Louder Than War talks to Chris DeCarlo, co-founder of Boston-based record label and fan-perspective music website Kids Like You and Me, as the project approaches its 6th anniversary.
Louder Than War: How did you and Glen meet? Could you briefly describe the KLYAM origin story? What were your main inspirations in the beginning? Obviously you’re both big Black Lips fans, considering the name.
Chris DeCarlo/KLYAM: Glen and I met in junior high in the early double ohhs. This was a hideous time for rock ‘n’ roll. Well, that is to say for mainstream rock music. Still is and probably forever will be. We’re still fairly young, so we’ve pretty much grown up with shitty, watered down mainstream music. We didn’t have a Beatles or Nirvana, and when you’re 13 in the suburbs, the chances of you catching wind of an underground rock ‘n’ roll scene is highly unlikely. At the time, I went to metal/hardcore shows in my hometown of Wakefield, Massachusetts and neighboring suburbs and the occasional Boston show, but all of this was mildly exciting at best and I never totally related to any of it. Most of the bands were just imitating the popular screamogrindcorepostpreppyforce shit of the era. It wasn’t until we heard the Black Lips that we really felt a connection to contemporary music, and not too long after that we started KLYAM, because through the Lips we discovered Jay Reatard, The King Khan & BBQ Show, and all this other pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. We didn’t have any ambitious goal or mission though, we just wanted to write about this music we loved, because it really was exciting and it was happening in the present; rock ‘n’ roll was no longer simply a thing of the past.
From just going to shows to presenting your own shows, how has the scene changed in Boston and the surrounding areas since you started? There seems to be a lot going on compared to when I lived closer, or is it just because information is more accessible these days?
It’s probably a combination of the two. It’s hard to tell, because we’re a lot more involved and closer to the scene now than when we started, so it definitely seems as though more is going on, but I’m not necessarily sure if that’s the case. Without a doubt, there’s a heavier online presence, especially on Facebook. Social media can be fucked at times, but if it’s getting more people turned on to this music and coming out to shows, that’s positive.
Do a lot of touring bands still skip Boston?
It happens from time to time, but I wouldn’t say a lot. People take care of the touring bands around here, do the best to make sure they’re on a fitting bill, have a place to crash, get paid, and feel welcomed. We do our part and we’ve hosted several touring bands including Cumstain (CA), The Hussy (WI), Tall Juan (NY), Robot Death Kites (NY), Nancy (NY), and Jacques Le Coque (CT). So, we’re grateful all of those bands didn’t skip Boston!
Here in NY we are losing and gaining new show spaces all the time. What are some of your favorite local clubs and how changeable is the real estate landscape near you in terms of DIY live venues? I’ve been to The Middle East and The Cantab Lounge/Club Bohemia for your shows in the past, and I’ve been going to The Middle East since I was a teenager!
House/basement shows are always the best and was really the first thing that hooked us into local music. It’s naturally the most intimate of settings, so that works twofold; it brings the band closer to the audience (physically and spiritually) and vice versa. It creates a party, lax, hang out atmosphere and that’s to me what a good show is. That’s the environment we hope to maintain. I brought a friend along to his first KLYAM show recently and he described it as “a bunch of friends hanging out” and I couldn’t have expressed it better myself.
Unfortunately, much of the house circuit has been stripped away by the authorities. There was even a crackdown a few years back. Cops shut down a lot of the houses. So, that’s a shame. With that being said, there’s still a lot of fun things going on every single night. The Middle East in Cambridge is definitely our favorite venue. We also went there as teens and that was actually the first venue we ever attended to see these kinds of shows. Before that, it was bigger theatre and/or arena shows or hometown stuff in church basements. We saw No Age, Black Lips, The King Khan & BBQ Show, and so many others there. Lots of memories and they keep coming. The Middle East has four different sections: the corner, ZuZu bar (FREE Monday night shows!), the upstairs, and the much larger 575 room capacity downstairs (where we became acquainted with the Boston live music scene and saw all of the aforementioned greats as teens). Definitely ZuZu and the upstairs are perfect spaces for local music to grow and we’re extremely excited to be celebrating our 6th anniversary show on Wednesday, July 1st at The Middle East Upstairs. Of course there are a lot of dull, corporate-y venues around town, but there’s also a number of chill places that pick up the slack. Some of our favorites include the art gallery Lilypad in Cambridge and Great Scott in Allston. You mentioned before Club Bohemia (the Cantab Lounge basement). We do a show there every month and we really love the dank, incense aroma and 70s quality you find there. You walk in and it’s 1979.
There is also Bufu Records releasing music and Illegally Blind booking shows, and other underground community publications like Boston Hassle, Allston Pudding, Bishop & Rook, etc., who have similar objectives highlighting homegrown and under the radar local talent. How do you all work together in a collaborative sense to get the best of what there is to offer?
We’ve collaborated a few times on shows with Illegally Blind, BUFU, and Boston Hassle. All of those people are hard workers, dedicated to fostering a vibrant and inclusive scene around Boston and New England. I personally reach out to as many people as I can and hope to meet at least one new person and/or band at each show. Also, one of the main reasons I book shows is so I can see some of these under the radar bands that I don’t often get to see. I’ll see a band at one show and then they sort of get lost in the shuffle or they’re playing on a night I can’t make it. Through being the curators of the shows you can create your own ideal lineup and it guarantees me a way to see all of the bands I want to see and hopefully give them some exposure to an audience they wouldn’t normally play for, perhaps.
Tell us about some of the KLYAM bands and honorary bands and what draws you into their world.
We just put out cassette tapes with The Barbazons and G. Gordon Gritty. The Barbazons (formerly The Fagettes) have been a longtime favorite of ours and they were one of the first bands I saw and thought, ‘Dayemmm, I need this band on my label’. Same is true of most of the bands on KLYAM Records, actually. We’ve been truly fortunate to be able to work with most of our favorite bands. As far as what draws us in, it’s definitely the sound and style of the music. Virtually all of the bands on KLYAM have roots in rock ‘n’ roll music, particularly of the 60s era. Some of course more apparent than others. Garage, surf, psych, punk, gunk, fuzz, noise, or even pop – call it whatever you like – it’s all on display and it’s what we hold near and dear in our taste buds. More importantly all of the bands have a distinct personality. That’s the glue and that’s an element that is severely lacking in a lot of music. There are countless bands out there that sound great, but not all of them have character. I feel all of the bands on KLYAM do. Whether it’s the teenage Casey Allen of Back Pages blaring his guitar and shrieking alone in his bedroom, or The Prefab Messiahs ripping through their first set in over thirty years, tripping fans back to the 80s, I think of all the bands as characters, but they have the music to back it up, too. It’s funny, because I’m friends with these people, but I still see all of them as characters. That’s rock ‘n’ roll when it’s done right. If you look at the honorary KLYAM bands, if you will, the ones that hooked us into this kind of music to begin with, such as Black Lips, Jay Reatard, The King Khan & BBQ Show, Nobunny, Hunx – all characters. If you look at “indie” bands, you don’t really see any characters, just a bunch of bores, haha.
How do the artists respond to the work that you do?
The response has generally been positive. I’ve heard some bands say they think of us as just another band. Most of them get that we do this out of genuine love and passion.
Could you talk a bit about the current releases on the KLYAM label?
Thus far in 2015, we’ve released The Prefab Messiahs’ “Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive”, The Barbazons’ “Avec Plaisir”, and G. Gordon Gritty’s “Still Not a Musician.”
The Prefab Messiahs album is a co-release with Burger Records and we released it on 10″ vinyl and CD. The record marks the first sounds from the Wormtown (Worcester, Massachusetts) based band in 32 years. It’s an autobiographical account of their psychedelic journey as disillusioned college students in the Reagan era set to snappy garage pop. It’s exciting to zoom into this band’s life and story for a half hour or so. The Prefabs were fairly new to us. We met bassist Kris “Trip” Thompson at a Nobunny show at the Middle East last year and he told us about the band then (I was there!). The Barbazons, on the other hand, we had seen and loved for years. So, their album feels like a greatest hits collection to me and I mean that in the best way possible. We’ve grown to know and adore all of these songs over the years and now it has all come together. And then there’s G. Gordon Gritty. His tape “Still Not a Musician” is simply a continuation of what he’s always been doing. It’s a series of bedroom recordings spanning the past decade. Outsider weirdo stuff. I actually remember most of the songs when they were recorded. It’s a bit of a trip. I know some people that own the entire KLYAM discography and that makes me happy. And I’m not referring to our parents, haha.
Both Fagettes and Gangbang Gordon have had name changes recently (now known as Barbazons and G. Gordon Gritty), is this a sign of being conscious of the bigger picture and needing more bookings to be noticed as successful bands? Or, like The Urinals becoming 100 Flowers in the 80s, is it simply an in-joke evolving into more serious things?
It’s funny that both bands changed their names right before we released their albums on our label. The two aren’t related and I personally had nothing to do with either name change. As you know, Glen is the other half of KLYAM and yeah, he changed his name because it was becoming a nuisance. Some venues rejected him and felt that it alienated the audience. Similar thing for The Barbazons. Melanie (vocalist, drummer, saxophone player) from The Barbazons actually wrote an excellent essay that shines light on the name change.
Your 6th anniversary show at The Middle East Upstairs is fast approaching, what are your hopes and plans for that?
This is definitely going to be the biggest (and best) show we’ve put on thus far. We hope a lot of people come out and have a good time, just like any other show. Hopefully they’ll see a band they’ve never seen before or meet someone they’ve never met before. In other words, I hope it brings people together. Or it’s just a bunch of friends hanging out, which is always an environment we like to foster. Either way, it will be a wild, drunken slopfest of epic, reckless abandonment and joy in the true KLYAM spirit.
What’s next for KLYAM?
Hmm, well we’re going to slay the music industry and wipe out all the indie twerps. Bring punk slime into the high schools, the middle schools, the elementary schools…and if we have time the preschools. More accurately, we’re planning more label releases and shows. It would be really cool to hold a festival too. KLYAM Stock or something less clichéd. That would be nuts.
Interview by Carrie Quartly, you can read more of her writing on the site here.