The Airborne Toxic Event is settling into summer mode this week with headlining performances at a pair of radio station festivals. We’ve got plenty of coverage from the road, the latest Bombastic release and much more in the latest edition of Toxicity.
“The Fall of Rome” Gets the Bombastic Treatment
For the second week in a row, we were treated to a new entry in the ongoing Bombastic acoustic video series. The latest addition to the collection is “The Fall of Rome,” featuring Mikel Jollett all alone in front of a lazy river contemplating life, love, choices and regrets.
We don’t know how many of these videos will be forthcoming, but it seems likely that there will be more. If the pattern of the past two weeks holds, keep an eye on YouTube late Monday/early Tuesday.
In the meantime, enjoy this Songs of God and Whiskey fan favorite:
“Cocaine and Abel” and “A Certain Type of Girl” Back Story
Before they took the stage at last weekend’s Radio 104.5 Block Party, The Airborne Toxic Event chatted up the station’s Wendy Rollins. Entertaining as always, the gang joked around about blowing the speakers on a previous visit, the medicinal benefits of weed, and some fictional, quintessentially African reasons why their scheduled stop in South Africa last month was cancelled. But the highlight of the interview was the band sharing the history behind a couple of key tracks from Songs of God and Whiskey: “Cocaine and Abel” and “A Certain Type of Girl,” both of which date back to earlier days.
Mikel: There’s a song called “A Certain Type of Girl” that we did – remember when we did the All At Once, we had the extra days at Sunset Sound? We recorded it then. I think we recorded it once also in the first album…
Anna: I think a song called “Cocaine and Abel,” that was probably one of the first songs we ever played.
Mikel: Anna and I used to just jam at my apartment in Los Feliz, she and I and this other friend of ours, Hunter, and we would all just sit around and we would drink and we would play songs. And the first time she ever came over, we played this song called “Cocaine and Abel.” She was like, “Is this song about the Bible, but kind of about coke, and what the hell is this?”
Anna: I was like, “How much cocaine do you do, Mikel?”
Things pretty much devolved from there, as these off the cuff TATE interviews are wont to do…
Mikel Takes Over Dublin Radio 105.2FM
A few weeks ago when The Airborne Toxic Event was in Ireland, Mikel took over the airwaves of Dublin Radio 105.2FM, playing some of his favorite tunes new and old, including songs by Graham Parsons, The National, The Smiths, The War on Drugs and Talking Heads, along with TATE’s own “One Time Thing.” He also spoke at length in an interview that ran over 24 minutes. In the course of the conversation, he touched on everything from his days as a freelance writer, the week from hell and the genesis of the band’s name, musical and literary influences, through to the writing and recording of Dope Machines. He also reflected on the importance (or lack thereof) of lyrics and storytelling in music today:
I don’t know if lyrics matter. I hear that a lot in interviews, and I know our fans feel that way, but then I look around at what’s popular in popular music, and I – I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I think they used to matter, and maybe they will again. I’m not lamenting the past; I think you should burn the past. This isn’t what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, I think there’s something visceral about music, that a melody and a beat paired with a lyric is what makes something so powerful. And you can’t underestimate that melody, and you can’t underestimate that beat. And so, I think that lyrics can be very powerful, but then, complete nonsense can also be very powerful.
Towards the end of the interview, Mikel opened up on the inspiration for “One Time Thing.”
I’d have to start musically. That’s one of the few songs where I really started with the music. I started with that bass line and I was like, “This is cool!” It just had like an attitude from the first time I played it. And then I spent six weeks, I’m not joking, on that one track, building beats and then keyboard lines and then harmonies, and I spent some time with friends, like, “What about this harmony? What about that harmony?” The story of the song itself is something that happened to me, and it happened also to my friend, so the story’s an amalgamation of two different stories really. But I just like singing it, the [sings] “moonshine and cheap ass wine.” It’s just got this nastiness to it, you know? I feel like Prince when I sing it, or something. That’s why you’re in a rock band: you want to put on your mother’s dress and hang from the chandelier, or else why do it?
Finally, asked what the future holds, he had this to say:
I don’t know… I’m sure there will be more albums. But as far as the future – the future’s unwritten. Sometimes it feels as if we’re living in some kind of post-apocalyptic version of ourselves, because it just keeps going. There was a moment when people were like, “You made it, kid!” And that moment was like eight years ago, and since then we’ve played Coachella, we’ve played Lollapalooza, we’ve played all these big festivals, Oxygen and T in the Park, and then our own thing has really taken off. We played our biggest show ever at the Greek in Los Angeles four months ago…
Where they go from here, only time will tell.
This week’s roundup of TATE reviews includes another take on Dope Machines, plus coverage of the band’s last show in Europe and first appearance back on North American soil.
News.com.au provided a brief but positive overview of the new album, saying, “It retains their melodies, harmonies and rock hooks while recalling some new-wave acts of the ’80s such as Depeche Mode and Ultravox… There’s nothing wrong with doing what you do well, but TATE have proved willing to step outside their core competency.”
Responses to the poppier, electronic Dope Machines had been mixed, with European fans mainly appearing to relate more to the sound and lyrics of Songs of God and Whiskey. This, the band not having toured Europe for 18 months, and the unknown factor of ‘new to Europe’ bassist Adrian Rodriguez meant that a lot of fans were sceptical of what to expect from the shows which, disappointingly, didn’t sell out.
The fans needn’t have worried, The Airborne Toxic Event’s live sound is reminiscent of their previous European shows – with Mikel strumming his Black Falcon and Steven Chen picking his White Falcon Gretsch. Guitars! Whilst many of us do love the electronic songs on Dope Machines, the live sound is so ‘right’ with guitars.
Returning to their home and native land, The Airborne Toxic Event marked the unofficial start of summer with their first festival of the year, the Radio 104.5 Block Party in Philadelphia. TATE’s scorching set, played before a largely young, well-lubricated crowd, was thoroughly chronicled by photographers, including Sipa Press, Radio 104.5 and This Is Nowhere featured photographer Ryan Macchione of MacPhotographers.
A Big Ass Pre-Party
If you’re just learning about this now, you’re a little too late to the (pre-) party, unfortunately, but The Airborne Toxic Event quietly squeezed an extra performance into their schedule last night, playing an acoustic set at the Big Ass Show 20th Anniversary Pre-Party in Salt Lake City. Admission was free to those who produced a ticket to the Show, which takes place today.
Charitable Auction Update
Thank you very much to all of you who have shown interest in our Airborne Fan Art Auction in support of the Down Syndrome Research Foundation. Most of the items have bids on them at this point, but there is still amazing value to be found – including half a dozen TATE mugs starting at just $15. Bidding for most items closes Sunday evening, though the MacPhotographers items that were added earlier this week will be up till Tuesday afternoon.
This week we head back to Koko, London for a bird’s eye view of “Gasoline,” shot from the balcony during last month’s show.
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.