Saturday, April 18, 2015

Interview: George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus

George Morris fronts a group called the Gypsy Chorus. The band formed around a modest bunch of minimalist pop tunes written out on electronic organ more than two years ago. These were understaed ballads hazed with contemplative fog of late night sollitude, belted over slower, folk-pop tempos, teasing playful melodies that happily made a home inside your brain for days after listening...

Organ Solos was set free into the digital realms about a year and a half ago, with subdued fanfare. Morris was already a known frontman around the scene from his days with the meteorite-ish Satin Peaches, so it was interesting to him transition from full-to-the-brim/in-the-red ROCK to electronica-dazzled folk-pop. Even then, it's turned into something entirely its own with the addition of a full backing band (Aaron Nelson--bass, Helena Kirby--keys, Zach Pliska--drums).

What started out as a somewhat-shrugged we'll-see-what-happens-exploration, by Morris, into the solo singer/songwriter territory, has turned into a full fledged pop-rock group with a growing fan base and their biggest cross-state tour coming up at the end of this month, with Sick Of Sarah.

This week, George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus released We We'll Go To Hell For This, for free, streaming online.

I met up with Morris recently. And, though we spent a third of the time talking about hockey, we eventually managed to cover some music-related topics.

When you first broke out on the scene, it was with a rock band. The lyrics could be more cryptic then, I think, because it was more about the energy, the aggression, the uplift…Hell, lyrics could even get buried under all the guitars…But with Gypsy Chorus, particularly this record and your last releases, it’s displaying a lot more emotion; there’s that confessional sort of style of a songwriter that shows vulnerability…unlike a rock singer.
It’s not personal emotions, though. I always want to convey emotion in a song. But, I think it helps me to disassociate myself from it when it’s not necessarily me talking about me or if it’s me saying these things…it’s not really me.

You don’t actually have a Maserati?
Right. But, singing these lyrics helps, the emotions underlying the expression is still me. I find some way else to say it that I’m more comfortable with.

There’s another kind of emotion, or vulnerability simply in evocativeness or… poignancy. The power of a tone, specifically your tone of voice or the way you wend it or belt it…the voice as an instrument…
Yeah. I do spend a lot of time on that. I like when my voice sounds dynamic. It’s an effort to get it like that. I think people either like my voice or can’t stand it. But, really, that was one of the biggest problems with The (Satin) Peaches was that I couldn’t really sing.

Now there’s more space… Not as crowded with guitar gusto. But are you writing these songs in a different way, or approaching them differently?

These songs with Gypsy Chorus are actually sounding more how my original demos for the Peaches were, back then. I like playing live and playing heavy rock n’ roll but I don’t really wanna listen to that or it might not be the music I want to make. I like making it more interesting, more listenable, more dynamic, something you can sit down with and sift through, analyze. But, then, also, I really like rhythms and something you can move to…

So now you’ve got to find a balance between the spacious, electronic/piano thing you’ve got now along with the rock side and the danceable side…
I guess that’s ongoing, yeah. I do really like playing live. It’s more fun to be in your face and play live rock ‘n roll…

You did this recording and the previous ones all by yourself. But you’ve had a group, now, for a while. Almost two years? So the next record will be less a George Morris record and more of a Gypsy Chorus record?
I think it will be more of a Gypsy Chorus record. Which is good. I have very talented people  in this band with me. We get along great. Everyone else had played in bands before. But, I think it takes about two years to get really tight together and really good. Now we’re doing this tour through April and I’m seeing us as, after that tour, being really ready to finish recording. I’m excited.

What’s it been like to spend the last two years working alone on recordings, though…
The frustrating thing is not being good enough at certain things that I know what I want, but can’t quite create, like a sound or a certain mix. It’s nice to have other people, but I also don’t like explaining something to someone and hope they have the same idea… But, more than anything, I don’t want to be waiting. I just want to be working in some capacity on some facet of music. Touring? Great. Recording? Great. Just…no down time!

No waiting. So you’re putting this record OUT.
Right. I decided to put it out, free. Everything’s gonna be free. There’s no point, it seems, in charging people for music anymore. Vinyl’s great. But, once people get something for free after a long while you can never charge them for it again. But, then, I stream music but still go buy it on iTunes. I think I bought St. Vincent’s record three times, actually. But, at this level, for me, it’s just about people hearing it…

And you’ve got a band behind you, now. That’s gotta bode confidence…
My idea from the start, in 2013, was to build a team; find the right people to make this work, not just musically but on all other facets. It’s going well with this group. I’m happy about it. And, frustrating or not, it’s still fun in the end. Still worth it…

Learned anything, after 10 years, now?

It’s weird being on the other side of it. But…I don’t know, if you learn anything, it’s just about trying to get better as a songwriter. Better at everything. A better performer, better singer. That’s all it is.

Chiseling away at it…

APRIL 24TH: George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus perform with Sick Of Sarah and The Sunburns

7 PM / $8adv/$10dos - The Crofoot

Friday, April 17, 2015

Kriss Gaynes (Premiering May 1 @Blowout)

This band is done trying to be just a band. 
They are releasing an album that needs to be more than an album. 
And, they are aspiring to a live show that is beyond just a live show... 

Kriss Gaynes comes to us with eloquence and darkness, allure and gloom, existential fuck-all and progressive optimism.

Rations paper and promise - I'm the Arch-rival's sonAncient echoes of progress - I'm the future undoneKriss Gaynes - "Horrordome"

Kriss Gaynes is a duo of electro-doom-dance composers inspired to alleviate (and also feed upon) the endemic frustrations of the modern artist, any of the underground churners who have awakened to how admittedly bleak the prospects expected from following the current crooked arc of the status quo...

Reaching back to the acerbic textures of protopunk and experimental electronica (think Silver Apples meets Suicide,) the duo of Aaron Saul and John Duffy splice distorted vocals, dissonant guitars and post-apocalyptic-affecting beats from the dastardly futuristic drum machines into cathartic song-ceremonies dazzled with gnarly grooves and throat-curdling crescendos.

This might almost be an even more aggressive evolution of DEVO's more message-oriented, satirical tirades... or if early Ministry did a fierce cover of Talking Heads' more raw and rhythmic burners like "Psycho Killer." There's palpable ferocity in the back-and-forth yowls tennis-balled between them on unwound-techno torrent "The Itch Incessant," while the intro, as anthemic and enlivening as any Dan Deacon jam with its rounding siren-like synthesizer, knee-to-chest running rhythms and roof-scraping vocal belts, states their case plain and simple, "We Believe In What We Know..."

But the other thing about Kriss Gaynes, they're the first Video Band. Will a full screen filling the background behind the "band," a projector spills a montage of stark, sublime and surreal images culled from the most iconic and esoteric of directors and cinematographers, completing a collage of experimental cinema augmenting an aural assault akin to poppy darkwave and funky krautrock, assured to blow the mind of both Jonas Mekas as much as Brian Eno...

That's where Kriss Gaynes begins... Monument River... Debuting this month, with two singles streaming here:


Experience Kriss Gaynes LIVE during the Metro Times Blowout

Friday, May 1 @ 7 Brothers (11831 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck)
w/ The Landmarks, VSTRS and Ex American

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Phantom Cats Reunion Show (Interview)

When the Phantom Cats broke up, guitarist Nik Landstrom was sure nobody cared, anymore. The shows were getting more sporadic and songwriter wasn’t getting out on the scene very much and there was this   “…weird, bitter feeling, like: ...what’s the point?”

Then he just called it, March of 2014... Another band breaking up before their brilliance could be fully recognized or realized…

Cut to a few months after....Landstrom finds himself at the periphery of conversations where friends wonder: “What’s going on with the Cats? Why aren't you guys playing anymore?”

OR…he meets perfect strangers who ask him: “Oh? You’re a musician? What band did you play in…? Phantom Cats??? Wow, I listen to that EP all the time…”

And since they decided to reunite for one epic night of music (Friday night), there’s since been an enormous amount of love coming their way, again. “That’s a lesson,” says Landstrom. “You can’t be a big baby…” He chuckles. “You just gotta trust that when you’re doing something that you care about, that other people care about it too…”

The Phantom Cats' rock was this rigid ballet, with gyroscopic shifts in time and key signatures, indelible melodies wafted and waltzed smoothly over wicked riffs and soulful bass grooves; the drums swung and the vocals soared. It was operatic and erratic and playful, the cascading guitars (from Landstrom) were a nifty, knotty tap dance across the frets, a classically-informed Stratocaster jousting into a tornado, while the rhythms (from bassist Adam James and drummers Max Daley/Matt Daher) were unleashed to embrace subtle sides of danceable forms, like amphetamized R&B. Liz Shar, meanwhile, was on lead vocals and she just about stole every show, with that breathtaking falsetto and charismatic stage presence.

“These songs started as completely-written guitar parts,” says Landstrom. “I’d write guitar parts out in their entirety, then go to the band and the song is…everyone’s personal response to it. I’d be boring for me if I was just playing conductor, and it’s kinda cool to see what people do with it, how they interpret it.”

“The music touches on all these different genres and there’s a lot of weird things that happen…”

When Landstrom says this I stop him. I ask him to repeat it. That phrase sums up Phantom Cats to a tee…

So after more than two years of seeing them perform and listening to their music, I name drop Deerhoof...

"Ohhh, yeah. One of my biggest influences..." Landstrom admits.

I ask for more (influences)...

"Dirty Projectors," he says, right away. "They're melding of these long classical forms arcing or adhering more to a pop structure, that's a very central thing to my writing, trying to meld those two, without losing your audience. The general audience doesn't want to sit through 10 minutes of motivic development, like listening to Bach. So, we shape it around a more simplified a-b-a-b-c-b form, yet still have those classical elements going on."

And so, with Landstrom being a professional music teacher, able to tackle Bach, Beethoven or even Bob Dylan's stuff, I ask about that whole classical vs. rock bridge that they've built.

He's already presented this "spectrum" of the Phantom Cats in a recent interview, but imagine:
Beethoven <<<------->>>> to R. Kelly

"Right in the middle, there, that's where the Phantom Cat's sound is... But, ya know, you really can trace a line between classical and rock."

A proceeding nerd-out/tangent builds towards christening Beethoven to be The Cobain of his era...the first true, iconic, mythologized "tortured artist," who suffered for his work and saw his popularity flourish as a result... "We talk about how tortured all artists are and like Cobain, too, he's right in line with that, with Beethoven, we revere them because they suffer for their art... I can nerd out about this all day if you like..."

So instead, I ask him about his players...

"Adam is like my personal James Jamerson; he's got such great licks and a great melodic ear, which is hard to find on the bass. And Max, I miss playing with Max, I loved his drumming so much, like drummers in the 60's where everything just swung. And then Matt is phenomenal, more of a jazz and R&B or even trip-hop style to it. It's a great compliment to the music..."

Because, again, the music winds up touching on everything. With gusto! And it's that gusto that we missed so much.

"And, I've been spoiled," says Landstrom, in regards to the vocal dynamo fronting the group. "Every song I've written has been written for her voice. I got to do whatever I want on guitar, no matter how weird it got, there was this phenomenal vocalist who I knew would find the perfect vocal melody to it."

Sadly, Liz Shar moves to D.C. in May for two years of school. That meant two things:
A.) a reunion was a "now or never" situation

B.) whatever Landstrom winds up doing for the rest of the year, it won't be under the Phantom Cats moniker. "Not if LIz isn't in the band, you can't call it Phantom Cats."

But, he assures that there are "a bunch of nebulous fragments floating around" his head that he'd like to get into song-form, soon. No clear vision, yet. "But, (music) is all I've done since I was 10, so I'm going to continue..."

The Phantom Cats, in this form, will not continue, however, at least for the foreseeable future. That's incentive to get your ass to this show. 

New Dodge Lounge
8850 Joseph Campau - Hamtramck
$5 / 21+

Phantom Cats
Pink Lightning
Black Shampoo
Alicia Walter 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Voice / New Character: An Interview w/Chris Bathgate (April Tour)

Chris Bathgate has been on a journey. A couple of them, at least...

The neo-folk trailblazing singer/songwriter was thrown, emotionally, by all the acclaim bucketed upon his undeniably brilliant first batch of releases, epitomizing the overly-worn word-mash for music journalists, "hauntingly beautiful" with his A Cork Tale Wake and Wait, Skeleton... The voice could be as frail as a December oak leaf in the bridge yet as hardened and heavy as the tree, itself, timbering through the chorus, over a storm of bracing guitar strums.

He considers the stressful, self-shredding scrutiny of the following three years (2007-2010) to be a "journey," trying as it was, that led to the release of a vindicating and revitalizing album called Salt Year. Stark and somber, at points, with its spare and trundling percussion and that aching, elemental tone to his voice, and yet warming and propulsive at other points, with twanged-out guitar-rock riffs and driving rhythms.

Bathgate was back. But, not without a considerable wear and tear from that journey, where he scrapped the fledgling demos for Salt Year multiple times and nearly backed away from music entirely.

But there's a new journey, since....

"And it had a similar shape as the Salt Year journey," Bathgate said. "But, it swung into the deep extremes that Salt Year only grazed the surface of... Death, love, poverty, manipulation, deceit, chaos, isolation....were all exterior factors to that time or, rather, journey. "

Bathgate has been a bit of an itinerant troubador, lately. Ann Arbor, MI loved to claim him throughout the 2000's as he was attracting attention from NPR and PASTE Magazine, but he's since moved around the country several times, hoping to settle "back home" soon...

With new songs written, Bathgate is leaving for an east coast tour this week...

Bathgate had been filling his recent "hiatus" (through majority of 2012-2013) with day jobs, slowly chipping away at songs, primarily for SKULLS. He scored the soundtrack for a film called From This Day Forward while also taking some time to work in the production office for another film, earlier this year, down in Baton Rouge, LA. And every Spring, he's continued to return to a teaching job he's held for a few years out in New England.

"I've just started touring outside of the Mid-West, again," Bathgate said. "I haven't necessarily had a specific goal other than to recover financially from the past two years of bad luck." He's continued taking the best job he can find, often outside of Michigan. He's been home for only seven months out of the last 2+ years.

But, says Bathgate, what's more interesting than the "severe details" of this recent journey is the path that was blazed out of the struggle, towards a "new musical vision."

"The cathartic writing that came out of that time re-invigorated my love for music and composition. I've become way more appreciative because of that newly-overcome rough patch. I worked and wrote my way through it."

"The well-trodden path of struggle's influence on my music is paramount," Bathgate said. "Most of the new material I've been sharing with folks is of that journey, during that hiatus..."

"I get messages from fans that start like: "...Dear Chris, I connected with your music during a time of immense struggle." Often, this is followed by "...Thanks," and a short explanation of how the connection to my songs was helpful to them in that time, however abstract. It feels good to know that my struggles are putting good in the world, however small, through the vessel of song. It seems my own struggles are not without positive external impact."

To overcome said-span of financial misfortune and self-scrutinizing torment, Bathgate set out on a tour he deemed "The Curse Breaker." He may have been tempting fate since, with everything else, mechanical breakdowns for his touring vehicle have also been constant, lately. "My hope was to rid myself of this bad luck with ceremony and a stepping-back into performing. On that tour, the engine of my van threw a rod on my way to one of the final few shows. A wonderful fan picked me up at a rest area of I-96 so I could make the show."

Bathgate's recently toured with Kalamazoo-based Americana outfit The Go-Rounds. Before that, he was on the road with singer/songwriter Molly Sullivan, was free of vehicular troubles, though not without a few close calls.

Meanwhile, Bathgate and Sullivan collaborated on a few tunes in 2014 for their live sets together. Bathgate played lead-guitar in Sullivan's Cincinnati-based band during a midwinter tour, where they discovered their complimentary styles.

"Stylistically," Bathgate says, "(Sullivan and I) are both songwriters using loops and ethereal washes. We both have distinct and stylized voices. So, when we play for each others' fans, they get it. The crossover receptions have been more than warm for both of us. We're more mutual appreciators, rather than heavy collaborators at this point. We just have been having lots of conversations about arrangements and record-making in the van, on tour."

As expressive and vulnerable as his previous records could be, Bathgate said he feels bashful about revealing overly detailed experiences, lately, because the conditions of his life "could be so much worse."

"As it is for everyone, life can be tough. Real tough. The last two years were pretty strange and brutal, but I'm still here. Things can, and they may...get worse. But, I'm better prepared for those times. Regardless, it's all material, and I'm thankful for it."

Bathgate is bringing several new songs encompassing this new chapter in his creative life. "Songwise," he says, "I've been bringing things into extremes that reflect the emotions I've experienced... bringing those emotional poles of the live set way up, and way down, often in close proximity."

"Maybe you could say my recent solo sets have been...sonically manic..." says Bathgate.

"There are a number of very honest, raw, slow and vulnerable songs with lots of ambient and ethereal under-paintings...There are also a slew of uptempo barn-burners emerging..." 

Bathgate is currently putting the finishing touches on these new sonic extremes, honing them into something feasible for a full band arrangement. As a solo singer, the songs have a lighter touch, even if the emotional content could still be tremendous and soul-quaking for some... There's the balance, a subtly to the atmospherics, lightly fogging the dusky melancholy of the words from that evocative voice...

This new loop-centric, guitar-based set leads to base tones pulsing from a small tube amp, hollow body, DL4 slap back and an amp spring for optimal reverberations. Bathgate's creating an interplay between the tones from a low-presence, round, reverberated fretboard pickup and a thinner, dirty lead of a bridge pickup.

"The ambient and atmospheric additions to my onstage tone have come from Earthquaker Devices, and Eventide.  I’m into washed out, low presence, ambient chords right now. The nuanced swells those companies have created are a really exciting for me to play with.  Their pedals are highly adjustable, and I can use the combination to create a unique palette.  With an ambient wash it’s all about the changes, which is a big part of my writing now. I’m still concerned with melody, but in a different iteration...."

The instruments on Salt Year covered the most important melodies and functioned as a chorus would in other songs. With his new songs, the melodies are like "slow hooks" or recurring themes. His voice is being pushed into louder realms than before, as you can hear on the Le Cheneaux Sessions video streaming above ("Fogged Clarity").

"Creating subtle tone differences allows for the same guitar to be looped and remain discernible. The same is true for the secondary Wollensa microphone that I sing into. The tiny radio-esque vocal tone allows for a different mood, a different voice, perhaps a new character."

A new journey, a different voice...

Chris Bathgate - Spring 2015 tour dates
April 14 - Anabell's - Akron, OH
April 15 - The Bug Jar - Rochester, NY
April 16 - The Fire - Philadelphia, PA
April 18 - Rockwood Music Hall - New York, NY
April 19 - The Burren - Sommerville, MA**
April 24 - House Concert - Sommerville, MA**
April 25 - House Concert - Willaimston, MA**
April 26 - Dream Away Lodge - Beckett, MA**
April 27 - Lizard Lounge - Cambridge MA**

**w/ Samantha Farrell

Monday, April 6, 2015

Interview: Passalacqua / RAP ROUND ROBIN 2015 - April 11

Passalacqua performs at PJ’s Lager House on April 11, part of the Rap Round Robin 2015 Tour with Height and Eze Jackson

Performing on this special Detroit edition of the Rap Round Robin are Doc Waffles, EddieLogix, Cold Men Young and Gosh Pith.

Rap Round Robin, an idea born out of the fertile creative commons of Baltimore several years ago and spearheaded  by rapper Dan Keech (aka Height) is a much needed ego-extinguishing adrenaline boost to the typical rap party: three touring acts will come to a venue and meet up with that scene’s three respective local acts and set themselves up on stages in a circular perimeter around the crowd. No headliners, no dead air, no stop in the action. Keep it flowing and keep on your toes…

Passalacqua are coming home for a much needed pit-stop on what’s proven to be their most ambitious venture since they formed in 2011. To sweeten their homecoming, Mister (Bryan Lackner) and (Brent) Blaksmith (Smith) are releasing an EP called Banglatown, an enlivening entr’acte between albums (leading up to a full length expected in late summer). The duo released the sublime and satirical groover “At The Party” last month to whet our appetites.

April 11
Rap Round Robin 2015 at PJs Lager House
Height / Doc Waffles & Eddie Logix
Passalacqua / Gosh Pith
Eze Jackson / Cold Men Young
9 PM / $5
1254 Michigan Ave –

INTERVIEW: Mister (of Passalacqua) 

Been on the road for just over a month… How scraggly are your beards?
Oh, man. Pretty scraggly. Dan shaved. He’s clean shaven, now, not like the rest of us with our Playoff Beards. Pretty shaggy, though. That comes with the territory.

They’ll think you’re getting on the Action Bronson bandwagon…
Or, I might start getting those Matisyahu references, again…

How’s it going out there with this Round Robin tour? What’s it like introducing the concept to each respective scene?
Most of the people are cool with the concept. I mean, in some cities it’s been easy to tell that we’ve been on the road and we’ll come in and it’ll be lopsided with someone who might be having their first show in a few months, whereas we’re firing on all cylinders. But, we’re not about to dog ‘em for that. It’s not a thing like: Yo, fuck you, we’re gonna crush you…NO. We’re really supportive and we want the best out of the show, we’re not here to toot our own horns, we’re just here to rap and make sure everybody enjoys themselves. So, we’ve supported anyone who comes to the Round Robin.

What’s the response been to the format?
People have been saying: ‘Oh my god, I’m so glad I was on this show or at this show…it’s so good to see real hip-hop traveling together and doing this…’ And, it refreshes everyone involved. They’ve said: ‘Oh, I don’t even wanna perform any other way at this point.’ That’s such a refreshing take on what can be a dull show, sometimes, if it was set up in the typical fashion.

It seems to me that this format could invite the Battle mentality… Maybe edge up the competitiveness…But, hopefully toward a positive point…
The Battle mindset is always gonna be there. For what we’re doing, just trying to connect people, I feel like it’s been really successful. We’re bringing together people that want to be brought together, a lot of them with very similar viewpoints on hip-hop and, really, they want to build something as much as you do. We haven’t run into any scenario where a performer’s been super disrespectful in any fashion.

And with each circulation of the Robin…it’s like collaboratively building up or flowing the energy of the room… I mean, that can happen by just responding to each other’s sets…
Right. It’s more trying to one-up the other in a good way. Next round, you better be coming with some shit! So, yeah, it’s nice to have other people keeping us on our toes while we try to keep other performers on their’s…just for the betterment of the overall show.

Making set lists on the fly? This must be like figuring out a batting order…or which skaters going next in the shootout…
Kinda, yeah. For the most part it’s 30-seconds before our song starts, one of us will look at the other and say, Okay, what’s next? You can’t design the set early, you have to see what the people are reacting to. It’s about building the mood, but without catering to it entirely, ya know? Still doing what we truly want to do in that moment. We’re working well with Height and Eze (Jackson), we work well off each other and at this point, we go and hype each other for our songs so that adds to the camaraderie, too. You’re getting a surround sound vibe at that point and people react to that.

You’re like hip-hop diplomats out there, then, huh? Like, extending that hand of friendship, forge a link between scenes for the sake of the greater national hip-hop community?
Right. Nicely put.

You’re getting to view a montage of music scenes from across the states, what’s your take?
You do get a little micro-image of these scenes and the camaraderie there in each. You see a lot of locals that, if it wasn’t for our tour, we wouldn’t otherwise hear of them and they’re surprisingly good so we’ll be passing their music along to our friends…

Inevitably you might start feeling homesick and comparing these scenes to Detroit? What’s that like?
There’s been certain cities I feel are very similar to Detroit, with a similar energy. We don’t get too much time to explore but at the show I can feel a connection. Like, with San Francisco. We had done LA and that was fun, but there was an overall stiffness to it, but we went to San Francisco and it was so relaxed and everybody was just cool and inviting and it’s that atmosphere that reminds me of Detroit. It was also nice to play with Charles (Vann, aka SelfSays) out in LA and a group of people from Detroit that came out. Cool to look out at the crowd and see a Detroit Vs. Everybody t-shirt. Nice pieces of home greeting us as we’ve traveled which has been comforting.

You’re dropping an EP called Banglatown this month. What can you tell us about it?
It stemmed from wanting to add new songs to the arsenal. If I get down about music it’s because the output isn’t there. It was this impetus of: we’re on the road, let’s have something out that’s new and just have fun with the music again. We’re all doing everything outside of the music, we’re our own booking agent, manager and then songwriter, so we’re trying to juggle all this stuff and you can get stressed out or caught up with that…You forget the music’s supposed to be fun. You remember, then, the excitement of why you write songs in the first place and that’s what Banglatown is about. Not overthinking it We got back to the point of just writing songs to write, again. 

Touch The Clouds - EP Release Show Saturday

Indie-rock specialists Touch The Clouds have a built-in chemistry after years spent banding around the scene. Over the last three years, the quartet have turned their talents toward honing an impassioned indie-sound that's as layered as space-rock but also as amped and angular as post-hardcore, forging an uncanny bridge between a melodious pop and an urgent, edgy punk sound. That development, a blend of toughness and tightness, heavy yet uplifting, is on display with their new EP Baetyl. 

Darrin Hunt and Joe Phillips have continually collaborated on music, having served with Brian Galindo in the Detroit outfit Few & Far Between for several years. Brian and his wife Nikkie were looking to start something new just as Phillips was moving back to Michigan  in 2012 and BAM. Here we are.  Initial hangouts fused into jamming which fused into writing and then back to hangouts again. Eventually they found a complete electrifying spirit, together, finding their footing, sonically, and following their instincts, unified.
Their forthcoming EP (released on locally renowned Gangplank Records) takes its name from a meteorite or a roughly shaped stone, a celestial artifact of mystery fallen from the sky and held sacred by those who discover it.
"It's angry, it's paranoid, it didn't get enough sleep," said singer/guitarist Joe Phillips, of Baetyl. " drank too much coffee. It got up and did it again. It's a reflection."
Recorded with Adam Cox in the library of a decommissioned public school in Southwest Detroit, Baetyl, their third release, was recorded inside a 10-hour blur on a weird, wild, inspirational Saturday afternoon in mid-2014. Mixed by Derik Lee, Baetyl was recorded live with limited overdubs and several lyrics written on the spot. Phillips also credited Dan Coutant's "fastidious and accurate mastering...He provided a marvelous sanding and lacquer coat to (Lee)'s sculpture."

Gangplank Records presents the new Touch The Clouds EP Baetylwsg: LaSalle and Narco Debut
8:30 PM  / $5 / 21+
New Way Bar 
Limited edition poster by Mark Heggie & printed by Progress Custom Screen Printing available at the show.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sound & Silence Magazine Presents...

Sound And Silence spotlights the newest sounds from scenes all over the world, but the online music magazine's first showcase will take place right here, n Detroit, next Saturday, featuring local talents James Linck, Eddie Logix & Doc Waffles, Groove 8, Nigel & The Dropout and Ancient Language. 

April 18th at 7 PM  -  Northern Lights Lounge; info: 

S&S curated this line up specifically because it renders a wide range of genres. With finger-on-the-pulse Music News and regular features via interviews and album reviews, along with exclusive items like their flowpoetry section Mysteries Of Sound, and Staff Picks lists, S&S has spent the last year and a half solidifying its presence in the music industry and a distinctively down to Earth yet hip as hell digital publication that brings it all back to the music, dissuading against trends of overtly-provocative, hyperbolic headlines to hook you into reading some vapid new quibble about a band you stopped caring about long ago...

S&S set out to define music journalism on their own terms, in a way that paid respect to the craft of music while keeping an eye (and especially an ear) toward the more progressive developments and approaches that would be necessary in a 21st century of streamers. They've done a damn fine job of it, t'boot... This blogger's been keeping up with their daily updates and reviews throughout the last year and they've been a reliable source both for new releases as well as new insights into my favorite artists.

It's impossible to keep up with everything happening every day in the music industry...But S&S, with its passionately devoted staff spread between Chicago, Detroit, New York and Atlanta, is manifestly motivated to keep up with as much as they human possible - and cover it/digest it/present it...for you...


I caught up with S&S Assistant Editor Ryan Solecki to talk about their inception, their development, and their Detroit showcase...

Milo:   So, how did this blog come together... What made you want to join and contribute? Who started it?  
Ryan:  It came together due to the lack of freedom in working for other publications. Music news had become simply news and no longer about the music, but about the musicians. S&S founders just wanted a space to do music journalism their way. Chris Robie is a co-founder of S&S, with Kevin (Tshiamala). They've been friends for three years; Chris gave Kevin one of his first music journalism gigs and that was the start...Chris and Kevin typically make all of the decisions, but everyone's opinion is warranted; someone always steps up when necessary, so everyone gets a chance to be ringleader. 

Milo:   What sets Sound & Silence apart from the rest...what's your MO, your distinct style?
Ryan:   We've found a way to create efficient articles by trimming the fat and deleting PC verbiage. We're strictly reporting on the music. We also pride ourselves on covering a wide variety of music in terms of genre as well as tier level, national or local. We're working on combining the world of the creative writer with that of music through our Mysteries of Sound Page, while also working on a new series that will bring the public closer to the artist via video confessions....We're just in it for the music and are trying to carve out our space. We are never content at S and S. It's a daily mission to strive for the next biggest and best thing in the industry. 

Milo:   How did this show at Northern Lights come together, how'd you curate the specific talent on the lineup and what are you anticipating?
Ryan:  It 
came up as an idea to spread our name by hosting a show with a wide variety of talent to back it up with. All the acts in the lineup are people that we have worked with before  We'll have different electronic acts, hip hop, alt rock, funk and R & B. It is a night for any kind of music lover to enjoy. We anticipate a great crowd because why wouldn't there be. Detroit is a mecca of talent as well as people who are enthusiastic about seeing that talent. We feel that we put together a talented and diverse line up that will bring people flocking to Northern Lights 

Milo:   We're through the first third of 2015: what's the future hold for the rest of the year and beyond at S&S?
We'll be gearing up to cover some festivals throughout the summer and finally taking out the drone. We'll be launching a new Community Fan Video series, too. We're hoping to run some giveaway contests for fans and eventually start throwing bigger showcases starting in the fall. Locally, we'll be filming Riverside Groove by Dirty 313ctronic Presents later in August. Above all, as we go, we hope to continue expanding, refining and bringing people the music news they desire.

pril 18

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nick Piunti - Beyond The Static (International Pop Overthrow Detroit April 2)

Power-pop embodies a youthful brio: a latch-lifting, door-kicking vitality that bulls its way into the late nights, heart on its sleeve, hungry for adventures, stepping on toes, falling hard, winning big and crystallizing a swirl of nostalgia and loyalty for places and friends...

Guitarist/singer Nick Piunti joined his first band (The Dwarfs,) when he was just 12-years-old and kept at it for another 13 years before it broke up. What better time, really, to cut one's teeth on an inherently angsty and energetic form of rock music than when you're right there in thick of the tumultuous and defiant throes of teenagerdom?

Piunti, who fronted another fine pop outfit called The Respectables through the mid-late 2000's, would finally make his mark as a solo singer/songwriter in 2013, releasing 13 In My Head under his own name.

Through it all, he's honed his sensibility for riffy resplendence and major-key bursting janglers affecting all that propulsive elation I've eluded to, already, but on Beyond The Static, the vocals are sharpened with a sagely offering of caustic cautions to the now-younger indie-punks and aspiring pop-crooners against the "traps" of "just-because" mentalities guiding your decisions and dissuading anyone from getting caught up in the make-believe rivalries of scenes.

"In the present tense / hard to make much sense..." Piunti sings on the vigorous opener "It's A Trap."

On the slower-tempo "Head In The Clouds," Piunti belts a shuffling ballad against the senseless and the self-centered, a bittersweet swaying number knocking down the know-it-alls and the braggadocio that comes with rock n' roll. It's one of the more interesting pop songs I've heard in a while, in fact, lyrically reading it out almost makes it sound like a archetypal hip-hop track, deflating all the windbags with his hard-earned wisdom.

Throughout Beyond The Static, Piunti also emits a lot of heart with that heaving, high-ish voice that wheezes this charismatic bit of rust at the most emotive crescendos, while the guitars go from soft breezy strums to strutting jangles, surfy spills to more ferocious growls. A wide range for sure; go from "Head In The Clouds" to "Something's Wrong" and it sounds like two different groups...

Beyond The Static was produced by Geoff Michael and Piunti at Big Sky Recordings in Ann Arbor. Fellow Michigan-scene power-poppers like Chris Richards and Ryan Allen show up for back-up vocals while pedal-steel wizard Dave Feeney contributes some Americana-soul to a track. Richards, with Donny Brown (who also contributed to the album's tracks) will join Piunti live on stage this week with Todd Holmes on drums. 

Just in time for the warming rays of springtime, Piunti's blend of throwback rock n' roll swagger, heartfelt indie ballads and cinematic power-pop kickers for the opening credits sequence of any of your forthcoming sunny days.

Nick Piunti released Beyond The Static online last month. See Piunti perform on April 2nd at PJs Lager House for The International Pop Overthrow Music Festival. INFO
The four-day music festival also features Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, Chris Richards & The Subtractions, The Static Dial, Le Voyage, The Rose Cult and many more. Full line up here...

Monday, March 30, 2015

The As-Of-Yet-Untitled Michigan Musicians Basement Tapes -by Matt Jones

Music Scene Therapy 

A conversation with Matt Jones & Jeff Milo 

Matt Jones
photo by: Doug Coombe

Matt Jones:    I was mixing some of these recordings. And, I've done a really bad thing…I mean, in terms of recording these things.
Jeff Milo:    What’s that? Did you erase them?
Matt Jones:    I haven’t backed anything up yet! And, I have all these things on the machine, and if something happens to the machine, if it gets jostled, if it comes unplugged unexpectedly, I lose everything.

Matt Jones: ….everything! Forty people have recorded here in my basement

Casual Sweetheart recording in Matt Jones' basement

Matt Jones is an Ypsilanti-based singer/songwriter who has distinguished himself with his august folk songs, steeped in history and dissecting darkness. His music blends into a baroque elegance that's haunted with bittersweet poetry of plainspoke chivalries soaring in this fragile falsetto like a frayed silk scarf billowing through a chilled autumn breeze, emoting words wrung with inspiration as much as frustration, self-deprecation (particularly for himself) and a reverence, (…particularly for the Civil War.)

But Jones is a particularly reverent guy, overall; at least he’s grown into one over the last ten years spent on the scene, with three albums under his belt and collaborations with fellow songwriters like Misty Lyn & The Big Beautiful.

Back in 2006, Fred Thomas organized a compilation to celebrate the local scene called Ypsilanti Folk Singers, inviting several regional songwriters down into his basement to record on a modest cassette 4-Track. Scene stalwarts such as Chris Bathgate, Actual Birds, Annie Palmer and Grey Ghosts came down to contribute to Thomas’ project, as did Jones.

Matt Jones:    It was very lo-fi and really seat-of-the pants. But, it was something to be totally proud of, and it made people around it listen to one another. These days, the music scene is there, but it struggles… We don’t have the kind of venue in Ypsi that we’d had in the past, like with Woodruffs shutting down. And, that vital connection between venue and artist has been lost. So, it doesn’t feel as inclusive, though there are people and groups trying to make something happen. I’ve never been one to go sit on a panel at a meeting and talk about how things can get better.
Jeff Milo:    I’ve been on one of those panels, once…
Matt Jones:    I know you have, I was there! You moderated…at Woodruffs, right? I’ve just always had an idea, maybe a good one…maybe a total shit one…and I try for it, whether it fails or not.

Prawnces Albatross recording in Matt Jones' basement
Jeff Milo:    So this is the idea for your compilation…with forty musicians coming into your basement just as they’d had before with Fred…
Matt Jones:    This was my attempt at making people listen to each other. If it never gets heard outside of Michigan…fine. This compilation is for the people making the music.
Jeff Milo:    That idea didn’t come up at my panel, sadly. I think it needed to come up. I think… and, I wanna know what you think here, but… I think a scene needs something like this, something tangible. They need to see what they’re building together, otherwise they only say it out loud, there’s talk of a scene “forming” or “coalescing” into something bigger…
Matt Jones:    Or they say “…the scene sucks.” I got tired of hearing that, or that the scene was dead. It drives me fucking bonkers. So…I do this, and everyone goes home and rehearses. People think it’s a big deal as they get ready for it and IT IS! And they want to shine at it!

Matt Jones is currently finishing up an ambitious project where he hopes to record up to 70 musicians and groups (if not, more) and release it in the late summer (or early autumn at the latest). What began as a desire to record his neighbors bands as a “register” of the soundtrack of a place and a time and of a community, has expanded into capturing the entire state, as far west as Grand Rapids and back over to SW Detroit. There’s no title for said-compilation yet, but you can anticipate something harkening to the Civil War, or something comparably noble and nostalgic… The Civil War, to be fair, continues to be on Jones mind as he recently returned to school, studying history, to attain his masters. When he isn’t working on his History major at EMU or preparing for a speech the EMU Research Symposium, he's regularly welcoming musicians from around the state down into his "...shitty basement" for an invigorating one-take session to capture a song on this forthcoming compilation...

Matt Jones calls this compilation “Music Scene Therapy…”

Mary Margaret Giroux recording in Matt Jones' basement 

Jeff Milo:    So, this comp of yours can be the boulder that you present, at the top of a hill, to roll down towards all the naysayers and topple them…
Matt Jones:    I would love the comp to be proof that people, even the naysayers-themselves, are still doing stuff. A lot of the naysayers are people who could make the biggest difference. I’ve been a naysayer.
Jeff Milo:   Reformed naysayer.

Matt Jones:   But here’s the thing. I got started and…a few people into it, I was like, “Wow, I’m having a blast, and I don’t know why!” And then I figured it out: You can’t have people sit two-feet away from you and have them do what they love most, and not come away from it loving it as well. It’s impossible.
Jeff Milo:   You’re right. Unless you’re heart’s empty or you’re cold and have no compassion. That’s an intense exchange, there, having their energies emanating, through a song, just two feet from you, in that intimate space.
Matt Jones:    So I’ve had all kinds of that. So many good people in here. I think every musician-dickhead should have to do this….

“Music Scene Therapy”

Matt Jones:  ….should have to spend an extraordinary amount of time sitting with other people, with no spotlight, and try to make the other person feel like what they have to say is the only important thing being said. Because down in my basement, it’s totally true. When they pour their song out, two feet away from me, there isn’t anything else that matters, anywhere.
Jeff Milo:   You’re kind of becoming a documentarian, here, not just a producer. Almost a journalist, something like, I dunno…an Ypsi-Alan-Lomax.
Matt Jones:   You must love it. Oh, man, though…you’ve been listening to me for years saying that I was sick of telling my own story. I think I was sick of it waaay before I started telling it, publicly.
Jeff Milo:   In your basement, you have to create a certain vibe for them to open up, to ask the right questions or no questions at all; to create the right ambiance and present this project in a tactful way.
Matt Jones:   There’s always 10 minutes or so where I just want people to talk. No playing. Let’s not worry about the mic or about the fact that I haven’t seen you play before. Just shoot the shit. I’ve had guys down here visibly shaking…But, I’ve always known people want to talk, they want to be comfortable, no matter how much people want to get their art out there, to get some fucking validation for their artistic efforts. They also want to talk and just feel comfortable. Some people sacrifice that and their art reflects that and it sucks.

“For the songs to be good…in the basement…people that come down have to be comfy…”

Matt Jones:   How much are you going to move anyone with your song if you can’t stop shaking and you’re worried about this chord or that chord or which song you play. Fuck that. You’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Misty (Lyn Bergeron) always says that and it makes total sense.
Jeff Milo:    Well, you approached this fully sensitive of the one thing that could have been its biggest downfall. Nerves. You musicians can be neurotic sometimes, eh?
Matt Jones:   Oh, god, I know! But, more than that, I was scared of just making another Cool Kids compilation. I wanted a whole slice of the scene. Everyone. All styles.

Jim Roll recording in Matt Jones' basement

Jeff Milo:   Even if you can’t quell the naysayers…you can at least re-spark something inside all of the musicians who are coming in to play for you, right?
Check up on Matt Jones facebook page for steady updates of each contributing musician/group’s session w/photos and info...
Matt Jones:   Yes. I’ve seen it happen! To see the pics online after coming in and playing and rocking out and having that positive reinforcement from people online.

Jeff Milo:     What have you got down there? Pro-tools? Couple of o’ mics?
Matt Jones:    No dude. The rules are very strict. Tascam digital 8-Track. No computers. Fuck computers. One $100 condenser mic. One take. One song. Even if it’s an electric band. They have to adjust their volume in order to get the sound they want and the sound that’s possible, out of this limited set up. And so far, everyone’s been impossibly cooperative and the sounds I’ve gotten have been absolutely stellar.
Jeff Milo:   It’s one thing to see a band on stage and the sort of pageantry involved with a great live show.
Matt Jones:   Right, but a band inside a studio, that’s where the real skill comes out. Not like I’m a real studio, but…still. I love seeing how bands adjust. I’ve been floored. I get to see how bands work, adapt, how they play when they’re not under the lights. I’ve always thought practice was a lot more fun than shows. I don’t care if it’s a new song, an old song, whatever. It’s going to be heard in a very different way than usual. Jim Roll wrote his song right there in my basement.
Jeff Milo:   Were you nervous, early on, or as the idea was gestating? Did you ever feel the urge to just say: “Aw, hell, it’d be easier and more fulfilling just to do another record of mine…”
Matt Jones:   I figured, I don’t have the money right now to start a new record, so maybe I can make one for everyone else…with EVERYONE ELSE on it…I’ve wanted to do it for years. That’s how things are for me, always. Everything is the end of the high dive board for me…

Jim Cherewick recording in Matt Jones' basement

Jeff Milo:   So, what’s your big takeaway, now? Having this intimate experience and composing a grand portrait or sonic collage of your neighbors…
Matt Jones:   Waking the artists up. Just letting them know that people want to hear. That they can do whatever the fuck they want to do.
Jeff Milo:   You’re also getting a profound observation of what makes the Ypsi scene or the Michigan music scene special…
Matt Jones:    Yeah, but I think if I did this in any community, I could get the same re-wiring. I think every community is special. All I’m saying is everyone has potential. Everyone, everywhere.
Jeff Milo:   This is each musicians opportunity to really contribute something to posterity… I mean, if it all pans out, right? This is their chapter, their monologue, their Oscar clip.
Matt Jones:   Right, and the experience of them coming down into this rather shitty basement, it’s not even close to being finished, it’s cold as hell and the lighting is terrible. But, you’re down here with just one other dude that you kind of know, and he is rocking out on his headphones to your song. I try to make it magic. It’s not easy. There is limited magic down there.

Jeff Milo:   I think, often, singers, musicians, working every week, trying to tour, putting out their own records, they just need a deeper or a different kind of acknowledgement, something beyond applause, of their song, of their efforts. Are you giving them something like that?
Matt Jones:   We all need acknowldgement. It’ll be hard nailing it down for the release show, though. Like, who plays and who headlines… Meanwhile I’ll be cackling in the back somewhere, like a fucking Skeksi…
Jeff Milo:   Wait, what?
Matt Jones:   You know…like from the Dark Crystal. The bad guys.
Jeff Milo:   Those things.
Matt Jones:   Yes, those things. The most evil fuckers.

"...history & memory..."

Jeff Milo:   What do you envision, going forward? 40 songs? 60?
Matt Jones:   More. It’s up to 75. The vision got way out ahead of me. At first it was something fun, to include Ypsi people in- to get this music scene looking at itself, listening to itself. then, as more people expressed interest, it extended to Michigan as a whole, to people who DO listen to themselves and each other...(Kalamazoo has a really strong scene right now...) I go back to my obsession with history- I've always wanted a register of things- I make lists, I draw maps on napkins, and white boards at school when no one is listening. I HAVE to have everyone recorded. It won't feel right unless I have a complete register of the current musical landscape. It has to be "put on the books," as the boys in The High Strung would say…
I also want this thing put into the library of congress. Immortalized
In me, something is always missing until the history is complete
I always want a complete story
Because real stories to me are better than any fiction
And everything is a story

Jeff Milo:   You once told me that there was only one thing you wanted out of "THIS" (be it music, the scene, touring, writing, performing, yadda yadda yadda) you remember? It's stayed in my brain ever since…
Matt Jones:   Yes! That’s like these recordings. A register, rather. If I can make my mark by helping other people make theirs- that’s SO MUCH BETTER THAN MY OWN…

Jeff Milo:   Memorable sessions, so far?
Matt Jones:   Red Tail Ring blew me out of the fucking basement. Cash Harrison came in and played a song that was so raw and real that I played it around my house for days. Jenny Jones, someone I’ve never heard before. She works for other bands and asked if I could get one of her bands in, but I was like: Jenny, YOU have to come do this! Stunningly good. Ben Collins was phenomenal. Fiona Dickinson and Sam Cooper blew my fucking mind. Casual Sweetheart was so good. JT Garfield, Greater Alexander, Stef Chura, Jim Cherewick, Fangs and Twang. Pat Elkins was brilliant. Let's see, Chris Dupont and Betsy King are so pumped about this whole thing, they came and killed it! Michael Anne Erlewine was just in, last night, and was so goddamned good!
Soon…(Josh) Malerman will be here, Plus, Ryan Allen, Ryan Spencer, Jo Serrapere…35 more to go in two weeks.

Jeff Milo:   This is the history buff in you… Recording current events for posterity.
Matt Jones:    But, I should point out, much of the Civil War history is from memory and history and memory are two real different things. Generals wrote formal reports of every battle based on what they could see, and they admitted that what they “could see” was often not very much… I’m getting as many people from around Michigan as I can but…some of them I can’t see…The singers who have come in where I have no idea who they are, they’re still making an impact with listeners all their own, on their own front, so to speak. And if memory becomes history, so be it. This thing in my basement, it’s a document. Someday you’ll find it in the archives. But it’s also a story. I think you are responsible for that, really.
Jeff Milo:   Me?
Matt Jones:   Yeah. You always write the story.

Jeff Milo:   And, as a History Major, now, you're getting into a certain aspect of storytelling... By the way, how'd did your speech go, at the EMU symposium?
Matt Jones:   The presentation was good. I tend to go overboard on things. But, I was insanely nervous, couldn't sleep... Sarah Campbell, my squeeze, said: "Dude, talk about this stuff the way you talk about it with your friends, with all that enthusiasm!" She was absolutely right. It worked. I was standing there, staring down really, really smart people and I was having a blast. And thanks goes out to (Campbell,) too, especially for this comp, as she's had to work with me through all 40 contributors, so far!

Jeff Milo:   Okay... LAST QUESTION: Think back to your most jaded days. When you were pessimistic about the scene or just a naysayer yourself… And, now, after this great, rejuvenating experience, what would you tell your prior self?
Matt Jones:   Just like Misty always tells him: You’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. I just want everyone to listen to each other…

More info: 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jizzly Bear - April Fool's Day Premiere

Theatrical release at the Main Art

Hysterical, surreal, irreverent… These words get thrown around too willy nilly.
You have to experience this film... And man... It's a weird one. And a fun one... Well... there are a lot of adjectives you could throw at it...

But the first feature film from a local production company, A Casket Full Of RoughDrafts, is a tripped-out, horrorshow of a screwball comedy. It’s a fever-dream frolic into absurdity that almost dares you to laugh, with zaney lines delivers sa serious-as-a-heart-attack with our three wide-eyed heroes, in the middle, trying to fathom the terror(s) that they've unleashed

 Now, if I tell you that this film is titled Jizzly Bear, then your imagination is going to run more rampant than a greased-up, jet-pack-fired Tasmanian devil down an icy luge track. Is there a bear in this film? Yes. Are there certain bodily emissions?  Considerable amounts, yes. But what’s it about?

“I think it’s about friendship…, but there is A LOT of other stuff happening,” said Eric Kozlowski, who plays Burt. “I think you’d have to see it to understand it.”

Jizzly Bear is a vaudevillian fumble-dance through a beautifully nightmare-ish vision of the rural woods of Michigan where a lovable loser winds up unintentionally warping the laws of both biology and zoology, to one day let loose a murderous supernatural new species onto his unsuspecting neighbors (who all thought he was kind of a weirdo, anyway…)  

“It is a truly original comedy-adventure-abstract-real life-animation,” said Allison Laakko, who plays the lead role, Sam. The multifaceted actress, singer and artist donned a collared shirt, slacks and a mustache to transform into the socially-anxious Sam.

Imagine if the Marx Brothers were raised inside the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and met up with a script that was equal parts David Lynch - John Waters with the confetti giggle of Rip Taylor... or if David Cronenberg made a more saccharine Saturday Morning Cartoon... 
That's Jizzly Bear

The film was written and directed by Norman DePlume and produced by Lee Drexel and also stars Jason Glasgow. Jizzly Bear began filming in early summer of last year, in various locations around the state, as far north as the Upper Peninsula and as close by as the end of the street where Laakko lives in metro Detroit.

“I would describe this film as an endearing, comedic, artistic masterpiece…” said Glasgow, who plays Allan, the third friend and fellow hunter of the trio at the center of the film’s escapades. “It’s very easy to fall in love with Sam and Allan and Burt. It’s like the movie Easy Money but with extra inappropriate hilarious content.”

The trio embodies your everymen-type, blue-collar-ish, beer-drinking, heavy-rock music digging dudes who recreationally camp and hunt and fish and experiment with strange new fashion trends from time to time. Sam is the black sheep of the group, geeky yet endearing, just trying not to step on anyone’s toes, let alone an angry grizzly bear’s claws. Allan’s kinda the action-man of the group, the one who might just shoot first, keeping his ear to the ground with a ready-for-anything-intensity. Burt’s a bit more laid back, a little more swagger yet sagely at the same time. I bet he’s into meditation when he’s not hunting bears, but that’s for another movie…

The center of the film is Sam and his predicament with this “Jizzly Bear…”

To be blunt, it's a bit of a trip....  

There are a lot of breathtakingly beguiling sequences in this film, strange non-sequiturs and seemingly anarchic bits exuberantly take over a scene from time to time, with explosive, bawdy and just downright trippy results… But DePlume’s script and direction always brings it back to the focal points, that being the bond between our three main characters and, particularly, the rubber-faced, theatrics of Laako’s impressionistic performance.

As Laakko describes it, back in the spring of 2014, DePlume and fellow filmmaker James Hall were discussing “that age old question…” of what was one’s weirdest masturbation location they could recall? The pair of them started snickering and shouting “Jizz Bear” to everyone within earshot (…since, the film wound up centering around a character pleasuring oneself inside a deerblind out in the woods, with a precocious grizzly bear near the proverbial splash zone). “I was immediately thrilled at the notion of making a bear suit,” Laakko recalls.

Tell us more about the initial reactions you had to this script…
Well, once Norm has his hooks in a ripe idea there's no turning back-the very next night there came all at once a whirlwind of poo and jizz where he sat at his dining room table, and no more than three hours later- when the chaos finally settled down and the crazed laughter and shouts subsided - I knew then that he had really done it this time! A truly original potty humor masterpiece. We read it over and over- we laugh- we cried- we danced tribal dances around his was a glorious sight to behold.

I hadn't originally planned on playing the main character- just peripherals, the bear, the role of prop-maker-art-department-extraordinaire, but after more than a month had gone by and they still hadn't found the main character, I was asked and happily took on the challenge to play Sam.

Glasgow: I’ve never read a book or story the first time and thought it was as funny as Jizzly Bear. Early on, I had no idea I’d be playing Allan and when Norm asked me if I would play him he said to me, “You’ll be playing Allan, the guy who wears the…….”   You’ll have to see the movie because I can’t give out the secret.   After that day, I read the script countless time trying to be the best Allan I could be.
Kozlowski: The script only took (DePlume) a few days to write. It started as a joke. I read it in one night and couldn’t stop laughing. I was blown away that (DePlume) took one drunken joke and turned it into an entire movie.

Tell us about the experience of making your own movie, your first movie? How DIY was it, actually?
Kozlowski: Shooting was insane! None of us had ever shot a movie before but that didn’t stop us; we were going to make a feature one way or another. Our good friend Scott West, who films events for a living, helped us a lot. He shot the first scene, which was the biggest help because we got to see him work. It was very DIY and (Laakko) was fantastic in that department. Nobody working on this movie only had one job.
Laakko: I was very excited at the challenge of making a bear suit, and a half-man half-bear-suit right from the start, but had absolutely no experience in the field of elaborate animal costume making.
[After some Googling, Laako was able to learn integral aspects from the works of “Furies,” passionate folk who create elaborate homemade animal costumes for quirky, communal conventions].

I was able to find a couple of tutorials that I loosely followed to make my suit, along with trial and error and a continuous viewing of the documentary, "Bears". I first figured out how to make a plaster cast of my head, to ensure the costume fit perfectly, (which took a whole month and a room covered with plaster to get right) and loosely formed the body around a mannequin we conveniently picked up on a whim many months back. All in all it took the duration of the summer to make the suit; using fake fur, upholstery foam, miles of hot glue, and various types of paint. After that I made another man-bear head with a latex cast of my face surrounded by fur…

I don't think there's a single work of art that I've put more time into and I fully intend to make more suits soon - strictly for movie making, not Furry conventions.

I also happily took on the roll of mad scientist in the kitchen until I had the perfect formulas for all of the prop bodily excretions (all vegan of course: mostly cocoa powder, flour and some other fun grains and such for texture). I made Allan's hairpiece with this chocolately dough- and painted Burt's portrait with brownie mix.

I had a lot of help making the cave in our basement. It's amazing how many unorthodox art supplies you can find at the hardware store

Glasgow: As far as the sets and the costumes and all of the accessories, we have to give a big thank you to Allison Lakko.  She made the bear, by hand!  The last scene of the movie, the cave- yea Allison did that too.  We helped obviously, but she did 90% of it- which when you see the movie, you would have no idea where it was shot.  A truly amazing experience, not only to do this, but it was all made by hand.  Check out the Psychic scene, all done by Allison as well.

Allison, can you talk about playing a boy?
It's extremely liberating playing a boy- to only think about being funny, not worrying at all about looking "Good" in front of a camera the way someone might when the character is more of a representation of their true self. I'm very comfortable in my own skin and virtually unaffected by the idea of "making a fool of myself" in daily life, but putting on the man-suit made it even easier to be utterly ridiculous in any scenario.

I've always been a character, I suppose you could say- head in clouds- recorded my own language on a cassette recorder when I was 7 and ran around singing pretend opera all day long, dress-up was a regular routine and the Lawrence Welk Show and Nick at Night were big influences on my childhood. (DePlume) likes to compare my antics to Lucile Ball, which is only fitting considering that she was an idol of mine growing up.

What was the strangest or funniest experience from making this film?
Kozlowski: Everything! …I have heard these jokes a thousand times and still laugh. One scene sticks out: we were in the forest. Our friends Theresa and Kristi came out to help. I never thought I would see my friends throwing fake poo at me while someone filmed it.

In the woods, we were approached by a park ranger asking what we were actually doing and luckily he happened to pop up on us before we were all covered in a …messy situation. The most fun scenes to film were the deerblind and then in the cave…

Have you been out in the woods with a group of your closest friends and all of a sudden, in broad daylight, decided to completely soak three of them in buckets and buckets of brown stuff? How about getting a huge bowl of white stuff dumped all over your body while donning balloons for boobs in a black, fog-filled room streaked with rainbow strobe-lights, while a life-sized penguin looked on from one corner of the room and an old man with a long white beard gazed from the other corner? Some would call that their worst nightmare, some the best dream they ever had and others, still, would compare it to their worst acid trip. For us, it was just another day on the set of Jizzly Bear!

This being everyone’s first film, what, then was the most fulfilling or rewarding moment for you? When did you realize that this was actually going to come together?
Kozlowski: I think some of our friends that knew we were doing this just thought it wasn’t going to happen. Just, something we were going to joke around with and not complete. (DePlume), Allison, Jay and myself knew from the beginning this was going to be made.

I never had any doubt that we would finish the thing, but Norm’s decision to do the editing himself was a wonderful surprise to us all that really quickened the pace and made it all the more exciting, surprising, and fulfilling to see what we had done, an actual movie we made together. Finishing an actual full length real, great, hilarious movie together. There has been nothing more rewarding and nothing more motivating for me than that. Finishing a real work of art as a team and having the time of our lives doing it.

I routinely examined and practiced every scene and every line at home in order to be ready for shooting.  I was super concerned with just not screwing up my lines, but I took this very seriously. 

The circumstances of the plot, the action, the dialogue, are crazy funny, yet everyone delivers their lines with such sincerity…
Laakko: First of all, when you take something like this at face value- I mean really believe and understand where Norm was going with the script - it becomes less of a challenge and more of an attempt to make the pages come to life-  it was all right there in this masterfully written script. It's really what fueled the whole project in my opinion. 

Secondly, I don't have years of theater experience under my belt, but the acting classes that I took at OCC were perhaps the most valuable, enlightening, and useful classes that I've ever taken. I would recommend that EVERYBODY take acting classes at some point in there lives whether or not they ever have a desire to act; not because you'll learned some technique on how to project your voice to a crowd, but because you will learn techniques that may help you to FEARLESSLY EMBRACE your voice, to be ok with it being heard in the first place.

Theater, acting, this type of make-believe, this type of "playing" - it's such a release: it is the most incredible therapy for anyone involved because it forces you to confront vulnerability, to express yourself in deeply emotional ways, big and small, to be the center of attention- all in front of a group of peers doing to same thing right after you.

The number one fear of all people is presenting in front of a group, and I overcame that in a huge way because of acting classes.  Also! Laughter is maybe the best reward of it all-I'll never forget a specific moment when I was acting out a made up scene in front of class. I was a (male) art teacher doing some exaggerated character work and my teacher laughed out loud at some faces I made. I'll never forget the feeling that gave me. Being the cause of laughter, creating that sound because you meant to-it's such a joyful feeling! I don't know if I ever said it, but (thank you Diane Hill! Your gift teaching theater has been invaluable to my life.)I hope she can make it to the movie!

I never once thought during the entire process of the movie that I was an actor or acted like an actor. I wanted to portray the vision in my head as I saw it from reading the script. Looking back on it now I equate it to a form of tunnel vision, such as your favorite guitarist taking you on a journey or a pitcher throwing a no hitter- autopilot to say. That's how ALLAN felt to me, a person with lines to deliver- put them all together and it tells a story. That story was written by Norm. I'm excited for what's next, and even if I only have 4 lines in the next one-  guaranteed it will deliver an awesome story. For the love of art.

Kozlowski: I think us being good friends in real life really helped the sincerity of these characters come across on screen.  I am very happy with the way the casting happened.

Laakko: I feel that if a person is passionate, committed, and serious about what they're creating, there's no way to fail at it short of giving up. BUT! the outcome may not always be what you expected. It's a natural progression for the artist- you have the idea: what you picture it looking like in the end, the execution of said Idea: actually making the damn thing, and the final outcome: the finished product.

The more time, effort, and attempts made towards that idea, A: the closer the finished product may mirror the initial idea, and B: the more that initial idea will morph into something greater than you ever expected it could become. I feel that that is exactly what happened with this movie for everyone involved- the final outcome could have never been predicted and was greater than any of us could have imagined. We had no idea what to expect, yet we pushed forward with progress fueled momentum until the last scene was filmed.

Norm taught us all about the importance of self propulsion through setting phantom deadlines. I don't think we would have ever finished without him making sure we stuck to timeline we originally planned on for the most part.

Then after we celebrated filming the final scene, Norm surprised us and saved the day once again by making the decision to blindly tackle editing the movie himself with nothing to go on but a natural knack for creating an amazing  rhythm with sound and vision; and a detail oriented precision that only years of creating in other fields could have taught him.

Laakko: None of us could have imagined the end result - funnier than we had even realized, yet also carrying with it an austerity and an earnestness that couldn't have been written in, even though the script was very precisely followed.