Friday, November 14, 2008

I Was Totally Destroying It!!!

PhotobucketBy Gary Miller

I met with the five members of North Carolina's I Was Totally Destroying It on a blustery November evening at their secluded rehearsal space/house for an interview, and after exhausting our knowledge of Death Metal (which only took a moment or two) we discussed their history, how they approach songwriting, their struggle with the concept of genre and the shelf life of their quirky name. What follows is a quote-driven narrative of our 45 minute conversation on their night-chilled screened in patio.

I Was Totally Destroying It (IWTDI) formed from the ashes of En Guarde a group that "slowly, slowly dissolved" according to John Booker, founding IWTDI member and one of the group's songwriting principles. "I was not very fun to be in a band with at the time," he says. "One guy moved to Switzerland, another guy got into another band that he was more into, and another guy moved back to New York."

Photobucket"People couldn't just quit that band, they had to leave the state," says J. Curtis Armstead, guitarist and least talkative member of the group. Booker continues, "It was my first attempts at being a songwriter instead of a backing musician, and I was a little high strung about it at first."

So, as En Guarde drew to a close, a seamless transition followed into IWTDI. En Guarde was asked to perform at a 2006 Christmas show at Chapel Hill's noted Cat's Cradle. But, having lost a few members already, new faces were recruited to fill in the gaps. Those new faces formed the core of what officially became IWTDI one month later.

Where En Guarde thought of themselves in the vein of other Chapel Hill stalwarts like Superchunk, newer members differ in their opinions of the outcome. But, all agree that it was a big rock mess in the best possible manner, with three guitars, busy bashing drumming and melodic vocals over the top. A "clusterfuck of power chords" one member notes.

Contrastingly, the IWTDI's self-titled first record, released a bit later in 2007, is streamlined and dynamic in tone and tenor, if occasionally jagged in melody and message. Youngest member Rachel Hirsh, keyboardist and vocalist, notes Booker's songwriting is more sophisticated now. Booker retorts that things are also more collaborative and especially points out Hirsh's contributions (and somewhat pensively later in the interview notes the duo is a couple).

Since most readers won't know the story, the name I Was Totally Destroying It came from a conversation in which a bandmember was describing his efforts of busting up concrete. Positively busted concrete = I Was Totally Destryoing It. When asked how the name is holding up now that they're approaching their second anniversary, the reviews are mixed. Hirsh notes, "it's polarizing. People love it or hate it." And that dichotomy appears to be present even within the group. "I hate it," laughs founding member and drummer James Hepler. But, Joe Mazzitelli, mutton-chopped newest member and bass player, notes that "it looks great on a t-shirt."

PhotobucketWhen asked to give the "recommended if you like" list for their band, they struggle to align how they feel about themselves with how they think others perceive them. Some, they say, are likely to lump them in with an emo crowd. To my ears, they do reflect some of the guitar sounds and production values of early Jimmy Eat Word. But, I can equally hear flashes of That Dog, Versus and The Spinanes, as well as a dedication to the concept of "the hook."

Asked to give the elevator speech description of the group, Hirsh offers, "I believe it is possible to rock out in a very raw manner through a pop filter." Booker reverses the roles and says, "I think we're maybe more a pop band that has rock sensibilities." The two agree to disagree, while I crack a joke about a Buckingham/Nicks conflict already arising in the band.

Rather than belabor an attempt to describe them, I recommend you jump on some free mp3s to find out for yourself. The group has made a new EP available via free download on their Reverb Nation site. Among these tracks are what I think is perhaps their melodic high point -- the track "Done Waiting," which was produced by Josh Cain of Motion City Soundtrack, who Booker notes has taken them under their wing. The track combines Hirsh's draw-you-in delivery with a big sing along chorus and Cars-vibe keyboards.

So,take advantage of the free tunes. And, don't be too surprised if the next one, for which they are currently writing songs and intend to record in the coming months, rockets their profile up a notch or two. The band has the potential to be much better known this time next year. Maybe on a radio station near you.


Gary is a musician, blogger and powerpop fan who lives in Durham, North Carolina. He lived previously in Seattle, where he started and ran the Seattle Powerpop Blog and played bass in both the Scheme and Shake Some Action!, the latter of which now exists as a bi-coastal recording project.

Careening Around My Cranium with Daryll Collins #2!!!

Little Known Albums-All Time Favorites

In what I hope will become a regular column feature is the first "Little Known Album That Is An All Time Favorite". The name of the band and album is Aorta.

This group is a bit of a mystery as for whatever reason information about them is scarce. What I do know is that they were out of Chicago and recorded two albums.
This release was on the CBS/Columbia label. It is not a power pop release but there are touches of The Beatles and The Beach Boys scattered about. You'll also find traces of Cream and The Doors thrown in for good measure.

I was turned on to this album as a kid by a teen aged neighbor in 1969 or 1970 and from the first listen I was hooked. I never owned the album and by the time I was earning my own cash as a paperboy, I couldn't find it anywhere. Now I could get my mom or dad to spring for a Beatles or a Monkees album, but The Aorta would be an extremely hard sell! It took me over 25 years to track down a CD copy.

PhotobucketI consider this album a psych masterpiece as it incorporates a Sgt. Pepper feel but with more of an eerie component in parts.The flow of the tracks is seamless. There are Beatleish flourishes to the arrangements as some of the songs incorporate strings and horns. Beautiful Beach Boys harmony vocals especially on the stellar "Thoughts And Feelings", which sounds like a missing track from Pet Sounds. On the harder rocking numbers the guitar tone is quite similar to Cream era Eric Clapton. Quite possibly the best fuzz tone guitar ever! In some parts a Doors like keyboard sound dominates. The musicianship and imagination involved in this release is absolutely stunning!

Did I mention this conglomeration is loosely wrapped around a theme referencing the circulatory system???!!! Actual song titles include, "Main Vein", "Heart Attack", "Main Vein 2, 3 & 4". Above is the album cover for your perusal... This art really captures the musical genius/madness therein. They recorded a follow up album that completely and totally sucks! What happened??? If anyone out there in the NOT LAME community has any more information about this group, please post and clue us in.

And now on to the musical fast break...

How do you like The Smithereen remakes of Beatles tunes? They’re fairly faithful to the originals but Pat DiNizio & Co.'s vocals really give them a fresh spin. And how cool is it to have Jack Davis illustrate the cover art to their B-Sides release! Pretty cool indeed.

PhotobucketLet’s All Do The iPod Shuffle!

It’s fun and easy. Just list the first 10 songs to pop up after setting your listening device to Shuffle Play. No cheating. Include all selections, even the ones you don’t want your friends to know about! Some of these random playlists can be downright inspired. This is from my 80GB iPod that currently holds 10,612 songs. Here we go...

* Joe Jackson - “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”
* Average White Band - “Goin’ Home”
* Valley Lodge - “Cruel”
* Gorillaz - “Feel Good Inc.”
* Tubetop - “Bleeder”
* Supergrass - “Sun Hits The Sky”
* The Raspberries - “Starting Over”
* Stevie Wonder - “All In Love Is Fair”
* Supergrass - “You Can See Me”
* Ivy - “I Think Of You”

Feel free to list your Random 10 in the comments section...or not.

I had my iPod on shuffle this morning and “Anyway” by Poole came up from their outstanding album, Among Whom We Shine. Whatever happened to these guys? Bruce, anybody? Ditto for Roger Klug. Where are you?

Does your personal listening device have any pecularities in how it selects random songs? Does it play favorites? Mine seems to really give preferential treatment to XTC (58 songs) and ignores The Beatles (148 songs).

A group that should have really made it big time is Artful Dodger. It would be great to have all of their releases on CD.

That's it. Short and sweet this time. I'll be back...


Daryll Collins is a free-lance cartoonist/illustrator who has worked for a wide variety of clients including magazines and newspapers, advertising, greeting cards, character design & development, children's books, comic strips and gag cartoons. You can check out his work at

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gary Miller reviews the latest DOLL TEST album!!!

Hey guys--please give a warm welcome to out newest NOT LAME blogger, the one, the only...Gary Miller!!!

Review by Gary Miller

When Scott Sutherland was approached by the Devil at the crossroads, he was met with a challenge. The horned one threw down a songwriting gauntlet -- whoever wrote the
better pop song would be victorious. A win for the Devil meant getting Scott's soul for all eternity. For Scott, the reward was to be granted an encyclopedic knowledge of rock and roll's historic eras.

Given what I'm hearing on MOSQUE ALARM CLOCK, the new album by Scott's band the Doll Test, there's no question who won the battle. After listening to this record repeatedly, it is clear that Scott is a walking "rockumentary" with classic songs coursing through his veins. What you get on the new album is that well-travelled history of rock songwriting fed to you through Scott's stilted and slanted (and possibly drug influenced) personal perspective.

PhotobucketOn the surface, this is a solid modern power-pop album that is both melodic and toe-tap inducing. But, as you dig deeper through repeated listening, the record also reveals itself as laced with psychedelia, folk and garage rock overtones. The Mama and the Papas, the Raspberries, Bob Dylan, the Zombies and the Kinks all pop into my mind as I listen. But, there is a coherence in place that relies on
Scott's vocals and the bouncy bass work of Boyd Remillard from track to track.

This is one of those albums that kind of gets under your skin and sticks with you. I find myself singing random parts of the songs, even when I haven't listened to the record in several days. I'm beginning to think that pehaps mind control was part of the deal with the Devil, as well.


Gary is a musician, blogger and powerpop fan who lives in Durham, North Carolina. He lived previously in Seattle, where he started and ran the Seattle Powerpop Blog and played bass in both the Scheme and Shake Some Action!, the latter of which now exists as a bi-coastal recording project.