Hope everyone is safe and healthy out there! Recently, we checked in with Scott from GIANTS CHAIR, who went down memory lane and uncovered ten records that had a profound impact on his life. Scott breaks down each selection in detail as part of 10 Albums/10 Days, and the combined narrative serves as a musical autobiography documenting the incremental steps that influenced his artistry.
Day #1: Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger
My mom played this a lot, I think. For me, at that age, it probably could have been any album, but it was this one — my mom has great taste. If nothing else, it has a very distinctive “dry," sparse sound that was far different from anything that was on the radio. He and his manager had negotiated complete creative control with his new label on this his 18th studio album. There was a lot of country radio in my house, too (KZNN Rolla, MO), and this sounded totally different to me, even as a kid. This album also happens to be maybe the first country concept album — it‘s a whole epic tale about jealous revenge and being a fugitive cowboy.
Day #2: Rush - Fly By Night
My prog-rock tendencies could be traced to Rush. Theirs was the first music that made me realize how music could surprise me. I love this album as a bridge between straight-forward classic rock and progressive rock, lyrically and musically. It was released the same year as Red Headed Stranger - 1975.
Day #3: U2 - Unforgettable Fire
Though I grew up with music in my family, I can say it was ultimately U2 who made me need to be involved and write music. This album was the first U2 album I owned before discovering and loving their previous three albums. I love this album so much to this day and can still hear new things in it.
Day #4: Bob Dylan - Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Like I said yesterday, I was really into U2 and, appreciating their Euro-ness so much at the time, I was surprised to hear they were covering Bob Dylan’s "Maggie’s Farm" at some shows. We were visiting my Aunt and Uncle in Phoenix and my Aunt had a bunch of Dylan cassettes. I started listening to some on my Walkman during this visit and immediately thought Dylan, on this particular album, sounded a LOT like I remember hearing my, by then passed, dad play and sing around the house when I was little. Probably the next Christmas my Aunt gifted me the Bob Dylan Biography collection cassette box set - a real trove of classics and rare stuff that I really loved. I was just starting to write my own songs and was impressed by his scenes and stories - heavy and humorous. This and John Wesley Harding are my two favorite Bob Dylan records. But this one came first.
Day #5: Repo Man Soundtrack
This 1984 movie soundtrack of “punk rock” made it’s way to a circle of forward-listening kids in our small town and it definitely turned me on to an entirely new set of sounds and ideas that still matter to me. Frankly, as a romantic, I was as afraid of “punk” then as I was intrigued by it - and it would be years later until I realized the education it gave me. If you’ve always wondered about punk rock, but didn’t know where to start, this helped me a lot.
Day #6: Robert Johnson - King Of The Delta Blues Singers
Probably because of Dylan and I may have seen Crossroads with Ralph Macchio around the time, but I was curious about folk and blues. I was probably also wearing a black fedora of my grandpa’s - but, anyway, I had finally made it to the legendary St. Louis record store, Vintage Vinyl. I was looking for a place to start with blues and when asked if I could be helped finding something, I told the clerk I was looking for a good first blues record. He suggested this one. It was, again, unlike anything I’d heard up to that point - it didn’t even really sound like what I thought “blues” was. Then it became my benchmark for blues. I’d like to thank that record clerk!
Day #7: Grand Masters Of Rap Compilation
This one isn’t quite in chronological order, but before I was a folky, Jesus skate hippy dabbling in punk and new wave, I was into break dancing. This album features Grand Master Flash, Sugar Hill Gang, The Furious Five, Whodini and others! Besides being great for breakdancing, it was a good early sampler of early hip-hop sounds that also primed me for the techno and electronica that I’ve come to love.
Day #8: Pitchfork - Eucalyptus
Byron Collum and I met on the first day of school at the Kansas City Art Institute - he had a really great punk & indie record collection with him. But a lot of it sounded like noise to me for a while. This record was in pretty frequent rotation by Byron when we became dorm roommates in our 2nd year and it was the first “post-punk” or whatever that really grabbed me. First, I thought the vocals (Rick Froberg) were interesting, more whiny sneer than gruff rant, which set them apart from some of the other punk things I was hearing on Byron’s turntable. But it was really the guitar that blew my mind. So much visceral texture. Every sound an electric guitar plugged directly into an amp with no pedals or effects of any kind could make was being found and used for full, absolute, frantic intensity. And the guitarist, John Reiss, also contrasts those crazy guitar things with a genius sense of melody, drive and ass-kicking sass - with no “solos” per se. The singer and the guitarist went on to form Drive Like Jehu, maybe one of the most influential “post-hardcore” bands of the 90’s - now they are HOT SNAKES and still making really great rock. It’s astounding. I listened to this album yesterday in the car and still totally feel it.
Day #9: Johnny Paycheck - The Real Mr. Heartache
Back to country here... George Jones was by far the biggest name in country music in our house growing up and it was a George Jones “Best Of” tape I picked up at an truck stop in Maryland while on tour with my rock band that solidified my resolve to want to step into the timeless stream of writing and singing country story songs about heartache. But years later, on tour with my country band in Texas, we were at the club early playing pool and the show promoter, now friend, Bruce Burns was playing this early Johnny Paycheck collection on the bar sound system. At first, in the back ground, it just sounded like more country music, but by about the 3rd song we were all looking at each other wondering what the hell this was?! The Real Mr. Heartache quickly became the pinnacle “Gold Standard” for the sounds and wordplay that IS sheer Honky-Tonk “hard country” music to me. If I’m Gonna Sink (I Might As Well Go To The Bottom) is my current favorite from this collection. And Johnny Paycheck had been in George’s band, so there’s that.
Day #10: Phantogram - Voices
So this one brings us up to now, and I’m just as confused by this list as you are, but variety really is the spice of my musical life. My wife Paula is my resident current-pop expert. Released in 2014, the first single, "Fall In Love," came on the alt radio station in the car one day. I noticed the song and she was like... “oh yeah, I like this one.” After a few more listens, I even posted something about this being the best song I’d heard on the radio in a long time. I downloaded the full album and couldn’t get enough! At only 8 years in, it may be hard to tell just how “influential” this album really is for me, but thinking back about the other pivotal album moments on this list, I have no problem considering Voices the most influential record I’ve had in my life in quite some time for a few reasons. First, I simply love all the beats, melodies and lyrics. Just good songs and production, in my opinion. And while resonating melodically and texturally with different strands of earlier musical influence for me, electronic-but-lush with great real guitar stuff, too - it also seems new and creative. If only because this album has renewed my hope in commercial alt pop radio music, it’s pretty influential, but it also marks a moment in my life as a music maker that, for the first time, it’s a musical style that I really love but don’t think I could make. It makes me want to make music, but I just don’t have the time or understand the technology to create like this. It’s harder than it sounds. So I just get to enjoy it! Also, as an album and band Paula and I discovered and love so much together, it’s extra cool to us. We’ve traveled to see them live a few times - some really good memories wrapped up in this band for us by now and we still love this album together.
We’re excited to announce the new Dearist
EP Live at Cadman Studios. Toward the end of last year, the band
holed up at the studio in Stoke-on-Trent to record live versions of some
of their favorite Dearist songs — and since we’re all itching for live
music again, we’re sharing the songs with you. The 5-song EP will be
available at digital outlets everywhere this Friday, but you can
pre-save/pre-order it now here.
Virginia's Demons, which started as an outlet for the heavier musical experimentations of longtime Mae guitarist Zach Gehring, is debuting a music video for the new track "Slow Burn." The song is available now available everywhere here.
alternate version of "Slow Burn" will appear on the band's forthcoming
Privation which is due out this fall.
tells Revolver Magazine: "We were de-railed last year when our drummer
almost died in a bike accident, and now the world is on hold dealing
with the Coronavirus. We've had this song and video done for a while
now. No one really knows what's going on or how long we'll have to stay
inside, so we decided to let this one loose. We're stir crazy and
frustrated, just like everyone else."
We’re excited to premiere VAR’s new music video for “Moments” today with Popdust. The video was shot in the town of Stokkseyri, about an hour outside of Reykjavik on the southern coast of Iceland, at the country's only existing organ workshop (which happens to be owned by the father of brothers and bandmates Júlíus Óttar and Egill Björgvinsson). The band's new album The Never-Ending Year is available everywhere now here!
Mountain Time is the solo project of singer-songwriter Chris Simpson of the adored bands Mineral and The Gloria Record. On the heels of the debut single "Rosemary, Etc.", we're excited to share the second single from the new album Music For Looking Animals, the gentle and charming “Empty Graves.” Get it everywhere you listen to digital music here and pre-order Music For Looking Animals on limited edition vinyl here to get an instant download of two songs now.
The new album from the Reykjavík, Iceland emotional post-rock collective VAR, The Never-Ending Year, is available everywhere now. Appropriately titled for these strange times, the album stands as one of our most awe-inspiring releases to date, a powerful collection of songs that truly transcends everything that makes us different. Think Sigur Ros with more urgency, We Were Promised Jetpacks with more intricacy, and Frightened Rabbit with more grit. Get it wherever you listen digital music here and on limited edition vinyl in the Spartan store.
We’re so excited to premiere the new Mountain Time song, the gentle and charming “Empty Graves” today at American Songwriter. It’s the second track from the upcoming album Music For Looking Animals which will be released everywhere on June 26th. The album is available to pre-save now and you can get an instant download of two songs now when you pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl here.
Written in 2005-2006, "Empty Graves” paints a picture of a soul trying to find its place in the world and was born out of a fruitful songwriting session Simpson contributed to at the time. Never feeling that the song was complete, "Empty Graves" had many lives and incarnations until Simpson began working with producer/collaborator Doug Walseth on this new album and it reached its final form. Pre-order / pre-save the album to get an instant down
Please welcome Mountain Time, the solo project of singer-songwriter Chris Simpson of Mineral and The Gloria Record, to the Spartan family. We’re proud to announce that the new album Music For Looking Animals will be released everywhere on June 26th on LP / Digital. Listen to the premiere of the first single “Rosemary, Etc.” at Rolling Stone and pre-order the album on super limited edition vinyl to get an instant download of the song now.
In the aftermath of the dissolution of his adored bands, Simpson took a step back from making music for the first time since his mid-teens. And it was during this period where an affinity for the music of the 1960s and ‘70s such as Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground and many more, along with the freedom and expression of jazz and artists who radically followed their own vision, took root. With additional inspiration drawn from the arenas of psychology and eastern philosophy, the beauty of the natural world, Simpson’s children and wife, old Time Life books, and the self-stated immenseness of the universe, Mountain Time has become almost more of a state-of-mind than a moniker.
“To me, it’s a record about surrendering to your true self by letting go of what doesn’t serve you anymore. It’s about sacrifice and stepping into your own life. It’s about all the paradoxes that exist: the most important of which is that vulnerability is the only real source of strength.”
Mountain Time, both a reference to timeliness (or lack thereof) and a childhood amongst the natural beauty of Colorado evolved from Chris Simpson’s previous solo project Zookeeperas the most fitting moniker for the latest project. With the transition, while the process and approach became more autonomous, the drive and ultimate desire to create remained rooted within many of the same wells of inspiration that fueled previous incarnations of Simpson’s songwriting. For Simpson, much of what his new album, Music For Looking Animals, is externalizing are larger questions embedded within the natural passing of time: What things do we hold onto? What must we let go?
While time has brought certain chapters to a close, new ones have opened: Family. School. Sobriety. Seeking. However, part of this recasting of priorities has involved the shedding of some former skins, and much of this process took place within the cathartic confines of writing Music for Looking Animals.
"I think for me, [writing] has always been an expression of seeking, seeking to know more about myself or the world around me. Seeking to belong or understand. Just expressing myself and communicating who or what I am. What makes me more wholly myself or individual. Or what makes me more human. I think this has been the same throughout my songwriting. For me, it’s the way I process being alive."
Simpson entered the studio with producer/collaborator Doug Walseth to capture the emotion of the songs within the “Leonard Cohen palette” i.e. songs bolstered with strings, horns and background singers rather than layers of electric guitars and keyboards. At the start of the recording sessions, Simpson and Walseth committed to capturing everything on an 8-track one-inch analog tape machine and forgoing the use of computers. However, as the arrangements, layering, and ideas became more complex, the initial approach became limiting. What began as a very spare folk album became much more grand, ambitious and dense. While Music For Looking Animals is an attempt at simplification, it is hardly minimal in terms of musical, lyrical and spiritual depth.
“I am completely convinced of the paradoxes that exist,” says Simpson. "That love and compassion are the only answers to hate and fear. There is so much healing needed both within and without, and that starts at home, in our own hearts and lives. I know it’s tempting to think that that has nothing to do with the state of the world, but I think it might be the only thing that has anything to do with the state of the world.” It is this type of reflective seeking that brought Music For Looking Animals into existence, and it is this type of seeking that the album invites the listener to embark on after hitting play.
Please join us in welcoming Iceland’s VAR to the Spartan family! We’re excited to release the band’s new album The Never-Ending Year worldwide on April 24th on LP/Digital. Listen to the premiere of the song “Moments” at Everything Is Noise here and get an instant download of the song when you pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl. The Never-Ending Year stands as one of our most awe-inspiring releases to date, and a record that will grow and evolve with each listen.
In certain seasons, time can depart from the static drone of minutes and hours and days and months, and settle into a less mechanical rhythm. It is replaced by something more organic -- a fluctuating heartbeat, both resting and racing. This transition happens without notice as slowly the external becomes the internal. In more linear terms, the new decade will mark a new addition to the Spartan Records roster — Iceland’s VAR, a melodic indie rock quartet. Building upon four years of performance and experimentation within their home country, VAR has honed their devastatingly beautiful sound into something more refined and explosive on their debut LP The Never-Ending Year. Think Sigur Ros with more urgency, We Were Promised Jetpacks with more intricacy, and Frightened Rabbit with more grit.
GIANTS CHAIR's first new album in over 23 years Prefabylon is out everywhere on December 6th and we're proud to show off the band's new music video for the song "Kids Running." The video is a literal deep dive into their video archives and includes footage of their first west coast tour with Boys Life in 1995. Pre-order the album on limited edition vinyl / digital here!
Drummer Paul Ackerman says: "I
think Scott's story in “Kids Running" is one of a young Midwestern kid
yearning for escape, experience, and maybe a bit of adventure. It's a
road trip story - a 'head west' story. So when we saw the footage our
old friend Jeremy shot from our tour out west with Boys Life
in '95, it seemed like the perfect way to visualize that story. That
was our first real tour, so far from home, and the first time seeing the
mountains and the Pacific Ocean for some of us. There were a lot of
firsts, we had a shit-ton of fun - shaved head, tattooed hands and all -
and we have lifelong friendships to go along with those memories. So
yeah, it's a pretty nostalgic piece, but just maybe some other
Midwestern kids will see it and be inspired to head west as well.
Catch GIANTS CHAIR on tour this November!
11/22 - St. Louis, MO - The Heavy Anchor 11/23 - Milwaukee, WI - Cactus Club 11/24 - Chicago, IL - Chop Shop 11/29 - Kansas City, MO - The Brick
GIANTS CHAIR's new song "Kids Running" is premiering today at Talkhouse!
Guitarist-lyricist-singer Scott Hobart also waxes philosophical about
post-punk, emo, honky-tonk music, and keeping it real. It’s an amazing
read about authenticity, listening to your heart, and the stories that
can be told through music. Pre-order the band's upcoming album Prefabylon on limited edition LP / digital here to get an instant download of two songs now.