IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE
J Church / Honey Bear Records Newsletter #9
Not Messing With Texas
NEW YEAR MEANS A NEW SINGLES CLUB ON HONEY BEAR RECORDS!!!
Yep, I'm starting the super, fucking limited edition Secret Society
Club ASAP. It's been years since the last singles club ended and I've
decided to follow-up that financial debacle with an even more absurd endeavor!
Six 7"s all featuring music from J Church, Cringer, Cilantro and
more will be coming out as part of the club. Each 7" will be limited
to 100 copies. That means that almost none of the records will be available
in stores. Whatever records are left over and I sell individually will
be considerably more expensive. You, dear reader, will be offered these
records at cost. With the price of pressing and the fact that we all just
got reamed with the new postal rates, that means a cost of $45 (postage
paid) to join. That comes out to a little over $7 a record which isn't
too bad considering the punk recession that we're in the middle of. You
can either join through the regular mail with a check or money order,
or you can join electronically with my new deal with Pay Direct (more
on that below).
Yeah, everyone has probably heard by now that we are doing a full US
tour in March with Propagandhi, Avail and Fabulous Disaster. Here are
the dates that I've gotten recently. Remember to double check your local
listings as everything is subject to change…
2 Rock & Roll High School - 1116 Main Street - Green Bay, WI
3 Cubby Bear - 1059 West Addison - Chicago, IL 60613
4 Bogart's - 2621 Vine Street - Cincinnati, OH 45219
5 St. Andrews Hall - 431 East Congress Street - Detroit, MI 48226
6 Agora Ballroom - 5000 Euclid Avenue - Cleveland, OH
7 Club Laga - 3609 Forbes Avenue - Pittsburgh, PA 15213
9 Wetlands Preserve - 161 Hudson Street - New York, NY 10013
10 Providence, RI - Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel
11 Trocodero Theater - 1003 Arch Street - Philadelphia, PA 19107
12 Peabody's - 209 21st Street - Virginia Beach, VA 23451
13 Winston-Salem, NC - Ziggy's
14 The Masquerade - 695 North Avenue N.E. - Atlanta, GA 30308
16 The Masquerade - 1503 East 7th Avenue - Tampa, FL 33605
17 Spanky's - 500 Clematis Street - West Palm Beach, FL 33401
18 Club 618 - 618 West Forsyth Street - Jacksonville, FL 32202
20 Houston, TX - Fitzgerald's
21 San Antonio or Austin, TX
23 Mesa, AZ - Boston's/Nile Theater
24 Los Angeles, CA - The Palace
25 San Diego, CA - Epicenter
26 Ventura or Pomona, CA - Ventura Theater or Glass House
27 Santa Cruz, CA - Palookaville
28 San Francisco, CA - Slim's or G.A.M.H
Okay, I think that there are four more gigs at the end. And we may try
to do a headlining gig at the very end in San Francisco. But this is all
I've got so far. Come early as we're playing second…
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THIS NEW "WEB SITE" THING
Yeah, everyone else has one so I felt like I really needed to get one
too. Now Honey Bear Records has a sight. Not to be confused with the official
J Church site (www.j-church.com), I have my own site, which focuses on
label stuff as well as other things connected to the label and the band.
Basically, it's all me, me, me, me… (although Liberty is the one
that did most of the grunt work). It's stuff I like as well as stuff I've
written. You can find my most recent newsletters as well as rants and
raves about different things. I've also got my whole mail-order catalog
up there as well. Please come by and sign the guest book. We put a panda
there to draw your attention. You can check it out at www.hbrecords.org.
YOU CAN BUY STUFF FROM ME ELECTRONICALLY
Yes, now that e-commerce is finally starting to bite the dust, I'm just
getting involved. Well, not really. Here's the deal. To guarantee you
get the records you want as fast as possible and to avoid the US postal
service stealing your money, you can now order and pay for stuff through
the Internet. Yeah, I've got a Pay Direct account with Yahoo. To pay for
your records (or whatever) with Pay Direct, go to the Yahoo home page
and click on "Pay Direct". You'll need to start an account.
But it's free and you've only gotta do it once. In the long run, it's
easier, cheaper and safer than ordering records through the mail.
WHAT FREAKS ME OUT ABOUT AUSTIN
Okay, I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that I live in Austin,
TX and not San Francisco. However temporary this move may be, I live in
Austin and will for, at the very least, another year or so. Hey, I could
be here for another five years if Liberty decides to get her PhD.
Guess what, I really like it here. It's nice. It's cheap. There are
great record store (although I really don't usually venture too much past
Sound Exchange). There seem to be bands playing all the time (but lets'
face it, I never used to go see bands in Frisco either…). Even the
food is turning out to be better than expected for a vegetarian.
There's a lot to love about this city, and it wouldn't surprise me if
at the end of our tenure here, we would still have thoughts about staying.
Now I love San Francisco more than anything. I like to think that it's
still my future. But like I've said time and time before, San Francisco
just isn't San Francisco anymore. I just can't get with that place at
the moment and I certainly can't afford it. So Austin it is…
And yet, something really freaks me out about Austin. It took me all
this time to realize why I feel like such an outsider here. It's not what
At first I thought that it was because I was the big A. Yeah, it's pretty
easy to feel like an outsider when you're Asian or Asian American. I've
felt plenty outside at times when traveling around the world. I've even
managed to feel more like an outsider because of my race in some places
in Asia. There's nothing like spending some time in Tokyo to make you
realize that you are Asian American and not just Asian… and certainly
I also remember when I lived in College Station. That was pretty scary.
I remember regular confrontations with racist kids at school. I remember
getting into fights and shit all the time. Hey, that was only third grade.
For the longest time, that was my impression of Texas.
But no, this is Austin. This isn't like anywhere else in Texas. In fact,
being Asian American in the middle of America never crosses my mind (which
it does all the time usually… but maybe I'm just insane…)
and I feel really comfortable. I mean, I'm surrounded by my peeps. There
are zillions of Asians all around me. First off, UT Austin seems to be
very Asian friendly. The department that Liberty is in (linguistics) seems
to be especially alluring (and for what reason I can't guess. It would
take a whole sociological study to understand.) to Koreans. UT Austin
= Asians galore. And most of these people are from the homeland. Shit,
they make me look like a cowboy.
Plus, there are a lot of Asians here who've got nothing to do with the
school. There are so many good grocery stores for Chinese, Korean and
Japanese food, it rivals the Bay Area big time. Plus, we're starting to
find the good restaurants. There seem to be loads of noodle joints in
So Cal style strip malls all over the place.
I also thought that Austin was freaking me out because of the lack of
"punker" types. Okay, I don't really look that "punk".
But I don't really look that normal, as far as middle America, either.
So hey, the normals kind of freak me out. It's still us versus society,
y'know. Plus, living in the Bay Area really skews your outlook on the
world. Everyone looks "punk" or "alternative" and
you forget that we all look like the X Games on crack to the rest of America.
The Bay Area is a safe space for people that can't look normal no matter
how hard they try. It's like a grunge comfort zone. If you live in Frisco,
you just need to take a trip up to Sacramento or down to Cupertino to
remind yourself that you are a freak and you should appreciate your home.
But the more time I spend here the more I'm starting to realize that
Austin is at the very least Number 2 as far as being the national freak
magnet. You spend enough time walking around Guadalupe and there are more
weirdoes then you can shake a stick at. There are punkers and indie kids
and Goths everywhere. I've seen death rock kids wearing all black, long
sleeves and full on corpse paint in 100-degree weather. Now, that's commitment
to a pose. I say this all as a compliment to the city.
And, no, it's not the lefty / anarcho thing. Come on! This is Austin!
The first week that I got here, some campus group was showing Chomsky
interviews as part of a video series. There's lefty stuff everywhere…
So what is it about Austin that freaks me out? What is it that's making
me feel like an outsider when I don't even feel like an outsider in other
countries? Why is my new home making me feel like a tourist?
Here is the main problem with Austin: Everyone here is too nice. I can't
take it. Everyone here is polite and they at least try to be helpful.
And guess what: they mean it. It's part of their fabric. They are genuinely
nice and polite. It's really, really, really weird.
I'm not used to people greeting me with a smile. I'm not used to people
at stores being attentive. Even the cool kids at places like Sound Exchange
and 33 Degrees are really, fucking nice. And, yes, it's totally freaking
Okay, in California, if someone is nice and you don't know them, what
does that mean? It usually means that either they want something from
you or they've done something bad that they're covering up. Hey, I've
done it. I know the score. Its just part of the unwritten code that is
living in California (or New York or most big cities). It's one of the
principle left coast cultural mores.
But in Austin, most people are just plain nice. If they aren't nice,
they've probably moved here from somewhere else. Even then, the nice-ness
bludgeons the weak into submissive friendly-ness or at least perkiness.
It's like a mild form of the Stepford Wives, except that it's the Stepford
Now usually this doesn't bother me. This niceness becomes the butt of
my jokes (hey, it already has) and that's it. But here, it's making me
feel really weird. I'm starting to wonder if being bombarded by niceness
is making me realize that I'm not nice at all. Hey, I'm kind of a dick!
I'm kind of a sardonic asshole. Oh well. Live with it, Texas!
IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM…
ACTION TIME - The Time Versus The World LP
Hey everybody, London is really fucking different from anywhere else on
the planet. I mean, it's even kind of weird compared to Glasgow and a
lot of cool weird shit happens there. Despite what you know or you think
you might know about London, there is always something weird going on…
The Action Time is a shameless and un-fuckedwith-able outfit of boys
and girls who have successfully merged the old with the new to create
something that is sorta unique and wholly odd. I mean this as the highest
I once said that they were a crossbreed of Huggy Bear and early Dexy's.
But with this full length, that's only part right.
Drums, guitar, and bass are augmented by flash keyboards and even more
flash female backing vocals. It's a combination that works for a lot of
bands and it's a formula that I'm surprised isn't copied more often. Think
Girlfrendo and how they make it work for pop. Think the Headcoatees and
how they make it work for garage. The list really can go on for pages…
But Action Time also can't be pinned down to one format. Sure, there's
a big `60s feel to the whole presentation and the wall of Vox amps is
a visual aesthetic as much as aural. But add to the mix an underlying
current that in some ways is reminiscent of Northern Soul, which as an
American only reminds me of Motown. It's the spirit if not the actual
I don't know if they would consider this a compliment (a lot of bands
don't and it's a shame) but there's a certain looseness that works for
them. It's something that goes back to what I was saying about London
being unlike anywhere. You can go see a band like this, who is a little
loose in performance, and they are taken as seriously, if not more so,
as the most technically proficient bands. Hell, it's a style.
There's nothing more generic than a band that hits every note perfect
and spends all of its energy trying to hit those notes perfectly. No personality.
The Action Time is confident and that confidence over-rides any and all
need for musical critique. The songs are good. The band can play them.
The songs are fitted to the bands ability. It's what they do, so fuck
And it all sounds really great. The first time I heard the band, it
kind of reminded me of the first time I heard the Huggy Bear side of their
split with Bikini Kill. All these classic elements mixed up with that
pathological confidence that made something totally new. There might not
be a movement behind the Action Time. But it could just be a matter of
time. (Southern Records, PO Box 59, London England, N22 1AR, www.theactiontime.com)
ACTION TIME - The "Rock And Roll" 7"
The a-side is from their debut album. But this is worth tracking down
for A) the nice packaging, B) a new rant from the kids and C) a great
non-LP b-side called You've Got To Escape From All The Heartbreak and
Pain Of Living In The World Today. Really, don't you need to have that
song title? (Southern Records, PO Box 59, London England, N22 1AR, www.theactiontime.com)
GRANDADDY - A.M. 180 / Here 7"
I've been avoiding this band like the plague. I mean, all that hype? At
best, I'd find them (or him) over-rated. But what do you know, I really
like this. Okay, there must be some relation to Sparklehorse here. If
not, I think someone owes someone some royalties. It's sweet swinging
pop with those innocuous Mr. Rogers vocals that you either love or hate
(I love it, but I'm an indie pop loser).
This would almost be pop punk and Weezer or something, BUT then they
do "something". I don't know. I like Weezer and I like a lot
of pop and pop punk. I like this, but I don't understand why all you have
to do is one little weird thing and suddenly you're on a whole new level
of sophistication. In this case, it's a weird little keyboard riff that
forms the main hook of the song. It's great and I dig it. But does a Casio
keyboard represent the fine line between genius and stupid?
I actually like the b-side just as much. As you might have guessed,
it's a Pavement cover. A nice distorted version of what I think of as
the Pavement's greatest moment to date. (Big
Cat, PO Box 3074, London, W11 4GY, UK)
JUNIPER MOON - Volveras? 7"
Wow! This band might be God! This is the kind of powerful pop punk that
can totally re-inspire you when everything around you sounds like the
Warp Tour. Needless to say, this band is not from the states. I'm starting
to think that nothing this inspired could come from anywhere touched by
MTV and KROQ style radio.
Juniper Moon is three guys and a girl from Spain who belt out some of
the liveliest music I've heard in ages. All five tracks on this little
piece of vinyl is catchy and exciting and just barely long enough for
you to need to play it over and over again to prove to yourself that,
yes, it is that brilliant. I haven't been this excited about a punk band
since the first time I heard Discount.
Elefant Records are no longer the big secret. Get `em when you find
`em. They're getting pretty good and this is the best release since Eggplant.
PO Box 331, Las Rozas, 28230, Madrid, Spain)
JUNIPER MOON - Basado En Hechos Reales 7"
From Spain come four more great songs following up that amazing first
single. Just as essential as Volveras? and I'm hoping
that next up is a full length.
Shit, it makes me a little sad because all the lyrics are in Spanish
and while I love that (in fact I think it's part of this band appeal).
That means that they will probably never come over to the states. Nope.
Big dumb Americans can't read sub-titles and they won't listen to non-English
Don't be another big dumb American. Get this record and don't miss out.
PO Box 331, Las Rozas 28230, Madrid, Spain)
KICKER - Get Rid Of Him / Turning Left 7"
Now that Space Rock and Space Lounge and all this shit are dead, what
do you call this kind of music? Kicker are two boys and two girls who
I've just unfairly categorized with two pretty dated terms. But, hey,
I like "indie rock" and most of you like "punk rock"
and I can't think of two more dated terms. So, yeah, Kicker might very
well be London's most recent answer to Yo La Tengo. But that's cool. They
don't sound just like Yo La Tengo and they don't sound just like Stereolab
although I'll bet that their collective membership could come up with
at least five records from each band in their personal record collections.
Okay, it's a little derivative. But it's still quite nice and both sides
are good enough pop tunes to have been the a-side. Now that Yo La Tengo
are trying to sound like Stereolab and Stereolab are trying to sound like
a Mentos ad, I welcome this single with open arms. I still collect records
from both Yo La Tengo and Stereolab hoping and praying that their new
material will sound like Kicker. But I'm usually disappointed. Remember
when Sonic Youth started getting like that and suddenly we all discovered
Polvo? I'm hoping for the same thing will happen here.
So, here is Kicker with some scintillating pop music. Nice vocals, bright
guitars and keys and catchy songs. (For Us Records, Kicker, 8 Milton Ave.,
London N6 5QE)
KICKER - Said And Done / Chncifer 7"
Second single (I think) from London's Kicker is not as immediate as their
debut. Two tracks that venture deeper into Stereolab Emperor Tomato
Ketchup landscapes and maybe even a little Loaded era Velvets.
It's pop music with blasé form characterized by methodic drum rhythms
and repetitious guitar down strokes. It's funny, but it's a form and style
that can be found in a lot of Velvets stuff (which obviously must influence
Kicker as well as Stereolab). But it's more pronounced on the first Modern
Lovers record. The a-side of this single (which is brilliant the longer
it goes on) owes a lot to Road Runner and Someone I Care About. (The
Track And Field Organisation)
LIFE WITHOUT BUILDINGS - The Leanover 7"
Who is Sue Tompkins and what is going on in her head? Take away Sue Tompkins
and you've got a pretty nice little indie rock band with some definite
emo type leanings. Catchy tune with some interesting and understated guitar
work. Really pretty. Check what I said about emo leanings. It's sort of
like Joan Of Arc. It's okay. It's good. But it's not something I'd remember
in a few months.
But add to that Sue Tompkins crazy, sociopathological vocals and you've
got one of the best singles of the year. She rambles and rants in what
appears to be random snippets of various conversations she's heard just
walking down a busy street. But her reading is in tune with the music.
She doesn't really sing (except for one great moment) but chats along
to the rhythm. It's fantastic and it will grab your attention. You've
never heard anything like this. (Tugboat
Records, 66 Golborne Road, London, W10 5PS)
JOHN LURIE - Big Trouble / She's Not A Nurse 7"
John Lurie is brilliant. He's the closest thing that we've got to a renaissance
man. Shit, Fishing With John? Inspired and for so many
reasons. But long before I saw that show, I was a fan of the music. I
love the Lounge Lizards (especially the first records) and I really dig
a lot of Lurie's soundtrack work. He's brilliant.
If you don't know that much about him, this may be a weird introduction.
This may not sum up his talent, but it sums up his personality. Side A
is a fantastic slow jam of trip hop style free jazz with Lurie telling
stories like Gil Scott Heron over the top. But these stories are funny
as hell. The b-side is a full on punk track that is so unexpected, we
(the royal "we" as all fans of John Lurie) can only love him
more. Shit, it's not a great punk song. But it's good and you gotta love
him (and give him props) for doing it. (For Us Records, no address)
V/A - Ho! #1 Roady Music From Vietnam 2000 CD
I've always wanted to go the Vietnam, not only because of my personal
interest in the American War, but also because I love culture shock. I
thrive on that specific kind of fear of the unknown. I find it an exciting
justification in my belief that all moral codes and religious / political
doctrines are synthetic and fabricated in the self-interest of whatever
society or culture created it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah... More anarchist rhetoric… But think about it
this way. Culture shock is like taking acid for the first time. It's a
shock to the system and a shock to the brain forcing you to re-evaluate
your so-called reality. Acid made me question reality around me. As a
result, it made me question my entire belief system. I felt the same sort
of thing the first time I got lost in a crowd in Hong Kong.
But for those of you who aren't up for eating liberty caps in downtown
Ho Chi Minh City, here's a record that will, at the very least, blow your
mind. This is street music from Vietnam and there's nothing in the world
This CD is a collection of field recordings done out in the streets
of Vietnam. It documents the street musicians and others as they play
their music for the sake of music (and usually some spare change). There's
everything here from traditional folk music to full on noise and a lot
of weird aberrations in the middle.
There are several groups and performers here whose style exists to accommodate
performing in the streets. Eo Sinh and Nam Nao are a daughter and father
duet. She sings and sells Lotto coupons while he plays electric guitar.
The sound is nice and gritty as the vocals are sung with a megaphone and
the guitar is powered by a moped battery. Their song is a Viet Cong love
song called VC Love Song. Nam Nao is also blind. I mention
this because it seems like most of the street musicians are handicapped
or deformed in some way, either from being in the war or from side affects
of Agent Orange.
Some of my favorite stuff is the crazy punk-like noise of Santana V
and the Dead Man's Orchestra. Santana V are a trio that blast out weird
garage or surf like noise with drums, guitar and trumpet/flute.
The sound is great and the drums sound perfect. Dead Man's Orchestra
is just that. They are a "marine-style funeral combo sounding like
some New Orleans-Trash-Punk-Free Jazz…" The drums blast away
at warp speed and the horns charge in like Albert Ayler on crack. I'm
not really sure if it's a group of immensely talented musicians going
out of control or a well-orchestrated piece of music being performed by
crazies. Apparently, part of the cacophony comes from the fact that brass
instruments can never stay in tune in Vietnam due to the climate.
There's a lot more great stuff here but nothing that could accurately
be described as "rock". Though I'm guessing it's not true, I'm
wondering if Vietnam is one of the few places where punk just didn't stick.
Who needs guitar solos when you can have badass mouth organ solo!
There's a real funny phenomenon in the punk world to search out punk
rock and hardcore in every corner of the globe. Like it's some sort of
sign that punk is winning by finding a band doing Ramones covers in Uzbekistan.
I have to admit; I'm fascinated if not strictly for sociological reasons
(slowly, that's becoming the extent of my interest in ALL punk).
But in some ways I find it really disappointing because it usually is
an indicator of how narrow the scope is of most punks' musical interest.
The very people who you would think would be the most open to new and
outrageous music are the ones with the narrowest musical boundaries. It
sucks and it makes me feel like punk and hardcore bands in all these countries
are just another part of American Imperialism in the world. It's cultural
imperialism and we're gentrifying the neighborhood.
Of course, that's a bit of an over-simplification. But it makes me sad
when I meet someone who I think is really cool and interesting. Then one
day I'll happen to check out their record collection and find that there's
nothing but punk rock. You may have 1,000 records in your collection.
But if it's all punk and hardcore, you're as closed-minded as your grandparents.
(Trikont, Kistlerstrasse 1, Postfach 901055, D 81510 Munchen Germany)
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