When I began writing about local music five years ago, it was something of a disparate scene—it was not the community that we find today throughout this valley today. I would ask artists I interviewed what local bands they enjoyed and more often than not, they had nothing to say on the matter. If you ask that question now, bands are quite vocal about their peers and who they love to catch live or which band has a forthcoming release they can’t wait to get their hands on. Back then, there was only one exception to this rule and it was consistent that nearly every band I talked to would have to recognize and vocalize the genius of Small Leaks Sink Ships. They would not only mention their new debut album (new at the time), but they would talk at length about their live shows. It took me at least a year before I caught them live for the first time and I instantly realized that the artists I had talked to simply had no choice to feel this way—these guys were good, better than good, their live set would leave you disoriented for hours afterward.
The second time I ever saw Small Leaks Sink Ships was at Yucca Tap Room, I brought my unsuspecting friend Joanne Yoshiko to the show and the entire performance was a complete game changer—both for our minds and our lives. Through much of the performance she danced and stared, jaw dropped, mesmerized by the apocalypse of sound we had witnessed. It’s difficult to pinpoint their sound other than to say its high energy indie rock, the likes of which are represented nowhere else in this valley or possibly the world. One thing is for certain, their live show far outweighs the power of their recordings—this is not a light statement as their recordings are fantastic enough to get you hooked on their music alone. Still there is something in the pure unadulterated energy found in their live performances that borders in the magical, their shows are time bending, mind expansive events that are purely transportational for your soul. Now, clearly there are a lot of great bands in this town that put on fantastic live sets, but I’ve never quite witnessed the power present in a Small Leaks Sink Ships show anywhere else.
Listed below you will find links of what is presently all their known recordings, from their 2007 debut album (featuring their own self description of the album) to their 2011 EP release (featuring my review from the July 2011 issue of JAVA Magazine) and finally a list of a series they posted from last September to this past March called “Monday Minestrone”—during the latter project they would post demos, lost songs, stray tracks, live performances and even fragments of songs. I for one hope this is leading to a new full length album that represents the power and presence of the performances that have been setting us on fire in recent months, but only time will tell on that. Regardless of a forthcoming album, the need to catch them live is an aural imperative for you, for your friends, your family and probably even you pets.
Tonight, in celebration of the birth of the aforementioned Ms. Yoshiko, there will be an all out red carpet extravaganza featuring, not only Small Leaks Sink Ships, but Wooden Indian, Future Loves Past, decker., Nicholas Villa and DJ Sean Watson. This is going to be an evening full of spectacular moments every step of the way. Put on your best summer wear, bring a date, get your picture taken by the fine photographers from EchoCloud, there will also be giveaways, visual arts and a free raffle. Few lineups get this good and this may well be THE show of the summer. If you work tomorrow, my honest suggestion is to simply suck it up and plan on lots of coffee in the AM because you don’t want to miss a beat of this transplendent evening! See you there!
Crescent Doors: 7 pm
Future Loves Past: 9:10-9:40
SMALL LEAKS SINK SHIPS: 10-11
Wooden Indian: 11:15-12
Sean Watson: 12-2am in the Lounge
2007-Until The World Is Happy; Wake Up You Sleepyhead Sun (available on iTunes and Amazon)
Apparently, one solution when a band can’t decide on a title for their debut album is to simply graft two of the leading contenders together with a semicolon. Similarly, when a band can’t decide if they want to ape the neo-prog of the Mars Volta or the angsty but straightforward pop-punk of Green Day’s American Idiot, one solution is to try to tackle both at once. Or at least, those seem to be the options that Mesa, AZ’s Small Leaks Sink Ships went with. Giving their debut album two separate, unrelated titles for no apparent reason (the ten songs don’t appear to form a pair of interconnected suites or anything like that), the quartet dress up fairly standard issue pop-punk tunes with math rock noodling, showy time-signature changes, and dynamic shifts into unnecessarily complicated B sections that do little more than negate the energetic heads of steam that they had worked up beforehand. As a result, this rather frustrating album has its high points (the fractured stop-time verses of “Sackcloth in Ashes” are admittedly pretty cool, though the lyrics suggest they don’t quite have their Biblical idioms entirely down), but the overall feel is that of a modern indie rock version of Abacab-era Genesis: fairly appealing pop songs dressed up with prog rock fripperies that end up making it all sound kind of pretentious.
–Small Leaks Sink Ships website http://www.smalllleaks.com
2011-Oak Street Basement
“Small Leaks Sink Ships is one of those amazing bands, who after seeing them live or listening to their recordings, life isn’t quite the same. Their music is an unreal blend of indie rock aesthetic, symphonic progressive leanings and psychosis tempered psychedelia—it’s the musical equivalent of where illicit recreational drug use meets intense pharmaceutical fascinataion. There is no excusing them for their brilliance. Small Leaks Sink Ships puts on one of the most amazing, goosebump inducing live shows available in town and the Oak Street Basement EP is but the tip of the iceberg in the sound they present on stage. It is, however, a goddamn great tip, a great trip and a showcase of a band that is absolutely unrelenting in their sound.
The frantic and slightly psychotic opener “Pray For Pills” starts off this gem with a sound akin to the best of early Modest Mouse. You will find yourself silently screaming to yourself or perhaps slurring and mumbling , “Pray for pills, they won’t affect me on the morning after” not long after your first fifteen listens or so to this magnificent track. It is infectious and catchy in the most unlikely, quirky way possible—not unlike the rest of their oeuvre, but this transcends space and time, somehow becoming anthemic along the way. They may seriously want to consider making a single edit of this so that it can take over the alternative airwaves globally.
Picking up from the wind down of the opener, “His Days Are Like Grass” is a comparatively easy going number awash in a dreamscape of stirring strings and echoed vocals that finds the band on a middle ground between late 90s indie rock and early Pink Floyd. That said, the results are stunningly brilliant. Their high minded symphonic notions really come to the fore here and within this single song, we happily experience a showcase for the depth of their capabilities. It’s ironic that they sing, “Tell all of your friends,” because only after the first two tracks that’s exactly what you want to do. “Bloom” continues seamlessly in the same vein, with more focus on intricate guitar work, breathy lead vocals and xylophone! At this point in Oak Street Basement, the songs they play almost come off as a deeply rich abstract painting, one you can stare at for hours on an afternoon with nothing else on your mind but admiring the daring art. “Bloom” even begins to explore pop territory toward the end as they sing, “She has little elf ears and a keen sense of style” and you can see her and you know her.
“Glass Hypnotist” is another standout single, with hypnotic keys, dizzying guitars and thunderous drums that once more returns to a modest Modest Mouse sound—one must consider though that Modest Mouse no longer makes music like that, and for my money Small Leaks do it better anyway. Clearly one of the most “exciting” tracks on the whole affair, it’s difficult to contain oneself while even casually listening (your body will not allow stagnation as your soul leaps for joy on this number). The postmodern lyrics of “Think of your favorite part, make sure it‘s from the heart, look around at your friends and please talk up a storm,” is mind blowing when you consider that’s what you want to do after listening to this masterpiece. The ending washes away into a din of crowd chatter and swirling excitement that serves as something of a coda for what you have just aurally witnessed.
“Shuddersome“ carries far the opening refrain, “Don’t Be So Scared” and in some strange way it’s difficult not to be, not because this is terribly frightening, but because this is territory that no one explores anymore, as this band is left alone to discover uncovered paths that are simply not on the map. It is an unforgiving finale in which Small Leaks leaves the crowd wanting more in the wake of, perhaps, the most aggressive tune in the bunch. It is a furiously pounding and poignant ending to a perfect release. Oak Street Basement is absolutely unrelenting from beginning to end and it will become your new best friend because of this tenacity, this tenuous tightrope walk between art and madness. Think of your favorite part? All of it, from beginning to end.
–Mitchell L. Hillman JAVA Magazine, July, 2011
From September 11, 2012-March 12, 2013 These twenty songs/snippets/videos were released through “Monday Minestrone.”
http://www.smallleaks.com/2012/09/monday-minestrone-3/ – Energy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6u2sihC916E&feature=player_embedded – Live In the Living Room
http://www.smallleaks.com/2012/10/monday-minestrone-6/- Live In the Living Room
http://www.smallleaks.com/2012/10/monday-minestrone-7/ “Not Responsible for Seizures”
http://www.smallleaks.com/2012/10/monday-minestrone-8/ “A Song By Ralf”
http://www.smallleaks.com/2012/11/monday-minestrone-12/ “Between The Bars”
http://www.smallleaks.com/2012/12/monday-minestrone-14/ “Porcelain Clowns on Merry Go Rounds”
http://www.smallleaks.com/2012/12/monday-minestrone-15/ Eye of The Storm
http://www.smallleaks.com/2013/01/eclipse-puppy-dog-mm16/ Eclipse Puppy Dog
http://www.smallleaks.com/2013/01/you-say-today-i-say-to-dance-mm17/ You Say Today, I Say Dance
http://www.smallleaks.com/2013/01/the-chills-mm19/ The Chills
http://www.smallleaks.com/2013/03/kristens-party-mm20/ Kristen’s Party