Thursday, May 09, 2019

Filthy Friends to play the Rickshaw: a quickie with Kurt Bloch

Thrifting in Coquitlam, last weekend, I was in the process of nabbing CD copies of REM’s Life’s Rich Pageant and Fables of the Reconstruction (or, if you prefer, Reconstruction of the Fables) when one of the volunteers behind the counter began to hum “Superman” (left off the track listings for Life’s Rich Pageant, but on the album), telling me as she took my toonies that anyone who bought REM CDs was all right with her.

“You know Peter Buck is in town this week, right?” I asked her.

She did not. She also hadn’t heard of Filthy Friends, the new supergroup made up of Buck – the guitarist for REM – as well as vocalist Corin Tucker, of Sleater/ Kinney; Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch of the Young Fresh Fellows (and the Minus Five, and other projects); and drummer Linda Pitmon, who has played in the Baseball Project with McCaughey and drummed with Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate (among, again, other projects). The unit has a new album, Emerald Valley – their second full-length, following 2017’s “Invitation” – and a show May 10th at the Rickshaw.
Kurt Bloch – who was also in the Fastbacks – was already a Facebook friend from the days when I was begging the Young Fresh Fellows to play my wedding (just like they did Paul Westerberg’s! Note: it never happened). He responded quickly to a few questions (people seeking more info on the band should check out Alex Varty's interview with Corin Tucker in the Straight).

AM: I listened to the one song I can find off the new album, "Last Chance County," and it seems quite a bit different from the material off the previous album - seems a bit quirkier, even punkier. Is there a different approach to songwriting, this time out? (Are there any people in the band who dominate, or... how do you approach songwriting?).

KB: Actually Peter and Corin write all the songs together - they’re a SONGWRITING TROUPE, and we just take what they bring in, and try to make them EVEN MORE of what they already are. With “Last Chance County,” well you can tell where we wanted to take that one!

So with members from so many cool bands, you must get tons of requests, but the setlists I looked at didn't reveal any Fellows, Minus 5, or REM songs that I recognized. Do you ever cover Sleater-Kinney stuff live, or is it all originals?

Actually we play pretty much 100% Filthy Friends tunes. Of course, I’d be up for the challenge of any of our other bands’ tunes, and driving around the world in a van, you can come up with list after list of killer other songs that’d be fun to play and learn, but so far other than an occasional Bowie tune or two, we stick to the script.

Is Scott fully recovered from his 2017 stroke? Did it impact his singing, or just his speaking, or…?

I reckon you got some info from Scott? [I did not!] He DID just finish a record called Stroke Manor, which is a multifaceted brain-scan of an album - probably as good of a prognosis as we’ll get!

Speaking as a big fan of the YFF - are chances improving of a Vancouver show? (I missed Scott's solo set last year but saw the setlist and it was kinda painful how many songs he played that I would have LOVED to hear live).

Could be possible? We just did three shows a week-ish ago: Seattle, Tacoma, Portland… anything is possible!

What is playing alongside Peter Buck like? Did that start, for you, with the Minus 5, or...?

I started out “playing one song” at a show in Seattle. It turned out well, so I never left the stage… that was five years ago?

Any particular plans for the May 10th Vancouver show, or things you like to do while you're in Vancouver?

Nawwww… I wish we had some time for a quality Vancouver hang - so many buddies here, so much history but we’re coming from Seattle and then following nite in Portland, so I’m guessing a lightning trip this time.

Will you have the new Filthy Friends album at the Rickshaw? Anything you want to say about it? What is "Last Chance County" about?

There’ll be some at the show LP and CD - I reckon “Last Chance County” is a snapshot of Corin’s younger days in Eugene (I think?), maybe a blurry snapshot at that… and a pretty dismal outlook!

I gotta just ask this - since I had hopes to have the YFF do a concert for my wedding, and since you played Paul Westerberg's wedding - what was that like? Any stories you can tell?

That’s gotta be from Scott - before my tenure as a YFF! I didn’t get to be there yet!

Filthy Friends plays the Rickshaw, Friday May 10th. Event page here.

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