Review: Grunge Pop Duo Stereoshifter Release Fuzz-Driven, Drum-Pounding Rock Record 'Whatever it is to You'

By: Norman Hittle

Denver duo Stereoshifter describe their sound, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as “grunge pop.” What is this seemingly contradicting genre? You’ll have to listen to find out:

Check out Stereoshifter's latest single, "Catch Fire":

Whatever it is to You, the band’s sophomore EP, which drops this week, features three guitar-fuzz-driven, drum-pounding rock songs that seem to have come straight from the 90s. Of course, it’s hard not to jump to conclusions and find the EP reminiscent of Nirvana and The Vines, but upon deeper listening, there are also traces and snippets of inspiration from acts ranging from Dinosaur Jr. to Weezer.

Stereoshifter.

Stereoshifter.

Following the release of their Dumb Luck EP (2016), Stereoshifter, which is Josh Cal (vocals/guitars) and Peter Higgins (drums), continued to write, record, and create new music. Starting 2017 with a brand-new single “All I Can Stand,” the two-piece is now closing out the summer with Whatever it is to You.

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The EP is produced by the band, and starts out with the heavy and frantically anthemic “It’s Not You, it’s Me” that gives the kickstart needed to keep listening. The single “Catch Fire” comes in at track two and starts out with a very Thin Lizzy-esque “Boys Are Back in Town” riff before going into a pseudo Green Day-sounding chorus. The final track is the more mellow “Spoon Fed,” which I feel really caters the most to the traditional grunge vibe with a touch of post-rock for good measure due to its droning and sludgy riffs.

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In their live performance, the two musicians adopt the approach to IAMDYNAMITE and similar rock duos of overlapping guitar and bass tracks, making it possible to sound like a four-piece act. Though minimalistic in setup, anyone who has seen any of these bigger acts can attest that the sound is anything but minimal.

Check out Stereoshifter at the Hi-Dive with OverUnder this Thursday, August 31st to hear their new EP; tickets and event info here. Keep up with Stereoshifter on their Facebook.

-Norman

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Review: Dig the Rockin' Pop-Punk Vibes of Joshua James Hunt's 'Open the Door'

By: Jura Daubenspeck

For anyone that digs blast from the past alternative pop punk-ish vibes, Boulder’s Joshua James Hunt has just what you need. His latest release Open the Door is full of head-bopping energy that is catchy as ever.

Since February, Hunt has gradually teased each track from the album, giving them their own chance to shine individually. Tracks such as “Summertime Song” have a nostalgic quality, reminiscent of more innocent beachtime hangs, while others such like “Come On” and “War Is Not The Answer” have an edgier quality to them.

Listening to Hunt’s latest album, I hear hints of influences ranging from Green Day, to Jimmy Eat World, to Rooney. Lyrically, Hunt keeps it nice and simple, letting his smooth vocal style speak for itself. What I also appreciate about this album is how no two songs sound the same. Tracks like “You’re a Citizen” feature more playful and hard-hitting guitar work, while others like “Just A Matter of Time” focus more on power chord progressions.

One track I’m particularly feeling is “Check the Breaker” - it holds its own with a powerful rockin’ melody, and is also pretty sweet, lyrically-speaking:

It was a quarter life crisis

He didn't make it through

Put a bullet in his life

And made a mess of you

Whatever happened

I know it wasn't your fault

He aimed for his head

But he shot you in the heart

Hunt still has yet to release the last two songs on Open the Door. So be on the lookout for the final two tracks, “Beautiful Dream” (3/31) and “Ceasefire” (4/7). Give his tunes a listen on his Soundcloud, YouTube and Hunt’s website. Check out his Facebook page for upcoming announcements.

-Jura

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Denver's The Ghoulies Aren't As Spine-Chilling As You Might Think

By: Claire Woodcock

I met up with four-fifths of the boozy, bluesy Denver punk outfit The Ghoulies on Colfax Avenue earlier this month. Besides conjuring ghosts at The Stanley Hotel, dressing up as five Dave Grohls aka “The Grohlies” for Halloween, and keeping van thieves in Texas at bay with a $14 machete from Walmart because “it was cheaper than a baseball bat,” The Ghoulies really aren’t as spine-chilling as you might think.

In fact, these guys are hilarious. Their comedic timing is on point, probably because they’ve all known each other since middle school. The group started playing together in 2009 as a Blink-182/Green Day/Misfits cover band under the name “Grandpa Tom and the Family Business.” The guys changed their name two years later on Halloween, and their sound transformed as well. The whole band insists that bringing in a blues guitarist and organist hot on the Denver 38th Street scene (who also happens to be member Dan Yergert’s twin brother) has played a huge part in The Ghoulies evolved blues/punk sound.

“If you slowed down all of our songs and took away all of the distortion, a lot of them are 12-part blues, just straight up,” said blues guitarist Jake Yergert. “I feel like there's less cow-punk rockabilly kind of stuff [in Denver]. We're more rocky and not so hardcore compared to a lot of the bands we play with.”

As a result, The Ghoulies contend with not always seeing themselves as being punk enough for the punk scene or garagey enough for the garage scene. Instead, they’re really concentrated on capturing this sort of raggedy-end of the blues, all while maintaining rad day jobs. Members Dan and Jake Yergert are both English teachers, singer/guitarist Adam Moore is a structural engineer, drummer Connor Randall moonlights as a paranormal investigator, and bassist Spencer Lovell works for a YouTube company. The Ghoulies seriously keep things interesting.

On stage, these guys look like Mormons, dressed in button-up white shirts with black ties, but they rip like there’s an alien invasion happening down the street. They’re gearing up to record their third record, which they’re predicting to have to record somewhere around nine times if the tracking process goes anything like their last two albums did. The Ghoulies have gone from a DIY basement studio to recording in the Yergert’s family church. One of their friends recorded their self-titled album in 2013, which drummer/ghost hunter Connor Randall called “really janky.”

“The [self-titled LP’s] solos are pretty basic,” said Randall. “It's very much like pentatonic blues stuff; then we kind of break out of that a little bit more. [Roswell A-Go-Go] has this weird pseudo gospel praise be to an Elvis Christ sort of thing, and so it was a lot more cohesive and a lot more of what we were actually going for.”

The Ghoulies went all out on album two, recording Roswell A-Go-Go in 2015 at Black in Bluhm Studios in Denver, and mixing at District Recording Studio in San Jose, California. On Roswell A-Go-Go, the ghouls say they defined their kitsch with paranormal ambience and sci-fi references to old radioplay broadcasts from the likes of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The band even went so far as to shoot the cover of Roswell at the Stanley Hotel up in Estes Park, where ghost hunter Randall had been a Resident Investigator for nearly 5 years.

“Funny story about that,” began Dan, “We were all up there around Halloween last year and we have a song on that album called ‘Lucy’ and it's named after the ghost that haunts the basement of the concert hall, who we think has a crush on Connor. So we're sitting in Lucy's room, it's like 2AM, and Connor's got the equipment out. I'm getting really nervous, so I'm making jokes constantly and Connor goes, ‘If there's a presence here or something, can you make yourself known?’ The door slammed shut and since I was sitting right by the door, I grabbed the equipment I was holding and I ran out of there.”

If you’re a ghost hunter too, you can find The Ghoulies at Seventh Circle Music Collective a few dates this month, including this Sunday October 16th at 630PM for the venue’s 999th show. The Ghoulies will join local punk rockers The Quitters, Crushed!?, Redneck Nosferatu, Silver Screen Monsters and Had Enough. And just in time for Halloween, The Ghoulies will play Seventh Circle’s Haunted House night with The Atom Age and Boulder’s The Ephinjis.

Keep an eye out for The Ghoulies' next album, due out in 2017. And stay tuned for more Colorado punk chronicles.

-Claire

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

The Ephinjis: How Being Banned From a Local Venue Only Fueled the Fire Behind Their Punk Rock Debut LP

By: Claire Woodcock

When I first moved to Boulder and started getting involved with the local music scene, I quickly began wondering, “Where are all the punk bands?” Enter The Ephinjis: a Boulder-based band that’s making noise in Denver. They remind me a lot of Green Day, or Dead Kennedys, but with hints of Latin music that come out with a close listen.

“All those punk bands were and are angsty white boys. That's not a bad thing, it really isn't, but we don't exactly fit those parameters. We're Latino; she’s female. That is already outside of the norm for punk,” member Ivan Armendariz told me.

Ivan and Christian Armendariz are twins; when they were 13, their parents gave Ivan a guitar and Christian a drum kit. They spent years learning to play and eventually started up the band, playing with 12 different bassists until Alexandra Flynn came into the picture. The three of them have been making music together ever since, and in the fall of 2014, they all decided to leave college to pursue their careers in music. Their decision was sort of a musical rebirth as a band, and as bandmates.

Ivan Armendariz.

Ivan Armendariz.

“It’s been two years of nonstop: you breathe it, you eat it, you think about it, you tell people about it, you’re proud of what you do, and you share it. We’re doing everything.” said Ivan.

Alexandra Flynn.

Alexandra Flynn.

The Ephinjis definitely don’t fall into the Americana/folk/acoustic-Beatles-covers acts that venues often showcase in Boulder. They admit that it’s tough to be a punk band in Boulder because it’s not marketable to the music scene there:

“We definitely don’t fit in with Boulder. We got kicked out of a venue here.” Ivan said.

He’s referring to The Forge, a DIY venue that’s been closed since September allegedly for fire code violations. During a show back in January, the band was playing a song called “Killing Never Goes Out of Style”, a sort of cowboy-influenced ballad that alludes to the chauvinistic practices of men being entitled to women. Lyrically, it’s about a boy who falls in love with a girl obsessively and when she rejects him, he kills her. While Ivan acknowledges the explicit nature of the song, he says the band’s intent was misinterpreted and construed to the point where The Ephinjis were no longer welcome at that venue.

"It was pretty disturbing to me when I first heard about [being banned] because the point of the song is to reflect our sexist society and to reflect brutal honesty [about] what is going on and how women are being treated. And being a female bass player in a band, I see a lot of shit,” said Alexandra Flynn, “The fact that Ivan writes music that’s so honest, and the fact that they totally twisted it into the opposite of what it’s meant for disturbs me, because that’s silencing the whole feminist movement in what was supposed to be a safe community where you can express ideas.”

Christian Armendariz.

Christian Armendariz.

The band talked about the stages of grief they went through after learning they were no longer welcome at The Forge: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance through the recording of the band’s first full-length LP The Unfortunate Life of Bob: A Guideline to Dying Amongst the Living. It’s a concept album that follows the demise of a fictional character named Bob, and explores what it’s like to live a life of complacency in a society that does not have your back.

Ivan says that Bob’s life goes through three phases, similar to the stages of grief: fear of not being good enough and aiming for a standard or substandard lifestyle, acceptance of that complacency and turning to drugs and alcohol to get through the motions, and then the resignation of saying, “I did the best I could with what I had”. Ivan though does not agree with choosing to resign in life:

“That’s bullshit. I don’t care who you are, you always could have done more. There’s always an option to jump a little farther and step a little more beyond that line than you’re supposed to and take that risk. It’s disturbing and uncomfortable, and kind of pisses people off, but I think once the thrill of living is gone, you realize maybe you didn’t do what you could have done. And not because it totally was in your control, but honestly, you didn’t do what you were capable of if you were meant for bigger [things]. You still could have done it. I think everyone always a lot more potential than they ever reach. Your brain blocks you, you're inhibited from breaching a comfort zone, and people don't want to see it like that but I do. So Bob reaches the end basically and realizes, “Yeah, I could have done better, but I think I did my best with what I had.” And then he does reach the breaking point of looking in the mirror, drugged out, and says, 'No, you f*cking failed.' I think that's similar to the process of grieving or getting over the death of a loved one. It almost plays out throughout the entire album of his life. So we're talking about death in one moment, and encompassing his entire 45 years of existence in 10 songs.”

Listen to The Ephinjis' debut album:

The Unfortunate Life of Bob drops today and is available here. The Ephinjis are celebrating the new record’s release with an “unofficial” show party tonight at Seventh Circle Music Collective, where they will play with LiquidLight, Meeting House, and Sorry Sweetheart. Tommorrow, September 24th, The Ephinjis will also play “The Swifts Back To School Show” with female punk band The Hits at the Dickens Opera House in Longmont. Make sure to check out one of these gigs to hear their new music live!

If you’re like me, constantly looking for that latest local punk band, this crew is worth the listen.

Update 09/27/16 @7PM: The allegations as to why The Ephinjis were banned from the now defunct venue, The Forge, have been left in comments you can read on our Facebook page. We did reach out for official comment via the venue's Facebook page, but do not have an official statement from The Forge at this time.

-Claire

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.