In celebration of its 10 year anniversary, ALIENS debut album Head First will be available on vinyl Friday, December 8th, 2017.
A decade after its first release, Head First’s prophetic message appears more relevant than ever. Written during the second Bush era, the re-release includes a sticker with the phrase: “Same Problems / New Face” in response to the current political leadership and as a self-deprecating joke about the album itself. Sounding the alarm of the impact of societal trends, technology, social media, and an increasingly disjointed culture, Head First is about survival.
The album’s cover, a painting by frontman Blake Sandberg, of a diver smashing her head on a diving board warns of the crises in motion converging in these turbulent times. Blake Sandberg is the creative force behind ALIENS, engaging with “music as a direct, immediate, and emotive medium.” Sandberg writes all the songs, sings, and plays guitar. His theory behind ALIENS sound is “to get the most sound from the least inputs to maximize the sonic potential of each instrument.”
The backbone of ALIENS stripped down sound is an analog drum machine continuously pumping out a beat. Blake’s collaborations with a number of talented drummers further enhanced the sound on the album. Head First was initially recorded at the iconic Sun Studios while the band was on tour. There Tamaki Ui recorded the drum parts for the bulk of Head First.
The album was completed and mixed in Sandberg’s native Austin, Texas, with Mark Younger-Smith (Billy Idol guitarist/producer). Blake recorded the remaining tracks with several drummers in the studio, including Raanen Bozzio, son of Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio. During sessions Blake also recorded with Hunt Sales (drummer for Iggy Pop Lust For Life and David Bowie’s Tin Machine) laying down the beats for “Guinea Pig,” and “Survivor Story.”
Head First Album Link On YouTube:
Much of the material on Head First has been informed by the social-political landscape of the last decade. Many songs however, were largely influenced by Sandberg’s personal debilitating experiences with chronic ear conditions, which at the time of the recording of Head First, had been even further complicated by serious upper respiratory illnesses due to dust and smoke exposure during the events of 9/11.
In reaction to these life-altering events, Blake wrote “Survivor Story” in September 2001 capturing the haunted, empty feeling in Lower Manhattan at that time in a wounded city… “See the sky turn blue, hear the birds how? hear the birds howl?” We are all right now…” while Ground Zero burned a few blocks from his studio. In the winter of 2001 Blake began having bouts with chronic bronchitis. Later, in 2005 Sandberg was busy preparing to record new songs. However, in February all progress with ALIENS halted.
Blake was dead in a hospital. He had been admitted to the hospital with incredible ear pain. He was prescribed medication. The medicine only made matters worse. Blake suffered violent allergic reactions and a number of seizures. He stopped breathing and was eventually resuscitated. Several days later he made a hasty exit from the hospital and slowly began his recovery. These experiences with medication and the U.S. medical system can be directly heard in songs like “Guinea Pig.” Finally at the end of the year ALIENS performed at CBGB. It was an important show for Sandberg, propelling him forward. In 2006 he put all his efforts into recording the songs for Head First.
Originally released in 2007 on Misc Music (Sandberg’s independent record label which has featured artists such as Jad Fair, Daniel Johnston, and NYC hip-hop pioneer The Rammellzee), Head First received enough airplay to be in the CMJ Top 200 and reached number #107. With the record playing on stations across the US, Blake began touring the country. For the next few years, Blake crisscrossed America playing shows all over the US, and eventually landing back in NYC. Over the last decade, ALIENS have played shows at local venues such as Pianos, Santos Party House, Cake Shop, Don Hills, and The Knitting Factory.
Today in Trump’s America, Head First is not only relevant, but its message has proven prophetic. For this reason Sandberg decided to re-release the album with the hope to resonate with a new audience. Turbulence and chaos in our society are often themes in socially conscious songs like “Reflex Motor” with its screamed chorus of “Out of control!” “Glacier” focuses directly on climate change with chanted lyrics “watch the ice caps melt.” The anthemic “Moving Parts” is a commentary on American life at broadband speed with lyrics jabbing at mass media, reality TV, convenience, and raising a fist to authority.
Like Blake Sandberg himself this record survives as a testament to life since 9/11. Head First still packs a punch!
ALIENS Instagram: @aliensnyc
Shows: ALIENS will be performing a live show and an in-store performance in NYC in December – TBA