Friday, February 28, 2014

Interview with Jason Holler of Kentucky Knife Fight

by Andrew Doty

St. Louisans have a number of hometown bands to be proud of. Kentucky Knife Fight has been at the forefront of the local scene for a number of years, but that hasn't kept them from several national tours and opening slots for Reverend Horton Heat, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, and Pokey LaFarge, among others. The band just finished an intense tour fresh off the heels of losing their beloved van to theft and destruction, but singer Jason Holler says that despite that worrisome start, it "can only be described as our best tour yet. No questions. It was amazing. I'm still slightly in shock. " Lyricism editor Andrew Doty talked with Holler recently about lyrics, music, poetry, and voice.

Kentucky Knife Fight, photo credit Chris Bay

Andrew: I'd like to start discussing your lyrics way back at the beginning of Kentucky Knife Fight, while you were beginning to cull a loyal following in Edwardsville, IL. If I remember correctly, you were a student at SIUE then taking writing classes when you penned "Got My Heaven," one of KKF's first encore-ready crowd-pleasers. Who influenced you lyrically then, and what sorts of writing have you found new admiration for over the years as you've honed your own penmanship?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Snow Brigade" by Mew

I first poured out my heart in this post about Mew at Star Maker Machine. It is copied verbatim here, but you should head over there anyway to have a look around, because it looks very nice, and they've really done a great job with the place.

Mew singer Jonas Bjerre. Photo Credit Bill Ebbesen 
"Snow Brigade" fan music video.

This song is always the first that comes to mind when I think of snow songs. I have to admit, that's not very often, nor had I ever even considered the existence of a genre such as "winter pop" until I scoured the internet comments and forums for discussion of this song.

The ever-enlightened, scholarly groupmind of SongMeanings repeatedly amuses a connection to cocaine, but I can't find anything in the lyrics that clearly prompts such an interpretation on a basic level. With hints of depression, failed communications, a frustrating relationship, and the importance of the season's change, this song is an unreceived broadcast to a partner with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Mew's homeland of Denmark has a relatively cool climate with heavy, wet winters, during which the daylight time dwindles to just about seven hours—not nearly long enough to even get to enjoy a single, cold moment of sunshine for those of us running on U.S. cubicle work hours. Seasonal Affective Disorder can carry a person's mood quickly into a new personality, a slow shift that grinds the gears of a relationship's communications.

"In winter you're an affliction," the singer of this song tells their partner. There's an argument brewing. Jealous accusations of new interests and demands for evidence. "Enable [me] to bring out the something you want to know beneath the snow," the singer tells the accuser. "Bring out the someone you want to see for jealousy."

Things end on a sour note. The singer's "arms retreat," as the option of immediate reconciliation fades, and the only option is to try again on another day: "I'll find you somewhere / show you how much I care / know that there is no / escape from my snow brigade."

This was the first Mew song I ever heard, and it turned me instantly into a fan. Although the album I've most fallen in love with (2009's No More Stories Are Told Today I'm Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I'm Tired Let's Wash Away) sounds very little like other entries to their catalogue—including this song—both styles fit with their own moods, allowing me to enjoy Mew on even more occasions.

Singer Jonas Bjerre's voice carries the same shrill, tenuous beauty of a tightly-tuned violin string, simultaneously raising the listener's hackles and petting them on the head. This is undoubtedly the first thing that catches the newcomer's ears, but underlying musical experimentations that combine, at times, elements of progressive metal, ambient, noise, and indie pop should not go unappreciated.

Capable of producing albums of catchy singles, like 2003's Frengers, Mew also demonstrates clear understanding of the capability of the album itself as a limit, as No More Stories... and their 2005 album And the Glass Handed Kites both construct single-song fa├žades through the use of song transitions and titular divisions.

Taking theme to the screen as well, Mew enlisted the aid of director Martin de Thurah to deliver a trio of music videos for singles on their release of No More Stories...: "Introducing Palace Players," "Repeaterbeater," and "Beach."

Don't forget to check out more song features at Star Maker Machine.