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Wifeknife bring their epically heavy hard rock poetry to Alphaville tomorrow night (3/30) alongside face-melting bill of local all-stars

Video of Wifeknife performing “Blackout” live at Our Wicked Lady on 5 January 2023 recorded/edited by Daniel Moore for Deli Mag Films

If you’ve ever read Book IX of Virgil’s Aeneid there’s a good chance you’ll remember the part where the three Trojan battleships transform into water nymphs and swim away, thanks to a little intervention by the gods, when the Rutulians attempt to launch a sneak attack and set them on fire:

And all at once, each vessel snapping her cables free of the bank
they dive like dolphins…turned into lovely virgins
each a sea-nymph sweeping out to sea

…but the chapter also tells the story of Euryalus which is more relevant to our purposes here, a fresh-faced Trojan teen voted “most handsome in Athens” who bravely/foolishly follows his older man pal Nissus into battle and despite the latter’s well known skill with a spear (*ahem*) they both end up getting captured and beheaded thanks to the young soldier's fecklessness...

…and once Euryalus’s mother catches wind of her beautiful son’s head being impaled on a pike she rushes to the front lines heedless of the raging battle, her voice rising above the surrounding mayhem with wailed lamentations and recriminations delivered with such force and fury that the Trojans almost pack up and go home on the spot...


…cuz the Trojans knew just as well as the Romans there's no sound quite so devastating as a mother’s voice wracked with grief and rage wailing raw-voiced lamentations especially when it's their only outlet for emotional release and their only means of protesting the patriarchal system that burdened them with such misery in the first place (women's laments were once considered so subversive they were outlawed across ancient Greece) which debatably makes them the first riot grrrls ever


…but if you’re looking for a raw-voiced punk rock Mom in the current day and age who’s likewise capable of entrancing listeners with melodic lamentations delivered in a voice that even at its most restrained is laden with heavy emotional resonance, that is, before lashing out in unrestrained fury and nearly ripping your face off with belted banshee wails worthy of those ancient Hellenic mothers raising their voices to the heavens then you'll no doubt wanna check out Sarah Hamilton fronting the band Wifeknife first chance you get...

…and you'll get that chance soon since Wifeknife is performing live tomorrow (Thursday 3/30) at local "fave hang" Alphaville as part of a stacked lineup chock full of female-fronted sonic fury alongside recent SXSW compatriots Tetchy and Big Girl (not to mention the mighty Nihiloceros) and if Virgil were ever to rise from the dead and oversee a cinematic reboot of the Aeneid with its action moved to modern-day Brooklyn which is maybe less a stretch than you may think when you consider how crossing the raw sewage and industrial waste laden Gowanus Canal would be no less perilous than the River Styx back in the day…

…no doubt the Greek bard would be keen on assembling a kickass soundtrack for the film adaptation chock full of heavy metal bands adept at summoning punk rock levels of urgency and immediacy, and punk rock bands adept at summoning Heaven & Hell-era Black Sabbath levels of Dio-fied epic grandiosity, all of which means said soundtrack would no doubt include Wifeknife given how they check off both boxes above with music suitable for virgin water nymphs and brutal battle scenes alike… 

…all of which probably makes you wish you knew more about these fearless warriors of rock 'n' roll and lucky for you the Deli conducted an interview with Wifeknife’s Sarah Hamilton not long ago—alongside hubby/drummer Keith—a transcript of which follows below minus our own inconsequential interjections so by all means enjoy and never forget what's truly best in life…. (Jason Lee)


Sarah: We’ve been called The OWL Family Band with Keith Hamilton being co-owner of Our Wicked Lady (OWL) and with me working at OWL since the beginning too. Besides the two of us, our lead guitarist Benny Oastler ran OWL’s livestream shows during quarantine and to this day helps screen band submissions. Rhythm guitarist Ramsey Elliott (also bass/guitar/keys in ExPollutants) is a veteran OWL bartender and Marcello Ramirez (bassist in WifeKnife and Whaat) barbacks at OWL part-time.

Keith’s dad was a hippie drummer who instilled a deep love of music in him from an early age. Keith, a drummer himself who hadn’t picked up the sticks much in the last 20 years, missed the outlet and invited Benny to jam with him in his rehearsal space at OWL Studios. Benny was in a band called American Fever that disbanded after Bryan Tell (vocals, guitar) moved to Austin and Benny was also itching to make music again. 

After Keith played me a few of his and Benny’s instrumental recordings I honestly started hearing lyrics right away. I’m a long-time actor who’s always loved to sing, and sang via theater and choir, but never like this. But as a new mom coming out of a bout with postpartum depression followed by a pandemic, the intensity of this music, and just getting to go to a safe space with friends and scream once a week, was incredibly cathartic for me as an artist missing creative expression deeply.

I did book a play at Florida Studio Theater (Late Nov-early March) shortly after we first started jamming together. The band would send me instrumental tracks and I would send back vocals recorded on top via GarageBand. That’s how we began to develop our earliest songs, “Move On” and “Blackout.” The play was a great experience. I’d missed acting so much after a five-year hiatus, but honestly after a month or so I couldn’t wait to get back into the rehearsal space with the band.

I’m an introvert who became comfortable on stage after years of training and jobs and really just working through the nerves; I finally kind of learned how to turn the nervous energy into fuel. Being in Wifeknife is more daunting than acting in a big way, because these are my words, not someone else’s, and I’ve infused my experiences and truth into the lyrics. It’s more vulnerable. The goal is always to leave it all on the stage. 

Our friend Amanda Hurley knew we were still exploring band names and sheepishly proposed the name WifeKnife. We all instantly loved it. It’s sort of badass and funny all at once. Being a wife, a nurturing mother, but also having a wild side and demons to release just like anyone else, it totally clicked with me. I’m a Gemini, what else can I say?

Keith: Sarah is a really talented actress. I knew her stage presence would be there, and that she had the pipes thanks to her background in musical theater. It’s just a matter of using your instrument a little differently. 

Sarah: Yeah, really differently haha. It’s been a learning curve for sure, staying on pitch when sing-screaming like that. I do want the songs to have lyricism too. I’m still finding that balance; places where I can bring it down a notch and find the melody. I’d never want to be a one-note actor, and I don’t want to be a one-note vocalist. “Blackout” is my favorite song of ours so far. It’s the most personal and the most vulnerable for sure. 

Billy Aukstik of Dala Records has a studio called Hivemind Recording in Bushwick, close to OWL. We’ve known him a long time through the Daptone family, he’s the nicest guy in the business and tremendously talented.

We went and recorded for two days for the release of our two singles, which we called Double. It was the best experience. We got “Blackout” in like two takes. Billy really nailed it, he engineered and mixed it. We’re pretty raw and intense live and it was interesting recording in the studio (the first time for me and Keith) and having such control over sound levels and everything. 

I had to remind myself not to strive for perfection in the studio, to keep some of the rawness. At the end of “Blackout,” the very last note, you can just hear my voice cracks at the end. There was a take where it didn’t that I wanted to switch it out with but the rest of the band, including Billy, insisted that the cracked take was better–because of the intensity and the emotion there on that take. Of course they were right. 

We also recorded “Dead Ringer” also engineered by Billy at Hivemind. It came out well but we decided it needed more grit, so we shared it with our friend Rich Crescenti, drummer in Bugs in the Dark, who was Head of sound at OWL for 6 years and moved to LA a few years ago. He ended up mixing and mastering it, and he just crushed it. 

We hope to record another song or two now that we’re back from Austin and are starting to discuss some music video concepts so there’s definitely some exciting shit on the horizon!

Some other things Wifeknife would like you to know:

  • If you enjoy epic rock tunes by female-fronted and -backed bands, the Rites of Spring weekend fest to be held on 5/6 and 5/7 at OWL (booked by Wifeknife’s very own K. Hamilton) with a mind-boggling lineup of 30+ female-fronted bands from NYC. A fundraiser for women’s reproductive rights, bands will perform atop OWL’s open-air rooftop while DJs spin and tattoo artists offer cheap flash tattoos downstairs. Bands include Thick, Tetchy, The Silk War, Frida Kill, Big Girl, Nevva, Shadow Monster, InCircles, Tea Eater, Powersnap, The Rizzos, WifeKnife, Bugs in the Dark, Gal Fieri, Abby Jeanne, Catty, DJ Sarabeth of Tower and more.
  • TV Eye’s two-night series “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” on 6/3 and 6/4 will likewise feature female-identifying led bands as well. Includes Baby Shakes, Mel Machete, The Out-Sect, The Dracu-las, Tits Dick Ass and lots more as assembled by Jen Manfredi of Fear City Presents



Nihiloceros forecast end of world, release custom hot sauce and guitar pedals

You may recall a review posted in this space a few weeks ago about Nihiloceros’ third and final single “Dirty Homes” from their upcoming “concept EP” Self Destroy (Totally Real Records) or hey let’s be generous and call it a full-blown concept album because six songs is pretty much in-between an EP and an album and anyway it’s all revolves around an end-of-the-world scenario and that fact alone makes it monumental enough to deserve full album status, even if, as singer/lyricist/guitarist Mike Borchardt describes it, it was never planned to be an actual concept album, but the through-line took shape organically as the album was worked over and re-worked again during lockdown which was very conducive to brainstorming dystopic concept albums.

Well, anyway, I hope you didn’t forget about Nihiloceros in the meantime (or Dre! never forget about Dre!) because the record just came out this weekend and obviously you need to clear 20 minutes from your schedule asap to give it a close listen. And hey just be thankful this is no Tales From Topographic Oceans or 2112 (RIP Neil Peart, yes we forgive you for the whole Ayn Rand thing and have the utmost respect for any sticks-man who owns a drum set with 23 roto-toms and then actually uses them all) because who has two spare hours to spare sitting inside on a nice weekend trying to figure out why the heck a cabal of malevolent Priests hanging out in the Temples of Syrinxs would choose to outlaw creativity and individuality or how they would enforce such drastic measures. 

And Nihiloceros realize this too because they’ve distilled the most powerful bits of those albums into a concentrated paste of rocking-your-face-off, and what’s more they don’t go all pretentious about it with a fold-out gatefold design that if you stare into it long enough the whole album suddenly “makes sense." Because instead the whole idea, according to Mr. Borchardt, is to “cut the legs out from under any grandiosity” by placing the listener into the brainpan of an average schlub facing down the apocalypse and over the course of six songs working through the five stages of grief (binge-watching The Wire, stress-eating, suddenly conrtracting hives and dropsy, more stress-eating, and just being generally unpleasant) so put away that bushel of ‘shrooms because you won’t need ‘em sorry to say.

Btw speaking of weekends and monumental things, Nihiloceros will host an album release party tonight (Sat. 9/18) at a mysterious location known as EWEL (probably an acronym for East Williamsburg Exploding Lo-Fi Inevitable but don’t quote me on that) with both Desert Sharks and Kissed By An Animal on the bill as well so hell yeah that’s gonna be an epic time.

AND THAT’S NOT ALL!! Because if you really wanna “self destroy” you’re advised to buy one of the album bundles that’ll soon be available (in the next week or two) because one of the bundles comes with an exclusive limited edition “Halfway Human” hot sauce mixed up especially for you in Mike’s bathtub which (the name says it all) which includes ingredients such as habanero peppers, grapefruit juice, Allspice™, chile de árbol (also known as bird’s beak chili and rat’s tail chile, yum!) and some secret ingredients just so you don’t try to sell the recipe to Taco Bell or somebody. A couple bottles will reportedly be available at the show tonight so...

And if the sauce is too strong for your weak-ass taste buds to handle (lay off the tofu why don't'cha!) you can always use the stuff to strip the paint off your father’s ’67 Ford Fairlane because it could use a new coat anyway and boy won’t he be surprised. Anyway it’s a highly appropriate name for a hot sauce because just listen to how the song it’s named for starts with a single anticipatory note then with a subtle little melodic bit sneaking in before exploding into a skull-stomping riff about 15 second and that’s what it’ll feel like when the heat hits about 15 seconds after you swallow the stuff.

Or, if you’re one of these guitar playing people, you can get the Self Destroy album bundled with a guitar pedal or three custom-designed by the band's bassist/backup singer Alex Hoffman who in his down-time works as a structural engineer in the “power industry” and I’m not sure how you get better credentials for being in a power trio than that. Each pedal is named after a song on the album (and used on that song natch) so if you had a notion to form a Nihiloceros tribute band well it's your lucky day because now you won’t need to mess around with about 100 pedals trying to get that perfect Nihiloceros tone nailing every subtle timbral variation on every song.

I had a little phone convo with Alex the other day and he walked me through the creative process of pedal-making which entails getting your hands on some blank circuit boards and wiring and other components, not to mention the enclosure topped off with primer, spray paint, clear coat enamel, and (wait for it) glitter so you can make the thing look cool enough to take on stage with you. And so yeah, while you were spending days trying to bake your own bread during the lockdown, then inevitably giving up and drinking a quart of gin instead, Alex was busy teaching himself the fine art of pedal-construction and designing three of t hem on his own which frankly makes up all look pretty shabby in comparison so thanks a log Alex (he insists, however, that anyone can pull off making pedals from scratch with the help of online tutorials and some pre-printed circuit boards with the help of small businesses like Small Bear Electronics catering to the budding stompbox enthusiast).  

The first one of these pedal is called “Dirty Homes” named after the first song on the album and it’s sort of a clone of the classic Small Clone pedal but with with an MN3007 chip with "a depth knob instead of a switch and an added vibrato/chorus toggle" because we all like nice things don't we. To hear what this pedal sounds like just check out the intro of “Dirty Homes” and focus on the underwater-sounding tremolo effect (BTW you know you’re dealing with a serious pedal-head band when you can’t tell at many points if you’re hearing a standard electric guitar or a bass guitar at any given time) which is a distinctive timbre heard on chart-topping songs by chart-topping bands of today/yesteryear like The Police, Crowded House, and Nirvana (see the video above for evidence).  

The other two custom pedals are heard on the following couple of songs: “iamananimal” (eponymous pedal) and “Mammal Science Fiction" (the Velvet Elvis) which is along the lines of an “Acapulco Gold [pedal] modded with an added gain control” and a “Nihiloceros version of a big muff with a mids switch and a diode bypass switch” respectively as described by Alex himself. And hey why not pour some “Halfway Human” sauce (next song on the album!) on those diodes because no telling what kinda crazy sonics you’d get from that. 

But really nevermind all the hawt sauces and hot pedalboard action because the real secret ingredient on this record is the two musical collaborators who appear on four of the six tracks (two a piece!) that being Shadow Monster’s Gillian Visco and Desert Shark’s Stephanie Gunther—who also receive one songwriting credit a piece, because as Mike describes it, their contributions (in addition to the sweet harmonizing and hollerin’ they bring to the table) were so crucial that they changed the very fabric of the songs as they were still being completed—and then you also got drummer extraordinaire Carlo Minchillo (The Planes, Murder Tag, Brooklyn Drum Collective) contributing theremin on one track.

And so with the release of Self Destroy we got a true All-Stars record on our hands despite all of these talented individuals being beat out by underdog Fiona Apple for “Best Rock Performance” at this year’s Grammy Awards, but I think you know where the best rock performance will be happening tonight. (Jason Lee)

photo by @brooklynelitist


Single premiere: Nihiloceros preps for imminent self-destruction with "Dirty Homes"

It’s one thing to know that the end will come one day (easy enough to ignore) but it’s another to know when that day will come (not so easy to ignore). The new single put out today by Brooklyn-based three-piece Nihiloceros (“Dirty Homes”) is based around the latter condition which Dr. Nessa Coyle, co-editor of The Nature of Suffering and The Oxford Textbook of Palliative Care Nursing, both of which make for excellent beach reads, has termed the “existential slap” i.e. the very moment where a soon-to-arrive demise is realized and internalized alongside the attendant trauma likely to follow a time-stamped death sentence.

Despite being something best-avoided in real life, the “existential slap” is a popular plot device in the movies like in all those ticking-clock-countdown-to-a-life-or-death-deadline type films, even if many of them cop out and allow the hero to live at the last minute. Existential slap movies also tap into our curiosity of how we’d react if we learned we’ve got only one year or maybe just 24 hours left to live, just like Ethan Hawke in that movie from a few years ago called (*ahem*) 24 Hours To Live. But my personal fave in this genre is Miracle Mile, an obscure 1988 film that’s grown a cult following over the years due to what Black Mirror sicko-satirist Charlie Brooker once labelled “the biggest lurch of tone” of any movie ever.  

Basically (warning: skip this paragraph if you hate tangents and/or spoilers) the movie starts off as a quirky “meet cute” rom-com that’s just about as Totally ‘80s as they come. And then it ends with our nerdy-adorable couple slowly sinking into the La Brea Tar Pits in a crashed helicopter as nuclear bombs rain down on Los Angeles (a surprisingly tender scene believe it or not). But most of the movie revolves around the existential bitchslap that arrives about 30 minutes in when Anthony Edwards first finds out (before anyone else) that nuclear armageddon is on its way in about an hour or so, and all the batshit crazy shit that transpires as a result.

But hey we’re here to talk about music, right? (thanks for the reminder!) While not on the same level as movies there are at least a few well-known albums (concept albums, natch) that deal with this very same theme—notable examples being Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction, the Del/Dan/Kid underground hip hop classic Deltron 3030, and of course David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars which opens with the conceit of being down to “five years left to cry in” before the end.

But a “concept EP” that takes the existential slap as its central conceit, well this is breaking new ground. And Nihiloceros have done just that with Self Destroy (released digitally on 9/17 and then physically on 10/1 from Totally Real Records) perhaps the world’s first “existential slap EP” (make that “ESEP”) and there’s no bisexual rock aliens falling to Earth to spread moorage daydreams before the inevitable rock ’n’ roll suicide in the Nihiloceros's rendition. Instead, we have a six-song self-described meditation on “the imminent evolutionary unraveling of the human condition and the absurdity of the end of the world” which obviously should make for good beach listening.

And guess what “Dirty Homes” is the lead-off track on the EP so we got a sneak preview now of how it all begins. Eschewing any “meet cute” gambits, the song instead charges into your earholes with a needle drop straight into a rush of Superchunky distorted intertwining bass and guitar and propulsive beating of skins (Chris Gilroy on the skins as well as production/engineering/mixing duties, whereas Siberian transplant German Sent handles current live drumming duties, got it?) and an eerie high-register melody. Meanwhile, right off the bat the narrator faces “youth erod[ing]” and “ages torn down” and the impending demise of humanity (difficult to imagine, no?) and just like Anthony Edwards in the phone booth scene above, humanity’s first reaction is flat out denial. When we talked the other day guitarist/lyricist Mike Borchardt called the song a “fairy tale vs. reality” type fableand that seems about right because the cognitive dissonance is palpable in both the lyrics and music.

Contrasting the titular “dirty homes” with pristine “white cathedrals” it seems humanity may have miscalculated in not taking better care of the places where we actually live (the dirty homes in question) instead tending to ritual spaces where we imagine our ideal selves as looked after by a beneficent god (this could be any type of “god” or "gods" take your pick). As further described in the lyrics through snatches of arresting imagery, we’ve travelled to the point of no return on “the yellow bricks [that] lead to Rome” and well now I’m picturing Dorothy hooking up with Caligula and bringing the whole gang along to a gladiator match (you know the Cowardly Lion is freaking the fuck out) followed by an imperial orgy (every tried to have sex with a scarecrow?) which all ends in chaos of course. 

Likewise on the musical side of the things the song swings between extremes—the bouyant melodies of the verses masking apocalyptical imagery of locked jaws and rusted suns and “cities built on your cries” that is until the song gets stuck in its own groove with our narrator repeating “YOU! YOU! YOU! YOU!” in the chorus in an echo of the egotism and individualism and freedom-to-be-stupid-but-fully-satiated-at-all-times-at-all-costs that got us into this end times mess in the first place. Then later there’s a breakdown section (talk about literal!) and finally an outro that opens with a nice crunchy ’n’ catchy guitar solo that soon unravels into swelling sonic murk and doomsday countdown-clock rhythms before glitching out and ending on a bass and guitar single-note that hisses and crackles like a burnt out element. 

And if this all sounds a little on the dismal side it’s not so much really because much like Miracle Mile the songs on Self Destroy are the musical equivalent of action set pieces, adrenalized and strangly exhilarated by impending doom (thought don’t get me wrong “the shit goes down”) and plus the band creates such a powerful slab-of-sound that you’ll likely be mesmerized anyway—at times I still can’t tell which parts are bass or guitar, nevermind theremin or effects-laden Rhodes piano—which could be down in part to bassist/co-vocalist Alex Hoffman designing a custom line of pedals for the record (!) that’ll be available to the buying public at some point (plus an entire line of tie-in hot sauces, I shit you not) so check out “Dirty Homes” for now and then clean up your pig-sty why don'tcha and then get ready to blast off when Self Destroy drops because, well, it’s gonna be “a thrill ride into oblivion” (potential pull quote!) and you may as well sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds as it goes down. (Jason Lee)


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