This was more than three years ago now, but I think this is what happened. The Greater Midwest had been recording at Terrestrial Records (before it relocated), and we’d asked the proprietor of that operation, Mikael Naramore what bands he recommend we contact to come in to recording live. He suggested Curious Hands and Wooden Indian Burial Ground. Wooden Indian Burial Ground was Justin Fowler and his girl Judy making awesome folk music that was surprisingly rich for a two piece. Curious Hands was, as described by Willamette week “a filthy pop beast.” We reached out to both immediately.
To be totally honest, I don’t remember much about the Curious Hands’s May 3rd, 2008 show. Drinking was almost certainly involved. But we handed off the recordings to Tyler and John and hoped for the best, as we hadn’t established a mixing pipeline at this time.
Listening back through this live album, as I have countless times (it’s an early favorite that is still a favorite) — it’s a really great performance. The surprising thing is that this was a very new band at the time, though Curious Hands had been around for a while. Tyler Riggs and John Barrios were then, as now, the group’s foundation, but Jason Ferris had joined recently on drums, and it was Chris Ubick’s first show as the group’s bassist (coincidentally, the ‘Stand would later host is last show 2.5 years later).
Girlfriend’s Friend, beginning with the guitar line that cuts as hard as, or harder, than anything produced by the ‘Stand since, is a perfect entry point to a set that rips through 19 songs in slightly under 30 minutes. The shortest tracks clock in at under a minute, and leave me desperately wanting more. One of my favorite tracks from the performance, Psycho in a Hurry, is 1:15 of drive to crank the volume louder. And louder. The longest track on the album, at a ponderous 2:12 seconds, is Charlemagne, which gives us the line: “The bands are playing in a basement where the kids are all wasted…” Listen to the album and you will hear why we (and I especially) have a ton of affection for this release. It’s a great set, and it sounds unbelievable. (More on this below.)
If any of the previous paragraph sounds good to you, download the album, because you will fucking love it. If the idea of songs that are just as long as they should be (to make you wish there were more) appeals to you, grab this hotness. If roaring, driving pop punk with no fucking around sounds good to you, this release will to. Go download it right now.
So — even though I don’t recall much of the show, what I do remember is being in an Indianapolis office for my straight gig and getting a call that really changed things for us. His name was Nicholas Taplin. He had been working in studio sound for something like eight years and documenting live music for much longer. He thought that our recordings were good, like, really good. Commercially viable good.
This was tremendously encouraging. The timeline is pretty hazy in hindsight, but to this point we hadn’t managed to produce a ton from our recordings. One of our first shows generated the superb Lonesome Radio Heart – Live from the Banana Stand, which was primarily mixed by LRH’s Paul Culpepper. I know that Paul was no stranger to engineering and mixing (I’m pretty sure he’d worked in studios), and he produced a really great album from that first Banana Stand show, but we really didn’t know what to think of our recordings.
Still in Indiana, I wasn’t able to hear Nicholas’s mix. Banana Stand co-founder Ross Faulkenberg and I met up with Nicholas at Backstage a week or so later to grab up a copy of the CD. We put it in on the way back to the ‘Stand and…like I said, it changed everything for us from the very first listen.
Curious Hands is, in many ways, what I want out of music. It’s got drive and energy very conducive to activity, which is helpful for efforting at things like the ‘Stand. It brings to mind, somewhat, the bands I loved in middle school and high school. I don’t need to listen to The Offspring or Reel Big Fish anymore, I have Curious Hands. (Thank god.) Also, like later ‘Stand bands like Tiger House and Soft Paws, Curious Hands didn’t ever seem to take themselves too seriously. They’re serious about delivering great performances (as you’ll hear), but…that freedom seems to create the music I want to hear.
Nicholas Taplin is a really excellent audio engineer/producer with an incredible attention to detail and phenomenal passion for his work. He’s also a big fan of Curious Hands and friends with John and Tyler, hence his mixing work on this. Nicholas’s passion and skill and Curious Hands’s fantastic performance created an amazing live album, that, more than any other release, created in me the passion for more live documentation. Download this album, you will hear what I mean.
Curious Hands came back to record at the ‘Stand in July 2010, but that set remains to be mixed. So, this is all you get for now from us on Curious Hands. However, if you want more from Curious Hands, grab one of their albums.
Seamonster, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! and Bangin Like a Fox (my favorite) are all really rad. You can also check out Tyler’s new band Bubble Cats at a bunch of shows this summer (and maybe see Tyler in a fur suit as a bonus). For more from Nicholas Taplin, check out his new, immaculately curated (in every sense) record label at post-consumer.com.
Tyler, John, Jason, Chris, Nicholas — I love you guys for this release. Thanks a ton for helping, by producing an awesome release and being awesome dudes, to encourage our project.
– Louie (“I’m just hear to fuck your girls.”)
Jesus Christ, if you’re even reading this far down on the page, you should get some sort of gold medal for Internet Valor. Internet Purple Hearts are for those who live through DDOS attacks. Anyway, fuck if I remember how we got in touch with Curious Hands. Louie’s probably right, it was most likely through Terrestrial Records on Hawthorne, which is now a fucking yarn store or some stupid shit.
The show was fucking awesome for sure, but I was probably piss drunk, because that was still during the days of when I lived on a mattress behind a curtain in the basement of the record space. So, memories, ain’t so good.
I remember meeting Nicholas Taplin at Backstage with Louie, but maybe that was a different time and Ross went to grab the initial mixes. Working with Nicholas was huge for us, because he’s a guy that speaks bluntly and doesn’t waste time on music he doesn’t consider to be important to the progression of art. His whole life is dedicated to that end, and it’s incredible to see someone like that in the community.
Curious Hands were tight with Please Step Out of the Vehicle, another band we recorded, and one of my personal favorite groups to come out of Portland, Oregon. And that was also when we started to get plugged-in to what was happening in DIY music more than ever before. It’s almost nostalgic now, even thought it was only a few years ago.
I can’t believe it’s taken this long to release this entire set, but goddamn if it isn’t worth it. Curious Hands are an extremely talented group of musicians, and Taplin’s finishing touches make the whole album pierce in a clear and pleasant fashion. Members of the Banana Stand have had this set on repeat for like two years now. I even used two tracks for a promotional video for an art book from poster artist Stainboy at former Diesel Fuel print shop, which does work for Tara McPherson and Frank Kozik, next to the Holocene.
My favorite track on the album is “Orion.” If you don’t know, the constellation is very visible in Portland, Oregon, and almost always in the sky when you look up at night during certain months of the year. The band hadn’t even played this song before, but the crowd begged for an encore. The result is pure gold, in my opinion, and we’ll often ask bands to play one last song if the mood is right, which has produced some cool tracks, because of the successful spontaneity “Orion” captured.
Download the album, it’s great.
-Aaron (“Buy me a drink, and I’ll smoke you blind.”)
Curious Hands – Live from the Banana Stand was recorded in front of a live audience on May 3rd, 2008 at the Banana Stand in Portland, Oregon. The album was mixed and mastered by Nicholas Taplin. Brian David Smith handled design and layout for album art, which includes original photography by Jott Robertson. The Banana Stand would like to thank Curious Hands (Tyler, John, Chris and Jason) and all who participated in this album’s creation and anyone that has helped us out along the way.
Check out more of Curious Hands on Facebook, MySpace and from CD Baby. Check out Tyler’s new band Bubble Cats on Facebook. Find more from Nicholas Taplin at post-consumer.com, where he promotes his boutique vinyl label.
Edit, 6/5/11: John Barrios also hooked me up with a link to the Curious Hands Bandcamp, from which you can purchase Bangin’ Like a Fox for just $2 and download Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee for free. Holy shit that’s rad!
Edit, 6/6/11: Jason Ferris also hooked me up with a link to his website: justsaynoise.com, where he’s been “building oscillators and doing some circuit bending stuff.” It’s insanely cool stuff, go check it out!