Monday means BandsOnBands, and we’re excited to be posting the new PropertyOfZack features today with guitarist Ben Wiacek of A Lot Like Birds. The band’s new album, No Place, is out tomorrow via Equal Vision Records, so make sure to pre-order it here.
In this week’s feature, Ben talks about his love for The Velvet Teen. Listen to songs by The Velvet Teen here check out what Ben had to say about one of his biggest influences below!
From Ben Wiacek:
There is a band I’ve been listening to since my first year in college, I can remember the first song I heard by them, where I was when I heard it, who I was with, what I was wearing, and why I had even been interested in hearing them in the first place.
The Velvet Teen is that band. They hail from Santa Rosa, CA, so I had the luxury of hearing about them through word of mouth due to their close proximity to the college I had been attending. The drummer in the first band I was ever involved in introduced me to their album “Elysium” and it was the first music I had ever heard that moved me in such a way. Before that I was in to primarily heavier music, and a lot of classic rock. Being a young 18-year-old dude causes a lot if reservations about showing anything other than your toughness, so luckily The Velvet Teen showed me that I didn’t need to be afraid of my emotional side.
There was something about the way Judah Nagler’s voice sounded and the lyrical content that spoke volumes to me. I had never been in to “emo” music before then (for lack of a better qualification), and I think it was because most of the singers I heard sounded too concerned with sounding pretty. To me, it seemed that Nagler wasn’t worried about disguising his perfectly unique croon with that of your typical run-of-the-mill prettyboy voice. I loved that about him. The addition of solid songwriting, an excellent band surrounding him, and one of my favorite albums of all time, “Cum Laude!” really cemented their place in my heart as one of the most influential bands in my life.
Senior Writer Jesse Richman had the chance to catch up with Kurt Travis at SXSW this past March for a fantastic interview. Jesse and Kurt discussed his new solo EP, touring with Jonny Craig, A Lot Like Birds, Equal Vision Records, touring, and much more. Check it all out below!
So the solo EP just came out.
Tell me a little bit about it.
Well, it’s kind of a concept record. I was reading the The Silmarillion and just became inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s creating of Middle Earth. Apparently he wrote all of the languages before he created the story, so all the words, they mean something. He uses different words like, “Ilúvatar” means father of all. “Ilúvatar” was just there. Then he thought up these children of Ainur and they started playing a song, and the song created Middle Earth. That’s pretty much what it’s about.
So I take it you are a big Tolkien fan?
What did you think of The Hobbit? Or, Part 1 of The Hobbit.
It was good… You know, everybody’s a critic. I think Peter Jackson is fucking amazing. I don’t think anybody could have done a better job. How about that?
I know a lot of people aren’t thrilled that he stretched such a short story into four hours worth of movie.
Right. Right. Right. It’s never going to compare to the movie in your head, but he does a great job.
So were you planning on writing a solo EP, or were you just reading Tolkien and decided to start writing?
I heard about this tour with Jonny Craig, Hail The Sun, and The Seeking about two months before it happened. I was like, “Shit. I’ve got to get another record!” Because I feel like going on tour without a record is kind of pointless. And as a musician, you should be continually creating. So…
How has touring with Jonny been so far?
It’s been great! Jonny and I go way back. I play a song with him; we share our backup band Hail The Sun, which is an amazing band.
So they’re opening and then they’re backing you guys as well?
How do you separate between a solo song, an A Lot Like Birds song… where do you draw those lines in your head?
My solo stuff is more for me, you know what I mean? It’s something that I can’t do in A Lot Like Birds. So that’s why it happened.
[Kris Crummett walks by and joins us for a minute]
KT: Shoutout to Kris Crummett at Interlace [Audio] Studios.
KC: We’re making a record together!
KT: We’re making the new A Lot Like Birds record in Portland like it’s supposed to be.
KC: It’s gonna be fuckin’ badass.
Have you started working on that at all?
KT: The band has five or six songs in the works; they just keep sending them to me, and I keep listening to them over and over.
KC: It’s gonna be amazing, they’re so insane!
KT: [to KC] Have they sent you some of the songs?
KC: Yeah, I’ve got some of the demos! “Balcony”, and…
KT: “Balcony” and “Joe’s Room”…
KC: Yep, really good stuff!
KT: These are all tentative titles!
What direction is it headed so far?
KT: Dude, OK. So we’re basically capitalizing on our crazy chaotic Blood Brothers, Mars Volta kind of shit, and then our more ambient, melodic shit; we’re getting even trippier and outer space. So… very pretty, very dirty and spooky and crazy, so we’re just capitalizing on those two elements. Then kind of fusing them together.
KC: It’s gonna be great. Sorry to interrupt. That show [which Travis had just played] was beautiful! It was so good!
[Kris Crummett leaves]
KT: Sorry about that. That’s my producer. Two Dance Gavin Dance records and now two A Lot Like Birds records. He’s a good dude.
Kurt Travis is about to head out on a solo tour with Jonny Craig, and is releasing a new self-titled EP in promotion of the tour via Equal Vision Records. PropertyOfZack is stoked to be streaming a new song from the EP today called “Angband.” Pre-order the EP here and check out Travis’ tour dates along with the song stream below by clicking “Read More!”
A Lot Like Birds and I The Mighty are out on tour with Dance Gavin Dance, and we’re stoked to be putting both bands together for a new Playlist feature. Check out the Playlists below while listening to the songs on Spotify and reading everyone’s thoughts!
Dear and the Headlights - Sweet Talk
I like a contrast between sad, desperate lyrics and upbeat, feel-good music. This song makes me want to go back five years to this stage in the long progression of true post-hardcore.
Bear vs Shark - Rich Old People Say Fuck Yeah Hey Hey
The line “I want to be a light you wear around your wrist,” is delivered so romantically. Another 2000’s post-hardcore band that I miss. - Cory Lockwood
The Chariot – Love.
This song just reminds me of a lot of the bands that I loved growing up that have, for the most part, disbanded in one way or another. Their whole CD is just pure gold, it was hard to just pick one song…this song just happens to be my favorite right now.
The Velvet Teen - No Star
The Velvet Teen has been one of my favorite bands for years now. I recently had the chance to see them with Minus the Bear last year, and it was a pure treat to see them perform for the first time after liking them for so long. “No Star” came out a few years after I was told they broke up, so I’m stoked to have new music from them with hopes of more on the way! - Ben Wiacek
Jay Lawrence Quartet - Sweet Lime
I mention the one song as a premiere, but in truth, the whole album is my quintessential music experience as of late. Not only is this album and song groundbreaking and more musical than anything I’ve heard lately from a drummer’s perspective, but the sheer brilliance in the arrangements and the transcendence of musical styles bumps this album to my top 5 Latin-jazz albums of all time.
Jose Gonzalez - Crosses
The ultimate soundtrack song. One of those dark departures that leaves you misty and makes you press the repeat button while your other hand steers your car down a beautifully empty road. There’s a genuine departure from reality in Jose’s music, and sometimes that is necessary for our emotional survival. - Joe Arrington
letlive. – Renegade 86’
I have been obsessed with Letlive.’s latest album Fake History. Renegade 86’ is by far my favorite song on the album because it brings that “dirty south” vibe and intensity you rarely hear anymore.
Get Scared – Built For Blame
I love what Get Scared has done with their opening track to their latest album Built for Blame, Laced with Shame. The vocals by Joel Faviere and production by Erik Ron make this song the heavy hitter that it is. It currently leads my iTunes in overall plays. - Chris Hinkley
The Used – Maybe Memories
My favorite band and one of my biggest inspirations. It’s hard to pick one song from this album, but this song pumps me up so much…I just love it’s raw intensity/energy and the passion that Bert sings with. Jeph’s bass lines are so melodic too, it’s awesome.
Armor For Sleep – Awkward Last Words
I love the vibe of everything Armor does, how it’s so dark and vibe-y. This song grooves so well and I love the lead guitar lines. - Blake Dahlinger
Coheed and Cambria - The Willing Well I: Fuel For The Feeding End
I think this song epitomizes what Coheed is all about. It’s a 7 minute epic and goes through so many transformations. From crazy prog-rock, to classic rock, to pop infused hooks, to ridiculous solos, all infused with original melodies and emotive sci-phi lyrics. Nobody does it like that band, I love them.
Death Cab For Cutie – What Sarah Said
I knew I had to pick something from Death Cab’s album: Plans. I remember when I first bought this album, I laid in my bed with a pair of studio headphones on and soaked it all in. It was hard to pick one song specifically, but the lyrics and imagery in this song are incredible. Benjamin Gibbard is one of my favorite lyricists because of his ability to paint a picture so vividly that it’s like listening to a novel. This song in particular hits home to me. The last build up from the bridge to the end of the song is so beautiful musically, colored by haunting vocals singing “So, who’s gonna watch you die?” - Brent Walsh
Say Anything – Alive With the Glory of Love
Say Anything’s album …Is a Real Boy is one of my favorite records of all time and this song tells the beautiful story of Max Bemis’ grandparents whose love survived the Holocaust. Anytime this song comes on you can’t help but sing along.
Dance Gavin Dance – Uneasy Hearts Weigh the Most
It’s a song that we ritually jam in the van while on tour. The guitarwork is amazing and it’s undeniably catchy. - Ian Pedigo