The Mendoza Line/Slow Dazzle

In development of this website, I would research music groups on the internet constantly. In the summer of 2004 I stumbled across an mp3 of 'A Damn Good Disguise' from a group I never heard called The Mendoza Line. This song came off their 2002 release "Lost In Revelry". I could not stop playing this song. For two weeks straight I would play it over and over again. I finally broke down and ordered the disc. To my delight the rest of the songs were just as strong as the lead off track I'd been digging for weeks. Through further investigation I discovered that their newest release "Fortune" was dropping in a few weeks. I quickly ordered that and was blown away how good these guys (and gal) were. A couple months later they rolled through town on one of their last stops on the Fortune campaign. The show was such a blast and meeting the band members was a delight. They truly are some of the nicest people around.

Timothy Bracy and Shannon McArdle are two-thirds of The Mendoza Line's songwriting trio (along with Peter Hoffman) and have released a fantastic record under their side project moniker Slow Dazzle. The View From The Floor is a superb little gem that has the folksy songwriting sensibilities of the duo's previous work with an added texture of...I dunno, it's totally fucking unique and a must have for even the casual fan of independent original music. Do yourself a favor and get it here from Misra Records online. It's incredibly good!


 

The Mendoza Line Sunday March 12, 2006 Garfield Artworks Pittsburgh, PA

w/ Great Lake Swimmers, Elliott Brood

Elliott Brood: Johnny Rooke/Back Of The Lot/Edge Of Town/The Bridge/Cadillac Dust/Second Son/A Banjo Song/Only At Home/Superior

Great Lake Swimmers: Let's Trade Skins/Merge, A Vessel, A Harbour/Various Stages/Song For The Angels/Bodies And Minds/I Saw You In The Wild/Imaginary Bars/Moving Pictures Silent Films

The Mendoza Line: Packs Of Three/Mysterious In Black/Golden Boy (Torture In The Shed)/Settle Down, Zelda/It's A Long Line (But It Moves Quickly)/Fleur De Lis/Sea Of Tears/The Queen Of England/A Damn Good Disguise/Throw It In The Fire/Water Surrounds/Honky Tonk Woman/Jesus Saves

This very might well be THE best triple bill I have seen. Each one of these bands are headliners in my opinion and to have them all in one night was great.

I got to the joint early and hang as Elliott Brood were soundchecking. These guys are definitely the discovery of '06 for me. I cannot stop listening to their discs. Totally unique sound that is accessible instantly. Timothy rolls in from a jog and we go get some beer. Hanging with these guys for a couple hours was so much fun. Tim and Great Lake Swimmers are fucking around trying to decide on an "All Star Jam" to perform. How about some Stones? 'Shattered'? 'Sweet Virginia'? Nah. 'Honky Tonk Woman'? Perfect!

As I stated, Elliott Brood from Canada eh, surprised the fuck outta me with their set. Do yourself a favor, check these guys out, now! Really cool fellas to boot.

Elliott Brood autographed print.

Next up was Tony Dekker and Erik Arnesan. Great Lake Swimmers play mellow, haunting music that's totally absorbing in the right context. I asked Tony before the show how he likes Pittsburgh? He said he loves playing Garfield Artworks. This dump? He loves the acoustics. Also I noticed that at every GA show I've been to the audience actually listens. Yeah, I love the dump too. Now, how about getting some decent stage lighting Manny? Tony Dekker's the man.

Tony Dekker hand-written setlist

Tony Dekker autographed print

Finally The Mendoza Line hit the stage. Great fucking funtime party band! They open with my request, Arab Strap's 'Packs Of Three'. The opening line, "That was the biggest cock I've ever seen..." is a ballsy way to open a show. They deviate from the setlist quite a bit throughout the night. Someone in the audience requests 'It's A Long Line'. To that person I want you to know I love you! I would have never thought they would play it. They perform an 'intimate' version with Tim and Shan starting it out and the band playing catch-up. Beautiful.

With Timothy's coercion, Tony and Steve join the band for a loose "All-Star Jam'! What a hoot!

Shannon McArdle hand-written setlist

Shannon McArdle and Timothy Bracy autographed print (I draw faces, Shannon draws...nevermind)

The Mendoza Line, Great Lake Swimmers, and Elliott Brood autographed show flyer

Wedding ring? That's no wedding ri...ah, fuck it, your husband's taking the pic.


Slow Dazzle Monday August 15, 2005 Garfield Artworks Pittsburgh, PA

w/ The Perpetual Motion Roadshow (Andrew Mall, Jessica Manack, Kevin Hainey)

Fleur De Lis/A Welfare State/Wedding Dance/The Prosecution Rests/The Extent Of My Remarks/The View From The Floor/Anthem/Now Or Never Or Later/The Queen Of England/They Never Bat An Eye/Something Dark/Throw It In The Fire

Slow Dazzle is the side project of Timothy Bracy and Shannon McArdle from The Mendoza Line. They released their fantastic debut, The View From The Floor, in June and were on the second stop on a mini tour when they came to Pittsburgh.

The "openers" were a trio of underground authors reading some of their work. I had absolutely zero interest in this stuff and went downstairs and hung with the band during it.

Ever since discovering The Mendoza Line last year, they have easily become my favorite band. Tim and Shannon couldn't be a more a genuinely down to earth couple of people and I think they are incredible songwriters. How Beyonce and Britney Spears are popular and these two are somewhat obscure dumbfounds me. I might come off as a giddy fanboy sometimes with these two but I could care less, they are just so fucking good at what they do.

The band came out and proceeded to play the entire The View From The Floor disc straight through, followed by a handful of Mendoza Line tunes. Shannon's twin brother Phillip was ripping on lead guitar, blowing harp, AND playing keys quite effectively. They even managed an off the cuff rendition of 'Something Dark' at my request. Just a great show.

Slow Dazzle autographed setlist

Slow Dazzle and The Perpetual Motion Roadshow autographed show flyer

Timothy Bracy and Shannon McArdle autographed print

Slow Dazzle (sans Peter Langland-Hassan) autographed The View From The Floor CD cover

The Mendoza Line is dropping a new disc in the fall and from the tracks I have heard it will definitely be in my top ten. Even my man Paul Deppler has a track on it!


The Mendoza Line Saturday October 9, 2004 Garfield Artworks Pittsburgh, PA

w/ Charles Bissell, Ennui, The Ben Quick

Withered And Died/They Never Bat An Eye/Whatever Happened To You?/Dollars To Donuts/The Queen Of England/Faithful Brother (Scourge Of The Land)/Before I Hit The Wall/A Damn Good Disguise/An Architect's Eye*/Throw It In The Fire

*-Shannon said, "This one goes out to our friend Hugh". Damn right! That's what I'm talking about!

The Garfield Artworks is a LOW-key space set up for poetry readings, large art installations and shows. The place is basically a rectangular room with a few chairs in it. As soon as we walked in my brother complained about the musty odor and remarked that it smelled like "Daddy's basement". His allergies screwed with him the rest of the night. I guess they have a noise curfew because The Mendoza Line were ready to play a longer set but they had to be done by 11 p.m. FUCK!!!

Charles Bissell of emo godfathers The Wrens played a succinct set which was capped off with a medley consisting of Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust'>a Van Morrison tune>World Party's 'Ship Of Fools'.

The Mendoza Line came on and played a terrific (albeit short) set of loose rock and roll. With three distinct songwriter's in the group, you can't beat this band for original tunes with a varied voice. I've heard criticism that this band doesn't deliver in a live setting. What a crock of shit. They were better than I expected. They even played 'An Architect's Eye' for me! Man, I love this band!

The Mendoza Line autographed show flyer (produced by yours truly!)

Songwriters Timothy Bracy, Peter Hoffman, and Shannon McArdle autographed Lost In Revelry CD cover

The Mendoza Line autographed Fortune CD cover (sans John Troutman)

I had the pleasure of talking to the band members before the show. It was cool to listen to Tim and Shannon discuss the group dynamic concerning songwriting.

Even though they didn't play Pete's 'Under Radar' or 'Tiny Motions', I'll still see them again.

The nicest bunch of people. My only complaint was that they ran out of t-shirts during the tour.


 

In celebration of hughshows one year anniversary, I bring you an exclusive Q&A with songwriter Timothy Bracy, who discusses a wide range of topics and a reveals few surprises.

 

Hughshows: Why the name Slow Dazzle?                                                                                                         
Timothy Bracy: I think this was recommended to us by Shan's twin brother Philip who we have shanghaied to play in the full time line up. He is a monster guitar player who has been on some Mendoza Line records. Shan and I had been spending a great deal of time with John Cale's solo records and this being the name of one of them seemed to fit our diabolical purposes. It was mainly the inspiration of Shannon and Philip though.

Philip and Shannon McArdle


HS: Some songs, like 'A Welfare State', on "The View From The Floor" sound like they could be on a Mendoza Line record. Others, like 'Now Or Never Or Later' seem apart from anything you've done before. How do you choose what songs are recorded by what band?
Bracy: Well, we tend always to have million songs lying around. We just sort of turn over the box and see what spills out. We wanted Slow Dazzle to be distinct from The Mendoza Line, but it was not as if we would elect not to use something simply owing to a resemblance to the ML. We principally choose songs for a record which seem to express a certain lyrical theme or commonality.

 

HS: Before I heard "The View From The Floor", I read a description that included the line"...layers of electronic sounds...". I have to say I was a tad worried. I was half expecting rave/techno music. After hearing it, I am pleased to say that the songs are true to your previous output with the "layers" accentuating the music. Is this a conscious effort to produce different music, or did it just happen that way?
Bracy: Well, Pete Hassan who is a vital member of Slow Dazzle and did all of the engineering and a great deal of the playing on the record really helped set the template for the 'layers' and such. He is someone I had really wanted to work closely with for a long time, because he has a very distinct sensibility, and one that we would not be likely to arrive at on our own. I don't think 'electronic' was a direction he had in mind per se, but I do think solving musical problems with something other than another guitar track- which would typically be a Mendoza Line solution- was foremost in his mind.

 

HS: Is 'Anthem' by Leonard Cohen your first recorded cover song? Why now record a cover?
Bracy: No, actually we love recording covers and do it with some frequency. Off the top of my head there has been Costello, Richard Thompson, Liquor Giants, Jimmy Silva, Destroyer, Springsteen and Arab Strap covers which will no doubt surface like a buried body one day if they haven't already. Interpreting other peoples songs is my idea of something really fun, and it also sort of orients you to what you are attempting to accomplish with the original material. In the case of 'Anthem' it is just a favorite song of Shannon's and one she wanted very much to sing. With the war and election and other turmoil I think she felt it captured many of the sentiments which were (and are) troubling us currently.

 

HS: Who are your musical influences?
Bracy: Well, I am such a huge music fan that I border on the indiscriminate. I could go on forever, and it suspect it would be uninteresting. Most of the listening I do for fun is to jazz, but the cornerstone of my songwriting influence is fairly obvious. I suppose- some amalgam of Dylan, Costello, Cohen, Reed/Cale and then some older tin pan alley things: Cole Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart. All of these writers bring me enormous pleasure and provide dizzying heights to aim for. There are a million sources of fun and inspiration though: Sly Stone, Van Morrison, Sam Cooke...I mean as Lou would say: "the possibilities are endless."

 

HS: You mentioned Dylan. To me your voice has a very Dylan-esque sound to it. Is this intentional in any way or just the voice you were born with?
Bracy: Well, I am certainly a huge Dylan fan, and I would never deny the influence, but my singing is by no means a conscious imitation. I sort of do the best I can with a limited voice.

 

HS: Who have you been listening to recently?
Bracy: Philip brought a bunch of CDs up here this past weekend which have driven me to a state of near ecstasy. Grant Green, Bill Evans, Rod Stewart's "Never A Dull Moment" (brilliant!), Wire, Marley's "African Herbsmen", Dionne Warwick. He has brilliant taste. I could talk to him about music all day (and frequently do).

 

HS: Normally, how do you write? Lyric first, music after? Vice versa? Do you have a favorite part of the day? A special notebook?
Bracy: I typically write lyrics first, in a composition book, and then wed them to whatever melodies I can weave together on piano or guitar. I tend to be productive creatively twice a day- when I first wake up and then again for an hour or two before I go to sleep. 

 

HS: Do you and Shannon collaborate when writing? If so, how?
Bracy: We collaborate in the studio and trade off ideas for arrangements, Shannon is of course the far better vocalist and will arrange harmonies and things for me, but not too much in the writing. She tends to know what she wants to say, and becomes very intense while working on a song. I typically flee the premises.


HS: Since I live in Pittsburgh and can't really make it to New York, can you tell me a little about the shows you have performed as Slow Dazzle? Two piece? Three piece? Mainly acoustic? Backing tracks? Mendoza Line tunes?
Bracy: So far the Slow Dazzle live set up has included Shannon and I, Philip on lead guitar, Pete Hassan on bass, and our friend Clint on drums. We may or may not add a full time keyboard player. No Mendoza Line tunes yet, but if someone asked we might break one out, I suppose. 

Photo courtesy Jasper Coolidge



HS: On the Misra site it mentions that there are ambitious plans for a follow up to "The View From The Floor". Any sneak peaks or plans you can reveal?
Bracy: Well, the Misra site is of course home to all manner of lies and propaganda. We are considering something really crazy sounding, like "White Light/White Heat". However this is still being negotiated. We shall see if a failure of nerve ensues.


HS: Do you demo songs? For instance, is there a version of 'It's A Long Line (But It Moves Quickly)' with you singing over acoustic guitar? If so, I will give you my car to hear a version of it.
Bracy: Something like that might exist, but has doubtless been quarantined for the benefit of public health and safety. Sometimes we do demos or rough takes and sometimes not depending on time and available resources. There are definitely some interesting demo versions out there- a particularly evil 'Now Or Never Or Later' with me singing recorded in Texas would surely ruin the song for any listener.

 

HS: In The Mendoza Line canon, are there any songs that you are particularly proud of or have a fondness to? If so, why?
Bracy: I don't feel like a good arbiter of my own work. I am particularly impressed by some of Pete and Shannon's songs, 'Baby, I Know What You're Thinking', 'In Your Hands', 'Throw It In The Fire'...these are some I really admire.

 

HS: How is the new Mendoza Line record coming? Will it follow in the footsteps of the last few releases with the three songwriter's (Bracy, Hoffman, McArdle) mixing it up?
Bracy: Pete Hoffman has been sort of taking this one off- he has been working very hard on a record by his other band Iran which is very, very good- so anyway I think the writing will fall to Shannon and I. I am really excited about it. I sort of view it (at the risk of sounding ridiculous) as the conclusion of a trilogy with the previous two ML records, and it is also very likely that it will be the last one, at least for a long time. So I'm anxious to make it exceptionally strong.

 

 

HS: The last of The Mendoza Line? Say it ain't so, Joe? Was this a unanimous decision between you and Pete, or is Shannon the "Yoko Ono" of the new millennium?
Bracy: Well, I don't mean to say that this is definitively a final Mendoza Line record. We are all still very close and spend time together. But I think this record has a kind of valedictory feel- a summation. We all have other projects and obligations and life interferes and it's hard to stay in the same band you started when you were 23...

 

HS: You mentioned the upcoming ML album is the final installment of sorts in a trilogy with "Lost In Revelry" and "Fortune". Can you explain what ties these works together, if anything?
Bracy: Well, there isn't a narrative thread of any kind. I just hope they will sort of encapsulate a five year period in the history of our lives and in the history of our country in a way which makes it compelling to listen to back to back. That is to say, they are of a piece to me.

 


HS: Any hughshows exclusives? Have you named it yet? Song titles? Cover art ideas?
Bracy: No album title yet, some song titles include: 'Catch a Collapsing Star', 'The Lethal Temptress', 'Pipe Stories', 'Rats Alley', 'Morbid Craving', 'Water Surrounds' and 'Name Names'. Have not yet given thought to the artwork, but we should really begin doing so.

 

HS: Do you have any hobbies?
Bracy: Well, I'm a very big sports fan and a distance runner. The latter is a little more like a compulsion than a hobby. I enjoy movies and books as well, as does Shan. And she really, really likes cats.

 

HS: My site has a Top 5 section. What are your...

Favorite concerts?

Bracy: Oh jeez. in my life? I guess The Replacements, Miles Davis, Lou Reed, Mark Eitzel and Dylan. Something like that.



Worst concerts?
Bracy: Well, I once saw The Everly Brothers play a very depressing 30 minute set which was clearly intended to fulfill a contract and pick up a check. I didn't like that too much. And I don't like stadium shows. I have seen quite a few (The Who, The Stones, etc...)

Favorite CD's?
Bracy: There are really too many to mention but I guess if I could choose one artists catalogue to live off of for the rest of my days it would probably be Duke Ellington.



Favorite websites (music or otherwise)?
Bracy: I don't look at too many to be honest. I read the Washington Post Online for Redskins news, I look at Maxboxing for boxing news. I find Pitchfork is always worth a read and frequently funny and insightful, and of course the New York Times is imperative. 

Favorite rock photographs?
Bracy: The cover of "London Calling" is pretty wonderful.



Favorite movies?
Bracy: I'm very partial to Billy Wilder, "The Apartment", "Double Indemnity". I also really like Howard Hawks: "Bringing Up Baby", "The Big Sleep". I really enjoy film noir a great deal, it's just a lot of fun. I like the Coen Brothers a lot, more than Shannon, I think.



Favorite music DVD's?
Bracy: We just got a DVD player a couple month ago, so I haven't really got any, but there are obviously some great ones: "The Last Waltz", "The Kids Are Alright", "Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll".

Favorite box sets?
Bracy: Well the Velvets box was pretty superb I thought and the Costello one which packaged the first three albums. I had the five LP "Biograph" growing up and that really excited me.



Favorite underrated albums?
Bracy: "You're Always Welcome" The Liquor Giants
"Heidi" Jimmy Silva
"This Ones For The Ladies" Young Fresh Fellows
"Veedon Fleece" Van Morrison
"All Shook Down" The Replacements

Editor's Note: I could not for the life of me find an image of You're Always Welcome.



Favorite guilty pleasures?
Bracy: Well Shannon "forces" me to watch "CSI" every week. I don't feel THAT guilty...

Favorite television shows?
Bracy: I really liked "Larry Sanders". The highs of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" are pretty spectacular.

Favorite authors? Books?
Bracy: I'm pretty partial recently to Philip Roth and (unrelatedly) just finished "Crime and Punishment" which is of course a lot to chew on. Re-read "A Confedaracy of Dunces" also recently and was pleased that it still made me laugh a great deal.

HS: There is a hidden track on "Fortune" performed by bassist Paul Deppler. Did he write it? What is the name of it?
Bracy: Yes, Paul is an excellent songwriter and one day soon we will compile his material on a CD and everyone will be shocked. I have no idea what that song is called, but he's got a million of 'em...

HS: Finally, be brutally honest, are you not terrified by Mr. Deppler's mustache?
Bracy: Terrified is not the word. Maybe "petrified" or "immobilized". You will notice that many of histories great tyrants sported mustaches: this is no coincidence. Many times we have plotted to shave it off, only to be outwitted in the last instant. Unquestionably this is the source of his terrible power.

 


I would like to thank Mr. Bracy for his kindness and and his generosity. One helluva guy!

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