Monday, August 8, 2011

Pheaturing Travis Johnson From Grooms

Hello, kids, welcome back to the Phile for a Monday edition. How are you? McDonald’s is planning to open a restaurant every day in China for the next four years. It’s nice... when kids get their Happy Meal toy, they’re like, “Cool! I made this.” By the way, right now the Happy Meal toy at McDonald's are Smurf toys. Hey, it’s rumored that Charlie Sheen checked his ex-wife Brooke Mueller out of rehab in Mexico and brought her to another facility. Which begs the question: What kind of rehab facility lets Charlie Sheen check someone out? The TSA has a new program where agents have in-depth conversations with passengers to detect suspicious behavior. Or as most people put it, “You know what, I’ll just take the groping.” A company in Seattle is coming out with a medical marijuana patch for dogs and cats. So finally, dogs and cats won’t have to buy their weed illegally. This past week President Obama celebrated his 50th birthday in Chicago. Obama cut the cake, then Republicans cut everything else. While eating at a burger place , President Obama gave a free milkshake to an 11-year-old boy. Not to be nice, he just wanted to get rid of it because he saw Michelle coming. A new study says that swearing doesn’t make you feel better, but you know who disagrees with that? Anyone that has ever stubbed their toe. I swear a lot, but I try not to swear on the fucking Phile... or the phucking Phile. Fox News will host the next Republican primary debate on Aug. 11 in Iowa. Yeah, Fox News will ask some tough questions, like “How much better are you than Obama,” “Why is Obama such a bad president,” and “Man, can you believe we elected that guy?” A new study found that eating healthy adds $380 to your grocery bill every year. Or as Americans put it, “Cool, I saved $380 this year!” Not my wife though, she is the Queen of coupons. Did you kids see the new Sarah McLachlan ad on TV where she is trying to save all these animals? If you haven't, here's a screen shot.

Christopher Nolan is right now filming the new Batman movie Dark Knight Rises and some pictures are being leaked all over the internet from the film shoot. Not to be outdone by other sites, I have an exclusive picture.

That's so stupid. Adam West always made a better Batman. Speaking of movies, yesterday I went to see the Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie and it wasn't exactly what I thought. Here's a screen shot, kids.
And now, from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Ten Signs Your Neighbor Is Really An Alien
10. He borrowed your superconducting anti-gravitron months ago and never returned it.
9. Ever since his riding mower broke, he's been cutting his lawn with his knuckle blades.
8. Caught doing Warp 8 in a school zone.
7. There's a Space Shuttle up on blocks in the front yard.
6. Puts on his pants one antenna at a time.
5. Your computer wireless card detects the "Alpha Centauri 0072" network.
4. You mention your upcoming colonoscopy and he says, "No need -- you're good."
3. When he borrows your pickup to move some furniture, it comes back with three million light years on the odometer.
2. You say, "Morning, Joe!" He says, "Morning, insignificant carbon-based life form."
And the number one sign your neighbor is really an alien...
1. Doesn't celebrate Earth Day.

Nobody ever learns anything from Frankenstein except how to grunt like Boris Karloff, and brilliant scientist James Franco is no exception. He tries to invent a cure for his father's Alzheimer's and, instead, accidentally creates a superbrain in his pet ape Caesar. Living in a world where his job options are pretty much limited to lab animal, zoo attraction or circus performer, Caesar soon becomes disgruntled and embarks on the road not taken: total ape revolution and domination of all humanity. You'll be on his side. I'll confess first to being an easy mark for anything related to Planet of The Apes. I was a childhood Apes obsessive, watching all the movies over and over, then the TV show, then the awful cartoon. I begged for the action figures at Christmas. I was all the way in. I even liked the Tim Burton remake even though I know it sucked. But there's no need to make allowances for this loose re-working of Conquest of The Planet of The Apes. It's exciting and goofy and suspenseful. It's even surprising, mostly because August is usually where summer movies go to die and I don't think anyone was expecting that the best pure popcorn film of the hot months would be a remake nobody asked for. But here it is, the coolest end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it movie I've seen in a long time, with not an alien in sight. "Starring James Franco" actually means starring Andy Serkis. Not that Franco's bad here, but his presence is straightfoward and unshowy, allowing you to focus on Serkis's moving, expressive, nearly wordless motion-capture performance as Caesar the ape. It's his movie all the way and without even talking he takes you from seeing him as a pet through stages of obedient son, sullen teenager and angry young man. He invites empathy, turning him from sweet to monstrous to understandably furious revolutionary figure. Not to discount his awesome Gollum, but this is the actor's biggest, fullest, most serious role to date. The movie was directed by Rupert Wyatt. Who? He's the director of The Escapist. Of course, this movie also features an elaborate prison break sequence as the apes trick their way out of simian lockdown, so it's not a big concept stretch. Anyway, he keeps everything tense and controlled, pushing you to take it as seriously as the apes do. In fact, all the laughs come from stupid human tricks. If anything threatens to turn it upside-down, it's the dialogue of the non-apes. Franco's greedy lab boss (David Oyelowo) has almost nothing but dumb, sci-fi madman dialogue here and Harry Potter's Tom Felton shouts his vintage Apes quotes ("It's a madhouse!" and the one about "damn dirty ape[s]") like he's never seen the original films. It's balanced by laughs that come from visual in-jokes about Charlton Heston, the Statue of Liberty and other details that super-fans will spot immediately. The rest of you won't notice or care. From 1 to 10, it gets a 10. And yep, I will buy it when it comes out.

The fourth artist to be pheatured in the P.P.A.G. is Gunnar Gaylord, and this is one of his pieces of work.

Gunnar will be a guest on the Phile next Monday.

Today's guest is the singer and guitarist for the band Grooms, whose new album "Proms" is now available on iTunes and cool record stores on Kanine Records. They'll be appearing next at Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn, New York on September 3rd. Please welcome to the Phile... Travis Johnson.

Me: Hey, Travis, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Travis: Good. Tired. Just stayed up late to watch the new "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and didn't really like it. That show has expired for me, I think.

Me: I have to ask you about the band name... having a girl in the band I don't think you are referring to a bride's groom, but someone taking care of themselves. Good hair, no B.O., that kind of thing. Am I right?

Travis: We like it being either meaning, noun/verb. I like how there's something clean-cut about it either way, but also that it rhymes with doom/gloom.

Me: Where are you kids from?

Travis: I'm from Dallas and Emily is from Oklahoma City. Lately we've been playing with Kevin on drums (Chicago area) and Tyler on synth/sampler/guitar (Bay area).

Me: Is that where you recorded the album?

Travis: We recorded in Philadelphia at Uniform Recording. It was the first time we made a point to get out of town to record and I want to always do that in the future. You just feel so much more liberated to not worry about anything else, so that you obsess and freak out about your record.

Me: Tell the readers who is in the band. And well done on hiring a cute bass player. Which one of you started the whole project?

Travis: It was pretty much Emily Ambruso (cute bass player) and I (Travis, sour-faced guitar player/vox). It's kind of been a revolving cast to a certain extent. We write everything together for the most part, but things get worked out as a full group too. Kevin and Tyler I mentioned. They're both Irish.

Me: Your first album "Rejoicer" is branded as being a religious themed album. When you guys were writing the songs, was that the theme you were going for?

Travis: Interesting. I didn't know about the religious branding, though, from a lyrical angle, most of the stuff has fairly religious material, from different points of view. Loneliness, elation, joy, fear. Lots of that kind of thing. It was just what was coming out at the time I guess.

Me: Your new album "Prom" has another theme... a prom, am I right? How did you decide "Prom" was gonna be the title track?

Tarvis: I think we actually came up with the name for the album when I was thinking Prom would be a good name for a band and still wanted to use the name somehow, but it works pretty well I think. A lot of the stuff has to do with being young. The title track is specifically about the weirdness of being in high school and thinking your very small world is all there is.

Me: Did you kids go to your proms? I graduated from school in England and we don't do the prom thing there. What was your prom like?

Travis: I went. I think Emily did. Not sure on the other two. Mine was weird. It was when some of my depression and OCD really kicked into overdrive. Hard to explain, but that's what happened. Had to do with a girl and thoughts of God that wouldn't leave, ever. It was a strange weekend.

Me: I listened to your new album "Prom" and I have to ask you about two songs... "Tiger Trees" and "Don't Worry, You're Prettier". First of, what is a tiger tree? And what is the story behind "Don't Worry, You're Prettier." For some crazy reason I can imagine the kids on "Glee" singing that in their poppy version.

Travis: "Tiger Trees" is a reference to a TS Eliot poem called "Gerontion". It's not really a direct reference though, but I really like that poem. "Don't Worry, You're Prettier" is about an imaginary boy who lives next door, never gets older, and is frozen in this adorable, pre-adolescent state where he doesn't have to deal with a lot of the painful things that come with growing up, but is in a lot of ways happier. It's about that trade off, and about growing older while this boy next door just stays the same. The title is a reference to our friend Ariel, who died last year, and who I kinda wished could've been frozen in that period before all the nastiness of life can really sink its teeth in. He was a really sweet person, and that's one of the really sweet things he said once, so we used that as the title.

Me: Did you know Disney, the best company to work for ever, is coming out with a movie called Prom? Did you guys try getting your music into that film?

Travis: Ha, I actually just found out about it recently. We didn't try that, but we should trying suing them. I'm sure our lawyers could take on Disney's with one hand tied behind their backs.

Me: You guys have done about three tours, right? What has been the coolest place you've played so far?

Travis: I really like this crazy big space in Cincinnati called the Mockbee. It's cavernous and kind of beautiful. And eerie and creepy too. But it's my favorite for sure.

Me: And if you could open for any band in the whole world, who would it be?

Travis: The Smiths

Me: Thanks so much for being here, and I hope you will come back when the next album comes out, kids. Go ahead and mention your website and good luck.

Travis: Thanks! You can listen at or

Well, that about does it for another entry of the Phile. Thanks to Travis for a great interview and to you the reader, of course. I never thank you enough. The Phile will be back next Sunday with Alumni Alexis Babini as we continue Alumni Month and then on Monday it's artist Gunnar Gaylord. And at the end of the month the singer for one of mine and my son's all-time favorite bands. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligator's bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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