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Robbie Fulks is a singer, recording artist, instrumentalist, composer, and songwriter. His most recent release, 2017’s Upland Stories, earned year’s-best recognition from NPR and Rolling Stone among many others, as well as two Grammy® nominations, for folk album and American roots song (“Alabama At Night”).
Fulks was born in York, Pennsylvania, and grew up in a half-dozen small towns in southeast Pennsylvania, the North Carolina Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge area of Virginia. He learned guitar from his dad, banjo from Earl Scruggs and John Hartford records, and fiddle (long since laid down in disgrace) on his own. He attended Columbia College in New York City in 1980 and dropped out in 1982 to focus on the Greenwich Village songwriter scene and other ill-advised pursuits.
In 1983 he moved to Chicago and joined Greg Cahill’s Special Consensus Bluegrass Band. He taught music at Old Town School of Folk Music from 1984 to 1996, and worked as a staff songwriter on Music Row in Nashville from 1993 to 1998. His early solo work -- Country Love Songs (1996) and South Mouth (1997) -- helped define the "alternative country" movement of the 1990s. His music from the last several years hews mainly to acoustic instrumentation; it returns him in part to his earlier bluegrass days, and extends the boundaries of that tradition with old-time rambles and sparely orchestrated reflections on love, the slings of time, and the troubles of common people.
Radio: multiple appearances on WSM’s “Grand Ole Opry”; PRI’s “Whadd’ya Know”; NPR’s “Fresh Air,” “Mountain Stage,” and “World Cafe”; and the syndicated “Acoustic Cafe” and “Laura Ingraham Show.” TV: PBS’s Austin City Limits; NBC’s Today, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Later with Carson Daly, and 30 Rock. From 2004 to 2008 he hosted an hourlong performance/interview program for XM satellite radio, “Robbie’s Secret Country.” Artists who have covered his songs include Sam Bush, Kelly Hogan, Andrew Bird, Mollie O’Brien, Rosie Flores, John Cowan, and Old 97s.
Robbie’s writing on music and life have appeared in GQ, Blender, the Chicago Reader, DaCapo Press’s Best Music Writing anthologies for 2001 and 2004, Amplified: Fiction from Leading Alt-Country, Indie Rock, Blues and Folk Musicians, and A Guitar and A Pen: Stories by Country Music’s Greatest Songwriters. As an instrumentalist, he has accompanied the Irish fiddle master Liz Carroll, the distinguished jazz violinist Jenny Scheinman, and the New Orleans pianist Dr. John. As a producer his credits include Touch My Heart: A Tribute to Johnny Paycheck (Sugar Hill, 2004) and Big Thinkin’ by Dallas Wayne (Hightone, 2000). Theatrical credits include “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” and Harry Chapin’s “Cottonpatch Gospel.” He served twice as judge for the Winfield National Flatpicking Guitar competition. He tours yearlong with various configurations.
Besides country and bluegrass music, Robbie is fiercely fond of Charles Mingus, P.G. Wodehouse, quantum mechanics, his wife Donna, comedy in almost all forms, cooking, swimming laps, the past, Arthur Schopenhauer, Universal horror movies, his grandson and even his sons, coastal towns in the off-season, and rye whiskey, though in nothing like that order.
A precociously talented individual, MNEK started making songs when he was just 9-years-old, before signing his first publishing deal five years later. Able to deconstruct and re-build pop, R&B and dance in a way most mere mortals can't, his songwriting, production and vocal skills have been sought out by everyone from The Saturdays (on two Xenomania-assisted singles) to Rudimental (Spoons/Common Emotion); from Duke Dumont (Need U (100%)) to Little Mix (album highlight, Nothing Feels Like You); from Bondax (All I See) to Kylie Minogue (Feels So Good); from Shadow Child (Climbin' (Piano Weapon)) to Karen Harding (Say Something) to a certain Madonna. In 2016 Beyoncé also used his services as songwriter as MNEK co-wrote "Hold Up" for her album LEMONADE.
No stranger to chart success, he co-wrote Oliver Heldens' UK number 1 single Gecko and hit Last All Night (Koala) and crashed into the Top 5 with the deep house majesty of Gorgon City collaboration, Ready For Your Love (which he co-wrote and sang). Not only that but he's also been working with the crop of UK talent, producing for and co-writing with Clean Bandit, Chris Malinchak, Naughty Boy, Lianne Las Havas and many others.
But his talents don't just stop at creating musical mastery for other people. Versatile enough to play about with deep house one minute, pure pop the next and R&B bangers as and when he feels like it, MNEK's also primed to properly take over as a solo artist following recent singles Every Little Word and the elastic, low-slung future R&B of the Radio One play listed follow-up, Wrote A Song About You. With an artistic vision for the album already in place, he's also ventured out into the live arena, playing a myriad of summer festivals and three sold-out shows in London. MNEK achieved his first Top 40 single with 'The Rhythm' which also rose high in the club charts. His EP 'Small Talk,' featuring all of his singles including 'The Rhythm,' plus a couple of new tracks, was released in March 2015.
On the 3rd September MNEK announced his brand new single, Never Forget You with Swedish pop star Zara Larsson. The single premiered on the 10th September as Annie Mac's Hottest Record on BBC Radio 1 and to date has been certified Platinum in the UK, x3 Platinum in Sweden, x2 Platinum in Australia and Denmark and Platinum in Norway. It has amassed over 200 million Spotify Streams and 110 Million video views. "Never Forget You" also had a stellar run in the US where it has been certified GOLD, reached the number 1 spot on the Dance Billboard chart for two consecutive weeks and has become a top 10 hit on the national airplay chart.
On the 13th May 2016 MNEK premiered his latest single "At Night (I Think About You)" on Annie Mac's Radio 1 show, which named it her Hottest Record in the World.
At a recent performance, the host made the mistake of introducing Adia Victoria as an Americana artist. Victoria leaned into the microphone with a correction, “Adia Victoria does not sing Americana, Adia Victoria sings the blues.” From there, the artist let her guitar and powerful lyrics speak for her. After a self-released single that drew the attention of Rolling Stone and others, Victoria continued to dazzle and confound with her first studio album, Beyond the Bloodhounds. The album takes its title from a line in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. Just as Jacobs sought to get beyond the reach of her master’s bloodhounds, Victoria is always reaching beyond the facile notions of what a Black woman artist should look like and sound like.
Instead of following the model of the folks that she saw around her who had been worn down by white supremacy, poverty, and oppression in the rural South Carolina town she grew up in, Victoria set off to shape a life of her own making. She dropped out of school and worked a series of odd jobs. At 18 she went to Paris and then spent time in Brooklyn, Atlanta, and now is based in Nashville. Victoria is a polymath who studied ballet, acting, wrote poetry, before finding a home in the blues. It was when a friend gave Victoria an acoustic guitar that things began to click. “I fell in love with the practice, the discipline of learning. It was the first time in my life that I felt capable of learning and progressing at something.” According to Victoria, this practice was a lifesaver. “I don’t know if I would be alive if I had not found that. Had I not found this outlet of expression. Probably in prison or dead.”
In the wake of Beyond the Bloodhounds, touring, press and enormous expectations a lesser artist would have just rested on her laurels. Instead, Victoria released two short albums that show the immense wingspan of her talent and curiosity. How It Feels is a French-language short album that reimagines French pop classics with a blueswoman’s edge. Victoria returned to her roots with the EP Baby Blues, a trio of classic blues covers that first inspired her.
A mere two years after Beyond the Bloodhounds, Adia Victoria returns with her second full-length studio album, Silences. After a season of dealing with others trying to define, claim, and name her art and artistry, Victoria went inward. “I found when I went back home that the thing that disturbed me the most was the lack of activity. Having to deal with myself once again on an intimate level.”
Reading and literature helped her find her way back in. The title of the album comes from Tillie Olsen’s Silences, which deals with the myriad ways that the stories of oppressed people’s stories have been silenced over the years, even though they continued to create despite being ignored. “I struggled to write this album in a way that I never had to before. I took for granted I guess my freedom and my alone time and I felt that something had been taken away from me. And I felt like I didn’t have a voice anymore. This album was the therapy that I needed to find that voice that had been silenced.”
We find a voice in full holler on Silences. The listener is thrust into a completely formed world that opens with a twisted creation tale. “Clean,” is reminiscent of the story of the Garden of Eden, but instead of withering under God’s judgement for her shame, our protagonist announces that “First of all / There is no God / Because I killed my God.” This bold act instills in her “The kind of calm I hope to keep.” Any student of stories or life knows that this is can only be the beginning. A calm so deep must be earned along the way.
Silences is at its heart the mythic journey of a woman coming back to herself. “It’s just very much this character is acting out from various oppressions. You’ve been held down, you’ve been smothered, and she reaches her breaking point.” From this departure, the album moves her protagonist out into the world where she meets up with the devil and her own desires for her life in the uptempo rockers “Pacolet Road” and “Different Kind Of Love.” In the next movement, we find a woman daunted and damaged but still resolved. Once we get to “The Needle’s Eye” and “Cry Wolf” she’s gained some well-earned maturity down in the dark of the world. In Silences, Victoria brings the topics of mental illness, drug addiction, sexism, and all the things that try to consume the very lives of women attempting to make a world of their own making to the forefront. The album closes with “Get Lonely,” a plaintive, urgent ballad that our hero could be imploring to “get lonely” with a lover. Or she just as easily could be pleading with this new woman in the mirror that she has found along her journey to be still and marvel at all that she has created and survived.
Just as Victoria has been intentional about creating the kind of life that she wanted to live, she’s done the same thing with her collaborators. The band has changed a lot like Destiny’s Child since the first album, to get the perfect presentation and I think I finally found it. Victoria’s guys are Mason Hickman- Lead Guitar, Jason Harris- Bass, Peter Eddins- Keys, Timothy Beaty aka Knapps- Drums, Chazen Singleton- Horns, and Austin Wilhote aka Willé- Horns. “No. This is the greatest possession that I have. I have a bunch of guys now that I’ve been with and they allow me the ability and the space to command them, to direct them. They have faith in me.”
When it was time to record Silences with Aaron Dessner of The National who has also produced albums for Sharon Van Etten, Frightened Rabbit, Mumford & Sons, Local Natives, and more, Victoria remained hesitant. “I want to let you into my art, but I was so very, very cautious. And I just found that as a human being and as a fellow artist he had the warmth and the understanding and the respect that you don’t come across too often in this industry. He opened his home and his studio to me and my guys and it was like there was no ego. We were just free to experiment and together and we got work done.” With Adia Victoria’s steady hand and fearless vision at the helm, Silences does indeed get work done. Of the recording process, Dessner notes, ““From the very beginning of our collaboration, it was clear to me that Adia’s vision for this album had a cohesive and very particular narrative thread. It was incredibly rewarding to help realize it. The substantive nature of her writing and strength of Adia’s lyrics really guided us through the entire recording process. Every sound and direction, whether subversive, experimental or leaning into a groove, it was all in service of her broader vision and the text. Ultimately, the album is both an incredibly personal narrative of Adia’s journey and a powerful, broader statement of resistance.”
Los Angeles-based genre-defying singer/songwriter/producer + viral sensation, Oliver Tree, has made waves with his unique high-energy sound and eccentric persona. Tree recently unveiled his critically acclaimed debut EP Alien Boy, which saw an impressive debut at #5 on iTunes. The EP’s lead singles, “Alien Boy” x “All That” are accompanied by a hilarious companion video where Oliver can be seen cruising around on everything from a Razor scooter to a monster truck. Watch the video here. Last year, Tree joined close friend and collaborator, Whethan, on select dates of The Chainsmokers’ “Memories” Tour and also teamed up with Louis The Child on select dates of their 2017 tour, including a sold-out show at Los Angeles’ famed Hollywood Palladium. This tour was just the next on the ever-growing list of live shows for Oliver Tree since making his festival debut this past summer with solo sets at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands. Always creating new and exciting comedic content, Oliver Tree teamed up with meme sensation Fuck Jerry to create original content for the brand’s hugely popular Instagram page earlier last year. Having made a striking debut with a visionary, Thom Yorke-approved cover of Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” Tree soon shook up the music scene with featured collaborations including Whethan vs. Oliver Tree’s “When I’m Down” and Getter’s “Forget It (Feat. Oliver Tree).” Tree lit up last year’s Coachella with his distinctive look – featured in LA Weekly’s “The Best (And Weirdest) Fashion At Coachella 2017” – and memorable live appearance alongside frequent collaborator Whethan. In addition, Tree recently made his network television debut by joining Getter for a live rendition of “Forget It” on NBC’s Last Call with Carson Daly. Huffington Post has applauded his work as “an enigma of genre. While (Tree is) primarily a pianist, guitarist and producer, his real-instruments-based-production incorporates rap, male and female vocal harmonies, poetic lyrics, strings and a hearty dose of synth…as much philosopher as musician, and a big dreamer at that, (Tree’s) goal is to push the art form forward, and beyond the electronic scene, he aims to have his work reach the world and in doing so, better his listeners’ lives,” while NYLON encourages everybody to “get weird to the sweet, sweet sounds of Oliver Tree.”
Buck Meek’s songs are for the lost dogs of honest mechanics, good guys and girls born into a life of crime, runaways, snow spirits, the ghosts of Central Park, unsung diving-board stars, the affection shared through gambling, and so on. Bred in Texas, more bread in New York City, Meek spins outlaw ballads and quotidian fairy tales into a yarn, with Adam Brisbin on guitar (Jolie Holland, Sam Evian, Katie Von Schleicher), Mat Davidson on bass (Twain, The Low Anthem, Spirit Family Reunion), and Austin Vaughn on drums (Here We Go Magic, Luke Temple, Sam Evian).
Meek’s self titled debut album was recorded and mixed by ace engineer Phil Weinrobe (Really Big Pinecone, Ceramic Dog, Nick Murphy) at both Rivington 66 - an orange den beneath the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and the cork womb of Figure 8 Recording in Brooklyn, as well as the wainscoted old-growth oak joisted parlor of the Lethe Lounge in upper Manhattan, with engineer Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Nick Hakim). In addition to the core band, the album personnel includes Mikey Buishas (Really Big Pinecone) on pump organ, Dave Harrington (Dark Side, Nicolas Jaar) on pedal steel, Adrianne Lenker (Big Thief) on vocals, Buck’s brother Dylan Meek (Miguel, Grant AME Gospel Choir, Post Malone) on Wurlitzer, and Michael Sachs (Little King, Secret Sibling) on clarinet.
Looking to the past, following his fledgling years as a boy playing gut-bucket blues, manouche jazz, and western swing in bars and dance halls across Texas, he moved to NYC and released two solo EPs, Live from a Volcano (2013), and Heart Was Beat (2015). Shortly after moving to NYC, he met songwriter Adrianne Lenker, and after a year of fervent collaboration, they recorded two EPs, A-sides and B-sides (2014). The duo went on to circle the USA several times over in the orange velvet Van Bon Jovi, playing Appalachian school houses, Alabaman birthday BBQs, Arkansanian book fairs, Texan Star Parties, Massachusettsan cattle farms, Minnesotan fireworks displays, and so forth. From there they expanded into a four-piece outfit, Big Thief, and have since released two records, Masterpiece (2016) and Capacity (2017).
In the words of Mat Davidson (Twain):
“I’m going to tell you about Buck Meek the only way I know how. No bully here. I don’t take kindly to intruders, and in a such a devilish world as this, so full of trickery and illusion, you can bet your cannabis I take my sweet time to vet each and every guttersnipe that happens across my field of consciousness.
But it’s not every day that you find a 16th-generation Texan leaning on your banister and offering you a short-rib in the comfort of your very own home. How did he get there? I was alarmed. Yet, there was something unusual in his eyes… something you’re about as likely to stumble upon as you are a sleeping weasel. It was Trust. So, naturally, I invited myself into his traveling band and we hit the road.
I never had much use for friendship, but meeting a soul such as Mr. Meek gave me pause; he changed this old Buckskin - and I wager he’ll change you too.”
Buck Meek is a kaleidoscope of human relationships — of widows, daughters, flight attendants, best friends, bar flies, neighborhood heroes, and troublemakers — it illuminates mysticism in the temporal, humor unearthed in tragedy, the strength of vulnerability, and the words unspoken that elucidate love.
The Glorious Sons' second full-length album, Young Beauties & Fools, is all about honesty.
More specifically, it's about exploring the adventures (and frequent misadventures) of main songwriter Brett Emmons in the truest way. It's also an album where The Glorious Sons — rounded out by Brett’s older brother Jay Emmons (guitar), Chris Koster (guitar), Adam Paquette (drums) and Chris Huot (bass) — capture all the listlessness and confusion of young adulthood in 10 doses of modern rock.
"It's basically the story of a 24-year-old kid,” says Brett. “They’re simple songs about alcoholism and the mostly autobiographical story of my life. The whole thing is derived from the thoughts, actions and feelings of a kid who doesn't really know himself and the consequences of those actions."
Glorious Sons’ hardscrabble tales come naturally. A high-spirited rock band with blue collar roots, they truly found themselves when Brett quit school in 2013 to join them as lead singer. Subsequent years of hard touring and hard partying — sometimes in places so sketchy, as Brett puts it, “There was no electricity in the building” — provided fuel for the songs on Young Beauties & Fools.
“It’s me writing about the things I’ve done, the things that have happened to me and my family, and the things that I think about,” says Brett.
Whether it’s the rock 'n' roll bender “My Poor Heart,” the not-so-classic boy-meets-girl story of “Josie,” or the deeply embarrassing punch-up at a wedding tale “Everything Is Alright,” Brett’s songwriting deftly explores the imperfect humanity of both himself and the many characters he introduces over the course of the album.
It wasn’t easy to capture that realness. The band wanted to range further, to grow and evolve from the successes of 2014’s The Union album. That record was an immediate hit on the Canadian radio rock landscape. Glorious Sons scored seven consecutive Top 10 rock radio tracks, won two SiriusXM Indie Awards (Group of the Year and Rock Group of the Year) and received a Juno Award nomination in 2015 for Rock Album of the Year.
Eighteen months of recording fits and starts led the band to Los Angeles to work with production team Fast Friends (Frederik Thaae, Ryan Spraker, Tom Peyton). It wasn’t until they started exploring a collection of old voice memos on Brett’s phone that they had their eureka moment. The subsequent creative outburst resulted in an album written in 12 days and recorded in 14.
“It was our first time working with these guys in the studio and we were still kinda feeling each other out,” says Brett. “There were times when it almost felt like a blind date. And we had been in the studio with a couple of other producers prior to that and went home empty handed. So after a few lukewarm conversations about ideas, I said to them, ‘Boys, can I show you something?’ I took out my iPhone and played ‘Josie’ and they just went fucking nuts. They wanted us to challenge ourselves as players and songwriters and pushed me to write from personal experience. After that, the hardest part of recording was choosing which songs to keep for the album. I’m forever grateful to them for teaching me to trust myself as a writer and help find that voice.”
There should be lots of opportunities to see Glorious Sons play the songs from Young Beauties & Fools. By their count the band has driven across Canada "at least 10 times" and played upwards of 300 shows to support their last album.
"You don't know what you’re going to get night to night from us," says Jay. "It's something you have to see and it's interesting and powerful."
"It's also an inch from either side of falling off the tracks every single night," adds Brett.
Which is perfectly fitting for a band living young and foolish.
"Can I make it clear?" Lorely Rodriguez asks within the opening moments of her debut album, Me. If clarity is what she seeks, Lorely has found it: her voice upfront, every word audible and strong. Her singular voice is the centerpiece of Me, her first full-formed vision of an album, following her previously shorter and more abstract releases as Empress Of. "Don't tell me who I am," she sings seconds later.
On a cold January morning, Lorely sits at the kitchen table at her current sublet apartment, sifting through a composition book, pages of lyrics stained by coffee and cognac, shuffling through photo prints from the trip to Mexico where she wrote the initial sketches of the record. The album is filtered through imagery from this 5-week retreat, a lens through which Lorely looks both inward and outward, reflects and looks forward, finds strength and vulnerability.
Where her previous recordings worked in moody abstractions, layered soundscapes hinting at a voice deep under the surface, Me plays out like diary entries from one female voice musing on the personal, the political, and all the middle ground between. "I've been living below the standard with a hunger that feeds the fire / I've been eyeing your plate of diamonds," sings Lorely on "Standard," a reflection on privilege and entitlement.
Before and after, she sings candidly on street harassment and water scarcity, but mostly Lorely's lyrics are more introspective; songs of broken relationships, new ones starting, and ultimately, self-reliance. "I just need myself, need myself, to love myself, to love myself," she sings on "Need Myself."
In 2015, at age 25, Lorely has found herself traveled a long ways from her childhood. Born in L.A. into a family of immigrants from Honduras, she grew up on the music of Latin America, Mexico, El Salvador, and her family's country; music driven by rhythm, music to dance to, drums and bass. "I started singing when I was 11, and was super into jazz," she says, recalling how as kid she would spend days searching the Internet for rare jazz recordings.
Obsessed with music, Lorely spent her childhood living between Pasadena and San Fernando Valley, attending a 10,000 person high school and multiple others before eventually being admitted to LACHSA, the LA county arts high school. She says it "saved her." She became a competitive jazz singer, and after high school received a full-ride scholarship to an East Coast music school, but quickly rejected the formality of it all. "My first semester of college, I got a laptop and was like, these jazz classes are such bullshit," Lorely says. "I started making beats in Reason and just wanted to make electronic music and write songs."
Over the summer of 2013, Lorely finally channeled those impulses into a song-a-day project while living in Boston. Every day, she'd sketch out a new song idea, make a scrappy home-recording, and post 1-minute YouTube videos she called "colorminutes" -- little snippets of her gorgeous, ethereal pop songs set to different color screens. The mysteriousness intrigued certain corners of the underground music world and on blogs. "I feel like artists today feel so determined to present a polished product and I just wanted to let people in to my personal process as a creator," she said an interview with the Boston Phoenix at the time.
A 7-inch would soon be released for her first proper 3-minute Empress Of Single, "Don't Tell Me," which was adapted from one of the colorminutes. Soon after her first EP was released by Terrible Records who will also release Me. The industry immediately wanted to team her up with a producer, but Lorely felt like the whole process was drowning her voice out: "It just ended up sounding like that person's music. I thought, 'this is my first record, I need it to sound like it's coming from me.' At that point I decided, I'm doing this myself."
The roots of Me start in an empty practice space in Brooklyn in the fall of 2013, where Lorely is dancing alone next to a little spinning silver disco ball. "After touring the EP, I realized I wanted to make music that was fun to perform live," she says. "So as I was writing, I would make a beat and pretend I was performing." But ultimately the city put her in a less-than-inspired headspace: "When I started writing it, a lot of the songs were about how much I hated living in New York, how much I hate capitalism, and Starbucks, and condos. And how every apartment has rats. I thought, 'I can't tour a record for two years that's about hating New York.'"
Her intuitive search for a more introspective and isolated writing experience led her to unexpectedly life-changing and mind-bending solo trip to Mexico, where she holed up at a friends' family's empty lake house near Valle de Bravo -- that means "Valley of the Brave" in Spanish. "It's the best thing that ever happened to me as an artist, as a human," she says. "I spent so much time writing. I had no internet, I barely had a phone. It was like being on a silent retreat.. It's in the middle of nowhere, an hour away from Mexico City. There are people there, people have vacation homes there, but it was during a season when nobody's there."
The isolation sent her deep inside her head, to pull out everything she wanted to pour into Me. "Every lyric on the record, I could tell you exactly what I was doing when I wrote it," she says, flipping through an envelope of photos from the trip, which look more like postcards -- a huge lake, big windows, a Monarch butterfly reserve in the backyard.
It's New Years Eve and Lorely is by herself in Mexico, alone on the lake with a pile of fireworks and thinking about water -- the water around her, the water she can drink and can't drink, and "Water Water," the song she was working on. "I went into the village and bought tons of illegal fireworks and blew them off in the dark off a bridge by myself ... I brought in 2014 making music, working on that track, and then I just made music the rest of the year."
"Water water is a privilege, just like kids who go to college," she sings on the track. "Water is this thing that's taken for granted, she says. "You don't realize how badly you need it until there's no clean water coming from the faucet."
During the writing process of Me, the power in the village of Valle de Bravo would go out a lot, and she quickly had to teach herself how to make fires. "The first night I was there the power in the village went out. I had to make a fire, but I didn't know how, so I threw a bunch of cognac onto wood and threw a match at it." And that was just one of the obstacles to overcome during a trip that was ultimately an enormous learning experience.
"Kitty Kat" was inspired by her experiences walking around Valle de Bravo and being cat called constantly -- just like in New York. It's an aggressive track with huge drums taking down the seemingly inescapable social norm. "I close the set with that song and I just scream," she says. "It's my empowering moment live. I hope a lot of women feel empowered by it." And "Threat" was born out of a different type of fear. "I'd been by myself for two weeks," she says of her trip to Valle de Bravo. "And had this really scary conversation with the cleaning lady one day. She seemed worried knowing I was there alone. I started sleeping with a machete I found in the laundry room under my bed."
"Need Myself" picks apart an old toxic relationship with an unresponsive partner, while "Everything Is You" details the beginning of a new one. "How Do You Do it" is a sex-positive, dance song about positive relationships, while "Standard" is a reflection on living in New York. The album's final track, "Icon," is a metacommentary on the solitary process of writing a record: "It's lonely, but I like having control of all my creative thoughts," she says.
"I wanted to write songs that gave me this feeling of reliving moments, of looking at photos," says Lorely. "As a musician I started out by hiding behind a bunch of reverb, layering my vocals because I was not a confident singer. I think that comes with being young and not being vulnerable. ... There is a bunch of doubt that comes with putting yourself out there. Overcoming the doubt is a lot of what came out of writing these songs, writing these melodies and producing it myself."
"This record is not about Mexico .. it's about me," she adds. "It's very much about my experiences. I learned how to let my voice out through this record. I learned how to record, how to produce. I learned how to write way better songs. I didn't realize this until i was almost done with it, but it was all about growth, and all about kind of being selfish and taking time for myself to really understand what events in my life have shaped me as a person."
Salt Cathedral is comprised of Juliana Ronderos and Nicolas Losada. Influenced by tropical sounds and channeling the liveliness and dance culture of the pair’s Colombian upbringing, their music combines elements of trip-hop and ambient genres with folkloric influences from many cultures—resulting in a new and unique brand of well-crafted and culturally relevant pop music.
The duo has released three EPs, and six singles, including their most recent single “Rude Boy.” They will release their debut full-length record in 2019. Not only have they garnered nearly twenty-five million streams on Spotify (including nearly 10 million for their single “Always There When I Need You”) and thousands of fans from all over the world, their music has also been featured in prestigious music publications such as The Guardian, Pitchfork, FADER, VICE, Billboard, Consequence of Sound, and The Village Voice.
They perform extensively with over two-hundred and fifty shows across the United States, Japan, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Colombia under their belt. They have shared the stage with fellow artists Hundred Waters (Skrillex's OWSLA), Christine and the Queens, Anna Wise (Kendrick Lamar), Jojo Mayer's NERVE, Tei Shi, Young and Sick, and Cibo Matto, amongst many others. Onstage, the band combines live instrumentals, electronics, and choreographed lighting to create an immersive environment of “crackling energy” (Pitchfork).
Salt Cathedral’s upcoming single is “Go and Get It” featuring Big Freedia and Jarina De Marco.
Matt Braunger was raised in Portland, Oregon. A headlining comedian since 2007 and an actor since childhood, Matt studied theatre in New York and improvisation in Chicago. Matt’s television credits include starring in the Amazon pilot The New V.I.P.’s, recurring roles on ABC’s Agent Carter, NBC’s Up All Night, Netflix’s Disjointed, go90’s My Dead Ex, and the Starz series Take My Wife. Matt was a series regular on Fox’s MADtv, a cast member of the TruTV series How to Be a Grown Up, as well as appearances on BoJack Horseman, Garfunkel and Oates, Maron, HBO’s Family Tree, the Chelsea Lately roundtable, The Michael J Fox Show, Happy Endings, CONAN, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Pete Holmes Show, United States of Tara, Pushing Daisies, Carpoolers, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Acceptable TV, and Live At Gotham.
Matt was also a regular guest on @midnight and appeared in Showtime’s SXSW Comedy with W. Kamau Bell and Comedy Central’s The Meltdown. He won the 2008 “Best Of The Fest” at the inaugural Rooftop Comedy Festival in Aspen. In 2009, he was named to Variety’s Top 10 Comics to Watch, and Comedy Central’s Hot 9 in ’09 list, his debut album Soak Up The Night was released by Comedy Central Records and he was named to the iTunes REWIND Top 20 Albums of 2009. In 2010, he recorded his half hour Comedy Central Presents special and in 2012 released his debut hour-long special entitled Shovel Fighter, also released as an album. Matt’s hour-long comedy special, Big, Dumb Animal is now available on Netflix, and he recently recorded a new hour special coming soon. He also has a hilarious podcast “Advice from a Dipshit”.
Along with touring comedy clubs across the country, Matt is also a regular at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles, and he headlined the Old Milwaukee Comedy Tour for Funny Or Die in 2013. Matt has also performed at a variety of prestigious comedy festivals including the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal and Chicago, The TBS Comedy Festival Las Vegas, and South By Southwest. Matt also co-founded the popular Bridgetown Comedy Festival that takes place annually in Portland.
Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz create candid music with deep emotional and personal resonance. The sisters, who record under the moniker Lily & Madeleine, boldly explore what it means to be women in the 21st century, and aren't afraid to use their music to call out injustices or double standards. This fearless approach has permeated their three albums, which are full of insightful lyrics and thoughtful indie-pop.
But with their fourth studio album, Canterbury Girls—named after Canterbury Park, located in their hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana—the sisters are coming into their own as women and musicians. "This is the first record Lily and I have ever done where we have full control over all of the songwriting," says Madeleine. "We did co-write with some people that we really love. But everything on this record is completely ours. I feel like I have full ownership over it, and that makes me feel very strong and independent."
That assertiveness reflects new geographic and professional realities. For starters, Lily and Madeleine—who are now 21, 23 respectively—moved to New York City in early 2018. And instead of recording Canterbury Girls in Bloomington, Indiana, which is where they recorded their previous efforts, the pair headed to Nashville to write and work with producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk. "I feel like it was time for us to leave the nest and move on and try to make a record our own way," Madeleine says. "We decided to work with some new people, and it turned out to be the best decision, because we finally figured out how to voice exactly what we wanted in the studio."
Using an eclectic playlist of songs as sonic inspirations—soul tunes and waltzes, as well as cuts from Midlake, ABBA and Nancy Wilson—Lily & Madeleine worked quickly, recording Canterbury Girls in just 10 days. They spent the first half of the studio sessions working out the framework of the songs with Tashian and Fitchuk, and the rest of the time fleshing out the music with additional instrumentation, harmonies and other arrangement details. "By the end, I felt like the songs had their own life; they had their own energy," Madeleine says. "It was incredible to see them blossom so quickly."
Although Canterbury Girls contains plenty of Lily & Madeleine's usual ornate music—including the languid "Analog Love," on which twangy guitars curl around like a kite twisting in the wind—the album also finds the siblings exploring new sonic vistas. "Supernatural Sadness" is an irresistible slice of bubbly, easygoing disco-pop; the urgent "Pachinko Song" hews toward interstellar synth-pop with driving rhythms; and "Can't Help The Way I Feel" is an effervescent, Motown-inflected number. Vocally, the sisters also take giant leaps forward. The dreamy waltz "Self Care" is a rich, piano-heavy track on which their voices intertwine for soulful harmonies, while the meticulous "Just Do It" has a throwback, '70s R&B vibe.
To both Lily and Madeleine, Tashian and Fitchuk, who also co-produced Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour, were the perfect collaborators to lead them forward. "They were really receptive to our ideas; they didn't push anything on us," Lily says. "But they also had their own ideas, and they could execute what we couldn't." Adds Madeleine: "I'm super excited about how groovy the record is, and I honestly owe that to Ian and Daniel. They are truly incredible, just the most talented musicians, and have such a good vibe. They added so much to the record. I'm super grateful that Lily and I had them to help us."
Despite Canterbury Girls' poppy veneer, the album boasts some of Lily & Madeline's densest and most intense lyrics to date. With the exception of the sweet romantic plea "Analog Love," the bulk of the album's songs are burdened by personal angst and the weight of expectations. Lyrics provide vivid emotional analysis of relationships going sour and what it feels like to navigate power imbalances. "Pachinko Song" details being unable to escape a pernicious person, even while halfway across the world in Tokyo; the protagonist of "Self Care" feels guilty about dragging out a relationship that's no longer reciprocal; and the narrator of "Supernatural Sadness" refuses to be dragged down by someone's toxic negativity and misery.
"I think the album is about emotional baggage," Lily says. "When you have negative experiences, you can't just make them disappear. But the album is about overcoming negative experiences and continuing to carry that baggage with you and accepting that that's a part of who you are. I don't want it to be depressing, but you have to acknowledge the feelings."
As usual, the sisters worked separately on musical ideas, and then came together to piece together the album's songs, a process that allowed each of their individual styles to shine. "Lily's always been an incredible songwriter, and her approach is very different from me, which is super cool," Madeleine says. "She always surprises me. Whenever she sends a little song clip to me I'm like, 'How did you come up with this?' It feels so cool to know that I get to work with such a brilliant partner."
However, once Lily & Madeleine linked up to finish Canterbury Girls, the pair discovered things they didn't know about each other. "That made the songwriting more interesting," Lily says. "because Madeleine would come to me with a song that she had fully finished, and I didn't really know what she was talking about, because I wasn't a part of that."
One of the fully Madeleine-penned songs is the sparse "Circles." The restless waltz, which conveys dissatisfaction about a stagnant relationship, foreshadowed Madeleine's eventual split with an ex-boyfriend. Lily also ended up writing the song "Bruises," which boasts pulsing rhythmic programming and melancholy piano, completely without Madeleine. The song expresses deep frustration with the ways emotional scars color how she perceives and reacts to future relationships—and features a stunning, haunting lead vocal.
"Both of those songs are really heavy, low points on the record, and they both encapsulate exactly what we were going through at the time," Madeleine explains. "In the past couple years, we both have experienced some trauma—and that's a heavy word, but I guess that's the only way I can put it—through romantic experiences and, like, unwanted experiences, mostly with men."
Still, Madeleine expresses awe that she and Lily wrote this pair of songs, which she dubs the "most vulnerable and meaningful tracks on the record," separately. "It means that we are each our own artist, and each have a voice in our experiences. And yet when we come together, it's even more powerful, and we are on the same page." Indeed, Canterbury Girls' overarching message is that vocalizing burdens, frustrations and anxieties helps people see they're not alone, which can then facilitate growth and healing.
In the last few years, Lily & Madeleine have amassed a supportive global community of fans and peers. They've toured as a headlining act, opened for everyone from Dawes to Rodriguez and in summer 2017, were invited to be backup singers on John Mellencamp's Sad Clowns and Hillbillies Tour, on which they harmonized on hits such as "Cherry Bomb" and performed Carter Family songs with opener Carlene Carter. Unsurprisingly, diving right into making Canterbury Girls also helped the sisters learn a lot about themselves.
"Writing this record definitely made me realize I've never worked on myself physically or emotionally, and so I'm definitely trying to do that more now," Lily says, while Madeleine adds, "I am always self-conscious about my art. I often think, 'Who cares? Who wants to listen to this?' But I was forced to assert myself and be independent, and say exactly what I wanted, and it just made me feel more powerful. I feel like I'm getting closer to feeling more like, 'This is who I am.'"
With this growing self-confidence and musical poise, it's clear that Lily & Madeleine are positioned for even greater things going forward. "I feel like I finally found my voice in this record, which makes me feel really vulnerable and a little nervous for people to hear it," Madeleine says. "But, most of all, I'm just really excited to get to express myself fully. And we're only going to get more vocal about things. I really appreciate it when artists have an opinion about things, when they use their platform and their voice to talk about things that matter. Lily and I want to be loud—and we want to be heard."
"We don’t consider ourselves folk artists or bluegrass players so much as we consider ourselves song-writers. We try to convey ideas and experiences that are universally meaningful to people. To us, the music and instrumentation exists to move those ideas forward and lift them up; we try not to limit ourselves to one genre of music or any specific type of instrumentation because certain songs might call for something else … keys or an electric guitar, for instance.”
The band’s forthcoming sophomore album, produced and engineered by Grammy winning industry pro, David Schiffman, underscores that sentiment with songs that address love, loss and personal evolution. Framed by instrumentation that ranges cohesively from pop to americana to bluegrass to spoken word, the lyrics find a familiar place in a listeners' heart and mind and the melodies, often powerfully framed by 3 part harmonies, hold them firmly in place. The result is 12 stirring songs that listeners will be drawn to again and again, as relatable and inspiring as they are catchy and uplifting.
Often referred to by fans as one of the hardest-working, hardest-touring bands on the circuit today, the 5-piece Illinois-based act not only proves that classification with their jam-packed tour schedule but also on stage every night, with youthful exuberance and a lively stage show, as reliable as it is infectious. High energy percussion, mandolin, guitar, bass, banjo and fiddle weave seamlessly together to create an experience for fans that has sold out shows across the UK and the United States, filling the front rows with fans not just singing along to one tune, but singing along to all of them. “Everybody says it. We’d be nothing without our supporters. Yeah, they buy tickets and of course we love that, but when we’ve been on the road for 10 hours and walk onto a stage road weary and we see familiar faces singing along, it’s hard to describe. It's everything, really. There’s a whole lot of love there.”
Music enthusiasts are not the only ones taking note. Critics and tastemakers alike have awarded the young artists an impressive number of accolades ranging from official showcases at Folk Alliance International Montreal (2019) AmericanaFest (2018) and International Bluegrass Music Association (2016) to Whitstable UK Session of the Year (2017), a BBC Scotland Session (2017) as well as Finalist, International Song Writing Competition (2015 & 2016), Chicago’s Best Emerging Artist, Deli Magazine (2014) and Songpickr’s Best Songs Spotify Playlist (2016) among others. The young men are no strangers to the festival circuit either, having played major National and Regional Festivals such as Merlefest, Summer Camp, Red Wing Roots Music Festival and Saskatchewan Jazz Fest all across the United States, Canada and the UK. The band has also graced the stage of coveted venues such as Bluegrass Underground (TN), The Fox Theater (CO), Park West (IL), The Vogue (IN) The Station Inn (TN) The Ark (MI), and countless others.
Lead singer song-writers, Collin (mandolin and fiddle) and Austin (guitar and keys) met in their hometown of Peoria, IL in 2012, when the two were just 14 and 17 years old respectively. From there, a brotherly friendship formed that evolved through various other projects and into a collaborative, song-writing partnership that would ultimately form The Way Down Wanderers in 2014. The pair will sealed the deal with a legal brotherhood in August of 2019 when Austin wed Collin’s older sister at a ceremony in Chicago, IL. Illinois natives, John Williams (bass and vocals) and John Merikoski (drums) would join the group later that year, earning a reputation as one of the most dynamic rhythm duos on the circuit today by contributing their own unique brand of high-energy charisma to the band's stage show. Self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Travis Kowalsky (guitar and banjo) of Northern Michigan, the 5th member to join the Wanderers, exhibits a humble low key stage presence that contrasts sharply with his bold and masterful solos.
“There’s really nothing more humbling than discovering that one of our songs meant something in somebody’s life - that it helped them through a tough time, or inspired them to do something meaningful that they may have been holding back on. So the goal for us really, is to put more songs out there that inspire people and to play them for a growing and diverse audience.” Growth has most certainly been an ongoing theme for anybody who has followed the Wanderers’ impressive trajectory. And this next album release promises to push that growth into high gear; The continuation of a relatable and heartfelt Midwestern openness Wanderers fans have grown to know and love, together with a fresh new approach, is sure to rally their base of dedicated fans as well as attract the attention of new listeners, festival promoters and venue managers alike. Stay tuned!
Since their earliest days as a band, And The Kids have embodied the wayward freedom that inspired their name. “When Rebecca and I were teenagers we just lived on the streets and played music, and people in town would always call us kids—not as in children, but as in punks,” says Mohan. On their third full-length When This Life Is Over, the Northampton, Massachusetts-based four-piece embrace that untamable spirit more fully than ever before, dreaming up their most sublimely defiant album yet.
The self-produced follow-up to Friends Share Lovers—a 2016 release acclaimed by NPR, who noted that “Mohan’s striking vocals rival the vibrato and boldness of Siouxsie Sioux...[And The Kids] make music that’s both fearless and entertaining”—When This Life Is Over unfolds in buzzing guitar tones and brightly crashing rhythms, howled melodies and oceanic harmonies. Although And The Kids recorded much of When This Life Is Over at Breakglass Studios in Montreal (mainly to accommodate the fact that Miller was deported to her homeland of Canada in 2014), a number of tracks come directly from bedroom demos created by Lasaponaro and Mohan. “The sound quality on those songs is so shittily good; it’s just us being so raw and so alone in the bedroom, writing without really even thinking we were going to use it,” says Mohan. “We recorded them right away, and there was a really strong feeling of ‘Don’t touch them again.’”
Even in its more heavily produced moments, When This Life Is Over proves entirely untethered to any uptight and airless pop-song structure. Songs often wander into new moods and tempos, shining with a stormy energy that merges perfectly with the band’s musings on depression and friendship and mortality and love. On opening track “No Way Sit Back,” And The Kids bring that dynamic to a sharp-eyed look at the lack of representation of marginalized people in the media. “If you’re not seeing yourself portrayed on TV, whether you’re a person of color or trans or queer, that can be really damaging to your mental health—it can even be fatal,” says Mohan. With its transcendent intensity, “No Way Sit Back” takes one of its key lyrical refrains (“The world was never made for us”) and spins it into something like a glorious mantra. That willful vitality also infuses tracks like “Champagne Ladies,” on which And The Kids match a bouncy melody to their matter-of-fact chorus (“Life is a bastard/Life wants to kill you/Don’t get old”), driving home what Mohan identifies as the main message of the song: “Don’t die before you’re dead.”
The origins of And The Kids trace back to when Mohan and Lasaponaro first met in seventh grade. After playing in a series of bands throughout junior high and high school (sometimes with Averill on bass), the duo crossed paths with Miller in 2012 when the three interned at the Institute for the Musical Arts in the nearby town of Goshen. Once they’d brought Miller into the fold, And The Kids made their debut with 2015’s Turn to Each Other and soon headed out on their first tour. “At one of the shows on that tour, a burlesque act opened for us at a place in Arkansas,” Mohan recalls. “And then another time on tour, we crashed at a friend of a friend’s house, and there was a pot-bellied pig sleeping on the couch. That’s what nice about staying at people’s houses on the road: you never know what you’re gonna see.”
In creating the cover art for When Life Is Over, And The Kids chose to include a picture of their mascot: a black chihuahua named Little Dog, an ideal symbol for the scrappy ingenuity at the heart of the band. “Some of the most memorable moments we’ve been through with the band are like, ‘Hey, remember that tour when Megan had just gotten deported and we didn’t have any money, and we had to drive all these hours to play for like two people?’” says Mohan. “That was a real bonding experience for us. And even when it’s hard, there’s always something good that comes out of it. There’s always a meaning for everything.”
A live performance of the global smash-hit podcast The Bugle!
Hosted by Andy Zaltzman (with John Oliver from 2007 until 2015, and with a cast of guest co-hosts since its 2016 relaunch), The Bugle is one of this universe’s leading topical podcasts. The show will feature Andy, live guests, people on screens, freshly-hewn satire, lies, puns & high-grade bulls**t.
Jacob Collier’s series of viral YouTube videos are what first made him a star, and caught the attention of Quincy Jones. On 2016’s In My Room, which won 2 GRAMMYs and a Jazz FM Award, Collier sang, played, and produced everything himself. And he made it all in his childhood bedroom. In My Room led to collaborations with Herbie Hancock and Hans Zimmer, performances with the likes of Pharrell, a TED Talk, a BBC Proms concert and much more. After releasing that astonishing gambit, he decided he wanted to open the process up to the world, to allow the music and musicians that had influenced him to participate in the very songs he wrote.
On January 1, 2018, Jacob woke up in London and began something bold: He sat down and started composing for an orchestra for the first time, giving himself just four weeks to finish an entire album before flying to The Netherlands to record the songs with the Metropole Orkest. That was only the first day and first act of a year of new musical adventures for the British singer, multi-instrumentalist, and production wunderkind—the dawn of a profound period of musical dialogue and discovery that is now poised to dazzle the world.
That morning, Collier started making Djesse, a four-album cycle composed entirely during 2018 and featuring contributions from a global cast of his musical inspirations. It is one of the most audacious recording projects to emerge this decade from someone who has already established himself as one of music’s most brazen and electrifying new minds. Djesse is a universal wonder.
“I never planned to record a four-album project, but it occurred to me that there was so much music I wanted to write at this point that I might as well just write it all,” explains Collier, laughing. “I’ve always been a huge fan of going to the deepest waters of something I don’t truly understand and making something happen. It’s amazing to see how oftentimes when you just jump in and do the thing, something magical will happen.”
Take, for instance, “Everlasting Motion,” the ecstatic rhythmic centerpiece of Djesse’s first volume. For years, the musically omnivorous Collier had studied gnawa, a spiritual and relentlessly percussive ancient sound rooted in Northern Africa. He loved its hypnotic rhythms and the way its vocals seemed to unfurl in endless ribbons. Collier wanted to collaborate with Hamid El Kasri, a modern Moroccan master of the form. He asked around, eventually obtained an email address, and sent a note explaining his backstory and project. Nearly three months passed. Collier had essentially given up on El Kasri, assuming that either the email address he had found was outdated or that one of Morocco’s living legends simply had no interest in such a nebulous project.
But suddenly, an enthusiastic answer arrived: Come to Morocco, and make music. Collier booked a flight to and studio time in Casablanca, where he spent 24 hours recording with El Kasri and asking one of gnawa’s current wellsprings about the history of the genre itself. He left with new information and a radiant piece of polyglot pop, where strings and horns and funky bass dance in jubilation. It is a magnificent moment of ignored borders and a positive affirmation of Collier’s central vision for Djesse.
In one story and one song, this is the spirit of Djesse. (Pronounced “Jesse,” the album’s name is an extrapolation of Collier’s initials, though he’s not the character at the center of this epic.) In these four albums, all written and engineered and produced by Collier, he has taken the singular approach to arrangement and harmony that have earned him acclaim since he was a teenager on YouTube and paired it with the artists he treasures. In the process, he has traveled from Los Angeles to New York, Tokyo to Casablanca, Nashville to Abbey Road with a compact version of his home studio in tow. Documenting a year in Collier’s life and of his musical loves, Djesse is a monumental testament to creative exploration and collaboration.
On the first volume, his key partner is the Metropole Orkest, the 70-year-old Dutch ensemble that programs and performs with the aplomb and energy of youth. Led by conductor Jules Buckley, the Metropole continues to reimagine how modern symphonies can sound and how they should play. Alongside Collier, they animate the voices of El Kasri, stunning a cappella group Take 6, and the rapturous soul singer Laura Mvula. You hear Collier wink awake through a gorgeous vocal aubade, then assert his distinctive voice as an arranger and orchestrator, where the ensemble becomes new limbs with which to create motion and harmony. “Keep in motion/Stay unspoken,” he sings again and again. “If I’m broken/Keep me open.” There are sweeping ballads, classical beauties, electric R&B tunes, and a cover of “All Night Long” that swings from South America to the American South in seven minutes that rush past in an instant.
And that’s just the start. As the volumes are revealed, different textures and themes and sounds will be explored in equally astonishing ways. Jacob imagined Djesse as a grand journey through space and time, and the volumes follow his path. In addition, across the quartiles nearly two-dozen collaborators will be featured, from pop stars and folk songwriters to guitar wizards and soul singers. Collier stands bravely at the center of it all, the writer, producer, arranger, and singer putting himself in conversation with the musical world at large.
“I’m treating it as this great big puzzle. Piece by piece, it comes together,” he says. “An idea like this can’t come without obsession on every single plane ride, every single day, every single night, staying up to think about how it all fits together. Rather than being my four walls, this time my room is the Planet Earth. I have been able to call many rooms my room.”
In times of political turmoil, the assumption is that the artistic response should be one of bile and vitriol, the raised fist of barbed punk or plaintive folk or urgent hip-hop instructing us how best to broadcast our anger and how best to organize it. Djesse isn’t a disavowal of that idea so much as an alternative that stares into a darkness with an irrepressible light, a universal ecstasy. During these four volumes, Jacob Collier doesn’t merely embrace globalism or give it the deference of lip service. He lives it, sings it, arranges for it through songs that fight for something—music and its power to remind us of the connections we all share, the joy, and pain and humanity of being alive at all.
mxmtoon (pronounced em-ex-em-toon) is the moniker of 18-year-old Maia, the Oakland-based singer, songwriter, and ukulele player who has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers online for her highly relatable songs that either make you want to belly laugh or weep along with her and her self- deprecating and goofy youtube videos. she sings of love, friendship, racial identity, and more, lyrically taking a dive into the common insecurities of the coming-of-age teenager. On her debut EP, due out later this year, she continues that run of thoughtful considerations with more songs about romance, body confidence, and more, all recorded from the confines of her parents' guest room. Passionate, genuine, and warm, mxmtoon feels like a friend you can rely on, in bad times and good.
Fatai is an Australian artist who knows no bounds when it comes to her unending vocal capability, song craftsmanship and unique personal character, that leaves crowds speechless.
Blending all the best bits of soul, R&B and contemporary music, Fatai’s favorite place is face to face with people, where her music brings unity to a room and joy to people’s hearts.
Fatai is no stranger to the long roads that link the stunning cities and towns of North America. Have set out on 3 tours across the country over 3 consecutive years, Fatai is to embark on her biggest tour yet in the USA and Canada in March/April 2019.
Revisiting cities and exploring new ones, Fatai will be performing new music with a new band - this will be a tour not to miss!
The Road Less Traveled Tour will be going through Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Nashville, Atlanta, Greenville, Charlotte, Vienna/Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Detroit, Toronto, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
For twenty years, Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro have written, recorded and toured for a growing national audience. Their nine CDs showcase self-penned songs of experience, colored by supple acoustic-based arrangements centered around their intertwined voices.
Songwriters of notable cachet, their works have been recorded by artists as diverse as Pat Benatar (the worldwide Top 5 smash "We Belong"), The Bangles, The Four Tops, Dave Edmunds, The Temptations and a host of others. Out of their success as songwriters came the impetus for forming Lowen & Navarro: They wanted to sing their songs themselves.
In January 1988, the duo began a weekly residency at The Breakaway in Venice, CA relying strictly on their two voices and acoustic guitars. They didn't actively promote the shows or invite their music business friends. Yet within a year, crowds were growing and a buzz started that coincided with an emerging "Nu-Folk" scene in LA. By the end of 1989 they were recording their first album.
In 1990, their debut album, Walking On A Wire, was released by Chameleon Records to rave reviews. Produced by Jim Scott (BoDeans, Samples, Whiskeytown), the album built a radio base with the songs "Walking On A Wire" and "The Spell You're Under". They toured relentlessly and found responsive audiences nationwide, particularly in Washington DC, Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis and Denver, cities that remain L&N strongholds to this day.
Three years later, Parachute-Mercury Records issued the lovely Broken Moon as the label's inaugural relase. The disc was a hit at Triple-A radio with "All Is Quiet", "Constant As The Night" and "Just To See You". Months of touring followed, and with their fan base growing, Mercury purchased Walking On A Wire in 1994 and reissued it with three bonus tracks, including "Rapt In You", another Triple-A hit.
They followed in 1995 with the enigmatic Pendulum, where their sound was honed to a fine edge by lean arrangements and a close vocal presence. It featured not only their own new songs but also collaborations with such greats as Jules Shear, Billy Steinberg and Gretchen Peters. Peters, a writer with several Top 10 Country tunes and a Grammy to her credit, helped pen "Cry", a tune Dan describes as "a sad love song with a happy tempo."
Signing with Intersound Records in 1997, they released Live Wire, a 1989 club performance that earned them their first press attention and two record deals, followed by Scratch At The Door in 1998. Self-produced, Scratch At The Door's first single "When The Lights Go Down", a wry ode to life in the middle lane, received significant national airplay.
They formed their own record company, Red Hen Records, and issued their second live collection, Live Radio, in 2002, consisting solely of in-studio performances from FolkScene, a public radio program hosted by Roz & Howard Larman on LA's KPFK for over 30 years. Later that year, L&N released a holiday collection At Long Last...Christmas, featuring two L&N originals and eight classic carols.
Their finest hour may be their most recent release, All The Time In The World from 2004. Funded by contributions from their fervently loyal fan base, it features some of the loveliest writing by Eric and Dan yet, including "Compass Point", "If I Was The Rain" and the sultry "Cold Outside". The title track is the album's sole outside song, written by Iowa-based singer-songwriter Dave Moore. During the recording of the album, Eric Lowen was diagnosed with the incurable neuromuscular disease ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease. The diagnosis lends an undeniable poignancy to the entire record, and has also led to the development of a number of ambitious projects all at once, planned for release over the next two years.
In June, 2006, AIX Records will release Carry On Together, a 12-song live DVD, shot with six high definition cameras and mixed in 5.1 surround sound as well as conventional stereo. The DVD will also include clips from two recent live concerts and a documentary-styled retrospective of L&N's log and varied career. Advance orders are being taken on the AIX Records website.
In late summer 2006, Hogging The Covers, a CD of songs written by other writers, will be released on Red Hen Records. Featuring distinctive L&N versions of songs by Van Morrison, Gordon Lightfoot, The Left Banke, BoDeans, Rockpile, The Ramones, Sam & Dave, Dobie Gray and more, the album was recorded by producer John Whynot with the legendary Jim Keltner on drums (George Harrison, John Lennon, Leon Russell, Traveling Wilburies), Hutch Hutchinson on bass (Bonnie Raitt, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson) Phil Parlapiano and John Whynot on organ, piano and accordion, and Richard Dodd on cello.
More releases are planned for 2007, including TFA, a live in-studio affair, cut before a single stereo microphone, mimicking their trademark TFA encore (totally...acoustic), which dispenses with stage, sound system and stage lighting, performed from the middle of the audience. A riveting experience that at first quiets and subsequently energizes an audience to a roaring ovation, the album is expected to be as close to that experience as recording technology will allow.
It is through their live shows that Lowen & Navarro have built their greatest reputation. Accordingly, sometime in mid-2007, the Live Archive Series will be unveiled, making available the vast collection of L&N concert recordings, many for the first time. These recordings will convey to a new crop of listeners the warmth and energy that are the hallmarks of an L&N show.
Through the years, Lowen & Navarro continue to document humanity's dignity and frailty, to examine life's losses and lessons. Their songs are all conveyed with an urgency and immediacy that is the benchmark of their commitment to their music and their audience.
Pop artist Tiffany Young is a force of positive energy and youthful exuberance which belies the fact that Tiffany has been thrust into life lessons far beyond her years starting at 12.
At a tender age, Tiffany suffered the loss of her mother by suicide and found her "religion," music, as a way to heal and recognize the path for her future. "Songs like Christina Aguilera's 'The Voice Within' and Mariah Carey's 'Through the Rain' really spoke to me. I realized how magical music is for the soul and I thought of it as a superpower. Singing and music healed me and I knew that in using my gift, I could heal others."
Tiffany was always interested in performing, singing, etc, but was pushed farther after this upheaval in her life.
And then came Girls' Generation, the hugely successful KPOP group. Tiffany was tapped to join the group as a founding member even though it meant flying across the world. She left her California life of high school, music lessons and friends with the faith of a child and a dream to sing.
Girls' Generation was the biggest, and longest lasting, girl group of all time. Iconic in their genre, Girls' Generation have 16 No. 1 singles, 1.8 billion YouTube views, 120 awards from various organizations, and 15 released albums. After world tours, millions of records sold and a decade as the de facto leader of that group, Tiffany is now ready to take on the world as a solo artist.
"Being in Girls Generation taught me so much about the creative process. It expanded my focus and ability and my confidence to trust my inner voice and be comfortable to take on writing producing, performing and fulfilling my next dream of being a solo artist."
When she was writing her new song, "Over My Skin" she kept her mind focused on artists who came before her that started in a pop group but then broke out on their own. Tiffany adds, "I admire artists like Beyonce and Justin Timberlake who started as a group and then went on to being on their own in such a gigantic way."
She is a gifted singer with a voice that has been compared to her idols Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera among others, and her influences are as diverse as Madonna and Lady Gaga on the musical front and Anna Wintour and Baz Luhrmann on the visual front.
"I love bold artists who follow their passion. My mom used to play Madonna for me when I was little and we would dance. I didn't understand until I was a bit older what she was actually singing about: becoming a woman, being self-empowered, owning your sexuality and your choices. All of those things are what I want in my songs."
"I found empathy and compassion after my mom died. All I could think about was how much pain she must have been in to have done this and how my father just lost the love of his life." She is now drawn also to music that shows that kind of empathy, love, romanticism and compassion.
In Tiffany's description, Girls' Generation was like being in a group with several other Beyonce´s "We are all close friends now and support one another. It is almost like we all left for college to pursue our personal paths, but still rely on each other for the kind of support only we can understand."
Tiffany adds, "I was overseas since age 15 with no family. I would sit in on parent/band meetings and I was the only kid there. I learned quickly to be able to represent myself and the girls and also become fluent in Korean." She laughs.
In her years with Girls' Generation, Young took a leadership role in both the creative and musical arms of the group. "I learned that to lead is to serve and to serve is to lead and I take that seriously. I got how it wasnt always about me but about how we were as a whole group so not that I am on my own, free to be myself, it is the most exciting time in my life," she says emphatically.
Young's new song, "Over My Skin," which she co-wrote, is a perfect example of that freedom The sound is mature with a classic pop vibe and a hint of '90s R&B. "The sound has my love for Britney Spears, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell and KPOP all carrying my voice. It is me all the way."
As she sings the infectious chorus, "I want you over my skin/Cause I like it when you touch me/I don't know where to begin," it's clear that Young has something strong to communicate. "I loved Sex and the City. Carrie Bradshaw and her friends, it wasn't just about sex it was about the dynamics of a relationship and staying strong and independent."
"Over My Skin" is about a young artist transitioning to the next phase of her life and letting herself be more emotionally naked for the first time. "I feel liberated, like I'm finally stepping into my own superpowers!" adds Young, It is about doing my life my way and not for anyone else.
"When you first hear the song, you can say, oh that is about sex, but listen again, it is really deeper than that. It is about being a woman in this world at this time. My favorite line is 'do nasty things and you don't judge me' because I think every woman feels that way and there is nothing wrong with it," she proudly states.
Tiffany Young is about to launch her US pop career with power, self esteem, supreme artistry and passion. And that can be an inspiration to us all.
There is a collective energy in Nashville, one that Liz Cooper has poured herself into for the past six years. Liz remarks that the energy in Nashville today is akin to that of Greenwich Village in 1960s New York or the Laurel Canyon days in the 1960s and 1970s and is a product of a collaborative approach to music and art. This community has allowed Liz to be a part of many magically haphazard nights, where the movers and shakers of the Nashville music world, such as Okey Dokey, Becca Mancari, Rayland Baxter, Desert Noises, Morning Teleportation, Erin Rae, Brittany Howard, Cage the Elephant, Michael Nau and many more converge to make music and art and lose track of time. Her latest album is a product of that pulsating energy in Nashville that has had some of the greatest influence in her work.
Window Flowers is the culmination of a year where Liz made a purposeful effort to do something creative every day. Whether it was directly related to music or not, this creative process challenged and inspired her to continually put herself in new situations and pushed her to become a better songwriter and guitar player. The tentative newcomer that is present in her early recordings was all but gone in the making of the album. Her absorption into the collaborative community is evidenced by guest appearances on Window Flowers including Will Brown (Michael Nau) on the keys, Michael and Ben Ford (Airpark) bgv’s/ guitar and songwriting, Gianni Gibson (Future Thieves) percussion, Leah Blevins on BGV’s, Emily Kohavi (Kacey Musgraves, Eminem etc.) on violin and Steve Dawson on pedal steel. Liz Cooper & The Stampede and their guests spent five days tracking Window Flowers at Welcome to 1979 in Nashville, Tennessee. TJ Elias, who co-produced the album with the band, sparked the relationship by approaching Liz one night backstage at The Ryman Auditorium after hearing her songs through a mutual friend and musician, Cody Huggins.
Window Flowers is a collection of music that deals with the weight of mundanity, and politely tells it to fuck off. When listening to “Sleepyhead” you hear remembrances of her early Nashville recordings, mixed with the powerful assertion that this is Liz Cooper, a force that will continue to shape and mold her own course of creating music. Whether you see Liz Cooper & The Stampede in a dive bar or a theater venue, you feel like you are being transported to another time and place. People often remark that her music takes them back to the 60s and 70s, when rock-n-roll felt alive, and bigger than oneself. The album will be released on Sleepyhead Records via Thirty Tigers (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) August 10, 2018.
Coming off their busiest year to-date, including playing Austin City Limits Festival for the first time in 2017, Liz Cooper & The Stampede have spent the first few months of 2018 touring with Lord Huron, Deer Tick, Rayland Baxter, Ron Gallo and Blitzen Trapper. The band will continue touring this year with Houndmouth, Tyler Childers and will play Firefly Festival and LouFest.
As Liz shakes her tambourine, hair falling in her face, donning a floral jumpsuit, it is hard to believe she identifies as a shy person. “I wanted to grow as a human and a musician so I had to quickly get over being painfully shy. I moved to Nashville as a scared and unconfident 19 year-old so I had to continually challenge myself and put myself out there. Now, as a 25 year-old I feel like I’ve grown so much confidence. Of course I will always be awkward, but I’m learning to love that. What a journey it’s been and will continue to be; definitely a hot puzzle. As I grow, my music will grow. Music is helping me figure out who I am and what the hell my life is all about and at the end of the day it just makes me happy. Isn’t that what everyone is trying to figure out how to be?”
They were started in the fall of 1977 by punk poet Chris Desjardins, a singer known for morbid lyrical themes. Their first gig was December 21, 1977 at The Masque in Los Angeles. Musicians in various Flesh Eaters line-ups included Stan Ridgway (Wall of Voodoo), John Doe (X), DJ Bonebrake (X), Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Bill Bateman (The Blasters) and Steve Berlin (The Blasters, Los Lobos). Considered by many to be a precursur of Death Rock, their music was a pastiche of rockabilly, road-house blues, punk rock and jazz.
The Flesh Eaters initially broke up in 1983. Desjardins performed with his new band, The Divine Horsemen until 1988. In 1989 Desjardins recorded an LP with the one-time group Stone-By-Stone. Shortly after this they changed their name back to The Flesh Eaters. They continued to perform on the west coast, ultimately recording two albums. They discontinued performances in the Spring of 1993. Since then, Desjardins has performed intermittently with a variety of musicians under this name. The most recent Flesh Eaters album Miss Muerte was released in 2004 on Atavistic Records. This label has also reissued "No Questions Asked" & "Hard Road To Follow". In February 2006 it was announced that the original Flesh Eaters would perform several live shows. This particular line-up of The Flesh Eaters had not played together since the Spring of 1981. John Doe and DJ Bonebrake from X, Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman from The Blasters and Steve Berlin from Los Lobos were scheduled to appear for these shows. The tour included three dates in California and one date in England at the All Tomorrows Party Festival.
Desjardins also issued a solo semi-acoustic LP on the French New Rose label, "Divine Horseman" later released in Australia by Dog Meat Records of Melbourne. It features many old friends as guest musicians, including Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Linda "Tex" Jones and Dave Alvin.
He issued a second, rockier solo effort entitled "I Pass For Human" as "Stone By Stone"- basically a paean of loss following the breakup with his wife and partner in The Divine Horsemen Julie Christensen. It is a harrowing piece of work, reflecting on his life, his loves, and his ongoing battles with heroin addiction.
Henry Rollins published "Double Snake Bourbon", a collection of Desjardins' poetry, lyrics and prose under his 2.13.61 imprint. (Now out of print) Desjardins had previously written for Slash and Forced Exposure, and has recently completed a book on Japanese yakuza films, as well as providing liner notes and annotation for several DVDs of classic reissues os such films.
“I've grown up. I feel like that's the main thing.” The Nina Nesbitt of 2018 is not like the Nina Nesbitt of 2013, the one who arrived as if from nowhere in 2012 and scored a UK top 15 album with Peroxide in early 2014. The heartfelt, easily relatable lyrics remain, as evidenced on the multi-layered, story-telling pop of her first single on Cooking Vinyl, The Moments I'm Missing, which was written and produced solely by Nesbitt. That character-filled voice remains, as does the razor-sharpe eye for acute lyrical observations and nagging, ear-worm melodies. What's new is a desire to inject her music with more obvious pop influences, an area she dived headlong into last year on the excellent, one-off single Chewing Gum. While the first album zipped past in a flash, things falling into place at an alarming speed almost outside of her control, this new Nina Nesbitt, now 24, is in charge of everything. All of it. An independent artist in all variations of that phrase, this is the sound of a singer-songwriter comfortable in their own skin. “I'm so proud of this album,” she beams. “If it does well then great, obviously, but I feel like I've made the record I've always wanted to make.”
Born in a little village outside Edinburgh, Nesbitt's musical education was a long and constantly evolving one. Fully immersed in chart pop thanks to her Swedish mother – think lots of ABBA, Britney, Christina, Whitney – that was then mixed later with the more outré leanings of her father, specifically Brian Eno. Closeted in her little village, it took her friends to break her out of a fairly dark early obsession. “My friend at school told me to stop listening to Basshunter and start listening to Nirvana, so she introduced me to the rock world,” she laughs. Later, after moving to London, her musical horizons were exploded more and more. “I really got into R&B all of a sudden, and I just love how Lauryn Hill, Bryson Tiller and Kehlani communicate things about their life. It's like I know who they are when I'm listening to their songs. So I wanted to represent that in my music too.”
But we're getting ahead of ourselves, because music wasn't always her only passion. Despite learning to play various instruments, Nesbitt was also a rhythmic gymnast training to go to the Olympics. “I feel like that is where a lot of my drive has come from, because I wanted to be the best,” she explains. “I was so passionate about it. I ended up being in the Scottish team and training for the Commonwealth Games. I stopped because I'd gone as far as I could. Then music was the next thing.” Rhythmic gymnastics was also joined on the sidelines by the flute, an instrument that's hard to make look cool, especially when there are boys around. At 15, having learned the guitar, a new inspiration arrived. “I remember being 15 and hearing Taylor Swift's song 15 and being like 'oh my God', it's a girl with a guitar writing her own songs,” she says. “I wanted to do that! I don't come from a musical background or a wealthy background, so I needed to find a way of getting out there and that thing of writing your own songs felt affordable and doable.”
By this point she'd already started uploading covers to YouTube, chiefly to work out if she could actually sing, a baptism of fire that showed an early resolve. “I used to be like 'do I have a good voice?' and my mum would say 'you've got a unique tone',” she cackles. “So I never knew if I was good or not, but I loved singing so much. I basically recorded these videos because I thought strangers would give me an honest opinion and that way I could work out if I was good or not. So I didn't tell anyone about it.” Having already started songwriting aged 10 (her first song was called Dreams Become Reality), she'd also started accumulating a collection of her own recordings, which came in handy when a chance meeting with Ed Sheeran in 2011 after a gig lead to an impromptu performance and an offer to support him at Shepherd's Bush Empire and several dates across Europe. Still unsigned, a cover of an Example song then lead to a support slot on his arena tour, which was then followed by an appearance on the Radio One playlist. Having signed to Island, the Nesbitt tornado was now in motion, taking in more playlist appearances, more live shows, more Top 40 singles, more acclaim.
When the dust settled and the album was out, however, Nesbitt was ready to move on. Chewing Gum was the sound of her breaking out of her comfort zone and indulging fully her love of pop, a move that was embraced by her fans but one that felt a little too alien. While proud of the song, it symbolised the breakdown of her relationship with Island and kickstarted her move away from being an artist and embracing songwriting for others. It was a move that reignited her passion for music, lifted her confidence back up after the label split and eventually lead to the creation of The Moments I'm Missing. The pop album she'd been making, and that Chewing Gum was meant to be on, may have been scrapped but the process of its creation has its positives, chiefly her learning production for herself. As I said, always fully in control. “Production is expensive and I didn't want to have to rely on anyone else for my own career,” she says. “I wanted to do it myself. I've got this little studio at home and I just sit for hours and hours learning. I want to be able to do it all by myself if I have to. I want to always be able to put music out.”
With songs cut by various artists, Nesbitt's keen to carry on with the songwriting for others. But the passion for her own project is firmly back, kickstarted by the creation of the beautiful, fully biographical The Moments I'm Missing, a swirling combination of delicate piano lament and robust, intricately programmed beats that features LA singer Goody Grace. “I went home from a session for someone else and I wanted to write a song nobody else could sing but me. I wanted to write a song that's just about my life,” she says, referring to these new songs accurately as “suburban pop”. I loved how rappers or R&B artists talked about their lives and I wanted to find the singer-songwriter version of that. When my career took off it all happened so fast and I couldn't always take it all in. But now I've had a lot of time to look back and see what was amazing and what was shit. It's not about missing as in longing; it's about the moments I'm missing from my brain. It's about recollecting.”
Elsewhere there is the gloriously biting single The Best You Had which has been embraced by new fans including Hollywood royalty in the shape of Chloë Grace Moretz and Taylor Swift (“it's crazy that you're moving on so fast, but baby it's okay if I am still the best you had” runs the chorus), a low-key, R&B-tinged tale of love gone sour written and produced with newcomer Jordan Riley (upcoming producer LostBoy has also worked on various songs across the album). “It's a personal thing because I've definitely felt like that but I had a conversation with a friend who was gutted her ex had moved on but she was like 'as long as I was better then that's fine'. She really hit the nail on the head. So I made it into a little poem. Once I started working on it in the studio the whole thing came to me in about 30 minutes.”
Then there's Somebody Special, perhaps the best example of the bridge between the old and new. Written in Nashville with Dan Muckala and Brianna Kennedy, it's a love song but “not too mushy”, all slowly percolating verses and a chorus you want to live inside – this song alone has had over 30 million streams on Spotify alone. And it doesn’t stop there, Nina’s now celebrating the success of her most recent single ‘Loyal To Me’, which has broken new ground for Nina, being playlisted on Radio 1 and Radio 2 with Nina’s combined streams surpassing 100 million.
It's been non-stop for Nina since signing her new deal with Cooking Vinyl, a tour of the US with Jake Bugg, another sold-out UK headline tour, winning the Evolution Award at the SSE Scottish Music Awards and to top it off, she was asked to collaborate with emerging female artists, Sasha Sloan and Charlotte Lawrence on a new track ‘Psychopath’ for the launch of Spotify ‘Louder Together’. This program brought artists together to collaborate on an original Spotify Singles song in the spirit of community, empowerment and inspiration – Nina being the only UK artist to take part. Nina’s reach globally has also been illustrated by the reports of both Spotify and Apple promoting Nina’s single in New York’s Times Square on huge billboards.
In a music industry that often doesn't give you second chances, or time to settle into the artist you want to be, Nina Nesbitt's found a way to not only make it work, but make it work for her. Rather than rush into making an album for the sake of it, she waited for the inspiration to strike and let it slowly take shape organically. “With an album I feel like it's parallel to my life in a way – I was just trying to find out what I liked and what I was good at,” she says succinctly. What she's good at is being an artist, but one that's fully in control, i.e. the very best kind.
Give Twin Peaks an inch and they'll take a stretch of the road. Having careened across America and beyond, sharing their staggering energy, the band made their third album the best way they know how: by themselves. The same group that produced the scuzzy squalor of their debut 'Sunken' and had legions of fans screaming along to their anthemic sophomore effort, 'Wild Onion,' now swings and serenades with 'Down In Heaven' (out on Grand Jury on May 13, 2016).
Co-produced by the band and longtime collaborator R. Andrew Humphrey, and mixed by new confidant John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth), the record is by turns raw, polished and wise beyond its years. The diverse new songs beg the listener to sway slowly, bang their head wildly and question what they were doing wasting emotional time on anything less. It is a marked, and some may say mature, development for a band that doesn't know how to play it safe. They aren't here to tell you what youth is like or what being a little older now means, though; they want to join you in a conversation about why we hurt, love and tug at each other.
While Twin Peaks is a bit older, they're not necessarily calmer; their restlessness endures. Born of Chicago's league-leading DIY scene and with several of them remaining friends since elementary school, Cadien Lake James, Clay Frankel, Connor Brodner, Jack Dolan, and most recent addition Colin Croom share an enthusiasm, authenticity and passion their audiences have found contagious. In the three years since dropping out of college to support their debut album 'Sunken,' the band has covered a lot of ground. They've played to ever-increasing crowds, bigger and rowdier each time they come barreling into a city; they were anointed "Best New Band" by NME and countless other blogs, and they have performed for (and partied with) more than hospitable masses at festivals in the states and Europe, including Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Reading & Leeds, and Roskilde. In between all this action, the group set up camp in the summer of 2015 amidst the solitude of a murky lake in Western Massachusetts, where they could experiment and record on their own terms in the warm living room of a good friend's house.
Recording on reel-to-reel with the band learning studio tricks on the fly, Twin Peaks set out to a make an LP that reflects how far they've come and how much of life is left, trusting themselves to make a record they'd want to hear. James explains, "I've been particularly drawn to records that have a more personal feel, not necessarily lyrically, but in sonic aesthetic, like The Kinks' 'Village Green Society,' Beatles' 'White Album,' and Rolling Stones' 'Beggars Banquet.' We wanted to make a record that employed the restraints of our favorite artists from yesteryear. It was about trying to simplify and hone in on the things that are important to our music and ethos." In considering the development of the band's sound from 'Sunken' to 'Wild Onion' and now to 'Down in Heaven,' Frankel adds, "The bands we admire are the ones who change drastically over the course of their span, like The Velvet Underground, where no two records of theirs sound the same."
Whether sneering or pleading, aggressive or impatient, the thirteen tracks of 'Down In Heaven' are a continuation of the bands path and an eschewing of previous comparisons. It is a record all about feel: heartbreak, forgiveness, anger, jubilation, re-invention, growth. Album opener "Walk To The One You Love," written by James about letting someone close to you go is immediately followed by Frankel's song "Wanted You," with lyrics about not getting the one that you yearn for. With "Stain," perhaps the biggest departure for the band on the record, Frankel says, "I didn't want another love song, so after a while I got what it is, how you suffer for your art but you put up with it because you don't wanna do anything else. It's a song about the love of music." Even though four of the five members contribute lyrics, there are obvious connections both thematically and musically across the record and the band's voice rises unified.
'Down in Heaven' will bring old fans and new Twin Peaks most complex record to date, encompassing elements only teased on their previous efforts. Frankel says, "I don't know yet what kind of band we are, since we keep changing with every year. I guess we are a band unafraid of new influences and changes." Put simply, 'Down In Heaven' makes it increasingly hard to call their sound "classic." It's rock new and old, it's a little bit of country, it's a whole lot of punk attitude, and it's something to get excited about. Twin Peaks is here to stay, and they aren't going to get pinned down.
DICKIE’s 2015 self-titled release was a moody testimonial of veteran singer-songwriter Dick Prall. After a quick succession of several personal losses, Prall took his experience and nestled them inside a beautifully-layered soundtrack that found DICKIE on the top of several “Best of” lists that year. But Prall’s 20-plus-year career has always proven that he just can’t repeat himself. He’s not even been able to release albums under one consistent name as is reflected in 1998’s The Dick Prall Band / Somewhere About Here, 2001’s The Stach Martins/Dressing Up the Failure, and 2007-2011’s Dick Prall/Fizzlebuzzie, Weightless, and the Inc. EP. The 2019 incarnation of DICKIE finds him working with talented drummer and multi-instrumentalist Billy Barton. And though the one common thread of Prall’s past work has been a penchant for liberal production, he and Barton were charged by producers Pat Sansone (Wilco) and Joshua Shapera to take a hard about-face with the newest record, Minus Thieves.
This restrained approach was performed at The Magic Barn just outside the small town of Solon, IA. The infamous rural studio houses the gear of NYC’s now-defunct The Magic Shop where many iconic artists have recorded, including David Bowie, Blondie, Lou Reed, and The Ramones. With Minus Thieves, DICKIE and company reach back even further into the archives of recording history by applying a simple formula of straightforward guitars of all sonic sizes articulated seamlessly with Barton’s play-for-the-song style of drumming. Sansone and Shapera’s “focus on what matters” production is achieved in a manner that welcomes you to happily ingest the most important part of any pop-tinged record: melody and rhythm. Prall’s tight harmonies and clever lyricism are still apparent, but they’re served in a way that harkens back to the early days of rock and roll. The layers of strings, horns, and synthesizers have all been put on hiatus for Minus Thieves and it’s a refreshing addition -- even a restart -- to Prall’s catalogue of albums.
Minus Thieves is a well-earned deep breath from Prall’s beautifully arranged and meticulously orchestrated prior records. It’s a purging to prepare for a new beginning. Even the record’s title track is a call to rid yourself of what holds you back, what’s taking from you. In a time of excess and overload, this album keeps it lean by offering only what’s truly needed.
DICKIE is slated to release Minus Thieves in the spring of 2019, followed by extensive touring throughout the U.S.
Listening to the larger-than-life, but tight and precise blues-rock of The Blue Stones on their Entertainment One debut, Black Holes, it is astonishing to discover all that sound and fury is created by just two people.
Guitarist/vocalist/lyricist Tarek Jafar and percussionist/backing vocalist Justin Tessier, have known each other since meeting as kids just across the Detroit River in their Canadian hometown of Windsor, Ontario. But it wasn’t until attending university together, that they decided to combine their talents into a musical project.
The Blue Stones have an incredibly diverse palette of influences -- and although they’re a duo, it’s unfair to limit the comparisons just to The Black Keys and The White Stripes. The weight of Led Zeppelin, the grit of Hendrix and groove from hip-hop artists like J. Cole and Kanye are all there. But in an effort that’s unlike any other in contemporary rock, the result is something entirely unique to today’s musical landscape.
From the slap back echo and the Rolling Stones’ “ooh-oohs” in the gut-punching “The Drop,” through the tribute to perseverance in the catchy, bluesy “Rolling with the Punches” and the acoustic-to-electric whisper-to-a-scream dynamism of the title track, Black Holes shows a band blasting into outer space and leaving “Solid Ground” behind. It’s the voyage of a group beginning to find its way, emerging from isolation and perspiration to inspiration, reaching an audience waiting to be tapped and entertained. An Alternative Blues Rock band fighting the good fight, looking to connect in an increasingly fragmented music universe.
“The album’s about being a young adult and entering the real world from a sheltered environment, like college,” explains Jafar. “Feeling torn between taking the secure path or doing something that might be riskier, but you’re passionate about… following what you love as opposed to sticking to the straight and narrow.”
Indeed, “Black Holes (Solid Ground)” is about precisely that either/or dichotomy, caught between infinite space and terra firma, willing to take a shot at the unknown rather than settle for the familiar, in between Jafar’s restless guitars and Tessier’s heavy-hitting and massively impressive drum beats.
“We play blues-rock, though it’s not loose and dirty,” explains Justin. “It’s lean, raw, tight, without a wasted note.”
It took seven long years – and two independently released EPs – for The Blue Stones to hone their approach, putting in those requisite 10,000 hours to perfect their craft, and then build upon that. As Jafar describes the audience participation of “Rolling with the Punches,” which is the group’s usual, rollicking set-closer, “It takes a lot to be a success. You have to stay determined and focused. And it’s always fun to have people sing the words you’ve written and just sit back and take it all in.”
There’s a similar message in the album finale, “Magic,” in which Jafar admits he doesn’t believe in it. “People these days are all looking for instant gratification, the quick reward,” he says. “If you want something that will endure, that’s not how it works. You have to put in the hours and the effort.”
The Blue Stones have done just that, with an approach that isn’t afraid to take chances, like mining Jafar’s love of hip-hop and Miles Davis into the funky backbeat of “Be My Fire” or the epic psychedelic experimentation in the pitch-dark “Midnight.”
“You never know where we’ll pull inspiration from,” says Justin.
“This is the album we’ve always wanted to make,” adds Tarek. “We set out to show we’re more than loud and lo-fi, that we have range and dynamics.”
And now it’s time to take to the road, play these songs and add to their growing legion of admirers.
“We have dreams and we have goals, but we separate the two,” adds Justin. “A dream is to headline Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where we saw so many great bands. Our goal, though, is to reach out at every show and win people over one by one. That’s how we’ve always done it and it’s worked so far. We believe in what we’re doing and we have emotional connections to the songs we’re playing. We want to provide our audience with the kind of experiences we had when we were younger attending shows of our favorites. That’s what we look to pass on.”
“My whole attitude is, let’s see what happens,” nods Tarek. “And that’s allowed me to be up for anything.” “It’s not over now,” he sings in “Lay,” “Don’t lay your flag and turn away/Please don’t leave me with another regret.”
With the release of Black Holes, The Blue Stones are ready to raise the stakes and turn up the heat.
Since breaking through the hemispherical sound barrier, Australia’s Oh Pep! have become many things to many people. The duo’s kinship is palpable not just in the way they relate virtuosically, but in the stories they conjure together and the ways they emote them to the audience.
Oh Pep!— who are releasing their second full-length, I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You…(WHEN, ATO Records)— have always been as driven as they have been wildly creative. The duo met almost a decade ago, and it was fateful. While attending a performing arts high school in Melbourne, Australia, Pepita Emmerichs happened to walk down a hallway past guitarist Olivia Hally. The latter was about to sing a song and asked if Pepi would join her on stage. “When we started hanging out,” Olivia recalls, “we immediately started making music together.” Adds Pepita. “We both loved musicians like John Prine and Lucinda Williams, who hit you really hard with their incredibly honest work. Studying music, we both understood the importance in instruments and arrangement, but we were also really drawn to lyricists.”
After graduating, they booked their own tours—mainly clubs or folk festivals—and just never stopped. Finally, in 2015, they entered a contest which won them a slot at the Folk Alliance International festival in America. A few years later, they played another FAI event, where they met Billy Bragg. He invited them to play a show with him in Adelaide. “We walked off-stage at this show, and he was like, ‘What are you doing in June?’ Do you want to play my stage at Glastonbury?”
They wrapped up over a year of touring their debut album ‘Stadium Cake’ at Glastonbury in 2017. Over that year they had shared stages not only with one of their heroes in Billy Bragg (although it was Billy Bragg who said to Pepi “I’m not your hero, I’m your peer”), but also Lake Street Dive, Martha Wainwright, Valerie June and The Mountain Goats. All artists they had admired for many years. NPR enthused that they were “thoughtful, deep, funny, and poetic.” The New York Times marveled at how adept they were at “sharing a melody that’s both angular and affectionate.” And Paste magazine opined about their “stomping, earthy energy.”
So what do you do after you’ve reached such goals? You get out of your comfort zone. “This album is darker form of pop than we have played before.” says Pepita. “Basically, Liv wrote a bunch of hits.”
I Wasn’t Only Thinking About You… thoughtfully explores the melody-rich expanse between indie pop and alt-folk, while dipping into themes of growing older, and seeing the world. Its first single, “What’s the Deal With David?,” is nothing short of intriguing. They pause. “Well, I wrote that as a note for Pepi,” Olivia says of the bright, irresistible sing-along, “that excited energy about two friends talking about their love life.” Oh Pep!’s anticipated return at once captures their spirit, their curiosity, their imminent likability.
Things began to change. “I remember in Boston,” Pepita says, “Liv was watching a woman in the audience who was singing the words to one of the songs that hadn’t been released yet.” As a result, Olivia’s demand as a songwriter grew. “With this album, in particular, I did a lot of sessions with other people. They weren’t necessarily sessions that were for the album. But every now and then, I’d be writing a song and take a fancy to it, then Pep and I would Oh Pep!-ify it together.” All told, Olivia penned the album in New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, and back home in Melbourne.
Her travels, from summer 2017 to early 2018, shaped the songwriting. Olivia wrote most of the exquisitely harmonic “Your Nail and Your Hammer”—its title inspired by words written on her wall—in Nashville, influenced by the city’s love of Americana. Most of Oh Pep!’s tracks were written on guitar, but she and Doug Schadt (Maggie Rogers, The Middle) composed “Hurt Nobody” on the piano during a “bomb cyclone” storm in Manhattan. A spacious, mid-tempo lament, it’s haunted by the mantra “I’m coming undone.” “There was this underlying eeriness that day. The energy was apocalyptic, because we were snowed in,” Olivia explains. “One way of describing the song is that we were in a very warm room, but there was a mad storm outside.”
She created the acoustic tear-jerker “Parallel” alongside Daniel James after humming the melody on her way to the Nashville studio. (“I’m always leaving when you come around,” she sings achingly, “looking for me in the lost and found.”) In contrast, with the L.A.-based Tony Buchen (Tim Finn, Montaigne), “He’ll do the bare tracks and be like, ‘Come back in two hours with the melody and lyrics.’” That begat the sweetly soaring “Bleeding Hearts.”
After writing songs, Olivia brought them back to Melbourne, where Pepita added strings and collaborated on arrangements. “We record some of that stuff in the studio or on the road. And we do some at our homes individually,” Pepita says. “Liv and I have the same kind of ideas about what we like, a similar amount of tension and release in our choices of melodies as well. Most of the time we agree on whatever the other comes up with.”
They turned to producer Joel Quartermaine (Dan Sultan, Meg Mac) to tie it all together, alongside mix-engineer Marky Wallis (Talking Heads, REM, U2’s Joshua Tree). “Joel has a kind of workflow that we really appreciated. He was really positive and a fast worker and had a really good energy about him,” Olivia says.
Oh Pep! feel so strongly about the power of collaboration that Olivia created the FUN WITH OH PEP! collaborative songwriting retreat last year, alongside A Good Idea, a grant that gives musicians the money to actualize their visions. Amazingly, they fund it themselves. “It’s hilarious because being in band, you’re always strapped for cash,” Olivia says. Adds Pepita, “That would have been something we would’ve jumped at five years ago.”
A few years back, Olivia happened to find that list of aspirations they wrote when they were just teens. “We’ve definitely evolved, but our values have remained the same,” she says. “In the early days, we weren’t sure how we were going to tour the world. We were just going with the flow in a lot of ways. And we still do.”
Elujay is a multi-talented rapper/vocalist/producer/songwriter hailing from Oakland, California. The 22 year old artist was borne out of a rich musical upbringing, where the sounds of D’Angelo, Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu, and Earth Wind and Fire could be heard floating through the household on any given day. Juxtaposed with having grown up in an ethnically diverse region with so much rich cultural history, the Northern California artist has been on a mission to create “honest soulful music”. Elujay’s style is refreshingly unique and accessible, his organic ability to effortlessly vacillate between singing and rapping, stands as the driving force behind his musicality. Elujay’s “velvet vocals” have earned him praise from the likes of Noisey, Billboard, Complex, Beats 1, The Fader, a universally lauded performance on COLORS, as well as a standout feature on Ryan Hemsworth’s latest project “Elsewhere.”
As instant gratification becomes the norm and certainty is worn as armor, Sean McConnell is choosing patience and ambiguity -- especially when it comes to himself. "I think embracing the blurry lines is a sign of getting older and just having more life experience," he says. "It can be healthy to break your own boxes."
Sean is home in Nashville, reflecting on the path he's taken to recording Secondhand Smoke, his 13th album. A cohesive collection of modern folk music, Secondhand Smoke asks provocative questions about how we become who we are, what and whom we love, and the growth, pain, and freedom that come with accepting that some answers might elude us forever.
"The older I get, the more I find that is what it's all about -- that there is no way to answer it all," Sean says. "Being comfortable with mystery is a positive thing in all aspects of our lives. I definitely explore that in these songs."
A grassroots following now hundreds of thousands deep has turned to Sean for that kind of musical exploration for almost 20 years. Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Meat Loaf, Jake Owen, Brothers Osborne, Christina Aguilera, Buddy Miller and more have all recorded his songs -- a dizzying list that spans not just styles, but generations. Success shows no sign of slowing: Sean earned his first no. 1 single on country charts in early 2018 with breakout artist Brett Young's delivery of "Mercy," which the two co-wrote. As a performer, Sean packs listening rooms and quiets unruly bar crowds. His sound -- a warm tenor painting vivid stories over acoustic guitar often cushioned by keys or other strings -- has prompted a diverse range of music scenes from the storied Boston folk community to Texas's defiantly self-sovereign camp to warmly claim Sean as one of their own.
"My payoff is just making the music," Sean says, then smiles. "Everything else is bonus."
At 34 years-old, Sean has the catalog of artists twice his age. He released his first album at just 15, and until his acclaimed eponymous record in 2015, he did it all independently. "Bootstrapping your own career, you get to build at an organic pace that allows you to grow with your music," he says. "It teaches you how most musicians do it. Overnight success is not the rule -- it's the exception. Most of us are doing it the other way."
Sean's first lessons in bootstrapping came from watching his parents, two professional musicians in Massachusetts. "I remember being obsessed with the smallest things, like the gig bag my dad would put all his gear in -- his cables, his capos, and his strings," Sean says. "Everything about music appealed to me. From an early age, I was just taken with it." He picked up guitar and began writing about 10 -- around the same time his family moved from Massachusetts to Georgia. He still remembers the first song he wrote. "It was called 'Paper People,'" he says, with a laugh. "I wrote it when we moved. It was about dealing with those feelings of leaving family and meeting all these people I didn't know." Typical 10-year-old song fodder.
Secondhand Smoke is a stunning portrait of that Argus-eyed little boy, all grown up and grappling with what that entails. Recorded and produced by Sean over two months in his home studio, the album is a bona fide musical rarity: a 12-song set given time to marinate in its artist's often isolated care. Excluding strings and synths, Sean played the instruments on the record. He co-wrote three songs and wrote the rest alone. The result is an intimate look not just at a moment in Sean's life, but at unhurried creativity's potential. "It was an amazingly intoxicating experience," Sean says of the process. "This time around, there was no clock. I could create when the inspiration hit -- it could be two or three in the morning. It felt amazing. Total creative freedom. No middle man, no reason for me not to see every thought through to completion."
Brooding track "I Could Have been an Angel" sets the album's tone: a reimagined 40 days shared by Jesus and the devil, wherein Satan wistfully points to his own promising beginning, shattered. The two set a pattern that is played out between humans next. The song is achingly sad, punctuated by mournful strings and carried by Sean's sublime vocals. "That image in the first verse with Jesus and the devil flows into this bigger picture of how any of us could be anybody else, and how our circumstances dictate who we are and why," Sean says.
Sean has a way of taking familiar stories -- often with biblical roots -- and revealing what they say about all of us now. In Sean's hands, tales that once felt specific, or even narrow and unapproachably religious, unfold into universal longing and exchanges that feel like they were pulled yesterday from our own backyards. Clean and snarling electric guitar kicks off "Rest My Head," as Sean explores compromise to haunting effect. He starts with Judas then turns relentlessly inward. "These are stories that people are familiar with, and they steer the ship in a certain direction, then leave you off at this ocean of possibilities that we didn't plan on the story taking us to," Sean says.
With its easy intelligence, lyrical cadence, and clear vocals dotted by "woo-oohs," "Here We Go" demands comparisons to Paul Simon. "Wrong Side of Town" occupies the same rarified air. Over moody keys, Sean describes unfulfilled hopes born in a place defined by rust. "Greetings from Niagara Falls" explores how lonely following a dream can be. Standout "Shaky Bridges" pokes holes in the illusion of perfection and black-and-white choices. Gospel-tinged harmony singers back Sean's honeyed delivery to create a goosebumps-inducing message that comforts even as it undermines what we think we know.
Distorted and brimming with desperation, "Say Goodbye" picks up on subtle changes that could foreshadow a relationship's end. Featuring elaborate imagery, "The Devil's Ball" reaches for love after rejection. Sweeping "I Don't Want to Know" pleads for more of the same, whether it's real or not, while empathetic "Another Song about a Broken Heart" recalls an ill-fated affair.
Imbued with grace that winsome strings help convey, "Everything That's Good" is a stunning love song, written for Sean's daughter. He calls it out as a favorite, along with the album's title track. Cigarettes lit during rides in a smoky sedan bring a relationship between father and son to life. The song is personal, painful, beautiful, and forgiving.
"Music is a nuanced and multilevel experience," Sean says. "Fewer and fewer people are taking the time to sit down and really listen to a song. I hope people give this record that space, and then just go on that journey -- whatever that journey is, because it's going to be different for everybody. I think that's what music does best."
Boston-born, LA-based pop maverick Sasha Sloan is steadily building up a stockpile of emotionally-rich, left-of-center pop that showcases a massive new talent. The first display of this talent came with last October's ‘Ready Yet’, a deceptively subtle, gently pulsating earworm produced by Diplo associate King Henry, with over 11 million Spotify plays and counting. Now follows the sweetly melancholic new single ‘Normal’, its confessional, catchy chorus is set to become an anthem for introverts everywhere. These two, along with four other tracks, come together to make up Sasha’s debut EP, sad girl, released this spring via RCA Records. “I wanted to put out a blueprint for who I am, because I'm still figuring it out myself,” she says of the EP.
This idea of going with the flow has been there since the start. Growing up in a house that reverberated to an eclectic mix of music – from The Carpenters to Amy Winehouse to Green Day – Sloan started writing songs at the tender age of 10. “I didn't see myself doing anything other than music, because I'm horrible at everything else,” she laughs. “I knew I wanted to be involved in music but I never really knew how to do it so I decided to attend Berklee College of Music.”
A different path to the industry lay ahead though, one that really couldn’t have been predicted. In 2014, Sloan's parents were painting the front of the family home when they daubed the word “dork” in big letters with an arrow pointing up to Sloan's bedroom. Tickled, she posted the picture to Reddit where it went viral and swiftly became the most viewed post on the site. Keen to strike while the iron was hot Sloan posted a Soundcloud link containing three demos (“made mainly so my mum could listen to them”) underneath the post. “It's very not okay to self-promote [on Reddit],” she laughs, “so I got shit on pretty hard and then this music publisher, Steve Lindsey, who had signed Bruno Mars, called me and told me I needed to move to LA. So I left Berklee after six months there and moved to LA, I was 19 and I had no clue what I was doing.” When asked if her parents take full credit, she laughs, “Oh yeah, they'll never let me live it down. For sure.”
Alone in LA, and new on the songwriting circuit, the first year was tough. “I was writing daily and didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. After a year or so, I started gaining momentum and made it to proper studios; from there everything started to happen organically.” Writing sessions started to come and then last fall, and seemingly out of nowhere to the world, Sasha wrote and appeared on tracks with the likes of Kygo (‘This Town’), Odesza (‘Falls’), and King Henry (‘I’ll Be There’). With all three tracks coming out within mere weeks of each other, “it was such perfect timing,” she says. A month later she released her debut single, ‘Ready Yet,’ a song so close to her, it had to stay her own. “I wrote the song about my dad, so I think that was a huge part of why I couldn't have anyone else singing it,” she explains.
So now emerges Sasha Sloan in her own right. For her, storytelling is key, with each song on her debut EP imbued with a kernel of real emotion. It's there in the bittersweet chorus of ‘Normal,’ as she sings, “keep on playing that song that I don't like, I just want to feel normal for the night,” and the string-drenched ‘Fall’ which builds to a crescendo of “I fucked up and now I see it”. Delicate vocals and sparse production on ‘Ready Yet’ highlight the emotional fragility of handling a lapsed relationship, whilst the bubbling electronics of ‘Hurt’ house a lyric about how terrifying falling in love can be, especially when it might not be reciprocated. “I remember these lyrics came out so fast, ‘and I even like you when I’m sober and honestly that’s a first / I freak out every time we get closer cause I’m scared that it’s just gonna hurt.' I guess when it’s real, it’s extra scary.”
Melancholic piano opens the self-admonishing ‘Runaway’, a realization that “every time I fall in love I go and fuck it up right when it gets good” and on the scraped acoustics of ‘Here’, she focuses on the end of a relationship. “It’s when nothing specifically bad happens, but you just wake up one day and don’t feel like you used to. That’s where the line 'sometimes love just disappears and no one knows where it goes, but it ain’t here' comes from. It’s hard hurting someone and, to me, the lyrics in this are what I would write if I had to end my last relationship in a song.”
With over 40 million streams on Spotify already, any other artist might feel the pressure to start thinking about an album already. There's no rush here, however. No grand proclamations; sad girl is the beginning of a steady stream of heartfelt, emotional pop music whose aim is to forge an unbreakable connection. If this is Sasha starting to figure out who she is, it will be worth sticking around to see what makes up the rest of that blueprint.
Rooted in vocal harmonies, acoustic and electric guitar, piano, banjo and an eclectic range of additional instrumentation and soulful arrangements, Beta Radio’s Americana-folk sound is the result of a decade-long collaboration between Ben Mabry and Brent Holloman.
Mabry and Holloman met at summer camp in the North Carolina mountains while on break from high school and immediately formed a musical kinship, bonding over the sounds of another musical duo, Simon and Garfunkel. Throughout high school and college, they found themselves in multiple hard rock and metal bands, an ironic juxtaposition considering the 60’s folk sound that first brought them together. Later, through a cycle of “on again, off again” writing and demoing during and after college, Mabry and Holloman had a collection of songs ready for a studio, and in the winter of 2009 they sat down to record their debut album, Seven Sisters. Seven Sisters was recorded and distributed without label support and enjoyed a grassroots success built largely on the back of internet music services Pandora and Spotify.
Beta Radio’s most recent studio release, Colony of Bees, is a layered and ethereal offering that treads into new territory while at the same time managing to effortlessly keep one foot firmly rooted in the Americana-folk arena that they have called home for many years. The Huffington Post calls Colony of Bees “sonically lovely” and included it in the top ten roundup of their 40 “Best Albums of 2014.”
HÆLOS return as a four-piece with new single, “Buried In The Sand,” and an accompanying video by renowned directors the Sacred Egg. The initial HÆLOS trio comprised of Lotti Benardout, Arthur Delaney, and Dom Goldsmith has expanded with the addition of Daniel Vildósola, now a fulltime member after being part of the HÆLOS touring band. Two-plus years since the release of their debut album, Dust (Matador), “Buried In The Sand” is the first taste of more new music to come via Infectious in 2019.
J.S. Ondara offers a unique take on the American dream on Tales of America, his debut album. Ondara grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, listening to American alt- rock and making up his own songs for as long as he can remember. After discovering the music of Bob Dylan, he moved to Minneapolis in 2013 to pursue
a career in music. There he began making his way in the local music scene, continually writing songs about what he saw, felt and experienced in a place far different from home.
From a stockpile he says is hundreds of songs deep, Ondara chose 11 for Tales of America. They’re captivating tunes built around acoustic guitars and adorned with subtle full-band accompaniment for an openhearted folk-rock feel. He sings in a strong, tuneful voice well-suited to the gorgeous melancholy he expresses on the wistfully lovelorn “Torch Song,” or his steadfast infatuation on “Television Girl.” Ondara sings rueful lyrics in an anguished tone on “Saying Goodbye,” and leaves plenty of room for interpretation on “American Dream,” the first single.
“I knew I wanted a song called ‘American Dream’ on the record, but I didn’t have that song,” Ondara says with a laugh. “I couldn’t nd it. I wrote like twenty songs called ‘American Dream’ before I found the one that ended up being the record.”
His persistence is evident throughout Tales of America, which is indeed a classic American tale. It’s the story, told in song, of an immigrant seeking a new life, who dedicates himself to achieving his vision through hard work and determination.
Sydney-based trio Mansionair made their debut with breakout hit 'Hold Me Down' which made radio waves from the clubs of Australia, over to Paris and across the ocean to Brooklyn. It all began in 2014 when singer Jack Froggatt, who had been playing the local music scene, accepted an invitation to top-line a suite of production beats by producer/guitarist Lachlan Bostock and drummer/producer Alex Nicholls. "Hold Me Down," a mélange of ethereal falsetto and ambient-synth-pop, hit one million views in just two months, brought together the individual talents of each musician and solidified the formation of the three-piece band now known as Mansionair.
Soon after, the band signed to Glassnote Records and were handpicked by genre-bending trio CHVRCHES to open on their headline tour across the USA, UK, and Europe. Mansionair went on to join Alt-J and Florence & The Machine on the road, most recently wrapping up a tour with London Grammar.
At the tail end of 2016, Mansionair released bristling track 'Easier,' which has now reached over 12 million streams, a testament to the fan-base they've created in such a short period of time. While working on their latest offering, the band collaborated with Seattle duo Odesza on their lead single 'Line Of Sight,' which has since climbed Billboard's Alternative and Dance/Electronic charts and has amassed millions of streams.
Their expansive almost cinematic textured production meld Froggatt's intimate, honest lyrics. Stories of longing, hope and letting go meet careening sing-a-long choruses and smooth downtempo ballads, held by Bostock's sleek production and Nicholl's beats. Their collaboration is equal and assured.
Now, their breakout turn for the group, 'Astronaut (Something About Your Love)' is a genre-splitting shot from the soul; as playful as it is a sincere exploration of loneliness and distant affections. The song starts with a suite of otherworldly harmonics, "We shoved a microphone deep inside a piano and recorded all the atmospheric noises that came out," Bostock tells. "Like what I imagined an astronaut felt as if he was looking back at Earth."
It's the juxtaposition between Froggatt's intimate vocal delivery and the geographic stretch of Mansionair's production that makes them so intriguing. Another way to view their compositions might be as micro explorations of the grand internal; miniatures writ large. "I love that stream-of-conscious style of songwriting," Froggatt says. "As though you're sitting in the back of a party on a couch and you're just in your own head, overthinking everything."
Nicholls; rhythms bridge both live and programmed percussion: danceable and unpredictable, his beats draw the listener inward rather than blast out. Bostock describes the group's writing and production style (for the most part, done all on their own) as one in which each member is responsible for his instrument but all have a voice in the whole. "We see each of us a dimension in the band. We're three equal parts," Bostock says.
Not only have Bostock, Nicholls and Froggatt expanded their early chemistry into a self-sufficient writing and recording project, but theirs is also a partnership philosophically built on synergy. "We've grown up through this band and we've seen a lot already," Froggatt explains. "I want people who listen to us to know that even though life can throw punches, you can push back through anything and come out the other side."
Stella Donnelly is a proud, self-proclaimed shit-stirrer. On lead single "Old Man," the biting opener of her electrifying debut album, Beware of the Dogs, she targets the song's titular creep, "Oh are you scared of me old man or are you scared of what I’ll do? You grabbed me with an open hand. The world is grabbing back at you." When something needs to be said, whether it's to an abusive man, a terrible boss, or a clueless significant other, the 26-year old Fremantle, Western Australia-based musician is fearless in telling it like it is. Delivered entirely with a sarcastic wink and a full heart, Beware of the Dogs proves across 13 life-affirming songs the power in sticking up for yourself, your friends, and what's right.
The album showcases an artist totally in command of her voice, able to wield her inviting charm and razor-sharp wit into authentically raw songs. It’s a resounding statement of purpose in recent memory and most importantly, it’s a portrait of Donnelly taking charge. She says, “this album made me feel like I was back in the driver's seat. It was really liberating and grounding to realize that no one can fuck with this except me.”
UpBeat Music & Arts, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), is working to provide all youth the opportunity to be inspired through the arts, offering scholarships to ensure a quality music education for under-resourced students. The UpBeat Student Band Showcase is an opportunity for our talented students to share music with the community in a positive and supportive environment. This performance will feature multiple bands including our After School Matters teen bands and adult band each performing a variety of music. Open to the public.
The story of Ten Fé is a love story, of sorts. For the songwriters at the centre of it – Ben Moorhouse (33) and Leo Duncan (35) – the band is the eventual realisation of two respective careers spent navigating the bumpy terrain of the music industry. Both have been in bands before, some successful, some less so, until in each-other they finally found a musical partnership built on a deeper understanding. As they prepare to release their second album, the pair are reflecting on where they’re at and how they’ve got there.
Leo is from the Black Country. He grew up in Walsall, an industrial town north-west of Birmingham – a place regularly voted “the armpit of England”, he adds, beaming with pride. He describes his household as “Catholic-socialist”, all about inclusion, and steeped in a tradition of folk singing passed down through his Irish family. Ben on the other hand, originally from East London, found his musical feet in school – picking up a guitar, and moving through Britpop into psychedelia and then jazz as he progressed through his teenage years. Separated by 150 miles, the pair both spent their formative years writing songs and playing shows. On leaving school Ben made for the Royal Academy of Music, where he focused on jazz guitar. Leo spent a brief spell in London, before crossing the Irish Sea for Dublin from where his family hail originally, to try and earn a living from music there.
Their first meeting came about in 2005 through a mutual friend who was also studying at the RAM. “It was a musician’s party,” Ben remembers. “People were jamming and we started playing an old rock and roll song on stage together.” While this meeting left an impression on them both, it wasn’t until 2008, while Ben was beginning to enjoy success playing bass in indie outfit Golden Silvers, that the pair reconnected and decided to try their luck busking as a duo. It’s a decision that has come to define their relationship. During the past decade the pair have spent countless hours crammed onto the District Line during rush hour, dodging the police; being handed punches, £50 notes and everything in between. As respective bands came and went, the nights spent living under the city’s fingernails, trying to make ends meet, remained a constant. In this respect, busking is integral to understanding Ten Fé: who they are and where they’ve come from. “There’s a sense of the trenches,” Leo explains. “That’s how this band was formed.”
In 2012 Ben joined Leo’s then band Real Fur, and it wasn’t long before the two of them began hanging around after rehearsals, trying out songs they’d been writing that didn’t fit their current outfit. They spend hours listening to the Cure, watching old videos of Springsteen live on Youtube, both burning with a desire to write a simpler sort of song. “We hadn’t purposely set out to start a new band,” Ben stresses, “but it became something different of its own accord.”
“It was a bit like being married and having an affair,” Leo agrees with a grin.
It didn’t take long for the affair to consume the marriage, and the pair went it alone, initially as Santa Fe, then just Fé, until finally settling on Ten Fé. Between busking and tutoring nascent musicians, they wrote songs in each-other’s bedrooms, and eventually in 2015 started releasing music. After relocating to the thriving artistic streets of Berlin to begin work on an LP, their debut album Hit the Light arrived in early-2017. Perhaps indicative of the 15-plus-years they’d spent working towards this point, it was a record of stadium-sized ambition. Anthems such as “Elodie”, or the pounding psychedelia of “Twist Your Arm”, demonstrated the pair’s near faultless understanding of the pop song – songs in turn sent stratospheric by M83 producer Ewan Pearson. It was a statement of intent Leo puts down to the “explosion of relief” that they were finally working with each-other. “We wanted to celebrate that.”
Hit the Light received widespread acclaim, with comparisons to Britain’s Madchester scene of the late 80s and early 90s and Springsteen-esque Americana. It struck a chord, enjoying in excess of 30 million streams on Spotify and inspiring sold out shows in the UK, America, and Europe. An EP of remixes that followed soon after, featuring reworks from electronic heavyweights like UNKLE, Roman Flügel, and Lindstrom, further showcased the diversity and malleability of the duo’s songs.
Playing the record live meant finding a band, and while the duo initially backed the idea of touring with session musicians, they quickly realised they needed to be surrounded by people as passionate about Ten Fé as they were. First they called on Rob Shipley to play bass, a chef and a childhood friend of Leo’s from Walsall. He was soon joined by another old school friend, Johnny Drain, doctor of food chemistry, on keys. The complement was completed by Alex Hammond, also from the Midlands, on drums. Far from being background musicians, the expanded Ten Fé family have become the band, allowing Ben and Leo to fully realise their songs surrounded by musicians they trust implicitly. It’s a lineup that also leaves Ben as the only Southerner in the unit, although Leo is quick to confirm he’s been sworn in as an “honorary Brummie”.
The pair felt a renewed confidence when it came to writing a follow-up. They set up shop in a vacant driving licence office in Walthamstow. Rented as part of a Guardian Scheme, the unconventional headquarters quickly became the site of all sorts of unexpected and unruly behaviour. Leo remembers vividly writing new material behind a one-way pane of reflective glass that faced the building’s car park, which allowed the band to observe the comings and goings of questionable characters who gathered there, day and night. “It was surreal,” Leo nods, “but it was totally our space.”
Writing sessions were fruitful but it took time to produce anything of the standard Ben and Leo had set themselves. Then, like a bolt from the blue, in the space of a month they wrote half the album: “No Night Lasts Forever”, “Not Tonight”, “Isn’t Ever a Day”, “Won’t Happen”, “Caught on the Inside” and “Echo Park”. Along with the rest of the band, they took their collection of songs to Oslo where they worked with producer Cristian Engfelt on the bulk of the collection, before returning to work with London-based Luke Smith (Foals, Depeche Mode, Petite Noir, Anna of the North) to complete it as a duo. Finding a sweet spot somewhere between the woozy drawl of War on Drugs and the taut melodrama of Fleetwood Mac, they focused their sound into something distinctly Ten Fé.
The resultant record is a poignant, uplifting meditation on everything that’s brought them to this point, and all they’ve left behind in getting there. An early standout, “Won’t Happen” bounces with a lithe groove that disguises a resigned, almost bitter edge, where “No Night Lasts Forever” finds pop perfection in altogether more dreamy territory, carrying longing and optimism in equal measure on a wave of blushing synths. “We had a big debate about whether that’s an optimistic or a pessimistic statement,” Leo laughs, when discussing the latter song’s title. It’s impossible to miss the sting of regret and passing time that colours tracks like “Not Tonight” and “Isn’t Ever a Day”, yet their ear for an infectious melody elevates the sentiment above ever feeling morose.
Take “Superrich”, a gently purring slice of pop that on a cursory first-listen seems laced with political imagery, yet in fact masks a melancholic reflection on being careful what you wish for. In fact, Leo considers the song’s refrain – “Heaven ain’t the place you thought it would be” – as emblematic of the entire record. “I didn’t think the first time we would be on Radio 1 I’d still be busking on the District line. That’s what ‘Superrich’ and the album is all about.”
As with their first album, the duo share vocal duties 50/50 – a split that reflects their division of labour as songwriters. “We never sit down with a blank piece of paper,” Leo explains. “It’s always: show me yours and I’ll show you mine. To me that’s true collaboration.” This exchange of ideas is embodied perfectly in single “Not Tonight”, which was written by Ben. The pair knew they were onto a winner with the song, but it took time to draw the lyrics out. They worked on it almost every day for two months, line by line, word by word, until they got it right. “There are about three unreleased versions of that song,” Ben adds, smiling.
What their second album adds up to is a record about time – the time it takes, the time you’ll never get back, and the times still to come – from a band with a deep appreciation of taking the rough with the smooth. From avoiding major labels, calling on their closest friends to join the band, to recording in the belly of an abandoned office in Walthamstow, the journey to its completion has been about stripping away the distractions and being truthful to themselves. “I think we realised that we need to be real about it,” Ben muses, reflecting on the path they’ve taken to making this album.
After everything, Ben and Leo have finally stopped chasing other people’s dreams and brought it back to a simple connection that is unique to the two of them. Translated into English, Ten Fé is the Spanish for “have faith”. The simple, two syllable motto is the perfect moniker for the pair of songwriters at its core – a band who’ve learnt to trust each-other, and know the rest will follow.
What It Is
The chorus to the title track on the new Hayes Carll album, What It Is, is a manifesto.
What it was is gone forever / What it could be God only knows.
What it is is right here in front of me / and I’m not letting go.
He’s embracing the moment. Leaving the past where it belongs, accepting there’s no way to know what’s ahead, and challenging himself to be present in both love and life. It’s heady stuff. It also rocks.
With a career full of critical acclaim and popular success, Carll could’ve played it safe on this, his sixth record, but he didn’t. The result is a musically ambitious and lyrically deep statement of an artist in his creative prime.
Hayes Carll’s list of accomplishments is long. His third album, 2008’s Trouble In Mind, earned him an Americana Music Association Award for Song of the Year (for “She Left Me for Jesus”). The follow-up, KMAG YOYO was the most played album on the Americana Chart in 2011 and spawned covers by artists as varied as Hard Working Americans and Lee Ann Womack, whose version of “Chances Are” garnered Carll a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. 2016’s Lovers and Leavers swept the Austin Music Awards, and was his fourth record in a row to reach #1 on the Americana Airplay chart. Kelly Willis and Kenny Chesney have chosen to record his songs and his television appearances include The Tonight Show, Austin City Limits, and Later w/Jools Holland. Carll is the rare artist who can rock a packed dancehall one night and hold a listening room at rapt attention the next.
“Repeating myself creatively would ultimately leave me empty. Covering new ground, exploring, and taking chances gives me juice and keeps me interested.”
He knew he wanted to find the next level. On What It Is, he clearly has.
It wasn’t necessarily easy to get there. Carll’s last release, 2016’s Lovers and Leavers was an artistic and commercial risk — a bold move which eschewed the tempo and humor of much of his previous work. The record revealed a more serious singer-songwriter dealing with more serious subjects — divorce, new love in the middle of life, parenting, the worth of work. What It Is finds him now on the other side, revived and happy, but resolute — no longer under the impression that any of it comes for free.
“I want to dig in so this life doesn’t just pass me by. The more engaged I am the more meaning it all has. I want that to be reflected in the work.”
And meaning there is. Carll sings “but I try because I want to,” on the album’s opening track, “None’Ya.” He’s not looking back lamenting love lost, rather, finding joy and purpose in the one he’s got and hanging on to the woman who sometimes leaves him delightedly scratching his head. “If I May Be So Bold,” finds him standing on similar ground — lyrically taking on the challenge of participating fully in life rather than discontentedly letting life happen.
Bold enough to not surrender bold enough to give a damn
Bold enough to keep on going or to stay right where I am
There’s a whole world out there waiting full of stories to be told
I’ll heed the call and tell’em all if I may be so bold
There’s no wishy washy here and he’s not on the sidelines. In fact, he’s neck-deep in life. On the rambunctious, fiddle-punctuated, “Times Like These,” he laments political division in America while delivering a rapid-fire plea to “do my labor, love my girl, and help my neighbor, while keeping all my joie de vivre.” Carll’s signature cleverness and aptitude for so-personal-you-might-miss-it political commentary is as strong as ever. The stark, “Fragile Men,” co-written with singer-songwriter Lolo, uses humor and dripping sarcasm to examine his gender’s resistance to change in less than three minutes of string-laden, almost Jacques Brel invoking drama. It’s new musical territory for Carll, and the result is powerful. His voice is strong and resonant on these songs, and it’s thrilling to hear him use it with a new authority. He is alternately commanding and tender, yet always soulful.
Carll returned to trusted producer Brad Jones (producer of 2008’s Trouble in Mind and 2011’s KMAG YOYO) and Alex the Great Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, to record What It Is, and recruited singer-songwriter, author, and fiancee Allison Moorer as co-producer. The production is adventurous while keeping the focus on the singer and his songs and providing a path for him to go where he wants to go. Where that is, is forward.
That’s evident in the songwriting. Carll continues to hone his singular voice, but is also a flexible co-writer. Matraca Berg, Charlie Mars, Adam Landry, and Moorer have co-writing credits here, but it was Moorer’s inspiration that provided the largest impact.
“On the songwriting front she’s just a pro. She helps me cut through the noise and she does it with wit and style.”
Carll’s own wit and style has never been more evident. Whether it’s with the put-you-in-picture detail of, “Beautiful Thing,” the not quite sheepish enough, dude-esque defense of dishonesty in, “Things You Don’t Wanna Know,” or the strong as a tree trunk declaration of love on, “I Will Stay,” he displays an increasing command of his poetic lexicon.
Writers most often wrestle with experience and expectations, either romanticizing the past or telling us how good it’s going to be when they get where they’re going. What It Is is a record that is rooted solidly in the present, revealing an artist in the emotional and intellectual here and now.
Every story begins somewhere. Ours began in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. We were originally a group of strangers who found each other through a deep love for music & story telling. Over the years we have become a family, writing not just our music together, but our lives. Our sights are set on being students of story with one another and loving people through our craft.
Through our music, we explore the questions that haunt us, the pain that marks us, and the hope that redefines everything for us. We invite you into the conversation, build with us, find your place at the table.
Just last year, from his mother’s basement in Detroit, then 21 year old Choker released his debut album, Peak. This standout project got the attention of Pigeons & Planes, calling it “one of the most exciting[releases] of the year”. The self-produced album is a display of Choker’s crazy level of talent and wandering imagination, fueled by his eclectic taste and quest for mood-setting. His inadvertent mysterious allure comes undone in song. Music allows Choker to transform and peel back the layers that protect him from chaos and distraction.
Honeybloom, the follow up released in August, scores the film about your every twirling emotion, yet you've never seen it. Rarely placing hooks, each song is still memorable, and each feeling, just as true as the last. It’s whimsical, reckless and free. Honeybloom is an innocent walk through pure self-realization. Choker paints vivid images through tone, melody and lyrics, and pairs with top of the line producers to get the job done.
With inspirations ranging from alternative R&B to Japanese math-rock bands and his gifted ability to express through music, fashion and an overall sense of creativity layers Choker with tons of starpower and longevity.
Jesse Clasen and Jacob Michael are ready to get inside of your minds. The duo call themselves Foreign Air and are a different breed of cat from all the other acts that are out there.
The two currently split their time between New York (Clasen) and Washington DC (Michael) – initially establishing their friendship while playing in different bands. “One night, I watched Jesse perform and I was really intrigued by his voice and some of the stuff he was doing. We kept in touch and got to know each other over the years. We became really good friends.” Jesse followed up by saying, “With Jacob, we played just one show and it went really well. We kept in contact with each other. Over the years, it just developed into a friendship. We shared music online through Dropbox. Whenever I was in D.C. playing with different bands, he would come and hang out. Whenever he was around my area we would go to shows together. Sleep on each other’s couches. This project just kind of happened. I don’t think it was planned at all.”
Coming together as Foreign Air has been a life-changing experience for the duo. Jacob notes, “For me personally, putting out the first song ‘Free Animal’ on SoundCloud has changed my life in a really big way. Prior to that, I came from more of a live music background. Playing different live music instruments. We are into rock music and hip hop. A lot of different genres that you wouldn’t think go together. Jesse adds, “This project has been a lot about using new tools and really diving into it. We are taking that whole mindset of songwriting from more of the ‘90s hip hop that we grew up listening to as ‘80s babies. Instead of finding records to sample, we are writing songs like we have always done with real drums, guitars and bass. Then we try to figure out how to chop it up and put them across pads and pitch them differently and see how a song can completely change. This is a new world for both of us.”
The entire catalogue of music the duo have created together, including that first song “Free Animal” all the way through their most recent release “Turning”, has been streamed over 50 million times on Spotify and Apple. The music has soundtracked global advertising campaigns for Samsung, Nike, Vodafone, Microsoft and many other brands in addition to television features on Showtime, ABC, TNT, Vice and Fox. While it’s difficult to nail down the exact genre, Billboard Magazine calls the music “Transcendent Indie-Rock-Meets-Electronica with a penchant for forceful guitars and haunting vocals”.
Jesse goes on to mention “Getting together in a room in my house and ironing out details and rearranging things. Then we took a hard dive all over the place from New York to LA to Washington D.C. to different studios owned by my friends. Different situations where we would look around the room and see what we could add to the songs. In some places it would be taking out a midi piano and replacing with a real grand piano that might have been in that specific room. Just trying to tie it all together with certain sounds. I think that might be something only we can hear. We started in the bedroom and took it around the country to see how it could develop. We would revert back if we didn’t like where it went. It was a very open process where we tried to make the best song that we can.” The party is only getting started for the guys as they have their sights focused on the road and new music.
Rich, brilliant, and jaw-droppingly handsome. The young Americans behind James Supercave don’t go to Church, they are the church. Bound by a quest to unf**k the world whilst maximizing personal burrito consumption, the trio has surrendered their lives to the musical overlords, channeling sonic visions and summoning for all within earshot the spiritual escape hatch from their terrestrial monotony. Use the Supercave at your own risk. Batteries not included.
Born and raised in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, identical twin brothers Amiri and Rahiem Taylor do not make the type of music that their borough of origin is usually associated with. Growing up surrounded by hip hop culture and all it's glory, the Taylor brothers had more exposure in their house to pop, funk and soul music from the 60's, 70's and 80's. When they began writing songs in high school, they taught themselves how to play guitar and write songs based off of the Beatles. After high school they formed Blac Rabbit, bringing in former metal and church drummer Patrick Jones, followed by resident shredder Josh Lugo on bass (and sometimes guitar) to play their original psychedelic rock tunes. In order to make some pocket money, Rah and Amiri decided to start performing music on the NYC subway. They soon discovered that people really enjoy hearing them sing Beatles songs, so they kept doing that, slowly building a reputation around the city while also performing their original material at some of New York's best venues for up and coming acts. They maintain that sort of dual life to this day. On December 23rd, 2017, the band release their debut self-titled EP, which was also self recorded and self mixed. On January 26th, 2018, they were filmed performing Beatles songs on the train by New York Nico, the self proclaimed "Unofficial talent scout of New York City," who posted the video to his 121K followers on Instagram. Since then, the band has seen their fan base increase significantly and will be releasing new music, and hitting the road in 2019.
The Wild Reeds’ sound is highlighted by the interweaving vocal harmonies of three phenomenally talented front-women - Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva and Mackenzie Howe - who swap lead vocal duties and shuffle between an array of acoustic and electric instruments throughout the set. They are backed by a rhythm section of Nick Jones (drums) and Nick Phakpiseth (bass).
Each with their own style, The Wild Reeds' three songwriters make music that is dynamic and unpredictable. They write lyrics and melodies with the thoughtfulness of seasoned folk artists, and perform with the reckless enthusiasm of a young punk band in a garage. Warm acoustic songs and harmonium pump organ seamlessly give way to fuzzed-out shredding and guitar distortion.
With the upcoming release of 'The World We Built' on April 7, the Los Angeles-based quintet continues a national breakthrough that has been rapidly growing since the release of their EP ‘Best Wishes’ this summer. NPR Music critic Bob Boilen championed the band, saying “great singers aren’t easy to come by, so finding three in one band is something special." The New York Times praised their live show, saying “the communal experience was amazing,” while KCRW (Los Angeles) called them “top-notch vocalists."
The first single from the new album, "Only Songs," is catching the attention of radio programmers around the country, like John Richards of KEXP (Seattle), who after listening to the track declared, "we just decided this is the best song ever."
"Only Songs” was written by Howe, and highlights her rock-centric approach, inspired by the '60s and '70s rock songs her mother raised her on. "It's about the feeling that music gives you," she told NPR in an interview. "There's a freedom in music found nowhere else and it doesn't discriminate, it's in the garage and the cathedral."
Lee penned the second song on the album, "Fall To Sleep," a lament to her own mental health under the strains of both a nine-to-five job and the extremes of a touring musician's life. True to her roots in folk music, it begins on a soft note, as a dreamy acoustic ballad, before taking a slightly darker turn, breaking into distorted guitar parts and a Pixies-esque chorus.
Silva's contemplative, complex lyrical approach is best represented on the anthemic standout track "Capable." When asked to describe her songwriting style, she explains, "lately, my songs have been like stories with high highs and low lows - sort of like yelling at someone and then whispering an apology."
Despite their distinct viewpoints, each songwriter complements the next, with each song building on the anticipation created by the last. "What brings us together is the three part vocal harmony," says Howe. "When we're all singing together, it really becomes one unique voice."
The band takes a humble approach to their recent success. "I think that when you write earnestly and honestly, people will relate," says Silva. "But there are lots of bands who do that and don't receive any attention, so I think any success we've had must just be pure luck."
When watching them perform live, it quickly becomes obvious that luck has nothing to do with it. Each of The Wild Reeds is more than talented enough to front their own band, but when all three are singing at once in harmony, their music reaches its emotional apex.
"I don't think that we have figured out how to detach from our emotions yet. We take it all on stage. The voice is such a personal and vulnerable instrument," says Lee. "We aren't as concerned with sounding 'pretty' as we are with sounding real. Everything we do is very raw and I think that's why people tend to find comradery in our lyrics."
Recreating that feeling in a studio environment is an ambitious task. Recorded by producer Peter Katis (The National, Interpol, Local Natives) at Tarquin Studios in Connecticut, 'The World We Built' captures it perfectly, and elevates their sound to a whole new level.
"Our sound has evolved as we have evolved as people. We've grown to love a lot of records on the road, sharing music with each other during the hours we spend in the van, which has broadened and united our taste," says Howe. "We've also grown as musicians and it's allowed us to explore new instruments and sounds. This new record is a much more accurate depiction of what we sound like live. It's got more punch and depth."
Along with musical growth, the content of their songwriting has changed with the band's life experiences since they started out. "The songs on the album were written over the last three years, and it's apparent that we are more empowered now as women," says Howe. "The title 'The World We Built' refers to the social constructs we've had to face during the last three years touring as a female fronted band. A lot of these songs illustrate our disillusionment with the myths we've been taught in a patriarchal society, and how we've experienced them in different aspects of our lives - love, success, self esteem, etc."
"As we got older and started to witness the world from a different perspective, we started to write about human issues in a different light," explains Lee. "It's so easy to write about love when you're young because that's the only thing you have to worry about. Now we have a lot of other things in life to occupy our thoughts and songwriting, like experiencing the struggle and exhaustion from following your dream, coming of age, and doubt."
"Releasing music and touring the country have been amazing and eye-opening experiences," says Silva. "I'm still majorly pumped and grateful that I get to play music for people every day."
That optimism resonates with audiences. When they perform live, their passion is infectious. They look like artists living out their dream on stage - the kind of band you idolized as a kid, and as an adult, the kind of band that reminds you why you loved music in the first place.
"Our live show has been how we've gained most of our fans. We've learned that people are just looking for authenticity. If we're vulnerable, people feel it," says Howe. "We always want to put on a show that has energy and leaves peoples feeling more hopeful than when they arrived."
'The World We Built' will be released April 7 via Dualtone Records, an Entertainment One company.
Blood Harmony. Whether it’s The Beach Boys, Bee Gees or First Aid Kit, that sibling vocal blend is the secret sauce in some of the most spine-tingling moments in popular music. The Cactus Blossoms – Minneapolis-based brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey – offer compelling evidence that this tradition is alive and well, with a deceptively unadorned musical approach that offers “creative turns of phrase, gorgeous harmonies, and an ageless sound” (NPR All Things Considered), not to mention spine tingles aplenty. Their 2016 debut You’re Dreaming, a stunning and transporting collection of original songs, earned high praise from Rolling Stone and Vice Noisey, tour stints with Kacey Musgraves and Lucius, and a perfectly cast performance on the third season of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Now their unlikely rise continues with new album Easy Way, to be released on their own label Walkie Talkie Records.
While many bands would have been content to stick with the winning formula of their debut, the Blossoms refused to repeat themselves. If You’re Dreaming celebrated their vintage country and rock influences, Easy Way reveals a songwriting style that has changed, evolved, and gotten more modern. Dan Auerbach, another artist who knows from bedrock influences, co-wrote two songs on the album. “Dan’s love for songwriting was inspiring, just the kick in the pants we needed to start writing again after being on the road,” says Page.
The brothers’ decision to produce the new album themselves no doubt led to the new sound. “We wanted the freedom to experiment with our own weird ideas,” says Jack, “We used to joke that the working title album should be Expensive Demos.” As they crisscrossed the nation on tour, the brothers would stop through Alex Hall’s Reliable Recorders studio in Chicago to chase the new sound they were after. The result joins together what would otherwise be distant corners of the American songbook. Both the traditional twang of Chicago pedal steel guitarist Joel Paterson (Devil in a Woodpile, The Western Elstons) and the primal wail of free jazz saxophonist Michael Lewis (Bon Iver, Andrew Bird) are at home on the album. Just as they did with their debut, the brothers found a voice all their own.
Three-time grammy nominee Justin Roberts and The No Naptime Players join Chicago kid celebrity Mr. Dave for a dynamic morning of kids music sure to entertain the young and young at heart. Teaming up for the first time, these two Chicago main stays will play individual sets giving you an unforgettable experience your family won't forget.
Imbued with themes of love, learning, positivity, and activity, Mr. Dave revs up the fun-o-meter during his live band shows! Known for creating unbeatable beats, melodic elements and poetic rhymes, he’ll inspire movement from the youngest to the oldest members of the family. Mr. Dave’s original songs include messages around diversity, safety and acceptance plus, the catchy tunes mean you and your kids will listen to them over and over again.
Justin Roberts and The Not Ready for Naptime Players
“Roberts continues to craft masterpieces in miniature, equivalent to A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh.” — NPR
“Hands down the best songwriter in the genre.” — USA Today
“Some of the most inspired and intelligent kids lyrics ever.” — Amazon
Three-time GRAMMY Nominated Justin Roberts is truly one of the all-stars of the indie family music scene. For nearly 20 years, Roberts has been crafting songs for kids and parents that navigate the joys and sorrows of growing up. Along with his band, The Not Ready for Naptime Players, they have travelled the globe, from Hong Kong to New York, and Miami to Seattle.
Lemonade is Justin's 13th album for families and it contains 12 new original songs. It's the musical equivalent of an impromptu Lemonade stand popping up in the summer heat. Featuring dynamic performances by Chicago superstars Robbie Fulks on lead acoustic guitar and banjo, Gerald Dowd on cardboard boxes, paint cans, salt shakers, and other homemade percussion, and John Abbey on upright bass, Lemonade is like no other Justin Roberts recording. The sparse sounds are dotted with ukulele, piano, cello, fiddle, marimba, harpsichord, and lovely harmonies by Nora O’Connor (Neko Case, Decemberists), Anna Jacobson, Robbie Fulks, Liam Davis, and Gerald Dowd. Roberts began his music career in the 90s, performing in the Minneapolis-based indie-folk band Pimentos for Gus. He took a day job as a Montessori preschool teacher and it wasn't long before Justin began writing and singing songs for a new generation of fans: his students. The kids immediately responded and inspired Justin to record some of his new songs and send them out to a few friends for Christmas. One of the gift recipients was Liam Davis, a college pal and music producer, who suggested that they record the songs professionally.
In 1997, Justin released his first CD, Great Big Sun, and the critics took note. Justin's music was soon being compared to everyone from Elvis Costello and Fountains of Wayne to Paul Simon and Nick Lowe. So Justin hit the road full time doing what he loves most: playing music for appreciative crowds. Kiddie mosh pits broke out, word spread and shows started selling out.
Justin has performed in front of millions of people on The Today Show, he's been featured on Nick Jr. TV, and his song "Get Me Some Glasses" was featured on a World Series broadcast. He’s received three GRAMMY nominations, for Jungle Gym in 2011, Recess in 2013, and Lemonade in 2018.
Recent appearances include performances at NYC's New Victory Theater, DC's Wolf Trap, LA's Getty Museum, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and Chicago's Ravinia. In addition to his 13 albums, in 2014 Justin wrote and recorded the cast album for his first musical. Based on Hansel & Gretel, the show debuted to rave reviews on Broadway in Chicago with the Emerald City Theatre and toured the country in 2017 with the LA based Valley Performing Arts Center. Roberts is also the proud author of two picture books released by Putnam, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade and The Great Henry Hopendower, with two more books on the way.
For more information, please visit: www.justinrobertsmusic.com
Based out of Fort Worth, Texas, The Unlikely Candidates are an indie rock band initially formed as an acoustic duo by childhood friends Kyle Morris and Cole Male in 2008. Eventually expanding the lineup to include guitarist Brenton Carney, bassist Jared Hornbeek, and drummer Kevin Goddard, the band was also able to expand its sound in bigger, more sweeping directions. In 2013, the band signed on with major-label Atlantic and released their debut EP, Follow My Feet. In early 2016, the Unlikely Candidates returned with a hooky new single in “You Love Could Start a War,” which made a strong showing on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
One listen and it’s immediately clear that The Brevet have undergone a dramatic evolution on their explosive, ambitious new album, LEGS. Synthesizing the raucous energy of their live show with sonic precision of their extensive studio history, the collection is the California five-piece’s most deeply personal and lyrically sophisticated yet, tackling perception and identity in the digital age with both subtle nuance and blunt force. The songs remain as cinematic as ever, full of rousing choruses and sing-along hooks, but they carry more weight here, propelled inexorably forward by thunderous percussion and blazing electric guitars that blend rock and roll snarl with R&B swagger.
The Brevet’s roots stretch back to college, when frontman Aric Chase Damm first began writing scores for student films and discovered he had a knack for crafting the kind of evocative music that yields unforgettable on-screen moments. Those early songs led to a licensing deal, and tracks from the band’s two independent albums (2013’s Battle of the Heart and 2017’s American Novel) would go on to be featured in a wide variety of films and television shows in addition to racking up more than nine million streams on Spotify.
With all of The Brevet’s success on-screen and online, the group—Damm, drummer David Aguiar, guitarist John Kingsley, and bassist Julian Johnson—was more than ready to get out of the studio and onto the stage. Over the course of the last year, they hit the road for the most intense touring of their career, performing a slew of headline shows alongside support dates with Magic Giant and festival appearances from BottleRock to Firefly.
Recorded at the band’s own studio in their native Orange County, California, LEGS insists on a relentless optimism, a defiant belief in the power of positivity in the face of darkness and doubt. The album’s title actually stands for “Like Every Great Story,” and the record indeed contains all the elements of any memorable tale: struggle and success, tension and release, conflict and resolution. Every great story has a hero, after all, and heroes never give up, even when the going gets tough. That’s what The Brevet is all about.
No one ever talks about the fourth record.
We’ve all heard plenty about the astonishing debut and the “difficult” sophomore release. But let’s pause for a moment to consider the role of album four in rock and roll history. A few key examples: Radiohead – Kid A, R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant, Talking Heads – Remain in Light, Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, David Bowie – Hunky Dory … you see where we’re going with this. Album four is an opportunity for artists to reinvent, and frequently revitalize, themselves. The willingness to abandon familiar work habits and signature sounds can be risky, but it’s often the difference between a safe, predictable career and a bold transformation that signals the beginning (to quote another pretty amazing fourth LP) of a new age for artist and audience alike.
When it came time to make the fourth Telekinesis album, drummer/songwriter/principal architect Michael Lerner found himself in a predicament that will sound familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in the lore of rock bands. In just under five years, he had released three fantastic records— Telekinesis! (2009), 12 Desperate Straight Lines (2011), and Dormarion (2013)—each more ambitious than the last. He had toured all over the world, shared stages with great bands (Death Cab for Cutie, Portugal. The Man, Aimee Mann and Ted Leo’s The Both), and enthralled fans of his infectious, ebullient power pop. Newly married and happily ensconced in the home studio he’d assembled in his West Seattle basement, Lerner found himself asking the question that has haunted modestly successful bands down the ages: What do you do after the rock and roll dreams you had when you were 19 have come true? The obvious answer was to make another Telekinesis record—that was his job, after all, and he was grateful for it. So he got to work. It didn’t go well. At least not at first.
“I went down to the basement,” Lerner recalls, “and started playing the same chords I always play… I just felt like I’d exhausted everything I knew. I was not excited at all. I just could not make another power-pop album.”
He sought inspiration in music that bore little relation to the familiar Telekinesis sound, and soon found it in the swooning, synth-driven pop of early ’80s UK bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Glasgow’s The Blue Nile (whose 1982 debut album, A Walk Across the Rooftops, Lerner had been given by Merge honcho Mac McCaughan), as well as more up-tempo numbers like Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s 1977 disco master class “I Feel Love” and, even further afield, Drake’s 2013 summer jam “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Though Lerner is a drummer with a strong affinity for loud electric guitars, he found himself irresistibly attracted to the powerful atmospheres stirred up by the gorgeously inorganic sounds and simple arrangements of these wildly disparate inspirations. A new idea began to take shape, as did a somewhat obsessive collection of old synthesizers and drum machines.
Lerner dedicated himself to learning the intricacies of antiquated keyboards with names like the Roland JX-10 (the very model Angelo Badalamenti used to com-pose the music for Twin Peaks), the Teenage Engineering OP-1, the Moog Sub Phatty, the Elektron Octatrack, and even a Speak & Spell. “If you buy a guitar,” observes Lerner, “people always say ‘oh, there’s a song in that guitar.’ That’s how it was for every piece of equipment I acquired over the last two years.” Finding the songs was one thing; making sense of the elaborate technical requirements that would allow him to sync the multiple generations of machinery with digital recording software was another. There were plenty of easier ways to go about the process, sending MIDI versions of the vintage sounds and letting a computer do the heavy lifting, but that would have missed the point. There was joy in getting his hands dirty; part of the process was to invent the process. It took months of diligent effort (“pulling my hair out, for real”), but when the literal and figurative dust settled, what emerged looked and sounded like a legitimate breakthrough. The previous three Telekinesis LPs had been recorded fast, on tape, in professional studios with accomplished producers—Chris Walla on the first two, Jim Eno on the third—at the helm. This new one had been painstakingly assembled by Lerner alone, working without a map, using an entirely unfamiliar palette of sounds, and discovering an entirely different tonal vocabulary in the process. And though the total running time is a tidy 33 minutes, it had taken what seemed like forever to get there (hence the album title).
And yet, for all the new methodology and instrumentation, the DNA of Ad Infinitum is oddly familiar. The melodic hooks that have endeared Telekinesis to the world of pop music aficionados are flagrantly front and center. The pinging pong of an instrumental figure on album opener “Falling (In Dreams)” sounds almost like a permission slip for Lerner to let loose with a soaring head voice in the chorus. It’s a chilling entrance to an album that soon veers into the much faster new-wave thrills of “Sylvia,” the ironically technology-averse retrofuturism of “In a Future World” (which sounds like the missing link between Speak & Spell-era Depeche Mode and the birth of Erasure), and onward. The hyperactive gem “Courtesy Phone” proves that no matter how many stylistic obstacles he places in his own path, Lerner’s knack for perfect power pop is irrepressible. But the high- energy dance rhythms of “It’s Not Yr Fault” and the gorgeous, McCartney II-esque polyphony of “Ad Infinitum Pt. 1” are totally unprecedented in the Telekinesis oeuvre. The whole album is a relentless marriage of old and new, memory and imagination, deconstruction and rediscovery.
While artists like M83 and Blood Orange (among many, many others) have made fruitful use of vintage sounds and production techniques in recent years, Ad Infinitum is a different animal. It’s less like a time capsule and more like a time machine. In the movie version of the story, Lerner would stumble on his way down the stairs, hit his head, and wake up in 1983, and the only way he could get back to the present day would be to make a record using available instruments. Then he’d wake in 2015 to discover he’d been in his basement studio all along. And the record he’d made in that strange dream state would turn out to be Ad Infinitum, the most ambitious and assured Telekinesis release to date.
The Cracked Podcast is facts, jokes, and more from the Internet’s leading comedy website, taped in studio at Earwolf and live at L.A.'s UCB Sunset Theatre. This April, Cracked.com and Earwolf are proud to present The Cracked Podcast LIVE in the Midwest for the first time ever. Intrepid host Alex Schmidt will bring together comedians, experts, and more wonderful guests for one-night-only hilarious shows in Chicago IL and St. Paul MN, all to celebrate the awesome truth that being alive is more interesting than people think it is.
We’re 5 best friends from AZ. We love the desert, we love our city, its people, and we love each other. We love long drives, early mornings, late nights, dive bars, carne asada Tacos at 3 am, dirty jokes, and asking each other what we think about things. We’re just as likely to get down on Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan as we are Van Halen, and Kendrick Lamar. We love dogs, we love our van, we love playing together, and we love you – it’s true. For the past few years, we’ve pretty much always been on tour, hitting the road on our own, with fellow bands, and have been lucky enough to open for a few heroes. From living rooms and basement clubs, to theaters and arenas, we just love playing shows, and being on the road.
Our fans are our greatest priority – we love them, we really do, and we do our best to insure them that we can’t do this without them. Our message is one of acceptance, not in a circle sitting kum-baya bullshit way, but in a way of acknowledging that we all have shit we regret, we all have passions and opinions, and it’s up to all of us to filter through our flaws and our regrets to find ourselves and love one another. Don’t judge other people, and care about everybody, like EVERYBODY everybody. Our shows are rowdy, you’ll break down your walls and realize you’re not in this alone. We hope you come to a show, make our songs a part of your story, and live the best fucking life you can.
It really feels like coloring outside of the lines. For as much as the music of Old Sea Brigade remains rooted in Americana, indie, country, rock, and ambient soundscapes, it blurs and breaks barriers, tossing and turning between analog cinematic flourishes and provocative lyricism based on hard-won wisdom. Amidst this mélange of textures, Atlanta-born and Nashville-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Ben Cramer allows the emotion to resound loudest on his full-length debut, Ode To A Friend [Nettwerk].
“I tried to put myself into my own bubble,” he explains. “I chose to do something that felt like me. It’s the best representation of my songwriting and what I grew up loving about music. I hope you can pull your own meaning from it.”
He’s been encouraging audiences to do just that since first emerging in 2015. After the breakup of his last band, he wound up back in Atlanta at his parents’ house with “no idea what to do.” So, he figured it out.
The artist combed through his personal sonic archives, found inspiration, and started feverishly writing. Soon after, he teamed up with producer Jeremy Griffith to record Old Sea Brigade’s self-titled debut EP. The single “Love Brought Weight” caught fire, generating over 16 million Spotify streams. In the meantime, he inked a deal with NETTWERK after founder Terry McBride personally reached out on Facebook.
Between touring alongside Joseph, Luke Sital Singh, Lewis Watson, Julien Baker, John Paul White, and more, he released 2017’s Cover My Own EP. The lead single “Tidal Wave” quickly crossed the two-million-mark on Spotify as acclaim came from Clash, Indie Obsessive, Immersive Atlanta, and many others. During 2017, he retreated to Griffith’s Destin, FL studio in order to record what would become Ode To A Friend. In the studio, the sonic palette expanded to incorporate analog synths and a “squeaky, old, and out-of-tune piano that you’d never find in a music store—but gave the sound character.”
“This go-around, I brought in a lot of production ideas, since I’d been working with many artists in Nashville,” he explains. “I worked closely with Jeremy to bring the production to life. We went outside of the box and tried different things. That noisey piano became a big theme of the record.”
On the lead single “Hope,” creaky ambience underscores the finger-picked acoustic guitar as he croons ponderous lines a la the opening admission, “I want to feel hope when I die, so I know what I left behind.”
He recalls, “I wrote that in Laurel Canyon at a friend’s house. That was my first experience writing in L.A. like that. It wrote itself pretty quickly. It takes a while for me to figure out what a song is about. It was being really honest though. That’s how I’d describe it.”
“Feel You” sways between a steady beat offset by his gravelly delivery and sparse, off-time piano chords. “It takes on multiple meanings,” he reveals. “It could be like a bad relationship, or it could be something else, depending on your experience.”
“Seen A Ghost” hypnotizes with its airy guitars and ethereal production as “Cigarette” lights up embers of delicate picking and resounding vocals. Barely over two minutes, the title track and closer “Ode To A Friend” leaves a lasting impression that’s both heartfelt and heartbreaking with a vocal mid-section that practically levitates on the energy of raw feeling.
“When I started Old Sea Brigade, the time that followed was the best two years of my life,” he goes on. “I could tour and work on music full-time. In the middle of all that happening, one of my best friends actually committed suicide. It’s a heavy record in that respect. I came up with the lyrics right after he passed. I didn’t want a normal structure. It’s almost like an interlude to tie up the album dedicated to him. He was always such a big proponent and fan of my songs. He encouraged me to move towards a solo career. The title made sense. I felt vulnerable enough to put out music that was close to me.”
That’s why it’s so easy to get close to Old Sea Brigade. Cramer opens the floodgates emotionally and forges an unbreakable connection by simply being himself. “That’s definitely something I’ve struggled with in the past. This record is my leap of faith to express music in the truest way I can. I want to keep doing that.”
Bridging the gap between rock & roll, roadhouse Americana, and the music sound of the southwestern United States, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers have carved their own path over the last 25 years. They’ve traveled the world, sent eight albums to the top of the Billboard Internet Sales Chart, launched an annual music festival in Mexico, started their own line of ultra-premium tequila and built a global community of music-lovers and peacemakers – all while remaining 100% independent.
The band just released their 10th studio album in 20 years - "Native Heart". Produced by Grammy winning legend Steve Berlin and mixed by Michael Brauer at the iconic Electric Ladyland, they shine new light on a band that’s built a career on trekking their own path with their own sound style of twang and taller-than-life characters of the Southwest to a rock & roll soundtrack.
The band’s roots run deep, sinking back to a time with The Refreshments – the hometown heroes of Phoenix during the mid-1990s, fueled by a major-label deal with Mercury Records, a popular song (”Banditos”) on American rock radio and MTV, and the unique distinction of being both the composers and performers of the theme song for the culture favorite "King of the Hill" TV show. All served to introduce Roger Clyne’s songwriting to a national audience. The Refreshments sang about Mexico, liquored-up bandits and troubadours, mixing the lore of the American Southwest with guitar muscle and pop/rock melody. Clyne deepened that sound with The Peacemakers, a roots rock band relying not on a record label for support, but on near-constant touring and a rare, genuine connection with fans.
Last year, the band's founders, Roger Clyne & PH Naffah, appeared in a full length documentary "here's to life" about The Refreshments. Which celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the debut album, Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy. Two decades after its release, the album continues to influence a wide range of rock and country musicians, 12 of who will put their own stamp on the album’s music with an upcoming, all-star tribute album recreation of the iconic album.
Jonathan McReynolds is a Dove Award-winning and Grammy and Stellar Award-nominated gospel singer-songwriter and guitarist based in Chicago, IL. At just 28, Jonathan’s music has grown from dorm rooms to Christian music’s biggest stages over the course of three full length albums and one EP, making fans of music icons from Stevie Wonder, Nicki Minaj, and Tori Kelly to gospel giants like CeCe Winans, Yolanda Adams, and Kirk Franklin, who dubbed him “the future of gospel music.”
Jonathan’s latest, “Make Room,” released this past March, is both a graceful reminder of what makes Jonathan’s music so special and a bold foot forward in the artist’s career. Recorded live in Chicago in May 2017, the album follows Jonathan, his band, and an impressive roster of guest artists through a spirited, inspired, and elastic live set. Under Jonathan’s spellbinding performance and masterful songwriting, the live recording becomes an instrument all its own, as Jonathan navigates moments of inspired spontaneity as easily and confidently as the rehearsed. The album has spawned the singles “Cycles” and “Not Lucky, I’m Loved,” which became his first Billboard #1 Single upon its release in October 2017. The album debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart, as well as #2 on Top Christian/Gospel Albums, and broke the mainstream at #27 on overall Top Albums and #97 on the Hot 200.
The concert recording that would become “Make Room” also became the basis for an hour-long TV special called “Jonathan McReynolds: Make Room” which was broadcast nationally on TV One later in March. The special intertwines video of selections from “Make Room” with behind-the-scenes looks at the making of McReynolds’s instant classic album.
“My albums are about being authentic and genuine, pure and transparent. That’s who I try to be as a person,” he says. “I’m direct, I’m blunt. I’m not a fan of church clichés and 'Christian-ese'. [My music] is concerned with showing others and reminding myself how the Faith doesn’t just fit every part of life, but should frame every part of life.”
Jonathan currently holds his Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Moody Theological Seminary and is currently an adjunct member of the Columbia College faculty on top of his work as an official contributor to Huffington Post and the founder of Elihu Nation, a nonprofit organization that promotes wisdom and recently awarded $9k in scholarships.
His appeal stretches across generational, cultural, and musical lines. It is shown in the buzzworthy performances that have marked his last four years including BET Celebration of Gospel with India.Arie, Essence Fest (2014, 2015), 106 & Park, Stellar Awards (2014, 2015, 2018), Joyful Noise, Revolt TV Live, and the Dove Awards. In addition to headlining monster shows as far as Oslo, London, and Port-of-Spain, Jonathan has toured with India Arie and Lalah Hathaway.
The Palms have effortlessly combined their love of ALL popular music to create a fresh, uplifting sound, resulting in the perfect soundtrack to a summer night in Los Angeles. Born and raised LA duo, The Palms bridge the gap between Laurel Canyon folk and West Coast beats to give you the modern day "LA sound." The need to make music without barriers or inhibitions is what initially inspired Johnny Zambetti and Ben Rothbard to explore artistic ideas outside of their band Terraplane Sun. Before they knew it, The Palms were born.
From there, the band started to make their presence known. After reaching #1 on HypeMachine's Most Popular Tracks list, being featured in publications such as Interview Mag, and charting on Spotify's Viral UK chart, the band knew that their music was connecting with their listeners in a positive way.
The quick rise of The Palms is no fluke. Their unmistakable sound, style, and songwriting has helped create their distinct place in today's musical landscape. It is the message behind their songs however, that The Palms hope will make the greatest impact. Nina Simone said it best: "How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?"
“Classic Rock” takes on a whole new meaning when Break of Reality hits the stage. The quartet’s boundary breaking music blends classical technique and rock’n’roll into something that brings together the best of both genres.
They appear on stage without the music stands or formal dress of a classical group and they talk to the audience like friends, spinning tales that illuminate the music they play, be it an original composition, a song by Tool or Radiohead, or a J. S. Bach arrangement. Critics have called them alt-classical, cello rock and indie-classical, but even the band isn’t sure what genre they fall into.
When asked how he categorizes Break of Reality, percussionist Ivan Trevino’s response is usually: “I don’t. Our sound came naturally from studying classical music by day in school and going to rock clubs by night. We’ve all heard classical musicians try to arrange rock music, but they often lack the soul. It can sometimes sound like classical musicians sight reading rock charts. We’re classically trained musicians, but also understand and love the raw qualities of rock; this dichotomy is very clear in our sound.” “Break of Reality started at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY,” Trevino explains. “Patrick Laird, one of our founding members, was in the orchestra and asked friends to play some rock charts he’d arranged. The first gig was without a percussionist. He immediately knew he wanted the energy of a drummer to drive the sound he was hearing. I was one of the few ‘rockers’ at Eastman, so he asked me to play. At first, we were a heavy metal cello band. We had amps, we were loud and played rock covers or original rock tunes. Slowly, our classical side crept into what we were doing for a more all-encompassing sound. We’re still rockin’, but with more nuance.”
Since their formation in 2004, the band has released three self-produced records. The Sound Between EP (2006) and Spectrum of the Sky (2009) featured original songs, while Covers (2012) highlighted the band’s arrangements of tunes by J. S. Bach, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and System of a Down. On TEN, the band presents another album of original compositions written by founding members Patrick Laird and Trevino. It was recorded in the band’s new studio and mixed by Laird to bring out the unique sound of the ensemble’s playing.
The band will be supporting the release of TEN with a country-wide tour. “We’ll be playing the songs on TEN for the first time live,” Trevino says. “Our stage show is a true blend of a classical concert and rock show. We have tons of energy, but there are quite ‘classical’ moments too. Our audience runs from 13 to 70. You’ll see young rock fans, older classical music fans and middle aged hipsters standing together.”
To help fund their tour, the band launched a Kickstarter campaign. The funds they raised will finance visits to 10 public school districts for workshops and performances. Education is an important part of the band’s outreach to classical fans and, hopefully, future classical rockers. “We love going to schools to teach young musicians,” Trevino says. “Our goal is to increase awareness for music education, raise funds for the schools we’re visiting, and encourage the kids we’re working with. We invite students to perform with us, which is inspiring for both them and us. Student reaction has always been extremely positive. We show them they can play any kind of music, not just classical, and encourage them to think outside of the box. Teachers often email us saying how their students are practicing more and starting their own bands and music groups.”
The band has also developed a DIY Lecture Series, designed to empower budding classical musicians with practical, real world music business knowledge, fitting for a band that’s a self-contained small business. “We independently release our records, which allows us to sustain ourselves. We utilize social media, release videos on YouTube – our cover of the “Game of Thrones” theme has over 2.5 million views – and get played on Internet radio and other online platforms.” The band has had their music featured on Dateline NBC and an Emmy-winning segment of America’s Investigative Reports on PBS.
As the divisions between rock and classical, folk and pop and other genres continue to blur and dissolve, Break Of Reality is in a unique position to take advantage of the cross pollination that will be the future of music. “We’re surrounded by pop culture,” Trevino says. “That affects the kind of music we want to create. Personally, I don’t want to play in an orchestra. I like writing my own music, so having my own band is ideal. Rock is as much in our blood as classical music. Our music is organic; we’re not doing it as a gimmick to play rock music on the cello. We want our instruments to be respected both in the classical and rock worlds.”
We're so excited to announce our third addition to this year's LHST 30/10 series... of Montreal and Yip Deceiver!
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, of Montreal have carved their own niche -- establishing themselves as a band that thrills fans with compelling live performances, delights critics with their constant innovations, and continually showcases their musical evolution by drawing from a different set of influences for each album. We're stoked to celebrate our 10th anniversary with 'em at Lincoln Hall!
The music Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad release as Girlpool occupies a transient space. Their constant evolution makes it perfectly impossible to articulate exactly where their project falls within the contemporary musical canon; this is one of the many reasons Girlpool’s music is so captivating.
Never before has a group’s maturation been so transparently attached to the maturation of its members. This is due in large part to the fact that Girlpool came into existence exactly when Girlpool was supposed to come into existence: at the most prolific stage of the digital revolution. Both online and in the flesh, Tividad and Tucker practice radical openness to the point where it may even engender discomfort; this is exactly the point where it becomes clear why theirs’ is such a special project: they accept the possibility of discomfort—Chaos—and show you how to figure out why you might feel it. This is achieved through their ability to empathize as best friends and partners in creation, with the intention of making music that provokes.
They met in November of 2013, and released their self-titled EP just 3 months later. Both were playing in multiple bands at the time. Harmony was 18. Cleo was 17.
The growth they have fostered in one another over the years explains the project’s disparate discography; each record is a photograph of Girlpool, growing over time. Their roots are a certain shade of punk—organized chaos dressed as earworms. “Where You Sink,” one of the first singles off their upcoming record, What Chaos Is Imaginary, gives you an idea of how much things have changed since 2014.
It’s not all good.
“I was experiencing a lot of mental health issues,” says Tividad of the title. “That song comes from a place of being disconnected from reality. The world is so complicated. It's hard to believe in magic, or that anything exists.” Notice the order: magic, then the principle existence of things. A peak into Harmony.
Though it is the 3rd track on Girlpool’s newest record, “Where You Sink” was written at a time when the two were living in different states on the East Coast. It proved to be a period of immense change for the both of them; each focused—more than they ever had before—on their solo music.
“Before, we would build our songs together with four hands, from the ground up,” says Tucker, referring to the songwriting process that produced the debut EP and 2015’s critically acclaimed follow-up, Before The World Was Big. “Our songs used to be intertwined in a different way. We brought our separate experiences to the songs that we crafted together, we valued understanding that they were multidimensional.”
Their solo work consistently breathes new life into Girlpool. The two have since become comfortable with the process being more independent, more fluid. They both take part in the production and arrangement of the music, but they’ve strayed from beginning hand in hand in every instance. They connect somewhere along the way, working together when it feels right.
Discussing the new process, Harmony says, “It’s helped me find validity in parts of my writing I found to be unapproachable. I thought my stream-of-consciousness was unsophisticated.” There’s probably a great pun available re: shedding self-consciousness to release a more sophisticated stream-of-consciousness. In any case, What Chaos is Imaginary—the record and the song—is what the stream looks like when self-consciousness is shed.
Where Harmony embraces chaos, Cleo organizes it. “It’s hard for me to feel completion without achieving a vision that I have. I’ll imagine the kind of climate I want to create inside a song,” says Cleo of his process. “Once I fall in love with the direction, it’s getting there that can take time.” Finishing a song may take time and even prove to be difficult for him at times, but the product is invariably polished. Considering the near-perfect balance in the songs on What Chaos is Imaginary, their dynamic makes sense. “It took a really long time to record this record. It feels like a photograph of a very transitional time.”
What Chaos is Imaginary is a collection of songs unlike any Girlpool songs you’ve ever heard, exactly what Powerplant was to Before The World Was Big. For the first time, it is clear who wrote what song. 2019 will see drum machines and synthesizers and beautiful/new harmonies and huge guitars and at least one orchestral breakdown by a string octet.
“It was invigorating playing stripped down and raw when Girlpool began. As we change, what gets us there is going to change too.”
It’s hard to imagine what might follow What Chaos is Imaginary. Girlpool’s growth has a steady momentum forward, towards something greater with every stride that they take. By the time the record comes out, they’ll be far from here, wherever here is.
For over a decade, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gunn has been one the American music’s most pivotal figures - conjuring immersive and psychedelic sonic landscapes both live and on record, releasing revered solo albums ranking high on in-the-know end of year lists, alongside exploratory collaborations with artists as diverse as Mike Cooper, Kurt Vile, and Michael Chapman (whose most recent studio album he produced). Gunn is known for telling other people’s stories, but on his breakthrough fourth album, The Unseen In Between, he explores his own emotional landscapes with his most complex, fully realized songs to date. The lyrics evoke voyages, tempests (actual and emotional), and a rich cast of characters met along the way—the work of an artist finding a place of calm in the midst of a storm. Produced by frequent collaborator James Elkington and engineered by Daniel Schlett, the immaculately recorded Unseen forces a reassessment of Gunn’s standing in the pantheon of the era’s great songwriters.
Getting to The Unseen In Between itself was not easy for Gunn. In the summer of 2016, Gunn released Eyes On The Lines, his winning and elliptical debut for Matador. It should have been a triumphant moment, but exactly two weeks later, Gunn’s father and namesake died following a two-year struggle with cancer. During his sickness, he and his son had connected as never before, listening to one another’s experiences and understanding one another’s perspectives; they became not father and son but real friends.
This experience yielded the emotional centerpiece of the album. “Stonehurst Cowboy” is a duet for Gunn’s raw acoustic guitar and spare basslines by Bob Dylan’s musical director Tony Garnier, whose featured throughout the album. The song distills the lessons Gunn learned from his father and it is a solemn but tender remembrance, a tribute to his father’s reputation as a tough, wise, and witty guy from far west Philadelphia.
A sense of musical renewal and emotional complexity fits the new songs perfectly; “Luciano” seems to be about the chemistry between a bodega owner and his cat, an unspoken romance of gentle obedience and quiet gestures. But Gunn peers below the relationship’s surface and wonders about the owner’s lonely future once the cat is gone, a devastating meditation wrapped in soft strings. And then there’s “Vagabond,” Gunn’s graceful attempt to humanize a rich cast of characters whose lives have gone astray, wanderers who live outside of society’s modern safety net, who pursue “a crooked dream” in spite of what the world expects. Supported by the perfect harmonies of Meg Baird, Gunn finds something lovely in the unloved.
Inspired by contemporary artist Walter De Maria’s Dia Art Foundation-affiliated installation of 400 stainless steel poles atop the high desert of New Mexico, “Lightning Field” considers what we get out of art when it doesn’t work, when lightning does not light up the night for visitors. Opener “New Moon” may begin in the mode of a deep track from Astral Weeks or Fred Neil, with its upright bass and sparse tremolo guitar. But during the song’s final minutes, strings double the melody, and then the guitar rushes headlong, pulling ahead in a wave of ecstatic deliverance. It is a brief but liberating solo, an instant release of tension from the fraught scene Gunn has built, complemented by one of his most arresting vocal performances.
In a final contrast, “Morning is Mended” is an acoustic beauty so resplendent it ranks alongside Sandy Denny or Jackson C. Frank. Buoyed by a melody that sparkles like sunlight on still water, Gunn acknowledges the hardships around him, the feeling of being a “nothing sky,” and then moves forward into the world, walking tall into the fresh morning. The song is an apt encapsulation of The Unseen In Between, a gorgeously empathetic record that attempts to recognize the worries of the world and offer some timely assurance. It is a revelatory and redemptive set, offering the balm of understanding at a time when that seems in very short supply.
Hi, I’m Alec Benjamin. I’m from Phoenix. I live in L.A. I got into music. I play guitar. I play piano. I sing. I tell stories. I’m a narrator. I went to school. I got signed. I made an album. I got dropped. I played a fuck ton of shows. I toured with Jon Bellion, Matisyahu, and Hoodie Allen. I played parking lots and lines during Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan concerts to get fans. I handed out a ton of business cards. My Staples bill was insane. I wrote a bunch of new songs. Now, I’m putting them out. The first one is called “Let Me Down Slowly.” That’s only Chapter 1. Sincerely, Alec Benjamin
Hi, I’m Alec Benjamin. I’m from Phoenix. I live in L.A. I got into music. I play guitar. I play piano. I sing. I tell stories. I’m a narrator. I went to school. I got signed. I made an album. I got dropped. I played a fuck ton of shows. I toured with Jon Bellion, Matisyahu, and Hoodie Allen. I played parking lots and lines during Shawn Mendes and Troye Sivan concerts to get fans. I handed out a ton of business cards. My Staples bill was insane. I wrote a bunch of new songs. Now, I’m putting them out. The first one is called “Let Me Down Slowly.” That’s only Chapter 1. Sincerely, Alec Benjamin
Each song on Bayonne’s Drastic Measures is orchestral in texture, unfolding in countless layers and kaleidoscopic tones. With great intensity of detail, the Austin-based artist otherwise known as Roger Sellers deepens that sonic complexity by weaving in elegantly warped samples of the field recordings he’s gathered for over a decade. But in its powerful melodies and pristine arrangements, Drastic Measures ultimately bears a pure pop lucidity even in its most grandiose moments.
Driven by the dynamic percussion and luminous piano work signature to Bayonne’s sound, Drastic Measures takes its title from a track that embodies the album’s central theme: the instability inherent in an artist’s life, and the often-futile attempt to attain balance. With its unrelenting urgency and heavy-hearted lyrics (“Common sense should tell me that the ones I’ve sinned against say goodbye”), “Drastic Measures” looks at the disorienting effects of constant touring. “After a while you kind of start to lose touch with home and your friends and your family,” says Sellers. “You come back and feel like you’ve missed out on a lot, like you’re stepping into a whole different life.” And as the album offers up many a transcendent melody and anthemic chorus, Drastic Measures also reflects the volatility of moods within that way of life. “There can be so many highs and lows in such a small amount of time,” says Sellers. “I remember my parents flying to one of my shows in Brooklyn and feeling incredibly grateful that I got to share it with them. Just weeks before that I was touring through Germany, feeling so isolated and lost. The ups and downs can be crazy if you don’t actively try to manage them.”
The crystalline production of Drastic Measures marks a departure from Primitives, Bayonne’s entirely self-produced and more loosely structured full-length debut. In shaping the immaculately composed album, Sellers partly drew inspiration from the sublime melodicism of 1960s symphonic pop. “I spent a lot more time thinking about the little subtleties than I ever had before, and putting more thought into the meaning behind the songs and the best way to get that across,” he says. “It felt like a natural progression for me—I wanted to make the music more accessible to people, including myself.” Mixed by Beatriz Artola (Fleet Foxes, A$AP Rocky, Adele) and mastered by Josh Bonati (Mac DeMarco, !!!, Zola Jesus)—but fully produced and mostly tracked by Sellers himself—Drastic Measures also finds the multi-instrumentalist enlisting several close musician friends to instill the songs with a more kinetic energy.
As Drastic Measures muses on such matters as fractured relationships and the erosion of mental health, Bayonne builds a dizzying tension between the album’s bright and dark elements. On “Uncertainly Deranged,” skittering beats and shining piano tones clash with lyrics echoing the anxiety of self-doubt. One of the most delicate and simply adorned tracks on the album, “Same” spins a gentle reverie out of a moment of wistful longing. And on “I Know,” bouncy rhythms and whistled melodies make a brilliant backdrop to Bayonne’s meditation on overwhelming remorse.
Further revealing the inventive instincts behind Bayonne’s artistry, “I Know” opens with a fragment from his vast collection of field recordings. “It almost sounds like a ship, but it came from a recording of a street drummer playing on a bunch of paint cans,” Sellers notes. Although his library is mostly made up of everyday sounds—birds chirping, people talking in restaurants, feet stomping through fallen leaves—Sellers typically distorts the recordings to give them a more surreal quality. On the sprawling instrumental centerpiece “Enders,” for instance, he constructed a beautifully eerie sample by altering the creak of an oven door. “At first I was trying to get a sort of horror-movie sound effect out of it, but I ended up manipulating it so it sounds like a dolphin or a whale or some other kind of underwater creature,” says Sellers.
Throughout the album, Sellers matches his bursts of experimentation with the graceful piano playing he’s honed since he was a little kid. Halfway through high school, he started writing his own material, and self-recording with the help of his family’s tape machine. By his early 20s he’d discovered minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Terry Reilly, which led him to infuse an atmospheric, ethereal quality into much of his work. And with the release of Primitives in spring 2016, Sellers adopted the moniker of Bayonne as a way to distinguish his more electronically crafted output from his other musical projects. “I’d been playing a lot of shows with a very folk-based set, so using a different name was a way to separate those two personalities,” he explains.
In bringing Drastic Measures to life, Sellers merged his increasingly classic-pop-inspired sensibilities with a production approach closely focused on looping, layering, and overdubbing. “Even if you hear something simple like clapping or finger snaps, it’s probably layered 10 or 20 times,” he says. “I just like to stack and layer everything to get these big sounds, and create a really wide sonic space within the songs.”
No matter how big those sounds become, Bayonne maintains a certain sense of intimacy throughout Drastic Measures—an effect that has much to do with his playful use of the field recordings he’s captured since he was a teenager. “A lot of the time, I put them so far in the background that you might not even hear it,” says Sellers. “But that’s how I like it—I like having these little memories built up and then sticking them randomly in places all over the album. It’s almost like having some kind of diary within the music, and it gives it so much more meaning when I go back and listen.”
Katie Von Schleicher rose from intern to artist on Brooklyn label Ba Da Bing with Bleaksploitation, a self-recorded 2015 mini album of irreverent, fuzz-laden tunes. On her debut full-length, Von Schleicher strikes again on the magic that comes from her warped and uncompromising sound. Shitty Hits channels the bright, sunny radio burners of the 1970’s, songs you drive to, carefree, and songs you can cry to, which The Guardian describe as “Portishead meets the Beatles,” and NPR’s Bob Boilen calls “one of those constant repeat records for me.”
Conjuring the home recorded sound of Paul McCartney’s McCartney or Jeff Buckley’s Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk, Shitty Hits was created on a tape machine at Von Schleicher’s childhood home in Maryland. Where Bleaksploitation courted a kind of sonic nihilism, Shitty Hits shows confidence, growth and unflinching self-realization. Inhabiting the roles of producer and engineer, Von Schleicher cements her voice as one to be reckoned with, parsed and pored over, on an album that is “never less than beguiling” (Pitchfork).
Multi-talented artist and visual freestyle rapper Harry Mack just released his debut album Contents Under Pressure on January 18, 2019. Harry played his album release show at a sold-out Moroccan Lounge in January, and will be touring select markets in North America in May 2019.
Harry is perhaps best known for his unique and jaw-dropping visual freestyle rapping. Harry initially emerged in February 2017 after his Venice Beach Freestyle went viral online, which propelled him to opportunities alongside the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$ and Ellen DeGeneres. He also recently starred in a commercial for Mitsubishi, which aired for several months on network and cable TV across North America.
Dengue Fever's appearance is being presented in conjunction with Victory Gardens Theater and their production of Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee with songs by Dengue Fever. Cambodian Rock Band runs at Victory Gardens Theater April 5th - May 5th, 2019. More information can be found at www.victorygardens.org.
There's a difficult to describe, yet timeless quality to certain songs that transcends genre or era. It's something that you can't fake or contrive and it's what lies at the core of Skating Polly's music. The multi-instrumentalist duo of Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse started their band in Oklahoma in 2009. They recorded their debut album Taking Over The World in 2010 and achieved instant acclaim from underground music icons like X's Exene Cervenka (who produced 2013's Lost Wonderfuls) and Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson (who produced 2014's Fuzz Steliacoom). After the release of 2016's The Big Fit, Veruca Salt's co-frontwomen Louise Post and Nina Gordon reached out and said they wanted to write with the band. What started as a writing session ultimately became 2017’s New Trick EP. Now armed with a third member—Kelli’s brother Kurtis Mayo—the trio are about to release their latest full length, The Make It All Show.
The album is the culmination of a very busy year in which the band played over 100 shows, performed at major festivals like Riot Fest & The Capitol Hill Block Party, toured Europe with Kate Nash and reunited with Cervenka for two separate legs of X’s 40th anniversary tour. Speaking of Cervenka, the musical legend also co-wrote the song “Queen For A Day” with the band, a song that sees the trio stretching out both musically and lyrically. “It was great having both Peyton and Kurtis to consult with this time around and writing with Exene was also amazing because she’s one of our biggest influences,” Kelli explains “We went into the studio right after a lot of touring, so we were pretty tight. We kind of internalized the last year, with the world going crazy and our personal lives taking their own weird turns and we let the songs be guided by that.” she continues. “This album sounds very Skating Polly, but our music’s evolved enough that you wouldn’t mistake any of these songs as being from a past record. The songs are definitely more complex.”
For The Make It All Show the group once again teamed up with producer Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Sunny Day Real Estate). “We have a really great rapport with Brad and this was definitely my favorite experience making a record so far,” says Bighorse. “Brad always knew how to capture the right tone because he understood the overall feeling we were going for.” Kelli agrees saying, “The record wouldn’t be what it is without Brad. He’d set something up and be like “this might work” and it would be perfect.”
Admittedly the female-driven alternative acts that inspired the band such as Veruca Salt, X, The Breeders, L7 and Babes In Toyland (the later of whom Skating Polly toured with in Europe) aren't typical reference points for most of today's up-and-coming bands, but maybe they should be. “The thing that we identify with in a lot of those bands is that they can be really aggressive and loud while also being super melodic,” Kelli explains, adding that the new dynamic in the band helped them be more expansive when it came to their sound and arrangements. “Everything happened very smoothly when Kurtis became part of the band. It just felt natural having him there and writing with him.” In typical Skating Polly fashion, the trio will still be switching instruments live, something that’s become a hallmark of their performances and one that opens up more possibilities with the additional instrumentation on The Make It All Show.
Speaking of live shows, Skating Polly really need to be seen in a club to fully grasp what makes them so special. “It can get pretty chaotic when we're playing. People have said it feels like it could fall apart at any moment but in a good way,” Bighorse says with a laugh. “We try to make our music honest and engaging and I think that's what drew us to people like Nina and Louise or Exene; you can probably guess a lot of the acts that we love, but we’re able to keep making music that always sounds like us,” Mayo explains. “We really try to make the songs the focus instead of trying to flaunt technical musical abilities,” adds Bighorse – and that honesty and optimism is why everyone from legendary musical figures as well as hardcore fans have gravitated toward Skating Polly's music. The Make It All Show is the most fully realized work by Skating Polly yet and hints at an even brighter future for one of rock’s most promising acts.
“When I was writing these songs, every day I would walk on the beach and I was completely alone and overwhelmed by fear...but then I realized how there really aren’t any rules for who you are, who you’ll become, or who you think you need to be. Eraserland is just that. It’s death to ego, and rebirth to anything or anyone you want to be.”
In December 2017, Tim Showalter was uncertain about his next record and the shape it would eventually take. With no new songs written and lacking any clear vision, he was unprepared for the message he would receive from his friend Carl Broemel, the conversation that would follow, and the album that would become Eraserland. Leading off with standout track “Weird Ways” and his powerful declaration of “I don’t feel it anymore,” Eraserland traces Showalter’s evolution from apprehension to creative awakening, carving out a new and compelling future for Strand of Oaks.
"This project seemed to just fall together naturally,” said Broemel, guitarist for My Morning Jacket. “I felt drawn to Tim’s positive energy and his albums...I threw it out there that I’d be happy to help in any way I could with the record." Broemel quickly reignited Showalter's interest in what would become Strand of Oaks’ sixth full-length studio release, and within 24 hours, My Morning Jacket members Patrick Hallahan (drums), Bo Koster (keys), and Tom Blankenship (bass) were also on board. Revived by the support of Broemel and his bandmates, Showalter felt the pressure to deliver songs worthy of musicians he had admired long before and after a 2015 Oaks/MMJ tour. So in February 2018, he spent two weeks alone in Wildwood, New Jersey writing and demoing all of the songs that would eventually comprise Eraserland. And in April, he went into the studio to record with Kevin Ratterman at La La Land Studios in Louisville, Kentucky, and with Broemel, Hallahan, Koster, and Blankenship as his band. Jason Isbell also contributed his Hendrix-esque guitar work to Eraserland, while singer/songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle provided gorgeous vocals. Every song was recorded live, with all musicians playing together in one room and working to bring Showalter’s ideas to fruition. “I remember sitting next to Tim and Kevin listening to the final mixes with tears rolling down my cheeks,” said Hallahan. “From start to finish, this one came from the heart.”
Each song on Eraserland sustains an openness and sensitivity that is enthralling, bolstered by the exceptional musicians there to realize it and rekindle Showalter’s passion for music-making. The album finds Showalter successfully channeling the full spectrum of sounds within the Strand of Oaks discography, from fast, synthy tracks like “Hyperspace Blues” to epic burner “Visions, the gorgeous ballad “Keys,” and his devastating acoustic performance on “Wild and Willing.” But Eraserland also has moments of pure, upbeat exuberance, most notably on “Ruby,” a rollicking, understated anthem driven by buoyant piano and one of Showalter’s most infectious melodies to date. Isbell’s magnificent shredding is showcased on “Moon Landing,” Eraserland’s preeminent off-the-wall groove, while the album’s title track finds Showalter resurrecting his long-dormant alter ego Pope Killdragon for a striking, synth-laden duet with Rundle.
But in many ways, “Forever Chords” is the definitive track on Showalter’s magnum opus, and the manifestation of everything he hoped to achieve on this record and for Strand of Oaks as a whole. “When I finished writing ‘Forever Chords,’ I felt like this is either the last song I ever need to write, or the rebirth of Strand of Oaks.” Poignant and heart-rending, “Forever Chords” gradually builds toward an emotional release rooted in our own universal fears about mortality, personal legacy, and music as a saving force.
But it’s that first Eraserland line, “I don’t feel it anymore,” that sets a stunning precedent for the most affecting and fully-formed album Strand of Oaks has ever released. Because despite whatever doubts or reservations Showalter had going into the process, he crafted a series of songs so perfectly matched to the musicians supporting it, and so emboldened by his own doubts and insecurities, that the result is glittering, powerful, and impassioned, a moving rock and roll saga that feels substantial and deeply satisfying, vulnerable and self-assured.
“In a time where nothing makes sense, or when everyone is trying to make sense of everything, even the right idea might not make perfect sense to everybody at that moment.”
Steve Marion, the songwriter, guitarist, and producer who has made four studio records of primarily word-less, guitar-first music as Delicate Steve, is talking about the bifurcated and reactionary culture of the moment. But by no coincidence he’s also describing musical moments that helped to inspire Till I Burn Up (Anti-, 2019) his forthcoming LP.
The album name comes from a line in Dr. John’s “Walk on Guilded Splinters” where Steve misheard John’s actual phrase “Tit Alberta” as “Till I Burn Up.” But more than fodder for an album title, John’s Gris Gris, and records like it, informed a new frame-of-mind for an artist who has historically set out to make a predetermined statement with every recording.
“The idea of this young freak making Gris Gris in LA, and nobody knowing what to do with it in 1968… He gave me confidence to be a little more freaky and abstract instead of quirky and nicely-packaged like my last album was.” Steve goes on to cite early records by Iggy Pop and Dylan and The Band’s electric tour that were panned at the time and lauded in hindsight. “There is a confidence that comes with abandoning the idea of wanting to create something that everyone might like to check out.”
But all is not bifurcated, and we know two things can be true at once. The confidence necessary for Steve to make Till I Burn Up could also be self-inspired. Now nearly ten years into his career, Steve is a cult artist of his time who has been called to record with his heroes (Paul Simon, Kanye West) and contribute significantly to his contemporaries’ modern masterworks (Amen Dunes, Freedom), all the while recording and releasing his own critically hailed work and sharing the stage with Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco, Growlers and others.
The artist whose songwriting and playing has been marked through by transcendent moments of buoyancy and joy has created a pulsing and propulsive record in Till I Burn Up. He put up at a studio in Woodstock and found himself playing Freddie Mercury’s Oberheim synthesizer and his guitar plugged into Robbie Robertson’s Fender amp.
With the intent to turn away from the times, Steve managed instead to document the sound of this moment — the ever-undwinding feed that feeds the feedback loop of talking heads, twitter tick-ticking like a bomb, the timed drip- like morphine- of news breaking in our hands, the party before the shoe drops, our interior dialogue, all the contradictions…
A song called “Freedom” is underpinned by a grinding circular guitar line interrupted by what sounds like synthetic warning sirens. “Rat in the House”, “Rubberneck”, and “Madness” are blinkered dancefloor rippers suited for a bunker party. “Selfie of Man” recognizes the pervasive behavior and its result, as a literal portrait of our times. It moves along in marched lockstep, with inversely reflecting guitar lines. The album’s closer ‘Dream’ allows Steve and his listeners some free range. Until then, each song is self-contained and self-referential — an ouroboros within a greater ouroboros called Till I Burn Up.
There are turns on Till I Burn Up as dark as anything Delicate Steve has recorded, but not without reminders that a joy ride into an apocalypse is still a joy ride. Like the harrowing moment it documents, Till I Burn Up would not be true if not imbued by contradiction. True to form, this Delicate Steve record is a distillation.
There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. Last year, Bruno Major set himself a task: to record and release one song a month for 12 months. Four weeks to take a song from an idea in his head to a finished product and have it out there for people to listen to and enjoy, every month, for a year. People had made albums in less time, he reasoned, how hard could it be?
“When I first said that I was going to do it most people said, ‘Nice one…that’s never going to happen.’” Major recalls with a laugh. “A lot of people thought it was overly aspirational: it probably was.”
What’s impressive is not so much that he managed to pull it off, more that the challenge produced such a remarkable collection of songs. That within the time frame of a month, Major could produce such fully-realised, beautiful and inventive songs and then repeat the trick the following month, twelve times over.
“With a traditional album, there exists the concept of an album track...I haven’t had that luxury because once a month I have to release a song and every song has to be a single. There’s no room for a piano interlude. Each one had to be something that I could stand behind and say: ‘Hey, this is my next single, it's coming out, I’ve worked on it all month, I hope you like it.’ It forced me to make sure the standard was at a certain level.”
Not only did every song hit its mark, but listening to the fruits of Major’s labour in the order he created them, you’re given an experience that doesn’t really have a precedent in music. Tracing a line from the blissful future soul and skittering beats of Wouldn’t Mean A Thing through Home’s delicate folk to Cold Blood’s pulsating electronica, you’re treated to a dozen snapshots of an artist at a specific moment in time. You can hear him grow, develop and move through the different emotional states of a year in a way that a traditional album simply wouldn’t be able to offer. You can hear how he moved from the minimalism and sub bass warmth of There’s Little Left to the jazz-flecked finger picking and layered harmonies of Second Time in just a few weeks and how the latter’s dreamlike infatuation slowly faded into the bittersweet kiss-off of Fair-Weather Friend like the changing of the seasons.
“Albums are generally recorded within a smaller time frame and that helps lend them an identity as a whole and gives the tracks a feeling that they’re siblings sonically,” Major notes. “The big challenge for me has been to make sure there’s a link through all of these songs because I’ve changed as a musician over the year. Listening to 'Wouldn’t Mean A Thing' now, I think the sound I have developed with my co producer Phairo has become more developed. If I were to redo the whole thing now, there are elements of every song I would change, but that’s part of the charm of them. I like that there’s a little journey.”
Having initially worked as a session guitarist, Major moved down from Northampton to London and, inspired by the energy of the city, became obsessed with songwriting. Honing his craft writing for other artists while all the time formulating his own musical style; an impossible to pigeonhole blend of sounds that can draw upon anything from James Blake and D’Angelo to Chet Baker and Nick Drake to create its own, uniquely intoxicating aura. It wasn’t until a chance psychoactive revelation last year, however, that he struck upon the idea that would give him the perfect means to realise it.
“Whilst I was in Los Angeles I smoked DMT and had this mad epiphany where I saw how the universe works in perfect geometric patterns and synchronised cycles. I wanted to release a song every month, because that’s the length of cycle of the moon,” he recalls.
By his own admission, Major may have underestimated the task. A song like the Just The Same’s touchingly devoted piano pop may have fallen into place one evening in all of 20 minutes, recorded the following day and then sent off to be mastered, but elsewhere there were weeks of fraught panic, scrapped ideas, stumbling blocks, pressure and looming deadlines where having a life outside of the challenge he’d set himself was a distant memory.
“It’s definitely been tough, but it’s also been wonderful,” he reflects. “My life has been Groundhog Day for a year. I’d finish each month with a show and have a couple of nights of partying and then I'd start the next tune, work towards that, release it, over and over. It’s been kind of comforting. In a way, I’m not looking forward to that ending.”
He's probably earned a few days off to be fair. While he does, the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the music the last year of Bruno Major’s life has produced.
Established in Birmingham, AL, The Brook & The Bluff is a four-man band that consists of frontman Joseph Settine, drummer John Canada, guitarist Alec Bolton and bassist Fred Lankford.
The guys have quickly become recognized for their evocative blend of instrumental talent and vocal harmony. These elements are readily apparent in the band's debut track, "Masks." Having initially gained momentum via Spotify, the song has helped spur the band forward in their musical pursuits.
The group's first year as a full band was widely successful. From charting on Spotify's US and Canada Viral 50 Playlists, performing at the NAMM shows in both Nashville and Anaheim, and selling out shows in Atlanta, Birmingham, Huntsville, Nashville, Auburn and more, the band has had an exhilarating start.
Originally an acoustic duo, Alec and Joseph started turning heads in local venues with clean vocals and expert guitar work. John noticed the talent and potential of the duo and offered to play drums and sing with the guys. Soon after, he officially joined the group, expanding their sound with driving rhythm and an added voice. The trio instantly locked in and have been playing together ever since. With their new bassist Fred Lankford, The Brook and The Bluff relocated to Nashville in 2018.
The Brook & The Bluff just released the first track, "Halfway Up" off their upcoming 2019 record and will be touring across the country throughout 2019.
Iceage is Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, Dan Kjær Nielsen, Johan Suurballe Wieth, and Jakob Tvilling Pless. Beyondless, Iceage’s fourth record (and first that was recorded all-analog), was produced by the band and Nis Bysted, recorded by Mattias Glavå at Kungsten Studios Göteberg, and mixed by Randall Dunn at Avast Studios Seattle. The album was played entirely by the band with additional performances by Nils Gröndhal (violin), horns by Kasper Tranberg (trumpet), Lars Greve (saxophones) and Morten Jessen (trombone), and vocals on “Pain Killer” by Sky Ferreira.
Below please find further words on this moving, majestic new album and its nuanced craftsmanship from Daniel Stewart (Total Control) and Richard Hell.
The beauty of a moral act depends on the beauty of its expression. To say that it is beautiful is to decide that it will be so. It remains to be proved so. This is the task of images, that is, of the correspondences with the physical world. The act is beautiful if it provokes, and in our throat reveals, song. Sometimes the consciousness with which we have pondered a reputedly vile act, the power of expression which must signify it, impels us to song. This means that treachery is beautiful if it makes us sing. -Genet, A Thiefs Journal
Beyondless is the 4th LP from Iceage. This record radiates joy.
Pay attention to the journey, from New Brigade, a juvenile delinquent take on post-punk, full of cold, distant condemnation, and onto the ecstasy of You’re Nothing, shedding the more aggressive hardcore influence and dragging in more light, a tendency followed on Plowing Into The Field Of Love. The intoxication is consistent, this has always been drunk music, but it’s less a stumbling confusion and more a sturdy heartfelt confession with each record. They have finally caught up with their ambition. Their entire charm has always rested in their running ahead of themselves with blind confidence, taunting you to follow and you follow because wherever they are going is vital, is alive; on Beyondless they are treading with an assurance that is disarming, but there is no loss of charm, you are arm in arm now, whispering intimacies.
Intimacies that recall other intimacies: something must have happened when Iceage heard Gun Club Miami. Some traumatic event! A wild band has not been tamed, but is in repose, retaining an edge but expressing something less definite, something about hurt or longing or regret.
Attention must be directed toward the brilliance of EBR’s lyricism on Beyondless! In his evocations of beauty in profane imagery, in his plumbing of the depths of betrayal and criminality, there are suggestions of Jean Genet and the disgraceful slurring of Leonard Cohen.
Love’s Forever Changes is an appropriate reference point for the record, orchestral touches to rock music that reached in a very affected / effected manner toward some transcendent experience. You can hear blissful catatonic evocations of the Waterboys, slurring face down on the bar some holy affirmations. Overall, the strongest suggestion is of the Stones in their Exile period, holed up in some decadent mansion attempting to pay tribute to American music from country honk brawls to sleazy soul revues to cocaine blues, it has this confident air of music written in the midst of excessive reveries.
Letting in the light, the joy radiates. They are post post-punk, Beyondless retains the rich character of their brash beginnings, but this is something beyond, oh hell, this is something very, very special, a generous gift for an anemic age.
-Daniel Stewart (Total Control)
THE NEW ICEAGE
by Richard Hell
I can totally imagine myself as a kid lying in my closed-door room in the dark, listening to this band and getting what I need, the way a band can make a person feel seen and bring confidence, sometimes even represent an ideal. Or maybe I’m already all defiant and self-certain, and I identify with Iceage because they are too, and they’re who I want to represent me in music. It’s a weird combination of qualities that a rock and roll band and their recordings presents to their young crowd, imparts to them. The music being pure emotion, the strong emotions of youth—anger, sadness, contempt, longing—as well as energy and sex, and the band’s demonstration that it gracefully owns and provides those things, consoling their followers in all the confusion. What is it that Iceage in particular brings? A large number of extraordinary things. (Poetry! But more about that later.) The band members were childhood friends, which is always good news. They’re like a small urban gang, faithful to each other, suspicious of outsiders (of which music journalists like me are the most suspect examples). At the same time, they seem mature and competent, which is almost too much to hope for. They not only play and compose well, but the production of their records, from the very beginning, and at the music’s most chaotic, is impeccable. Their presentation is as hardcore anarchic as any, but much better played, mixed, and recorded than most. And then there’s the poetry and the intelligence. The members of Iceage are not only smart but hyper literate. Interviews with E. Rønnenfelt, the lead singer and lyricist of the band, find him mentioning Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter; Georges Bataille, Story of the Eye; Peter Shaffer’s Equus; Mishima, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea; Genet’s Thief’s Journal and Miracle of the Rose; The Torture Garden by Octave Mirbeau; Henry Miller on Writing; and James Agee’s A Death in the Family, and that’s in a total of four interviews. It’s not that he flaunts it; he’s simply honest and naturally acknowledges it. The lyrics of Iceage songs have the most sophisticated vocabulary I can remember finding in rock music. Here’s a favorite example, from “Pain Killer” (ft Sky Ferreira) on the new album:
Praying at the altar of your legs and feet
Your saliva is a drug so bittersweet
I’ll arrogate what’s there to take
In an evanescent embrace
…“Arrogate”??? I half know the word, but I had to look it up to be certain. It means “to claim or seize without justification.” It’s funny because its Latin root also underlies the word “arrogant,” which one might be tempted to apply to Rønnenfelt for the contempt he shows for people who try to understand him. But I sympathize. It is extremely annoying to be characterized by other people. And the shading of meaning of the word “arrogate” brings a subtlety to those lyrics of his that “take” or “seize” or “claim” wouldn’t. Frankly, though, what I really like about those lines is the concept of praying to his lover’s feet. That’s good. It makes me think of a similar instance in another poet, Charles Baudelaire, who wrote in his “Hymn to Beauty”:
Who cares if you come from paradise or hell,
appalling Beauty, artless and monstrous scourge,
if only your eyes, your smile or your foot reveal
the infinite I love and have never known?
The second full-length album from Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin, Crushing embodies every possible meaning of its title word. It’s an album formed from sheer intensity of feeling, an in-the-moment narrative of heartbreak and infatuation. And with her storytelling centered on bodies and crossed boundaries and smothering closeness, Crushing reveals how our physical experience of the world shapes and sometimes distorts our inner lives.
“This album came from spending two years touring and being in a relationship, and feeling like I never had any space of my own,” says the Melbourne-based artist. “For a long time I felt like my head was full of fear and my body was just this functional thing that carried me from point A to B, and writing these songs was like rejoining the two.” The follow-up to her 2016 debut Don’t Let the Kids Win, Crushing finds Jacklin continually acknowledging what’s expected of her, then gracefully rejecting those expectations. As a result, the album invites self-examination and a possible shift in the listener’s way of getting around the world—an effect that has everything to do with Jacklin’s openness about her own experience.
“I used to be so worried about seeming demanding that I’d put up with anything, which I think is common—you want to be chill and cool, but it ends up taking so much of your emotional energy,” says Jacklin. “Now I’ve gotten used to calling out things I’m not okay with, instead of just burying my feelings to make it easier on everyone. I’ve realized that in order to keep the peace, you have to speak up for yourself and say what you really want.”
Produced by Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett, The Drones) and recorded at The Grove Studios (a bushland hideaway built by INXS’ Garry Gary Beers), Crushing sets Jacklin’s understated defiance against a raw yet luminous sonic backdrop. “In all the songs, you can hear every sound from every instrument; you can hear my throat and hear me breathing,” she says. “It was really important to me that you can hear everything for the whole record, without any studio tricks getting in the way.”
On the album-opening lead single “Body,” Jacklin proves the power of that approach, turning out a mesmerizing vocal performance even as she slips into the slightest murmur. A starkly composed portrait of a breakup, the song bears an often-bracing intimacy, a sense that you’re right in the room with Jacklin as she lays her heart out. And as “Body” wanders and drifts, Jacklin establishes Crushing as an album that exists entirely on its own time, a work that’s willfully unhurried.
From there, Crushing shifts into the slow-building urgency of “Head Alone,” a pointed and electrifying anthem of refusal (sample lyric: “ I don’t want to be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine”). “As a woman, in my case as a touring musician, the way you’re touched is different from your male bandmates—by strangers and by those close to you,” notes Jacklin. On the full-tilt, harmony-spiked “Pressure to Party,” she pushes toward another form of emotional freedom. “When you come out of a relationship, there’s so much pressure to act a certain way,” says Jacklin. “First it’s like, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta take some time for yourself’...but then if you take too much time it’s, ‘You’ve gotta get back out there!’ That song is just my three-minute scream, saying I’m going to do what I need to do, when I need to do it.” Crushing also shows Jacklin’s autonomy on songs like “Convention,” an eye-rolling dismissal of unsolicited advice, presented in elegantly sardonic lyrics (“I can tell you won’t sleep well, if you don’t teach me how to do it right”).
Elsewhere on Crushing, Jacklin brings her exacting reflection to songs on loss. With its transportive harmonies and slow-burning guitar solo, “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” ponders the heartache in fading affection (“ I want your mother to stay friends with mine/I want this feeling to pass in time”). Meanwhile, on “Turn Me Down”—an idiosyncratically arranged track embedded with hypnotic guitar tones—Jacklin gives an exquisitely painful glimpse at unrequited devotion (“He took my hand, said I see a bright future/I’m just not sure that you’re in it”). “That song destroyed me in the studio,” says Jacklin of “Turn Me Down,” whose middle section contains a particularly devastating vocal performance. “I remember lying on the floor in a total state between what felt like endless takes, and if you listen it kind of sounds like I’m losing my mind.” And on “When the Family Flies In,” Jacklin shares her first ever piano-driven piece, a beautifully muted elegy for the same friend to whom she dedicated Don’t Let the Kids Win. “ There are really no words to do justice to what it feels like to lose a friend,” says Jacklin. “It felt a bit cheap to even try to write a song about it, but this one came out on tour and it finally felt okay to record.
Despite its complexity, Crushing unfolds with an ease that echoes Jacklin’s newfound self-reliance as an artist. Originally from the Blue Mountains, she grew up on her parents’ Billy Bragg and Doris Day records and sang in musicals as a child, then started writing her own songs in her early 20s. “With the first album I was so nervous and didn’t quite see myself as a musician yet, but after touring for two years, I’ve come to feel like I deserve to be in that space,” she says.
Throughout Crushing, that sense of confidence manifests in one of the most essential elements of the album: the captivating strength of Jacklin’s lyrics. Not only proof of her ingenuity and artistic generosity, Jacklin’s uncompromising specificity and infinitely unpredictable turns of phrase ultimately spring from a certain self-possession in the songwriting process.
“As I was making this album there was sort of a slow loosening of pressure on myself,” Jacklin says. “There’ve been some big life changes for me over the last few years, and I just found it too tiring to try to cover things up with a lot of metaphors and word trickery. I just wanted to lay it all out there and trust that, especially at such a tense moment in time, other people might want to hear a little vulnerability.”
Nick Waterhouse grew up in a coastal town near Long Beach, CA. It was a serene setting: the ocean stretching out for miles to the North and South, manicured lawns, two-story homes, long swathes of concrete highway, fast food chains and mega malls. He was there for two decades. Then, he left.
He found a home in his early 20s in San Francisco, working at record stores alongside a collective of likeminded young crate-diggers and 45 collectors. And then he started making his own records: “Time’s All Gone” in 2012, “Holly” in 2014, and “Never Twice” in 2016. These were evocative albums, steeped in a perfectionism and clarity of vision that informed every choice, from the studios to the players, the arrangements to the album art. Everything, deliberately designed and purposeful, bubbling over with power and feeling.
And as those records rolled out into the world, Waterhouse found a dedicated audience of his own as well as a bevy of influential champions and collaborators, including garage-rock mystic Ty Segall, retro-futurist R&B bandleader Leon Bridges and the LA-based quartet Allah-Las, whose first two albums he meticulously produced and played on. There is a “Waterhouse Sound” and it comes from both the man and the method — recording everything on magnetic tape, through analog equipment, and playing live (!), eyeball to eyeball, whenever possible.
Now, he’s finished his fourth album. He’s calling it “Nick Waterhouse.” And whether intentional or not, it is perhaps his most reflective — and reflexive — album, employing all of the mature production techniques learned throughout his professional career while retaining a viscous edge that allows it to land with colossal impact — more raw, heavy and overtly confrontational than anything he’s made before.
“Nick Waterhouse” was recorded at the finest working studio in Los Angeles, Electro Vox Recorders, and co-produced by Paul Butler (The Bees, Michael Kiwanuka, Devendra Banhart), the master of all things warm, rich and wooly. Nick’s songs here are personal, but personal in the way that “Please Mr. Postman,” “What’s Going On” and “Cathy’s Clown” are — intimate, direct, yet still malleable enough for listeners to suffuse their own life stories into the mix. The album is thick with talented players, including Andres Rentaria, Paula Henderson and the staggering, howling saxophone of Mando Dorame.
All of the new Waterhouse songs sound big. Brawny and muscular. The lyrics are suspicious, outraged and, at times, very vulnerable (muscle is just flesh, after all). Waterhouse uses an economy of words to deliver complex, coded messages. He offers up equal parts criticism of the time we live in and innate human flaws. He paints relationships under the cover of darkness, slashing through neo-noir fantasies that are romantic, blood-spattered and bracingly aware of the powerlessness felt among people, amid the rapid onslaught of commercialism and technological progress. And, as has become his signature, he throws in a tune written by a close friend. On this record, he covers “I Feel an Urge Coming On” in tribute to the song’s author, Nick’s own mentor and collaborator Joshie Jo Armstead, who wrote music with Ray Charles and sang as both an Ikette and Raelette in the ’60s and ’70s.
He’s four albums in, but it makes sense that this specific record is the one that takes his name. You can really here Nick on this one. Not just the band. Not just the songs. Not just the sound. HIM. You can hear his mind at work. His passion. His focus. More importantly, you can feel it.
Not many people can front a rock band, sing Górecki’s Third Symphony, lead a marching band processional down the streets of the Sundance film festival and perform in a baroque opera of their own composing all in a month’s time. But Shara Nova can.
Her multi faceted career as My Brightest Diamond, which began with an acclaimed independent rock record, has reflected her journey into the world of performing arts.
Born in diamond rich Arkansas and then raised all around the country, Nova came from a musical family of traveling evangelists. She went on to study operatic voice and then classical composition after a move to New York City. Shara began issuing recordings as My Brightest Diamond in 2006, following a protean period in the band AwRY, and joined Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoisemakers live ensemble. Asthmatic Kitty Records released her debut album, Bring Me The Workhorse in 2006, A Thousand Sharks’ Teeth in 2008, All Things Will Unwind in 2011, which featured songs written for the chamber ensemble yMusic, and This is My Hand in 2014.
In 2018, Nova will release A Million and One, co-produced with The Twilite Tone (Gorillaz, Kanye West, Common, Kendrick Lamar). The album features contributions from Earl Harvin (Air, Tindersticks, The The) and Vincent Taurelle (Air, Tony Allen, Nicolas Godin, Françoise Hardy).
Shara Nova (formerly Shara Worden) continues to prolifically weave her way through both the experimental pop and classical worlds, composing, collaborating and sharing stages with Sarah Kirkland Snider, The National, Caroline Shaw and Roomful of Teeth, Andrew Bird, A Far Cry, So Percussion, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Glenn Kotche, Claire Chase, Bon Iver, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Highlights include singing in Laurie Anderson’s 2008 show “Homeland,” delivering guest vocals on The Decemberists’ 2009 Hazards of Love album and subsequently joining them on tour, performing in Bryce and Aaron Dessner’s multimedia presentation “The Long Count,” singing and recording for Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang and singing in Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Penelope” and “Unremembered.” Shara has also worked with David Byrne (on his concept musical “Here Lies Love”), Fat Boy Slim, Bon Iver and The Blind Boys of Alabama.
TR/ST is the musical project of Canadian artist Robert Alfons. The debut album TRST received widespread acclaim for its convergence of pop, goth and dance dynamics, overlaid with the menacing and enigmatic vocals that Pitchfork likened to a "goth version of Eeyore". Joyland, the project's sophomore outing, was an even deeper foray into the gender-bending underworld of Alfons' fantasies. 2017 saw TR/ST perform at FYF & Cloak and Dagger Festivals in Los Angeles ending the year by sharing upcoming single 'Destroyer' in the Nowness premiered short film of the same name starring and co-directed by Ryan Heffington (Sia, Arcade Fire, Baby Driver) and Justin Tyler Close (The LAB). His hotly anticipated 3rd album is scheduled for a 2018 release.
When Seattle band Tacocat—vocalist Emily Nokes, bassist Bree McKenna, guitarist Eric Randall, and drummer Lelah Maupin—first started in 2007, the world they were responding to was vastly different from the current Seattle scene of diverse voices they’ve helped foster. It was a world of house shows, booking DIY tours on MySpace, and writing funny, deliriously catchy feminist pop-punk songs when feminism was the quickest way to alienate yourself from the then-en vogue garage-rock bros. Their lyrical honesty, humor, and hit-making sensibilities have built the band a fiercely devoted fanbase over the years, one that has followed them from basements to dive bars to sold-out shows at the Showbox. Every step along the way has been a seamless progression—from silly songs about Tonya Harding and psychic cats to calling out catcallers and poking fun at entitled weekend-warrior tech jerks on their last two records on Hardly Art, 2014’s NVM and 2016’s Lost Time.
This Mess is a Place, Tacocat’s fourth full-length and first on Sub Pop, finds the band waking up the morning after the 2016 election and figuring out how to respond to a new reality where evil isn’t hiding under the surface at all—it’s front and center, with new tragedies and civil rights assaults filling up the scroll of the newsfeed every day. “What a time to be barely alive,” laments “Crystal Ball,” a gem that examines the more intimate side of responding emotionally to the news cycle. How do you keep fighting when all you want to do is stay in bed all day? “Stupid computer stupor/Oh my kingdom for some better ads,” Nokes sings, throwing in some classic Tacocat snark, “Truth spread so thin/It stops existing.”
Despite current realities being depressing enough to make anyone want to crawl under the covers and sleep for a thousand years, Tacocat are doing what they’ve always done so well: mingling brightness, energy, and hope with political critique. This Mess is a Place is charged with a hopefulness that stands in stark contrast to music that celebrates apathy, despair, and numbness. Tacocat feels it all and cares, a lot, whether they’re singing odes to the magical connections we feel with our pets (“Little Friend”), imagining what a better earth might look like (“New World”), or trying to find humor in a wholly unfunny world (“The Joke of Life”).
Throughout the album, Tacocat questions power structures and the way we interact with them, recalling the feminist sci-fi of Ursula K. Le Guin in pop-music form. “Rose-Colored Sky” examines the privilege of people who have been able to skate through life without ever experiencing systemic disadvantage: “For all the years spent/Hot lava shaping me/For all the arguments/I wonder who else would I be?” Nokes sings. “If I wasn’t on the battleground/I bet I could’ve gone to space by now.” “Hologram” reminds us to step outside ourselves and try to see beyond imaginary structures that trap us: “Just close your eyes and think about the Milky Way/Just remember if you can, power is a hologram.”
The record is full of beautiful details, finding plastic beaded curtains catching light amidst feelings of despair. This Mess is A Place explores politics with more nuance than the topical songs of Tacocat’s past, inviting listeners in for more complicated exchanges and leaving space for introspection. “Grains of Salt” finds the band at the best they’ve ever sounded: Maupin’s spirited drums, McKenna’s bouncy walking bass, Randall’s catchy guitar and Nokes’ soaring melody combine to create a bonafide roller-rink hit that reminds us that it just takes some time, we’re in the middle of the ride, and to live for what matters to you. It’s a delightfully cathartic moment and the cornerstone of the record when they exclaim: “Don’t forget to remember who the fuck you are!”
Producer Erik Blood (who also produced Lost Time) brings the band into their full pop potential but still preserves what makes Tacocat so special: they’re four friends who met as young punks and have grown together into a truly collaborative band. Says Nokes: “We can examine some hard stuff, make fun of some evil stuff, feel some soft feelings, feel some rage feelings, feel some bitter-ass feelings, sift through memories, feel wavy-existential, and still go get a banana daiquiri at the end.”
In an era in which the magnitude of cultural sickness is coming to light, Henry Jamison has had some time to reflect. On his second record, Gloria Duplex, the Vermont songwriter deconstructs ideas of masculinity from boyhood to adulthood and what it means to be a white, middle class male in America today.
Recorded over a two-week period in New York City during January 2018, Gloria Duplex features an all-star cast including producer Thomas Bartlett (Sufjan Stevens, The National, St. Vincent,) string arranger Rob Moose (Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Phoebe Bridgers) and mixer Patrick Dillett (Rhye, David Byrne, Glen Hansard).
When they first formed in 2011, LA-based band Run River North dubbed themselves Monsters Calling Home. Eight years later, the trio of Alex Hwang (guitar/vocals), Daniel Chae (guitar/vocals) and Sally Kang (keys/vocals) have returned to the name — this time as the title of their upcoming EP, “Monsters Calling Home: Part One,” out in May 2019.
A celebratory effort ushering in a new era for the band, after having recently evolved from a sextet to a trio, “Monsters Calling Home: Part One” is about finding hope in transition, discovering your voice in a sea of doubt, and deciding to dance despite sadness. “It’s learning to trust your own voice regardless of whatever's happening outside of you,” Chae says.
Since the departure of three founding band members in 2016, Run River North have fought to reclaim their identity and their sound. With that came a reckoning: The trio were steadfast on returning to their roots and rebranding again as Monsters Calling Home as a way to separate themselves from the personnel changes. Instead, the EP’s title — and the music within it — became the vehicle to move past the anger and hurt feelings. “Having to go through three breakups, it was a shitty time,” Hwang says. “I just stopped wanting to write songs that were angry. It’s a good emotion to go through but if that’s what you’re left with that’s not a healthy place to be. The songs on the EP are more representative of how do you find hope and how do you find joy even if you have a right to feel angry. How can you find a reason to dance even when everyone is telling you it’s not the right time to dance?”
Not just an Asian-American band or a group that relies on a set sonic formula, the EP continues to expand upon the band’s prior folk-leaning backbone. On lead single “Hands Up,” the band is at their most bombastic. The result of a co-writing collaboration with Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi of Grouplove — the duo’s first of such sessions — “Hands Up” pairs an earworm-y chorus with a front-and-center guitar melody, a second voice among Hwang’s lead bellow. Overall, the group utilizes more drum programming, dreamy synth, and dynamic production — a more expansive sonic palette.
“Monsters Calling Home: Part One” is bookended by brother-sister songs “Casina” and “Casino.” A song with roots in the band’s days as a six-piece, “Casino” was written as the group’s former members began to phase out. A wistful and rustic intro builds into a walloping chorus: “I’m stuck in this casino / not much left for me.” It’s a song which serves as catharsis when reckoning with the forces that hold us down, a song inspired by Hwang’s mother’s cancer diagnosis. “At the time it was this big middle finger to cancer or anything you felt was giving an absolute statement to people’s lives,” he says.
“Casina,” on the other hand, was borne out of a late-night studio session between Chae, Kang and their producer, Miro Markie. Aiming to re-work “Casino,” “they handed me a microphone and they were like, ‘Try singing,’” Kang remembers. Her take on the song’s chorus added an air of whimsy balancing Hwang’s belt. The pair ping-pong verses and lines, creating a push-pull of dizzying tension. “I think this may be the first song that we don’t have a lead vocalist in a song,” Chae says. “When Sally wrote her part on this song it was the first time we thought this might be something. That’s the moment I can point to that was really exciting for this EP. It’s a linchpin for this EP.
With the energy of “Casina” — and Kang finding her voice — in mind, Run River North move forward as a true collaborative effort unthwarted by ego and pretense. No longer held back by fear or discontent, Run River North persevered through pain and came out on the other side victorious wearing a newfound confidence. “It became about who is in the band,” Hwang says, “and now it feels like Sally, Daniel, and me being very comfortable in our own skin.”
School of Rock is the national leader in music education for kids from age 3.5 to adult. Students learn from professional musicians in an interactive environment combining weekly private lessons and structured group rehearsals with the ultimate goal of performing live in front of real crowds. On Saturday, May 18th, they're so excited to bring their latest show to Lincoln Hall! The most advanced students in the school will be playing the greatest hits of Gwen Stefani, Chris Cornell, Jack White, Eric Clapton, and John Lennon! This event is all ages, and very kid-friendly! Tickets are $10 for adults, and free for kids 8 and under! Doors at 10, show starts at 11!
2018 has seen Cub Sport undergo a transformation from local indie band to global pop powerhouse. While it has been an astronomical year of musical wins for the band - including the entirely independent release of their sophomore album BATS and sold out shows around the world - the most striking part of their rise has been the way they’ve used their platform to share a message of love, encouraging and inspiring people all around the world to live their truth and love themselves.
The Paris-born, San Francisco-raised singer-songwriter released her breakout single, "High Highs to Low Lows," at the end of 2017, which received millions of plays across streaming platforms -- and was selected as the number one track of Spotify's Fresh Finds Best of 2017 playlist.
Lolo Zouaï followed up the success of "High Highs to Low Lows" with her latest single, "Blue," released Jan. 17th, 2018. In its first week, "Blue" has over 200,000 streams across all streaming platforms.
In 2017, Lolo received the Songwriters Hall of Fame Abe Olman Award for excellence in songwriting and landed her first major writing placement on H.E.R. Vol.2 with the song "Still Down." She was also selected by Milk Studios as 2018's Most Likely to Make a Name for Herself.
Lolo Zouaï is 100% independent, and has been working with a small creative team from KidSuper Studios as she finishes her debut EP -- due out later this year.
Since the late ’80s, Mudhoney – the Seattle-based foursome whose muck-crusted version of rock, shot through with caustic wit and battened down by a ferocious low end – has been a high-pH tonic against the ludicrous and the insipid.
Thirty years later, the world is experiencing a particularly high-water moment for both those ideals. But just in time, vocalist Mark Arm, guitarist Steve Turner, bassist Guy Maddison, and drummer Dan Peters are back with Digital Garbage, a barbed-wire-trimmed collection of sonic brickbats. Arm’s raw yawp and his bandmates’ long-honed chemistry make Digital Garbage an ideal release valve for the 2018 pressure cooker, its insistent rhythms forcing movement and Arm’s sardonic lyrics offering a funhouse-mirror companion to the ever-more-ridiculous news cycle. “My sense of humor is dark, and these are dark times,” says Arm. “I suppose it’s only getting darker.”
Digital Garbage opens with the swaggering “Nerve Attack,” which can be heard as a nod both to modern-life anxiety and the ever-increasing threat of warfare. The album’s title comes from the outro of “Kill Yourself Live,” which segues from a revved-up Arm organ solo into a bleak look at the way notoriety goes viral. “I’m not on social media, so my experience is somewhat limited,” says Arm. “But people really seem to find validation in the likes—and then there’s Facebook Live, where people have streamed torture and murder, or, in the case of Philando Castile, getting murdered by a cop.”
“In the course of writing that song,” he adds, “I thought about how, once you put something out there online, you can’t wipe it away. It’s always going to be there—even if no one digs it up, it’s still out there floating somewhere.”
Appropriately enough, bits of recent news events float through the record—”Please Mr. Gunman,” on which Arm bellows “We’d rather die in church!” over his bandmates’ careening charge, was inspired by a TV-news bubblehead’s response to a 2017 church shooting, while the ominous refrain that opens the submerged-blues of “Next Mass Extinction” calls back to last summer’s clashes in Charlottesville, although Arm’s brutal delivery helps twist it into an indictment. Arm also went back to the pre-Mudhoney era for the titular insult of the stinging “Hey Neanderfuck.” ”National Lampoon made several comedy records in the 70s, and in one skit someone gets called a ‘Neanderfuck,’” Arm laughs. “I’ve always loved that insult and wondered why it never became a part of the American lexicon—it’s so brutal. It was high time to use that.”
Mudhoney’s core sound—steadily pounding drums, swamp-thing bass, squalling guitar wobble, Arm’s hazardous-chemical voice—remains on Digital Garbage, which the band recorded with longtime collaborator (and Digital Garbage pianist) Johnny Sangster at the Seattle studio Litho. The anti-religiosity shimmy “21st Century Pharisees” builds its case with Maddison’s woozy synths. “It adds a really nice touch to the proceedings,” Arm says of Maddison’s synth parts. “And Guy has really learned his way around his machines playing in a synth trio the past few years.”
The shuffling “Messiah’s Lament” is the band’s first song in 6/8—and it’s told from the point of view of a world-weary Jesus. And Digital Garbage closes with “Oh Yeah,” a brief celebration of skateboarding, surfing, biking, and the joy provided by these escape valves. “I would’ve really just loved to write songs about just hanging out on the beach, and going on a nice vacation,” says Arm. “But, you know, that probably doesn’t make for great rock.”
Mudhoney, however, know what does make great rock—and the riffs and fury of Digital Garbage will stand the test of time, even if the particulars fade away. “I’ve tried to keep things somewhat universal, so that this album doesn’t just seem like of this time—hopefully some of this stuff will go away,” Arm laughs. “You don’t want to say in the future, ‘Hey, those lyrics are still relevant. Great!’”
Ollie first emerged on the hip-hop scene after a life-changing car accident sparked an awakening, leading him to leave his athletic dreams behind and drop out of university.
It was music that Ollie turned to as a form of therapy. Music was always one of his passions, but not something he seriously pursued until coming face-to-face with death. Ollie shifted his focus to creating dynamic deliveries and engaging lyricism to reflect his experiences — including those concerning overcoming obstacles, facing adversity, and being proud of who you are. This path lead him to become the person he is today – an artist inspiring others using the mantra, “More Than Music.”
Pulling inspiration from hip-hop/r&b, pop, rock and country, the latter of which serving as a representation of his small town upbringing, Ollie’s music presents itself as a unique catalogue of sounds and cadences. Moreover, Ollie’s skillset highlights his ability to adapt to different genres effortlessly, creating a series of lyrical paintings that are not only captivating, but relatable.
“I started off being heavily influenced by hip-hop, and as time went by, I learned to appreciate a lot more music. When I began exploring different genres, my music and sound started to take form. I found my voice,” notes the Toronto-based artist.
Early in his career, Ollie was heavily involved in the YouTube community. At the age of 16, he opened his first YouTube channel and began uploading gameplay commentaries. This eventually drove him to create a music channel where he would promote the sounds of up-and-coming artists. Ollie’s desire to promote other undiscovered talent only further inspired him to begin releasing his own music under an alias that took form from his father's childhood nickname. He began writing, recording and releasing these songs, quickly getting featured on videos of popular gamers and personalities, building awareness around Ollie in the YouTube community. This subsequently translated to over 18K subscribers on YouTube, and over 430K monthly listeners on Spotify. In turn, this created an unbreakable bond between an artist and his constantly growing fanbase.
With a focused vision, and a clear message behind his music, Ollie’s newest endeavor, a 3-track EP titled, Lost, is setting a promising foundation for 2019. This release coincides with shows in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. Lost, which explores themes of insecurities, paranoia and relationships, adds a complex layer to Ollie’s music, once more highlighting his musicality and fearlessness of being himself, and giving fans something to connect to intimately.
“I get a lot of messages and comments from people talking about how a certain song was able to impact their life, or how they found a form of comfort through my words,” he explains. “I try and spend as much time as I can everyday talking with my fans one-on-one, not just about my music, but on a personal level, something ‘More Than Music’.”
With 2018’s Devouring Radiant Light (“DRL”), Skeletonwitch have succeeded where many bands have failed: they have reformulated their sound mid-career with dizzyingly triumphant results. Since the band’s inception, they have been known for blending and bending metal subgenres. Their collective love of Judas Priest, classic-era Metallica and Immortal has always been worn on their sleeves. However, it’s the band’s blacker leanings that have shifted to the forefront and altered the tenor of the through line on this latest offering.
Grasping the blackened thread of “White Light” that first appeared on their 2016 EP, The Apothic Gloom (the band’s first recording with vocalist Adam Clemans), Skeletonwitch has emerged with the eight-song, searing, soaring, burning statement of purpose. DRL demonstrates a band coalescing both compositionally and conceptually. Three of the eight tracks on DRL hover near the seven minute mark and a fourth nearly reaches nine minutes. DRL is a band cultivating new ambition.
While black metal has always been a recognizable component of the Skeletonwitch sound, DRL sees the band leaning all the way in with epic results. Where Skeletonwitch previously ran its output through a Second Wave Black Metal filter, DRL incorporates a strong atmospheric influence. Bergtatt-era Ulver and Cascadian black metal influences are on full display. From ethereal intros to tremolo sky-ride leads, DRL is draped with and adorned in black metal’s lexicon. But the expansion of influence does not stop there.
Nathan Garnette and Scott Hedrick are still co-captaining the dual-guitar stratospheric charge but they’ve dramatically expanded their palette. Celestial crunch that evokes post-metal pioneers, Isis? Check. Gothic doom passages à la Paradise Lost? Check. High-flying Åkerfeldt-ian solos slingshotting over mountains of undulating progressive rhythms? Check. The foundation for this sonic structure is the effortless bass work of Evan Linger who possesses some of the strongest 4-string chops of any player in heavy music. Providing requisite room for the guitar maelstrom, Linger arrives with dazzling yet tasteful runs in just the right places.
And then there’s vocalist Adam Clemans. Equal parts Tompa Lindberg fury and Jacob Bannon punk rage, Clemans’ creative intensity and sense of purpose fueled the band’s new musical trajectory. His organic writing lends the band gravitas and his vocal performance is nothing short of heroic.
Like the previous full-length, this album, the band’s first full-length in five years, was recorded by Converge guitarist and engineering deity Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Kvelertak, Chelsea Wolfe) at GodCity Studio in Salem, Massachusetts. The band’s rapport with Ballou provided the familiarity necessary to embrace uncharted creative territory. Melodeath genre architect Fredrik Nordström (Opeth, At the Gates) mixed the album at Studio Fredman in Gothenburg, Sweden. The record was mastered by Brad Boatright of metallic hardcore greats From Ashes Rise at Audiosiege Engineering in Portland, Oregon.
Ocean Alley have captivated audiences around the world with their infectious melody lines and memorable blend of psychedelic-surf-rock. Their acclaimed second album ‘Chiaroscuro’ debuted at #15 on the ARIA Chart in Australia, and was awarded the coveted triple j Feature Album, going on to be nominated for Australian Album of the Year by the station. The album has also been praised as one of The Music's 'Top 30 Albums of 2018', with lead single ‘Confidence’ being certified gold in Australia having moved in excess of 35,000 units.
2018 was the year where Ocean Alley continued to carve their place in the international music scene with their relentless touring schedule in support of the new album. The year saw the band play 96 shows around the world, visiting 10 countries to perform in 60 different cities.
Back on home soil, Ocean Alley sold over 25,000 tickets to their Australian shows including 15 sold out dates - the six-piece using their growing profile for good, partnering up with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance to raise over $17,000 to increase awareness of the disability and encourage public support.
Rounding out their biggest year yet, Ocean Alley wrapped up their final North American shows supporting Tash Sultana, before returning home to bring in the new year at Falls Festival.
The band look forward to bringing their sun drenched tunes to North America once more in May 2019!
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh man, this guy might be better than me, and that’s really awesome.’ I always wanted to work with people who I was a little bit intimidated by,” says Josh Epstein of how he came to collaborate with fellow Detroit-area native Daniel Zott to form JR JR. Coming together through a shared love for bands that effortlessly flexed harmonies like the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, the multi-instrumentalists recorded a couple songs in 2009 just for fun. It wasn’t until their friends started reacting with genuine excitement to their music that they realized they had something real on their hands, and with that Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. was born (the band’s original name).
“We suddenly had this thing that people wanted and we were sort of forced into it, but it was a natural thing,” recalls Josh. They put out two EPs on Quite Scientific Records in 2010, Horse Power (which included a cover of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”) and My Love Is Easy: Remixes Pt. 1, and soon major labels were reaching out to them. The band shortly thereafter signed with Warner Bros. Records to its 2011 full-length debut, It’s A Corporate World.
With 2013’s The Speed of Things and 2015’s JR JR (which featured the top 10 Alternative single, “Gone”), the duo continued to expand its already broad fanbase. Listeners across genre lines were drawn in by their adventurous, danceable blend of classic songwriting, intricate melodies and electronic elements. “Epstein and Zott remain purveyors of kaleidoscopic pop music,” said Paste. AllMusic noted, “Despite the use of zingy electronics and an array of mechanical drums, they maintain a warmth and humanness to their sound led by frequent McCartney-esque turns of melody…”
“It can be interesting that for some people, we’re the weirdest band they listen to, and for others, we’re seen as very mainstream”, says Daniel Zott. “And that’s great because it allows us to speak to people in very different ways.”
Daniel and Josh wanted to avoid the typical trappings that come with having defined roles in a band, so there’s no frontman in JR JR, just two guys who relish in the ying and yang of a close partnership. They continue to do the bulk of the creative work themselves – from writing and producing their songs to designing JR JR’s stage show.
“Dan is the most relaxed person that I’ve ever met,” says Josh, “he’s really nice, really caring, and he doesn’t take much personally and he doesn’t let much get him down. I’m the opposite. I’m high strung, over-analytical sometimes.” The balance of personalities is what helps helm their left-of-center sound into accessible pop.