Beer and Pavement

Indie-Craft Interview #3: Kim Sherman

Posted in Film, Indie-Craft, Interview by SM on May 2, 2012

Kim Sherman is a really busy person. So busy that I thought for sure she’d never get around to this “interview.” Not only did Kim prove me wrong, but she went above and beyond the call of duty by contributing the many interesting bits of information you find below the picture I lifted from her Facebook profile. There’s indie filmmaking and indie rock-making she does, filling every open slot on her calendar. She used to head the music scheduling at True/False before returning this year with both a film to screen (V/H/S) and busking gigs for her band, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, to fulfill.

Speaking of True/False, it was suggested that Kim was the real story of this year’s fest. How often does someone go from volunteering/working for a major film festival to a contributing filmmaker? This doesn’t even mention Jerusalem and the Starbaskets’ thrilling set at one of the fest’s showcases following a year where the band found some well-deserved acclaim for their album, Dost. In other words, Kim is a big part of the best thing that happens in Middle Missouri.

All of this makes Kim Sherman an ideal subject for the Indie-Craft Interview series… 

1. Describe your craft(s).
I am an independent filmmaker and the drummer for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. My day job is producing for feature films. In independent cinema, this usually involves being pretty hands on in all aspects of the creation of a film. My role and job shape shift a bit, depending on the project and my relationship with the project’s director. For some director’s, I deal more with the practical aspects of the project. Things like hiring cast and crew, working with unions, securing permission for locations. Really, the things no one likes to do on a film set. For other director’s, I work in a more collaborative sense, and help guide the story with them. In either case, I work very hard to make sure the director has everything they need to tell the story, and that they have the space and freedom to insert their voice in that story. If the audience takes something away from the film, hopefully a strong emotional or academic response, and the director feels like people really understand what they were trying to convey, I feel like I did a good job. Though, it helps when the film sells and everyone involved makes money.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
Choosing Independent Filmmaking was really easy for me, being from the Midwest. I wasn’t exposed to studios, early on, and I never really dreamed of working for a studio. Though, I respect that the industry needs both halves to survive. Some of my favorite films came out of studios. I know that “independent film” meant something different in the 90’s, when that meant a film cost less than $3 million. Now there is a much wider range for independent financing, so films are made for under 10K pretty regularly and with great success. Technology and talent are available in abundance at all levels of that financial spectrum. So for me, the biggest reason for staying in the Independent realm, is simply being able to work on stories that I find interesting, that I feel are important, and that maybe break the rules a bit.

I still want all the world to see my work, and that is certainly easier to achieve in the studio system. But the more overhead a film is associated with, the more money it has to make just to break even. The more money a film has to make, the more creative decisions are made solely on that point. The more a film compromises just to make money, the more contained the vision becomes. Its hard to do something different when you are only thinking about the people that are happy to see the same story over and over again. As a filmmaker and an audience member, I want to see stories that are maybe dirtier, darker, and that challenge the way life is portrayed on television and in theaters.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
Independent Filmmaking, as I stated, can allow for more freedom of storytelling. The actual filmmaking process has become more accessible to more people, which opens the medium up for interpretations by various cultures. The idea is that independent film and audiences will gravitate towards stories that haven’t been told and recycled a million times over.

Until recently, I had been working mostly in horror films. I was fortunate to work with a few friends that know the genre very deeply, and wanted to see the old conventions given new life. They developed stories with a woman as the central protagonists. The women in these films survive where others would break. I really loved this element. I recognize that Horror is an inherently sexist genre, but I do see more and more audiences growing tired of watching women mercilessly tortured. There is a trend towards women overcoming the demons, serial killers, mutant rapists, and abusive spouses from another planet, and not just because they are pure and virginal. Horror, like sci-fi and other genre work, is a great way to point out the evils of society and hopefully make a path to the solution of these evils.

More recently, I have been involved with dramas that feature women on the verge of falling out of society. Caught between their crimes and the reality of the punishment, I ran towards these stories for their polarizing central characters. This is an idea that had been reserved for male characters, with women playing sidekick and savior. I love being a part of something that provides strong and challenging roles for women.

Beyond just women too, I hope to always work on films that push forward groups that would otherwise be marginalized in film, on and off the screen. Hopefully these stories won’t seem so fringe, in the very near future. In this way, I feel like my craft contributes to society.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
Several times a year, I record and tour with my bandmates, Jeremy Freeze and John Garland, as the drummer for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. My bandmates are like family, and I very sincerely love the music we make. I’ll sometimes blush when I hear it playing in Uprise or other public spaces, but I really do love listening to our albums always. Jeremy Freeze is one of my favorite songwriters, and I never get sick of listening to his voice and lyrics.

When I work on films, I spend a lot of time on my computer. I have a hard time concentrating if I’m not listening to music. It’s better for my brain than coffee even.

Recently, Jeremy and John contributed music to a film I produced. For me, it was the start of something I have been working up to. I want to combine my two loves, film and music. I am currently co-writing a film with Jeremy, that we are hoping to make late in 2013.

5. What is your dream of success?
I have more immediate goals for success, that include sustainability. It’s hard for people in my profession to balance time and money. It’s especially hard when you work in micro-budget independent films. Long term, I am starting to get back to directing, and it is my hope that I can find a successful balance between directing, producing, and drumming. If I can do this, live comfortably off of the things I have dedicated my life to, and still be there for my friends and community, I will feel like a huge success.

If you get a chance, check out Kim’s work. V/H/S hits On Demand and theaters this fall. Dost is available in exchange for your dollars. And I’m sure Kim has something else up her sleeve in the meantime.

[Full disclosure: Kim is the only person to ever call me a journalist. This can be both good and bad. Make of it what you will.]

 

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True/False Music Review

Posted in Live, Review by SM on March 9, 2012

Here is the post I published yesterday at the CoMo Collective. It covers the bands I saw and a couple I didn’t see much of. As you will see, True/False is more of a cultural experience than just a documentary film festival. That may be why we all love it so much…

Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? via Benjamin Gross

As promised, here’s a complete rundown of the bands I was able to take in throughout True/False weekend. This year’s lineup was maybe the strongest I’ve seen. Between buskers warming up crowds, filling our streets with music, and rocking showcases around town, this fest became almost as much about the music as it did the films.

As a recap, I’m reposting my take on Wednesday’s Eastside Showcase. Scroll down if you’ve read it before…

Eastside Showcase

This is the unofficial official start of the fest and it’s hard to believe that any showcase will outdo the one at Eastside Tavern last night. Three bands – two local, one from Milwaukee – whipped the crowd into a pretty good frenzy for Wednesday.

Enemy Airship opened the night and one could say the entire festival.If I wanted to hear Broken Social Scene, I’d probably watch them on Pitchfork TV, but this was a close enough facsimile. I certainly don’t mean that in negative way. The band is fun, even danceable, especially as compared to their previous incarnation, Nonreturner. The set was topped off with a particularly earnest cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent”. It’s too bad no one could hear the keyboards.

Another local, Hott Lunch, played second. I had heard a lot of good things and the band did not disappoint. From punk to classic rock, this band was all over the place aggression, hitting all the right influences. I’d like to hear them focus in on one thing, but they do so many so well. Maybe that’s not so bad. Either way, it was an enjoyable set.

The closers were Catacombz. With a light show few have witnessed in Eastside, the band beat the audience into submission and told them to dance without directly telling the so, yet they obeyed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a band come in and just move the entire crowd into convulsions.

Jerusalem & The Starbaskets via Benjamin Gross

Mojo’s Showcase (Bassdrum of Death, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, and Ming Donkey One-Man Band)

Regretfully, I missed Ming Donkey One-Man Band due to a film. This became apparent to me as I entered Mojo’s to find it buzzing. It seemed that buzz was about the dirty heaps of new age blues that was being thrust upon the crowd and would continue through the night.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, once of CoMo, played next. Besides frontman Jeremy Freeze’s occasional turn as a busker and drummer Kim Sherman’s turns at V/H/S Q&A’s, the band made a triumphant return to CoMo (as is their usual) with a roaring set of dirges and blues psychedelia. Interestingly, the band’s sound was filled out with the addition of John Garland on guitar. The set primarily featured material from their well-received Dost, a record you should own.

Bass Drum of Death via Benjamin Gross

Bass Drum of Death is another Fat Possum band that sounds as if they’re from another era. They looked and sounded a ton like 1991-era Seattle, but sounded closer to No Age than Nirvana. This topped off what was an impressive roster for the evening. I’m not sure I’ve seen a T/F showcase demonstrate as much firepower as this crew showed… Well, until the next night.

Mojo’s A-Go-Go (Believers, Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?, Dark Dark Dark and Cassie Morgan)

Once again, I regretfully missed a Mojo’s opener. St. Louis duo Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine played what must have been a distant and haunting set of hushed melodies. Although described as folk, I’d place her stylings closer to something sleepier, with a bit of twang for good measure. I only know this because I luckily caught her set as a busker in the Blue Note. Still, I imagine her set fit nicely with the bands to follow.

Dark Dark Dark came on next. Gypsies with powerful female lead vocals rarely go wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, this is not Beirut with Sharon Van Etten. No, this is a rock band that understands a good pop song, something that would linger through the evening.

At this point, it was clear that the evening was building toward something. However, it felt as if we needed a way to traverse the gap between Cassie Morgan’s brand of folk and Dark Dark Dark’s gypsie spiel. A bridge would work, but a boat or ship would be better. Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? made their way on stage and increased the number of accordions and French horns by at least one apiece.

Believers via Benjamin Gross

The bridge or ship or whatever worked as the crowd was pretty amped for the Believers set. Believers just puts on a consistently great show and it doesn’t hurt that the songs are so good and danceable. For once, all the percussion was in the back of the stage as compared to the center, but it didn’t take away the percussive nature of the band by any means. The buzz that started the previous night lasted all the way through Believers’ set. If for no other reason, Believers should stay together just to play T/F every year. Either way, they will forever be linked to the fest for me as it just isn’t complete without a Believers show.

Buskers a-Busking

I remember Nature Walk busking before, but I don’t remember them being as engaging as they were this year. I got vibes from Violent Femmes and One Foot in the Grave-era Beck. Good, fun rock music to get us ready for the nonfiction about to be thrown our way.

The Toughcats come all the way from Maine every year. It seems there’s a contingent that makes the trek every year and the  Touchcats are part of that crew. To fully enjoy the Toughcats’s set, one has to pay particular attention to the drummer who works as hard and as enthusiastically as any drummer I’ve ever seen.

Run On Sentence featured the filmmaker of Gasland, a popular T/F entry and near-Oscar winner. Beyond that, Run On Sentence stands on their own, recalling a bit of Clem Snide. They certainly kept a large audience in the spacious Missouri Theater engaged with the energy they brought from Portland.

Bramble actually played my daughter’s preschool before they ever played the T/F box office, various street corners, or several film venues. They are fast becoming a favorite at the fest. Everybody tends to enjoy their special brand of roots rock, especially three-year-olds.

Another roots rock band to busk some films was Wine Teeth. However, where Bramble reminded me more of Fleet Foxes (musically), Wine Teeth are certainly big Elliott Smith fans, providing a bit of edge to their set.

The hit of the fest may have been Les Trois Coups. The four Frenchmen enchanted audiences, inspiring many to dance and others to fall under their gypsie charms. From what I heard and saw, I don’t think the boys ever stopped playing their songs and performing skits with a combination of French and bits of broken English. The boys played for a school in St. Louis and hit the streets as soon as they made it to CoMo, and were seen at showcases and in the basement of at least one house party at 3:30 in the morning. I’m not sure they ever slept as they had to catch a flight early Sunday morning.

It’s nice see some great bands return year after year. Pearl and the Beard can both fill any venue with their powerful voices while maintaining an uncanny ability to rely on subtlety to not overwhelm with every song. This has really been one of the better busker acts to make it to T/F over the years and I hope they keep coming back.

Prahlad is actually a folklore professor at the university. He plays his brand of folk on mbira and slit drum, traditional African instruments. The resulting music is calming yet stimulating and was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the fest.

Cindy Woolf told a story that went with a song that was about distilling moonshine. That may be all you need to know. This is country as it’s meant to be sung and performed. Sad, slow, and soothing.

There were others to play music last weekend, but this was what I was able to see/hear among the 15 or so films I was able to see. Still, it was possibly the strongest lineup the fest has featured since I’ve been attending. Music coordinators Billy Schuh and Amanda Rainey really deserve a ton of credit for putting together this year’s group of buskers and showcasers. For the complete list of musicians, including many of the better ones I failed to mention here, check T/F’s website while it’s still up.

Jerusalem & the Starbaskets – Dost

Posted in Records by SM on June 24, 2011

Punk rock died when the first kid said, “Punk’s not dead. Punk’s not dead!”

And so warbled Silver Jew David Berman, the Nashville poet whose career bridged the lo-fi nineties with the alt.country nineties. His lament perfectly describes the mess that is Jerusalem & the Starbaskets’ Dost.

When I say “mess” I mean it in the most flattering terms. Just as punk rock and traditional country can get a bit sloppy, Dost turns a disaster into something comforting and real. While the songwriting and performances are tight, the vocals and production keep a drunk slob happy.

Mixed into the set of songs, the listener finds perfect examples of garage rock and whiskey tunes, but don’t overlook the bits of Pavement or even touches of Nirvana scattered throughout.

In fact, my first listen made me wonder how things would have been different had Kurt Cobain grown up in Memphis instead of the Pacific Northwest. For one, he would have chosen whiskey over heroin and for two, he would have likely written sad songs as opposed to the angry material he did record. Nirvana could have easily recorded a record very much like Dost had Cobain been from Tennessee and not Washington.

At least two reviews I’ve read on Dost claim that the songs would be better had they received slicker treatment in the studio. The melodies are convoluted by feedback and tape hiss. The vocals are hard to make out with all the echo and overdubs. Some of the subtleties in the instruments employed are hard to pick out due to a messy recording process. Etc.

Apparently these same reviewers hate Guided By Voices and Sebadoh or any number of bands lumped under the lo-fi identifier journalists and bloggers lazily toss around. Dost maintains a certain charm and authenticity with this record’s (under)production. Some hate it, but it lends to the experience of Jerusalem’s material, especially live. One cannot possibly understand how a band translates live if a record is overproduced from studio slickness and autotune abuse.

Where Dost goes right – overcoming whoever’s hangups over production – is in songcraft and delivery. Both sides of the record open with pleasant guitar interludes before launching into garage-based rockers. Those tracks are followed by a mix of country drunkeness and mid-tempo indie rock.  All songs fit together without trying too hard to jump genres. The Jerusalem aesthetic holds true throughout.

Singer/guitarist Jeremy Freeze comes from Memphis, bringing with him that Memphis warble, much like Berman does on the lyrics above from the song “Tennessee.” However, Freeze has a piece of Columbia in him as well as our own Kim Sherman sits behind the kit keeping his train on the tracks.

There are electronic flourishes subtly placed on various tracks, but they don’t take over the production, leaving the listener a document that remains true to a Jerusalem live show. And this is where the deliver part comes in. Freeze is a gifted and loose guitarist that moves effortlessly between genres, tempos, and sonics. Sherman is as steady a drummer as one would hope. It’s the backbeat of this band and its obvious connection to post-punk country and independently-created garage rock that hold together the beautiful sloppiness within. Or something like that.

Honestly, I’ve probably overwritten this review. I realized this as I discovered the phrase “no thinking all feeling” on the record sleeve, recognizing that this is the essence of Dost and it should be seen as so. Consider this record a perfect document of Columbia in the summer and put it on repeat.

Highlights for me included “Chocolate Covered Every Berry” (below), “First Cigarette in the Rain”, and “Fuck a Parade” among others. Look for Dost in your local record store or buy it here.

This review was written for The Collective but will publish there tomorrow. Consider this a bonus for reading this blog, but click over to the other sometime tomorrow and possibly Sunday as I have more to say about other things then.

The Weekend that Was

Posted in Life by SM on May 23, 2011

Since starting this blog, I’ve tried to limit the number of posts that just tell you what I did. Well, I’ve been a single parent for most of the last week and will continue for all of this week. So, I have time for nothing more than share a few images from my weekend.

The weekend started with this…

Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA started off the weekend (and would be enjoyed on Sunday as well). The Hopry’s review got me to thinking that I needed to give this beer another try. The first and last time I tried it was the big Stone night here in town and I was not that impressed. Of course, I was following up several beers that are all a load on their own. So, making this my first of the weekend allowed me to enjoy this beer unscathed. Upon further review, the Cali-Belgique is what its name suggests: a California-style hopbomb with the delicate presence of a Belgian yeast strain. What a great summer beer this is going to be with it’s tartness only balanced by the fruity bitterness of west coast hop bills.

Later on Friday, I obtained the services of a sitter and caught what I hoped to be the lineup of the summer. Believers put on their typical jive-inducing set. Richard the Lionhearted (sorry, no pics turned out),played a tight set of new and old songs. Jerusalem and the Starbaskets brought home their dirty, drunken version of rock music before I had to sneak out to relieve and pay said sitter. It was a nice night to catch up with some friends and release a bit from my week as a single parent.

My kid’s first rock show happened. It was Sunday evening at an ice cream parlor. We sat down with our ice cream and watched Dubb Nubb and Cory Taylor Cox play folk music as it stormed outside. As you can see from the picture, my kid and her friend from her Montessori school rocked out, mostly pogoing the night away.

My busy weekend finally ended the way most weekends should end: with a beer. Boulevard’s Tank 7 is easily one of my five favorite/go-to beers.

Hopefully, there will be more full-fledged posts this week as next week will be a bit thin with a long-awaited vacation on the horizon. Bare with me. I have ideas for some good posts in the coming months.

Friday non-Post

Posted in Life, Live, Uncategorized by SM on May 20, 2011

My wife is out of town and I’m single-parenting it this week and next. So, there’s little to no time to blog (especially for three blogs). I have two posts started, but no time to finish. One is about the necessity for indie rock and craft beer to better appreciate one another. That one you will see eventually. The second was a post about the end of the world. Since it’s ending Saturday, you won’t see that one. Also, Jamie was right and the yeast was not enough for my beer to fully ferment. Luckily, I have friends with slurry and I will pitch more yeast tonight.

In the meantime, read about what I plan to see tonight.

Returning to Mojo’s from parts unknown (or Memphis) is CoMo’s forgotten son and daughter tandem, better known as Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. Frontman Jeremy Freeze and drummer Kim Sherman bring the pain – metaphorically and literally with their raucous live set. Sometimes it’s a shambled mess and other times it’s pure brilliance. you want to be there for both.

As a two-piece, Jerusalem will cause you to recall other acts such as The White Stripes or The Black Keys, but those are lazy comparisons. I prefer rolling out Swearing at Motorist or The Kills when describing what they do. Expect plenty of heartbreak and woe, but be prepared to rock Friday night.

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets are supporting their recently released and well-received full-length as released by Minneapolis label De Stijl. The record is doing so well, that the first single, “First Cigarette in the Rain,” recently topped the NYU charts. So, be sure to make it out to Mojo’s tonight to welcome the duo back.

Also playing are CoMusic favorites Believers and Richard the Lionhearted.

Believers are warning their legions of followers that this might be the last time to see them for a while. Hopefully, that means more writing and recording…or it could just mean more float trips for the band. Either way, it will be nice to see Believers on stage again as they put on one of the most engaging live shows in town.

Rumor has it that CoMusic compilation contributor Richard the Lionhearted will be debuting some new songs tonight as well. This news should only be welcomed with cheers, beers, and undergarments flung on stage as these boys know how to write a song. The prolific band will open what promises to be the best one-night lineup of the summer.

The doors at Mojo’s opens at 8:30. There is a $5 cover, but it’s totally worth it.

In the meantime, check the following video and track to hold you over.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F10093969 Jerusalem and the Starbaskets : Walkin across your Grave by destijlrecs