EDITOR’S NOTE: This story ran in our spring issue. And we learned over the weekend that Erik Petersen passed away on Friday. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.
Mischief Brew began at the end of the world. Well, almost the end of it. Erik Petersen was in Baltimore at a Y2K (New Year’s Eve 1999) party, one too tame for an “end of the world” party.
Petersen handed his friend a bucket to bang on and paraded around the house, strumming his acoustic guitar and singing punk songs. The music spilled out of the house into the street, creating a public singalong. And thus, Mischief Brew was born.
“That was the point when Mischief Brew really started,” Petersen, guitarist and singer, says. “You can create chaos without any electricity.”
When Petersen began Mischief Brew, very few other punk musicians were playing the acoustic guitar. It was the first time now-bassist Sean St. Clair had ever heard anything like it, at a show in State College, Pennsylvania. St. Clair didn’t know what to make of Mischief Brew, which was then a solo project by Petersen.
“At the time, that was really strange,” St. Clair says, reflecting that shows were less diverse when Mischief Brew started.
Today, they are a three-piece punk band that has continued to try to push the limits of what the band can do and sound like.
Right now, Mischief Brew is in the process of re-releasing old albums, including Smash the Windows. It will be the first time the punk album will receive a United States vinyl pressing. They also re-released Bachannal ‘n’ Philadelphia and, in 2015, they dropped a new album, This Is Not For Children.
The band has managed to accomplish what it has largely through DIY means. The members of Mischief Brew all work day jobs in order to sustain themselves. The band tours whenever they are able to make time. Petersen says the satisfaction of doing it that way is one of the most rewarding parts of Mischief Brew’s journey thus far.
“There was no point when a big label took us under their wing, or a manager or publicist tried to hype us into something we weren’t,” Petersen says. “It seemed more natural to do it our way, not necessarily out of defiance, but more instinct and ethics. Today, we still own it all and while it’s hard work, the rewards are greater and we reap them all.”
Mischief Brew has released albums on Fistolo Records, as well as through other labels. Bachannal ‘n’ Philadelphia was released on Square of Opposition Records and This is Not For Children was released on Alternative Tentacles Records, something Petersen considers one of the band’s best achievements. Fistolo, the record company Petersen runs with his wife, not only has put out Mischief Brew’s music but they have also released music from other artists and friends of the band.
Franz Nicolay has worked with Petersen and Fistolo many times over the years, both as a solo artist and with his band, Guignol, releasing a small collection of music on Petersen’s label over the years.
Nicolay has also seen and occasionally filled in for Mischief Brew. He feels their musicianship is under-rated and that they continue to get better, remembering seeing them years ago at Kung Fu Necktie when he first heard the band incorporating other, non-punk elements into their music.
“I just remember watching them thinking, ‘Wow. They’re really making a play for not just the best punk band going, but the best band full-stop,’” Nicolay says.
“That’s shit I dreamed of when I was little,” St. Clair says, speaking of Mischief Brew’s fans who know their music and sing their songs back at them when they play out.
In the tradition of punk rock, Mischief Brew has written protest songs over the course their career – songs that may be just as relevant this year as they were when they came out.
“Three steps forward and one step back,” Peterson says. “We tend to focus on the one step back. It’s sad when you look at it like, ‘Oh, this song written in 1999 is still relevant in 2016.’”
Regardless of the state of politics in the world, punk rock will continue on and Mischief Brew will endure to see, hear and play it.
“Scene’s gonna change. There’s always gonna be people who think it’s dead,” Petersen says.
“Mostly older punks kinda go away,” St. Clair laughs. “We stick around.”
Text and images by Jordyn Cordner.
One of Philly’s most beloved bands of the moment, Nothing, shared the stage at Union Transfer on Friday, July 8, to celebrate the release of Tired of Tomorrow, which has been the subject of rants, raves and obsession among the devoted Philadelphia punk scene, so much so that a Tired of Tomorrow mural immortalizes the album on a wall in South Philadelphia.
The show began with the haunting, droning sounds of Lattimore and Ziegler, who use a variety of instruments and equipment to create their music. Lattimore sat elegantly behind a harp with a pedal on her lap, plucking and adjusting to fine tune the ambience while the lights behind her glow.
Following the smooth, calming set came Culture Abuse, whose performance was anything but what had preceded. The band, on tour from California, spans several genres, employing elements of hardcore, grunge, and good-old-fashioned straightforward punk. Their lively set amped the crowd up for the rest to come.
Michigan natives Citizen came next. The crowd screamed and sang along with their well-known (and well liked) songs, packed with emotion and energy in almost equal parts. Citizen’s latest album, Everybody Is Going To Heaven, came out last year via Run For Cover Records. They played tracks off of that and their beloved first full length, Youth.
Nothing’s performance was a whirlwind of Philly pride and love. The crowd celebrated with stage dives and they shouted lyrics, and the band reciprocated with words of love and thanks to their fans as well as their friends and family, who lined the sides of the stage en masse. The set was rife with emotion and energy, lingering in the air with the crowd’s exit when the house lights went out for the final time.
After a bit of a rain delay, the Love On the Streets Festival kicked off at Paines Park last Saturday. Thanks to a gray morning and drizzly afternoon, the event took place largely under tents but the rain cleared and it all went on relatively hitch-free (albeit with a few audibles in terms of lineup).
Following the skate competition (with music provided by Frank Sriracha, Fishtown Beats and Aurize), Hurry started things off. Frontman Matt Scottoline predicted that Mother Nature would show who her favorite band was based on when it starts raining. After a dry Hurry set, the drizzle started during Vicky Speedboat. But by the end of the set, some blue was visible in the sky.
Eventually, after a bit more fickle weather, the skies cleared for good, and the rest of the show, which included Mercury Girls, Amanda X, Endless Taile, Weller, RFA, Steady Hands and Creepoid, continued in front of the backdrop of skateboarders and street artists.
Longtime collaborators Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler have a new project dropping on July 22 – Music Inspired by Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur, which is a soundtrack to the 1968 experimental, French film Le Révélateur.
We spoke with Lattimore, the harpist, and Zeigler, who has recorded with The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and many others, about the project and the show.
How did the Le Révélateur project come about?
ML: The music director from Ballroom Marfa, an arts organization in Marfa, Texas, heard a song from my first record and thought to ask me to score a silent film of my choice for their annual live-scored presentation. I thought to include Jeff because we have the duo, he plays so many instruments well and can add a lot of diverse textures. And he’s fun to hang out and travel with.
I consulted our friend Herb Shellenberger, who worked at the International House for a long time and knows a lot about film in general. He said he’d always wanted to see Le Revelateur with music added, so Jeff and I checked it out and felt immediately connected to it. The film really matches our musical aesthetic and I think it works well.
Why this film? Do you see connections between now and when Phillippe Garrel created the film?
ML: This film leaves an impression of beauty, unease, liberation, illumination, dread, has elegant and timeless silvery landscapes and strange comedy. I like to think that the way that Jeff and I compose our music conjures similar impressions, images and feelings.
There is certainly political terror right now, as there was when the film was made, and a fear of what’s to come – an unseen, faceless predator, as the one that’s chasing the young family. Garrel’s film addresses political fear in an original way and hopefully our music is a companion to his statement.
So, is this new album a statement then?
ML: Not really – we mainly tried to complement Garrel’s intent and write music with feeling and melodic color.
This project seems to have been gestating for a while now. Has it evolved since you first performed it?
ML: It feels a lot more solid, of course. We’ve watched the film millions of times by now. We have more of a dynamic range and know exactly what will happen. The boy has become so much more of a hero. It’s gotten deeper. The musical themes have morphed the way songs do and feel richer.
You guys have worked on many other projects together. What makes the team work?
ML: We’re great friends. We like to hang out. We like each other as people and respect each others’ ears. We can give and take, push and pull, because it’s easy to hang out and voice opinions. It’s a top friendship of my life!
JZ: Yeah, I think our general ease as friends, and a shared appreciation of both the beautiful and the dark, and the musical balance that is created by that, keep things interesting and make it fluid and natural to play music together.
It’s great to be able to create our own specific language in a pretty effortless manner, and I think the fact that our primary instruments are very different and tend to take up their own space and be really complementary helps keep it seamless. But still, I don’t think we’d be able to do half of the things we end up doing if we weren’t great friends already….
How is it different from doing your solo stuff, or even Arc in Round?
JZ: Every band I’ve been in has been a real struggle for me to find a balance between writing “conventional” songs and then also really just wanting to stretch out and improvise without things sounding gratuitous or wanky and solo-heavy, especially in Arc in Round, as at that point I was way more interested in experimenting and improvisation than playing pop songs.
I think with a band, it was always a struggle to take things from poppy and conventional to a bit more zoned-out and minimal, where details or sound mass matter more.
With Mary and I, it’s sort of the complete opposite. We’re always starting from scratch or close to scratch, and tying things together by just fluidly doing what we want, with very few, if any, parameters. It’s very freeing to start with a completely clean slate and just see where you arrive at by the end of a performance.
ML: It’s fun and challenging to have somebody playing things you don’t know how to operate – it’s enjoyable to listen and to play off of those unusual sounds. It’s almost like magic to just not know how the other person does it. To entwine your familiar instrument into a sound with something that feels mysterious is cool.
Solo is fun too. Ideally, there’s a lot of everything – solo, duo, improvisation, song-writing, playing with friends, playing with strangers – and it just creates a healthy, enriched music-life.
Are you performing the Le Révélateur music on Friday? That atmospheric stuff is about as far away on the spectrum as Nothing’s music as you could get. How did this pairing come about?
ML: We might. I think we’re gonna see how it goes, see what it’s like up there and that’ll dictate what we do. Nothing’s pretty atmospheric, has warped beauty – Jeff and I like that kind of music, so it’s not that far off. Our friends in Nothing were open in asking us and I think it’s cool and brave and interesting. It’s gonna be real fun.
JZ: I actually see them as working with a pretty similar appreciation of both beautiful and heavy/ugly sounds, and while I could see how on a basic level our music would seem pretty different, I think there’s a common thread there.
I can’t imagine we’ll be play much Le Rev music at these shows. I’m sort of looking at it as an opportunity to stretch out a bit and play a bit more intensely for a different audience on some pretty great PA’s.
They’re also great people who I became buddies with while working on Guilty of Everything, and I’m looking forward to hanging out every night. Tours are as much about having people you like around and injecting some new energy into a pretty mundane sit-in-a-van-for-8-hours-with-the-same-6-people every day situation as it is anything else, and I’m psyched to help provide a musical and personal contrast for a few days. And if we’re able to expose Nothing’s audience to the extreme other end of the “shoegaze” spectrum, of which Mary and I are both fans, all the better.
JUMP Presents the Red Bull Sound Select Featuring D.R.A.M., Grande Marshall, Aime and Xavier Omär @ The Foundry on 7/21!
Even if you haven’t heard “Broccoli,” you probably know his big hit from last summer, “Cha Cha.”
Our past Sound Select shows have been massive parties (see pics from past shows with Plastic Little, RJD2 and Pissed Jeans by clicking the links). Our last show at The Foundry, with Vacationer, Weekender and Queen of Jeans, sold out and people had to be turned away at the door.
So, please, RSVP here ASAP and show up early!
It was a long bus ride back to Philadelphia.
Grande Marshall recalls it vividly. Leaving Atlanta, he had little on him; mostly about $60 in his wallet, lyrics in his head and dreams of hitting it big. The bus travelled all day. He stepped out at the Greyhound terminal near Market East and took in his surroundings. The rapper was home, but it wasn’t necessarily a grand homecoming. What would happen next?
“I kept thinking to myself, that whole bus ride,” he remembers, closing his eyes tight and putting himself in the moment, “just keep at it. Be confident and calculated in what you do. There’s no going back.”
It sounds like a story out of a feel-good family film, a young musician following his dreams to become a star. Fresh off a new album and having received plenty of local buzz, Grande is finally getting there. But it was never easy.
It’s a blistery cold night in Philadelphia but you wouldn’t know that from being with Grande. His radiant personality and talkative nature exude warmth.
He is wearing a heavy coat but if he is cold, he doesn’t let on. He has some boyish features, and frequently rubs his stubble where a beard is coming in. But the maturity he evokes does not seem that of someone college-aged.
“Music was something I really felt was my calling,” Grande recalls. “A lot of people were telling me, ‘You don’t wanna be 20 to 30 years down the road, getting old and listening to the radio thinking damn, this could’ve been me.’”
Grande was born in Philly and lived in North Philly and Yeadon as a child before moving to Maryland with his mom during middle school. His family impressed upon him the importance of maintaining a job and going to college. Grande planned a career in advertising and marketing and had internships under his belt. He briefly attended Howard Community College in Maryland, but a turning point was spending a few weeks living with his grandparents in Atlanta.
Wanting him to work, his grandfather drove Grande to a nearby shopping center and told him he would pick him up in a few hours after he applied at every store there. Grande estimates he made it to three or four.
“This isn’t work,” he says, reflecting on the experience. “I don’t see Target jumping me into marketing and advertising, so there’s no point in forcing it. And my grandfather said to me, ‘At some point, you’re going to be 20, 30, 35 and something has to change.’”
And that led to his bus ride back.
“I thought of all the places I could make it, all the places that would feel like home,” Grande says. “In my mind, Philly was it.”
And so here he was, a young rapper in North Philly, unsure of his next move. He bounced from one couch to another, mainly spending time at his friend Sheldon Abba’s apartment at 12th Street and Girard Avenue. He continued writing and found his way into various studios, spending countless hours working on material.
It was a humbling time for Grande. The weight of his situation was on him. He had friends and relatives who had been in jail. He wasn’t working, aside from selling some weed here and there. It was just the music, and his situation was feeling dire.
“I was in the basement, living off McChickens and making beats,” Grande remembers. “There were no windows in that jawn. I had no idea if it was day or night and I didn’t know what would happen when I came out of there. It was push forward or end up on the street.”
Grande speaks with affection for those close to him who have helped him through the years. He is jovial, with a hearty laugh and quick to a joke. But he gets somber when mentioning family. This is a man who knows where he comes from and knows how indebted he is to family and friends.
“I love my Mom and we have this tough relationship,” he says. “She always told me not to be sorry but to be careful. I do and act to others how I want to be treated.”
All that studio work finally paid off. His first tape, 800, came out to encouraging reception, from inside and outside the community.
“I was blown away,” says Bear One, a DJ and producer for P3 Records, who worked with Grande on 800 and his follow-up Mugga Man. “At the time, I think he was only like 17 or 18 and it was incredible. His beats were up to par and his lyrics, for someone his age, were incredible.”
Grande earned shoutouts on websites like Complex and landed a gig opening for A$AP Rocky at the TLA. It was 800 that caught the attention of big labels, including Interscope. Grande met with several and says he had offers, but the allure of a major label wasn’t enough to sway the grounded Grande. He knows what his music and his background means to him.
“Psshh, no you fucking don’t,” Grande remembers thinking in the back of his head when a label exec told him they love his music and gets where he’s coming from. “You’ve got a large garage with a bunch of cars. You are rich and well off. That’s not to say people who have money don’t have problems. But these guys have lived their life. And the vibe I got from them doesn’t feel real. I just wasn’t getting a human vibe from these guys.”
And so he kept looking.
That led him to Brooklyn-based label Fool’s Gold, after catching the attention of founders A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs.
“For me, what was most interesting was how self-assured it was, from the artwork to the production to the lyrics, especially for how young he was,” Catchdubs says of 800. “[Fool’s Gold] is about finding people who are the the complete artist and someone we can help put their existing je ne sais quoi on a higher level.”
“It was a big deal to me that they were so interested in me,” Grande says, recalling meeting with Catchdubs at Johnny Brenda’s. “We were just talking and they weren’t trying to just push a contract on me.”
He released his full-length debut album, My Brother’s Keeper, on Fool’s Gold late last year to positive reviews.
It’s a personal album, one which even required some time off to collect himself before finishing. And years of hard work pay off in tracks like “Pullup’s Theme,” the video for which uses North Philly, the neighborhood that made it all came together for Grande, as the backdrop.
“The great thing about My Brother’s Keeper is that it’s like an onion,” Catchdubs says. “There are just so many layers that every listen unveils something new. You can rediscover stuff on this album 10 years down the road.”
But, true to Grande’s nature, he won’t put on the brakes. He’s still in the studio working on new material.
Now wiser and with a headful of lyrics and beats, Grande finally has a clear path in front of him. And the work, support of his family and friends and determination to succeed that carried him so far just keeps him going.
“I told my grandfather that if I turned 21 and wasn’t happy with my life and things weren’t going well, I would drop it all and go back to school,” he says, then lets out a laugh. “And here I am now at 22 and things are going pretty good.
“When I was a kid, my father was trying to teach me how to ride a bike and he told me that if I quit trying to learn to ride I would quit everything. That always stuck with me. I rode that damn bike.”
The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and The Supersuckers will bring their Distinguished Delinquents tour to Milkboy on November 19 and that seems like an insanely small venue for so much Delta-inspired, good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. It should be a wild night and we’re giving away tickets.
If you want to play it safe and get your own tickets, find details for the show here.