“SONG FOR EWE”
with BRIDGET CROSS of UNREST & AIR MIAMI
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.
Today is a bassist who joined Mark (TeenBeat) Robinson to form the classic line up of the Washington DC indie band Unrest whose albums “Imperial f.f.r.r.” and “Perfect Teeth” I enjoyed both listening to and writing about back at the time of the original Velvet Sheep zine in the early 90s, the latter released here on the 4AD label whose stuff I was always pleased to receive. Unrest were dreamy, ethereal but often rocking and always cerebral. Together with Mark, our guest today went onto form another band Air Miami who I was lucky enough to interview around the time of the penultimate paper issue (number 20) of Velvet Sheep in ’96, and I’m chuffed I found her among mutual social media mates today. Returning to VS, with her “song for ewe” it’s Bridget Kuhar, or as was Bridget Cross!
Before we join Bridget circa now, just as an internet oddity/curio I thought it’d be interesting to re-print an extract of the Air Miami interview from back then, with my 20 year old self asking the impertinent questions of yoof and spinning hyperbolic/diabolique introductions:
Phoeninx from the ashes of the vastly underrated Unrest from DC, a band that carefully crafted pop melodies with layered guitar scirroccos and built it to burst or depending on their mood melted it all down into a smooth texture akin to the creamy voice of the Cadbury’s Caramel rabbit. Unrest had built a cult following, and had left their legacy on many a bit of wax, particularly of the seven-inched variety, particularly aided through Mark Robinson’s Teenbeat label. Teenbeat is the epitome of Do-It-Yourself and the punk ethic, having started as a cassette-only mail-order label and building on the reputation of intricately woven and scratch-built tunes recorded with the most basic of equipment (through the most basic of funds) to really make the songs stand up erect to be counted on their own terms – bands like the brilliant Louisville combo Bastro (the very reverend), Eggs, Teenage Gang Debs, Johnny Cohen, Butch Willis, Courtney Love (the band not the bad-ass motherfucker) and the erstwhile Dischord melody hc punkers and guns for hire Circus Lupus. Through the venerable power of word-of-mouth – the staple of the underground, Teenbeat has gone from strength to strength and the class has graduated to the young scally upstarts such as Versus and Tuscadero to pick up the low-beat high-emotion mantle. But what of Unrest – a truly cult band – well, they’ve transmigrated into Air Miami and Phil Krauth has left the nest…after years of plugging away. Gabriel Stout has come in on the traps to join the forces of the righteous – Mark and Bridget Cross, and they’ve taken the music into an even more poppy realm, with a nod to eighties electronica and sensibility of Kraftwerk, the underlying guitar tensions on which Unrest made their name are omnipresent, but they are also joined by a sentiment of self-effacement of which Beck would be proud – particularly in their ep “Fuck You Tiger” where the song “I Hate Milk” sees Mark expounding someone to kill him soon. Yet the music is strangely uplifting, and Mark Robinson is no Charles Bronson – you only need to hear “Me.Me.Me” through 4AD to realise that. I was honoured to have a natter with the old charmer…
Nick: How would you say Air Miami differs from Unrest?
Mark: The main difference would be that Bridget writes a lot more of the songs and she plays the guitar instead of the bass and the songs are shorter. Those are the things that we consciously changed.
Nick: Would you say it’s more poppy?
Mark: It came out that way definitely.
Nick: What led to the Unrest split then?
Mark: Me and Phil the drummer, had been playing since High School, which for us was a long time ago – we had played together for 12 years – so although the band was new to everyone else it was pretty old to us, we felt that we were starting to be the Rolling Stones where we’d been together so long.
Nick: What’s Phil Krauth doing now?
Mark: He did a solo album on TeenBeat Records and now he’s teaching at High School – it was something he always wanted to do.
Nick: Do you think that’s a more honourable intention than being in a Rock band?
Mark: Well yeah. I think you’re helping out society a little more.
Nick: Why the title “Fuck You Tiger” is that about pet names?
Mark: We actually had the ep done and we had the cover done and it had a big tiger on it and we just kind of came up with it somehow – it just sounded so ridiculous.
Nick: And the album called “Me.Me.Me” – would you say you’re self-centred then?
Mark: Yeah, it definitely relates to the band – like if we’re on tour, Bridget’ll be “I want this, I want that” “I wanna go to this restaurant, I wanna do that” – it kind of stems from that. She gets what she wants.
Nick: Have you got a preoccupation with flight – all the planes, the bird imagery?
Mark: Of course, Bridget does that song “Seabird” and of course the name – we tried to incorporate airline imagery into the whole thing – for absolutely no reason.
Nick: Around the picture of the toucan, there are loads of numbers – the beats per minute of the songs – is that a nod in the direction of Unrest as in “B.P.M.” (Bridget.Phil.Mark)?
Mark: Yeah, I guess the last coupla Unrest albums had bpms on ’em. I was just really into it. It’s really funny cos I was putting bpms on the records before I realised they were our initials – that was just kind of a later thing – i was like “Wow!”
Back to 2016 (Bridget can now have a go at Mark’s cheekiness some years on). Like Mark, I was like “wow” that Bridget agreed to choose a “song for ewe”, but first I asked for a couple of pics, to which I received this fun and enlightening snap as described:
“Sadly, I don’t have any old photos of the band, but I am attaching a current one of my old mug. And a second photo of something I made that’s called a “sand tray;” a visual depiction of my interior world and the awesomeness of my grad school psych program.”
I asked Bridget what she’s up to at the moment:
“I am in two bands right now. Playboy Spaceman, a five piece cosmic rock and space roll band I started with my husband George. We are excited about a couple shows booked in the interior of Alaska (Healy and Anchorage) this summer. A super big deal up here! And The Cloud People is my solo project. Teenbeat licensed my album, Time To Land, which I recorded with Guy Picciotto (I never seem to spell his name correctly) in Brooklyn a couple years ago. The Cloud People and Playboy Spaceman both have new releases coming out this summer.
That’s the news from the North.”
And without further ado, it’s time for Bridget’s “song for ewe”…
“I am sorry this got away from me for so long. I had a severe month-long case of vertigo in February. I lost track of time and schoolwork and life and stuff. Anyways, here is my contribution, if you will still have tardy me, for Song for Ewe:
Silver Jackson is an re-visionary artist and musician living in Sitka, Alaska. I cannot adequately convey how honoured I am to know Silver Jackson, how much his art has influenced me, and how much I love his latest record, Starry Skies Opened Eyes. Please enjoy the hit song, “Perfect Mistake””
THANK YOU BRIDGET, I’M VERY GRATEFUL AND MAKE NO MISTAKE. CHEERS, NICK / VS
ps. look out for a “song for ewe” from Mark (TeenBeat) Robinson soon…