Stockton's Satan Wriders have sent us into the DIY heat stroked "Sun Coma" before, and debut their self-made video for "Freeway" today. Created from the grass roots confines of a Mister Space storage unit on Pacific Avenue and at the mercy of their parent's rec spaces; self-taught-super heroes Eli Wengrin, Sam Regan, and John Steiner take resourcefulness to the top level. The Wriders' songs take on whatever direction is worthy of their immediate attention, from thrashing Nor Cal gnar to cassette kissed power pop. "Freeway" exlpores those unknown immortal undergrounds that lies in the East side sectors of Stockton. Their album Black Eyed Kids comes out in February from the fresh Stockton by Brooklyn imprint Harlot ran by Kevin Showkat, a testament to the many style roads taken and traveled from some of the world's forgotten boys.
"Freeway" begins with the rolling static scroll and image scene fades that start up the Satan Wriders mind odyssey. Transitions of stars and various shapes take you about their Northern California town in between the found and grabbed TV images and digitized polygonal avatar bowling matches. Clandestine and tagged up beer caves, screen saver psychedelia and Pacers hoop dreams send the visual collage work into the diamond frame cut switches that chase the song's tireless guitar licks. The gang's "Freeway"-side fraternizing and audio/video adventures with designs, shapes and effects turns the journey across the Stockton's cuttiest corners into an indie art class version of NOVA.
So who cooler to kick it with than Satan Wriders themselves, Eli, John, and Sam, and Harlot operator Kevin joining us for a roundtable discussion behind the making of the video, their upcoming album, the group's diversity of musical styles, stories, and much more.
Any great stories of antics, and anecdotes from The Graduate[a Stockton pizza joint/pub favorite of the band's]?
Sam: Last time I was there I met this cool Cowboy guy who talked to us about driving big ass construction trucks.
John: That cowboy guy told me that one time he ripped his tongue because he ate a girl out for three hours straight. Eli, Kevin and I had a good time at the Grad last month. We played Big Buck HD and Kevin's still on the leaderboard. It was the first time all three of us had gotten together and Kevin was already putting on our favorite RHCP songs on the Jukebox. A couple of chicks saw how good of a time we were having and wanted to have group sex.
Eli: I remember that cowboy, god bless him. We posted up at The Grad on Halloween last year. I got there early and watched this worker unload and setup a huge DJ/karaoke rig. This cool older dude and his wife basically dominated the song books, performing a variety of midi backed country and R&B classics.There was a tired looking guy dressed up like the pope that kept walking around carrying pitchers and eating pizza. Pretty cool sight to behold.
Any good gatherings for any games, NFL, UFC, WWE, whatever? Seems like a chill joint for sporting event ragers.
S: I'm trying to go there and watch The Undertaker light Kane's arm on fire, but I don't know when the next time a rerun of the WWE Inferno Match will be aired.
J: The Niners games get pretty wild there, I heard. Woulda loved to have been there when Dallas Braden pitched his perfect game with the A's.
So getting to your awesome cut, "Freeway", it's like it's own psychotropic corridor type of entity or something. And it's one of those songs that reminds me how much your styles range, as presented in the Black Eyed Kids LP, your recent Xmas tape, etc. What initiated this wavy, lo-fi tape warped bit of road worshiping audio architecture?
S: I was going to school in Santa Barbara last year. My housemate's had all put a bunch of guitars and amps and a drum set and this one mic in our garage. One friday I locked myself in there and recorded a really fucked version of freeway that was just guitars and drums. Then I emailed it to John and he recorded bass. Then John emailed it to Eli and he added the vocals.
When I got the song back I was blown away because It originally sounded pretty shitty, but all of the sudden it sounded tight. That version was on the first Satan Wriders mixtape. Then we jammed the song out and it turned into this version here. It's kinda cool because it's the only song we've ever written like that.
E: Like Sam said, it was written collaboratively but in an unusual way for us. It was the first and only time that we'd ever written a song through web correspondence. Around the time that the song was taking shape, we became really fascinated with hanging out near the freeway for some reason, so that's what the song ended up being about. It's a cool concept to write about because it feels super grimy, but can be strangely romantic in a way.
"Freeway" is the antithesis of the archetypal road song. It's more about being underneath the road as opposed to being on it, or free and on your way.
What were some of the scouted locales for the visual treatment of "Freeway"?
S: Me and John bought a bunch of beer one day over summer, put it all in a backpack, walked over to our favorite freeway spot, and filmed ourselves dancing and stuff. Once when I was in high school this kid who I only knew by his tag name 'FAMO' told me that he was going to walk 'out east' on the side of the freeway. Ever since then I've thought walking along the side of the freeway seemed really cool.
In order to cross the river near the part of the freeway where we filmed the video you basically have to get on the shoulder for a bit. While me and John were up there filming for this my sister happened to be coming home from work and saw us and then told my parents. I'M SORRY MOM AND DAD.
J: There are so many great access points to I-5 in North Stockton because of all the freeway repair projects going on. As CalTrans gets closer to finishing it's getting harder to get right up on the shoulder, though, which is where I really like to be. I remember that day that Sam was wearing these shorts that had big rips above the pockets and we were climbing up a slope and I was staring at little slivers of Sam's butt. That was some real dirty-style shit.
E: I have the raw, unedited footage that Sam & John shot that day on my computer. It's a about seven minutes long and plays out like some kind of weird Korine/Dogme 95 film or something. I was watching it and kept expecting something really bad to happen the entire time. Might try to sell it to Harmony Korine for Gummo 2.
That bowling game looks rad.
S: Around the time that we first formed SW, we went bowling a lot with our friends, 'The Halligans', and Jamie Ebe. Stockton's bowling alley is cool. One time John and our other friend Scott broke a bowling ball by throwing it too fast so we had to steal it. So bowling might be our thing or something like that.
E: Bowling or just loitering at or near Pacific Avenue Bowl in Stockton is definitely something that we had a lot of fun doing as a young Wriders. The video sort of inadvertently manifested itself in the form of some kind of weird, insider nostalgia trip. A lot of the filler visuals are actually recycled snippets from 'tube vids that Sam & John have uploaded throughout the years. We three are big 'tube heads. Who doesn't love a good viral video?
The television tube and tape editing and those various shaped fades and scene dissolves does some cool time displacement effects. What was the art of translating the dazed out homages to utility artifices of transit into a visual mind odyssey?
E: Awesome question! We approached the idea of making a music video with basically no concept in mind. As mentioned previously in this interview, Sam and John spent a day filming a lot of bad-boy glamour style footage near the freeway. I then compiled the on-location footage with a bunch of stuff that I filmed off of my TV screen.
Although the video has a somewhat analog look, it is totally digital. The entire the thing was created using Windows Movie Maker [laughs]. The diverse selection of filler that I ended up using gave the video a sucky, disjointed feel so I included the tape and TV motifs as transitions to sort of glue everything together. Windows Movie Maker is very limited when it comes to video editing, but I think that having to deal with limitations forces you to be more creative.
The video is based entirely on cheesy shape fades. I can't imagine anybody wanting to use Windows shape fades on a serious project, but I think they really compliment our sense of humor and give the video a cool tunneling effect that makes it feel very much like a "visual mind odyssey".
Tell us more about the new album…give us the foreword, if you all are into prologue companion pieces.
S: It was fun to make. I feel like it just kinda happened too. All of the sudden we just had an album full of songs done, and then my parents left for a few weeks so the three of us stayed in my parents living room for two weeks, basically only leaving to go to 7/11 to buy pizza and beer, and recorded it all.
E: To me our LP, Black Eyed Kids, represents a variety of different musical styles, all which are paths we could potentially delve further into on our next release. The record isn't limited in terms of sound and direction. Every song is different so people are bound to find something they like about it. We made it for fun and it's a fun record! Check it out!
J: I think the record will make us a lot of money.
Interested to hear the low down on Harlot, how did this all begin? Harlot artists in the works that you all are excited about?
Kevin: Harlot technically started after I moved to Brooklyn, but the concept originated when I still lived in the Bay Area. I was blogging under the moniker Positive Destruction – we threw a couple shows, met a lot of awesome people – but at a deeply personal level I felt like I was contributing very little to the music discovery process. At the same time, I felt creatively and socially stifled living in San Francisco. So I did the reasonable thing and quit my job, moved to NY, and spent a very fun, but very cash-poor six months interning at Panache where I worked on the booking side of the business. After about a year, I said "fuck it", decided I wanted to start releasing records, and approached the Satan Wriders boys.
S: I know Harlot's Facebook page hinted something about the second Harlot release, but I still don't know who or what it is. I'm still pretty stoked about it regardless. Whatever it is I'm sure it rules. Kevin has good taste.
J: Like Sam said. Kevin's gonna put out music of a genuine quality and longevity. Really stoked to see what the next release is going to be.
Other artists you all are into, local, national, global, anywhere?
K: Globally, and recently- Wire: "Pink Flag". Todd Rundgren's "A Wizard/A True Star." Joy Division's "Closer." OutKast's "Stankonia".
Locally – There's a band in Brooklyn, The Monte De Rosas Band, that just realeased their EP and it's great. Check them out. POW! in SF just released a cool record on Castle Face Records that you should checkout. The Mallard will forever be an all time SF favorite.
S: I decided yesterday that my favorite artist right now is SpaceGhostPurrp. I love his production, and I like his rapping too, even though most people don't. He makes good hooks. That version of "Been Fweago" off the BLVCKLVND RVDVX 66.6 mixtape is my jam. And most importantly, I love his unprofessional fuck-boi internet presence. He's always posting the phone number's of his ex-girlfriends on Facebook and having his fans call and harass them. It's really fucking tight, and I feel like I can relate to him or something.
I also have been digging that Beach Boys record Friends recently. As far as my all time favs, I'd maybe go with Eat Skull, The Intelligence, My Bloody Valentine, and The Microphones/Mount Eerie. Iono it's hard.
J: I'm a big fan of Roxy Music.
E: I've been getting into a lot of soft rock pretty hard lately. I'm a big Marshall Crenshaw fan forever. Just recently got into this really underrated Boz Scaggs record called Down Two Then Left. Best track: "A Clue". XTC is one of my favorite bands as well.
2014 projections, predictions, and advice you all care to impart?
K: Sure. To me, 2014 will be about one thing: collectability. I see & hear a lot of bands bitching about Spotify, and I understand their angst. No one wants to feel like they are being financially undermined. Embedded in all of the exasperation is really a very interesting dichotomy that clever artists will be able to use to their advantage. Everything will be digitized in the next 10 years. Physical media – be it cassettes, wax, whatever — offers the artist to add value to the listener in a way that can't be duplicated through an online stream: hand drawn artwork, poetry, photography. The ability to tell a story. People respond to narratives. Give your listeners something extra and they will reward you with sold-out releases, packed shows, and maybe even a call from Harlot.
S: Our first record's going platinum. I wanna do another online mixtape thing like the first one because it's a fun and easy format and a good "data-dump" type thing for shitty blown-out style recordings. And then maybe a follow up EP or something.
E: My prediction for 2014: Music is going through a transitional period. New, rad bands are emerging every day and nobody is sure what the next "now sound" will be. I predict that people will listen to Primus more and things will be cool overall but still pretty messed up because we live in the future.
J: I'd like to impart some advice to the readership. Every year we get farther and father into the cyber-realm and if you're gonna navigate through the mass clutter it's important that you are the receiver and they're sending you some shit-signals that aren't worth your fuggin' time.
There's a real self-defeating sense of irony clogging up our spirits' arteries. Get rid of that negative pathway. The powers at be don't even have to try if you're already keeping yourself down. Don't do their work for them. Stay positive into 2015 and beyond.