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Promo Ends: September 30th


From Demos to Diamonds: Pohgoh's "Weeds" September 20, 2022

Pohgoh reactivated as a band back in 2016, and they’re prepping to release a new 12-song album on November 4th through Spartan called du und ich. Its first single, “Weeds,” was inspired by frontwoman Susie Ulrey’s life with multiple sclerosis and life in the COVID-19 pandemic, and turned out to be another poppy gem from the Florida-based act. The interesting thing is, the final part of “Weeds” was written many years ago, back when Susie, her husband/bandmate Keith Ulrey, and Matt Slate formed a short-lived band called The Maccabees (not to be confused with a UK band of the same name). Their song “Blameless” would be partially resurrected for the three-minute wonder of “Weeds.”

Working with the great J. Robbins on the album at his Magpie Cage studio, du und ich is yet another grand entry in their extensive back catalog. We spoke with Susie directly about this song, why they brought back part of “Blameless,” and how the band usually works.

What's the story on bringing back a Maccabees' riff for "Weeds"? Was it discovered on an old tape or a riff that never left your mind?

When I was trying to come up with an ending for "Weeds," the chord progression reminded of an old song I'd written in 2000 called “Blameless." After struggling lyrically with the ending, I dropped the outro lyrics of "Blameless" in on a whim and it just felt right.

How much of the new LP was written from scratch versus riffs you've had before?

Pretty much the entire album was written between 2019 and a couple of months before entering the studio in the fall of 2021. "Not Cool" was written in 2017 almost immediately after recording our last album, Secret Club, that fall. The ending of "Weeds" is the only true moment of reaching back in time.

In writing riffs for the new LP, did you save tidbits on your phone or computer, or did you write them out?

We write two different ways. I either bring a song lyrically and on guitar to the band and we then arrange it together or Matt and Brian will show us a riff or pattern they've been working on and we'll sort of jam out parts until they fit, I then add lyrics after the fact. When I'm writing a complete song myself, I tend to record a simple demo on my phone.

J. Robbins once said some of the bands he works with only need to set up microphones and hit Record, while other bands need some guidance, but he wants the band to be who they are. What was it like for the new Pohgoh record?

The songs are, for the most part, as they were written. J. definitely gave us his two cents on a few arrangements, as well as additional instrumentation ideas, vocal harmonies, etc.

New Pohgoh Album "du und ich" Out November 4th. New Song and Pre-Orders Available Now! August 10, 2022

We’re thrilled to announce the brand new album from revered indie/emo outfit, Pohgoh. In the middle of a global pandemic, the band entered the studio with acclaimed producer J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines) to record their third full-length album du und ich, easily the foursome’s most ambitious outing yet. Listen to the premiere of the new song “Weeds” at BrooklynVegan and pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl or as part of an exclusive t-shirt bundle. The first 250 pre-orders also receive a custom Pohgoh mini-beach ball!

Welcome Rocky Votolato to the Spartan Family! June 28, 2022

Please welcome Seattle indie-folk hero Rocky Votolato to the Spartan Family! We’re beyond excited to release Rocky’s first new album in over 7 years Wild Roots on September 9th. The album is an intimate concept album inspired by and written for his family — each song is a letter dedicated to a specific family member and focused on a special memory or moment in time. Stay tuned for the premiere of a brand new song tomorrow as well as pre-orders, new tour dates, and much more.

Rip Room Announce Summer Tour, East Coast Dates with Kal Marks June 21, 2022

San Francisco art punk trio Rip Room has announced summer dates with Boston's Kal Marks. The 14-city trek kicks off with a record release show on July 14th in Oakland, CA, and runs through August 13th. The band will be out in support of its critically-acclaimed debut LP Alight and Resound which is available everywhere now!

7/14 - Oakland, CA - Thee Stork Club (Record Release Show)

7/28 - Tacoma, WA - Real Art

7/29 - Seattle, WA - Victory Lounge
7/30 - Portland, OR - Shanghai Tunnel
7/31 - Oregon - Secret Location
8/4 - Providence, RI - News Cafe
8/5 - Somerville, MA - The Jungle
8/6 - TBA
8/7 - Parksville, NY - Cabernet Frank's
8/9 - Washington, DC - TBA
8/10 - Baltimore, MD - Joe Squared
8/11 - Middletown, CT * - Rednawa Collective
8/12 - Philadelphia, PA * - Ukie Club
8/13 - Brooklyn, NY * - TV Eye

w/ Kal Marks

Welcome Shiner to the Spartan Family! June 14, 2022

We are so stoked to welcome Shiner to the Spartan Family! It’s an amazing honor to join forces with a band that has been so transformative in our lives and the lives of so many. In addition to re-releasing the band’s entire catalog on vinyl (including a newly remixed and remastered Splay with all-new artwork), we’re thrilled to release brand new music and a collection of rarities and lost gems. Get ready!

Spartan Spotlight #12: Scott Evans (Producer, Musician) June 3, 2022

To celebrate the upcoming release of Museum of Light's LP Horizon, we caught up with acclaimed producer/musician Scott Evans (Thrice, Heiress) to discuss his thoughts on the evolution of recording, working with Museum of Light, and his own band Kowloon Walled City, among other topics. Scott was also gracious enough to send us some behind-the-scenes photos of the Horizon sessions and a playlist of formative songs from his journey as a musician and producer. Enjoy!

What were some formative records of your youth?

Number one: a Black Sabbath Greatest Hits tape that my Aunt gave very young me. After that... the early Iron Maiden albums, Yes Close to the Edge, King Crimson Red and Discipline, Pink Floyd Animals, Slayer Reign In Blood, as much weird and fast metal as I could find. Eventually I found stuff like My Bloody Valentine Loveless, the first couple of Public Enemy albums, Skinny Puppy and Front 242, Naked City, Funkadelic...really when I was a kid every other record I found was formative.

At what point did you start playing music? What led you to the production world?

I started playing bass when I was about 14. Not too long after that I ended up with my first 4-track and a drum machine and I was hooked. It was the kind of thing where you sit down for a few minutes and suddenly it's nine hours later. Still is. That wasn't exactly "the production world" but it did kickstart my love of recording. But it never seemed like a possible career. I spent many years afterward slowly building up a home studio to record friends, but I had a day job as a programmer that took priority. It wasn't until relatively late in life that I started recording more bands.

Talk a bit about your production/recording arc -- in what ways has your process evolved with time (both philosophically and in terms of tech + approach)?

I've come to understand that you really can and should track bands playing together live, instead of doing scratch takes that you plan to replace under a microscope. When you record a great band together, on a good day it's almost easy. I do also love making records that are synthetic and "assembled", but the inbetween kind - make it sound like a real band when it really wasn't - that can be tough.

I've learned my personal aesthetics and what I'm naturally good at, but I've also gotten better at letting bands guide those things when they want. When someone else wants control I'm learning to pick up on that and embrace it, even if that means a record may not come out the way I think it could. It's not my record. I want it clear that the band has creative control; hopefully people never leave a session feeling like they were pushed into decisions they didn’t want.

And I'm working on my bedside manner. I'm sort of a heads-down-let’s-work person and not great at being a cheerleader. That coupled with being a sarcastic shithead can lead to frustrating moments for the band, and who wants that? So I'm learning to keep it posi.

Tech-wise, I don't think I'm doing things crazy different than I was ten years ago--it's just dozens of small refinements. Recording is like the venn diagram of aesthetics and abilities, and over time you build a mental database of both and how they work together. That's a lifetime thing.

I do love little workflow hacks. I don't much care what mic I use on a snare but I can go on about my favorite mic stands.

What's the latest with Kowloon Walled City?

In October we released a record called Piecework. A year after our labels ordered the vinyl, it's finally arriving. We're doing some touring while navigating real life. The usual.

What effect has increased accessibility/availability of home recording equipment had on music?

Oh it's vast. Incredible pop records are made with one mic and a laptop now. Calling it "home equipment" is actually a little funny since often people are using the same tools at home that we have in studios. That's 100% true with plugins. Anyway I've mixed home-recorded records that sound cool as hell. I've gotten demos that we just can't beat. I do lots of projects where we spend a few days doing live tracking, then the band goes home to record vocals, do programming, track guitars, whatever. It's great.

Are there any upcoming projects that you are particularly excited about?

I'm finishing up a new record for Covet, which has been challening and fun. I just recorded a gnarly new LP in Seattle for Great Falls, who I really love. I also have some cool mix projects queued up, but they're TOP SECRET.

What inspires you outside of music?

I love knowing experts. People who have spent years focusing on one niche thing are the best. Especially physical real-world stuff... cooking, building furniture, working on vintage cars, sewing... seriously, you name it. I love nerds.

What should people know about the upcoming Museum of Light release? Any specific, behind-the-scenes, moments from the recording sessions that you'd like to share?

I said something earlier about "on a good day it's almost easy," and that's what this record was like. Most of the songs are first takes. We had five days booked and basically ran out of work to do by day four. And everything sounded great. Rob is so goddamn good. All three of them are.

Sequencing and flow was really important to the band, so we had the whole album in a single Pro Tools session and got it sequenced in order with all the transitions and everything. That way we were able to hear it as an album and work on overdubs with flow in mind. I think I actually mixed each side in one long go too.

Any specific moments or songs on the record that you are particularly excited about?

The record is non-stop hooks so there's always a next part to look forward to. I love the whoa-oh-oh's in "Dethenger." And "Cal" was the first song I got a demo for so I'm always stoked to hear it.

Thanks for reading and listening. Prepare for Museum of Light's debut LP Horizon -- available June 10th.

Watch Rip Room's New Music Video for "Complication" at No Echo May 26, 2022

Rip Room’s debut album Alight and Resound is out everywhere tomorrow! We’re cranking up the heat with the premiere of the band’s new music video for “Complication.” Head over to No Echo to check out the video and finally answer the age-old question: What If Devo jammed with Fugazi? Smash that ❤ and tell all your friends.

From Demos to Diamonds: Rip Room's "Complication" May 25, 2022

Great songs don’t usually come out of thin air, so it’s fascinating how the process goes from idea to a finished song. Rip Room’s guitarist/vocalist John Reed shares how the band’s “Complication” from the forthcoming Alight and Resound came about.

How did this song come together?

“Complication" was the second-to-last song written for Alight and Resound. I remember I wrote the song very quickly, one of the rare cases where I sat down and all the parts just sorta came out. But when I started to demo, I realized it needed some sort of intro. So I played the main riff on a synth – the exact one escapes me right now – and modulated it until it was basically noise, et voila – intro! I ended up exporting that intro to my sampler pedal, and the sound you hear on the record (and when we play live) is that sample run through my AC30, so it sounds extra gnarly. The other thing is we had been playing most of the rest of the record live for the better part of a year, and we were feeling pretty fire. So I remember when I finished the demo I could already hear us playing it.

Rip Room · Complication (Demo)

The iPhone has really changed how bands document songs in progress. Do you guys record ideas on your phone?

Almost all of my ideas start as voice memo recordings. With the exception of "Complication" and "Get On In The World," every song on the record started as me playing unplugged with my iPhone resting on my leg.

Based on the final version of the song, how different is the song from how it was originally conceived?

The parts were all there, but the vibe wasn't. I usually use a metronome and/or a software drummer when I record demos, so live drums always make the song livelier and more organic. The tambourine during the middle section and the handclaps on the outro also give the song a real lift. There's also bass Rhodes doubling some of the bass lines which gives everything a little more heft. Besides that, in general, there's way less guitar noise – with the exception of the shrieking at 1:14 – and Tim [Green]'s mix is especially great on this one. He really builds tension with the echo that starts at sixteen seconds in, so fun to watch him do this live in the room!

Be honest, what do you like and dislike about the final version versus the demo version?

Listening back to the demo, I forgot that I actually let the intro sample run through pretty much the whole verse! I think that would have been rad, but the trade-off might've been that we'd have to play along to a click, which we didn't want to do. Also, I sorta miss the guitar noise, but it's oddly one of the harder things to nail in the studio. The clock is ticking and you gotta ask yourself, is doing another take of feedback really worth it?

How important is the demo process in Rip Room?

I think it's a critical part of making good records, and for me, it's a writing tool. It helps us develop songs very quickly, too. I can write a squirrelly bass part as a placeholder and Sarah will know "insert prog bass line here," or I can drop in a software drummer playing a forgettable beat and Gracie will get the vibe and make it awesome.

Rip Room’s Alight and Resound will be available on May 27, 2022.