The Cemetery Boys, An Album Review

Debut Album with bat. The flying kind. Not the baseball kind.

Debut Album with bat. The flying kind. Not the baseball kind.

Delivered in a plain paper sleeve, this ubiquitous black disc is the debut studio release of Edgar Graves’ brainchild, The Cemetery Boys. This minimal packaging is an extension of The Cemetery Boys’ minimal aesthetic, and theirs is a surprisingly welcome approach in an age where computer music has given artists almost limitless options for expression. Produced by Hampton Roads’ own Patrick Walsh, the only instruments besides voice you’ll hear on this album are drums and electric bass guitar. If the sound of that makes you feel a little skeptical, don’t worry. You’ve probably never heard bass guitar sound quite like this.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exz9P8gVtUc

If you neglected to notice the absence of a guitarist credit on the label or have never seen the band live before, you may not even realize right away that there’s no guitarist. “At Midnite,” the albums first song, begins with what sounds like a distant guitar riff buried in radio fuzz, but it’s quickly revealed that there is some seriously impressive low end here as the introductory facade gives way to the actual song. This witch’s brew of distortion and tone that Mr. Graves has created for his bass acts as a glue in the mix, binding everything together without the need for complex harmonies or too many complimenting elements. I mean it when I say his tone sounds BIG!

You might think that such a small act would need to resort to virtuosity and showiness to keep things interesting, but that’s not really what you’ll find here. While Ed is an exceptional bass player with nigh impeccable timing, having written and performed with a drum machine for many years, this is good ol’ fashioned rock & roll songwriting and, while he indulges in the occasional solo when a song calls for it, his arrangements are absolutely void of pretension.

The Cemetery Boys performing at Zombie Wars.

The Cemetery Boys performing at Zombie Wars.

Speaking of, while the band’s overall sound is what’s most unique about them, what’s most refreshing about The Cemetery Boys are Ed Grave’s lyrics. Where so many bands who delve into doom and gloom for source inspiration try to walk that fine line between embarrassing pretension and great poetry, Ed Graves, wisely and with great affection, simply wears his love of old-school horror movies on his sleeve. From haunted hotels to the original Frankenstein movie, these songs are wrought with warm nostalgia and reverence for a time when the art of shock and special effects in cinema was just beginning to be realized.

Some potential problems do exist here. While these 9 songs are fun, they’re not particularly long. With an average run-time of only about two and a half minutes, the album reaches the benchmark for “number-of-songs-to-be-considered-an-album,” but you may still feel like it ends too soon. The final track, Transylvania, a slow hulking song that really takes advantage of the bass’s low range, ends on a somewhat tense note, which is good insofar as it leaves you wishing for more, but it’s also a little dissatisfying in that you feel a little surprised when you have to reach for the replay button. Once you’ve restarted the album, though, any grievance is quickly forgiven as the fun, catchy, and just-barely-over-the-top spookiness continues to put a smile on your face.

Edgar Von Graves playing bass.

Edgar Von Graves

It remains a legitimate challenge to see if Mr. Graves and “The Boys” can write a longer collection of material for another release without exposing too much limitation in their minimal approach and/or expand upon their sound without abandoning that practically trademark tone. With such a strong debut, however, the expectation for a follow-up seems like a good problem to have and, frankly, if Mr. Graves can keep in good standing with his muse (who I imagine might look a little like Elvira), a little “more of the same” might be all that’s required.

There’s still plenty more to write about in the horror lexicon, after all. I mean, I haven’t heard a song about zombies yet, *wink wink.*

Like The Cemetery Boys on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecemeteryboys

The Purge, Live: Who, What, Where, When, and How?

I was recently asked by a fellow artist if I “still planned on taking The Purge live.” It wasn’t a strange question, but I had to respond with a more complicated version of “yes.”

I finished audio production for Waves around late October/early November. That was 6 months ago and I’ve, in the mean time, released three new The Purge songs but have yet to perform a live show. I’ve had some very talented musicians approach me about getting involved, but for various reasons I didn’t capitalize on the moment. Part of that is because I wasn’t 100% sure on what The Purge live was even going to be like.

We Are Sex Bob-omb

 There are many decisions to make when you try to take what is, essentially, a studio-oriented music project live; more-so than there are when you’re a more traditional band that writes and performs all their music together. How big of a production should this try to be? Will you need to try and produce accompanying video? How reliant will you need to be on backing audio (pre-recorded music or portions of music)? How many other musicians are in the band? How will you repay them for their time and commitment? Can you even afford to do that? What will you do about stage-lighting? What will the overall tone of your show be like? Which songs are crucial to your set-list and which ones aren’t? How long will your set be? The list goes on and on.

For the traditional band, live performance together is the creative process and recording is an after-thought. For projects like The Purge, recording is the creative process.

I <3 FL Studio. Thanks to Rebekah Pascouau Photography for the photo.

I <3 FL Studio. Thank you to Rebekah Pascouau Photography for this photo.

There are multiple routes I could take The Purge live. One extreme, and the perceivably quickest and easiest route would be to rely very heavily on backing audio and simply walk on stage myself. I would not be uncomfortable doing this, but I do feel like it might be a waste of resources and talent when I’ve had enough other musicians approach me about getting involved. I also know from my experience with my last project that working to organize a heavily automated performance by yourself is a pretty joyless chore when it comes time to adapt it, whereas a more organic approach has the ability to bend and be flexible.

The other extreme, and the most traditional approach, would be to assemble a committed group of 3-4 other musicians/artists and arrange the songs live so that backing tracks become wholly unnecessary. It may or may not come as a surprise to some readers, but I’ve never actually played my own music with a group like this. One fear I have about this approach boils down to what is, basically, a trust issue. I’ve talked to other artists like Edgar Graves of The Cemetery Boys about band structures and he’s always liked to keep his band small. His reasoning was that it’s, and I’m paraphrasing a little here, difficult to arrange the schedules of a group of other adults who have varying degrees of commitment to the project so that you can play shows and rehearse consistently.

Too Tired for Band Practice

But that isn’t to say I’m not above trying to make that happen, and it may even turn out that a few songs would require limited backing track use regardless of how many musicians are in the band.

Simply put, I won’t and can’t  know for sure what The Purge live will be like until I assemble my team. What I do know is, however, I would like to see The Purge performing consistent shows and performing them well by the end of the year, in whatever shape or form that may be. If you’ve ever talked to me about getting involved with the project live, expect a message from me by the end of next week. If you’re a musician who has thought about getting involved with the project live, please contact me.

Facebook Pages: It only takes a couple of minutes

There’s a thing that I’ve been doing for a while now to try to help out artists I dig or businesses I enjoy increase their Facebook presence/reach that they can’t do for themselves. It takes, at most, a couple of minutes of my time but it’s always yielded results I could see and made me feel good about the time spent doing it. I’ve done this for quite a few awesome bands and businesses, and you should check them out if you haven’t already; Rebekah Pascouau Photography, The Cemetery Boys, Full of Wanderlust, Taste Fire Hot Sauce, Karacell, 0pt-0ut,  Little Black Rain Clouds, Ikagura, The Hissy Fits,  Scar Limit, Overlock Hotel, Asylum XIII, Automated Messiah, We Never Sleep, Saltine, Heretics in the Lab, Deist Requiem, Pillbuster, Black Blinds, Human Services, Pain In The Yeahs,   etc… But I digress.

Mass Inviting:

Does the process need to be this indiscriminate? Absolutely not.  Right above that little “invite” button is a search button. Those of you who have taken the time to organize your friends list into categories can really take advantage of that feature here. There’s a drop-down to the top left of the search pop-up where you can filter the people you’re seeing. It takes a bit longer to do it this way, but you can.

Why bother with doing this at all, you may ask? Well, I went to Die Sektor’s page in preparation for this post and invited everyone and let that sit overnight. Then, after starting to write this blog I went back on Facebook and made sure I hadn’t neglected some bands I dug to see what would happen in a few hours:

 

Mass Invite Results_Cut

 

It’s been less than a day, and these are real people liking these pages who actually know or would like to know more about the band. The numbers on these keep trickling up too. You even get to feel good as you see how your contribution helped a page you genuinely dig expand it’s reach. Doing this for an artist I’ve yet to do this for usually results in an average of close to 30 new genuine likes overall. Maybe if I had more conventional taste in bands I follow/associate with those numbers would be much higher, but the point is that most of these people who responded genuinely like these bands but probably didn’t realize they hadn’t liked them on Facebook yet.

As some of you may or may not know, Facebook has been filtering out more and more page posts from news feeds (unless they have $$$). Is that a bad thing? Maybe not. Facebook probably should be more about checking out what your best friends are doing and not necessarily what artists you-kinda-sorta-enjoy-sometimes-when-you’re-in-the-right-mood are doing, maybe. But what about those who do spend their money on “buying likes” or “Facebook advertising?”

Seriously, check this out:

Reach is important, and Facebook allows you to pay for “targeted reach,” but it’s mostly a superficial game that cooks books and, in fact, tends to dilute the effectiveness of posts. Taking it upon yourself to perform an active role in promoting content creator’s pages for them is the best way for a page to reach people who will actually care.

As a content creator and page manager, I’ve learned to look at it as a civic duty to help other people like me expand their reach like this. I’ve yet to make a big deal about this before, but I’ve been trying to increase my own reach recently and, selfishly, I am hoping that some of my friends return the favor and follow-suit in doing so for the band, business, artist pages they enjoy. It only takes a couple of minutes.