by Helen Grant
I try not to let myself be swayed by “market” forces. But I’ll admit music is a weakness. I don’t base my all my purchasing choices on how much I love a band or a song, but I will sometimes end up at a show on a night that’s inconvenient for me if I like what I hear. It’s not the most responsible choice, I know, but that’s why I call it a weakness. Over the years I have built up certain “immunities,” if you will, to people shouting: “Hey, pay attention to this!” A lot of people shout for various reasons, but it doesn’t mean you have to listen.
However, when Joshua Boydston asked if I would take a listen to something he organized independently, I was genuinely curious. And it appears we’re in a similar vein of thought regarding an indie dream pop, psych rock act that goes by the name “Shrines” (Née-Sundress).
I liked this EP so much that I ended up downloading it. But for me, upon the first few listens, I have to say it’s the second half that struck a chord with me.
The best part of a song like “Sailor’s Vision” is at time mark 2:13, as it reminds me of another EP “Blue Mantra.” I listened to this EP a lot just to drown out the mindless repetition of overplayed Christmas standards this past December. The group responsible for this beautifully ambient, yet watery dream pop is called The Waves. They’re from England. Their song “Already Gone” shares common elements with Shrines (Née-Sundress). So that, dear reader, is why you are even reading about these two bands in the first place. Yet only one of them is coming through Norman. Shrines is based out of Denton, TX and has managed to attract more than a few people from music writers to other musicians in the area.
Shrines also has a perplexing yet transfixing video out for their song “Thirteen.” Trigger warning: it’s a little borderline rape-y, well, that might be too harsh a call. It’s like masked boys playing bad. Not unlike Is Tropical’s video “The Greeks.” But in the Shrines’ video people are wearing the American flag as a cape to presumable justify the use of force against potentially bad people, or you can read into it however you will. But it is reminiscent of “Clockwork Orange” type shenanigans. Overall I think the take home is that this interpretative surrealism is aimed at taking a jab at men who crave dominance and the kinds of behaviors that would see women and at least one dude in this video become the victims of barely restrained monkey rage. I say that based on a scene where there are two girls sending messages in a bottle and one gets chased down and abducted, and potentially re-educated or killed with colorful confetti? Or not. It’s not like I interviewed them about their creative choices. Plus there’s an eye ball being licked. At any rate, you can watch for yourself. I promise it is not boring! Other notes: I love how “Thirteen” channels some Pink Floyd, think the latter half of “Breathe,” towards the end of “Thirteen.”
Anyway. You can decide for yourself if you want to see them. I’d actually like to since Joshua said Shrines is comprised of about half the original members of Sundress. He believes they maybe playing some of the Sundress songs, but just a bit differently. Honestly, I would really like to hear the sonic direction they might take in songs like “Page of Wands,” “Sailor’s Vision,” and “Thirteen.” To that end, I’m told the driving force behind both Shrines and Sundress is a guy named Ryan McAdams. They’ve only played a handful of shows as Shrines, and this is the first time they’ll play in Oklahoma with the new lineup.
As for the other two bands, I have Crown Imperial Court’s EP off their bandcamp.com, or give it a listen to here:
Then there’s Merchandise. I really didn’t mean to inquire about them while making other music purchases, but I was curious about their sound, and the guy at Guestroom seemed knowledgeable, plus he’s someone I share a few musical preferences with, and also because I still hadn’t researched the group by that point. And it wasn’t because I was snubbing their musical efforts based on their name. Honestly after a band like Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jr., I’m not sure there’s any group I’d roll my eyes at based on a name alone. A name’s a name right?
Here’s a quote from Caron Cox, of Merchandise: “There’s all this shoegaze music going around, but whatever people hear in us, the shoegaze is just Miles Davis.”
Well, it turns out old Pitchfork is really excited about these guys. That quote came from an interview between the Mag and Merchandise. The Mag even went onto proclaim that Merchandise is “rising.” Alright. Smart-ass wording and “branding” aside, I don’t want to say I’m jaded to the swirling synth and guitars I heard. And maybe that’s why their demo on Pitchfork, “Become What You Are,” appealed to me a little bit. I’m not sure I’m digging the falsetto that alternates between cracking on the rocks of heartache and morphs into flourishes of cold electro-vocalizations. Although I didn’t hate the way the song finished as it took a different direction, so there is that. As “Become What You Are” cycled through, I was pleasantly surprised to find I that I really liked the last bit of it. This is going to be a case of use your own best judgement. There’s also an interview between them and Pitchfork that was an insightful read, should you click on the link. The part that I was intrigued by most was the development of their sound and the DIY scene in Tampa.
“Pitchfork: Has jazz been a primary influence on Merchandise?
Carson Cox: It’s a goddamn boulder that I can’t move. I still don’t think anything is as powerful as Nina Simone or Miles Davis. There’s all this shoegaze music going around, but whatever people hear in us, the shoegaze is just Miles Davis. He played some of the most melted music, and you can still get his records in dollar bins everywhere.
Pitchfork: I read that people in Tampa play shows in storage units. What’s the DIY scene like?
Carson Cox: The two “established” spaces are Unit 19 and Heinrich’s Workshop, which are both storage units in the same plaza. Unit 19 is definitely punk’s stronghold. It’s the last place for real underground hardcore in Tampa Bay. And Heinrich’s is the stronghold for all the freakout shit; all the noise shows. Anytime I played anywhere else in the city, I never got paid, and that was literally the only incentive. There was also a place called Sound Idea that was the place to learn to play punk. It’s why the hardcore scene is still going, because the guy who ran that, Bob Suren, was doing it out of the passion of his own heart for 13 years. He’s definitely the grandfather of all Florida punk.
There’s a new warehouse space called Cyborg City, where we just played an amazing show. There were a ton of fucking people there. There were like 70 fucking people.
Pitchfork: Do people get in trouble for playing at the storage spaces?
Carson Cox: It’s a dead zone in Tampa, between the outskirts of the industrial side and the hood residential side. It’s basically a terrible fucking neighborhood. There’s a lot of fly-by-night auto mechanics that are probably chop shops. The neighborhood doesn’t want the police to come. It’s so far gone that people are like, let the animals eat themselves, basically.”
Alright. If you want to go to this show, and you probably might want to should any of this appeal to your musical sensibilities, you need to check out this Facebook event page. As for me, I hate to admit it, but I think I’ll be altering my plans a little bit to at least catch Shrines.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Dual Tone Presents
$10 Advance/$10 Door
Opolis 113 N. Crawford Ave, Norman, Oklahoma.