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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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.