The Whole Bolivian Army
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Mike Mongrain, drummerGoing up in flames | We're relieved to inform you that we're no longer drummer-less, and even happier to tell you we've managed to team up with an especially talented player, Mr. Mike Mongrain, who happens to be an old school chum of mine. Mike, along with surviving the halls of Madrona Junior High and Woodway High, boasts an impressive resume that includes stints with Tad and Love Battery, among others (his latest was with Hollywood Lightweights). Those who know TWBA's sad history know he's the latest in a long line of impressive drummers. We sincerely hope he's the last. In fact, I personally plan to spontaneously combust if things don't work out.

- Matt


TWBA endorses Obama | Well, we all caucused for him here in Washington State, so it's only fitting that The Whole Bolivian Army -- that's right, the entire armed forces of Bolivia -- endorse Senator Barack Obama for president.

Yes We CanIn rock and roll terms, we think he's the real deal, writes music that transcends the usual cynical drivel, and has the potential to transform the musical landscape. He's U2, circa 1982, while Senator McCain, bless his heart, is, well, Ted Nugent doing the casino circuit.

In political terms, we think Obama is a rare creature to inhabit the D.C. landscape: an adult. We are rooting for him because we think this country is ready to let the adults lead once again.

Of course, it doesn't really matter what we think. Get out and vote. And remember that no matter who wins, we're all on the same team, right?

- Matt

Cloudy, the bearded dragon24 OCTOBER 2008

No news is bad news | Sorry for the lack of postings of late. Our drummer quit -- gasp! -- and we've been busy looking for a replacement. Those who have followed our sordid history over the years know this is not necessarily unfamiliar territory for us. Still, it sucks. We'll keep you posted on our progress. In the meantime, check out Gibson's first official pet: Cloudy, the bearded dragon.

- Matt


The fevuh | MB's got "the fevuh," Gibson looks like a glazed donut monster (remember Bill Cosby's routine?), and it's been a week since I could breathe through my nose. What happened to summer? At least the sun is back. September is usually my favorite month, but this one's starting off as a mixed bag.

But you didn't come here to read about our health. We're taking a bit of a break from shows, as you'll note on the calendar. Time to retool the set list, etc. But since May, when we started playing out again as a full band for the first time in years, we've enjoyed ourselves immensely. We've played with some great bands, met some wonderful people, and also had the opportunity to reconnect with a lot of familiar faces. We look forward to the next round of shows.

More cowbell!

- Matt

Morning After Food Poisoning in the South of France10 JUNE 2008

The new EP | We finally put the finishing touches on Morning After Food Poisoning in the South of France, a 4-song EP that weighs in at a mighty 19 minutes and some change. Yes, it's short. But daggum, we're feeling awfully good about it. You can preview a few tracks at our MySpace site, and CD's are selling for a measly five bucks at shows and at our store. Give it a listen and tell us what you think when you get a chance.

- Matt

MB in her AC/DC shirt1 JUNE 2008

And there was much rejoicing | We had a great time at Allen Creek playing with four other bands at the Malawi benefit. Money was raised for a good cause, loud rock music was dispensed to the masses, and there was much rejoicing. Thank you, Hazens!

- Matt

12 MAY 2008

So excited | Okay, we can't wait to start playing out again. As you'll note on the calendar to the right, we have actual shows posted. Shows! Our collective glee knows no bounds.

- Matt

27 MARCH 2008

U2: Larry and AdamU23D | Mary Beth, Gibson, and I went to see U23D at the IMAX theater in Seattle Center. The place was packed, although the crowd was pretty restrained (I felt like I had to tone down my enthusiasm, lest I frighten the mellow people). This was my first 3D experience, and I found it, well, kind of weird. At times, it felt a little vertigo-inducing (no pun intended). But it was interesting.

U2: The Edge and BonoAs for the actual music, I thought U2 rocked, as usual. They reinvented classics like "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Bullet the Blue Sky," tying both songs to the modern political landscape, with Bono wondering aloud why three branches of the same prophetic tree (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are trying so desperately to kill each other. They also introduced a few newer songs, like "Love and Peace or Else," with Larry standing out front and holding the rhythm down in the first half of the song with just a floor tom and crash cymbal.

The high point of the film was definitely "One," which ended the main set with the sort of transcendental moment we've come to expect from U2. Conversely, the encore began with "The Fly," complete with jumbled messages flashing on the screen, a la the Zoo TV Tour, which felt jarring, cynical, and, well, a tad boring. All in all, though, a great show. I was struck by one moment in particular, when Bono, usually larger than life, suddenly looked tiny on stage, like a man no longer in control of what he had unleashed. The huge Buenos Aires crowd was singing along to "With or Without You," and Bono looked overwhelmed by the experience. Who wouldn't be?

- Matt

13 MARCH 2008

A life's work | What do you do if your life’s work belongs to youth? If what you do isn’t serious, at least not according to most people over 40?

If you’re 20 and scratching out a local following with your band, you swing away, the wind at your back. If you’re 30 and still climbing the same mountain, you march on, more jaded, perhaps, but nowhere near ready to call it quits. If you’re 40... it’s impossible not to feel self-conscious, like maybe you better get out before you embarrass yourself any further.

Woody from Toy StoryBut you can’t. You’re a never-was and a has-been all at once. Time has passed you by. The future belongs to somebody else. But you keep on because... because there has to be a way to make rock and roll serious work, even for people who’ve already burned through their youth, even for people with bills to pay and dependents to feed -- and no time for schmoozing.

We all understand why famous bands keep touring well past their prime, well into their geriatric years. There’s money in it. And the God-hole, as Bono puts it, must be fed, whatever the costs. But what about the undiscovered indies? When the brass ring never arrives, they get on with the serious business of adulthood, right? Adolescent dreams are left for dead, and everything fades to black.

But again, what if your serious business is rock and roll? What if you never outgrow it?

Unknown jazz, blues, and folk artists keep playing until they fall over dead. They’re not dinosaurs. They’re not jokes. They’re seasoned artists, revered by anyone who knows anything about the style of music they play. Who will give rock and roll the same degree of dignity?

Rock is dead. Long live rock.

- Matt

15 FEBRUARY 2008

Angry C-cupsAngry C-cups | So we finally changed the album cover on North by Nowhere. Why? For starters, we felt a little self-conscious every time we handed someone a copy of the CD and the first thing they saw was MB's lovely cleavage. But it was more than that. It was the cranky look on her face. It was the stark colors. It was the fact that we failed to observe a rather easy-to-follow rule of thumb that until now we'd successfully stuck with since our first album: bands generally look silly on album covers. Not all the time. But most of the time. Striking a pose looks like, well, striking a pose. Ergo, bands that strike poses are… posers? True, you can't get away from a certain amount of posing - bands need shots for web sites, the media, etc. And true, we've toyed with mildly risqué stuff in the past, mostly 'cause we get tired of being so damn wholesome all the time. But let's face it: we're not hopelessly sullen, coolly detached, righteously angry, sexually transmittable, or even elegantly wasted. We're geeks.

We recognize that imagery is part of every band's identity, and we recognize that we've a long way to go before we articulate a coherent and fitting band image. But given our general ineptitude (you should see the web site that nearly went live before we released War Stories - it had an absolutely over-the-top shot of MB's cleavage juxtaposed against a shot of me sitting on the toilet; only the toilet shot saw the light of day), we're thinking it best to concentrate on the music, lest we cheat the only thing that counts.

North by NowhereHaving said all that, we reserve the right to put a shot of MB and her angry C-cups on the cover of the next album. But it will have to feel right. This one didn't.

"Okay," you say, "tell us about the new cover." We found it on the Wisconsin Historical Society's web site, and WHS was good enough to grant us use of the photo for a small fee and proper credit (WHS Image ID 11749). We think it fits the music better, and we won't be embarrassed to sign copies of it at shows.

Along with giving WHS proper credit, I would be remiss if I failed to thank everyone who sent in their ideas for the cover. You gave us some cool photos, and we were in the midst of putting together a collage when we stumbled upon the WHS site. Somehow the image spoke to us, and we felt compelled to run with it. The best laid plans . . .

- Matt

31 JANUARY 2008

guitar pedals: POG, Phase 100, the Worm, etc.We like toys | One of the fun things about playing guitar is all of the weird sounds you can make, especially if you're willing to fork over some hard-earned cash for one of those little toys guitarists put at their feet. Tommy and I are on a quest to find strange and new sounds, which has fueled an arms race in guitar effects. Here's a photo of his newly built pedal board, now almost too heavy to carry. Mine is smaller, but I added one of these and one of these and have been making fun noises ever since.

- Matt

12 JANUARY 2008

Mr. Potato HeadThe sun came out | A strange gold orb appeared in the sky today, and I wasn't the only one to notice. As part of my usual Sunday long run, I ran down to the Tacoma waterfront (Ruston Way) and ended up weaving through hordes of bipeds, all of them a sickly shade of gray, with moss growing on their north sides. Everyone had come to the boardwalk to pay homage to the strange thing in the sky.

Winter sucks in the Northwest. There's just no getting around it. My only escape is running in the woods (where less rain drops hit you) and of course playing music. Speaking of which, we had a great rehearsal tonight. We are hatching many plans and writing many songs, but I have to keep you in the dark a while longer. No worries. After winter comes spring.

- Matt