MIKE DOUGHTY with specials guests Wheatus
Thu · January 19, 2017
Tickets at the Door
This event is 18 and over
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No backpacks, large bags or large purses allowed. Maximum Size 4.5″ x 6.5"
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The title is pulled from a WTF! podcast, on which Doughty’s old buddy Marc Maron used the phrase, somehow, in reference to chewing nicotine gum, in his struggle to quit smoking. The two go back to the East Village comedy scene of the late ‘90s, so when Doughty asked Maron if he could use the line as an album title, the comic responded, “Use it and throw me a bone.”
Doughty is driven to challenge himself. He set up a Patreon feed, as a way to self- impose a weekly deadline to write and record one new song a week. One of his most ambitious projects was composing 2015’s Revelation, a rock opera based on the Bible’s apocalyptic final book, and performing it on the New York NPR affiliate WNYC. Here’s an artist who’s not afraid to take risks.
They began at Goose’s place in New York. “Our process was mostly like this: he’d ask me what kind of beat I wanted, and I’d sing one to him. Then I’d pick up the guitar and improvise parts. I’d go home while he stayed up till 5 am in his bedroom editing parts together,” said Doughty. “I’d come back in, and improvise vocal parts, na-na-la-la style, just kind of bug out. He’d piece shards of that into something like a melody, which he’d text to me, and I’d write words to the melody. We built them out from there.”
Influences for the tracks vary wildly–and not just because Good Goose was, Doughty says, “going through this kind of unexpected heartland-rock phase.” The song “Brian” comes from a beat called the guaila that Doughty heard in a nightclub in East Africa. “Sad Girl Walking in the Rain” was the result of a “Week of Six Sad Songs” songwriting challenge Doughty self-imposed while touring the U.K., writing and recording a daily song, most with “sad” in the title.
The album’s single, “I Can’t Believe I Found You in That Town,” was inspired by a failed romantic connection in a grim city in the North of England. In a total of about 36 hours, Doughty became enchanted with a woman, came on too strong over Instagram, and then wrote a song about the botched encounter while stress-eating pastry in a pub, then racing back to his dressing room to work out the song on guitar.
The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns was recorded during a transitional phase in Doughty’s life, in which he left New York, his home base since the late ‘80s, for the “fascinating, mysterious town” of Memphis, Tennessee. The low cost of living has given Doughty freedom to make experimental music in bars around the city, while completing the album with Queens, NY hip-hop producer Good Goose over the Internet.
“Because I wrote it in my head, it has a kind of simple universal-folky chord progression,” Doughty explained, “which if I was writing it with an instrument in my hands, I would’ve second-guessed and made more complicated. Writing fast and putting it out on the same day eliminates a lot of over-thinking. I love that.”
“I really love this record,” Doughty says,almost sheepishly, sounding like he’s surprised himself. Of course, he loves the record– he made it, after all. His taste is unimpeachable, as is his skill at fusing unlikely influences.
Perhaps, “Wow, ninth Doughty album, and it’s actually good!” is a peculiar compliment, but Doughty, who seems to welcome anyone who’s moved by the songs, whether they first heard him last week, or if they’ve been dedicated since 1994’s Ruby Vroom, lives to hear it. There’s a lot to love about The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns, and, even if they stumble into Doughty’s music, for the first time, next week, it’s clear he’ll be deeply gratified.
“We really don’t run into people who don’t like “Dirtbag,” including us,” Wheatus frontman, producer & songwriter brendan b brown says whilst fiddling with a vacuum tube that reads “Made In West Germany”. It seems that Wheatus do indeed still love playing their multi-platinum, ubiquitous 2001 classic “Teenage Dirtbag.”
“I grew up idolizing Rush & AC/DC. Bands that last forever… One of the fears I had when “Dirtbag” kicked-off was that it would get old quick or be received as a fad… I was wrong to worry about that. It feels new every night. I think that’s because it’s hard to play correctly, but what the hell do I know? Every time we come over to the UK & Europe to tour I think, 'Well, after THIS ONE we'll take a break, make Album 7.' It's been 3 years saying that. We just keep getting asked to come back. The vibe from people wanting to come see us hasn't given us any excuse to stay home...”
The "Album 7" that brown mentions is written & waiting to be tracked, 20 plus songs. According to brown, it's quite heavy at times, with sonic odes to the 1988 seminal Metallica masterpiece, ‘...And Justice For All.’
"I've been drawn back to the sonic impact of that record. I wore it out when I was 14 and Metallica were the second band that I ever saw live that year. My left ear still rings a bit more than my right because of where I was standing. Their cover of the Budgie song “Breadfan” REALLY drove my mom nuts. Probably because I played along to it at top volume every day for two months. Obviously I'm not writing like them or Budgie and couldn't if I wanted to, but those sonics broke every rule back then & I wanna see where that sort of engineering takes us… And there's also lots of acoustic droning on the record that I intend to try warping in a new way. Oooh and a song I wrote with my friend James Bourne that's starts with the letter "Z." I'm very excited to finally record this album."
If Wheatus weren't already established as a genre-less band, Brown’s next statement ends that debate…
"It's gonna be fun - we'll be an unsigned independent band with a worldwide Top 5 old-skool major label classic radio single making a heavy prog-pop record funded by One Direction cover royalties and Flemming Rasmussen will be the primary production influence. Right!"
The bespectacled Wheatus frontman is of course referring to the experience of being covered by the largest touring act in the world, One Direction. Throughout 2013-2014, the mega-platinum arena pop act included “Teenage Dirtbag” in their live set and their subsequent concert film, ‘This Is Us.’ It was a boost for Wheatus.
"Ah man it was great - suddenly all these kids wanted to know what our songs were about... They started coming to the shows... I collaborated with Josh & Sandy. We have an EP due out this year, an actual side project. It's all been pretty cool, for an older independent act to get a youth culture reboot like that. Josh introduced me to Janet Devlin & Ollie Green and I wrote some songs with them which we'll be finishing up soon. And the Twitter thing has been awesome. Those kids are fun... And A LOT smarter than people give them credit for. I mean, they oversee Number One single releases for 1D. What the hell even is that?"
Youthful enthusiasm aside, it has not been an easy go for brown & crew. They scraped recording & touring budgets together by selling last year’s gear on e-Bay.
“It’s an interesting paradox that people won’t buy music, but they still buy the stuff to make it and that we can carry on that way. Together, we found a way forward. I still can’t believe it started fifteen years ago though… That’s hard to imagine for a song that continues to be renewed. We owe a debt to that debut album and to the people who remember us. Now lemme get back to rehearsal so we can get it right!”
So yes, at least one band from before the days of iTunes & Spotify have found a way forward...
And forward they come, opening for Busted on a full arena tour of the UK & Ireland in spring 2016 plus their own headline UK & Irish club dates too, where they will play their entire million-selling eponymous debut album plus songs from their 2nd, 3rd, 4th 5th, 6th & 7th albums as well.
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