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Reviews and Interviews for Blag’ard “Bobcat”
Bla’gard – Bobcat
Some people hailed The Loon by Tapes N Tapes as a near masterpiece because it put some balls back into indie music. The genre is home to plenty of groups who seem afraid of their amplifiers, such as Death Cab for Cutie and Bright Eyes, and that’s exactly why groups like Blag’ard need to exist. Heavily influenced by Polvo’s Today’s Active Lifestyles (Bias alert! – That’s one of the best CD’s of the 90’s!), Blag’ard blend elements of noise and whammy freakouts with straight forward, punkish indie rock. If nothing else, the best way to sum up Bobcat is with the word ‘fascinating’.
“Bachelor Party” is a pretty good example of a Blag’ard song: the chorus chords could totally have been swiped from The Toadies, and the verse is entirely based around natural harmonics. There’s one guitar and a drumset, but the sound never comes off hollow because of the noisy execution. The song goes out on a noisy 30 seconds of cymbal-filled crescendo—peak, and then the next song’s bizarre guitar lines begin. Each song functions on its weirdness as much as its groove, and because of that each song pretty much rules.
My main complaint about Blag’ard is that their vocals always seem kind of just tossed on last minute, and that’s because the two band members sing themselves. I understand the logic of not wanting to hire a third member since you already did everything yourselves, but the group would really have benefited from an enthusiastic frontman. As it is, songs are weighed down by what sounds like a really really bored version of Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong. However, with each listen the vocals became less and less important to me since the drums and guitar are like nothing else out there right now. You just have to get used to the fact that the singing isn’t meant to be the focal point of the music and then it’s all good.
There’s something really exciting about the two man approach, though. There’s no hassle or anything, two guys just walk into a room and record some jams. There should be minimal artistic differences and not too much battling for the spotlight, and (I have a point, I swear) the music should sound just really direct because of all that. The White Stripes totally sounded like exactly what must be going on in Jack White’s head, and Death From Above 1979 are something incredible in terms of precision. Right along those lines of logic stand Blag’ard, and the public eye doesn’t turn on these guys right away then I’ve lost all faith in the concept of ‘buzz’.
For Fans Of: Polvo, Sonic Youth
Bla’gard – Bobcat
We at Morkleson have had the pleasure of receiving numerous albums via mail in the past week or so. I may be chastised for stating as much, but I have not interacted with music in any non digital form with much frequency in…years? Blag’ard’s Bobcatalum was the first one I received and, well, owe it to the novelty of a small physical representation of their music or some tactile fascination I experienced handling the small piece of plastic, but I quite enjoy the album. Admittedly, my bias was skewed in a negative direction after reading the first few lines of their “bio,” mentioning their “hollywood” handsomeness, but the music itself was enough to swing me back the other way. Blag’ard is a two-piece from Chapel Hill, NC that plays honest, hooky, raw indie-rock songs. Their crunchy, lo-fi production style and winding song structure takes me back to the indie rock golden days when bands like the Treepeople were still out there killing it- relying more on emotion, grit, and strong song writing to propel the listener rather than heavily layered songs, walls of sound, or playfully quirky keys and xylophones. (Not that I’ve got beef with any of those). It’s refreshing to hear something erring on the side of the under-cooked, which is the same quality that draws me to bands like The Contraand Jay Reatard. Enjoy a few tracks from Blag’ard. If you crave more, you can head to their myspace page or to www.pigzenspace.com, where you can download the entire album.
Bla’gard – Bobcat
Top marks for bravado go to North Carolina duo Blag’ard who are described as “Hollywood handsome” and drummer Adam even has a great personality, to boot. Their music is a far more brutal beast, however, made up of crunchy lo-fi riffs and punk vocals. Nevertheless I found their first EP ‘Blank Faced Clocks’ endearing thanks to the no-nonsense focus on hook-laden songs. Can ‘Bobcat’ their first long player continue that trend?
In short, Adam and Joe can continue the trend. There’s no subtlety here just a set of short, incisive songs kicking off with an ode to Yul Brynner. There’s clever melodic twists abound; ‘Shame’ managing to work a chorus around the word “surgery” whilst ‘Dogskin’ and anthemic centrepiece ’Bachelor Party’ successfully bridge the gap between Placebo and old-school grunge. However, by the end of the record I did begin to tire of the formula; as the duo struggle to replicate their EP form consistently over the course of a full album. Having said that, penultimate song ‘Kick Out Queen’ features some excellent, urgent riffage.
Certainly the simplicity of the music means there’s no time for introspection, solos or even space to breath but Adam and Joe work the best out of an apparently limited setup of vocals, guitar and drums. So for those who like their music raw and uncomplicated, ‘Bobcat’ comes highly recommended.
How Blag’ard survived brushes with fame, F-150s and fatherhood
Gone fishin’: Blag’ard is Joe Taylor (left) and Adam Brinson
Blag’ard’s injuries have been numerous and fancifully acquired. The Chapel Hill duo of singer/ guitarist Joe Taylor, 36, and drummer Adam Brinson, 26, seems destined for near-misses and closeness-to-catastrophe. Lucky for us, that spirit of physical abandon translates to the band’s tightly wound, super-energetic rock music. As it’s been said, play what you know.Brinson, for instance, got hit by car in July. “A friend of mine was on one side of the street and I was on the other side,” he remembers. “He was crossing over to my side, and just to mess with him, I started crossing over to his side. I was watching him instead of traffic, and I got hit by an F-150. It threw me 20 feet through the air. I didn’t hit my head or anything, but my knee swelled up real big.” The same knee already sports a gnarly bite scar, courtesy one of Brinson’s four dogs.
“It was like a Hitchcock movie,” Taylor says. “I was at home washing dishes, and I dropped a plate. Just as it broke in half, the phone rang. It was Adam, telling me he’d just been hit by a car.”
Brinson and Taylor make a striking pair: Sitting on a bench outside of the Chelsea movie theater, Brinson bears a beatific Californian look, with long blonde hair and a beard, although he’s lived in North Carolina his entire life. Taylor is tall and imposing, with piercing eyes hidden under prominent brows and a distinctive grunge-era haircut—long on top, shaved almost bald around the sides and back.
Today, he has some fresh-looking stitches on his left forefinger. A sledgehammer accident, of course: “I could see the tendon in there,” says Taylor, “which allows the finger to extend. If I’d nailed that tendon my guitar playing days would’ve been done.” The scar on his finger will become part of Taylor’s physical record of crashes and scrapes, just like the older one under his chin. He explains that one best.
“A bar where I was working was having a private party. This guy got mad at me because his girlfriend was being argumentative, and I told them to get out. I was a little rude, not professional. So he came around the bar at me, swinging wildly like Captain Caveman. I’d taken like half a year of jujitsu, so I spun him around and pinned him on the ground. But I didn’t pin down his head with my forearm like I should have. I just had his arms pinned down to his sides and was looking down into his face, and I said, ‘How do you like me now?’ That’s when he bit me on the chin.”
Chaotic mischief, close calls and good stories drawn from weird mundanity: This is what Blag’ard is all about. The shenanigans are apparent on Bobcat, the band’s jumpy yet highly melodic debut LP, which profits from Brinson’s kinetic drumming and Taylor’s highly recognizable guitar style, at once lyrical and neurotic. His melodic lines skitter into queasy string-bends; for a vocal equivalent, imagine someone singing a sprightly melody but vomiting at the end of each line.
“If you know Joe and have a feeling for his personality, his guitar playing makes sense,” says Brinson. “You get the sense listening to it that this isn’t your ordinary person. I mean, look at his haircut.”
Brinson’s post-punky rolls and weird fills are a sure fit for that anxious guitar style. On Blag’ard’s debut EP, Blank Faced Clocks, drummer Bill Buckley provided a steady, classic rock-influenced backbeat. This pairing works better.
Taylor came to Brinson because of a common problem for musicians in their 30s: “When I moved back to N.C.,” Taylor says, “I was playing with a three-piece, and the guys I was playing with each got their significant others pregnant, and quit.” When Taylor recruited Brinson, he told him, “You’re going to get your girlfriend pregnant.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Brinson, now married, is the proud father of three-month-old Buck. But it’s another near-miss, as Taylor’s sticking with the band. They simply practice during the day, agreeing that one reason for keeping Blag’ard a two-piece is not having too many schedules to coordinate.
Taylor knows a thing or two about another sort of near-miss, too: During the Chapel Hill indie rock boom of the early-to-mid-90s, which vaulted bands such as Superchunk and Archers of Loaf to semi-fame, Taylor fronted Capsize 7, which was signed (and subsequently dropped) by major label Caroline. Taylor became understandably disillusioned with the record industry.
“We had our share of brushes with big labels back in the Capsize days,” he explains, “and when I was playing with Lystra in L.A., I got a few phone calls like, ‘You guys are great; you’re going to be the next whatever.’ They make you feel great for a couple weeks, and then you feel like crap because they’ve raised your expectations and nothing comes of it.”
So Taylor started Pig Zen Space, a burgeoning label through which he has self-released both Blag’ard recordings and some Capsize 7 seven-inches, and where he eventually hopes to release the “lost” Capsize album, which they recorded after being dropped from Caroline. The label’s online component (www.pigzenspace.com) will offer high-quality downloads of that music for a reasonable price: “I am no longer waiting for [Mr.] Mxyzptlk [a D.C. Comics trickster character] to pop out of thin air and sign me.”
Blag’ard’s unusual name comes from the phrase “Black Guard,” which Taylor discovered while reading a series of books on the British Navy’s role in the Napoleonic Wars. “One thing they would say as an insult,” explains Taylor, “is, ‘That was really blag’ardly.'” Such obscure details, drawn from life, inform Taylor’s lyrics as well. While many of the songs on Bobcatfocus on the usual stuff—emotional states, romance and so on—a few stand out for their curious subject matter and their strong sense of the local. “30 Flavors” laments Chapel Hill’s changing socioeconomic environment. “R.E.M. Song” deals with a secret (and ultimately nonexistent) R.E.M. show that was rumored to be happening at the Cat’s Cradle back when it was still on Franklin Street. It’s an outsized metaphor for thwarted expectations and a pseudo-mythical Chapel Hill indie rock past.Appropriately, Bobcat‘s cover ties these aspects of Blag’ard together—physical pain, failed expectations, humor and a little craziness. As Taylor and Brinson practice, a skinny woman in a bobcat suit crouches in front of the drums, staring at the camera. Taylor came back to Chapel Hill from Los Angeles to celebrate the birth of his niece, Olwen, four years ago. He was planning on returning to L.A., but an area front porch was having none of it.
“I got really drunk one night, and I was lying on a porch railing. I dared myself to roll off the railing, which was about eight feet up in the air. … I rolled off and broke my ankle, which facilitated me moving back from L.A. because I couldn’t work. So thank you, Olwen, for giving me that gift,” he remembers. “Then, she learned the words ‘vomit’ and ‘bobcat’ in the same week, and would get them switched around. So she would talk about the dog vomiting by saying, ‘Freddy got bobcat all over Maevy’s shoes,’ or ‘Maevy slipped in the bobcat.’ I just thought that was funny, and that’s where the title of the album came from.”
Here you have to pause and be thankful that Taylor didn’t choose Olwen’s other new word as his record’s motif. One can only imagine what the model for that photo shoot would’ve had to endure. Well, it’d make for one helluva Blag’ard story, at least.