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Exclusive Video Premiere: Centro-matic’s marching “Iso-Residue”

Exclusive Video Premiere: Centro-matic’s marching “Iso-Residue” (photo)

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“Iso-Residue” is the shortest song on the 10th album by Texas rock quartet Centro-matic by nearly a minute. In its 140 seconds, though, it covers both a lot of ground and, really, no ground at all. Its work is its swagger and pace, moving with a jubilance and conviction that’s enviable; like a perfect punk jam, it triumphantly plants its hook, takes a solo, restates it and gets out of the way. You’ll remember how it sounds. The lack of movement comes in Will Johnson’s lyrics, a look at two folks whose love for each other is causing them to grind their gears and get nowhere. But they’re trying, an aspect Johnson holds dear in his songs.

We caught up with Johnson in Tennessee to talk about life on the road and Centro-matic‘s great new album, Candidate Waltz. The album is out June 21st.

By this point, you’ve made a lot of solo records, a lot of Centro-matic records, and a lot of South San Gabriel records. What’s your favorite thing about leading the old rock band through a new album?

It’s more about exploring the relationship between songwriting and volume–more of a physical event writing Centro-matic music for me than writing for South San Gabriel or solo. That’s a little more subdued and a little more introspective. But writing Centro-matic songs, especially the songs for this record, it was a truly joyful, kidlike experience. I set up a bunch of gear in the kitchen in my old house in a small town in Texas, and I bounced from amplifier to amplifier. Much of it was written on an overdriven bass guitar, which is such a loud but joyous way to write. If I have to pinpoint what the writing is like for each project, I would say that the Centro-matic songs these days are real, front-of-the-brain, unbridled, childlike joy.

That said, a lot of those songs are still about doubts and uneasiness. What’s the balance like for you, between joy and worry, in rock music?

Maybe it’s just my little outpost, but that’s a lot of what life is about to me. It’s about keeping the negative and fearing the worst but hoping for the best. Sometimes, I think the songs harbor some of those emotions. The language or the overtones might feel a little bit negative or sad or sorrowful or even just suspicious, but at the same time, hopefully there’s still an element of hope and positivity. Without a doubt, that’s a pretty common thing about a lot of my favorite writers–not just songwriters, but writers in general. I try to balance those two a little bit and sometimes have them test each other, either through a scenario in a song or through characters or through a setting. I try to set them up against each other and test the limits.

“Iso-Residue” seems to be a song about two people stuck in a situation that’s not quite satisfying. So why turn it up and make it such a pop tune?

That song in particular deals with two individuals who are making do with one another at a certain stage. It’s got a little bit of a raised-eyebrow feel to it. There’s a little bit of suspicion between the two characters in the song, but ultimately, the characters only have each other. They’re figuring out how to proceed and how to make things better. There are clearly some communication problems between these two folks. At the heart of it, I really just wanted to write a quick, catchy pop song that I knew our band would latch onto pretty well and pretty quickly. While I have definitely discussed and analyzed that song as much as I ever have right here with you, at the core of it, I wanted to write a fun, bouncy pop song.

How did the band respond to that song, and, in general, what’s Centro-matic’s process of taking songs from your mind to the stage?

It’s different from song to song, but with a song like that one, when I was writing it, it was really easy for me to envision playing that one and getting it ready to perform very quickly. The instrumentation is not terribly complex. It’s not a heavily layered recording. It’s just a song that I pictured us playing pretty soon. And we did. We got right to it, started playing it out live almost a year and a half ago. We recorded it and then went out and started playing it live. It was recorded not even a month and a half after it was written, so there was a pretty quick turnaround from the writing to the recording. Six months after we tracked it, we were starting to play it live.

That short turnaround is notable here, because the video does seem to focus so much on your touring life–set lists and travel and backstage shots. When you wrote this song, did you know it was something you wanted to get onstage with the band?

Definitely. It’s a pretty quick and bouncy little pop song. That video comes from the soul and the eye of our drummer and recording engineer Matt Pence. He documented so much of this Spanish tour that we did back in November. He has such a talent for catching some of those moments on tour that a lot of people don’t necessarily get to see. Some of those moments are beautiful and serene, like when we have a little bit of time during one of the drive days and we get to the beach. It’s a spiritual hour, so to speak.

Others are your typical backstage settings where, frankly, you hang out and wait for the show to happen. You make jokes or play with food or read books. It’s a very appropriate document of our band’s life on the road during that time. There’s some other footage that he took from our New Year’s Eve show in Dallas at this old theater with our friends Slobberbone. It’s a little bit of a document that came out of a couple of months of our band’s life. A lot of our friends know that we go overseas to play shows, but they don’t know more than the stories we might come back with. To have a video souvenir of some of the daily life we experience on those European tours hopefully adds a little bit of dimension to our ongoing story as a band.

In Raleigh a few years ago, there was an art exhibit called 23 Hours, part of which focused on that idea for rock bands. You travel around, living your life, but you’re only judged for a very specific hour of each day by the public.

It’s easy for folks to forget that there are these other 23 hours of the day for a lot of maintenance–to keep the band afloat, to keep going. 2004 was a really have touring year for me personally. Just as a fun math problem, I added up all the driving mileages and the flights from that year. After adding it all up and averaging about 70 miles an hour or so, I calculated it to where I spent the first 71 days–if you started at January 1st, at midnight, and calculated it with a clock and a calendar–of that year driving or flying or riding, just in transit. You know how much time was spent on stage, actually performing? Just slightly over 10 full days. That’s just driving; that’s not waiting around in the club or any of the other killing of time that happens inevitably during your typical day. It was a pretty sobering realization.

How do you spend this free time on the road?

It gives me a chance to really concentrate on our music and to relearn old songs and to take some notes for some new songs, for sure. It’s a little bit of time to read and really just catch up with the guys. We haven’t done any significant U.S. touring now for years. To tell you the truth, it’s great to all get back together and catch up and tell a few stories and play music again. It’s pretty simple.

Your new role as a father probably figures into how you use your time with the band, right?

Definitely. It’s not a complaint. It’s just a fact of life, a product of evolving as an adult and as a parent. Having a child is definitely the coolest, greatest thing I could’ve ever hoped for. It definitely puts everything in perspective. It makes you realize how small some of things you used to fuss about truly are. That said, it’s definitely a lot of work, too. I’m definitely in full-time dad mode when I’m home. The writing doesn’t happen quite as whimsically or spontaneously as it used to. I really do have to make an effort to carve out the time. It’s a little different layout than it was a few years ago.

Do you ever think about the time your favorite bands spend away from the stage on the road? Seem exciting or monotonous?

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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