The Great Pretenders

Mini Mansions The Great Pretenders like John Lennon met Queens of the Stone Age and it's all thanks to Mikey ShoesThe second of our March album madness comes out of my favorite little corner of the rock industry, a project from one of Joshua Homme’s desert misfits known as Mini Mansions. Their first album was released in 2011–it is best described it as what would happen if John Lennon wandered out into the same bizarre desert conditions that spawned Queens of the Stone Age, wrote an album and then through a complicated series of events, that album somehow managed to see the light of day. To say it is quite a trip or a gonzo fantasy seems to be an understatement. But to be quite honest, that is not what we are here to talk about.

Their new LP The Great Pretender is completely enthralling, a wild journey of muddled feelings. Now if you did a little reading before spinning the album, two names are going to pop out at you. Brian Wilson and Alex Turner. The former is a Beach Boy, and you would pretty much need to be living under a rock to not have heard of Alex’s Arctic Monkey’s.

The two collaborations are both strong tracks, and the official video for “Any Emotions” stars the infinitely talented Colin Hanks. But if you’re focusing on the dog pile of superstars here, then you just missed all the best parts. You really can’t help but notice a real 80’s vibe pouring off this vinyl. It’s totally infectious and maintains an almost dance floor tempo for most of the album (It’s okay people, Pop isn’t a dirty word anymore). Track after track shows just how diverse and deep the musical talent runs in this band, and it isn’t much of a surprise that talent like Alex turner is hanging out just to see what they do next.

If I may have my final word, my favorite part of  both of these two Mini Mansion albums is the tremendous amount of perspective you gain on the contributions and impact that Mikey Shoes has truly made to QotSA, and any true fan of theirs should quickly find these albums sorted into their regular rotation.

Josh Homme and Mikey Shoes Queens of the Stone Age Mini Mansions

Fair to say that Mikey and Josh make weird and beautiful music together.

Simply put, music like this makes it okay for bands like Queens of the Stone Age to take a few years in between releases. I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true.

Mikey Shoes a mad genius? "The Great Pretender" helps that cause more than a fair bit.

Aaron Bruno exclusive interview transcribed – Part 1

Just after Aaron told us to just hang out on AWOL's tour bus.

Jump to Part 2

We had the very good fortune of sitting with Aaron Bruno of AWOLNATION on May 4, 2013, for an in-depth interview. It’s one that fans of Aaron and AWOLNATION will certainly appreciate, for his candid answers, and also the ease of conversation, which actually does show through in written form. The interview is just under 15 minutes in length, so we are going to release it in a few volumes over the next several days. We hope you enjoy this as much as we enjoyed our time with Aaron, and we’ll give a spoiler alert: The last thing Aaron said to us was, “Hang out here as long as you want, drink some beers or anything else; only the whiskey is off limits.”

Jeff Schad: I want to get the obvious question out of the way first, and I know you have heard it dozens of times before, but what was it like when you dropped “Sail” on the public? Your song became a widespread hit–that’s incredible!

Aaron bringing the energy during AWOLNATION's live performance at the DC101 Chili Cook Off, 2013

Aaron Bruno: There was never a distinct moment where we said ‘Okay, we’re going for “Sail”.’ It was more of an accident–I had several songs recorded for the record, and certainly I thought that it would be a different song, if there was going to be a song at all that would ever be a commercial success. I don’t know, I mean I think we tried to have “Burn It Down” as a single and it didn’t really react when it was played on the radio the few times it was tested. Which I was lucky and grateful that it even got tested at all, you know? And then a programmer by the name of Toby Ryan, he decided, “I think that song “Sail”, I think I’m going to play it, do you mind?” And we’re like of course, play it. Because we are lucky enough to be friends with this radio guy from Austin, TX,  [radio station] KROX, they played “Sail” and the phones lit up, and I didn’t expect that to happen, obviously, and it’s still going now as we speak, two years later. It’s a crazy thing. It’s almost at three million [copies sold] and it’s gone four-times platinum in Canada and Norway and a bunch of other countries.

JS: What does that feel like when you get that news? You don’t expect it, and it’s not your goal, so what is that like?

AB: You know it’s headed in that direction, because a lot of numbers equals a million right? So when you get to 100,000 your like ‘Holy shit, maybe it will go gold! Maybe it will go to 200,000.’ I always thought that if I had a record that sold 100,000 copies, I did it, you know I mean? I did it. Like a full record, not just a single, you know? I always thought a single would be great to sell 100,000 copies of. I mean, I don’t even know what these numbers mean anymore, I just know that uh… I just wanted to be able to sell out small venues, anywhere from 200 to maybe 500 or 600 [capacity] if we were lucky, and has ended up being a much bigger thing.

Aaron Bruno exclusive interview, May, 2013 – Part 2

March Music Madness – Starting with a devoted fan’s review of Awolnation’s new LP “Run”

Awolnation Run Album Art

all photos below © Kevin Henline

March was one hell of a month for new music, and this is the first of several posts reviewing the wave of sophomore releases that just flooded my radio space. If this isn’t your first SurfRhythm article then our first review should come as no surprise.

Awolnation and Aaron Bruno new LP "Run"

Aaron Bruno has won us over in so many ways since AWOLNATION dropped Megalithic Symphony oh so long ago, including befriending us when we interviewed him at the DC101 Chili Cookoff.and this album, 3 years in the making, has been long anticipated.

In all likelihood the other two sophomore releases slipped right by you, but it’s okay though, we’re here for ya. You will just have to hang in there a few days for those goodies.

Tuesday, March 17th marked AWOLNATION’s sophomore debut, Entitled “Run”. It may have been just over 4 years since the release of Bruno’s first album under the AWOLNATION flag; “Megalithic Symphony” (to be fair, they did re-release an extended deluxe edition in Nov ‘13) but “Run” strongly establishes that the band has lost none of its potency. If anything, the extensive touring and massive venues Bruno and company have subjected themselves to for the last 4 years has only served to polish the quartet’s craft, with “Run” proving beyond any doubt that this is an Aaron is an artist in the truest sense of the word, and one who has carefully crafted the work that he wanted. Years long wait be damned, this is a work that is completely relevant to AWOL’s throngs of fans and the most cynical and jaded music connoisseur alike.

Aaron Bruno Awolnation

“Run” is the Yin to the Yang of “Megalithic Symphony”. The first album was a bastion of hope and inspiration, with songs like “People”, “Jump On Your Shoulders” and “Kill your Heroes”. But “Run” feels more like a trip down the rabbit hole. Its dark and brooding mystery, it slowly draws you in before it crushes you. It has a more ominous feel to it, and while the album will probably have its detractors, this seems like a natural step forward, the marked progress of a seasoned musician. Tracks on the album seem to see-saw back and forth from Awol’s unique stage sound, dosed heavily with pure evil genius. Perhaps the most AWOL characteristic is the gentle melodies that perfectly lull you into a sense of serenity and beauty before crushing you with another wave of evil genius.

Awolnation performs at DC101 Chili Cookoff

Awol is best when experienced live, and its so easy to see how this album compliments his stage presence. These are the sort of songs that you can’t help to sing along with. That is, if you aren’t way to busy dancing already. ‘Cause man, I’m telling you, AWOLNATION just made the most undulating, most rocking, heavy-hitting danceable album, quite possibly, ever.

Aaron Bruno of Awolnation - Surfrhythm

2015: The Year of Fiction 20 Down – Stream “New York Thing”

Fiction 20 Down, New York Thing Alternative Hip HopThis year, Fiction 20 Down is doing something different with their music, their content and their fans. 2015 is The Year of Fiction 20 Down, with each month bringing fresh new tracks, podcasts, interviews, videos and more.

They started right off in January with “New York Thing”, which takes on a really fresh new sound, with synth and verse being laid down to reveal their alt-hip hop talents. Every time F20D releases new material they demonstrate ever greater ability to jell as songwriters, and with that, their willingness to explore into new worlds of sound. “New York Thing” is quite an impressive start to a year that will be full of musical surprises and great new content.

Coming soon, F20D will officially announce a new contest related to The Year of Fiction 20 Down. It’s all in the name: Fiction 20 Down was originally a song written by lead singer Jordan Lally about facing his major fear of singing in public. Though he loved music and yearned to start a band, that fear kept him from pursuing his #1 dream until he faced it head on and went all-in. Had he shied from singing in front of people, Jordan’s life would be vastly different today. This year is about standing up to your fears and not backing down, boldly living the life you choose, and inspiring others to do the same. Stay tuned to and for the #yearF20D for awesome contest details coming in the next few days.