The Axe and the Oak is rapidly becoming a musical entitiy of interest in South Florida with its excellent blend of American roots music, danceable gothic rockabilly, and indie rock knowhow.
And after checking out the band's latest offering, the Record Store Day 2010 EP, we recently had a chance to speak with the Axe and the Oak's bass player, Myles Kaplan.
See the cut for Crossfade's questions and Kaplan's answers.
New Times: Who are you? Where do you come from? And how long have you been playing bass?
Myles Kaplan: I am Myles. I come from Miami. I have been playing bass since the 7th grade.
How did the Axe and the Oak come to be? How did you arrive at the name? I like its violent organic power.
Hmm ... Well, a few years ago, Sander, our singer and guitarist, got up at Raffa & Rainer's "Can You Rock A Little Softer" open mic night at Churchill's and played a few tunes he had written years ago for his band Sift. He did it just for fun. He hadn't played in a band in years, much less been onstage solo with an acoustic guitar. It turned out people really dug it, and I think he had a great time up there. So long story short, he decided to do it again, but this time he enlisted the help of Fernando Subirats on drums and me on bass and we played as a three piece.
We had a blast! A few weeks later Raffa called us and said, " I booked you guys to play a show." To which we responded, "What part of, 'We are not a band,' don't you get?" But it really came out as "Okay we'll play it." And we've been playing together since. Thank you, Raffa. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Oh and the name ... We were looking for a name that really encompassed the sound - dark with some Americana twang. It has a tension and implies a struggle between two iconic images. On top of that, Sander is a master woodworker and cabinetmaker. And I'm a fireman. So it's fitting.
Dancing on the Grave of Jack the Ripper
You've been a participant in the South Florida music scene for many years. How do you compare the current musical landscape to what you've witnessed over the years?
Man, I'm glad you asked this. I really feel like things are shifting for the better. People always say that about Miami. But it's happening now for real. We have great bands down here, good venues, and national acts playing almost every other week. People are finally saying, '"Hey, we don't have to go to New York or LA. We can do this right here at home." It's kind of analogous to what started in the Miami art scene years ago, and look what we have now. Wynwoood, the Design District, Art Basel are all thriving. And most importantly, a bunch of ultra-talented local artists are getting recognition.
We can do the same for the music here. It's that old punk rock attitude, that DIY thing that happened in L.A. with SST or in D.C. with Dischord. You know, the whole attitude of, "There ain't much here right now. But screw it. We'll just build it." It's a long time coming for Miami but who cares how long it took. It's here now and us musicians, fans and promoters, we gotta nurture it because it's in a fragile embryonic phase. It's kind of make it or break it now. Exciting possibilities.
I like to joke around and call you guys "eternal tinkerers." But seriously, the debut EP is excellent. How soon can we expect a new recording?
Yes, we are eternal tinkerers. Long live tinkering! We are tinkering with a bunch of new material now so we'll be heading back into the studio soon.
If the house were on fire, which five records would you save and why?
First of all, if my house were on fire... This is silly. I am a fireman. I would just put the fire out and save all the records. Everyone knows more records are saved by quickly putting the fire out through an aggressive interior attack than by any other method. It's Fire Tactics 101, man.
But if I had to pick five, they would be, in no particular order:
1. Black Flag's Damaged. I shouldn't need to explain this one. Just listen to it and you'll know why. A relentless freight train of seminal American hardcore.
2. Blind Willie Johnson's Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground. It's only a single. But it's one of the most powerful songs ever put to wax. It was recorded in 1927 with just a slide guitar and his voice. It has no lyrics, just a hum and some moans. But inside of three minutes and 20 seconds, you feel everything this man has felt. Most bands today couldn't do something this powerful with 20 people on stage and all the Marshalls and Hiwatts they could fit up there with 'em. This guy did it in 1927 with a crappy guitar and no words.
3. Charles Mingus's Mingus Ah Um. Because I am a bassist and Mingus is a badass.
4. Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio's Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio. Rockabilly as it should be -- fun and a bit crude with a back beat that'll make you shake your ass. Oh, and it has one of the first recorded instances of a purposefully distorted guitar on the track "Honey Hush."
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5. Fugazi's Repeater. When this album came out I was really into NYC hardcore -- Warzone, Cro-Mags, Youth of Today, Judge -- stuff like that. I was pretty close-minded in what I was listening to. But Fugazi opened my ears up. I was amazed and hooked. I'm still hooked. I listen to something of theirs at least once a week.
And since I mentioned it:
6. Cro-Mags's Age of Quarrel. NYC at its finest. This album is a clenched fist, a flying side kick to your ear. Beautifully brutal!