the selmanaires

Why the Selmanaires Are Awesome! by Aaron Wood

Today I caught up with bass player Tommy Chung from Selmanaires a week and a half into their tour opening for Black Lips. Tommy, a consistently cool and confident fellow, always quick to deliver a handshake and smile, responded to my first question with the speed and precision of a world class chess master bad ass.

Aaron: "First things first: major credit card number and blood type."
Tommy: "1 900 HOT BUTT and F minus."

How Tommy knew to answer with A: my favorite phone sex line, and B: my average grade in high school, I don't know. I think he has ESPN. Oh wait thats not right. I mean he's got "the touch" like that weird kid Danny in "The Shining". By the by, if 1 900 HOT BUTT is real and you work there, I want a sponsorship.

I asked Tommy how his band The Selmanaires got started because really, I think they are the shit and I want everyone to know. Its like Kinks and Zombies showing Fela Kuti how to rock out 50's/60's style, and Fela getting back and saying, "Yeah but where I'm from, this is how you lay down the stanky shit people NEVER stop dancing to". Put that in the blender for a minute...promise it makes sense somehow.... I'll pause...

In short, Selmanaires got started when twin brothers Jason and Herb (Harris) moved to Atlanta from Austin Texas in 2000 and became instant buds with Tommy (born and raised ATL) out of a mutual appreciation for old records. Mathis Hunter, another ATLien, is a recent addition (percussion and samples). He's like that bad ass dude that chills out and then out of nowhere melts your brain with a few well placed drum hits and sampler noises. BLADDOWWWW!!! is a good word to describe what he does. Thats onomatopoeia-speak for "fuck YEAH MATHIS!"

A house on Selman St. in ATL played host to their first jam sessions...hence the name. To me, their name has always been instantly recognizable, because they're like the "debonaires of Selman St." but I wondered if they'd had any problems with it.

"Sometimes I'll tell people in a loud bar 'Selmanaires' and they say, 'Salmonella?'". People, if there is anything I'd like to accomplish by this interview, it's to establish that Tommy's band is Selmanaires and not a fuckin disease you get by handling raw chicken. Seriously who would name their band that unless they were hardcore death metal nihilists and threw uncooked poultry at the crowd during the gig? Yikes.

Clearly Tommy is the kind of dude that understands and appreciates artists working or trying to work in/out of ATL. When asked about sources of visual inspiration in his hometown he was able to rattle off the work of more than a few artists he digs who have displayed work in ATL and elsewhere. Among those mentioned: the work of photographer Stevie Brown, Melissa Cox AKA "Squanto", Katie Ridley, and Aubrey Pope. I did a little interweb homework on these cats and saw some amazing stuff, but I'm not going to try to describe the artists in more detail because I'd sound amateurish so click on their links to see for yourself.

Of the art scene in ATL Tommy relays, "Atlanta is a great place for artists and has great art because it doesn't quite have the same spotlight shining on it that NY or LA has. People don't necessarily come to Atlanta to 'make it'...they're not compelled to sell art in the biggest, nicest galleries or to meet deadlines and strike it's more a place to refine your craft and experiment." I asked him what the deal was with half those artists he mentioned and Tommy made a pretty cool comment. "Makers", he said, "I refer to them as makers because some of my favorite locals deal in many mediums and make great things". I said, "Like Makers on the rocks?" "Exactly," says Chung. Which led me to my next question...

"What are the Selmanaires drinking these days?"
Tommy: Whiskey soda
Herb: Dark Beer
Jason: Whiskey soda
Mathis: Whiskey soda

Tommy and I then celebrated our mutual affection for whiskey for a moment. He sounded like a seasoned vet so I asked him if Herb and his whole Dark Beer thing was him holding out with a less stiff beverage until the end of the tour when the collective livers of Selmanaires and many other bands are probably begging for mercy.

"Yeah maybe," Tommy says.
Aaron: "So you're like the Sith Lord who's brought Jason and Mathis to the whiskey dark side while Herb is a lonely beer drinking Jedi."
Tommy:"Yeah that's about right."
Aaron:"I'll see you guys in rehab."

...which led me to my next thought. Its sad that in rehab we probably won't be able to use that 900 number we share in affinity for...

Now that you're done reading this 2nd rate interview ;) make sure to visit the selmanaires on myspace. Look for a new album early 2008 and don't miss their next performance! Every time I go see them I end up dancing with women finer than frog hair who probably think I'm crazy. You really have to see a Selmanaires show to get why this happens. I'll be the guy in the front row enjoying the hell out of making a complete jack ass out of himself. Buy me a drink... I expect to see you there unless you're sick and its coming out both ends...

signing off for now,

Black Lips and The Selmanaires play NYC/BK

Last night the bands put on a great performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.

Article courtesy of C.J. Smith:
When the circus comes to town, everyone takes notice. But Wednesday night at Sound Fix Records in Brooklyn was not your typical Ringling Bros./ Barnum & Bailey event: In the center ring were garage-rockers Black Lips, who decided that a record store is a good a place as any to try and throw a circus.
The band is part of a thriving Atlanta indie-rock scene that also includes Deerhunter, Manchester Orchestra and others. Originally slated to be a simple in-store acoustic performance, the band decided to take it one step — OK, several steps — further, dubbing the event the "Black Lips Circus and Bad Kids' Parade." The band's shows are notorious for bad behavior both onstage and off — most famously involving several different kinds of bodily fluids, which the band has largely stopped doing — so the concept isn't much of a stretch. "It's always kind of a circus mentality of people being degenerates at our shows, so we decided to take it to the next level by inviting kids — not even at a show — to parade down the streets," Lips singer/guitarist Cole Alexander said of the event.
"We wanted to spice things up a little. It was kind of thrown together last minute, though," said bassist Jared Swilley — and that much was apparent. The circus part of the night was a tad bumpy due to a bunch of last-minute cancellations (including jugglers, ponies and a couple of other circus acts), but the band's acoustic set went ahead with burlesque dancers and a marching band that led the crowd into the streets for the second portion of the night, the "Bad Kids' Parade."
"We embody bad kids, and that's why we created the Bad Kids Circus, to parade down the streets, promoting juvenile delinquent behavior," Cole said of the parade. And while there was no overtly bad behavior along the parade route, it was nonetheless a rousing success. Fans poured from the record store, led by the Black Lips and the marching band, who played rousing anthems all the way to the Music Hall of Williamsburg, where the band hit the stage for a proper — well, kind of proper — show later in the night.

By the time the parade reached the venue, it had swelled to 200 or so people, complete with confetti launchers, fire-breathers, skateboarding bandmembers and fans in costume and face paint.
And the revelry only gained intensity when the band hit the stage for a typically rambunctious set. As the band tore through a set of fan favorites and songs from their brand-new fifth LP, Good Bad Not Evil, fans formed a giant pit, slam-dancing while crowd-surfers bounded from the stage.
Between the sweaty mess of bodies and beers being hurled into the air, barely a soul left the Music Hall dry.

The SELMANAIRES are: (from left to right) Herb Harris, Mathis Hunter, Tommy Chung, Jason Harris

Tommy Chung from Selmanaires answers:

favorite local artist? Bradford Cox from Deerhunter. Says Tommy, "All around creative, art, photography, graphic design (Cox has designed album covers for Black Lips and more recently The Coathangers). Its sometimes hard to make out lyrics at a Deerhunter show, but on top of all that, he's also an incredible singer."

what album are you currently listening to?
"Tender Buttons" by UK band Broadcast. Constantly on standby: Can and 70's funk. CCR makes great driving music!

favorite local hang out?
Manuel's Tavern.

one thing you love about your life? People in ATL. Despite how much its grown, there's still a small southern town feel. &nb sp;


Upon moving from Austin to Atlanta in 2000, twin brothers Herb and Jason Harris met Tommy Chung, and the trio had their first band practice at 73 Selman Street, the location from which they took their official title of the Selmanaires. The group played their first gigs after learning a slew of Rolling Stones and Stooges cover tunes on which they would let their drunken basement party audiences sign up to take turns at the mic stand. The Selmanaires’ original sound tread on quieter acoustic territory that featured stand-up bass, bongos, and a Wurlitzer, but the trio noticed their audience was more responsive to the rockers that closed their sets. Several years and equipment adjustments later, the Selmanaires added multi-instrumentalist Mathis Hunter to the line-up and released their debut record Here Come the Selmanaires in 2005. The band generated significant buzz and a solid following in their home state as a result of their impressive first effort that was built on the gorgeous vocal harmonies of the three originating members, as well as their affinity for the eccentric ass-shaking of late-seventies new wave artists like Devo and the Talking Heads. The band has just finished recording their sophomore release, and is gearing up for the Zig-Zag Live Fall Tour with the Black Lips.

Story by Andrew Lutwin
courtesy of Zig Zag Live
Thanks, Taylor

Stay tuned for Aaron's interview of the band!