Gateway District Stuff

Hello, just a quick note to let you know that you can listen to the new Gateway District album Perfect’s Gonna Fail, over at Punknews. I suggest you go do so.

If, after doing so, you’re so blown away that you would like to purchase the album, you can pre-order it from It’s Alive. If you’re like, “Nah, I’m cool with this free stream,” then, well, fair enough cheapskate.

The album doesn’t come out until later this month but we already did our two Record Release shows here in Minneapolis and both were a blast. We probably won’t be doing any more shows until summer or fall, so you really should have checked them out.

The final bit of GWD news is that the fine folks over at Punknews also posted our video for the song Run Away a couple of weeks ago. The shoot was stressful and took many hours, and the added weight of knowing just how over budget we had gone made the entire experience rather nerve-wracking. So it’s really great to have it finally come out. See the video below.

-Nate

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Finally, Someone Discusses the Best Music of 2010

This is a few days late but really, who cares? Top five (not feeling too ambitious right now; 2010 is in the past, man, etc etc) albums from last year.

1. Against Me! – White Crosses

The thing I really like about Against Me is that they change their sound on each album in a way that’s interesting and not forced. If they re-did their first album every time around, it would obviously be old and ridiculous by now. But on the flipside, if they started cramming in string sections and weird time signatures just to show they’re “expanding”, it would be terrible too, in a different and even worse way. It’s a dilemma (maybe “a dilemma” is a little much; replace that with “something” or “shit”) every band has to deal with at some point, and I think they’ve done a nice job of handling it. I don’t like every song they do, but you could plausibly argue that each album is better than the one before it, and each is different in an interesting way. There are barely any bands you can say that about. Sleater Kinney would be one. Superchunk, too (they didn’t get better with each album, but every album sounded unique and yet still like Superchunk). And probably Jawbreaker. That puts Against Me in good company, and it makes it so I’m excited to hear what they’ll do next, as it won’t be another stab at their existing formula; it’ll probably be something totally new and different.

This particular album sounds like really, really, really well-done 80s music to me. Not “80s” in the way that most people mean, with Casio riffs and prominent snare hits and vaguely dance-y bass lines. I mean “80s” as in music that was actually popular in the 80s. “80s Music” is a simplified, revisionist genre that doesn’t really represent how bad the decade was. Similar in a way, I guess, to people thinking “Disco” immediately when someone says “70s Music”, even though that wasn’t a big deal for the bulk of the decade. I suppose years from now (or already?), the same thing will apply to “90s Music” and Grunge.

White Crosses isn’t 80s Music in that dumbed-down sense; it actually sounds like real 80s music, perfected. I think the music that was popular in 80s is worse than horseshit (I’d rather listen to horseshit, literally, like put my ear near it, than listen to an entire Debbie Gibson album), but with this record it’s as if Against Me took the scattered slivers of redeemable qualities out of it and turned it into something great.

I’m getting a bit into the weeds here as I realize I’m not exactly a connoisseur of 80s pop singles, and might be talking a load of crap here. To test this I just Googled “1985 Billboard Hits” and picked one of the top ones I didn’t recognize. ‘Broken Wings’ by Mr. Mister. I checked it out to see if it bears any resemblance to the Against Me album.

I didn’t recognize the song at all until the chorus hit, at which point “Oh shit, THIS song” hit me. This song is awful. And it perfectly summarizes actual “80s Music” for me.

On top of that, it DOES sort of remind me of White Crosses! If someone took Broken Wings and made it fucking awesome, it would fit in perfectly on White Crosses.

So: for changing things up in a great way from their previous catalogue, and for making a seemingly awful sub-genre of music sound sweet, this gets Album of the Year for me

I spent too much time on this, so look for numbers 2-5 in a day or two!

-Nate

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Banner Pilot LP3 Update #3: Trimming the Fat, Increasing the Phat

(cross posted at the Banner Pilot Tumblr page)

Well, it’s some random day of the month, so you know what that means: a Banner Pilot Album Three Songwriting Update!

Let’s recap. When I posted the last update we had 6 or 7 songs. We’ve scrapped a couple of those since then and added a few more. Most of these new ones have been in the last three weeks; in other words, you could say that we’re on fire. Well, maybe not “fire”. Maybe “a roll”. Or “a tentatively encouraging pace.” Yeah. Kick ass.

Granted, most of these new ones aren’t sure things, and in some cases we don’t even have vocal melodies sorted out yet. But they *feel* like they have a good chance of working out, unlike the vast majority of Rough Ideas we have, where the feeling is closer to, “Eh, well maybe this might be OK at some point, possibly.” You can just tell sometimes. The sketchy ones are similar to a Bad Job Interview…. halfway into it you have a bad feeling, and while there’s a tiny chance you could turn things around, it’s pretty clear you’re screwed. At a certain point, further investment of time is pointless and it’s better to stand up and say, “You and your battery charger factory can go shove it, mister.” And then you walk up the street and start fresh somewhere else. Like a Jamba Juice.

That’s what we did recently: abandoned song ideas that were, upon further inspection, probably futile. And there were a LOT of these. I mean, as recently as two weeks ago we had tons and tons of rough ideas and random riffs and stitched together chord progressions, most of which were sad and unfinished and directionless. Looking now in my iTunes folder, I count 203 demo files. Granted, there are duplicates, but still: it’s SEVEN POINT TWO HOURS of mostly crappy demos. Most of them are just rough ideas I came up with in Garage Band, some are recordings of the live band at the practice space, some have vocals, some don’t. Most of it is no good, and again: 203 files, SEVEN HOURS.

Having this crushing volume of ideas floating around turned out to be counterproductive. “What should I work on? Something in the “LP3 – September Best” folder, or maybe ‘LP3 – Older Crap Heap’? Didn’t ‘Spanish Reds – Alt Vocals Sept 2’ have a cool part? Wait, was ‘Wimpy Riff’ the track I wanted, or was it ‘Chorus Idea – Track 7 (2)”?”

Total confusion. So we went through basically every file we had a couple weeks ago and ruthlessly discarded 99% of them. Now it’s way easier to tell where we’re at, and to focus on the songs that actually have a chance of seeing the light of day. Before it was “7 pretty good songs and 40+ ideas that have cool parts here and there that maybe we can combine stuff from and blah blah”; now it’s “these 10 songs have the best chance of working out, and these other 4 have some cool parts. The end.” WAY easier. The end result will be an album that’s much better than if we were just like, “Screw it, the 12 songs that are closest to being done, boom, there’s our album.”

So there you go. There’s the update. Next time: a discussion on song tempos! Whoo hoo!

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Banner Pilot LP3 Update #2: Droppin’ Ds

(See previous post. This update is from October, I think)

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What do you folks think about Drop D? It’s a phrase that causes me to cringe, or at least gulp, at first but then with further reflection my hesitation eases a little. See, first impression I think of something in the Korn / Limp Bizkit vein, a vein that is no good. But there’s also a few good indie and punk songs that pull it off. (‘Chinatown’ by Jets to Brazil comes to mind. Also… Ok, I’m drawing a blank, but other examples do exist!)

I guess I should explain: Drop D means you drop the tuning of the lowest string on the guitar. Usually E, it goes down – or drops, get it? – to D. What happens after that depends on what you do with it. It makes power chords easier to play, and you can do a lot of goofy sounding stuff on the lower frets (this is what falls under the Korn camp).

But there are also a few neat tricks you can do, things that don’t make it sound like you have dreadlocks and are about to yell, “Step the fuck back!” or “Ruahkakaka!” or something. For one, you can play octaves on the A string but also hit the open dropped D, which makes a nice Jawbreaker-y effect on the right frets. And just playing a ‘normal’ punk progression suddenly has a cool, darker sound to it.

I’ve written two song ideas in Drop D for the new album. Obviously, they are not in the Korn camp. Dummy titles are “Blinders” and “Lightsleep”. The initial demos were a little shaky, but we’ve done some cool stuff to them as a full band and i’m now pretty confident both songs will end up on the final album. TWO drop d songs— who would have guessed?

The other weird/different thing I wanted to try on this record was a song in 6/8. But what I came up with sucked. So, fuck that 6/8 shit! Drop D is where it’s at.

In fact, do you think “Stop, Drop D, and Roll” would be a good album title? Like, all of us adjusting our tunings in the middle of a fire….. could be awesome.

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Banner Pilot LP3 Update #1: It Begins

(My band Banner Pilot is currently writing and demoing our third album, a process I’ve been sporadically documenting over at our Tumblr page. I figured I’d start cross-posting the updates here. To catch things up, I’m posting the first two updates. This one was originally posted in August, I think).

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(Look for a few dozen of these in the months to come. They will probably be boring and inane one-by-one, but could be cool as a whole months from now when the record is almost done. Maybe? Maybe!)

Starting to make decent progress on things. Right now, here is where we are at: I have about 40 song ideas on my computer. The vast majority of these are garbage; stitched together chord progressions and random guitar noodling that tries, unsuccessfully, to hit on a good vocal melody idea. But! About 8 or 9 of them seem potentially good enough to end up as keeper songs. Of these, we’ve tackled 4 or 5 as a full band, recording demo versions at the practice space.

Just in the last week, we’ve recorded two of them. ‘Spanish Reds’ and ‘Sleep it Off’. As with all of these, they’re just dummy song titles I make up on the spot when forced to name the drum-machine file. Sometimes, they stick (“Drains to the Mississippi”, “Skeleton Key”, etc), but usually not. (“Spit Out” was originally called “TV Ears Saved Our Marriage”, because that was the text of a magazine ad that happened to be opened up on the table when I named the file).

I think these two tunes will both end up on the album. Sometimes you can tell. On the last album, there were songs that immediately felt like keepers, and others (like a song we named “Blue Ribbon” because… well, take a guess at what might have been in the room when we wrote the song) are more like “I think this might be OK? I mean, maybe?”, which is a sign they’ll get scrapped later. These two, though, seem to fall in the former camp. Good sign!

Danny said the prechorus to Spanish Reds reminds him of an Andrew WK part. That seems good to me.

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Introductory Post

I’m not entirely sure what, if anything, I’ll use this blog for; the main purpose of this website is to put all the music and writing stuff I’m working on, or have worked on, in one spot. The blog is an afterthought…. I’m more of an edit-it-to-death-first kind of writer so the more spontaneous nature of blog writing doesn’t come naturally to me. Nevertheless, I’ll give it a shot, and you can expect to see posts on here sporadically, maybe a handful a month.

I had to put up “categories” on the top there so the site didn’t look empty; they represent the rough ideas I have for subject matter. Random observations, reviews of terrible books I’ve found at thrift stores, Minneapolis-specific stuff, wine reviews by someone who knows very little about wine… stuff like that. I’m  sure I’ll fine tune all of that and have a better idea of which subjects make more sense in the weeks and months to come.

The only category that has more than one test post at this point is “Interviews.” That was by far the easiest part of setting this website up: linking to interviews that already exist on the web. Rad.

I leave for tour tomorrow so maybe I’ll be bored enough on the road to update this a few times. If not, check back in a couple weeks.

Fun fact: the image here was on the first page of a Google Image Search for the word “introduction”!

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