It takes a certain kind of person to write lyrics that can reach deep down into the souls of other people. Unfortunately for us, the songwriters who are most often connected with their touchy-feely side are usually jeans-and-T-shirt college boys with a hand-me-down guitar, an ex-girlfriend and a dream.
Old Time Relijun, an Olympia-based trio, also tries to touch the soul. But not quite in a nice-guy kind of way -- more in a "everyone rip their soul out and play with it for awhile" fashion. It's not always easy on the ears, and it's not music that you'd necessarily want to sleep to -- but it's certainly the work of seekers and soul-searchers.
Arrington de Dionyso, the band's singer and songwriter, got his start here in Spokane writing music when he was in junior high. He recorded his songs on cassette tapes after being encouraged by an instructor, but didn't start performing them until he moved to Olympia.
"Spokane is a city with a lot of potential energy and also a lot of darkness," de Dionyso says of his former home. He thinks that the city lost a lot of creativity around the turn of the century, and thinks that Spokane has been hostile toward creativity since.
"At the same time," he says, "a true creative pioneer never gives a rip about hostility, so I will always want to play my music in Spokane as long as I can find an audience."
He joined up with Aaron Hartman, an amplified upright bass player, and then drummer Bryce Panic, on New Year's Day, 1995. Old Time Relijun joined the Olympia-based K Records roster and soon started shaking and shocking small audiences around the country.
Years later, with a new drummer, a new album lined up for release and a massive following in Italy -- -- "For some reason we are hugely popular [there] and I don't know why," de Dionyso says -- the band is still going, and doesn't plan to stop any time soon. They're also kicking off a new national tour with Calvin Johnson's Dub Narcotic Sound System, and are set to stop in Spokane on Oct. 13 at The Shop.
De Dionyso's lyrics are delusional and full of genius at the same time.
"The two most important things about these songs," he explains, "is that they open up a portal-way to worlds unexplored, and that they be eminently and infectiously danceable."
De Dionyso draws a lot of his inspiration from dreams, as well as from his favorite Bible verses, which he says, add a "heightened sense of drama and erotic tension."
While the lyrics are the motivators for the band's music, they aren't what make Old Time Relijun such a musical gem. It's the way that the lyrics channel through the band into one raucous performance and the way they move de Dionyso to onstage screams, shakes and convulsions. They are a performance band, one unlike any other you've probably ever witnessed. De Dionyso vocals range from throaty punk-rock catcalls to banshee-like screams -- all just before completely losing his mind like a peyote-eating Yeti.
"Sometimes when I am singing, it is as if something grabs me from the inside and takes hold of me and won't let go," he says. "I have always felt like there was a spirit guiding me, and directing me to sing for people."
If you can somehow get past the idea that the band sounds like they are performing open-heart surgery on de Dionyso without anesthetics, you'll realize how truly unique and passionate the band members are about their music -- and about their quest.
"If anything, my hope is to address the plight of modern man's search for meaning, connectedness, and true liberation, in an age that presents us with many false hopes and fake choices," de Dionyso says. "There is one religion, and that is love."
Two-Night Riot -- The Makers are one of the few bands this town has ever produced that, from day one, made perfect sense to me. From the time my friends and I first heard the "Haymakers'" claustrophobic and demented cassette-only basement recordings, to the last time I caught one of the band's electrifying live shows, they've caressed both my reptilian hindbrain and my cortex with dose after dose of pure rock 'n' roll essence.
Opportunity rears its sweaty head once again as The Makers play back-to-back shows at week's end -- an all-ages gig at The Detour with Mark Mallman and Gorilla & amp; Rabbit on Thursday night, and an all-drinkin' show at the B-Side with The D.T.s and Pistol for a Paycheck on Friday.
Raised in Spokane, the members of the Makers were nevertheless misunderstood, even despised, early in their careers by local scenesters too conservative or too unschooled to buy into the band's sincere, frenzied garage-rock homage. Violence sometimes erupted. Fingers were pointed. And the group often found itself banned from local venues. Fortunately, all the adversity only stiffened the band's resolve. They eventually split with the scene and took their show on the road. In fairly short order, they were hailed internationally in the rock press and elsewhere as devout garage-rock revivalists, as notoriously snappy dressers -- and as a great rock 'n' roll band. Their impressive discography (available on Estrus and Sub Pop) includes such latter-day classics as Psychopathia Sexualis, Rock Star God and last year's Strangest Parade.
Yet for all past solidarity and triumph, there have been a couple of recent shakeups of note in the Makers camp. Early this year, the group's original drummer, Jay Maker, cordially parted ways with the rest of the group -- vocalist Mike, bassist Don and guitarist Jamie -- and was replaced with Jimmy (Chandler) Maker (who, incidentally, has recently returned to the states after touring Europe as drummer with The Cramps). Founding member Tim Maker, who exited the band long ago only to return in recent years to lend his genius to the mix, has once again taken his leave.
"The five-piece was great for doing different songs and for allowing me to play keyboards on some songs," says Jamie Maker. "But we just feel sharper and more focused as a four-piece."
Now chew on this: Jamie also reports that as soon as new drummer Jimmy got back from the Cramps' tour just a week ago, he was unfortunately called away due to a serious family emergency.
"He basically got off the plane from The Cramps tour and onto another plane to Denver," he says.
The Makers were concerned about the well-being of their newest member: "He's really a nice guy. And a great drummer," says Jamie. Still, they soon realized that "Hey, we've got a couple of shows to do here." Fortunately, they quickly found someone fully qualified to sit in.
"We're doing the Spokane shows with our old pal and Makers original drummer, Jay," explains Jamie. "For this week anyway, we're back to the four-piece lineup -- Mike, Don, Jay and myself -- that played the Big Dipper for the first time on Oct. 27, 1995. He's excited about it, and of course we're excited about it. Having him playing the show with us is just gonna be a blast."
And with two shows scheduled this week, there's really no excuse not to go get yer ya-ya's out -- Makers-style.
No Longer a Secret -- The all-ages scene in Spokane will play host to a group of outsiders on Oct. 11 at Club Soda. Municipal Source will be bringing their hook-heavy, power-punk rock 'n' roll all the way from Cheney for the CD release party of the moment, celebrating the arrival of the band's Top Secret EP.
Municipal Source isn't about changing the world, beating you up or casting great philosophical questions into the great beyond. Remember, these guys are from Cheney. Not that Cheney is incapable of fostering great thinkers, but teenagers here (and elsewhere, right?) are mostly about hanging out and having a good time. "We sit around a lot," mutters singer Aaron Shaber.
But by the sound of things, these guys also put a lot of effort into writing anthems for their teenage brethren, who are unjustly held down by the oppression of boredom. And they want to get all they can out of their youthful energy by going for broke. "Our maximum amount of fun in Cheney is driving to Spokane," Schaber says. That drive led them to The Detour last weekend.
Last week, the band opened for those buzz-worthy K Records team players, the All-Girl Summer Fun Band, impressing the crowd of pop-punk devotees and jaded indie rockers. "It was our first show in while," Schaber relates. "It was a good refresher and we had a good time. People seemed to dig it."
A good showing at a club like the Detour can prove instrumental for a band like Municipal Source. They've spent the last couple of years building a following and have turned in solid back-to-back performances at BOBfest. The guys recently spent time at the College Road studio putting together Top Secret, an effort that will hopefully further their cause on the local scene. The band is encouraged by the quality of the recording.
"I'm very proud of this CD," says guitarist Luke Casey. "The last disc was hurried. We recorded like seven songs on the last day."
Municipal Source will be spreading their brand of "Power Slop" across the Northwest starting next week while utterly dispelling any notions about what they may or may not sound like.
"If you're looking for meaning in a song, then go read a poem," Schaber says. "We're about keeping it fresh."