Monday, January 2, 2012

Vena Cava, Monkey Knife Fight

Posted By on January 2, 2012, 5:00 PM

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As the year came to a close, I was looking to do some coverage of the end-of-year festivities, but the big show in town made everything a pain in the ass. --- Not that I had anything against the show that shall not be named now, it's just never been an easy task to go in and cover the shows; not like doing them in the cold is any better for anyone involved.

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So like we've done in the past nearing the end of the year, we strutted down to Burt's Tiki Lounge for one of its final shows. This past Friday night, We saw Tupelo Moan ... get pulled from the bill for reasons that weren't entirely explained. So instead we were treated to a rock sandwich with punk band Vena Cava playing the bread with opening and closing sets, and comedic rock duo Monkey Knife Fight playing the meat -- in more ways than one. We chat with both bands, along with providing pictures from the show for you to check out here.



Vena Cava (Andrew, Milo & Brandon)

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Vena Cava on Facebook



Gavin: Hey, guys. First off, tell us a little about yourselves.



Milo: A little over a year ago, a friend of mine let me borrow a drum kit. I had no idea what I was doing, but Brandon and I start playing anyway. A few months in, we invited Andrew to play bass; he'd never touched a bass. We started writing songs at a rapid rate. Andrew and I, through trial and error, eventually learned how to play our instruments -- somewhat so -- and here we are.

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Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?



Milo: I saw fIREHOSE play in the summer of 1990 and it blew me away. After that, I knew I wanted to make music. I begged my parents to buy me an electric guitar, and on my 13th birthday, they gave me a bottom-of-the-line, no-name electric guitar. I played it for years and eventually passed it on to Brandon. I grew up listening to Fugazi, The Minutemen, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., just to name a few.



Andrew: Fugazi, '80s DC hardcore, second-wave ska and bands you've never heard o,f you hipster scum. Oh, and hip-hop, stoner metal, straight-edge power-violence bands, '50s blues, The Velvet Underground, street punk and Frank Sinatra.



Brandon: My friends from back home -- Los Angeles.



Andrew: And Enya.



Gavin: How did you all get together to form Vena Cava?



Brandon: Milo and I are brothers; our parents had forced us together.



Milo: Andrew came much later when we met him at Brewvies. All three of us work there.

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Gavin: What was it like coming together and playing punk shows around the city?



Brandon: We've only played a couple of punk shows. The majority have been with bands that sound nothing like us, but the few punk shows we have played have been great.



Milo: People don't know what to do with us. Some of our songs are very punk influenced, but the majority are hybrids of all of our different musical backgrounds. Andrew grew up listening to hardcore and hip-hop. I grew up listening to punk rock and grunge and Brandon grew up listening to anything he could get his hands on. Plus, I can't play fast enough for us to be a punk band. So we get to play with a wide variety of different bands; it's great.



Gavin: You recently released a self-titled demo that's been getting around the city. What was it like putting that together, and how have people been reacting to it?



Brandon: It got released?



Andrew: We gave it to one guy, Alex Ortega.



Milo: I gave a copy to my sister and e-mailed it to the staff at SLUG.



Brandon: Putting it together was fast and easy thanks to Nika. He came to our practice space and recorded it very quickly.



Milo: And all he asked in return was Del Taco.



Brandon: I also gave a copy to Joe Queer when we opened for The Queers, but it's probably in a garbage can somewhere.

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Gavin: Are there any plans coming up to do a proper album or an EP?



Andrew: No current plans, but it will definitely happen at some point.



Brandon: When people start coming to our shows, we'll put out an album.



Gavin: Have you given any thought to touring out of state, or will you be sticking to home for now?



Brandon: We definitely want to tour.



Milo: We want to tour, but the only car we have is my Chevy Metro.

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Gavin: Moving onto statewide stuff, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?



Milo: I think there are a ton of great bands in Utah, but nobody comes out to see them play. Not even the other bands that are playing that night. If a band is scheduled to play first, they play and leave. If they're second, they show up halfway though the first band, play and leave. And if they're last, they show up at the very last minute and miss the opening bands. It's certainly not true of every band, but it is of the majority. Every time we play a show, we're the first ones there and the last to leave. I think local musicians should do their best to support one another.



Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?



Milo: I feel interviews like this one are a good start. I also feel that local bands should play for free. I'd much rather play to a full house for free than a few dozen people for $50. Stop worrying about trying to "make it" and just do it out of love for music.

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Gavin: Not including yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?



Brandon: Stark Raving Mad, Charlie Don't Surf.



Milo: The finger Me Sillies. They're not an actual band yet, but when they get their shit together they're going to take the world by storm. The Jingoes, Charlie Don't Surf, Simian Greed, Filth Lords, Monkey Knife Fight, The Utah County Swillers, Thunderfist...



Andrew: Filth Lords and The Mooks; they're both awesome.



Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio and how it affects local musicians?



Brandon: I don't really listen to the radio.



Milo: UtahFm was a really great source for local music, but they went under this year. Hopefully, they return in the coming year. Portia Early had a three-hour all-local show. I miss it. I haven't really been listening to KRCL lately, so I don't know what they're up to.

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Gavin: With so many sources out there to get music off the Web, both for publicity and sharing, what are your thoughts on putting out free tracks for anyone to listen to?



Milo: I personally don't like the idea of charging for our music. If we do record a studio album, we'll probably have to charge a buck or two to recoup costs, but other than that I plan on putting free music all over the Internet (as soon as I figure out how to use it). If you'd like a demo, I'll give you one.



Gavin: What can we expect from you guys going into this coming year?



Brandon: Tons of new songs, possibly a full length album and maybe a small tour.



Milo: I'll probably go solo. People love 45 minute drum solos.

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Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?



Milo: We play Friday, Jan. 6, 7 p.m. at The Underground, an all-ages venue, and Friday, Jan. 13 at the Urban Lounge, 9 pm.





Monkey Knife Fight (Dennis McMahon & Lindsey Johnson)

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MKF at Facebook



Gavin: Hey, guys. First off, tell us a little about yourselves.



Dennis: Me llamo Dennis McMahon. I was born a poor black child ... wait; nope, just your average run-of-the-mill fat white guy, trying to make an honest buck in the world of underground arm-wrestling tourneys ... or was that the plot to Over The Top?



Lindsey: Well, I started off a chubby kid with a speech impediment. I don’t recall too much from those days, but I do remember my Grandpa nicknamed me Hoover because I would pick stuff out of the carpet and eat it. I like to tell this story when I’m on a date because I’ve read enough Cosmopolitan magazines to know what gets dudes totally hot and that story definitely qualifies. I don’t eat stuff off the floor anymore, but I’m still a fat kid stuck in a skinny adult body. I often find myself thinking about cake at inappropriate times.

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Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?



Lindsey: My mother used to sing and play guitar, and I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever. When I was really young, I was always listening to a variety of older artists like Elvis, Sinatra, Hank Williams, Fats Domino and so on. During teenage years, it was Ramones, Misfits, Sex Pistols and anything that helped to ease my teenage angst. At about 16, the event that really opened my eyes to the world of music was the first time I heard “Crawling King Snake” by John Lee Hooker. After that, I was hooked on the blues and they remain my one true love to this day. Oh, and if Dennis tells you I used to listen to Hanson when I was 14, he’s lying and you shouldn’t believe him.



Dennis: I love musicals and variety acts. I love and adore old showmen, guys that could sing, dance, and be a suave ladies man while getting laughter. Bobby Darin is king, and I cannot stop celebrating Neil Diamond's entire catalog. But make no mistake --check my yearbook and see a Robert Smith goth wannabe and kidnap me and threaten me with ass-rape and I might find some old angsty teenage poetry, which was usually just Brian Adams songs masked as The Cure.



Gavin: How did the two of you first meet each other and what made you decide to form a band?



Dennis: Somehow we were in front of a keyboard when we got the brilliant idea to write a love song to sausages as sung by Adolf Hitler.



Lindsey: All I remember is it had something to do with Hitler and sausage. Our bond has been stronger than Tennessee mountain oak ever since. After hanging out a few times, we both just kind of knew we were meant to be friends. My mother always told me, “If you ever find someone who is just as dark, twisted, vile, angry, inappropriate, disruptive and enjoys making fun of abortion as much as you do, you'd better hold on to that person.” And that’s exactly what I did. The whole band thing just sort of appeared one day. I’m pretty sure the band formed us instead of the other way around. We basically just started playing guitar during our fucked-up conversations and somehow convinced people that what we were doing was music.

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Gavin: Why did you choose to do a kind of alternative/comedy project?



Dennis: I adore comedy, and cannot digest enough. Being an attention whore, performing in front of people was a natural next step. When it comes right down to it, it continues to be as it started out, a way to entertain ourselves. I was bored to tears going to shows for years and just thought there could be more. And with no discernible talent, I said, "Hey, why not form a penis out of a stocking, stuff it with cotton and use a rotten lime for the head?" And Lindsey replied "I can make that into a song about two rednecks praising their dongs." Kismet.



Lindsey: Mostly because I can’t stomach how seriously people take themselves. My dad always encouraged me to laugh at the bad times off. I took that to heart. It’s amazing to see how offended people can become by the words that a large man in golden spandex is screaming out whilst on stage. People always think that we are trying to make some kind of statement about society, religion or life in general, but the truth is we just think it’s funny to act like assholes on stage. It’s also a great way to humiliate ourselves in front of large groups of people in order to keep us from taking ourselves to seriously.



Gavin: Being how it's rooted in comedy, what's it like for you both coming up with material with your songs?



Lindsey: The writing process has to come natural. We learned not to force ourselves into writing a song a long time ago. Song ideas usually come up in conversation. I then take over at that point and put the idea to music and generally write the lyrics. Most of what Dennis does is completely made up on the spot. I’m confident in saying he’s the funniest man in town. It’s pretty amazing to see what he comes up with, and it’s nice because even if we’re doing the same songs night after night, they are different every time.



Dennis: It comes in waves. It will be murder for months, with nothing ever coming close to interesting or funny. Then one day we'll have a drunken conversation, and kablooomey, we'll find a punch line that involves Mel Gibson screaming the "N-word." We approach it like writing jokes -- setup, punchline. Luckily for me, Lindsey is like a thesaurus for rhyming words with or about dick, so it comes out catchy, makes it a tad more palatable.

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Gavin: What was the reaction from people when you first started going around and playing shows?



Dennis: It was torture, and still is. Starting out, it was always drunken house shows, never anything outside a circle of friends. Of course, we sucked and sucked hard. It's embarrassing to look back and think how awful it was. We also had to trick places by jumping on with friends' bands, or crashing open mics in Provo. For the most part, the bars we would play had very uninterested, to downright angry, reactions. To their credit, Burt's Tiki Lounge, since we started playing there, has always welcomed us with open arms and is still the only place that actually asks us to play.



Lindsey: I remember one of the first times we performed, we went on right after this lesbian rock band. Their fans were all being really cool to us until we went on and played. One of them actually complained to the bartender that we were racist homophobes, which is funny because we have quite a few songs that mock the racist homophobes of the world. Every show we play, people either love us or hate us with a deep passion. We’ve never really had people who react neutrally.



Gavin: A lot of your shows incorporate dramatic stage performances and audience interaction. What made you want to go in that direction with the music, and how do people react to it?



Lindsey: Like I said, they either love us or they hate us. We do it mainly because it makes us laugh. We’re very selfish that way. We’re kind of in our own little world up on stage. My favorite thing to watch during a performance is when Dennis interacts with the audience. He generally will pick out the most uncomfortable, disapproving person in the crowd and try to make them laugh. He will go to great lengths to make that person laugh and it can get really crazy really fast. I honestly don’t know how to describe his behavior during these times. It’s something that you have to see in order to fully understand. It cannot be described with human words. It can, however, be described in Elvish or Klingon.



Dennis: It's always about what makes us laugh. I have no musical talent, so I have to contribute in some form ... if that’s gold stretch pants and fake vaginas, well, by God, that's what I'm gonna do! My grandpappy didn’t die fighting Germans last year for me not to expose my fat tits at the drop of a dime! The audience part is a way for us to say to them, "It's a joke," which you wouldn’t think would be a problem, seeing as how we start the show with me in a tuxedo T-shirt and an American-flag cape. But tell that to a group of "softball enthusiasts" who come to watch some chick sing about her feelings.

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Gavin: You've performed for many years and have some music floating around, but haven't put out any formal releases during that time. Why haven't you created an album of any kind?



Lindsey: Mostly because we’re lazy pieces of shit that will never amount to anything. Also, money is always an issue, as well as trying to find someone that really understands what we are trying to do. We’re not really a typical band that goes in with a perfectly crafted song. Much of what Dennis does in the song is improvised, and when we are put on the spot with a time limit, it makes it really hard to produce something that we both can be proud of. We once spent all night recording and all we had to show for it was hours of Dennis’ drunken ramblings into the microphone, but I secretly cherish those recordings and think it’s some of his best work.



Dennis: It is ever-changing. Something we thought was the funniest thing ever a week ago will make us puke thinking about playing again. I always feel like such a hack repeating the same jokes. Plus with a lot of visual gags, we have been trying to find the balance between funny listen, and funny see. Plus the cost is crazy. So all you recording studios looking for a plug on our Facebook page, that has a whopping 170 Likes, contact us -- seriously.



Gavin: What kind of a challenge has it become as a band to continue to create music that's funny and entertaining without becoming stale or a joke band yourselves?



Lindsey: We’re already more stale than the slice of toast that Jesus’ face appeared in. Jesus toast aside, it can get hard sometimes because we get board of our own jokes really fast. Usually if we don’t have any new material we try to stay off the stage because it’s not really fun for us.



Dennis: Make no mistake, we will all ways be stale and a joke of a band. We get bored with our own shit very quickly. Which is a blessing. If we could ever add a little motivation to that mix, it might make it a little easier on ourselves, because it usually will come down to, "Uh oh, we have an hour till our show; let's write something about our dick or vagina." We have the motto not to over-saturate ourselves. You only have so many credits with your friends, and they will only come out to see you once in a while, so we try not to abuse that. We also limit the times we play so that we try to have new stuff each time. We have probably over 60 songs that we've done over the years -- all shit, of course.

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Gavin: Moving on to statewide stuff, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?



Lindsey: It bums me out to see bars that have resorted to hiring DJs instead of live music. It’s almost a coward move, in my opinion. I would like to see more of the bars and venues take a chance on live bands. That’s why I love Burt’s Tiki Lounge so much. Say what you will about that place, but it’s one of the only bars in town that gives bands of all genres a chance to get up and play. Without them, a band like ours could have never built up a fan base. Other bars have kicked us off stage and told us that we were banned from playing certain songs, but Burt’s is always there for us, waiting with a warm bosom for us to nestle our tear-stained faces into.



Dennis: I do love a lot of the venues, the Garage, Burt's, Urban, Kilby, Woodshed ... I'd put them up with some of the best around the country. It also seems a little disjointed and inconvenient. I'm sorry, but I’ve been an old fuck for a number of years; I can't go to see a show at midnight on a Tuesday.



Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?



Lindsey: Yeah, in addition to what I said earlier about venues being more accepting of all genres, I also believe they’d benefit from a plan that involves group hugs and nachos. Many have told me that I’m dreaming and that something so amazing could never happen, but I refuse to stop believing. I believe true peace can be found in a nacho-centric society.



Dennis: It's hard to say, but I’ve been exposed to local stuff mostly during free events, like the Arts Festival and summer concerts, but you won't get a chance to see us on those bills anytime soon. We once tried to have something "clean," so yeah, there were no swear words, but the content was still "blue." Even the word vagina, while seemingly clinical, can be filthy when put in the wrong hands like the evil genius Lindsey.

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Gavin: Not including yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?



Dennis: This is the part where I just plug my friends bands, right? My true and honest answer is The Rubes, The Rubes, The Rubes. But I am friends with, and love, any Dave Jones project like Old Timer, SubRosa and Dwellers. Any Dave McCall project like Tupelo Moan, Old Timer or The Fucktards, and The Gamma Rays, especially when they have this fat guy come up from the crowd and slave through "Feel Like Makin' Love" by Bad Company for the umpteenth time.



Lindsey: The Rubes, Daniel Weldon’s solo stuff, as well as his two piece The Legendary Porch Pounders, KoKo and Camaro, Tupelo Moan, The Salt Lake Whale Fishers, Old Timer and pretty much anybody out there who keeps the blood of the local scene pumping.



Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio and how it affects local musicians?



Lindsey: This one is tough. The only radio I really listen to anymore is Radio From Hell. Other than that, I just listen to podcasts and music on my iPod. I know KRCL plays a lot of local music and I think that’s pretty amazing, but there are still limitations on what they can or can’t play, say or do. I would love to see a radio station pop up that had no limitations and was free of PR directors and people that get paid to pretend to know what the audience wants just by looking at numbers on paper.



Dennis: In all honesty and sincerity, I haven’t listened to the radio in forever; I'm a slave to podcasts. I mainly stick to the big ones, but have been known to show up to a Geek Show at Brewvies from time to time -- once, a couple of years ago.

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Gavin: With so many sources out there to get music off the Web, both for publicity and sharing, what are your thoughts on putting out free tracks for anyone to listen to?



Dennis: I can't imagine someone ever paying for our shit, without it being some sort of charity thing, so as much as we can, I'll put out free tracks till, how do you say in Anglais, the cows come home.



Lindsey: I’m completely okay with putting out free music. It seems like a waste of time to fight the inevitable evolution of how people get their music. I prefer to embrace it, be happy that people actually want to hear your stuff.



Gavin: What can we expect from you guys over the rest of this coming new year?



Lindsey: This year, we’re actually going to put out an album. Dennis and I haven’t talked about it yet, but I figure if I say in this interview that we will feel obligated to do it. We’ve also made the decision to scrap many of our old songs, so a lot of new material will be popping up this year.



Dennis: Hopefully, an album of some sorts. And 2004 called, so we are going to make it big on YouTube and make that "long paper” and "cash money.” Try and do a whole lot more video content. And 2009 called, so we have been threatening to do a podcast for a year now.

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Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?



Lindsey: Find us on Facebook; we have a few songs posted and it’s where we post our upcoming shows. We’re really hoping to get at least five more people to Like us in 2012



Dennis: MonkeyKnifeFightUtah on YouTube, monkeyknifefight on Facebook ... never-ending pasta bowl at the OG! Available for weddings or drunken orgies -- not the band, just me.





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