Published on January 27th, 2021 | by Justin Remer1
Antifolk covers Antifolk on new tribute album, Ain’t I Folk?
Hi, my name is Justin Remer. Let me begin by saying thank you for reading this piece. It is essentially the liner notes to a new album I just compiled, Ain’t I Folk? Weemayk Music Covers Antifolk Classics. The album will be available on Bandcamp Friday, 5 February 2021, and then it will hit the usual streaming services a couple weeks after, on Wednesday, 17 February 2021.
Digital-only albums don’t often get liner notes, so this is a cool opportunity to tell you some things you wouldn’t otherwise know by clicking a link or hitting play on an app.
Ain’t I Folk? is a mix of previously released tracks from my teeny tiny record label Weemayk Music, rediscovered unheard recordings, and brand-new creations.
The best known song covered on the album would have to be “Nothing Came Out,” originally recorded by The Moldy Peaches and delivered with ultimate shy-guy sadness by the late Dashan Coram on a noisy early-’00s recording by Huggabroomstik. Meanwhile, in a brand-new recording, scene stalwart Cucaracha (fka Cockroach aka Dan Penta) makes Herman Düne‘s “Futon Song” somehow quirkier and poppier at the same time.
The first track on the album, “Turn Out Right,” was essentially the catalyst for the whole project. Sven Safarow, a German artist who has the great Youtube channel Quarantine Kitchen Covers, wrote to let me know that he was recording an album of covers by Thomas Patrick Maguire and a couple by my old band, Elastic No-No Band.
I listened to the record and was immensely impressed. Sven merges emotional directness with genuine showmanship and it nicely burnishes the material he performs. I asked to release the TPM covers record on Weemayk Music (it’s coming this spring).
I also told Sven that I didn’t think the songs that I wrote fit with the TPM stuff on the record. But I really dug his version of ENB’s “Turn Out Right” and wanted to find a showcase for it. Hence, the concept for Ain’t I Folk? When I asked folks in the Weemayk Music Expanded Universe if they had any tracks suitable for such a record, I was greeted by a cornucopia of great tunes.
I liked the idea of highlighting the friendships and influences within the New York Antifolk scene on this compilation. The first track covers one of my songs, so the second track is me (using my new identity, Duck the Piano Wire) covering a song I really like: “(Why Do You Know So Much) About Wolves?” The song was written and originally performed by antifolk supergroup Urban Barnyard, who wrote songs about animals in the city and who, in their best-known configuration, were Phoebe Kreutz, Dibson T Hoffweiler, Casey Holford, and Daoud Tyler-Ameen (Art Sorority). A favorite at UB live shows, “Wolves?” riffs on the plot of the now-forgotten teen horror flick Blood and Chocolate and, in its original arrangement, was a delightful pastiche of Rolling Stones-type cock-rock excess. Mine is a lo-fi laptop creation, but I got my friend Patrick Trejchel to rip a face-melting guitar solo mid-song in tribute to the original.
The first line of the next song, “There’s a bite mark on my neck…,” is a natural segue from wolves. It should be apparent that we have wandered into Joe Crow Ryan‘s cover of the Soft Black tune “Did You Put a Spell on Me?” This performance was featured in a Vice News video, profiling the life of a subway busker (i.e., Joe), and has continued to be one of his most popular tunes online. Joe Crow contributes two other covers with a novelty-song edge, Phoebe Kreutz’s “Oh Elizabeth I” (which is about the English monarch) and Elastic No-No Band’s “(The Shame About) Manboobs” (which is about what you think it’s about).
Joe Crow also sings backup on a newly found version of his acapella number “Irish Blessing,” led by Gina Mobilio and recorded live at Sidewalk. His song “What Does It Mean?” also serves as the lyrical foundation for the plunderphonic collage, “‘What?’” by Duck the Piano Wire (originally part of the experimental 2014 suite Too Old for Hangovers).
Nan Turner (of Schwervon! and Nan + the One-Night Stands) delivers an aching cover of the ballad “I Don’t Get Love” by Little Cobweb. Little Cobweb (aka Angela Carlucci of True Dreams) in turn delivers an aching cover of her brother Toby Goodshank‘s “No End 2 Shallow,” from the stone cold classic Everything Intertwingles, which, if you will recall, was the album of the summer of 2007. Schwervon! is paid tribute on an unearthed late-’00s recording of “Lucky Rocks” by the family act Kung Fu Crimewave, led by sibling trio Joanna, Luke, and Neil Kelly.
Neil Kelly adopted the persona of Club Mate and recorded an album of noisy lo-fi Thomas Patrick Maguire covers nearly a decade and a half ago under the title Club Mate Plays the Songs of Thomas Patrick Maguire. This compilation includes 5 of the most fun covers from that album: the unadulterated grunge of “Nothing That Stitches Can’t Sew,” the startling melodrama of “You Could Go, You Could Stay,” the odd danceability of “Pat Gives Me the Post on Sunday,” the NKOTB-on-crack vibes of “Toin Coss,” and the synthy syncopation of “Mirrors and Smoke.”
Thomas Patrick Maguire is the most-covered artist on the album. In addition to the Club Mate tracks, Staten Island duo Blurple offers a solemn and sweet take on “Papertown,” and Elastic No-No Band redoes “Promise Me You’ll Be Alright.” Brook Pridemore, who has frequently covered TPM in the past — and who has threatened more than once to release an album of TPM covers… instead sent along an intimate reading of Cockroach‘s “Low and Wet.”
The second most-covered artist on the album is Major Matt Mason USA, the mastermind behind the Olive Juice Music collective, label, message board, and webstore (RIP). The aforementioned supergroup Urban Barnyard stays on theme with a cover of the Major’s “Animal Shelter” that features alternating lead vocals from all four members. And I contribute 2 covers recorded a decade apart: “Go Away (Goodbye Southern Death Swing)” from 2010, and “1,000 Ice Creams” recorded in self-isolation in 2020.
What’s a tribute album without a track from a previous tribute album? Blurple have kindly included their stylistically irreverent take on fellow Staten Islander J.J. Hayes‘s philosophical treatise and protest song “Timothy McVeigh.” The tune previously appeared on the 2012 album, The Light: A Tribute to the Music of J.J. Hayes, curated by Ray Brown and Beau Alessi.
The Telethons is a band that I loved seeing play live so much that I asked the band’s singer, guitarist, and songwriter, John Mulcahy, to join Elastic No-No Band. He repaid me for this opportunity by stealing my drummer, Doug Johnson, for his own band. (I kid.) Together, John and Doug pay tribute to their shared time in ENB with a live rendition of “Woody Allen Surrogate (Kenneth Branagh’s Blues),” one of my most niche lyrics, which requires knowledge of Woody Allen’s filmography, specifically from 1994 to 2003. Fortunately, it rocks too, to compensate.
Congrats if you got all the way to the end of these liner notes. If not, I hope you’re just listening to the record instead. Be well!
Listen to the album at: https://weemaykmusic.bandcamp.com/album/aint-i-folk-weemayk-music-covers-antifolk-classics