Posts Tagged ‘The Kids are Ready to Die’

Anna Bulbrook photo by Curtis Buchanan, Distinct Daily

Anna Bulbrook photo by Curtis Buchanan, Distinct Daily

By Glen

One year ago today, The Airborne Toxic Event hit the stage in Santa Ana, CA for the one and only complete album performance of Songs of God and Whiskey. No such excitement this year, unfortunately, but it’s been two months since our last Toxicity, so I figured it was time to catch up on a few things.

Coming Soon: Toxic History – The Book

Yup, it’s been painfully quiet around here lately, and it’s not just because The Airborne Toxic Event is way off the grid at the moment. All of my spare time has been directed towards another TATE project: Toxic History – the book!

That’s right… our massive trip down Airborne Toxic memory lane is coming soon to a bookshelf near you. I am just in the process of polishing up the manuscript and preparing to publish with Lulu. Much more news coming soon. In the meantime, if you want to catch up on the blog series, you’d best do it soon. Most of it will be going offline soon, in preparation for the book launch. The last few chapters will be saved for the book – we’ve gone as far as we’re going to go with publishing it here on the blog.

All of this means that things will probably be even slower here at TIN over the summer, unless of course the band kicks back into action. But stay connected to us on social media (Facebook|Twitter|Instagram), where, over the next year, we’ll be celebrating memorable dates in Toxic History.

Stay tuned for more!

Getting to Know Anna Bulbrook

We all know Mikel Jollett’s back story, but one thing that struck me in the process of writing Toxic History is how little is out there about the other band members, at least in comparison to the lead man. But Anna Bulbrook has been doing her best to remedy that, with a couple of illuminating features.

First came Distinct Daily, with an artsy but very informative video feature on the violinist/keyboardist/tambourinist/guitarist/singer/songwriter/feminist ambassador/festival organizer. Shortly thereafter, Anna wrote her own story for 21cm. Together, these two excellent pieces chart Anna’s journey from classical music student to music dropout to Kanye West support to The Airborne Toxic Event, and finally to the front woman of The Bulls.

Anna sums up her journey so far thusly:

So, at 33, I’m technically the worst violinist that I’ve ever been in the traditional sense but the best musician that I’ve ever been. I’ve been humbled in the process more times than I can count, and I’m sure I’ll be humbled a few thousand more – but I can’t wait to find out where music will take me next.

We can’t wait, either.

Drinking the Lemonade

One other quick Bulbrook note… One of the biggest musical happenings this spring was the release of Beyonce’s Lemonade. Shortly after the album dropped, Anna revealed on Instagram that she contributed viola to one of the tracks on the record. A scan of the album’s extensive credits reveals that she played on the first song, “Pray You Catch Me.”

Toxic Gold

As always, we’ll round out Toxicity with some video goodies. First up, while Anna is talking about herself, here’s an interview she did for Girl Rock Nation around the time of All At Once:

And now a couple of thrilling performances by The Airborne Toxic Event: the potent punk rock of “The Kids Are Ready to Die”/”Welcome to Your Wedding Day” from Roxwell, and an acoustic “This Losing”/”Sometime Around Midnight” combo from Live Daily Sessions, circa 2008.

GlenGlen 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.

The Airborne Toxic Event, All At OnceBy Jamie

Ed. Note: Just 9 days from now, The Airborne Toxic Event will take to the stage of The Fillmore in San Francisco, CA, to play their self-titled debut album from front to back. They’ll do the same the following two nights with their next two albums, All At Once and Such Hot Blood. As part of our countdown to this momentous occasion, each of This Is Nowhere’s writing staff will share why one of these albums is their favorite TATE record. Last week, Glen made the case for the debut; today, Jamie  delves into the sophomore album; and on Sept. 16 Julie will tackle the band’s most recent release.

When Glen asked me to write a blog post about why I thought All At Once was The Airborne Toxic Event’s best album I accepted… and promptly panicked. Remember when I said I am NOT a writer? Well, that insecurity reared its ugly head once the full realization of what I had agreed to do hit me.

I needed to do the album justice. When taking This Is Nowhere’s fan survey, I surprised myself when, much like picking my favorite song, I chose All At Once as my top album without hesitation. According to the results of that survey, I wasn’t the only one. All At Once came in second for favorite album, and won the title of favorite album lyrically. During the last tour, the record was largely represented, having more songs in rotation than the album TATE was supporting, Such Hot Blood. Still, when it comes to singing praises, it feels like the album has gotten lost in the mix. It’s the middle child, often times being overlooked for the popular big brother or the newest member of the TATE family. It receives its fair share of criticisms, too. Even Mikel has recently admitted to preferring song demos to the versions that ended up on the album.

However, none of that can dull the glow that I can still feel from the first time I heard it, and so I’ll defend this album because even though the first record made me a fan, All At Once is why you’ll find me here month after month, sometimes pouring my heart out for a band I love.

It’s not hard for me to remember what it was like to be a fan back in 2011. Fairly new to TATE, I was experiencing my first new release. I was ravenous for new material, curious and even a bit apprehensive about what to expect. Their self-titled debut had set the bar high; could they even meet it, let alone top it? Recreating that magic seemed impossible, but I’ll admit to having high hopes.

What I heard, upon first listen, was wonderful. This was the record that crossed me over into super fan territory. These were the songs that left me breathless, crying in my room. In this album are 11 songs that inspired me to accept, love and enrich my life. It was the same TATE I had initially fallen in love with, a band that took profound words and brought them to life with music, filling the spaces in between the lyrics with something so impassioned, it can bring tears to my eyes.

Refusing to fit into any kind of genre, the band chose to represent a theme, instead. The opening title track, “All At Once,” feels, for lack of a better word, epic. An anthem worthy of stadiums, it also set the stage for what was to come; a song about life, beginning to end, and the changes that are inevitable, loss and death. Standing in a room of strangers, it is my favorite to sing along to, screaming at the top of my lungs and thrusting my fists in the air.

Everything that follows builds on the ideas presented in the opener. These songs contain some of Mikel’s best lyrics; songs such as the romantic, folky “All For A Woman,” and the politically charged “The Kids Are Ready To Die,” leave you reaching for the liner notes, reading and rereading the text like poetry. Every song offers some little gem that had me going back for a second and sometimes third listen before I could move on to the next.

It all culminates in a final, gentle conclusion in “The Graveyard Near the House.” Standing in stark contrast to the chaos that precedes it, the song offers a simple message: love is all that matters, all we can hope for, all that is worth anything in the end. It is the love song to end all love songs, the one I can sing to my children and my husband alike, the lyrics perfectly reflecting feelings so deep and intense, I would have sworn they could never be translated by mere words. There are no Mikelisms here; familiar words somehow create an extraordinary song, proving the songwriter’s gift more than any “big words” ever could. Equally fitting at a wedding or a funeral, this song is a perfect celebration and portrayal of life and love.

In this album, I found myself. My fears, doubts, frustrations, hopes, dreams and desires were all laid out before me, through the eyes of a stranger. Mikel had used his words to somehow tell my story even though this wasn’t my story it all. He showed me that we all have the same struggles and triumphs, and most importantly that none of us are alone. There it was again, that great comfort: I was not alone. This album changed me without really changing me at all. I armed my fears like soldiers and, well, you know the rest. I will be forever grateful.

Jamie: A Strange, Strange GirlJamie spends most of her days with her husband as they attempt to raise 4 future TATE fans and all around decent human beings. In her free time, when not obsessively listening to her favorite bands and going to concerts, she is also an aspiring seamstress. She writes about her handmade wardrobe on her blog Such a Strange Girl, and is a regular contributor to This Is Nowhere.

By Glen

There has been an air of mystery about “The Kids Are Ready to Die” ever since its April 2011 release on All At Once.

In what is perhaps The Airborne Toxic Event’s angriest song, writer Mikel Jollett takes his nation’s leaders to task for “not being willing to die for a cause but sending someone else to do so; and how that disrespect for other people’s lives is going to be visited back on you. That a lie can only exist as a lie for so long, and will eventually become known—which is a terrifying idea for governments, but for people, too.”

Given the fury of the lyrics, one might expect them to be set to equally ferocious music. And indeed, in a live setting, that is exactly how it is presented: as a no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall, rock ‘n’ roll assault.

And yet, that’s not what we find on the official release. A slow burn can sometimes be more powerful than a tantrum; for Exhibit A, contrast Springsteen’s quietly seething, stripped down acoustic rendition of Born in the USA with the anthemic, fist-pumping, stadium shaking original which many careless listeners have wrongly taken for triumphalist nationalism.

Likewise, the studio version of Kids is devoid of frills. Instead, Mikel’s anguished vocals and haunting cries stand out against a stark, bare background, filled for most of the track by only a lone guitar – and that, strummed sparingly.

Just as they achieved with a pair of strikingly distinct versions of “Half of Something Else,” TATE succeeds in evoking two very different emotional responses with their two arrangements of Kids. But unlike the former, in the case of Kids, only the slower version has ever been released. Those who prefer what we’ll call “Punk Kids” have had to content themselves with jumpy YouTube videos and muted live bootlegs.

Adding to the confusion is that the iTunes-released deluxe packaging of All At Once includes a bonus “Alternative” version of “The Kids Are Ready to Die” – a recording that appears, to most ears, to be an exact replica of the album version, and therefore wholly superfluous.

The existence of a studio recording of Punk Kids is an open question; the evidence conflicting. I can’t recall if it was in the context of an interview or a fan Q&A, and unfortunately I can’t find the source to back this up, but I recall Mikel once being asked why the fast version wasn’t included on the album, and his response was that they didn’t settle on that arrangement until after the album had already gone to press.

That fits nicely with an Aug. 2012 Twitter Q&A, in which Mikel was asked if studio recordings of the punk version of Kids exist. His response? “No. But they might in the very near future.”

The timing of that remark coincided with the recording of Such Hot Blood, leading one to wonder if there was some thought to releasing Punk Kids as a B-side to the album or one of its singles. As we now know, that didn’t happen.

However, all of the above would appear to be contradicted by this video from way back in March 2010 – more than a year prior to the release of All At Once. Here, a heavily processed studio recording of punk Kids provides the backing to TATE’s airport tomfoolery. Perhaps this was just a demo that was never finished to the band’s satisfaction, but I’m betting that the fans who voted Punk Kids as the unreleased TATE track that they’d most like to get their hands on would gladly accept it.

So what to make of all this? For awhile, I had a pet theory about that iTunes “Alternative” version. Is it possible that the band intended for Punk Kids to be that bonus track, but somehow a mistake was made, resulting in the same version of the song accidentally being included twice? It’s hard to fathom that such an error could be made, and even more so that it could go overlooked and uncorrected. But if not that, what other explanation could there be for releasing an identical version and calling it a bonus track?

However, Mikel’s denials that a completed recording of Punk Kids even exists (as of 2012, if not now) led me to revisit the “Alternative” version. Is it actually identical to the official rendition, or are we missing something?

After listening to them back-to-back multiple times, and then playing them simultaneously over top of one another, I’ve concluded that they are in fact one and the same – aside from the one obvious but inconsequential variation in that the closing note is drawn out for a good 20 seconds in the alternative version, while the official version is swallowed up by the opening chords of “Welcome to Your Wedding Day.” The only other potential difference I could detect is that the falsetto “Ooohs” that open the track may be ever so slightly more layered and robust on the official version, as compared to the bonus track. But then, this could just as easily be my ears playing tricks on me, or my brain wanting to find something – anything – that would justify the release of the bonus track.

Either way, if one must listen this carefully to determine whether there are in fact any differences, it’s questionable as to why the band and label felt the second version was worth releasing as an extra. And yet, Mikel’s comments punch a hole in my “iTunes mistake” theory. The whole situation seems highly unusual, but after giving it my best shot, I’ve got to admit that I’ve been unable to crack it. The curious case of “The Kids Are Ready to Die” remains open, pending further evidence.

Purchase The Kids Are Ready to Die (Alternate Mix)

Glen, Fan of The Airborne Toxic Event 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.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event
Photo by TATE fan Anneke Peeters

By Keith

Editor’s Note: The following was submitted in response to The Airborne Toxic Event Fan Survey. I thought it was worthy of a post of its own.

Congratulations on all the hard work to produce such a thorough set of survey questions. However, one question is missing.“Why?”

Why am I so hooked by their music?

Why do I now listen to little else?

The answer for me is simple. They connect.

How do they connect?

Emotion. Raw emotion. The same reason ordinary folk are captivated and buy paintings off gallery walls.

Other groups of course do the same; they might have a distinctive vocalist, maybe write good lyrics or possibly play great music. But it is rare, and I feel fortunate, to find a group that excels in every aspect and are even better live!

Mikel, though perhaps not the most technically accomplished vocalist in the world (though I do love the gravel in his voice when it shines through), really lives the lyrics when he sings. Compare the pent up anger of “The Kids Are Ready to Die” with the tender rendition of “Elizabeth.” Singing his own lyrics, which often recall his past experiences, must help.

What really sets Airborne apart is the fact that they are not only all extremely talented musicians, but also exceptional composers. Turn up the volume as loud as you can get away with, forget the lyrics, and just listen to the way each song has been handled and the way the mood of the lyrics has been interpreted. Somber bass, rising scales… mind blowing, exquisite stuff.

I have reached retirement; well, kind of. (We artists have no white line to step over.) I know that capturing emotion in paint connects with folk. I was also lucky enough to be swept along by that tide of raw music by the groups of the sixties, being a teenager in England at that time; standing every Wednesday night with about 200 others in our local hall to see new groups such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, the Hollies, the Animals, the Small Faces, Geoff Beck, Clapton, etc., all singing, playing mostly covers.

A long day ago.

The flame of excitement of those heady days has been rekindled by the honest emotion in the songs performed and conveyed by The Airborne Toxic Event.

By Glen

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.

Toxic Gold

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, Fan of The Airborne Toxic EventGlen 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.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event. Photo by TATE fan Ryan Macchione.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event.
Photo by TATE fan Ryan Macchione.

By Mike

Ed. Note: This is the first in a six week series in which fans of The Airborne Toxic Event select their Top 5 musical moments of their favorite band member. Mikel gets two entries – one for vocal performances, and one for lyrics. Next week: Daren Taylor, The Ultimate Beat Keeper.

When I accepted the task of composing a Top 5 list of Mikel Jollett’s best vocal performances, I had a few ideas in my head. My first step was to go to YouTube and start listening to all the Airborne Toxic Event videos I had watched thousands of times before. Only this time, I did something different: I shut my mouth, quit singing along like I always did, and really listened. Obviously, I was focusing on the vocals, but I really listened. My opinions of the top five started changing. What I ended up doing was compiling a list of nine songs, then I went back to YouTube and carefully pared them down. And now I present to you, the Top 5.

5. The Kids Are Ready to Die

This is my favorite recording of the punk version of this song. They really rock out on it. I considered making the long journey to this show, but in the end I didn’t. I probably should have. Mikel’s energy is evident from the beginning of the intro, and it climaxes when he belts out, “The kids are lined up on the wall and they’re ready to die!”

4. The Storm

The beauty in this one is how Mikel’s vocals perfectly complement the slow build of the music. It starts out slowly and crescendos into a frenzied storm. It’s hard for me to pick just one point. I get chills every time he sings, “Then you walk right through the doorway, you tell me you’re here to stay.” And when they play it live, I totally get off on belting out, “And you knew it all along, I wasn’t happy all alone.” It’s easily my favorite song on Such Hot Blood.

3. Half of Something Else

This song is a favorite of many fans for many reasons… the subject matter, the beauty, the passion. And that is embodied perfectly in Mikel’s voice when he sings, “The way that you screamed, The way that you cried, The way that you wipe your eyes and fall against my side.” The band gets a lot of letters telling about the song being played at weddings, and I can see why. It’s my favorite love song of all time.

2. Duet

I hate to cop out, but the beauty of this song is the whole thing. It is quiet, playful, bold, and graceful. That being said, a huge assist has to go to Anna Bulbrook on this one. Mikel’s singing along with both Anna and her viola is where the song draws its power. The Walt Disney Concert Hall show is the highlight show of the band’s career thus far, and for me, this is the shining moment.

1. Sometime Around Midnight

This was an obvious pick. It not only is the song that started me on the path to becoming an Airborne superfan, it did the same for many of my friends as well. The first time I heard Mikel sing, “And you walk, Under the street lights,” I was hooked. I cried the first hundred times I heard the song. And sometimes I still do.

Purchase the Best of Mikel:

The Kids Are Ready to Die
The Storm
Half of Something Else
Duet (Live from Walt Disney Concert Hall)
Sometime Around Midnight

mike Mike is just a half-white guy from Akron, and the indisputable winner of the “Best Airborne Tattoo” prize.