By Emily Hunt
Down-and-out San Franciscans who want nothing more than to sulk into a dive bar and sip their whiskies sinisterly may find saving grace in the Shotgun Wedding Quintet's sophomore album, Tales from the Barbary Coast.
The Shotgun Wedding Quintet utilize jazz arrangements in decidedly 21st-century ways, and much like San Francisco itself, Barbary Coast creates an obscenely cool blend of modern and traditional. In the album's first gem, "Bridge and Tunnel," MC Dublin aptly describes the sordid affairs and walks of shame that pervade North Beach on Sunday mornings, accompanied by steamy Spanish guitar riffs and hip-hop's trademark stomp and clamp.
One of the album's later tunes, "White Night Riot," includes a mocking political commentary on religious homophobia, which, production-wise, could easily be the most disorienting in the entire collection, combining a brush-drum jazz beat with electronic distortion for an entropic feel.
The mere process of getting MC Dublin on the phone for an interview can be entropic in itself. Amidst the release of the album, the Jazz Mafia's debut at Stern Grove and other forms of what Dublin deems a "cluster you-know-what," the band's frontman finally picks up after the third call.
"What was interesting to me was that I was very pessimistic about the whole 'let's go into a tunnel and record' thing. But I was completely won over. You can't recreate the way it sounded; it was so rugged and so raw . . . ," Dublin begins and promptly trails off. "Give me one moment, give me 20 seconds, I'm so sorry."
He returns after about 15 seconds of muffled voices in the background, which becomes a common theme throughout the interview: hectic energy, it seems, is partly why the Jazz Mafia collective is so successful.
"The recordings I love are rugged, with blemished mistakes and crusty sounds," Dublin continues. Such coarse charm carries through Barbary Coast, in which the group evokes the idiosyncrasies of the city they call home—rife with visions of pirates, beautiful women, bad trips, cheap hotels and innumerable other poetic vignettes.
"We'd been talking about making a record like this for years," Dublin says. "Lyrically, I wanted to play on the mystique. We wanted to play on the imaginative place, a place that really doesn't exist. It's a haunting city, and in this record we tried to make a sound that's very mysterious and dark, but beautiful. That's San Francisco."
The Shotgun Wedding Quintet celebrate the release of 'Tales from the Barbary Coast' on Friday, July 8, at Hopmonk Tavern. 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 9pm. $15. 707.829.7300.