FOREWORD: In 2007, it looked as if The Teeth would gain a firm grip on the indie rock biz with You’re My Lover Now. But it was not to be for the Philly boys, at least under that toothy moniker. After a March ’08 breakup, the main members announced plans to come back as The Purple. This article originally appeared in Aquarian Weekly.

Charismatic Philadelphia combo, the Teeth, never let loony pop eccentricities get the best of them despite relying on contagiously quirky jaunts and flippant ditties to coax maximum euphoria. Originally from the rural steel town of Bethlehem, fraternal twins Aaron (rhythm guitar-vocals) and Peter MoDavis (vocals-bass) and childhood pal, Brian Ashby (lead guitar) moved to the city of Brotherly Love then replaced initial drummer, Chris Giordani, with Jonas Oesterle.

Though lazy comparisons to The Who and Kinks ring true, the Teeth’s shadily skewed oeuvre alternates vintage Merseybeat exuberance, flamboyant Vaudeville theatricality, tattered orchestral rhapsodies, and punch-drunk honky-tonk into a whorled panache.

Attending Temple University as an art student, Aaron MoDavis soon gathered the troupe and began separately composing tunes alongside his brother. Both had an uncommon knack for embellishing a seemingly limitless supply of distinct melodic structures with solid hooks and converging riffs. Over time, the siblings would tighten up their endearingly madcap lyrical ideas while expanding the range of strange characters lurking around inside a briskly expanding catalog.

“Every song I write is supposed to be slow but somehow end up getting faster. And some of our stuff is so heavy it pays to have a sense of humor,” Aaron shares, before breaking down the Teeth’s earlier recordings.

“Our first record, ‘02s Send My Regards to the Sunshine, had lots of songs and not much focus as a whole cohesive collection. We were developing and hated on a lot of bands we knew, but weren’t confident enough with out own songwriting and overcomplicated its complexity. On the 6-song EP that followed, Carry the Wood, we felt more comfortable and didn’t try to push so hard reacting to everybody else,” Aaron earnestly reflects.

On the Teeth’s latest full-length disc, You’re My Lover Now (Park The Van), they manage to collide wry needling with serious conviction. Using the tone of American Southern novelists John Steinbeck (Of Mice And Men/ The Grapes of Wrath) and Sherwood Anderson to casually affect his barbed tales, Aaron became subconsciously struck by the well-designed fictional images masterfully detailed.

Faux-nautical expeditions such as the Decemberists-nipped violin-draped balladic shanty, “A Fight In The Dark,” and carnivalesque seafaring klezmer quandary “Molly Make Him Pay” have a cognate antediluvian feel. The latter, a maudlin pre-Depression-era styled waltz, tactfully impinges upon astonishing Philly peers Man Man’s freakishly experimental Zappa-Beefheart-Waits-informed creations. But that’s only an informed assumption.

“It’s hard to pinpoint the influence for “Molly,” but it’s not rock and roll. I listen to more Classical now than anything else. Yet it’s hard to admit that because you sound like an asshole going, that one’s by Beethoven,” Aaron snidely chuckles before confirming how none of the Teeth can actually read music. “Most of the chords I couldn’t tell what they were. We understand music well, but aren’t necessarily technical. Instead, we’re focused, active listeners.”

After trumpet and trombone accessorize the degenerate down-and-outer taxi standoff, “Yellow,” the Teeth get back to rockin’ in the free world on the spontaneous guitar-powered tambourine-shaken rampage, “It’s Not Funny.” Then, the boys take a breezy stroll with “The Coolest Kid In School” (a snide acoustic folk ode to the rad dude getting hot chicks against deviant wishes of a nerdy naïf) and ride chuggin’ percussion through melodic bass and siren six-string on awkward tryst “Walk Like A Clown.” Indeed, there’s a veritable cornucopia of style jumping goin’ on here.

“The first tape I ever owned was by Elvis,” Aaron says. “In high school, Pete and I got into the Beatles and David Bowie. From that point, we got led to lots of stuff. Brian’s background was Chuck Berry, James Brown, The Band, and blues music. He got us to appreciate that along with the Stooges…even 10 CC.”

Although Peter latched onto ‘60s rock quite firmly, Aaron began to also respect the operatic lamentations of Roy Orbison and the lounge-y Brill Building cocktail pop of Burt Bacharach.

“Bacharach’s one of the most original songwriters-arrangers. A lot of people think he’s got a lot of baggage because numerous hokey, overly theatrical singers made his music seem dated. The songs sound simple and silly, but when you actually backtrack to what he was doing, all the songs are strange, complex, and well done.”

Since many impressive early-to-middle-period rock and roll icons bedazzled the Teeth, I naturally assumed they maintained a good rapport with their record label’s disparate fanatical mod pop acts, which includes the emergent Dr. Dog, Capitol Years, Golden Boots, and the High Strung.

“Us and Dr. Dog are good friends. We all played in Philly before we were signed. We had a friendly competition and admired each other. There was a domino effect getting Park The Van’s attention. Dr. Dog gave them a tape of ours when the label started in New Orleans and we signed contracts there, but Hurricane Katrina blew it away. They moved to Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, which couldn’t be any different. Chris Watson used to run the label out of an apartment. Now it’s offices.”

Considering the wealth of abstract notions divulged within the Teeth’s semi-animated odysseys, fans may assume You’re My Lover Now’s cover design would be sprightly kaleidoscopic. However, Aaron favored an interestingly antithetical approach, affixing the unadorned black setting with a noir dark-haired couple smooching.

“It’s a reaction against all the bands with a deep meaning title for an album,” Aaron relinquishes. “Plus, we like classic soul with generic, simple titles like (Magic Slim’s) blues LP, Gravel Road. Eventually, by buying Bowie’s Young Americans, the next step was making connections and following the dots back. The Beatles Rubber Soul was the Fab Four trying to do Motown. The Supremes and even the Platters were influential. I like the throwback. You can’t read into it. The cover shot is just two people kissing.”

So what’s up with Aaron being a decapitated victim on the last page of the inside cover?

“It’s pretty lighthearted. We ran out of lyrics to fill the booklet, so we gave it a little throwaway feel,” he snickers. “We get too self-conscious about lyrics sometimes so to buffer the personal melodrama we mock it and it makes us feel less uncomfortable.”


FOREWORD: I got to know the Burning Brides pretty well during 2001 to 2003. I had originally interviewed Dimitri for Aquarian Weekly and thereafter met them at a show and invited them to sleepover following a sold out Mercury Lounge gig. I also took Dimitri and his now-wife Melanie out for pizza in their old hometown of Philly with my wife and kids. The following piece never ran in High Times so it’s being posted here in front of the earlier Aquarian Weekly article. Needless to say, the Burning Brides are true marijuana advocates.

When former Shakespearean off-Broadway actor Dimitri Coats dropped out of Julliard School of Arts with dancer-bassist Melanie Campbell, they settled in South Philly’s drug-addled neighborhood and formed the Burning Brides, combining Black Sabbath’s antediluvian metallic soot with grungy Goth brashness. When the City of Brotherly Love’s lecherous lifestyle became overbearing – inspiring Coats to pen the crunchy mindfuck “King Of The Demimonde” about a now-deceased dope dealer – they moved to serene Northern California.

“All roads lead to heroin and speed eventually. So I stick to beers and joints,” guitarist-vocalist Coats affirms. “Weed’s not the enemy. It’s been there for me and never let me down. But I steer clear of drugs that almost ruined my life.”

Image result for BURNING BRIDES FALL OF EMPIREAfter several years toiling away rehearsing for small gigs, the Burning Brides recruited drummer Jason Kourkounis and released ‘01s brazen Fall of the Plastic Empire on tiny File 13 Records. They opened for elite rockers Queens Of The Stone Age, Marilyn Manson, and A Perfect Circle, signing to larger label V2 along the way.

But a plush tour bus and monetary rewards haven’t softened Coats’ feisty resolve, as he wryly quips, “Isn’t weed supposed to mellow you out?”
Hooking up with producer George Drakoulias (Black Crowes/ Tom Petty), the Burning Brides return with the brash Leave No Ashes. Brutally snarled raging anthems such as “Alternative Teenage Suicide” (a fictional Vietnam soldiers’ gay love tryst) and the bludgeoned boogie “Heart Full Of Black” find Coats searing with vengeance even if his composing method appears hippiesque.

Coats’ confirms, “Marijuana is an extremely useful creative tool for writing. I’m best when baked. Every song I’ve written stoned on the couch 4 AM when everyone’s tucked away. I approach songwriting like stoner poetry – many cool images threaded together that are hopefully related, tell a story, and fit the music’s mood. It’s a dada approach.”

An organic weed snob, Coats enjoys inhaling Blueberry, Snowbud, Trainwreck, and Shiba Skunk from a vaporizer to get only “the pure crystal THC extract.”

“As a singer, the vaporizer doesn’t affect my throat as much. It’s a cleaner high, like smoking hash. You can function on it,” Coats maintains. “And it tastes good, too. You can get the flavor of your favorite strain.”
Now ensconced near Cali’s Redwood Forest, he’s trying to acquire a green thumb.

“I don’t grow yet, but I’ve taken care of gardens. Marijuana is an antenna to alien life forms. You have to respect those tentacles. Bat shit’s extremely good fertilizer. But you got to spend time. You can’t water them and walk away.”

During Leave No Ashes recording, Coats received Drakoulias’ herbal support.

“He’d say, ‘Are you fired up yet? The vaporizer’s not cooking. We making a rock and roll record here or what?’”

Scarily, Coats nearly got busted prior to the Burning Brides recent tour.
“I got pulled over in California when I had three pounds of kind bud in the back. I told the cop I didn’t live anywhere and was in a rock band. He just gave me a speeding ticket.”




Though Burning Brides singer-guitarist-keyboardist Dimitri Coats is an avid Beatle fan, you’d be hard-pressed to find any trace elements of the Fab Four’s freakbeat in his trio’s blistering punk-metal oeuvre. Instead, Coats’ blood curdling groans and savage moans rise above brash hardcore, psychedelic Goth, feedback-drenched noise-rock, musty grunge grooves.

After Coats (an ex-off-Broadway Shakespearean actor) and bassist Melanie Campbell (a modern dancer with ballet experetise) dropped out of New York City’s Julliard School for the Arts, they founded Burning Brides, settled in Philadelphia, recorded tracks with drummer Mike Ambs, and got snatched up by indie label, File 13.

Their bloodied, but unbowed, debut, Fall Of The Plastic Empire, piles dark-edged mantras such as the metallic “Pastic Empire” and the grinding “At The Levity Ball” on top of grungy melodic pop such as the hook-filled rollercoater ride, “Arctic Snow” and the Sabbath-meets-Beach Boys “Blood On The Highway.”

Throughout, the blunt immediacy of Coats’ stream of consciousness verbal assaults evoke bleak imagery and near-Apocalyptic visions. On the cacophonous “Plank Of Fire,” his siren-like bellowing cuts through the ear-splitting guitar-bass-drum calamity with the desirous conviction of Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander and the scorch-throated haphazard slacker attitude of Kurt Cobain.

This sense of unguarded post-adolescent anxiety thrives on “Glass Slipper,” another brutal attack bristling with appropos chaotic menace. Though less ferocious, the fucked-over disconsolate condescension of “Stabbed In The Back Of The Heart” slithers along with nearly as much abrasive fury.

The fact that the Missouri-born Boston-bred Coats has moved around like a vagabond may have some bearing on his hardened lyrical outlook. Even after finally settling in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood (the seedy section below South Street), Coats has had to deal with the frustration of getting sucker punched for no reason. To add insult to injury, Campbell once got her purse snatched. But through it all, these admitted Cure fans have managed to open for Marilyn Manson (“He’s a really sweet guy,” Coats justfies) and tour cross-country.

Did anyone in your family inspire you to become a musician? 

DIMITRI COATS: My grandmother was an opera singer in Poland. I met her before she died. She didn’t have many teeth left. She had turned into an alcoholic bag lady with twenty cats who fed neighboring pigeons. She sang to me once and it was incredible. She broke into a perfect wall shaking, glass breaking prelude to some opera.

What’s with the cool Burning Brides moniker?

We wanted a name that was dark and beautiful and rolled off the tongue well, like the Flaming Lips. There’s a whole phenomenon in ancient India where they’d throw a widow into a funeral pyre with her dead husband while she was still alive. Hence, the name.

Were there any political implications affecting the title of Fall Of The Plastic Empire?

I look at it as gazing into a crystal ball and predicting the current state of music. This plastic pop they’re calling rock will eventually crumble like it did before Nirvana came along. We need a pop or death metal band to shake things up. Going back to the Beatles, they could use any color on their palette. They’d go from “Helter Skelter” to ”Honey Pie” in three seconds. That’s what great artists like David Bowie and the Rolling Stones can do. It’s what good dynamic art is. We throw everything that inspires us into the mix. We’re not gonna rope ourselves off in one corner like some bands do.

I like the neo-psychedelic edge some songs have. Do you listen to the ’60s-based Nuggets collection? 

Yeah. I got that. I just smoked half a joint and listened to the Kinks Face To Face. I work at the Philadelphia Record Exchange. It’s a great record store with a bunch of old heads who collect rare psych. I’ve been inundated by that stuff. The boss is J.C., the guitarist in the Strapping Fieldhands. He drew the skeletons on our inside cover.

I thought your most dynamic song was “Arctic Snow.” It had a delectable emo feel.

I’m not a big emo fan. That’s just me tapping into a Wipers song. It started off as a slower ballad. Then, I detuned it, sped it up, and thought, ‘Hey. This is like the Wipers!’ I gave it a Beatles chorus and a Slayer ending.

“Elevator” has a rambunctious hardcore tension reminiscent of Black Flag or the Misfits.

That’s a bout an elevator ride down to hell; a Faustus time to pay up ‘thing’ Christopher Marlowe wrote about. He’s a scientist who’s frustrated because he can’t explain the Wonders of the World through science. So he sells his soul to the devil. He gets to expereince wonderful things, but has to pay when the clock strikes midnight.

How do you usually go about creating your songs?

I sit around, get stoned, listen to records, then I can’t contain myself anymore and pick up the guitar and all the records I’ve been listening to pour out. It could be the Bee Gees and Odessa meets Venom. Rock and Roll is a superior artform. It was refreshing to enter that world after coming from such a high art background. There are no rules. We could do what we want and feel like we’re 18 again.

What did veteran producer Brian Mc Tear add to the project?

He’d recorded Mazarin and he has a real pop sensibility. We knew there’d be a lot of dynamic melodies on this record. He was good at suggesting where harmonies should go or where a lift with a tambourine should be. He’s also a decent musician who makes you feel comfortable in the studio. He’s like, ‘Go ahead. Get stoned.’


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FOREWORD: It’s a downright shame when fine bands like the Bigger Lovers breakup and go away. But that’s just what happened a year or so after this interview took place. Anyone who experienced them live or on record will recall their greatness and enjoy this trip back.

Alongside Burning Brides, Marah, and Capitol Years, the Bigger Lovers rank as one of Philadelphia’s best contemporary bands. Less rockin’ than Brit-influenced Capitol Years, louder than sleepy-eyed depressives Marah, and less visceral than intuitive neo-grunge stoners Burning Brides, the egalitarian quartet consisting of guitarists Bret Tobias and Ed Hogarty, bassist Scott Jefferson, and drummer Pat Berkery mold well-constructed tunes with huge choruses resolved by reclining guitar solos.

Recorded in a nearby Wilmington, Delaware studio between Halloween and Thanksgiving ’99, Bigger Lovers spectacular ’01 debut, How I Learned To Stop Worrying, dealt with heartbreakingly provocative emotional concerns in an unexpectedly mature manner, gaining instant plaudits from serious indie pop aficionados. After piquant power pop opener, “Catch & Release,” the quartet settles into the sentimental hand-clapped, organ-droned apology “I’m Here” and the dirgey neo-psych sedation “Change Your Mind.”

Neighborhood pedal steel pal Steve Hobson gives the pretty ballad “Steady On Threes,” the static-y hangover “America Undercover,” and the rural Western tearjerker “Out Of Sight” a lilting Country twang. In lesser hands, the ethereal moments might sink to murky depths of self-indulgent misery, but not here. Every lucid lick, hymnal harmony, rollin’ rhythm, and ephemeral embellishment falls perfectly into place as the bands’ collective instincts are fully realized.

‘02’s stunningly consistent Honey In The Hive brought greater lyrical awareness and broader song structures to the fold. Its warm crested peaks, eloquently streamlined valleys, low key charm, and deliberate drawn-out tension nearly parallels the Wrens mysteriously lovely The Meadowlands. Moreover, the energetic beat-driven stomp “Ivy Grows” juxtaposes the otherwise mellow backend just fine.

Harder to pigeonhole but just as cohesive, ‘04s contradictorily This Affair Never Happened…and here are Eleven Songs About It conservatively expands the Bigger Lovers’ palette, bringing their wistful world-weary melancholia to beautifully supple new heights. Chintzy strings, dozy harmonica, and chirpy harmonies give the bouncy retro-pop enticement “Slice Of Life” its amorous Beach Boys appeal. The somber acoustic retreat “No Heroics” recalls the somniferous slow-core daze of Low or Slint and the tearful “Ninja Suit” seemingly pleads for reciprocal acquiescence.

But they also know how to rock out when necessary. The reflective “I Resign” builds to a snappy upbeat crescendo while the hard-boiled melodic rocker “You” gets high on emotion and the equally resounding “You Don’t Feel Anything At All” plies pulsing no wave bass throbs and friendly guitar shapes to fuzzy vocal jaunts. Crosscutting bittersweet sympathies with guileless splendor, the streamlined “Peel It Away” begs for mainstream accessibility and the irrepressibly irresistible “You’ve Got To Pay” inadvertently wanders into Pat Benatar’s assertive “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” at the climactic breaks.

While growing up, which artists had a profound influence on your musical tastes?

PAT: I was massively into the Beatles since age 8. Then, when MTV came into the picture, the Pretenders, the Police, and Van Halen. Since I grew up in South Jersey, inevitably hair metal took over at age 14. But I had an older sister into Fleetwood Mac. I had a punk rock chick friend who brought me to the Replacements and Depeche Mode. I had one foot in cock rock and one in the bedroom thing.

ED: I’m from Poughkeepsie. My first influence was Classic rock radio. The holy trinity of Poughkeepsie was Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult, and Eddie Money. Rush and Van Halen impressed me.

BRETT: I’m from the depressing town of Reading, Pennsylvania. My dad had a lot of ELO and Beach Boys on the hi-fi. I got into hair metal then quickly discovered the Who and Replacements in high school. Later, I got into ‘70s not-quite-punks like Soft Boys, XTC, and Only Ones.

SCOTT: Early on, I played violin and was into Classical living in Massachusetts. You could rent records from the library. I was into the Beatles’ Rarities record, Abba’s Greatest Hits. When I got into Connecticut College, I worked radio and got into noisy stuff like Sonic Youth and Butthole Surfers. I got so high with the Butthole Surfers once. It was scary watching them live because they had such a bizarre connection with the audience. They lit things on fire and were starving for attention. We got King Coffey to do a backward promo. People were crawling through the backstage window sneaking in to the show and the band was letting them.

Have the Bigger Lovers gotten more democratic over the first three albums?

ED: We’ve become more democratic. Scott is a great 4-tracker. Pat starts the musical critique. He’s like Van Dyke Parks. (laughter)

PAT: The new record is more off the cuff because I was touring with the Pernice Brothers. They were sending demos to show what was going on, so we had a night of pre-production. Then, we went to the studio and arranged on the spot. At this point, I’d rather do that. I don’t get a thrill anymore banging out songs for three weeks in a basement when we could learn on the spot, record it. There’s better energy.

The ’01 debut, How I Learned To Stop Worrying, had Country leanings unexplored on the two follow-ups.

ED: That’s because we had a pedal steel player living down the street. He’d come over and play…but we got the alt-Country tag.

BRET: When we were demo-ing songs for the second record, Thom Monahan was producing. He was in the last incarnation of the Scud Mountain Boys with Joe Pernice, but Thom hates alt-Country because while living in Massachusetts, he went through Northampton when guys would be into rock one day and the next they’d be wearing Stetsons and heels. So when our demo leaned that way, Thom immediately said, “No.” But we weren’t married to the songs he disliked anyway.

ED: He took the cream of the crop and let it work.

I’d guess from the barroom atmosphere of the Bigger Lovers louder numbers that you guys are into pub rock by Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, and Brinsley Schwarz.

PAT: Yeah. Did you know Legacy is reissuing the Rockpile record and doing the same for Dave Edmunds’ Best Of and Porky’s Revenge soundtrack. Yep Roc’s trying to repackage Nick Lowe’s records. But Nick’s in no hurry to do anything. He put out The Convincer in August 2001 and didn’t tour America til July 2002.

Was the reference to “Something In The Air” on the suspicious “Ninja Suit” intentionally lifted from Thunderclap Newman’s 1970 mini-hit?

ED: They’re vaguely familiar. Pete Townshend may have produced that and may have been on “Something In The Air.”

PAT: Tom Petty does a real good version of that. It’s his last song on the Greatest Hits package.

Contrast This Affair Never Happened with the previous album, Honey on The Hive.

ED: Honey’s more manicured and thought-out. We’d work to two in the morning, sometimes five, going through stuff. We’d come back next day and re-examine. On the new album, all basic tracks were cut by dinner. We did both albums in one mammoth block, went back, and touched things up. But the new one, we left things for chance. We’d do a track a day instead of separately doing drums, then bass, then guitar.

BRET: We’d go through an entire song a day; basic tracks, vocals, then overdubs. No one had to sit around eating Doritos.

How will your future recordings differ?

BRET: They won’t be as planned out. We’re getting more complex. We don’t want to sound like a typical power pop band. When you get pigeonholed power pop, you never go anywhere. I’d be inclined to call us rap metal so we could sell more records.