Old City
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Old City

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Rock Indie




"Old City S/T: Album Review"

Sometimes, in doing these weekly local music reviews, I discover just how wrong I can be.

Such is the case with this week's review of the first full-length release by Cincinnati's Old City. Essentially, it boils down to a classic case of 'don't judge a book (or an album) by its cover' - literally.

Looking at the cover of Old City, with its stark black and white woodcut look to it, I was reminded of the cover of Pure Predication's Dead Boy. By that association I was expecting something in a similarly heavy lo-fi vein. Plus, when I made my contribution to their kickstarter-like pre-order campaign, I was anticipating that the result would be something akin to a homemade DYI project - the kind where the sound quality can sometimes not be up-to-par with the songwriting or the performance.

Words can not capture how wrong I was in this instance.

When drummer Dave Cupp hand-delivered the CD to me, one of the first things that caught my attention was the numerous 'guest musicians' who performed on the album, including Nic Powers [The Sweep], Elle Crash [JetLab] and Steve Wethington [State Song]. I also quickly noted that the recording was not done in someone's basement or laundry room, but was actually recorded (by Wethington) at New Fidelity Studios and mastered by Mike Montgomery at Candyland. The 12-title album was recorded in two sessions, three months apart. 'Side A' represents the first session, done in December, 2013 and 'Side B' the second session completed in early March of this year.

So far, this album was already exceeding my expectations, the only thing left for me to do was to actually listen to the thing.

From the first note of "Hallo" I was transported back to 1991 when Tad's 8-Way Santa never left my tape deck. Wethington and Montgomery have managed to masterfully preserve the power and vitality of the music and present it with just the right balance of loudness and clarity. Cupp's drums pound your solar plexus and the bass, played by Robyn Roth (who also did the cover artwork) vibrates your whole self. Sammy McKee's guitar tone is so wonderful and so perfectly recorded that you can practically smell the ozone and feel the warmth of the tubes coming out of the back of the amp.

In songs like "Fletch (for the 4th time)" McKee's vocals remind me a lot of Thurston Moore [Sonic Youth] or Mark Arm [Mudhoney] with his droning off-key inflections. Sonically and lyrically, there is clear sense of positive apathy, much in the same vein that has sustained such bands as Dinosaur Jr. and The Melvins.

My favorite track on 'Side A' is "7,000" in which Roth leads the song in both vocals and bass. The musical and lyrical interplay between Roth and McKee on "7,000" is strongly reminiscent of Kim Deal and Frank Black [Pixies] and generates a sublime and gorgeous contrast to the other tracks from that session.

'Side B' opens with "Hymenia" a track with a such a lush and full sound and cryptic lyrics that it feels like something from Guided by Voices' Do the Collapse. But the high-point of 'Side B' comes in the form of "Reign" a track that the band has shared as a single and has become a sort-of anthem and a shorthand "this is what we sound like" business card for Old City.

I don't own a nightclub but, if I did, I would work to arrange a musical marriage between Old City and Day Camp. Like pairing good food with good wine, these two just feel that they are made or each other.

This is not the album I was expecting. I clearly underestimated this band and this recording. Old City surprised me and blew me away. If you are of an age and a mindset to appreciate the music of Sonic Youth, Pixies, Sebadoh, Guided by Voices or Mudhoney. You owe it to yourself to give Old City a listen.

Old City is currently available for download from their bandcamp page or get a physical copy at Shake It Records and Rock, Paper, Scissors in Cincinnati; or at Used Kids Records and Spoonful Records in Columbus, OH.

-Jim Nolan - Jim Nolan / 91.7 WVXU Cincinnati Radio

"Midpoint Music Festival Guide Listing"

"Old City! Their new, self-titled debut album came out mid-August and I probably shouldn't mention how many times I've listened to it. The Post Punk/Rock goods are available on hand-numbered, limited edition vinyl, each pressed on a different color because Sammy McKee, Dave Cupp and all are just that cool. McKee's vocals at times feel like Neil Young screaming at kids to get off his lawn. It's brilliant. The guys teamed up with bassist/artist Robyn Nomadical Roth for the albums side one bass lines (and haunting-as-hell cover art) and The Sweep's Nic Powers stepped in for side two's tracks, but bassist Gabriel Molnar is back in the mix now. Members recently shared with Cincinnati CityBeat, they had plans to record a second album. Why? Presumably because they love us."
YDIIYD: Built to Spill, Sonic Youth and, OK, fine, Wussy. (DK) - Deirdre Kaye / Citybeat

"We Built This Old City"

After issuing a trio of EPs since 2012 — originally on old school cassettes — and a live album back in January, the current incarnation of Cincinnati’s Old City concluded it was time for a proper full-length release.

In the retelling, though, the recording of Old City’s eponymous new album takes on the air of Sir Edmund Hillary’s because-it-was-there-ism.

“What made us decide to do a full-length?” queries drummer Dave Cupp from his side of the booth at MOTR Pub, where he also bartends. “I forget.”

“I think because we hadn’t done it yet,” guitarist/vocalist Sammy McKee deadpans. “Because it was supposed to happen.”

The same thing could easily be said about Old City itself. Back in 2012, McKee was recording with Bitter Airplane when he began exploring song ideas he’d been batting around that didn’t fit the band’s profile. That experimental Electronic material led to McKee’s first solo gig under a new moniker, setting the stage for McKee’s first three solo Old City EPs.

“I had a (solo) show and it was a complete disaster,” McKee says with a laugh. “Everybody else thought it was OK, but I hated it.”

Soon after McKee’s self-perceived catastrophe, he invited Cupp (Man Halen, Caterpillar Tracks) to join him after years of talking about playing together; Cupp had recorded McKee’s old band, view-finder. Almost immediately, McKee felt the music’s quality improved exponentially as it veered toward a Post Punk direction, solidifying Old City’s sound and status with one simple stroke.

“We pulled the trigger and it just instantly became a band at that point,” McKee says. “Bitter Airplane stopped playing and this was the focus.”

Old City operated as a duo until veteran multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Molnar was installed as the band’s bassist.

“Gabe had to step aside for awhile and Robyn Roth filled in,” Cupp says. “She’s exclusively on side one (of the vinyl-only release of the self-titled full-length, which comes with a download code); it’s all her stuff.”

Knife the Symphony/Theraphosa bassist Roth, who also contributed the album’s fantastic cover art, covered for Molnar live and at Steve Wethington’s New Fidelity Studios back in December when Old City did its first weekend session for the album.

Neither Roth not Molnar — who divides his time between Old City, Sometimes and Little Lights — were available in March when the band hit New Fidelity for a second weekend session to complete the album, so McKee and The Sweep’s Nic Powers took over four-string duties.

This year has been particularly productive for Old City. Besides work on the new full-length, the band’s nine-track live album, Old City/Live/MOTR (now available at oldcityusa.bandcamp.com), came out earlier in the year and a physical CD compiling the material on the three out-of-print cassette EPs was also pressed. The standard Rock critic observation is that a self-titled album often indicates the material on the release is what the band feels is particularly representative of its lyrical philosophies and sonic identity. McKee and Cupp admit that holds true for Old City, at least to a certain extent.

“I think it’s like a graduation kind of thing,” McKee says. “We’ve worked to get to this point and now we want to go further.”

“It’s the first thing we’ve done that we really want to get out there,” Cupp concurs. “We’re really proud of it. We play better than we ever have on this record, and we played with a lot of great musicians. We’ve been transitioning away from the ‘Sammy McKee solo project’ and now this is kind of the band record. We just feel like it sounds like us as a band.”

While the guests on Old City — Powers on bass and backing vocals, Wethington on synthesizer, violinist Brianne Maier, stylophonist Jacob David Levin and backing vocalist Elle Crash — certainly provide a great deal of texture to the album, it is the powerful, collaborative core of McKee and Cupp that constitutes the band’s jackhammer heart and howling soul.

“It’s not like I bring in an idea and it has to be this way,” McKee says. “I bring in ideas, or Gabe does now, and Robyn had one for the record, and we work on them together.”

“They come together really quickly,” Cupp says. “When Sammy starts playing, I kind of know what he wants. We’re very connected that way.”

The advance feedback on Old City’s new album has been overwhelmingly positive, with glowing references to Sonic Youth, Neil Young, Dinosaur Jr., Poster Children, Polvo, Built to Spill, Guided By Voices and local favorites Wussy. It’s conceivable that McKee’s tremulous upper-register voice in this context may be more akin to Chuck Cleaver’s work in Ass Ponys.

“Chuck was a huge influence on me, not necessarily the music but just seeing The Ass Ponys play back then at (popular live club Sudsy Malone’s),” McKee says. “They were so in control of what they were doing and that really rubbed off on me big time, them and the Wolverton Brothers. How they went about their business and carried themselves and were the best at what they did. Anytime anyone mentions any of those people in relation to anything I do is a huge compliment to me.”

The big headline is that Molnar has returned to Old City for the foreseeable future and with his reintegration the trio seems poised to take their visceral Post Rock presentation to the next level.

“Gabe’s back with us all the time and we’re writing a lot together,” McKee says. “We’re real excited about that.”

“We’ve already got about five ideas ready to go, and Sammy’s sick of this stuff, so …” Cupp says, tongue firmly in cheek. “But he is in a hurry to get this behind us and start working on the next thing.”

Although they joke about it, Old City is clearly thinking into the future. After the release show this weekend, the band will play a few scattered local dates, preferring to concentrate on out-of-town markets before returning in December to begin work on a second album.

“I always look to the next thing,” McKee says. - Brian Baker / Citybeat

"Old City: Story with Sound"

In anticipation of a new bonafide long-player, OLD CITY (OC) sent a slew of releases that above all, tells a story. A success story.

Lets do things in order shall we? Firstly there's Three EP’s: Alas, A Lass, Hot Horse and Freezerburn which collect shorter efforts of Old City with much beard-nodding to those earlier times, just as the one-guy project was becoming more than than just the one-man solo himself, Sammy Mckee. Dave Cupp was working more and more into the frey making OC a duo and soon enough, a three-piece including a sorts of on/off rotating bass player that has included Robyn Roth (Knife The Sympony) and Gabriel Molnar (Sometimes) proving that if you close your eyes and wander around, there's a good chance you would stumble across a band before you would step in a urban sidewalk pile of dog shit.

Three Ep's is a repertoire disc that tells the tale of Old City from a duo side-project and chronicles their rise and inevitable evolution to becoming full-functioning three-piece unit, telling their story with sound... Three EP’s contains twelve tracks (plus a rocking bonus hidden track) including my personal favorite OC tracks, “Romantic Comedy Trandsends Genre” and “Simple Solution” (two versions) plus an expertly done Velvet Underground cover of “I'll Be Your Mirror” that not only is good, but maybe preferable to the original Nico version.*

Three EP’s sets up the scene nicely and tells the first part of their story with sound. Their transistion from what was, to what is. Lo' there is yet another step in the transformation… Walk with me…

Part two of what is Old Citys journey is a verily special release… A live CD featuring their set recorded live by an OC reserve/bassist Gabriel Molnar at MOTR PUB (or just plain MOTR to you insiders.) MOTR is one of Cincinnati's most premier venues to pop up due to Cincinnati's thriving underground music community. On this December evening (19th) in 2013, OC play nine energetic tracks that compare nicely to their other performances that I've seen. This live CD is a great ‘for fans’ release… Old City only benefit from the stale beer and questionably violent atmosphere** that exist in greater and lesser amounts of The Queen Shitty from time to time. There's no doubt, OC played a great show and captured it that evening. The performance was packed full of energy, atmosphere and bite. Many of the songs from the set aren’t included on Three EPs which shows not only a grand progression of their sound, but development too.

I've personally recognized a (somewhat disturbing) trend for the underground music scene I first noticed in 2001... In Spring (May) and Fall (August) there's band that mysteriously stop and start. This phenomenon, I declare, is centered around University of Cincinnatis school schedule… So with this OC activity hitting in the middle 'nether-zone' and getting things together for an LP, I'm nervous.... The amount of [my] bands that understand the 'harmless' amounts of show-fuckery I can share, is growing smaller. I don’t wanna scratch more off my list.

Old City's vinyl offering reminds me (again) of post-hardcore era Dischord stuff like Soulside or Jawbox. You would expect to see local label Phratry Records behind this one but that just isn't so. This album was self-released by the band....

Exhibiting great amounts of the big Dinosaur Jr. sound imbedded, there's also bit of a shoe-gaze element to this release but at the same time, OC dispense that with a harder offering. On one track, reserve bassist Robyn Roth welcomly steps up to the mic bringing forth a latter era of a Sonic Youth feeling . The album, as a whole, plays extremely well and, in fact, is so expertly produced that it may serve a new template for future bands coming and going.

Sammy (Guitar/Vox) reflects about this release as compared to their others saying "It is definitely the best recordings we have done to date... Hopefully we can continue improving with each release."
My uneasiness and worry has slacked a bit...

Old City step things up on this new LP and plow forward destroying space on an exra dimensional axis, the twist and turns of this album are greatly wonderous… The cryptic lyrics, by themselves, could serve as ample enertainment in a book-like form. Yes, it's that good. That witnessed bite from the live CD is evident in this recording and I cant stop thinking that if Roger Waters was a kid from the suburbs and had just maybe a couple more friends, he would have formed a band like Old City…

Assurances from the band include a sale price of their LP to float around $15

RIYL: Dinosaur and Thunder, Dinosaur Jr., Phratry Records,

* I'm not a fan of the Nico.
** MOTR was once a white-hat dank spot called CHAMPS (or something as stupid) where Jenny Fever of The Hypochondriacs punched a rather drunk patron in the face as asked by a deranged college graduate that was looking for a fight.
***Im reading E-versions of comic books again so Im drunk on speculation. - Shawn Abnoxious / Thwart

"Old City, New Scene"

Sitting at MOTR, gnoshing a tasty burger and sipping a fine barleywine after work one night this summer, I found myself chatting local music scene with Dave Cupp. Some of you may know Dave as the chill bar friend with the great pour; the more fortunate know him as the drummer for Old City. But, if you’re down with the sounds of a solid rock trio, then get to know the latter Dave. It’s a way fun story.

As we talked about upcoming shows and big events, he mentioned that Old City had been working to release their first full-length, independent and self-titled vinyl album on August 23 in a glorious release party at the Southgate House Revival on vinyl. I thought, dude, yes. With the rampant freeshare-firmware-wedontpay-noonecares condition of today’s digital music market, it’s refreshing to see a local vinyl hit the shelves -- check it out here.

Old City is fairly new on the Cincinnati music scene -- about two years old now -- but its braintrust is no virgin. Singer-songwriter and lead guitarist Sammy McKee is a veteran of the local soundwaves (view-finder, Bitter Airplane, Charlston Entry, Kaptain), as is Cupp (Man Halen, Caterpillar Tracks); they’re joined by friend and fellow Cincinnati talent Gabe Molnar (Sometimes, Little Lights, 1000 Arms) to bring a groove that has flavors of Neil Young, Polvo and Fugazi, but is hard to pin to a specific genre (which, according to McKee, is exactly how they want it).

I sat down with Cupp and McKee over another brew to find out how they got started, why the band shifted from electronic to rock, and how releasing their first vinyl may or may not give them the feels.

RS: Dave, how did you and Sammy first meet?
DC: We met maybe 15 years ago; he had a label called the Unlike Label. I think he put on an Unlike Label showcase at the Southgate House, and we played together. That must have been sometime around 2001. We’ve been in separate bands since then, sharing a practice space, so I think we’ve developed our own kind of communication since then. We really got to know each other better when I helped record one of his other band’s records… I think that was in view-finder.

RS: You’ve known each other for 14 years? how did Old City come to be your perfect convergence?
SM: The Old City project started as a solo thing. I’ve done electronic music before, and I wanted to do a solo outlet of that. I was in Bitter Airplane at the time, so I wasn’t really looking to do a band and that was kind of on hold. I did a solo show at the Avenue in Covington, and I just felt like it was the worst thing I’ve ever done (chuckles). I mean, people liked it, but I didn’t like it. David drummed with me at shows before, and we’re good friends so I asked him if he wanted to drum. It just kind of took off from there, and became the main thing I was doing.

RS: There’s not much evidence of electronic influence in Old City’s repertoire. How did it evolve so far from electronic?
SM: Well, the songs, they were kind of loud anyway. There was guitar involved already, so it worked well with the drums. I guess it wasn’t too far fetched.

DC: Yeah, when I first started playing with him he had a mini Korg, so there was still electronic stuff when I started playing. But that eventually just fell off. It’s been stripped down to the raw stuff.

RS: Walk me through your creative process a little bit. Where would you say your spirit and originality comes from?
SM: I don’t know, I’ve always just written songs. I don’t know how or why, they just kind of come to me. You know, generally how our songs develop is that we’ll bring in an idea, and we’ll craft them together. It’s not like this is a “this is where the chorus is, this has to be like this, etc. etc.” situation; it’s complete democracy at that point, and we talk things out to develop them.

DC: The process is pretty quick too. We get to a finished song within a practice sometimes, and it’s done. We don’t tend to mull over the same thing for a long time.

SM: IT kind of has to be like that for me, because I’m always popping out ideas.

DC: Yeah, he gets bored quick.

SM: (Laughs) I do. I’m like, “that song from three weeks ago? It’s gotta go.”

RS: What influences your sound, as individuals or as a band?
SM: I think we influence each other, kind of feed off of each other. When I’m throwing these ideas out, I don’t ever think of what I want it to sound like. I used to a lot more, and then I would just kind of overcomplicate things -- and that’s never good. But now I’m starting to realize that they come out the way they do for a reason, and if it’s bad then the whole idea is bad. You just move on, and do another idea. That’s really kind of how it goes. But I don’t think about how it should sound; I don’t want us to fit into a certain sound necessarily. I just want to write good records and have them be what they are.

RS: What else? Who do you guys listen to, and how does it affect your style?
DC: I think there’s a little bit of late 80s and early 90s in there, people have noticed that. But not grunge at all. Think Sebadoh, Sonic Youth, Neil Young.

SM: I'd say the more popular stuff -- Nirvana has always been kind of a big band for me. I grew up on punk rock too; that's kind of why the songs are so short, coming from that perspective. You don't want to wear out your idea… you just kind of want to punch people in the face with it.

RS: How would you describe the feeling of releasing your first full vinyl together?
SM: It’s awesome. I can't wait to hold it, it’s been a long time coming. People should buy it! It’s on sale at our shows, Rock Paper Scissors, Shake It Records, Everybody’s Records, Galaxy Records. We’re excited about the big show on the 23rd with the Black Owls, R. Ring, Umin, and my son’s band, Man Kitten.

RS: Let’s talk about one or two of your favorite tracks on the album. What makes them stand out?
DC: “Sink” -- track two -- is a good sign of things to come from Old City. It’s a very loud, bombastic tune, and I think that’s what most of what we’re working on is going to be like. The slower, more stripped down ballad-y type stuff is probably not going to be as prominent in the future. So yeah, “Sink” is pretty awesome.

SM: We have a video for “Inside” that we'll be releasing soon. I like the words to it; I usually don't like the words to my songs, at least the ones I write. but I like the words to this one. There are certain songs that every time you play them live, you feel them, and that's one for me.

RS: What's next for Old City?
SM: I’m just excited about the new stuff. We have four ideas that we’ve already started on, so we’re going to go record something over the winter. We’ll see what happens.

DC: We're going to try to play out of town more. We have a show in Columbus that we’re going to do a second record release for, they’re awesome up there. But we’re going to try to do more things beyond that. I think the hardest thing is getting people to listen to your music, unless they see you live and know what you’re all about. There’s a lot of folk and electronic music out there, so if you’re missing a high-energy rock trio then you should come see us -- there’s not a lot of that happening right now. - Ryan Schatzman / Cincymusic.com


Still working on that hot first release.



Starting as a solo electronic project of long-time Cincinnati music alumn Sammy McKee, Old City has quickly grown into a dynamic, live trio in the sonic vein of Dino Jr., Sonic Youth and electric Neil Young. You will also hear hints of Wussy and Guided by Voices in Sammy's melodic delivery. The band currently consists of McKee on guitar/vocals, Dave Cupp (Man Halen, Caterpillar Tracks) on drums and Gabriel Molnar (Sometimes, Little Lights, 1000 Arms) currently on bass. Though not currently active in the band, Robyn Roth (Knife the Symphony, Theraphosa) played a key role in the development and recording of songs on their recent self-titled LP release.

To date, Old City have released three digital EPs, a live CD and a vinyl LP as a band. 

Band Members