Experimental

INTERVIEW

INTERVIEW: HXXS - Year of the Witch

Photos by Rachel Kuzma

Photos by Rachel Kuzma

We sat down with Jeannie Colleene and Gavin Neves of HXXS to talk about their relationship, working at Juicy Couture, and the HXXS sound. And people who steal your hard drive, forcing you to remake your entire album from scratch.

ThrdCoast: You said that people frequently misunderstand where you’re from, so what is the true story- or what is the story you want to give us?

Gavin Neves: She’ll tell you that I catcalled her.

Jeannie Colleene: I… will not.

Laughter

GN: That’s what you tell everybody else.

JC: It was! It was a creative catcall, it’s fine.

ThrdCoast: What was it?

GN: I used to busk on the street to pay my rent, and she came out on a break, and I sang a song.

Both: And that’s how we met.

ThrdCoast: That is a good origin story.

GN: And the rest is history.

JC: What song was it?

GN: It was “you can’t always get what you want” by the Rolling Stones, cause I’m that sad sack.

Laughter

JC: This was in Portland.

GN: I originally grew up in the Bay Area, San José.

JC: And I’m from Bakersfield, California. And we met in Portland.

ThrdCoast: How’d you get to Portland… separately?

JC: Oh gosh, I moved there to go to school, and had been living there for 5 years or so before I met him.

GN: I moved there for music, which was just dumb, really.

Laughter

GN: But I had never lived anywhere outside of California, so it’s just like I wanted to take a jump, live somewhere else. Everyone I knew that was playing music was like “come to Portland–Portlandia!” Everybody’s direct quote, and thing to convince you to move to Portland, was the TV show… which, in hindsight, was really sad.

ThrdCoast: Especially since it’s essentially a mockumentary.

GN: Yeah, exactly!

JC: But there’s a lot of truth to that… the parking day episode is real.

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ThrdCoast: So you met, you were singing on the street, you loved it–

JC: I didn’t really… I wouldn’t say–

GN: Well it’s been great knowing everybody, i’ll see you guys later.

Laughter

JC: I was working at the fucking mall…it sucked.

ThrdCoast: Where at the mall?

JC: Oh, this is funny. I actually used to be the assistant manager at a Juicy Couture. Things have changed since then. But I was on a break, and you asked for my number. And I was like, “I don’t normally do this,” like a bitch.

Laughter

GN: Oh she was such a jerk.

JC: Yeah, and the rest is pretty much history.

GN: No, it’s not, ‘cause–

JC: OH because I did something really dumb. I asked him to come over–I have a guitar–and I asked him if he could come and change my guitar strings…

Laughter

JC: It was the stupidest shit, like I don’t know how to do that on my own.

GN: What was really funny was I was lying about my age. She was like, “I don’t date guys unless they can go to bars,” and I said, “Yeah I can totally go to bars.” I was 20. And so every time she would ask me to go out to bar, I would be like “Ugh, I forgot my wallet.”

JC: Or he’d go, “I don’t like that place.”

GN: Until finally there was a place that she got me into… we won’t speak of its name… 

Laughter

JC: Oh, the place is probably gone now.

GN: It’s still there.

JC: Wow that’s so impressive… Yeah there was this bar across the street from my house, and I’m a die hard basketball fan, and there was a game on. Portland Trailblazers.

GN: I tried every excuse.

JC: He tried everything.

GN: I was like “ahh oh no, my wallet!”

JC: And I said “I want to go, I had a long day at work, I want to go, have a beer, and watch the fucking game.”

ThrdCoast: And you were like, “fine, but I’m 20!”

GN: No, I didn’t, I didn’t.

ThrdCoast: How long till you told her?

GN: I think on my 21st birthday she had to find out.

JC: Yeah. And I wasn’t–

GN: I just really liked her, and she was such a jerk about me being 21–

JC: He says I’m intimidating–

GN: She was! I just thought she was so cool.

JC: So we just walk into the bar, and they don’t ID him because I go there all the time to watch the games. And maybe a month later, your birthday came around, and I thought that it was your 22nd birthday, and then you were like “I, actually, it’s my 21st birthday.” I was more mad…not that he had lied, thats whatever–I get that I’m intimidating.

GN: You’re not intimidating–

JC: I can be, whatever. But I was like “it’s your 21st birthday, thats a big deal!” I didn’t take off work or anything, I was just mad that we didn’t plan anything to celebrate.

GN: Yeah I tried to be all nonchalant about it. I think I threw up in a Doritos bag on the way home.

Laughter

GN: It was on the floor, too, god.

JC: Yeah he’s a puker when he drinks tequila

ThrdCoast: Me too, I don’t know what it is about tequila.

Laughter

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ThrdCoast: So when did you start making music? How did dating turn into music and a band?

JC: Let’s see, we were living in a studio.

GN: I was making music, I was in a band.

JC: He’s always made music.

GN: I’ve been making music my whole life, I was in a band with really unreliable people, and I just got fed up and started making music on my own. And one day, I had a track, and was just like, “hey, you should sing on it.” Wait, no, it was at karaoke night! We did karaoke together–

JC: Dude, yeah!

GN: And one of her friends was like “you guys should be in a band together!”

JC: No, strangers!

GN: Maybe it was strangers?

JC: There was that weird couple, remember? We did a Talking Heads song, and that weird couple came up to us, and said “you should be a baaand!”

GN: I remember that, but I also remember doing Salt-n-Peppa, and I remember Monica coming up and pointed at us like “you two!” And to me that just never got out of my head, and I had a track, and asked if you wanted to do it with me.

JC: Yeah you had stopped doing your band stuff with people, and you bought a drum machine, and we had a garage at this house… it was actually really cool, it was a detached garage. And we started making music in there. And then you got the TR8, and a Casio… and, like, a memory man, and I was like, “what the fuck are you doing?”

Laughter

JC: And the neighbors were complaining.

GN: We got several noise complaints from the city.

JC: Oh my god, yes.

GN: ‘Cause of me.

JC: And then you brought home a Volca Beats, and you were like, “here.” And I was like, “huh,” and then got hooked, and did a rip off of an E-40 beat. And that’s kinda where it started.

ThrdCoast: How long ago was that?

GN: It was five… no it’s been almost seven years now.

ThrdCoast: So when did you guys leave Portland?

GN: 2013.

JC: I had a really good job, and then Juicy decided to close all their fucking stores, and I lost my job without 30 days notice and I kind of went insane–just lost all my stability.

ThrdCoast: They didn’t even give you notice?

JC: It was so fucked. It was even more shitty because like I’ve worked retail most of my life. And you get that signage, like “50% off!” And I open this box and it was like “50, 60, 70, 80% off” and I thought thats not normal, something’s up. But then the vice president of the company came to my store and said, “Your guys’ business has been so great, we’re gonna revamp your store next year, yada yada yada” and then within weeks, we were nothing. It was awful. But I’m also grateful, because it pushed me to do something different with my life. I turned around and got my severance package and bought a bunch of fucking gear with it.

GN: I sold all my old gear and bought new gear, which was ironic because I ended up buying the same gear over again later.

JC: It happens. And then we just decided to just start doing music. 

GN: Kissed Portland goodbye, sort of just hopped in the car.

JC: We left Portland–they were trying to raise our rent, it was like triple what it used to be.

ThrdCoast: What was your music like at that time? Like after Juicy, you just bought all this new gear.

GN: Oh man, it was weird. There was a lot of excitement. Also prior to that, I had a lot of dental issues that I was dealing with, and that also informed the music that I was making before we started. I did this whole experimental record straight to cassette tape, it was much more lo-fi noisy.

ThrdCoast: Were you able to get out a lot of that post-Juicy aggression on your music?

JC: Oh I’m sure.

GN: I feel like the post-juicy aggression is still going.

Laughter

JC: It was interesting, it was a new thing for me. I grew up doing music, playing the violin. I started in the first grade, and was in orchestra through high school. And it’s such a beautiful instrument, but I never felt that I could write with it, it’s so hard. Like, oh my god, no. I still have my violin, and I think that it’s beautiful, but writing with it is difficult.

ThrdCoast: The violin lessons were just something you had to do after school some days.

JC: Yeah, exactly. I loved music, I was surrounded by it. I’m a big time theater nerd, I grew up in a theater, did musicals. All of that. And I also was a dancer. So music, without it…

GN: All of these things are just so funny to hear, because when we play live–you would think these things would inform what we’re doing…

Laughter

GN: They’re gonna be like, “oh sick, I’m gonna go check this out!” And either they’re going to be terrified, or really into it.

ThrdCoast: I was enjoying watching some of your live sets online, I was like, “yeah I can get behind this.”

GN: Oh sick!

JC: It’s been different. It’s been really fun, a really fun learning experience for me.

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ThrdCoast: So the album name, ‘Year of the Witch,’ where did that come from?

GN: Originally it was titled ‘Year of the Witch Trial, or How I Learned to Love the Stake.”

ThrdCoast: Nice.

GN: But then we kinda felt that was too long.

Laughter

ThrdCoast: I actually like the fact that it’s too long.

GN: I kinda wanted to put that in parenthesis. I don’t know, [to Jeannie] do you want to talk about that, or do you want me to? ‘Year of the Witch’ is kind of like a metaphor for the ongoing climate of everything.

ThrdCoast: And the band name, do you say it Hexes? Because that’s what I’ve been telling people.

GN: Yeah. Originally it was just the fucking word, but then–I’m sorry, I keep cussing.

ThrdCoast: [Another ThrdCoast-er] OH! I’ve been just saying H-X-X-S.

GN: A lot of people do.

JC: That’s fine, you can hiss also.

Everyone takes turns hissing.

GN: I think the EP made people think it was just consonants, but the LP really drives the name home. Originally it was just Hexes, but there’s a DJ who was kind of coming at us sideways, and he has the name Hexes. So we were like, we’ll just drop the vowels.

JC: Whatever, joke’s on you, guy.

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ThrdCoast: Alright, so what started really influencing the HXXS sound? What were you drawing inspiration from musically?

JC: Oh gosh.

GN: All over the place. 

JC: Stuff that we grew up listening to.

GN: We’re big fans of the old New York guard. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, TV On The Radio, all those bands.

ThrdCoast: I think listening to it, at least from my listening perspective, there’s a lot of punkish anger–I grew up in DC, so like Fugazi, Bad Brains, all up in my jam. And like listening to it, I felt a lot of those similar aggressions that reminded me of that scene, in terms of just that energy. And I was just curious, where is that energy channeled from?

GN: DC hardcore, punk.

JC: I grew up going to hardcore shows in California.

ThrdCoast: Another great scene.

GN: Yeah like the Locusts, Blood Brothers, those are all big bands we draw from.

JC: All of it, the teen years.

ThrdCoast: The thing I heard TV On The Radio in is your production, which is first a huge compliment. But, specifically, in the separation of the vocals and the beat. I feel like there’s a lot of space in there for everything else to sit in… you’re smiling, not sure if that’s something you’re going for–

GN: Totally, I really appreciate that. Credit to Dave Sitek [pronounces it wrong, maybe]. Sitek? Dave, I’m going to pronounce your name that way I guess for the rest of my life. That guy was a big mentor to us the entire time we were making the record, and he gave me a lot of tips on what to do, and how to do it. And it was a huge, huge honor, so thats cool.

ThrdCoast: Did you do your own mixing?

GN: Yes.

ThrdCoast: Great. Let’s get deeper into the record-making process. So you finished the EP, and you started working on this LP. When you were going into it, how were you like “Okay we’re making an LP now, this is what we’re gonna do,” how did it start? I feel like it’s really different for people–the transition from an EP to an LP. What is that in your mind?

JC: Well… it’s complicated.

GN: We made the EP, and it was originally an LP’s length. We had a ton of songs. We worked with Angus Andrew of Liars, and he kind of abbreviated it to an EP. He said about a few, “these are really good songs, I’ll produce 4 tracks, or I’ll help you guys produce 4 tracks and then we’ll shorten it to an EP. You give them the 1-2, and make them come back for more.”

JC: It was all… trying to like, find a label.

ThrdCoast: There was some strategy behind it.

GN: Yes, definitely. But I was just speaking more in terms of writing. So from what was an LP, we finished the EP. And about a year later, we hit the road for six months. We were living in the van, and we just recorded everywhere we stopped.

JC: It was the longest tour ever.

ThrdCoast: The Lil’ Wayne model.

GN: Yeah.

Laughter

GN: Every single place. We just sampled anything we could get our hands on, because we had just gotten more into found sound and sampling.

ThrdCoast: What did you grab your samples with?

GN: I have an Octatrack now, and that thing is incredible. It used to be an MPC500, but that thing died. It was such a nightmare. Every single night that thing had an issue, and I was like “I love you, but I hate you.” But it’s a stalwart, so it’s definitely part of–when you think of sampling, the MPC and the 404 are the go-to’s. So that’s what the record was informed on. We had made two records previously to that, and it was all very synth-poppy, pretty stuff. But everybody was doing it, so were like no, we’ll make something on the road. It’s just going to be noisy and cathartic, and true to what we’re feeling an us.

ThrdCoast: I like that, it’s like an on the road diary.

JC: Exactly, it was.

GN: And it was right after the election too, and it just felt different. And everywhere we went was like, there was a different story to each sound. And going back, as we pieced it together, I feel like listening to whatever it was would just take me back to the exact place and time that we were. It still is.

ThrdCoast: So when you listen to the album you just hear all the locations, thats great.

GN: Yeah. So that’s kind of the story of Year of the Witch.

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ThrdCoast: And what was your post process like? After you got all the recording, did you do a lot of the main mixing on the road as well?

JC: No.

GN: We did.

JC: Well, originally we did.

GN: Originally we did. But then the hard drive it was on was stolen.

ThrdCoast: Oh no.

JC: So the whole record was stolen.

GN: So we had to start over.

ThrdCoast: I have a weird fear of hard drives getting stolen or breaking.

GN: I do too.

ThrdCoast: So I have way too many hard drives, I have like thousands of dollars of hard drives.

GN: That’s smart though, super smart.

ThrdCoast: It happened to me once, and I was like, never again.

JC: We wish we would have had that.

GN: We do now.

JC: But shit happens.

ThrdCoast: Did you have the stems, though?

JC: Some of them, not all of it. Pretty much the majority were gone.

ThrdCoast: Damn. Ugh. So you had to recreate a lot from memory?

GN: Pretty much all of it from memory, yeah.

JC: We had go “well, they’re still songs.”

ThrdCoast: It’s kind of like an adaptation then, almost. Like someone making a film out of a short story.

GN: Because the new stuff that we made, the second time around, sounded a lot different from what we had originally gestated. And so we thought “we have to start everything over, everything has to be cohesive.”

JC: It still stings, not gonna lie.

ThrdCoast: Just bring it out in the performance.

JC: And that’s the thing, too…

ThrdCoast: If anyone reading this has that hard drive, somehow it’s you, just hit us up.

GN: Oh we tried.

JC: We think we know who stole it.

GN: We know who it is, but…

ThrdCoast: Well never mind then, fuck you, whoever you are. Stop reading.

Laughter

ThrdCoast: Are you on tour?

GN: Yeah we’re on tour, 2 months.

ThrdCoast: When did it start?

JC: Last week.

ThrdCoast: How’s it going so far?

GN: Really good!

JC: You know, first week is always a little rough. You gotta get adjusted… and then second week, you’re like “this is… a normal thing people do… with their time.”

ThrdCoast: Exactly

Laughter

ThrdCoast: If you get to someone who is reading this, and then they’re going to go listen to the record, what do you want to tell them.

GN: I have… you’ve got magic in you. That’s kind of what this record’s about. Put it out there.


To check out these crazy cats live, you can catch HXXS on tour:

11/5 - KANSAS CITY, MO @ MINI BAR

11/6 - WICHITA, KS @ KIRBY'S BEER STORE

11/7 - DENVER, CO @ GLITTER CITY

11/8 - SALT LAKE CITY, UT @ GOLD BLOOD COLLECTIVE

11/9 - BOISE, ID @ URBAN FARM HOUSE

11/11 - PORTLAND, OR @ LOCAL CINEMA

11/12 - EUGENE OR @ OLD NICKS PUB

11/15 - SAN FRANCISCO, CA @ THE TREE HOUSE

11/16 - SONORA, CA @ THE WATER WHEEL

11/17 - BAKERSFIELD, CA @ RAIZ COLLECTIVE

11/19 - SAN DIEGO, CA @ THE WHISTLE STOP

11/20 - LAS VEGAS, NV @ CASA BONITA

11/21 - TEMPE, AZ @ KEYMASTERS

11/22 - ALBUQUERQUE, NM @ THE TANNEX

11/24 - DENTON, TX @ BACKYARD ON BELL

11/27 - AUSTIN, TX @ CHEER UP CHARLIES

11/30 - ROM, TX @ NOFEST 14

REVIEW

Alpenglow - Speculator

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By Jordan Feinstein

Alpenglow is a psychedelic indie rock band based in NYC. Their newest single, Speculator–off their upcoming album Oceans in Between–searches the bounds of space and time for a deeper understanding of the self. How focused on the future should you be, if that focus means your present is just passing time at work.

“Yeah it matters where you’re going, [but] take a moment to be out of ticking time,” he sings. Does existing solely in the present make you “adrift,” and does being adrift have value in itself? The song compares the narrator, working a barback job but spending his days out and about living life, with a second character who commutes and works a boring, full time job. More subtle than any conclusions as to who’s living their life correctly are the songs final lines: “Lay your life on my / I’ll give mine to you / Don’t mind if I stare / I know you’re staring too / I know you’re staring into.” Both of these characters wonder about what the other has, both of these characters wonder about what they’re missing. Look at me, it says, and don’t mind if I look at you. Maybe we’d both wonder less if we shared more together.

PREMIERE

Sivan Silver-Swartz - Sometimes and Sometimes Not

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By Gerard Marcus

Patience is a virtue. I heard this a lot as a child, and have learned to appreciate it more and more the older I get. There are a lot of things that can be gained from not being too hasty. Clarity, focus, wisdom–pretty much anything that requires more than a minor glance to perceive. Sivan Silver-Swartz’s new release Sometimes and Sometimes Not is an album that rewards patience.

Silver-Swartz's five track debut consists of four highly creative “indie rock” tracks sandwiching a beautifully simple song featuring piano and cello. The intricacy of the compositions, rich layering of sounds, and hard panning of percussion, guitar, and vocal elements is the first thing that captures your attention when diving into this record. But what fascinates me most is how Silver-Swartz utilizes time. Sometimes and Sometimes Not is about 42 minutes long with only five tracks. The shortest song is 7 min and 37 seconds. In case you’re wondering, most songs, especially those that fall into the world of rock, are between 3 - 5 minutes long. So what is Silver-Swartz doing with all that extra time?

Silver-Swartz is a composer. He currently is getting his MFA at Cal Arts and previously studied (along with myself) at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. Please take this with a grain of salt since I am not the songwriter, but having studied with him and knowing a bit about process of composition, I will say that one of the things you learn to appreciate in composition is sculpting sonic experience over time. And that’s what Sivan does so well over these 5 tracks. He introduces you to a sonic space and leaves you time to fully soak it in before moving onto the next one. This space not only encourages you pay attention to the details of the compositions, but also enhances other elements of the songs like their lyrics, giving them a weight that can only come from attentive listening. It’s a beautiful study on the usage of time in rock music, and a great example of the power of not doing things in haste. 



VIDEO PREMIERE

JOBS - Pink

Gerard Marcus

Perfection is weird; it's by its very definition never obtainable. According to Merriam-Webster, perfection is “freedom from fault or defect.” But who decides what’s a fault or defect? JOBS' new video for their single “Pink” considers that question at its core, turning what some people might see as faults into a video that is pretty close to that elusive perfection.

“Pink” the track is a wild combination of pulsing rhythms, distorted guitars, and surreal vocals that more directly evoke imagery than meaning. It’s a song of sensation that ask you to listen deep without any expectation of reward. Directed by Britt Ciampa, the video portrays two characters dragging objects through what seems like a parade of ghosts. JOBS' singer-guitarist David Scanlon’s distorted image is overlayed throughout, creating a beautiful collage of hyper-stimulating imagery. Britt Ciampa's work as a visual effects artist really shines in the video. Using visual ideas he discovered through failures at creating photorealistic fixes in his usual work as a vfx artist, he creates a visual language for this video that pairs excellently with the driving pulse and distorted sounds of JOBS track. He created perfection out of imperfection, and what’s more perfect than that?

REVIEW: mayako xo - mayako xo

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Phillipe Roberts

mayako xo makes a terrifying first impression. Visit the Bandcamp page for her self-titled record and the “single” you’re treated to, “Ma Says,” is less a warm introduction than an attempt to drag you into a personal vision of hell. Its grueling eight-minute length and monotonous, looped central riff forces your ear to lean in to the subtle inflections: a delightfully soured vocal note, alternating dissonant scrapes up and down the fretboard. And all of this strung together by the subtle horror of a Shel Silverstein poem.

“And I ain’t too smart,” she intones in a dark, ritualistic voice, “But there’s one thing for certain.” Your whole body stands at attention. A lone bass note wobbles and dissipates, carrying all the air in the room out with it. “Either Ma is wrong / Or else God is.” The original work contains none of this horror, but it’s mayako xo’s ability to read between the lines, to seize those empty spaces and twist them into something deadly, that makes the album such an enchanting listen.

For a record composed mostly of droning passages and spoken-word self-dialogue, the hypnotic nature of the music allows mayako xo to slip right past you with unexpected briskness. Rather than build up to ear-splitting crescendos or massive beat drops, the artist siphons off the energy; these songs collapse rather than explode, shriveling up in a heat-death coma of eerie silence. Opening track “The Ship” seems to take particular pleasure in catharsis denial. The instrumental is the busiest on the album, a romp through clattering tom-toms and tambourines and a menacing, see-sawing flute sample. Her voice rattles off pitch-shifted entreaties to be made whole: “I hear you want me / Can’t you call me / Deliver me to me?” And then the bottom end falls out, leaving her voice twisting and distorted, curling off like smoke trails into the darkness.

mayako xo likes her darknesses vast, with plenty of space and reverb to the backing tracks. They sound distant in contrast to her voice, giving the sense that she’s singing along to music playing through the walls of a vast hall or church. Her breathy melodies are gritty and drawn out, wavering in and out and frequently complemented by a harmonizer that adds a second voice in a different pitch. On “Mud,” this secondary presence mocks her, chanting “I’m not anyone / I’m not anyone,” like a grotesque, nagging inner voice amplifying her most self-defeating impulses. On “The Truth,” the effect is angelic, soaring weightlessly over a heavy, doom-inspired guitar drearily headbanging in tow. But throughout the record, she keeps this juxtaposition of space constant; her voice drives the music entirely, never enveloped completely by the encroaching horror breathing down her neck.

mayako xo is a brisk journey through warped mental states, an excavation of personal truth through hypnotic ritual. Sparse yet alluring in its seductive simplicity, it’s a labyrinth of emotion whose details have to be searched with bare hands, hugging the walls to keep track of where you’ve been. There may not be any climactic hallelujah moment on the other side, but mayako xo captures the beauty of wandering the internal maze.