“There are a million great songs written every day, many on records you discover that you wish your friends could appreciate as much as you do.” That simple truth, courtesy of Adam Duritz, is as good a place as any to begin discussing Counting Crows’ Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation). After five renowned full-lengths, multiple live albums and soundtrack appearances—not to mention Grammy and Oscar nominations—the modern rock mainstays are not only issuing their first independent release, but coloring it with infectious interpretations of some of their favorite tunes.
Recorded in Burbank last April and June, Underwater Sunshine is a collection of 15 gorgeously rendered songs, in which the Bay Area seven-piece honors global icons (Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons), indie-pop heroes (Teenage Fanclub, Travis), compelling up-and-comers (Dawes, the Romany Rye, Kasey Anderson) and even their own seminal pre-Crows projects (Sordid Humor, Tender Mercies). But no matter the artist, the Crows selected each song due to its merit, not its ubiquity. “You may or may not know these songs,” Duritz concedes. “It wasn’t an intentional theme, but it did sort of fall out that a lot of the songs on this record aren’t well-known. The songs on Underwater Sunshine come from old bands and young, they stretch from the early ’60s to earlier this year, and they were recorded for major labels, for indies and, in some cases, for just a few friends to hear. Either way, they’re all great songs, and hopefully they’ll be heard by a few more people now.”
Underwater Sunshine is the sort of treat that established bands too rarely bestow upon their fans. But Counting Crows have always been cut from a different cloth. Having exploded onto the scene with multiplatinum breakout August and Everything After in 1993, the band—Duritz (vocals), Jim Boglos (drums), David Bryson (guitar), Charlie Gillingham (keyboards), David Immergluck (guitar), Millard Powers (bass), and Dan Vickrey (guitar), —has thrived for nearly 20 years as the rare radio and touring powerhouse that blows you away with songs, not superficial excess. Their enduring critical and commercial popularity is easily explained: They write from the heart, challenge themselves, and still give a damn about new music. Dashboard Confessional, Panic at the Disco and The Hold Steady are among the many to count the Crows as influential, and the band are still the kind of guys who roam from club to club at SXSW, CMJ or whatever city they’re touring, simply out of curiosity and love. Music geeks? Sure. We prefer lifers.
Underwater Sunshine is a testament to that open-mindedness. It feels homemadebecause it is, the band teaming with old friends Shawn Dealey and Brian Deck to capture what Duritz calls “the feeling of all us squeezed into a room playing songs together… almost all recorded live so everybody’s tracks are all over everybody else’s tracks.” From making the electric four-chord bump of Romany Rye’s “Untitled (Love Song)” their own to not-so-delicately expanding upon Kasey Anderson’s fragile “Like Teenage Gravity,” from fulfilling a new obsession with Dawes and a longstanding one with Big Star, Underwater Sunshine exhibits the depth of Counting Crows’ tastes in an entirely new light.
The following interview was conducted via phone on 5/31/12.
The Adam Duritz Interview
I heard Fugazi before Minor Threat, Minor Threat before Embrace and Embrace before Ian MacKaye’s various other endeavors, most all of which, have significantly impacted my life in one way or another. I have many fond memories of skateboarding in high school listening to Fugazi, Minor Threat and countless other punk/hardcore bands, many of which taught me not to give a fuck about what others thought of me. That’s a sentiment that still resonates very deeply within my heart today, though there’s a much less angsty application of it. There’s so much I could say about Ian and the impact his bands and record label has had on me but I’d like to share something my friend Ben Smith said while discussing Ian, and more specifically, the image on the back of Minor Threat’s In My Eye’s 7”, and the impact it had on him. He said, “What struck me about it was how normal they looked. They looked just like regular kids. They looked just like my friends and I. And if they could do it, I could do it too.” I think Ben really captured a large part of the essence of DIY punk/hardcore in that statement and if you grew up in it, you know exactly what he’s saying. So as I sat down to contemplate what I would ask Ian in our interview I put on Fugazi’s Repeater album to set the mood. Almost instantly, it took me back to the 90’s and the clubs I would frequent here in CT. I have so many great memories from those days. Simple things like the excitement of finally finding that vinyl record or CD I’d been searching months through various distro’s for. Skateboarding outside the club before the show. Looking at the flyer someone handed me, and seeing that one of my favorite bands had a show coming up soon in the area. Trying to have philosophical discussions about veganism and straight edge but really sounding like an idiot. Jumping up on stage and screaming into the microphone that one line of a song that touched me a little deeper than all of the others. Maybe I’m over romanticizing things, or maybe not. Those were very special times for me as I’m sure they were to many of you reading this as well. So in the spirit of DIY and old school punk/hardcore ethics, I decided I wasn’t going to create this interview alone but instead, open it up to others who were there with me, and not just necessarily in person but also in spirit. What did we want to ask in this interview? I asked that question to a community of old school punk/hardcore folks and received a lot of responses covering a wide range of topics. I handpicked a couple of the questions and then to be fair, randomly selected a few and viola, we had our interview. I knew Ian was extremely intelligent and always shared great insight in his interviews. I also knew some of the questions we’d come up with were rather “light” to put it nicely. He was an excellent sport about the whole thing however and was able to reply to even the most frivolous sounding inquiry with insight and poise, and for that, I’m grateful. So without further ado, WE humbly present you with…
The Ian MacKaye DIY Community Interview (more…)
As they approach their twentieth anniversary, CAKE’s adherence to their original guiding principles has only grown stronger. Formed in the early nineties as a somewhat antagonistic answer to grunge, which they saw as just another form of big, dumb American rock, CAKE’s democratic processes, defiant self-reliance, and lucid yet ever-inventive music has made them a nation-state unto themselves, with no obvious peers, belonging to no school.
By maintaining their ideals while continuing to challenge themselves artistically and professionally, CAKE has managed to not only survive, but to thrive. “We still exist,” explains original founding member John McCrea, “because we’ve always stayed outside of current trends. We’ve watched them inflate and deflate. We’ve never been invited to the party, so we’ve never had to leave the party whether the police arrived or not. It’s a sad and beautiful world.”
The following interview was conducted via phone on 4/5/12.
The Vince DiFiore Interview
Atmosphere returns with their 7th official studio album and the newest addition to their unparalleled body of work. The Family Sign comes from a place well refined and firmly planted, from a universal perspective. It’s about being okay with losing friends and strengthening your bonds with others, celebrating the person who’s been the most positive in your life, your kids, your homies, leaving the people you need to behind, and bringing the ones you love with you. It’s about your family, your time and the time you have with them. It’s about living and dying. It’s the truth about family, that it comes from loyalty as much as biology. It’s about breaking down your perceptions of family and really appreciating the people who’ve made you who you are and continue doing so.
The Family Sign is Atmosphere’s most personal and intimate album yet; it involves and engages the listener like never before. Slug’s signature voice weaves in and out of Ant’s ASR-born production, Nate Collis’ bluesy guitar riffs and the sound of Erick Anderson’s unmistakable keys giving The Family Sign a fresh, unique edge without sacrificing Atmosphere’s signature sound.
The Slug Interview
Everything Ministry has created since its inception has been an evolution. Al Jourgensen, the architect of Ministry, succeeded by remaking the mainstream in his own image and forging a new style of music.
Jourgensen morphed Ministry from a lightweight synth-pop band in the early ’80s to a musical juggernaut with many side projects (Revolting Cocks, 1000 Homo DJs, Pailhead, Lard) on legendary Chicago-based Wax Trax! Records.
Moving to Sire Records in the mid-’80s Ministry released albums showcasing an ever-evolving style. The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste and The Land of Rape and Honey both went Gold as people searched beyond bland MTV conformity.
Psalm 69, featuring “N.W.O.”, “Just One Fix” and “Jesus Built My Hotrod”, went Platinum in 1992 and forever changed music with its heavily aggressive content. Subsequently in 1993, Ministry received a Grammy nod for Best Metal Performance for “New World Order.”
After a handful of releases since Psalm 69, Ministry is back with Relapse, which Jourgensen affectionately calls his “Psalm 70.” In this writers opinion it’s agressive, it’s relevant, it’s necessary and most of all, it’s a fitting way for Al Jourgensen and Ministry to say goodbye…at least for now.
The following interview was conducted via phone on 1/30/12.