The beautiful thing about being here in the United Kingdom is that you’d have to be extremely unlucky to be faced with this sort of situation on a day out street skating, even through the financial district of London.
We all know that the reputation of Policemen in America has reached an all time low but here’s another example of their aggressive, bullish behaviour. Yes, we agree that resisting arrest will most likely move you into another realm of shit but regardless, nobody needs to be assaulted, locked up or pepper sprayed in the eyeballs for pushing a rig.
Yibin Mu paid the price for skating in a ‘no skateboarding’ zone. Reports are saying that the officer is now under investigation as it looks like he used a ‘chokehold’ on Mu, an arrest move that is no longer legal in the USA. This is so painful to watch.
Bear Vs Shark were one of our favourites. So we were pretty heartbroken when they broke up. But now Bars of Gold have emerged from the ashes and are doing some serious easing of the pain. We caught up with drummer Brandon just after the release of their debut album ‘Of Gold’ to see where his head was at, how the album came into being and what’s next for this new outfit.
What were you up to in the years between the demise of Bear Vs Shark and the inception of Bars of Gold?
Speaking for myself, I was basically in Wildcatting the whole time between BVS & BOG. I was also involved in a whole bunch of projects that were fun. I learned to say “Yes” to as much as I could get myself involved in. It lead to some really cool things. Of course, Wildcatting morphed into Bars of Gold when Marc started showing up to practice. I should add that Wildcatting is not dead, it’s just that those batch of songs are the outcome of the four of us, whereas what we’re playing in Bars of Gold is slightly different. Because of time constraints, we’re focusing solely on Bars of Gold as much as we can.
Why did you decide to form Bars of Gold and what do you aim to achieve with the band?
Between all of us, we’ve been friends for years, so being in a band together was just a natural thing. Honestly our goals with the bands have been and hopefully will continue to be just writing (and recording) music. We achieved the release of our first record, so we’re already looking towards what’s next. Oh, and playing shows certainly is fun, too.
Will you be touring much? What have your shows been like so far?
As of now, No, we will not be touring much. Although, we will do what we can, but hard-core touring itself will be minimal. That isn’t to say that we’re not going to go out on excursions when the opportunity presents itself. Our shows have been quite amazing. We’ve been fortunate to play with some really great bands and have befriended some really good people. I guess it’s best to just go with the flow & see what happens.
Any plans to come to the UK specifically?
Truth is, we would love to come over as soon as we can. BVS never made it to the UK and that was something we really wanted to do. Hopefully we can get the gears rolling sometime in the near future.
What’s the story behind the name?
Like every band I’ve ever been, we’ve always picked names that tend to be kind of ridiculous. Bear vs. Shark, Pinkeye Orchestra, Wildcatting, Bars of Gold… all basically ridiculous, but I like them. I guess I would say that the best bands’ names have always come from some people who aren’t taking themselves too seriously.
How long did it take to get the album together? Did you work with any producers / engineers or was it entirely self-produced?
It didn’t take too long to write overall, but it seemed like it took a bit to put the whole record together. From the moment we started to record to the day it was out, it took a little less than a year. It slowed down when literally 4 out of 5 of us were moving & when our practice space shut down. I moved from Detroit to DC (9 hours away) which slowed things down a bit. Also, the release is vinyl, which is notoriously slow to produce.
Was it a smooth process?
A bit slow, but all in all, I’d say yes.
How does your outlook on the music scene / industry differ now, being in Bars of Gold, in comparison to how you felt as a part of Bear Vs Shark?
I would say my outlook is much better. The music industry tends to be an all-or-nothing/winner-takes-all type of economy and it’s not a game I feel we have to partake in. We all feel pretty comfortable just doing our thing. Hopefully people care enough to scope it out, but we’ll keep doing it nonetheless. Our expectations for ourselves, I’d say, are much more sound and focused on longevity for the project. We all see this as a long-term project/experiment that we can continue to grow into. Fun times will continue to be had for sure.
Is it a very different experience for you now or are you having certain feelings of déjà vu?
No déjà vu, or at least not for me. This is a different experience. I highly value what I did in the past with Wildcatting and Bear vs. Shark, but I think what’s going on now is really great. In many ways, we’re still in the process of trying to figure out what’s going on, which is a great process to be in the midst of. We don’t particularly have anything in mind when we write songs, we just kind of extrapolate from all these ideas that we kick around between us.
How did the release with Friction come about?
We’re old friends with Jeff, from Friction. He just asked if us if we’d be interested in having Friction put it out, and we were happy to say yes. Kind of simple actually.
There is relatively little information about the band out there on the world wide web at the moment. If you were to start your own Wikipedia page for the band, what 6 things would you tell everyone about yourselves (can be true or false, we’ll take our best guess as to which)?
This is funny to me because much of the BVS Wikipedia page is just wrong on so many parts.
1) The original name was going to be Volunteers
2) Wildcatting is still a band, we’re just busy right now, or something
3) Scotty makes & sells guitar pedals & other instruments
4) We make all of our t-shirts in our practice space.
5) Marc’s been brewing some mighty fine beer recently.
6) We enjoy playing more than one show a night.
Bars Of Gold debut album ‘Of Gold‘ is out now through Friction.
One thing I’ve always admired about Toy Machine productions is their meticulous attention to detail and maintaining a fluent coherency. When you get past the iconographic desaturated colours of the packaging and press play, you can be guaranteed that no section will be out of place and that there will be enough editing/artistic touches perfectly slotted in to not once tempt you in the direction of the fast forward button. Though I cannot take anything away from Welcome To Hell (which will forever remain a classic by anyone’s standards) I do enjoy how the bloodsucking skateboard company have moved towards making short, fluid visual mixtapes to frequently remain amongst the collective consciousness of the generation of skateboarders most prone to ADHD and short term memory loss. Brainwash is perhaps the closest Toy Machine have come to perfecting this notion, coming in at a Goldilocks-approved jussssst right 20 minutes. Which is – according to a statistic I just made up – the average amount of time it takes for a skateboarder aged between 14-41 to get amped for a session.
Before we jump straight into the action that does not once stop for air we’re treated to an introduction that dares to do something interesting! I know, crazy behaviour in 2010 to steer away from time lapses, montages or similar crap, but this one actually works. The screen divides into a Goldeneye style multiplayer horizontal split (apparently player 2 sucks) with different footage from the same sessions working together to tell seperate stories as a worm crawls across the centre of the screen introducing the film. At first it’s a lot for your eyes to make sense of, but when Templeton is constantly throwing in written captions throughout every Toy Machine video to the point in which 75% of them go unnoticed it makes for a rewarding re-watch. Attention to detail is as spot-on as you’d expect.
Daniel Lutheran serves as the insta-banger to get this 20 minute mix started, and for good reason; he’s got balls-out 50-50s that are both long and gnarly enough to cause even the most jaded and desensitized viewer to shit their pants. Handrail-wise, he continues the concept that Toy Machine have pioneered since day one: simple but ridiculous. The Albuquerque ripper also boasts a monster nollie/switch heelflip and some bonkers 360 variations that when combined with torn jeans and hands-down style make him a perfect addition to the Machine. Oh and if you hadn’t already, the last 50-50 WILL cause your bowels to do deeply unpleasant things to your underwear… so go sit on a toilet or something the first time you watch this. Oh, and there’s already been at least four speech bubble jokes put in by Templeton. Did you catch them all? Go and watch it again as there will be a pop quiz at the end of this review to ensure you’ve been paying attention (protip: there won’t be, but watch again anyway – go on, get amongst it).
Johnny Layton is up next and it’s a real pleasure to see him extend his trick selection, no matter how awesome street grabs are for those that have been initiated. Expect off-key manouevres from the Long Beach advocate, notably a no-comply bigspin heel and probably more fliptricks than you might expect. Solid section from a true powerhouse. Johnny has mad pop and a frontside flip that’s up there with someone who puts the captial B in The Boss. Then we move from powerhouse to powerstache, as the video makes a smooth transition to the oddball power moves of one Billy Marks. Billy continues to baffle me how his ankles and shins have survived such bait flippery but whatever, I dig it. These two sections also contain the funniest captions so far… which reminds me, have you been paying attention to them? You goddamn better have.
Jordan Taylor has only been out of the flowtrash regiments from a year, but has earned his bloodsucking stripes with quirky quick-footed moves and an interesting approach (that 180 to switch slanted hubba ride is an absolute percy, and don’t get me started on that positively insane lipslide at 3rd and army). He’s someone to keep your eyes on for sure. Austin Stephens is another one I’m sure many of you have kept your eyes on, and the general consensus online is suggesting that his short, sweet, style-heavy parts are rich in marmite texture. Now, I’m the sort of person who actually drinks marmite on the regular, so unsurprisingly I enjoy watching Austin skate… but it’s understandable to see why people are disappointed with this. Since This Is Skateboarding he hasn’t shown any sign of progression but when so many of video watchers are blind and desensitized to progression then why should he strive to satisfy those that forget a section less than an hour after watching it? You cannot argue that Austin Stephens isn’t taking what he wants from skateboarding and giving back something that’s unmistakably his own… and I cannot hate on that one bit.
The extended team montage continues to be worthy of replay as The Butcher takes his feet-on tricks to the next level. Front smith 360 ollie out anyone? Right, so something marvellous has happened this year as more skateboarders than ever are landing stuff I frequently chose to perform in the escapist world video games permitted only five years ago. To see it happen without the addition of slomo and done like it’s nowt is quite the head scratcher. Ed Templeton straight up needs to skate more. He’s still killing it and all legacy aside, those three tricks stood out as some of the best in the montage so get that down yer. Josh Harmony takes his established style up a notch to carry on the montage. I’ve always been a fan of Harmony, particularly how he always skates the most awkward looking rails and ledges while landing stuff as though his arms are erratically paranoid of gravity. Finally we return our gaze to Nick Trapasso, who has come a long way since his breakout part in Suffer The Joy. He still sleepwalks through grinds and is one of the most nonchalant skaters out there right now. His conclusive 50-50 to ‘deal with it’ rollaway will silence even the most stubbornly contrary critics.
Although Collin Provost’s name signifies a return to the full section format, the flow is still that of an extended montage. All this means is that the excitement levels never once drop below AWESOME – a perfect response to the ‘tage era; editors take note. His part in Stay Gold is very much still hot and fresh out the kitchen but here he is serving up piping hot seconds that I’m sure you too are more than willing to get your lips around. Unsurprisingly, it’s another banger; filled to the brim with long lines, sketchy landings and walliebombs as plenty of rough street spots and man-made non-skatepark transitions alike get a thorough seeing to by another ATV to keep your eyes on. Something the filmer takes literally in the last shot, which lingers long enough for the viewer to see Provost overtake and cut-up a fucking bus during a hillbomb rollout. Amazing. A-ma-zing.
For reasons I’m not overly sure of, I’ve always considered Matt Bennett to be a comprehensive personification of all that is Toy Machine. Leftfield trick selection, an uneasy imperfect style, swampy hair and general overpowering radness. This section is a further testament to my uncertain argument and another solid 2-3 minutes of pure Toy Machine goodness. I’m stunned that he’s only just entered the world of professional skateboarding but better late than never I suppose. Have polejams up and down handrails become a trend yet? They will.
So who can play out this mixtape of sketchy, imperfect, balls out and positively pure skateboarding greatness? None other than one of the year’s absolute best of the best, the accomplished Leo Romero. If you hadn’t caught his section in Stay Gold yet then hand in your notice to the landlord of your rock and move the fuck out. Though many would be satisfied with a part as groundbreaking as that, here we see Leo shut down Brainwash with a manic push leading up to one jaw-dropper after the next. Leo has created a style of skating so impossible to imitate that all we can do is sit and watch, but when it’s this good, who cares? If P-Rod’s technical perfection depicted progress to the extreme in that direction then Leo isn’t so much the Anti-P-Rod but a very different reason to be stoked on where skateboarding is going, which, whatever direction you look in, is somewhere awesome.
Out of the many Brainwash teasers that kept Toy Machines online omnipresence on godly levels it was Daniel Lutheran’s recent welcome clip that got us the most hyped. Enjoy… Now go buy Brainwash. This was a triumph.