777 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 - Map
Hanni El Khatib

Noise Pop Presents

Hanni El Khatib

The Buttertones, The Molochs

Fri, February 24, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

The Chapel

San Francisco, CA

$18 - $20

Sold Out

This event is all ages

plus Innovative Leisure DJs

Hanni El Khatib
Hanni El Khatib
Hanni El Khatib's first idea for his Savage Times project was to do something he'd never done before. Instead, he ended up doing … well, everything he'd never done before. He'd be playing new instruments, writing in unfamiliar new ways, opening himself up to an unrelenting stream of ideas and dedicating himself totally to pure musical instinct—and then releasing songs instantly to the public, without waiting to tour or assemble an album or anything. At the end of 2015, he'd walked into the studio with his guitar and a few lines of lyrics, hoping to sketch out a track or two just to stay busy, but that very first day he walked out with two finished songs and the inspiration to create something raw in real time, recording and releasing songs (and even videos!) direct to the public as soon as tape stopped rolling: "Everything was really as I did it," he says. "It was meant to be an experiment in how I could write and record and release something as quickly as possible. I didn't wanna make an album—I wanted to put songs out every week. It's personal for me."


El Khatib started Savage Times last December, after the Bataclan attacks forced the cancellation of a planned Paris performance. With unexpected time on his hands—and unexpected ideas on his mind—he'd scheduled open-ended studio time at Crystal Antlers frontman-turned-producer Jonny Bell's Jazzcats studio. Each day, he'd take the hour-long drive through L.A.'s industrial corridor to Long Beach, sketching out riffs and lyrics as he drove. (The Suicide-meets-Italo-disco burner "Born Brown" came suddenly while in traffic, and he started screaming the words as loud as he could so his voice would be the perfect amount of wrecked.)
If he felt like making an solo electric guitar song, he'd do it—like the one-take from-the-heart "Miracle." If he wanted to compose on piano for the first time ever, he would, and that's how he ended up with the shimmering soul-searching "Gun Clap Hero." And if he wanted to resurrect old-school studio pro techniques like charting music for a string section or hiring a trio of singers for backup vocals, he'd do that, too. For seven months and fifty songs, he'd work with Bell to capture, strengthen and grow that morning's burst of inspiration, celebrating at Long Beach's oldest bar—or with the studio's resident cats and chicken—once the fifteen-hour work day was done. For a grand finale, he wrote and cut the scorching "Mondo and His Make-Up," a nod to the supercharged guitar-garage he made his name on, and after some precise editing, the Savage Times experiment was done.


And the result? 21 best-of-the-sessions songs, destined for vinyl release as a 10" box set, as well as the kind of creative revelations that only happen when you quit looking around and start looking ahead. Originally, he'd hoped to explode the lingering idea that he was simply a blues-rock guitar player, left over from his first single and his work with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach: that's why Savage Timestouches everything from garage rock to punk to disco, hip-hop and even some unexpected solo-guitar self-portraiture. But on the way, he also exploded his own idea of what he could do—even maybe who he was, or would be. Savage Times was an experiment, but an experience, too.


"I realized that if I want, I can play everything," he says. "Or if I don't wanna play guitar or make a straight-forward rock song, I don't have to, and it'll still sound like me. It opened my eyes to how I can sound like myself over whatever backdrop I want. That's not important. What's holding it together is my point of view as a musician. What surprised me is how self-sufficient I can be. You realize you don't need all the things people tell you that you need to make great records. You need good gear and good people—that's it! And you don't need much more."
The Buttertones
The Buttertones
The Buttertones' Gravedigging is more a movie waiting to happen than an album—or a soundtrack just waiting to inspire a movie, with scene after scene of action, tension and release set to a sound that takes everything good and true about American music before the Beatles prettied it up (surf, sweet soul, the boss saxophone-overdrive garage of the Northwest wailers like the Sonics) and matches it to punk energy, post-punk precision and the kind of personality that blows the circuit-breakers at a backyard party. (Which actually happened, of course.) They've even got casting suggestions if anyone wants to start filming—like Willem DeFoe, Winona Ryder, Lucy Liu, and Tommy Wiseau in as many roles as possible. Says guitarist Dakota Boettcher: "We all love movies so much. When you listen to a soundtrack, it has peaks and it has lows, but it's a whole journey. That's what we want to do. We want you to go on a journey."

The Buttertones started their own journey in 2011 as three music school misfits (or drinking buddies, they say) in the heart of Hollywood, happy to learn how to to play, produce and perform but less excited about frequent go-nowhere conversations with classmates who had little interest in either the past or the future of music. So that's why bassist Sean Redman (also a former member of Cherry Glazerr) felt like he'd lucked out when he found guitarist/singer Richard Araiza and drummer/polyinstrumentalist Modesto 'Cobi' Cobiån: "Cobi and Richard were the first guys I met where I thought they knew what they were talking about," he says. "They had good influences—they weren't just trying to pander."
Their first rehearsals were in a Hollywood bedroom where Redman was living on an air mattress, then Araiza finally locked down Boettcher—who he'd often see responding to the same casting calls as he did—to replace another guitarist who was transitioning back to family life even as the Buttertones prepared their debut release, a self-titled cassette on L.A.'s garage-pop Lolipop label. Then they absorbed sax player London Guzmån (formerly in Long Beach's Wild Pack of Canaries with breakout local Rudy De Anda) after spotting him at a local DJ night, recruiting him for their sophomore album American Brunch—and discovering the kind chemistry they didn't know they were missing. Says Araiza: "We're proud to be a legit band. It's a very collaborative process—we rely on each other. I feel that's rare nowadays, especially with rock bands."

When it came time to make Gravedigging—the follow-up to a special issue 8" for Innovative, which ended up pulling them aboard the label full-time—they knew it was time to go deeper and get dirtier. Recorded at Jazzcats studio in Long Beach—home-away-from-home to fellow Innovative Leisure artists Hanni El Khatib, Tijuana Panthers, Wall of Death and more—in the spring of 2016, the sessions were supercharged with hard-won live experience from endless street-level shows and relentless midnight-to-six rehearsals at the Buttertones lock-out, then focused even further by the insight and vision of producer Jonny Bell. ("Jonny pushed us like crazy," says Boettcher. "He had so many ideas all he time.")
It kicks off with "Pistol Whip" and "Sadie's A Sadist," twin tales of love and crime that match outré Dangerhouse Records punk (the dirty surf of the Alleycats, the slash-and-burn sax of the Deadbeats) to an urgent rock 'n' roll rhythm section and lyrics about what happens when you get into something you can't get out of. "Neon Cowboy" is a weird-Western Wall of Voodoo take on that expansive Ennio Morricone soundtrack sound, then "I Ran Away" is heartbroken East Side Story sweet soul and "Geisha's Gaze" is a sleazy popcorn-style R&B slow burner. It's zig-zag through the wild parts of music—the kind of road trip that Iggy Pop was on in Repo Man or the kind where Lux Interior picked up Poison Ivy hitchhiking—and it ends with a climax and a cliffhanger both. That's the nervous-but-nasty title track "Gravediggin'," a pedal-to-the-metal instrumental that goes blasting over the edge of the world into a dazed slow-mo fade, with just enough time between freefall and impact for Araiza to sing, "I've been treading my way through another haze / Tossed my heart to the wind …" Think of it this way: you might not yet know how the band that made Gravediggin' is going to land—but you know it's going to hit hard.
The Molochs
The Molochs
First, let’s meet Moloch. You remember him, right? The ancient god, the child eater, the demander of sacrifice, the villain in Ginsberg’s Howl(and also real life) and now the personal antagonist of singer and songwriter Lucas Fitzsimons, who named his band the Molochs because he knew he’d have to make sacrifices to get what he needed, and because he always wanted a reminder of the Ginsbergian monster he’d be fighting against. And so this is how you make a record right now: you fight for every piece, and when Moloch takes apart your relationships and career potential and leaves you sleeping on couches or living in terrifying apartments and just about depleted from awful people involving you in their awful decisions, you grab a bottle of wine (and laugh at the cliché) and put together another song. And once you do that eleven hard-won times in total, you get a record like America’s Velvet Glory: honest, urgent, desperate and fearless because of it.

Fitzsimons came to his calling in an appropriately mythic way, born in a historic city not far from Buenos Aires and raised in L.A.’s South Bay—just outside of Inglewood—where he was immersed in the hip-hop hits on local radio. (Westside Connection!) The summer d before he started middle school, a close friend got an electric guitar, and Fitzsimons felt an enirresistible inexplicable power: “I'd go back home and I’d look up guitar chords on the internet—even though I had no guitar—and just imagine how I WOULD play them. I was slowly getting obsessed.” When he was 12, his parents took him back to Argentina, and on the first night, he discovered a long-forgotten almost-broken classical guitar in the basement of his ancestral home: “It sounds made-up, but it’s true,” he says. “I didn't put the guitar down once that whole trip—took it with me everywhere and played and played. When I got back to L.A., I bought my first guitar practically as the plane was landing.”

This started a long line of bands and a long experience of learning to perform in public, as Fitzsimons honed intentions and ideas and tried to figure out why that guitar seemed so important. After a trip to India in 2012, he returned renewed and ready to start again, scrapping his band to lead something new and uncompromising. This was the true start of the Molochs: “It didn't make any sense to not do everything exactly the way I wanted to do it,” he says. “I was so shy and introverted that singing publicly sounded like a nightmare come true. But I didn't have a choice—I heard something inside of me and I needed to be the one to express it.”

The first album Forgetter Blues was released with Fitzsimons’ guitarist/organist and longtime bandmate Ryan Foster in early 2013 on his own label—named after a slightly infamous intersection in their then-home of Long Beach—and was twelve songs of anxious garage-y proto-punk-y folk-y rock, Modern Lovers demos and Velvet Underground arcana as fuel and foundation both. It deserved to go farther than it did, which sadly wasn’t very far. But it sharpened Fitzsimons and his songwriting, and after three pent-up years of creativity, he was ready to burst. So he decided to record a new album in the spirit of the first, and in the spirit of everything that the Molochs made so far: “I wanted to spend less time figuring out HOW we were gonna do something and just actually do it.”

The result is America’s Velvet Glory, recorded with engineer Jonny Bell at effortless (says Fitzsimons) sessions at Long Beach’s JazzCats studio. (Also incubator for Molochs’ new labelmates Wall of Death and Hanni El Khatib.) It starts with an anxious electric minor-key melody and ends on a last lonesome unresolved organ riff, and in between comes beauty, doubt, loss, hate and even a moments or two of peace. There are flashes of 60s garage rock—like the Sunset Strip ’66 stormer “No More Cryin’” or the “Little Black Egg”-style heartwarmer-slash-breaker “The One I Love”—but like one of Foster’s and Fitzsimons’ favorites the Jacobites, the Molochs are taking the past apart, not trying to recreate it.

You can hear where songs bend, where voices break, where guitars start to shiver and when strings are about to snap; on “You And Me,” you can almost hear Lou Reed’s ghost call for a solo, and on “I Don’t Love You,” you get that subway-sound guitar and find out what happens when Jonathan Richman’s G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N goes wrong. And of course there’s the charismatic chaos of bootleg basement-tape Dylan—always Dylan, says Fitzsimons—and the locked-room psychedelia of Syd Barrett, especially on “Charlie’s Lips,” Fitzsimons’ ode to—or antidote to—those times when he felt the bleakness completely: “Then a bird lands on a branch nearby, you hear leaves fluttering, you hear a child laughing … all of a sudden things don't seem so bad anymore.”

So Moloch might still be out there, devouring his sacrifices, but the Molochs are still fighting, too. And that’s why Fitzsimons picked the band name—it’s so he remembers what he’s up against. He’s not celebrating the destroyer of youth and individuality and creativity, he says: “I’m just keeping him in sight so that he doesn't win.” – Christopher Ziegler
Venue Information:
The Chapel
777 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA, 94110
http://www.thechapelsf.com