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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

You’ve probably never heard of Klangstof. If that’s indeed the case … you really need to change that.

From Amsterdam, the group has been performing together since 2015, and is now signed with Warner Bros. This year, Klangstof became the first Dutch group to ever play at Coachella.

Front man Koen van de Wardt stopped by the media tent on Friday, April 21, and chatted with me about his Coachella experience.

“It’s been amazing,” van de Wardt said, beaming with a smile. “It’s been everything I expected and a little bit more. It’s our first United States festival date, and it’s a very cool one as a first experience. Everything has been so overwhelming. All these people are walking around. Obviously, the heat is horrible, but you try to deal with it.”

Van de Wardt said the band has played at festivals in Europe—but the experience here is rather different.

“American crowds are very honest,” he said. “If they don’t like anything, they’ll (complain) right away. If they love it, they’ll be screaming. In Europe, it’s like people wear a mask. You can’t really read them as you would American people. I really love playing Coachella—because whenever you play a good song, people notice it right away. You can really feel the vibe of the audience right away.”

Klangstof’s indie sound may be a tough sell in America, but van de Wardt said he hopes people will keep an open mind.

“I wouldn’t call it a struggle, but we definitely need to work a lot harder playing in America,” he said. “We have to take way more extra steps to get going here. But I think if we work hard to get that done, people will understand at last. We’ll get there.”

Klangstof will soon go on tour with the Flaming Lips—one of the craziest live psychedelic-rock bands in the world. A look of excitement came over van de Wardt’s face when I asked him about it.

“I’ve never seen them live before, so that’s going to be a first for me. I really can’t wait to see the unicorns, the confetti and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “I also like to tour with a band that inspires me—the bands you watch and say, ‘Now I’m inspired to write new music.’ I think the Flaming Lips are the perfect band to go on tour with, because they’re so different. They really do their own thing, and I’m looking forward to asking them how they do it and how they record their music. For me, it’s going to be a great learning process.”

Van de Wardt also talked about Radiohead’s glitch-filled performance last week.

“I really enjoyed Radiohead last week, even though they had all those sound problems,” he said. “I’ve seen a perfect Radiohead show before so many times, and I was curious to see how they coped with such a big problem. It was inspiring and very cool to watch a band cope with such a problem.”

I asked him what he thought about the cult of Lady Gaga, which is most definitely present at Coachella this year. He said he understood it—even if he doesn’t share warm feelings for the Saturday headliner’s music.

“I actually fell asleep during Lady Gaga because I was so tired,” he said. “That's definitely some kind of music I don’t understand myself, but I do understand it’s poppy and catchy, and people love it. But I always find it hard to trigger me. I do understand why she’s popular. I was awake for it for about 15 minutes, and I understand that it really works—how she does it onstage, and every move she makes. It’s very well-thought through, and it works great.”

Klangstof said the band is already booked through December.

“We’re doing the Flaming Lips tour first, going through the United States as well, and then we’re going to run through some festivals in Europe. After that, I want to rent a cabin in Norway, get the band in, set up our equipment and be there for three months.”

Coachella finally caught on to the craft-beer revolution with the birth of the Craft Beer Barn in 2014. When it comes to weed, however, the festival seems to be further ahead of the game, thanks to this year’s introduction of a WeedMaps-sponsored cannabis lounge for VIP ticket holders—just a few months after legalization was approved by California voters.

Meanwhile, another marijuana event, located just a couple of miles from Empire Polo Club at the corner of 50th Avenue and Calhoun Street in Coachella, could not get off the figurative ground.

Kushella Life was a cannabis festival open to the public, with free admission for Coachella Valley residents, slated for both Coachella weekends and Stagecoach weekend. Organizers worked with the city of Coachella to secure all permits required to enable the legal consumption of marijuana on the festival site. Produced by the Coachella Grow Association and Coachella Ventures, Inc., the festival was a place to purchase and consume cannabis for Coachella attendees and valley residents alike.

However, typical bureaucratic delays prevented permits from being issued until the event date was a mere three weeks away, which left organizers with an unfortunately short amount of time to recruit vendors, promote the event and book musical acts.

“We agreed to meet with the sheriff and a contingent of residents, and we did. Everyone was agreeable to the plan we laid out,” said executive producer Freddie Wyatt via phone from Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 17, after Kushella’s opening weekend. He had already traveled to another event to help Kushella Life organizers cut their losses. “Everyone with the city of Coachella, from the fire marshal right on up to the mayor, was an absolute pleasure to work with. They were on board. They wanted to do it, and they wanted to do it right, which we appreciated.”

Alas, the cooperation was too little, and way too late. Attendance was estimated at around 1,000 on Saturday, April 15, the festival’s biggest day.

“Peak time was Saturday, and next weekend should be bigger. With three weeks to promote, that’s about what we expected,” Wyatt said during that Monday, April 17, phone call.

There were high hopes for the second weekend of the festival, which was slated to start a day early in celebration of 4/20—but it was not meant to be. On Wednesday, April 19, organizers decided to pull the plug and cut their losses.

“Our sincere thanks to the city of Coachella, its mayor, councilmembers and management,” said an announcement on the Kushella Life Facebook page. “Thank you all for your support! Due to circumstances beyond our control, Kushella Life will not move forward as planned, and has been cancelled. We are hopeful that the event will return in late 2017. Once again, thank you, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

Wyatt remained optimistic when I texted him on the day of the cancellation. “Yes, we will retool and be back for next year, for sure!” he said. “We were obviously over-equipped this year, but that’s the plan.”<hr


Canada Moves Toward National Legalization

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation on Thursday, April 13, that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The proposed change would take effect in July 2018. Canadians would then be able to purchase flower, extracts and edibles from licensed shops, and grow up to four plants. While the change would allow Canadians 18 and older to possess up to 30 grams of dried flower, provinces, territories and cities could pass more-restrictive laws, if desired.

If passed, Canada would join Uruguay as the only countries to completely legalize cannabis for recreational use.

The bill’s introduction was the fruition of a campaign promise Trudeau made in 2015 to end the Canadian prohibition of cannabis. In the announcement, the Canadian government said ending prohibition “would mean that possession of small amounts of cannabis would no longer be a criminal offense and would prevent profits from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.”

Down here in the United States, cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I narcotic, meaning cannabis-industry finances are excluded from Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) protection. This has made investors wary, meaning that billions of dollars could go to Canada and its more-cannabis-friendly banking environment rather than being spent in the U.S.

It remains to be seen if this will happen. We may find out over the next year ...


U.S. Senate Considering ‘Path to Marijuana Reform’ Package of Bills

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to be increasingly alone in his quixotic anti-pot crusade.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly recently went on Meet the Press and said, “Marijuana is not a factor in the Drug War,” and in late March, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, unveiled the “Path to Marijuana Reform,” a bipartisan package of bills to address banking, taxation, civil forfeiture, decriminalization, descheduling, research and regulation of the booming cannabis industry.

The package includes the Small Business Tax Equity Act, which would create “an exception to IRC section 280E to allow businesses operating in compliance with state law to claim deductions and credits associated with the sale of marijuana like any other legal business.” Section 280E is a 1982 law meant to prevent illicit drug-dealers from claiming deductions related to the sale of narcotics. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) is a co-sponsor of Wyden’s bill in the Senate, while Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) is sponsoring companion legislation in the House.

The Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act would remove federal penalties and civil-asset forfeiture from individuals and businesses that are in compliance with state marijuana laws. The law would ensure access to banking, bankruptcy protection and advertising for marijuana businesses; expunge criminal records for select marijuana-related offenses; and ease barriers for medical-marijuana research. It would also end drug-testing requirements for federal civil service jobs in states where marijuana has been legalized.

The third bill, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. It would impose a federal tax structure on pot products, define permitting for marijuana businesses, and regulate cannabis much like alcohol has been regulated for decades.

“This is common-sense legislation that will eliminate the growing tension between federal and state marijuana laws,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement on the organization’s website. “Voters and legislatures are rolling back antiquated state marijuana prohibition policies, and it’s time for Congress to step up at the federal level. States are adopting laws designed to improve public safety by replacing the illegal marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of production and sales. The federal government should be working to facilitate that transition, not hinder it.”

Published in Cannabis in the CV

The diverse and impressive musical lineup makes the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival one of the most popular events in the world—but it’s the food and drink lineup that rounds out the experience for many festival-goers.

Nic Adler, who also puts on Eat Drink Vegan in Pasadena, has been curating the food at Coachella for four years. I recently had the chance to interview him.

How has the food and drink morphed at Coachella since your first year working on it?

In many, many ways. … There are a lot of things that happen back-of-house to make restaurants and vendors successful front-of-house. For many years, the vendors that we used—and still use—at Coachella have been used to vending at high-volume events. However, a lot of the restaurants that I brought in were not used to being in front of 100,000 people. They might do a food festival with 4,000 or 5,000 people, but nothing on the level of what we’re doing at Coachella. So, there was a lot of work to do … for us to understand how vendors work, what their needs are, and how to deal with chefs. Chefs are artists, and they’re used to very specific things. They know their kitchen. They know where everything is. They know that everything’s working. That’s not always how it works when you come out to a large festival like Coachella.

Putting together the right team to support these chefs, restaurants, bartenders and mixologists took a little bit of time.

All of our restaurants (from) year one struggled a bit. It took us some understanding on what people wanted. It took them (a while to) understand how to put out food in a way that was pleasing to the festival audience. Both of those things have come together, and they’ve kind of met in the middle. It’s made for really interesting, great food that’s visually beautiful, and food that is portable—bowls, wraps and things like that. It just took a little bit of time.

What are some of the restaurants that have been there since the beginning, that were super-successful, and people loved?

It’s interesting: We don’t do a lot of returning restaurants, although the ones that have returned have been there from very early on. Beer Belly would be one that has been with us since the very beginning. KazuNori in the Rose Garden has been there from the very beginning.

We really try to keep the food program (like Goldenvoice President/CEO) Paul Tollett keeps the music lineup: There are some (acts) that return. Maybe they take a year off, and they come back again; they get bigger and go to a bigger stage. We kind of look at the food program in a similar way: We need to have these big names that people recognize, and then we’ve got to have a whole middle tier that people know. … And then we have a bunch of (vendors) that have never done anything like this before, and are kind of the new up-and-comers.

Are you actually the person who chooses the restaurants?

Yes, I do. I have a really solid team. I work closely with Lizzy Stadler, and between the two of us, we spend nine months searching out restaurants and chefs that we think would work well with the festival.

Where are most of the restaurants from? Do you have to stay kind-of local because of the equipment they bring?

Yeah. We do have a good amount from Southern California—but this is the first year that we’re really making a big transition to having Coachella be more of a national food program, so we have 2nd City from New York. In our Outstanding in the Field program, we have chefs from Miami, Chicago and New York. MatchaBar started in New York as well. We’re just trying to look around the country and see what’s happening and bring that to Coachella. We don’t do a lot of Coachella Valley restaurants—although we do have The Venue Sushi this year—only because this is also one of the busiest times of the year for those restaurants.

How many restaurants are at Coachella this year?

In total, in the food program, there are more than 150 restaurants and vendors. As far as our curated, featured restaurant lineup, there are more than 40.

I imagine you’re trying to cater to the organic and vegan crowd, too.

Yeah, being a passionate vegan myself. We have Ramen Hood doing ramen. We have Taqueria La Venganza. We have 118 Degrees. We have Strictly Vegan. I would say there are about 10 to 15 restaurants. Then you have a restaurant like Sumo Dog that is known for their crazy Japanese-style hot dogs, which has a separate grill (for making vegan food) inside of their restaurant. They have amazing vegan hot dogs. … Every vendor has to offer a vegetarian or vegan item on their menu.

How many craft breweries are there this year?

The Craft Beer Barn started four years ago. We’ve consistently had somewhere between 100 to 150 breweries as part of that program, and that includes the rare beer bar, which we introduced last year, where Jimmy (Han) from Beer Belly curates. He spends all year (curating); he’ll call me in September telling me how he got a keg of something, and that he’s hid it in the back of the cooler and wrapped it up. He gets these little gems all year long. … He’s really worked with the breweries to get special, unique kegs out there. That’s also because we invite so many of the breweries to come down: At any given time, there are 20 or 30 brewmasters or owners or technicians who are here onsite at the festival. When you’re walking through the Craft Beer Barn, and you look over and see the head brewer from one of your favorite breweries, that really makes a difference.

Last year, there was a big push for sours, and the IPAs are obviously always really big. This year, one my favorites has been the hazy IPA, the New England-style IPA. I can’t get enough of it. It’s got very little bite on it; it’s super-refreshing, but you still have all of that hop. It’s really exciting to learn about those beers.

We also have a tiki bar that’s something that’s new for the festival this year. I’m really excited to be working on that with the guys from PDT in New York … which stands for Please Don’t Tell. They really ushered in revival of the speakeasy. They’re known to be some of the best bartenders in the world there, and they’ve come out to Indio to be part of this tiki bar. It’s not on any map. We don’t tell anybody where it is. When you find it, you know it.

Published in Beer

Tradition, tradition, my sweet Lorde—a Pappy and Harriet’s tradition continued with a surprise show after midnight on Friday/Saturday at the storied adobe bar in Pioneertown.

Lorde, aka Ella Yelich-O’Connor, continued the tradition of secret, last-minute shows at Pappy’s, disclosing her first full-length performance since December 2014 with a simple tweet earlier in the day. She followed in the footsteps of Bon Iver playing a secret pre-Coachella warm-up under the nom de guerre of Mouthoil in 2013; the Pixies celebrating a return to Coachella in 2014; and Sir Paul McCartney’s Oldchella mini-gig last October that created the biggest traffic jam ever in Pioneertown.

Lorde’s shocker of a show had me scrambling, but I was able to make it for the hour-long warm-up gig, during which she introduced three new songs and played plenty of material from 2013’s Pure Heroine. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to bring in a pro camera, so I was only able to get some snapshots of the venue; the photo above is from her 2014 Coachella performance.

The show was slated to start at midnight, and security had all ticketholders line up in the outdoor stage area, since Wanda Jackson performed a 9 p.m. show inside. There was more security than usual—and lots of people running around with a sense of urgency, with VIPs, mostly family, entering first.

I waited in line with a group of fans from Long Beach who were able to obtain six of the $20 tickets before they sold out. The door’s opening led to a quick security check and a mad scramble toward the stage. I spied Nancy Hunt, owner of the boutique Brat, in Santa Monica, who seems to be at every sold-out show at Pappy’s, but for the most part, the crowd was new to Pappy’s, based on the informal survey I took while in line.

The show started about 12:20 a.m. with an intro tease of new single “Green Light,” as many fans did their best Statute of Liberty impressions with cell phones rising high in the sky for most of the show. Lorde was very comfortable and chatty, saying, “This is what I like about a small place,” before she was interrupted by fans stating where they drove from: “Oh, you came from L.A.? You from Nashville, today?” It felt like she was playing for close friends—something you rarely see from a pop star with fans only feet and inches away, and something that won’t happen at Coachella on Sunday.

Lorde teed up the crowd: “So I wanna try something that no one knows about yet. I wanna play you something from the new record. It’s kind of like one of my favorite things I think I’ve done. It’s a two-part song, but they’re very different. They’re what the core of this album is about.” A fan finished her sentence by yelling, “Sober!” which is a song from her upcoming second album, Melodrama. She replied: “Fuck, you guessed it! I really need you with me for this,” and a request was made to turn down the blue, cavern-like lighting. Lorde drove spectators wild as she sang, “My hips have missed your hips … what will we do when we’re sober?” partially hanging from the stage right “punk pole” used by many to just hold on during more raucous shows.

Lorde expressed how happy she was to play a live show again: “Thank you so much, wow, cool, I miss you so much.” Then came more news: “This song is a little ghost. I felt like a little ghost when I wrote this one. I walked until I could not walk anymore and I called a cab. … When I was writing, I felt like was in high school. Oh, I see my sister in standing in the back. It’s called ‘Liability.’”  

Lucky ticket-holders were treated to an “old” Lorde hit, “Royals,” which had a few Pappy’s staffers behind the bar singing along with the chorus.

Lorde shouted out to the crowd, “Thank you very much. How you doing out there? What do you want to know?” A fan asked, “What have you been doing?” She responded: “I bought a house in New Zealand, and I don’t garden yet, but I’ve been going to the beach.”

She hinted that the end of the night was near: “It’s a great one tonight. I want to get pretty down for the last two songs. I want you to dance like you’re alone in your bedroom, and you don’t give a fuck. Are you in?” Lorde then ended with “Team” and “Green Light,” the latter off her highly anticipated sophomore release.

As she knelt on a corner sub-woofer, Lorde said her goodbye: “Thank you so much Pappy and Harriet’s.”

Published in Reviews

From the time it was announced through Lady Gaga’s late addition as a headliner fill-in for the pregnant Beyoncé, this year’s Coachella lineup has been one of the most questioned and talked-about ever.

Beyond the headliners, however, there are always gems among the names in the smaller font on the poster. Here are some acts I’ll make sure to see—and I recommend that you check them out, too.


Friday, April 14 and 21

Tacocat

The name is funny, and so is some of the music, but this Seattle band, around since 2007, has a seriously interesting punk-rock sound. Three of the band’s four members are women, and during an interview with VICE, bassist Bree McKenna claimed that she was the illegitimate child of Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine. She was kidding … we think. Don’t dawdle on Friday; get to Coachella early to catch this band’s feminist messages, humor and sarcasm.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

I always love the variety of music showcased at Coachella throughout the weekend—and seeing the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be a real treat. This legendary New Orleans jazz band has been going since 1963, and an impressive list of musicians has come through the band. The group also recently appeared on the Foo Fighters’ album Sonic Highways. The band played Coachella in 2014—and it felt like you couldn’t escape them. Beyond the band’s scheduled set, the group showed up in the Heineken tent to perform with Angelo Moore of Fishbone, and also appeared with Arcade Fire later in the evening. For a minute, I thought I might even see them busking in the parking lot.

Father John Misty

I’m so happy that Father John Misty is not scheduled at the same time as Radiohead’s headliner set. I included Father John Misty in my Coachella suggestions in both 2013 and in 2015—and both sets were amazing, so there’s no reason to think he won’t be blowing minds again in 2017. The former Fleet Foxes drummer has come a long way as a solo artist. His indie-folk sound has a lot going on in it, and his songs are deep—and often hilarious. Definitely make sure you catch Father John Misty; you won’t be disappointed.


Saturday, April 15 and 22

Yip Yops, Kayves

A different local band or two is announced as a Coachella performer, playing early on a stage, a few days before both Weekend 1 and Weekend 2. CIVX (now Killjoi), Machin’, EeVaan Tre, Alchemy, Brightener and The Flusters have played in this slot. Who will play this year? We received the answer for Weekend 1 today: Kayves on Friday, and Yip Yops on Saturday. As for Weekend 2, worthy contenders include The BrosQuitos, Hive Minds and the reigning Independent Best of Coachella Valley Best Local Band, Venus and the Traps. Locals: Go and support the bands are selected!

Warpaint

Psychedelic pop/rock band Warpaint (upper right) turns in live performances that soak attendees in dark psychedelic vibes—no frills necessary. The group’s most recent album, last year’s Heads Up, took the band in more of a pop direction, but let me assure you: The album is fantastic, and was one of my favorites of 2016. The tracks “New Song” and “So Good” get stuck in your head—and you only want to hear more.

Thundercat

Flying Lotus protege Thundercat is a musician on the rise. After releasing his latest album, Drunk, in February, he’s gotten bigger thanks to the buzz that has surrounded it. Thundercat’s electronic funk mixed with soul somehow sounds both futuristic and traditional. His bass grooves on Drunk are so damn smooth, and his collaborations with people such as Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald are weird and fantastic at the same time. It’s hard to believe this guy was once playing bass for Suicidal Tendencies.

The Head and the Heart

I saw The Head and the Heart’s set at Coachella in 2014, where I learned the band’s folk sound could work well at Stagecoach, too. The Head and the Heart remind me a lot of The Lone Bellow, because the songs are deep, yet The Head and the Heart also can play in styles similar to Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine, and even Vampire Weekend. The band writes more complex parts for the mandolin and fiddle than most Americana bands.


Sunday, April 16 and 23

Toots and the Maytals

Goldenvoice has put some great reggae legends on the Coachella stage—and Toots and the Maytals, one of the great reggae/ska bands of the early ’60s, is the latest band that is part of that welcome trend. Toots Hibbert (below) is a reggae legend who has the voice of a soul singer; he’s written some of reggae’s greatest songs, and has performed with acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Major Lazer, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and many others.

Hans Zimmer

This one makes me laugh every time I look at the Coachella lineup. One of my friends who worked in the film industry at Warner Bros. asked me, “Hans Zimmer ... how does that work, exactly?” The legend who has created the scores for films such as The Dark Knight, The Lion King, Inception and many other blockbusters is definitely an odd addition to the lineup … but I have a feeling he’s going to silence anyone who made fun of his inclusion, even though I have no idea what his performance will entail. Who knows … maybe Goldenvoice can get Philip Glass to perform in the future?

Future Islands

In 2014, I went Pappy and Harriet’s before Coachella started to watch The Pixies. As I was leaving Pappy’s, one of the owners, Linda Krantz, asked if I was staying for the very late performance of Future Islands; I declined. While at Coachella the next day, I took a short nap on the grass in the media area right behind the Gobi tent … and was woken up by a catchy bass line. I got up and walked into the Gobi to watch Future Islands, which had just started the set. I was blown away, and I can’t wait to see Future Islands at Coachella again.

New Order

New Order is made up of the surviving members of Joy Division (now minus bassist Peter Hook) and was one of the biggest bands of the ’80s and ’90s. Take note: Bernard Sumner is known to be a serial complainer during performances. When I caught the band’s set at Coachella in 2013, Sumner bitched throughout—to the sound engineer about a botched intro (before the band even played a note), and about headliner Phoenix, which was playing on the Main Stage at the same time. That aside, the band turned in a great performance. Expect some great visuals and music to dance to—things any Coachella attendee will appreciate. 

Updated on April 11 after release of set times.

Published in Previews

Can a punk band have a serious message and still be a fun listen? The Interrupters have answered that question—with a resounding yes.

On Friday, April 14 and 21, the Los Angeles two-tone punk band will be making its Coachella debut.

Fronted by female vocalist Aimee Interrupter, the band also includes the Bivona brothers: Kevin (guitar), Justin (bass) and Jesse (drums). You may recognize Kevin Bivona; he is also a member of Transplants (with Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Travis Barker of Blink-182), and he played on Jimmy Cliff’s 2011 EP, Sacred Fire.

The Interrupters have addressed political subjects on the band’s first two albums. The 2014 song “Take Back the Power” includes the lyrics: “What’s your plan for tomorrow? Are you a leader or will you follow? Are you a fighter or will you cower? It’s our time to take back the power.” The 2016 track “She Got Arrested” addresses the subject of domestic violence.

During a recent phone interview, Kevin Bivona said that while the band addresses political subjects, it isn’t entirely political.

“I wouldn’t put (politics) first, because we’re musicians, and we’re a band, but we’re not politicians,” Bivona said. “Some of our songs are definitely politically charged, but not all of them. I think it’s a spectrum, and I think everyone is political to a certain degree. Maybe we are more political than some bands, but in our genre of punk rock, it’s actually pretty common to have a stance, at least. But not all of our songs are based around politics or government. (We also do songs about) any general injustices, general relationships with people, and standing up for yourself. Everybody is a little political, and we’re on the spectrum.”

Bivona was a professional musician long before helping form The Interrupters and has appeared on numerous albums by other artists. He said he tries to create a healthy balance with the other projects in which he takes part.

“It kind of balances itself out,” he said. “Being that we’ve been so lucky with the touring opportunities that we’ve gotten with The Interrupters lately, it’s been my primary focus. Sometimes, it works out where I can go do a couple dates with Rancid in between Interrupters tours. There hasn’t been anything conflicting yet, knock on wood. I kind of take each thing as it comes and just try not to get bombarded. It’s something I think about, though, having that kind of a balance.”

Last summer, The Interrupters played The Warped Tour. I asked him if he felt the current tour—founded on punk rock in the mid ’90s, and now primarily appealing to fans of pop-punk, Christian punk and metal bands—would make the average punk devotee feel out of place.

“It seems that way, genre-wise, when you look at it, but getting to know the founder, Kevin Lyman, throughout the summer and watching the way the whole organization works—it is the same tour as it was in 1997,” Bivona said. “I think the music has evolved and branched out into different areas, but there definitely still is a home for punk rock. … You’ll see more punk rock on that tour this year or next year, especially with the political climate the way it is. It’s always a good time when there’s a lot of protesting happening—it’s a good time for punk to bubble up again, because it never fully goes away.

“It is the same festival as it was, but the young people’s tastes have changed, and we’re trying to bring punk back. I think part of us playing last year was trying to build a bridge between old Warped Tour and new Warped Tour. We’re a new band, but we’re also very inspired by the original punk rock and ska. Being a new band helps bridge the two together. It was actually a lot of fun to do that tour, because it still has a very DIY punk ethic, and all the bands work together, no matter if they’re metal, pop-punk or techno. We all still have to wait in the same line to get food and get a shower.”

The Interrupters are signed with Hellcat Records, a label founded by Tim Armstrong of Rancid that is an offshoot of Epitaph Records, which was founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. Bivona explained his love for the label.

“The best part for us was when we got our first pressing of our first album, and just seeing that Hellcat logo on there,” he said. “We all grew up as such big fans of that label. When the Give ’Em the Boot compilations started coming out, we wore those out back in the days of CDs, when they’d get all scratched up and you’d have to go get another one. Plus, Epitaph putting out all those Punk-O-Rama compilations—that was how we discovered music back then. I remember the first time I heard Hepcat on the first Give ’Em the Boot, and the first time I heard “Sidekick” by Rancid was on Punk-O-Rama. Being part of that legacy is the coolest thing.”

While The Interrupters are new to Coachella, Bivona is not: He played the festival with Tim Armstrong when they performed as part of Jimmy Cliff’s backing band in 2012.

“It’s a very California festival, and we’re looking forward to the whole experience of the thing,” he said. “(We’re looking forward to) playing to audience that may have never seen us before, (people) who go to that festival just to discover new music, because a lot of people buy a ticket before the lineup comes up, because they love discovering new music and being at the festival all weekend. We hope to grab some of them. We also want to check out the festival. Toots and the Maytals is performing. We want to see Dreamcar, which is the new band with the No Doubt guys and Davey Havok, so that’s also a cool experience for us.”

Published in Previews

T.S.O.L. helped define the Los Angeles punk scene after the band’s start in 1978.

However, its initial punk success was short-lived: After frontman Jack Grisham, drummer Todd Barnes and keyboardist Greg Kuehn left in 1983, T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty) reconfigured as a rock band.

After a legal battle over the name, Grisham became part of T.S.O.L. again in 1999, with Kuehn rejoining in 2005. They’ve been performing together ever since—and recently released a new album, The Trigger Complex.

T.S.O.L. played the first-ever concert that Coachella promoter Goldenvoice put on, so it’s appropriate that T.S.O.L. will be playing Coachella on Sunday, April 16 and 23.

During a recent phone interview with Grisham while he was in traffic driving home to Huntington Beach, he was an open book. Grisham’s history includes a love for drugs and alcohol, legal issues, a marriage to a 16-year-old girl in Mexico, and eventually sobriety, which he achieved in the late 1980s.

“I believe I would have been dead if I didn’t stop,” Grisham said, “not because I was a big drug-addict guy, because I really wasn’t. I’ll tell you exactly what I was: I was a high school idiot who had gotten out of control. I was hanging out with people who were like me—a mess. Everyone was drinking, snorting coke and taking pills or whatever the fuck was going on. I would say to myself, ‘I don’t really have a problem, because I don’t really shoot up. I’m not really an alcoholic, because I live at my mother’s.’”

Grisham recalled one of his early arrests.

“I was actually arrested in Palm Springs for disturbing the peace,” he said. “Luckily, they didn’t get me for impersonating an officer, which is what they originally wanted me for.

“I did little bits of time in jail, but no prison sentences—just a bunch of stupid arrests for dumb stuff. But there were a lot of people who weren’t happy with me, and I was drinking large amounts and taking pills to go with it. When you’re 24 or 25 years old, is it a recipe for disaster? Yes. Pills and booze is a bad combo.”

Grisham still believes in punk-rock ideals, even though he’s now a responsible member of society, a husband and a father.

“It’s kind of funny, because I have the same outlook now that I had back then,” Grisham said. “To me, punk rock was always this family kind of thing. My family and I were not on good terms. The punk-rock thing was this cool family thing where everyone was an idiot and out of control. A lot of it was kind of a hippie movement, too. We were inclusive. Men and women were equal; no one cared who you were into sexually, so it was really wide open, and I still think like that. I still think that you should challenge old ideals, conflict, experiment, keep an open mind and all that stuff. It hasn’t changed, but—I hate to sound like Austin Powers right now, but along with free love comes responsibility. Now, I’m just more responsible with the same ideals.”

Grisham has spoken out in the past about political issues, and was one of the 135 candidates who ran in the recall election for governor of California in 2003. Grisham said it’s hard to say whether he’s always considered himself “informed.”

“That’s a hard one. I don’t know how informed a lot of us were,” he said. “I was pretty ill-informed, saying, ‘Fuck the government!’ I had a dad who was 30 years in the Navy. Attacking what he stood for was part of being a young man growing up and turning against your father. How informed was I, really? I don’t know. Sometimes, I think we’re fighting the wrong demons at times. I don’t think people realize that some of these issues we’re dealing with, many of them are things that have been going on for thousands of years—fear, greed and these kinds of things.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s actually pretty frightening. Who isn’t scared? But you can be conservative and liberal at the same time. It might sound a little crazy, but I love helping people who have been harmed by circumstance. I’m in, and I’m 100 percent in. Those who have (been) put out by their own choice, I’m not really a big fan of. I think they should teach courses in religious tolerance in schools and start teaching tolerance and understanding. These are things we’re not teaching our children. A lot of people who believe in a higher power are basing their political decisions on those beliefs, yet we refuse to look at other people’s beliefs and understand what we’re dealing with.”

As far as Goldenvoice goes, Grisham said he’s had nothing but positive experiences with the group over the years.

“T.S.O.L. played the very first Goldenvoice show in Santa Barbara. I’m still friends with those guys,” he said. “(Goldenvoice president) Paul Tollett wanders around Coachella, and you wouldn’t even know it was him. I was out there for Desert Trip, and he was really nice, and he invited my family out. He’s wandering around in jeans and a T-shirt; all these people are there to see these bands and have no idea he’s the guy running the show. He walks up to my wife and said, ‘I still remember having to call Jack’s mom’s house,’ and rattles off my mother’s phone number. My interaction with them has been great. They’ve treated my family with respect, kindness and love, and that’s what I like about them.”

However, Grisham conceded he’s not a fan of large festivals.

“I’m not a big concert guy. For me, I’ll probably wander around, play and then go back to wherever I’m staying and go to bed,” he said. “I’ll probably hang out during the day and visit people in town. If I’m going to listen to music, I like listening to it at home. I think it’s really cool they asked us, because not a lot of bands of our type have been asked. Yeah, the Vandals and the Damned have played, but it was really nice (for them) to ask us to do it, and I’m stoked to see people and my friends. That’s what I’m looking forward to. My kids are more stoked about it than I am—not that I’m not stoked; it’s an honor, but I like being at home. I shoot photos, too, and people have to come to me, because I don’t go anywhere. I get asked to go to studios to shoot so and so, and I say, ‘No, tell so and so to get in their fucking car and come to Huntington Beach, and I’ll shoot ’em over a cup of coffee.’”

Published in Previews

Before Nirvana took the world by storm, a band from Dayton, Ohio, called Guided by Voices was creating innovative post-punk rock—what would come to be known as “alternative rock.”

Guided by Voices will finally be appearing at Coachella for the first time on Friday, April 14 and 21.

The history of Guided by Voices is a bit hard to explain. Robert Pollard founded Guided by Voices in 1983. The group, amidst varying lineups, broke up in 2004, reunited in 2010, broke up again in 2014, and reunited last year. The prolific band has produced music that one could call lo-fi, psychedelic rock, garage rock, punk rock and post-punk rock. The group has released 23 albums (not counting various “unofficial” releases), at one point putting out as many as three albums in one year.

The current lineup includes Robert Pollard (lead vocals), Doug Gillard (guitar), Bobby Bare Jr. (guitar), Mark Shue (bass) and Kevin March (drums).

During a recent phone interview with Doug Gillard, who was a member from 1997 to 2004 before rejoining the band in 2016, he said the band still calls Dayton home.

“I’m personally from Cleveland, so I still love Cleveland, even though I don’t make it back there that much, but Bob (Pollard) still lives in Dayton,” Gillard said. “That’s kind of where we’re still based. We still rehearse there, and that’s where we start every tour. We still like Dayton, but there are not a lot of venues for Guided by Voices to play, or the venues are booked.”

One of the best-known and least-lo-fi albums from Guided by Voices’ heyday is Do the Collapse, from 1999, which was produced by Ric Ocasek, guitarist of The Cars. The album received a mixed reception.

“We were a four-piece back then,” Gillard said. “We did the basic tracks, and that left Bob and I doing most of the overdubs; we came back to oversee the mixing a couple of weeks later. We even did some recording at Ric’s house, because he had a tape machine there. The rest we did at Electric Lady Studios in New York. We had a pretty fun experience at that time. I personally wasn’t down with some of the production things that were happening, but Bob sort of wanted to see where it would go. That’s the record that came out—but I personally had fun recording it.”

Amid all of the lineup changes and reunions, I asked Gillard what keeps Guided by Voices going.

“I think Bob enjoys touring, and touring with the band behind him,” he said. “He does enjoy putting out records under the name Guided by Voices, so it’s sort of like, ‘Why not just use that name all the time?’ He still records solo albums, (has) solo ventures and (has) side bands, too, but under Guided by Voices, we can do the whole repertoire and the whole history. We can play all the songs from the records that have come out, all the fan favorites—and Bob is always writing. He writes songs every day. I’d say Guided by Voices is probably the best outlet for most of the stuff he writes.”

Last year, Guided by Voices released a new album, and will be releasing yet another new album on April 7.

“That’s pretty much Bob solo under the name of Guided by Voices,” Gillard said of last year’s Please Be Honest. He recorded everything himself. … He even played the drums and was going around the studio in Dayton playing everything. We have a double album coming out in April, August by Cake. We recorded that in New York as a band, and five of the songs are songs that Bob did in Dayton by himself, one-man-band style. I added some guitar to those finished mixes. Eight of the songs are two songs each by the other band members to fill out a double album. That was a lot of fun. … It’s kind of a sprawling double album.”

Gillard said the seemingly continuous recording process doesn’t burn him out—but that touring does at times.

“I love recording. That’s probably my favorite thing to do—record and create things in the studio,” he said. “Sometimes, you get tired when you’re touring of the live shows, and we tend to play long shows. We try to take a day off in between each show, and that helps.”

Guided by Voices has been on many Coachella fans’ wish lists for many years. Gillard said he’s not sure why the band has never played the festival in the past.

“I’m always up for playing festivals,” Gillard said. “In my tenure with Guided by Voices, we’ve played quite a few. I don’t know if the band has been asked to play Coachella in the past or not, but maybe it was during a time when Bob was on a hiatus from touring. I know we’re very excited to be playing.”

Published in Previews

Since the Los Angeles-based band Chicano Batman started in 2008, the group has taken a long and interesting path to success—and after years of independent EPs and album releases, the group recently signed with ATO Records.

On the heels of new album Freedom Is Free, which dropped March 3, the group will be making its second appearance at Coachella on Saturday, April 15 and 22.

During a recent phone interview with guitarist Carlos Arévalo, he discussed the recording of Freedom Is Free.

“The album was recorded in January 2016 over the span of two weeks,” Arévalo said. “The album was recorded at the Diamond Mine studio in Long Island City, N.Y., with the producer, Leon Michels. Leon Michels is a former member of the Dap-Kings and played with Sharon Jones when he was 16 years old. He’s appeared on numerous recordings, and he was a member of the Black Keys. … We had been writing for (the album) since the summer of 2015.”

The recording process with Michels was different for the band, Arévalo said.

“There was a bit more of a direction involved,” he said. “Before, we would just record with songs we had, and we would record them the way we’d play them live. For better or worse, that’s what you hear. This time, we had a producer, and we would bounce a lot of ideas off of him. He acted as a fifth voice. Often times (before), it’d just be the four of us going democratically. So if there’s something not happening, and there are two saying, ‘Go this way,’ and two going another way, we kind of go nowhere. But it was nice having Leon say, ‘No, it should go this way.’ We respect his résumé and his musical abilities, so that made it really easy to move forward in finishing the arrangements in some of the songs. There are also backup singers; there’s flute and a lot of instrumentation on it, and we said we’d figure that out for a live setting later. We also tightened up our songwriting. We wrote more concise songs and said what we needed to say.”

The support of ATO Records is obviously beneficial, Arévalo said, but he added that he and his fellow band members are thankful to those who helped them in the past.

“Everything we’ve done up until we started working with ATO was pure self-release and completely independent,” he said. “We had the help of managers and booking agents … and all of those people before who helped us get to where we are now with a label. The label is very supportive and gives us our creative freedom, and they are going to put our music on a platform that we couldn’t put it on ourselves financially, or without those networks being in the music industry.”

Chicano Batman has played numerous times in the Coachella Valley, most recently last year in October at The Hood Bar and Pizza. There has never been a gig too big or too small for Chicano Batman over the years as the group built its fan base.

“We’re older guys. We’re not 21-year-olds who get in the van and tour the country for three months straight,” Arévalo said. “We have wives and families, and we were really mindful of how we’ve toured. We would do touring in two-week spurts. We’d hit up markets that we knew we’d do well in and places we knew there was a fan base. We’d play San Francisco in a 500-capacity room, but we’d go to Atlanta and play to a 250-capacity room, because we hadn’t put in the work yet out there. Also, we’ve been asked to play big festivals and open for big bands. Right now, the way things are looking, we’re going toward the bigger rooms. We’ve been selling out nice-size rooms along the West Coast.”

In this age of Donald Trump, Arévalo sees Chicano Batman’s multicultural fan base as a beautiful thing and hopes that it inspires people.

“The goal has always been to reach people through art and have a positive message,” he said. “That’s always been our reality and where we’re from. I think being in the music industry and coming up in it, you see that not all stages represent people who look like us. We try to change that and be the best we can be musically, and as people promoting diversity through our music. It’s beautiful that we can bring people of all cultures together. If you ever come to a Chicano Batman show, it’s a beautiful sight. There are people from all cultures and ethnicities being represented as we grow in popularity. That’s a special thing to cherish in these divisive times and people drawing lines in the sand.”

The band last year took part in an ad campaign for which it recorded a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

“During the summer of last year, Johnnie Walker approached us about being part of their ad campaign called ‘Keep Walking America,’” Arévalo said. “The idea was to promote and celebrate diversity, which has always been the M.O. of this group, obviously. They approached us, and we thought the message was a strong one, and they were the ones who suggested we record Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land.’ This happened when Trump was running for president. We were really starting to see the ugliness of people identifying other people by race and trying to differentiate themselves from other people. We thought it was a good message, and the song is a protest song, so it speaks to those ideals about this country, and we felt like it’s a big statement for us to be part of something like that. People who look like us aren’t really represented in commercials and movies, and we thought it would be an important campaign to take part in.”

After its 2015 Coachella debut, Chicano Batman is hoping to make a bigger impact this year.

“We’re hoping we get a better time slot this time,” Arévalo said. “Last time, we played at 1 in the afternoon, and we were hung over. Aside from that, we’re really excited to bring this new production to fruition. We’re also touring with backup singers to sing on many of the new album tracks.”

Arévalo added that the band is forever thankful to the Coachella Valley for support.

“We have a lot of love for the Coachella Valley. We always make it a point to go out there and play whenever we can,” he said. “The Coachella Valley is one of those places that gave us chances when other places weren’t giving us chances. We’re not going to forget the places that gave us chances when we’re playing the Fillmore. People always come up to us and tell us how meaningful it is that we played there, and we’re always humbled by that.”

Published in Previews

LOS ANGELES (Reuters)—Lady Gaga will step in for Beyonce at this year’s Coachella music festival after the R&B singer, who is pregnant with twins, dropped out of her headlining slot due to doctor’s orders.

Gaga, 30, made the announcement late Tuesday, Feb. 28, on her social media pages with an image of the three-day lineup at the festival and her name at the top of the second day’s schedule, accompanied by the caption, “Let’s party in the desert!”

Beyonce, 35, was due to headline the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 15 and April 22. She pulled out last week, saying in a statement that she was “following the advice of her doctors to keep a less rigorous schedule in the coming months.”

Gaga’s Coachella headlining slot follows her performance at February’s Super Bowl, where she sang, danced and soared over the stage suspended on cables, delivering a flawless choreographed medley of her hits that include “Poker Face” and “Born This Way.”

The singer is also due to kick off her world tour in support of her latest album, last year’s Joanne, in August.

Coachella is the first major U.S. festival of the summer live music scene and hosts two consecutive weekends of the same lineup.

Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay Z, who have a 5year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, have not said when the twins are due. The singer said she’ll headline Coachella next year.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by David Gregorio)