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Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012
The seven-year intermission between Alice Smith's first and second album is nearly over. PopMatters joined her midway through the wait.

Alice Smith is discussing “Break”, the song that opens each show of her three-week residency at Joe’s Pub in New York City. “Who is going to save you from yourself?” goes a line in the bridge. It’s a question that could be directed towards friends and lovers alike. At the moment, however, Smith’s target includes label executives whose seeming expertise guides recording careers: “Who is going to save you from yourself and your stupid decision?” Tinged with exasperation, her voice crescendos. “Where’d you get your job? Out of a crackerjack box?”


That conversation was two years ago when Alice Smith was signed to Epic Records. Two years later, she’s extricated herself from the “crackerjack” brigade of her former label and is planning the follow-up to For Lovers, Dreamers & Me (2006), the album that landed her atop critics’ lists and netted her a Grammy nomination in the Best Urban/Alternative category. Slated for a winter 2013 release, She is being funded by Smith’s fervent fan base via Kickstarter and without the meddlesome hands of a major record label.


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Tuesday, Oct 9, 2012
Shonen Knife's Naoko Yamano dishes the goods on J-rock, the Ramones, and candy.

Sometime around 1980, three girls from Osaka, Japan, fell in love with the Ramones. Unsatisfied with being mere fans, one of the girls, Naoko Yamano, finagled a guitar somewhere and learned the three chords necessary to play along with her Ramones records. Her sister, Atsuko Yamano, was recruited on drums and with friend Michie Nakatani on bass, the three took Japan, if not by storm, then at least by siege.


Playing high-energy power pop with lyrics about simple pleasures like collecting insects and eating cookies, Shonen Knife developed an almost cult-like following both at home and abroad. By the end of the ‘80s, the band was touring the U.S. regularly, playing with devotees like Red Kross and Sonic Youth. The group became a college radio darling with the release of its first U.S. album, Let’s Knife, and a track on the influential Sub Pop 100 compilation led to a tour with Nirvana at the height of its fame.


Part of the appeal of Shonen Knife is that the group seems straightforward and mysterious at the same time. The vocals are syrupy sweet, but the guitars are like gravel. The band members pioneering figures in terms of women playing rock, but they almost refuse to admit it. And for all the lightheartedness and fun, there’s a distinctly Japanese sense of melancholy running through many of their songs.


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Tuesday, Oct 2, 2012
Henry Rollins is embarking on tour, but this time it's more than music: this time out, Henry Rollins is talking about the joys of capitalism, and why we need to remember how important it is leading up to the election. He tells PopMatters all about his venture ...

As a guy that’s riffed on everything from the endless joy he gets from 7-11 convenience stores to walking down a sketchy street in Pakistan, these days Henry Rollins is exactly what he claims to be: a human delivery system. Rollins delivers facts and stats, cites the Constitution, and tells about his extensive world travels with sharp wit and a focused vitriol.


While some might peg Rollins as an artist of some ambiguous fashion, he denies possessing any sort of legitimate talent.


“I’m a truck driver with all of this stuff,” he said.


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Tuesday, Aug 28, 2012
Experimental post-hardcore act Pierce the Veil has gone from a band on the verge to main stage scene-kings on the Vans Warped Tour. The band sits down with PopMatters to make sense of the wild ride.

While Warped Tour serves as a platform for showcasing some of the best and biggest acts in the post-punk scene, it has long been recognized as the proving grounds for young bands looking to make a name for themselves.  Spending the summer traveling by van, in close quarters, with little food or access to showers and basic hygiene tends to be a good way to find out what your band is made of.  In 2008, San Diego act Pierce the Veil headed out on Warped Tour in support of its debut album A Flair for the Dramatic and has been making notable strides ever since.  Its 2010 follow-up Selfish Machines saw a huge improvement in overall quality from the post-hardcore act and was followed by the group’s second full run on the tour.


This summer, the band celebrated the release of its accomplished new album Collide With the Sky by rocking the main stage on it summer-long stint, and in the process has become a shining example of hard work paying off.  With a continually growing fan base and persistent knack for expanding its experimental sonic boundaries, Pierce the Veil is on a trajectory that could soon land it as one of the top billed acts in the scene.


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Tuesday, Jul 10, 2012
by Warren A. Miller IV
Often written off as a one-hit wonder, Nada Surf proves to be a band with depth, tenacity, and an enviable work ethic.

Nada Surf was thrust into the spotlight of a booming alternative music scene back in 1996, when the band’s quirky debut single, “Popular”, became, well, popular. Two years later, when the Brooklyn-based trio turned in its sophomore album, The Proximity Effect to record label executives at Elektra, the executives were none too pleased. The album lacked a “Popular”, they said; it had no catchy single that would spur interest in the record and generate sales. When the band rejected the label’s request to alter the album, Elektra refused to release it in the United States, and Nada Surf and the label decided to part ways.


Although they had long been dismissed as a novelty one-hit wonder, Nada Surf soldiered on. They acquired the rights to The Proximity Effect from Elektra and released the record on their own label, MarDev, in the United States in 2000, touring extensively throughout the country to support its release. Without the backing of a major label behind them, however, both record sales and show attendance were generally disappointing.


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