Sledding with Tigers: an interview with the funny, irreverent, and passionate Dan Faughnder

In January, I had the chance to sit down with Dan Faughnder of Sledding with Tigers, or as I first came to know him, the funny dude on Twitter who put out a great body positive music video for his song, “Not So Body Posi After All.” Equal parts irreverent and passionate, Dan Faughnder has had a long history in music.

Like most of us, Faughnder views music “as an escape from bullshit.” In fact, he’s so passionate about music that he estimates that he saw about 400 bands in 2014 alone. It’s so refreshing to see a San Diegan actually care about the local music scene, enough so that they would go to that many shows—and actually stay for all the bands!

But even his passion for music was tested back when he was in school at the University of the Pacific, where he studied and practiced the timpani. He felt burnt out to the point that music was becoming the bullshit that he wanted to escape. Instead, he fought the burnout by picking up the guitar and ukulele, and that moment was the start of Sledding with Tigers.

Sledding with Tigers has always been a solo project for Faughnder, although people come and go to help with song arrangement and live performances. “I’ve been in a lot of bands,” he says. “It’s always stressful when everybody writes.” Now he doesn’t have to worry about that. Usually he starts brainstorming in his car. “I’ll start yelling… yelling-singing,” he says. Then comes the melody before he goes home to his guitar. “I’ll write the song, structure it, and record the basic song,” he says. “Then I bring in whoever I can con into playing with me.”

The con seems to be working. Now, Sledding with Tigers is six years old. The first two albums were joke albums. “I’ve tried to get rid of those,” Faughnder says, though he admits they’re probably around on the Internet somewhere if you look hard enough. (Does that sound like a dare?) But now his songs tend to the whimsical and folky, and sometimes as irreverent as his tweets. Listen to “A Floppy Disc Worth of a Song,” a short song that could theoretically fit in the space of a floppy disk. (And it does!)

The song can be found on their most recent release Not the Beatles Yet, released in vinyl and cassette by Antique Records. Antique Records started out as a cassette-only label, until their vinyl release of Sledding with Tigers’ A Necessary Bummer.

In an age of digital-only releases and a skydiving music industry, why even bother with vinyl and cassette releases, and in Sledding with Tigers’ case, a floppy disk release? “I’ve always wanted to do it,” Faughnder says. Plus, how can you beat the warm sound of nostalgia on physical media? However, his love doesn’t extend to CDs. “CDs are such a weird anomaly,” he says. Despite it being technically physical, it’s a compressed, digital experience. What’s the point if you’re just going to burn the CD to your computer anyway?

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what more comes out of Sledding with Tigers and Antique Records. You can check out his Bandcamp or order his physical releases through the Antique Records site.

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Back in the real world after a crazy Valentine’s Day weekend

Mariel performance in Los Angeles. Picture by @ehighstrete.

Mariel performance in Los Angeles. Picture by @ehighstrete.

I had the pleasure of going on “mini-tour” with my band Mariel, Sullen Ray, and friends during Valentine’s Day weekend.  The tour was in celebration of the release of an annual compilation by Villains Records, a local garage label founded by my boyfriend.  (I’ve mentioned that I write weekly blog posts and content for them.)

We started on Valentine’s Day at The Griffin, located in Linda Vista.  It’s a nice enough venue with friendly staff and craft beer.  The performance was a bit shaky since we hadn’t practiced with the guitarist in a couple of weeks, but overall, we had a good response!  Hands down, my favorite song is our closer, “Shipwreck.”  At the end we have 3 singers going at once and I think it’s a great way to end the set.

We opened the bill and were followed by Privet, Muscle Beech, and Sullen Ray.

Privet performance at The Griffin in San Diego, CA.  Picture by @sethaeubanks

Privet performance at The Griffin in San Diego, CA. Picture by @sethaeubanks

Second night was at a Chinese restaurant in Ventura, CA. Yeah, we thought it was weird too, but it ended up being a nice night. The restaurant was huge and divided into two separate sections. On one side was a room where karaoke was going on. That’s also where the bar was located. The other side of the restaurant was the stage, a huge pond/fountain, and the kitchen. The latter is where we played. It looked like a good spot for say, a wedding reception. I met some cool people here and got to watch a great performance by Dan Driskill and Andrew Saks (spoken word and guitar) and rockin’ sets by first timer Jane Gray Black Orphan and Sullen Ray.

Dan Driskill and Andrew Saks performance in Ventura, CA.  Picture by @juniejuniejune

The third and last show was in Los Angeles. We saw an amazing set by Tarah Who? I was completely blown away and it was my favorite part of the night. (My least favorite part was the bartender yelling at me for not tipping before I even had a chance to pull out my wallet. So, fuck you bartender.)

Now I’m back in the real world writing this blog post in the local cafe down the street from my house. I don’t miss the cramped hours in the back seat of the car, but I do miss being surrounded by other musicians and artists.

Portland’s Genders new album Get Lost

I’m lucky to have friends with amazing taste in music. Without them, I never would have listened to Oregonian band Genders. Recently back from tour with Built to Spill, they returned to Portland for a release show for their latest album Get Lost.

The album starts like a cool summer night: windchimes on the porch, the wind represented by dreamy “ooh”s and a sense of loneliness as one sits with a cigarette on the front step. “Something To Get You By” exemplifies the album well, showcasing alternating vocalists and guitars that never seem to reach the apex of a crescendo.  Running a little under 6 minutes, this is the longest song on the album.

The following songs range from poppy to introspective, each exemplified respectively in track 5 – “Golden State” – and track 10 – “Twin Peaks.” Both happen to be my favorite tracks on the album. “Golden State” leads with percussion, reminiscent of a drum circle, enticing me to stomp my feet. I imagine a bunch of kids surrounding a beach bonfire. The instrumentation of this song is very playful, at times giving off a surf-flavor, which ties very well into the title. In “Twin Peaks,” the vocals are layered and echo-y, creating a surreal and space-y sound, with a hint of discordance and lots of noise.

All the songs feature dreamy vocals and poppy guitar. But in general, I prefer the mood of the last few songs of the album, starting from 52-second song, “Close My Eyes.” The penultimate song “Oakland,” features spunky guitar and a synth inspired by psychedelic 70s surf rock.

I could do without the excessively long “How Long Can I Wait?” which should have ended at the 4 minute mark, but continues a minute longer. The last song of the album is disappointing as well. Although it starts strong, it fades away, and gives the album no sense of finality, which is a shame, considering how great of a listen the rest of the album is.

I’ve since dived into their previously released 7” and EP, also available via their Bandcamp page.

Genders

Kera and the Lesbians – “Gypsy Song”

Originally based out of San Diego, Kera and the Lesbians moved to Los Angeles and have since been picking up residencies there. But not afraid of the studio, they released their latest single, “Gypsy Song,” this November.

The song starts with muted horns before the mellow (for Kera) vocals enter, which are punctuated by the guitar, before it builds up to what I consider to be the standard in her music: funky, syncopated guitars and a vocal prowess to be jealous of. Kera’s vocals are what hooked me to her music in the first place. At times straining in volume, her voice is passionate and her emotions ripping out of her throat. Their new single demonstrates this just as well as when I first saw them years ago. As the song continues to its end, the reverb on the guitar is reminiscent of surf rock. In whole, “Gypsy Song” is fun to listen to and has all the qualities that I admire in Kera and the Lesbians.

They will be returning to San Diego to play at Soda Bar on December 15th with Northern Tigers and Bleached. I’m looking forward to it!

You can check out an older single here: “Nailbiter” on BandCamp.

Bulletins – “Can’t Stop” and “Is Love”

At their show in November at the Soda Bar, San Diego-based Bulletins celebrated the release of two singles, available for download through their BandCamp page.

Bass and vocals feature prominently at the start of both songs, although both are joined by the guitar and synth soon after, both instruments showing off a playfulness that accents all of Bulletins’ songs.

My favorite part of “Can’t Stop” is right at the beginning, when Lorelei croons, “I can’t stop wishing it’s not true, it’s not yo-o-o—o-ou,” which sets the theme for the rest of the melody, with more ascending and descending croons coming back over and over throughout the song.

Guitar and synth take more prominent roles in “Is Love” compared to “Can’t Stop.” The lyrics are sweet, describing attempts to fight falling in love. The vocals are dreamy, more poppy. Their pop rock roots come out around 2:30, with the guitar distorted before taking a step back behind the synth and vocals.

The singles show off their sound their very well. Paired with their previously released demos, I anticipate their forthcoming album to be a great listen, with their alternative pop rock sensibilities. The two singles are already in my regular rotation.

pillowconfiguration – Facing

“Brooding” is the first word that comes to mind when listening to this moody song. The acoustic guitar jerks itself around. Each interruption builds on another. Then her voice joins in. It’s emotional, at times cracking. She and her guitar take turns arguing with each other. Sometimes they even try to out-yell each other, but they are arguing the same point: an incredible sense of loss, of dealing with death and not knowing that they both grieve.

The lyrics convey this loss well. She looks around, she rummages through her memories desperately, but the things she sees and remembers are a far cry from the real thing. “an empty chair. an empty room. is this all i have left of you?”

The picture accompanying the song gives a glimpse into the past.

This song is a testament to how many great musicians and songwriters there are out there, hidden away. There is absolutely no information or links on her Soundcloud page. The page is a portal into something too personal to share with the world, yet it lies there, waiting to be found. A message sent to her account went unanswered. I wish I could speak with her.

EDIT: I’ve since talked to pillowconfiguration!  In addition to her SoundCloud, she has a YouTube channel that I’ve subscribed to.  About my writeup, she replied:

that would be me, thank you so much for the review, it is so spot on it brings tears to my eyes

Beta Lion – Tonight at Whisperz

Free download of “Tonight at Whisperz” via BandCamp.

In August, Beta Lion released the first single off their coming EP “Written in Sand.”  There doesn’t seem to be a set release date, but their SoundCloud says “this fall” (which, by my count, should be right now).

The song starts with high-energy, slammin’ guitars, which continue on as the drums and dreamy vocals come in during the first minute (“she’s chasing and dreaming”). Although it starts off more of a jump-up-and-down pop rock anthem, the combination of different guitar and vocal melodies – for example, the backup vocals behind “we drew the line” – plus the drums, creates a song that I can dance and sing along to as it progresses.

“Tonight at Whisperz” showcases the four-piece’s great chemistry. You can tell these guys have been playing and writing songs together for awhile. Everything is tight, their energy is high, and you can feel their enthusiasm through the recording. Their enthusiasm and chemistry come out especially well during their live set, which I highly recommend if you are in the Los Angeles or San Diego areas.

Released on Villains Record, the physical single comes with a simple hand-screened design on the disc itself and on the plain cardboard sleeve.

Along with the single, they have a 3-song demo available on Bandcamp, I Believe in Beta Lion.