Glorytellers

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A musical legacy can be a tough thing to live down, especially if an artist attempts to move dramatically away from, both stylistically and artistically, the beast that created the legacy in the first place. Boston’s Geoff Farina is no exception to that rule. For 12 years, Farina fronted Karate, a hybrid post-rock/indie-jazz three-piece that released seven albums on Chicago’s Southern Records (along with a slew of EP’s and singles elsewhere), toured incessantly (playing over 600 shows worldwide) and created a legion of diehard fans the world over.

Karate enjoyed a healthy amount of success, crafting a unique musical formula that influenced many along the way. But when the band decided to call it quits in the summer of 2005, they didn’t turn a blind eye on their musical past or attempt to live anything down. In fact, Farina was the first to acknowledge his past’s influence on the present. “Even though [Karate] was trying new things, there were certain limits to it that I felt I couldn’t overcome. I really wanted to build something new from scratch, and I started thinking about a new band and new songs as Karate was winding down,” he says. Enter Glorytellers.

Glorytellers is, according to Farina, “Something totally new.” Joined by the likes of former Karate band mate Gavin McCarthy, along with John Larue, Luther Gray, Andy Hong and Ty Citerman, Glorytellers takes painstakingly huge steps away from Farina’s past song writing in Karate. And again, he’s the first to admit it. “I’m trying to orchestrate songs differently than we did in Karate. Some of these songs are almost classical in the sense that the chords are often arpeggiated and unfold over time, and even though the harmonies are relatively specific, they are articulated one note at a time which gives them a more abstract, painterly quality,” says Farina. To this effect, Farina strayed from the formulaic success of Karate’s song writing, utilizing alternative instruments (including steel-string and flamenco guitars) and taking influence from music way before his time. “I started listening a lot to older blues, ragtime, and other pre-WWII music, and there was a whole world of rhythm ideas that I had never really paid attention to. There were really interesting bands in which an acoustic guitar player played bass lines, and some of those ideas made their way into Glorytellers songs,” he says. Essentially, Farina’s efforts has transformed Glorytellers into the yin that was Karate’s yang.

And on their first ‘S/T’ record (Southern Records), Glorytellers lives up to Farina’s promises, becoming that “something totally new” he alluded to. If you’re a Karate fan, you’ll recognize Farina’s voice and his carefully picked guitar methods, but the similarities between Farina’s past and present end there. Instead, ‘Glorytellers’ carefully guides the listener through understated and classically formulated tales of single motherhood, the tribulations of sending children to war, bearing witness to a drug-related murder and more. Lyrically, Farina has moved away from the personal ambiguity that defined Karate’s lyrics, opting for a more narrative role, complete with beginning, middle, end and maybe just a little bit of personal interpretation along the way. “Each one of those songs is about something that really happened and that was in some way moving or influential to me, and I spent a lot of time and effort trying to collect and articulate details for these songs. That’s not to say that the songs are autobiographical, and in many cases the narrator is just an observer, but they all tell a story I feel strongly about,” he says. Guided by urgent and abstract guitar harmonies (some of which are done on pre WWll guitars), the music of Glorytellers transforms Farina’s tales of resolve and uncertainty into telling glimpses of real life. A real life affected by struggles, triumphs and dismay. Reaching for harmony. And much like Geoff Farina, not afraid to confront, analyze and move beyond the past.

In the end, the music of Glorytellers allows for a newfound freedom in Farina’s musical legacy. A freedom learned by acknowledging the past instead of running far away from it. I think we call that “personal growth” in most circles…

Glorytellers on MySpace: www.myspace.com/glorytellers

Geoff Farina Web site: www.geofffarina.com/

Drag The River ‘You Can’t Live This Way’

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Damaged lives often use one of two (or both) tools to cope with existence; depression and anger. The more common way to delineate between the two is fairly simple; depression is turned inward, while anger is dispelled outward. But both states tend to stem from the same underlying emotions. Emotions that Fort Collins, Colorado’s Drag The River have come to know intimately and hold tightly onto.

On the band’s latest release, ‘You Can’t Live This Way,’ DTR’s principal song writers Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price don’t necessarily make a public acknowledgment of lives influenced and affected by anger or depression, despite the overwhelming presence of these underlying emotions throughout the record. Loneliness, depression, subdued anger and disillusionment; they’re all in there. But rarely do their lyrics focus on the self. Rather, the duo tends to paint portraits of the many lives they’ve come in contact with. The ones that have taken wrong turns, made bad decisions, dealt with the unthinkable and somehow lived to tell about it. It’s easy to imagine Snodgrass or Price playing the role of bar stool psychologist, listening intently to a no-name at one in the morning and internalizing the tale long enough to write about it the next day amid hangover. It seems that the duo has found a healthy outlet for the anger and depression they’ve encountered along the way. And the album’s assertion is right, you can’t live this way.

‘You Can’t Live This Way,’ arrived to the public about nine months after the band officially parted ways. There were a few reunion shows this past January to celebrate the release, but by and large, the band was already done and dusted before ‘You Can’t Live This Way’ would ever attract new fans. And though that’s a shame to hear Drag The River spoken about in the past tense, I’m glad that Suburban Home Records went ahead with the final album’s release.

Musically, ‘You Can’t Live This Way’ borrows from the classical country textbook of back road references and beer-soaked harmonies, adding touches of piano, accordion, trumpet and organ to create the band’s most diverse album to date. In the past, DTR has tended to balance their records between tender heartfelt crooning and more upbeat, whiskey bent alt-country. But on ‘You Can’t Live This Way,’ the tempos are slower, the delivery is more hushed, and all things considered, the nights are a hell of a lot longer. There have been glimpses into this darker side of Drag The River on past records, but they’ve often been book-ended between more optimistic takes on roots-based piano or guitar jams. Evidently, times had taken darker turns for Snodgrass and Price before the demise of Drag The River. And one is left speculating whether or not these darker themes ultimately led to the band’s end.

But in the end, Drag The River’s swan song takes painstaking effort to excise the demons of depression and anger they’ve encountered along the way. That the band didn’t survive ‘You Can’t Live This Way’s’ therapy isn’t a surprise. Emotional exorcisms are rarely pleasant. That they walk away from the experience with such an emboldened take on dealing with the many tragedies of life is what matters. And ‘You Can’t Live This Way’ is the recorded proof.

Buy it here

Listen to the title track here

Help Mike Vincent

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I’ve been putting off writing about this for a while now cause I really haven’t known to go about it. One of my dearest and oldest friends, Mike Vincent, was hit by a car while riding his bike to work in L.A. just over three weeks ago. The good news is that he survived. The bad news is that he’s still in the hospital, and steadily accruing medical bills all along the way. Mike is a very, very strong person, and he will make a full recovery, but with that also comes medical bills, everyday expenses (like rent) and the cost of his family visiting L.A. for an extended period of time.

You probably know what’s coming next. That’s right. I’m asking for donations to help Mike and his family. It’s been a rough few months in BMX in regards to riders getting injured and enduring prolonged hospital stays, so I understand if you’re not able to donate on account of already donating money to the Jimmy Levan or Stephen Murray Fund over the past few months. But even if you’ve got a few dollars to spare, Mike and his family could use it. Mike’s an extremely generous fellow, and I know he’d do the same for anyone.

He’s also one of my oldest friends, and now is the diatribe in which I go into a little about the dude known as Mike Vincent. I first met Mike in 1991 at a 2B comp in NJ. At the time, he was building custom 71-spoke wheels with freecoasters he modified himself. And I quickly purchased one from him which lasted over two years. I guess I ran into him again at a comp in Maryland. The one guy in pro flat that took himself way too seriously and scoffed at everyone else in the class was about to ride, but during the three minutes of his run, he continually kept falling due in part to the spectator that kept screaming said pro’s name name at the top of their lungs. (That was Mike, and that was all it took to know that Mike was awesome.) Now over the past ten years, Mike and I have traveled all over the world, drinking too much, inadvertently falling into weird situations and quoting bad movies all along the way. I consider him one of my closest friends, and if I’ve been a little quiet about Mike’s recent accident, it’s cause I’m not sure of how to deal with this.

A few of Mike’s friends have been sending out updates on his progress, which I’ve pasted below, along with information on how to donate to Mike’s fund. If you’ve got a few dollars, I’m asking for some help. Thank you.

Here’s the latest update: Mike Vincent is a BMX rider, a professional golf caddy, a worker at the local LA animal shelter, a son, and a friend. While riding his bicycle to work last month he was struck by a car. He incurred severe head trauma along with many other injuries.

His four-week stay in ICU at Cedar Sinai has been filled with many achievements and many setbacks. However, his response to the latest few surgeries have seemed to set the momentum in the right direction. The lung surgery was a success and the chest tubes have already been removed. He was taken off the ventilator soon after the tracheotomy, and has since been breathing on his own with no sign of trouble. He has also adapted well to the insertion of the feeding tube into his stomach. Last week Mike started physical therapy, which at the moment consists of being put in a chair a couple of hours a day to stimulate his lungs and circulation.

In the last couple of days, Mike has grown increasingly, although inconsistently, responsive. He’s not talking yet, but has been responding to the neuro surgeons’ commands to give a thumbs up, show two fingers, raise his arms, etc. Mike is also making purposeful movements such as scratching his face and covering his mouth when he coughs. On another great note, Mike cut short his expected stay in the ICU by 3 weeks. Last night he was moved to Room 8016 in the North Tower of Cedar Sinai.

Even though his condition is rapidly improving, the aftermath of this accident will affect him for years to come. Medical bills alone have already reached a massive amount, even though his journey to recovery has just started. Mike’s recovery also comes with many non-medical expenses like the lively hood of his family, who have suspended their everyday lives to be by his side.

Because there are no unions to provide funds for injured “action sports” athletes, no health insurance provided for private contractors, and no other affordable insurance alternative, MIKE NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT.

Mike has been a part of and made an impact on many of our lives. Whether we rode with him or hung out and shared a beer with him, he needs us all. Now is the time to come together and help our friend. His recovery will require time, love, hard work, and money. Any amount that you can contribute will help and is greatly appreciated. We all have the power to make a difference. It does not matter the size of the contribution, what matters is the will to help.

Here are the current ways you can contribute:

Direct contribution to PAYPAL:
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&business=MikeVincentUpdates%40gmail%2ecom&item_name=Mike%20Vincent%20Fund&no_shipping=0&tax=0&currency_code=USD&lc=US&bn=PP%2dDonationsBF&charset=UTF%2d8

Mail a check payable to:

Mike Vincent

903 Hyperion Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90029