Monday, February 20, 2017

WDET's Culture Shift

WDET (101.9) FM's Culture Shift is your soundtrack to discovering Detroit, a daily two-hour program of music, arts and culture, airing 12pm-2pm.

Back in September, I was invited by since-departed host Travis Wright to contribute 10 minute segments to the show. The idea is to plot out a course for your weekend, with a rundown of the top 5 must-see local shows. That's right, local... With The Milo Minute, the focus is on Michigan music...because! Because that's what I, me, 'Milo,' has pretty much spent his whole career focusing on!! So you'll get to hear new songs from Detroit-area bands and artists, and get hip to the details about where you can see them during any upcoming weekend!

On-air host Amanda LeClaire started the show with Wright last year, and she and I convene for a segment that gets replayed a couple times throughout the five-day's of programming.

Tune in! Thanks for listening!


Update from The Metro Times 


The Hamtramck Music Festival kickoffs Thursday, March 2nd at the Planet Ant Hall.

Just wanted to lay some things out through this blog, as anyone following the organization's Facebook will have seen a couple of updates/announcements relating to developments over the last 10-11 days. The grassroots event weathered concerns from various community members and several participating bands about issues of safety, along with debates over its admission process, as it heads in to its fourth year.

Late in the evening of Friday, Feb. 10, HMF received messages reporting harassment in the form of online "trolling": a spate of violent/threatening/abusive messages and posts came from one of the bands originally on its 150+ lineup, directed almost exclusively at another performer, but extended, additionally, to general a cache of negative jabs toward every band on HMF and other individuals with a blog post.

The next morning, HMF released an official statement regarding their feelings on the issue and assured action would be taken. On that Sunday, the 12th, a public forum was held and an official vote to remove this band was taken. They announced that they'd begin work on creating "specific mechanisms that will more directly deal with issues of safety, any type of hostile behavior, or anything that threatens the safe environment..." that they intend to provide to the public.

HMF's Committee of co-organizers include upwards to 20+ members in charge of booking bands for respective venues. HMF is a three-day event of live local music featuring performances from 150+ bands, scheduled with somewhat staggered set times inside 20 venues across the city of Hamtramck, with wristband passes purchased by attendees benefiting Ben's Encore, a Michigan non-profit working to strengthen local music education programs.

These initial incidents of online trolling escalated quickly over social media. The following afternoon, (Feb 13) HMF was made aware of new concern lobbied by a group form several musicians and community members objecting to another band's presence on the lineup, as one of the members of this second band in question had a criminal record, with a 2008 conviction. As soon as they were aware of this, the HMF Committee arranged to meet with the band in question on Tues (Feb 14), and scheduled an additional meeting (last Thurs., Feb 16) with concerned members of the public/lineup to voice their grievances. Nevertheless, a handful bands still opted to drop out the lineup as a protest, (including one venue,) collectively arguing, among many points, that allowing this second band to stay would create a negative image for a festival raising funds for youth programming.

UpdateThe Seraphine Collective originally programmed a lineup for one of HMF's venues, but the nonprofit feminist arts collective dropped out, along with a few other bands/artists, opting to host their own benefit concert down in Corktown at the UFO Factory for SASHA Center and HAVEN, community organizations that support survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. INFO 

One member of the 40-person committee directly communicated online with some of the individuals of the group who'd initially urged further action on the second band. These posts by the committee member, sent without the knowledge of other HMF members, perceived as hostile by those who received them, amplified their initial protest. So, on that afternoon of Feb 16, a conversation was had with the HMF volunteer that was threatening the peaceful resolution of this public outcry & was warned of disciplinary action.

The shared demand presented to the Committee by each individual who has either reported online harassment or objections to this disputed band, was, above all, for an assurance of safety. The HMF Committee released a statement, that they are " ethically-driven volunteer organization..." that would take these disputes seriously.

HMF heard from all parties involved and made a brief statement last Saturday, Feb 18, over Facebook, that a final determination would come during their meeting, last Sunday:

       HMF: "...In response, a Zero Tolerance Policy has been adopted in accordance with our bylaws. Through the course of implementing this action, one HMF volunteer resigned as a result of their conduct, and (two) bands were voted to be removed from the 2017 roster..." 

Lots of fellow musicians who were not directly involved were likely beginning to see percolation of this heated debate sporadically pop across their social media feeds. The intensities of the arguments and social media posts by disputing parties amplified throughout the week, voicing their dissatisfaction the time elapsing from Monday through Thursday night, in terms of reaching this final resolution.

HMF released a statement apologizing for not having policies in place for a quicker resolution.

"In accordance with our Zero Tolerance Policy, any disruptive behavior during the festival will be considered grounds for removal."

The group held a closed-door meeting, Sunday, discussing their by-laws, procedures, and policies, an opportunity to fully brief every member of the organizing committee on the developments of this previous week.

Before the voting took place, the aforementioned HMF volunteer in question resigned. Community members were invited to witness the vote and the band in question was removed with an almost unanimous vote. The floor was opened to public comment afterwards.

So, Sunday, at midnight, HMF released an announcement of all these actions taken, along with their new official Zero Tolerance Policy, restated their mission statement: ...that this is event was created as a volunteer music festival, with the aim of raising funds for kids' music education.

Update: Lo & Behold Records & Books removed itself as a host venue and has not rejoined as of now. Stay tuned to the HMF Facebook for updates about a finalized schedule. Meanwhile, more bands originally on the HMF lineup have broken-off to build another lineup at the Outer Limits Lounge (more info)
This is what's been happening.
As of now, it has been dealt with by HMF. You can email them here.
For opinions...., we have social media. If you want my own, I'd rather just tell you in person -

Sunday, February 19, 2017


I'm not sure where to start with this one... Not everyone who reads this blog is going to know who Rabeah Lteif was, but I just got back from a memorial service for the Detroit based guitarist/singer, and it showed me how much of an impact he had, not only just on the lives of his family and friends, but upon the community of artists who embraced him as an intrepid and vital member of the Michigan music scene.

I didn't get a chance to stand up and speak at the memorial, but I'll share some thoughts here... Rabeah started out in the mid 2000's with a swaggering/crunchy, psyche-groove high-energy rock outfit called Charlie Don't Surf. I wrote a review of the band and used a phrase to describe the sound of his voice and the effects he applied to its amplification, and it led to him changing the band's name to The Electric Lions...and soon after, Electric Lion Soundwave Experiment. Rabeah would go on to collaborate with several artists and perform several shows to local audiences across Detroit, Ferndale, Dearborn and beyond.

Rabeah taught me not so much to be positive, but to manifest positivity, give positivity, nurture positivity. He was the great encourager, he'd rally fellow bands in such a way, grasp their shoulder before they'd go on stage or say something with that big curled smile of his, and it'd not only make you want to do your best, but feel like your best was now easily attainable merely because of his presence in your audience.

Biggest of all..., he never talked about his own music with me. I regret this, but was also always astonished, in this refreshing way, by such a.... not so much self-deprecation...., but a shifting of perspective. Nothing was about him, when we talked. I say this with love and no ill-will, but you can imagine that I talk to a lot of musicians and they are typically eager to share some of the excitement they're feeling over a project they just completed. I always expect that. With Rabeah, we spoke about everything but music...., and yet his music was such a vibrant part, such a prevailing part, of his essence. Music meant so much to him, and his music meant so much to me... But what it came down to, when we'd talk, was how much our friendship meant to each other. That focus was never lost... The focus was always: each other's company.

Rabeah was, as I knew him, admittedly self-effacing to an extent. He was passionate about his music and his bandmates and his recordings, but every time I would interview him for an article, we'd get to the end and he'd say, with a self-dismissing pursing of his lips and lowered eyes: "...nah, you don't even have to print any of this if you don't want..., we can just talk..." I don't expect every band or musician I meet to be as kind and selfless as this guy, but I'm so glad I got to know him as well as I did... He was a true friend to me. And anytime I felt any minute hint of jadedness sneaking in, he would always restore my soul's silo with souped up enthusiasm, for music, for creative pursuits...and for friendship.

Ten years ago, a handful of outsider bands, from psych, to garage, to shoegaze, to punk, gathered in the old Bohemian National Home on Tillman St., to perform for the Fiberglass Freakout Festival. I didn't realize until this memorial, how many lasting friendships I, all of us, made in that one night. We all came back together on this sunny and sad afternoon, to pay tribute for the sparkplug who was a central figure to the inspirational fervor on that evening, 10 years prior... Rabeah. He made a lasting impression. We're all still creating, cuz we're all still inspired... And he was crucial to keeping our individual fires stoked.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus

Right now, George Morris is getting ready to put out his third album. And, right now, George Morris is possibly panicked he may never write another song, ever again... ...Until he does. Until he will. He always winds up back at the proverbial drawing board, even if he feels these sorts of anxious tremors greeting him at the conclusion of an extensive creative process. I get that. It's just he catches me off guard when he says it... Actually, he catches me off guard when he says something else, too, but more on that later.

Morris is the singer/guitarist of The Gypsy Chorus. The songs on the band's forthcoming album were written and arranged by Morris, then developed and produced in Zach Shipps' studio in Ferndale. The instrumentalists who flesh out these songs are Helena Kirby, Zach Pliska, Doug Diedrich, and Ronny Tibbs.

Morris jettisoned right out of high school and out on the road with his bandmates in The Satin Peaches; the group of wunderkinds were signed to a label just in time for the waning days (around 2006) of the turning millennium's indie rock renaissance, when the music industry as we once knew it pretty much crumbled away...

In 2012, he went the solo route and started working on what would become 2013's Organ Solos. The melodies were lilting loop-de-loops that were instantly anthemic, ridged with a bit of post-everything nihilism and airily wailed in that wipsy/hazy high-altitude voice of his... Organ tones filled most of the albeit minimally-dressed soundscape, interwoven with sequenced beats and the inevitably valiant guitar solo.

Then in 2015, after a couple years of performing locally and touring a bit with The Gypsy Chorus, Morris released We Will Go To Hell For This, a playful, snarky, sophisticated cinching of lyrics taking op-ed deconstructions of the social scenes swayed into these instantly indelible melodies, trancing trips like "Girls On Parade" or balls-of-the-feet urgency of "Never Regret It."

But now, we've got an album that Morris said, after thinking about it, "feels like the album I've been trying to make for a long time..."

George Morris LP release party Saturday, March 11George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus
@ Bemo's Bar in Bay City
with Tart / Martin McNeil  / & Barbarossa Brothers 

"I just wanted to do a full record with no restrictions," said Morris. "I tried to do that on the last one but the restriction was: me...having to produce it. That was a limitation. This time, i wanted to go with someone who knows what they're doing. (Shipps) helped me make the record i wanted to make."

Morris is bandmates with Shipps in Arc Pelt, a group led by singer/songwriter Liz Wittman. In fact, Morris is also playing bass with Carré  Calloway in Queen Kwong. This..., after Morris actually told himself towards the end of 2016 that he thought he could probably benefit from taking a bit of a break from music. "I failed at taking a break," Morris recalls, looking back on the three solid years of work with the Gypsy Chorus. "My goal was to disappear for a bit, but i just couldn't say no to anything. I enjoy it though. It's nice to just show up and play bass and not have to be the frontman. I can play bass while drunk, too, so, that's nice; I don't have to pace myself for those shows..." He chuckles as I tell him he's keeping up with that rock-star ethos. "It's part of the show..."

Morris can't actually recall a time in his life when he didn't want to be playing music. His parents were both musicians, and by the time he was 8 years old, he was starting on his first drum kit. The Beatles, all of the Beatles, along with substantial FM radio sets of classic rock music, were on all the time while he was growing up. (He even tried to form his own band as early as 4th grade). His first high school band wound up getting gigs to play Zeppelin covers. His endearing showmanship springs from having Jimmy Page as an integral early influence.

Morris met another music kid in 9th grade, Jesse Shepherd Bates. This was in Walled Lake, and they're eventual encounter came about basically because every other person in their respective social circles was basically mistaking one for the other; i.e., long-haired rock music kids who were each just starting to get in to Radiohead. This led to the formation of The Satin Peaches.

"Looking back, I would have done things differently," said Morris. "(2005-2007) was a crazy time in my life. We were 19 when we got signed, but my mom had just passed away the year before that. So, getting signed was like this severe low going in to a crazy high..."

How does one process that emotional roller coaster from one pole to another?

"A lot of alcohol and drugs? I mean..., the industry was just gone two years after we got signed, anyhow. We like to think we killed it. But, from then, to now..., I have such a better perspective on life, and what I care about, and what I don't care about."

Looking back, Morris said it wasn't until he was in 9th grade before he finally started listening to music that was made after, like, 1979... "I was totally all classic rock until then, but once I heard Radiohead and The Strokes, I started realizing how much good music was out there. Even then..., I can't really stand indie-rock anymore. It's just so generic, and all sounding like the same MGMT-mimicking bullshit over and over."

Lately, Morris said he's been listening a lot to magic-melody inclined music makers like Frankie Cosmos and Charlie Hilton. "Melody is what I'm trying for, most, and then the guitars are this compliment for it. I treat songwriting as anything; its' work. I start something on a keyboard, write a demo."

"There's a lot of emotions in the songs, but I don't usually really know exactly what they're about..." See, that's another thing. Even though I might feel pretty moved by a poignant bit of poetry in one of Morris' new songs, he doesn't approach lyric formation like a typical singer/songwriter. The melodies are unabashedly given prominence when he's arranging. The words just kinda seem to fit, that's all.

But I do ask him about whether he worries that he'll have to try to cater himself, to craft an image, to make sure he's appealing to a certain audience. "No, that never goes through my head. The only thing that goes through my head is feeling terrified I'll never be able to write another song again."

Morris admits, soon after that statement, that he basically can't not write songs. He, like any artist, has that urge to be working on something. He may call the formation of these melodic tunes "work," but it's inevitably fulfilling something for him. He knows that. And he knows he'll write another batch of songs, soon...

I say to him: "You have an artistic side!" I kinda shouted it. "You know that, don't you?"

"Do I?" he asks. He's serious.

And I go back to talking about bands having to craft an image, and the drama that creates for one's self-respectability. "Nah man... I'm done with that drama. I'm getting better about everything, with music. I'm getting past the cynicism. I'm just getting to where I'm asking: 'Am I still enjoying this?' And Liz (Wittman) said: 'Remember...that you liked it at a point and always try to remember what that was.' That's helped. I feel a lot better about it all, now. And...performing, that's actually always fun, especially when the band is as tight as it's gotten to be."

And he goes on to talk about how excited he is to travel up to Bemo's in Bay City. That's just about a two hour drive for most of us in Detroit, but Morris doesn't care; he that venue, and the crowds up there, to be nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging. "It's more fulfilling for me if we just tour to smaller rooms that have attentive, supportive audiences... I've given up the idea of making money with this, just seems more worthwhile to make records! And to not worry about anything else; just find the audiences that want to listen. Seems less stressful. And, more sustainable in the long run."

More info

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Turn To Crime's 'Secondary' - out Feb 3rd (Interview)

Turn To Crime
Releasing third full length album
Feb 3
Info / Lisen
Tour dates
Hitting the road Feb 17th

Turn To Crime is:
Derek Stanton
Ian Saylor
Joe St. Charles
Pete Steffy

Derek Stanton conceived the quip of professional musicians running out of options for monetary gain and thus having to, in desperation, "Turn To Crime..." Several years ago, Stanton moved back to his hometown of Detroit, after a long spell in New York, where he had a studio and fronted the now defunct psych-rock power trio Awesome Color.

With Turn To Crime, Stanton shifted from the swift fiery grit and feedback fury toward something more ominous and delicate, coiling into the eerier corners of new-wave and slinging glam-pop out into the darker milieus of the astral plains; this was more krautrock, or maybe a more neo-industrial-bubblegum-crooning, rather than psyche-rock.

Their latest album is out this week, with its lead single, "Chasing," streaming below.

Stanton has been writing and recording the works of Turn To Crime from his Detroit based studio, Molten Sound, where he's also helped produce other regional artists' works, such as Kelly Jean Caldwell's Downriver. Most recently, Stanton's been working with Protomartyr, PRC, and Prude Boys! Lotta P-bands... Not only does the man have his own studio, but Turn To Crime also reaches its audiences from the humble HQ of their own DIY label, Mugg & Pop Records. Secondary is a digital download only, so stay tuned. 


So, over the last four years, and across the three major recordings you've done with Turn To Crime, have you noticed any change, any shift in approach, or switch in preference? 

Stanton: I'll be honest, even though this sounds boring: the creative process wasn't too different than Actions or Can't Love. I am still sitting down in the studio everyday, writing, experimenting with different instruments and different guitar tunings.... and using techniques like restriction, restraint, randomness and repetition. The 4 R's. I just made that up!

What sets Secondary apart from the last two...

Stanton: The vibe on this album is a little different. Sure it's art, it's important, and, for me, it was urgent, but it's also pretty fun, playful or satirical at times. It really covers a lot of ground. In a way I suppose it's hiding or veiling some serious shit I had going on in my life during the writing / recording process which I didn't want to expose or harp on (maybe it peaked through the veil a bit). I don't usually write about myself so much. This album does have an autobiographical song about my Grandmother's secret chocolate pie recipe. 

 What I like about songs like Get Your Pills From Tony, and Dead Man, and Secondary, is that it blends the playful and ominous; the melodies have a verve to them, and some of the synth hooks are quite poppy, the bass and those beats are almost danceable, but the lyrics have this dark sense of humor that makes sure the palette is never too bright and keeps things earnest… Or, that’s what I read in to it sometimes… Tell me about what you find most fulfilling about this project… I mean, when we go back to Awesome Color vs now, what is it exactly that you love most about working on songs like these, vs the songs you’d made in the past? 

Stanton: The songs, the writing, the process, the band is just incredibly rewarding! It's like finding myself, finding what's unique about my approach to art and what's hidden inside. I dig deeper than previous efforts. I abandon any safe or easy methods. Any influences are completely subconscious. I want people to hear a Turn To Crime song and recognize it immediately as something unique unto itself, despite the natural penchant to compare.............On the other hand, with said pretensions, it's such a unique band that I have not been able to find our "niche" inside whatever kind of industry that may still exist. 

I want to throw a question out to some other band members and get their take on how TTC compares to any of the other projects they've been in...

Joe St. Charles: I feel like that Filipino guy who's the singer for Journey now. I was a fan (of TTC) before I was a member so I'm really excited to be a part of it. But, now I feel weird about wearing my Turn to Crime T-shirt, like I'm wearing my own band t-shirt like Def Leppard would, or something. But Derek is the mastermind so I still feel more like a fan than a member. The band's been around for awhile but I'm the first live drummer, so shows are a bit different than they used to be. 

What have you found most fulfilling about being in the band so far, Joe? 
Joe St. Charles: The thing that sets Turn To Crime apart for me is how much I actually love the songs. Enough to commute from Chicago where I live to rehearse. I'd rather travel close to 5 hours to rehearse with Turn To Crime in Detroit than I would across town to play with a band that would be way more convenient, but way less fulfilling, and I've been in a few of those over the years. 

So, tell us about the experience of playing live drums with TTC, and working on Secondary

Joe St. Charles: I'm not actually on any of the tracks on Secondary. It's all Derek. 

Right on...

Joe St. Charles: But Derek wants to change all that. In Turn To Crime's history of playing live, there has been an evolution from just Derek, to Derek and Ian, To Derek, Ian and an ever changing synth player, to now Derek Ian, Pete, and myself. It's like that Talking Heads concert movie. Derek can..., and, up to this point has, for the most part, played everything on the albums, but now that the band is fully formed, the next step is getting us on recordings which just started happening last year. I can tell you that Derek is kind of a perfectionist so I have to mentally and physically prepare myself to record a ton of takes. But it's a really good blend of perfectionism with positive encouragement which makes him such a good producer. He won't let you half ass it because he knows it can be better. He won't let you be lazy about it and that I like a lot. As far as learning the songs for this upcoming tour, most of them I already knew because Turn To Crime kind of constantly revolves at our house by both myself and my wife...

What's it like jumping in and integrating/interpreting those parts? 
Joe St. Charles: It's really fun to decipher and reinterpret Derek's drumming. He has all these really orchestrated fills at very specific places that I always want to try and hit. But, I've been adding my own spin on things and a lot of the songs have more of a different kind of grit compared to the original recordings. 

Favorite or weird memories, so far, from the tour you went on?

Joe St. Charles: I think we played in Buffalo and then went to some bar in the middle of nowhere for their karaoke night. It was both amazing and frightening at the same time. We aimlessly stumbled upon it after the gig. At the end of the night some giant skinhead dude sang that "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" song from 2001 and we figured we'd call it a night on that note. I'm hoping to hit some more backwoods karaoke nights this tour.

Derek, what's next? What are you looking forward to? 

Stanton: I'm looking forward to playing more shows with the band. Would be sweet to hit the west coast. Might be time to do an album with the whole band, perhaps in another studio, or probably mine. I got my fingers crossed xx some opportunities come our way. I have another TTC record called "Down in the Basement" that's mixed, mastered and waiting for the right time to come out. It's an album I did with my buddy Greg Ahee on keyboard & guitar. It was also mixed by Jonathan Schenke (like Secondary). It's a freakin amazing record! Somehow super weirdo synth pop vibes. Excited to drop that one!

More info

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Siamese: a little more angry. And a little more: screaming....

Checking in with Siamese...
performing Saturday
The Loving Touch (8PM)
with Queen Kwong
and Dear Darkness

photo credit: Mikel OD Pfeiffer

Dancing can exorcise demons. The thrum and swell of synthesizers and bass guitars can build into catharsis. Slickly synced-up live percussion with sequenced beats keeps the urgency levels intense, and vocals are pure, purging, fiery and forthright... Siamese hit their stride over the last year, culminating with the release of their debut self-titled EP.  

Jo Champagne is on lead vocals, with Steve Thoel on guitar, Angie Kaiser on drums, and then newest member Eric Cojocari is on synths, (filling in the void left by former bassist Joe Sausser). I contributed a feature to Assemble Sound's blog, exploring the delicate-industrial, goth-glam, post-new-wave signatures of Siamese, here.

The quartet kicks off 2017 opening up for Queen Kwong at the Loving Touch.

I caught up with Champage to see how much the band's changed over the last four years, and where they're headed next.

Think of the band now....compared to when it first started... How much has changed. How has it changed...
Jo Champagne:   This band has gone through a number of transitions. It originally formed as a project between Steve and I about four years ago. We would email each other song ideas, and then record our own parts over them. We had no idea the band would actually ever play live, and we have both been really happy with what has come of it. At the onset, we really had no specific plans or vision. We both like similar kinds of music, and we were just merging our styles and seeing what happened.

I haven't checked in with you since six months' prior, when the EP came out... What's new? Working on anything? Veering, or launching in to any new directions, style-wise? 
Champagne:   Lately we have been working on writing for our full length album, which will be out in mid 2018. Our new material now seems to be a bit more electronic as well as more aggressive, which is super fun to perform. We have always had an angry and dancey vibe with our music. That is still prevalent with the new songs. Just..., maybe a little more angry. And a little more: screaming.

The song 'Bats with Baby Faces' is a favorite of mine. "Breaking down isn't as romantic as it sounds /  Where's the release?" Talk about how powerful that is, for the whole aesthetic of Siamese. I feel like that's quite an essential lyrical moment for the band's aesthetic of helping any listener find catharsis... And, with your also being a therapist, I wonder if that has also become a facet of music for you, helping people find healing...
Champagne:   The lyrics to Bats with Baby Faces, as with all of the lyrics on the EP, are very personal. The song is about breaking free of an abusive situation, and finding your voice. It's about finally saying what you wished you could have said before. It's about calling someone out, and no longer fearing the consequences.

...With being a therapist... I spend my days trying to help others get through emotionally difficult times or situations. It is extremely rewarding and I love it. It doesn't really bleed in to our songs, though. Music is where I become selfish. I use that as my own therapy. I would be so honored if listening to our music was cathartic for another person. Writing and performing it is incredible cathartic for me. When I get off the stage I am physically and emotionally exhausted. I think that is how it should be!

What are you excited for, heading in to this show at the LT, as well as heading in to the rest of 2017...
Champagne:   I am so excited to play with all of these bands. I wanted to make this a night of very strong and talented female musicians. I want to celebrate that, because there are far more men in the scene than women. I understand why that happens too... We often get treated quite differently, and it's super frustrating and intimidating. I am so happy that Dear Darkness, Kaleido and Queen Kwong will be playing with us. Its going to be such a fun night.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ben Keeler's 'Sunshine'

Ben Keeler is back in action...

The Detroit-area native songwriter released a vibrant new single this week, leading up to his band's performance this Saturday at the UFO Factory

Keeler has been a bit of an itinerant artist over this last decade, going from Michigan, to Chicago, back again, and then out to San Francisco for a while... But that jet-setting is echoed by his incandescent and aerodynamic rock janglers; each optimal for extended travel or accelerated propulsion, the kinda tunes you roll the windows down on a late summer's sunny afternoon, when the coupe starts to cruise at 50...

Produced with Alex Kaye over at Assemble Sound, Keeler lassos pure sunrays onto his guitar strings, with a snappy/springy percussive accompaniment and toe-tapping basslines. The actual glow of the song radiates from those vocals, the multi-tracked harmonies, the soaring theatrics, the blood-and-thunder urgency, the palpable relief and ache and excitement of a singer's voice being rejuvenated...

Yes, rejuvenated... Re-activated. Re-invigorated. It's been a little while, in fact, since local audiences have seen/heard the works of Keeler, (though you've probably seen him with Ryan Dillaha's Miracle Men).

A couple years' back he released a sweet, summery, shambling-pop collection of songs under the 500 Club moniker. But this song, and an album that is currently being wrapped up throughout the winter season, is released under his own name. Backing him up is Will Shattuck on drums and Ricky Ruggero on bass.

You can hear "Sunshine's" live iteration on Saturday night, at the UFO Factory. 
with Rah The Son
& Fluffer
(ages 18+)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Reverend Premiere Video for "Rooms" (Interview)

Reverend on Bandcamp

I've been to a handful of Reverend shows over the years, and they're always enveloped by more than a bit of invigorating turbulence. Shirts come off, bodies lunge, guitars heave like spears, snares become punching bags, and the harmonious fireball kinetics of the three players starts to supernaturally influence the space, venue, room, basement, or wherever they are, to where the walls, floors, ceilings, and corporeal audience members, start to collectively rattle and jolt.

Reverend's Jeremy Waun, Joe Guzdial, and Tyler Bowen have been commencing cacophonous rock summits for more than six years. From their homebase in Detroit, they've released three EP's, some singles, and a full-length album. This spring, the trio unveil their next full-length album, Million Star, recorded with Chris Koltay at High Bias.

Guitarist Waun, bassist Guzdial and drummer Bowen gave me an early glimpse of their new music video "Rooms," which premiers here, today, right now..., on this website. "Rooms" was directed by Andrew Stefanik of Iron Coast, and stars Jessica Newberry, (along with the band...inside of a "room..")

Frenetic vocals, surfy/soaring guitars, fitful drums and a storming bass, the trio are in and out in 150 seconds and the tempo sustains this beguiling blend of sprinting panic to a sludgier, reared-back slice. Known as a psych rock band with heavy-metal inclinations, this song's more of an avant-indie punk rumbler, full of intonations from each instrument--as though each player is almost racing the other--and the overall effect is one of a tidal wave consistently cresting upon itself, every third or fourth measure.

Next show:Fridayat El Clubwith Touchand City of Catepillar9pmMore info

I had a chat with Bowen about the new album.

Left to right, Joe Guzdial, Jeremy Waun, Tyler Bowen
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I vividly recall seeing you guys... I think it was inside Whiskey in the Jar once...? Or, just, somewhere cramped!! It was one of the most intense concert experiences I can recall... Talk about where that impetus to go intense, that impetus to go heavy, comes from... Talk about the shirtless, sweaty, swift, shearing experience of a Reverend set and what it is you find most fulfilling from live performances...
Tyler Bowen: 
For us, it has always been about a quick and powerful impact. We write vigorous and fast material without even really trying to do that. It just seems to naturally happen for us. The way we write together has remained pretty constant since day one. We thrive off of material that is the most fun for us to play. Each player has the autonomy to impart what they wish, so long as it works for the song. There is typically very little dialogue between the three of us. The songs just sort of…build themselves. We still laugh at how little we discuss parts. We like to think we’re guided by something else.

In terms of a live context, we spent the first three years or so of our time as a band playing an insane amount of shows. A lot of house shows, DIY venues, tiny local hideouts…and we found that we played with an energy that was infectious to people. They often got really rowdy. Really sweaty. Lots of beer poured on our stuff. Hah... We used to really beat ourselves up in the beginning. Playing with that type of energy, even for twenty minutes, left us sore for days. But again, our approach has always been without much analysis. The performance gets all of our attention and energy. You’re tunnel-visioned, and in a blink, it’s over.

Seven years down the road, how's the band evolved since its early days?
Lately, we’ve done a lot of refining to our performance. The material on Million Star is definitely darker and more of a mix of our traditional rock direction and trying to harness something big or apocalyptic sounding. In the future, we still aim to write with vigor, but are trying to make the performances a little less physically demanding. Trying to embrace a sharp focus while still remaining chaotic and intense. We’re certainly excited for future material and the trajectory of the band.

You mentioned Million Star... Let's get into it. What can you tell us about the album, and how's it distinguishing itself, vibe-wise, experience-wise, from previous Reverend records? 

Bowen: Without trying to get too involved in terms of describing all of the influences that helped form this production, the album is largely a reflection of our fears regarding our home and the changes the both the landscape and the culture are experiencing. We’re weary of exterior or foreign interests that are redesigning the city for profit. Essentially, we are worried of the potential of cultural replacement versus cultural coexistence.

So, we began writing the songs (for Million Star) in the winter of 2014. The building we lived in was bought by a foreign investor and we were told to be out by the end of the month. During our transition, we realized how often this was happening in the city. Now..., we realized that investment in a city with all the unused space and infrastructure that Detroit has to offer was obviously inevitable, but we were angry that active artists, and even worse, native inhabitants young and old, were being priced out and forced to live or work elsewhere. (Million Star) is definitely some our most aggressive material yet, fueled by our anxieties of what is to come.

Working with (Chris Koltay, High Bias) was incredibly easy and smooth. Definitely kept it fun for us. We spent about a weekend in the studio doing mostly live takes. Jim Diamond, who recorded our E.P. “Future Weed,” mastered the record.

Up next, you've got a show at El Club, Friday, Jan 20th... But what happens after that? 

Bowen: We'll be releasing the record on CD and cassette initially, then we plan to personally fund a vinyl release after that. We’re aiming for a Spring or early Summer date to drop the record. Once the record is done, we’re going to spend some time doing short jaunts on the road. We’ve already begun working on new material and are very excited about future releases. It took us much longer than we had hoped to get this material out there. Reverend will be staying busier than ever in the future and have no plans to slow down.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Ypsi's Tanager premiere 'Burn Out The Night'

Kick off your weekend with a brand new single from Ypsi-based reverb-revelers Tanager.

Led by singer/songwriter & badass-guitarist Eleanor Daftuar (pictured), the new song is a dizzy dazzler of distortion waves and billowing low-end riffs, punched along by a perfect slowed-headbanger of a beat.

The last we heard from Tanager was a live in-studio performance for WCBN. Since then, Daftuar has been contributing terrific fretwork on lead guitar for another Ypsi band, Child Sleep, which, correspondingly, is fronted by the drummer of Tananger (Mary Fraser). Rishi Daftuar completes the trio on 2nd guitar, with some nuanced twangs and rhythmic chording under Eleanor's more psychedelic swirls.

I love how that caustic yet sweet guitar shears its way in to those first three seconds before, sorta MBV-ish, the feedback crashes over your ears like a brilliant/brisk wave to carry you off into realms of almost-dangerous-yet-mostly-delightful dream-pop detachments. Eleanor's vocals, backed up by Mary, create this beguiling counterbalance of a soft, soaring, gossamer thing curtained upon the cosmic-gravel spill of those ultraviolet guitar currents.

So, take a listen... Hopefully drop a buck in and download it... It's the first taste of Tanager's new full-length album (their first in in about 5 years...), which should be out in late summer, or early autumn.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Best Exes

From this week's Detroit Free Press

Relationships are complicated, but a song about relationships doesn’t have to be! Local quartet Best Exes elevate the charms of the sweet and the simple, reveling in their counterbalances, with singer/guitarist Linda Ann Jordan’s dulcet and breathy mid-high vocals doing duets with singer/guitarist Jim Cherewick’s lower, rustier, lightly-rasped warble.  The pair, for the record, are not each other’s “exes,” even if their respective past ‘exes’ helped inspire a song on their debut album (out this weekend on Palm Tapes).

clockwise from left, Linda Ann Jordan, Maria Nuccilli, Jim Cherewick, and Erin Davis

Cherewick and Jordan were writing songs together in 2014, unsure of where it would go, until they wound up booking a show. That led to the swift addition of drummer Maria Nuccilli, to make it a trio for a year’s worth of shows. Earlier in 2016, Ann Arbor-based bassist Erin Davis (also of Loose Koozies) made it a quartet. Cherewick lives over in Ypsi, where he can be found working on graphic design or splitting more singing duties with a couple other bands. Jordan is here in Detroit, working as a legal aid attorney and with the Seraphine Collective, a community of feminists working to promote underrepresented musicians and artists in the area.

“Weird Kinda Nice” is a signature Best Exes ditty, with its jangly/hazy traipse and lilt, pushed lightly by shuffling percussion, surfy basslines, reverb-ribboned lead guitar curls and that charming smooth/grainy mesh of the two lead vocalists. That song and several others on this full length cassette album, paint poignant pictures of the possibility of finding platonic love among friends and complication-free companionship, through singsongy-earworm melodies, minimalist, waltzy arrangements and guitar lines you can hum-along to. Spending time with their album, Cactus, could help redefine your perception, not about what love is, but about what a love song can be. 

You can read my interview with Jim and Linda in this week's PLAY, Entertainment Guide, in The Detroit Free Press. 

Meanwhile, I actually had the opportunity to chat with every band member in Best Exes while building this feature. Maria Nuccilli and Erin Davis are integral components to the nuanced charms of Best Exes minimalist-rock/pop productions. 

How does Best Exes compare to any previous musical endeavors? Maria and Erin, I'd like to know more about what your roles have become since joining...
: As for my joining the band, I didn't know much of Best Exes beforehand, and I don't think I had actually seen them live, until that point. I vaguely remember being at a show or bar and my friend Jim asking if I would be interested in jamming sometime, and I said sure! But I wasn't sure if it would ever actually happen, so it was a pleasant surprise when he texted me a specific time and date to start playing. I listened to all of the songs on their bandcamp and came up with bass parts for them, as I prefer to be as prepared as possible for practice - if I can teach myself a song before a practice by listening to a recording of it, I will.

Maria: The other two bands I play in are more improvisational-based, so it’s nice to be a part of an outfit with different songwriting parameters. It keeps my playing in all three bands fresh! I’m so happy Erin joined. I loved the two guitars and drums thing, but Erin is so skilled and creative and brings out so much in Linda and Jim’s songwriting. As a drummer, I think my role has become official counter of song parts when we're writing, and also official compare-er of Linda's chord progressions to early Julian Cope (see: "Laughing Boy" off of Fried). That might be my role in every band though? Jim is official recorder of new songs so we can listen back after a few weeks of not getting together.

How do you make a band work when its members are split between cities, with Erin in Ann Arbor, Jim in Ypsilanti, and then Linda and Maria being in Detroit...

Erin: It is definitely difficult to juggle being in bands with people who live in another city with a full time job. It's difficult for me to do things during the work week and I honestly wish I had more availability. However, I'm really fortunate to play music with really great people whom I love and I wouldn't be in several bands if a didn't enjoy it, so I'm making it work for now.

Maria: When you’re busy, sometimes the hardest part is showing up for things. I don’t know how we make it work, but we do. I’m in two other bands, and when I feel really spread thin, the thing that makes it work and worth it for me is viewing rehearsal not as a stressful obligation but as a needed meditation.

When you listen back or reflect back upon the sonic snapshot that is Cactus, what do you think it says, how do you feel about it, what’s it convey to you?

Linda: I think it says that we are bad at relationships, mostly.

Future plans? 

: We are already working on new songs! We just recorded one about moving to LA.

Jim: i'd like to start 6 more bands…and finally settle down. I dunno…more bathroom selfies?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Secret Friends Fest: Listening to PALACES

This is a synth-rock that can sound sweet and sinister at the same time. Detroit duo PALACES create keyed-up tumblers of aerodynamic rock n roll that's got  just the right amount of dissonance and nervy-melodic quavering from accompanying synthesizers. The programmed percussive arrangements tend toward the cinematic, whether evoking some determined badass stride, a shunted bolt down a neon-splashed alley, or just the softly percolated shish/crash spill of electronic cymbals, building a swoon under the angular guitars as they synchronize with your heartbeat.  

The guitar/bass duo known as Cat Cobra and S.S.  are blending the vaporous swarm of a dark new wave drone and the head-swelling flutter/fall of dream-pop, with a more fleet-footed dance-beat popping under an ultraviolet sheen of pedal-effected dyanmics and dapple a vibe of shoegaze and post-punk riffs intercut with glowing synth chimes.  New Hollywood Emotion is such an apt title for these tight pop/rock churns and sweet surfy melodies, because the distinctive songs delve in to moods of melodrama and fancyfree, of ominous dread and heart-achey reverie; it feels like a movie, as these pop songs can suggest a sense of both urgency and escapism, that everything's at stake, and yet maybe nothing at all is...

I can't wait for you to hear the syncopated riffs of "Dust," the earworm melodies of their dance-jam "Telephone," or the complex and spacy glide & churn of "Axiomatic..." The album is released Jan 26, but you can anticipate hearing lots of the songs from New Hollywood Emotion on Saturday night, for the 4th annual Secret Friends Fest. 

Secret Friends Fest is an endearing event that emphasizes camaraderie between artists, and also among fans. It's harder than ever to figure out how to make a band work in a post-Internet music industry; in fact, it can be downright nerve-wracking. SFF serves as a summit where touring bands from around the region can come find a new audience in Detroit, explicitly under a banner of forging a subtle friendship between each band, a way of saying to each other: Hey, sometime in the future, if you need any thing, if I can give you anything, if we can book a show, if you wanna sleep on my couch, just let me know... 
Here's the line up
Main Stage
12 - HALA
11 - Valley Hush
10 - GGOOLLDD (Milwaukee)

Side Stage
11:30 - Tart
10:30 - PARTS(Grand Rapids)
9:30 - don't
8:30 - ARC PELT

In good comapny!! In the last few years PALACES have shared the stage with Day Wave, Disappears (Kranky), NOTHING (Relapse), Saint Motel, Fat White Family (Fat Possum), Cymbals Eat Guitars (Barsuk), Mourn (Captured Tracks) Jacco Gardner (Trouble In Mind), The Big Sleep (Frenchkiss), El Ten Eleven, Cloakroom, Those Darlins (Oh Wow Dang), Beacon (Ghostly Int'l), The Octopus Project (Austin,TX), Breton (Fatcat/UK), Spindrift, Stereo Total (Berlin), PUJOL (Third Man/Saddle Creek) and more.