In today’s modern world of music, where computers have replaced both studios and instruments, music of the seventies and eighties seems both quaint and alien. Just as radio stations that played popular music of the fifties and sixties in the seventies and eighties were known as “oldies” music, the circle has come around to once popular artists of the seventies and eighties. Time and history has caught up where a modern cover of a song from 20 years ago can only sound dated if done with too much dedication to the original. Enter Sexton Blake, a pseudonym for Josh Hodges, the man who would go on to found Starfucker (sometimes shortened to STRFKR for politeness’ sake), an odd hybrid of psychedelic rock and new wave that knows how to write a song around a dance beat.

Ahead of the band’s fourth album, Starfucker’s label, the Champaign, IL-based Polyvinyl Records, has just reissued a limited edition vinyl run of Hodges’ second, and most popular, Sexton Blake album. Plays the Hits!covers mid-seventies hits as old and respectable as ELO’s “Evil Woman” and Elton John’s “Daniel” into late eighties horror shows like Paula Abdul’s “Rush Rush” and Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True.” Though Hodges shows respect to the essence of the music (like the transitional hook into the chorus of Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes”), he incorporates a sonic palette that would become characteristic of Starfucker’s sound. The songs often include the luscious, slurry strum of a processed electric guitar and the soft but terse electro beat of a drum machine.

Released this past Tuesday on 180-gram, gold-colored double vinyl (see picture above) and limited to 1000 copies, this reissuing of Plays the Hits! offers an auspicious re-examination of Starfucker’s origin. The band’s self-titled debut established the Portland, Oregon-based outfit as a catchy, hip indie-pop outfit that gained nationwide popularity after its music’s inclusion in corporate television commercials for businesses like Target and IBM. But Starfucker’s staying power lies in Hodge’s playful but deep lyrical content. Often incorporating samples from the lectures of British philosopher Alan Watts, Hodges’ lyrics have an existential resonance as he often explores themes of life and death.

My conversation with various members of the band last year led to a popular profile on this blog spread across two parts (Exclusive interview with Starfucker [Part 1 of 2]: Philosophy and rock ‘n’ roll). Even in that expansive feature piece I was unable to cover everything we talked about, and that included Starfucker’s formative years as Sexton Blake. The setting was sometime just before midnight, in an alley behind an Orlando, Florida bar called the BackBooth. Starfucker had finished its set (read my re-cap of that night’s show) and everyone had more than a few beers in them.

In 2007, just before he recorded Plays the Hits!, Hodges was trying to survive in New York City as an underground parking valet while recording music. He said, though those years were tough he had not regrets. “It was amazing,” Hodges remembers of his time in the Big Apple. “It was the only thing I wanted to do. There’s nothing else I could have done with my life then. I went there to fuckin’ struggle and I did, but it was good.”

He arrived in New York from a small town in Michigan, around 2004. “There’s nothing going on,” he recalls of the small town he left. “We were in the middle of nowhere.” While in New York, Hodges produced and recorded his own solo record as Sexton Blake called Explosive Motion Picture Score. “It’s not that good,” he admits of the album.

It seemed someone liked it enough to not only release it, but start a whole indie label by releasing it. Expunged Records remains active to this day. Explosive Motion Picture Score marked Hodges’ debut as Sexton Blake. Though the album went nowhere, the label’s founder, Anthony McNamer, had an idea to get Hodges back into the studio. “I was working at a parking lot downtown,” recalls Hodges, “and he was like, ‘Hey, man, what if I give you like a thousand bucks to record all these eighties songs that I like,’ and I was like, ‘Well, that’s better than taking people’s money to park their car or whatever.’”

He says McNamer gave him a long list of songs to cover, and he picked and chose what he wanted to re-envision. As a 32-year-old now, Hodges admits the music predates his cognizance as an aspiring musician. “I didn’t grow up on that stuff … but kind of. My mom kind of used to work out to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’” he says referring to a song Starfucker would cover on its second album, Jupiter.

In retrospect, Hodges actually holds a pretty harsh view on the original versions of the songs he covered for Plays the Hits!. “All those songs kind of suck, in my opinion,” he says, “like the music does, and so I’m trying to make something listenable out of it.” But maybe it’s the beer talking. He says he has a soft spot for Supertramp’s “the Logical Song,” admitting: “That’s actually my favorite song on the album. I mean the lyrics are amazing. It’s a really great song, but the way that they perform it is just kind of cheesy.” For its version on Plays the Hits!, Hodges removes all the quirks of the song like the song’s pulsing organ, castanets, hand claps, flourishes of bombastic electric guitar and, of course, the sax solo. Instead, he slows the tempo down and plays the melody on a solitary acoustic guitar in a somber, almost tired voice, which helps to highlight the lyrics. There is one break in the song to allow for a quiet, sparse piano solo, which is soon joined by the acoustic guitar for a minimalist union of density for the chorus before the song comes to sudden flourish and end.

But as he strips back “the Logical Song,” he knows where to fill in the gaps in other songs. Paula Abdul’s “Rush Rush” and the Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town” are dense affairs that beef up the airy, dinky synth-based quality of the original pop songs. “Rush Rush” starts with the persistent plucking of a single note on a guitar and ends in a wash of screaming cymbals. “Life in a Northern Town” dives deeper into noise. He almost imperceptibly mumbles its famous jubilant chorus of “Ah hey ma ma ma/Ah hey ma ma ma hey,” and coats it with a layered, chaotic guitar solo mostly composed of feedback that still grooves along inventively, recalling middle-period Yo La Tengo. It offers a brilliant, haunting moment rarely even heard in later Starfucker music.

Sexton Blake would carry on as a live act in the Portland area for several performances, as Expunged Records was based there. He arrived with a musician friend of a friend who would later continue working with Hodges in Starfucker: keyboardist Ryan Biornstad. What began as a visit to support Sexton Blake’s releases on the label with live shows turned into something more permanent, and they just decided to stay there. “We were like, let’s stay in Portland and put a band together,” Hodges said. “Portland is a really good place to be a new band because it’s real easy to get written up. Even if you suck, you can get written up in the local media.”

As Hodges gradually came up with new tunes, the band, which also featured Tom Homolya on bass and Tim Edgar on drums (according to Wikipedia), morphed into something else. Biornstad, who was part of Starfucker during this interview*, says, “It all just progressed naturally on its own. It just grew into its own thing, and it just wasn’t happening anymore, so Sexton Blake died. We played like 14 last shows ever.”

Hodges laughs. “Yeah, we dragged it out for a while.” The band would never exist beyond a string of shows in the Northwestern part of the United States. Though Sexton Blake seems a footnote in the evolving legacy of Starfucker, it did release a noteworthy album in Plays the Hits!. It’s a welcome release finally on vinyl LP by Polyvinyl Records.

Finally, seems the next generation is already covering Starfucker. Here’s The School of Rock performing “Florida:”

Hans Morgenstern

*Biornstad would depart the band after the tour where I met him as part of Starfucker. He reportedly announced plans for a solo record, but that has yet to materialize. He also continues to be a wanted man by Austin City Police. It all stems from an incident well-documented in the second part of my Starfucker story (Indie Ethos exclusive [Part 2 of 2]: From rough start to triumphant tour, Starfucker head home). A recent email to Austin’s community court revealed Biornstad has an active Failure to Appear Warrant after he allegedly skipped his court date in May of 2011.

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Continuing on from my last post regarding Portland’s Starfucker, I would be remiss not to discuss the start of the band’s tour, when much drama unfolded after police placed one of its members behind bars. As the end of the longest tour of its career looms (purchase tickets through this link or see the remaining dates at the end of this post), the start of Starfucker’s road trip across the US, did not come without eventful hiccups.

In recent days, the band has posted playful images and videos from the road on their Facebook page. Sure, this indie rock band with origins in space rock and a danceable beat seems to be doing all right. But when I met the quintet in Orlando, Florida, back on March 26, when their tour had barely begun, some members of Starfucker sure could not wait to get back to their hometown of Portland, Oregon. If any one member of the group had a right to feel melancholy, it was Ryan Biornstad (guitar, keyboard, vocals, turntables). The clock had just passed midnight, and he was celebrating his 31st birthday away from his family. He also still seemed haunted by his arrest in Austin, Texas during the SXSW music festival.

Following their debut performance in Orlando, He and the other members of Starfucker stood around in an open-air alleyway in back of several downtown bars, as party music fought for sound wave space in the background. On this warm night that served as a prelude to the many hot days and nights Florida often experiences approaching the state’s seven-month-long summer, Josh Hodges, the main songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind Starfucker, noted the weather the band was missing out on in Portland. “I miss it, but I’m really happy to be here right now,” he said. “It’s really weird for me. It’s warm [here], but it’s probably 40 degrees and raining in Portland right now.”

Biornstad, his face still smudged with lipstick and bright rouge from his stage appearance, also admitted he was missing Portland. “Very much. I broke down crying last night,” he confessed.

Standing next to him, Hodges could not help but laugh. “Really?” he asked.

“I was,” said Biornstad with sincerity, though he is all smiles and energy, still buzzed from the band’s current conquest of the Orlando crowd … and maybe some beer. “It’s hard being away from them,” Biornstad added about his children and fiancée.

“It’s the most pretty family you have ever seen,” commented Hodges. “Like, all of them, it’s crazy, and they’re good. They’re a good family.”

Though many shows on Starfucker’s tour at that point had so far sold out, none of the band’s three stops in Florida did. However, tonight’s show at the BackBooth gave them a boost of optimism (read a re-cap of the night’s show here). The venue was still packed with a crowd who gave back as much energy as Starfucker threw at them. Toward the end of Starfucker’s set, Biornstad tested the audience’s affection by leaning off the stage to be pushed back up by outstretched arms. At one point, he dove on top of them to crowd surf. See the video captured by below showing Biornstad stage diving:

“Tonight was fun,” Hodges said.

“It was great, yeah,” added Biornstad.

“Orlando kind of surprised us all, I think,” Hodges continued. “We played in Tampa last night. It was awful, but it was also kind of interesting,” he added politely. When asked to explain “interesting,” he admitted:  “It was just like pretty much a cover band kind of scene.”

Orlando marked the deepest south the band had toured in its career,  and after starting off with four sold-out shows in California, the tour took a turn south in another sense, fraught with difficulties that probably hit its lowest point when police arrested Biornstad in Austin, Texas right before Starfucker’s first night of showcases at the SXSW music festival.

Via Twitter, , the band broke the news to followers: “Ryan just got arrested… WTF FUCK THE POLICE… Our show at 6 is canceled…

Most likely, Shawn Glassford (bass, keyboards, drums) sent that Tweet out. He said he was with Ryan unloading the band’s van for a show when an Austin Police officer approached them. “I was the main witness, actually,” Glassford said. “It was the most bizarre cop interaction I have ever seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of them, and that was just like, what the fuck is happening? This just makes no sense.”

Biornstad must have that evening burned hard in his consciousness. He offered a breathless replay of the night: “We were unloading the van, Shawn and I, and this cop came up and said I had to get off the street, and I told him I was unloading the van for a show, and he still insisted I had to get off the street. Shawn handed me some equipment, and I was like, ‘I have to get off the street, fine, but I have some equipment to unload,’ and he blocked the way for me to get off the street, and then he decided he was going to write me a ticket. We go to the sidewalk, I hand him my ID, and I’m like, ‘Fine, give me a ticket,’ and this other psycho cop ran up on me, and he’s like, ‘You’re under arrest!’ and he turned me around, and he pushed me up against the wall, and he put me in handcuffs, and they put me in jail.”

City of Austin Police Corporal Anthony Hipolito, a spokesperson for the department, responded via email to several questions. “[Biornstad] was standing in a lane of traffic in the 700 block E 7th St.,” he explained. “He was not cooperative with police, and did not comply with anything they were asking.”

Hipolito said police booked him on two charges: “pedestrian on the roadway and resisting arrest.”

Biornstad called the first charge “retarded” and the second “bullshit.” He said, “I did not resist arrest. They never told me I was under arrest. They never read me my rights… They didn’t say anything. They ran up on me and put me in jail. If they had said, ‘You’re under arrest, put your hands behind your back,’ I would have done so. They didn’t say anything of the sort. They just turned me around, fuckin’ cuffed me and put me in the car.”

When asked whether the arresting officer read Biornstad his Miranda rights,  Hipolito stated, “I do not have any evidence of his rights being read.  You will have to get with the Judge who set his bail.”

After a couple of emails were sent to Austin’s Municipal Court, I was redirected to Downtown Austin Community Court. Chief Prosecutor Bianca Bentzin responded by email to say she will examine the court file to see what information the APD have provided on the incident as far as whether Biornstad’s Miranda Rights were read to him during his arrest. She stated she will have a response within a week. The spokesperson for the APD did note, however, that the confrontation was non-violent. “No one was injured,” Hipolito stated.

Finally, one concertgoer posted an account by a bouncer on YouTube after he noticed the signs outside the venue declaring: “Starfucker has had to cancel. Sorry. Fuck the police”:

Starfucker would not perform its scheduled shows for that night. “We missed two because of it,” Glassford noted.

“I was in jail for 10 hours in prison stripes,” Biornstad said, adding that he found some way to wile away the hours behind bars. “I worked out a little bit … I was in jail, fuck it. I did some push-ups, did some sit-ups, slept a little bit, and then they let me out at 4 in the morning.”

The band, in the meantime, had appeared at their scheduled venues to watch other groups perform and do— what else— some networking. “These guys represented,” Biornstad noted. “They went to the shows we were supposed to play at, and fuckin’ got everybody hyped up, and they met some people, and they met a lawyer that got me out of jail because everybody knew it was bullshit.”

Biornstad said he plans to fight the charges. To cover his legal bills, Starfuckers’ label, Polyvinyl Records, is helping raise funds with sales of an exclusive T-shirt.

With Biornstad out of jail, Starfucker went on to play two shows at SXSW. Here’s the band at one of those gigs playing “Rawnald Gregory Erickson The Second” (which happens to be the song featured on the Target ad mentioned in Part 1 of this piece):

Though Biornstad’s jail stint proved the band’s greatest challenge, the omen of bad things to come first crept up on Starfucker as the band headed out of California. On March 12, the band posted this message on their Facebook page:

OMFG our trailer just fell off the van. Holy Fucking Shit that was scary… Thankfully we had emergency chains, or else we would have just either lost all our gear or killed someone… Whoa! Crazy shit…

March 12 at 10:10pm via iPhone

To top it off, on their way out of Austin, the band suffered a second problem with their transportation and had to get the van towed to its next gig. “All 6 of us in a tow truck with our van and trailer getting pulled behind!!! Crazy shit right now… Houston, here we come!!!” read the Facebook update posted on their way to Houston on March 20, Sunday night, at 10:54 p.m.

But since then, things seem positive from there on out: “Thanks to everyone in Houston last night! We’re so happy we made it (even if it was via tow truck) … Hopefully our curse is lifted…” read the band’s post on Facebook, the day after the show.

Soon after, someone in Starfucker would note the new album’s appearance on the CMJ Charts at number 11 thanks to college radio airplay. The last bit of exposure gained for Starfucker was when their name appeared on the latest creation by gourmet coffee company Intelligentsia. You can buy a 16 oz. bag of the STRFKR blend via Polyvinyl’s website.

The band is now very close to a triumphant return home for a series of intimate shows in their hometown of Portland. All of the group’s members hail from the Northwestern city, which has its own unique metropolitan quirks. During the interview, I had to ask the members of Starfucker what they thought of the IFC-produced sketch comedy Portlandia, a show that parodies the lifestyle of those living in Portland. It features comedian Fred Armisen, most famous for his work on Saturday Night Live, and Carrie Brownstein, probably best known as a founding member of nineties riot grrrl group Sleater-Kinney. She is now an active member of Wild Flag, a new band based in Portland that has been around for just under a year. As Wild Flag is part of the same music scene as Starfucker, the members of Starfucker know her particularly well. “Ryan and I have played foosball with Carrie,” Hodges said.

“Yeah, I know Carrie pretty well,” added Biornstad. “She’s been living in Portland for 10 years.”

Biornstad and Hodges agree that “Portlandia” has its witty moments, and, they said, it even paints a pretty accurate picture of life in Portland, but when it comes to the Armisen-lead music video that declares “the dream of the nineties is alive in Portland,” the pair beg to differ.

“I feel like Seattle is stuck in the nineties,” Biornstad said. “Portland is very much more forward-thinking than the nineties, I think. But I can see some value into their humor for sure. Carrie is awesome. Fred’s awesome. I hung out with him for a little too. He’s rad. He’s a really nice, kind of shy guy.”

Asked if the band would ever entertain an appearance on the show, Biornstad said, “I’ve been talking to Carrie about it, and I think, at some point, what I’d like to do is kind of like a spoof on the Portland music, hipster scene and make fun of ourselves, make fun of Starfucker a little bit.”

Biornstad better watch what he says about Seattle, though, as the band stops there for a few days before their finale in Portland. Here are Starfucker’s last up-coming tour dates:

04/22/11     Vancouver, Canada @ Biltmore Cabaret
04/23/11     Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project
04/26/11     Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile Cafe
04/28/11     Portland, OR @ Holocene
04/29/11     Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
04/30/11     Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios

Read more about Starfucker in Part 1 of this profile piece.
Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)
Ryan just got arrested… WTF FUCK THE POLICE… Our show at 6 is canceled…

At the time of publication of this post, Starfucker have only about a week left in its nearly two-month-long US tour (purchase tickets through this link or scroll to the bottom of this post to see the remaining dates). In recent days, Starfucker has posted news of one sold out date after another (they are going on 19, at this point), plus details about a growing overseas tour and additions to giant music festivals on their popular Facebook page.

For a band with a name too naughty for radio and most commercial publications, this group with neo-psychedelic space rock leanings and a taste for dance music, has done all right for itself. Though the band still might be sitting in the shadows of a pair of groups they are often compared with: MGMT (read my lengthy review of MGMT’s last album) and Passion Pit, they seem to be signaling their own breakthrough without major TV appearances (pesky dirty name).

During the early part of their tour, while visiting Orlando, Florida, all five band members indulged in a little chat about their music and their experience so far. The gang from Portland, Oregon talked about specifics in their lyrics to their genre stylings to how this tour had so far treated them.

When I met them after a performance at the BackBooth (read my re-cap of that night’s show), much drama had already unfolded after one of the members’ arrest at SXSW, among other things, details of which I shall save for part 2 of this story. But, first thing is first, what musical stylings define Starfucker?

“We’re apparently following-in-the-footsteps-of-Passion-Pit-vein,” said Josh Hodges, the band’s songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist, with a laugh. “Even though we’ve been around longer than them.”

Hodges, wearing horn-rimmed glasses from out of the fifties, and the other four members of Starfucker stood around in an open-air alleyway that served as a cross section of back doors to several bars in Downtown Orlando, as music like Jay Sean’s “Down” blared out of a nearby club.

“Well, people have said it’s ‘future pop,’” said bassist Shawn Glassford, and they all laughed.

As for the MGMT reference,  Ryan Biornstad (guitar, keyboard, vocals, turntables) said, “We didn’t follow after MGMT cause we were around at the same time. They blew up before we did. We’ve never blown up; that’s the thing.”

The group, which also includes Keil Corcoran on drums and guitarist Ian Luxton, does show a sense of frustration with it all. Though they stare into the dark abyss of possibilities with a smile and a laugh, they remain weighted by a name that seems an obstacle to further success. During research on the band, I learned Hodges chose the name Starfucker to purify inclinations to create music chasing after notoriety with other projects that never came close to the popular fruition Starfucker has so far achieved. His motivations for creating Starfucker came from a pure place of art, as no one could market a band named Starfucker in the puritanical US, he had no pressure to create music aiming for popularity.

The problem was the music that resulted was so catchy it even made it to mainstream TV via commercials for products like Target and IBM. “It was totally luck,” Hodges said about his music’s appearance in some popular TV ads. “The ad agency that made the Target commercial is in Portland, and then, Badman [Records], the label who put out the first album, somehow organized the ‘Holly’ song being in the IBM commercial, so I had nothing to do with it.”

The songs featured were pulled from the band’s 2008 self-titled debut, recently reissued on vinyl (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on IBM used the mid-tempo and wistful track “Holly” while, according to Hodges, a friend working at the advertising agency hired by Target, suggested the bouncy “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” for its ad.

The exposure in television not only saw the band earning royalties from airplay that never needed to identify the band by name, it also upgraded its exposure, and Starfucker soon moved on to a larger indie label, leaving Badman for Polyvinyl Records. At the end of March, Polyvinyl pressed the band’s second album, Reptilians (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on, which the band is currently supporting with this tour.

With Reptilians, Starfucker has certainly shown it has grown since its first album and an intermediate 8-song mini-album in 2009, entitled Jupiter (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on “Our previous album was very electro poppy, kind of like light and fun,” noted Biornstad, “and the truth is, it’s like been a few years since our first album, and we’re at a point now where we’re getting older and touring a lot, and we’re staying true to what we feel is our sound, and it’s growing, and it’s evolving, and we’re not interested in making an album that’s just like the first one. We’re making it as an evolution.”

With the first album, Starfucker gazed up at the heavens and offered a grounded, but dreamy, view from below. But with this recent release, the band sounds like it has floated up to exist among the stars. Take the back-to-back moment of “Bury Us Alive” and “Mystery Cloud.” “Bury Us” 0pens with a twinkling electronic sample and zipping sounds that could have easily been lifted from a cheesy science fiction flick. On the chorus, Hodges sings in hushed, breathy tones as the song bursts with harmonizing electronics that buzz and screech only to melt away to the twinkles that opened the song. As the song fades away with the noises tightening around each other and drifting apart, the pace picks up with “Mystery Cloud.” With Hodges’ singing mixed even lower, decorated with echoing effects, he references desires to be a spaceman, as the drums pummel along and the synthesizers layer up from whining peels of noise to Moog-like burbles.

According to Polyvinyl’s bio on the band, Hodges wrote almost all of Reptilians by himself, just as he did the two earlier releases by Starfucker (save for the cover songs on Jupiter, of course). Whereas Hodges, Biornstad and Glassford all contributed drum work on the first album, Corcoran, who joined the band in 2008, took that primary duty in the studio for Jupiter and Reptilians. Luxton only recently joined the band as an extra guitarist for the band’s current tour, but has yet to record with the band, which is now focused on the touring and promotion cycle, which will soon see them on stages overseas in Europe, Canada and Mexico.

Polyvinyl made an exclusive variant of the album on clear vinyl limited to only 700, which sold out very soon after its release, at the end of March. The label is currently offering “Bury Us Alive” as a free download, to entice potential buyers. Polyvinyl already offered the band’s first single totally free for a limited time, the spacey “Julius,” reviewed in this blog last year, after it was released as a 7-inch single (The song is currently in the works of getting the music video treatment, according to Glassford).

Though I go into the single’s merits in depth in that aforementioned posting from October 2010 (the first and so far only 7-inch I felt inclined to review on this blog), here was my chance to settle a doubt I had about the lyric, as the new album features no lyrics on the jacket or inner sleeve. As a matter of fact, the LP record includes a poster of the album art formatted to look like a blank coloring book page, offering some insight into the band’s aesthetic sensibility inviting interpretations from fans. “It’s a mystery,” said Biornstad with a sly smile. “Mystery’s important.”

On “Julius,” Hodges’ voice is so affected by reverb, it makes it hard to tell if he sang, “Picture your body/Hearing your voice/Fall into your eyes” and not “Fall into your arms,” as it might have more rationally sounded to many fans. “That’s what a lot of people think it is. It’s ‘Fall into your eyes,'” said Hodges. “I actually wrote the lyrics to that song on our Facebook page because people kept getting it wrong.”

Hodges’ assurance that the lyric is indeed “Fall into your eyes,” is more than an artistic validation but also validates the philosophy that informs the album. In my review of the single, the lyric brought to mind the image of a lover conjured up by the mind’s eye that in turn sucks the dreamer back in, in an ever evolving loop. Sure, it makes for a surreal— and maybe unreal— image, but it also comes from a metaphysical place. It’s an interpretation that not only compliments the layers of noise and melody that wrestle with each other over the course of the song but also the album’s theme. Hodges offers his inspiration behind the track: “It’s about my grandfather waiting to die after my grandmother died,” he said. “He’s still around. There’s like all these old pictures of them at their wedding and stuff at their house. That’s the whole thing about looking at a picture.”

As an album obsessed with death, following Hodge’s grandmother’s passing, Reptilians is incredibly light for an album exploring such dark subject matter, but that maybe because Hodges has a clear handle of the roll death plays in life. Cementing the theme beyond Hodges’ sometimes obtuse and surreal lyrics, are the words of British philosopherAlan Watts. His lectures are excerpted at various moments within several songs. In the particular choices Hodges made for this album, Watts’ statements describe death as an integral part of life.  “Mystery Cloud” ends  as the song unwinds from a noisy clash of synths to a throbbing burble with Watts talking about that entwined cycle of life and death:

Everybody should do in their lifetime, sometime, two things. One is to consider death. To observe skulls and skeletons and to wonder what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up— never. That is a most gloomy thing for contemplation. It’s like manure. Just as manure fertilizes the plants and so on, so the contemplation of death and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You’ll get wonderful things out of that.

“We all just love him,” said Hodges about Watts. “For me just Eastern, and specifically Buddhist, philosophy is just very much influenced and changed my life, and Alan Watts is one of the most colorful and articulate speakers on the subject and one of the first people to bring it to the West, and in a cool way. He has such a playful way of talking about that stuff.”

Hodges said the band often listens to Watts’ lectures on the road and credits Bionstad for bringing Watts into his life. “It’s really inspiring,” Biornstad added. “Plus, I would say the way Eastern culture’s evolved in western culture is a lot of people have become extremely dogmatic about it, but I think Alan Watts is amazing because I think he was the forefather of bringing Eastern philosophy into the West, but he didn’t try to make it dogmatic … He got to the core of it, and he was like, you know what? You can apply this to any part of your life.”

Watts, who died in 1973, could almost be considered the band’s phantom member. His voice not only appears in several songs on Reptilians, he has appeared on all of Starfucker’s prior albums. The band’s debut album opens with “Florida,” a song Hodges insisted has nothing to do with the US state his band was visiting during this interview (“It doesn’t have anything to do with the state. It’s just a nice word”). Appropriate to the conversation about this seemingly randomly titled song is what Watts says at the end of the track:

This world is a great wiggle-effect. The clouds are wiggling. The waters are wiggling. The clouds are wiggling, bouncing. People— but people are always trying to straighten things out. You see, we live in a rectangular box, all the time; everything is straightened out. Wherever you look around in nature you find things often straightened out. They’re always trying to put things in boxes. Those boxes are classified. Words are made from some boxes. But the real world is wiggly. Now when you have a wiggle like a cloud, how much wiggle is a wiggle? Well, you have to draw the line somewhere, so people come to sorts of agreements about how much of a wiggle is a wiggle; that is to say a “thing.” One wiggle. Always reduce one wiggle to sub wiggles, or see it as a subordinate wiggle of a bigger wiggle, but there’s no fixed rule about it.

But do not confuse Starfucker as taking itself too seriously. The band does dress in drag upon occasion, after all. Also, Hodges’ lyrics do seem to start from very concrete sources of inspirations. When asked to explain “German Love,” to a part German, such as myself, he comes clean. “There was this girl that I was obsessed with, and that’s just how it goes,” Hodges said, at first.

“I’ll tell you the real story,” offered Biornstad, lighting up at the opportunity. “This is what really happened: Josh was super into this girl, and she was German. She was living in the United States, and he started dating her, and they were just hanging out for a couple of weeks, and he was really into her, and she was kind of not… She was into him at first, but then, with the touring and all that stuff, she kind of started getting some distance, so he got a little insecure, a little bit obsessed— sorry, no offense,” he added, looking over to Hodges.

“No, it’s OK,” Hodges accepted.

“But he got a little bit obsessed … She kinda didn’t want to be hanging out with him anymore, and so anyway, it was kind of like a Say Anything moment when he was going to her house late at night and playing songs for her, and he wrote ‘German Love,’ and he played it in the speakers for her and bringing her flowers and stuff, and she didn’t want anything to have to do with it, and he actually ended up with a restraining order against himself for this woman.”

Asked whether there was truth to this story, including the restraining order, Hodges admitted, “Yeah, actually I’m not supposed to be telling anybody about this, but we’re both kind of drunk, I guess,” Hodges added, excusing himself and Biornstad.

“Long story short, everything worked out fine,” Biornstad summed up.

“It’s fine, we’re friends kind of,” Hodges said of this German girl.

“She was a little bit sensitive to the whole thing,” added Biornstad. “What he was doing was actually kind of romantic, and she was just not getting it.”

“She was definitely not feeling it,” added Hodges, “but, you know what? There’s like so many different girls out there.”

Well, at least Hodges never went to jail over it. However, under very different circumstances, Biornstad did wind up behind bars, on this very tour. He and the arresting police department offer their stories in the second part of this artist profile. Update: Here is a third post on the pre-Starfucker, Sexton Blake years: Starfucker frontman recalls early years as Sexton Blake (an Indie Ethos exclusive)

In the meantime, here are the remaining dates on Starfucker’s current US tour:

04/19/11     Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
04/19/11     Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
04/20/11     Boise, ID @ Neurolux
04/22/11     Vancouver, Canada @ Biltmore Cabaret
04/23/11     Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project
04/26/11     Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile Cafe
04/28/11     Portland, OR @ Holocene
04/29/11     Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
04/30/11     Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Casiokids, a group of independent musicians from Norway, have been taking the persistent road to gaining recognition outside of their native country. As covered in the first part of this interview with singer and founding member Ketil Kinden Endresen, the band spent 2010 in 18 different countries, performing over a hundred shows.

Last week, leaning against the bar at the BackBooth, an Orlando Club hosting the band’s debut performance in the city, Endresen spoke about his band’s influences and plans to release an album before year’s end. Casiokids were there as a support act to Portland-based Starfucker, their US labelmates on Polyvinyl Records.

Endresen noted this marked Casiokids’ first visit to the southern states of the US, out of eight times his band had toured in the US. The two bands would later head off to Jacksonville and then to sold out shows in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Philadelphia. Their combined powers also sold out their final tour stop together: New York City’s Bowery Ballroom, which is scheduled for today.

Though partial credit for the sell-out dates is definitely also due to the amazing Starfucker*, this does mark quite an achievement  for a band that features songs sung in their native language of Norwegian. Endresen noted that Casiokids have gained their popularity, though still a bit obscure, while staying faithful to their native language, and they have done well enough that it has become the members’ primary source of income.

Moshi Moshi Records, a UK-based record label, released “Gront lys i alle ledd” b/w “Togens hule” in 2008. “The first single we did was called ‘Gront lys i alle ledd,'” said Endresen, “which means ‘Green Lights On All Levels,’ and it was the first Norwegian language pop single released in the UK.”

Though he is quick to offer translations to his song titles and even some of the band’s lyrics, Endresen said fans should not hold their breath for any lyrics sung in English. Via a follow-up email after our meeting in Orlando, Endresen stated, “We have no plans on recording songs in English for the new album. I still feel that using my Norwegian tongue is the best way of keeping our sound original and personal.”

Research on the band revealed at least one article that noted the band sings with a made-up language, not unlike Sigur Ros. Actually, as Endresen described it, his lyric writing is not quite as elaborate as that. “The lyric is in Norwegian,” he noted, “but seeing as we have so much harmony vocals, what we like to do is just play around using sounds of voices in parts of the song that are more about the melody and not the words, so there will be a lyric to all the songs, but sometimes we do some choruses or some harmonies without the words just because it kind of sounds better sometimes.”

Via email, he noted some songs that are typical examples of such “nonsense” lyrics. “Some songs have parts that are just there for the melodies and harmonies, like the chorus in “Det snurrer” and the end of “Togens hule”, but most of the songs have lyrics to the singing.”

Both songs feature melodic, “ya, ya, ya, ya, yas,” which stand out particularly in “Togens hule,” which is an instrumental save for Endresen singing those ya, yas. With “Det snurrer,” a remake of the Swedish band Familjen’s “Det snurrar i min skalle,” the song actually features some ya, yas that were never in the original song, but added on as an extra layer of melody.

Endresen noted that the music often comes before the lyrics. “We usually very rarely start with the vocals,” he said. “It’s something that comes very much later, so in the beginning you’re bound to play around with the vocals as an instrument, as often a lead instrument, and even when I do the lyrics, I end up keeping parts of the song that maybe I just improvised at the beginning … just because I got the right sound, we got the right harmonies, and then we, instead of removing that, we build on top of that. I find that fun to use— that immediate impulsive experimentation with vocals, as well as using it with words.”

This method shows in the strong melodies within Casiokids’ instrumental songs, such as “Fot i hose,” a piece that actually made the rounds to a variety of countries thanks to its association to Electronic Arts’ FIFA 10 soundtrack and its use as transitional music in the UK sitcom “Friday Night Dinner.” Here’s the band’s video for that track:

In part 1 of this profile, Endresen noted his affection for Krautrock, and he compared some of his style of singing to Can’s early vocalist, Kenji “Damo” Suzuki, whose singing style grooved along with the band’s playing above anything else. “I guess [it’s] the same as Can does,” Endresen said. “This Damo Suzuki, the Japanese vocalist they had for what I think are like the best albums: Future Days and Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi, those three albums. He did the vocals for that, and it’s a mixture of psychedelic words and just playing around, improvising with your voice, and I think that’s the way we make songs.”

Though one might not expect to hear Endresen singing in English anytime soon, he does light up when considering collaborations, especially with African-based musicians. His band can appreciate Anglos mixing it up with African musicians. They did end their concert in Orlando with a recording of a song from Paul Simon’s famed 1986 fusion album of western pop rock with South African pop music, Graceland (it might have been the hit single “You Can Call Me Al,” I can’t recall exactly).

From the mid-eighties, into today, Endresen appreciates that mixture of music. “Damon Albarn, he’s co-writing with Tony Allen [the drummer who worked with Fela and is credited as one of the founders of Afro Beat] and he produced Amadou & Mariam, and I think he did a really tasteful job with those people,” Endresen said.

Endresen truly beams at the idea of collaborating with African musicians, especially after his time spent in Lagos, Nigeria researching the legacy of Fela. “We have considered it,” he said. “Especially after me and Geir’s trip to Lagos to do this documentary. We have contacts with musicians in the scene down there, so it’s definitely been something that’s been on our minds.”

But even in general, Endresen enjoys collaborations, and it shows in last year’s release of their first US release Topp stemning på lokal bar (support the Independent Ethos by buying the vinyl on Amazon through this link). “With this album that is out in the US right now, there are certain collaborations with other musicians like Familjen and with James Yuill. He’s an English artist, and we definitely want to do more of that. I think it’s just an exciting way of bringing our friendship with musicians a step further because when we tour so much we meet the same people, and we play with a lot of the same people in different festivals. It’s just an exciting idea to do more, do more collaborations, and we’re definitely going to do that in the future.”

One group Casiokids have been famous for collaborating with is not a music group at all but a visual one. Digitalteateret are actually behind the video for “Fot i hose” above. They also worked with Casiokids on many live shows featuring shadow puppets and animal costumes. Though it has been several years ago since those shows were a consistent thing for them, those performances went over so well, the band continues to be associated with such theatrics.

Actually, the majority of those shows happened in the band’s native Norway. “Like three years ago, when we didn’t tour so much, and we were also involved in visual projects, we collaborated with a theater group called Digitalteateret or Digital Theater, and they did shadow puppetry and life-size puppets,” said Endresen. “When we did shows with the theater group, they at one point did animal costumes in the show. I remember they once had this massive, six-meter tall orange monster creature that was held up by two people using a parasol.”

“In the tour we are on now, and the last couple of years, we’ve toured so much in very limited spaces,” Endresen continued, “and it’s been difficult both economically and practically to do the visual projects that we had done in the past on our live shows.”

He did clarify that the work with Digitalteateret is far from over, and they have revisited collaborations since the image above was taken in 2008, but this was the early years of the band, and their sound was distinctly different then, with Endresen not even daring to sing. The group’s 2006 debut, Fuck Midi on the Norway-based Karisma Records, featured only one song with properly sung vocals (by a French singer). Otherwise, according to Endresen, the album included sampled conversations the band made of friends talking and some of the melodic, nonsensical singing noted earlier, with the band mostly noodling on Casio keyboards and sometimes augmented by horns.

“We have done it since,” Endresen said of the theatrical performances. “In the beginning our music was very atmospherical and loose and improvised.”

He explained that there is a distinct difference in the music they perform when it comes to the more visual, theatrical shows. “When it became more dancey and direct, we’ve found that it would be better to use the visual elements on like separate projects from playing live shows,” he said.

But then, that also does not mean that dance and visuals are mutually exclusive in their shows. “Only like a month ago we did a dance project in Norway in three electronic festivals there, together with two dancers, and last year we did kid’s theater performance together with Digitalteateret in Norway, and we have done workshops for kids and we are just continually excited to do new projects like that.”

So don’t always expect a fancy, theatrical show when you see Casiokids, though the potential of grander type performances in the future still exists. The momentum behind the band is there as is the infectious quality of the music— even back in the more experimental Fuck Midi. Here’s an early music video from that album for “Bagamoyo,” featuring the shadow puppetry by Digitalteateret:

*A 2-part profile on Starfucker will appear in this blog in a few days, as they continue on their lengthy US tour before heading for a UK tour.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

When Casiokids’ frontman Ketil Kinden Endresen approaches, it feels as if David Bowie walked off the silver screen from the Man Who Fell to Earth. The musician from Bergen, Norway has the tall, slender alien features and wears a slim, pale brown suit that only makes his white skin all the more pallid. Casiokids are new to Florida, and— for now— the furthest south they have travelled is Orlando. They are indeed strangers in a strange land.

Endresen expresses his curiosity for the City of Celebration and how Disney-like it might be. But the last sort of cultural experience he needs is an exploration of suburban artifice and the banal. This is the man who, three years ago, spent a month in Lagos, Nigeria with bandmate Geir Svensson exploring the legacy of Fela Kuti in the country’s current musicians.

Fela, who is often celebrated for bringing African music to London in the early sixties and beyond, is a passion for Endresen and other members of Casiokids. Besides their work with Casio keyboards, the band employees African rhythms. “I really like Afrobeat,” says Endresen, “Fela Kuti, and Ghanaian Highlife, like E.T. Mensah. I really like King Sunny Adé, Amadou & Mariam and some South African music like Kwela music from the sixties and seventies.”

Here’s a tune from Mensah whose rhythm would fit right into a Casiokids song:

Though African rhythms certainly serve as a foundation for Casiokids’ sound (you can download two free tracks from their latest release at the band’s website on Polyvinyl Records), a love of retro keyboards like those manufactured by Casio in the early eighties add the icing on the cake. “I’ve always said that the Casio keyboard is, in a way, the perfect instrument ever made,” Endresen says, “because you have all the different rhythms and all the different instruments there and also a lot of sound effects and colorful buttons,” he adds with a laugh.

He does clarify that the Casio in the group’s sound goes beyond mere gimmickry. “There’s a lot of noise in them, of course,” Endresen says about one of the problems of amping up Casio keyboards on stage. “But we try and use that as an effect.”

The problem with the Casio keyboard for performing artists is the fact that Casio made the bulk of their synthesizers to market for the pleasure of performance in family living rooms, with no need for amplification. With its synthesized keyboard, Casio provided the successor to the home organ. “There’s definitely some particular charm to it when you plug it into amps,” Endresen muses, “and we use a lot of different effects to it, and it’s really fun to play. Some of the songs we do have been really big, and it’s just based around some of these Casio keyboards. They were never really meant to be amped up or anything.”

Though on this night, before Casiokids’ show at the BackBooth, the stage set-up features many more percussion instruments over electronics (read a re-cap of the night’s show here), Endresen says the Casio featured more prominently in the band’s early days. “With me and Fredrik [Ogreid Vogsborg, guitars / keyboards / percussion], we started making things together, and we didn’t have any instruments really, except Casios that we borrowed from friends.”

He says the group really began almost flippantly. “In the beginning, it was just edits of things. We played on top of loops of songs. I remember the first edit we did was New Kids on the Block’s ‘the Right Stuff,’ and we played on top of it with Casios and used parts of the songs in loops and added rhythms. That was the beginning stages, I guess just playing around with it and having fun and being immediate. That’s always been the philosophy of it.”

Between the Casio keyboards and Afrobeat, there is something else at work in the sound of Casiokids. That becomes apparent when Endresen begins talking about collecting records while on his trek in the US. Endresen, who says he “used to work in a vintage vinyl shop in Bergen,” says he has come across some goodies in Austin, Texas and Birmingham, Alabama. “I usually buy jazz or more like electronic things on vinyl.”

When he mentions “electronic things,” he clarifies his passion for the early electronic rock pioneers of the Krautrock scene. “I really love Kraftwerk and Can and Faust,” he says. “These Krautrock bands I really look for because it’s the kind of bands that are really hard to find in vinyl shops.”

Likewise, vinyl is his preferred format for releasing Casiokids’ work, especially when it also accommodates for today’s current technology, like iPods. “We did a release now in the US … that is like double purple vinyl,” he says of Polyvinyl’s limited issuing (only 1,000 manufactured) of Topp stemning på lokal bar (support the Independent Ethos by buying the vinyl on Amazon through this link), whose title, according to the label’s website, loosely translates to “Great vibe at local bar.”

“I think it’s a really nice package because you get downloads for the songs as well,” Endresen continues, “so that package, I think, is the ideal combination because you get something of a very nice item that really gets the most out of the design of the pictures for the release. You also have it both on vinyl, and you can use it for your iPod or your computer.”

He does add that the format he really thinks seems to be dying is one that once sounded the death knell of the vinyl record in the mid-to-late eighties: the compact disc. “Of course, we’ve released CDs as well,” he says, “but what I find these days, whenever I buy CDs… I can’t remember the last time I did that, actually.”

Topp stemning på lokal bar is actually a compilation of songs and extras Casiokids had recorded and released piecemeal over the course of a year, mostly on Moshi Moshi Records, a UK-based record label. A contract with Champaign, IL-based Polyvinyl offered them the chance to gather their recent material into one compilation. “From like, late 2008 till late 2009, we released a lot of singles,” Endresen explains, “and we did collaborations and remixes, and we remixed a lot of people’s songs, so we did a lot of projects and collected them all in this package, this double album.”

Finally, he notes the Polyvinyl deal is much more than an avenue to allow music only released abroad to find a place on US store shelves without the inflated import prices. There are plans for a full-length album of all-new material before year’s end. “We’re working on an album now,” Endresen says, “which I hope we can finish in a month or so.”

He says the main thing that might be in the way of releasing the album any sooner is the band’s tour schedule. “It’s a lot of touring for us always, so it’s hard to find time for us,” says Endresen. “We have our own studio, so it’s flexible for our time, and we did the production ourselves, so we’re currently working towards a release in September of 2011 on Polyvinyl, so I hope that will work out,” he adds with a laugh. “If we don’t tour too much. With Casiokids it’s just an insane amount of touring. Last year we did 117 shows in 18 countries, so it’s been a very intense couple of years for us.”

During 2011’s SXSW, a music festival Endresen says Casiokids has visited three times now, the band premiered one of their new songs. Here is video footage of “Olympiske Leker”:

Endresen spoke much more about Casio keyboards, how the band writes lyrics that are even unintelligible for their countrymen and clarified much hype about some of the theatrical stage shows the blogosphere so promptly… and lazily… associates them with (no, they don’t routinely dress in fuzzy animal suits and have shadow puppet theater at their concerts). More on all that in part 2 of this exclusive feature.

For now, there are a couple dates left in their tour opening for Starfucker (however, the NYC show has sold out):

Mar 31  Philadelphia @ Johnny Brenda’s
Apr 2    New York City @ The Bowery Ballroom
Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Note: This is but a quick and dirty summary of the night of the concert. More in-depth stories on both Casiokids and Starfucker will follow soon. For now, a quick recap of the show…

The two bands, along with the Florida-based Bastard Lovechild of Rock and Roll (aka Le Blorr), packed the kids in at an all ages show at Orlando’s BackBooth. Le Blorr proved to me that today’s young bands, more than ever, are filtering through 70s rock into grotesque hybrid monstrosities with 80s influences. Le Blorr particularly show potential for growth. They need more than just two guys on stage alternating between a keyboard, guitar and drums. The songs meandered in a nice, indulgent love of deep-rooted rock, though it was hard to find hooks in the music. All told, the music certainly comes from the right place.

After Le Blorr cleared their gear, six young men from Norway crowded onto the stage. It was an amazing array of percussion and electronics and a practical miracle these guys sounded as decent as they did in a small, echoing bar. Beyond the technical quality of the sound, Casiokids tore it up on stage and had the audience bouncing off the walls in no time.

Throughout Casiokids’ short set, the grooves were intense and infectious. I had interviewed singer and main songwriter Ketil Kinden Endresen before the show. We spoke a lot about his affection for African music, from King Sunny Adé to Fela Kuti, but also bonded over Krautrock from Kraftwerk to Can. He certainly knows the ins and outs of some of the greatest and varied groovesters on record. It was no surprise that these six flowed and locked so well. It brought me back to the magic concert I saw when LCD Soundsystem took the stage last year in Miami Beach and threw a thousand people into frenzy.

I was amazed at the amount of gear on stage. I think I even saw an audience member join in on tambourine. At one point, guitarist Fredrik Ogreid Vogsborg took the mic offstage with him and entered into the crowd to sing and dance along with some of the befuddled mass.

Though often hyped for a theatrical stage show with shadow puppets, those sort of events were only occasional collaborations with a theater troupe. Though I can appreciate an exciting stage show, these guys proved they are much more than a gimmicky theatrical band. They know how to rock.

Here are the second and fourth songs of their set that night:

It was a short wait for Starfucker to come on stage. They set up their own gear— as did all the other bands of the night— and sound-checked the gear themselves. They did some magic and worked out some kinks for a pretty clean, sonic performance. The five-piece Starfucker were also a sight to behold, as a quintet crowded up on the small stage. For $12 at the door, the volume of the quality of musicians this night alone far exceeded many shows I have seen with ticket prices over $60.

Starfucker’s set spanned across the band’s three albums with lots of respect for the popular titles, even if they did not play my personal favorite “Holly.” After the show, they told me they felt the song felt too mellow for how things were going on stage (besides the fact they do not play the song much), and the vibe was right and full of energy indeed.

I was a bit surprised to see that the crux of the energy came from guitarist / turntablist / keyboardist Ryan Biornstad. He played a jittery electric guitar and often turned to scratch on an old Steve Martin record on the deck behind him. His face decorated with what appeared to be red lipstick, which found most its way under his eyes, he knew how to draw the audience in. During the final number, he tested the crowd by leaning off stage. The audience was always there to catch him and prop him back up until he dove in to take off crowd surfing.

By contrast, the low-key songwriter Josh Hodges almost looked like he was sitting on stage. At the start of the show, he ordered the spotlights be dimmed as a swirl of green and red laser lights created a Christmas color-coded interstellar space field over the proceedings. It was a festive, trippy show by a group of musicians delighting in exploring an array of musical angels within a psychedelic/dance rock vibe.

Unfortunately, I only captured most of one song by Starfucker before my camera’s batteries died (I’ve got to learn to carry spares). I close this post with that one song:

Finally, here is the rest of Starfucker’s US tour dates before they head to the UK and Europe:

Mar 29* Raleigh @ Local 506
Mar 30* Washington DC @ Rock and Roll Hotel
Mar 31* Philadelphia @ Johnny Brenda’s
Apr 2*    New York City @ The Bowery Ballroom
Apr 5      Boston @ Brighton Music Hall
Apr 8      South Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
Apr 9      Rochester @ Bug Jar
Apr 10   Cleveland @ The Grog Shop
Apr 11    Columbus @ Skully’s Music Diner
Apr 12    Chicago @ Lincoln Hall
Apr 13    Minneapolis @ Triple Rock Social Club
Apr 14    Minneapolis @ Triple Rock Social Club
Apr 15    Sioux Falls, SD @ Sioux Falls Orpheum Theater
Apr 16    Omaha @ The Waiting Room
Apr 17    Denver @ The Bluebird Theater
Apr 19    Salt Lake City @ Urban Lounge
Apr 20   Boise, ID @ Neurolux
Apr 22   Vancouver, Canada @ Biltmore Cabaret
Apr 23    Seattle @ Vera Project
Apr 26    Seattle @ Crocodile Cafe
Apr 28    Portland @ Holocene
Apr 29    Portland @ Doug Fir Lounge
Apr 30    Portland @ Mississippi Studios
Apr 30    Portland @ Mississippi Studios

*w/ Casiokids

As I stated at the top of this post, much more is coming…

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Yes, I shall forgo Miami Music Week, committing the ultimate sacrilege for a Miami-based music journalist. Thankfully, as a blogger under my own command, I no longer fit that description. I get the freedom to flee the dance music-crazed crowds and head north for the dancey-type neo-psychedelic electro-rock of bands like Starfucker and Casiokids who are currently touring together and making several stops in Florida, though not in Miami. Here is the bands’ Florida itinerary:

  • Fri., Mar. 25 @ Crowbar in Tampa, Florida
  • Sat., Mar. 26 @ BackBooth  in Orlando, Florida
  • Sun., Mar. 27 @ Jack Rabbits in Jacksonville, Florida

I will head out this afternoon to be in Orlando for the BackBooth show the following evening. But I won’t only be there to see the show and record a couple of videos (see my YouTube channel). This marks the first time I will have the opportunity to produce exclusive interviews for this blog, as both bands have agreed to sit down for face-to-face interviews.

I plan to write proper stories, not just do the Q&A laziness. Granted, I can understand straight Q&As can be insightful as a supplement to stories, as I have often shared the old back-and-forths from my years as a music journalist in conjunction with links to published stories on this very blog (see my archives). I do hope to provide the Q&A portions of these up-coming stories in the form of uncut audio files of the interviews, but these guys indeed have stories to tell…

Starfucker’s tour has so far been rife with struggles, including a broke down van they needed to tow to one of the venues with the group crammed in the front seat of said wrecker. Then there was the arrest of guitarist/turntablist Ryan Biornstad at SXSW… before a show, no less. Besides, it was was love-at-first-listen when I heard their 7-inch single for “Julius.”

Casiokids are a Norwegian band and labelmates with Starfucker. Since they hit the scene in 2006 with the oddly experimental album Fuck Midi (please pardon the language of this post), they have since transcended the gimmick of being a Casio-based band with more prominent guitar work and proper lyrics (albeit still in the native Norwegian tongue). OK, so they probably won’t make the big time like A-Ha, but they create some catchy music.

So, stay tuned. In the wake of Miami Music Week, which will cap off this weekend with the pricey and sold-out Ultra Music Festival (a music festival I have never even attended*), I am still at it, and out to give you some exclusive scoops. Note: if anyone has a burning question they want to ask either of these bands’ members, do share in the comments below.

Here’s Starfucker’s new video, until then:

And one of the latest from Casiokids:

*Back in the 70s, I always related to Johnny Fever in WKRP in Cincinnati and his “Disco sucks” credo.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)