City Center released their second album Redeemer in May, their first for K. The duo of Fred Thomas and Ryan Howard spent a long time, almost four years, working on the songs and getting them recorded so they sound just right. Job well done, fellas -- the album is a thrilling mix of all kinds of styles, sounds and emotions that's just as likely to have you weeping as it is to have you punching the air with joy. Now down to just Thomas, City Center just finished touring the country and we asked him what scores, musical or otherwise, he made while he was out and about.
First, a song from Redeemer:
Touring is a truly inhuman kind of thing. Inhuman, not inhumane, though it can be both at times. What I mean by that is, the limits of your being are expanded and tested in some really strange and otherworldly ways that you never come across otherwise in day-to-day life. Whenever I come back from tour I feel so unchallenged by what normally might stress me out. Like doing the laundry could really come close to the level of aggravation that grows from sleeping on dirty punkhouse floors night after night or driving 600 miles a day, crammed in a minivan with all of your belongings and four or five other people. The point I'm getting to is that it's an amazingly unique scene, bigger and brighter and crazier than a lot of other things in life, on both the positive and negative end of the feelings spectrum.
I've found that when I'm in a van for most of the day and then in strange places screaming or strumming most of the night, a series of coping tools comes into play. Hyper-focused obsessions can be part of the coping mechanisms, and I tend to get wayyyyyyyyyyyyy into stuff on tour, more-so than I would regularly. This last tour with Swimsuit, City Center & Secret Twins wasn't as intense as the 2 month tour where I only listened to New Orleans Bounce and drew skeletons in my sketchbook all day long, but there were definitely some points of protracted thoughtfulness on the following thangs:
1. Amande Almond-Milk Yogurt
I've been vegetarian for coming up on 17 years, and even though I'm not always eating vegan, I try to avoid dairy when I can. Soy yogurt was my jam for a while, Coconut yogurt was kinda cool for a second, but lost its flair quick... Rice Yogurt was abhorrently disgusting, but yogurt made from cultured Almond Milk??? SERIOUSLY THE BEST THING IMAGINABLE!!! Texture, taste and lasting emotional after-effects all score big with this stuff, and we checked it out at every possible stop we made. Which brings me to....
2. Healthy Highways
A total necessity for any touring vegetarians. Amber checked this book out from the library, and it never failed us. A comprehensive, frequently-updated list of health food restaurants, co-ops, veggie points of interest and the like right off of the highways throughout America. Complete with driving directions! I know there's happycow and some other vegan websites which attempt the same goal virtually, but what about when you're in Wyoming and your smartphone got no service?? What about when your battery runs out or you leave your charger in Salt Lake City and the only places who can afford to let you know they're out there are Arby's and Jack In The Box??? This was probably the first tour I've done where malnutrition wasn't a factor, thanks to the info in this lifesaver of a book.
3. Tia Blake
My friend Michael in Colorado played this for me a few years ago when we were both in NYC, and reminded me of its existence when he came by our show. Completely amazing and unknown kinda moody bummer folk lady, aka MY MAIN INTEREST IN SOUND!!! There's a reissue coming out on Water later this year.
I'd been digging on this record for a while before tour, but Swimsuit has a song in honor of the Chandra sound that we recorded at Dub Narcotic on a stop thru Olympia for an upcoming K Records single. The story is insane... a 12 year old daughter of some art world freaks in Manhattan in the late 70's, picked to front a no-wave band. She rules so much that the band is outshined by her star-power and she starts her own thing. There was a re-issuing of her whole catalog a few years ago, but it is long gone... this is by far some of the most interesting music I've ever heard, and the paranoid delusions of a kid set to outsider disco skronk are really.... something.... else...
I'd heard about earthships, kinda weird dwellings made of recycled or dis-used materials. Shelley had a friend who was in the process of building one in the desert in northern New Mexico, and we woke up super early one day to go check it out... I guess it's the type of thing that you don't think about how it will be until you're experiencing it because there's zero frame of reference. It was really breathtaking to see a functional home made out of tires, dirt and beer bottles running on solar panels in the middle of nowhere. When the real shit goes down, the earthship folks are gonna be just fine and everyone else will be scramblin'... Totally amazing.