bigmouth strikes again
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bigmouth strikes again

Band Alternative Avant-garde

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Aug
22
bigmouth strikes again @ Cathedral Room in Der Maennerchor

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Aug
08
bigmouth strikes again @ The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

May
17
bigmouth strikes again @ Bloomfield Bridge Tavern

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

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This band has not uploaded any videos

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We might as well start this article by clearing the proverbial room: Bigmouth Strikes Again is an avant-garde instrumental band that gets its name from an old Smiths album and its song titles from Dave Eggers novels.

Anyone still here? Good. You just gained 15 scene points. Fortunately, there are even better reasons to check out this band.

Usually, instrumental bands swing one of two ways: in the direction of pretentious self-indulgence or transcendent musical beauty. Bigmouth Strikes Again, thankfully, has chosen the path of righteousness. Musically, they don't so much bridge the gap, but rather toggle violently back and forth between, the fuzzed-out bliss of My Bloody Valentine and the ethereal drama of Sigur Rós. Theirs are not so much songs as movements, tangled, dynamic orchestrations that rely as much on the ebb and flow of emotions as any kind of dictated song structure.

As is the case with revered instrumentalists Explosions In The Sky, Bigmouth Strikes Again fills the vocal gap with harmonies provided, or at least hinted at, by the guitar work (bass included). This sort of musical model requires some effort on the part of the listener, but for that same reason can yield some powerful returns.

"I think [the] guitar melody is very much a vocal line," says bassist Caleb Smith, "and that the music can emote as much with tempo, melody and energy as it could with actual, recognizable lyrics and vocals."

"Non-verbal expression, while the most primal form of creativity, can be the most rewarding," adds drummer Elliott Gottloeb.

This, of course, is totally artsy-fartsy, at least to folks who are unfamiliar with the concept of an instrumental rock band. The performances are more of an implosion than anything else; audience members will likely see as much of the band's backs as their faces. It's an introverted artform that, for the casual bar-goer, can be a bit of a put-off.

"We're not afraid of 'inactive listeners,' meaning that we can be just background music," Gottloeb says, "like the score to the movie that is your life."

So, why would a band go this route? Why sacrifice commercial success in favor of artsiness that might alienate half of your audience?

Well, if you ask Bigmouth guitarist Chris Hoke, that question needs to be inverted. "Why the fuck would someone spend their hard-earned money on a Britney Spears album?" he asks. "Or, how can so-and-so sell out a stadium? Or, who would ever pay for this movie to be made? Or, how is Danielle Steel a bestseller?"

In other words, Bigmouth's music is art for art's sake, as opposed to money's sake, getting some ass's sake, etc. Any ounce of compromise and you might as well start championing mediocrity like all of the other Nickelback and Godsmack sound-alikes in the area.

Art in general is a big part of this band's world. Rather than looking to likeminded bands for inspiration, the members of Bigmouth Strikes Again gravitate towards other mediums – graphic design, painting, illustration, film – in part because that's what they're surrounded by during their day jobs. "When we slide into music mode, it transfers nicely into the sound," says Smith, also the co-founder of Moviate, a Harrisburg-based organization dedicated to the promotion of independent film.

Bigmouth Strikes Again's debut album, Ascender/Descender, will be released this month, complete with hand-stamped, hand-drawn individual packaging. While it might not exactly be their ticket to the "TRL" charts, I somehow get the impression that the band will survive.

-March, 2008, Fly Magazine, Jeff Royer - FLY MAGAZINE


espite the name Bigmouth Strikes Again are most definitely not a Smiths cover band. In fact they are from a different musical sphere altogether, one that will have you thinking of several post-rock visionaries. Their debut 'Ascender/Descender' is vibrant and adventurous and quite an achievement given that the quartet recorded it during a short break away from real life mundanity. The album has plenty of big hitters with the best of them challenging the great Explosions In The Sky for emotive impact. Take the opener 'You Shall Know Our Velocity', which although quite short punches the air around it with the ferocity of a space shuttle at take off. It helps of course that the build up is absent; instead Bigmouth Strikes Again lay their noisiest cards on the table within the opening exchanges. If any of you remember Whipping Boy's effervescent debut 'Submarine' this will surely rekindle the flame you once held for it. Close your eyes and dream of distant worlds.

-KD - MP3 HUGGER


Discography

"Ascender / Descender" CD
6 songs.

All songs streaming on myspace

Photos

Bio

“If you really want the scene in your backyard, you have to support it,” lamented the proprietor of the local dive bar slash original music venue as he closed for good the joint where Bigmouth Strikes Again had made its first live recordings. He was moving the bar forty minutes south from Harrisburg, Pa., a city with a simultaneously struggling and striving arts scene, to York, Pa., a city striving and struggling to be more like its neighbor to the north. Just a year earlier, one member of the band had made exactly the opposite move, trying to escape the city that the band Live famously dubbed “Shit Towne.” Still, Bigmouth Strikes Again is doing its best to support the scenes in both cities with sincere instrumental post rock that flows pensively like the river connecting them, occasionally overflowing its banks.

It’s honest music that comes from an honest place. A place where “the scene” is small enough that it has never doubled over under its own weight and become something sarcastic and desperate, never lost its “joie de vivre”—the title of the final song on the band’s debut album, Ascender/Descender. In fact, song titles can tell you just about all you need to know about the band members themselves. They are “Teachers and Designers.” The guitarists, Jim and Chris, went to the same graphic design school (albeit not at the same time). The drummer, Elliott, teaches high school math and the bassist, Caleb, is a film and video teacher. They pull inspiration from everywhere: music, design, films, poetry, life, and—even though the songs themselves have no lyrics—books, like Dave Eggers’ “You Shall Know Our Velocity,” also the title of the album’s opening track.

Despite the fact that it has quickly matured and a found a like-minded audience, Bigmouth Strikes Again is still in its infancy. And how do you write a biography for a baby? There is conception—the moment when passion leads to action and action leads to the first spark of life, so small that it can go undetected for weeks or months. There is birth—when the startled being is suddenly, painfully naked in front a crowd of strange smiles. There is growth—when the eyes and ears and hands and feet learn to talk to each other, when the group becomes an individual, the individual becomes a person, and the light of personality begins to shine through.

Conception is difficult to pinpoint. It could have been before they even knew each other, somewhere between teenage revolt and adult pacification. It could have been when Chris and Jim first met in York and started to talk about books, music, art, and all the things you weren’t supposed to talk about in a town that manufactures dumbbells and Harleys. It could have been when Elliott, the wheeling-dealing drummer transplanted from a Maryland beach town, was able to wrangle them all into a session. Or when Chris struck the first simple notes of “Breaker Morant,” or when Jim laid a few shimmering chords over the top, or when Caleb added his savvy bass playing and knack for composition to the mix.

Regardless of where it was conceived, Bigmouth Strikes Again was born in a basement wood shop some time in the spring of 2007, before an audience of dusty old power tools and jagged-toothed saw blades. Elliott’s garage was jammed too full of musical equipment in various stages of sale or purchase to fit actual musicians. The first songs were crafted, reworked, and ultimately scrapped. They decided to try something a little more organic, a little less measured. What started with basic repetitive riffs became layered and dynamic arrangements that could last fifteen minutes or more. So they refined the songs like blocks of wood on a lathe, gently grinding away the rough edges until each had its own shape, yet all seemed to work together.

The first songs the group posted were recorded in the dive bar that’s now boarded up, complete with clinking glasses and drunken chatter in the background. From there, it was a performance at a private drinking club, an alternative fair, a college music space, an art gallery, and another dive bar out in Pittsburgh, a city known either as the “Steel City” or the “City of Bridges,” depending on whom you ask. Live performance became the heart of the music, listening carefully while reading each other’s eyes and ears and hands and feet until they learned to move as a single organism.

The music builds hypnotically until Jim is facing away from the audience and frantically feeling for the notes, curled around his guitar as though it were a black hole sucking his whole body down into the pickups, through the coiled cables on the floor, and out through the PA system in tiny pieces floating overhead like Wonkavision. Now he’s kneeling, twisting knobs in between strums, right hand rapidly working the strings like a jigsaw, glasses falling to the floor where they’re temporarily ignored.

This is the scene. Ascender/Decender was recorded in the same way, all live with no overdubbing, at C