"For a long time I always had to go off on my own,” says Nathaniel Rateliff of his creative process. “For the first Night Sweats record, I demo’ed everything up and created most of the parts. But for this new record, I felt like we’d all spent so much time on the road that we should all go off somewhere together. We should have that experience together. I wanted the guys to feel like they were giving something to the project beyond just playing.”
In other words, the Missouri-bred, Denver-based frontman wanted to make the band disappear along with him—out in the middle of the desert at first, and then deep in the woods. The result is the aptly titled Tearing at the Seams, a vivacious and inventive full-band record, with significant contributions from all eight members of The Night Sweats. These songs are grounded in old-school soul and r&b but are far too urgent for the retro or revivalist tag. There are familiar elements of soul and garage rock, but also jazz and folk and even country: the crackling energy on opener “Shoe Boot,” the cathartic sing-along of “Coolin’ Out,” the melancholy folk of the closing title track. “The future of this band is to take everything we’ve ever done in the past and just do it with our own little twist,” says Rateliff. “I hear that in my favorite bands. They just sucked everything up.”
Like his heroes, Rateliff has always been an omnivorous listener and player. Growing up in Hermann, Missouri, a small town with a booming tourism industry as well as a rampant meth epidemic, he started his music career playing in his family’s band at church, but that came to a tragic end when his father was killed in a car accident. Music became an obsession for him and his friends. “We would walk around these deserted country roads and talk about music all the time, how it can change the world and how it could change our world,” recalls Night Sweats bassist Joseph Pope III. “Music was what we thought would save us.”
In 1998 Pope and Rateliff moved to Denver where they worked nightshifts at a bottle factory and a trucking company while testing out their songs at open-mic nights. Their first band, Born in the Flood, attracted some major-label interest, but the pair had moved on by then, gravitating from heavy rock toward a folksier sound. Rateliff released an album on Rounder Records with a backing band called The Wheel, but despite the critical success of that and subsequent albums, he was still trying to find the right sound, the right outlet for what he needed to say.
A set of rough demos recorded in the early 2010s and based on old Stax and Motown records pointed Rateliff in a new direction. “That old soul stuff meant a lot to him when we were young,” says Pope. “Of all the projects we had done and all the different genres we had played, this was the most natural thing I’d heard him do. It sounded like it came from a really deep place in him, but it took this really meandering path to come through.”
Those demos eventually developed into the band’s 2015 self-titled debut, which became a massive hit and pushed them out on the road for two long years. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats blasted their way through hundreds of shows in North America, England, Ireland, and Australia, and they played Coachella, Farm Aid, Newport Folk Festival, and the Monterey Pop Festival’s 50th Anniversary. The crowds grew larger with every show and The Night Sweats grew tighter and more vigorous.
In May 2017, they brought that same boundless energy to the opens plains and prickly cacti of Rodeo, New Mexico, where the entire band disappeared for a week to write songs for their follow-up. “We just did what we like to do best,” says Rateliff, “which is hang out and be a family.” They recorded a number of demos, some complete songs and others fragments or just ideas, but all were anchored by the preternaturally tight rhythm section of Pope and drummer Patrick Meese, then buoyed by the rambunctious keyboard runs from Mark Shusterman and the textural guitar riffs of Luke Mossman.
It was a sunny setting for emotionally overcast music. Together, The Night Sweats created a set of songs that comprise both an r&b party record and deeply personal confessional from Rateliff, who penned all the lyrics. The album recounts moments in the last few years of his life, some good and others not so much. “I remember finishing one song and just losing my shit and breaking down. These songs are so personal, but not everyone will get that. I get to leave little secrets in there for myself, so that everybody else gets to have their own individual interpretations of the songs.”
From New Mexico, The Night Sweats headed north to rural Oregon, specifically to the home studio of producer Richard Swift, who has helmed records for The Shins and Foxygen in addition to The Night Sweats’ debut. “He’s like a brother to me,” says Rateliff. “We hit it off during the last record. I feel like I get what Richard’s trying to do and he gets me. And his studio doesn’t really feel like a studio. It’s in this little building behind his house. That’s why I like it so much.”
In that tiny space The Night Sweats jammed hard, building off the demos they’d recorded in Rodeo. Often Swift would get dynamic takes without the band realizing he was even recording, which creates a loose, live sound on Tearing at the Seams. “Sometimes it just takes time for songs to reveal themselves to you,” says Rateliff. “You try not to get in the way of the songs and just let them be what they need to be or what everybody understands them to be.”
That’s how “Hey Mama” evolved from an acoustic guitar riff Rateliff devised in one of hundreds of green rooms the band has occupied pre-show into one of the catchiest songs on the album. He admits he wasn’t satisfied with his first stab at lyrics and melody, but “everybody in the band would walk around singing that melody and I’m like, Goddammit! I have to write a new melody! But if everybody’s singing it, it must be okay.”
The band took several cracks at “Intro,” a showstopper that opens the second side with a pretzel horn riff courtesy of tenor saxophonist Andreas Wild and trumpeter Scott Frock. A few measures later, Jeff Dazey unfurls a blazing alto sax solo. “We played that song live for a while,” says Rateliff. “It was a jam we came up with before we were really a band. We tried to record it so many different times in so many different places, but it never turned out the way we wanted it to sound. Finally, we just put it together at Richard’s one night. It was a drunken mess, but we got it.”
The album shows The Night Sweats tearing at their own seams, at their own sturdy sound, at their long-held definitions of friend and family and band. It’s an album that builds on the sound of their debut but dramatically redefines what they can do and where they can go next. Says Rateliff, “I want—and I need—everybody to feel like they’re a part of this band. I want them to feel like they’re contributing artistically and emotionally to the experience of writing and creating this music. We’ve all had to make sacrifices to be in The Night Sweats, and I want them all to know that it’s worth something.”
There is nothing quite like a Dinosaur Jr. album. The best ones are always
recognizable from the first notes. And even though J tries to trip us up by smearing “Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know” with keyboards, it’s clear from the moment he starts his vocals that this is the one and only Dinosaur Jr., long reigning kings of Amherst, Massachusetts (and anywhere else they choose to hang their toques).
I Bet on Sky is the third Dinosaur Jr. album since the original trio – J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph – reformed in 2005. And, crazily, it marks the band’s 10th studio album since their debut on Homestead Records in 1985. Back in the ‘80s, if anyone has suggested that these guys would be performing and recording at such a high level 27 years later, they would have been laughed out of the tree fort. The trio’s early shows were so full of sonic chaos, such a weird blend of aggression and catatonia that we all assumed they would flame out fast. But the joke was on us.
The trio has taken everything they’ve learned from the various projects they
tackled over the years, and poured it directly into their current mix. J’s guitar approaches some of its most unhinged playing here, but there’s a sense of instrumental control that matches the sweet murk of his vocals (not that he always remembers to exercise control on stage, but that’s another milieu). This is headbobbing riff-romance at the apex. Lou’s basswork shows a lot more melodicism now as well, although his two songs on I Bet on Sky retain the jagged rhythmic edge that has so often marked his work. And Murph…well, he still pounds the drums as hard and as strong as a pro wrestler, with deceptively simple structures that manage to
interweave themselves perfectly with his bandmates’ melodic explosions.
After submerging myself in I Bet on Sky, it’s clear that the album is a true and worthy addition to the Dinosaur Jr. discography. It hews close enough to rock formalism to please the squares. Yet it is brilliantly imprinted with the trio’s magical equation, which is a gift to the rest of us. For a combo that began as anomalous fusion of hardcore punk and pop influences, Dinosaur Jr. have proven themselves to be unlikely masters of the long game. Their new album is a triumph of both form and function. And it augurs well for their future trajectory. If I were prone to wagering,
I’d say their best days are yet ahead of them. And yeah. I would bet the sky on it.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters are not that big on anniversaries, so there won’t be any big hoopla over the fact that the band is officially crossing the three-decade mark this year. Thirty years would seem like something to commemorate, especially with the same core lineup, an achievement few other name-brand bands can boast of. Yet right now they’re less about celebrating stability than volatility, in the form of their eleventh studio album, New World Arisin’, which makes good on its forward-facing title with what might be the brashest rock and roll of their career. The old world can’t rest on any laurels, and neither will they.
“We’re in a real exciting part of our career right now,” says co-founder Todd Park Mohr. “We’re a viable band with a great audience and we’re able to work at a very high level. It’s a career that’s getting more and more interesting, rather than less, which is remarkable,” he says, chuckling at the unlikelihood of anyone being this cheerfully all-in, this far in. “I mean, 30 years into it, I really feel like: Wow, this is getting fun. I’m learning more about music and about my instrument, and it’s just really engaging in every way. We also dovetail well with the times, I think; I feel like we have something to say.”
That desire to communicate and connect is very much reflected in a new album that explores a variety of subgenres, from the funky (“Trip”) to the unexpectedly punky (“Detonator”), with stops along the way for raging country-rock (“Damaged One”), expansive storytelling in the Van Morrison/early Springsteen mode (“Wipeout Turn”), a Jimi Hendrix cover (“Room Full of Mirrors”), and, in the title track, “New World Arisin’,” a Charley Patton-inspired tune that ended up having what Mohr describes as “a heavy metal/gospel feel.” He doesn’t feel these musical zigzags will give fans musical whiplash. “The fact is, most people, like myself, listen to multiple genres of music, so I don’t think people have a problem with variety. I love it.”
But if there’s a dominant musical motif to New World Arisin’, it’s “straight-up rock-pop,” says Mohr. That contemporary approach might come as a slight surprise to hardcore fans that saw the Monsters take a seriously rootsy turn or two in the last 10 years. The band embarked on a side project, dubbed Big Head Blues Club, that saw them paying homage to Robert Johnson and bringing in venerable guest collaborators like Charlie Musselwhite and the late B.B. King. The heavy blues influence that dominated their alter-ego band carried over some into the last actual Big Head Todd and the Monsters album, 2014’s Black Beehive. That element isn’t altogether missing in New World Arisin’; you’ll certainly hear it recur in “Long Coal Train.” But this time the blues take a definite back seat to the unapologetically mainstream instincts that had Big Head Todd going platinum in the mid-’90s with the album Sister Sweetly, which spawned the rock radio hits “Broken Hearted Savior,” “Bittersweet,” and “Circle.”
“Commercial success is still a goal for me and for our band,” Mohr says, “as far as the sense of communicating to, or striking a chord with a large number of people. We feel like we have something to say and something to offer the culture.” Plus, a true confession: “I’m interested in the pop song! And I think ‘Damaged One,’ for one, is a classic pop song. Our label would have killed for that song, back then,” in the wake of those mainstream radio hits that established the band. “They begged me to write it! So there’s a lot of irony in our coming back to that.”
The history of the group actually stretches farther back from the 1987 point at which they took their name. The core members came together at such an early age that it’s hard to know exactly how many candles to put on their collective cake. “It’s murky,” Mohr says, “because I’ve been playing with Brian (Nevin, their drummer) since junior high school, so the two of us go back to 1982. Brian and I played a talent show with Rob (Squires, the bass player) in 1983, and then we continued to plug at it, at a kids’ pace,” he laughs. They began playing original music in earnest in a nascent Colorado music scene that then consisted almost entirely of cover bands. A debut album, Another Mayberry, arrived in 1989, though it would be another four years before Sister Sweetly made them a national phenomenon. The only personnel change in these three decades has been the addition of a fourth member, putative “new guy” Jeremy Lawton, in 2004.
While they enjoy a robust fan base around the country, their success is outsized in Colorado, where they’re practically the unofficial state band. That’s evident in their ability to sell out Red Rocks, the most revered amphitheater in the nation, where they’ve headlined 19 times. It also comes into play when the band gets asked to be a part of commemorative moments: Mohr recently sang the national anthem at a Rockies game, and the entire band took part in the parade through Denver after the Broncos took the Super Bowl.
Their honors extend beyond their home state and even home country… into space. In 2005, they released the single “Blue Sky,” a tribute to the space program, written at the behest of crew members taking to the heavens aboard the space shuttle Discovery; it was performed years later as a live wake-up call to the astronauts on the shuttle. The song had enough appeal back on earth, too, that it was picked up by the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008 and used to introduce her keynote speech to the Democratic convention.
That campaign usage didn’t come about as a result of any desire on Mohr’s part to take the band in a political direction. He’s not so interested in getting Big Head Todd and the Monsters caught up in that particular fray as looking at the smaller and bigger pictures, wanting to keep the material topical in some far deeper fashion.
“Our audience is America, and I’m guessing it breaks down to the same percentages the country itself has,” he says. “We’ve never gotten in the business of polarizing people politically. But at the same time, as artists, it’s our job to observe and to hopefully find some insight. I’ve always been interested in the human condition more than politics. Politics are a part of it, but I always look at conflict as personal before it’s political. And I would consider conflict my dominant lyrical theme now— how people are trapped in it, and how conflict relates to intimacy and pleasure.” A Big Head Todd show, in any case, is a place where those conflicts might resolve, or dissolve. “In talking about our apolitical-ness, I think unity is an important thing,” Mohr says. “Being a human being, you have a lot in common with other human beings, and why not maximize those things? Music has an incredible capacity to convey other cultures and times, and to create a lot of empathy and togetherness. There’s harmony in it, and it implies oneness — the root.”
There’s an economy to the songs on the new album, most of which clock in around four minutes, and sometimes even closer to three. You’d think this would make Big Head Todd and the Monsters the farthest thing from a jam band. Yet they have a fervent following among that subset of rock fans, lack of noodling notwithstanding. Maybe it’s because of the changing nature of their set lists, since the Monsters are known to take requests, both in person and online.
“Our focus has always been on serving the song,” Mohr says. “We haven’t historically been that jammy. Which isn’t to say that we don’t have an occasional six-minute number -- we do. But having said that, I have a great respect for that audience, which I think is just a music-loving audience. You know, one year I got invited to the Jammies at Carnegie Hall, and I got in a discussion with somebody: ‘Well, how do you define a jam band?’ And he told me, ‘A jam band doesn’t repeat a song for three shows in a row.’ That was the only way that he would define it. I could almost follow that rule, except there are probably four songs I have to play every night. So I guess those four songs are what’s keeping us from ever being a jam band,” he laughs.
What’s clear is that Big Head Todd is one multi-headed rock monster, easily traversing the most accessible hooks and the heaviest grooves. It’s not surprising that they would appeal to any audience or sub-audience that values durability over flavors of the moment. But Mohr has to laugh when he thinks about how little the possibility of long-term perseverance was on the members’ minds 30 years ago.
“When you form, I think your goal is to make it through the party on Saturday night,” he points out. “In art, longevity isn’t the goal. It’s a happy accident if it happens, and I think ours was one of those convenient accidents that led to a happy marriage. But we happen to get along really well and love being with each other and playing music for a living.” Simple as it may sound, that’s a profound recipe for endurance in both the old world and the new.
The Things That We Are Made Of, the new full-length album by renowned and beloved singer, songwriter and performer Mary Chapin Carpenter, will be released May 6 on Lambent Light Records via Thirty Tigers (pre-order). Produced by 2016 Producer of the Year Grammy-nominee Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton), the album features eleven new songs, including the lead track “Something Tamed Something Wild,” which premiered yesterday at Rolling Stone and can now be heard/shared via Soundcloud. Of the song, Rolling Stone praises, “...beautifully sums up where she’s been and sets the stage for what’s yet to come…’Something Tamed Something Wild’ and indeed the entire new album finds the songwriter at her most thoughtful and also at times sweetly whimsical, perfectly capturing the buoyant spirit of her early successes and also serving as a reminder that she remains one of the most grounded, sentient songwriters of her generation.”
In celebration of the release, Carpenter will return to D.C.’s legendary Wolf Trap for a special performance on July 2. Tickets will go on-sale on Saturday, March 19. Additional tour dates to be announced shortly.
The Things That We Are Made Of was recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium and Low Country Sound studios during the spring and summer of 2016. In addition to Carpenter (vocals, electric/acoustic guitar), the album features Cobb (electric/acoustic/gut string guitar, percussion, Moog, Mellotron), Annie Clements (bass), Brian Allen (bass), Chris Powell (drums, percussion), Mike Webb (piano, B3 organ, reed organ, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes) and Jimmy Wallace (piano, B3 organ).
Of the album, Carpenter comments, “Working with Dave felt great from the first day of our sessions. He is always willing to try something new, believes that ‘yes’ is the only answer, and surrounds himself with wonderfully talented and generous musicians; by the end of the project, I felt as if I was a part of a new family.”
Cobb adds, “I wanted to work with Mary Chapin because very few people can cut with words like she can. She’s an absolute poet and legend. I was so happy to collaborate on this album together.”
Over the course of her acclaimed career, Carpenter has recorded 14 albums and sold over 14 million records. With hits like ”Passionate Kisses” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” she has won five Grammy Awards (with 15 nominations), two CMA awards, two Academy of Country Music awards for her vocals and is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Most recently, in 2014, Carpenter released her acclaimed debut orchestral album, Songs From The Movie. Arranged and co-produced by six-time Grammy winner Vince Mendoza, the record is comprised of ten previously recorded compositions including “Between Here and Gone” and “Come On Come On.” Since it’s release, Carpenter has performed alongside the New York Philharmonic, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the London Concert Orchestra, the L.A. Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra among many others.
One of the world’s best-known and best-loved performers, John Denver earned international acclaim as a songwriter, performer, actor, environmentalist and humanitarian. Denver’s career spanned four decades and his music has outlasted countless musical trends and garnered numerous awards and honors.
The son of a U.S. Air Force officer, Denver’s artistic journey began at age eleven when he was given his grandmother’s guitar. Denver eventually took guitar lessons and joined a boys’ choir, which led him at age twenty to pursue his dream of a career in music.
In 1963 he struck out on his own, moving to Los Angeles to be in the heart of the burgeoning music scene. It was during this time that Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. was urged by friends to change his name if a recording career was to be in his future. He took his stage name from the beautiful capital city of his favorite state, Colorado. Later in life, Denver and his family settled in Aspen, Colorado and his love for the Rocky Mountains inspired many of his songs.
John Denver experienced his first major break in the music industry when he was chosen from 250 other hopefuls as lead singer for the popular Mitchell Trio. Two years and three albums later, Denver had honed his considerable vocal talent and developed his own songwriting style. He gained recognition when his song “Leaving On A Jet Plane” was recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, becoming their first and only number one hit. As the Mitchell Trio disbanded, Denver was climbing up the pop charts as a solo act with songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Back Home Again,” “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” and “Calypso,” solidifying his position as one of the top stars of the 1970s.
By his third album in 1970, Denver’s social and political leanings were defined more clearly. Denver was one of the first artists to share an environmental message through his music, beginning with the song “Whose Garden Was This?” This was the first in a long line of songs that he wrote about the environment.
Denver contributed his talents to the benefit of many charitable and environmental causes and received numerous civic and humanitarian awards over the years. Fans responded to his heartfelt urgings about ecology, peace, and compassion that were consistently delivered in a gentle manner on his records and at live performances.
His passion to help create a global community paved the way for ventures into new musical and geographic territories. In 1985 he was invited by the Soviet Union of Composers to perform in the USSR, inspiring the internationally acclaimed song “Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For?).” The powerful video for “Let Us Begin” moved viewers around the world.
“I thought that I might be able to do something to further the cause of East/West understanding… The Russians say that the first swallow of spring won’t make the weather for the whole season, but it can mark the turn toward a warmer climate. I tried to be that swallow.”
The success of his visit lead to a concert tour of the USSR in 1986. These were the first performances by an American artist since the Cold War began – an unprecedented cultural exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. He returned to the USSR in 1987 to do a benefit concert for the victims of Chernobyl.
Denver was also the first artist from the West to do a multi-city tour of mainland China, in October 1992. He was somewhat astonished to discover how popular and well known his songs were in China. “‘Country Roads,’” he was told, “is the most famous song written in the West.”
Denver was a true adventurer, exploring all that the world had to offer. Throughout his life’s journey he challenged himself on every level, which is an integral part of what made him an extraordinary man, an uncommon friend and a rare human being.
While the frontiers of the American West satisfied his spirit, less-traveled frontiers appealed to his imagination. Denver was an experienced airplane pilot and collected vintage biplanes. His interest in outer space was so great that he took and passed NASA’s examination to determine mental and physical fitness needed for space travel. He then became a leading candidate to be the “first civilian in space” on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Denver planned to write a song in space, but circumstances kept him from joining the ill-fated expedition, which saddened the world when it exploded during take-off in 1986.
Among his many gifts, Denver was also a talented photographer. He photographed images of the people and places he experienced in his travels and showed his work professionally, often in connection with speeches made at colleges and universities as well as government and business facilities across the country.
Many of Denver’s songs reflected his relationship with nature and indeed, one of his greatest pleasures was spending time outdoors. He spent as much time as possible backpacking, hiking, climbing and fishing. He was an avid golfer and skier, regularly participating in celebrity charity events for both sports.
John Denver died tragically in a plane crash on October 12, 1997. He was survived by his brother Ron, mother Erma and three children, Zak, Anna Kate and Jesse Belle.
On March 12, 2007, Colorado’s Senate passed a resolution to make Denver’s trademark 1972 hit “Rocky Mountain High” one of the state’s two official state songs, sharing duties with its predecessor, “Where the Columbines Grow.”
Today, millions of fans old and new enjoy the work of this extraordinary performer. Thirty albums and four decades after he began, John Denver’s music is as relevant as ever. His humanitarian work continues to strengthen our global village, and his dynamic celebration of life, spirit and nature is a powerful inspiration to us all.
Each seasonal cycle informs, impacts, and inspires growth. American Authors translate those cycles of change into genre-blurring alternative anthems, bordering pop ambition and rock spirit undercut by a rhythmic hip-hop boom. Touting airtight songcraft and sonic adventurousness, the Brooklyn-based four-piece—Zac Barnett [vocals], James Adam Shelley [guitar, banjo], Dave Rublin [bass], and Matt Sanchez [drums]—push forward and progress yet again on their 2018 third full-length, the aptly titled Seasons [Island Records].
It distills a near-decade journey into a dynamic, distinct, and definitive offering for the quartet.
“The biggest thing is the change American Authors went through to get here,” Zac exclaims. “We had to go through all of these experiences and moments of experimentation to reach this body of work, which is the most genuine and pure thing we’ve ever done. It encompasses every season of our music: the ups, the downs, the highs, the lows, and everything in between. We let go of where we started, fell into the place of writing from the heart, and captured what came out naturally.”
Since their 2012 emergence, American Authors have set the stage for such evolution. By 2018, the guys impressively generated over 1 billion global streams on a string of alternately striking and soaring smashes. Their inescapable and instantly recognizable breakthrough “Best Day of My Life” earned a triple-platinum certification from the RIAA and vaulted to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in addition to receiving countless film, television, video game, and sports syncs. Their 2014 full-length debut, Oh, What A Life, achieved gold status, while the follow-up What We Live For, spawned another Top 20 hit, “Go Big or Go Home,” in 2016. Along the way, they sold out shows around the globe and ignited stages at festivals, including Lollapalooza, Firefly Music Festival, BottleRock Napa Valley, Reading Festival, and Leeds Festival, to name a few. As early as March 2017, the group commenced writing their next chapter.
Rather than tread familiar territory and record in Los Angeles or New York, they retreated to a mountainside studio twenty minutes away from downtown Nashville. Surrounded by woods and overlooking nature, they quite literally experienced all four seasons of Tennessee weather from winter snow to summer sun. Simultaneously, they embraced formative nineties influences, spanning alternative stalwarts such as Weezer and Nirvana and West Coast rap a la Tupac. Beyond embracing analog synths, they proudly incorporated “more guitar.” Settling into this mountain hideaway, they wrote 40-plus songs in between “watching the leaves turn, clouds roll in, and hawks in the sky,” as Matt recalls.
Collaborating alongside producers Cason Cooley and Trent Dabbs, the band leveled up their signature sound.
“It was so inspiring,” the drummer continues. “We put our emotions and visions through this distillation process as the weather changed right before our eyes. As far as production goes, Carson and Trent have this way of pulling things out of us that make it all cohesive. Sonically, it’s our most ambitious work to date for sure.”
Dave adds, “Thematically, it felt like we were accepting life for what it is as well as taking responsibility for both the positive and the negative. That was a big common thread. You’re seeking reconciliation for times of being down and out and rediscovering old friends. The music is like our beacon to everybody announcing, ‘This is who we are. We’re not afraid to go into the world and talk about it’.”
That conversation started with initial tracks “Deep Water” and “I Wanna Go Out” paving the way for the record’s arrival. By the close of 2018, they shared yet another album anthem—the stomping gospel-infused “Say Amen” [feat. Billy Raffoul]. Culminating on a steeple-size refrain, its rustling guitars and gritty duet between Zac and Billy proves equally heavenly and hypnotic. Meanwhile, the upbeat and energetic first single “Neighborhood” delivers a sincere, yet bittersweet message via nostalgic lyrics such as “Goodbye, so long to my neighborhood…and I know that I’ll see you again, because I’ll always come back to my neighborhood.”
Elsewhere, “Stay Around” charges forward on a handclap-driven beat augmented by a groundswell of synths, echoing guitars, and unshakable falsetto on the hook, “I hope you stay around…when you see me at my worst.” “It’s about calling on friends and loved ones in your life to help you get out of tough times,” says Zac. “It’s really difficult for me to open up and let others in my life as far as my troubles and problems are concerned. You’ve got to be able to confide in those closest to you though. On the song, I’m opening up and admitting I’m not perfect, but showing I can be better.”
The powerful piano chords of “Calm Me Down” uphold a confessional and catchy admission on the chorus. “You’re telling somebody that you need them,” adds Matt. “It’s not easy to do, but it’s important.”
In the end, Seasons shows American Authors at their purest and most powerful.
“I want people to see a different side of American Authors,” Zac leaves off. “I hope they realize there’s a message of hope, but it’s transmitted in a new and more exciting way for our band. Growing up, listening to my favorite artists helped me through so many hard times. It was the best therapy. I’ve seen fans take that away from our music in the past, and I hope they continue to do so. That’s the ultimate goal for us.”
There’s a great scene in The Last Waltz – the documentary about The Band’s final concert – where director Martin Scorsese is discussing music with drummer/singer/mandolin player Levon Helm. Helm says, “If it mixes with rhythm, and if it dances, then you’ve got a great combination of all those different kinds of music: country, bluegrass, blues music, show music…”
To which Scorsese, the inquisitive interviewer, asks, “What’s it called, then?”
“Rock & roll!”
Clearly looking for a more specific answer, but realizing that he isn’t going to get one, Marty laughs. “Rock & roll…”
Well, that’s the way it is sometimes: musicians play music, and don’t necessarily worry about where it gets filed. It’s the writers, record labels, managers, etc., who tend to fret about what “kind” of music it is.
And like The Band, the members of Railroad Earth aren’t losing sleep about what “kind” of music they play – they just play it. When they started out in 2001, they were a bunch of guys interested in playing acoustic instruments together. As Railroad Earth violin/vocalist Tim Carbone recalls, “All of us had been playing in various projects for years, and many of us had played together in different projects. But this time, we found ourselves all available at the same time.”
Songwriter/lead vocalist Todd Sheaffer continues, “When we started, we only loosely had the idea of getting together and playing some music. It started that informally; just getting together and doing some picking and playing. Over a couple of month period, we started working on some original songs, as well as playing some covers that we thought would be fun to play.”
Shortly thereafter, they took five songs from their budding repertoire into a studio and knocked out a demo in just two days. Their soon-to-be manager sent that demo to a few festivals, and – to the band’s surprise – they were booked at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival before they’d even played their first gig. This prompted them to quickly go in and record five more songs; the ten combined tracks of which made up their debut album, “The Black Bear Sessions.”
That was the beginning of Railroad Earth’s journey: since those early days, they’ve gone on to release five more critically acclaimed studio albums and one hugely popular live one called, “Elko.” They’ve also amassed a huge and loyal fanbase who turn up to support them in every corner of the country, and often take advantage of the band’s liberal taping and photo policy. But Railroad Earth bristle at the notion of being lumped into any one “scene.” Not out of animosity for any other artists: it’s just that they don’t find the labels very useful. As Carbone points out, “We use unique acoustic instrumentation, but we’re definitely not a bluegrass or country band, which sometimes leaves music writers confused as to how to categorize us. We’re essentially playing rock on acoustic instruments.”
Ultimately, Railroad Earth’s music is driven by the remarkable songs of front-man, Todd Sheaffer, and is delivered with seamless arrangements and superb musicianship courtesy of all six band members. As mandolin/bouzouki player John Skehan points out, “Our M.O. has always been that we can improvise all day long, but we only do it in service to the song. There are a lot of songs that, when we play them live, we adhere to the arrangement from the record. And other songs, in the nature and the spirit of the song, everyone knows we can kind of take flight on them.” Sheaffer continues: “The songs are our focus, our focal point; it all starts right there. Anything else just comments on the songs and gives them color. Some songs are more open than others. They ‘want’ to be approached that way – where we can explore and trade musical ideas and open them up to different territories. But sometimes it is what the song is about.”
So: they can jam with the best of them and they have some bluegrass influences, but they use drums and amplifiers (somewhat taboo in the bluegrass world). What kind of music is it then? Mandolin/vocalist John Skehan offers this semi-descriptive term: “I always describe it as a string band, but an amplified string band with drums.” Tim Carbone takes a swing: “We’re a Country & Eastern band! ” Todd Sheaffer offers “A souped-up string band? I don’t know. I’m not good at this.” Or, as a great drummer/singer/mandolin player with an appreciation for Americana once said: “Rock & roll!”
Galactic’s first new studio album in more than three years, ALREADY READY ALREADY – released on their own Tchuop-Zilla Records – sees the renowned New Orleans based instrumental outfit taking a distinctly contemporary approach towards their own progressive sound, interpolating modern rhythms and electronic instrumentation within the house-shaking framework of the Crescent City’s funk pop ‘n’ roll. Produced by the band’s Robert Mercurio and Ben Ellman, the new LP finds Galactic once again enlisting a diverse array of vocal collaborators to assist in their musical exploration, each of whom lend lyrical flavor and individualistic personality to the band’s multi-faceted sonic grooves. Bookended by a high powered pair of trademark Galactic instrumentals that give the album its title, ALREADY READY ALREADY. The album is a short, sharp blast of undeniable creative muscle, from the stripped down kick/snap verses of “Going Straight Crazy,” featuring New Orleans singer (and YouTube sensation) Princess Shaw, to punk cabaret artist Boyfriend’s quirky speed-rap on the breakneck “Dance At My Funeral.” As ever, Galactic’s omnivorous musical interests make easy classification utterly impossible – ALREADY READY ALREADY is as all encompassing and universal as the band’s moniker established long ago.
“I’ve never been able to put a label on what we do,” Ellman says. “I could say it’s funk or I could say it’s R&B or jazz or whatever else, but really, it’s all of that.”
“It’s not that we’re always trying to push boundaries,” says Mercurio, “but we definitely take influence from our hometown and try to do something new with it. We tour all around the world and we’re exposed to tons of elements that filter their way into our consciousness and come out through our music.”
Though their hearts are always in New Orleans, Galactic spends virtually all its life on the road, leaving limited timeframes in which to record. Whenever time allowed, the group holed up at their studio headquarters, Number C, where they were free to experiment and develop new ideas.
“Having our own studio allows to not be on some schedule,” Ellman says, “where we have to have material, save up some money, book the studio, and that’s the time we have to make a record. It’s a completely different process, where we can always be working on music.”
Over time, the tracks revealed themselves as either instrumentals (like the slippery, dub-inflected “Goose Grease”) or vocal songs. The band, so well woven into their city’s ever-changing music scene, began to thumb through their little black book in search of collaborators.
“Our community is so rich with talent,” Ellman says. “We’re just lucky to be in a situation where we can make phone calls, then someone comes to the studio, we kick it, start working on things. It’s all really organic.”
Galactic brought in a diverse array of predominantly young female singers, each of whom brings their own disparate musical tastes and cultural flavor. Working with artists lesser known on the national stage but beloved in their own community enables Galactic to evince a kind of sonic truth about their hometown, putting its multi-faceted underground to the fore.
“Trust me, I loved having Macy Gray and Mavis Staples on our last record,” Mercurio says. “It was an honor to work with them. But there’s something fun about making music with someone not everybody has heard of and end up getting a great reaction to it. There are no preconceived thoughts as to what the song should be like because the listener doesn’t know the artist as well.”
That being said, a number of the voices heard on ALREADY READY ALREADY are Galactic veterans: “Touch Get Cut” features the band’s touring vocalist, Erica Falls, while “Clap Your Hands” is sung by Ms. Charm Taylor, previously featured on 2015’s acclaimed INTO THE DEEP. The lilting “Everlasting Light” teams Galactic with frequent collaborator, The Revivalists’ David Shaw, alongside Nahko of Nahko & Medicine For The People – the only non-New Orleans resident among the features.
As for working with Nahko, Ellman says, “We just liked his vocal.” “Being from New Orleans isn’t a prerequisite for working with us. You never want to be restricted, it’s whatever serves the song best.”
Galactic is, likely even at this very moment, on the road as usual, with Erica Falls putting her own stamp on ALREADY READY ALREADY’s songs as they manifest new shapes through live performance. As if their perpetual tour schedule weren’t enough, Galactic announce the band’s purchase and future stewardship of New Orleans’ legendary Tipitina’s nightclub.
“We’re so incredibly honored to be tasked as the current caretakers of such a historic venue,” says Ellman. “My connection with the club started way before I was lucky enough to take the stage. My first job in New Orleans was at Tipitina’s as a cook in the (now defunct) kitchen. The importance of respecting what Tip’s means for musicians and the city of New Orleans is not lost on us. We're excited for the future of the club and look forward to all the amazing music and good times ahead.”
With that in mind, it turns out that, despite the lack of released work, the past three years have in fact been remarkably prolific for Galactic. The sessions that yielded ALREADY READY ALREADY will generate still another LP due later in 2019, one which Ellman describes as “possibly more of a throwback thing” but will almost certainly morph into something altogether new and wonderful via Galactic’s evolutionary musical vision.
“There’s no telling what those songs will sound like when we’re through,” Mercurio says. “Once we get in there and start twisting them, see what perks up our ears, stuff can definitely take a left turn. That’s kind of the story of Galactic right there – we’re constantly taking left turns. I wonder what it would be like if we took a right…?”
Music and escapism go hand-in-hand.
A concert or an album can unlock another world, if you let it. The Motet respect and revere this time-honored phenomenon. Fusing fiery funk, simmering soul, and improvisational inventiveness, the Denver, CO seven-piece—Lyle Divinsky [vocals], Dave Watts [drums], Joey Porter [keyboards], Garrett Sayers [bass], Ryan Jalbert [guitar], Parris Fleming [trumpet], and Drew Sayers [saxophone]—have continually provided an escape for listeners over the course of seven full-length albums since 1998, including their latest release Totem and with an upcoming 2018 release. That extends to countless sold out shows and festivals everywhere from Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, and Summer Camp to All Good Music Festival and High Sierra Music Festival as well as 16 consecutive years of themed Halloween concerts.
“When you’re listening to us, I want your mind to be taken away from wherever you are during the day and into some other place,” states Dave. “It’s all about that.”
After quietly building a diehard and devoted following, 2016 represented a watershed year for the musicians. They welcomed Lyle and Drew into the fold and released Totem, which drew acclaim from Relix, AXS, 303 Magazine, and many others. For the first time, The Motet sold out the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater—the holy grail venue of their hometown—cataloged on Live at Red Rocks. Sell-outs followed everywhere from The Fillmore (San Francisco) and Tipitina’s (New Orleans) to Brooklyn Bowl (Brooklyn), Park West (Chicago), and Crystal Ballroom (Portland). The group locked into an unbreakable groove.
“We’ve never been a band that just blew up overnight,” Dave goes on. “We’ve been very tenacious about our movement forward. We’ve been through many different iterations throughout the years. Right now, it feels like we’ve got the lineup that’s making an impression on our scene. Lyle is the perfect match for us. He’s got musicality and this raw energy we all resonate with. He ignited this spark to put work in and write inspiring music.”
That spark lit again in 2017. Following Jam Cruise and a second Red Rocks gig, the band fired up the new single “Supernova.” Strutting between hypnotic horns and swaggering guitars, the track sees The Motet blast off to another galaxy. Quickly racking up over 150k Spotify streams in a month’s time, it instantly excited fans.
“‘Supernova’ is the first song that I was involved with from start to finish,” explains Lyle. “Joey brought in the initial musical idea. We expanded upon it and worked everything out. The word ‘Supernova’ kept jumping out to me. We decided to roll with that and give it an interstellar romantic dance theme.”
“Supernova” kicks off a series of upcoming singles that leads back to a third Red Rocks gig set for summer 2018. However, everything comes back to the escape that The Motet deliver.
“We want to take people on a journey,” Lyle leaves off. “In order to go on a journey, you have to participate. You can’t just simply let it happen around you. You have to give yourself into that journey. Everything is open. You’re free to be yourself. You’re free to go on that adventure and journey. We want to be the catalyst for listeners to understand themselves and the world around them.”
“This is a family,” concludes Dave. “We’ve got each other’s backs. We’re doing this, because we love to be around each other and create together. We’re committed to working together because we appreciate and respect what we have to say and provide the music world and our community.”
Lucero has long been admired in their hometown of Memphis, where they have hosted “The Lucero Family Block Party” every spring for a number of years. At the 2018 Block Party they celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band, with the city’s Mayor Jim Strickland officially declaring it “Lucero Day.”
The group found their name in a Spanish/English dictionary. “Lucero” is variously translated as “bright star” or “morning star.” None of them can speak Spanish.
It’s been two decades since original members Ben Nichols, Brian Venable, Roy Berry, and John C. Stubblefield (keyboardist Rick Steff joined in 2006) started playing shows in Memphis. The band’s first show was April 13, 1998 at a warehouse space across the street from what is now the National Civil Rights Museum, the infamous Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Their first set was six songs played to about six people. On August 3, 2018, record release day for Among the Ghosts, the band will be co-headlining Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.
The band’s ninth studio album, Among the Ghosts, is their first for noted Nashville indie label Thirty Tigers. It was recorded and co-produced with Grammy-winning engineer/producer and Memphis native Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Drive by Truckers) at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Service, the studio built by the legendary producer after outgrowing his Memphis Recording Service/Sun Studio.
Recorded primarily live as a five-piece, Among the Ghosts eschews the Stax-inspired horns and Jerry Lee Lewis-style boogie piano featured on some of the band’s past recordings for a streamlined rock & roll sound that pays homage to their seminal influences as it seeks to push that legacy into the future. For a band who carried the torch of the alt-country movement back in the 90’s and helped pave the way for what is now called Americana, Lucero have re-discovered what inspired them in the first place. The sound is more their own and at the same time not exactly like anything they’ve done before. This is a band settling into their craft. The 10-song disc’s title is both a tribute to the spirits which roam the streets of their fabled city, as well as the hard road the determinedly independent band set out on 20 years ago. The band played around 200 shows per year for many of those 20 years.
With a nod to his younger brother Jeff Nichols, an acclaimed filmmaker whose movies include Loving, Mud, Take Shelter, Midnight Special, and Shotgun Stories; Nichols has written songs that are cinematic short stories, steeped in Southern gothic lore. There are nods to regional authors like Flannery O’Connor and Faulkner, as well as newer writers like Larry Brown (Big Bad Love, Fay), Ron Rash (The Cove, The World Made Straight), and William Gay (The Long Home).
As the first album he’s written since his marriage and the birth of his now two-year-old daughter Izzy, Nichols approached the task as a narrator rather than in first person. It’s a dark palette that includes tales of a haunting (“Among the Ghosts”), a drowning (“Bottom of the Sea), a reckoning with the devil
(“Everything has Changed”), a divorce (“Always Been You”), and a shoot-out (“Cover Me”). And that’s just Side A. Side B is a letter from a battlefield (“To My Dearest Wife”), a crime (“Long Way Back Home”), a straight-out rocker (“For the Lonely Ones”) and even a spooky spoken-word cameo from actor Michael Shannon, who has appeared in every one of Nichols’ brother’s films. The song’s title “Back to the Night” references a line from Nick Tosches’ Jerry Lee Lewis biography, Hellfire. In addition, there’s a song Nichols wrote for his brother’s movie Loving, which appeared in the film and on the soundtrack, re-recorded for Among the Ghosts with the whole band.
“You could also say there’s a rescue, a getaway, a survival story and a middle finger to Satan himself,” laughs Nichols. “It’s all in your perspective.”
Several songs juxtapose going off to battle with a rock & roll band’s endless touring, shifting time periods like the spirits which haunt the album, the happiness of domestic bliss undercut with fears of loss and the specter of mortality. Among the Ghosts simultaneously reprises the past and looks to the future, while being firmly anchored in the present.
Musically, the band highlights range from co-founding member Brian Venable’s Dire Straits-meets- War on Drugs guitar pyrotechnics in “Bottom of the Sea” and “Cover Me” to the Springsteen vibe of “For the Lonely Ones”, Rick Steff’s skeletal piano lines on “Always Been You”, John C’s bass lines in “Everything Has Changed” and “Long Way Back Home”, and drummer Roy Berry’s dynamic shifts from the powerful and brutal title track “Among the Ghosts” to the marching drive of “To My Dearest Wife” and the subtlety of “Loving”. Throughout, Nichols’ bourbon-soaked growl has become even more distinctive and commanding.
Among the Ghosts offers a timeless perspective on Lucero’s distinctive sound. The lyrics could’ve been written 200 years ago or yesterday. Representing a new South compared to the one that’s been mythologized, Lucero have formulated their own ideas and culture which, in some cases, contradicts what came before them (no Confederate flags), but also updates and reconsiders those traditions in a new light.
“I think we’ve tried to remake this place that we love and cherish in our own fashion. We are very proud of where we are from and we’ve spent the last 20 years trying to bring a bit of our version of home to the rest of the world... It may have taken 20 years, but everything has fallen in place right where it needs to be,” acknowledges Nichols. “There were some dark days in those middle years, but we’ve learned how to do this and survive. We still write heartbreak songs, but now, with a family at home, it’s a whole new kind of heartbreak.”
Among the Ghosts lays out that new territory with alacrity, as Lucero shines their Morning Star, burning just as brightly, if not more so, 20 years later. As one of the album’s song titles so aptly puts it, “Everything Has Changed”, but one thing hasn’t... Lucero’s music remains more vital than ever.
Over the last few years Belgian artist Milow has emerged as one of Europe’s most exciting young talents: a plugged-in singer-songwriter with the ability to touch a crowd and the pop know-how required to make great records. He’s an old-school soul with a new-fashioned sensibility. Milow’s music gleams with the inherited song craft of his heroes but it also reflects a point of view all his own. For many artists, success means stop; for Milow, who has sold more than a million albums in Europe, it’s a reason to go. After five years of non-stop touring and having released several well-received albums, Milow moved to Southern California in 2012. Not to start conquering the US, but to recharge his batteries in a sun-drenched region where he had lived before. With the same humble spirit that originally inspired him to start writing songs as a teenager, he patiently worked on his next move in seclusion in a city where no one knew him.
The result of this two-year journey is reflected on the folky new album "Silver Linings”. Milow reveals himself as a mature artistic personality and shows a much more melancholic side. The ten songs on "Silver Linings" captivate the listener with the irresistible hooks that the charismatic musician was so loved for on his earlier albums, and draw the listener in. The album was recorded live in Los Angeles at Fairfax Recordings, the studio known in music history as Sound City Studios; great albums by Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young and Nirvana were created here. Together with his producer of many years Jo Francken (who was at the helm for both Milow’s European debut “Milow" and "North and South") and Kevin Augunas (known for his work for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, The Lumineers, Cold War Kids and Valerie June), Milow surrounded himself with an illustrious team: Clif Norrell (Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Tom Petty) was at the mixing desk, Larry Goldings (James Taylor, Norah Jones, Maceo Parker) was on keyboards and Matt Chamberlain (Fiona Apple, David Bowie, Kanye West) on drums. Guitars were provided by Val McCullum (Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson) and Tom Vanstiphout (a member of Milow's band since 2007). The album features a 13-piece live string section, as well as additional guests like Roger Manning Jr. (Beck), Greg Leisz (Ray LaMontagne, Eric Clapton) and introduces Courtney Marie Andrews, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Seattle who has already released four solo albums, providing backing vocals.
The combination of the intimate and the widescreen has won Milow a devoted fanbase across Europe, not to mention a list of achievements that includes hit singles, platinum albums, sold-out tours, performances at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals and millions upon millions of YouTube hits. What’s more, he’s accomplished all this as his own boss, releasing music through Homerun Records, a label he founded in 2005 in his bedroom. “I just never wanted to have to answer to anyone else,” he says of the DIY operation. “It’s always been my call.” A sophisticated music-scene veteran with the bottomless energy of a beginner, Milow’s ready for what’s next.
Contact: Alex@7smgmt.com / Simonne@7smgmt.com
Alternative electro band 888 is made up of Denver music vets Danny Stillman (vox) and Danny Cooper (drums). Their self-released 2015 debut “Critical Mistakes EP” features radio charting single “Critical Mistakes” and has quickly earned them awards and acclaim. The trio won KTCL’s 2015 “Hometown For The Holidays” competition in both fan voting and live performance categories, cementing their place in Denver’s burgeoning music scene. With mounting radio air play, unforgettable shows, and a sound all their own, 888 are poised for a massive 2018.
“Spacedust & Ocean Views”
The depth of one’s life is evident through their music. The more sorrow, laughter and adventure experienced, the more interesting curves and crevices are carved into an artist’s songs. The miles traveled leave rich lines in the verses that only time, misadventure, and hard-won wisdom can produce. Anders Osborne is a map of intensely felt, passionately engaged living, a fractured but healing topography of heartbreak and hope for fellow travelers to explore.
Osborne’s music is redolent of the blues bathed in West Coast sunshine and brotherly compassion, a torchbearer for rock ‘n’ roll with blood in it’s veins and a heart in it’s hands. His long awaited new full length, Spacedust & Ocean Views, offers up graceful songwriting and signature guitar work on one of the strongest releases in his storied career. A strong sense of place runs through the album. From an evocation of geography to a questioning of one’s place in the universe, big ideas are condensed in thoughtful, smoothly swinging ways. It’s the album his fans have been waiting for- one that only he can deliver.
“These twelve songs speak about places dear to me, places I feel something profound about, but there’s also the presence of the universe,” explains Osborne. “I think one of the main struggles we all face is the separation from unity. I want to understand how I can feel unified with the world and others, with the universe writ large. I can arrange the ideas intellectually but the feeling of longing remains. The whole thing is a mystery, sometimes a sad, baffling mystery and sometimes very enchanting, but overall I just don’t understand and want to desperately. That’s what this music is, an attempt to understand it all.”
And what an attempt it is.
Producer Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Daniel Lanois, Iggy Pop) uses Osborne’s seasoned, searching voice like a river running through the song cycle. It’s a distinctly human element that continually tenderizes the listener as his sinewy, emotionally charged guitar dances with longtime bassist Carl Dufrene, guitar foil Scott Metzger (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead), and the shared drumming of Brady Blade and Tony Leone. New Orleans percussion master Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton, and pop-jazz legend Rickie Lee Jones join Osborne for the cosmically charged album closer “From Space.” On the other hand, Spacedust’s lead single “Lafayette” is a roots-fueled rocker- a track that finds Osborne simultaneously sticking to his guns and exploring new territory as an artist.
This special collection of compositions is the culmination of years of writing and touring. “This is the last chapter before something new emerges. I’m wrapping some stuff up and figuring some fresh stuff out,” says Osborne, who’s been moving beyond his complicated past for close to a decade. “Now my life is about a human experience in a larger sense. Now, I feel I’m standing on my own two feet, trying to be a grown man doing the right thing.” In an ever changing musical landscape, Spacedust & Ocean Views firmly plants Anders Osborne as one of American music’s elite guitarists and songwriters.
It felt like time to switch gears.
In 2017, Andy Frasco reached a fork in the road. Renowned for a jubilant jambalaya of rule-breaking rock n roll his career kept rolling ahead at full steam. To date, he had released three independent albums, chronicled a German gig in front of 15,000 screaming fans on the recent live opus Songs from the Road, made jaws drop at festivals such as Grandoozy, Firefly, Mountain Jam, Summer Camp, Rock am Ring, Rock im Park and Electric Forest, generated millions of streams, launched Andy Frasco’s World Saving Podcast, and performed at festivals alongside icons such as Peter Frampton, Gary Clark Jr., The Revivalists, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dog, Joe Walsh and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few.
After a string of wild shows (and wilder nights) on tour somewhere in the heart of America, one morning sounded a very loud wakeup call for the singer, songwriter, performer, and namesake of Andy Frasco & The U.N.
“I woke up after a five-day bender on cocaine,” he recalls. “This relationship I was in didn’t work out. I bought a house in the Midwest to be close to a girl, but she didn’t trust me. I wouldn’t trust me either, because I was fucking chicks and doing drugs every night on the road. I would take ecstasy just to get out of bed. I was sleep deprived, losing all of my friendships, and fucking overworked. I decided to make a change in my life. I realized that I’m getting older; I couldn’t only be the party guy. I wanted to chronicle my life. I wanted to capture my feelings. I wanted substance in my life and music. I decided to take a step back from this wild life for a second and reevaluate, so I could genuinely enjoy the ride I’m on for the long haul.”
The ride ramps up on his third full-length album, the aptly titled Change of Pace. Andy approached recording from a new vantage point encouraged by iconic Widespread Panic bassist and producer Dave Schools.
At sessions in a remote Sonoma County mountain studio in a converted chicken coop of all places, Schools challenged him as a songwriter and lyricist.
“Dave sat me down and asked, ‘Who do you want to be? What do you want to be remembered by?’,” recalls Andy. “I never really thought of it that way. He dialed things back for me. He’s become a huge inspiration to me as a musician and a friend. The album began there.”
Cutting six songs with Dave, he embarked on something of a “studio tour” to finish Change of Pace. He tapped the talents of Ben Ellman in New Orleans, Charles Goodan in Los Angeles, and Caleb Hawley in New York at Lady Gaga’s Atomic Studios.
As a result, the songs reflect the respective regions.
“There’s a grungy Bourbon street feel, hard-working and moody New York energy, and that indie California vibe,” he goes on. “I’m a traveler at the end of the day. I became a musician to travel and give people therapy through music. As part of this revelation, I realized I don’t need to stay at home when I’m off tour. I decided since I’m most comfortable on the road, so I might as well make this record on the road.”
The first single “Up/Down” slips from a simmering beat and bass line into a horn-driven swoon. Produced by Goodan, its undeniable refrain proves immediately irresistible as he sings, “Your love is up and down.”
“I was just getting through my relationship with that girl from Arkansas,” Andy goes on. “One day, she was happy. The next day, she wasn’t. I speak on the bipolar nature of a relationship. This was the first time I felt that. Normally, I’d be in the next town before things got any further. The song came from an outside point-of-a-view by a guy who never had a real relationship before this in his life!”
Meanwhile, the boisterous “Waiting Game” features Schools’ touch and thrives on delightful proclamations such as “I wanna be the man you can tell your momma about!” The theatrical piano chords, cinematic accordion, and barroom chant delivery on “Don’t Let the Haters Get You Down” takes dead aim at “online trolls talking shit from their parents basements.”
The title track “Change of Pace” gallops ahead on tambourine and organ as Andy’s voice stretches to the heavens and back on the admission, “I’m looking for change of pace. Then, I’ll be on my way.”
“Everyone has an idea of how you should live your life,” he states. “If you’re dealing with something that you’re not into, try something the complete opposite. Instead of always pondering what you could do tomorrow, do it today.”
In the end, this change elevates Andy to a new level.
“I’d love for people to connect to the songs in addition to the live show,” he leaves off. “I’m a philosopher and a musician at the end of the day. I want to emulate those aspects in my work. I’m also just a guy trying to find happiness like everyone else is. It’s about being okay with the lows, not getting too high with the highs, and being comfortable in your own skin.”
Beau Young Prince is a quintessential product of his environment. While being so heavily influenced by your surroundings could hamper one’s sound as an artist,Prince uses it to his advantage. From his earliest work to his studio debut Until Then, Beau has personified versatility. You are as likely to hear BYP rap about falling in and out of love, as you are to hear him croon about getting a Half & Half from the carry-out joint down the street.
Beau’s versatility is his greatest strength, as evidenced on genre-blending tracks like “What We Do,” recorded with hit U.K. artist TroyBoi, and released under Diplo’s Mad Decent label. The track has gained almost 3 million streams across multiple platforms. His collaboration with New York’s DJ YMNO — comprising the duo Young Futura — brilliantly mixes lyrical gusto and swagger that exemplifies the best of hip-hop, with the percussive heartbeat that makes house music thrive. The group's debut project "Patience" has been streamed over 2 million streams since it's release in early 2017. Prince is also capable of turning it loose and showcasing his masterful flow on tracks like Hounded’s “Crazy Love.” BYP is able to switch flows, cadences, and tonalities to suit any given melody, reminiscent of musical juggernauts like Kid Cudi.
Above everything else, BYP’s music is a reflection of his upbringing in DC. The southeast native clearly studied his city’s musical roots and implemented them into his music. Traces of jazz, hip-hop, and perhaps most notably, go-go music are all present in Beau’s work. Prince, a true DC native, blends elements of the city’s most iconic beats and sounds—everything from Chuck Brown flair to Fat Trel grit to Oddisee lyricism bubbles to the surface in BYP’s music. As a classically trained bassist, there is no sonic terrain too foreign for Beau to explore. Fortunately for listeners, unknown terrain is precisely where Beau Young Prince makes his most innovative, moving creations.
Home represents more than just a physical place.
It encompasses a state of being and an ideal. When you feel home, you feel whole. Humanity intrinsically seeks that feeling. This eternal search inspires Beta Radio’s third full-length and first for NETTWERK, Ancient Transition. The Wilmington, NC duo—Benjamin “Ben” Mabry and Brent Holloman—transform a tumultuous two years of corporeal and existential wandering into 10 songs cast in folk-style literary lyricism, Americana spirit, and orchestral experimentation.
On the journey, they creatively cover new ground.
“Throughout the whole process, there was an undercurrent of being displaced, because I moved four times,” says Ben. “Simultaneously, I was trying to understand how to reconcile who I was years ago with and who I am now. I was essentially searching for a home in a physical place as well as in an ideology and other people. My head was in this space for two years, so my reaction was to write songs that articulated these emotions. On the record, certain musical moments will prove sonically disruptive and reflect how I felt. The theme threads through everything.”
“While we were on the search, we let go of what we thought Beta Radio should sound like, experimented, and started simply pursuing what we like,” adds Brent. “For the first time, we utilized samples, an Unacorda, and old Juno 60 synthesizers from the eighties. We really expanded our sound.”
These lifelong friends carefully developed the sound over the course of two independent LPs. After quietly stirring a local buzz, 2014’s Colony of Bees marked a major breakthrough. Huffington Post touted the record among its “40 Best Albums of 2014,” while the single “On The Frame” generated 31 million cumulative Spotify streams between the original and acoustic versions. “Sitting Room” surpassed 11 million, and “I Am Mine” crossed the 4-million-mark. Meanwhile, they frequently occupied coveted real estate on high traffic playlists such as Soft Focus, Afternoon Acoustic, Happy Folk, The Most Beautiful Songs in the World, Calm Vibes, and more. As their profile organically grew, they released the holiday compilation, The Songs the Season Brings, Vol. 1-4.
By 2016, the musicians could focus on their next offering as they moved into a proper studio in downtown Wilmington.
“We both wanted to be doing Beta Radio full-time and, thankfully, we were finally able to,” continues Brent. “We’d recorded the past two records at home studios. With a proper studio and this newfound time, it was a seamless transition.”
Inspired by everything from The Arrival soundtrack to a re-reading of Slaughterhouse Five, the guys carefully crafted the music comprising Ancient Transition. The first single “Our Remains” illuminated a spark of inspiration. Off-time beats and ukulele bristle against strings as Ben’s delicate delivery captivates. It culminates on the thought-provoking refrain, “I’m wearing your remains.”
“The time signature forced us to think differently,” Ben admits. “In terms of the meaning, I had a very brief relationship with someone, but it didn’t go the way I thought it was going to go. I looked for home in this person and wasn’t finding it there.”
The opener “Tongue Tied” tempers electric guitar and broken Wurlitzer mixed with vibraphone. In order to achieve the warm echo, Ben sang into the guitar pickups, conjuring an airy vibe.
“In broad strokes, it touches on the idea that something’s missing,” he goes on. “You know there’s more you’re not seeing, yet you can’t find it. I don’t know what’s missing, but I’ve got to figure it out.”
Violin and banjo underscore a heavenly and hypnotic melody on the entrancing “Realistic City Living.”
“We like to add different instruments in unexpected ways,” says Brent. “The sonic palette is really rich. It makes for a record you can listen to from beginning to end. That was important to us.”
As they keep searching, Beta Radio ultimately offer a powerful reassurance on Ancient Transition.
“When people listen to this, I’d love for them to walk away feeling known,” Ben leaves off. “Art should reflect our humanity back to us. That’s definitely a big ambition for us. On the other end of the spectrum, we just hope listeners enjoy it.”
"We were toying with the idea of calling the album Our Strongest Material To Date” laughs Jeremy Schmidt. The Vancouver outfit’s keyboardist can afford to joke about what they describe as “the dog-eared ace of spades of all rock band platitudes." It was during a solo show under his Sinoia Caves alias that he performed a revelatory electronic prototype for Mothers Of The Sun. This quintessentially Black Mountain tour de force kicks off the renamed but still accurately titled IV. “It’s actually an older song which we couldn’t get quite right before,” explains Schmidt. “It has all the elements that we gravitate towards, built into one miniature epic.”
Chief among these elements is the distinctive voice and breathtaking range of Amber Webber, whether she’s powering through interstellar boogie on Florian Saucer Attack, setting the celestial tone for her beautifully orchestrated ballad Line Them All Up, or constructing the choral midsection for Space To Bakersfield, a psychedelic soul finale inspired by Funkadelic’s deathless Maggot Brain. “We'd meant to have an actual choir, but I ended up singing all the parts. It’s a choir of me! I’d never written an arrangement like that before.”
The group’s sense of rediscovery as a creative whole is tangible throughout. They were joined in the studio by spiritually attuned bassist and veteran purveyor of the riff, Arjan Miranda (formerly of S.T.R.E.E.T.S, Children, and The Family Band) whose roots, heart and soul are connected to the same soil and cement that Black Mountain were borne from. Recording was primarily done in close collaboration with Sunn O))), Wolves In The Throne Room and Marissa Nadler producer Randall Dunn, at his trusted Avast! facility in Seattle. “It’s got some grit,” enthuses guitarist and co-vocalist Stephen McBean. “And there’s a history there: Northwest punk, grunge and general weirdo outsider stuff, plus it houses the same Trident mixing board used for Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies.”
A heightened mystique and dramatic yearning can be heard on such perfectly formed earworms as Cemetery Breeding, described by drummer, engineer and occasional pianist Joshua Wells as “a dark pop song with an emotive urgency to it that taps into my teenaged eyeliner-and-trenchcoat wearing sensibilities.” Wells’ eclectic tastes and multitasking flair – his supple percussion also provides the backbone for Dan Bejar’s world-conquering Destroyer ensemble – inform Black Mountain’s wider palette as well as their rhythmic choices. “It’s like painting. All sound colour. And space is really important. People think of us as this heavy rock band – and we are sometimes – but it has to be tempered with space. There has to be these emotional cues. It’s not just about rocking out.”
Check out the way Amber and Stephen’s harmonies telepathically entwine on cosmic standout Defector, or Constellations’ unforced confluence of synthesizer pulse and double denim riff. In addition to being blessed with a melodic facility that eludes most rock groups, Black Mountain effortlessly echo the limitless possibilities of the internet age. Sonic tributaries that never met in the real world – AC/DC and Amon Düül, Heart and Hawkwind, King Crimson and Kraftwerk – flow together on IV as they do online. It fits with McBean’s unifying theory of the modern YouTube stoner, wherein “kids discover their own alternate universes online, from Cologne to Melbourne… Detroit to Laurel Canyon.. the ice age to annihilation. There’s a new scene with a different set of headphones creating a postmodern futuristic Fantasy Island. All those fledgling heads in waiting escaping within their computer screens!”
This impulse to connect is reflected by the band members’ activities and journeys outside the mothership. Josh and Amber have their self-run Balloon Factory studio and pop-noir Lightning Dust project. Stephen relocated to Los Angeles six years ago. Traveling and creating via his Southern Lord released hardcore unit Obliterations and ongoing post-punk rock ’n’ roll combo Pink Mountaintops (whose heady sometimes electronic throb led to the majestic, mantra-like You Can Dream). “There’s something very West Coast about us all.” he says. “That rambling restlessness of keepin’ on guides us and keeps the music alive. Whether it’s the gravitational pull of the Pacific Ocean that draws us back together or simply a good taco… The turning up, turning on and getting down is Black Mountain. It’s home, and it always feels good to come back to. ”
Back in Canada, meanwhile, Jeremy, channelled his analogue synth mastery and youthful John Carpenter worship into the hugely acclaimed cult science fiction film score Beyond The Black Rainbow. He’s been busy of late conceptualizing Black Mountain’s “mystic Concorde” art direction. Referencing the hallowed aircraft’s future/past iconography, his designs are emblematic of IV’s spatial diversity and maximalist astral-rock vision. You know, it really is their strongest material to date.
"I wanted to write a song that wasn’t sad or negative. Don’t get me wrong I love a solid heartbreak tune, but I had never written anything else." admits Brent Cowles, as he described the impetus for "High to Low", his brand new single available October 18th."
I wanted to make people dance and smile" he continued. So Brent locked himself in an LA studio with producer and songwriter Lewis Pesacov, of Fool's Gold fame, and they put together the funky foundations for "High To Low.” Brent and Lewis built the song around the bass-line. The result is exuberant, good time rock n roll. Says Brent, "It’s a song about dancing like everyone is watching, and you don’t give a damn."
Blurring the lines between boisterous rock, R&B, and contemplative folk, Brent’s infectious voice and knack for melody seem to swing effortlessly from quavering intimacy to a soulful roar as they soar atop his exuberant, explosive arrangements.
Growing up, Cowles first discovered the power of his voice singing hymns at his father’s church in Colorado Springs. Having a pastor for a parent meant heavy involvement in religious life, but Cowles never quite seemed to fit in. At 16 he fell in love with secular music; at 17 he recorded his first proper demos in a friend’s basement; at 18 he was married; at 19 he was divorced. Meanwhile, what began as a solo musical project blossomed into the critically acclaimed band You Me & Apollo, which quickly took over his life. The Denver Post raved that the group created “some of the most exciting original music in Colorado,” while Westword proclaimed that their live show was a “clinic in roots rock mixed with old-school swing and blues,” and Seattle NPR station KEXP hailed “Cowles’ Otis Redding and Sam Cooke inspired vocals.” The band released two albums and toured nationally before they called it quits and amicably went their separate ways.
The parting was a necessary but difficult one for Cowles. In the ensuing months and years, he would find himself alone more than ever before, at one point living out of his Chevy Tahoe just to make ends meet. But rather than break him, the experience only strengthened his resolve. "High to Low” gives the listener a real sense of Brent’s current mood. His songs are more evolved yet simpler, his lyrics are stronger yet fragile. He hopes you love it, live it and get down with it.
Patrick, Tiffany, and Nathan Meese began performing as The Centennial in the Spring of 2010. Joined by Joseph Pope III (Born in The Flood, Miss America) and Adam Blake (The Films) the band celebrated the release of their first full-length album, Nervous System, in January 2013.
The Denver based group has a deep rooted love for the Colorado music scene. Patrick and Nathan founded the pop-rock band "Meese" in 2004 and went on to release an album under Atlantic Records. After deciding to end the project due to lack of good times, Patrick's wife Tiffany joined the brothers in the studio and the trio adopted a new sound and aesthetic.
"It was time for a fresh start," says Patrick. "...and after we started The Centennial, Nate and I were lucky enough to tour with some other great bands and see how they did things."
In the past two years the brothers have performed with other Colorado based acts such as Nathaniel Rateliff, Tennis, Gregory Alan Isakov, Churchill and The Epilougues. "I think each tour has helped shape our band into something closer to how I always imagined it."
The Centennial draw their musical style from a mixture of styles and sounds. Patrick and Tiffany front the band and share the lead vocal responsibities. Their soaring harmonies, joined by spacious synths and driving guitars, create a sound similar to the heavens opening up and angels spitting in your ears.
But growing up as children of the 90's means having to rock a bit as well.
"The new record is intentionally not as mellow as the first EP we put out. In a lot of ways this project is figuring itself out. The new record is a big step."
Damian is a normal dude with average to below average musical ability that through a series of fortunate events has found himself fronting a Polaris winning, critically lauded punk band called Fucked Up and hosting the acclaimed (albeit sparsely viewed) The Wedge on Much Music. Despite this success, he remains firmly planted in the knowledge that it can be fleeting and thus finds stability from his growing family and growing record collection.
Dave Schools is a critically acclaimed bass player and founding member of American rock band Widespread Panic. He is also an accomplished producer, songwriter and journalist with articles published in a wide variety of music magazines. Schools lives in Sonoma County, California with his wife and two dogs; when not on tour he likes to garden.
Schools is an innovator on the bass with a non-traditional approach that has given him a unique voice on the instrument. With his primary band, Widespread Panic, he plays a six-string Modulus Quantum 6 bass that affords him a wide range of sounds that are further enhanced by an array of effects pedals. Influenced by an early desire to play drums and childhood piano lessons, Schools has deviated from, though not abandoned, the established rhythm role of the bass and created a more melodic, improvisational style that has been referred to as “lead bass.”
There’s something somewhat frightening, yet utterly liberating when leaving the confines of a successful band to venture solo — especially a band whose latest record was called “effortlessly brilliant” by critics. But, such is the case with Erika Wennerstrom who is taking a break from her Austin-based rock band, Heartless Bastards, to deliver her solo debut Sweet Unknown.
“It was a really freeing experience,” reveals the singer/songwriter/guitarist. “I found my strength in my vulnerability as an artist, and really, just as a person. It kind of forced me to allow myself to be a little more exposed and stand on my own two feet. I feel like I’ve grown a lot creatively and personally.”
But fans of Heartless Bastards — which has released five critically- acclaimed albums since their 2003 inception, appeared on many late night television shows, and has drawn praise from Rolling Stone, Time, New York Times — need not worry. The band has not broken up. “We’d been going for so long and everyone in the band was just ready for a little break. But I had songs in me that needed to come out. I didn’t think it was fair to push them to keep going and I didn’t want to do it without them under the band name,” explains Wennerstrom, who enlisted the help of HB’s Jesse Ebaugh to play bass on 8 of the 9 tracks on Sweet Unknown.
Fans can also rest assured that what they’ve grown to love about Wennerstrom’s music is still front-and-center. Her trademark vocals that NPR so aptly calls “warm yet gritty, throaty yet sweet, gigantic, yet intimate” are that… times 10. And the bluesy, rock vibes that Relix describes as “smoky, late night [rock] that exists somewhere between Royal Trux and the Rolling Stones” has only gotten smokier and bluesier.
So, what is the difference? “It’s just more of me,” she says. “It’s as simple as that. I was able to get deeper and you get another level of my heart and soul. And, it’s really about my journey of self-awareness and healing and finding acceptance and self-love. It’s very empowering.”
While Wennerstrom has always been honest in the Heartless Bastards songs she’s written, the 9 tracks that make up Sweet Unknown are even more personal and reflective, and for her, quite transformative as well.
“When I started writing this record, I thought about how maybe the struggles I’ve had at times in my life, and with writing, could be changed if I could put my energy and message towards others, but what I got was the most self healing I’ve ever had through the creative process. My positive message to others became my own mantra. It’s like how sometimes we need to start listening to our own advice, and singing these songs repeatedly has given myself a message I need to hear when I sing them over and over again,” she explains.
The album kicks off with the feel-good roadtrip vibes of “Twisted Highway,” which Wennerstrom says sums up her musical journey on Sweet Unknown. She explains, “‘Twisted Highway’ is the process of learning more self-awareness and self-acceptance. Writing songs over the years has forced me to do a lot of self reflection, and I haven’t always liked what I see. I really needed to change my way of thinking though. I chose to focus on the negatives within myself. I really needed to stop and take a look at what’s good in my life.”
On the somber psych-rocker “Staring Out the Window,” the artist digs even deeper into the inner workings of her mind. “It’s about discovering a pattern I established when I was young where when I’m around someone dark, unkind, or full of anger, I tend to internalize it and blame myself. I learned that sometimes we feel comfortable around people that aren’t good for us because they feel familiar, but that can be the unhealthy pattern. I had to learn how to love myself more and break this pattern,” she says.
Wennerstrom attributes her deep emotional journey, in part, to two pivotal trips in the past year, which resulted in 400 voice notes on her phone with various lyric and melody ideas. “I went down to the Amazon jungle in 2015 right before the last Heartless Bastards record, Restless Ones, was released. I was at a point where I was deeply unhappy, and on a whim, I decided to do an Ayahuasca [pronounced eye-uh-wah-ska] retreat. Despite the idea frightening me, I felt I needed something to change with in me so bad that I had nothing to lose. It really opened the door and started me on a path to many self realizations,” she says.
Ayahuasca (an Amazonian hallucinagenic plant used in Shamanic healing ceremonies) is often used to help people break through emotional and creative barriers. For Wennerstrom, the experience helped her let go of the push-and-pull of ego and self-doubt. “It helped me be free to be honest with myself and put out what I think is my most honest record ever. It used to take me a while to get to that vulnerable place in my writing, but I got there faster this time. It just felt easier, more natural, and not as much second-guessing,” she says.
The upbeat and optimistic “Letting Go” epitomizes that experience. “It’s about letting go of what doesn’t serve me anymore. I came to the realization that we all as human beings have an inner struggle. Sometimes even people that have so much are hard on themselves with a sense of guilt. We’re all just doing the best we can in each moment. Some maybe more consciously than others. Perhaps it’s my limited perspective, but I feel it’s the human condition — an ancient feeling,” she says.
Soon after the band decided to take a hiatus the following year, she also spent quite a bit of time hiking and reflecting in the mountains of West Texas in Big Bend National Park. Explaining the impact of that trip, she says, “That’s where a lot of the ideas for the album came to me, and I spent the next year working on it. The song “Extraordinary Love” is the realization I do everything in my life for love. We all want to be liked and to give and receive love. If I can’t be kind and loving to myself how can I expect anybody else to. It’s starts with me. I find the most extraordinary thing is to be truly compassionate to yourself.”
“Good To Be Alone” is just one sonic outcome of her Big Bend trip. “I wrote this one right after a long tour, and with it being one of the last ones the band did before our hiatus, I had quite a lot to think about. I did a big hike that day in Big Bend and the seeds for the idea were planted. I was so thankful for that time alone to recharge and ponder. This song expresses how deeply introverted I can be at times and how sometimes I just need to step away and take some time for myself,” she says.
Clearly, that time alone was time well-spent. With Sweet Unknown, Erika Wennerstrom bravely invites the listener in to experience her trials and tribulations of life amidst a lush soundscape of deeply emotive vocals and melodies to what is ultimately the soundtrack to her soul.
Erin Rae, whose genre-fusing mix of traditional folk and indie-rock has landed her collaborations with artists like Margo Price and Andrew Combs—not to mention critical acclaim from some of the world’s top music media, including Rolling Stone, NPR, and the BBC—is finally stepping out into the spotlight with her new album Putting On Airs. The album is out June 8, 2018 on Single Lock Records.
Buoying the release is Rae’s reputation as an enthralling live performer, which has earned her the respect of Nashville peers and music notables alike, including Grammy Award winner John Paul White, who has signed her to his Florence, Alabama-based label, Single Lock Records. Rae joins a Single Lock roster that includes Nicole Atkins, St. Paul And The Broken Bones, and White himself, who said “When I first heard Erin’s compelling voice, I knew nothing about her. It was live, with no intro (she was opening for friends of mine), and I was instantly transfixed. I couldn’t wait to engage, and that’s something I very seldom feel, much less do. I was thrilled to find out her personality was as engaging as her voice and songs, and that she was looking for a home. I couldn’t be happier to be hitching our wagons together.”
Gifted with the unique ability to fuse musical genres and influences to craft songs that feels fresh and wholly her own, with Putting On Airs, Rae has thrown down a direct challenge to the stereotype of what a Southern singer should be. Both musically and lyrically, she strikes a fiercely independent chord, proudly releasing a deeply personal record that reflects her own experience and upbringing in Tennessee, including the prejudices and injustices that she witnessed as a child that continue to impact her life to this day, including her personal struggle to understand her own sexuality. According to Rae, "this album was born out of a need to do some healing work in my personal life, in order to address some fears and patterns of mine to allow my true feelings to come to the surface."
Recorded in the dead of winter at The Refuge, a historic former Franciscan monastery-turned-creative space on Wisconsin’s Fox River, the isolated environment created the perfect setting for Erin and her bandmates to track these genre-busting songs, using the chapel and other unique spaces within the cavernous building to explore new sonic boundaries, all while continuing to showcase Erin’s trademark vocals and the song-serving restraint first heard on her critically-acclaimed 2015 debut album, Soon Enough (engineered and produced by Anderson East and Mike Rinne).
The unique sound of the record is inspired by the innovative 1960s European production techniques from artists like the Beatles and Francoise Hardy, paired alongside the restraint and minimalism of modern artists like Wilco and Richard Hawley, bridging the sonic gap between classic songwriting and a modern indie-rock ethos. The album was co-produced by engineer Dan Knobler (Rodney Crowell, Tift Merritt) and multi-instrumentalist Jerry Bernhardt. Dominic Billett also served an integral role in the collective that worked together to create the album’s innovative and varied sonic pallet, providing the perfect soundscape for Erin’s soothing vocals, bathing everything in the warmth and purity that has become her trademark sound.
Few female R&B stars enjoyed the kind of consistent acclaim Etta James received throughout a career that spanned six decades; the celebrated producer Jerry Wexler once called her "the greatest of all modern blues singers," and she recorded a number of enduring hits, including "At Last," "Tell Mama," "I'd Rather Go Blind," and "All I Could Do Was Cry." At the same time, despite possessing one of the most powerful voices in music, James only belatedly gained the attention of the mainstream audience, appearing rarely on the pop charts despite scoring 30 R&B hits, and she lived a rough-and-tumble life that could have inspired a dozen soap operas, battling drug addiction and bad relationships while outrunning a variety of health and legal problems.
Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California on January 25, 1938; her mother was just 14 years old at the time, and she never knew her father, though she would later say she had reason to believe he was the well-known pool hustler Minnesota Fats. James was raised by friends and relatives instead of her mother through most of her childhood, and it was while she was living with her grandparents that she began regularly attending a Baptist church. James' voice made her a natural for the choir, and despite her young age she became a soloist with the group, and appeared with them on local radio broadcasts. At the age of 12, after the death of her foster mother, James found herself living with her mother in San Francisco, and with little adult supervision, she began to slide into juvenile delinquency. But James' love of music was also growing stronger, and with a pair of friends she formed a singing group called the Creolettes. The girls attracted the attention of famed bandleader Johnny Otis, and when he heard their song "Roll with Me Henry" -- a racy answer song to Hank Ballard's infamous "Work with Me Annie" -- he arranged for them to sign with Modern Records, and the Creolettes cut the tune under the name The Peaches (the new handle coming from Etta's longtime nickname). "Roll with Me Henry," renamed "The Wallflower," became a hit in 1955, though Georgia Gibbs would score a bigger success with her cover version, much to Etta's dismay. After charting with a second R&B hit, "Good Rockin' Daddy," the Peaches broke up and James stepped out on her own.
James' solo career was a slow starter, and she spent several years cutting low-selling singles for Modern and touring small clubs until 1960, when Leonard Chess signed her to a new record deal. James would record for Chess Records and its subsidiary labels Argo and Checker into the late '70s and, working with producers Ralph Bass and Harvey Fuqua, she embraced a style that fused the passion of R&B with the polish of jazz, and scored a number of hits for the label, including "All I Could Do Was Cry," "My Dearest Darling," and "Trust in Me." While James was enjoying a career resurgence, her personal life was not faring as well; she began experimenting with drugs as a teenager, and by the time she was 21 she was a heroin addict, and as the '60s wore on she found it increasingly difficult to balance her habit with her career, especially as she clashed with her producers at Chess, fought to be paid her royalties, and dealt with a number of abusive romantic relationships. James' career went into a slump in the mid-'60s, but in 1967 she began recording with producer Rick Hall at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and, adopting a tougher, grittier style, she bounced back onto the R&B charts with the tunes "Tell Mama" and "I'd Rather Go Blind."
In the early '70s, James had fallen off the charts again, her addiction was raging, and she turned to petty crime to support her habit. She entered rehab on a court order in 1973, the same year she recorded a rock-oriented album,Only a Fool, with producerGabriel Mekler. Through most of the '70s, a sober James got by touring small clubs and playing occasional blues festivals, and she recorded for Chess with limited success, despite the high quality of her work. In 1978, longtime fans the Rolling Stones paid homage to James by inviting her to open some shows for them on tour, and she signed with Warner Bros., cutting the album Deep in the Night with producer Jerry Wexler. While the album didn't sell well, it received enthusiastic reviews and reminded serious blues and R&B fans that James was still a force to be reckoned with. By her own account, James fell back into drug addiction after becoming involved with a man with a habit, and she went back to playing club dates when and where she could until she kicked again thanks to a stay at the Betty Ford Center in 1988. That same year, James signed with Island Records and cut a powerful comeback album, Seven Year Itch, produced by Barry Beckett of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The album sold respectably andJames was determined to keep her career on track, playing frequent live shows and recording regularly, issuing Stickin' to My Guns in 1990 and The Right Time in 1992.
In 1994, a year after she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, James signed to the Private Music label, and recorded Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday, a tribute to the great vocalist she had long cited as a key influence; the album earned Etta her first Grammy Award. The relationship with Private Music proved simpatico, and between 1995 and 2003 James cut eight albums for the label, while also maintaining a busy touring schedule. In 2003, James published an autobiography, Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story, and in 2008 she was played onscreen by modern R&B diva Beyoncé Knowles in Cadillac Records, a film loosely based on the history of Chess Records. Knowles recorded a faithful cover of "At Last" for the film's soundtrack, and later performed the song at Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural ball; several days later, James made headlines when during a concert she said "I can't stand Beyoncé, she had no business up there singing my song that I've been singing forever." (Later the same week, James told The New York Times that the statement was meant to be a joke -- "I didn't really mean anything...even as a little child, I've always had that comedian kind of attitude" -- but she was saddened that she hadn't been invited to perform the song.)
In 2010, James was hospitalized with MRSA-related infections, and it was revealed that she had received treatment for dependence on painkillers and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which her son claimed was the likely cause of her outbursts regarding Knowles. James released The Dreamer, for Verve Forecast in 2011. She claimed it was her final album of new material. Etta James was diagnosed with terminal leukemia later that year, and died on January 20, 2012 in Riverside, California at the age of 73.
written by Mark Deming for AllMusicGuide.com
Just outside the jazz mecca of Kansas City springs liberal oasis Lawrence, Kansas—separated only by the waves of wheat from the epicenter of the electronic music revolution in Colorado. From Lawrence, it would logically follow that an act could rise to prominence fueled by the swing of Basie, the birth of Charlie Parker’s bebop, and the wild frontier of electronica. Born in funk and bred in the digital age, live electronic duo The Floozies have burst onto the scene at a time when the industry needed them the most.
Brothers Matt and Mark Hill share the stage just as easily as they share a musical brain. Without a setlist, and without a word between them, Matt’s guitar is in lockstep with the thud of Mark’s kick. Endless looping and production builds the raw scenery upon which palm muted chugs, searing solos, and wobbling bass paint their dazzling array of colors.
Well versed in everything from Chris Cornell to Kavinsky, the sonic vision shared by the brothers eschews contemporary electronic influences in favor of broader, deeper tastes including Zapp & Roger, Lettuce, and Amon Tobin. That wide-angle view of a century of popular music allows the Hills to remix Toto and The Dead—in the music you can hear reverence for the giants of the past, all the while producing wildly futuristic tunes for the masses to dig now.
When the pendulum swung as far as it could away from live instrumentation to laptops, The Floozies rose up to the challenge, swinging as hard as they could in the other direction with neck-snapping, knee-breaking funk so dirty that the gatekeepers stood up, wiped themselves off, and took notice. A bold live show full of sonic exploration and unbreakably deep pocket grooves has landed the brothers on stage with luminaries of the jam world Umphrey’s McGee as readily as electronic elites STS9 and Big Gigantic. Sold out shows across the Country, huge festival appearances at Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, High Sierra, Summercamp, Wakarusa, Camp Bisco, Summerset, Bumbershoot, and a headlining Red Rocks show have continued to cement the duo’s ascent.
The Floozies are bringing the funk back, and they’re right on time.
Husband-and-wife duo Flora Cash craft atmospheric indie folk born from a cross-Atlantic courtship. The pair met on an online social sound platform and struck up a musical connection, leading Shpresa Lleshaj to travel from Stockholm to Minneapolis to meet Cole Randall in person. They returned to Sweden together and immediately began work as Flora Cash. Their debut EP, Mighty Fine, was released just months later. The next year, they released another set of harmonious tracks on Made It for You.
Flying back to Minneapolis, they got married and honeymooned in Los Angeles before making their way back to Europe. Their third EP, I Will Be There, was issued that year. After signing with Icons Creating Evil Art, they released their debut LP, Can Summer Love Last Forever, in 2016. The mini-LP was nominated for two GAFFA awards as Swedish Group of the Year and Swedish Breakthrough.
Nothing Lasts Forever (And It's Fine) arrived in the spring of 2017. The album spawned the hit "You're Somebody Else," which reached #1 Alternative Song and Adult Alternative Song on the BDS charts in America. On the heels of the group's success, they signed to RCA Records.
Following an extensive tour, they returned in 2019 with the Press EP, which featured the single "They Own This Town.”
In the face of turbulence, a simple promise planted the seed for Glass Dove.
Before Josh Benus assumed this musical identity, the Nashville-based indie rock artist found himself faced with a series of challenges. In 2012, an emergency surgery took a dangerous turn that left Josh in critical condition. He encountered severe complications that led to an unexpectedly arduous recovery. After some agonizing months of healing, he taught himself how to sing again. “Lucky to be alive,” the next five years twisted and turned at high speed. Josh’s health, as well as relationships, would further deteriorate before the storm finally passed.
“After my experiences, I made a pact with myself,” he admits. “I decided there was no plan B -- It became clear to me how quick this could all disappear, and that there was no better time than now, to seriously pursue my art.”
After a hiatus from music, Josh commenced writing. Serendipitously, producer Owen Biddle [The Roots, John Legend] approached him in early 2018. They then retreated to the Smoky Mountains for a week of writing and recording.
“All of these things were about to boil over,” he admits. “The only way I could deal with them was to immortalize them in song. There was nothing more cathartic for me than being able to distill the bittersweet nature of the past five years into something uplifting.”
Illumination came to Benus on dark wings: Love shrouded by weary ennui on his debut single, “Cigarette Sunset. [feat. Liz Cooper].” Glitchy percussion bristles against the reverb of a heavenly harmony between Liz and Josh as the track climaxes on an elegant and entrancing hook steeped in intoxicating nostalgia.
Musically, the songwriting maintains an airtight sense of refinement as he siphons hauntingly hypnotic melodies from five years of tumult. A mélange of detuned guitars, vintage synths, and off-kilter beats, it sounds like starting over—but for the first time…
“It’s really about the passage of time,” he explains. “As a touring musician, the road can be disorienting. You're very much living from moment to moment, forging new relationships in every city you visit. When you return home, it's just as you left it—except everything else around you has changed. When Liz and I wrote the song, we liked the phonetic quality and evocative imagery of how a cigarette burns out and you flick it away. It felt like a strong metaphor for some relationships in our lives. It’s a reminder of how fleeting life is and the shelf-life of friendships. Some are built to last, and some are ephemeral.”
In the end, this debut is a first step down a longer path toward new personal and musical adventures. As a meditation on life’s shadows, as an example of rock-solid craftsmanship and freewheeling imagination, he’s bringing listeners along with him as Glass Dove.
Massachusetts writer and song-singer Heather Maloney celebrates the release her 2018 EP, Just Enough Sun. The six songs (five new originals and a cover of Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall") were recorded as mostly single-take, live performances in a room where instruments bled into vocal mics and vocals into instruments. The result is a raw and deeply vulnerable collection songs that follow Maloney's literate and often heartbreaking exploration of family history, childhood dreams and the adulthood realities that butt-up against them; loss, misogyny, unrequited love, poverty, and even the moral dilemma of sending monkeys into space for the sake of science. The daughter of a psychotherapist and a carpenter, Heather's songwriting is equal parts introspective and relatable.
JUST ENOUGH SUN is released by the celebrated indie record label, Signature Sounds and co-produced by accompanist Ryan Hommel. The recording effortlessly captures Hommel and Maloney's dynamic live performances as a duo, with subtle instrumentation that lifts the songs up to new places without ever shifting the focus too far from Maloney's stunningly visceral voice and thought-provoking lyrics.
Maloney's 2015 record Making Me Break was produced by Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses, Avett Brothers, Lissie) and features an all-star backing band including members of Band of Horses (Bill Reynolds, Tyler Ramsey), The Wallflowers, My Morning Jacket, and Darlingside.
Upon the release of Making Me Break, Maloney landed on SPIN Magazine’s “Artist to Watch”, with enthusiastic reviews from The Huffington Post, Consequence of Sound, and No Depression. The last song on the record, “Nightstand Drawer”, became Maloney’s first major television song placement on the CBS series “Elementary”.
As a Signature Sounds artist, Maloney has toured nationally as a headliner as well as in support of acts like Lake Street Dive, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Gary Clark Jr., Colin Hay, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and many more. In 2014 she collaborated with the rising Boston quartet Darlingside on the Woodstock EP, a tribute to the Joni Mitchell-written / Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young-covered 60’s anthem. The cover was featured on the New York Times and garnered attention from Graham Nash himself, who called the performance, “Delicious, really excellent.”
Raised on a record player instead of a TV, Maloney dug deep into per parents’ record collections for entertainment, obsessing over the Beatles Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, C.S.N.Y., Bob Dylan, and more. So it’s no surprise that the folk, pop, and rock greats of the 60’s and 70’s found their way into her own music. With those influences as a foundation, and a strong dose of 90’s radio hits (from women like Fiona Apple, Alanis Morisette, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and of course, Mariah Carey), Maloney was forming her sound long before she even wrote a single lyric.
According to her mother, her singing career began in the aisles of a Northern New Jersey grocery store, where she developed a reputation for serenading shoppers. The writing would come much later, after spending the first few years of her early 20’s in a state of self-proclaimed “Musical A.D.D.”. After training her voice in classical operatic, improvisational jazz and classical Indian vocal techniques, Maloney was suddenly and overwhelmingly compelled to drop all things musical. Actually, to quit making sounds or noise, altogether.
She found herself living at a silent meditation retreat center in Central Massachusetts, where she would practice for almost 3 years, studying and Vipassana Meditation, pouring over Rumi and Rilke, and keeping a journal documenting daily life at her cottage in the woods. It was in this place of quiet that, ironically, she began writing her first songs. Songs largely inspired by her experiences in meditation, including equal parts of the dark / uncomfortable / twisted parts of the human mind, as well as the sparkling and brief moments of that longed-for, ever elusive thing called insight. Maloney said that if she hadn’t started writing songs at the meditation center, she would be “completely covered in tattoos, because each song is about something I really, really want to remember badly … so I wouldn’t have to go through it again.”
And with the same sudden and overwhelming resolve that led her to the meditation center in the first place, she re-emerged into the music space with a guitar and a few songs that meant something to her. In the years since Maloney has left her life of silence and reflection, she has toured almost constantly, written hundreds of songs, and slept on over a thousand different pillows.
Hallelujah Anyhow is the latest studio album from Hiss Golden Messenger, released on September 22 worldwide on Merge Records. Its ten new songs, penned by HGM principal M.C. Taylor, were recorded with Brad Cook, Phil Cook, Chris Boerner, Josh Kaufman, Darren Jessee, Michael Lewis, and Scott Hirsch. Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Tift Merritt, Skylar Gudasz, Tamisha Waden, Mac McCaughan, and John Paul White provided vocal harmonies.
“I see the dark clouds. I was designed to see them. They’re the same clouds of fear and destruction that have darkened the world since Revelations, just different actors. But this music is for hope. That’s the only thing I want to say about it. Love is the only way out. I’ve never been afraid of the darkness; it’s just a different kind of light. And if some days that belief comes harder than others, hallelujah anyhow.” —M.C. Taylor
After seven years, three albums, innumerable sold out shows, and countless beers, bluegrass mavericks Horseshoes & Hand Grenades appropriately consider themselves a “family” on a wild, wonderful, and often whacky roller coaster. The bond between the quintet—David C. Lynch [harmonica, accordion, spoons, vocals], Collin Mettelka [fiddle, mandolin, vocals], Russell Pedersen [banjo, fiddle, vocals], Adam Greuel [guitar, dobro, vocals], and Samual Odin [bass]—fuels their creativity and chemistry on stage and in the studio.
“Sometimes, it feels like we’re modern day cowboys on some kind of strange journey,” Adam affirms with a laugh. “We’re five friends who set out to do something we enjoy doing, meet interesting people, see old friends, and make some new buddies along the way. Because of that, everything happens organically.”
That’s been the case since these five musicians first met in Stevens Point, WI at college, joined forces, and hit the road post-graduation in 2013. They have ignited stages alongside everyone from Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Trampled By Turtles to Railroad Earth, Merle Haggard, and Marty Stuart in addition to appearances at festivals such as Delfest, High Sierra Music Festival, Blue Ox Music Festival, Northwest String Summit, John Hartford Memorial Festival, and many more. Their three albums—Another Round , This Old Town , and Middle Western —have spawned fan favorite hits, including “Get Down To It,” “Stuck On Your Mind,” and “Whiskey.”
In many ways, everything set the stage for the 2018 offering, The Ode.
“It marks a point of growth,” explains Adam. “We’ve got the bluegrass burner type tunes we’re known for on there, but we’re experimenting with other elements. Little pieces of everybody are encapsulated in this record. For the first time, we were really conscious of allowing our respective musical curiosities into the fold. Sam drops in a jazz and classical feel. Dave brings that Zydeco, Cajun, and old school blues vibe. Collin turns up with this kinda pop folk energy, and Russell gives us the old-timey banjo feel. For me, I’m trying to play out my singer-songwriter curiosities. There are five songwriters in the band, and we’ve gotten better at harnessing our individual creativity and bringing it to the collective.”
The boys found the perfect place to bottle those signature spirits. They retreated to Cannon Falls, MN in order to live and record at Pachyderm Studios — where Nirvana recorded In Utero — for just a week. Joined by Trampled By Turtles frontman Dave Simonett in the producer’s chair, they tracked the eleven numbers that would comprise The Ode over the course of a marathon session.
“Pachyderm is in the middle of nowhere,” he elaborates. “We’re all outdoorsy people, so the setting was super comfortable. It contributed to the laidback approach. We had this awesome chemistry with Dave. It was by far the easiest recording project we’ve done. The whole experience was super positive and uplifting.”
That feeling courses through the upbeat bluegrass gallop of the first single and title track, “The Ode.” The ebullient and enigmatic anthem serves as something of a mantra for the group, “Sing the ode my friend!”
Elsewhere on the record, bluesy piano resounds through “Eat the Cake,” while rustic banjo reverberates during the anthemic “Foggy Halo.” A clever outlier, “Millennial Girl” veers towards self-aware pop with its sharp lyrics. Meanwhile, “Stay Awhile” redefines the breakup song.
“I was thinking about how you can split up with somebody for various reasons, but still be in love,” he elaborates. “You split up for each other—not because of each other. It’s about the impermanence of relationships and the permanence of love.”
Ultimately, the Horseshoes & Hand Grenades family grows stronger by the day. The Ode is proof.
“The best part of this has been building a community,” Adam leaves off. “In this day and age, it’s wise to look for things that bring people together rather than separate them. We’re creating an extended family to get through these times together. That’s the ‘Horseshoe Crew.’ Everything happens because of that bond.”
It’s all but inconceivable that J Mascis requires an introduction. In the quarter-century since he founded Dinosaur Jr., Mascis has created some of the era’s signature songs, albums and styles. As a skier, golfer, songwriter, skateboarder, record producer, and musician, J has few peers. The laconically-based roar of his guitar, drums and vocals have driven a long string of bands – Deep Wound, Dinosaur Jr., Gobblehoof, Velvet Monkeys, the Fog, Witch, Sweet Apple – and he has guested on innumerable sessions. But Several Shades of Why is J’s first solo studio record, and it is an album of incredible beauty, performed with a delicacy not always associated with his work.
Recorded at Amherst Massachusetts’ Bisquiteen Studios, Several Shades is nearly all acoustic and was created with the help of a few friends. Notable amongst them are Kurt Vile, Sophie Trudeau (A Silver Mount Zion), Kurt Fedora (long-time collusionist), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Matt Valentine (The Golden Road), and Suzanne Thorpe (Wounded Knees). Together in small mutable groupings, they conjure up classic sounds ranging from English-tinged folk to drifty, West Coast-style singer/songwriterism. But every track, every note even, bears that distinct Mascis watermark, both in the shape of the tunes and the glorious rasp of the vocals.
“Megan from Sub Pop has wanted me to do this record for a long time,” J says. “She was very into it when I was playing solo a lot in the early 2000s, around the time of the Fog album [2002's Free So Free]. She always wanted to know when I’d do a solo record. [Several Shades of Why] came out of that. There are a couple of songs that are older, but the rest is new this year. And it’s basically all acoustic. There’s some fuzz, but it’s acoustic through fuzz. There’re no drums on it, either. Just one tambourine song, that’s it. It was a specific decision to not have drums. Usually I like to have them, but going drum-less pushes everything in a new direction, and makes it easier to keep things sounding different.”
There is little evidence of stress on Several Shades of Why. The title track is a duet with Sophie Trudeau’s violin recalling Nick Drake’s work at its most elegant. "Not Enough" feels like a lost hippie-harmony classic from David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name. "Is It Done" rolls like one of the Grisman/Garcia tunes on American Beauty. "Very Nervous and Love" has the same rich vibe as the amazing rural side of Terry Reid’s The River. And on and on it goes. Ten brilliant tunes that quietly grow and expand until they fill your brain with the purest pleasure. What a goddamn great album.
by Byron Coley
There’s always a party happening somewhere, and Jakubi provide the perfect soundtrack. That’s why the Melbourne, Australia quintet—brothers Jerome [vocals, keys, talkbox] & Jacob Farah [bass, moog], cousins Jesse Rehaut [drums, guitar] & Adam Kane [guitar, keys], and longtime friend Rob Amoruso [guitar, keys, drums]—immediately attracted a growing audience with their swinging, slick, and sizzling sonic buffet of pop, R&B, hip-hop, rock, and soul since first emerging in 2012. It all started as a good time…
Jacob began hanging out at the Melbourne house Jesse and Adam shared. Soon, he invited his brother, while Adam reached out to Rob. Unassumingly coming together, they would rock all night in an upstairs jam room, inviting patrons of the bar below to experience the burgeoning magic. In 2013, they uploaded “Can’t Afford It All” to Soundcloud, and it swept the internet with 500,000-plus plays in a month. A Kygo remix would swiftly cross the 5-million mark as the boys received an invite to tour with Fishbone in the United States during early 2014. And they have been lighting up stages across America & Australia ever since. “I believe our live shows are our strongest point,” exclaims Jerome. “That’s where we’re really at home.”
James Iha began his career as a co-founder of The Smashing Pumpkins in Chicago in 1987. He recorded and toured with the group until 2000, during which time they released ten albums and became one of the biggest bands of the era, selling millions of albums and filling arenas worldwide. In addition to his guitar playing and singing, James was also a contributing songwriter.
In 2002, James joined the acclaimed progressive rock band A Perfect Circle (featuring members of Tool and Marilyn Manson). He continues to tour with the band, most recently headlining amphitheaters and arenas in the US in 2016.
James released his first solo album, LET IT COME DOWN, in 1998. It was an intimate, acoustic guitar-driven record that focused on the more personal side of his songwriting. During this period, he also co-founded indie label Scratchie Records, releasing albums by The Sounds, The Strokes’ Albert Hammond Jr., Robbers On High Street and others. In the late 90′s James relocated to New York, where he opened Stratosphere Sound Recording Studios along with friends Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne/Ivy) and Andy Chase (Ivy).
In 2012 James completed his second solo record entitled LOOK TO THE SKY. The album features such guests as Shudder to Think’s Nathan Larson, Karen O and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara and Tom Verlaine of Television.
James joined Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, Hanson’s Taylor Hanson, and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos to form the power-pop group Tinted Windows whose critically acclaimed, self-titled debut album featured several Iha-penned songs. They toured throughout the US and Japan.
James is as producer and studio owner. He has produced and guested on records by the likes of Michael Stipe, Cat Power, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Annie, Ladytron, Whiskeytown, Fountains Of Wayne among many others.
In 2012 James moved to Los Angeles to concentrate on scoring film and television. Building on his previous indie film score credits he landed jobs composing for the television series Dead Beat (Lionsgate/Hulu), The Arrangement (E!/NBC), A History of Radness (Amazon) and the James Franco film Mother May I Sleep With Danger (Lifetime).
“…the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg with a vagabond troubadour edge.” – The Stranger
“The record opens with the shanty-like Dylan-meets-Prine number “Virgin Guitar,” which displays Craigie’s talent for understated singing coupled with poetic lyrics.” – The Portland Tribune
“Craigie’s latest, “I Am California,” is haunting, poetic, and just how a longing for California should sound. Draped in nostalgia and covered in memories, Craigie paints a beautiful homage to the Golden State, with the assistance of singer Gregory Alan Isakov.” – Impose Magazine
“You can be sure I’ll be on the lookout for anything he does from now on.” - No Depression
Renowned for his eloquent Americana style, engaging live shows, and off-the-cuff clever observations, John Craigie carries on the legacy of classic singer-songwriters, while blazing a trail of his own.
Recently, that trail twisted and turned into new territory for the Portland, OR performer who The Stranger appropriately dubbed, “the lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg.” His music speaks loud to both audiences and fellow artists. Todd Snider notably hand-delivered a gift on-stage, and Chuck Norris has sent fan mail. His fifth full-length album, No Rain, No Rose boasted two collaborations with Gregory Alan Isakov, namely “Highway Blood” and “I Am California.” The latter quickly cracked 200K Spotify streams and counting, as his knack for a captivating narrative and rustic aural palettes powered the 13-track offering together.
“It’s about transparency,” he explains. “The storytelling enables listeners to relate. Really good music doesn’t make you feel good; it makes you feel like you’re not alone.”
As No Rain, No Rose landed, he caught the attention of none other than Jack Johnson. Through a serendipitous series of events, Craigie’s 2016 live effort Capricorn in Retrograde… Just Kidding… Live in Portland landed in Johnson’s car stereo during a California coastal road trip.
Shortly after, Jack reached out and Craigie soon found himself onstage for 12 shows during Johnson’s 2017 summer tour including performances at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California and The Gorge in Washington state. Along the way, he earned acclaim from SF Weekly, Seattle Times, AXS, and more. Festival appearances also include Oregon Country Fair, Kate Wolf Music Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, Burning Man, and many others.
When Craigie plays, it’s one of those special shows that can make you laugh and cry in the same song. It’s a musical journey that can’t be denied.
Kyle Emerson, the buzzy indie-rocker from Denver, Colorado, is back with, “May You Find Peace,” the first single from his upcoming sophomore album. As a follow up from Emerson’s 2017 debut album, Dorothy Alice, “May You Find Peace,” shows the singer/songwriter expanding his garage-pop sensibilities with lush full-band arrangements and plenty of toothsome melodic hooks. At turns dreamy and driving, Emerson’s sophomore release bridges classic and contemporary sounds to create a warm, inviting, and introspective atmosphere. “May You Find Peace” was co-produced with Emerson's drummer Mark Anderson, who also took over engineering duties alongside James Barone (Beach House, Nathaniel Rateliff, Tennis). Find Emerson on the road this summer touring alongside the likes of Ages & Ages and more to be announced soon.
Hustling to make his mark in Denver, Colorado's electronic music melting pot, Late Night Radio is earning the respect of fans and peers alike through prolific production, innovative experimentation, and a dogged dedication to the craft. Alex Medellin has put in his time in the industry, coming up in Texas and California, but his ascension in the Colorado scene speaks to his ability to not only create a stunning array of original tracks, but bring them to life onstage, practicing what he preaches - guided by the mantra "emotion over energy."
Medellin's background in hip-hop is crucial to his development as a producer. Unlike some of his contemporaries who came up in the dance music scene, Late Night Radio keeps his cuts funky and inventive with an unshakable commitment to soulful grooves. Even when LNR breaks into high-energy, cabinet-rattling climaxes, the emotional depth remains. His wildly popular Vinyl Restoration series of old-school mixes has rooted his sound in deep, expressive sampling that keeps him firmly grounded in the lessons of the past, while reaching forward to craft his own signature sound.
A slew of collaborations, remixes and tour dates with notable acts are propelling Medellin's vision into new territories. Late Night Radio is poised to break out of the Centennial state, spreading the love to cities coast-to-cast and beyond as the LNR vision spreads.
Just announced on the bill for Coachella this spring, with Billboard singling them out as one of “10 Awesome Bands” playing the massive fest this year, LA-based MAGIC GIANT has been thrilling growing crowds at every stop along its 70-city North American and European tour, celebrating the release of its debut album In The Wind (Washington Square/Concord).
With appearances on the Today Show and in Rolling Stone as one of "10 Artists You Need to Know,” the group has toured with acts ranging from The Revivalists to Mike Posner; played shows with bands such as The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, X Ambassadors, Vance Joy, and Foster the People; performed to thousands at festivals ranging from Firefly in Delaware to Electric Forest in Michigan; and was recently tapped as one of the bands to join headliner Bruno Mars at Bottlerock in Napa this spring.
DuJour has proclaimed Magic Giant “the most festive band in the festival circuit, quickly becoming a must-see.” Its style has been described by NPR as "upbeat, passionate indie-folk” and by Billboard as inspiring “mass dance-alongs." Its initial single "Set on Fire" broke the top 25 on the US Alternative chart and its current single “Window” recently leaped into the Top 40 on Billboard's Hot AC and Adult Pop charts.
The trio, comprised of Austin (lead vocals), Zambricki (viola, banjo, harmonica), and Zang (acoustic guitar, cello) weaves together a musical quilt of alternative, pop, and folk on its LP, uniquely recorded from their solar-powered mobile recording studio while traveling throughout the US.
“Time is just a word, life is but a dream, love is all you need, and money ain’t a thing.
Everybody dies, but not everyone lives, so take it all in stride; one life is all you get.”
With From the Sea, Gualala, California based artist and producer Michal Menert and his band the Pretty Fantastics have crafted a musical salve for those suffering from the relentless stream of contemporary reality. The record churns at the intersection of jazz, hip hop, and electronic music; following its own internal rhythm, it ebbs and flows between crystalline clarity and swirling opacity. Uplifting, yet laced with echoes of chaos and friction, From the Sea wraps itself around the listener like a Pacific coast shore break.
A youth steeped in a broad swath of both Eastern and Western musical traditions gives Menert a deep palate from which to draw; his passion for original analog sounds coupled with a vast knowledge of music history has given him a unique ability to pull from the global creative canon with ease. Despite having a deep and well-respected catalog, From the Sea is the first release where Menert and his band came together to write as a group. Additionally, it's the first time Menert has shared lead vocal duties on a record; and the dynamic & elegant voice of Seattle’s Jules Thoma lends additional dreamy warmth to their songs.
Beginning in the summer of 2017, they checked out of the Western world to meditate upon what they wanted to convey with this release. Menert consciously chose to write this record from the outside looking in. “As we grow older and see the new generations rising,” says Menert, “we look at life and ask “what do we really want of the world?” The whole band lives in hectic places. We came together on the Cali coast to slow down and move with intent.”
During these multiple sessions, the band found their groove, writing at a furious pace. Once the initial tracking was complete, Menert worked on edits and rough mixes. In the summer of 2018, the band returned to Gualala several more times to continue writing and fine tuning the material.
Michal Menert and the Pretty Fantastics have succeeded in creating a both a profoundly beautiful piece of art and a thought-provoking work of philosophical poetry. “We too often move through life on autopilot. When we stop and look back, it’s all a blur” explain Menert. “This record is an exploration of how seemingly inconsequential moments ripple through time and haunt us. I want to help people realize that they’re not the only ones confused about how this is all supposed to go down. It’s universal.”
For all the headiness of its ruminations, at its core the record is built around a concept of Zen-like simplicity. “The folly of youth too often keeps us from acting on insight. I’ve realized, though, that you can live life joyfully without dodging reality,” says Menert, “You really need to just change one small thing – try and make it about the greater good.”
As Menert co-produced the chart topping Pretty Lights album Taking Up Your Precious Time, it was natural that he was the first artist to join Pretty Lights Music. His debut solo album Dreaming of a Bigger Life was released in 2010, followed by 2012’s mega-LP Even If It Isn’t Right. In 2015 Menert released Space Jazz, and the debut by his band Michal Menert & the Pretty Fantastics, 1.
Menert’s reputation as a live performer continues to grow, as he brings his music to fans nationwide via both his septet, Michal Menert & The Pretty Fantastics, and his 22-piece all-star ensemble the Michal Menert Big Band. Menert has shared the stage with musical luminaries including STS9, Bassnectar, Umphrey’s McGee, and more, and played legendary venues including the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, The Gorge in Washington and Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
His collaborations have led to the formation of myriad ongoing side projects including Manic Menert (with Manic Focus), Half Color (with Paul Basic), and work with artists like Eliot Lipp, Mux Mool, Break Science, and more. Additionally, Menert handled sound design for the Dead & Co tours, and co-produced Mickey Hart’s 2017 LP RAMU as well as his 360 Surround Sound performance at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Committed to a community driven approach to collaborative creativity, Menert works hand in hand with producers he chooses for his own record label, Super Best Records.
Mike Doughty, the singer, songwriter, producer, author and founder of seminal 90’s band Soul Coughing will be playing their debut LP Ruby Vroom in full across the U.S. in 2019.
Doughty will be joined on these dates by a cellist, bassist, and guitar player. While they will be performing Ruby Vroom in its entirety, in the original sequence, what the audience experiences will be different each night. “When I was looking for something to do between album cycles I decided to tour Irresistible Bliss in full” explains Doughty. “It was incredibly fun forcing myself to work within that structure. The decisions you make when putting together a set list are different from the ones you make when sequencing a record. This is like performing a single, hour-long piece of music.”
Rather than an exact replication of the studio recording, Doughty plans to use a variety of cues and hand signals to adjust the performance in real time. “Live we turn into a musical super-organism. We’re basically doing a real-time remix of the record at each show” tells Doughty. “It won’t not be a note-for-note performance. I’m very proud of the record we made; it’s the sonic embodiment of lower Manhattan in the early 1990’s. Yet there’s a whole other version of this record that lives in my head. I’m extremely excited to see how it evolves night after night.”
Doughty has released 11 solo albums in the 21st Century, including Haughty Melodic and Stellar Motel, and a memoir, The Book of Drugs (he’s currently writing a second one). He makes electro tracks under the names UUL and Dubious Luxury; his opera Revelation was staged in conjunction with WNYC; he’s currently writing songs with Wayne Kramer from the MC5. He recently posted his 100th weekly new song for his Patreon subscribers. And, finally, he has three improvised-music bands in Memphis, where he lives: Moticos, Baby Men, and Spooky Party.
The Moth and the Flame have been creating earnest and heady alternative indie-rock since 2011. They have been heralded as one of the top emerging artists in the western United States, and as a “band to watch” coming out of their new home in Los Angeles.
Formed in the high desert of Provo Utah, TM&TF is singer/guitarist Brandon Robbins, keyboardist/vocalist Mark Garbett, drummer Andrew Tolman, and bassist Michael Goldman. Their songs feature weaving layers of Robbins’ haunting baritone, dense instrumentation, and fresh moments of simplicity. The band extends this layered philosophy to their audience by integrating installation art with their live performances; filling cities with twenty-foot-tall anthropomorphic giants, and transforming venues into lunar visions, starry nights, and floating-lantern dreamscapes.
TM&TF’s latest release, &, is a collection of five complex and thematic songs produced by celebrated drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, Atoms for Peace). Released in late 2013 as the band joined Imagine Dragons on their European Night Visions tour, & begins with their first major single, Sorry. It follows the success of their 2011 debut, a self-titled album, and their signing to REDDistribution/Hidden Records.
The success of & has anticipation already buzzing for the band’s next full-length album, produced by Peter Katis (Interpol, The National, Jonsi) and featuring string arrangements by Rob Moose (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens). It was tracked while living isolated in Katis’ Connecticut studio for several weeks, and is set for release early 2016. -C.R. Holgate
Nate is a magician, writer, traveler, and host of the Discovery Channel’s international hit TV series Breaking Magic, but don’t think of this as a magic show. Nate abandons the ubiquitous style-without-substance bravado so often associated with magic and appeals instead to the imagination and intellect of his audience.
“Just caught a Nate Staniforth show,” one reporter tweeted after opening night, “and now I have no idea what to believe about anything ever again.” No rabbits. No top hats. No smoke machines. Nate’s shows feel more like jumping out of an airplane than a night at a comedy club. The journey is wild, visceral and immediate, and like all great art, encourages us to open our minds and hearts, and see the world in new ways.
“When you’re young, it’s easy to be amazed,” says Nate Staniforth. “As you get older, that experience of astonishment gets harder and harder to find. Good magic isn’t about deception. It’s about trying to see things the way you saw them before they became ordinary.
For over a decade, Nate has toured the US college circuit as one of the busiest working magicians in the country. He’s given a TED Talk, lectured at the world-famous Oxford Union, and in 2018 the Harry Potter-famed Bloomsbury Publishing will release Nate’s memoir in bookstores worldwide. Here is Real Magic follows Nate's evolution from obsessed wunderkind to disillusioned wanderer, and tells the story of his rediscovery of astonishment—and the importance of wonder in everyday life—during his trip to the slums of India, where he infiltrated a 3,000-year-old clan of street magicians.
Contact: Alex@7smgmt.com / Simonne@7smgmt.com
It’s like this: New Beat Fund is more than just a band.
Yeah, the four sun-bleached, good time boys from LA with the colorful hair and the funky clothes play music, travel the country, have a new album called Sponge Fingerz, and are best friends and brothers as well (half of them by blood), but this thing they ride with is way deeper than any of that. It’s who they are, what they think, how they dress; it’s where they come from, and how they live their lives. And, even if you didn’t already know it, New Beat Fund is who you are, and how you live your life, too. But we’ll get to that part.
New Beat Fund birthed when a piggy bank with the words "New Beat Fund" encrypted on it was catapulted into the facade of a corporate building. No joke. Jeff Laliberte, his brother Paul, Shelby and Michael have been at it for a couple years now, releasing an EP Coinz, and touring with the likes of blink-182 and 3OH!3, but they go way deeper than that. They trust each other on a supreme level, and even though their business is that of getting you hyped up, helping you chill, setting the mood to lay back with your girl or guy, or just letting you be you, they take that business seriously. “That’s the whole point and the reason that we’re in this,” says Paul, “to grow with a culture. And to also influence that culture rather than just hit at a surface level.”
“When people meet us, they say, ‘You guys are weird, but it’s fun!’” says Michael. “We want people to be cool with being weird, and thinking about things differently. The name of our record is Sponge Fingerz. What the fuck is that? It’s what we are as a band, there’s no definition—we’re able to be free. We wrote the record in Topanga Canyon—the freest place ever—we live in Southern California...that’s the whole vibe of our band. Just being weird and free.”
That freedom is the first thing you notice when listening to Sponge Fingerz, which was co-produced by Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Maroon 5) at LA’s legendary Sound City Studios and mixed by Tony Hoffer (Foster the People, Beck.) The band finds inspiration across the musical spectrum, shoving it all in a blender to cook up a colorful mash-up they call “G-Punk.” The vibe jumps from track to track—sometimes within the same song, or even the same verse—covering all the band’s favorite bases, like if you drew a huge baseball diamond over SoCal and swung for the fences. First base might be the surf-rock and dub-heavy vibes of the coastline, while rounding second brings up the hip-hop beats of South Central. Sprint over to third and pick up on the arty, indie hip and punk stuff from the city’s downtown heart. Finally, slide headfirst into the garage pop and heartfelt jams of Ventura County and the Valley, the band’s true home. “It’s not just punk rock, or indie, or weird ass psychedelic art. We were all exposed to different things growing up, so we didn’t choose to only go in one direction,” says Shelby.
“We don’t claim any certain scene,” adds Michael, “and that’s kind of what we represent as a band, especially for kids who are figuring out who they are and where they fit in this weird ass world. We can hang with all of it and show people that’s OK to do. Let’s play how we play as individual musicians, and let’s write about our lives and go in that direction and not think about it too much. And this is what came out.”
The album blasts off with “Any Day,” a funky breakup anthem about finding your footing. The song itself was an early demo that was cast aside, but finally found its own groove at the last minute during pre-production when the band bought some dancehall albums for 50 cents at a nearby head shop. “The dancehall groove just laid the song out in front of us,” says Jeff. “It’s about when you’re right at that post-breakup thick of it, that moment where you look back and you finally see what it is. That switch when you’re done, you’re not lingering.”
In contrast, “It’s Cool” came together quickly. The song’s creation serves as a blueprint for how the band works best. “At the time, we were in a bedroom so we didn’t have the opportunity to jam it out, and we were fucking around with sampling and just had this mood and started writing to it,” says Jeff. “We all usually come together and build tracks like that. We start pretty simple, lyrics or melodies or beat, and we all color in the picture. If you had a sketch or a pencil drawing, we all come in with colors or additives and finish the painting, and then there’s the song.”
“Sikka Taking the Hard Way” shines, too, with its with its funky dub breakdown and noodling electric guitars, and its celebration of overcoming whatever obstacles life can throw at you: “I tell myself that it’s alright/it’s OK/there’s no way/I’m stumbling back now/I’ll figure it out.”
Then there’s “Halloween Birthdaze,” with its Red Hot Chili Peppers-worthy chorus, and the catchy, stoner shrugs of “Friends in High Places,” which showcases the band’s love of hip-hop. “It paints a picture of someone who is less fortunate but has the support system that they can find happiness in,” says Paul, before his brother finishes his thought: “When you got nothing but you have everything.”
Jeff sums it up like this: “We want everyone to be into our music. The word ‘pretentious’ is the worst fucking word I have ever heard. We want people to feel at home when they come to our shows, like they can do whatever they want at a New Beat Fund show. We want to be an unpretentious band that makes people feel honest emotions. Come to our show and join an experience and let you just be you. Have a good time and relate to our music.”
Yeah, it’s like that.
Their new album Phoenix was recorded live off-the-floor in the studio with no overdubs, no additional instrumentation and with every intention of re-establishing the sound of what TND is: the spirit of the unexpected. As the first album since their 2016 release Mercury Switch, this highly anticipated new release is a series of epic live improvised studio jams broken into multiple parts but intended for continuous play.
The band’s evolution through three drummers has now brought The New Deal closer to its original direction. “With Davide, it’s a bit like ‘coming back home’, as he was the drummer that inspired our original direction back in 1998 when the three of us played an impromptu gig together in Guelph, Ontario. Each of the band’s drummers has brought something unique to The New Deal, and with Davide we’re reaching back to move forward with the organic-infused improvisation that has long-inspired a big part of The New Deal sound,” explains keyboardist Jamie Shields.
The New Deal first began in Toronto in 1999, quickly gaining support from Toronto’s underground club scene as pioneers in electronica, recreating the DJ experience with live, improvised music. Soon the band brought their interpretation of Electro House, Trance, Breakbeat and Drum & Bass to the US where they were embraced by the crowds at NYC’s Wetlands Preserve and cultivated a loyal following in the American jam scene.
After twelve years of touring, The New Deal took a hiatus in 2011; Dan spent much of the next few years touring the world with Electropop band Dragonette. When The New Deal returned to stages in 2014 they brought on board a new drummer in Dragonette’s Joel Stouffer. For three years, Dan, Jamie, and Joel enjoyed another successful round of touring and recording, and in 2017 Joel amicably parted ways to pursue other musical interests.
In 2018, The New Deal welcomed drummer extraordinaire Davide Di Renzo into the fold. After several months of shedding in the studio, the band released the first taste of new music in March 2019 with “Halo Drive”, and played their first live shows with Davide in June 2019. Now with the release of Phoenix, the band continues their long anticipated return to the touring and festival circuit.
“It's never been easier to make music with The New Deal than in this past year. We're lucky to have pressed ‘record’ as often as we did, because we were mostly just having fun rediscovering what playing together was all about. Phoenix came out of just a few of the dozens of great jams we did at my studio, and I'm really looking forward to releasing many more in the months ahead.” –Dan Kurtz
To borrow a phrase from heaven's new poet laureate, Leonard Cohen, Nicole Atkins was "born with the gift of a golden voice." But somewhere along the way she misplaced it. Goodnight Rhonda Lee is the story of Nicole finding her voice, and how, in doing so, she went a little crazy.
Great Art is born of struggle and Nicole was struggling. The problem was that she felt nothing. Her fans responded to her performances with the same fervor they always had, but Nicole felt nothing. Her new husband loved her and doted on her, but she felt nothing. She traced it back to her drinking and decided to try to learn to live without booze. But that first day of sobriety brought with it an unexpected additional test -- Nicole's dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. This Jersey girl, whose big voice was tethered to a big heart, and whose reaction to the mundane setbacks of everyday life had always been equally overblown, suddenly faced a real problem. "It toughened me up," she says.
And the songs started to come. Little bursts of therapeutic creativity. Thorny feelings transubstantiated into melodies. Beginning with "Listen Up," a wake-up call to a lucky girl who hadn't realized how lucky she'd been, Nicole started to find her redemption in these songs. They rang true in a way no songs ever had before. They came from a deep, vulnerable place. If Nicole had been living an unexamined life, she wasn't anymore.
She needed her newfound toughness though, as in the midst of all this turmoil, she prepared to move from her native Asbury Park to Nashville. Having spent more than a decade as the de facto queen of Asbury, Nicole was finally leaving the warm, but often stifling confines of her hometown. During one of her final nights before the exodus, a song came to her in a dream. “I Love Living Here Even When I Don’t” summed up the complicated feelings she experienced as she said goodbye to the only real home she'd ever known.
In Nashville, Nicole's once hectic life was very different. Left home alone as her tour manager husband plied his trade out on the road, Nicole found herself writing songs that examined "feelings of separation and being scared of new surroundings." In particular, the songs "Sleepwalking" and "Darkness Falls" echo like ghosts through an empty house.
Unsurprisingly, her sobriety faltered. She drifted in and out of it. Nicole knew the wagon was good for her, but she had a hard time staying focused on what was good for her. As it went on however, the clarity of those sober days started to shine through. And she was able to string them together in longer stretches. For the first time, she was able to offer a shoulder for others to lean on, rather than always being the one in need of a shoulder. It helped that she had to be strong for herself in order to be strong for her dad. Much of what she was feeling was painful, but it beat the hell out of feeling nothing.
She reconnected with her old friend Chris Isaak who encouraged her, in the midst of all the soul-searching and soul-baring, to write songs that emphasized the one trait that most sets her apart from the mere mortals of the industry, telling her, “Atkins, you have a very special thing in your voice that a lot of people can’t or don’t do. You need to stop shying away from that thing and let people hear it.” To that end, the two of them collaborated on Goodnight Rhonda Lee's standout track, the instant classic, "A Little Crazy.”
Great Art is a journey -- and Nicole Atkins traveled quite a distance to bring us Goodnight Rhonda Lee. As Nicole explains it, "This record came to me at a time of deep transition. Some days were good, some not so good. What I did gain, though, from starting to make some changes and going inward, and putting it out on the table, was a joy in what I do again. Joy in the process and a newfound confidence that I don’t think I've ever had until now. The album title, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, also came from those feelings. Rhonda Lee was kind of my alias for bad behavior, and it was time to put that persona to bed."
The direction in which these songs were headed was obvious. Nicole's voice had always recalled a classic vinyl collection. She is the heir to the legacy of "Roy Orbison, Lee Hazelwood, Sinatra, Aretha, Carole King, Candi Staton." She is untethered to decade or movement or the whim of the hipster elite.
In order to capture the timelessness she sought, Nicole enlisted a modern day Wrecking Crew: Niles City Sound in Fort Worth, TX, who had just risen to national acclaim as Leon Bridges' secret weapon. "We spoke the same language. We wanted to make something classic, something that had an atmosphere and a mood of romance and triumph and strength and soul." The album was recorded in five days, live to tape. The album that Nicole and the boys came up with in those five days, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, is nothing less than Great Art and a quantum leap forward for Nicole Atkins who, no matter how much she grows up, will always be a little crazy.
Contact: Alex@7smgmt.com / Simonne@7smgmt.com
Although his musical talents make it easy to believe he’s always been a full-time musician, Rob Drabkin attended Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, where he graduated with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with the intention of becoming a doctor. His focus quickly changed after a family trip to New York. “My Dad played Jazz full time for 30 years before he got into medicine. On that trip, we re-connected with his old musician friends, and it was inspiring to see them giving their lives to music night after night for so many years. That was the night I dropped science and dedicated myself to music. After that moment, I spent every possible minute singing and honing all of the songwriting skills that I could.” He adds, “It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but I had an epiphany while watching the Broadway musical “Chicago.” I decided right then and there that I didn't want to work in a research lab for the rest of my life and that I wanted to pursue music full time even though I had never sung a note up to that point.” He took to Denver’s music scene quickly, and set his career into motion.
Drabkin’s newly released single, “Someday,” has earned a spot on major international Spotify playlists such as Spring Acoustic on Spotify UK and Discover Weekly, and in just one month, the single accumulated half a million plays from listeners around the world. "We too often forget that love is ever-present. We share it with each other through laughter, smiles, and sympathy. We can find it in everything and we can also create it in the smallest, most unassuming moments of our lives. I wrote this song for those moments. All we can do is keep being kind and have the courage to choose love in every decision we make.” In “Someday” His lyrical talents show his listeners that you can take whatever you might endure, and turn it into a way to express yourself. Although the Colorado native has an impressive list of musical achievements, this song serves as an opportunity to start his career from scratch. A new plateau with new possibilities
“With earnestness and originality, Drabkin thrives within stylistic excursions that range from driving folk rock to understated experiments with classical musicians.- ““Denver Westword
“I love the harmonies of the Shook Twins, the dreamlike songs that seem somehow permeated by the American Folk tradition, without actually being part of it. They make music that twines through your soul the way vines cover an abandoned shack in the woods.” – Neil Gaiman, New York Times – Best-Selling Author
“The Portland, Ore., folk group is ready to rattle the music world with its ‘What We Do’ album.” – USA Today
“The Shooks will Shake you. These ladies have been keepin’ it real since the day they were born and that was only seconds apart from one another I think. Do yourself a favor and check ’em out. I do declare, ya won’t be sorry.” – Langhorne Slim
“The Shook Twins put on a heck of a show. Keep your eyes on these folks. I’m excited to hear what they do next.” – Tucker Martine
“A unique, personal music that lights up the stage with its joy and enthusiasm.” – Mason Jennings
Born and raised in Sandpoint Idaho, Shook Twins are an Indie folk-pop band hailing from Portland, Oregon. Identical twins, Katelyn and Laurie are the main songwriters, but they also back up their band member Niko Slice (electric guitar, mandolin and vocals) adding his uniquely compelling songs to the mix. Barra Brown is on Drums, vocals and Drum Pad, and Josh Simon is on Bass, vocals, Electric guitar, and synth. Central to Shook Twins’ sound is their wide range of instrumentation: banjo, acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass, mandolin, electronic drums, face drum (beat-box), glockenspiel, ukulele, banjo-head drumming and their signature Golden Egg. Beautiful twin harmonies, layered upon acoustic and electric instrumentation, coupled with Laurie’s inventive use of percussive and ambient vocal loops, and Katelyn’s re-purposed telephone microphone, set their sound apart, creating a unique and eccentric blend of folk, roots, groove and soul.
Their eclectic style fluctuates from song to song; drawing from their life experience they write about being potters’ daughters, the sway of the subconscious, imagined superpowers and a chicken friend named ‘Rose.’ Shook Twins also pull out unexpected covers on classic hits as well as their friends’ songs. After releasing their first album You Can Have the Rest, the twin sisters moved to Portland where they released Window (featuring Bonnie Paine and Bridget Law of Elephant Revival). Both albums were recorded and produced in Santa Cruz, California, at InDigital Studios with Brody Bergholz and Mason Rothchild. Shook Twins recorded their third album, What We Do, with Grammy nominated producer Ryan Hadlock at Bear Creek Studios. They are currently recording new music at Hallowed Halls in Portland, OR with Justin Phelps.
After releasing their first album You Can Have the Rest, the twin sisters moved to Portland where they released Window (featuring Bonnie Paine and Bridget Law of Elephant Revival). Both albums were recorded and produced in Santa Cruz, California, at InDigital Studios with Brody Bergholz and Mason Rothchild. Shook Twins recorded their third album, What We Do, with Grammy nominated producer Ryan Hadlock at Bear Creek Studios. They are currently recording new music at Hallowed Halls in Portland, OR with Justin Phelps.
Shook Twins have shared the stage with artists including: Ryan Adams, Gregory Alan Isakov, Greensky Bluegrass, Mason Jennings, Blitzen Trapper, Railroad Earth, Keller Williams, David Grisman, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sarah Jarosz, Laura Veirs, The Fruit Bats, Jonathan Brooke, JJ Grey and MoFro, The Indigo Girls, Crooked Still, Jason Webley, The BoDeans, Elephant Revival and more.
Spanning the spectrum from distinctive and genuine to amusing and whimsical, Shook Twins’ laid-back and fun stage presence draws the listener in, allowing them to take the audience on an adventure. 2016 saw the band opening up for Greensky Bluegrass on a 13 show tour, supporting Keller Williams for several shows in Northern California, and playing Red Rocks Amphitheater with Gregory Alan Isakov and Ani Difranco. The band also embarked on a Spring tour to Europe where they played two festivals in Germany and six shows in the UK. Festivals for this year included WinterWonderGrass Tahoe (CA), Huckleberry Jam (ID), Safety Harbor Fest (FL), Apple Jam Music Festival (OR), Beaverstock (CA), Summer Camp Music Festival (IL), Revival Fest (MN), Northwest String Summit (OR), Fayetteville Roots Festival (AR), Summer Meltdown (WA), Oregon Country Fair (OR), Suwannee Roots Revival (FL) and more!
Shook Twins have never been sonically confined to the indie-folk world in which they’ve become well-known artists. Always harnessing an adventurous spirit, Shook Twins are never shy to incorporate beat boxing, banjo-head drumming, vocals using a re-purposed telephone microphone, and other ambient sources within their arrangements. On their latest single, “Call Me Out” (Release Date: August 19, 2016), Shook Twins once again take another leap from the acoustic music scene with a vibey, pop-infused soundscape with a poignant message ready to be embraced by the masses. Lush harmonies, delayed banjo pickin’, deep drums, and multi-layered lead vocals draw the listener into this intimate breakout summer 2016 single.
Growing gently from the haunting landscapes and enchanting seas of the islands, Richard Macintyre slowly emerged from the darkness of winter on the Isle of Skye. Beginning alone, recording through the night in a cupboard full of old coats, as the snow melted, Siiga remained, its roots bursting into life through his captivating, atmosphere song-writing, delicate artwork and transcendental videos.
Innovatively crafted piece by piece, song by song over the seasons of the year, each step intimately documented through an engaging and personal online diary, his only communication to the outside world from the remote Scottish Herbrides. Joined in time by fellow West-Coaster and musician Seamus O'Donnell, whose natural melody soon found its way flowing through the rich harmony of Siiga, they found a new home together breathing life into each song in the shimmering analogue studio of friend, engineer and musician Iain Hutchinson.
From his painstakingly handmade, ethereal silhouette animation "Hollow Bones", through dreamy home-made reels of sailing trips amongst layers of weaving porpoises, beyond vignettes of hazy forest woodlands, Macintyre's transportive world of Siiga comes to life through - The Sea and The Mirror.
Over the course of his 20-year career, drummer Stanton Moore has become known as one of the premier funk musicians of his generation. On his latest album, Conversations, he moves in a slightly different direction, returning to his roots while reinventing his trademark sound. The result is a lively and combustible jazz piano trio outing that reveals unexpected new dimensions to Moore's always-engaging virtuosity.
Anyone who's ever heard the interplay between the drummer and his band-mates in the Stanton Moore Trio, Galactic, Garage a Trois or Dragon Smoke is no doubt aware of his intense improvisational chops. But with Conversations, Moore unveils his profound sense of swing and the fluency of his jazz vocabulary in its purest form for the first time. "I've played a lot of jazz in New Orleans through the years, but it's not something that the general public has ever seen me do or is even aware of," Moore says.
Having delved deep into the styles of pioneering drummers like Jabo Starks, Clyde Stubblefield, and Zigaboo Modeliste for his multimedia 2010 project Groove Alchemy, Moore decided to explore his straight-ahead jazz influences with a similar focus. "Jazz has been part of my development and a deep love of mine for a long time. Everything I do funk and groove-wise is informed by what I've learned playing and studying jazz. I had put myself through what was basically a doctoral program on funk drumming, and I wanted to do the same thing with my jazz playing."
Moore sent himself back to the jazz woodshed, taking lessons with veteran drummer Kenny Washington and spending time with Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra co-leader Jeff Hamilton, Moore's partner in the Crescent Cymbal Company. He refined his brush playing by studying the work of Philly Joe Jones—evidenced by his brushwork on "Tchefunkta," a slinkier transformation of the tune that opens his 1998 solo debut, All Kooked Out!
The New Orleans native called on a pair of veterans from that city's vibrant, deeply rooted jazz scene to form his new trio. Pianist David Torkanowksy and bassist James Singleton have both played with saxophonist Tony Dagradi's long-running band Astral Project alongside Moore's mentor, drummer Johnny Vidacovich. Singleton has also worked with the likes of James Booker, Professor Longhair, Aaron Neville, Joe Henderson, Milt Jackson, Harry Connick Jr. and Lightnin' Hopkins. Torkanowsky's credits include work with The Meters, Maceo Parker, Dianne Reeves, Dr. John, Boz Scaggs, George Duke, Kirk Whalum, James Moody and Chuck Berry.
Moore chose Torkanowsky and Singleton for their unparalleled musicianship, versatility, compatibility, and long history together. What he realized only after the fact is that his newly-assembled trio was already a Grammy Award-winning group: they had worked together as the rhythm section for Irma Thomas' After the Rain, which was named the Best Contemporary Blues Album of 2007. "I always love playing with Stanton," Singleton says, "and when he got me back together with Tork it became pure inspiration. We all share such deep bonds within very specific musical languages, and the energy keeps growing."
The connection shared by the three New Orleanians, Moore says, "brings a deep sense of groove and pocket and a whole batch of ideas and cultural influences that I can reference and these guys know exactly what I'm talking about. There's the Mardi Gras Indian thing, the brass band thing, the James Black thing. It's hard to find a group of guys who are not only aware of all those influences, but are equally happy playing in any of those genres."
The NOLA bond becomes even stronger through Moore's choice of material. All but one of the album's eleven tracks were written by a New Orleans composer, including the legendary drummer James Black, Tony Dagradi, Steve Masakowski, Evan Christopher, and all three members of the trio. The sole exception is Herbie Hancock, whose "Driftin'" is given a stride piano intro by Torkanowsky that makes it feel right at home in this company.
"Some of these tunes are New Orleans standards or tunes that David and Jim have played a lot together over the years. I wanted to create an outlet for the jazz side of my playing, but I didn't want to do jazz standards that everyone else has done. So we developed a repertoire of tunes that were more in our wheelhouse."
That material was honed over more than a year and a half of Tuesday-night performances at Snug Harbor, the renowned New Orleans’ jazz venue on Frenchman Street. The deep chemistry forged over the course of that residency is in ample evidence throughout the aptly-named Conversations, from the graceful but roiling opener "Lauren Z" to the wistful ballad "Waltz for All Souls," from the Bill Evans-inspired elegance of Steve Masakowski's "The Chase" to the deceptively complex celebration of the New Orleans standard "Paul Barbarin's Second Line."
"Improvised music should be conversational," Moore says. "If one guy's holding the floor, you don't want to start speaking over him; you want to listen, you want to interject, you might want to convey another idea related to what he's saying, but the same rules for good conversation apply to making good music. The music on this album is conversational, and all the tunes are coming from friends who we've had musical conversations with over the years."
DISCLAIMER 1: The “official” Wikipedia for Steve Poltz describes the material contained therein as “contentious,” not to mention “unsourced or poorly sourced.” We can wholeheartedly assure you Steve remains sourced and rarely contends. Either way, allow us to present the real story from the horse’s (man’s) mouth…
DISCLAIMER 2: (No animals were harmed in the making of this bio.)
Throughout over three decades in music, Steve Poltz did it all and more—often shared by way of his rockin’ countrified folk slices of sardonic Americana (hatched in Halifax). Of course, he co-wrote Jewel’s multiplatinum Hot 100-topping megahit “You Were Meant For Me,” but he also went on a whale watch with her and a few federales that turned into a drug bust. The two still share the story at every festival they play together. He made his bones as the frontman for underground legends The Rugburns, who burned rubber crisscrossing the continent on marathon tours and still pop up once in a while for the rare and quickly sold out reunion gig.
In 20 years since his full-length solo debut, One Left Shoe, he blessed the world’s ears with twelve solo records, spanning the acclaimed 2010 Dreamhouse and most recently Folk Singer in 2015. NPR summed it up best, “Critics and fans alike now regard Poltz as a talented and prolific songwriter.” By 2016, he survived a stroke, endured anything the music industry could throw at him, and still performed like “280 days a year.”
However, he still never lived in Nashville, which represents a turning point in the story and the genesis of his 2018 Red House Records debut, Shine On…
“My girlfriend Sharon sold the condo we were living in, and I was ready to live in a van, which seemed like a good idea for one night—then I decided I wanted a kitchen and a closet,” he admits. “Sharon wanted to move to Nashville, because she thought it would be good for me. It caused a huge fight. I’d been in San Diego since 1980, and that’s where I cut my musical teeth. I thought I’d never leave. In fact, at the height of our fight, I said, ‘I’m not leaving San Diego. I am San Diego!’ This makes me laugh now. As soon as I got to Nashville, I immediately knew I wanted to make a record in ‘Music City’.”
So, the man who once protested “I am San Diego” made Shine On in his new home of Nashville with one of its elder statesman behind the board, Will Kimbrough [Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell]. Holing up in the studio at Kimbrough’s house, nothing would be off limits. Together, they unlocked the kind of creative chemistry you only hear about in band bios—but for real.
“I respect Will so much, and I’d always wanted to work with him,” says Steve. “Like two mad scientists, we just took our time and had fun. We didn’t overthink things. Everything felt organic. We ate soul food and drank lots of really good coffee. We tried out weird sounds, and the songs always started with voice and guitar—no click track, just how I’d play them. I road tested many of them, and they were ripe for the picking when recording time came around.”
Evoking themes of “hope, love, contemplation, celebration of Wednesday, pharmacists, and the fact that windows are not inanimate objects and they sometimes have conversations with each other,” the record represents Steve at his most inspired and insightful. The opener and title track “Shine On” pairs a delicate vocal with lithely plucked acoustic strings as he urges, “Shine on, shine on.”
“The song was a gift,” he recalls. “I woke up really early in Encinitas, California at Sharon’s sister’s house. The sun was just coming up. I was all alone in perfect solitude. My guitar was there. The sky was gorgeous. I wrote it as a poem. Everyone always told me, ‘Never start a record with a really slow song.’ So, seeing that I have O.D.D. (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), I started my record with one. I love the mood it sets. It’s almost like my mission statement, trying to find some semblance of positivity and light in a sometimes ruthless world.”
On “Pharmacist,” rustling guitar and harmonica propel a tale of “this dude having a crush on his pharmacist.” It also serves as an extension of his friendship with neighbor Scot Sax—with whom he shares the podcast “One Hit Neighbors” (since they’ve both had one hit song). Meanwhile, he joined forces with Molly Tuttle on “4th of July,” which, of course, came to life on the 3rd of July. “Ballin On Wednesday” drew its title and chorus from a diner checkout girl (with a super cool gold tooth) who Steve paid with a $100 bill and she replied, “Oooh, ballin’ on a Wednsday.” The finale “All Things Shine” skips along on sparse instrumentation as Steve sends a message.
“‘All Things Shine’ came about after one of the many mass shootings on this planet,” he sighs. “I was feeling overwhelmed. So, I wanted to put my feelings into words and melody. I was thinking that even if we’re feeling hopeless that there is still beauty. All things shine in their own way.”
Who could contend that?
In the end, for everything you can call him “searcher, smartass, movie freak, lover of technology, news junkie, baseball fan to nth degree, lapsed catholic who still believes in god even though all his friends are atheists and think he’s an idiot, and maker of fun,” you might just call Steve that little light in the dark we all need in this day and age.
Or Nashville’s Canadian Jiminy Cricket…
“I hope Shine On makes listeners smile and feel welcome, and they want to share it with their friends,” he leaves off. “Music means energy to me. All things. It connects us, makes us move, helps us relax, and inspires us to change things up.”
Anna Morsett spent most of her life on the coasts, but it wasn’t until she moved to landlocked Colorado in 2013 that the guitar-wielding songwriter discovered The Still Tide: Both her band, and the calm current she had long been seeking in her own life.
“I came here from the coast, noise and city tangled in my hair,” she sings on the first single from The Still Tide’s fourth EP. “Found you like forgiveness, swept clean by years of mountain air.”
Morsett is now firmly entrenched in the Colorado music community, having played with Ark Life, Porlolo, Brent Cowles, Natalie Tate and These United States. But she very much remains the undulating current of The Still Tide, a seductive, shoegazey collective that marks a shifting tide with Each, After. The new EP is essentially Morsett’s solo debut, while still fully supported by guitarist and co-founder Jacob Miller and a rotating ensemble that currently consists of drummer Joe Richmond (Churchill, Tennis) and bassist Nate Meese (Meese, The Centennial). “I always wanted the full band sound, Morsett said. “But I also wanted the freedom and the anonymity to kind of cruise around on my own.”
Morsett is as enigmatic as her sound is alluring. She describes herself as both a shredder guitar chick and a nerdy loner. A frontwoman and an anonymous face in the crowd. She is seemingly always in transition, like a wave shapeshifting between low and high tide.
Morsett grew up in Olympia, Wash., under a sister-infused musical foundation that included Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and Andy Aledort guitar lesson books. She dove head-first into the headwaters of New York and came up for air five years later, almost by accident, in Denver. That’s where she and her collaborator Miller were able to develop The Still Tide, which was soon named 303 Magazine’s best up-and-coming local artist.
But with Each, After, Morsett is stepping up to the mic and fully claiming it, and The Still Tide, as her own. “I think I was hiding behind the band, for whatever reason,” she said. “But now, I’m ready.”
She calls Each, After, with its carefully placed comma and chill vibe, as “a sweet landing spot for these beautiful open guitar riffs that didn’t really fit the vibe of the last record,” she said. “I love the power of having that full band experience, but I also love the immediacy and intimacy of these tender little things. I’m trying to figure out how both of those vibes can fit in the same world.”
Morsett tantalizingly describes the E.P.’s four tracks as four very personal and true ruminations on past breakups. Tantalizing, because the fourth song is a reflection on a woman she hasn’t met yet.
“That last one, I guess, is kind of for the next person,” she said. “It's the hope for someone, I guess.”
When the time comes for The Still Tide to rise again.
Based in Austin, TX, Summer Salt blends vibrant yet breezy vocal harmony and colorful elements of 1960s pop, Bossa Nova and jazz.
The group was originally formed around the talents of Matthew Terry (vocalist/guitarist) and Eugene Chung (drummer) during their senior year of high school.
Before moving to Austin, Matt and Eugene enjoyed playing intimate shows at small coffee shops, friends living rooms, and local venues around the Dallas and Denton area where they began to work on and craft the musical nature of what is now Summer Salt.
In 2012 the band fledged away from their hometown to pursue music in Austin TX, where they began writing their first EP Driving to Hawaii.
Driving to Hawaii (2014), contains the essence of a never-ending vacation and is rich in guitar pop and silky harmonies that is reminiscent of the Beach Boys. The EP features fan favorites such as Sweet to Me, Rockaway, and of course their title track, Driving to Hawaii, which has iconically represented the basis of all Summer Salt lyrics: trying to slow down and enjoy the ride of chasing what appears to be an unattainable pipe dream.
Their next release, Going Native (2015), was inspired by a trip abroad where Terry began diving into artists such as Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Gilberto Gil which lead to a new writing direction using Latin elements.
Succeeding the energetic and live sounds of Going Native, So Polite (2017), was the perfect appetizer for the bands' debut full-length album, the wildly colorful, Happy Camper (2018) which features a more polished production quality from Sub-Pop stalwart Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins).
The infectiously melodic ensemble has cultivated a loyal following with their endless summer, ocean dream music that can be heard in influences such as the Lovin' Spoonful, Donovan, Frankie Valli, the lovely Lady Day or other musical genres of 1960's Rocksteady or African Highlife. Moving forward, with the anticipation of their forthcoming release Honeyweed, Summer Salt maintains phonetic components of Brazilian tropicalia and 60’s folk pop while drawing inspiration from seasoned topics of loss and renewal.
Summer Salt’s building success on the road lead to a 31-date sold out North American tour in the Summer of 2018. Featuring the recent addition of guitarist/vocalist, Anthony Barnett, and bassist, Elliot Edmonds, the group is now preparing to embark on their second headlining US tour with wonderful and humble support of Motel Radio and Dante Elephante. The tour kicks off with a homecoming show in Dallas, TX on July 13th and concludes full circle in El Paso, TX on Aug. 18.
Tennis’ husband-and-wife team Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore began writing music together as a way to document the history of their time voyaging and living aboard a sailboat. The result was their first release, Cape Dory. Moore and Riley followed Cape Dory with Young and Old, which The New Yorker described as “winsome as it is ebullient” and debuted #1 on Billboard’s Heatseeker Chart and #1 on CMJ Top 200, where it remained for three straight weeks. The album also debuted on Soundscan’s “New Artist Chart” at #1, remaining there for nine consecutive weeks. Their third record, 2014’s Ritual in Repeat, received rave reviews from The New York Times, NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Fresh Air,” TIME, Vogue, Pitchfork, The FADER, Entertainment Weekly and many more. Yours Conditionally is Tennis’ greatest commercial success, selling over 24,000 copies of vinyl alone, placing them at #9 on Billboard’s mid-year vinyl chart. The album’s lead single My Emotions Are Blinding peaked at #1 on Friday Morning Quarterback Submodern charts. The album has received praise from NPR’s “Weekend Edition”, Vice/Noisey, and was chosen as the Vinyl Me Please record of the month. The band has performed on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Conan” and “Last Call with Carson Daly.”
Contact: Alex@7smgmt.com / Simonne@7smgmt.com
Ume is a band that shatters expectations – balancing elegance and brutality, strength and fragility, ferocious metal and sweet melody. These forces resound through the Austin trio’s new album, Monuments, a collection of songs that reimagines heavy music and is as beautiful as it is massive. When the musicians began writing for the album, after touring over 200 dates in support of their acclaimed debut Phantoms, the emphasis was on translating the impassioned force of Ume’s momentous live show onto a recording.
Recorded with Grammy-winning producer Adam Kasper (Queens of the Stone Age, Cat Power, Foo Fighters, Nirvana) at Robert Lang Studios and Studio X in Seattle, WA, Monuments is Ume’s most colossal sounding recording yet. From the first blast of the opening track “Black Stone,” there is no doubt this is a record driven by one of today’s most ascendant shredders, and one that is also not afraid to subvert rock conventions. Cohesive but unorthodox, the album brings together the propulsive, surging rock of songs like “Too Big World” and “Chase It Down” with the raw, acoustic introspection of “Barophobia.” At the record’s emotional epicenter is “Gleam,” a dedication to Esme Barrera, one of Lauren’s fellow Girl’s Rock Camp volunteers who was murdered during the writing of the record.
Lauren and Eric began making music together after meeting at a skatepark in highschool. Shortly after forming Ume, Lauren moved on to attend graduate school in philosophy, but eventually traded in the PhD pursuit to follow her guitar heroine dreams. Driven by a desire to share how they felt as kids the first time they saw Fugazi, Lauren and Eric have logged tens of thousands of miles together on the road, moving from basements and dive bars to major festivals like Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, Paris’ Rock En Seine, and London’s British Summer Time Fest.
The band has shared the stage with Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Warpaint, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Franz Ferdinand, Helmet, Wu-Tang, and Foals, and were personally called by Perry Farrell to open for Jane’s Addiction at their Lollapalooza afterparty. In May 2014, Lauren was invited by rock legend Nancy Wilson of Heart to perform alongside her at an acoustic benefit show in San Francisco featuring James Hetfield, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Sammy Hagar. Ume also appeared on the 2012 Season Premiere of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, who celebrated the band as “a shitload of rawk in a tiny little room” before taking them to dinner during SXSW. The band’s name – pronounced “ooo-may” – was taken from a Japanese plum blossom that they later learned symbolizes perseverance and devotion, a moniker that aptly reflects the musicians’ tenacity and passion.
On their latest LP Magic, melodic visionaries The Werks transcend their funk rock roots while never losing their identity. Poignant songwriting and engaging improvisation come together on a record that showcases their maturation as a multidimensional group of uniquely creative musicians.
The virtuosic rhythm junkies of The Werks have released four highly acclaimed studio albums over the past ten years - Synapse (2009), The Werks (2012), Mr. Smalls Sessions EP (2014), and Inside a Dream (2015) - performed well over one thousand shows (including launching their own multi-day music festival The Werk Out), and released countless live recordings including last year’s Live at The Werk Out live album. In that time they’ve earned a devoted fan base across the world and reputation as one of the most energetic, compelling, and downright entertaining live acts in the business. They’ve developed a hard won confidence, and a willingness to fearlessly chart new sonic territory on Magic.
“This is our first truly multi-genre album” says Chris Houser. “Each track has its own unique vibe and sound. We didn’t write these songs to please people, we wrote them because this is what we hear when we turn off the outside and let the creativity flow.”
The songs on Magic started as sketches the band members crafted independently. Coming together in their sonic dojo The Werkspace, those seeds of groove were nurtured by the group, growing into fully wrought songs. “Our writing is collaborative,” explains Dan Shaw, “but starting with demos written individually gives each band member a chance to leave their fingerprint on a tune.”
The songwriting finished, the band decamped to Sonic Lounge in Grove City, Ohio. There lead engineer and producer Joe Viers (Blues Traveler, Twenty One Pilots) settled down to work with the studio’s legendary Amek/Neve 9098i mixing console. One of only thirteen in the world, Sonic Lounge’s was originally installed in Olympic Studios in London, England, where it served to document the unique creative mojo of Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, and more.
Joining Viers were assistant engineers and producers Aaron Oakley and B.J. Davis, and the unstoppable horns of Columbus’ own Hoodoo Soul Band - Chris Young (trumpet), Kevin O’Neil (tenor), and Phil Clark (Baritone) – while Kenny Holmes, tour manager and right hand man, was the gaff tape that held it all together. Finally Columbus native and current Los Angeles, CA resident Brian Lucey (Train, Dr. Dog) mastered the record.
From those sessions emerged a rare jewel of a record; Magic is muse put to tape, a direct download of the creative spark. “This is a recording of the music that’s in our souls” explains Rob Chafin. “In a way, the past decade has been leading to this moment. We play and write together so seamlessly now, we’re able to channel the inspiration in our hearts out into our instruments, and come at this from a pure place.” Together, they have crafted a record where melodies take flight, dancing and twisting around the sonorous main of the tune itself. By fusing their spirited inventiveness to a core of immediately engaging songwriting, The Werks have truly performed a feat of modern musical Magic.
Rooted in the rowdy spirit of rock & roll, Wild Adriatic has built an international audience on a combination of groove, grit, and guitar-heavy swagger.
With the power trio's latest album, Feel, bandmates Travis Gray, Rich Derbyshire, and Mateo Vosganian update the sound of their influences -- from Seventies rock to Motown to soul -- for a contemporary audience, taking influence from the past but never losing sight of the present. They aren't revivalists; they're modern men, carrying the torch of melodic, riff-ready, high-energy rock into new territory.
Whittled into sharp shape by a touring schedule that's kept them busy for roughly 175 days a year — including two European tours, countless stateside runs, and appearances at festivals like Bonnaroo — Wild Adriatic's three members recorded Feel in Austin, teaming up with Grammy-nominated producer Frenchie Smith in the process. The goal was to shine a light on the band's strength as a live act, avoiding click tracks, digital instruments, sampled sounds, and other tricks of the recording studio. Instead, Wild Adriatic focused on the same core ingredients — Gray's guitar playing and soulful sweep of a voice; Vosganian's percussive stomp; Derbyshire's in-the-pocket bass — that helped kickstart the band in 2011, back when Wild Adriatic formed in Upstate New York.
From the psychedelic "Chasing a Ghost" to the mellow, horn-filled "Come Baby Baby" — the latter song featuring blasts of brass from the West End Horns — Feel offers up 11 new songs of modern, analog, groove-heavy rock, with Wild Adriatic taking inspiration from breakups, friendships, new relationships, tour stops, and even politics. "Appleton" finds the guys paying tribute to the Wisconsin town that's hosted some of their most most memorable shows, while songs like "Some Nerve" and "Hurricane Woman" channel the influence of guitar greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Walsh. Much of the album came together during five separate writing retreats, including treks to Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin. Throughout it all, the songs were written collaboratively, molded by a band of longtime friends who, more than a half-decade into their career, are still turning over new leaves.
"This feels like our first record all over again," says Vosganian, a childhood friend of Gray since his elementary-school days. "We're a rock and roll band at heart, but we have heavy ties to soul and blues music, too, and as the band matures, those roots come out. This is a great way to reintroduce ourselves."
Gray agrees, saying that the real-life inspiration behind most of the album — a painful breakup — helped Wild Adriatic create a record that ultimately celebrates the electricity and elation of playing in a traveling band. "These songs align with everything we've gone through in the last year," he adds. "They highlight hard times, but also underlying hope and optimism. We're people. We're supported by fans who buy tickets and come out to shows, and we like to hang out with them. We aren't trying to take ourselves too seriously. We're trying to connect. We're trying to feel."
Sometimes what you’re looking for is right in front of you.
Sure, the expression is trite, but as far as truisms go, sometimes, well, it just happens to be true. Such is the case with Wildermiss, a promising young band whose name literally reflects this notion and whose story also bears this out.
“We were driving in the Redwood Forrest, and I was looking at my phone, trying to write down band names the whole time,” recalls singer Emma Drae, who coined the name last year on a road trip with drummer Caleb Thoemke. “I was just missing everything. I ‘missed’ the wilderness. So I wrote it down as a joke, and the guys -- we all texted each other our top ten names -- loved it.”
The moniker fit perfectly, just like Drae, who had been in her bandmates' orbit for quite some time, first as a member of Montana Tapwater – an act she had previously played in with guitarist Seth Beamer, classmate from University of Colorado Denver – and later as a collaborator with Red Fox Run, the outfit that directly preceded Wildermiss and featured Thoemke and Beamer, along with guitarist Joshua Hester.
Shortly after Red Fox Run ended and right around the time Drae was finishing her degree, Drae asked the trio to accompany her at a graduation recital. The chemistry was immediate, and two months later, the foursome began writing songs together. After Red Fox Run effectively ran its course, the three members of that group – seasoned musicians who had been playing since they were kids – were ready to move into a different direction.
Turns out, Drae, who had been right in front of them the entire time, was the perfect addition. A gifted vocalist whose expressive voice blends the sublime sensibilities of singers like Ellie Goulding and Hayley Williams, with the powerful strains of Amy Lee of Evanescence, Drae completed the quartet on vocals and synth bass.
Drae started playing synth bass sort of by default -- the outfit needed a bassist to bring out the bottom end but was reluctant to add a fifth member, so she stepped in on synth bass because there was less of a learning curve, she says. Since then, it’s sort of become a signature of the band’s burgeoning sound.
"We love the sound of two guitars. I don't know if we were really looking to add anybody,” says Beamer. “We had talked about who we could add — we know tons of musicians and have tons of friends who could definitely fit the bill — but there was something about the four of us."
"We liked how it gave us this cool, mellow low end,” adds Hester, “and the guitars could do a lot more.”
This willingness to be flexible on the part of Drae is emblematic of the band’s overall approach to making music together, says Hester. “We've always been in service to the song,” he explains. “That's our goal. If we're writing something, it has to be to the benefit of the song, not our own ego. Our rule's always been we leave our ego at the door whenever we go into rehearsal. It's all about the music. It's not about what we're trying to do individually.”
“Yeah, the music is bigger than all of us,” Beamer agrees.
Indeed, judging from the songs the young act has crafted together thus far, this dynamic certainly seems to be in play here. As you see the band barreling down the road in the same direction, you get the sense that each cylinder is firing at exactly the same time.
“We're talking 24-7,” Thoemke confirms. “We always have a group chat going on. We’re texting each other all day, every day. Every decision that’s made, is made by everyone. Everyone's mindset is: this is a career. This is going to be something."
More and more fans seem to agree. Since forming less than a year ago, Wildermiss has quietly been taking the town by storm. Unassumingly serving as an opening act on frequent weeknight gigs, the auspicious act has been steadily making a name for itself with a smart brand of guitar-driven pop rock, which has plenty in common with acts like Local Natives, Echosmith, and Florence and the Machine.
The songs are instantly memorable as much for their melodies as for their meaning -- both of which are equally as integral to the impact of the song, if you ask Hester. "I've always thought lyrics find their validation through melody,” he says. “You can sing the simplest line but if a melody has conviction, then it works better than the most poetic paragraph you can write."
Talk about seeing the forest for the trees.
Rock 'N' Roll for You and Yours. A four-piece band from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Live electronic power trio Yak Attack (Portland, OR) is on the rise thanks to exuberant performances across the country that convert the most casual fans into followers. Their live show is musically sophisticated but widely accessible, and they're supported by a growing army of engaged fans willing to make long drives for their next musical fix. Best described as "organic electronica", Yak Attack uses live loops, tight chops, and raw improvisation to build high-energy dance music that’s rooted in breakbeat, electro-funk and trip-hop from scratch, where every uplifting note is played and recorded live.
Yak Attack was founded when Dave Dernovsek (keys), a Colorado/New York transplant with a competitive classical piano background, met Rowan Cobb (bass), who was building a name for himself in the Portland live music scene as a founding member of numerous successful touring bands. The two shared an interest in creating a livetronica project - Dave had been experimenting with various loop-based setups for years, and Rowan's prior electronic band, Alpaca!, had just broken up. The two met Nick Werth (drums) at one of the group's early shows. Nick had quickly built his musical reputation from his stellar abilities at the drum set, as well as his family connection to the band Snarky Puppy (his brother Nate plays percussion in that group, and Nick currently plays in Ghost Note, featuring Nate and Sput among other Snarky members). Initially a fan of the band, Nick was touring full time with local legend Scott Pemberton's band, but found time to guest on percussion and xylosynth at various Yak Attack shows, laying down some tracks on the band's first album, Real World Conditions, which was released in 2015. With the departure of the group's original drummer in early 2016, Rowan and Dave asked Nick to take the drum set full time, and the current Yak Attack lineup was born.
Yak Attack's 2018 album 'Safety Third' was released via Philadelphia's storied label, Ropeadope Records, founded by John Medeski. It embodies what they have become known for - a continuous DJ-style dance party played with all real instruments. Each track flows seamlessly into the next, and the mix of electro-funk, pop, and house is augmented by a world-class roster of guest musicians. The result is the band’s warmest and fullest-sounding record yet, with horns, strings, and winds complimenting our signature pulsing synth-driven grooves. From the gritty opening riff of "Pump and Dump" to the infectious synth-pop vocals on "Hear the Sound", to the full Yakestra wall of sound on "Eighth Wonder", Safety Third is crafted to be an album you'll want to listen to over and over again.
The band has performed at festivals like Treefort Fest, Joshua Tree Music Festival, WaveSpell, Summer Meltdown and Northwest String Summit, while also establishing itself as leaders of the after party following acts like Phish. They have shared the stage with STS9, Snarky Puppy, Fruition, Lotus, Sunsquabi, TAUK, Turkuaz as well as members of String Cheese Incident & Thievery Corporation, among many others.