Sun Aug 4 2019
6:30 PM (Doors 5:30 PM)
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Kickstand Productions Presents
Queen of Jeans
The Menzingers' eagerly awaited fifth full-length After the Party is available now. The album arrives as the follow-up to the Philadelphia-based band’s widely acclaimed Rented World.
Produced by Will Yip (Title Fight, Balance & Composure, Pianos Become the Teeth), After the Party taps into the Menzingers’ everyman romanticism to reflect on getting older but not quite growing up. Throughout the album, singer/guitarists Greg Barnett and Tom May, bassist Eric Keen, and drummer Joe Godino offset that deeply nuanced songwriting with anthemic harmonies, furious power chords, and larger-than-life melodies.
“We spent our 20s living in a rowdy kind of way, and now we’re at a point where it seems like everyone in our lives is moving in different directions,” says May of the inspiration behind After the Party. Adds Barnett: “We’re turning 30 now, and there’s this idea that that’s when real life comes on. In a way this album is us saying, ‘We don’t have to grow up or get boring—we can keep on having a good time doing what we love.’” “Bad Catholics” follows the release of After the Party’s lead single “Lookers,” which premiered on Noisey in August.
The Menzingers formed as teenagers in their hometown of Scranton in 2006, then later relocated to Philadelphia. The band made their Epitaph debut with 2012’s On The Impossible Past, which was voted Album of the Year by Absolute Punk and Punk News. Released in 2014, Rented World was praised as “packed with clever songwriting” by The New York Times and “a colossal fist-pumper” by Stereogum.
Growing up is weird. As it turns out, growing older can be even weirder. For musicians birthed in the fervently youth-centric world of punk rock, growing old gracefully is a largely foreign concept. Eventually most pop-punkers age out of their angry disaffection or creatively flame out whenever screamy break-up anthems start to seem tired, whenever you start to too closely resemble the very same people your younger, angrier self was rebelling against in the first place. In the case of The Sidekicks, the transition from high school hellions to erudite pop band has been a journey some twelve years and five full-lengths in the making. When considering the band’s continuing evolution, as evidenced by their new album, Happiness Hours, frontman Steve Ciolek is both happy and a little perplexed. “Every time we make a record I think about how strange and amazing it is that we’re still making records,” he laughs, “But at some point you have to stop worrying about what kind of record you’re supposed to be making and just make the kind of music that you yourself want to hear. I think it’s healthy to ask yourself, ‘What if this was the last thing we ever did? Would I be happy? If the band was forced to end tomorrow, is this the note we’d want to go out on?’ In the case of Happiness Hours, I think we all definitely would be.”
Not that the band shows any signs of stopping anytime soon. Formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 2006, The Sidekicks learned their chops via the old punk rock finishing school—by playing lots and lots of shows, sleeping on floors, and generally devoting themselves to recording and touring at the expense of any other kind of life. The bands earliest recorded efforts—2007’s So Long, Soggy Dog and 2009’s Weight of Air—reflected this. By the time they released 2012’s Awkward Breeds, the romance of punk rock was beginning to wane and the influence of pop music began to creep in. This transition was fully realized on 2015’s Runners in the Nerved World, a Phil Ek-produced stunner that not only would showcase the band’s tightly honed pop sensibilities, but would keep them on the road for the better part of the next two years.
In order to help realize their vision, the band—Steve Ciolek (Vocals & Guitar), Matt Climer (Drums), Toby Reif (Guitar & Vocals), and Ryan Starinsky (Bass & Vocals)—enlisted veteran producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur, Jr, Kurt Vile) to produce, engineer, and mix the record. Agnello’s more hands-on approach, which involved prodding the band to constantly consider and question their choices, proved instrumental in helping the band push themselves in ways they might not have otherwise. “It was really about putting aside our emotions and looking towards a common goal,” says Ciolek. “It’s what I really like about being in a band, and what I always wanted when I was younger. You have these four people who are all really invested in the same thing and it wouldn’t be what it is were it not for all of our personalities being wrapped up in it. That’s what makes it so cool.”
The twelve tracks that eventually found a home on Happiness Hours show a band in full control of their powers. Each song presents its own little narrative microcosm and contained universe, all contributing to a record that, as Ciolek describes it, “feels like a potential collection of singles, every one of them a pop song, every one of them meant to make you feel good.” To that end, songs like “Other People’s Pets” “Medium in the Middle” and “Weed Tent” rank among some of the sunniest, most ebullient songs the band has ever recorded—all ringing guitars, charging drums, and soaring vocals meant for private bedroom dance parties and long, meandering drives. Still, the record’s beating heart is undoubtedly the title track, which Ciolek also cites as an emotional touchtone. “If someone was like, ‘What's the album about?’ I'd tell them to just listen to that song. Equal parts childhood nostalgia and critical self-examination, “Happiness Hours” explodes the notion of how we look at ourselves and compartmentalize memories: "If I rearrange the story/ Or magnify what I see/ Or execute a freeze phrame/ Moments can just be/ So if happiness comes in hours/ Well it looks like its that time again for me/ Gravestones deserve flowers/ Lovers deserve poetry". For Ciolek, the strength of the band’s new songs spring from the idea that these narratives—about lost loves and new loves and childhood friends—reach squarely towards a kind of universal experience. “They are relative to my life, but they aren’t just about me,” he says, “And that’s another thing about getting older. Unlike when you’re a kid, when every song has to be about falling in love or breaking up—about me, me, me—you get to a point when you really want your art to be inclusive. You want everyone to be able to locate themselves somehow in your songs.”
Just as your goals change as you get older, so does one’s expectations. For The Sidekicks, despite their storied pop-punk past, the band’s main hope is that people can always expect something new, songs filled not just with loud guitars, but also things like trumpets, pianos, flugelhorns, and the occasional tambourine. “I think the expectation with our records is that it's going to be something that you're going to have to sit with and it's going to be different than the last one and there's going to be new things there, “ says Ciolek. “The only real rule we had for ourselves, the most important question, was ‘Does this sound good?’ Cool. Let’s put it on the album then.”
Having spent the past three years not only writing songs, but also playing the occasional friend’s wedding, Ciolek and the band have adopted a kind of joyful looseness they hope will carry over into their forthcoming live shows as well. “We ended up learning 40 or so covers while we were trying to make this record,” he says, “It's like, at any point, like at the very end of our show, we could easily go into a whole medley of wedding songs, to play like Earth, Wind and Fire's ‘September’ and we've done that a few times. I hope people are ready.”
Crockpot Pop. It’s not a term you’ll be instantly familiar with, but it is a somewhat perfect descriptor of Philadelphia quartet Queen of Jeans. Intentionally tongue-in-cheek, the self-ascribed term was coined by the band to chronicle the haphazard nature of their core ingredients. They are a slew of sounds and influences in a juxtaposition that somehow strikes balance, sculpted over time into the refined and tenacious outfit they are today.
Prior to releasing their self-titled debut EP in early 2016, founding members Miriam Devora, Matheson Glass, and Nina Scotto had all played in other bands, but as had been all too common a practice a few years ago, were often accessorized and handed a tambourine instead of a guitar. The three visualized a new project on their own terms, and finalized their lineup with drummer Patrick Wall. Queen of Jeans instantly took root, earning praise for their aforementioned debut that showcased their glowing eye for detail. Along the way, they garnered attention from the likes of Wild Honey Pie, who called it a “welcoming beacon in the night” and Clash magazine, who labeled it a “riot of attitude and colour.”
Overwhelmed by the positive response, they vigorously developed their live set, testing it out in their hometown and on the road DIY touring, which eventually led to bigger opportunities. Those included WXPN's XPoNential Music Festival as well as Made in America and SXSW, all of which was rounded off by a full US tour alongside heavyweights Balance & Composure and From Indian Lakes - no small feat for a band with just one EP to its name.
Honing their sound through those experiences, the band crafted their debut LP with palpable care and consideration in the time since their first release. The result is Dig Yourself, out March 30th via their new home of Topshelf Records. It is a marked leap forward, a decadent and decisive nine-track record that immediately feels like a coming-of-age.
“The more we played, the surer of ourselves we became, but we also continued to encounter a lot of misogyny, “ the band expressed. “After a while, walking into venues to be greeted with comments like, ‘get your hand stamped if you’re the band’s girlfriends’, gets tired. But we didn’t let it deter us, if anything it continued to ignite a new, more assertive energy that has only continued to empower us. With Dig Yourself, we were finding the confidence and willingness to share more vulnerable and emotionally honest music, which served as both a cathartic exercise as well as our call to arms.
“This album is really the story arc of a relationship, be it with another person or simply the relationship you have with yourself,” they continued. “We chose an album name with a split meaning - to ‘dig yourself’ could mean to love yourself; rally behind yourself, or on the flip side, ‘dig yourself’ is a motion to try a little harder, find what’s there beneath the surface, explore your behavior and figure out what you’re actively trying to reveal to yourself.”
Dig Yourself is as much a reflection of inter-and-intrapersonal relationships as it is the story of the band’s evolution by its own right, exploring the ups and downs of life in its assurance, annoyance, paranoia, resignation, and ultimately re-evaluation.
The Menzingers, The Sidekicks, Queen of Jeans
Sun Aug 4 2019 6:30 PM
(Doors 5:30 PM)