(128kbps 16mb mp3 file)
2006 ISSUE #86
Erik And The Hims
10 Song CD
TRACK = GIRL UP IN MY MIND
A few years ago I went gaga over Hanz Erik's first
release, Closet Pop, which was released under the
ill-found name Hanzsolo. After some personnel changes and some
legal wrangling over the Star Wars-inspired moniker,
he's back with a new band name and an amazing new album.
The first disc was drenched in unflinching acoustic
guitar pop, where Erik showed off his penchant for catchy hooks
and even catchier, soulful melodies. It didn't seem as though
he could possibly top it with a sophomore effort. Well, somehow
he outdid himself.
Copay finds Erik brandishing an electric guitar,
turning up the volume and the beat into a power pop frenzy. The
melodies and the soul are still there, but they are delivered
with punchy guitars and a pounding backbeat. It's a solid combination
that wins from beginning to end, and it's honestly one of the
best independent albums I've heard in a long, long time.
With that having been said, I decided it was time
to get in touch with Mr. Erik and find out the secret to his musical
Tell us about the transition between HanZsolo and the new band.
My writing had been changing a bit since the HanZsolo record came out. I
was growing away from the singer-songwriter idiom and more into an
electric pop rock vein. Copay is an extension of this. Even towards the
end of HanZsolo I found myself putting down the acoustic guitar far more
often and replacing it with my electric guitar or my keyboard. So when
Ollie left the band (and we had the whole thing with George Lucas) I
decided it was time to kind of start again and reframe the whole thing.
Did you really get a cease & desist from George Lucas, or is that just a good story?
So here's the story on George Lucas. If I could have only been so lucky
as to have received the actual letter. It came to me in an email! So
around the beginning of 2005 we were generating a bit of label interest
but nearly all of them were a little leery of the name. I can understand,
why sink a bunch of money into a name that was possibly trademark
infringement? But one of them suggested that I talk to a lawyer so I did.
Well, he said it probably was trademark infringement, after all, it was
George Lucas who had built the equity in the name, but just to see he
suggested I contact Lucas Licensing. So I wrote them an email explaining
the situation, my name actually is Hanz and this is my solo project etc.
etc. and they wrote back stating that, "we cannot grant you a license for
use of the name Han Solo" and that I should cease all activity as such or
face litigation. So, they did give it to me, but I was kind of asking for
The new album seems to be more rock focused. Did you set out to make this one a little louder, or did it just happen that way?
Yeah, like I mentioned, as time went on and my writing developed I found myself attracted to louder and more electric sounds. Part of this may have been the fact that I was gigging a lot and the quiet, thoughtful
stuff just never seemed to work in bars. I actually hate to say that that
influenced me, but in all honesty it probably did. I know that gigging
the material on Copay has been great. People seem to really connect to
the energy. And if I could plug the Hims here, I have never worked with
tighter more dynamic musicians.
Your influences seem to be all over the map, mainly from power pop and soul. Anything in particular stand out for you?
True, I really love sound and all the things people do with it, so I don't
have to look far for inspiration. I grew up on my parent's record
collection (60's and 70's), 80's pop radio, and classical music. I first
realized I loved music when I was 4 listening to Bach. Michael Jackson
"Thriller" was the first album I bought. The Beatles were what made me
want to play guitar and I dropped everything in High School to learn jazz.
So I can't say there is one particular current to my interests other than
they are pretty diverse. I agree with the pop and soul reference,
particularly for this latest album, I was imagining what it would sound
like if Hall and Oats had a little more scruff.
Your first album brought out some comparisons to John Mayer (although I personally don't really see it)---what do you say about that?
It's funny, I never set out to sound like John Mayer, I actually thought
John Mayer was Dave Matthews when I heard him the first time. The funny
thing is, I knew John in college. We both went to Berklee. I was friends
with his girlfriend at the time. I had heard his demo there and thought
that is was ok, but nothing special. Then I ran into him in Minneapolis
right before he blew up. He had this enormous tour bus and all the guys
in his band were guys I knew from Berklee. It was kind of strange. So
someone could really build quite a case for how and why I want to be John
Mayer but the truth is he hasn't influenced me much. I admire a few turns
in his writing, and am happy that he has garnered so much success (he's a
great guitarist) but that's really it. If I saw him now I'd love to pick
his brain about how he's done what he's done.
Any chance of you guys touring outside of your home area?
That is the goal with this record. We're in the process of finishing up a
promotional video that should help get us into colleges around the
country. I will be heading up another college radio campaign like I did
for "Closet Pop". There is a simmering possibility that we will be doing
some touring in Europe, someone thinks that we'd do well there. I'd love
to find out.
Anything else you wanna talk about?
Huge thanks to Mish Mash for being my first record review ever! I have to
say it was pretty thrilling to work so hard to create something and
actually have someone who's never heard of me like what I've done. I've
since checked in with Mish Mash occasionally and have become a huge fan.
I can tell you're in this because you love music and frankly that's why
I'm in this, so thanks for everything and here's to love!
MISH MASH Mandate:Powerful Pop
Hanz Erik Website
HEY BANDS! OPEN YOUR ONLINE T-SHIRT
SHOP FOR FREE!
That Trane Built: The Story Of Impulse Records
by Ashley Kahn
W.W. Norton Publishers
Hardcover book, 352 pages
As every jazz fan knows, some of the best and most adventurous
jazz albums of the 60s and 70s are easily identified by their orange
and black spines; the eye-catching calling card of Impulse Records.
Created in 1961 by ABC Paramount, the Impulse legend has grown in
stature over the years, accentuated by the longtime association
with label resident John Coltrane.
In honor of the 45th anniversary of Impulse, author Ashley Kahn
takes a look back at the history of the label and its roster of
celebrated musicians. Kahn does a great job bringing the early days
back to life, showing how the label came about in the midst of jazz's
peak of popularity, how producer Creed Taylor established the look
and attitude of Impulse releases, and how Coltrane was brought on
board from Atlantic Records. Kahn then moves on to show how the
label grew into one of the most innovative and cutting-edge jazz
labels of all time, examing different artists and their albums in
depth. There are extensive interviews with those involved -- a veritable
"who's who" list in jazz -- including Taylor, Bob Thiele,
Alice Coltrane, Rudy Van Gelder, and one of the last interviews
given by Ray Charles.
In addition to the book, there will be a 4 CD box set collection
with selections spanning the history of Impulse, along with 10 separate
"best of" discs from various Impulse artists, including
John Coltrane, Chlares Mingus, Sonny Rollins, among others. A jazz
lover's dream come true.
MISH MASH Mandate: Jazz And The Abstract TruthImpulse Records Website
W.W. Norton Website
Chariots Of Fire
Theory 8 Records
10 song CD
TRACK = WALKING THE PLANK
When I first popped this one into the CD player, I could have sworn
it was Urge Overkill. So much so, I checked the liner notes to make
sure our old friend National Kato wasn't fronting a new band. Now
after a few listens, I'm assured enough to say that that UO could
only wish they sound as good as these guys. This is some killer
power pop, through and through.
The band dives right in with Walking The Plank, a driving track
that leans hard on big guitars and blistering drum riffs. It's catchy
stuff, but not enough to turn into a rock-n-roll cliche. The band
continues on this warpath, building their songs around classic rock-styled
guitars, infusing them with infectious power pop hooks that never
let up. They shake it up a little bit more on the funky groove of
Cut Up, which inventively features a horn section on the refrain.
MISH MASH Mandate: Uncontrollable Urge
Apollo Up Website
Children's Folksongs From
The Byron Arnold Collection
Alabama Folklife Association
42 song CD and 72 page booklet
TRACK = TIC TOC
Between 1945 and 1947, University of Alabama music professor Byron
Arnold traveled around the state to record traditional folk songs
as sung by the general population. This collection pulls together
42 different children's songs as sung by mothers and grandmothers,
who were recorded live by Arnold while he was out on location.
The recording techniques used by Arnold were rather primitive,
and this shows in the overall low fidelity of the tracks included
on the disc. Instead of detracting from the music, it adds a thematic
natural quality which could not be captured in a studio setting.
You can almost picture these women singing
The booklet includes an overview of Arnold's recording project,
along with song lyrics and short biographies of the actual singers.
Overall, the set is a beautiful piece of work, a valuable insight
into the folk music of the South, providing a rare-first hand glimpse
into America's rich musical past.
MISH MASH Mandate: Hop Into History
Alabama Folklife Website
The Tinnitus Made Me Do It
23 song CD
TRACK = AWAKENING
Here's a fun one to round out the last dog days of your summertime.
KS keeps it positive with this funky bunch of electronica-based
tracks, all sure to get you up and moving to the beat.
The tracks are all short and sweet, so KS makes his statement
with each one and moves on quickly to the next. There is absolutely
no time to get bored, with every song full of cool sound effects
and varying rhythms to keep you on your toes. As far as the sound
goes, it has a retro 80s synth feel, with plenty of modern-styled
beats to bring it up to date.
Part of the concept behind the album is to raise awareness about
tinnitus, as it is something that KS suffers with on a daily basis.
So let's all remember to turn it down (just a little) and hang
on to the hearing.
MISH MASH Mandate: Now Hear This
KS CDBaby Webpage
13 song CD
TRACK = SLAP HAPPY
The roster of guest musicians on Walter Trout's recent solo effort
reads like a list from the blues hall of fame, past and present:
John Mayall, Jeff Healy, Joe Bonamassa, Guitar Shorty, and many
others. With help like that, it's almost impossible to fail, and
Trout's album more than lives up to the expections of having such
From slow laid-back grooves to fierce, electric blues attacks,
song after song on the disc hits it just right. According to the
liner notes, many of the songs were done straight to tape as first
takes with no overdubs, and this is apparent in the loose, live
feel of the disc. It's not too polished, and that makes it really
sound like the blues should, warts and all.
MISH MASH Mandate: How Blue Can You
Ruf Records Website
The Never Beginning Story
New Wine Records
12 song CD
TRACK = SAILORS TRADING STORIES
The group Yesan Damen borrows from past and present to forge their
uniquely melancholy sound. The music reminds me of early 80s indie
college rock, while the vocals are delivered with the oh-so-heartbroken
style which is prevalent in modern alternative music. It's a nice
mix of styles, and it works well with their introspective lyrics,
which seem to focus mainly on spiritual themes.
The overall sound is pretty laid back, as the band takes its
time to dwell upon each tune. While on the surface this may sound
a little on the depressing side, it actually works in spite of
itself. Certainly more of a sit at home on a rainy day kind of
album, more so than one that makes you want to hit the highway.
So put on a pot of coffee and let's talk.
MISH MASH Mandate: Black Coffee In Bed
Yesan Damen Website
US vs. UK PUNK
16 song CD
OK, my first question is, how do you do an album pitting US punk
music versus that of the UK, without including two of the biggest
UK punk bands? Perhaps they were only trying to make it a fair fight,
but it seems to be quite pointless to hold such a battle without
the likes of The Clash or The Jam.
Even with those limitations, the album does a pretty good job
of doing a classic punk compilation without using the most obvious,
over-used tracks. For example, the Sex Pistols are represented
with a gloriously sloppy live version of "Anarchy In The
UK," and the Ramones are represented with "Beat On The
Brat". Some of the groups aren't worn out either: Generation
X, The Undertones, The Buzzcocks, Black Flag, and Dead Boys. So
at the very least we don't have to hear "Blitzkrieg Bop"
or Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" for the upteen-millionth
MISH MASH Mandate: Pugnacious Punks
Sanctuary Records Website
12 song CD
Carey Ott's voice has a fragility that keeps you sitting on the
edge of your seat. You hear the pang of pain and emotion, but there's
an underlying sense of optimism there that lets you know everything
is going to be alright.
It's a refreshing break from the sheer pessimism of modern rock,
giving us a glimpse of the positive without slathering the fake
smiles on too thick. An opitimistic pessimism? I'm not sure if there's
such a thing, but it seems to fit.
At any rate, Ott's songwriting also reflects this attitude, giving
us snatches of smart pop hooks without overloading us with too much
of a good thing. It's an intelligent approach to pop for those who
want a taste of the bittersweet.
MISH MASH Mandate: Refreshing Beverage
Dualtone Records Website
© 2006 Mish Mash Music Reviews, All Rights Reserved