Rocky Votolato [Artist]

Call me smitten, call me ashamed.  Prior engagements are deferring my eligibility to see the great Rocky Votolato (and accompanied by the equally amazing Matt Pond PA) as he passes along the dusty road here in Spokane.  I’ve been a fan of Rocky sense right around his solo inception.  His sultry vocals and splendid songwriting abilities are almost incomparable to most artists riding the indie folk storm these days.  His power and energy has a life all of its own as he strums his way through the battlefield of life.

It’s been a while since I first heard Votolato’s sensational single “Red River” (in which he name drops my fair city of Spokane, and still, I won’t be attending!), but the track has never left the eternal playlist in my mind.  And as he proves again on another city name-dropping track “Portland Is Leaving” that his words are derived from experience and emotion, rather than splendor and malevolence for the unknown or simply unfamiliar.  In this amazing track, he pronounces, ‘Love’s a train wreck”.  Hmm….sound familiar.  Purely coincide, maybe, but Rocky’s inspiration has been known to touch people over the years.  Which could likely lead to inevitably lifting of lyrics for a music showcase.  Maybe.

In a career spanning well over a decade, there has been nothing short of progress in the ways of Rocky Votolato.  He established himself as an indie sensation long before he signed to the esteemed BarSuk Records.  The revolution of sound since I first heard this cat back in 2003 on Suicide Medicine, to True Devotion in 2010 has been phenomenal and easily recognizable.  And as he hits the road this fall, right now actually!, alongside the likes of fellow indie sensation Matt Pond PA, it appears as though the love and devotion Rocky has put into his music is coming back two fold by the love and adoration from his fans.  A well deserved honor if you ask this train wreck’d society.

If you have missed the tour thus far, as I will inevitably do (sorry to mention it again, I’m just really disturbed by this), catch a greyhound or a west/east bound trolley car, and catch the man on the ending dates:

10/15 Sat – Seattle, WA – Neumo’s
10/16 Sun – Spokane, WA – Aclub
10/17 Mon – Pullman, WA – BellTower
10/19 Wed – Boise, ID – Neurolux
10/20 Thurs – Provo, UT – Velour
10/21 Fri – Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre
10/22 Sat – Kansas City, MO – The Record Bar

And pick up some albums, and find out more information about what Rocky has been up to at his WEBSITE.

Jess Walter [Interview]

Jess Walter is undoubtedly one of the finest American writers living today.  His whimsical and explicit position in the world of fiction has been solidified with a terrific perception of the tyranny of the world around us.  Comedy is definitely infused into the world of modern American literature these days.  Walter’s work isn’t entirely funny in a Judd Apatow or Sinbad kind of way, but maybe more like George Carlin in his prime.  The idea that “it’s funny because it’s true” has turned more into a “funny because it’s sad” sort of atmosphere.  And since the mid 90’s, Jess Walter has proven himself a master of such new-found idealisms and eccentric glory.
In his decades spanning career, Jess Walter has proved himself to be one of the finest novelists of the latter-day generation.  When Bukowski passed along his last novel, Pulp, in the early 90’s and later died in the most fashionable of senses, there was probably some confusion on what the hell we were going to read next.  Thankfully we have Walter to pick up the pieces of a drunken man’s rage towards beauty.
Walter may not be, in the literal sense, a poet or (as far as we know) a sex crazed drunk, but his style is definitely a combination of the beauty of Bukowski, and the wit of Carlin.  And with great fortune, I was able to get a few incredible responses from one of the finest authors of our time.  Here I talk with Jess Walter about everything from his love for his hometown of Spokane, basketball, and what is in store for this amazing writer to include is work in film and literature.
You’ve been praised, awarded, and praised again for your amazing work.  How have you handled literary stardom?

Ha! That’s an impossible question to answer, since I’m not sure I believe in “literary stardom” and wouldn’t know it if I saw it. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything like that. It’s nice to have people know the books, but I really just concentrate on the sentences and hope the rest takes care of itself.

What sort of influence does your almost like long residents and/or connection with the city of Spokane have on your writing?

Spokane’s a great source of inspiration for me. It’s a REAL place and I love its work ethic, its unadorned sense of itself. I think when I was younger I had a more difficult relationship with the city, wanting it to be something that it wasn’t. I recently wrote an essay for McSweeney’s recently (Statistical Abstract for my Hometown of Spokane, Washington) that dealt with my obnoxious youthful antagonism toward the city and came to the conclusion, in that piece, that hating where you’re from is just another form of self-loathing.I hate to use comparisons that might hinder an unknown reader’s interest, but I’ve heard many times that you are to Spokane what Palahniuk is to Portland.  Do you believe these are justifiable comparisons, not only as city reps but as writers overall?

Ha, that’s another funny question. I don’t think our styles are much alike at all, and I don’t think Palahniuk even lives in Portland any more. I doubt any city would claim to have a novelist as a representative for the city. Thankfully, writer is an unelected position. But I did just read his newest, Damned, and it’s very funny.

Is there any subject you haven’t tackled to date that you desperately would like to write about?  Any subjects you just plain won’t touch with a ten foot stick?

I can’t think of a subject I wouldn’t write about, and there are dozens, maybe hundreds I’d like to write about: more Western stories, more stories about class and wealth and income inequity, more crime stories, more humorous novels, more satires, farces and scary things, more short stories about basketball … I’ve got far more ideas than I have time or fingers to type with.

It’s been a while since you wrote Every Knee Shall Bow (or Ruby Ridge if so preferred), any thoughts on working on a new non-fiction project?

I do have some ideas for nonfiction books, but I haven’t researched any of them enough to really talk about. I sort of feel like the fiction mine has turned out to have a deep vein of material so I’ll just keep digging there for a while. If I run out of stuff, I may go back to mining nonfiction for a while.

Through a bit of research, I learned that you landed the elite role as “Spokane Basketball Player #3” in the 1999 film The Basket.  How did this come about?

My friend was one of the writers and producers of that film and they asked me to round up basketball players who looked like they could be from the early 1900s. I’ve played basketball all my life, but apparently, to the casting people, my game was all throwback. My acting is bad, but I’d love to try again, and if there were an Oscar for handlebar mustaches, I’d have been in the running.

What might have been more reasonable research notes, is that your amazing book The Financial Lives of The Poets is soon to be made into a film directed by the man behind the cult classic 24 Hour Party People (and an Angelina Jolie movie) Michael Winterbottom and starring Jack Black.  And most importantly, you wrote the script!  This is very cool stuff!  Any news on this you might be able to let us in on about the progress of the film?

Films take a long time to get from conception to screen (and often they never make it.) Right now we’re in the place a number of movie projects end up, waiting to get everything in place and, hopefully, start filming. But there are still a few hurdles to clear. So, unfortunately, nothing new right now, although I may know more in the coming weeks.

Any chances of seeing more film adaptations?  Shouldn’t George Clooney have hit you up for the rights to Citizen Vince by now?

The film rights for The Zero and Citizen Vince have been scooped up and there are scripts for both films out there, with producers trying to get them made. As of right now, neither one has the momentum that The Financial Lives of the Poets has, and I’ve yet to hear from George Clooney.

And you knew it was coming….what’s next for Jess Walter?

I have a novel coming out in early June called “The Beautiful Ruins,” which is a big, I guess I’d say ambitious book about 1960s Italy, present day Hollywood and the Donner Party. Oh, and it’s funny. And romantic. One of those.Finally, the most important question of all…..  what was the last thing that made you smile?

These questions, I suppose. I had one of the last tomatoes from my garden today; that was pretty swell. And my kids all the time.

Neil Nathan [Artist]

Photo by Nicole Szalewski

Neil Nathan is an impeccably brilliant pop rock mastermind.  Anyone how has ever heard his precarious melodies and savory hooks even just one time can attest to these claims.  The man has an exuberant way about him that simply screams brilliance louder than a protester in Tunisia.  His lyrics are like a hotel key card letting you in on the spiritual adventure that is a continual voyage in Neil’s head.  And ever since said mastermind released his debut album The Distance Calls in the summer of 2010, the voyage has been never-ending.

Everybody has a few tracks in their mental library that always show up during the essential playlist induction to the newest version of iTunes.  For this lowly music blogger, Neil Nathan’s “California Run” makes constant appearances alongside Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and Blitzen Trapper’s “Below The Hurricane”.  Nathan is undoubtedly on par with some of the greatest singer/songwriters in history.  Whether or not his genius has been fully reprimanded is of no real concern.  He makes brilliant songs, works with brilliant artists, and has the dutiful fortitude to wander down a path littered with of pretentious free prose that can leave you feeling mystified in less than 4 minutes.

And the illustrious Mr. Nathan has proved lately that his talents go far beyond just being a personal storyteller.  With his very own label, Pirate Vinyl, Neil has helped others get their stories told in amazing ways.  His eye for worthy talent is as inscrutable as his ability to pen a brilliant pop song.  He’s helped produce and/or release the likes of fellow folk pop oriented wonders like Susannah Conn, Pete Sinjin, and Caren Le Vine.  And if Neil Nathan’s work has intrigued you in any way, before or after reading this fanboy expose of the guy, it would definitely behoove you check out his cohorts of excellence.

Whether you realize it our not, everybody yearns for some sort of personal experience with musicians.  When you hear a

Photo by Cristina Gilbert

song that completely grabs you by the balls/labia, you most likely feel a sudden impulse and wonderment to know why the hell this artist was able to create a track/album/circus act that completely appeals to your wants and desires in life, as well as in music.  It may not entirely make sense to you, but your heart is letting you be had.  Because you need this.  You need fine folks like Neil Nathan telling you that you will be okay/are totally fucked.   This is the power of great music that a man Neil Nathan has probably been in tune with since his inception.  This is great music.  This is brilliance.

Discover all the news, music, and wit you could ever need or want about the great Neil Nathan at his WEBSITE.  



Sunbeam [Band]

Well alright, alright.  Here we have something special.  We’ve covered the likes of The Ascetic Junkies on Trainwreck’d before.  Therefore you know that pretty indie folk rock holds a serious place in our hearts.  Well, we got another one for you fine folks.  Introducing Portland Oregon’s Sunbeam.  A fancy new group that indulges in the glory of steel drums, sad eyes, and perfected storytelling.  And like the acclaimed AJ’s, this is a group that does an amazing job intermingling the beauty of male/female vocals.  Whenever unity can be found so masterfully done in folk (or any music for that matter), you can rest assure that you have something wonderful spilling out of your auxiliary cords.

Sunbeam is that sort of group that will make the shyest of white dude’s dance the night away, yet feel the poetic pull of such beautiful songs on the scale of Woody Guthrie his early years.  Last August found Sunbeam debuting their genius to the world with the release of the freshman LP, Sunbeam & The Lovely Ghost.  The beautiful old school approach to modern indie-folk the have become known for in the city of Roses has now reached audiences worldwide, and should be for their diligence.  This a project that simply came around due to guitarist/vocalist Brian Hall’s desire to not take himself too seriously, and just have fun with making music, which in turn lead to a project that is seriously awesome.

If you’re looking for a band that is sure to bring on some good feelings whether at your favorite downtown bar, or driving in your crummy car on a crummy day on the way to your absolutely crummy day job, this is the band that will enlighten you in ways that downright need sometimes.  This is good.  This is Sunbeam.

Sunbeam & The Lonely Ghost is available now from the band’s Website, as well as CDBaby and iTunes.  

National Pastime: Coma EP [Album Review]

Natinal Pastime’s frontman Andy Botterill may very well be one of the hardest working cats in all of the United Kingdom.  He’s in a thousand bands, and releases most of their material on a label he runs himself.  Not to mention an immense consistency of gigging around Exeter and wherever he can manage to drop his feet.  And with such a chaotic work schedule and a plethora of material piling up on his resume, sometimes an album or two might get sadly under rug swept.  But, it’s when you finally take the opportunity to check out each release from the awesome and talented Pastime Records, you will find you were missing a gem.  And with that, we have the Coma EP.  A translusive piece of art that should for no reason whatsoever, be looked over.

At the tail end of 2010, National Pastime released the amazing lo-fi pop masterpiece Bookmarks.  It was a beautiful display of total beauty in simplicity.  It felt like a total display of everything Andy B and company had to offer.  That is until Coma EP landed Por Avion in my mail box a couple of months ago.  And I fell in love all again.  Here we find these lovable pop masterminds advancing beyond anything we have heard before.  The singularly amazing track “Goldsworthy Gurney”  is actually sort of a stretch from their generalized lo-fi sound, and it is a real treat to say the least.  And even when they move to more familiar territory on a track like “Read Your Mind”, there is a delightful sense of advancement that simply leaves you with a great sense of the jollies, and a yearning to cheer for the happy crew.  And don’t be surprised if you hear these cuts again on a full length album sometime soon.  Or damn, you may already be able to considering Pastime Records works like a manic poet on benzederine trip.

National Pastime is an amazing group that just never fails.  They do more than bring a full-bodied sound to Andy Botterill’s solo work.  They incorporate a wonderful electric feel to tingle the ear drums while listening beautiful stories of love, life, and the eternal search for a cure to the cancerous spirit of non-creativety that bites each and every one of us at some point.  This is beautiful stuff.  It just can’t be said enough.

Find more about National Pastime on Facebook.

1776 [Band]

Photo by Fathead.

Years ago I considered 1776 one of the finest up and coming group of rock and roll youngsters in the country.  Well, time has only changed a few things for these amazingly talented youths.  Sure they’re not as young as they used to be, but that doesn’t really matter considering they have never really had a youthful sound to begin with.  They are still attached to the likes of The Dandy Warhols and The Hugs via The Dandy’s own label, Beat The World Records.  They’ve grown their hair out a bit, and they may have seen a bit more of the world with a never ending touring schedule, at the very least regular spots in their favorite Portland, Oregon area venues.  Hell, they even scored their very own limited edition chocolate filled themed doughnut at Voodoo Donuts.  Now, if that isn’t impressive, you obviously no nothing about anything.

But, what is most amazing about how far 1776 has come is the advancement in their classic rock styling of songwriting and performing that I never believed they could truly improve upon.  I secretly feared that this is a group with the potential to peak far too early, and be sadly thrown to the wolves of pretentiousness and savage disgust of “could have beens”.  Their style was unique when they first arrived on the streets of Portland.  Sounding old, somewhat bitter, yet totally refreshing, they snuck their way into bars they weren’t allowed to be in to bring old fashion rock and roll, possibly to PBR drinking hipsters initial dismay, but quickly found a way into our hearts.  And if they were simply unique a few years ago, it’s almost impossible to describe them now.

Two years ago, friend and (soon to be) fellow Train Wreck’d contributor, had this to say about the boys at

“When performing live the band pulses, and burns through numbers like a lost train careening down a track to hell. This isn’t metal, this isn’t punk, it’s pure rock and roll the way it was meant to be played. If you miss the Stripes and have lost faith in the Kings of Leon, longing for the Youth and Young Manhood to come back, then this band is for you.”

And honestly, nothing has really changed considerably.  Their a bit older, and more experienced these days.  And with that experience, they have managed to take their brand of pure rock and roll, and turn it into something mystically similar to the likes of any super star or rising talent of the late 60’s.  Basically, the song remains the same for 1776, but the progress that the band has made has been amazing.  Now with very little effort, I can easiley say, they can only move up from here.

Find more information and music from the band at their Website, and on Facebook.