With The Airborne Toxic Event taking a deserved 10-day breather following a jam-packed month and a half, we’re finally feeling caught up on all the TATE news. But lest we get too comfortable, there’s sure to be lots more action as the band makes their long-awaited and hotly anticipated return to Europe in just over a week.
“On Tour,” On TV
The good folks at WHYY-TV did not make us wait long for them to post The Airborne Toxic Event’s 30-minute episode online; it appeared on their website mere hours after its first airing on television last Thursday night. The program intercut Mikel Jollett interview segments (focusing primarily on the genesis of the band, and Mikel’s transition from budding novelist to songwriter) with partial or full recordings of “Welcome to Your Wedding Day,” “Changing,” “Gasoline,” “Hell and Back,” “All I Ever Wanted,” “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?,” “Sometime Around Midnight,” “Numb” and “Happiness is Overrated,” all filmed Oct. 3 in Philadelphia.
Two additional full-length songs that didn’t make the episode were uploaded to YouTube. The first is “Dope Machines;” see Toxic Gold below for the second number (hint: it involves a pretty uptight Mexican girl).
Also this week, the band made an appearance on Revolt TV, performing “One Time Thing” and “Wrong.” Unfortunately, there’s no online video available at this time.
Ahead of the band’s return to their hometown for last Sunday’s show at Tower Theatre, the LA Times sat down with Mikel to dig into his thinking behind Dope Machines. It’s an informative piece – careless errors (such as an outdated band photo and identifying Dope Machines as the band’s third album) notwithstanding.
Questioned about the band’s evolution in sound, the front man pointed out that they’ve never felt compelled to stay within the bounds of any particular genre:
The first Airborne show ever played was at the Echo in 2006. In addition to drums, bass and guitars, onstage there was a percussive car hood (wrangled from a junkyard, it was banged with a mallet), two keyboards, a viola, a massive number of guitar effects, an electric bass bow, an upright bass and by the final song, roughly 15 singers singing in unison a song titled “This Is not the Point of Babette,” the title of which was taken from a line from the novel “White Noise,” and the coda of which is man screaming, “Oh my God, I don’t want to die.”
Since then, we have played in punk clubs over thrashing pits, in dance clubs over huge dance floors, in goth clubs, on symphony stages [Red Rocks, Summer Stage at Central Park, the Cali symphony] with 63-piece orchestras, acoustically in moving cars, on moving boats while our drummer drove, in massive cathedrals with string quartets, at Disney Hall with children’s choirs and ballet folklorico dancers, and most recently at the Greek, which was one of the very major shows we’ve ever done with just five people.
I don’t think anyone would think we fit the typical rock-band sound palette.
Provocatively, the singer also mused about why he doesn’t think of his group as a typical Silver Lake band, despite tracing their origins to the local music scene:
I think honestly though we aren’t really a “Silver Lake” band. Meaning, the community has an identity that is tied to a kind of pointy-headed hipsterness to which I just don’t relate. I like pour-over coffee and I do have industrial furniture in my house in the Silver Lake hills, so I’m with them on that. But I just don’t think the way they do. I want my band to be raw and honest and to sweat and stomp and scream and dance. I want to reach people. I want them to reach me. I want to stand in a room and sing with others about our worst fears and greatest hopes. And I want to leave feeling like the world is larger than I thought it was. And I love weird people. Because they make me feel less weird for being weird, if that makes any sense. But I don’t like cool people. I prefer when people are warm.
In case you missed it, we teamed up earlier this week with professor/writer Steven Fein and Bruce Springsteen fansite Backstreets to present an original interview with Mikel on the significant influence that the Boss has had on his songwriting. The full chat with Fein was published here on This Is Nowhere, while Backstreets posted some key excerpts.
North American Tour Comes to an End
The Airborne Toxic Event’s brief North American tour in support of Dope Machines ended Tuesday in San Diego. The band has the next week off (at least as far as public appearances are concerned), before hitting Columbus April 4 for a radio gig, and then jetting off to Munchen, Germany for the start of the European tour on April 7.
Meanwhile, here are the latest show reviews and photos from a memorable two weeks spent crisscrossing the United States:
Pop-Break: A stunning photo gallery from the tour opener in Brooklyn.
Rick Schanz: Beautiful photos of a beautiful band playing a beautiful venue, as The Airborne Toxic Event plays Trinity Cathedral as part of the Cleveland Cathedral Concert Series.
Aggie Underground: A glowing review of Saturday’s San Francisco performance. “From hearing quite a handful of the album live from last fall, the band has noticeably grown into these new songs over the course of the Dope Machines tour. Everything from the electronic beats to the multi-part harmonies were executed confidently and on point. The title track especially had its way of fueling the crowd with intense energy. Even songs I was initially unsure about, such as “One Time Thing” and its hoarse whispers of a fleeting and drunken romance, won me over upon experiencing them live.”
Ramblings of a Redhead Music Snob: A second San Francisco review, from a concertgoer who enjoyed the band more than the crowd. “The band then started out ‘part 2’ with the ever catchy ‘Gasoline’ which got the crowd dancing and revved up. Plus – it would mean we’d finally get the band really working the stage and playing their hearts out. Lots of guitars, lots of great harmonies and of course Anna Bulbrook not just on keyboards, but her violin. And man, I am sure seeing a lot of violins in bands these days, but she tore it up. So with the lights all up and a crowd wanting this – the remainder of the set would turn into a fun affair.
Aesthetic Magazine: The San Francisco gig, from behind the lens.
Getty Images: Getty never fails to offer up fantastic photography, and their collection from the band’s Los Angeles homecoming is no exception.
What do The Airborne Toxic Event, Modest Mouse, My Chemical Romance, The Doors and Joy Division all have in common? They all draw their names from classic literature.
We’ll close another edition of Toxicity with the second bonus clip from WHYY-TV’s On Tour. Here’s “Elizabeth,” live from Philadelphia’s Electric Factory last fall.
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.