Calling Beach Rats a supergroup is so not Punk Rock. To be honest, calling them a ‘supergroup’ might even get them a little riled up. However, at the risk of being clobbered, ‘supergroup’ is an apt description of this Punk band formed in Asbury Park, New Jersey. And yes, the very same Asbury Park that gave us The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. While Springsteen isn’t the only artist associated with Asbury Park, he is certainly the most famous. The city has always had a vibrant music scene filled with Rock, R&B, and Soul acts, eventually giving way to everything from Folk and New Wave to Hip Hop and Punk. The Beach Rats are well aware of Asbury Park’s musical legacy, which is not so much a sound as it is a ‘feeling.’ Bands from Asbury Park are not only inspired by each other, they are inspired by Asbury Park itself.
Beach Rats first came together when Bouncing Souls members Bryan Kienlen and Pete Steinkopf had played a show with Lifetime’s Ari Katz at a memorial for the late Dave Franklin (Vision). Enter Danny ‘Dubs’ Windas on drums and the band was nearly complete. The final missing piece in the band arrived when Brian Baker (Bad Religion/Dag Nasty/Minor Threat) moved to Asbury Park and eventually fell in with the rest of the guys and the Beach Rats became a full-fledged powerhouse of a band. Blending all of their Punk and Hardcore roots together, the group began to cause a local stir that soon went national. Everybody wanted to hear and see what these Punk Rock veterans were up to. Thankfully, the wait is over, and the Beach Rats have arrived!
2022’s RAT BEAT is most definitely a Punk Rock album. With a group of musicians still at the top of their game, this is an exciting gut punch of an album. On RAT BEAT, you’re going to hear many shades of Punk and Hardcore on tracks like “Bikes Out,” “Clorox Boys,” “Dress for Sick Sesh,” “Summer’s End,” and “Heavy Conversation.” However, this is not a Pop Punk (or is that Punk Pop?) album at all. There are plenty of melodic hooks throughout the album, but this is not a band anxious to put out an album and hop on board the WARPED Tour train. Beach Rats is fun and energetic, but it is an album that was born from the desire to play music with friends and for friends. Yet, it is no surprise that the end results are now available for all to hear. Count yourselves lucky!
One of the most popular and impactful hip-hop releases of 1992 – and quite possibly of the 1990s period – was the debut album by trio House of Pain (Everlast, Danny Boy, and DJ Lethal). Entitled HOUSE OF PAIN (FINE MALT LYRICS), the album was an enormous success and featured the hit single “Jump Around.” However, the band’s genesis began a few years before when rapper and songwriter Erik Schrody (better known by his stage name Everlast) released his 1990 solo debut album FOREVER EVERLASTING. While the album wasn’t a huge commercial success, it brought the rapper into public consciousness and laid the steppingstones that led to the success of his next musical project….
After the release of FOREVER EVERLASTING, Everlast joined forces with former high school classmate – and fellow Irish American descendent – Daniel O’Connor (aka Danny Boy) and decided to form a new hip-hop project. Choosing the name House of Pain, the duo brought in Everlast’s former DJ Leor Diamant (aka DJ Lethal) and the line-up was complete. Signing to Tommy Boy Records, Everlast, Danny Boy, and DJ Lethal began crafting an album that focused on the Irish American hooligan lifestyle that influenced the group’s members growing up. With a different lyrical angle and a unique spin on their music, House of Pain created a debut album like no other.
Now celebrating its 30th Anniversary, this digitally remastered edition of HOUSE OF PAIN (FINE MALT LYRICS) still sounds fresh and exciting even though hip-hop and rap have gone through many changes in the decades since it’s release. Featuring production by and collaborations with DJ Muggs, Ralph Tha Funky Mexican, Pete Rock, and B-Real, the album features the massive International hit single “Jump Around,” which is still fondly remembered today by legions of hip-hop fans that weren’t even born when the song was high in the charts. The album landed at #14 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and one spot lower on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart. House of Pain’s debut was embraced by rock and hip-hop fans, and still stands as one of the most influential hip-hop albums of its time. Or maybe of all time.
HOUSE OF PAIN
HOUSE OF PAIN (FINE MALT LYRICS/30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION)
STEVE SCHNEE: THE LAST GOODBYE is about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction to it so far?
HARRISON MILLS & CLAYTON KNIGHT: We’re excited – and relieved that it’s finally going to be out in full for the world to hear. It’s a weird thing but when you make a project and spend so much time pouring yourself into it, it becomes so personal and holds this very specific meaning to you. When you release it, it takes on a whole other life and is communally shared and owned. With most of the album being written during the pandemic we wanted this project to be about communities coming together again. Something people can put on and have a shared experience with. Fans have been so incredibly supportive of it thus far, which we’re so grateful for. We can’t wait to have them hear it in full.
STEVE: You collaborate with several artists on the album: Låpsley, Ólafur Arnalds, Julianna Barwick, The Knocks, Bettye LaVette, Izzy Bizu, MARO, and Charlie Houston. When creating music in the studio, do you have a certain ‘voice’ in mind for each song and then pursue an artist to ‘fit’ that idea? Or do you bring in collaborators to ‘add to’ and ‘expand’ upon your initial ideas?
HARRISON & CLAYTON: It’s actually quite the opposite. Yes, we have certain broad ideas at times of how we envision something might sound, but oftentimes, we end up completely reinventing a song when collaborating. We start with a general idea of what we are looking for from a vocalist but like to give each artist the room to explore and push the track in a direction they think is best. As the track progresses and we’ve written more top line ideas we usually go back and redo the entire instrumental around their voice and delivery so that it feels cohesive.
STEVE: You’ve always been able to create unique ‘moods’ for songs on your albums, and THE LAST GOODBYE is no different. There are Rock fans out there that still think you can’t wring emotion from computers and electronics, but you prove them wrong. Do the songs come to you from particular emotions, or do you often have to shape the sounds in order to create the unique atmospheres of each track?
HARRISON & CLAYTON: Thank you so much for the kind words. We really are an “album” band – we try to create worlds and thread narratives throughout a cohesive body of work and be as thoughtful as we can in the process. When we are writing all we really have is how we are responding emotionally to a track. We ask ourselves, are we connecting to the track in any way? Is it prompting an emotional response? Are we getting those chills up the back of our necks when listening? If the foundation of the track i.e., the chords and melodies are not supplying this we usually move on. You can dress up a tune with fancy production all you want but if the song itself isn’t moving us it’s time to go back to the drawing board. We also strive to really push boundaries in incorporating different emotions, sounds and influences into the project – so that you can be experiencing this anthemic celebratory tone, but then turn around and be struck by an intimate sense of self-reflection, all within the same breath. The tricky part is taking those vastly different moments and threading them together, to create something that feels like peaks and valleys, but all within the same journey. For us, writing and creating goes hand in hand with the emotional component – they both inform one another, so it’s hard to divorce the two and really discern where the process starts.
STEVE: The album’s title track, which is also the first single, features vocals from the legendary Bettye LaVette. And how did you get her involved?
HARRISON & CLAYTON: This is such a special song to us. The song uses a vocal from a song she recorded in the 60s, called “Let Me Down Easy” and we were captivated by it when we first heard it while digging through records. We wanted to bring this lasting, defining voice into a more contemporary, electronic setting. The idea of bringing two worlds together, that at first seem distant, has always been something we’ve been drawn to. It was an absolute honor to be able to work with Bettye’s voice over the course of writing the track – and to get her blessing in doing so. She’s able to convey emotion with her vocal work unlike any other. We got to connect with her during this process (which doesn’t often happen when sampling) and she is such an incredible artist, and person. To date, this has been one of the more fulfilling songs that we’ve had the chance to work on as artists.
STEVE: You’ve already released several tracks from the album – “Wide Awake” (with Charlie Houston), “Love Letter” (with The Knocks), “Better Now” (with MARO) and “Behind the Sun” – but do you think that there is a defining track that could serve as a ‘gateway’ to the album for someone not familiar with Odesza?
HARRISON & CLAYTON: This is a tough one because we feel all the music off the record does this in some way. But if we had to choose, we think probably the first (“This Version of You” featuring Julianna Barwick) and last tracks (“Light of Day” featuring Ólafur Arnalds) off the record gives the listener an idea of where we are trying to take them. Both these tracks act as a kind of gateway and a start / bookend to the project.
STEVE: Your live shows are legendary experiences. When you write and record music for the albums, are you already thinking about how the songs will work in a live format? Or are you in a totally different frame of mind in the studio and then later work on adapting those songs into the live performance?
HARRISON & CLAYTON: The live show and the album are basically two different projects. When sitting down and writing for the album we focus mainly on what makes the best listening experience and what we want people to take away from it. Once the album is finished, we then go back and reimagine the entire project in a live setting. We spend months working on different edits and how we can blend them with songs from other records. It’s a fun and tedious project but one that we think really makes the live experience special.
STEVE: Speaking of live shows, your tour for THE LAST GOODBYE looks like it will not only be your biggest live undertaking yet, it will also be the first national tour of its kind undertaken by an Electronic act. This isn’t a club tour – you’ll be playing large venues across the US. Did you initially have big plans for the tour or did the itinerary just evolve into this groundbreaking live trek?
HARRISON & CLAYTON: We’re extremely lucky that we’re able to tour at this level – and we really can only thank our fans for that. We’ve been working on this record basically ever since we got off the road from our last tour (which wrapped over three years ago) and in tandem, our team has been planning out different scenarios for how best to approach the return. That said, while you can plot and plan as much as you want, ultimately if it weren’t for the support we’ve seen, we wouldn’t be able to embark on this tour.
STEVE: The album’s title, THE LAST GOODBYE, has some of your fanbase worried. Is this, indeed, the last goodbye for Odesza?
HARRISON & CLAYTON: The title is really open to interpretation – but it’s much more conceptual in basis than literal. This is not the last goodbye for Odesza. We plan on doing much more down the line. Ultimately, the project title poses the question of whether or not there is ever really a last goodbye? We found comfort in the idea that there isn’t and that the ones we love and hold dear are with us even when they may not be physically present. We are echoes of the people that have influenced us throughout our upbringings and we as individuals will always carry their influence with us.
Special thanks to Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight
Award-winning Australian musician, producer, and DJ Harley Streten is better known by his stage name Flume. He began his musical journey at the age of 11 by creating his own music using a DJ/mixing program taken from a CD that was included free in a box of Kellogg’s NutrigrainBars. By 2010, he was producing House music under the name HEDS. After receiving online acclaim for the music, he was posting online, he released his debut single as Flume, “Sleepless,” in 2011. Investing in a laptop computer, Flume used it to record his debut album, FLUME, released in 2012. The album was a commercial success, reaching #1 on Australia’s ARIA albums chart. A musical sensation in his homeland, Flume was honored with several awards from the AIR Awards, the APRA Music Awards, and the ARIA Music Awards.
Flume’s second album, SKIN, was released in 2016 and proved to be another enormous success. Another #1 album in Australia, SKIN also hit #1 in New Zealand and invaded the Top 10 in the US, landing at #8 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. The album was critically lauded and earned him several ARIA Music Awards including Album of the Year, Best Male Artist, Best Dance Release, Best Independent Release, Best Pop Release, Producer of the Year, Engineer of the Year, and Best Cover Art. The album was an international success as well and Flume was honored with many nominations and awards in other countries including winning a Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album in 2017. While working on his third album, Flume released his first mixtape in 2019. Entitled HI THIS IS FLUME, the Grammy-nominated mixtape served as a stopgap between albums until he was ready to unleash his next musical opus…
Possibly the most anticipated Electronic/Dance album in years, Flume finally unleashes 2022’s PALACES. At the core, the 13 songs on the album contain all the classic elements that made Flume an international superstar in the first place. However, layered on top of those classic sounds, Flume spreads his creative wings and takes the listener on several different musical journeys. On PALACES, he also gets help from some of his musical friends including Damon Albarn, Oklou, MAY-A, KUCKA, Laurel. Virgen Maria, Emma Louise, and Caroline Polacek. Some of the album’s highlights include “Say Nothing” (featuring MAY-A), which has been stream over 23 million times, “Highest Building” (featuring Oklou), and “Escape” (featuring KUCKA). But don’t think for a second that you aren’t going to be in for a treat with the rest of PALACES – this is a Flume journey like no other. It is familiar enough to be comforting but contains many new musical twists that make it exciting and fresh. Come join the adventure.
Southern California-based singer/songwriter and poet Jillian Banks is better known by her stage name Banks. After the releases of her first two acclaimed 2013 EPs – FALL OVER and LONDON – she came to prominence with the release of her debut album, GODDESS, in 2014. An international commercial success, the album reached #12 on the Billboard 200 chart – as well as landing in the Top 20 in many other countries – and spawned the hit single “Beggin for Thread”. Her 2016 sophomore album, THE ALTAR, was also an international hit and included the singles “Fuck with Myself”, “Gemini Feed”, “Mind Games”, and “To the Hill”. After several non-album singles in 2017, Banks returned with her third album – appropriately titled III – in 2019. Another international hit, her third platter included the singles “Gimme,” “Contaminated,” and “Look What You’re Doing To Me” (featuring Francis and the Lights).
With all of this international success, Banks began attracting attention outside of the music industry. She became a muse for fashion houses such as Chanel and Dior and was featured on magazine covers all around the world. While she could be seen sitting in front-row seats at fashion shows, she never turned her back on the music business. In order to promote her albums, she made the rounds on television talk shows in the US and became a formidable live act, appearing at many of the world’s biggest music festivals including Lollapalooza and Coachella. Banks has also offered up several music videos and, while she’s attempted to avoid most aspects of social media, she still has a strong internet fanbase that eagerly awaits her every move.
Banks returns in 2022 with the album SERPENTINA, which includes the previously released singles “The Devil”, “Skinnydipped”, “Holding Back”, “I Still Love You”, “Meteorite”, and “Deadend”. With its blending of Pop, Hip Hop, Soul, and Electronica, SERPINTINA is exactly what you want from a new Banks album… which means it is everything you’d expect and so much more. When making the album, Banks worked with several different producers, songwriters, and musicians – Lido, Tālā, Orlando Higginbottom, Shlohmo, StikMatik, Beat Butcha, Rachel Moulden, etc. – to create an album that was cohesive and commercial yet also experimental and atmospheric. Her first album since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, SERPENTINA feels hopeful but not without its scars. An album that embraces the now without forgetting the past, SERPENTINA will certainly appeal to her dedicated fanbase but may open the doors to those ready and willing to fall for her musical charms.
Formed in 2006 by Robin Pecknold (lead vocals/guitar), Skyler Skjelset (guitar/mandolin), and Casey Wescott (keyboards/mandolin) alongside rhythm section Bryn Lunsden (soon replaced by Craig Curran) and drummer Nicholas Peterson (replaced by Josh Tillman in 2008), Fleet Foxes’ unique blend of Indie Folk, Chamber Pop, and Americana caught the attention of critics and audiences alike when they began releasing their music via social media (anyone remember MySpace?) shortly after their formation. By the release of their second EP, SUN GIANT (2008), Fleet Foxes had become critical darlings. Later that year, they issued their self-titled album to great acclaim. The release ended up on the top of many critics’ ‘best of’ lists and has since been acknowledged as ‘one of the greatest debut albums of all time.’ Not just an American hit, FLEET FOXES (the album) became an international success as well.
Fleet Foxes released their sophomore album, HELPLESSNESS BLUES, in 2011. Yet another international success, the album hit the Top 10 in the US, UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Sweden while landing at #1 in Norway. However, things weren’t going smoothly behind the scenes and after touring the album, Josh Tillman (who had joined in 2008) left the band in 2012 (later reinventing himself as Father John Misty). Fleet Foxes was then put on hiatus as lead vocalist Robin Pecknold relocated to New York to purse his undergraduate degree at the Columbia University School of General Studies. The group reconvened in 2016 and began work on their third album, CRACK-UP, which was released the following year. The album received universal acclaim from critics as did their 2020 release, SHORE. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit…
With the band being sidelined thanks to lockdowns, Robin Pecknold focused his attention on performing a livestream in Brooklyn’s St. Anne & the Holy Trinity Church. Recorded in December 2020, A VERY LONELY SOLSTICE is the result of that acclaimed live set featuring songs from the SHORE album as well as songs from Fleet Foxes’ back catalog and two cover versions: Nina Simone’s “In the Morning” and a new arrangement of the traditional “Silver Dagger.” Although the show was initially available for streaming, it is finally being released on physical formats (CD and vinyl LP) for the first time. The church acoustics turn the songs into haunting musical prayers (of no denomination) and lift them to new levels. More tender than ever before, songs like “Wading in Waist-High Water,” “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,”, “Helplessness Blues,” and “A Long Way Past the Past” are stripped to their musical core – vocals and guitar – and are rebuilt through emotions and atmosphere. Instead of missing the band and trademark vocalists, you’ll hear these songs in a whole new light. And that just may have been the intention all along.