Friday, October 24, 2008

The Sads - Pregnancy Scare (2008)

Pregnancy Scare is the long awaited debut release from Prague's local favorite band. The Sads have undoubtedly been a driving force behind much of the music scene in the Golden City. With several band members playing in different Prague based bands, the influence of these musicians on Prague's local music scene is inarguable. The Sads have been likened to the Silver Jews, a kind of folky-sad-wit-rock??, and even The Velvet Underground during their live sets. The band is forceful and emotive, downtempo and humorous. This record is like an 8 pound large-mouth trophy bass that never gets eaten- it goes on the wall, cause the taste doesn't have posterity like the plaque. In all seriousness, Steven Rusling's voice is the first thing that hits you when you hear the record. There is a wise fragility in his tone. Upon first listen the album plays up to the band's name. The record is pensive and remorseful, though without the burden of personal narrative. Rusling's ability to convey the struggle of loss and love and aging without the depressive weight of despondency is admirable. Rusling has a distinct gift with wit and words. (eg. Your hands are honey bees, mine are Willow trees; Love is not not heart-attack; You are like a pregnancy scare...), the list goes on. He is able to paint anxiety riddled experience with a wry smile. It lends an immediate familiarity to the listener that is magnetic and amiable. It is analogous to sitting in a cold vinyl chair shirtless. The first reaction is a quick inhalation of breath and surprise. Shortly after the initial surprise, the chair is a cocoon of comfort. Another standout feature of the record is Matt Ford's Cello. It is a bellowing companion to the ethereal density of the aging ballrooms where it seems the record was recorded. Cobwebs and old oil lamps paint the scene, while Ford's Cello lends a sense of intimacy and nostalgia to the echoing room. There is a track of guitarist Marc Cram political ideas: "If you get too punk, you become Republican..." The drumming is airy and often reminiscent of 18th century war marches. Expect to hear more from this band in the future. Standout tracks include Oh Bethlehem, Let It Go Right Through You, Cowboy Shirt, Poplar Tree, and Phoebe Cates. Dig it.


Bobby Five was also fortunate enough to have an exclusive interview with Steven Rusling. It should shed some insight into the band and Rusling's distinct persona. Check it.

Q: How does your recording process fit into your creative world? Until now The Sads have been primarily a live act. Do you think that that live performances are more fitting of your artistic expression, or does the ability to sit down with your material and edit, master, and so forth, allow you to tailor what you want to give to your audience?

A: I try to record songs soon after they’re written to make the process more like getting something on its feet and less like tedious reconstruction. What works that way isn’t necessarily what works live. Half of the songs on this record no one has ever heard before, which is fine with me.

Q: On Upcoming events. There is a scheduled cd release show on October 16th at one of the Golden City’s mainstay venues (The Akropolis). Do you consider this a “coming of-age” event for the band? Is this the Sads’ Bar Mitzvah? Is this the debutant ball for Steven Rusling?

A: The Sads had her Bat Mitzvah a year ago. She’s a woman now.

I’m happy to have booked Akropolis, but mostly it will be a barely detectable slow crackling of anxiety, ending when we start playing that night.

Q: On The Album Art… the cover photo is an unknown lady – appearing to be topless by the camera angle, though she’s unlikely to be topless. Who is this and was she the pregnancy scare?

A: That is my girlfriend’s little sister. That photo has sat in my living room for a long time now. People who come by seem to comment on it. I enjoy the quality of her stare. I believe it is appropriate for any album titled ‘Pregnancy Scare’ to have a woman staring out at you from it. She is no pregnancy scare of mine, or if she were I wouldn’t go into it.

Q: Walk us through your creative process. Do you schedule time to write songs, or is it more or an impulsive process? Both? Expand.

Three kinds of songs.

-Songs that take longer to play than to write. (ie: Cowboy Shirt)

2) Sacrificial lamb songs, big complex one I write into the ground until they die.

3) The rest, written at medium pace as respite from sacrificial lamb songs.

Q: On Fans… Have you noticed an increase in ‘The Sads’ fan base in the past couple years of playing in the Czech Republic? Do you think non native English speakers get what you sing about? Do you have an audience in mind when writing?

A: I suppose more people know us. A good non-native speaker could, I imagine, understand everything I was saying, and hey, when they didn’t they would probably blame themselves instead of me. Fingers crossed.

Q: Who are The Sads’ major influences? Musical, literature, political, television?

A: I like the Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, Silver Jews, Smog, Raymond Carver, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Hemingway.

Q: Various members of The Sads play in other Prague Bands, and a few musicians on the record are no longer a part of the line-up. How has The Sads sound changed in the time passed from recording until now?

A: We’re louder. A bit more energetic? If you see us live you’ll see more done with twin cello and saxophone. It sounds gross, but it isn’t.

Q: I saw you from across the room. What’s your sign?

A: Scorpio. I mean… stop.
Q: Are you my Philip Glass?

A: I’m your fill-up glass.

Q: But, to be serious, ‘Pregnancy Scare’ seems like it comes from a real place – was any of this record composed during an actual Pregnancy Scare?

A: While we were rehearsing the song Pregnancy Scare, I mean the first day I brought it to practice, we ran through it a few times and the guys were commenting on it. The drummer had this funny look on his face, his mouth was a haphazard squiggily line and his eyebrows were going bezerk. It turns out his girlfriend had told him that morning that she was probably pregnant. Two months later he was married, in his own country, and later the father of a beautiful daughter. So, in answer to your question, that’s what I like to think of when I think of that particular song.

Q: Many fans have been waiting for a Sads record for a long time (The Sads have only been accessible in live venues). Does this record appease any anxiety you had concerning this much anticipated release?

A: It didn’t occur to me to feel anxious. It took a long time. I’m happy it’s done.

Q: Most shows The Sads have played have been in their home town, Prague. Do you plan to reach a broader audience through touring now that you’re backed with a record? Are T-shirts on the horizon?

A: God, how I hate to travel. I know it wouldn’t kill me to at least go to Germany or something, But still.

Q: Who is Phoebe Cates?

A: I’ve wondered how many people get that reference. She is an actress. She was a compelling young compelling woman who did things that benefited men and some women.

Q: As of today, September 25th, this record has only band distribution. Do you have plans to sign with a label? Any specifically?

A: I haven’t been very excited about the couple of labels that have expressed interest so far.

Q: What is currently playing on your ipod?

A: Animal Collective, the “American Primitive” cds, Gillian Welch, Lou Reed’s bad 80’s albums. That’s what I put on there this morning.

Q: Who is Steven Kenneth Rusling?

A: Answering these questions it very tempting to descend into non-sense. That would amuse to me but certainly be useful to no one. But this particular question is so far from anything that exists out in nature that I have no idea how to answer it. So: Steven Kenneth Rusling is a deaf Italian boy being raised in Palermo in the 1850s.

September 29 at 12:20pm

Q: “When listening to Pregnancy Scare one can't help but feel saddened, or at least somewhat nostalgic about passed sad times. From the band title to the cello and vocals, melancholy runs through this band and record. Upon closer inspection a listener is introduced to the irony and witticisms of Mr. Rusling. Do you think your lyrics offer some solace from the weary sound that is portrayed on Pregnancy Scare? I hope I'm not going too far with this one, but is it your intent to hedge the sadness in your sound with humor and nuance in your lyrics?”

A: When the group was just me and one other fellow we used to play under another name. Sometimes people would comment that the songs sounded sad. It wasn’t intentional, but after we changed our name we were then able to cite our band name, which would make people go ‘Okay”. So at least we do what it says on the tin.

I’ve never tried to write a happy or sad song, they just come out as they come out. That’s not true, actually, I have in the past tried to un-melancholy a song here and there.

Q: Would listeners of the album have expectations for a live show that are unreasonable? I don't mean to say that the Sads are a metal band live, but do you feel that the record is a more muted aspect of the Sads' rockability? If so, is it a deliberate choice to publish the more intimate side of the Sads as the first release? Will this open the doors for a rock-out live EP in the future?

A: It was not a deliberate choice to make a quieter record, but it was a choice to use production techniques that would lend itself to that. Most of it was done at five am, which probably plays into it as much as anything else. When I listen to the record mostly I think about the sun just starting to come up.

Q: Several songs that the Sads play live are not on the record. Were those omissions based in personal preference? How many songs are in the band's repertoire?

I recorded probably four times too many songs for this record. What went on was what I felt were the stronger tracks, not the better songs, though past a certain point they do seem to go hand in hand. I’ll revisit my favourites among the outcasts later. As for our repertoire we could probably play for three hours if everyone was comfortable with the last third being increasingly worse and worse.

Q: Some of your most quotable lyrics...

"I was living with a topless ghost, a topless ghost does not appeal to me"

Who is this topless ghost?

A: That’s the appeal of being secretly mean, you know. Like, you’re being mean, and no one knows to who. If I showed you a photo I'd probably just look like an asshole.

Q: "I'm sorry but in '98 I gave my heart away, I gave my heart away to Phoebe Cates circa '83. It was a rough landing, it was a very rough landing, but any landing from which you walk away, is a good landing..."

It seems to give your heart away is injury or sacrifice. Is that true?

A: Good question. I don’t know. I just like the finality in that line, like you gave your heart away, a long time ago, and now it’s gone. As if the heart were a couch.

Incidentally, it was actually circa '81, but that didn't sound very good.

Q: "Love is not not Heart-Attack"

I can say it again. Is love a necessary evil?

A: Evil? Not as evil as evil things I could mention. I’m beginning to feel a bit like Tom Jones.


Anna said...

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Please email me back with your URl in subject line to take a step ahead and also to avoid spam.

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Ken Nash said...

If I was a physician, I'd find your site very useful too. But as a patient, I would prefer to stick with The Sads and their advice for unexpected pregnancies.

actually, Bobby 5, i'm writing to get your email and Patrick's phone number.

Now get back to blogging!