy endings though.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fancy Guppy Gets Mean, Not Really

Just an amount of time ago, Fancy Guppy released a new space-age track from their upcoming EP, With Soul and Vile. "Four Eyes" is certainly the most bubbly of the bunch, with its rudimentary backbeat and playful keyboard melody. Add a mood-twisting, eyebrow-twitching ending and what you have is the makings of a possible album-opener. The latest news from the Gup is that these releases are instrumental versions of songs that will be appearing on the now highly-anticipated album. No word yet on which rappers will be making appearances, but you can be sure we'll be the first to know. You'll be the second or third we'll tell, too. Nab "Four Eyes" from the link below and feast your ears.

Click here to download "Four Eyes"

Fancy Guppy's With Soul and Vile out soon via Public Recods. Probably.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Breakfast In Song With Boy Cragoe

Monrovia's notoriously bearded balladeer, Will Cragoe, joined us in our studios this past Sunday to record what would become the next installment in our Monrovia Renaissance Singles Series. Though better known as the force of nature behind the controlled chaos of Sunscribe, the faithful renderings of Toma, and the brutal blues of Skip, Cragoe is also a noted acoustic doodler, delighting in compelling, intricate fingerpicking. For the first time ever released upon the ears of you, the discerning music listener, is a song Cragoe has been holding onto for quite some time. "The Optimistic Song," is deceptively titled in terms of subject matter, but the lyrics are well-crafted and witty. The sighs and subdued delivery make this as much excellent acting as it is suberb singing. The single's b-side was somewhat accidental, arising from a bit of spontaneous inspiration that certainly paid off. This performance of Devendra Banhart's "At the Hop" showcases Cragoe's aforementioned fingerpicking skills as well as a vocal delivery that is somehow soulful and easygoing at the same time. A kazoo-playing tramp managed to sneak past security and weasel his way onto the track (don't tell him we kept his bit in the mix). While we get our Research Department on the task of understanding what we just said, feel free to listen to the single, or download it to listen to it for all of eternity, or for all of your iPod's battery, whichever comes first. Also, be sure to look out for all kinds of stuff from all those bands we mentioned.

Click here to go to the Singles Series page and listen to Will Cragoe

Photo credits go to Matthew Vogel and Megan Stubbs.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Table Salt's Katie Gray Is Definitely Kosher

A couple of videos posted on Facebook caught the ever-attentive eye of the Monrovia Renaissance recently. They featured energetic cover songs by none other than Monrovia's own impressive songbird and key-tapper Katie Gray. One of Monrovia's more underground musical talents (though thankfully not for much longer), Katie recently began performing as one-half of the absolutely dynamic duo Table Salt, which also features her less-underground brother Henry. With their good old-fashioned charm, Table Salt instantly won the hearts of those fortunate enough to catch their performance at the Immaculate Conception Fiesta this spring, and it is likely that there are more shows to come. Katie Gray and her manager joined us at the Monrovia Coffee Company yesterday for pumpkin juice, bubblegum, and an enlightening interview. Ebony and irony:

Monrovia Renaissance: What would you say is the inspiration behind your music?
Katie Gray: Chewing gum. When I chew gum, I pay a lot of attention to the rhythm of my chewing and that inspires a song’s beat. You’d think I’d be joking, but I’m not! From there I think up the notes and I think up the lyrics, and it sorta plays out like that.
MR: What would you say is the feeling behind your music?
KG: Groovy is one way to describe it. Soft. Slimy at times.
MR: If your music was an animal, what would it be?
KG: A pterodactyl because pterodactyls were very talented but very unrecognized among the other dinosaurs.
MR: How have your parents played a role in your career as a musician?
KG: When I was little and I’d just come out of the womb, I shot out, they just started exposing us all to the music they listened to when they were younger. I remember – [a man drives by on a motorcycle blasting hardcore rap music] – music like that, pretty much. That was so coincidental!
MR: Did you pay that guy off?
KG: This was definitely planned out to make myself look better for the interview. See, that guy thought I was funny too. See, he’s laughing at me. Anyway, where was I?
MR: You shot out of the womb –
KG: Okay, I shot out of the womb and my parents, from a very young age, exposed me to the music they listened to when they were younger like Simon & Garfunkel – you know, old folk rock – The Beatles, Bob Dylan. I remember I used to set up these concerts for my family any time we were having a family friend party. I must have been like four or five and I sang the song “Your Song” by Elton John. One of my mom’s friends, after, was like, “What planet are you from? How do you know Elton John?” And I didn’t get it, so I just said, “I know what a planet is!” Later on I realized what he was saying, and I realized that I was very fortunate to have had my parents expose me to this music because we all grew to love it and we all grew closer because of it. We all still go to my brother’s room and have sing-alongs and stuff.
MR: So music is a kind of connection for your family.
KG: Yeah, I feel like it’s a part of our family. Sort of goes with the name, I guess.
MR: So would you say that in performing and doing concerts that you’re trying to make that kind of connection with other people?
KG: Yeah, definitely. We try to pick songs that we feel people will feel a really personal connection to. We played this little show at our church in the spring and we played “Brown Eyed Girl” and we dedicated it to all the girls in our family because they all have brown eyes. My aunt said that made her and all our girl family members cry. Just little things like that bring people together.
MR: So do you do mostly cover songs?
KG: I love doing covers, but I am working on a song right now. Actually my brother and one of our friends are helping me write it. It probably won’t be done till the fall because we’re all really busy, but I’m hoping I can put up that one too.
MR: What’s it about? Or do you want to talk about it?
KG: Oh, yeah! It’s very, kind of country, and the lyrics are very conversational. It’s about a person, a female, and a male, and what’s going on between them. And it’s cool because I mention my friend Rose, for example, in one of the lines – it’s sort of bad, but – the line is, “even germophobe Rose would wanna touch you.” Not in a sexual way! Rose doesn’t like to touch anything, but the person I’m talking about is just, you know, even germophobes want to touch that person.
MR: Of course. Does this song have a lot of references to your friends in it?
KG: Yes, a lot. A lot of past events and a lot of other people in my life, I kind of allude to them.
MR: So it’s a very personal song.
KG: It is, but at the same time, I don’t know, I try to make it comical and witty, sort of light and fluffy.
MR: I was actually talking to my friend Michel Fourant about how most songs on the radio are so general and so detached from the writer’s personal experience that no one can really relate to them. How do you feel about songs currently on the radio?
KG: I definitely respect all of the music that’s on the radio, but it doesn’t have much meaning to me other than, “this Bruno Mars song is fun to dance to.” It kinda does all sound the same and I honestly think that songwriters in the industry are just running out of things to sing about. I feel like the world has flip-flopped, things that were considered traditional then are considered unconventional now. What’s considered normal now is what was considered not normal back then. I know, I’m getting into politics. You can edit that out. Why did I start talking about this? What I meant to say is, back then everyone had morals, in like the forties and fifties. It was such a core thing, and you were considered the oddball if you didn’t have them. Now it’s the opposite, now if you have morals you’re considered the oddball and if you don’t you’re normal. This doesn’t have to do with music, so I don’t know why –
MR: Well it has to do with music in the sense that most songs on the radio today promote this party all the time, no responsibility –
KG: And back then, with the technology they had, you had to actually be talented to be playing. I guess back then they actually valued real talent and real, special people, whereas now it’s just all about money, you know?
MR: You have a couple of videos online of you playing piano and singing, are you planning on doing more of those or focusing on just recording songs?
KG: I want to try to get together this little jam session, or more like a little performance where my friends can play stuff for each other that we’ve been working on, because I really only have one friend and my brother who – we’re really lucky to be able to do music stuff together, but I just wanna get a new group involved in music. I also do want to make more videos and post them online. I’m actually working on a John Lennon song that I’m gonna post up soon. I’m stuck between two: “Oh Yoko!” and “Oh! Darling”. That was not intentional, that they’re almost the same title. To me, “Oh! Darling” has more of a jazz feeling to it, and “Oh Yoko!” is kinda… folky?
MR: Going back to the personal aspect of your music, was there a person you had in mind when picking the songs for your videos?
KG: Which one? I have a lot that you guys have never seen; I keep ‘em under my bed. I’ve only done three that I’ve posted on Facebook, but the first one I did [Best Coast’s “When I’m With You”] was for my friend. I meant it in a friendship way but it really is a love song. The second one I did was the song “Hallelujah,” and I can’t really relate to it personally. There could be so many meanings to it, I don’t fully understand it. I just purely thought it was a beautiful song. The last one I did was a Paul Anka song and I just did that one for fun.
MR: Have you been to any concerts around here in Monrovia?
KG: I’ve been to a couple, but I think the best place for me to listen to music is in my brother’s room when he brings his friends over and they just start jamming. I’ll be in my room and say, “I know this song!” And when I come and listen to their music, I think they’re the best musicians around here I’ve ever heard. It’s fun to have it at my house too because I can pee as much as I want, get something out of the fridge, take a nap, and then come in and listen to them. It’s awesome.
MR: What would you say is the state of music in Monrovia as a whole?
KG: I feel like when I want to jam with people they’re just not accessible. I had a conversation with [noted Monrovia High School teacher and philosopher] Mr. Gubbins that most people don’t want to take risks and pick up some sort of art, you know? I think more people need to be in the arts and they need to find their passion. I feel there would be a lot more musicians in Monrovia if people would do that. There’s not really a music scene.
MR: There’s definitely not a network for musicians.
KG: Well I know about a few, but most of the musicians I know in Monrovia are my brother’s friends and they’re all flying away from the nest. There’s just not a community of musicians.
MR: Are there any questions you’d like to ask yourself?
KG: And then answer them? Okay, um… It’s weird because I already know the answers, you know? Okay, so you were talking about contemporary music, the whole KIIS FM scene, and there are some artists I do admire on a personal level, not just a shallow one. Those are: Adele, who actually has a song on KIIS FM; she actually has really good music. Amy Winehouse. KROQ plays some good bands sometimes. I do think that there is still some hope in the music industry, it’s not all evil.
MR: Do you think that growing technology is going to have a negative effect on music?
KG: Maybe to older people since they’ve seen what it used to be and how it is now, they might be disappointed. For example, the other day Katy Perry was on Saturday Night Live and my dad had been dozing off but woke up when she was performing, and he actually thought it was Tina Fey doing a Katy Perry impersonation. He thought that was why she was singing so badly, but it was really her. Most younger kids who are into that scene don’t really realize how good the music industry used to be and how much substance it used to have. I don’t think they’ll notice anything different. I think they’ll like more Black Eyed Peas songs.
MR: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
KG: Men’s Wearhouse: you’re gonna like the way you look.

Look out for more Table Salt concerts this summer and recordings from Katie Gray this fall.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

For Your Listening Pleasure

And now, the most anticipated announcement of the summer: the official introduction of our Monrovia Renaissance Singles Series! You already trust the Renaissance to bring you the most timely and exclusive information on the hottest Monrovia bands, and though this makes for an impressive resume, we refuse to stop there. Click on the "Singles Series" link above to to listen to rare recordings you can find nowhere else. You can even download them to your portable music player and add our snazzy cover art. Be the envy of your gym, library, or hipster party! The Monrovia Renaissance Singles Series... it's the most!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

David Dirks Shows Off His Steez

Easily the most eclectic of Monrovia's mental mavericks, David Dirks has been involved in countless, varied projects. The man's creativity seems to have attention deficit disorder as he shifts from more traditional band formats and music production to outrageous yet awe-inspiring performance art at the firing of a neuron. After his tenure as one half of seminal folk punk balladeers The Lethargic Gay and the Aggressive Stepfather along with singer/multi-instramentalist and fellow genius Clayton Rose, Dirks joined alleged cult Collateral Jammage and His Young Friends to terrify the parents gathered at Greg's Backyard Show of Winter 2010 with a primal display of brutal pounding, scattered thoughts, and wild dancing. Dirks broke through into the Monrovia mainstream when he won the 2011 Monrovia High School Battle of the Bands. Performing with mysterious twin anachronisms under the moniker Bob Marley, Dirks unleashed his inner demons and captivated the auditorium for a haunting ten minutes which would prove to be unforgettable. Recent rumors suggest that this was a preview of what could be expected from the vagarious vaudevillian. Dirks' new project is called Primo Steez, an ambitious effort that seeks to blend the aggressive verbosity of  rap music with the lush atmospheric sounds of current bands like Animal Collective. Dirks allowed the Monrovia Renaissance into his lair for a brief interview as well as a two-song performance that recalled his earlier work. Buckle your seat belts:
Monrovia Renaissance: What do you feel is the current state of music in Monrovia?
David Dirks: Monrovia specifically is in shambles. I heard we’re the birthplace of Reel Big Fish and some other bands, and it makes me feel kind of down sometimes. When I’m down though, I just pick up my instruments and just keep playin’ em, and playin’ em, and playin’ em…
MR: What do you find gives you the most inspiration to make music?
DD: Definitely Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, without a doubt. His energetic acting skills really inspire me to be a more of an energetic person.
MR: Tell us about your current work: what have you been working on and what is the feeling behind it?
DD: I’ve been working on a solo project I call Primo Steez. It’s a collaboration inspired by various rap artists such as Gang Starr and Wu Tang. I think it’s going to be a great hit.
MR: And you think the folks in Monrovia are ready for this?
DD: No, I don’t. I think they’re still pretty hooked on Reel Big Fish.
MR: Have you considered a Lethargic Gay and the Aggressive Stepfather reunion?
DD: You know, I have considered it here and there and I think it’s about time we did have one sometime. Maybe this summer.
MR: Possibly at the next Greg’s Backyard Show?
DD: If he’ll have us.
Look out for further updates on the Lethargic Gay reunion tour and official  releases from Primo Steez. In the meantime, enjoy these two songs from David Dirks, the first release in our Monrovia Renaissance Singles Series.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ex-Monrovia Band Seeks Female Vocalist

There's a saying in Santa Cruz, California that you can't leave without experiencing three things: the boardwalk, the falafel, and the frequent shows. Making its mark upon the latter is a band that got its chops here in Monrovia. Time Machine Modulus is the most wild and uncompromising group of young gentlemen ever to declare war upon the eardrums of the Monrovia masses, and their move up north almost three years ago has done nothing to assuage their aural assault. If anything it has made the trio - consisting of Jeff Stephens on guitar, Josh Smith on bass, and Todd Siefke on drums - more fierce and precise in their delivery. From destroying dreams at the Monrovia High School Battle of the Bands to flexing their musical muscles in the Santa Cruz house show circuit, Time Mod have certainly proven themselves, so much that they recently landed a show with Zechs Marquise, a band which features family members of the Mars Volta. This formidable resume does nothing if not place Time Machine Modulus as one of the most important founders of the Monrovia Renaissance movement as they continue to inspire this generation of the city's creative minds. Jeff Stephens returned to Monrovia this weekend for a short visit, and Monrovia Renaissance (the blog) had the extreme honor of being invited into his home for an interview. We were taken aback by the man's wisdom and commanding presence, and what follows is sure to go down in the annals of Monrovia history. Read carefully:

Monrovia Renaissance: How would you describe the feeling of your music?
Jeff Stephens: The feeling is like if you were on another planet and you discovered the equivalent of pomegranates. So the first one you’re just getting into the feeling, and the second one you’re realizing, like, “this is something.” And then the third and fourth one that you’re eating, you’re just kinda like, “this is a little overwhelming for my stomach.”
MR: How do you respond to recent criticisms that you’re merely jumping onto the bandwagon of the “freak funk” scene?
JS: Well, if there is such a thing, all I can say is: I light the candles for the death of whatever is freak funk. It doesn’t deserve to live.
MR: How do feel your band’s migration to Santa Cruz has affected its dynamics?
JS: We’ve been able to practice a lot and get real tight, and when you get real tight with a band you feel really comfortable playing shows and you feel great, and when you feel that great energy, everyone else can feel it too. When you feel it and everyone else can feel it and there’s just this energy there, and it’s developed, and it’s practiced, then it’s a great thing that everyone can feel. That’s what it’s really about, just providing a great feeling.
MR: When people ask you questions, do you get a big ego boost because you feel you’re important enough to be answering these questions?
JS: Oh, totally. Exactly. Even when I’m not being asked questions I imagine that I am and I think of the answers. I know I’m an important person, and my dogs, they’re important dogs. They have a very complicated relationship because one of them is the father of the other one. What I’ve been realizing now that I’m twenty years old is that your relationship with your father is very complicated because you’re a part of your father in a way. So when you’re looking at your father you’re looking at yourself, and I think about that with my dogs. It’s like, Murphy and Cody are the same dog almost. Almost. Like, really close. It’s really interesting to watch them play. One is the father of the other, so it’s a really fascinating relationship to observe and I think about it a lot and it influences my music.
MR: What do you feel is the next step in Time Machine Modulus’ career?
JS: We definitely need to record an album, we need to record something and put it out there, and we need to go play a few more towns. We need to make albums and we need to play shows, that’s all there is to do. And grow as people, because if we grow as people we will grow as a band.
MR: Are there any questions that you would like to ask yourself?
JS: I want to know if I think my weight is important. So I guess my answer to that is, I guess it depends on if my weight is affecting how I feel when I play music. And lately it hasn’t, so I guess my answer is no. Also, I’d like to know if I’ll ever be able to play to an audience of elephants, and that’s an answer that I wouldn’t be able to give you at this point in time. At some point I’ll be able to answer you. If I’m seventy and I haven’t yet played for an audience of elephants, then I’ll probably be like, “you know what, I don’t think it’s going to happen.” But at this point it’s completely up in the air. Also, lions are beautiful.
MR: What gets you into the mood to create?
JS: Let’s see… It’s usually just me being like, “fuck, what did I do today? I gotta do something.” And then I look at the guitar and I don’t think, it’s just like, “where do I want to put my hand right now?” I put my hand there, and I start and just let this natural brain process take over.
MR: Would you say you enter a trance?
JS: I would say yes. It’s like one moment you’re not doing shit and the next thing you know you have a piece of music on you and you’re like, “whoa, this just happened, I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I remember every moment, but I don’t remember exactly how these moments came to be, and why it ended up with this weird little thing that I now possess and that I can present to the world, or at least to myself.”
MR: How do you feel the Santa Cruz music scene compares to the Monrovia Renaissance?
JS: I feel like if we get a renaissance here, maybe we’re on a good path. Before I left Monrovia, the music scene was lacking completely. There was very little here. I loved [Monrovia High School legends] The Illuminati. They were one of my favorite local bands. They were solid guys, they were some of my favorite people from Monrovia. Other than that, the Monrovia music scene was nothing. It was nothing. Then I went to Santa Cruz and I discovered all these really solid local bands and I was like, “this is awesome!” I’d never known what it was like to go to a show and see some solid groups play some really together music. So I’m really optimistic about the Monrovia Renaissance, I think some great things are going to come out of it. Hopefully it gets to a point equivalent to what I think we have in Santa Cruz, just a lot of diverse groups, lots of different types of music, but all really solid, all really tight, and down to play some shows and support each other.
MR: Aren’t there a lot of sexist groups in Santa Cruz? I haven’t seen any bands with girls in them.
JS: That’s the thing too, there need to be more female musicians. If any females read this interview and care about music, they should realize that they need to be playing music because everyone should be playing music, especially females because they have this strange grace to them that I can’t describe.
MR: Would you be open to a female singer in Time Machine Modulus?
JS: Yeah, whatever works, whatever makes the puzzles fit together.
MR: What’s your favorite puzzle?
JS: I don’t like puzzles. You have to work on them for a long time and all you have at the end of the day is a picture that you already saw on the box. If you want to create your own puzzle, that’s something else. Something beautiful.
MR: What other creative outputs do you have in addition to the guitar?
JS: I write really bad poetry, and I think about movies but have yet to write any scripts. I’m working on that. I draw sometimes, but I’m really bad at that. Drawing is really hard. Also, everyday life is kind of a creative output. This sounds stupid and pretentious, but every moment can be used to create something beautiful. How you handle any sort of situation can be creative. Just think about, “what do I wanna see?” and use your will to create that. Or at least try. You won’t always succeed, but you always have to try.
MR: Are there any last thoughts that you would like to leave our readers with?
JS: Sometimes I’m really convinced that there’s this path I’m on that’s going to lead somewhere quite significant because I feel like at this point I’ve already had some really wonderful experiences with Time Machine Modulus, things that I never could’ve dreamed of, but dreams come true. If you have a dream, then say, “you know what? I want this to come true. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it come true.” Life kind of unfolds before you and you’ve gotta be aware, attentive, disciplined, and when there’s an opportunity you’ve gotta attack. There’s a very natural phenomenon, a violent nature of attacking, but being conscious of not wanting to hurt anybody. Just wanting to create a loving environment, a peaceful environment, but just a fucking crazy-ass, exciting environment. It’s exciting but [at the same time] not harmful. It may be harmful to the ears, but at the end of the day they’re just ears, they’re just weird little appendages that we have. Hearing is an important sense though, so maybe Time Machine Modulus is not the best thing for people, especially not kids, because at the end of the day, I know when I’m forty years old I’m going to be deaf. At the same time, I could be dead by then.

Check out the band's myspace as well as their bandcamp page for a few tantalizing tracks (Secret Trees remains my personal favorite) and be sure to add them on facebook to get updates on all their explosive shows.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fancy Guppy Spills Some "Miller"

A few weeks ago electro-dance mystery men Fancy Guppy gave us a taste of their upcoming EP With Soul and Vile when they dished out “Brunch,” a soul-thudding, thrill-sputtering, and deceptively short aural adventure. Following close behind that release was this weekend’s leak of a brand-new and apparently unfinished track. Suggestively titled “Miller,” the song is closely related to its predecessor yet manipulates those familiar elements into an almost hypnotic vamp. The effect of this minimalism is a song that is highly haunting and doubly danceable. While “Miller” certainly does seem a bit bare at the moment, it arrives amidst rumors that Fancy Guppy is working on a collaboration with up-and-coming hip hop sensation Bonte. This means that the song could be only a precursor to a more aggressively charged rap anthem to come. Grab the download below and speculate on the wild future sounds of tomorrow:

Click here to download "Miller"

Watch out for Fancy Guppy's With Soul and Vile, now set for release this summer from Public Records.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunscribe: Out Of Hiatus?

2010 saw the rise of many awe-inspiring bands, and foremost among them were notorious post-surf rockers Sunscribe. The brainchild of guitarist Will Cragoe, backed by brother and drummer Ben, and "bassist" Jeff Sizemore, these brutal bricoleurs were capable of summoning impressive blasts of sonic joy. Sunscribe was perhaps notable for winning 3rd place in the Monrovia High School 2010 Battle of the Bands, an almost-victory that left rabid fans vowing revenge. Despite all the hoopla and a succesful (if brief) summer tour, the band took an abrupt hiatus so that Sizemore could attend the coming college school year. The break left Sunscribe with no record of its progress other than a video from its final show at Chain Reaction in the lovely Orange County. Last night, however, the band announced via its Facebook page that they are "officially back in business," meaning that fans may at last have the recording spectacular they've been waiting for. We unfortunately could only speak briefly with Jeff Sizemore about the band's future plans. He only revealed cryptically that people should be "ready for the ultimate experience." They should probably get a new bassist. Either way, look out for new material and shows this summer from this galactic group.

Check out Sunscribe's facebook for upcoming shows and news and their myspace for demos and other bits of glory.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dapper Lad Interview, Album Details

Monrovia Renaissance recently sat down for an interview with Dapper Lad, DJ for sunny rap weirdos Jr. Planet League. The occasion for this cosmic chat is JPL's announcement that they have entered the studio to begin recording their self-titled debut album. This record has been highly anticipated ever since this duo - consisting of Dapper Lad and the quippy MC No Name - hit the Monrovia music scene in early 2010. Dapper Lad has the tantalizing details:

Monrovia Renaissance: I understand you just returned from a month-long tour in the OC. How does it feel to be back in Monrovia?
Dapper Lad: It's absolutely bittersweet, I must say. I miss the people. Real genuine people.
MR: Now, tell us about the new album. Is it true that No Name had to become an American Apparel model to support your music?
DL: Yeah, I made him do it. It's not at all what you would think, either, not at all glamourous. It's something I'm not very proud of, but I believe that the ends justify the means one hundred percent of the time. Plus the LP is going to be absolutely stunning.
MR: Everyone is curious about how this album will sound since JPL is known to take on a wide array of musical styles.
DL: Oh, I wouldn't say that. If you could somehow listen to a recording of every single show we've ever done, you would know that we haven't changed that much. In fact, I believe we've gotten more the same, which is all any group wants.
MR: Well, that about wraps up our interview, is there anything at all you could tell us about the new album?
DL: Simply everything I've already said. Wonderful people, the OC, not at all what you would expect, except that it's exactly the same.
MR: If you had to sum up the feeling of the new album in one word, what would it be?
DL: I'm afraid I can't, actually. That would really go against my artistic instincts.

Jr. Planet League will be out in the future on Public Records.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Delicious New Fancy Guppy

This week saw the release of a white-hot track off of Fancy Guppy's new EP With Soul and Vile. The song is called "Brunch" and showcases the mysterious group in fine form. For those unfortunate enough not to have seen this electro-orchestra's wild performances, this track serves as a perfect introduction. With its stuttering space-bass opening giving way to a thudding world percussion stomp, and its pulsating electronic climax all backed by B-movie accents, "Brunch" is a thrilling adventure all under three minutes. Be sure to look out for With Soul and Vile this fall via Fancy Guppy's label Public Records. In the meantime, treat yourself to some pain-free living:

Click here to download "Brunch"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Beginning

For years now, an impressive cultural movement has exploded in the small Southern California city of Monrovia without recognition. Until now.

Monrovia's daring artistic revolution can no longer be kept a secret. An immense amount of creative energy is contained within the city's many marvelous musical acts, each of them pouring their very souls into their well-tempered craft. Now it is a crucial moment in history. Now it is time for the musical juggernaut to be unleashed upon the world. Now it is time for the Monrovia Renaissance.

We are committed to delivering nothing but the latest and greatest in pure electricity direct to your eardrums. Stay tuned as we delve into the musical history of the future. Join the Renaissance.