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ONSLO -- March 9, 2012 @ The Dirty Douglas
by George Dow

The plan was to meet the guys from ONSLO at The Dirty Douglas in Lowell and chat before their set. I fell in love with ONSLO after reviewing their 2011 EP, Quartumdimensio AEdificium, with its utterly crazy melding of Weezer, Descendents, and Frank Zappa (I know… it feels strange even typing those bands in the same sentence).

Ethan warned me that “it’s kind of a DIY space” when he gave me the address. I drive by the address once, then twice, then again a third time. All I see is a triple decker on the corner of an intersection. I dial Ethan up and confirm that, yes, the triple decker on the corner is, in fact, The Dirty Douglas. I meet the ONSLO boys, Ethan (guitar), Aaron (bass), and Floyd (drums) in the driveway. They guide me up a narrow, unfinished, staircase through a kitchen stacked shoulder-high with empty beer cans and pizza boxes, on into a living room area. We sit down to talk. Given the choice between a broken piano stool and a torn, over-stuffed chair, I choose the broken stool. The shade of the overstuffed chair reminds me of vomit and semen. The broken stool at least has a vinyl cushion. It’s probably less likely to transmit disease.

We start with how ONSLO came to be. Aaron tells me, “We’ve been a band now for 6 years. We’re about to release our 6th EP. We’ve been friends for a long time.”

Ethan drops more detail, “Ethan and I have known each other for probably nine years. We’ve played together in a few bands. And I’ve known Floyd all that time. It came a time when we just wanted to do something new. We wanted somebody to play drums and he wanted to play. The crazy thing is, Floyd is a better guitar player that any of us. His parents sent him to school for four years for guitar and now he’s a drummer, endorsed by a drum company. Me and Chris are from Leominster, MA and Aaron is from Bolton, MA. Bolton is where we practice and record and do all of our business—we have a little headquarters in Bolton.”

On record, ONSLO are a schizophrenic mess of styles, impossible to pin into one category. One second it’s prog-rock bombast, the next it’s hardcore punk, followed by nineties-style alt-rock. A discussion of their influences explains the schizophrenia but does little to help categorize their sound.

Floyd may be a flower-child at heart, “I’m a very sixties-influenced guy. Anything groove oriented. If it has a groove, it’s good.” Aaron, on the other hand leans in a completely different direction, “For me it’s a lot of early nineties stuff. A lot of Amphetamine Reptile bands, all the Touch & Go stuff.”

I’m not willing to let it go though. There’s more to what’s going on in their music—so I press the issue with Aaron, asking about the jazzier influences apparent on their most recent releases. “Oh, that’s a direct result of their listening to lots of Frank Zappa over the past two or three years,” Aaron concedes. “One of my mother’s boyfriends gave me a copy of The Mothers' Live at the Fillmore when I was 13 or 14 and I only just rediscovered it within the last couple of years. It was just one of those reinvigorating things when I realized how awesome it was. You know, King Crimson is another huge influence as well. ”

ONSLO play music so bombastic and filled with prog-rock tendencies that it’s sometime hard to pin down whether they’re completely, straight-faced serious or dripping with venomous sarcasm. After a hearty round of laughter Ethan pipes in, “Well, it’s both. When we play, it’s all about having a good time. But when it comes to the band business, it’s just that, all business. We know when to just go off and we know when to keep it real. We do this because it’s just a lot of fun.”

Both the band’s musical proficiency and their knack for good times come through in their recordings. “Well, I think that all comes through because we record everything ourselves,” Aaron tells me. “We have the luxury to take all the time we need. Our studio and office is a 19th Century carriage house with 20 foot ceilings.” Ethan adds, “We’re basically at home when we record. It’s like we’re in our living room, not in some studio where we’ve never been before. Everything we do is like sitting on our couch watching TV.”

This revelation leads to a round of discussion about their unique recording situation. “I have enough experience working in studios to know what to do and use the room and what we have around us to get a reasonable end product,” says Aaron.

Floyd adds, “And our equipment has always been improving as we’ve gone. We now have so much better stuff to work with.”

“Another thing we do use analog tape. We mix everything down analog. That’s become a huge thing too,” Aaron explains. “We do use digital to record. Then we take it outside of the box. The luxury to do multiple vocal takes, to go through and do the cut and edit.”

As a final thought, Ethan adds, “So we do go to digital but it’s still one take, play it straight through. We don’t cut and paste. No click track. We just use a natural feel.”

I’m curious what the community of bands that ONSLO travels with looks like. “Big Mess are good friends,” Aaron tells me. “In fact both Big Mess and Séance [who also played this night]—I’ve recorded some of their releases. We’re out three or four times a week. Last night was weird. Basically we saw this common area of a dormitory living room turned into a strip mall. Since we played there last they put in like a Taco Bell and a Sal’s Pizza. So it became this whole sad thing. We’re playing and staring at the Taco Bell. But it was fun. We saw Fat History Month, another band we’ve played with a couple of times.”

Since we’re sitting on the top floor living space of this triple decker in the heart of Lowell, I’m curious about the performance space. “The last time we played here we had a pig pile instead of a mosh pit,” Floyd explains.

“Yeah, and someone brought a bunch of onions too,” Aaron says with a smirk. “It was a big sweaty basement that smelled of onions. Our amplifiers smelled like onions for months.”

The descriptions do little sate my curiosity so we retire to the basement where the bands play. I immediately understand why the “pig pile” replaced the mosh pit. After navigation the creaky staircase in near-pitch blackness we arrive in the basement—and it is just that—a basement. Complete with pipes overhead and structural poles all around. The ceiling is little more than six feet high with pipes meandering all around. It’s impossible to spend more than ten minutes in the space without cracking your head.

ONSLO take the “stage” (well… there is no stage. I guess it’s more accurate to say they take the floor) and roll through a blistering set of tunes, pulling from each of their five EPs. The twenty-or-so kids there to witness the assault are provided with a prog-rock-hardcore treat as ONSLO nail every song. They deliver a lesson in playing for the love of it. There’s certainly no money to be made in this basement—instead it’s all about the music, making new friends, and converting new fans.







Quartumdimensio ᴁdificium





Bearstronaut -- Painted in the Dark

One night when living in the dorms, by some stroke of misfortune, I strayed from the usual cast of characters only to find that they, for once, had adventured into the basements of Allston. They detailed, this one Sunday in particular, one of the greatest nights, set to live music. Of course, I was nowhere to be found that evening.

I was mystified. Was it true? What kind of music, in Allston, was being produced, that could capture the hearts of your average, Lady GaGa-worshipping, college girls? The heroes of my musically disinterested friends? Bearstronaut.

Click here to read the rest of Madi Silvers' review of Bearstronaut.



Bearstronaut -- Painted in the Dark
by Madi Silvers

One night when living in the dorms, by some stroke of misfortune, I strayed from the usual cast of characters only to find that they, for once, had adventured into the basements of Allston. They detailed, this one Sunday in particular, one of the greatest nights, set to live music. Of course, I was nowhere to be found that evening.

I was mystified. Was it true? What kind of music, in Allston, was being produced, that could capture the hearts of your average, Lady GaGa-worshipping, college girls? The heroes of my musically disinterested friends? Bearstronaut.

From the start, I knew that with a name like Bearstronaut (which, PS, is also a computer game, with its hero: a Bearstronaut), this new-to-my-radar band had to be good. They certainly couldn’t be expected to take themselves too seriously. I was intrigued.

It took a few weeks for me to come face-to-face with the group. Bearstronaut, coincidentally, was the music performance on my first (and hopefully only) appearance on late-night, local television. As I bit my nails feverishly, Bearstronaut, with ease and flare, projected mellifluous, and color enriched sound waves that resonated with the live audience members. It was silent. not a person dare break their gaze. No one wanted to, at least not me. The song responsible for this auditory enigma was "Mondrian," a title track I came to find out, off the group’s debut release, on indie label, Vanya Records.

I was impressed. Bearstronaut had combined the best of The Cure, Brian Ferry and Roxy Music, and New Order into a sound that well, establishes the group, in my opinion, as astronomical heroes of synth pop. Hinting at The Cure, or any of the mentioned groups, is almost taboo: it’s almost impossible to truly do any ofthose icons, the justice they deserve: Bearstronaut excluded. I got it. I got why my uninspired friends were so inspired. I saw the group’s potential for success. I envisioned the conversation I’d have with people when Bearstronaut, one day, is launched into the limelight. I’d brag about their then modest performance.

Newest addition to the Bearstronaut line up, Nate Marsden (bass), describes the group’s expected September sophomore release as their “coming out”. "Painted in the Dark," the latest single, rings true to this statement. Like "Mondrian," "Painted in the Dark" establishes influences from The Cure, to Roxy Music, and New Order. However,  this time around, the band has managed to refine its sound and build something unique to their sole namesake.

Bearstronaut’s band name isn’t the only quirk associated with the group. The band’s first single, off of their yet to be released album, "Birds of Prey," was released via “Brucie" the prison bus, en route to SXSW, last March. As if the circumstances surrounding the track's unveiling wasn’t interesting enough, "Painted in the Dark" managed to make its predecessor look like mere child’s play. Initially written as a 30 second montage in an upcoming indie film, the director (like so many before him) was impressed and enlisted the group to turn the sound clip into a full song for the film's ending credits.

It’s going to be a long few months as I impatiently await the hopeful September release of their full-length. One thing is clear, though, Bearstronaut has the innate quality to captivate listeners within seconds. Be it from the audience of live TV recording, the intro to a film montage, or the basement of a house in Allston. Here’s to synths and alternative-pop music, and of course... Bearstronaut. With that said, hopefully, I’ll see you at the group’s next show, at the Mirror shades at Good Life in Boston, on June 21st.







Painted in the Dark

Basement Beat




The Doctors Fox -- Handful of Laughs

The Doctors Fox’s second album Handful of Laughs is an incredibly distinct and varied album. Few of the songs ever follow the same root; Doctor’s Fox throw away semblance of consistency to the wind. This lack of consistency would derail many other bands in the genre. Yet, Doctors Fox succeeds in this regard. Handful of Laughs is filled to the brim with an incredible sense of whimsy. A childish sense of silliness runs through the album, it is virtually inescapable not to smile a little at the clever string section, or the roundabout vocals.

Handful of Laughs never really seeks to set any defining musical roots. Genre swapping is the name of the game for this record, but it’s done well and sincerely. If there was any theme that was able to survive throughout the album, it would be the string section. The strings provide what can only be described as a long, slow, country twang to the album. This is definitely an album to check out for those looking for something that doesn’t stick needlessly to conventions, those looking for a straight rock and roll record, should look elsewhere. --Casey Lowrey

Q&A with the deli's Band of the Month: The Basement Beat

Below is the deli's Q&A with last month's poll winners, The Basement Beat. Be sure to head over to The Middle East Upstairs Tuesday, June 19, to catch The Basement Beat with The Sea Over Eli, Launchpad Infinity, and Rayanne Soul. 18+, $10.

deli: How did the band start?

The Basement Beat: We actually only knew each other vaguely beforehand. Originally, we were only going to play one show. We wanted to get a few songs together for our town’s annual music festival and we started practicing together a week before we performed. Somehow, we managed to get three songs together which ended up becoming "Vacation 1," "Wah-Oh!," and "You Say," which are all on the EP. Two of us were friends before and two of us were siblings, but we didn’t go to the same schools.

Click here to read the rest of the deli's Q&A with The Basement Beat.


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