England Day 1

Salty Snack of the Day: Strong Cheese and Onion Potato Crisps (really good)

 Britishisms Heard Uttered: Wanker (in regards to a televised football player’s performance on the pitch)

It is my first night in England and I am sitting in a pub called the Spotted Dog, surrounded by locals gathered around televisions suspended in the four corners, watching Manchester City play Real Madrid. I truly know nothing of soccer, (yes I know what it’s really called) but you’d have to be dead not to get somewhat swept up in the aggrieved hollering and tortured groans. The weird thing is I think they’re rooting for Real Madrid, but that doesn’t make sense, so I’m just trying to be a fly on the couch and write.

We arrived at 10:30 this morning after leaving NYC at 11:00 the night prior. The weeks leading up to departure were one unbroken string of heartburn filled days. We’re a band of worriers and getting everything figured out, from work visas to which equipment to bring and which to rent, to the daunting amount of work needed to be done in order to leave work, was a suppressant to the otherwise steadily growing excitement. I have described in the past the cataclysmic moment when my brother’s best friend brought Quadrophenia over and my life shifted into an obsession that consumed high school. You can’t love the Who and not fall in love with Pete Townshend’s England. I got a full-size Union Jack that adorned a wall of every room in which I slept through college. My first band gave several thousand dollars, earned $50 at a time in coffee houses and bookstores, to an English booker who swore he could get us shows over there. Of course he disappeared as the coffers ran dry having booked not one show. Wussy has attempted to get over here multiple times but the interest, and thus money, was never there. The best we could do was send Chuck and Lisa to perform as a duo and hopefully raise our profile a bit. Even this trip is not guaranteed of even breaking even. But getting to not only visit, but actually play rocknroll in the land of so many of my heroes is a big, emphatic check on my increasingly short list of unfulfilled musical dreams.

We drove to NYC because direct flights were so much cheaper that even adding in hotels and long-term parking it was still much better than flying from Cincinnati. Getting six people with instruments checked and through security went surprisingly smoothly after all the worry. Of course we still ended up paying well over $600 extra to check everything. We had to two hours to kill at the gate so we all got giggly drunk, (except Chuck) which is something we rarely do as a band. Apparently airplanes have gotten futuristic since the past. The windows did not have shades. Instead there was a button that dimmed the window like those eyeglasses that become sunglasses when you go out into the sun. The one thing the future has not accomplished is making those glasses look cool. They’re not sunglasses and frankly are an advertisement for celibacy.

One of the key differences in touring the UK is that you rent a van with a driver. Another Cincinnati band is over here at the same time as us and they chose to self-drive. They got into an accident within days. A small experiential sampling I know, but the reduction in stress, as well as the potential loss of life and limb, are worth it. Our driver is named Ollie and he seems to possess the requisite patience needed to make a living driving the likes of us around. This is a good thing seeing as he’s going to be living with us for almost three weeks.

We went to meet George at his flat* and were offered tea and cakes. Because yes. I don’t like tea but I’ve always assumed that the British did it better. Seeing as our cultures are so similar in so many ways I reasoned that they couldn’t all have succumbed to a mass hysteria of poor taste could they?** I agreed to a strong tea with milk and it was lovely. Apparently it was Yorkshire tea, but regardless, well done there.

The apartment (!) was right next to the Olympic village from a few years back so I walked along a canal to take a look. The first bird I see is a mallard. Like I flew across an ocean to see a fucking mallard. The weather was fetchingly British in that within an hour it snowed, rained, was windy, and sunny. The next bird I see is a Coot. We have those too. I walked past the Olympic stadium, the swimmy place, and a cool vertical intestine that apparently was used to broadcast the circus to the opiated masses, (I actually quite like the Olympics) and then I saw a regular old pigeon. So obviously this country is screwing with me.

Then to our hotel, which was right off the highway and adjacent to a town called Barking. I’m not sure even the citizens of Barking would consider their town a great shakes, but I have to also assume they would never tire of putting the word barking in front of everything. Barking Hotel, Barking Town Hall, Barking Folk Festival to name a few. I did walk through the Barking Abbey ruins, which was really just a half-foot high wall in a small green that looked like an architects drawing for an abbey. The best part was the abbey was first constructed, with no apparent sense of irony, in the year 666 before it was sacked by Vikings. It was there I saw my first non-American bird: a blackbird. Small succor indeed.

Tomorrow a six-hour drive to Newcastle to open up for Shonen Knife. Can’t wait to play a show.

District of Columbiad (or the History of Wussy in our Nation’s Capital)

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When you’re a small band who doesn’t make their living touring, doesn’t fly to shows, have a driver who can drive over night, or in other words if you’re like the vast majority of bands who tour, then some cities or even regions will get short shrift.* For instance, look at the southern United States. (just don’t look too close at our women, guns, flags, cholesterol, and investment in public education) For us however, we have no radio station pushing us down there, no media center that we can hopefully get some press out of, and with it being so far away we can only play the region once every few years. It’s hard to build a following that way. Now look at the Pacific Northwest, which is even further away. KEXP has been playing us since the beginning, so by the time we got there, holy shit there’s people who know the music and want to see us. The more prosaic reality is where you can reach a city within a reasonable amount of time, play there a million times and hope word of mouth with the occasional media mention will result in a fan base. You just grind it out. Sometimes though a city just isn’t into you. (And then Samantha chides, “Carrie, how many times are you going to keep going there? Where’s your pride my fine young mare? It’s time to let the dream go, stand tall, stick your bosoms out, and only make the occasional booty call if the routing really makes sense.”) There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do OK in Pittsburgh. It’s just been like a series of weird first dates every time we play there. Is it them? Is it us? Washington D.C. has been like that too.

  • Shrift is a pleasant word to say. So much so I think it should be used to describe something like the rippling movement a summer dress makes while a woman is walking. Instead it means the absolution or remission of sins by a priest. Which is good too. Not as good as mine but still good. The phrase short shrift was first written down unsurprisingly by Shakespeare, and originally was used when criminals were sent straight from sentencing to the gallows and thus only allowed to receive a quick shrift.

 The First Time

The first time we played D.C. was actually in Arlington, at a tiny place called the Galaxy Hut. This was in the Dawn era and I had fucked up. It was one of those years where Easter fell super early and to be honest I had no idea it moved around at all. I still had small children at the time and Easter was a big deal. Easter hunts, (we have a tradition going way back that whoever finds the egg with Mike written on it wins the Mike Hunt) family, rolls rising symbolically and then crossed with hot white frosting dripping down the sides. And here I had OK’d the band being away from town that weekend. But before all that we had a show to play Easter Eve.

The stage at the Galaxy Hut was a rectangle painted on the floor, no larger than a tract housing walk-in closet. The club could fit around 50 people and it was packed. Not for us, but the other band had someone from Dismemberment Plan in it and people were psyched to see that. We were arranged like a police line-up in our painted corner: Dawn, Chuck, Lisa then me. I still brought the keyboard then so it was tight. Not a bad show, but when we tried to book a show there later on they had decided not to pay some sort of license fee and bands could not play original music there, only covers. Don’t ask me.

Anyway, we were staying at a friend’s place in Arlington, us still at the sleeping on floors stage of things. The next morning was Easter, and wracked with guilt I decided I needed a pilgrimage of some sort to accomplish what I don’t know. Arlington Cemetery seemed promising but the only thing going on there was a sunrise service and fuck that. So the next obvious spiritual icon would have to be the National Cathedral. Those Episcopalians sure build a nice church. I took the Metro to DuPont Circle, which was as close as it got to the church. I came up out of the hole into a perfect robin’s egg blue spring morning, and also into a fancy-pants farmer’s market. Children in strollers being pushed by impossibly white-toothed parents in earth tones and soft jeans laughing and leaning into each other as they picked out the perfect bunch of organic arugula and artisanal cheese to numb the nascent disquiet that would eventually lead him to unplug the nanny-cam and her to drink at noon. It was lovely and made me feel better. I got a fresh chocolate croissant and an organic indigenous butt-cheek squeezed apple cider, watched the automatons cheerily pretending that the tech bubble wasn’t about to burst, and then began looking for the bus stop that would take me toot sweet to the Cathedral. I can’t remember what it’s called but the bus stop was on the road known as embassy row. I waited and waited becoming increasingly certain that the busses must not run even the minimal holiday schedule on Easter. I gave myself an hour before I’d start walking, an interval my increasingly crazed mind had designated as being the longest anyone would make someone wait at a bus stop on a non-blizzard non-rush hour day. (I hate waiting. I don’t do it well. Hell is amusement parks. Welcome to Sartre Flags Parks! Suicide inducing levels of waiting for a reward of nausea! All the while surrounded by the stickiest and loudest Americans with no exit in sight forever….) After leaving and then walking back to the bus stop several times in consternation, I said “Fuck it” and left in the direction of the Cathedral. Approximately 150 yards down the road the bus blew past me. I stomped my feet and swore voluminously with what I’d like to imagine was the deep drunken creativity of Dylan Thomas at closing time, and the outsized fist shaking anger of Stone Cold Steve Austin battling the Corporation. And then I just started walking. Every driveway was a different country’s embassy and a better geographical lesson would be harder to find this side of Carmen Sandiego’s outstretched thigh. Besides, if you’re going on a pilgrimage for spiritual redemption then lots of walking really should be involved.

Fairly exhausted and sweaty, the Cathedral was beautiful and of a scale and type that does not seem to be so common in the states. Services were long over and that was fine. The air was cool and peaceful and I was really looking for a more meditative environment anyway. I found a pew off to the side and just sat until the hurt lessened to the point where I could accept the choice I’d made (and would make) to play music for a handful of people instead of being with my kids.

Ponderous Ponderables

It’s been several years of this life now and my kids seem to be doing fine. Or to put another way, I’m guessing once again I’ve overstated the importance of my omnipresent presence in their lives. I’m not sure the smothering always hovering style of modern parenting is entirely necessary or beneficial. We were talking in the van about the benign neglect of parenting when we were kids. The people in this band grew up in areas ranging from rural to mild suburbia so our experiences are not universal. It was a childhood where you were expected to be outside all day, just not late for dinner. My Dad would go away for a week or two pretty regularly and it wasn’t looked at askance. It was a bike ramps built out of scraps of wood for jumping over small muddy creeks named Snake River, Estes rocket engines dipped in gasoline, bottle rocket wars, hitting your friends dad’s liquor cabinet, riding lawn mower/tractor/go-kart driving kind of childhood. I swear I’m not trying to paint an overly bucolic picture of the way things were. I’m an adult. I have no idea what it’s like to be a child now. I hope they’re having fun, making lots of (non-fatal) poor choices, figuring out which kids are actually assholes and why, absorbing mountains of useless pop culture trivia in which to identify members of their tribe decades from now. I just figure that having the weight of parental expectations constantly upon your shoulders must be exhausting and ultimately limiting. The overwhelming love you have for your kids, and the awesome interesting people they are can make us forget the fact that our job is to turn them loose on the world.

Second through Fourth Time

Anyway, back to our history in D.C. We played the next two times at a place called the Red and the Black.** It being the equipment carried up a long flight of stairs to a small room with a stage set into the wall and encased in seedy red velvet curtains, looking for all the world like a burlesque puppet theater, kind of place. The money for the sound guy came out of the door sales so both times we made approximately $25. The band opened up for the Heartless Bastards the next time in town but had to drive through hurricane Sandy to get there.

**Best song on the new Iron Maiden record? Perhaps. The ending does go on a bit.

Rick Steve’s Presents

Back to the present: The day after Easter (See? Who says growth is unpossible?) we drove into D.C. even though our show was the next day. Why play a show after a nine-hour drive if you don’t have to? You know what this means don’t ya? Museums!! First up was a new one for me: The Air and Space Museum Annex out by Dulles Airport. The first thing I see is the Langley Aerodrome A. I am endlessly fascinated by the Wright Brothers. Seemingly socially awkward, obsessively focused, willing to scrap an idea if it’s not working or work tirelessly to hone a concept that was hazy. The idea that genius can come from diligence, stubbornness, insane amounts of hard work, as well as the inspiration that such work creates is very inspiring to me. And their native weirdness is just icing on the cake. Screw you North Carolina. Flight could only truly gestate in the isolated oddness of southern Ohio. Anyway, Langley was also trying to create powered manned flight. The difference was that he had the imprimatur of the government and the scientific community. The aerodrome was his great failure and seeing it in person it seems impossible now to ever have imagined it was going to lift humanity from the surface of the earth. The shiny and sobering Enola Gay sits center stage and it’s pretty wonderful to get up close to the shuttle Discovery. The elevated walkways around the hangar are a feature I’d love to see added to the Dayton Air Force Museum, but on the downside MacDonald’s is the only place to eat. Gross.

Next to navigate a circuitous path via the public transportation system from out there down to the Mall. Lunch in the Museum of the American Indians because it’s the only place to get a decent vegetarian meal in that area. Then on to the National Gallery. I don’t need to describe this as pretty everyone has been there, but what a lovely collection of El Grecos, Vermeers and to say nothing of the Da Vinci. The main domed area, with the fountain, what the hell is that called? Dammit. Insert architectural word here. Well it was filled with Easter Lillies and smelled divine. Few things are quite as soul filling as a good church-like art museum. Then I walked past the Capital Building with all the cherry trees so in bloom their fragrance was on the air. My feet hurt but I walked the two miles to the club, seeing parts of D.C. where the poor people most definitely weren’t. Corridors of power indeed.

Fifth Time

 It’s been a few years and our new booking agent really wanted us to try again, so it was decided we would dip our toes in at a very small club called the Treehouse. Once again with the lovely load-in up a flight of stairs, and then onto a weird stage with no monitors that was basically two squares next to each other, but offset to the point where maybe only a quarter of the two pieces are touching. So if you’re looking at the stage, the right side, where the audience can get right up next it to has Chuck and Lisa. To the left and back the rest of the band. In front of the non-Chuck/Lisa is the rail to keep us from hurtling down the stairs. Anyway, it’s weird. The owners were super nice and it became apparent pretty quickly that people were really excited to see us. The audience just poured amazing enthusiasm and love out to us and it was lovely. Lisa sang with the Paranoid Style, one of the openers, and they are truly a band to keep an eye out for. So good.

So maybe this D.C. thing is going to work out after all.

The Rest of the Leg

Our next show was an art space in a transitional neighborhood in Queens where the stage was lit only by a few naked red and blue bulbs that managed to both blind us to our instruments and yet provide no useful illumination at all. Both Chuck and Joe fell off the stage at one point. The Indian restaurant next door was so delicious that the glacially slow service was rendered irrelevant. Next up was the Milkboy in Philadelphia with our dear Phili fans. That afternoon we recorded a set in the WPRB radio studio on the Princeton campus. John Soloman was a sweetheart and it was fun to be in station with rows of vinyl singles and shelves of lp’s. Next up was a show at an old friend and long-time supporter of the bands house. House shows have such a different vibe, but I think it went well. The highlight was engaging in a full on Nerf gun battle upstairs with his kids while Lisa was singing Majestic 12, and then coming back down into the basement to finish the set. Take that Led Zeppelin for backstage hi-jinks. We finished up in Boston at the small and sold out Midway. Thalia Zedek opened up for us and she completely lived up to her reputation. A lot of familiar and friendly faces in the audience and there was a certain sweet and emotional feeling this night.

Next up we’re going to England, Scotland, and Wales. Now there’s a reason to keep the blog going. We are besides ourselves with anticipation.

Spring 2016 Tour

More April, May and June dates to be announced soon!

Cheese Doodle Ranking 2016 (ongoing)

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Cheese Doodle Ranking 2016

Terms:

Texture – can range from packing peanuts to cylindrical rods of sandpaper roughness. If you feel as if the roof of your mouth is going to bleed by the end of the bag they’re too rough.

Cheese Profile – is produced by the unique formulations of doodle dust used to coat the doodle. It’s a delicate balance between salt, cheddar and sawdust.

 

Tasted Doodles:

Carolina Country Snacks Baked Cheese Curls – poor

For all intents and purposes this snack is an orange packing peanut. Smaller than the average doodle, covered in sawdust, and entirely pointless. The bag has Jesus quotes on it, begging the question whether they are praying for our souls or forgiveness.

Herr’sgood

Taste profile is primarily that of salt with soupcon of cheese underneath.

Texture rough

Herr’s Honey Cheesenope

Chuck likes them, I think they’re weird. It’s a doodle coated in brown sugar. Doesn’t even leave your fingers orange.

Toms – serviceable I guess – I don’t really like them

Tastes like they’re going for a sharp cheddar profile but it ranges from non-existent to an almost sour wisp of cheese. Might be appealing after drinking a lot of beer from a plastic pitcher whilst bowling. Which upon reflection, unless you want to leave your balls* orange, would be inadvisable.

Texture is big and a little rough. Like Garth Brooks scolding his step-children in front of a Cinnabon at the mall.

Utz Baked Cheddar Cheese Curls – ultimately disappointing

Cheese flavor is quite good

Texture is a nightmare. It’s like over-cooked air. As if their baking process involves leaving trays of doodle dough inside Chernobyl until they take on the air of a thousand tiny sharpened knives. Plus I’m more nauseous than usual after eating.

Wiseserviceable

Cheese flavor negligible

Texture pretty good

 

 

 

 

 

 

*No, I don’t think I’m being subtle.

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Since Last We Parted Again

The behemoth that isn’t Wussy is attempting to get up and moving again. The word lumbering, so often associated with us, comes flitting to mind. Like the image of a waterfowl running across the water desperately attempting to gain flight, spastically flapping its wings only to alight a short distance away on the other side of the pond, exhausted, dismayed, and disheveled.

Our natural cycle seems to be a year at home making a new record and then the next year out promoting it. “Attica,” our last record had a lovely reception. People seemed to like it and some very nice things happened, like being on TV and more people coming out to the shows. It felt that maybe we were on the verge of something small but exciting (like free bunion surgery – thanks Obama!) And as responsible indie  rock purveyors maybe we should go back out and tour that next summer (2015) in order to keep the momentum going. We did exactly what we had done the year before to set things up, but the widening gyre collapsed on itself and the tour fell apart. When we finally pulled the plug everyone let out a collective sigh of relief and we realized that to a one, that while we were all trying to be good tin soldiers, what we really wanted was to be home and making a record. We love making records. Making a record means lots of time in the rehearsal space making things up. If nothing gets made up on a given night it doesn’t matter because you got to spend a night playing around, or talking about bands and records. As long as you don’t consider one kind of night better than the other then things tend to go pretty well. Eventually you go into the studio and get to make stuff up all over the place. And if you fall out of love with a song you just say, “well at least we’ll have a good B-side.” Maybe sometimes during the mix sessions things might get a little snippy as the decisions get all nit-picky, but if the blood isn’t a little bit high, if there are no stakes at all, then why even bother being there?

We finished “Forever Sounds” in June of 2015, or thereabouts. With our main touring time being the summer, we were presented with a nice long chunk of time before we would head out again. Our label Shake It got excited about the notion of having a longer roll out, just like all the cool kids labels do, and went so far as to have promo copies of the record printed up to send out to all the media outlets. When I was a kid finding a promo copy of a Springsteen single (Prove It All Night) was a score, and Chuck was even more excited, seeing as he made his living as a record dealer for awhile back there. It just felt professional. Up until this point we usually cut it very fine indeed and prayed we’d have the CD in our hands before the release show, and then pray we’d get some press before we toured, and then pray the tests came back negative.

With a new booking agent (see two paragraphs ago) and a new press person we were informed that once again the world had changed and that we were doing it all wrong. Or more specifically the way you promoted a record had changed. In the past the primary goal was to get mentioned in print media, especially a national one like Rolling Stone. Now however the goal is to provide exclusive content to the big web sites. (whoever the hell they might be) This could be as simple as giving a site the first 24 hours to stream a single, or a video. Then they get clicks, which generate money to them, and the band gets some front-page action on a well-traveled site. I don’t know, seemed to work OK. We can’t afford to keep someone on retainer promoting the band all the time so we pay someone for a few months and then it’s time to go play shows.

We are attempting what for us is our most ambitious slate of touring ever. Some short treks in the spring to celebrate the release of the CD, (see next entry) our first full band trip to England and environs, a swing out west in June, and then finishing with another trip east to finish up in July. Without actually doing the math it should be over 50 shows and over two months on the road. It is a little daunting, seeing as nothing has really changed in our lives to make touring easier other than more consistently getting two hotel rooms a night. There is a sense however, that for various reasons that will be enumerated throughout the summer, that our ability to go out like this is becoming more finite.

Forever Sounds Tour Update

WussyTour2016

Hi guys! Here’s all our #Wussy #ForeverSounds tour dates from March 29 – June 25. Can’t wait to play for y’all! I realize we can’t get to every city we’d like to – and we’re truly sorry about that. It’s a matter of routing and scheduling. But we’re awfully proud of this upcoming effort, and we truly hope to see some of you out on the road!! Bless your hearts all of you. You make this sort of thing possible!

//// US SPRING TOUR (FULL BAND) ////
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"Dropping Houses"

Wussy Announce Sixth Album ‘Forever Sounds’ and Share New Track, ‘Dropping Houses’

7″ Vinyl/Digital single from Cincinnati’s Wussy
Released on Shake It (US) / Damnably (UK) – January 29th 2016.

“America’s best songwriting band might now be among its best soundscaping ones” – SPIN
“It’s a swaggering, bleary, distorted churn topped off by another virtuoso vocal duet from Walker and Cleaver.” – Stereogum
“Maximum singability and staying power” – Pitchfork
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SPIN Premiers Wussy’s New Track, ‘Dropping Houses’

SPIN debuted Wussy’s newest track (coming out Jan 29) and wrote:

“To certain fans of Lucinda Williams, Crazy Horse, Mekons and R.E.M., Wussy became the best band in America almost instantaneously with the launch of their cult classic debut, Funeral Dress, in 2005. Their flawless document of ragged songwriting and modestly adventurous arrangements has only grown in dynamism in the years and albums that followed… America’s best songwriting band might now be among its best soundscaping ones.”

Read the rest here! http://www.spin.com/2016/01/wussy-sixth-album-forever-sounds-new-song-listen/