“Robots” – Exercise This song from the album “Grandma’s House” gives the genre alternative a horrible name. It’s the type of noise that you would deem a heinous act against humanity for playing. Banging your head against the wall or babysitting 10 screaming bratty 2-year olds who need to be changed would be a better use of your time. http://reviewfix.com/2009/07/last-week-in-free-amazon-music-downloads/
Here is a review of our album from the September printed issue of Eleven Magazine.
"In the thriving genre of experimental indie rock, either you get it or you don’t. There is a prodigious fault line: when done well, it can lead the listener down the post-modern rabbit hole into the depths of meta-consciousness. When unsuccessful, it is jarring, clumsy noise. Fortunately for St. Louis (and the world), Exercise gets it, and they’ve finally polished up an album for us to chew on. Grandma’s House is a promising debut, especially when you listen with your eyes closed (so as to better visualize the rabbit hole. Their years under the moniker Berlin Whale (known and beloved in St. Louis 2005-2008) brings creative cohesion to the trio’s recordings. They’ve moved away from Berlin Whale’s dance-pop roots into a more serious, acousmatic sound, exemplified by the song “Tail Feather,” which best pairs Trevor Berkholtz’s eerie tape tracks with Bo Bulawsky’s jangly guitar. Justin Hickey’s drumming stands out on “Claustrophobe” and “Panama.” His versatile command of the kit gives structure to the band’s scattered, ambient sound. The album’s remarkable accessibility is highlighted by simple lyrics draped over each track. The uncluttered physical imagery on songs like “Robot” (do you know/you’re just skin and bones) provide balance to the density of Exercise’s many layers. The album is bookended by stripped down, reflective songs that slow down enough to allow a bit of layer dissection – a sort of preparation, then detox from their intense, studious sound. Overall, it is evident that Exericse are up to the hard task of creating concentrated, quality music. They might benefit from reading a little more Pynchon, but Exercise is well on their way." - Nelda Kerr
There are a couple things on the horizon we'd like to tell you about.
For one, EXERCISE is taking a break from playing shows so we can write some new songs. We have been dying to write some new material and start working more on album number two, and the only way for us to do this seems to be going into hideout for a while.
BUT, we will be playing one more show on Saturday, October 10th at Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center with our friends from Brooklyn STARRING. (They are also a side project of this band's drummer). They are an awesome, awesome band, and we're very excited to play with them again, and we would love for you to come to the show! This could be the last time we play this set of songs, ever (happy? sad? who knows). ALSO. EXERCISE is playing as Cold Bear Scout this Tuesday, October 6th at the Luminary Center for the Arts in St. Louis, with another awesome, awesome band from Brooklyn called SUCKERS. (Damn you, Brooklyn). We are having a mucho good time playing with Cold Bear Scout, and we are super excited for this show, and encourage you to come to both shows if you can! Lastly, if anyone is interested, here are the latest blog sightings about our band. Weekly Tape Deck Gimme Tinnitus
I have been meaning to blog about this tour since the day we got back, but am just now getting around to it. We embarked on a 12 day tour to the East Coast in mid-August. Chicago was the first stop, followed by Cleveland, followed by Philadelphia, and then up to New York City. I will hopefully be able to piece together some video footage of these events occurring as they unfolded. We played 3 shows in NYC and had a radio spot on our day off. The first show was August 16 at Pianos. We had heard a lot of good stuff about this place, but the show was pretty mediocre, i.e. no crowd. The next day, we played at The Annex. This place rules, really good sound, small and intimate setting, but still big enough to have a balcony area, solid wooden interior, and a stage that has no stairs and is literally 6 feet off the ground (you have to climb to get on it). We were slotted to play at 9, we would be the 3rd of 6 bands to play that night. About 5 minutes til 9, as we were getting ready to play, someone came running in from outside and said "Is that your blue van out front?!" This is a phrase that no one wants to hear when it's their vehicle. The follow up to it can only be bad, it will never be, "because it's awesome!" It will only ever be, "because its getting towed," or, "because someone just hit it." Ours was the latter. Margaret Raven was the band playing after us. As they pulled into a parking spot out front, they hit the back drivers side of our van - doing some bumper damage, but most conveniently giving us a monumental flat tire. Back inside, it was the biggest crowd of the tour thus far, and in our time crunch to start playing, we told the band we would deal with everything after our set (very stupid). They assured us that since they were playing the show as well, they would be around all night and we would trade info and get it paid for, etc. We played our set, it went well, people danced, and all was fine. Then we went back outside to find them, and they were gone. Trevor had a phone number of one of the members who assured us again over the phone that they had just left momentarily, and that they would be back very soon. But they never came back. The police were called, who were mostly unhelpful. They took a report, but since we had no license plate number or even last names, they couldn't do much. Around 2am, after the police had left, we called for a tow truck. While waiting for the tow, the Department of Sanitation strolled through and gave us a $65 ticket for being parked illegally after 2am. Thanks! Right after that, a very nice man walked by and offered to sell us valium, but we had to refuse. At about 4 in the morning, we finally got the van to the nearest 24 hour garage, and they slapped a new tire on for the $100 we made that night at the show, and were on our way. Our radio spot was the next day, and after sleeping in and strolling through central park, we headed back down to where we parked the night before. We knew it before we could even see it, the tire was flat, again. It was 6 o'clock, we had to be at the radio studio at 630. We couldn't move our van = radio spot canceled. (In hindsight, we should have loaded as much gear as possible into a cab, gone to the radio station, and dealt with the tire afterward. God Dammit.) Call Triple A, another 2 hours of waiting for a tow truck. Tow back to the garage. Garage says, "Do you have enemies? Because someone stabbed your tire." We say, "No, that's ridiculous, please fix it." Garage guy says, "I can patch the tire but it will be flat again in the morning." We say, "replace the tire." Garage dudes say, "No, it's not our fault. It went flat after you left the garage." "But you gave us a bad tire, no one slashed it, the hole is too small for that." "If you want another tire, you buy one." "Then give us a receipt for the first one so we can give it to our insurance." "No. The boss isn't here, come back tomorrow morning." "What? Then you just write one for us, you're the guy who put it on our car yesterday anyway." "Only boss can make receipt." "Then just give us a new tire." "No." At this point, a thunderstorm blows through, and we sit in the car for about an hour trying to figure out what to do. Eventually, we decide to just buy another damn tire from these people, but when we go to do that, oddly enough, they don't have anymore. They tell us to go to 29th St. and 10th Ave, basically on the other side of Manhattan, where there are two tire garages. We make the drive on our slowly leaking tire, and pull into a gravel lot with no lights and a sign that says TIRE. At this point our luck changes. They have a used tire for us that they will put on our car for $35. "But we want a new tire," we say. They say, "No, only used." We say "OK." So after about 30 hours of absolute stupidity, we had a tire that would, in the end, get us back to St. Louis. That night, we went up state to my girlfriends house and got drunk and skinny dipped, and forgot all about the tire story. And that's the tire story.
Here is some video documentation of the tour... if anything, it proves that we actually did it. More to follow.
We also have a few more shows coming up soon! July 25 - The Luminary Center for the Arts with Abe Vigoda Aug 1 - Crestwood Local Music Festival at the Crestwood Mall Aug 8 - PBR Me in St. Louis 2: FREE PBR Blowout! at The Koken Art Factory
If you're into googling your own band name, or even your own name name, you might find something like this:
"Don't bother Googling the band Exercise—you won't find anything about them until page 50 or so. They're still small fries on the national scene, buried beneath a bunch of jock-jam CDs and ab rollers. Maybe that'll change now that the St. Louis band has a proper record under its gym belt, chock full of challenging post-rock jams that are characterized by aerobic musicianship and limber beats. Fans of bands like Animal Collective and Xiu Xiu will be motivated to perform extreme chin-ups, or at least run some sprints."
just thought we would give an update about our lives since we haven't really been "communicating" lately:
the album artwork, disc art, and master cd are all in the hands of a company in california, who will press and print our album. its kind of scary just sending everything you've worked on for the last year to some people you don't know, and trusting that everything comes back the way you want it and imagined it all this time.. but we'll get it back in a week or so, and we couldn't be more excited.
our cd release show is all set for July 16th @ The Firebird. Netherfriends are playing with us, if you haven't seen them live lately, you really should. They put on an incredibly fantastic live show.
what else...justin got sunburned pretty bad when he went fishing last weekend, he also phish-ed when they played in Indianapolis last week. bo is going to new york citay today to see his girlfriend. trevor continues employment at the retirement community, he should really be receiving community service trophies as well as paychecks. we've been writing a new song, we're digging it very much.
our tour to the east coast is coming together nicely. we look forward to that immensely. there is something about playing shows, sleeping terribly and driving many hours everyday with the same people that somehow equals the most fun thing in the world. not sure why.
So, we didn't win the best new band award sadly, thank you for voting though! I don't think we have enough friends between the three of us to win things...
BUT! We have officially announced our CD RELEASE! "Grandma's House" will drop the night of July 16th at The Firebird, where you'll be able to buy the debut full-length for the first time! It will also be available on itunes, and several other online music stores following the release show.
The show will be ALL AGES, with our band bff's Netherfriends. Annnnnd, if you are lucky enough to snag one of the first 50 limited edition copies of the album, you will receive a "special surprise" album insert, with surprise special things in them..
We got home from our tour with Netherfriends (follow the link for more tour footage) a few days ago. It was incredibly fun, and we were all sadto go home. There are many stories to be told, too many to type out, but after sifting through tons of video footage of the tour, we have tried to compile something watchable.. not sure if we succeeded, sorry for the randomness. I wish we had more video of us actually playing the shows, but that's on Netherfriends camera, not ours..
Finishing a record can be a never ending process. I'm sure it would have been with us had Ryan not stopped us when he did. We always had something more we wanted to add or track or effect, but there comes a point when somebody has to say, "alright, thats enough shit," and that's when the recording process ends. For us, that day came in late February. I would say it took about 20 or so trips to Edwardsville to get everything done. Maybe even a little less. Which is not bad when i think back on it. After our initial 3 day basic tracking marathon, the sessions were sporadic, but by no means sparse. At least a couple times a week, all three of us, or one of us, or two of us, in whatever combination, would be at the Wasoba residence working on the songs. About midway through the recording process, a fellow named Chad moved into one of the tracking rooms upstairs to become the third permanent resident of the house. Chad is more well known by this name: Emperor X. All I can say is look around on his website, look up videos, songs, he is prolific and has some amazing stuff out there. He is also a great engineer and producer and had bits of input for our album. He also helped Ryan mix Worm Farm. But what was even more awesome about him moving in for me personally, is that he was (is) a member of (the somewhat defunct) The Cadets, a band who I have admired and loved since I was 17 or 18, and whose album "On the Death of Science as a Major World Religion," is easily in my top 10 albums of all time, and I think is one of the most defining albums of the "indie" genre to ever have been made, it's a masterpiece. This album is hard to find, but it blows many, many great albums out of the water. So i got to geek out with him about that.. and it was good. Someone asked after the last 'recording process' blog whether we had to scratch or change any songs to make the album work. The answer to this question is no. But there were two songs that we completely re-invented while recording them, "New Letters" (the first song) and "Sweater Weather" (the last song). "New Letters" was a song we played only two times live, during our first two shows as EXERCISE. The idea behind it for the studio version was that Trevor would lay down the basic guitar/vocal backbone of the song, and Justin and I would take whacks at it with overdubs and make it crazy and weird and do whatever we wanted. It worked out well, all the parts are great, plus the marimba appears again on this track, and it totally serves the purpose of an "opening track" exactly the way we wanted. We used Ryan's crazy 7 stringed jazz guitar for this one, which is the same as a 6 string, but only above the low E is a low A.. it's actually really sweet to play. "Sweater Weather" is one that we've also only played twice live, and it also serves the purpose of the "closing track" perfectly. There is not too much of a story behind this one, it was originally a "solo" song of mine, that now sounds like a syrupy forest, complete with really awesome drums and wooden pipes from an old pipe organ that my mom gave me. You'll see..
The ability to search for your band on the internet. A name like EXERCISE doesn't lend itself to being searched for very easily. Try Googling "exercise st. louis" and you'll have to scroll through about 50 pages or perhaps more to get to anything related to us. The other day, "exercise st. louis" got us up to page 22 (the highest ever) of the Google search results, but today we're no where to be found. Try anything you want really, "exercise music" gives you a multitude of new agey jock jams type cds, "exercise band" gives you a list of rubber strength training equipment. "Exercise myspace" seems to do the trick, although the first search result is for a band called Exercise One.. which frankly I find very annoying. And searching "exercise myspace" for some reason doesn't link you to our myspace page, it only gives a link to our photos or blog.. It's not until you combine everything, "exercise music st. louis myspace band," (or something) that Google gives in to placing us at the top. Actually "exercise st. louis myspace" puts us at the top, and "exercise music st. louis" puts us at about number 5.. But damn you, Google, and all the gyms in st. louis too.
Maybe it just hasn't been quite long enough yet, but if the band Health can make it on to the first page of search results just by typing in "health," then god damnit we should too. One day...
Here's an anecdote about our name. Orginally, Exercise was going to be the name of the 2nd Berlin Whale album. So when BW fell apart and we wrote new songs, we debated for a long time about whether to keep the name Berlin Whale or change it, and what we would change it to. We changed it, obviously, and using the name Exercise was a way for us to kind of uphold any semblance of what once was, even if we were the only ones to know it.
This is what we look like attempting to write a song late at night.
Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures or write anything down, like mics or amps or guitars or pedals or plug-ins or mishaps, but I will do my best to recall as much as I can...
The whole record was made in Ryan Wasoba's Fiancee's house in Edwardsville, Illinois. It's a nice two story home undergoing some remodeling. The downstairs portion of the house is reserved for living, eating, being comfortable, while the upstairs half is strictly business, two rooms to track in, one control room, one bathroom. As I mentioned before, it was a brutal winter during which we made the record, and it was punctuated by the fact that there was no heating in the upstairs half of the house, save for a space heater that was used sparingly. Lots of hot tea and coffee was consumed, and several trips to the liquor store kept us warm on the inside.
We started recording the first weekend of November, 2008, all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Everything was recorded into Pro Tools LE on an Acer laptop. The gear was minimal, but it was all used well. When we started, we didn't have an album title, or even have names for all the songs, but the first song we did was Tail Feather. The drums for the entire record were tracked in an awesome sounding room, hardwood floors, green walls, two windows and a closet; no acoustic padding, no blankets, no nothing. You can really hear the sound of the room in the snare hits on Tail Feather and in the toms during the choruses of Tail Feather. There was a 10-ish foot long hallway between the drum tracking room and the control room where we had a mic (Shure 849 i wanna say) placed to get a natural hall reverb for the drums. That mic is mixed in during the end of Tail Feather, along with the overheads, and it is one of my favorite sounding parts on the record. Since it was the first song we did, the guitar sound ended up being way out of place from the rest of the record, and we had to add in the all important and infamous lime green Chorus pedal from Target. Infact, I think all of the guitar parts ended up being re-recorded for Tail Feather. It is a little hard to hear, but during the Chorus pedal riff of Tail Feather (during the verses), listen for a marimba. Ryan had this super old Marimba from a garage sale or something, but he could play the shit out of it, and it appears a few times on the album, makes for good texture.
Right around the end of day 1 is when Trevor got incredibly sick. This was bad because we had the next two days scheduled to get the basic tracking done. So the next day, Justin and I went out to Edwardsville sans Trevor and did most of the tracking for Robot, Lasso, and Panama. For the most part, guitars and drums were done live at the same time. There was a lot of experimenting with guitar sounds and effects arrangements, but that again came later on when we were focusing on overdubs and additions. It was kind of a shot in the dark for Justin and I to record these songs without being able to hear any of Trevors parts, but it worked. It took us about 5 takes at the most to get Robot, and another 4 or 5 to get Lasso/Panama.
Trevor came around on day 3, and we managed to track everything that weekend except for Claustrophobe, Sweater Weather, and New Letters.
Welcome to the EXERCISE blog. We've never done this before, so if you wouldn't mind making the first move, that would be great. You can listen to us here, or check out some lo-fi videos of us here. Having never been responsible for a blog before, i'm not sure how this will go.. we will try to update you with the grossest, mind-blowingest, detailed details of our lives as often as possible, cause it turns out that's what people want to hear about these days. For those of you who don't know, we used to be a band called Berlin Whale. After an abundance of band member changes over an abbreviated amount of time, Berlin Whale faded away, but resolved to make new musics with its new members. Out of that confusion and general disapproval from the public came a new set of chesty songs under the name EXERCISE, a threesome including the likes of Justin Hickey, Bo Bulawsky, and Trevor Berkholtz. EXERCISE played its "first" show in July of 2008 in St. Louis. In February of 2009, EXERCISE finished recording its debut full length album with Ryan Wasoba of the band So Many Dynamos, local fan favorites and long time friends. It was a 3 month long process, forged during the frozen winter at a two story home situated in a small southern Illinois town. The record will be released in its entirety in the summer of 2009, followed by tours, including one "pre-release" tour in late May with our good pals Netherfriends from Chicago.
But enough story telling, this is what our album cover looks like. We adore it.