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My Son The Doctor make their mommas proud with "Rubber Hands": Video Premiere, Exclusive EP Liner Notes

Opening salvo: For those in the NYC/Brooklyn region, My Son The Doctor performs live tomorrow night (5/7) at The Broadway with Blonde Otter and Toobin

My Son The Doctor (MSTD) surely have make their mothers proud because here's a band that is both a spokesband for their generation (see “King of the Zoomers” below, track one) but that also caters to the tastes of Gen X critics such as myself (critics who can make or break a professional musical career at the drop of a blog post!) because for instance it’d be really easy for me to write something like “MSTD bring together the tightly-wound nervy energy of the pre-Brian Eno Talking Heads with Mission of Burma’s slashing guitar attack and Wire’s fragmented minimalism, but overlaid with Pavement’s laconic drawl and Guided By Voice’s bracing brevity, with the four young fresh fellow's Zappa-esque sardonic sense of humor serving as the cherry on top.”

But thank goodness I’d never resort to such overheated, over-referential, word-salad rhetoric just to impress their mothers.

And it’s additionally impressive that Brian Hemmert (vocals), Joel Kalow (guitar), John Mason (drums), and Matt Nitzberg (bass) have applied their M.D.’s and Ph.D.’s to something so lowbrow as a set of literate rock songs masquerading as goodtime party jams as they did last year on their sophomore-but-not-sophomoric EP Taste Those Dreams because in truth it’s not easy straddling the line between thinking and rocking (and “rock” they certainly do, especially live, see the reader’s note above) not to mention the band’s sly sense of humor (even harder to carry off in this context) and when I actually listen to the lyrics it sounds like I'm hearing characters from Douglas Coupland or Michael Chabon or Bret Easton Ellis novels doing the talking (maybe less so the latter but there is a consistent enumeration of food and restaurants, clothing and style on the EP, though less so hard drugs, mutilation, and nihilism). 

And yeah I know I know even more Gen X references what can I say (hi, Moms!) but My Son The Doctor do excel at drawing enticingly fragmentary but no-less-evocative-for-it sketches of various (likely) overeducated slacker types, like those so often found in ‘90s novels and songs and films. But with the crucial difference being that MSTD’s slackers seem to be having a grand ol’ time, free of all that ‘90s angst/lack of affect which makes me think, “What’s the secret, Gen Z? Adderall? Snapchat? Buying Adderall on Snapchat?” (either way at least none of us are as insufferable as millennials...millennials sheesh!)

Or maybe it’s just their “Generation Zen” acceptance of life as it stands, having come of age during what increasingly seemingly looks like the end times and it’s right there in the generation's name for chrissakes because what exactly comes after the letter “Z” so why not party like it’s 2029? (or hey maybe it’s just me inflicting imagined pain upon the next generation, and if so my apologies!)

Anywaze it’s not like I’ve got a Ph.D. in musicology or anything so I’ll leave it to the experts to figure these things out. And guess what, I’ve gone and buried the lead again because MSTD have released a brand new music video today (watch it again directly above so you don’t have to scroll to the top of the page!) which is the very thing we’re here to celebrate. And even better yet, alongside the video launch they’ve graciously shared some revealing song-by-song “liner notes” for Taste Those Dreams but don't worry, they don't give away the whole kit 'n' caboodle cuz you gotta retain a little mystery in this business of ours, obviously, so thank you very much gentlemen! (Jason Lee)


Some quotes from us on the video:

In the post-vaccinated blur of 2021 we played a million shows, but never got around to finally filming a music video for any of the Taste Those Dreams songs. Our first music video was made in late 2020 for “Dancing In Your Basement” (see above). We wanted to take the energy and personality of that video to the next level.

We had this concept for a video of having the band compete in a cake baking competition against each other. After workshopping the idea with video producer Sara Laufer, (Paper Moon Records) we realized the true gold was having Brian, John, and Matt working together in an attempt to impress Joel. It fits our existing roles both in life and within the band reasonably, so Joel became the critic.

“Rubber Hands” felt like the obvious choice for this premise—it's one of our favorite songs from the EP and is both light-hearted and angsty. Plus it has a whole section listing spices, and we wanted to play into that. We've always felt like a great music video brings out the band's personality. Unfortunately, this is truly who we are.

About the Taste Those Dreams EP:

Oh the winged angel of Time, how it does fly. Looking back on our seminal sophomore EP Taste Those Dreams has been a whirl. The EP was recorded almost entirely in a house named Beth's Cottage in rural Pennsylvania with engineer and friend Ian McNally of Moon Hound. The EP was mixed by Jake Cheriff at Paper Moon Records (Moon Kissed, Dead Tooth, Brother Moses) and mastered at Peerless Mastering by Jeff Lipton (Superchunk, Spoon, Stephen Malkmus, Wilco, LCD Soundsystem).

“King of the Zoomers”:

Generational critiques? More like conversational antiques! This song is about Gen Z, which is our generation and millennials are p lame. It's about those pesky little e-cigarettes. It's about love.

“Zoomers” was the first single we released for Taste Those Dreams and we've played it live more than almost any other song. Sometimes weeks can feel like months, folks, and in that sitch you just gotta 'shake it out with a zoomer king in a cloudy trance.

“Rubber Hands”:

Making the music video for Rubber was a blast, since we got to revisit this track. It's a staple in our live set right now—but probably because people just like watching Brian scream out spices.


The namesake of Taste Those Dreams right here folks. “Necro” was maybe the most fun to record cause Joel and Ian spent hours writing and recording backing guitar lines. The second verse in “Necro” is one of our favorite moments on the EP. Somehow it hasn't become the anthem for dating in New York, but there's still time.

“Hotel for Dogs”:

Oh man—who knows. This is a really old song of ours that doesn't particularly make much sense. I still visualize the Hotel Pennsylvania for “Hotel for Dogs,” because that's where a huge number of the show dogs for the Westminster Dog Show stay. It seems to accidentally be about the experience I had going on a date to the Westminster Dog Show, realizing that the dogs were way richer than me.


Bethany gets the most plays—it's probably the most on-the-nose pop punk song we've made. Something for the groms to skate to. It's also the only song on the EP with three actual choruses.

“You're a Sailor (In a Sailor's Hat)”

This song is....polarizing. It's one of our favorites, but partially in that the song is basically unlistenable and because there's a few fish puns in the second verse that nobody has ever really acknowledged. I believe it recently hit 100 plays in Canada. We used to play it live almost all the time but haven't in probably 6 months. Maybe it's time to bring it back...It's the same length as “Rubber Hands” but feels about 3x as long.

John considered quitting drumming after recording "Sailor"—it took three times as many takes as every other song, for whatever reason.

Brief addendum by Jason Lee: “I witnessed MSTD perform “Sailor.” probably the last time they play it live, and the audience went nuts for this song. Which just goes to show never put a drummer in charge of your street team...


ISY's new single "Mean" takes bedroom pop to a Twitchy new dimension

“Mean” is the latest single by the singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer known as ISY who’s name is pronounced “I see” but in reality the song and the artist are neither “mean” meaning cruel-hearted (more like open-hearted) nor “mean” meaning average (more like “who farted?”) just don’t get it twisted because ISY ain’t your standard issue Manic Pixie Dream Girl either—more like a girl who happens to like Manic Panic and the Pixies not to mention Nirvana, Joni Mitchell, John Denver, The Weeknd, Biggie, TLC, and Flatbush Zombies (most of whom she plays on her acoustic guitar named “Joni”) and while that’s a pretty dreamy list of influences it’s clearly not in service of anyone’s incel fantasies cuz it's no accident ISY rhymes with “agency” and "self-sufficiency" (well, sort of!) and she’s perfectly happy hangin' on her own in rural New York in an aluminum trailer reading, drinking coffee, and chillin’ with her coterie of inanimate friends so do you see what I mean? (if not watch the video below!)

Quoting from the song’s lyrics, “Mean” is about “trying to get that grace / from the bad days” while admitting that “I’m just another stupid human…they used to laugh at me” and acknowledging that the “demons chasing you [are the] same ones after me” and asserting that “I know how it feels, but you don’t have to be mean” which all sits ambiguously between being a kiss-off and a gesture of empathy. Overall it’s a good message for Mental Health Awareness Month or for any month really—we should all be “free to be you and me” and have freedom of choice without fear of bullying. And what takes this message to the next level is the way ISY’s nimble voice rides and amplifies the fluctuating waves of emotion in the lyrics and the music, culminating with the refrain “you don’t have to be me” 

On the sonic side of things “Mean” likewise rides a series of musical waves over its 3:33 duration (3:33 is the same exact duration of ISY’s past five singles!) opening on a Garden of Eden soundscape with chirping birds and airy keyboard chords before shifting to a vibey stripped down first verse and then building to an EDM type “drop” followed by a thumping house beat with ISY laying down a warn pillow of vocal overdubs over the beat, the equivalent of little fluffy clouds floating by overhead, which is a recurring sonic motif of ISY’s music in general (you'll understand why when you listen) and then after building to another climax with the vocal lines crashing into one another the song ends back where it started with the peaceful Edenic soundscape and it's like escaping back to a perfect private world. 

And speaking of private worlds, the self-directed music video for “Mean” (co-edited by JD Urban, shot by Jesse Turnquist) depicts ISY hanging out in an Upstate Eden in the vicinity of where she was raised. And speaking of non-private worlds, the video contains a trail of Easter eggs that's sure to resonate with her online fans and followers in the form of various stuffed animals and doll parts and bewigged mannequins and assorted other items recognizable from her thrice-weekly Twitch stream that's something like Alice in Wonderland transplanted “through the looking app” to her New York City apartment decked out with all kinds of cool stuff for viewers to look at (my personal fave is the neon-hued, fluffy cotton clouds crafted by ISY herself, sorry Long Furbies!) a setting that's just as DIY magickal as her music.

But maybe I’d better back up in case and explain that this thing called "Twitch" which is a social media platform for live-streaming first designed for gamers but even before that it started as "justin.tv" with a guy "lifecasting" his existence 24/7 and now it’s come somewhat full circle with an ever-growing army of Twitchers who taken together cover the full panoply of life’s rich pageant with Twitch channels dedicated to everything from ASMR rubber-earlobe-licking-and-sucking streamers (don’t ask) to the many music-centric channels ranging from songwriting sessions and all-request streams to multi-tracking violinists and fast-fingered harpists to piano loungers and chilled-out Brazilian guitarists plus tons of live DJ’s of every shape and stripe broadcasting at all hours from all around the world.

And for me personally, the discovery of this new-to-me platform (with ISY being one of the first Twitchers I got hooked on) was a lifeline as I was then undergoing a serious case of live music withdrawal during Endless Lockdown 2020-21 and here was a platform that was great not only for streaming live music but that also gave a kind of "behind the scenes" peek into artists' creative processes, and their personalities, with a culture based around interactivity and community-building (the chat section is more than just an appendage with streamers responding to comments in real time, plus lots of cross-talk between viewers) and also audience-performer intimacy (the homebound setting of most streamers only encourages this) and also on the development of what I'll call “microfandoms," where it only takes a handful of followers to create an intensely-felt musical community (compare this to Tik-Tok with its emphasis on highly staged, semi-scripted videos and "challenges" which OK thank you very much but I'm challenged enough already!)

For her part, ISY first came across Twitch when she found out that one of her favorite musical artists, DJ/producer/emcee Erick the Architect of Flatbush Zombies fame, had a Twitch channel and was hosting a special birthday stream a couple years back. She logged on and before long was kicking back and cracking open a beer and talking back to the computer screen like she was there in person with Erick because it felt that relaxed and personal. And with having own channel on Twitch now for nearly as long, ISY says she’s never been so fulfilled as a musician, with friends/fans/followers showing their love through modest tips measured in “bits," and “custom emotes” earned from subscribing to her stream, but mostly through chat-section displays of encouragement and support (“your voice calms my bird down” being one of her faves) and the development of close-knit, long-distance friendships.

What's more, ISY also points out that as a female musician, this kind of online environment has been good for avoiding the kinds of predation and condescension that she’s more likely to experience IRL or on a more anonymous, unregulated platform (the presence of a trusted, hand-picked moderator on Twitch is helpful too, yo Adriaeeeeeen!) thus allowing her to develop a circle of smart, funny, and kind people (as ISY herself describes them!) who enjoy hanging out together and share her sense of loopy humor and undaunted honesty and eclectic musical tastes.

And OK just to be clear I'm not a paid shill for Twitch though I'm not making any promises going forward (Twitch: call me, maybe (!) and yeah Twitch is an affiliate of Amazon Inc. boooooo but I wouldn't mind getting that Bezos money!) and the focus is justified here as ISY says that “Mean” is a direct outgrowth of her online fam both in how the song was constructed (getting direct feedback from followers as she was writing, and being influenced by her fellow streamer pal LILYKAY to try out a house beat and the EDM drop) and also in terms of the song's subject matter, but suffice to say you can no doubt find and explore the virtual platform of your choice for touching from a distance. Because in "this modern world" we're always gotta be looking for new ways to reorient the very tools and technologies that will otherwise divide and even enslave us, using them instead to form human connections and to heal until the next upgrade comes along if you know what I mean. (Jason Lee)


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