Last month, Memphis roots/garage-rocker and sometime one-man-band William Stull released a fine new LP, Self Titled Record, on the new-ish local indie label Soul Patch Music.
Stull spoke to the Flyer this week via email about his new record, his fierce-yet-musical scream, and the new material he's got in the works.
Flyer: How did you get into writing and performing music?
Stull: Well, I come from a musical family where everyone plays something. I started playing the drums first because my grandpa taught me. Then later I got into playing the guitar through my dad.
This Saturday night, the relatively new Memphis alt-rock group, Gasoline Grace, will celebrate the release of its debut full-length CD, Hearts on Fire, with a show at Murphy's.
The band — a trio comprised of longtime local music scene veterans Melanie Isaksen (bass, vocals), Robert Allen Parker (guitar, vocals), and Angela Horton (drums) — came together after a chance meeting at the Delta Girls Rock Camp in 2008, which Horton helps organize and where all three serve as volunteer counselors.
“After moving back to Memphis to be closer to my family, I wasn't really interested in going out and playing music right away,” says Isaksen, who returned to the area in 2004 after several years of living and working in Chicago.
“I also have a personal desire to use my experiences and abilities to help others in whatever I do. I figure, if you're not helping someone else with your efforts, what's the point, really? So I got involved with a local music camp who's goal was empowering young girls through the medium of rock and roll music. This gave me the chance to use my background of teaching and working with at-risk youth, as well as sharing my musical experience in a positive way. That is how I met my bandmates. I would say our hearts are in the same place, and that's what eventually led us to work together musically.”
After hitting it off at the camp that summer, the trio started regularly jamming on cover songs for fun in Horton's living room. But by late 2009, things had really started to gel and original songs began to pile up. And so, Gasoline Grace became a working live band.
Monday night, alt-rock icons The Pixies delivered a tight and surprisingly energetic set to a nearly packed house at the Orpheum Theatre.
As promised, the band rolled through every song (including lesser-known b-sides) from the classic 1989 album Doolittle, with each song being accompanied by a visual presentation on a massive, stage-length video screen.
("This is the biggest production we've ever had in terms of lighting and visuals," said Pixies drummer David Lovering in a telephone interview conducted before the tour started. "Each song has a video by a different director that syncs up with us as we play. It really makes the show.")
For those who were not able to attend, the magic of the internet has stepped up and provided YouTube clips galore from Monday's show. I would say more about it myself, but I'm afraid my intense fandom precludes any further objectivity on the subject. I'll just let the videos speak for themselves:
Intro/"Dancing the Manta Ray"
Recently re-united Boston, MA alternative/indie-rock icons The Pixies will perform at The Orpheum Theatre this Monday, November 14 as part of the band's "Lost Cities" tour.
I've already done a feature on The Pixies for this week's paper, but drummer David Lovering and lead guitarist Joey Santiago had much more to say during my interviews with them than I could fit in my story. Here are a few select outtakes:
On the band's purportedly rocky personal relationships:
Lovering: Stuff has definitely been set aside. We're older and wiser now, and want to be comfortable with each other on the road and will do whatever it takes to achieve that. We have much more communication than we used to. We're actually the most boring band in the world now. There is no drama, nothing much ever happens.
Santiago: Sometimes it rears its ugly head, especially at the beginning of a tour. We're mellowed out now, but every once in a while someone has a bad day or a bad week.
By the time the screening ended, it probably wasn't much of a surprise when the recently released Jason Baldwin, one of the “3” came onto the stage for a post-screening discussion. Baldwin's likely appearance had been well-known to those around the festival for several days, but organizers had requested the information be kept under wraps for security reasons.
But a quiet interaction at the end of the question-and-answer session did appear to catch everyone off guard. Baldwin had been asked if he's spoken to any of the victim's families. After apparently citing minor interactions during the trial and subsequent court hearings, Baldwin suggested he hasn't spoken to any relatives of the three murdered boys — Christopher Byers, Steve Branch, and Michael Moore — since his release.
Soon afterward, a young woman in the front row raised her hand and said she didn't have a question but a comment. She identified herself as Amanda Hobbs — the younger sister of Branch, now apparently in her early 20s — and told Baldwin that she too wears black and loves Metallica and that while she used to believe that he, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were guilty she came to realize that “there were six victims, not just three.”
“I see now that none of us got justice,” Hobbs said. Baldwin, rather than speaking into the microphone, looked down at her and appeared to mouth “thank you.” After the event was over, one of Baldwin's lawyers was seen tracking Hobbs down outside the screening and bringing her backstage, presumably to meet with Baldwin in private.
Memphis' Morgan Jon Fox, who debuted the final version of his years-in-the-making documentary This is What Love in Action Looks Like at Playhouse on the Square Friday, was the big winner at the closing night awards ceremony of the 14th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival.
Fox's film, which documents the plight of a Memphis teen forced into a church-based “gay de-programming” institution and the surprising evolution of the institution's director, picked up two awards from two different juries: It picked up a Special Documentary Jury Award and Best Hometowner Feature, the latter coming with a $1000 cash prize presented by the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission.
“I've shown several films here and the feeling I get having a premiere here is different than anywhere,” Fox said after picking up the special jury award. He went on to express his appreciation for having a home “so loving and supportive.”
It was a dramatic weekend for Fox, who had surprised the audience — and his boyfriend — before Friday night's screening with a public marriage proposal.
Shot in Memphis last August and September with a crew heavy on local talent, the low-budget indie comedy Losers Take All will have its local debut at Playhouse on the Square Saturday at 7 p.m., on the third night of the Indie Memphis Film Festival.
The film, directed by Alex Steyermark and co-written by producers Winn Coslick and Andrew Pope (another producer, Mike Ryan, had worked in Memphis on films such as Forty Shades of Blue and 21 Grams) is set primarily in 1986 and concerns the growing pains of an unpretentious, Replacements-esque post-punk band, who form, record, and tour while struggling with various low-key triumphs and tribulations.
The band is meant to embody the era's blend of punk — the orientation of lead singer Brian (Kyle Gallner) and bassist Dave (Aaron Himelstein) and metal — lead guitarist Billy (Billy Kay) and drummer Peter (Jason Burkey) — while the story depicts the scrappy world of indie labels, clubs, and regional touring and the era's now-quaint dilemma about whether to stay indie or pursue a deal with a bigger record label. Serving as comic relief is clueless but enthusiastic would-be manager Greg (Adam Herschman).
Losers Take All adores this musical milieu almost to a fault. Visual and aural touchstones to bands such as Minor Threat, Black Flag, the Descendents, and Bad Brains abound, and the movie treats twin Twin Cities titans Hüsker Dü and the Replacements as almost spiritual objects. (I can relate.) Hüsker Dü's 1985 album Flip Your Wig is the album Brian and Dave turn their more metal-oriented new bandmates onto to give them an idea of what they're trying to do — “It's not metal. It's not really punk. And it doesn't suck.” And a potential opening slot on a Replacements show drives the film's climax.
There are also cuter references. The opening scene has a sign in the background suggesting Brian and Dave attended “Stinson High” (a reference to the Replacement brothers Bob and Tommy), which Greg spends time at a rehab facility in Minnesota called New Day Rising (named after a Hüsker Dü album). The entire movie feels like a fictional homage to the terrific ’80s post-punk scene study Our Band Could Be Your Life.
I don't think the film ever specifies Memphis as a location but, unlike with 21 Grams, it doesn't disguise the city either. There's a shot of the band crossing the Mississippi River as they head out on tour. The band plays a local gig at the bottom of a four-band bill at the Antenna Club. And one bit features an comically over-the-top local furniture store commercial that incorporates professional wrestling — it's hard to imagine a collision that better captures “Memphis in the ’80s.”
Other references include Dave's work uniform (a Tops Bar-B-Q shirt) and a first gig at a pizza shop “off Park,” while identifiable locations include Midtown's Hi-Lo Studio (also used in $5 Cover), Premiere Palace, and the Orchid Club.
On-screen, the most prominent of a few local roles is Billie Worley's comic turn as a heavy-metal frontman whose segue into punk stands as a more opportunistic and less organic contrast to his Van Halen-loving rhythm section, who leave to join the film's punk-oriented protagonists.
One of the film's strengths is its original music, which was recorded locally at Scott Bomar's Electraphonic Recording studio under the supervision of Bomar and ’80s power-pop icon Marshall Crenshaw. The music for the fictional band, the Fingers, was recorded by a local unit consisting of Steve Selvidge (guitar), John Paul Keith (guitar), Mark Stuart (bass), and Paul Buchignani (drums), with Keith and Buchignani serving as instrument coaches for the actors.
The band's on-screen songs are convincing, the most prominent of them written by Keith (“Anyone Can Do It,” a countrified version of which appears on his recent album The Man Who That Time Forgot), and local songwriter Jack Yarber (“Everything Little Thing Goes Wrong”). Bomar (in studio) and Keith (as a club soundman) also make dialogue-free on-screen appearances.
Losers Take All is a likable film, with a believable core cast and a mostly understated but effective sense of time and place. It will be especially interesting to people as invested in this musical world as the filmmakers are, a niche market of which I am a member. But it's hard to imagine this minor, star-free film garnering a theatrical run deep enough to bring it back to town.
Memphis rapper Don Trip's two-year journey from quietly released homemade YouTube to MTV is complete. The new version of Trip's "Letter to My Son" single, featuring a sung hook from superstar Cee Lo Green, is out, available for purchase on iTunes, and now with a video that recently debuted on MTV Jams:
More on Trip here.
Our cover story on this year's festival is on the street and now online. Yesterday, we supplemented that with a look at the competition features in this year's festival. Today we look at documentaries. We covered several docs in the paper this week — the Paradise Lost series, Undefeated, This is What Love in Action Looks Like, and These Amazing Shadows — but there are plenty more on tap:
Dragonslayer (Saturday, 7 p.m., Studio on the Square): Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for docs at this year's SXSW Film Festival, filmmaker Tristan Patterson's portrait of the tattered, aimless life of professional skateboarder Josh “Skreech” Sandoval and the subterranean world he inhabits is an attractive, intimate film that evokes such disparate art-flick influences as Terrence Malick (gorgeous outdoor cinematography, poetic/naturalistic tone) and Jean-Luc Godard (Dragonslyer is presented as a set of discrete sections, counted down from 10 to 0). Skateboard footage in abandoned swimming pools is, as always, invigorating. The punk-rock soundtrack includes such Gonerfest vets as Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Golden Triangle, and Thee Oh Sees. — Chris Herrington
The help finance the tour, LaVere has started a Kickstarter.com campaign with a goal of raising $10,000. LaVere is more than halfway there with four days left on the campaign. There are various extra items - ranging from a download of LaVere's excellent new album, Stranger Me, to a private concert - accorded based on the level of donation.
The competition films aren't as high-profile as the out-of-competition showcase screenings, but offer the best chance to catch emerging indie filmmakers on the way up. We haven't had a chance to screen all the competition features yet, but of the ones we have, these stand out:
Bad Fever (Saturday, 5 p.m., Studio on the Square) Hometown favorite Kentucker Audley shows off his acting chops in the second feature film by Dustin Guy Defa. Eddie (Audley) is a socially stunted would-be comedian who jockeys between driving around and tape-recording each terrible joke that comes to mind and actually sharing those jokes with an unforgiving audience at a stand-up comedy club. Irene (Eleonore Hendricks) is a warped vixen who delights in making videos of men humiliating themselves. Thus, a match made in purgatory emerges: a socially clueless loner looking for love and a manipulative sex fiend looking for a victim. The film is exceedingly and intentionally uncomfortable, but achieves a strange harmony in the intersection of these two lives. Audley has mastered his character, with an almost schizophrenic manner of speaking you won’t be able to forget. — Hannah Sayle
The Dish & the Spoon (Thursday, 6:45 p.m., Studio on the Square): This feature, directed and co-written by Allison Bagnel, who co-wrote the Vincent Gallo indie hit Buffalo 66, is something of a showcase for actress Greta Gerwig, who has lately been transitioning from the mumblecore/festival scene into the mainstream. Gerwig is a woman who reacts messily to the discovery of her husband's infidelity. Gerwig's character flies off the grid for a while, and picks up an effete stray (Olly Alexander) in a meet-not-so-cute. Most of the film is about the developing friendship between these two lost souls, with echoes of such previous quirky/indie odd-couple pairings as Midnight Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, and Annie Hall. Big-boned, disheveled, but still quite attractive, Gerwig is more charming, flawed-human oddball than Manic Pixie Dream Girl. — Chris Herrington