This week, Makin Waves chats with Jim Appio on the eve of the fifth anniversary of his CoolDad Music site. The column also features reviews of Jersey Shore-based Capacitor Records’ release of the Seattle super group Basment Sessions, plus streams of new Bar/None recording act Overlake and Asbury Park’s The Hesh and Levy & Oaks, and briefs on Noise in the Attic, Modern Chemistry and more.
I remember standing in the Stone Pony, watching Jim Appio of CoolDad Music go onstage at the 2016 Asbury Park Music Awards to accept his third prize of the night. Despite losing my 15th nomination since the awards’ inception and cementing my status as the Susan Lucci of Asbury Park, I remember thinking, “Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy,’ as CoolDad humbly fumbled with his microphone-shaped trophy.
All of the Asbury Park music scene and most of the Brooklyn music scene feel the same way about CoolDad, and that’s why his fifth anniversary party on March 25 at the upstairs Overlook bar of Asbury’s Convention Hall is a big deal. Few writer-photographers are as talented, productive, charming AND humble as Jim. With the help of former Asbury Lanes promoter Jenn Hampton, the celebration is going to feature four of CoolDad’s favorite bands: Shellshag, dollys, Smalltalk and RocknRoll HiFives.
Not to rest on his laurels, CoolDad has another show on March 26 with Little Dickman Records at The Saint, also in Asbury, featuring Kino Kimino, Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends, Lunch Landies and EVL MOMMZ. And if soon was not soon enough, there’s a March 30 shindig with Deal Casino front man Joe P and Brooklyn faves Big Bliss and Fruit & Flowers at Langosta Lounge, also Asbury.
In the following chat, CoolDad talks about the show, his relationships within the scene and his family and, of course, his award-winning music site.
Q: How did CoolDad Music come to be five years ago? What event ignited the site being put into motion?
A: CoolDad Music grew out of my love of current indie and alternative music. I would share bands and songs with my friends on social media and someone eventually said, “You should start a blog.” I was looking for something a little more interesting to do than my corporate job, so I went ahead with it.
The very first thing I ever posted about was a show at The Stone Pony in 2012 featuring Titus Andronicus, Screaming Females, and Diarrhea Planet — the kickoff to the Screaming on Planet Titus Tour. I went to the show with a few friends, woke up the next morning, and posted a recap.
Q: What inspired the name of the site, how and why?
A: Whenever I would post a song or video, before I had the blog, I would use the hashtag #cooldad. It was kind of a joke. You know, like I was this middle-aged dad trying too hard to be hip. When the idea for the blog came around, I wanted to use it. CoolDad.com was already taken, so I went with CoolDadMusic.
Q: During the past five years, you’ve been a big influence on many bands, but two in particular, Dentist and RocknRoll HiFives, having helped them get deals with Little Dickman Records. What do you love most about those bands and why?
A: I love Dentist’s music and the way they mix surf, pop and punk into these catchy songs. It’s really that simple. For their last record, I knew they were looking for a label and just asked if they’d spoken to Amy and Chris at Little Dickman. The parties took it from there and it seems to have worked out great.
The RocknRoll HiFives played the first-ever holiday benefit show that I did with Little Dickman a few years ago. I loved their first EP. It rocked just like everything else they do. I guess I booked them on that holiday show, but they were the ones who blew away the entire room, including the Dickmans. We had them back for our second one, and the rest is history.
The RocknRoll HiFives inspire me. They’ve found something that they can share as a family that also happens to bring a lot of joy to a lot of other people.
The fact that I’ve met and become great friends with the people in both of those bands because of the blog is really more than I could have ever hoped for when I started doing this.
Q: Are there any other bands you’ve helped or at least loved as much as Dentist and RocknRoll HiFives and why?
A: CoolDad Music is, at its core, I think, just me writing about music that I really like. It’s me saying, “I like this. You might like it. It’s worth your time. You should check it out.” I hope that ends up being helpful to those bands. I, selfishly, want them to be successful so they can keep making music for me to hear.
I love lots of bands a whole lot, but I’ll do a little promo here and say that, in addition to The RocknRoll HiFives, three more of them are on the anniversary show on March 25: dollys, Shellshag, and Smalltalk. If you check out the blog, you’ll see all of those bands mentioned frequently. They’ve all been important to the site.
Q: How does it make you feel to have helped those bands?
A: Despite what Morrissey says, it feels good to see your friends become successful, and you want to help them any way you can. Whenever someone comes up to me at a show and tells me they came to see a band I like because of something I wrote, it’s pretty gratifying.
Q: What do you love most about Little Dickman?
A: First, Amy and Chris are just wonderful, dedicated people. As a label, they care about their artists and put a lot of themselves into every release. They also work hard to bring interesting live music to our area. Many, many of my evenings would be pretty boring if not for the shows Little Dickman brings to town.
Q: Why do you do so many concert promotions with them?
A: Everything is more fun when you do it with friends, right? They’re great people to work with, and we have the same burning desire not to have to drive to NYC or Philly to see touring bands.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about your anniversary show and why?
A: I’m looking forward to getting together with old friends, making new friends, and saying thanks for all the support, while watching four of my favorite bands.
Q: Why should people go to the anniversary show?
A: People should come out to the show because it’s going to be a great time. Like I said before, every band is special to the blog, and they’re all great at what they do. dollys bring amazing musicianship to some of the best indie pop music you’ll hear. Smalltalk harken back to the sounds of bands like The Wedding Present and The Jesus and Mary Chain, all fuzzy guitars and romantic lyrics. Shellshag embody DIY punk and have been creating art their way for years. The RocknRoll HiFives will bring tears to your eyes as they melt your face.
Q: The anniversary show is a co-present with Jennifer from Asbury Lanes. Comment on how and why that and the venue are special to you.
A: Asbury Lanes and Jenn Hampton were big supporters of CoolDad Music early on. Jenn let me do pretty much whatever I wanted in terms of going to shows and taking photos. One of the things she said that has always stuck with me is, “We know you like to support us and the bands, but we want to support you too.”
And that was what was so special there. The sense of family and community. I hope we can harness a little bit of it at the show.
Q: It’s interesting that while you’re at SXSW at this moment, Dentist are getting ready to tour Canada, so they won’t be able to play your anniversary show. Do you think you’ll have another anniversary show to include them and others and another venue that also is special to you?
A: Well, when Dentist are huge five years from now, I hope they deign to play my 10th anniversary. Seriously, though, when I first started out “presenting” things, it was quite a long time before I put together or sponsored a show that didn’t have Dentist on it. We’ve done lots of stuff before, and we’ll do more in the future.
As far as another special venue goes, we’ll have to wait and see. It’s about more than four walls and a roof, though; so as long as there are people around who love supporting music, there’s hope for the future.
Q: What other shows and promotions do you have coming up besides the anniversary on March 25?
A: Well, Little Dickman and I are doing another one the very next day, March 26, at The Saint. That one features Kino Kimino, Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends, Lunch Ladies and EVL MOMMZ. Sharkmuffin’s Tarra Thiessen will be playing in three of the bands. So we can just keep the anniversary celebration going through Sunday. Come to both nights!
We’ve also got two great bands from Brooklyn, Big Bliss and Fruit & Flowers, playing with Deal Casino’s Joe P at Langosta Lounge on March 30.
Q: What special content plans do you have for the site during its anniversary year?
A: Anyone who knows me knows that things like ‘plans’ are not my strong suit. But I would like to continue the Simple Sound Sessions we started at the beginning of the year with Andy Bova at his studio in Oceanport. We had Lowlight in then, and it was a lot of fun.
I also always say I’m going to do more multimedia content like video interviews and things like that, so that’s always a possibility.
Q: Comment on how your photography on both the site and social media makes CoolDad special and popular?
A: One thing I’ve noticed recently is that when people come up to say hi to me or introduce themselves, they almost always say, “I follow you on Instagram.” So, in terms of the site, I think the pictures have reached a lot more people than just text alone ever would have.
Personally, I love taking pictures at live shows. It’s started to feel weird to me to watch a concert without a camera, which may not be a good thing now that I think about it. But it’s a constant learning experience for me, which has been fulfilling. Photography in the conditions of a live show is this constant problem-solving experience that I find invigorating. It’s also an excuse to buy new toys every once in a while, which is always fun.
Q: Within the past year, CoolDad has become a stay-at-home dad. How and why has that impacted your music site and your coverage of the local music scene?
A: Now there are no conference calls going on in the background when I’m editing pictures or writing blog posts. I worked from home for the last almost 10 years, so the change hasn’t been that drastic. I was always the one who woke up with the kids and got them to school or their practices or whatever. While I was home alone, I did work. Now, that involves blog-related stuff instead of meetings and Powerpoint. I can also do things like go to SXSW without having to worry about using up vacation days.
Q: What do you like most about being a stay-at-home dad?
A: I like not being at my old job anymore. Ha!
I just like being free to do things for the kids without having to worry about missing a meeting or something. I like not having to miss my daughter’s morning violin demo because of something that came up with work.
Q: How and why would CoolDad Music not be as cool as it is without CoolMom? What does your wife, Dandi, directly and indirectly bring to you and the site that allows you to pursue and improve it?
A: CoolMom (Dandi) is the entire support system of CoolDad Music. When I’m in Austin for an entire week, she’s home taking the kids to swim meets and getting the car fixed. When I’m out covering a show from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m., she’s getting the kids ready for bed and helping them with their homework. This is all in addition to commuting to NYC every day. The fact that CoolMom enthusiastically encourages me to keep on keeping on with this as long as it makes me happy is a real gift. There would be no CoolDad Music without her. Period!
Now that CoolDaughter #1 is old enough to babysit, we get even more chances to go to shows together. We bonded over music when we first met, and the best shows are always the ones where she joins me. I, honestly, wish she were there with me every time.
Q: Compare the joy of turning your daughters onto the music that you love most to turning the world onto the music you cover.
A: Well, I haven’t been that successful at turning the CoolDaughters onto the music I love most. They’ve been exposed to it, and I think they like — or will tolerate — a lot more of it than their peers, but I think kids have to come to things on their own. They know what I like. They hear it plenty. Maybe someday they’ll love it too. Maybe they’ll find their own thing.
I think I’ve had a little more success with the rest of the world, and, like I said, anytime anyone tells me that I influenced them, it’s a good feeling.
I’d love it if I could find some music to bond over with the CoolDaughters. Maybe they’ll turn me onto something. Anytime you can find something to share with your kids, it’s special.
The Basment Sessions are a Seattle-based supergroup who record most Sundays during the summer after rotating members smoke a few trees, drink shots of tequila and bond over barbecue. Perhaps intentionally misspelled after burning a few too many, the all-star outfit is organized and produced by drummer Johnny “G” Graziadei of Kandi Coded and Endino’s Earthworm. Johnny G also wrote or co-wrote most of the 13 tracks and played drums on all of them.
Other contributors include Matt Pike (High on Fire, Sleep), Bubba Dupree (Void), members of Zeke, Jack Endino of Skinyard and producer of Sub Pop albums (including Nirvana’s Bleach debut), and Dan Matthews from New Jersey’s own The Black Clouds and co-owner of Capacitor Records. Capacitor put the collection out because the label that released Vol. 1 & 2 went under. Matthews also is a good friend of Graziadei and Endino, the producer-engineer of the Clouds’ latest LP, After All. And he’s featured on the blistering opening track, “She Don’t Have One,” with Endino on bass.
The free spirit and great time that surrounded this collection, as well as the first one (now available through Capacitor), is captured well by Graziadei in a loose but hearty production. The single “Driving Lost,” featuring Dupree, not surprisingly stands out with its grungy rage ala Soundgarden and creepy darkness that channels Nine Inch Nails. Dupree also contributes nicely on three other tracks: “Trouble Yourself,” “This Sex Means War” and “Don’t Ask Why.” I also really like the thick groove of “How You Think You Feel,” featuring Erika Mayfield of the emerging Seattle band Steal Shit Do Drugs.
The Basment Sessions Vol. 3 & 4 will be celebrated with an April 1 release party at Substation in Seattle with participants in the recording, as well as The Stuntmen, The Derelicts and The Black Clouds, wh will also play a Capacitor Records showcase on March 24 at The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, with label mates Yorkshire Tent as well as GayGuy/StraightGuy, Experiment 34, Strange Eclipse and Simple Sin.
The noisy Jersey City-based dream-pop trio Overlake has taken things full circle with their Yo La Tengo influence. Vocalist-guitarist Tom Barrett, bassist-vocalist Lysa Opfer and drummer Nick D’Amore will release their label debut on May 12 for Bar/None Records, the Hoboken indie that was home to Yo La Tengo for many years. Fall follows the self-released “Winter is Why.” Help the band celebrate the release of Fall on May 12 at Mercury Lounge in New York City.
Elijah’s Promise, a food justice and empowerment program based in New Brunswick, will benefit from a concert on March 25 at The Court Tavern, also New Brunswick, with Dinosaur Eyelids, Finding Feebas, New Politicians, and Casino Sundae. All profits will got the Elijah’s Promise’s soup kitchen. The program also features a culinary school and catering service largely made up of students and workers it rescued from hunger and/or homelessness. The show was organized by Dinosaur Eyelids.
Noise in the Attic is a charitable collective that organizes a series of benefit concerts for a variety of charities. Among their last few shows before a summer break are March 26 with Collin Adkisson of Beatrix Potter Band, Gary Mayer of Thomas Wesley Stern and Laketon, Matt Cook, Michael Askin, and Modern Crowds, and April 9 with FERN, Levy & The Oaks, XOXOK, Martin Swinger, and The Lords of Liechtenstein. Both are at The Inkwell in Long Branch, and admission is $5. Proceeds on March 26 will go to GLSEN, a growing nationwide youth group for LGBTQ students who are bullied, discriminated against, fall through the cracks and often contemplate suicide. The Project Matters will benefit from the April 9 show to help provide aspiring young artists with a variety of assistance, including financial, business, technical, legal, educational and emotional support. Noise in the Attic also will host a benefit concert on April 23 that will be announced soon. Acoustic acts and bands will to perform acoustically can help them out by clicking on their link.
Asbury Park singer-songwriter-pianist The Hesh will celebrate the release of his epic new CD, Soul in Exile 3: Love Runs Aground, from 1:30 to 6 p.m. March 26 at The Saint, also in Asbury Park, with a little help from his friends The Jenny Pilots, The Mercury Brothers and Bruce Tunkel. The disc is in large part of a loving tribute to the City by the Sea.
Modern Chemistry once again will hit the road with management mates Taking Back Sunday as well as Every Time I Die, for a jaunt that will kick of July 14 at Webster Hall in New York City then take them to Boston, Atlanta, Florida, Texas, Tucson, Las Vegas, and California through Aug. 1. The tour then will head back east with All Get Out taking the opening spot. For Modern Chemistry, the summer tour follows spring dates from April 26 at Little Italy, Philadelphia, to May 7, Gold Sounds, Brooklyn, N.Y. In between, they’ll be at Spring Fling Fest in Cleveland, as well as stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Columbus, and Richmond. Perhaps by then Mod Chem’s debut LP will come out as a follow-up to three well-received EPs.
Once again, Sniffling Indie Kids and Mint 400 Records are descending upon Cathedral Hall in Jersey City for a rad shindig. The show will feature Adam & the Plants, Kult of Mary, C.R. & the Degenerates, Guilty Giraffe, and Rosey Bengal.
That grand poobah of Jersey-style Southern rock, Tommy Lunger, will celebrate another birthday on March 25 at the Clinton Elks, where he also has been grand poobah for quite some time. Along with his band for 30-plus years, 90 Proof, Lunger will be saluted with special-request performances by Nick Ferriero of Joe Mama, Tracy Sousa from What the Funk?, and Julie Baldassare Herdon from Venture to Zen.
Well, here’s a stacked show in which Union County will join forces with Monmouth County on March 31 at 10th Street Live in Kenilworth. From Asbury Park, the bill will feature the pedal steel-driven alternative-roots unit Levy & The Oaks (see bangin’ video above) and the satiric indie duo Yawn Mower; from Union, the afro-punk of The Gray Company, and representing the hometown crowd of Kenilworth, Kieran Tintle, the former vocalist-bassist for the punkabilly band, The Downrights, solo debut LP drops next month.
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