Interviews and Features
Reviews-Better Luck Next Life LP
Reviews-Plausibly Wild/Wildly Plausible 7″
Reviews-These Things Are Facts LP
Reviews-Turn Down The Guitars split 7″ with Hurry Up Shotgun
Reviews-Karl Rove: Courage and Consequence
Victory And Associates
Victory And Associates is a Bay Area band that has been around the blocks a few times (as they put it). I recently challenged singer/guitarist Conan Neutron to expound upon the ideas behind the songs on their latest release, Better Luck Next Life. He happily did so and the results are below. Check out the album on their bandcamp page.
We’ll Have To Be Our Own Heroes
Album opener. This one is based on the idea of “What happens when the champions just decide to call in sick?” Like there’s supposed to be this huge battle between good and evil, and the paragons of justice and nobility partied a little too hard the night before. What if it was all just left to the busboys, the junior technicians, the ill equipped? And then the turnaround is you keep your elbows in, and hit as hard as you can. Do your best, don’t wait for somebody else to save the day because they probably ain’t coming, better to go down fighting than to just complain.
The line “we laughed and we laughed, but nothing was funny” is probably one of my favorite lines I’ve ever written. I’m sure I probably accidentally stole it from somewhere. The line before it “always for love, and rarely for money” is obviously a Talking Heads homage.
This song lived a few different lives, and never truly “popped” until it got much slower and was played in drop D. All because I didn’t feel like retuning my guitar after Billy from Trophy Wives had played it last. Hooray for inspiration through laziness I think it’s a nice opening shot. Honestly? Probably one of the cheeriest songs on the record too. That’s depressing.
We live in a world of increasingly cloistered and protected communities of our devising. It’s so easy to just shut out the world at large and only hear viewpoints that you know you already agree with. It’s how we can have an election and we can have tens of thousands of people that cannot even PROCESS how the other side *COULD HAVE* won, let alone that they did win. It’s an echo chamber of things we already know that we like. And it’s dangerous.
It works just as much with music as anything else, people close themselves off to new experiences and prefer to hear about things they already know or things that remind them of things they already know. That’s stagnation to me man. I think nostalgia is a hell of a drug. We’ve made it ridiculously easy to remove dissenting opinions or even things we don’t care to look at with a click of the button. Is that freedom? I suppose, but it also ensures an endless feedback loop of things you already like or agree with and that can be dangerous.
Ultimately it’s about communicating without any communication taking place. You’re talking to the wall and there’s no impact. You’re talking to the dog and there’s no comprehension. It’s some frustrating business and there’s more and more of it as we move along unchallenged to our little subsects of subsections of culture, retreating away from the common experiences and overimbuing essence and meaning into things simply because they are already familiar.
Musically this is all Cheap Trick/Wipers worship on my part with some Fugazi/DEVO weirdness in the chorus but everybody brought something neat and unique to it and the arrangement. Mouse is a nutcase on the drums here. It’s always a blast to play live.
Weightless and Pointless
There’s a moment at the end of a relationship, at the actual end, where there’s just a feeling of being weightless. As if the floor itself has completely disappeared. Even if you knew it was coming, even if you felt you were braced for it emotionally—until it actually happens, you aren’t ready. There are no songs that I am aware of, or that I care about that have really embodied that feeling that I can think of. I’m also fascinating by the idea of being adrift in space, not immediately dying, but just adrift as slowly, inexorably everything you love disappears off into the distance. What would that feel like? Would it be at all like watching your perceived future life with somebody drift away? You have this shared common experience of being adrift, but no way to help each other. Everything I love is so far away, it just got a whole lot further now.
I guess that’s what that movie Gravity is about. I don’t know, I haven’t seen it. Heard it was pretty good. I don’t write lyrics about relationship stuff, but that concept was bouncing around my head for awhile and this is what we got out of it.
Musically: this is probably the “mellowest” song on the record. To me it’s part Afghan Whigs circa the record 1965 and the parts I don’t think suck about the band Spoon or early Elvis Costello. You’d probably get four different answers if you asked the rest of the guys though.
Everything’s Amazing (Nobody’s Happy)
Yup, the jumping off point is that Louis C.K. bit. Yes, we are fans, except for Mouse. He would want that recognized. That bit (and the idea really hit home for me) that we live in this world of complete and utter miracles, with all of the knowledge stores of all of society at our disposal. Stuff that would blow the minds of the ancient philosophers, or even people from fifty years ago. Yet we most often use it for bullshit, and we get all worked up because the flippant nonsense we use it for doesn’t move QUITE as fast as our entitled selves feel like is worth it.
You didn’t have to hunt and kill your dinner tonight, but you can tag #FML on twitter because you went over your text message allocation. “I wish I was dead!” REALLY?!? Do you REALLY wish you were dead? Are you listening to yourself? Is there anybody actively burning your fields and raping your neighbors? No? Good, I invite you to stop whining.
There is a lot of complaining for the amount of miracles that we have. Sure, no personal jetpacks or hovercars, but could you have in ANYWAY AT ALL forseen the smart phone? And everything you can do with it? Could anybody have forseen something like the societal change of Arab Spring all with devices that fit in your pocket?
The world we live in is incredible, it’s just our perception of it that’s fucked, and we use it to make ourselves feel miserable. “What do we do now?” I sing that about a million times at the end. Not providing the solution, but most definitely asking the question.
Musically, I really love how this one turned out. It’s all Ron Asheton scuzz riffs in the verses, with Shane doing some neat slide stuff over it. The chorus is very “The Cars” to me. And then there is the crazy psych outro that just takes it somewhere else. It took a while before that didn’t just seem indulgent as hell to me, but we wouldn’t change it for the world now.
Look: The world is in a sorry state right now in a lot of ways. All of this constant connection means being exposed to injustices, atrocities, and downright depressing things all around. Generally speaking, they are things that you cannot control and have no power of as well. It can wear you down if you let it. So don’t let it.
This is also one of two songs that has the phrase: “It used to be beat the odds, now it’s beat the clock.” That, to me is one of the major themes of the record as a whole. Time as a finite resource, the odds as insurmountable as ever. That’s what this song is about, being overwhelmed and trying to make the choice to not let it dominate you. It’s a song about the frustration of giving a damn about things around you.
Musically? Easy: Archers Of Loaf riffs played with a “Get Back” style Beatles groove. The guitar duo at the break after the first chorus is shameless Television (the band), but not by design. It’s just how it ended up. Mouse had to be talked into the drum thing at the end, he is vehemently against drum solos, but the idea was to have this big ridiculously ostentatious drum thing. And then this bratty Shellac-like single note hit at the end. I think it’s a fine way to end the first side of a record.
The End of Memory
As a culture, we are losing our ability to remember anything. The downside to having all of the information stores of history available to us at all times. It’s a problem, and one that will continue to manifest itself as time marches on. Why bother putting any effort into knowing something when you can type the words into your computer and look at the Wikipedia entry? It also means that these information stores can potentially be retconned in the future. Sounds paranoid, I’m sure, but it will happen. We’ll definitely notice our lack of critical thinking as a culture when that happens. I think we stand a real nature of losing a lot of our history and shared experiences to “the cloud.” Total drag.
Music wise: To me this is the absolute mélange of the more fast and aggressive In Utero Nirvana stuff mixed with mid-period Hot Snakes in the chorus. The slight syncopation and pickup in the choruses is a huge part of the song to me. There’s what I call a “pocket Iron Maiden” guitar solo Shane does near the end that I just love because it gets in and out so fast.
A song in defense of sincerity itself. Sincerity has been hijacked by lackwits and shameless manipulators. This is a straight up, self-aware call to arms. The answer isn’t abject disaffection and removed distance but to dive deeper and stand for something that isn’t ironic detachment. It isn’t shameful to care about things, or give a damn about what you do—far from it. This is a song about DOIN’ THANGS.
This song originally appeared on the incredible Lake of Fake single series. A super worthy subscription vinyl compilation series that is done solely for the love of music itself. Completely divorced from commerce and all of the other icky parts of music. This version is much better than that version though, and it should be—we’ve been touring this song for a couple of years now. I barely remember recording it, it’s so second nature. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the song that we’ve played the most of any of our catalog, it’s a nice set breaker for feel.
Musically: This one is rhythm and wide open spaces. A complete answer to the (very justified) criticism of the first record as being densely over packed. It all was built on that slinky slanky bassline Evan plays and the way the vocals and drums hit together. Sparse delayed guitar throughout. The chorus is all big arena release. Drawing a contrast with the verses. The vocals are impassioned and such, and since there’s room to breathe I can to have some fun with that with inflection. The dual guitar parts are like a post-punk Thin Lizzy to me.
“Are We Having Fun Yet?”
Some bands are inspired by old bands, some are inspired by new. Some are inspired by critically acclaimed darkly comedic TV shows that only find their audiences long after they are largely ignored and cancelled. This is a song directly inspired by the TV show Party Down, you can count that show as a primary inspiration for our band as much as Fugazi, as much as Cheap Trick, DEVO, Queens of the Stone Age or whatever.
There’s a fine line between delusion, disappointment and hope. It’s about trying to be the best you can be at something, really going for it and maybe the best you get out of it is a catch phrase or something that seemed throw away and reductive. Something that has nothing to do with your “art,” that’s now how you are known. The equivalent of the “Whassup?!!” dudes from that real life commercial. Talented? Who cares? Dedicated? Doesn’t matter. All you will ever be to the world at large is something designed to stick in people’s head and sell something you don’t really care about and have no stake in at all. All the while surrounded by folks in a cloud of delusion about their own adequacy and place in the world. Anyway, this song is directly about that show.
Musically: This song is a mix of New Order type melody played like KARP in the verses, and a big ol’ Thin Lizzy style satisfying ‘70s rock chorus. The guitar duo bit gets to do a little Polvo thing at the end, which satisfies our necessary weirdness quotient that prevents us from appealing to Wolfmother fans and the like.
A Cheeky Little Wish For Your Attention
Band bios are preposterous. The entire act of trying to sum up a band in a paragraph is completely and utterly absurd on every level. For added fun: translate the bio to Japanese and back again! Then you get great little phrases like the title of this song.
Message-wise it’s the counter part to “Ignore Button,” which I already talked about at length. Everybody’s talkin’, but we’re all talking to the wall. I got to reuse a few lines from other songs here that I felt never “popped” in the original song and reemphasized the “It used to be beat the odds, now it’s beat the clock” line.
Musically this one is crazed. Probably one of the most needlessly complicated arrangements on the record, that somehow ended up sounding natural despite of everything. Yet, if you listen to the demo it really isn’t that much different either. We just like to make things hard on ourselves I guess. The main riffs are from the Sonic Youth/early Trail of Dead/Unwound school, and the big huge stops are just a fun, dumb thing to do. Recording this one had just as much of the “holding on to a rollercoaster for dear life” feeling that the speed of the song hopefully elicits in others.
Taste the Danger
Ahh! The coda of the record and purposefully so. Sometimes the best you can do is to get out a message to those that came after you, the next generation. “It’s your turn.” Ultimately sad, but hopefully inspiring: for every four that fall away, five more will take their place. The messenger may fall, but the message will not. It’s part of being something bigger than what you are or do. Which is something we’ve all strived for our entire lives, but you have to get ok with maybe not having the impact that you want. Better luck next life.
More space analogies. They are all over the place on this record. Should have called it: “Sore songs about Space and some other stuff.” The towns of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Chugiak, Alaska, are both name checked out of the gate. The idea being: There are probably kids in far off places doing some mind blowing next level stuff that makes what we do (and what our peers do) look like tired bar band twelve bar blues. It’s easy to look at those that come after you with fear or wariness, but that’s dumb. We won’t be here forever, and that’s okay.
This one is totally Fugazi riffs but trying to play them with a purposefully Crazy Horse style feel to them, not loose so much as purposefully not so rigid. The end is very King Crimson to me.
“Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have to be loud, dumb, and mean all the time,” smiles Victory and Associates vocalist Conan Neutron. “We don’t make disposable music. You can ignore it, but it’s not disposable, for sure.”
Victory And Associates definitely leave a mark with Better Luck Next Life [iTunes link]. The perfect amalgam of heavy and hypnotic, the band’s hardcore grit remains fortified by melody at the right moments. It also might just make you think in the process…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Conan Neutron of Victory And Associates talks Better Luck Next Life, music, and so much more.
You guys strike the perfect balance between heaviness and hookiness…
We’re definitely fans of big ridiculously heavy music. However, at heart, when it comes down to it, we’re fans of rock ‘n’ roll—in its myriad of forms. There’s equal love for bands like Buzzcocks and Wire as much as, say, The Melvins. It’s cool that you’re hearing that. Sometimes, it’s hard for people to get what we’re all about with that because it’s pretty bombastic. For a lot of bands, it’s one or the other. We like to do both.
For you, what ties Better Luck Next Life together?
Well, it’s definitely meant to be a cohesive piece. That’s for sure. When one speaks of concept albums, there’s a real tendency towards, “Be the warrior, mystic heart of the night, and the orb of whoever”—that kind of ridiculous ostentation. The concept of this record is basically the overwhelming nature of the disconnection of modern life. We tried to put that forward in a way that shows the frustration and weird sadness that happens from all of these freedoms we have. We didn’t want to do it in a way that’s cynical, conceited, and mean though.
It’s more observant…
Right! “We’ll Have to Be Our Own Heroes” is a self-empowerment jam. It’s like, “What happens when the fellas that were supposed to save the day call in sick?” You’ve got to step up there. When you get to the end of the record and “Taste the Danger”, it’s the passing of the torch, if you will. The idea in between is an examination of all these communication tools. What do we use the advanced forms of communication and transmittal throughout all of history for? We use them to share cat pictures and memes to each other [Laughs]. It’s ridiculous. Everyone is talking, but is anyone really listening? If you ask people, they might stop and think about it, but it’s not at the forefront of a lot of people’s brains for sure. It can be a frustrating culture. I know it’s a weird thing to write a rock record about, but it’s where we’re at.
What’s the story behind “Taste the Danger”?
It’s totally awesome you mention it. I feel like that song gets overlooked by a lot of people. It’s one of my favorites. We had a song on our first record called “You Can’t Stop the Signal”. It’s a live favorite. We still play it all the time. The idea behind that song was whatever you do in life, whether it’s immediately recognized or not or whether it yields immediate results or not, it matters. The signal gets out there. “Taste the Danger” is a bit of a continuation of that. Communication goes out, and it isn’t necessarily something the originator of the idea will be recognized or lauded for. Stuff you do pays dividends down the line. If you look at music and culture as something bigger than a collection of things to click on, listen to, be done with, and then never think about it again, when you think of it as something so important it’s a big part of your identity as it is for us, the idea is you find other people who can find deeper meaning and help define themselves and who they are with this music. Ideally, down the line, if we do things right, we can add a little more to culture and make things a little cooler, rather than the other way around. There are a lot of space analogies too [Laughs].
Is it important for you to paint pictures and tell stories with the songs?
For me, it is. I think there are a couple schools of thoughts. There’s your Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits confessional telling deeply personal tales thing. Then, there’s the other end of it. People are telling stories and they may not be necessarily related to anything. They’re just singing the words. This record definitely falls somewhere in between there. Some of the songs definitely come from deeply personal places. There are also songs that are more allegorically informed. I’m a collector of phrases of things. A phrase itself can be consumed with a good amount of meaning beyond just what the words grouped together are. That’s something really cool. On the song, “Are We Having Fun Yet?”, it’s directly inspired by the show Party Down. The Adam McKay character is basically reduced to the Budweiser “Whassup?” guy. His existence is pretty much tied up in a stupid catchphrase. That show is so important to us because it’s this cross-section of delusion, disappointment, and hope. You get a phrase like that, and it’s super evocative. There are repeated themes like that throughout the record. I like phrases that can mean more than just the phrase. They’re words that grab you or snag you.
What artists shaped you?
I came to music through the world of post-punk like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Melvins, and Nirvana. I worked at a record store. Not only did I find bands like Television, Buzzcocks, and all of this amazing music that happened before, but I was like, “There’s also this country music that’s really cool”. It opened up my horizons quite a bit. When it comes down to it, I’m a rocker at heart. From the cradle, I was played AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles. That’s just in my bones for sure. To answer your question, I once said my political belief system is Fugazi, and my religious belief system should be Devo [Laughs].
If Better Luck Next Life were a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I have to think about this! It’d have to be something with a dark undercurrent of greater meaning. I’m tempted to say The Big Lebowski, but I think it’s a darker record. Then again, that’s pretty good. Let’s go with that. It’s sassy. I think there are many truths told in jest. It definitely tells a story. It comes out great in the end. The Dude fucking hates The Eagles [Laughs].
When did you begin writing the material for Better Luck Next Life?
About a week after our first record, These Things are Facts, came out, one valid criticism that came from our first record is how there’s almost no breaks in it at all. It’s just constant and propulsive and never lets up, that was intentional. However, we wanted to showcase a different side of the band, and lyrically I got really into the idea of sincerity itself being under attack as a tool for shameless marketeers and hacks.
The first record was also very purposefully heart on sleeve too, so that’s how “For Serious” came out. A song against noble apathy and disconnection and a case that earnestness doesn’t have to equate schmaltzy background music.
Musically it’s very different from anything we had done before either, there’s more space to it, the dynamics are a huge part of the song and it is meant to kind of coil and unfurl if you will. After that came “Exasperated, Inc.”, which started to set the tone for the rest of the record. Beleaguered from the world with all of its “freedom” and “content” (emphasis mine), and the frustration that comes from that. We toured on those songs a lot and they quickly became live favorites.
Then the rest of them came together anywhere from a year before the record was recorded to a few weeks before. We purposefully decided to put out a double A side single called “Plausibly Wild/Wildly Plausible” on Latest Flame Records and a digital single called “Friend Rock City”, we had those kicking around as well but those were always destined for their own releases as the mood that we were putting together for this record didn’t fit them. Plus, we like absurd concepts and a single called “Plausibly Wild” b/w “Wildly Plausible” pleased us greatly and the songs fit together well, and releasing a digital single about poorly run “friend rock shows” that is front-loaded with a comedy bit can probably be construed as a dick move by some. That’s the kind of stuff we love. Those were meant to stand on their own though, all of the BLNL songs are meant to stand together even if all of the songs don’t all sound alike.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
Honestly? Writing is a pretty easy process for us, we’ve played together so much now that we have that kind of band telepathy that you need to really have an idea of what the other person is going to do next and then play to that strengths. We can be more thoughtful on arrangements and sound since we’re more comfortable playing together.
“A Cheeky Little Wish For Your Attention” probably took the most time, but that was probably because it was so new at the time. I think we had only ever played that song once before live. I wasn’t convinced that we’d be able to get it together in time for the record. Heck, I don’t think I even had the part I play in the bridge fully worked out until the third take. It was exciting though because we loved the energy of the song. And of course, it’s some peoples favorite song on the record too. It ended up turning out really well.
My frustrations with the recording and mixing process are abjectly miniscule, it was a great experience and not difficult at all. I guess it helps that we’ve toured on almost all of the songs multiple times over, nothing helps recording better than a band that knows the material.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
Definitely “We’ll Have To Be Our Own Heroes” that song, which Rob Montage from Waxeater called “the Torchiest song that ever Torched” wasn’t always a drop-D mini arena rock epic. It started off as a land speed record sort of Thermals bite, but it never took flight that way. I loved the lyrics so much, which uncharacteristically for this band came first, and I loved the progression but it just never had the weight that it should.
Then, one day I was just sitting around and picked up a guitar was already in drop-D and started playing the progression that way and a lot slower and it sounded awesome. It almost immediately took on the magic quality that I always knew it deserved. It took us an embarrassingly long amount of time to get it together on the vocals since we wanted the vocals to be just as preposterously huge sounding as the music, but it all came together pretty quickly after that. It’s probably one of my favorite songs that we’ve done and it’s so different from the silly little demo that I jotted down that it’s very funny.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Nope! We originally had plans for that, just to have a few pals from other bands come in for some background vocals and what not, but once we actually got going Toshi had the rest of the guys do vocals as well and it sounded full as all get out. All four of us do vocals all over the place. Mine are still the lead, Evan’s are still the second most constant, but Evan, Shane and Mouse all did a heroic amount of harmonizing and backup vocals on “Better Luck Next Life”. To our ears it sounds lush as heck, but there definitely reached a point where just wasn’t any room for anybody on the outside to come in! What you hear on Better Luck Next Life, for better or for worse is Victory and Associates.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
The incredible Toshi Kasai, who is most well known for working with the Melvins on pretty much everything they’ve done in the last ten years. He’s done records by Tool, Federation-X, Hurry Up Shotgun, Tweak Bird and many others. It’s crazy he’s mostly known for heavy music but the guy has an incredible pop sensibility and an ear for harmony as well as just being a damn fine engineer. He’s worked on all kinds of crazy mainstream stuff too like Foo Fighters, Bloodhound Gang, Dave Matthews Band and such, but is heart is with scrappy little weirdo bands like ours.
We’ve had the pleasure of working with some damn fine, talented people but I think it’s safe to say that this would be an entirely different record without the very talented Toshi Kasai with us every step of the way. I think he can get away with saying things with serious candor because of his heavy Japanese accent too: “Ahhh… that was pretty good, but try vocal part again and this time… do it cooler.” How do you argue with that? “Do it cooler?” Incredible. The guy is gifted it was a joy to work with him on this, we will absolutely do so again.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
YES! Thank you for asking. This record focuses on the increasing alienating aspects of modern society, which leads to the safety blanket of cynicism and disconnection. This is frequently mistaken for critical thinking, but it’s not. It also deals with how on the surface we celebrate the individual without supporting the needs of the individual, while at the same time rewarding things that already existed for already existing. It starts off with “…Heroes.” which is a pretty open call to stand up and not wait for others to do stuff for you, walks through the general frustration of our increasingly enclaved and bedroom communitied social structures, takes a few existential deep breaths to wonder if any of it means anything and then ends with “Taste the Danger”, which is the idea of a passing of the torch to the next generation. For every four that fall away five more will take their place. Beaten, bloodied, but not defeated, never defeated.
Heavy concepts for a rock record right? I guess it’s fine if people don’t give a damn for any of that and just like the songs too, but that’s where it’s coming from.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
We’ve played all of these songs live quite a few times, yes. People seem to really, really dig “Everything’s Amazing (Nobody’s Happy)” as well as “A Cheeky Little Wish For Your Attention” and “We’ll Have To Be Our Own Heroes”. “For Serious” always gets a great reaction too because it’s so… ugh… I hate to say it but “groove oriented”? It lends itself well to live arrangements and provides a much needed palette cleanser from the big rocking. They all rotate in and out of live sets for us, the only one that doesn’t have the same oomph that I would hope for crowd reaction is “Taste the Danger”, which is a slow burner. It’s not bad, but we have so much material at this point it will generally get passed over for songs that have more immediate kick. Some songs are just better on record, and that’s totally OK in the Victory and Associates book.
What’s Up! Magazine 10/06/2011, Feature interview by Brent Cole
Sometimes, you just come across a band you love. The music is good, and the band is full of cool musicians that make you dig their music even more. Bellingham, meet Oakland’s Victory and Associates. For those that don’t already love them, you will.
Brent Cole: Can you give me some background on the band – how long have you been together? How did you get together? What bands have you guys been in?
Conan: Victory and Associates started playing in early 2010. Everybody in the band has been playing for years in other bands, the most known of which for Bellingham are probably my old bands the short lived Mount Vicious and longer lived Replicator. These Things are Facts is our first full length record, after a 7″, a split 7″ with Hurry Up Shotgun and a compilation appearance. TTaF is accurately categorized as a “get things done” kind of record, it’s a raucous and intense rock and roll affair that has the interesting twist of being a generally positive, motivationally theme. Although we curse like sailors in regular life, there is no profanity in the songs. The idea was to create a fantastic rock and roll band that eschews the cliche and excess of the rock idioms that we all enjoy, play it as honest and as hard as we can, and write some awesome feel good music that doesn’t make you feel bad.
(full version here)
Platon Mag, Interview with Jean-Michel J. Audoubert
In a way this is a concept band, Victory and Associates… it’s in the name, we’re loosely affiliated with success. A lot of the songs with this band are coming from a very sincere place and I think that throws some people off, they immediately are suspicious or think that it’s corny. What we’re trying to do is write stuff that uplifts, kind of a “get tough, get through it” kind of scenario. Some folks get it, some don’t. It can be frustrating that people are constantly looking for a catch or an angle. The angle is that we are trying to make powerful, uplifting rock music. We aren’t a freaking Christian band, we aren’t posi-core, but man… it’s damn rough out there, I don’t know if you’ve noticed? There are hundreds of thousands of bands that write and have written love songs, and there’s a proud history of bands pointing out problems, especially in punk rock. Ok, ok, I get it. And I’m not saying we haven’t or won’t do that, but right now it’s not the mission at all. A lot of bands are almost interchangeable, and that’s a shame. Bottom line: We’re not trying to bring the bummer, we’re trying to do something different, and it’s happening whether people like it or not.
1/27/2010 – Bands of Courage and Consequence, East Bay Express, by Rachel Swan, interview with front man Conan Neutron.
Neutron also formed a new band, called Victory and Associates. Thus, he got to contribute an anti-Rove ditty of his own, entitled “Lies and the Lying Liars That Sell Them” (a spinoff of Senator Al Franken’s new book). Victory and Associates will perform its first show on March 18 at the Hemlock, several weeks after Courage and Consequence hits the streets.
Out-of-towners Victory and Associates set up next and took to it with vigor. Featuring ex-members of a number of popular bay area bands including Mount Vicious, Victory and Associates kept things loose with anthemic good time punk rock party jams. Frontman Conan Neutron is a flashy showman, and used his high energy to stir some life into the room over V&A’s weighty riffs. The band is currently on the road promoting its inclusion on the anti-Karl Rove compilation “Courage and Consequence: The Unabridged Audio”, and also has a 7” on the way featuring their fist pumping tune “Party Savior”.
03/19/2010 – SF Examiner, by Shannon Corr
The Hemlock in San Francisco has been host to some of the best shows this photographer has ever seen. Victory and Associates and Hurry Up Shotgun kept true to this fact.
This was the first show for Victory and Associates but old hat to the players involved. Comprised of ex-members from Mount Vicious, Replicator, Ned, Ghost to Atom, Radio Crimes, My Sunny Disposition – you get the picture. These fellows are no stranger to the rock. This is yet another project for frontman Conan Neutron who, on the heels of releasing the anti-Rove compilation Courage and Consequence: The Unabridged Audio, must have had one more thing to get off his chest. And that he did. Victory and Associates have all the flavors of the best anthemic rock while leaving behind the synthetic lyrics and sophomoric dressings that usually go along with such song writing. The song Thousandaire tells you with unabashed mockery, “you may doubt my success but baby I’m a thousandaire. Millions can bring the bummer but man I could hardly care. I am not much for preaching but lethargy’s a sin. Don’t just prepare to lose you must prepare to win”. Couple this with big crowd pleasing guitar riffs, smart drumming and an urge to fist pump and you get a resounding win all around. If Cheap Trick got into a car crash with Danzig while listening to the song Kids in America, you might end up with Victory and Associates.
“Any band claiming Buzzcocks, Cheap Trick, Devo as influences are probably going to be good—and not copyists, given those bands’ idiosyncratic streaks. And Oakland’s V&A do indeed have something going on their second LP. Funny, they don’t sound late ’70s at all; they’re more like a flying, harsh, heavy-riffing ‘90s alt-rock indie band, blowing chucks of righteous noise free of grunge and metal but plenty heavy just the same. It’s a big molten ruckus offset by guitarist/frontman Conan Neutron’s cleaner, precisely sung, classic rock melodies than this sort of din usually confers. They’re gnarly, but like with Grant Hart singing. Punkish music that isn’t easily pigeonholed sometimes struggles for a hearing (since it can’t even rely on conventionalist modern punks). Then again, with a band this roaring, if they get one… (victoryandassociates.net)” -Jack Rabid
So, Victory and Associates play what could best be described as “post punk”, but it’s more unique than what that might seem to describe. See, the thing is, if you date Punk Rock to 1977, it’s “classic rock”, right? Because, if Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who and Led Zeppelin are “classic rock”- how many years different is that? Likewise, the secret to what became “post punk” is that it was just when Punk Rockers started to inject Punk with whatever pre-punk music they were into. The usual suspects were David Bowie, Dub Reggae, and Chic, but could include everything from Jazz to Country to Rockabilly. My personal stance is that’s what made Post punk great- the cross-pollination of various music types. So, Victory and Associates mix some punk rock aesthetics with a whole lot of early 1970’s pop hard rock- FM radio circa 1974 mixed with the rawness of mid 1980’s bedroom raw lo-fi punk rock ( as opposed to hardcore). This is a formula that can be applied to everyone from Tom Petty to Guided By Voices, so why do I say they are unique? Because while the sound design is a lot closer to Bob Pollard & company, the actual core song-writing is a lot closer to Tom Petty. Which is- this is traditional rock songwriting, classic rock songwriting, almost entirely, but given a garage punk outfit. I don’t hear a lot of that, these days. Also, as per the FM radio songwriting, this doesn’t sound as good over headphones as it does on a small, cranked stereo. I bet it sounds best on somewhat worn vinyl, but that’s a theory I cannot test, just yet. Which, again, brings us back to that early 1970’s thing- you really don’t want a CD of Bad Company, or Foghat, or Bachman Turner Overdrive, you want that Vinyl copy you got when you were 9, and played 800 times on your radio shack turntable, until your poorly maintained needle wrecked your record.
But, let’s get a little closer- tracks like album closer “Taste the Danger” demonstrate just how right I am- at first, you might think it sounds like early Fugazi, but it’s too relaxed, and too “in the pocket” for DC postpunk, and then, you realize how poppy the structure is, so you start thinking of Sloan, but then Sloan and Fugazi have very little in common, right? Well, except a secret affinity for Blue Oyster Cult- and then, it all falls into place. Album opener “We’ll Have to be Our Own Heroes” might sound like Quicksand, until you realize how big of a Who fan Walter Schreifels is, making this into a mod power pop song. Even the most “punk” sounding track ‘The End of Memory” shares DNA with both TSOL and Ted Nugent.
That a Melvins producer (Toshi Kasai) recorded it makes total sense, now, doesn’t it?
However, the earnestness, and the sincerity lyrically espoused keeps this from Grunge/Alternative Nation/ Generation X irony, so Conan Neutron’s vocal similarity to David Byrne should not be taken for distance from the music made- he’s got a singer-songwriter’s heart, but a cock rocker’s golden god guitar, and, in the end, that’s the best way to view this- an LP from a group of Rocknroll true believers- fanatics, even- of a type that most of us can’t muster up the courage to be much after the age of 20. – Matt “Max” Van
This one turned out to be a nice surprise. I knew nothing about Oakland/San Franciscan punk rockers Victory and Associates before I let their hard rockin’, good time mosh attack unleash a full kicking on my senses. They’ve had a few other releases, and Better Luck Next Life is their latest one. To me it sounds like Bad Religion’s best melodic stuff (Against the Grain) mixed with the Dead Kennedy’s quirky aggression, Avail’s blue-collar sing-a-longs, the atonal yelp of Quicksand, and some old classic riff rock thunder. Updating the crunch is that noisy, heavy groove thickness utilized by bands like Federation X, Torche, Liquid Limbs, and Karp. It’s probably no shocker that Toshi Kasai (The Melvins, Big Business) twiddled the knobs for this album. Yeah, I totally wasn’t expecting to like this disc, what with the generic album cover, and all… But shit son, this is pretty good…played with fiery instrumentation full of explosive guitar solos/leads, a fluid bass presence, tricky drumming, and booming production that really pushes that rhythm section to the frontlines at all times (as well as the dueling guitars of Conan Neutron and Shane Otis).
Opener, “We’ll Have To Be Our Own Heroes,” represents the band’s expert merging of varied rock n’ roll techniques. The loud, clear, yet gritty and gravelly production perfectly separates the quartet’s tones, while a central riff gives the listener a mud bath of fuzzy 90s scuzz. It’s a familiar riff with that swooping, claw drawn tenacity of Karp’s best stuff floating to the top of the pond. A psychedelic, well aerated guitar melody comes into focus with tonal cues culled from straight-up punk (the economic, anarcho-laden rhythms, and sung/melodically shouted vocals of Mr. Neutron) and Otis’ lead guitar striving for a distinct 70s direction overflowing with harmonic hooks. Churning, chunky rock riffs break up the gracious melodies, and the duo of bassist/vocalist Evan Gritzon (who also contributes soaring harmony vocals) and drummer Mouse Menough put on a clinic of shifty, progressive accents marked by all over the kit fills that thrash the shit out of the snares n’ cymbals with ample support provided by effervescent, ever-changing bass lines. The whole affair reminds me of really good punk rock fluxed by the overdriven distortion of The Melvins and pretty much every band related to them.
“Ignore Button” is an adrenaline gland chewing punk n’ roll jam with raging solos, cranking percussion packed with twitchy, super busy rolls/fills and out of control bass riffs (there’s just riffs in general strewn throughout) jockeying ol’ paint straight to the nearest glue factory. This reminds me of the Dead Kennedy’s with the chord straining, yelling/singing vocal melodies of Conan having a similar expressive push akin to Jello, and alongside the smooth backing harmonies, one strong verse and chorus after another is crafted. Musically, it’s even more traditionally rocked-out than the DKs with a few of the riffs and noisy leads echoing of no nonsense hard rock. Lyrically, it’s also a gemstone of prose dedicated to assholes that just don’t seem to know when to quit talking once they’re already in a steel trap of a fix.
The off-time, off-kilter low-end runs and jazzy snare/tom jukes of “Weightless and Pointless” instigate some real troublesome, harmonized licks and vaguely rock n’ roll riffs which call to mind a stonerized version of Fugazi. A tapestry of solos, and echo enhanced melodies are beaten into place by the unstoppable sticksmanship of Mouse, with the vocals possessing a sarcastic, slick howl throughout. The closing riffs pair punk-rock, three-chord progressions with a dazzling solo, the pacing and tonality of the band’s spunky groove halted to a churning, fuzz-blasted hobble. What I really dig about these guys are that the guitarists do much more than simply mirror each other, the same goes double for the bassist…they’ll play in tandem when need be, but eventually each individual player steps out with a nuclear charged, “soloist” sort of contribution. The chemistry they’ve developed over the years is simply top-notch, and the production is glossy enough so zero notes are lost in hyperspace without the sacrifice of the necessary sediment that holds good rock n’ roll together.
Utilizing that sort of stop/start pacing and broken riffage that found a home on Am-Rep (the more I listen, the more these guys remind me of the underrated Guzzard), “Everything’s Amazing (Nobody’s Happy)” barges its way through a saloon door of swinging slide guitar licks and mid-tempo punk-rock. The melodic layering of the twin axes often rises and swells in the fine tradition of My Bloody Valentine, frequently encompassing the wall of sound tactic used by genre bands during the late 80s to mid 90s, but always going back to the slam of the almighty riff. Much of the same can be said about, “Exasperated Inc.,” which shambles along at about the same tempo, but intersperses a fuzzy, sunlit psychedelia into its shaggy haired groove. The 2nd half of the album is plenty good with faster punk oriented tracks like “End of Memory,” and “A Cheeky Little Wish for your Attention” pouring on the coal of speed and quick riffs, “For Serious,” and “Taste the Danger” psyching out the guitar-work, and “Are We Having Fun Yet’s” tasty knack for massive choruses, metallic guitar harmonizations, and gruff pop-punk artillery. There’s not a bum track in the batch, and there’s a lot of appeal to the open minded listener throughout.
Yeah, didn’t expect to like this, but Better Luck Next Life is such a well-written, energetic album I couldn’t resist. This could ALMOST be on the radio…it should be, but it might just be too ambitiously composed and hard-nosed for that fate. If you want to hear a punk album with sing-a-long melodies that doesn’t sound like some shitty Blink 182 or Avenged Sevenfold imitation, you should definitely check out Victory and Associates. -Jay Snyder
While their sophomore album Better Luck Next Life might be filled with tracks with titles like “Are We Having Fun Yet?,” “Ignore Button,” and “Exasperated, Inc,” none of these tracks exude a seething anger like you’d hear from The Sex Pistols or Black Flag. That doesn’t mean that Victory and Associates aren’t intense rockers though. While they definitely have a strong punk ethic running through their tracks, which is most evident on the glorious “The End of Memory,” they often display a humorous, ‘shaking my head’ cynicism rather than an “I am an AntiChrist”-like, and angry, yawp. Much like the grunge made popular by early Nirvana, and Mudhoney in particular, Victory and Associates’ songs thrive on sludgy riffs and uplifting bridges and choruses (both key components of the album’s powerful opening track “We’ll Have To Be Our Own Heroes”). They aren’t afraid to play solos, and they even indulge in the occasional outro drum solo (gasp!). When they put all these elements together, as they do so often on Better Luck Next Life, Victory and Associates demonstrate why they are such a compelling listen. They are a band that isn’t afraid to cross boundaries and embrace their love of just about every kind of rock, often times within the the same song. “For Serious,” one of the album’s standout tracks even dabbles in psychedelica (double gasp!).
Every song on the album would work great in a club setting, but could easily make excellent use of arena acoustics. While Victory and Associates aren’t quite an “arena rock band” just yet, they could easily make the jump. Their songs, as described above, are a melodic blend of what is great about a wide variety of rock music, and have enough space within them to clearly, concisely, and radiantly echo around, while enveloping the crowd of, more spacious venues. If you don’t get to see them live though, Better Luck Next Life, is also one hell of a headphones record. It can take you places like the best of records can. Highly recommended. -Andy Frisk
Combing the depths of rock and punk’s historical connections, Cali’s own Victory And Associates have won themselves a considerable amount of fanfare since debuting just a few short years ago. Between then and the release of Better Luck Next Life, the boys of V&A have been carving out a bigger name for themselves with steady road work. Somewhere between the sneering punk-fueled rock of Cheap Trick and Rocket From The Crypt, steadied by a garage-band DIY attitude to production quality, Better Luck Next Life is a solid, not quite spectacular dose of punk rock.
The lo-fi approach to the production lends a certain jam-band vibe to the band, and it pays off in more ways than one. By balancing out all the instruments, the solid bass work can lead certain tracks forward (“Are We Having Fun Yet?” is a prime example, and one of the record’s better tracks overall) while the crunchy guitar work can more or less center-stage the majority of the album. It’s hard to miss the sharp hooks of “Weightless and Pointless”, “The End Of Memory” and “A Cheeky Little Wish For Your Attention”. While these moments stick, fully balanced and perfected tracks like the opening double-hit of “Ignore Button” and “We’ll Have To Be Our Own Heroes” (the latter with some excellent vocal melodies topping it off) leave actual lasting impressions. It’s clear, from production value to actual songwriting, that Victory and Associates are firmly planted in the point in time where the sneer of punk crashed into the force and groove of rock, which wasn’t too long after punk began taking off anyway. Some might say the two are essentially connected at the hip, and it makes more sense once you spend some time with Better Luck Next Life.
My only problem with the album is that, by not being a real fan of the style, it tends to drag on far too long for my liking, with tracks standing out only when heard in repetition. You could easily spin Better Luck Next Life and believe you’re hearing one 44 minute song, but that’s probably just me…and anyone else who agrees. For punk rock fans who are looking for a truly “indie” take on the genre, however, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
California quartet, Victory and Associates, formed from the ashes of frontman Conan Neuron’s former band Mount Vicious. Victory and Associates continues the classic rock revival of Mount Vicious with its sophomore record Better Luck Next Life on October 29. This is not an AOR tribute record or a poor man’s rendition of Journey or Styx. Instead, the band takes parts of Sabbath, punk rock and sixties surf rock and puts it in a blender. On “Ignore Button” the fuzzy speed riffing recalls pre-Rollins Black Flag with a stoner edge reminiscent of Fu-Manchu.
The Stooges influence creeps its way in “Everything’s Amazing (Nobody’s Happy)”. The slow proto-grunge groove and soulful leads add to the song’s subtle ferocity. The upbeat lyrics “Exasperated Inc.” contrast with downbeat riffs. Neuron’s chorus of “And this world will drag you down if you let it…so don’t let it!” makes one want to get out and grab the world by the horns. The dangerous sound of “The End of Memory” is a frantic disjointed punk tune with a nice breakdown chorus. The spacey closer “Taste the Danger” is a call for American youth to rise up and revolt.
The song’s urgent message to end apathy is understandable in today’s political climate. It is also breath of fresh air from the vapid messages heard on mainstream radio. Victory and Associates do not have to wait for better luck on its next release. It has struck gold on this album. Rock fans should give this record a spin as there is enough variety to satisfy everyone.
Victory and Associates: These Things Are Facts!
There is a bit of a nautical theme that runs through Victory and Associates’ album, These Thing Are Facts! These references to shipwrecks and staying afloat speak volumes to the band’s approach. It’s not just about surviving, but thriving, even when the resources available don’t lend themselves to easy success. In the face of such limitations, it makes the wins, however small, seem miraculous. The optimism of these songs would be anthemic, if it weren’t so constantly threatening to fall apart and that’s just right.
The wins on this album can be attributed largely to the band’s youthful confidence and reckless ambition. They are pushing their talent and their tools to the limit, taking their sound to the brink of where it falls apart and sometimes just beyond. When they can find that sweet spot, as on “Not Returning”, where the singer relates the story of leaving home over the stretch of guitar strings and the swirl of feedback. Musically, it displays a Replacements-style hookiness; lyrically, a Modest Mouse nothing-to-lose howl.
The band displays a definition of success where ambition and process trump results. The approach varies, ranging from Rancid-style call and response to a more traditional guitar jangle chorus followed by a solo. The constant is a reach to be deeper, richer, and fuller. There is an acknowledgement, followed by a rejection, of their limitations. They would rather fail ambitiously than succeed under less challenging conditions. It is an attitude and a state of mind, working best when coming from that least understood place in the gut. In fact, the low points of the album “Brothers Doing it for Themselves” and “Turn Down the Guitars” fail, in large part, because they are too on the nose, trying to explain their ethos and abandon in terms that are too direct.
The songs aren’t reactions to hurt and unfairness, but declarations of independence. While they work as assertions, they don’t, lyrically, take aim at anything too specific and, as a result, don’t hold too much emotional weight. They are stretching themselves thin here, testing the limits of their talent, seeing what they can get away with. It’s an attitude that runs parallel to the Occupy Wall Street mindset. It’s not so much whether your voice is heard, so long as you speak. These Things Are Facts Is about talking the talk. Say something enough and it will become true.
MP3: Victory and Associates “Not Returning”
Victory and Associates — THESE THINGS ARE FACTS lp [Seismic Wave Entertainment]
Okay, first fact: journalistic ethics requires me to divulge up front that I am biased about this album. Not only is singer / guitarist Conan Neutron a friend of mine, but I participated in the Kickstarter fundraiser that made the existence of this album possible. Second fact: even if these things were not true, I would happily sing the praises of this swell, swell band. (I contributed to the Kickstarter fund because I was already a fan of the band and knew they were going to make something worth hearing.) Third fact: the band is a quartet from Oakland, CA who play a loud, bracing form of pop-rock that draws equally from the wells of punk, indie-rock, and classic rock to craft memorable, anthemic tunes that are every bit as catchy as they rock hard. Fourth fact: the guys in this band have all been playing in rocking live bands for some time now; they are not even remotely neophytes at the at the art of fucking you gently in the ear, and their collective dedication to the fine art of winging it in front of drunks has only sharpened their already formidable playing skills. Fifth fact: they write really good songs, primarily uptempo anthems with titles like “Get Tough, Get Through It,” “You Can’t Eat Prestige” (probably my favorite track on the album), “Brothers Doing It For Themselves,” “You Can’t Stop the Signal,” “Mistake Museum,” and “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hope.” They even manage to sound upbeat with tremendous sincerity without coming across as naive geeks (a monumental sense of humor, merely hinted at in the satirical titles, certainly helps). Sixth fact: They are an irony-free band. Humor they have in spades, but they really mean it, and while they don’t take themselves all that seriously, they take their music (and, to an equal degree, their responsibility to their fans and supporters) seriously indeed. Seventh fact: if you buy the vinyl version, you may never make it to the second side because the first side is so awesome that you’ll want to keep it playing it over and over. (When you do eventually flip the record over, you’ll discover that the flip side is just as good.) Eighth fact: There are no bad songs on this album, a rarity in this day and age. Ninth fact: The packaging for the LP version of this release is exceptional. We’re talking 180-gram translucent red vinyl housed in a full-color gatefold sleeve and an accompanying full-sized booklet with amazing photos, lyrics, and liner notes. Tenth fact: Did I mention that Mackie Osborne (that would be the wife of Melvins guitarist King Buzzo, fool, the woman responsible for their memorable album graphics) did the amazing cover art? Eleventh fact: You can preview the entire album in streaming format (and buy it in vinyl or download format) at their Bandcamp site. Twelfth fact: my cats, who have much better taste than I do, approve of this album. Thirteenth fact: if you can’t enjoy an album this awesome (in both sound and packaging), then there is something wrong with you, and you should maybe, like, I don’t know, look into that or something, all right?
Victory and Associates Is a Rock Band, Not a Law Firm — and Celebrates Its New Album Tonight by Ian Port, Sf Weekly 09/2011
Google the phrase “Victory and Associates,” and you’ll find at least three exact matches: a professional recruitment firm in Dallas, a marketing and public relations outfit in Tampa, and a fiery rock ‘n’ roll band from the Bay Area.
The band comes up first — but even if it didn’t, the fact that this bunch of irreverent punk-inclined rockers managed to coin a moniker so perfectly satiric that it is actually the name of square businesses elsewhere is pretty impressive.
That kind of sly irreverence is exactly what we’d expect from Victory and Associates, an outfit that matches anthemic rock with punk energy and sharp-tongued critiques of materialism, narrow-mindedness, and other unfortunate but common traits of American life in 2011. This formula is employed with great proficiency on These Things Are Facts, a new album whose release the band will celebrate tonight at S.F.’s Brick and Mortar Music Hall.
Guitars and drums drive Victory’s music relentlessly forward with the ferocity of post-hardcore, but its songs are tempered with a pop-punk band’s ear for melodies. Lead vocalist Conan Neutron has a muscular shout that lands somewhere between boisterous and empathetic, introspective and ready to pounce, depending on the song. And unlike a lot of punk-leaning rock records, most of the songs on These Things Are Facts actually sound different from each other. Opener “Get Tough, Get Through It” is motivational fist-pumper; “You Can’t Eat Prestige” is a snarling, sarcastic taunt; and later on in the album, “Not Returning” meditates on leaving behind a constrictive hometown before exploding in the choruses. The only song that really falls flat on the album is downtrodden closer “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hope,” whose lyrics carry a bit too many cliches.
Still, through most of these 11 songs, sheer speed and sharp dynamic changes — along with potent singalong hooks — keep the momentum contentious and fun. These Things Are Facts is a smart, energetic listen — punk rock at the heart, but not too serious to throw down a soaring chorus or flashy guitar solo once in a while. It’s good enough to make us wonder if maybe that band name isn’t satiric after all.
This week, Jeff heads out to Los Angeles to talk up Victory And Associates shiny new elpee These Things Are Factswith two of his favorite little characters, Spike and Blondie.
Jeff: So Blondie, did you two swipe yer sister’s car and drive up to San Francisco to catch a Victory And Associates show?
Blondie: Nah. Her car is a dumpster with an engine in it.
Spike: We’d get about as far as Pasadena with that thing. Maybe.
Jeff: Well… good. I was worried about you doods getting arrested. You know what the deal here is, right?
Blondie: We’re gonna talk about These Things Are Facts by Victory And Associates.
Spike: And then yer gonna buy us beer.
Jeff: Yes. We’re gonna go over the elpee track by track but no, I’m not gonna buy you beer. So, this thing opens up with a freaking ANTHEM called “Get Tough, Get Through It.” What’d you guys think?
Spike: Rocks. Rad.
Blondie: It’s fast, dood. I jump around a lot to that one. I’m really glad I sell all my Ritalin instead of taking it cuz like, I probably wouldn’t feel this one, y’know? It rocks.
Jeff: It really sets the tone for the entire elpee. Victory And Associates is such an appropriate name for this band… the common theme through the majority of these tracks is all about overcoming obstacles, and yeah, this one is quick and razor sharp. It’s a great opening track. So the next one is “You Can’t Eat Prestige.” What’d you think?
Blondie: Baller. And the guitars are total baller.
Spike: I thought the singer was saying “You can’t eat crisp cheese.” That’s not what it is?
Blondie: Dood. No. Like, the whole point of the song title is, you gotta get paid at some point. It’s cool that people like stuff that you do and they talk about stuff that you do, but like, you can’t live off of that.
Jeff: And the song itself is again talking about battling the odds, but this time from a particularly working class point of view.
Spike: I wish it was “crisp cheese.” I’m still gonna sing it that way.
Blondie: “Brothers Doing It For Themselves” is another one where, that thing you were saying about getting tough and getting through stuff…
Jeff: Yeah. This one is kind of a DIY fight song, and the whole DIY ethic requires a lot of getting tough and getting through stuff. You guys ever heard Public Enemy? This title reminds me of “Brothers Gonna Work It Out”.
Spike: Don’t know ‘em.
Blondie: Are they old?
Jeff: Public Enemy? Yeah, but their stuff holds up really well. I’ll play some for you sometime. Next up,“Doubtbreak.”
Spike: Yeah. Another fast one with some rad guitars!
Blondie: Another one I like to jump around to!
Jeff: Ok, the guitar interplay is what I like best here. Another band you guys maybe haven’t heard of: The Libertines. “Doubtbreak” opens up just like I remember some harder, faster Libertines tunes. We’ll dig out some Libertines too so you can hear what I’m talking about. Alright, so “You Can’t Stop The Signal” is next…
Spike: Total rock. With pirates, right? Spazzy loud guitar and drum bashing pirates.
Jeff: Definitely something happening on a ship. And that Victory theme comes up again:
“There are other stories, but this one’s ours/We shall not falter we will not cower…”
Blondie: You really like that, huh?
Jeff: The positivity these guys generate? Oh, hell yes. Especially with all the self-pitying crybaby rock bands that are out there.
Spike: Dood. Emo bands. All I can hear is their eyeliner, weeping awa.
Jeff: Later, you doods need to explain emo to me, cuz I don’t know what it is.
Blondie: Spike can probably tell it better.
Jeff: Ok, cool. Now, “Funundrum.” Heh heh. Thoughts?
Spike: HELLA FUCKING BALLER.
Blondie: Spike, like, c’mon. Calm down.
Jeff: He’s right though.
Blondie: It’s ok if we say stuff like that?
Jeff: In this particular case and this particular song, I’d say it’s a dead-on comment.
Blondie: HELLA FUCKING BALLER!
Jeff: Yeah, it’s like listening to an explosion. Best track on the elpee, I’d say, and man, it’s got East Bay written all over it. The Fleshies, Dead Kennedys… its right about here where Victory’s singer Conan Neutron made me think of Jello Biafra.
Spike: Jello Biafra, that’s a cool name.
Blondie: So is Conan Neutron. I’m picturing a dood the size of a Gundam wearing, like, a labcoat with a test tube in his clenched fist.
Jeff: Next up is “Not Returning,” which takes some weird turns. It starts out sounding like… geez, I dunno, like Lene Lovich new wave but ends up in a guitar power overdrive.
Spike: I like that he got out of his town in the song. Like, I can totally relate. I like Los Angeles, but dood…
Blondie: Our neighborhood blows balls.
Spike: Big, hairy balls.
Blondie: “I left my hometown because of cultural toxicity/I needed more than liquor stores and cable tv…”
Spike: I feel that. Throw in a few crackheads outside the liquor store and I totally feel that.
Jeff: Again, this is what I love most about this record — the consistent messaging about overcoming the shit. And you guys, I have to think that these songs were written with guys like you in mind, you know? This song, and a lot of these songs are saying “You don’t have to put up with the bullshit and you can do something about it.”And guys, it’s true, you don’t have to feel like victims. Get tough, get through it, and get out if you need to. Someday you will.
Jeff: “Noises, Voices, You” says the same thing.
Blondie: With some more rad guitar, dood.
Spike: They need to get that shit on Guitar Hero. Seriously. That crazy squealing solo in the middle? Whoa.
Jeff: Ok…“Mistake Museum”?
Spike: Rad name for a song.
Jeff: You know what I like most about this one? The way they salute Police Teeth toward the end with that “little bit higher” chorus.
Spike: Police what?
Jeff: Police Teeth. Let’s make them the first thing we listen to later on. Yer both gonna love ‘em.
Blondie: Truth though… I’ve been skipping over ”Mistake Museum” to get to “Turn Down The Guitars (’11).”
Spike: Yeah, they don’t turn ‘em down at all in that one.
Jeff: And the closer: “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hope.”
Spike: They got tough.
Blondie: They got through it.
Spike: It’s not like the, ummm… rock-est thing on the record.
Jeff: Yeah, I’d say it’s the closest thing to a pop song.
Spike: But I see what yer saying about what, like, what all of the songs seem to be about… getting through stuff.
Blondie: And hope.
Spike: Yeah, hope. Like my Mom hopes all the time she spends on video poker down at the AM/PM will pay off someday.
Blondie: Not THAT kinda hope! Hope in yerself, not in, you know, luck or whatever.
Spike: I know, dood. I think she needs to listen to these songs.
Jeff: Play ‘em for her some time.
Spike: She’s too old. She won’t like it.
Jeff: Think positive, little dood. It catches on. Besides, she can’t be older than me, cuz I’m OLD! Are we recommending this fine new elpee from San Francisco’s Victory And Associates?
Blondie: HELLA YES.
Spike: Yer really not gonna buy us beer, huh?
I was introduced to Victory And Associates through their friendship with The Poison Control Center, and I can see why the two bands get along. There are definitely some similarities in their sound, but they also differ greatly in attitude and philosophy.
These guys, hailing from the bay area, go for the throat at every turn. The vocals and guitars are very aggressive, which honestly was a problem for me at first. On my initial spin through These Things Are Facts, I found it a bit overwhelming. It’s a loud record, and I couldn’t make everything out with my ears ringing. Luckily I always listen to an album a few times before reviewing it. As it turns out, Victory And Associates have a lot to say.
Once I got into it a little bit, and let that inner-skate punk in my soul (maybe that’s where it is) come out and play, things started sounding different. For starters, does anyone else think that Conan Neutron’s voice sounds a little like Fred Schneider’s? No? Maybe that’s just me. Regardless, these guys have a lot more going on than a “Rock Lobster.” Beneath those crushing guitars lay some pretty good lyrics that take on issues above the normal heartbreak and angst. For instance, on the song “Can’t Eat Prestige,” Neutron sings:
Well the war is over, the fight was fixed
a campaign to make you poor, while they stay rich.
This isn’t the last chapter, i’m turning the pages back
we’ve been defending too long, let’s plot a counter attack
You just, live life like you’re under siege
you can’t pay bills with praise, you can’t eat prestige
I’ve been down so long, I stopped making up jokes
I’d need some investors to get up to broke
and it’s like: 1,2,3,4, they declared a class war
and all we declared was bankruptcy
I love the little snapshots of influences the band doles out randomly as well. Sometimes you’ll hear a little AC/DC, then Van Halen, and a bunch of other little things that last for about two or three seconds. And they make them all sound exactly as they should, like a band building on those that came before. The guys that make up Victory And Associates obviously have a good working knowledge of the music that shaped them, and it’s always nice to pay tribute.
Speaking of the band, man they’re good. I mentioned Conan, who sings and plays rhythm guitar, the band also has Shane Otis, who plays some blistering leads, Evan Gritzon playing bass in a tough genre, and Mouse Menough delivering percussion at 128 bpm. They’re a bit more punk than I usually get into, but I find myself enjoying this record more and more with every listen.
What I really want is for them to come out to Chicago and do a show so I can see them live, because I assume their set would be amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to indie rock shows that are mellow, but a show that can pump a ton of energy into a room can be life-altering (see: Titus Andronicus). So please, I’m begging you Victory And Associates, come out to Chicago!
Do yourself a favor and pick up These Things Are Facts when you get a chance. The official release party isn’t until September 16th, but you can listen to the whole thing and purchase it here. I would recommend “Can’t Eat Prestige,” “You Can’t Stop The Signal,” “Get Tough, Get Through It,” and “Home Is Where You Hang Your Hope” as the top songs to get you into the album.
Some may remember me posting about Victory and Associates and their campaign to fund their debut record through the Kickstarter program. Thanks to the good people out there that threw a few bucks their way it was a success and come the beginning of August you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy of These Things are Facts. If any remember the Party Savior single that they released and I posted about awhile back, then you might be familiar with the sounds of the band, but if not…well then you’re in for a treat, that is if you’re looking for an album that is filled with nothing but non stop sing along rock.While the band prides themselves in creating rock for ya know…the sake of rocking out…it’s always seemed to me that they also strive to put together songs that would work exceptionally well both on record and in a live setting. It’s hard to sit here and listen to These Things are Facts and not wish that you could be crammed into a small club or bar somewhere seeing these tunes being cranked out live. The songs simply on record, more often than not, achieve their goal of having me unconsciously turning the volume knob up gradually further and further. By the end of it I’m pretty much hitting obnoxiously loud levels that I am sure people near me aren’t necessarily happy about. But then again, maybe they are? Being as upbeat and surprisingly motivational as it is, I’d actually be disappointed if they weren’t. Victory and Associates however aren’t setting out to be rock stars by any means, despite combing through decades worth of riffs and rock staples to incorporate into their sound. Nah, this is more about getting up there, getting sweaty, getting people moving, and having a damn good time while doing so.Those interested in picking up a copy of These Things are Facts can do so by checking out their Bandcamp page where they have it available for pre-order on LP or CD. Obviously digital downloads are set up to go as well. Enjoy!
Damn. Another soundtrack to summer. I totally slept on this band and I’m totally honored to be able to post a review of this album. Victory and Associates are a bay area based indie rock band. The 11 songs on These Things Are Facts are a tight and catchy style of indie rock that’s not afraid to rock out with the best of them. I hear influences ranging from Built To Spill to Weezer and some of the bands currently being put out by latest flame records such as Police Teeth and Trophy Wives. Victory And Associates definitely deliver the goods with These Things Are Facts. Highly Recommended!
Victory & Associates – These Things Are Facts (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:rowdy but melodic indie rock from San Fran featuring the former singer of Replicator (blast from the past there…); this is a West Coast sound filtered through matter-of-fact, Midwestern mannerisms (dig that alliteration) not unlike The Hold Steady: (buy vinyl)
The fine people at single piece slate have struck again, making vinyl records happen lovingly handcrafted in their shop, I imagine like a fine piece of New England furniture, or like a 7″ Amish collective, working only in the traditional ways of records, ignoring all technological advances…this time they’ve cut a split featuring Victory and Associates and Hurry up Shotgun who were nice enough to send 7Inches one of these clear, thick slabs of vinyl.”Turn Down the Guitars” is the title of the rack from V&A and I know what you’re thinking, “But that goes against everything these guys stand for!”, and you’d be right, turns out this is a protest song against the sound guy at every venue telling them to turn down the most important element in their arsenal. Hilarious lyrically
he’s not horsing around / its a constant standoff / that’s the reason this song features the bass / no reverb is needed
but then they composed the track to take it one step further, punching in bursts of guitars over mostly bassline, finishing with some over the top Eddie Van Halen soloing. What I can appreciate about these guys beyond the punchy power chords, and frontman Conan Neutron’s (name, perfect) attitude, is that they’re going for broke every time, like Hot Snakes, that massive post-punk energy – the all out party time rock, loud as hell…obviously that’s why they run into trouble with the man trying to bring them down! At the risk of alienating future venues they want you to know they want to rock god dammit! Any band would appreciate this, and should be covered on personal mix tapes and passed around back stage at Bannaroo.
The Hurry Up, Shotgun track “Paths” is dishing out an aural beating of funk-punk, a mix of complex repeated guitar melodies, that progressive bassline and interlockign percussion all off on it’s own…which right away takes me back to the days when I still respected Red Hot Chili Peppers and their combination of styles I hadn’t ever come across before. Borrowing across genre’s, taking their own idiosyncratic parts from everything. I guess you could even go further back with combination’s that Fishbone or Bad Brains pioneered. The energy is similar, and you can hear the decades of rock that came before it in the changes. They don’t ever let up with this completely bizarre core rhythm and frantic, almost metal vibrato vocals. It all comes down into a slow melodic power drone to take the track out on the metal side of things. These two have played together on local bills and this split single brings both of their comparably intense performance styles in friendly competition with each other.
Victory & Associates and Hurry Up Shotgun, Turn Down the Guitars/Paths. Lofty concepts undergird this deceptively simple split seven-inch by two of the Bay Area’s grittiest garage bands. Hurry Up Shotgun provides screamy, dueling-guitar rock in its song “Paths,” while Victory & Associates favors catchy riffs and asymmetrical rhythms. Victory singer Conan Neutron’s voice falls somewhere between a chant and a yowl.
Victory and Associates come on strong with “Turn Down the Guitars,” a catchy lament any loud musician can relate to, namely the eternal running battle between bands who like to play at full volume versus sound engineers worried about preserving their precious PAs. Fronted by vocalist Conan Neutron and rounded out by four other Bay area dudes (all of whom have played, alone or together, in more bands than you can imagine), the band takes pride in whipping up songs that are upbeat and clever without being forced or sappy, and this one is perfectly in that vein, with an interesting arrangement and enormous amounts of energy. The Hurry Up Shotgun track, “Paths,” has a more idiosyncrastic sound; the first half of it sounds like a demented tribe of scattershot punks jumping around to bizarre rhythms along with a lot of shouting, but the second half sounds like slowed-down pop metal, like a radioactive isotope derived from the likes of late-era Husker Du. The single itself is an unusual artifact in its own right — lathe-cut in a limited edition of 100 and made of clear vinyl with no label (making it initially confusing to figure out which side is which, although it’s evident upon listening which song is which). The single version is worth owning just for the swell cover art (hit any of the links below to see for yourself). Both songs are available as downloads via the label or through iTunes, for those sad, sad souls unfortunate enough to not own a record player.
Party Savior/Thousandaire 7″
7 inches blog spot review
The guys from Victory and Associates sent their latest heavyweight gold single on Seismic Wave Entertainment. I love these heavy, thick singles and thick cardstock sleeves. It’s actually printed with a gold ink, not the orangey yellow pictured above, something about this gold and red looks like some kind of ska sleeve or ’50s smooth jazz…it looks like a casino. Maybe it’s just me.
What’s actually going on is crystal clear power pop punk. Catchy power chords and yelling choruses, about…what else? The party. Rocking out, throwing themselves into the riffs and harmonies, everyone’s doing their part. Part Les Savy Fav and part Hot Snakes, it’s scientifically proven punk rhythm and power chords, all at out of control speed.The A-Side,”Party Savior”. If there was any question in what direction they’re taking, then this is their answer. There’s a mythical character called the party savior who is going to turn this whole thing around, be prepared. It might just be Victory and Associates. It might be you…after hearing them. It all comes down to Conan’s vocals, it almost seems like he hardly needs instrumentation. In those moments where they break that frantic melody to keep the track shooting forward with just their harmonized voices and a kick drum, for that fake break, for a chance to kick it all off again. Did you forget how loud it is? They aren’t letting you off that easy. Their going to keep rocking you.
In “Thousandaire”, Conan sets the tone again just vocally, kicking the track off to great back and forth separated guitar riffs that explode together bringing, once again, their massive sound. There’s hardly a moment they pause vocally, if there aren’t multiple harmonies at any given time then someone is calling back in between Conan’s verse. It feels like they literally throw everything they can at the track, there’s no room for a guitar solo. You want to like a band that’s actually inviting you in to go along for the ride as opposed to being left out, fighting to understand what’s going on. I can’t help but picture this live and an audience being on board immediately. Prepare to win.
I could continue thinking about how to describe the energy on both sides of the single, but none of this is ever going to make a difference if you caught them live, they have to be converting fans everywhere.
One Mr. Conan Neutron has been plenty kind in sharing his various music projects with myself and the blog over the past couple years, which I am quite thankful for, being a fan and such. It was only a matter of time after the previous project Mount Vicious dissolved that there would be something new on the horizon. Sure enough the transition to another musical outlet was pretty much instant and with that I am glad to be posting a couple tracks from the latest in Neutron’s cannon Victory and Associates. Along with Neutron in the band are members Paul Miller, Evan Gritzon, Mouse Menough, and Shane Otis whom are all pretty much veterans of rock at this point having been in numerous bands themselves.
With that said, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that Victory and Associates is very much a rock band, and that would be correct. Over the years Neutron has moved steadily from one thing to another, leaving the noise/post-punk style of Replicator behind and shifting gradually towards to a purer rock sound. Mount Vicious was a rather noticeable change, however Victory and Associates takes the fun loving/good time party rock vibe even further and has come out as the purest effort yet. It sort of reminds me of a RFTC at times, obviously minus the horn section, however the energy and anthemic qualities are all there that makes this debut 7-inch from the band a fun time.