A lot has happened over the last 8 months of my life, most of which was so chaotic and excruciatingly tiresome that I will probably not be wasting even more time posting about it here. However, there are a few good and exciting things happening, and I will finally have some free time on my hands to update this page more than once every 7 months. The first (and really the only thing to discuss right now) is that I have a new band. We are called Hot Alice and you can follow us on twitter, @HotAliceBand. The band consists of myself, my brother Chris, our buddy Pickles on bass, and our good friend Nate Thruman on drums. I won’t waste time explaining what we sound like because we’re too fucking good to be pigeonholed into some sub-genre of rock music. Come check us out at the Beat Kitchen on August 3rd and see for yourself. We’re in the beginning stages of laying down some tracks in a studio so we should have something for y’all to listen to within the next few months. In the meantime, we’ll have t-shirts available at the Beat Kitchen show which you should buy and then brag to your friends about how you bought the shirt at the very first Hot Alice show. They will all be jealous. I promise you.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this blog with anything even remotely interesting, but today I’m excited to announce Allister’s first Chicago show in over 2 years. Back in 2002, we recorded and released an album called “Last Stop Suburbia” which went on to sell fairly well and somehow became our most popular record. At the time, we had no idea that songs like “Somewhere on Fullerton,” “Overrated,” or “Flypaper” would become permanent staples in our set list. We were (and still are) just a dumb little suburban band writing dumb little suburban punk rock songs in our garage.
It’s been ten years since the record was released and we’ve decided to book a show and play “Last Stop Suburbia” from start to finish. As with all band decisions, we made this one after a few too many beers and few too many drunken trips down memory lane. So, for better or for worse, come and check out the show, buy us a beer, or simply throw rotten tomatoes at us. Either way it should be fun…
WHAT?: Allister performing “Last Stop Suburbia” in its entirety.
WHEN?: Saturday, March 9, 2013 – 6pm All ages
WHERE?: Reggie’s Rock Club – 2105 South State Street – Chicago, IL
I finally have something worthwhile to mention here so without any adieu, I am very excited to announce that the new Allister record, “Life Behind Machines,” is complete. Comprised of 11 songs, it’s definitely the most dynamic and diverse record we’ve made as a band. Although it’s taken quite awhile for everything to come together, I feel more than comfortable saying it has all been worth it. We had a lot of fun over the last five months writing, rehearsing, and recording, and we did a little bit of experimenting with this record too, giving a small twist to the prototypical Allister sound.
We made sure to include a few standard three chord punk rock tunes, but we also added synthesizers, horns, and new-age electronica to a few tracks. We certainly haven’t reinvented the wheel or anything, but I’d like to think we’ve musically progressed as a band. You can’t just keep churning out the same record over and over again or you’ll quickly become dull and irrelevant. And, let’s be honest, as much as we’re in this because we love creating music for ourselves, it’s silly to think that we wouldn’t want as many people as possible to hear it as well. The record isn’t as crazy as it may sound though. It’s still the same old Allister, just a little more mature, a little more…modern. The new stylings in no way detract from the quality of the songs; in fact, I think the entire record sounds even better than it would have otherwise. But I guess the listener will ultimately be the one to decide, eh? I’m proud of it though and that’s really all that matters.
We know the record will be released by Universal Japan at some point over the summer but we don’t actually have a specific release date. We’re hoping to have it out by the middle of July. It will take some time to finish the artwork and get everything pressed but I feel pretty confident that we can get it all done relatively quickly. As of now, we’re thinking about doing a digital only release in the US but we’ll see what kind of demand there is for actual physical copies. Once I have some definitive information on release dates and upcoming supporting shows I’ll be sure to post it here. That’s about all the news I have for the moment. Hopefully soon I can once again tap into the stockpile of tour stories for your reading pleasure. Until then, keep drinking….
We are leaving Thursday morning for a brief, one-stop weekend show in Tokyo. It’s been almost two years since Allister was last in Japan and, although we’ll spend almost as much time in the air as we will on the ground, I am extremely excited. People frequently ask me what it is that makes Japan so special; why it is that we tour over there more than we do in the U.S. The obvious answer, I think, is because we can. We’ve toured there enough that we are able to sell out small clubs, drawing a few hundred kids to our shows and making it financially worthwhile for us to continue to play and release records there. The more subtle reason, though, is one built more on friendship, camaraderie, and an appreciation of cultural differences.
In 2006 we did a three month tour of Japan with the Japanese band, Ellegarden. To this day, I think we still hold the record for the longest Japanese tour by an American band. We played in every major city from Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, down to the far southern city of Fukuoka, and the rarely traveled islands of Kyushu and Shikoku. We played in a myriad of small towns and completely immersed ourselves in a climate and culture that was vastly different from the one we were used to. Although it wasn’t the first time we had been in Japan (it was perhaps the fifth or sixth time), it was the first time we truly got to experience the people and the culture. And as contrived and cliched as it sounds, that trip changed my life.
Most bands that tour Japan play shows in only three or four major cities before they turn right around and fly home. They barely have time to take a breath before they get back on the plane. Sure, they’ll most likely be taken out to local restaurants to sample traditional cuisine, or get a chance to ride the bullet train from one city to the next, but they’ll never really get to know the people or the local customs. Our tour in 2006 allowed us to actually spend time getting to know the more traditional parts of Japan, as well as getting to know the people.
Ellegarden, at the time, was THE biggest band in Japan. Japanese radio was playing them non-stop and their record was flying off the shelves, yet they were some of the most humble guys I’ve ever met. With the exception of maybe six or seven shows, every venue we played held no more than four hundred. Kids were lined up for blocks outside the clubs, most without tickets, just for a chance to get an autograph or a picture with them. While the band could have played every night to three or four thousand, Ellegarden chose the intimacy of small venues because they wanted to be able to connect with their fans. It was a breath of fresh air in the world of “mainstream” punk rock and it was an attitude I respected a great deal.
They traveled with a crew of about twelve people, none of whom we had met prior to the tour. Slowly, over the course of three months, we got a chance to know all of them. We spent a good portion of every day working with them and, at night, I found myself quite often at the local izakayas (bars) drinking beer and sampling various flavors of Sake with them. The mutual respect we had for each other was evident as they did their best to speak and learn English, and we did our best to speak and learn Japanese. We would stay up well into the early morning hours, drinking and telling stories by drawing pictures or looking up words and phrases in our pocket dictionaries.
We also shared quite a few new experiences. We conquered the Japanese tradition of Wanko Soba together in the town of Morioka, a few of us got tattooed together by a Japanese tattoo master in Shikoku, and, perhaps most poignantly, we toured the WWII museum together in Hiroshima, collectively moved almost to tears by the magnitude of destruction caused by the atomic bomb.
Throughout those three months, we learned quite a lot about our new Japanese friends’ lives and culture, and we developed an extraordinarily close bond with some of them in a relatively short time. We discovered that many of them shared some of the same ideals and beliefs that we did, whether it was about music or life. Their generosity and hospitality was unparalleled. Not once during that trip did we ever feel like outsiders. In fact, the bond was so strong between us that almost the entire band and crew drove us to the airport on our last day. There, in the middle of the airport, stood twelve grown men, crying and hugging goodbye.
Inside Tokyo’s Narita airport, there are escalators that descend to the departure gates. Above these escalators is a line of tall glass windows. It is customary for people to stand behind these windows and wave last goodbyes to their loved ones as they disappear down to the lower level. I will never forget the image of our new friends that day, waving and saluting goodbye to us as we rode down those escalators. I suppose this is one of the main reasons I love touring in Japan. That intense feeling of kinship and camaraderie always seems to get rekindled every time I return. And I don’t think this time will be any different. Kampai!
This past weekend we officially wrapped up laying down tracks for almost half of the new Allister record. It’s a shame that we have to take three weeks off due to scheduling conflicts, but things will eventually resume and we’ll have this thing cranked out in no time.
It gives us an interesting perspective on these new songs, though, which could be both good and bad. Three weeks away from the studio gives us an exorbitant amount of time to critique, analyze, and (if possible) objectively listen to everything that we have recorded. It’s a double edged sword because on one hand we have time to write and restructure the songs to make them even better, yet, on the other, we have more than enough time to over-think the songs, thereby potentially diluting them and miring them in mediocrity. Since all of our previous records have been recorded in one continuous block of time, we’ve never come across this situation before.
I’d like to think that we’ll spend the time making the songs even better. But let’s be honest here, even though we’re trying out some new things and experimenting “outside of the box,” at our core we’re still a punk rock band playing songs with only three or four chords. There isn’t a whole lot you can really do to change things. Most of our songs are completely written in about 20 minutes. We’ll tinker with some ideas, add a few guitar lines, and probably come up with some alternate harmonies and melodies, hopefully making the whole record better. I suppose there’s always an outside chance that one of us will write an earth-shattering new song during these next three weeks that we’ll be able to include as well. We’ll see…
Right now, I gotta rehearse for the shows coming up this weekend. Hope to see everyone there.
So we’re a little more than a week into recording a new Allister album and things are coming along nicely. Its easy to forget just how much fun the entire process can be now that it’s no longer a full time job. Our conflicting job schedules though have mandated a somewhat unconventional recording session. We’re putting the album together in pieces; recording a few days here, a few days there, and we’re hoping to have it all finished by mid-April.
Most albums are generally recorded in this order: drums, bass, guitars, vocals, keyboards/effects, etc. Bands typically spend around four weeks putting a record together, working straight through without any days off. It can be a long and arduous process, especially when working with time constraints or working under a budget.
What’s great about this session is that we don’t really have any time constraints. We know when we’d like to be finished, but if it goes longer than expected it certainly won’t effect a label’s release schedule or throw a serious wrench into any touring plans. We’ll obviously do our best to reach the goal that we’ve set for ourselves but we have the freedom to extend things if necessary. And we DO have a budget, but we’re pretty confident it won’t be an issue. The entire record (except drums) is comfortably being recorded and produced in the home of our good friend, Marc McCluskey, who has worked on records for Weezer, Bad Religion, and Ludo. He’s a fucking brilliant producer, button pusher, and knob twister, and he makes shit sound GOOD.
Another interesting thing about this session is that we’re essentially doing things backwards; recording all the guitars, bass, and vocals first, and then laying down the drums to all the songs (Marc creates fake drum tracks that we play along to). Its a simple enough process and it really seems to be working well, especially when sorting out the arrangements for the songs. Because we’re not locked into a drum track, we have the liberty to simply cut and paste different sections of the songs into an arrangement that we’re 100% happy with. We can easily try out new ideas without having to commit to anything. Purists may consider it cheating but, what the hell, it’s our fifth full length record and I think we’ve earned the right to do what we want. The results so far have been awesome. We’ve finished about 4 songs and each one is a million times better than the original demo. The first demos were simple, rinky-dink melodies that were thrown together in a basement. The final versions, though, have now completely taken on new life and have exploded into something far better than I could have imagined. They’re big. They’re powerful. And a lot of the credit goes to Marc.
One of the things that most people don’t realize is just how much songs change throughout the production and recording process. Out of all the original songs that we have written and recorded (I’ve never actually counted but I’d guess it to be somewhere around 75 or so), there are perhaps seven of them that were actually recorded exactly as they were written (In all honesty, I suppose you might have to exclude our first record, “Dead Ends and Girlfriends” here. That entire album was recorded and mixed in 4 days and so, by default, we had to record the songs exactly as they were written since there was no time to do otherwise). And with the exception of maybe two or three songs, the final album version has ALWAYS been better than the demo. And I’m not talking about the sound of the song. I’m talking about the actual arrangement.
It’s a testament to how well the band and producer work together. Its the producer’s job to get the sounds and tones, but it’s also his job to bring a fresh ear to the songs. A good producer will always find a way to make a song better. Take any of your favorite songs from almost any popular band and I guarantee the song is at least 25% different than how it was originally written. Not many bands are able to craft #1 hit songs from start to finish without any editing. Hell, even the Beatles had George Martin to arrange most of their material.
Anyways, if these first four songs are any indication of what’s to come, I have a feeling this record may well be our best yet. I like all of the songs already and, considering Marc will most likely make them even better, it’s easy to get excited. It’s shaping up to be a nice mix of the old sound (circa “Last Stop Suburbia”) and the more recent “Countdown To Nowhere.” We’re trying some new things and expanding our minds, so to speak, and we just might even throw some electronica/synthesizers on the record. You’ll just have to wait to find out….
On a few occasions during our touring days we were lucky enough to travel by bus. There were really only 3 things you had to remember when traveling by bus; 1) Always sleep with your feet pointed towards the front; 2) Always make sure you knew what time bus call was because the bus would, in fact, leave without you; and 3) Never EVER take a shit in the bus toilet. Of course, these rules were occasionally broken, but overall bus tours were great. We never worried about where to sleep. We drank as much as we wanted and never worried about driving. We always had plenty of room to store extra beer, and we had more than our fair share of obligatory “back lounge” parties.
For as much freedom as a bus tour allowed however, it also took some liberties away. Showering was infrequent since we would often go a week or more without getting a hotel room. Late night stops for food were rare since we couldn’t simply pull through a drive-thru when we were hungry. And probably worst of all, finding our way around town on days off almost always proved to be a hassle. Cabs were too expensive and there usually wasn’t anything exciting within a reasonable walking distance. There was one off day in Odessa, TX however, that turned out to be anything but boring.
Odessa is, quite simply, a shit town in an even shittier state. We were only there because the drive from Phoenix to Dallas is too long for the bus driver to do in one shot. He needed a break and Odessa just so happened to fall somewhere near the midpoint of the drive. After riding all night on the bus, we pulled into our hotel around 10am. The hotel was on a main road about 2 miles outside of what would be considered “downtown” Odessa. The general area wasn’t overly developed, but it wasn’t barren either. It certainly seemed like we’d be able to find something to do. So I showered, changed my clothes, and immediately went to work trying to figure out how to spend the day.
We soon discovered that there was a shopping mall and movie theater within walking distance of the hotel. The desk clerk pointed us towards the back exit and explained that there was a shortcut to the mall. We followed his directions and found ourselves outside on an asphalt path, winding our way through a large community park. A small pond shimmered peacefully in the middle and we saw numerous couples holding hands and enjoying the beautiful late summer weather. It just so happened to be the first anniversary of September 11th and, to honor the victims, the city had covered a large portion of the park with hundreds of six foot high American flags. They were literally everywhere. It took us about 20 minutes to weave through the park and the flags before we reached the mall on the other side.
We spent the next few hours wandering the mall and sitting in the theater, stuffing our faces with popcorn and candy. As we were leaving the theater, I happened to notice an advertisement for a small karaoke bar located in a corner of the mall. We happily made our way to the bar for a few drinks.
Around 1am, the bar closed down and we were forced to stagger our way back to the hotel. I had secretly stashed an unfinished beer into my jacket so I would have something to drink for the walk home. We crossed the mall parking lot and found ourselves back in the flag-littered community park. It was dark and desolate. Our drummer and sound guy had managed to keep themselves under control at the bar but I, on the other hand, had not. I was thoroughly intoxicated, as was Magoo, our guitar tech, and we were having a difficult time keeping pace with the other two. We lagged a good 50 yards behind them, whooping and hollering and drinking our beers. One of us (I still don’t remember who it was) thought it would be a good idea to pull one of the American flags up out of the ground and wave it back and forth while drunkenly singing the National Anthem. It was a hilarious sight I’m sure, and I had just stuck the flag back into the ground when I heard someone yell, “FREEZE! Get down on the ground, NOW!”
I turned around to find four cops about 20 yards away, their guns drawn and aimed directly at us. All of them were yelling for us to get on the ground. I was thoroughly confused. Was this really happening? Were there really guns pointed at my face? What the fuck? I wasn’t even doing anything wrong…
I threw my hands up and laid face down on the asphalt. I was immediately surrounded while a cop shoved his knee into my back. My arms were yanked and twisted behind me, the handcuffs clinched so tight they nearly cut off the circulation to my fingers. Magoo got the same treatment. I heard the fading clatter of running footsteps as two of the cops ran up the path towards our friends. I was hauled up by the jacket and dragged over to a group of police cars idling in a parking lot on one side of the park. Magoo and I were thrown into the backseat.
The entire situation suddenly became so funny that we could not stop laughing. The cops, on the other hand, did not think it was so funny. Apparently they didn’t see the humor (or harmlessness) in a couple of out-of-town punk rockers drunkenly walking through a park at 1:30am. Admittedly, Magoo and I did not help our cause. We had a few choice words for the cops which probably only got us into more trouble. They eventually tracked down our drummer and sound guy (who were literally about 20 feet from the hotel when they were cuffed) and transported all of us down to the Odessa jail. We were initially tossed into a holding cell to sober up and await our fate. It smelled like a mixture of feces, urine, booze, and sweat. In one corner sat two homeless looking men, quite clearly going through substance withdrawal. We shared smuggled cigarettes with them and took turns pissing into the drain in the center of the floor.
Eventually we were moved to the actual jail, but not before we had been made to strip and shower, all in the presence of a watchful officer. We were given a pillow and blue jumpsuits and locked up in jail for the next 8 hours. It wasn’t so bad, really. There were about 12 other guys in there with us but everyone mostly just kept to themselves, awaiting release.
Finally, around 10am the next morning, we were released. Our guitar player came with a wad of cash to bail us all out. My charges read like this: Public Intoxication, Consumption of Alcohol in a Public Setting, and Disregarding Community Curfew (being in a park after hours); and came to a whopping $1200! That’s a pretty fucking heavy fine for essentially just trying to walk home drunk. As we were at the desk paying the bill, the overweight, overly cheerful cashier put everything in perspective for us. “You poor boys…don’t you know what the Odessa motto is?” she said. “No, what?” we asked. She looked at us with a shit-eating grin and said, “Odessa, TX, where you arrive on vacation but leave on probation.”