The internet exploded with Airborne Toxic Event news this week – so much so that we’ve already got a full slate of content lined up for next week’s Toxicity 13. Here’s the best of what was on offer the past seven days.
A Hell of a Puzzle
Friday night, as we settled in for a long Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, TATE got fans buzzing when they posted a “puzzling” image:
Though some astute fans immediately solved the riddle with a quick search on Amazon, the rest of us spent the weekend debating what it could mean. Predictions ran the gamut from the much-anticipated release of the “Hell and Back” single for purchase, to new tour dates, bombastic videos, an EP or live album, and even, from the more wishful thinking among us, a new full-length studio album.
As the band added pieces to the puzzle throughout the long weekend, it quickly became clear that they were indeed heralding the release of “Hell and Back.” But more than just the single, the big news is that the track is featured on the soundtrack of the upcoming film, Dallas Buyers Club, a movie that’s already generating significant Oscar buzz. It’s an exciting development, as the song’s inclusion on such a high profile film can’t help but draw attention and expose new listeners to TATE’s work. It also explains why the band would release a non-album single so soon after the release of Such Hot Blood. Hopefully there will be a spillover effect, as people discover the band through the film and then check out their most recent album.
It’s unclear at this point whether Mikel had the film in mind when he wrote the lyrics in his head during his cross-country motorcycle trip this past summer, or if the connection to the movie was made after the fact. Perhaps we’ll hear that story in the coming weeks.
Trailer for Dallas Buyers Club:
If you, like me, downloaded the song when it was initially made available for free through Soundcloud, please support the band by purchasing it now that it’s for sale. Click here to purchase “Hell and Back” through iTunes.
Gin in Tea Cups Acoustic Session
The release date for “Hell and Back” coincided with the first in a 4-day series of Airborne videos on Gin in Tea Cups. Not surprisingly, Day 1 featured the new single – but this time, it’s performed acoustically with Anna on viola instead of synthesizers. Think of it as your “Hell and Back” bombastic video.
There’s much more to come from this session, with acoustic performances of “All I Ever Wanted” and “Timeless,” as well as an interview to be released over the next three days. Watch for all three videos in Toxicity 13.
Love is Defying (Death)
Mikel and Steven also turned up this week on the Guardian’s Music Weekly podcast (the Airborne piece starts at 7:10). They talk about how the Such Hot Blood recording sessions differed from those for the first two albums (particularly All At Once), emphasizing again that they returned to a more organic, live approach this time around.
Host Michael Hann, noting the melancholy nature of many of the songs and citing the line, “All your songs are sad songs” from “Elizabeth,” asks Mikel a question we’ve all wondered from time to time: Are you a happy person? Mikel responds:
That line was a joke… The two characters are talking to each other, and she’s sort of taking the piss. She’s kind of making fun of him; that’s why she mentions the white dress from Midnight. She’s kind of in on the joke, and she’s kind of playfully poking fun at him… Yeah, I think so, but it’s kind of hard to have a perspective on that kind of thing. I don’t know what other people’s lives feel like. I do know that I feel very driven to write, and I always have. I don’t know why that’s true, but I do know that it has to do with feeling strange to myself… Writing has a lot to do with dealing with strangeness and with my own feelings of strangeness to the world around me. So I don’t know if it has to do with happiness or not… (As a writer) you live the same life, you have the same joys and sorrows and ups and downs, but along the way you create a record for others to follow – or in our case, you make records.
Later in the interview, Mikel gets fired up as he speaks passionately about his energetic (and risky) approach to live performance:
The shows themselves are energizing. This is why we do it… Music is the only art form that is unfolding in front of you while it’s happening… You’ve gotta flirt with disaster. That’s what makes rock’n’roll rock’n’roll. Andy Warhol used to say that something as opposed to nothing has to happen; that’s the essence of rock’n’roll. And if nothing happens, then you’re just watching a play – who cares? It’s been scripted. It has to have the sense that it might all go terribly wrong. And when you have that extemporaneous moment of, you might fall, you might trip, you might die… why be in a rock band if you’re not gonna do that? If you’re in a rock band, be in a rock band. Hang from the chandeliers, put on your mother’s dress, dance around, jump around, scream, get in people’s faces, make people uncomfortable, break the fourth wall, bring people on stage, go out in the audience, scream into the mic for no reason, make a joke that people don’t quite understand, and then every now and then just absolutely slays, because then you’ve got the possibility, on a really good night, that it just feels like the last night on earth. That’s rock’n’roll. That moment where it’s like if people had some kind of light they gave out when they were excited, the whole room would be so bright you could see it from space.
Just go ahead and listen to the interview – it’ll adrenalize you for the rest of the day, guaranteed!
Reports from the Road
The Airborne Toxic Event continues to enjoy rave reviews across Europe as they enter the final days of the fall tour. Here’s a quick round-up of the latest reports from the road:
GoldenPlec covered the Dublin show, which appropriately included the long-awaited tour premiere (not counting orchestra shows) of “Dublin.” “The Academy for the first time on the night is deathly silent for a stunning semi-acoustic rendition of new song Dublin which is written about a girl with whom Jollett had fallen in love with. ‘My love affair with her became a love affair with Ireland and so I wrote this song,’ he explains.”
There Goes the Fear penned one of the most thorough gig reviews we’ve seen after the London concert, drilling down in depth on many of the songs performed that night. “Greeted with the passion of a London crowd that had been chomping at the megabit for their somewhat adopted offspring to return, the Californian five-piece careered into old favourite ‘All at Once’ like someone had pushed Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen and Mumford and Sons into the Large Hadron Collider. Without so much as a “hello”, their unique brand of foot-stomping post folk had the audience cooing like 2000 proud parents. This opener, a favourite single from 2011 critically acclaimed album of the same name, was a taster menu for everything that was about to follow, encompassing aspects of style, stagecraft, dynamics and instrumentation that would be sculpted throughout the set.”
The Upcoming reviewed the same show with fewer words but no less fervor: “Jollett and Harmon join Daren Taylor on drums for Moving On and the trio take on the crash cymbal, the snare and bass drum in unison, creating the most intense beat. As Harmon puts Bulbrook on his shoulders, the enthusiasm of the group is catching and the audience feeds off their energy, dancing along to the beat and acting as backing vocals to every classic.”
Meanwhile, two more photographers added to the treasure trove of photos that this leg has yielded. Priti Shikotra produced a stunning collection of black and whites from Manchester, while Kirsten Otto captured the band in vibrant, living color.
We wrap up a busy week by jumping back in time – two years ago, to Austin City Limits, which produced the best live video of The Kids Are Ready to Die (punk version) that I’ve seen, courtesy of TATE forum member jamesmonzon1. The recording is soundboard quality… but do you notice anything unusual?
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.