Chill Out, Drown Out: Resplendent, In Vivid

Chill Out Drown Out: music for when you need to, well, chill out, and also drown out extraneous noise. Tunes for calming down and concentrating on important tasks or just having a peaceful time in the middle of a hurricane of a day/week/month/year/existence.

I occasionally feel bad when my highest recommendation for something is “this is excellent background noise,” but – it is truly one of the finest accolades I can give. It means the music has successfully walked the fine line between “delicate, beautiful, but unobtrusive, integrates well into the process of multi-tasking” and “so boring I forgot the first song half-way through.”

Resplendent, by In Vivid (Ben Snook, of Lawrence, KS) is indeed delicate and beautiful. The swirling textures and gently propulsive energy make it – for me, at least – ideal for tasks that require concentration and creativity. And, best of all, it stands up to repetition; I listened to it three times in a row one night last week and never got sick of it.

Here are three songs to whet your appetite, chosen at least in part because I liked the titles.

Lightswitch Indicator: The second song on the record, this one is for when your brain is still spinning up. The mix of high and low tones supported by a steady warm background thrum is perfect for when it is way too early but the work must get done.

Some Imagine Caretaker: This one has a steady thud-thud at its heart, surrounded by oscillating bands of other tones. It feels a bit like having a friendly metronome around to prod you out of the sloughs of distraction.

Three Person Pillow: There are vocals, on this one, but they mostly sound like aliens making vaguely familiar encouraging noises. Aliens who have brought their very own extra large pillow for all of you to sit on together while you complete your tasks and they watch with great interest, because they have never seen PowerPoint before and are fascinated.

A Good Read A Good Listen and a Good Drink: Lee Knowles, The Incredible Magpie Band

It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss.

In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire.

The Incredible Magpie Band (Lee Knowles (vox/guitar), Lou Taylor (bass/vox), Ben Hardcastle (lead guitar/vox), Matty Davey (guitar), Ewok Layton (drums/percussion), of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England, recently released their debut single This Chose Me as well as b-side Money, and they are both a rollicking good time:

And now I turn the floor over to frontman Lee Knowles (blue jacket, below) so we can learn more about his favorite book, record and drink:


A Good Read

Reading books is something I very rarely have time for except on holidays, sat on the beach or around the pool with a few beers, usually I’ve got the iPod in my ears. I have read fiction, especially when I was younger but what I mainly go for are bios, Gangsters, sports people but mainly musicians. The last one I really enjoyed was [Happy Monday’s lead singer/lyricst] Shaun Ryder’s book, Twisting My Melon, it’s a great read with loads of mad stories about what they used to get up to, you can imagine! Not to many dates, places, names, probably cause no one can remember them!

A Good Listen

Been listing to a couple of things recently, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, because The Beatles are never too far away, Rodriguez, Cold Fact and Harvest, Neil Young. I love the way Harvest is recorded, it sounds so real, you can close your eyes and the band could be in the room playing. Everything sounds as though it hasn’t been touched. Rodriguez is magic, there is something so different but so familiar about the way he writes songs and the words he uses. Sgt Peppers is a masterpiece, it’s easy to take for granted how good the Beatles were, you listen to their music you think, the Beatles, great, I love this song. But it’s good to stick the head phones on and have a real good listen to Sgt Peppers and realise that its four lads from Liverpool that did that, albeit extremely talented lads, plus, George Martin, who made the bands evolution possible.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (live) - The Beatles

A Good Drink

First thing in the morning, coffee, as many cups as I have time for! And then a steady intake through the day. I’d say my favourite alcoholic tipple, at the moment is Guinness, but being from Yorkshire I will drink anything, especially if it’s free!! Ha.

Wax Fang, The Astronaut

Wax Fang - The Astronaut Cover

The Astronaut, by Wax Fang, is everything you would want from a space opera: lush, sweeping, majestic, a little bit mysterious, and, since it’s about a lone space traveler who gets separated from his vessel, sucked into a black hole, and made into an interstellar god, a little bit tragic, too.

After I had listened to it a couple of times, I had some questions for the band:

Why a space opera?

We wanted to do something big and bold, something experimental and transcendental that was in accord with our tastes in art and music. A metaphysical musical adventure set in the deep reaches of outer space just seemed like a perfect fit for us.

At first I thought the three singles [The Blonde Leading the Blonde, Hearts Are Made For Beating, King of The Kingdom of Man] were independent of the space opera, but after repeated listenings to both works, the singles now sound, to me, like they should be part of the space opera. Were they conceived separately, or in conjunction with the opera? Why were they released separately?

The singles were all written long before the idea of the Astronaut came to be and, as such, have little, if nothing, to do with one another, save that they all come from the same place, that is, us.

How, if at all, does Alpha Man fit into the narrative universe of the space opera?

In my mind, each of our songs is its own microcosm. Therefore, Alpha Man and the Astronaut inhabit separate universes (or alternate dimensions of the same universe, perhaps?). But who am I to tell you what to believe?

And with that, dear readers, here is The Astronaut, in its entirety, so that you may decide for yourselves:

Get More Gritty: Again and Again

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Again and Again, of Seattle, who I learned about from Twitter. After I had poked around their website a little bit and listened to a couple of songs, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. After getting past some technical difficulties, drummer XwesX (Wes Keely) (center) and I had the following email chat:


Who was in which band, previously, and how did you get together to form Again and Again? And who does what in Again and Again – did anyone switch roles (or instruments) from previous bands?

OK, well, to start this off, Dutch VI (above left) plays guitar, Geoffrey C Walker (above right) sings, and I play drums. We had a few other members over the years, but at the current moment this is the core group, and we have a few fill in bass players that go out on tour with us from time to time. Geoffrey used to sing in the Victory Records band called On The Last Day based out of Seattle, Dutch VI also plays in a few different hardcore bands that we are not really allowed to talk about, and I was a founder of Walls of Jericho and have also played in bands such as Most Precious Blood, Throwdown, Until The End, Remembering Never and a few others.  I also spent years as a hired gun for several different bands over a span of 5 or 6 years.

There was no role switching as far as instruments go, although we all play other instruments. Dutch plays a mean set of drums from time to time; Geoffrey plays guitar and bass and knows how to rock a Pro Tools rig like no other; and I play guitar as well as bass.


On the “hired gun” front, I see from your blog that you were out with the Jonas Brothers. How did that happen and what was that like, because there’s quite a vast gulf, musically, between Throwdown and the Jonas Brothers. Also, tangentially, I have noticed that there are an awful lot of ex-hardcore drummers in pop and/or pop-punk bands. Is that just a coincidence, or a kind of natural progression?

Haha, well, ok, I did some touring with Jonas this past summer, but there was no drumming involved. I was on the tour working for one of the lead sponsors of the tour that works with the Jonas group.  It’s funny, I did a tour just before that one with Jordin Sparks and a lot of people were asking me “are you drumming for her?” because really with the amount of jumping around that I have done in the past something like that is pretty possible.

As far as hardcore drummers in pop music, well that one has been happening on and off for years, people like Andy Hurley playing in Fall Out Boy with Pete [Wentz], and Chad Gilbert playing in New Found Glory after sinning in Shai Hulud.  I think its just one of those things where people just play in HC bands for years and eventually you just want to do something else.

Pete and Andy used to go to WOJ and Earthmover (band 3 members were in before we started WOJ) shows in Chicago and they played in HC bands too. We all used to have fun and play shows together and mosh it up, but eventually some of us just wanted to do other things.  Some people go back to school, some get married, some start pop bands and become millionaires, it happens.


Hah! There’s also Alex Johnson of The Cab, though I don’t remember now which HC band they got him from. Though Andy Hurley (and Joe Trohman) have since gone back to heavy music, with The Damned Things.

Yeah, it’s awesome, they are all doing great. Andy and I just recently got back into touch, he’s a rad dude and a solid drummer I hope to see him play again one day here soon!!


On the ProTools tangent – have you been producing your own records, or are you working up demos and then working with a producer?

YES, the first record we had some help from a sweet dude named Steve Carter, he’s a great guy and a great engineer and has million dollar ideas.  Steve and Geoffrey pretty much handled the first record [Again and Again, 2008]. I mean, we all had our hands in, it but the majority of the producing was all on them.  The second record, Get More Gritty [2010], was pretty much all Geoffrey. Derek [Casey], the guitar player and song writer at the time, had hands in it as well, but for the most part it was Geoff.  We had some outsiders mix and master the record, which is always a great idea.


Is sending a record to someone else to be mixed and mastered a good idea because it’s helpful to have someone listen to it / “edit” it who isn’t so close to it?

Yes, I mean sometimes we are so deep in it that we can’t always hear the songs for what they are or what they aren’t.  It’s nice to have another set of ears on the songs.  For example, our latest release Get More Gritty was mixed my one of my oldest friends, Marc Hudson, who happens to be an amazing engineer and has a great ear. I have been working with him on and off since I was about 15.  He spends most of his time on the road with Taking Back Sunday and Saves The Day, [so] he has such a different outlook on how things should sound, and sometimes that makes all the difference in the world!


Why did you pick Seattle as your home base? (Also I’d like to know more about the Barn of Solitude!)

Seattle is a great place to live, we have all lived in a ton of other places, I mean between us all, we have lived in Vermont, Michigan, Virginia, Kansas, Germany, South Florida, Orange County and Washington.  Seattle is by far all of our favorite place to live, it has mountains, desert, snow, rain, rain forest, city, hiking, camping, great music scene, jobs, and great food. It’s just the best! Seattle just happened to be the place that we all ended up, before meeting each other. (Other than Dutch and I, we were friends before the band.)

The Barn of Solitude is a great place, free of most distractions, where we wrote and recorded our first 2 records. It has a great sound and we have been fortunate enough to use it whenever we needed to over the past 3 years.  It’s 30 minutes out side of the city, up in the hills of an area called Sammamish, just east of the city.  We also shot a a video there for More Ripley Less Darrow.  It’s just an awesome place to play, write, and hang out.


Woah, that’s a lot of moving. And I say that as someone’s who’s moved, I think, nine times since 1998, or something like that.

Yeah, I mean between dudes in the band that have been in other band, moving and traveling just kind of comes with the gig.  Some people are fortunate enough to start a band in their home town and never leave only to tour and record, we just haven’t had that luxury.


“Wish I Could Be” and “More Ripley, Less Darrow” are so far my two favorite songs, MR,LD in particular because a) I appreciate a good ode to a self-rescuing princess but also b) it isn’t a simple song. The narrator sounds like he’s really wrestling with the issue. What can you tell me about those songs?

Well all of the songs are written biographically and are situational of course.  There are metaphors all over the place. Geoffrey really puts the work in to tell a good story in a catchy way.  We really try write catchy fun songs but  at the time we also try to keep ourselves entertained while playing them, which in turn makes them a little complicated by nature.  There is a lot of pre-production that goes into our songs, and we try to write more songs that we will need for a record, so we can sort out the best of the material that we have at the time.  We are in the process of starting to write and demo some new tracks, [and] we’re very excited to see what will come out next.


Again and Again - More Ripley, Less Darrow OFFICIAL


Why did you name the band Again and Again?

That was Geoff’s creation. It was funny, when he and I joined up and we were talking about doing a band together, I asked him “what’s this band going to be called?” and he was just like “Again and Again.”  I don’t think that I have ever been in a band where one guy had already decided the band [name]. It’s always such a pain to have 5 dudes trying to come up with that they think is the best band name, him having the name he liked and being set on it was great, because we totally avoided that situation.

When I asked Geoff why that name, he told me this: “To me Again and Again means a lot. It represents persistence and perseverance, sometimes to a fault. But it’s about never giving up”.


Who did the cover art for Get More Gritty and the website? Something about the style seems very familiar and I can’t tell what it is. I am having a moment of Why Do I Recognize That Bear?

If you recognize the bear you are probably just thinking of something else.  There are a lot of people that do the “scratchy” type drawings people like Derek Hess and Jake Bannon but I can assure you it was neither of them, it was in fact my roommate and long time friend Rawb Evans. We had this idea for the new record of a “scratchy” bear and he made it for us.  There are a lot of bears here in Western WA!


I see you’ve been on Warped Tour before, do you have any plans to go out on tour again soon? Not necessarily on Warped Tour, just, at all?

YES!! We did a short 4 week tour in OCT/NOV and have been planning on heading back out, sometimes life and holidays get in the way, that and the US getting blasted with snow everywhere but here in Seattle hahahahaha.  We will be out very soon.


And now the questions for all three of you. What was your transformative song – the rock and roll lightning strike – and why?

Geoffrey: When I first heard a rough version of Excuse This Honesty everything clicked.  I’m proud of everything we’ve done, but that song just really defines what we are at this point.  It has all the elements of music that we’ve been trying to inject into these songs.  Excitement, beauty, sincerity, and intensity.

Dutch: Excuse This Honesty is the jam, it embodies all the rock but still stays groovy and has tons of emotion in the melodies.

XwesX: I feel is the song that actually hit us in the face and the “transformative song” was a song called TMNT2, that never actually saw the light of day. It’s something that we wrote and recorded and it only made it to preproduction before we came up with 4 or 5 songs that were just way better, but had a familiar feeling to the TMNT2 track.  It really was the song that started defining what A&A sounds like today.


What in the world does TMNT2 stand for? Part of my brain wants to parse that as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, and I know that can’t be right.

XwesX: HAHAHA, that’s exactly what it stands for. I can’t tell you why, I can just tell you that that is indeed what it stands for!!


Also, let me rephrase that last question a little bit: what song(s) made you fall in love with rock and roll?

Geoffrey: I can think of a few. But narrowing it down is tough. So here are two. It might sound cliche, but Smells Like Teen Spirit made a big impact on me. It was just so HUGE sounding. So aggressive and in your face.  The other is Closer by Nine Inch Nails. It was the first time I’d really heard electronics in modern music that didn’t induce vomit. It was dirty and grimy and shockingly honest. Trent Reznor remains a hero of mine to this day.

Dutch VI: I have a record more than any one song: Pink Floyd, The Wall.

XwesX: There are definitely a few records that strike me as “the ones” that made me wanna rock but I think when all is said and done it was probably the Arise record from Sepultura. My brother used to air drum to this record all the time, and spin these drum sticks that he had to all the awesome drum parts. I don’t think he could have ever played them for real, but it was cool to watch him when I was like 13.


What was your first show (that you attended, not that you played)?

Geoffrey: Aerosmith!  They played a ski area near where I grew up (during the summer).  It was on the Get A Grip Tour.  So good.

Dutch: Steve Miller Band, 1998

XwesX: Body Count, 1992


What was the first record/tape/etc that you bought? What was the last one?

Geoffrey: First: I wish it was something that gave me mad street cred.  But I’m pretty sure it was New Kids on the Block.  I was only 8 or 9. Haha. Last: The last record I bought was the Tron: Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk.  It’s so epic.

Dutch: First: Weezer- Blue album, Last: Behemoth- Evangelion

XwesX: First: Guns N Roses “Appetite for Destruction” , Last: Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More”


Okay! Thanks so much for talking with me. And with that, I’m going to leave everyone with one more song for the road:

London Calling: Good Dangers

This band’s information floated over our transom with the following e-note appended:

We wrote these songs in our living rooms

We recorded them

We moved to north london so it was easier

We didn’t always agree

but that’s ok

We made some art to go with the music

We made videos which took longer

We have all been in other bands – this is our favourite

Good Dangers is – Maxim, Gavin, Johny, Jenny & Howard

I listened to their songs and watched their video(s), and later, upon adding Abigail to my daily playlist (listen to it streaming at bandcamp), I found myself humming along and tapping my pencil to the beat while I worked. And then I took it upon myself to do some further investigation. Lead singer Gavin (top right) expanded as follows:

Naturally the first question is going to be: Which bands were you in before?

That’s a bit of a secret, we like mystery.

Where did you move to North London from?

We all studied and lived south of the river after going to Goldsmiths College, gradually we migrated north/east so we could write and play easily. It’s good times in that part of London.

Why did you name the new band “Good Dangers”?

The music has a tension about it.  There’s a lot of risk in putting music out there and giving up a part of your life to do that. We wanted to capture that in the name. Or we just came up with cause it sounded good. Can’t remember.

The songs sound so light and airy, but your comment in your bio about disagreements makes it sound like getting there was hard. Was the songwriting difficult? How did you go about putting the pieces together?

Sometimes writing is painless, the songs write themselves. Other times we massively disagree. Great songs come out of both situations. You can never tell how it will play out. The only thing you can guarantee is that we will all have an opinion!

Are you all supposed to look dead in your press picture? If so, why?

No, although I agree we look a bit dead! There is something good about taking your clothes off and shutting your eyes, we can say that much.

I watched the video for Brasilia, and wow, there’s a lot to unpack there, visually. I saw a lot of footage I recognized as being disaster- or crisis-related, and a lot that seemed, at least in theory, to be harmless. What was all of that mixing about, and how does it related to the song? Also was it meant to evoke Brazil, the movie?

No relation to that fantastic movie. Making that video, I used footage from growing up in Australia shot on super 8 and a bunch of archive footage that I felt summed up the themes in the song. The song is about memories and their potency.



These last ones are for everyone. What was your transformative song – the rock and roll lightning strike?

Gavin: Anything from Van Morrison – Astral Weeks; Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusions II; Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream; Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker; Strokes – Is This It and Arcade Fire – Funeral.

Howard (bottom right / bass): Anything of ‘Nevermind’ (I love Drain You), when that was played at parties everyone used to go more nuts than anything else.

John (bottom left / drums, brother of Howard): The entire Strokes first album

Jenny (center / keys): Anything off the Jimmy Eat World self-titled album

Max (top left / guitars): Positively 4th Street – Bob Dylan. My Dad’s enthusiasm finally made sense on one long drive in Spain with the family.


What was your first show (that you attended, not that you played)

Gavin: First proper show, [was the] Smashing Pumpkins [in] London. I managed to grab a broken guitar string off Billy’s guitar. I was 14.

Howard: George Benson somewhere in London with my folks. I think I was 5 years old, I spent the entire gig shoving cotton wool in my ears as it was so loud and his smooth tones really hurt.

John: The Strokes, 2003, Alexandra Palace.

Jenny: Billy Joel

Max: Echo and The Bunnymen, Royal Court, Liverpool, 1996


Good Dangers - Beat Of Your Heart


What was the first record/tape/etc that you bought? What was the last one?

Gavin: First: Mc Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em /Last: Wild Nothing – Gemini

Howard: I bought REM Automatic For the People because my cousin was really into them. I love that album. Last one I bought was the new Radiohead album.

John: Power Rangers theme song in 1994.

Jenny: Cyndi Lauper, True Colours and Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

Max: Ain’t talkin bout dub – Apollo 440; Zola Jesus – Stridulum II

And finally, will you be playing any shows any time soon?

Gavin: We are playing at:

March 17: Old Queens Head, Islington, London

March 24: Hoxton Bar&Kitchen, Hoxton, London

April 12: Catch, Shoreditch, London