music

Category: music

My nephew Connor takes a mean photo. The other day my brother thought one of the images he snapped looked like a cool album cover and that got me thinking… what if Connor was always on the cover of albums by a band with a punk rock vibe but modern sensibilities? From there, Skreeming Baybees was born. This is the place to find their album art:

You Ten Sell Rebble
You Ten Sell Rebble
Thataway
Air to the Thrown
headfullaideaz
Yank Yer Chain
Strypes of Another Colour
Double Trouble
skreeming baybees all ears
All Ears
Booster
Kroamdoam
Or, a Gun Native
Skreeming Baybees Open Wide EP
Open Wide

Skreeming Baybees debut EP: Open Wide (2015)

Skreeming Baybees Open Wide EP

I think this album probably has the most sonic of Skreeming Baybees’ approach. Of course this band is fictional and I have no idea what this sounds like. But that’s a pretty classic first EP cover, right? And Connor looks cool in this too. Love the black + white.

Or, a Gun Native (2016)

12509425_10153497924122739_2074009090245416637_n

This could easily be a pop album cover, but I think Skreeming Baybees would pivot off the success of their first album and create something with punk roots that remained accessible to modern musical tastes… think Nirvana’s Nevermind, but you know Skreeming Baybees would reject that comparison. Despite that, the baby cover art is clearly grunge-inspired so they’ll have to get used to it. The title is a playful take on proper pronunciation of their state.

Kroamdoam (2016)


Best title ever. A jab at society’s morays and grooming expectations by Portland’s greatest band that never existed.

Booster EP (2016)


A return to roots album — energetic and sonic. Dave Grohl guests on track 3. Not really. This is a fake band.

All Ears (2016)

skreeming baybees all ears

With All Ears, you are witnesses at the new birth of Skreeming Baybees, Mark 2. We hope you like their new direction.

Double Trouble

Double Trouble

With this release, Skreeming Baybees borrows elements from classic rock, but maintains its roots as a fictional hardcore punk band. Impossible you say? Nothing is impossible for Skreeming Baybees. Nothing.

Strypes of Another Colour

Strypes of Another Colour

The most political album to date from the Baybees. It’s anti-anti-gay. They’re not just friendly to their LGBT friends and neighbors… no, that’s not enough. They’re against anyone who isn’t. “Choke on that, haters!” says the lead singer of the Baybees (who’s name I still need to make up). Also Strypes has a little euro thing going on. Band members decided to rebel against teachers who told them “grey” and “colour” were misspellings, because “this is America.” Yeah? Payback’s a bitch Mrs. Helbig!

Yank Yer Chain

Yank Yer Chain

Yank Yer Chain is a fan favorite. Although it didn’t have any specific radio hits, most fans appreciate the albums return to roots mentality.

headfullaideaz

headfullaideaz

Headfullaideaz is a collection of B-sides and mostly an excuse for the members to release an album that ends in a z so they can yell “Head Fulla Ideas… WITH A Z” a lot. Not their strongest offering, but for the completists out there, it’s a must.

Air to the Thrown

Air to the Thrown

A lot of people note the play on words many of the Baybees album titles contain. What most people don’t realize is that members of the band are generally unsure about the spelling of many common words. Nobody has the stones to question if the titles are misspellings or merely clever. Air to the Thrown has a lot of sportsball references in it, so most go with clever.

Thataway

Thataway

The Baybees return with their most alt of alt albums ever. Just when you think they’re going one way, they go Thataway.

 

You Ten Sell Rebble


After a short hiatus, the Baybees make a triumphant return with their ode to rebellion, both real and imagined.

Again, Skreeming Baybees is a fictional band, and because they are fictional I can safely attest that they are Oregon’s greatest fictional band. They once did 3 sold out nights at the Crystal. The Dandy Warhols open for them. Chuck Palahniuk plays their albums while he writes. They jammed with Carrie and Fred in between takes when they filmed their show in Portland this summer. All true stories… in this fictional world. Although they exist only in my head, I bet you want them to be real just to hear what track 2 on Open Wide is, don’t you? Yeah me too.

Inxs-Welcome_To_Wherever_You_Are-Frontal

Welcome to wherever you are

I never owned this album in cassette or vinyl, but thanks to a UK re-release, I’ll have this in my small vinyl collection in February. I remember the day I bought it on CD, I was totally wowed by the unique way the longbox (remember those?) folded and tucked into the cardboard jewel case for the CD. I never saw anything like that before, and thanks to the end of the longbox, this didn’t need to happen much longer at the retail level. I really dug it as a tip of the hat to the band’s interest in environmental causes.| 1 |See also, the Greenpeace Rainbow Warriors compilation… you have to figure these artists were legit green since they donated a track to this. INXS gave This Time, which was perfectly inserted into the first disc right before Thompson Twins’ Lay Your Hands On Me. An oddly perfect couplet.

I think WTWYA has become the fans’ favorite album – sadly the band didn’t tour on it, and it didn’t get a ton of support in the States. Grunge displaced a lot of 80s acts, and people (including me) turned their attention to Nirvana for a few years. Although I never really got into Full Moon Dirty Hearts (INXS’s next album) I definitely dug Elegantly Wasted, the band’s final Hutchence album.| 2 |As I mentioned before, I’m leaning towards considering Switch as non-canonical. INXS was a lot more than Michael Hutchence (hi all you Farriss brothers, Andrew in particular), and I don’t mean it as a sign of disrespect for J.D. Fortune… but… it just wasn’t the same.  I think the band was really turning the corner at that point… there was a lot of music to be made into the 2000s, but it wasn’t meant to be.

notes   [ + ]

1. See also, the Greenpeace Rainbow Warriors compilation… you have to figure these artists were legit green since they donated a track to this. INXS gave This Time, which was perfectly inserted into the first disc right before Thompson Twins’ Lay Your Hands On Me. An oddly perfect couplet.
2. As I mentioned before, I’m leaning towards considering Switch as non-canonical. INXS was a lot more than Michael Hutchence (hi all you Farriss brothers, Andrew in particular), and I don’t mean it as a sign of disrespect for J.D. Fortune… but… it just wasn’t the same. 

New to me

Two of my favorite bands are no more. They have two things in common – at one time or another, both were the biggest bands on the planet, securing massive success off of seminal albums. They also lost their lead singers to suicide. One band hung it up immediately, while the other desperately tried to find a new frontman for a decade, but found it was a doomed effort to replace the irreplaceable.

nirvana
(cc) pixxiestails on Flickr

We’ll start with Nirvana. The name itself conjures emotions and memories for anyone who hit musical puberty in the early 90s. Cobain’s lyrics intertwined with the force of nature drums bashed to smithereens by Grohl alongside the oddly hypnotic baselines laid down by Novicelic. It was pop with punk sensibility. Or maybe punk with pop sensibility. I guess it depends on your point of view.| 1 |My favorite Kurt story comes from the Nevermind sessions. He thought doubling vocals – layering a second track of his own voice with another to provide depth and sometimes a bit of harmony – wasn’t punk enough… too “produced” sounding. Nevermind’s producer, the legendary Butch Vig (You know him from Garbage) knew Kurt was a semi-closeted Beatles fan and only had to mention, “John Lennon did it.” to get Kurt rushing back to the mic to lay down the double tracks.

But, let’s not forget the band was dissolving before our eyes as Kurt left us behind. Is there any doubt In Utereo was going to be the last Nirvana studio album? I can’t imagine the three had enough interpersonal goodwill left after that, even in the alternate reality where Cobain finds a way to get past his demons and grow into his 40s with the rest of us. But the tensions were too high and the musical paths were diverging. All it takes is a listen to the difference between Foo Fighter’s first album and Nirvana’s last to hear Dave’s direction was different. Not better, not worse, but different. We probably got all the Nirvana we were ever meant to.

Fast forward a few years after Nirvana’s sudden breakup and they gifted fans a gem… the previously unreleased single You Know You’re Right. It was almost as if the band reunited before our ears, letting us feel for those first three minutes and thirty-eight seconds that the rumors of Kurt’s death were exaggerated. For a moment we had Nirvana back, even though we knew deep down that wasn’t possible. That track was new to all of us and it brought us back. I had a similar moment the other day that was far more personal than Nirvana fans collectively had with You Know You’re Right. I found a track that was new just to me.

inxs
(cc) markhillary on Flickr

I may be the sole resident in the center of the Venn diagram| 2 |Of course Venn diagrams have three components – the third band is The Dandy Warhols, the psychedelic indie rock favorite from Portland. If there’s another resident in this teeny tiny overlap zone, we should hang out and interchangeably listen to Welcome to the Monkey House, then Bleach, then Shabooh Shoobah. charting Nirvana and INXS as personal favorite bands. Michael Hutchence’s death brought a promising comeback to a sudden, screeching halt. INXS started as the hardest working Aussie pub band of the late 70s, morphed into a classic New Wave 80s band and then took over the world with the rock-pop tidal wave Kick in 1987. No album could match that in sales, but I’ve always thought their best may have come ten years later with Welcome to Wherever You Are, which experimented with big sounds and strings in a way other bands hadn’t even thought about yet. I never bought their 1993 Greatest Hits album, mainly because I owned all the tracks on previous studio albums. What I didn’t know was there was a track recorded especially for the album called The Strangest Party (These Are the Times). Now, this song (apparently) was released as a single, did well and got some airplay. For whatever reason, even as a big INXS fan, I had never heard it until the other day. And it’s good! Fucking amazing actually. I’ve been listening to it nonstop, like you do when you find something that clicks with you and feeds your soul with every listen. This song is old hat to most INXS fans, but due to some odd, perhaps karmic, withholding The Strangest Party is truly new to me. For the last week it’s like Hutchence never shut the door to that Sydney hotel room for a final time. But we live in the real world and Cobain and Hutchence aren’t here. Their bands have disbanded, INXS much more recently – J.D. Fortune was not their only attempt to keep the flame lit, but it was easily the most unfortunate… pun intended.| 3 |I can’t articulate why, but I strongly feel it means I can personally declare the J.D. Fortune as lead singer experiment (remember Rock Star: INXS?) non-canonical and ignorable. Sure, as an INXS fan I religiously watched the show, but like I mentioned before… it’s folly to try to replace the irreplaceable. I think Grohl and Novicelic knew that. Nothing against him, but it never felt right.

While getting these two post-mortem songs felt good, I think the loss of the lead singers may have played a role in cementing INXS and Nirvana in my top band list. Let’s wave a magic wand and pretend both lead singers were still with us. Would their more recent offerings have diminished what they left behind? Do I think more or less of bands that have continued? U2? R.E.M.? Honestly, I care a lot less about these bands than I did in the past in part because their music evolved away from me – maybe vice versa. I love their older stuff, but I still haven’t felt compelled to see U2 live and I missed the chance with R.E.M. before they called it a career last year.

Maybe, as perverse as it sounds, I enjoy Nirvana and INXS more because the lead singers died untimely deaths. Perhaps we never had a chance to musically grow apart. Perhaps it locks their music in the amber of time and my nostalgic side turns to Bleach, Nevermind, In Utero, Listen Like Thieves, Kick, and Welcome to Wherever you Are as an emotional link to the past. I’ll never know the answer, but I’m glad I got the gift of a “new to me” track from INXS the other day. For a moment, it was like getting reacquainted with an old friend.

notes   [ + ]

1. My favorite Kurt story comes from the Nevermind sessions. He thought doubling vocals – layering a second track of his own voice with another to provide depth and sometimes a bit of harmony – wasn’t punk enough… too “produced” sounding. Nevermind’s producer, the legendary Butch Vig (You know him from Garbage) knew Kurt was a semi-closeted Beatles fan and only had to mention, “John Lennon did it.” to get Kurt rushing back to the mic to lay down the double tracks.
2. Of course Venn diagrams have three components – the third band is The Dandy Warhols, the psychedelic indie rock favorite from Portland. If there’s another resident in this teeny tiny overlap zone, we should hang out and interchangeably listen to Welcome to the Monkey House, then Bleach, then Shabooh Shoobah.
3. I can’t articulate why, but I strongly feel it means I can personally declare the J.D. Fortune as lead singer experiment (remember Rock Star: INXS?) non-canonical and ignorable. Sure, as an INXS fan I religiously watched the show, but like I mentioned before… it’s folly to try to replace the irreplaceable. I think Grohl and Novicelic knew that.
Karl the Kayaker

What I really wanted to say about Karl Coplan

I just submitted a statement at my law school dean’s request to honor my former professor Karl Coplan for the Beckman AwardThe award is given to current or former academic faculty members who have inspired their former students to “create an organization which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large.” Great stuff, and I salute Wells Fargo for making this happen.

I co-founded Columbia Riverkeeper, and that may very well be my lasting legacy despite the fact I haven’t been involved with the organization since December 2000. Most of the great work, in my opinion, has been accomplished since I moved on to teach and further evolve from philanthropy to entrepreneurial endeavors with a soul. I’m proud of what I helped to build, but it’s really the current staff that should be celebrated.

That said… this was a really hard piece to write because of the (understandable) boundaries placed on the submission documents. Having helped give away grants through Tranquil Space Foundation, I know you need a streamlined process for applications, so I do not begrudge Wells Fargo for penning in my creativity. I spent a plane ride crafting a draft that was twice the length allowed with half the required inclusions. I want to share the longer (proper) version with the world here.

My original draft was a lot more about Karl than me. It also gets into rock history, because (a) that’s how I think sometimes and (b) the analogy of Karl Coplan as the drummer or bass player of a great band with a charismatic and celebrated lead singer was too obvious to pass up.  Sadly, this doesn’t fit into corporate giving submission guidelines, but that’s what having an open forum like An Uncommonly Silly Blog is all about.

And look, I get it. This is long. #TL;DR synposis? Karl Coplan is an inspiration even though he’s not Jagger or Cobain… and this is the thank you note I have been writing in my head since 1996.


 

Karl Coplan’s leadership, and perhaps the entire source of his inspirational force, lies in his quiet, unassuming demeanor. If he intends to inspire his students, it’s not directly apparent, but if you ask any of his students – current or alum – I have yet to find a person who doesn’t hold Karl in the highest regard. He leads by example, not rhetoric. He inspires through deeds.

It’s tempting to fill my testimonial about Karl with accolades about his intelligence, the fact he’s the most gifted attorney I’ve worked with in my entire career, and repeat the stories I tell all time time about his commitment to environmental causes and teaching the next generation of lawyers to take up the banner of protecting our rivers, lakes and streams. That’s the easy essay to write because it’s the biography of Karl Coplan – the legacy he’s left and the one he continues to craft.

With a few notable exceptions, rock bands are comprised of a lead singer and a bunch of other people who – often practically anonymously – back him or her up. The lead singer is the leader of the band with very few exceptions – the music press uses the term frontman as often as lead singer for a reason. These are the names you’ve heard even if you never listened to their music: Lennon, Jagger, Wilson (Nancy and Ann), Plant, Sting, LeBon, and Cobain. These are the names history and media pays the most attention.

But what of the supporting musicians? Fans of Zeppelin know the band would have been a pale imitation of itself without the drums of John Bonham – the remaining band members didn’t even bother continuing to make new music after his premature passing. Geddy Lee’s, shall we say, distinctive vocals are what most people hear when Rush is playing, but Rush is not Rush without Neil Pert’s rhythms. 

The Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic is the band I joined in 1995. Its indisputable lead singer is also a legacy of one of the most famous families in American politics. Robert Kennedy Jr. has overcome the burdens that come with that birthright and has separately established himself as one of the leading voices of environmental stewardship. He receives the accolades and attention, and deservedly so. But to those of us who’ve been members of this merry band, we know the bearded guy in the back office as the source of inspiration for what we’ve done with our lives. Karl Coplan is the one who is shaded in obscurity by the more famous Kennedy, yet he’s the one many of us emulate in the months and years after we move on from the Clinic.

The Clinic is a mini law firm led by Coplan, primarily serving Hudson Riverkeeper, an environmental organization dedicated to keeping the waters of the Hudson River Valley clean for the people who live there. Third year students make up the majority of the work-horses for the lead attorneys, learning real world application of the law while championing real people along the way against powerful entities that don’t act in their interests. It’s here where I learned to be a lawyer and a professional. I was lucky. Law schools without good clinical programs prove on a daily basis that they are the least efficient mechanisms to teach students how to be a lawyer or a professional, but for my entire third year I had Karl Coplan serving as the template on how to excel at both.

It doesn’t take long to learn Karl Coplan is the type of person you’d want to emulate. His talent, his demeanor, his patience, and incredible intellect ensures that you know he has other options beyond serving as an anonymous professor at a small law school many people haven’t heard of. As students we knew Karl left a successful private practice to lead the Clinic, but we always assumed he’s spurned dozens of additionally lucrative options with opportunities for personal glory. And yet he forges his own path, leading quietly behind the scenes.

When I think of Karl, I think of the winter of early 1996. It was a particularly brutal one in White Plains, New York. With an important brief imminently due, a blizzard dropped two feet of snow on the region, closing the law school campus. Undaunted, a group of us trudged through the drifts and jimmied open one of the ground floor office windows, lifting our lightest over the shrubs and into the building so she could dash around the corner to unlock the front door. We didn’t do this because we sought the kudos, or an easy A, or even a good story to tell after the snow melted. We did it because that was an important brief and we weren’t going to let a little thing like a crippling snow storm serve as an excuse to let Karl Coplan down. 

As spring warmed the Hudson Valley, Karl changed his commute from the other side of the river. Rather than join the throngs of drivers on the Tappan Zee Bridge, Karl built his own kayak and crossed the river under his own power. Although I can probably name twenty different things I learned from Karl, it was this simple act of unconventional living that resonated the most. You don’t have to drive across the bridge because other people do it. You don’t have to take a job at a law firm because that’s what everyone else does. You can follow your passions and if those things happen ton help people along the way, all the better.

Before I met Karl Coplan, I was a risk-averse academic overachiever who hadn’t taken a break since nursery school. After learning a journal full of life lessons in a mere two semesters under Karl, I was transformed. The person I was 9 months before before would have been horrified at the metamorphosis. I turned down interviews at law firms in Manhattan, packed up everything I owned in a late model Honda Civic and left New York. The only state I’d ever known disappeared in my rear view mirror as I drove to Portland, Oregon sight-unseen with no job, but with big ideas and a lot of passion. Within 6 months, I was meeting with community leaders that would join me in forming Columbia Riverkeeper.

Columbia Riverkeeper fights for the rights of the people of the Columbia River basin – one of the largest in the world – to ensure their communities have clean water. The early days of Columbia Riverkeeper focused on merging two regional organizations, fighting the continuing environmental debacle that is the Hanford Reach nuclear contamination and a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent an ill-advised dredging operation in the lower portion of the river near Portland. Since then the organization has been embraced in communities up and down the river, from the headwaters in British Columbia to its dramatic collision with the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon. Its mission – unchanged since we formed it – is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it. The organization has blossomed in the decade since I turned to new opportunities and it is now the most important voice representing communities in the basin. The torch was taken up by others, but Columbia Riverkeeper’s unique blend of community connection and unapologetic advocacy on their behalf may not have been established if it weren’t for the lessons I learned from Karl Coplan.

Lead singers get all the glory, but every once in a while it’s the drummers that leave the biggest legacy. Although John Bonham was not nearly the front-facing key to success for Led Zeppelin as lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page, drummers for two successive generations have been inspired by his powerful contribution to the art. One of those drummers inspired by Bonham lent his skills to a small band from Seattle named Nirvana, which managed to become the voice for an entire generation within three years. While Dave Grohl toiled in obscurity begind the larger-than-life Kurt Cobain as they became the biggest band in the world, he became the one that ended up inspiring the next generation. When Nirvana left the world along with Cobain in the spring of 1994, Grohl stepped forward and became a frontman in his own regard, guiding Foo Fighters to become one of the best selling acts of the 2000s. Bonham inspired a novice, and that novice continues to create waves in three decades of music.

And so it goes – Karl as the ultimate supporting act has inspired countless numbers of students through his quiet, consistent leadership through the years. Each one of these students have in turn been supporting acts for a variety of organizations and causes. Some of those supporting acts have become part of bigger things, even going on to lead bands of their own. I’m privileged to have played a part in the creation of Columbia Riverkeeper, but I never saw myself as a frontman because, like Karl, I’ve seen the importance of being a supporting act. It’s not important that I never led the band that has grown to be such an important voice in the Northwest. It’s important that the legacy remains and the work continues. If it weren’t for Karl Coplan, it’s entirely possible things would be different.

Karmacoda + Sunfields

Do yourself a giant favor and support one of my favorite indie chill-out cool band from the Bay Area, Karmacoda. There’s a new remix album out right now, and it’s great stuff. I’ve gotten the chance to hang out with Heather, Karmacoda’s lead vocalist and we’ve played a lot of their stuff on Kimberly’s podcast. Special shoutout to Anji Bee who makes an appearance on the album too. In addition to being half of Lovespirals, Anji’s also a legend in the chillout podcast world. I doubt she’d admit that, but it’s totally true. Check out Chillcast. Aaaaaand, you’re welcome.


This weekend, I hope to get a chance to hear some cuts from my favorite band you’ve never heard of from Montreal, Sunfields… they’ve got a new album and I happen to be hanging out with their frontman/guitarist Jason. I predict a Juno. OR perhaps a Genie… this came from a prior visit:

and, the sequel

Ok, maybe not a Genie. But he sings good: