A month or so ago, Danger Van Gorder (singer/guitarist) of southern California band Countless Thousands hit me up with a flattering email, telling me how much he enjoyed the content he read on Atomic Ned and how he thought that I might like his band. He was wondering if I might give We’re Just Really Excited to Be Here a listen and, if I liked it, maybe write a few words about it.
While listening to the – I hate to call it “pop-punk” because that conjures up all sorts of bands from the early ’90s that I’ve chosen to forget about – album, I thought, “This deserves more than me just throwing out a sentence or two saying, ‘Kick-ass, energetic rawk music by a trio that falls somewhere between Green Day and Jimmy Eat World with some early Foo Fighters influence and mid-90s math rock sprinkled in.'”
So, looking over the arsenal of Atomic Ned features, I decided to throw a bunch of them at Danger. If you’re a regular reader (or even a part-time reader), you’ll see Band(camp) of the Week, Track 3, and Soundtrack of My Life as well as a short interview.
Who says flattery won’t get you anywhere? Read it all after the jump.
Countless Thousands? If you’re not able to count, how are you sure it’s not Countless Hundreds?
Countless Thousands sounds way the hell better than Countless Hundreds. Pure and simple. Are you going to explain to people why you’re not ‘Subatomic Ned’? Nope. You’re going to grab that box of Wheat Thins and go to town while that one Journey song you like wanders in through the open window. Same here. Respeckt.
If a 35-year-old neighbor who grew up watching MTV but now just listens to commercial alternative radio were to ask you to describe two bands that they recognize to compare your sound to, what two bands would you pick? Better yet, if you’re up to the challenge, come up with a math equation using bands to describe your sound.
I’m happy to say that I’m sitting directly next to my own thirty-five-year-old neighbor and we have never spoken about music before. I shall now try to kill two birds with one stone…
…he didn’t want to talk about our band, just some panicky nonsense about a gas leak. Whatever, Jerry. Well, if he’d stuck around I probably would have said we’re what happens when you bring the Foo Fighters to a low boil, thinly slice Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and sprinkle in Reverend Horton Heat and Riverboat Gamblers. Cover, simmer in the hopes and dreams of three nerds. Led Zeppelin to taste and serve loud.
Are you familiar with the Dangermouse project? I know a guy in Columbus named Lizard who fronts a band called Earwig (http://earwig.bandcamp.com/). I think the two of you should collaborate on some material and put it out as Dangerlizard (for real … in this digital age you could trade files via email). I’ll see if I can hook it up! (Not really a question but, rather, a challenge.)
I’ve listened to the Grey Album and loved it, although it did touch off a slew of ill-conceived ‘mash-up’ records I could do without. As Lizardly as your pal might be, I have no consistent access to recording equipment. But if he likes easily e-mailed sonnets, well, then boy howdy do I have a project for him.
For the 20 years that I’ve been interviewing bands (and the 25 years I’ve been attending concerts), I’ve always tried to figure out what the magic formula is to draw people to a show. It’s a problem that doesn’t seem to have an easy cut-and-dry solution. So, let me ask it from another angle – as somebody who ATTENDS concerts, what kind of things do you weigh out before making a decision to go out and see bands?
There is no magic formula for bringing people out, sadly, despite all the money we spent at that think tank in Washington. I love a good punk rock pit, but increasingly I find that if there’s a glut of folks trying to get in or out of the place it’s not for me. If parking is going to suck or I have to pay to leave my car somewhere, that’s a knock. Still, Green Day are totally worth it.
Do you parents refer to Countless Thousands as “Danger’s little hobby”? When they’re asked what their son does for a living, how do they answer? And do they do what some of my co-workers do and say, “Oh, you like music. Here’s my son’s CD. He’d love some honest feedback”? (Note: Don’t ever let your parents do that – or stop them now if they do. While I’d be happy to receive a Countless Thousands CD from your parents, most of the stuff I’ve had to endure just to please co-workers is nothing but dreck!).
First up, Mom and Dad are physically incapable of calling me Danger (another story for another time, I’m afraid). Both of my parents spent their whole their lives playing music as their hobby, so they’re proud to see me take a flying stab at a career in rock & roll. Dad’s a huge John Denver fan, but he uses that as a counterbalance to explain to his friends, “You know I’m really not into that kind of music, but they’re really that good!” No matter what kind of music you listen to, we’ll find a way into your playlist. We’re like Outkast in that way, except not nearly as awesome. Is there anyone on this earth that will tell you with a straight face that they don’t like Outkast? There is? Well, you better duck, pal, because that person is a lunatic and is right behind you swinging a meat cleaver.
Um … please explain this:
Why does your drummer makes funny faces while drumming?
The video in question is a document of one of the weirder nights in my life. It’s what you don’t see that makes that whole thing way weirder – we were the ‘Professional Guest Act’ on a Vietnamese-language showcase for local music students who were, to a head, unbelievable musicians for their ages. Here’s a seven-piece band (Keytar included!) of thirteen-year-olds nailing ‘Shot Through The Heart’, here’s a five-year-old kid playing Rachmaninoff or whatever without missing a note. Then we get thrown up on stage in front of a three-camera setup, introduced in Vietnamese – except our names, which the MC managed to make sound like Vietnamese – and given four and a half minutes to shine. We finish the song to ringing silence in this giant television studio (which brought back some of the more traumatic memories from my angsty, bandless solo days) and then get shuffled out. It was an experience. And Jonny’s faces are all carefully rehearsed and choreographed for maximum rock & roll impact on the inhibitions of our audience. He put seven years in a work-study program just to exhaustively research the power of the ‘oooh’ face and his Master’s thesis was a favorably peer-reviewed history of the ‘uhnnn yeah’ face. He’s a pro.
Every band worth their weight in gold has one legitimate – and one ironic – cover song in their back pocket. What song do you think you play better than the original version and what song do you haul out when you think you’re losing an audience so that they’ll say, “Oh, hey … I recognize THIS one”?
We at the Thousands have a very cautious approach to cover tunes. Our goal is to capture the audience through enthusiasm and to seek the communal experience of awesomeness. We agreed long ago that irony is our sworn enemy – we might sing about some pretty outlandish things like pirates or duels with the devil, but you’ll never see us wink. So! The only cover tune we’ve ever properly developed is “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. Speed it up just a little bit and amp up the intensity of the vocals and it’s a perfect fit for the spirit of our band.
1) Is Track 3 representative of the whole CD?
Ah, ‘The Chemical Exchange’. Yes indeed, that song is representative of the album – it’s our oldest crowd pleaser, a spastic mainstay from my early solo work.
2) What’s the story behind the song – from the lyrical content to the way it was written and recorded?
I wrote the song on the patio of my college while I was single, stupid and lonely, having broken up from one snarky girlfriend and floating my way towards what would be the next, pining for someone who wouldn’t be afraid to take the good and the bad of life in equal measure with me. It was my first real love song and the first tune I wrote that genuinely sounded like I had something unique to offer the world, so it’s almost like an old friend at this point. It was recorded five times with four different asshole drummers before we happened upon the miracle that is Jonny. Then comes the carnival of asshole producers, the highlight of which was when one stopped working with us “for personal reasons” – he was uncomfortable working with us after his wife found out that one of us was getting a divorce. I’M NOT LYING. So we took out a loan, brought the pile of money and what useable drum tracks we had over to what felt like heaven at the Den Recorders in Pasadena and knocked out the whole album in a month.
3) Was there a particular reason you placed this song in the #3 spot on the CD.
Track three is a place of pride for any debut album, and we had to put our tried and true fan favorite in the confident position of, ‘Hey did you like those two? Well get a load of THIS!’
And … finally … what song/artist/album takes you back to a specific time and place in your life? Describe what happens (where you’re transported to – all the different senses involved) when you hear that song/artist/album.
I must offer tribute to my favorite band in the world here. The Weakerthans have a gift for conveying the maximum amount of emotion with only a few subtle lyrical flourishes, and putting on their tender-hearted indie masterpiece ‘Left and Leaving’ during a rare Southern California rain storm is one of the most evocative artistic experiences I have ever had. The honesty, the maturity, the subtlety and the energy of that band astounds me, but I think the defining moment for the album came for me just this week. After having listened to and been affected by that beautiful piece of music for what must be a decade now, I put it on during a rainy drive home from Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house with the love of my life dozing in the car next to me, and I felt this surge of certainty, a slow, smiling triumph, through the opening notes of ‘Everything Must Go!’. I had said it for a while, and we’d talked about it with each other and all our friends and family, but on that day after that dinner and in that rain and listening to that perfect music I finally knew and really understood that I am going to marry this girl.