We really like rock and roll music!
Flatfoot was formed in East Lansing during the Fall of 2000. This album was recorded by Jim Diamond at Ghetto Recorders in Detroit. Visit www.flatfootmusic.com if you're interested in buying it as a vinyl LP.
Here are some reviews of the record, followed by a biography (of sorts):
Flatfoot: Wild Was Our Mercy
by Laura Witkowski, Metro Times Detroit
Although they're more or less a Lansing band, the members of Flatfoot are no strangers to Detroit. Those keen on the local scene are likely to have seen them recently around playing with a diverse array of D-town mainstays. Named after a summer camp frequently attended by group founder Aaron Bales as a child, Flatfoot describes its music as "rock 'n' roll with some twang, pop sensibilities and punk energy." And their newest record fits this description like cowboy boots on a Clash fan.
As the album surges and flows with alternating senses of urgency and pastoral calm, the one surefire constant is their affinity for rock 'n' roll. The album opens with the aptly titled, "Blueblood," a song that defies you to not get swept away in its twangy, stomp-along goodness. On side two of this vinyl-only release (you get downloadable tracks with the purchase of the album), Flatfoot hits the listener hard with a four-in-a-row genre mash-up, which highlights Wild Was Our Mercy.
They start by pulling out a beer-raising, Pogues-channeling anthem called "Don't Leave Queens," followed by "Peloponnesia," yet another stomp-along, slide guitar country gem ("Peloponnesia, I can't front how I need you/You're to blame for how thick my blood is"). And just when you're wondering "Did they really just pull that off?" the gorgeous, Roy Orbison-worthy "New Rome" comes shining out of the speakers. The band then leaves the listener with "The Crawl," a sad bastard dirge that explores the wistful agony and confusion of love gone bad. And, of course, nothing says "I'm a little bit country and a little bit rock n' roll" quite as well as leaving your listeners crying in their beer.
by Rich Tupica, Lansing City Pulse
On March 28 at Mac’s Bar, Lansing bands Flatfoot and The Darts are booked for a dual album release party. The show starts at 10 p.m. Here’s some background on the bands’ new platters.
Flatfoot “Wild Was Our Mercy” Flatfoot’s new LP, “Wild Was Our Mercy” (Los Diaper Records), opens with “Blue Blood,” a bang of twang that blends steel guitar and storytelling wordplay.
That momentum keeps up throughout the album, with a few curve balls of traditional Irish and rockabilly sounds and hints of indie-folk.
This is the fourth album from Flatfoot since the band formed in an MSU dorm room in 2000. In that time, the group has written a slew of songs influenced by the Rolling Stones, Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash.
The band’s new album, available on vinyl and CD, was recorded by notorious White Stripes producer Jim Diamond at his popular analog studio, Ghetto Recorders, in Detroit.
Founding member Aaron Bales (guitar/vocals) said the lyrical content sets the album apart from the band’s previous works. “I think it might be the most passionate and romantic album we have done,” Bales said. “Not necessarily ‘love’ romantic, more romanticizing the past and events.”
In the past, songwriting duties relied heavily on Bales. But this time around, Bales wrote only three of the 11 songs, and his band mates, Justin Zeppa (vocals/guitar) and Thomas McCartan (vocals/bass), take center stage.
Bales said having the record pressed on vinyl is a first for the band, and he is proud of the accomplishment, no matter what the circumstances were.
“Sean and Ryan from Los Diaper Records saw a show we did at Mac’s last fall,” Bales recalled. “In the parking lot, they offered to put out our album on vinyl. As it turns, out they were pretty drunk, and the next day they were like, ‘Did we tell Flatfoot that we’d put out a vinyl record? Well, OK.’”
Perhaps this is why the phrase “no more drunken promises” is etched on the run-out groove of the vinyl record?
Flatfoot goes in new directions with 'Mercy'
by Chris Rietz, Lansing State Journal
"Track's End" in 2007 was a watershed album for Lansing's literary-cum-country grunge foursome Flatfoot - they'd always written clever songs, but "End" finally hit on the right sound to showcase them. It seemed they'd hit their stride.
But in "Wild Was Our Mercy" - issued last month on vinyl LP and just out on CD - they've pressed the reset button. While not unrecognizable, Flatfoot has headed off in new sonic directions; they're not quite a new band, but almost.
Most crucial was the departure of charter member Jason Bales, and the return of former bassist/singer Thom McCartan. "Mercy" is also the first release in which former Steel Reserve drummer Dan Amori drives the kit throughout, and it also marks the debut of guitarist-singer Justin Zeppa.
The biggest change, then, is that Flatfoot is no longer a vehicle for Bales Brothers songs. Aaron Bales' overwound, urgent baritone has become something of a band trademark, and his comfort level with his own singing has grown with each release. It's a shame that he's featured on only three songs - and one of them, "New Rome," a regroove from their first album, appears only on the LP.
Those songs are the album's best. "Big Dan," yet another in the Bales gallery of geek-Gothic country rockers, features a compelling, all-sing chorus and a speaker-rattling guitar break. "I'm Your Man" runs in its messianic fervor from Moses to Elvis in four verses, and it's our pick for the album's hit single.
But fear not, Flatheads: the trademark overdriven, wall-of-distortion sound is still intact, and Zeppa and McCartan add a whole new chapter of post-apocalyptic drama to the Flatfoot song canon: McCartan's Mad-Max landscape in "Leviathan" is an epic bookend with Bales's "New Rome," and the theme of marauders and highwaymen finds its full flower in Zeppa's "Don't Leave Queens," a strange and original tale of pirates in the "mangrove backstreets" of NYC.
In fact the new Flatfeet contribute much of the same song-centered inventiveness that characterized the best in "Track's End." Check out the poppy hooks in "Manowar," the accordion obbligatos and woo-woo chorus in "Leviathan," the pointed variety of rhythms and tempos. It all suggests that the once monchromatic Flatfoot continues to evolve into a band that's not about sound but songs, and that's the right place for them to be.
It's Still Fun
by Jeff Milo, Real Detroit Weekly
Flatfoot can’t be stopped. The Lansing “quartet” has been morphing and maturing with idyllic versatility for almost ten years (with almost as many members, current and past). They’ve evolved through numerous regroupings, but it seems like no one ever truly leaves the band.
Nestled comfortably in the “not-all-country or all-rock 'n' roll” genre, Flatfoot (currently singer/guitarist Aaron Bales, singer/bassist Tom McCarton, drummer Danny Amori, guitarist Justin Zeppa) recently wrapped work on their fourth LP, Wild Was Our Mercy. The band will release the record on vinyl with help from Kalamazoo-born label, Los Diaper, this Friday at PJ's Lager House. “[Los Diaper] believed in the band and the music enough to put up the money for pressing the vinyl,” said Bales. “Without them, this wouldn’t have happened.”
The “twangy-rock” troubadours flirted closely as ever with their group’s potential mortality two years ago, Bales said, when his brother Jason and bassist Jeremy Whitwam moved on to new locales and/or responsibilities. But, fate would have it that McCarton would return to Michigan with longtime Flatfoot on-off contributor Zeppa. Even more fateful was McCarton’s strike of inspiration while in NY — bringing back with him almost an album’s worth of songs to fuel the band through their recent recordings.
The latest record “still sounds like Flatfoot,” said Bales, “but it is expanding the borders. Lyrically they’re more opaque and the structures are a little more complex, but overall we’re just playing rock and roll.”
The band’s wingspan brushes roots rock and even some bluegrass but flaps back to literate-feeling indie-rock — it may dig in on that woodsy folk feel but also knows how to get a classic '50s, foot-stompin', rockin' roll going. It would make sense then, that Bales charts influences like The Band or Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds … bands that set out distinct sounds for themselves.
Hearing Bales reflect and enthuse on the band emphasizes their warm rapport — “We still like each other and it’s good to hang out with my buddies," said Bales. "We’re writing and playing music that we enjoy, with no real grand purpose besides playing the rock 'n' roll I love with my friends.” | RDW
Flatfoot taps Detroit producer
'Wild Was Our Mercy' is 'rawr' rock
by Anne Erickson, Lansing State Journal
Aptly compared to "almost-country, almost- rock" bands like Wilco, Lansing's Flatfoot makes music equally inspired by the idea of songwriting as a way to tell stories. That said, Flatfoot's new full-length, "Wild Was Our Mercy," fits right in with previous releases in respect to its descriptive imagery and use of lyrics to tell great tales.
"We're a stories band, and I think these new songs fit into that category as well," singer and guitarist Aaron Bales said.
While the storytelling aspect is the same, a lot on "Wild Was Our Mercy" is atypical for Flatfoot.
For one, the instrumentation is broader: organ, piano, accordion and pedal steel guitar are among the lush sounds on the release. Partly because of those new textures, Bales, Thom McCartan (bass, vocals), Danny Amori (drums), Justin Zeppa (guitar) and Honest D country rocker Jeremy Rapp (pedal steel guitar) have broadened their palette, switching in an almost punker feel.
Secondly, this is the band's first time working with Detroit producer Jim Diamond. Jack White and Electric Six are some of the artists who have stepped foot inside Diamond's legendary Fillmore-housed Ghetto Recorders studio; a list so intimidating the guys almost shied away from asking him.
"It was sort of one of those unapproachable things," Bales said. "But he recorded the second Honest D (and the Steel Reserve) album and the Ingham County Regulars, so we knew Lansing bands worked with him and we loved the sounds they got.
"It was as simple as sending him an e-mail saying we liked the way those records sounded and sending some of our songs. He was down with it."
Diamond, known for his lo-fi, indie garage-rock recording work, taped Flatfoot live for each track. The result: more "rawr" rock 'n' roll, with a full sound and complex structures.
The album is already available on vinyl, on the Kalamazoo-based Los Diaper label, and the CD version (with album art by Darrin Higgins of the Darts) drops Saturday at Mac's Bar (in a dual gig with The Darts).
This is Flatfoot's forth LP since 2000. And considering that not many bands - on the local or national front - can claim such staying power, we asked Bales, just what keeps Flatfoot making music?
"I like the guys, I like playing music and I like our music," he said. "If any of those things wasn't happening, then I don't think I would do it."
Next up: A New York City gig in April.
"I think if we can keep playing fun shows with bands that we like, then we'll definitely be happy."
As the only continuous member of Flatfoot, I suppose it is up to me to tell our story. For your purposes I suppose the actual biographical information you need is limited. We formed in 2000 in East Lansing and have since released four full albums and an EP. The lineups have changed over time (eleven members overall), but everyone who’s been in Flatfoot have put in solid time, left on good terms and were friends since the formative years of the band.
Wild Was Our Mercy, the current album, was recorded by Jim Diamond at Ghetto Recorders in Detroit. We love the energy captured by recording the main tracks live, and the inhumane conditions in his studio brought out the best in us.
Here are some brief facts about Flatfoot:
Our core sound has always been rock and roll with strong country and folk influence. This album stretches out a little towards punk and soul. The real pedal steel and accordion are new instruments for us.
At one point (2006 or so) we were both the tallest and most heavily bearded band in Michigan. The current lineup is of average height and beardless.
The best band vehicle we’ve traveled in was former drummer Erik Miller’s old Forest Service van, dubbed “Big Green”. It had lots of random band stickers and limited safety features.
My favorite moment recording this record was six of us recording percussion for “Don’t Leave Queens” around one mic, me with the vibraslap.
Justin and Tom moved back to Michigan following several years in New York City just prior to recording this album. Their time there is reflected in several of the songs.
My brother Jason (founding member, now in Chapel Hill) and I grew up on our dad’s amazing record collection, so releasing Mercy on vinyl is a dream come true.
Without giving too much away:
1 of Justin’s songs is about a girl, one is about either a girl or New York City (he won’t say) and 1 is about the true story of him waking up drunk in the middle of a highly secured power plant in New York, unsure of where he was or how he got there.
I’m not sure what my song “Big Dan” is about, but Tom likes it and I dig the way Justin sounds like Brian May on his solo. I’m Your Man is about doing what needs to be done.
The subject of Tom’s songs range from the wreck of the whaleship Essex to love vs. love of humanity to the immigration of his parents (Ireland and Greece) to the infinite decay of America and the skyline of Manhattan as a Mobius Strip. And the kids from Cleveland.
I hope you enjoy the album.