In the 1960s the average band enjoyed fame for a couple of months, if that, before people’s attention shifted to the next rising (and soon to be falling) stars. Being a one-hit wonder wasn’t a failure, it was the norm, and accomplishments by bands like The Beatles and The Kinks were rendered all the more impressive by the fact that any kind of longevity was exceptional, and enjoyed by only a small percentage of groups.
Not much has changed since then: nowadays most bands—particularly in the realm of indie rock—still amount to little more than passing fads, soaking up their proverbial fifteen minutes before succumbing to irrelevance. But one thing that has been accelerated by the internet is that entire genres seem to rise and fall in the space of a few months, leaving up-and-coming groups scrambling to tap into the next sound du jour and ride the
Wavves waves of recognition before they fizzle out.
Then there are bands who are content to just create great music. Unfazed by meaningless trends, they place emphasis on great songwriting, captivating melodies, and a distinctive but inviting sound. They may not get drooled over by Pitchfork (and if they do, it’s only so long until P4K’s drool runs dry and the inevitable backlash begins), but they do create a body of work that speaks for itself, and will outlast the one-MP3 wonders that permeate the blogosphere. San Diego’s The Moviegoers are one of those bands, and though they may not auto-tune their vocals or mangle their guitars with lo-fi crunch, they do create moving, memorable songs accented by rich harmonies and understated confidence. And that never goes out of style.
The Moviegoers have graciously compiled a list of their influences for our latest installment of Poetic Memory, and were also kind enough to give us an exclusive peek at their newly recorded song, “Show Me The Way”, which you can download here. If you like what you hear, their excellent Be A Man EP is still available for free download. You can see them at the Casbah on November 9th, where they’ll be celebrating the third anniversary of San Diego: Dialed In with Lights On and Swim Party. You can also download the newest installment of their Mangoose Mix Tape compilation series for free at the Mangoose Records website.
Poetic Memory is a regular Owl and Bear feature in which musicians disclose their influences—whether it’s albums, songs, artists, or something random. If you’re interested in being featured here, send us an email.
Jessica Monday (keys, vocals)
Anselm Kiefer: This is an artist whom I’m certain I had tea with in another life. He is one of those post-war German creators who had to deal with the fact that there is evil in the world and paintings aren’t going to change that. Theodor Adorno said, “after Auschwitz, to write a poem is barbaric,” so artists of that time period had to have balls of steel, and I think Kiefer does. He’s into heaven and earth, transcendence and remembrance, skepticism and hope. He works a lot in lead, and I swear it’s like he’s melted down his heart and put it on display.
I think his art is, in many ways, a lot like the music I like—very layered and textural but just pure and honest at its core. And the inspiration he provides me is also from that beautiful, instinctual realm, which is ultimately the way I approach making music. I’m not a classically trained musician by any means, but I know when I’ve been moved.
Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding: I’m a die-hard Dylan fan, so this may seem like an odd choice, but the truth is I can’t really say what my favorite Dylan record is. There are many that have meant something to me at various times in my life. But every single one that has been important to me, has been very important. I listened to this a lot while I was working on my senior art project, and it reminded me that artists are all storytellers in their own way. I don’t think it’s necessarily my job to communicate truth or to say that there is no such thing as truth or whatever. I just want to tell a good story, create a mood, and I think this record does an amazing job at that. And honestly, even if the only song on it was I Pity the Poor Immigrant, I probably still would have put it on here. “Whose visions in the final end must shatter like the glass”…..I mean come on.
Percy Sledge: His voice, his teeth, everything. “The Dark End of the Street” makes me teary almost every time I hear it. Also, men don’t wear purple suits enough anymore. Gentlemen, take a lesson from Percy. If you do it right, it’s oh so right.
Jordan Heimer (bass, vocals)
The Dambuilders: The Dambuilders aren’t very well known, and for good reason – they aren’t particularly good. Back in the 90s—last of the analog decades—youngsters like myself would hunt through bargain bins, braving the shards of broken jewel cases and making decisions based on now quaint and obsolete factors like “album art” and “price.” The Dambuilders had a hot girl on the cover, and the their record cost $.99 (“Guaranteed to play” the little yellow sticker promised.)
And play they did. The Dams were a Boston-based Pixies knock-off, with a girl-violinist gimmick. But I had never heard of the Pixies, who, I assume, had managed to avoid the dregs of the bins I was searching. Before allmusic.com and Pitchfork Top Albums of the 80s lists, it wasn’t so easy for an unhip suburbanite junior high kid to tap in to the indie canon, or even get much of a sense that there was a canon to tap. The Dambuilders rocked my world—incendiary guitar licks, tight male/female harmonies, songwriting that had a foot in punk and a foot in 60s pop. I had never heard anything like it, and I played the record constantly. When, my first year at college, someone finally played me Doolittle I said “These guys sound just like the Dambuilders.”
The Beatles – “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”: I know. The Beatles. Not a lot of obscurity bonus points.
Humor me an anecdote: My father approached parenting as something of a cultural Dr. Frankenstein, determined to mold his children into the perfect cultural appreciators. To this end, he stuck his toddlers in front of a lot of Marx Brothers movies, taught me to read the Mets’ box scores when I was three, and taped me a new Beatles album off his LPs every six months (in order, I think, to simulate the actual release schedule of the records, with my fourth birthday coinciding roughly with their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show). I was a Beatles freak as a kid, dragging around my Fisher Price tape deck by its plastic handle. I knew every song in the catalogue.
I was at a friend’s house in high school, and her Dad threw on The White Album. And here, to my astonishment, was this (really amazingly weird) song I had never heard before. I ran home (OK, I probably didn’t run home. I went home at the previously arranged time) and asked my father what gives. Turns out, the old man was worried a song about heroin wouldn’t have been appropriate for eight year old ears. Which is hilarious. He had no problem leaving on “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road,” (even at 8, blunt enough to register) or “Run For Your Life” (John Lennon as wife-stalking domestic abuser), but thought I’d see right through the obscurity of “Mother Superior jumped the gun” to the dripping spike on the other side of the mirror. But basically, I was just thrilled to get a new Beatles song.
J.D. Salinger – Franny and Zooey: Details are important. This was the book that made me realize that it truly isn’t on the inside that matters. The book is often criticized for its (perhaps) overly earnest embrace of Eastern religious philosophies, but what makes the book work is the way it embeds the religious stuff into a world of the inane and quotidian. Whether it was Mrs. Glass worrying that Franny was sick from eating too many cheeseburgers at college, or the description of the college professor intentionally mussing his hair in the mirror before lectures, this was the book that made me realize that surface is depth.
Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends: My favorite concept album of all time. Everyone knows Mrs. Robinson and the epic America, but the rest of the album is just as good, twelve tracks about age, nostalgia and death. S+G seem to have been largely left off the hipster checklist, perhaps because Paul Simon always seems to come across as a little too much of an A+ student. There’s certainly no tragedy to him, the way we like in our singer songwriters.
But on this album it’s his literary pretensions that shine. Who else could have penned the lines “If I was the First Lieutenant, would you put my picture on your paino?” or “An old person without money is pathetic.” No one. That’s who.
Weezer – Pinkerton: The first album I bought on its release date. I was a thirteen year old virgin who wore matching sweat suits and Horace Grant style protective Rec-Specs to school. Rivers Cuomo and I were not particularly going through similar things. Success had not made me jaded and weary. I was not Tired of Sex. I did not have a Japanese fantasy girl who sent me scented letters. But if there’s another album that sounds more like adolescence feels, well – show it to some adolescent you know.
Bob Dylan – “Ballad of a Thin Man”: The funniest song ever written. “There’s something happening here, but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?” was the snot-nosed bumper sticker fuck off of a generation… unfortunately, not mine.
Richard Hunter-Rivera (guitar, vocals)
The Beatles – Abbey Road: I started really getting into music when I was about 9. That year my dad bought a standalone CD player on a trip to the United States (we were living abroad) and he brought back a few of his favorite records on CD. Abbey Road was one of them, and boy did it have an effect on me. I couldn’t stop listening it. My sister and I would turn up the volume on the hi-fi, grab fake mic stands (broomsticks), lip sync and dance together until the final notes of “Her Majesty” faded away.
Kim Deal – She wrote “Gigantic” and “Cannon Ball” goshdarnit! Without Kim, the Pixies are “just another band” and The Breeders are, well, nothing at all.
Radiohead – OK Computer/Kid A: While I treasure these two records (OK Computer is as close as music has ever come to “changing my life,” and I regard Kid A as the pinnacle of recorded pop music on the CD format) what I find particularly memorable is the agonizing yet wonderful three year wait between the two albums, and how I seriously doubt I’ll ever feel that way about anything again.
Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians (Nonesuch Version): Minimalist modern music you can dance to. Absolutely gorgeous. Most purists denounce the Nonesuch version because of the close-miked instruments, but I actually enjoy it more than earlier recordings.
Alvin Lucier – “I am Sitting in a Room”: The ULTIMATE tape piece. Incredibly clean concept, flawless execution…no real point in making musique concrete after this!
Tape Op – the only magazine i subscribe to. It’s put out by a studio owner in Portland. They run features on really interesting studios around the world and the stories behind some of my favorite records. From Jay Bennett (RIP) to Walter Sear to Sufjan Stevens, Tape Op knows what’s ‘up’ in the indie recording world. Not as DIY as it used to be (more glossy full page ads, but hey it’s free), Tape Op is still a fantastic read every month. I learned a lot of what I know about recording from this mag.
Sebadoh – “Soul and Fire”: The perfect breakup song and a seminal indie rock tune.
Jay Brockman – Homogenous: There is a small group of people I owe my musical education to, and Jay Brockman is one of them. We met senior year of high school and his songwriting is amongst the most beautiful and heartfelt stuff i’ve ever heard while at the same time totally insane and innovative. Jay recorded Homogenous all by himself on his 4 track in 2003. It’s a dark, soulful record with lasting flashes of warmth and brightness. He takes you by the hand, and leads you through the crevices of his mind. Lo-fi, lyrically deep, musically substantial, and definitely catchy, the only place you can hear Homogenous is at http://www.mangooserecords.com.
Carlos Robles (drums)
The Beatles: First musical memory: watching Beatles Live Ready and Steady on VHS with my parents when I was 3 years old. My favorite band.
Jim Henson: I was obsessed with Fraggle Rock.
Nine Inch Nails: Bought The Downward Spiral with my allowance in 6th grade. One of the best investments I ever made.
Radiohead: I wouldn’t leave home without OK Computer throughout Jr. High.
John Kricfalusi, Mike Judge and Matt Groening: Imagine if they had a baby!
The Beach Boys: They defined the Southern California lifestyle for me, before I moved to the states.
The Ninja Turtles: The coolest rappers ever.
Most influential bands: The Pixies, The Police, Smashing Pumpkins, Rush, Weezer, and The Ramones
Favorite Drummers: Stewart Copeland, Ringo Starr, Neil Peart, Taylor Hawkins, David Lovering, Travis Barker, Clem Bruke and Jimmy Chamberlain