CATCHING UP WITH… Handcuffs, Vivs, Wiretree & The Public Good

In which we revisit
four of our favorite Sonicbids “Best Kept Secret” artists.

 

BY FRED MILLS

 

At BLURT we remain staunch independent music fans. Just
under three years ago we unveiled the BLURT/Sonicbids “Best Kept Secret”
program
to spotlight up-and-coming and under-the-radar indie artists,
subsequently profiling 17 worthy bands from all across the U.S. (and even a
couple from overseas). Among the acts that knocked our socks off were Chicago’s
Handcuffs, Boston’s
Vivs, Austin’s Wiretree, and D.C.’s The Public Good; you can click on the links
to read the original interviews. Meanwhile, our Best Kept Secret program is
ongoing – we’ll have our newest pick announced in a few weeks – but since all
four of those groups recently issued new records, we thought it would be a
golden opportunity to check back in with them and see how their careers have
been going. Without further delay, then, let us reintroduce you to…

 

 

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THE VIVS, Boston MA (Karen Harris, guitar/vocals; Terri Brosius,
vocals/keyboards; Mat Magee, guitars; Pete Sutton, bass; Nathan Logus, drums) New
record:
Why So Dark? Visit the Vivs
at their Facebook page.

 

BLURT: Since you
appeared in BLURT, how has your life changed – lucrative endorsement deals,
paparazzi stalking you, groupies mobbing you after gigs, etc.?

KAREN HARRIS: The groupies: uncontrollable. Of course….

        We’ve received so much attention and
general excellent awesomeness and feedback from the Blurt Best Kept Secret.
Practically speaking, your review provided the most specific and right-on
description in terms of defining our music, which we have a hard time doing in
an “elevator-pitch” sort of way. I think we may be a strange amalgam: of new
and old, obscure and not, girl and boy, happy and tortured – and consequently,
seems we’re not so easy to define genre-wise. Your equation of influences and
way of describing the band has been instrumental. Seriously.

 

Briefly outline some
of the things – artistic, personal or otherwise – you’ve been up to since we
ran our BKS feature on you. Any milestones that we should know about?

We’ve
been chugging along steadily since the debut of Mouth to Mouth in late 2009. We got a new bass player – the awesome
Pete Sutton (ex-Trona), who also sings, so now we have three-part harmonies! We
also got a new drummer, Brett Campbell (from Seks Bomba – also a session guy
with Marc Ribot, etc.), who played on the new EP Why So Dark?, and he was awesome. I think he got frustrated with
our home-spun way of doing things (he was used to making a lot of money and
touring a lot, for example, which is tough with kids and day jobs), and awesome
though he was, it made sense to part ways. We now have Nathan Logus. He’s perfect
– he’s played with Baby Ray, John Powhida, Pete Weiss, etc.

        After the last CD (which was also so
nicely written about in The Boston Globe,
Cape Cod Times, and elsewhere!), we
proceeded to have another prolific period, wrote a ton of new stuff over the
last year and a half (each new song I love more than the last; I love that
trajectory) and played a handful of shows around Boston. Reconnected with Bill
Goffrier from Big Dipper and Carrie from The Breeders/Ed’s Redeeming Qualities
last December to play a great benefit show at The Regent Theater here in Arlington – it raised lots
of money for The Children’s Room, a place for grieving kids.

 

 

 

Tell us about your
latest record: some of the inspirations that went into the writing and
recording, any songs that you feel really excited about, etc.

We
decided on which four songs, of all the newbies, to bring in to record at Wooly
Mammoth studios (with the all-star team of David Minehan and Eric Brosius
again), and went in and finished them this spring. I love the songs. They seem
to be a bit more Brit-pop and “X” ish than the last CD, and the
addition of Pete’s voice just elevates the whole thing to another place. There
are about a dozen more songs waiting in the wings, and we may get more demo-y
about those and do them on the cheap in our rehearsal space with Eric and his
Rock band genius…. he’s still the audio director at Harmonix. We also plan to
cover an old Scruffy the Cat song (“Tiger, Tiger”) to a benefit
compilation for Charlie Chesterman.

        I’m still just loving writing songs and
bringing them to the band to finish and work on. Like I said, the newest stuff
is my fave. On this EP, I go back and forth but right now, I’m loving
“Sun’s Coming Out” and “Forget It.” This EP isn’t quite as
heartbreaking as the last CD, but there’s still some bite and woe there… hopefully
not too much of a wallop. I love the contrast and tension between the sonic energy
(and “happy” sound) with the struggle and strife in the lyrics. I
live for when bands do that. The Kinks. Elliot Smith. Television. The Smiths.
Blur. X. Matthew Sweet. Robyn Hitchcock. Know what I mean?

 

And of course, what’s
next for you?

I’m still
teaching high school, working with Robert Pinsky on a poetry project for
teachers, raising kids. Abby, my 9 year old, and Maddy, Terri’s 9 year old, were
just in Girls Rock Camp Boston; they played guitar and keys, respectively,
formed a band The Blue Stars, and performed at Brighton Music Hall,
where we’ll probably never be able to get a show! So awesome. And Emmet, my
son, is drumming away – lots of music in our house.

      Overall, I’m just loving this band so
much. Love these people I create and play with. Ready to record again. Excited
to see what happens. Maybe we’ll do mini tours. Probably with the kids…

 

MP3: The Vivs – “Forget It (I Don’t Think
About It”)


04 Forget It (I Don’t Think About It) by The Vivs

 

 

MP3: The Vivs – “Are You Coming Around”


Are You Coming Around (demo) The Vivs by The Vivs

 

 

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THE PUBLIC GOOD,
Washington DC
(Steve Ruppenthal,
bass; John Elderkin, guitar; Sam Esquith, guitar/keyboards; Chris Garges, drums)
New record
: A Varied Program of Stereo Dynamics for Your Wild Nights Alone (by The Public Good); plus Hi, We’re
The Popes (by The Popes).Visit The Public
Good at their Facebook page.

 

BLURT: Since you
appeared in BLURT, how has your life changed – lucrative endorsement deals,
paparazzi stalking you, groupies mobbing you after gigs, etc.?

JOHN ELDERKIN: Beginning with our most recent news, Steve
Ruppenthal and I have teamed up with our former Popes bandmate Henry Pharr and
will be releasing a digitized version of the widely acclaimed Hi, We’re The Popes EP for the first
time. The Popes were based in Chapel
Hill, NC, and played
regularly in the late 80s and early 90s. The EP was released in 1989 and made a
splash that surprised even the band – Billboard gave it a rave review, Jon Pareles of The
New York Times
sent them a note asking for more music, and the record
debuted on CMJ’s “Hot New Release” chart one spot higher than R.E.M.’s
album of the same week. The Popes later released a cassette-only collection
called Afar and several specialty
releases, including a hard-rocking cover of Alex Chilton’s “I’m in Love
with a Girl” that garnered national college radio play. A complete
“great lost Popes album” is rumored to be hidden in a damp basement
somewhere in North Carolina,
but band memories on this subject remain fuzzy. The Popes split in 1992,
        As a bonus, we will also be
releasing two lost songs – the very first Popes recordings, which were
discovered under a pile of seaweed and hot dogs by Public Good drummer Chris
Garges and Mitch Easter. They did a great job cleaning it up, and all the music
will be available on iTunes and other outlets in mid October.

 

 

 

Briefly outline some
of the things – artistic, personal or otherwise – you’ve been up to since we
ran our BKS feature on you. Any milestones that we should know about?
While
on tour for our latest album we got caught in two of the most recent Storms of
the Century – Chris got stuck in the Virginia
mountains on his way to meet us for a gig in Philly last December. Thankfully,
he and his wife gave up on the gig and found safe lodging in the nick of time.
And all of us were trapped in the Maryland
countryside last February during the now infamous Snowmageddon storm. We’ll
spare you the ugly, freezing details, but we must thank the brave heroics of
our occasional sideman Matt Everhart and his giant Ford truck – otherwise we’d
still be thawing out at roadside. Seriously.
        The band managed to survive the
recent D.C. earthquake without incident or fisticuffs.

 

Tell us about your
latest record: some of the inspirations that went into the writing and
recording, any songs that you feel really excited about, etc.

After releasing No. 1 in 2009, The Public Good recorded and released A Varied Program of Stereo Dynamics For Your Wild Nights Alone in
mid-2010. Chris Garges recorded the band at his Old House Studio in Gastonia, NC,
and at Don Zientara’s Inner Ear Studio, famous for many Fugazi and Dischord
records.

 

And of course, what’s
next for you?

We’ve also written two songs for the upcoming “The Book
Club Play” to open at Arena Stage in Arlington,
Va. later this fall.

 

Listen to “Charmless”
and “Not Beautiful,” from the new Popes reissue, at ReverbNation.

 

 

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WIRETREE, Austin TX (Kevin Peroni, guitar/vocals; Joshua Kaplan, guitar; Rachel Peroni,
bass; Daniel Blanchard, drums) New record:
Make Up. Visit Wiretree at their Facebook page.

 

 

BLURT: Since you
appeared in BLURT, how has your life changed – lucrative endorsement deals,
paparazzi stalking you, groupies mobbing you after gigs, etc.?

KEVIN PERONI: Ha! Um, yeah… we’ve been having to take alternate routes to get
to our gigs to avoid the onslaught of fans, yeah… But other than that it’s been
good – we’ve used the “best kept secret” tag to its full
capacity.  Having a reputable music resource writing about us has
definitely opened some doors. 

 

Briefly outline some
of the things – artistic, personal or otherwise – you’ve been up to since we
ran our BKS feature on you. Any milestones that we should know about?

Mucho.  We’ve just come out with the new album Make
Up
[the previous album was 2009’s Luck]. We’ve played Austin City Limits,
Satellite Sets, and we’re about to go on a small European tour based around the
Loop Festival in Granada Spain as we share the stage with Josh Rouse.

 

 

 

Tell us about your
latest record: some of the inspirations that went into the writing and
recording, any songs that you feel really excited about, etc.

Our latest effort is the final phase of transformation of
Kevin’s solo project evolving into an actual 4-piece band. There’s excitement
in the diversity of the songs in the album.  Some highlight
“Tinyhearts,” others will bring up “MTH” or “The
Shore.” Those who want their alt country fix, “Josephine”
usually gets them.

 

And of course, what’s
next for you?

As we said, a little tour in Europe
in mid November.  Past that, we’re going to relax in what we’ve created
and enjoy ourselves.  Possibly a release
of demos?  You’ll have to wait and see.

 

 

MP3: Wiretree – “Tinyhearts”


Wiretree – Tinyhearts by wiretree

 

 

 

MP3: Wiretree – “Make
Up”


Wiretree – Make Up by wiretree

 

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THE HANDCUFFS, Chicago IL (Chloe F. Orwell & Brad Elvis, with
Emily Togni, Ellis Clark and Alison Hinderliter) New record:
Waiting for
the Robot. Visit the Handcuffs at their
Facebook page.

 

BLURT: Since you
appeared in BLURT, how has your life changed – lucrative endorsement deals,
paparazzi stalking you, groupies mobbing you after gigs, etc.?

CHLOE
& BRAD: Well, we’re very famous, but nobody knows it. We’ve managed to
enjoy some relatively quiet, more under-the-radar kind of success due to some
pretty nice television and film placements. Notably a few pretty cool feature
placements in Gossip Girl and literally hundreds of placements on a lot of
other TV shows on MTV, VH1, E!, A&E, Showtime, the CW, PBS and more.

        We’re also thrilled to be providing
most of the soundtrack for comedian Wendy Liebman’s comedy special on Showtime
called Wendy Liebman: Taller on TV, which will air this fall. She’s not
shy about tweeting that we’re her favorite band (she’s also our favorite
comedian, and we’re not just saying that). We’re also known for our energetic
and stylish live shows and our fans can expect not only a powerful and tight
musical performance, but a well-dressed band on stage, too, complete with
scarves and feather boas when the mood strikes us. It’s our inner glam creeping
out from inside the garage.

 

Briefly outline some
of the things – artistic, personal or otherwise – you’ve been up to since we
ran our BKS feature on you. Any milestones that we should know about?

We just
released our third album called Waiting for the Robot on September 6. We
think it’s our best work ever. To help celebrate the release, drummer Clem
Burke of Blondie, who is a friend, fan, and champion of the band, invited us to
open for Blondie the very next night (September 7) in our hometown of Chicago at the House of
Blues, which was spectacular. One of the highlights of that night was when the
entire crowd sang along, with a little coaxing from Chloe, at the top of their
lungs to one of our new songs called “Everybody Waves Hello” from the
new album. It was one of those moments that just kind of gives you chills. That
kind of stuff never gets old, no matter how many stages you’ve worked.
        We’re also going to be the
support act for punk legend Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers), who’s stopping by Chicago on his U.S. tour on October 31. We’re also
looking forward to getting out and doing some of our own touring, probably in
early spring 2012.

        As far as milestones and/or tragedies:
How much time do you have? For starters, drummer, co-leader and head songwriter
Brad Elvis has and still continues to have a pretty amazing career (he’s been a
pro musician since his early teens and has never stopped) despite, or perhaps
because of, his underground status. He’s had a few major (and some indie) label
deals, and toured all over the world. Like any pro musician with longevity
there have been some crazy ups and downs both professionally and personally
(although his downs, shockingly, have never involved drugs or alcohol, in which
he’s not really a big participant). He is often compared to Keith Moon and John
Bonham. He has also been moonlighting as the drummer for the Romantics for the
past 7 years (replacing Clem Burke, who recommended him for the gig and who
used to drum with the band until he became too busy with Blondie).
       
Lead singer/instrumentalist, co-leader Chloe F. Orwell is a two time
breast cancer survivor and went through the whole difficult treatment
rigmarole, including multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, while
still trying to forge a rock & roll music career. Fortunately both she and
the career survived and they’re both stronger for it. Chloe can also be
frequently heard as the voice-over on national television and radio commercials
and she’s been known to sing a jingle or two, too.

 

 

Tell us about your latest
record: some of the inspirations that went into the writing and recording, any
songs that you feel really excited about, etc.

 

We are
in love with our new album. Our RIYL are Ting Tings, T-Rex and Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
but we think we sound like The Handcuffs. For this record, we were definitely
inspired by a lot of ‘70s glam artists like T. Rex, Bowie, Roxy Music, Mott the
Hoople, but we’re always listening to and getting inspired by our
contemporaries in modern music, too, and just good old fashioned hard, driving,
amplified rock music (i.e. Led Zeppelin, and Rolling Stones). We love all of our
children/songs on this album, but if we have to pick at this moment, we’d
probably list “Eight Down,” “Dirty Glitter,” “Miss You
on Tuesday” and “The Scary Side of Me” among our favorites. When we were recording another one of the songs on Robot called
“Baby I Love You,” it turned into an accidental duet between partners
in music and in life, Brad and Chloe, when Brad, who wrote the song, sang the
guide vocal over the basic tracks. That scratch vocal turned out so cool that
we decided to go with it and turn it into a duet, since it’s a rock & roll
love song anyway. A happy accident, just like many love stories.

 

And of course, what’s
next for you?

We’re
still trying to get through this whole promotional period of the new record!
There has been a lot to do. We’re 100 percent DIY/independent except for having
a fantastic publicist (Green Light Go out of Detroit), so we’re constantly “working
it.” But it’s definitely a labor of love. We’ve got a few cool sync
[licensing] opportunities on the horizon for this current record. We can’t wait
to start on the next record, though, and we already have a handful of songs
waiting in the wings.

 

 

Listen to The Handcuffs Radio
at Green Light Go.

 

 

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