Host Skull: Making their 'Black Mark'
• The debut album from Host Skull was a tape-trading project between David Bernabo and Will Dyar, who left Pittsburgh for New Mexico several years back.
For the new second record, "Black Mark," the two musicians took a different course, spending a week together recording basic tracks in a Santa Fe studio. The result is a follow-up to "Totally Fatalist" that has the spontaneity and feel of people playing together.
" 'Black Mark' feels a little more natural, to me," says drummer Dyar, a North Carolina native who previously played in Oakley Hall and the Skinks. "It has a consistency throughout ... mostly tone and energy. I think 'Totally Fatalist' was partially Dave and I figuring out how we could collaborate and what worked for us. 'Black Mark' became an extension of that as well as a way to implement ideas we had after finishing 'Totally Fatalist.'
"Recording 'Black Mark' was really the first time we sat down, exchanged ideas in real time and created deeper music together," adds singer-guitarist-multi-instrumentalist Bernabo, whose musical exploits include Vale and Year, and Assembly.
For the uninitiated, Host Skull falls under the blanket of indie-rock but flows beautifully and effortlessly through post-rock, prog, indie-pop, even jazz. "Black Mark" is not so esoteric, though, that it wouldn't appeal to fans of latter-day Wilco. People are bound to hear all types of influences in Host Skull, from Tortoise to Genesis.
"I've had folks come up after a show or after having listened to a record I'm on and say, 'You sound like so and so to me.' Many times I've never even heard of or spent any time with 'so and so'! I just try to focus on the moment I'm in and the people I'm creating music with, and if influences come out, hopefully I do them justice," Mr. Dyar says.
"Black Mark," which features contributions from singer-saxophonist Brandon Masterman, guitarist Erik Cirelli and others, is an album in the truest sense, with the 11 songs -- from "Hypernarrative" to "A Man/Woman Is a Lovesome Thing" -- almost playing like one continuous piece of music.
"I'm definitely in favor of albums being complete statements," Mr. Bernabo says. "The album structure allows you to play songs off one another, which gives you more options for presenting songs."
Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, they spared no expense on the LP packaging, with a stunning illustration and gatefold design by Joe Mruk.
"It seemed like Joe sprung up out of nowhere and now he has taken over the city. After I saw a flier he drew for a Gangwish show with mix of houses and bridges, I asked him to do the artwork. Joe definitely pulled out all the stops for this one."
The Host Skull release show is at Modern Formations, 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield, at 8 p.m. Saturday with Mariage Blanc and The Caribbean. Admission is $7. www.facebook.com/pages/Host-Skull/114242035313392.
Chrome Moses: Ready to roll
• Chrome Moses is the kind of band that can play the shot-and-beer bar on the corner and probably thrive in an opening slot for a band like Kings of Leon or the Black Keys.
"We hope that there is always an audience for this type of rock 'n' roll," says bassist T.J. Connelly. "It's honest and stripped down. No gimmicks."
The Pittsburgh power trio plays hard-edged boogie rock with an obvious blues-rock influence (think SRV) but also a nod to the Strokes, if that's possible.
"We're obviously influenced by '60s rock heavyweights Cream, Hendrix, The Stones," the bassist says. "Sometimes people compare our sound to [Kings of Leon]. That's cool. We really dig the Strokes and Queens of the Stone Age, among others."
Chrome Moses is one of two bands Mr. Connolly shares with singer-guitarist Joe Piacquadio, the other being the also boogie-oriented but more roots-rock leaning The Wheals. Both started around 2005.
"Joe was renting a house in the West End," Mr. Connolly says. "It was fully surrounded by woods. It had a fire pit in the backyard. No neighbors. There was a lot of music going on. We were writing tons of songs, all in the rock lexicon, but with different arrangement needs. Some of the harder, brawnier stuff became Moses songs. Some of the stuff that needed pianos and acoustic guitars and harmonicas became Wheals songs."
Needless to say, the two bands are frequently compared to each other.
"It's funny, but fans of both bands all have one that they like better than the other," the bassist says. "People kind of feel compelled to tell us, with a little bit of apprehension. We're thankful for fans of both. Or either."
Chrome Moses, backed by drummer Clarence Grant II, released a furiously rocking six-song debut EP in July that you would expect to get some label interest, setting up the band's next move.
"We actually have an album's worth of new material that we have started to play live," he says. "It sounds a bit different than the EP. We are very, very happy in the way the sound has progressed. Live crowds seem to be happy, too. We are currently talking to a few labels, but we're not sure we've found the right fit. We really would like to record this next album non-independently. As far as material, it's ready to go."
Chrome Moses performs at The Thunderbird, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville at 9 p.m. Friday with The Albrights and Wreck Loose. Admission is $5. You can hear the EP for free at www.chromemoses.com.