This a paper I wrote as a Freshmen at Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL circa 2000. Still a classic. And yes, I got an A.
SAVE OUR FUTURE FROM THE MULLET
A common understanding in our modern society is that child abuse is wrong, even a punishable crime. In the past, children were viewed as commodities that were forced to work in harsh conditions at early ages and could even be sold on the black market. But now children are considered our future and are protected by various government agencies. People will no longer stand by silently as a child is physically abused, so why do we allow children to be punished with the mullet haircut? The mullet is a threat to the well being of all redneck children because it makes them a target for both physical and verbal abuse.
Before we can put a stop to the mullet though, we have to know what a mullet is. The simplest definition of the mullet is a haircut with short hair on the sides and top of the head, with long hair in the back. The mullet is a hairstyle with many aliases as well. Some examples are the “bi-level,” “Camaro cut,” “beaver paddle,” “neck blanket,” “Kentucky waterfall,” “mud flap,” and “butt rocker.” Despite the different names however, the concept behind each variation is the same: I’m white trash.
I recently encountered a middle-aged man with a jerry-curl mullet at the A Street beach, St. Augustine, Florida, and I asked him why he chooses the mullet over a respectable hairstyle. He replied, “Business on top, party in the back.” It is too late to help this man; he has had his mullet for so long that mullet-itis of the cerebrum has occurred. This is a personal theory of mine, in which the weight of the mullet on the back of a human head can cause the brain to shift over a period of several years. This shift causes the logic/common sense area of the brain to shrink; that in turn expands the redneck brain area. This part of the brain is used to store knowledge of cars (especially NASCARs and monster trucks), professional wrestling, and hockey. My theory may be the explanation as to why people with mullets still believe that WWF wrestling is real.
I have no pity for adults who are too ignorant to realize that their mullets make them a walking joke, but children who have been given mullets are oblivious to the lifestyle they are being sucked into and we have a civic responsibility to help them. The schoolyard can be a dangerous place for a kid with a mullet. Because children have little to no inhibitions, they are very blunt and can be cruel to those who are different from them. In this aspect, a kid with a mullet might as well have a target painted on his chest for mocking and ridicule among peers. This causes the mullet-children to grow up looking for acceptance in country music bars and trailer parks, where they are welcomed; thus continuing the vicious mullet cycle.
Since there is no pinpointable origin of the mullet (I believe it is a combination of too much inbreeding and moonshine), the parents who give their children mullet cuts must be held accountable for their actions. As in cases with actual physical abuse, parents who give their child a mullet are blatantly unfit to be responsible for the child’s welfare. Otherwise they would not endanger the child’s mental and physical well being by allowing such an atrocious hair cut to befall the head of a child that they are supposed to be loving and caring for. I believe that harsh penalties, even jail time for repeat offenders, should be enforced on parents who submit their children to mullet abuse.
On their MySpace page, Hockey lists William Blake, Frank O'Hara, and M.I.A. as influences. I won't bother to identify the artist of “Paper Planes” fame, the real Slum Dog Millionaire, but to save the rest of you dear readers from the hassle of opening a new window for Wikipedia, I will identify the two former literary greats. Blake is regarded as possibly the greatest influence of the Beat movement, espoused by both Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. Although Blake was a devout Christian, he was by no means a prude, and believed in divulging in all of the earthly passions and pleasures, even those deemed damnable by more conservative Puritanical keepers of the Church. Blake is also recognized as an intellectual forefather of modern anarchy. O'Hara was very much a proponent of living in the moment. He spent much of his early life working at the MOMA in New York City, where he was a contemporary of Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and many other avant-garde artists of the '40s and '50s. This led to an obvious synthesis between visual art and the written word for O'Hara, as a poet.
The first thing I notice is that there, in these influences, is an English poet (Blake) and an American poet (O'Hara), just like Hockey now has an English label (Virgin) and an American label (Capitol). But beyond their newfound commercial success, which has recently landed their music on video game soundtracks and in national television advertisements, lies an undeniable sound that almost dares its listeners not to tap their feet and nod their heads, if not break out into freak-nasty jive-walking altogether. Their self-described “new wave / soul / classic rock” style was born out of a desire to get their audiences to react. “We wanted to make dance music that was infectious,” explains Jeremy 'Jerm' Reynolds, bassist and founding member, who along with lead singer and guitarist Ben Grubin, started playing together about nine years ago in Los Angeles while attending the University of the Redlands. Now hailing from the blustery indie hotbed of Portland, OR, Hockey now includes Brian White on guitar, Anthony Stassi on drums and Ryan Dolliver on the keys.
Before reading any further, I should admit that I am a Hockey fan by random chance. I won a local radio contest drawing that gave me and my significantly beautiful other access to a private studio session with some hot, new band called “Hockey” that I had never heard of. I needed an original date, so even if the music sucked, it would be a good effort romantically. I was in. We arrived on a chilly, clear night to a long, large corrugated steel building, which was basically an industrial strip mall, in the sandy eastern outskirts of San Diego. It looked completely unassuming from the exterior, but inside the Secret Cedar Studios, the oriental rugs on the floor and heavily veneered and knotted, natural wooden paneling created a warm, friendly, gather-round the campfire atmosphere. There was no rockstar, 'us-and-them' vibe as the lucky listeners packed into the sound-proofed room. Instead, the young men tuning their instruments and swigging beers had the nervous energy of a group of nerds at a science fair, excited yet unsure of the outcome of the experiment they were about to reveal to the gathered onlookers. Stassi even seemed to be bored and embarrassed at times, reduced to playing a maraca, but the sounds produced by the band as whole were rich and layered and varied, filling the odd -angled wooden chamber with organic, soulful rhythms.
The next night, at the Casbah, was quite the opposite, in both sound and energy. The reverb of the amps off the black walls were peeling the paint; Hockey, plugged in, played a raucous set that left the beer-soaked and sweaty audience yelling for more. Ben's vocals are not only harmonic, but his ability to successfully vary his delivery is perhaps his strongest suit, shifting from a didactic spitfire a la Bob Dylan's “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” to a neo-soulful crooning a la . . . like a cross between Prince and Rod Stewart. I know what you're thinking, but listen to their song “Work” and tell me I'm wrong. Not only do the vocals work musically, but the lyrics are cohesive, honest, and often smart. The sound of Hockey falls in the realm of The Strokes, The Sounds, Black Kids and The Bravery. A bit of indie rock, drum machine, 80s keys, and disco flare round out the eclectic harmonic signature that is Hockey.
What follows is an interview conducted on the sidewalk with Jeremy 'Jerm' Reynolds just before he went onstage at the Casbah on January 18, 2010 in San Diego. The band was headed to Japan the next day.
What modern artists, visual or otherwise, influence you and your music?
Jean-Michel Basquiat. I know he died in 1997, but he killed it. He was amazing. Just the energy that his work expressed. Sort of the frantic, momentary insanity that those pieces captured, is very inspiring. To think about doing that with music, to have that sort of loose aesthetic, that's just expressing a feeling, an emotion, whatever you feel passionate about. He's my big influence. I do the artwork for everything, he's been a big influence on me visually as well as musically.
I noticed you did the artwork for the album cover. Do you want to make any comment on that . . .
(It represents) the four stages of the evolution of humanity . . . into “Mind Chaos.” The great shutting off; and then, the great turning back on.
What's the difference between your '04 album, “Smoking Weed in the President's Face,” both creatively and in post-production, as far as doing something more indie, compared to your new album, “Mind Chaos,” which has been backed by major labels on both sides of the pond?
Yeah, “S.W.I.T.P.F.” was a concept record for the great election of 2004 wherein John Kerry was a huge disappointment. That was just us in a basement in college actually, but similar to that, with the record we just did, it's us in a basement in Portland in our house. So, one was self-released, one was released by Capital Records; but, the aesthetic is us. It's us doing our thing. There's no producer, essentially nobody else involved in the creative process, including the visual art. It's kind of a for us, by us kind of thing, for whatever that's worth. That's how its come out.
Are you guys feeling more at home, artistically, here in the US or across the pond in the UK?
There's something to be said for being out of your element. Being over there, especially in countries where I don't speak the language, that can really open a lot of doors, creatively. Just to be uncomfortable all the time, or constantly processing new bits of information, or new experiences - seeing new places, meeting new people. But being in America is cool too, it has its own perks. And, whatever, I don't know what we're up to over here, just going around playing, seeing friends, that's always cool. Playing over there, you don't know anyone. Just show up and leave. But I've gotten to stay in touch with a lot of people that I know and love, that's kind of cool.
I got this last tidbit off of Wikipedia, so please excuse me if it's wrong. Apparently, JC Penney is using a remix of “Too Fake” in an ad campaign . . .
Yeah, that happened for about four long and painful weeks, in the summer of 2009.
Could you walk me through the irony of creating a song like “Too Fake” and then selling rights to it for a commercial campaign?
I suppose that was funny to us, basically. Most of it involved not really knowing what we were getting into. Not knowing it was going to be all over the TV, the movies, all those sorts of things. But to corrupt their art form with our own message of non-conformity, or whatever you want to call that, was poetic and cool, and we got paid for it, too. It's about staying on the road and being able to tour, and having people come to see you. All that takes a lot of money, and . . . so we got some money out of JC Penney. It's funny, it's very ironic, it's very interesting that it's that song, and it was used to sell clothing to teenagers. But I suppose that's the world we live in, and if we can add that bit of irony, and laugh about it later, that's cool.
How would you describe getting the opportunity to work with Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads?
Yeah, “Song Away.” A song we did with Jerry a couple years ago. That was great. We got the opportunity through our manager at the time. Our manager knew him from years back and he liked our demo and invited us to his studio. Actually, I learned a lot from Jerry, but I learned even more from perhaps from his engineer, this guy E.T., who was like the studio guy who had done all kinds of work through the '80s. He did Bob Marley's “Legend,” he remixed and remastered all that stuff, so I would just hang out with him and I picked up a ton of really awesome information. He was just kind of spewing that (knowledge), he's been in studios for like 25 years. To see the two of them work together . . . Jerry is like a dad now, you sort of have to remind yourself that he was in the best band of all time. 'Cuz he's just having a beer on the couch, playing on his laptop. It's kind of cool and funny, but looking back on it, what an insane opportunity. And Talking Heads are one of the biggest influences on the band, easily. Just in terms of wanting to recreate that strange pop aesthetic. That this is pop music, but we've put it on its side, or put something into that's more . . . strange, or esoteric or artistic or expressive or whatever. But at the same time it's accessible and tasty. Poppy.
You guys aren't an overtly political band, but your song “Four Holy Photos” and the title of your '04 EP deal directly with the frustrations born of being an American under the Bush regime. Could you extrapolate on how the greater world of politics and international affairs can either help or hinder the creative process within the confines of living in a time of the loss of personal civil liberties, terrorism, etc?
I could definitely speak to that, that's a great question. Certainly the years of the Bush administration were very . . . uh, very oppressive. Just in general, I don't think for us (as artists) specifically, but whatever was in the air, was so backwards and so terrible, that to be a creative person, a conscientious person during that time was very difficult. I suppose there's always something going on with our government, it doesn't just include Bush, but one thing you can do, and what historically people have done for many generations, is to channel that, that dissatisfaction into artwork. All great art comes from a sense of unease, in some form or another. “Four Holy Photos” specifically is a lot about imperialism. About people from one area of the world traveling to another area of the world, and setting up there. And what that dynamic is about and how that story is our story, and it continues to be acted out all across the world, for good or ill.
Were there actually four holy photos that inspired the song?
- You know, I think that part of the song is about a fortune teller who goes around and shows you these four pictures, and whatever picture you look at, that's supposed to tell you something about who you are, where your life is going. I'm not sure how that ties in with the imperialistic theme, but it's all floating around in there, somehow.
Could you explain the greater notion behind the song “Wanna Be Black”? In a modern context, the notion of white, middle-class kids just coming out and saying, “I want to be black.” Is it as simple as that? Or is this more of a Harlem Renaissance, black is the new blue, or what is the statement here?
- I suppose for us, it's just about honesty. Brutal honesty. I think a lot of our music, the content is about flat honesty and truth. Ben (lead singer) grew up in New York City, and that was his experience growing up. He was like a pretend thug, and got called out for it. The song is just an honest portrayal of his experiences doing that, and trying to turn that into a greater commentary on trends, and culture, and hipster-ism. As far as the race issue, it's pretty sticky. Honesty is honesty, you have to take it for what it is. Some people will appreciate it, some people might not. It's sort of at the edge there. I think a lot of our content of our music, even our band name is sort of at the edge of what people would expect or find comfortable.
I first saw you guys last night at a private acoustic session at Secret Cedars Studio, I have seen your “Bandstand Busking” videos in London, and know about your misfortunes with onstage power outages at Lollapooloza. With this experience, can fans expect any polished acoustic recordings in the future, or will it remain something that just kind of happens, and is part of the gig?
- It's something that bands do a lot. I guess I didn't know that, or some bands do a lot. Some bands flat out refuse to do it. But you end up in situations all the time where people will want you to play, they'll want you to do something that's 'their thing,' you know, one time only. It's not just pressing play on your record and having people hear it. We do it for that reason. Because people seem to appreciate it, it's fun, it's interesting. Doing the songs, and they're rock songs really, at heart. So to sit down with an acoustic guitar and trying to put 'em together, it's kind of a challenge and cool. It doesn't always go over that well. Sometimes, it really sucks. Sometimes we're like, “Why are we doing this?” I know bands, lots of bands just don't do that. The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Passion Pit, MGMT, all those bands, who have done very well, just won't . . . if you want to hear the songs, put the record on, or come to the show. There's something to that, but . . . making new friends, like the thing we did last night, and getting to hang out, that was fun. And that's not even the first time we've done that on this tour. This tour has been like five days in the making, so . . . it happens quite a bit.
AC Lounge, Venice Beach, CA – CD Release Show – October 8, 2009
Words by Trey Highton
One of my first memories of Mick Kelleher was watching him burn bootleg copies of Britney Spear's first album, which he was selling like hotcakes in his high school. This was in the hay-day of Napster, and Mick was on the forefront. So I guess you could say, he's been in the record making biz for a while now. Uprooted from his childhood home of Virginia Beach just before his senior year of high school, Mick's family moved to The Woodlands of north Houston, Texas - truly a world away from everything he had known growing up. But rather than sulk in his isolation, he focused on his music and wakeboarding to maintain his sanity. I remember the first time I visited him in Texas, he could barely make it through a sloppy rendition of The Beatles' “Blackbird.” Only a short time later, I was surprised to see Mick grab an open mic in a bar in Costa Rica and completely wow the crowd. The house band didn't even want to go back on. Since then, Mick has had the good fortune of playing at the Winter X-Games, the House of Blues in Dallas, and countless venues throughout the LA area. Mick and his band are even going to be featured in an episode of HGTV's “Divas & Daughters of Dallas” on October 18th. His music has progressed from a solo acoustic act to a full on five man band that can sound like a jazzed up G-Love one minute and then turn around and hit you with love-struck heart-broke avant-garde blues the next. Mick's got a surprising pair of lungs and an ability to deliver his lyrics in a spitfire rhythm that is uncanny.
So how did this bootlegger turn into a rising blockbuster in the burgeoning music scene of LA? I tracked him down just before his second CD release show and party at the AC Lounge in Venice Beach on October 8th to find out. What follows was my conversation with MK & The Gentlemen over a delicious dinner of BBQ and beer at the world famous Baby Blues.
OE: OK gentlemen, we're going to start easy and broad . . .
MKG: I like starting with easy broads, haha . . .
OE: Do you guys have any influences, musical or otherwise? Do you identify yourselves with any larger genre or artistic movement?
MKG: Well, we have defined our sound as “frunk” - funk rock. We're trying to be on the cusp of not only what we like to play but what's current too, so we're kind of heading into indie rock too. What we do is indie I feel like. Some of the new stuff we've been writing and working on together has been a little more on the indie side, a deviation from your typical blues progression song.
OE: If you had to give your music a celebrity name analogy, it would be . . .
MKG: Scott Baio on Viagra.
OE: Would you say your music is a product of your environment? If so, would you expand on the importance of place, the importance of geography within the context of your music, because it seems that the places you guys have lived or visited in your past have had a strong influence on your body of work.
MKG: At least 3 or 4 of our songs are about the city (LA). The first time I ever lived in a big city was Madrid, and that's where I wrote “Boom Boom Yeah.” But absolutely, I mean I'm inspired every time I go to New York, every time I go abroad, whether we're hanging at the beach, there's always surroundings that are absolutely inspiring. . . I mean there's a pulse in New York that's like no other, it's not like California, it's not like Texas, but then you know to the Texas thing, we've got a little more country-vibe tracks and that's a direct result of surroundings. So for me, inspirationally, that's everything. It's your surrounding, it's the people, it's what you see, what you do, the girls you . . . you know what I'm saying. We're a relatively new group, these guys together, but you know, for instance, the new track you heard, it's about the city. “Gone” is about leaving Venice and going somewhere else. It's about getting out, it's about doing. New instances, meeting new people, it brings up something new to your mind and it's always something good to write about. It's different and it's stimulating, it's not the day-in day-out routine, you know? I think on top of all that too, a lot of these songs may be written in other cities, or based in other cities, but the outlook is seen through the looking glass that is Venice, that is southern California. I think we have a very definitive California sound. We're not definitive of the California sound, it's the other way around. Being in California makes us sound a certain a way, I feel. I know we've all spent time in the mid-west, in the mountains, on the east coast, etc etc, but until you get five guys together in a room in Venice Beach, CA, you don't know what that mish-mash is going to sound like.
OE: Rolling off of that, rolling off of physical geography, and the notion of Venice as an epicenter for you guys, describe your experience working with Todd Hannigan at Brotheryn Studios and recording up in Ojai on this latest project, a bit removed from the bright lights, big city. What did that bring to your creative process on this album?
MKG: It's definitely removed. It's kind of a trip, a little bit. It's literally up in the country. It's cool though, it helps you focus. That vibe, I think Todd kind of transcends that northern California surf rock sound, and that definitely comes out on a couple of tracks. I just love getting up there and getting away, being on a ranch. It was very, very peaceful. Hannigan's recording studio is called “Haley Ranch.” It's this big ranch up there where he's got a recording studio. It's so removed, you step outside and you're looking at hills and horses, and it's always cold up there, no matter what time of year you're up there. It's sweet, it definitely had an influence.
OE: I know you guys have an HGTV episode coming up, and I was just wondering if you could walk me through your song “Highland Park.” The twangy guitars, the House of Blues venue that you got to play for the show, in association with the importance of place that we've been discussing. I know this show that your appearing on is “Divas & Daughters of Dallas” and I was just really wondering about some of the lyrics that involved in this song, the refrain of the chorus goes: “my sassy sexual machine, my girl from Highland Park.” If I understand correctly, most of these girls in episode are around sixteen or seventeen, so how does that sit with you as gentlemen chasing jailbait?
MKG: For the record, I grew up in Dallas, and this song was written way before this promotional TV gig ever came to fruition. We went down to Texas, we didn't really know what to expect. We walked into a show where there was a nice mix of like 14 – 29 year old girls, basically. This song is kind of an exaggeration. But all that stuff we sing about, partying and f*cking, blah blah blah, it's like exaggerated real life situations, like a spoof or a parody. Highland Park is like the Beverly Hills of Dallas, so it's easy to write about, it's fun to write about. So we wrote that song, we went down there to play the show and it was definitely an interesting experience. There were some broken phones and missed flights coming home, you know burning the candle from both ends. We love Dallas, lets just say that, and we all slept in our own beds after that show.
OE: Do you have anything to say about that country twang that's so prominent in that song and also getting to play the House of Blues in general? Was that your first and only show at the HOB?
MKG: Yeah, and honestly that was probably one of our better shows. The show was produced really well, they had lighting and smoke, cameras everywhere. The House of Blues was a great venue, the sound was killer, we got to do a proper sound check, which we're not used to. The whole country twangy thing, you know growing up in Dallas, just kind of brings everything full circle, which is crazy, now that I think about it. Coming back to Texas to play that song, for that episode, for our friends in Dallas, it was like a big reunion.
OE: So rolling right off of that, is your sole motivation for making music getting laid? As evident in songs like “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” or are you a true post-modern pre-apocalyptic romantic? And if so, what place or importance does romanticism have in the world today where we're faced with the daily dilemmas of global warming, the world falling apart, etc, what kind of place does this kind of happy-go-lucky, kick your shoes off and forget about your worries music have in the world today?
MKG: Ok, what I was going to say, thank you Benny, is no, it's not to get laid. The purpose of writing about girls and all that is not to get laid, but, fringe benefits. It's like a musicians 401k. No, but honestly, a lot of the songs, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, a lot of these songs were kind of inspired by going out and partying and hanging out with girls, but like I said earlier, a lot of it is just real life, only exaggerated situations. “A Beautiful Plan” is all about leaving one girl and meeting a new girl, and it's so inspirational. I know it might sound cheesy, but it's literally what drives us sometimes. You know how it is, it's like when you're bummed on some chick, that's sometimes when you write your best stuff. That's when it comes out. It's like, well that's what happened and you know maybe it's an escape, maybe it's a segway to something else, but yeah, girls make the world go round, and MK & The Gentlemen go round. I've also gotta say, that a lot of that depends on your definition of romanticism. In my opinion, humble as it is, music, or your life in general, is based around a couple of things. The people you meet, places you've been, and the other arts that you've had the benefit of seeing in your life. And lets be honest, when you're in your twenties and early thirties, women make up a majority of the people of you meet. And you can't just skip over the rest of the album, it's about going to NYC or going to Madrid or going back to Dallas. I mean that's romantic. When you're leaving where you're comfortable, and you're going someplace else and seeing something else, that's romantic. That's a story, you know, that's a novel, a movie waiting to happen, or an album waiting to happen. Seeing the world you know, you open your eyes.
OE: Completely off track now, could you talk me through the prominence of the keyboard in “Twenty.” Are we going to be seeing more of that, are the keys becoming more and more prominent?
MKG: The keys in “Twenty” are kind of like a blues thing. To answer your question, yes, we want to bring the keys in more, but in kind of an indie, kind of a more obscure sound. The keys in “Twenty,” as a matter of fact, I was with Todd Hannigan and he was like “Hey, I've got a friend that would be epic, maybe we should lay keys down. Just wait 'til you meet this guy.” We meet the guy, the guy used to tour with James Brown, we called him that week, but he was in the hospital because he got gangrene on his big toe, probably from drinking and had to get it cut off, so he's in the hospital. Couldn't wake up until a month later, the guy is like seventy, just more soul than anybody you'll ever meet. I literally had to sit next to him with a piano and a guitar and it took us, even to do four measures, it took like ten takes. But when he got it, he got it. It was sick, I've never seem someone play a Hammond like that. It was like sitting next to history.
OE: So we're gonna close this out kind of easy, when did you start playing and why? And when did you start writing your own songs? Do you want to walk me through that move to Texas and what that did to your personality, as such an extrovert in Virginia Beach, and what effect that my have had on you in becoming a more creative person?
MKG: Growing up in Virginia Beach, and we talked about this today as well, going to that Dave Matthews concert as a kid, I was like that's incredible, I'm going to start playing guitar. I know it might sound cheesy, but if anyone can entertain that many people, make that many people stoked, I want to try that out. It started in Virginia Beach, you know parties, hanging out, the guitar, and being that extrovert back there, and then moving to Texas, I didn't know anyone. It was literally like a blessing in disguise. I could've gone to college in Virginia, and probably just screwed around for four years, not saying I didn't . . .So moving to Texas, anyways, I had a lot of time on my hands and not a lot to do. So I started writing, and getting serious about it. I met my buddy Wes down there who pushed me to kind of start playing music and thinking outside the box, doing what you do and to be confident about what you write. But the other half of that, moving out to California, with these guys, I'll write it, but these guys will cultivate it. Unless I had these guys to really enhance that, it would just be a stick in the mud. I mean I could be a guy with a guitar, but the real creative process starts . . . I mean I might have lyrics, I know what the lyrics need to be, but as far as parts and bridges and melodies and harmonies, it happens when I sit down with these guys. That's probably seventy percent of it, to be honest. For instance, I'll play a song, or a scratch, just a few chords, and these guys will fill in with what they feel like, or how they hear it, which is how it comes together. It's always different, which is cool. It's a direct reflection of where we've been, what we did.