Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm
This event is 18 and over.
Tickets on sale Thu. 5/26 at noon!
Tickets available at TICKETMASTER.COM, or by phone at 800-745-3000. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box Office Wednesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM. Please note: box office is cash only.
Band of Skulls
Too many careers in rock’n’roll are sprints rather than marathons. Few artists make it past their debut album without having already squandered their life’s quota of creative ideas. Fewer still make it to four albums in without hitting some kind of existential crisis, without losing direction, or going on autopilot and resorting to the same old tricks to keep a dwindling fan-base interested.
Meet Band of Skulls, then, whose fourth album, By Default’, is the sound of a group on the sharpest form of their career, more engaged and focused than they’ve ever been. An album that electrifies with rock’n’roll cut back to its most vivid elements, focusing all their brawny power and maverick invention into choruses, hooks and expertly-sculpted three-minute bursts so unashamedly anthemic and accessible they’ll soundtrack this summer, and far beyond.
“It’s definitely a new era,” says guitarist/vocalist Russell Marsden. “The first three records were like a trilogy, a piece of work in themselves. We wanted to do those things, and we did them all. We took a breath, took a look at what we’d done, and started from scratch again.”
“We hadn’t stopped since releasing our first album in 2009,” remembers Matt. Their new contract with BMG Recordings bought them breathing space, time to reflect on where they’d been creatively – and where they wanted to go next. They hired rehearsal space in Central Baptist Church in Southampton, and loaded in the barest bones of equipment – some ratty old practice amps, Matt’s dad’s drum-kit from the 1960s; “Even shit songs sound impressive on expensive gear,” explains Russell, of the spartan set-up – and started work on writing a new future for Band of Skulls.
“We went back to Square One,” smiles Matt. “It felt new and exciting again.” In the church – between visits from the vicar, bringing tea and biscuits on his trolley – they found the new songs in hours of woodshedding, each member bringing new ideas into the room, which the band studied with unforgiving ears. “We’re pretty merciless,” says Russell, of this process. “We’re emotional about it – we get mad. We get mad at each other, at ourselves. We care about it. We were looking to challenge ourselves, to surprise each other.” Indeed, as they rehearsed and rewrote the new material, Band of Skulls stalked far outside their comfort zone, hammering out their own version of techno music on their primitive instruments, or writing songs around the spectral sound of hands clapping in the natural reverb of the church.
After accumulating a sackful of new tunes that had withstood their punishing audition process, the group went into the studio with legendary producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Patti Smith) to commit the new songs to tape. They brought with them sounds sampled in the church, to preserve the magical ambience they’d discovered. They also brought with them some of their strongest songs yet – from the primal brilliance of opener Black Magic and the irresistible dynamics of Killer, to the slow-burning drama of the powerful Embers, to the razor-edged funk of So Good, to the swaggering, steroidal, futurist blues-rock of Little Mama. Norton helped them polish the raw material; more often, though, he encouraged further excursions into the unknown, like the wild freakout that scores the muscular rhumba of Tropical Disease.
The band’s drive, their passion for reinvention – their reluctance for simply following the same beaten path – should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following Band of Skulls’ movements thus far. They formed just over a decade ago after Marsden and drummer Matt Hayward (who, from a young age, spent every Saturday morning making a righteous racket together after their folks recognised their love for music was more than just a passing thing) joined forces with bassist/singer Emma Richardson.
From the off, Band of Skulls were different. They had two lead singers, and all three were songwriters. “We had high ambition,” remembers Russell. “We wanted to tour, to make albums, to be in it for the long run. We were never in a rush for an instant fix, it was never a scene thing; we were always outsiders, the three of us banded together, but all of us battling for the spotlight.”
There’s a key moment in the Band of Skulls story that illustrates their drive, the sense of purpose that’s set them apart from their contemporaries. In America to complete work on what would become their 2009 debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey’, they lit out for their first American tour. But this was no whistle-stop visit to New York and Los Angeles and then back home: instead, the group elected to play every city they came across until they’d completed a circuit of the Americas.
“We’d paid our dues, played all over Britain, and were looking for a new challenge,” says Russell. And a challenge it most certainly was. Their only calling card was debut single, I Know What I Am, which had been given away free as iTunes’ first-ever Single Of The Week; they used this notoriety to book a slew of tiny gigs across America, and proceeded, as Russell puts it, to “knock those small gigs over one-by-one”. There was no Plan B’, no safety net; either Band of Skulls succeeded over those months as a touring band in America, or the game was over.
Not only did Band Of Skulls make a triumph of that first circuit of America’s vast expanse, they completed a second victory lap of larger venues before returning home to the UK, establishing a momentum that carried them through three acclaimed albums – Baby Darling Doll Face Honey’, 2012’s Sweet Sour’ and 2014’s Himalayan’ – and further long tours across the globe (Matt reckons they spent no more than a month off the road during this era).
By Default’ is an album of which Band of Skulls are understandably proud, but the group know it is more than just their latest record; it’s also the gateway to their future. “This album could have been fifty songs, each one a minute long, because we had so many ideas” says Russell, hinting that the group’s fearsome pace and creative stamina are far from exhausted.
Now, the band’s focus is taking these new songs on the road, to play them before audiences. “For us, it’s like a tightrope thing,” says Matt. “Like, can we pull off this trick” Smart money says they can, with a killer flourish. “We’re proud of this new album we’ve made,” adds Russell. “We hope it bursts out of the speakers to make that clear.”
“Mothers’ music reminds us that gentleness isn’t weakness, and that despite the world’s best efforts, honesty is not an entirely lost art.” – Flagpole
Mothers began in 2013 as the solo project of Athens, Georgia-based visual artist Kristine Leschper while she studied printmaking at the Lamar Dodd School of Art. The discipline instilled in her a strong work ethic and an intense focus to detail, while simultaneously inspiring her to pursue other creative aspects of her personality. A self-taught songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Leschper’s earliest musical influences span a great swath of early aughts rock and folk, such as Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom, The Microphones, and Athens legends Neutral Milk Hotel; she later developed a love for experimental music, math rock, and noise artists, including Lighting Bolt, Hella, Don Caballero, and Tera Melos. As a result, her earliest demos exhibit a sense of striking catharsis under non-traditional song structures, which flirt between strength and vulnerability, and are often quite linear in form.
Leschper wrote the majority of the songs that would evolve into When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired while finishing art school in early 2014. Fittingly, as while her attention to visual art and music come from very different creative spaces for her, each cannot help but bleed into one another. The delicately resolute opener “Too Small For Eyes,” which she says is about “being incredibly uncomfortable in your own body and learning how to relate to yourself,” even shares its title with that of her senior thesis project.
Over the course of the year, she played solo shows that earned her local acclaim, including from Flagpole, which praised her “visceral, deeply personal” songs. But she knew that in order to reach her true musical vision, she would need to expand the line-up, so she recruited multi-instrumentalist Matthew Anderegg to help flesh out the arrangements and guide the songs to their final state. They expanded the line-up with guitarist Drew Kirby and, after playing together for only one month’s time, quickly recorded their debut full-length album with producer Drew Vandenberg – who has worked on albums by Of Montreal, Deerhunter and Porcelain Raft – at Chase Park Transduction in Athens in December 2014 (the album also features collaborations with Josh McKay of Deerhunter on vibraphone as well as McKendrick Bearden of Grand Vapids, who played bass and provided string arrangements throughout). Bassist Patrick Morales would later join the band as a permanent fixture.
When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired is an introduction to the foundations of the young band, a snapshot of a particular period of their genesis that maps both where they began and where they are heading. It’s the sound of a band being born, in the truest sense: songs that were conceived in Leschper’s solitude and nurtured with added direction from Anderegg. “The name Mothers relates to the idea of creation and being the mother of something. The act of being a Mother is tragic, you have to eventually let go of the things you created,” says Leschper of their name’s origin.
The album’s bookends perhaps most explicitly display this musical chronology. The gorgeous “Too Small For Eyes” was the only one of a few solo songs Leschper had written on the mandolin that made it onto the album, its use of space, piano, strings, and her voice entwining and undulating to elegantly set the stage for what unfolds afterward; closer “Hold Your Own Hand” blooms from its plaintive opening bars to an ascendant, spirally waltz to an uproarious math-y breakdown, hinting at the louder, more post-rock and math rock-influenced sound for which their live show is fast becoming known (the blog Heartbreaking Bravery described one of the band’s CMJ sets as “…intricate, knotty indie pop songs that are equally unpredictable and enticing”). “Copper Mines,” the first song they wrote together as a band, captures the new mix of everyone’s voices and energy on tape, and also informs their other new material, such as “No Crying in Baseball,” a home recorded B-side they wrote together in the months following the completion of When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired. “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t,” which looks at the dichotomy of an artist’s ego and sense of self-doubt, falls somewhere in between – the first song she wrote that she saw in the context of something bigger than her performing solo, it takes many twists and turns before arriving, like so many of their songs, at a different sonic place than where it began.
Across the album, Leschper meditates on the human condition: what anyone’s place is in the universe; what is our value; mortality; and what it means to have relationships in consideration of all these things. And while the songs are filtered through her frequently difficult, personal microcosmic experiences, she relates them in a manner that is at once highly intimate and readily universal. At heart, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired is about being alive, and just how surprisingly unmooring – and exhausting – this fundamental thing can be. The album is a window into the long path Leschper traveled while creating it: breathtakingly honest and rooted in the subconscious of one’s journey.
Upon the album’s completion in January 2015, the new quartet line-up steadily played local shows throughout the spring and summer, including at festivals like ATHfest and Slingshot. Before heading out on their first tour supporting Of Montreal, they debuted “No Crying in Baseball,” earning national press attention from Stereogum, NME, Brooklyn Vegan, Ghettoblaster, and others. A headlining east coast tour followed in September, and things began to fall into place. Stereogum named them a ‘Band To Watch’ alongside a premiere of “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” ahead of their 10-shows-over-five-days jaunt at the 2015 CMJ Music Marathon, which included sets at the Aquarium Drunkard, Brooklyn Vegan and Culture Collide showcases. Both the song and the band earned even more praise throughout the week, including from Vulture, NME, BBC Radio 1, and The Wild Honey Pie, among many others. The following week they were named one of Stereogum’s ’50 Best New Bands of 2015,’ and signed to Grand Jury in the US and Wichita Recordings in the UK.