Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Werewolves Album Release - Feb 2nd

Werewolves combine the menace of metal and the aggressive dynamics of post-punk, but never sacrifice a groove. Not that this is groovy music, per se, above all else it's gritty and guttural first, but there is always an undeniable hook, something like the rhythmic rollick of a rickety boat down some unforgiving rapids. The Stooges had this down when they threaded a steady ballad around that one riff for "Wanna Be Your Dog...," and it's similar with this Flint ensemble's new one "Places To Die."

Yes, it's not exactly a sunny-listen shining in the major key, but something about it trances you in you suddenly start deciphering the emotional language of intense/half-screaming vocalizations. To be a werewolf, anyhow, is to be in a state of surrender to the ferocities inside you that want to come out... Thus...we have a new batch of songs coming out that fit that aesthetic.

There's nuance amid the sturm and drang, like when "Seen Mine Light" brings in a bit of slick 70's rock riffs to open it up, albeit sped up to a tempo of near-terminal velocity. The bass gets your legs loose, the downbeat makes you leave your feet, the guitar riffs unlock your shoulders, and the vocals, again, tap into that wild abandon...because even if this is heavy, fast, or intense, it still taps into what rock n roll should be all about...detachment, and a bit of permissible destructiveness.

Werewolves are at Small's Bar on Saturday, Feb 2nd, for the release of their latest: Path

Vazum - https://www.facebook.com/VAZUMROCKS/

Gold Crayon - https://www.facebook.com/goldcrayonband/

The Sunburns - https://www.facebook.com/thesunburns666/

Thursday, January 17, 2019

An Interview with Steffanie Christi'an

photo by Myron Watkins

Music is not a casual thing for Steffanie Christi'an. Melody, tonality, indelible choruses..., she has exceptional technique as any other artist, but few will reach her all-or-nothing exigency. When you hear Christi'an on a record, be it It's Complicated or Way Too Much, you get the feeling that you are in the studio with her, that this is live, that this is real, that this is urgent, that nothing else matters but this song, this next note... It freezes you, this power that she exerts, and it's a graceful berserker mode, an elegant ferocity, from the tenderness of soul to the coarser propulsion of rock.

Presence is the word. That dynamic voice doesn't so much demand full attention, but soars and envelops any space, be it a club of a few dozen or an unceilinged festival in a park full of hundreds to thousands. She keeps that fiery energy on each recording, but it naturally thrives on a stage. She's been making music all her life, strongly intent on following whatever muse she chooses...and that muse is usually inclined to rock n roll, which we'll talk about here.

It's Complicated is completed, and coming out at the end of next month.Tell me about those songs and what the creation process and recording experiences were like..., and how they might be distinguished from the previous release, Out of Time....
Steffanie Christi'an: Ahhhhh. It’s Complicated is the musical baby birthed by myself and Dean Beanz. It is my first full-length LP and I couldn't be happier for people to finally hear it. It has been a labor of love and I am very proud of it in its entirety.  Out of Time and It’s Complicated are completely different while still both very good in their own right. All but 1 of the 4 songs on Out of Time were recorded with my old band FluxPhonic and we had never properly released those songs. Even though the band is no longer together, it was important to me that those songs still had the opportunity to be heard. In all honesty, I have been recording songs for It’s Complicated since like 2010.  When Dean Beanz and I started working together we were just vibing and creating.  It wasn’t until much later that we decided to move forward and create an album. He is an awesome creative all the way around from marketing, design, production and songwriting.  He is a one-stop shop if you know what I mean.  We just work and write very well together and I feel lucky that we found each other. In short though, It’s Complicated, with every song, encapsulates every fiber of my being.

The New Year has begun.... when you look back on the last couple years..., getting to perform at those events for Aretha Franklin, doing the Thanksgiving Day Parade, putting out the album, what are your big takeaways? Or, are you one to look forward, look back, live in the moment?SC: Around a year or so ago, I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen but I decided that it was time that I start performing at more high caliber shows and to be honest, it just started to happen.  Touring with Taylor Mac for two years didn’t hurt either. Performing with him also gave me a lot of confidence to develop my Tina Turner tribute show.  Whatever the case, the past two years showed me that I can accomplish whatever it is I want as long as I put the work in.  It’s counterproductive to doubt my talent. To be honest, I believe I live in a combination of all three.  Whichever situation lends itself best to my sanity at that time, is the one I live according too.

You've got some dates coming up in the summer that take you out of the states and across the pond. Can you talk about what it's like to perform for audiences outside of the states? And how any of those shows on tour compare to a hometown show here in Detroit?
SC: I have the honor of touring as their vocalist with Detroit’s own techno pioneers, Inner City, to celebrate their 30 year anniversary.  I just love performing in general.  The stage is where my heart is and it is always so exciting but also nerve-wrecking to perform in front of audiences outside of the states. While the audience may love the show, there just may be cultural differences and they don’t react the same way someone in the states would. It’s not a good or a bad thing.  Just different. I don’t think I am going to have that problem on this tour though because fans coming to these shows know exactly what they are coming to get.  And every stop on this tour loves techno and loves Kevin Saunderson.  I’m going to be icing on the cake.  It’s always great performing in front of a Detroit audience.  They are always interactive and you can feel the love. It’s been great watching people sing my songs from the stage.  Really, really, great.

What do you think is the biggest source/influence or experience that led to you becoming such a powerful, passionate, give-it-all performer on a stage... Is there something about the live-ness? about an audience? or about music? something else?
SC: My mom loves all types of music and she had me at 15 so when she was going to all these different concerts she totally brought me along.  Since I was a little girl, I have seen it all and live music has always resonated with me. I also watched the birth of MTV and I was glued to the television.  Once I saw the video for Private Dancer by Tina Turner I knew what I wanted to do and she showed me how to do it.  I actually built my stage presence through performing traditional West Afrikan dance all throughout from middle school until I was in my twenties with different dance groups here in Detroit.  When I first started to professionally write and record songs, it was just me and a guitar.  The first time I recorded with a full band something seriously happened inside of me. I came alive.  I changed in that studio and my voice and presence has never been the same. On that note, I’m super socially awkward and when I’m on stage, I can be whomever I want and all that awkwardness goes right out the window. I guess at the end of the day, I could say being on stage is a total release. When I’m on stage, my alter ego Grace Guns is the one you’re seeing.

I recently spoke with The War & Treaty, and they talked about how their new material was going more toward the direction of Americana and Rock..., but that they were anxious about what the reaction might be, saying that it seemed like they've essentially been initially hemmed into the soul or gospel category by now. Did you encounter anything like that within the rock world, or do you have any advice for anyone who is eager to experiment with their genres? 

SC: I have been asked this question before and it’s such a conundrum because I just find it ridiculous that it even has to be asked! Rock music doesn’t belong to anyone and if you want to get technical, we all know who invented Rock and Roll.  Music is universal and I just find it disheartening when ANYONE feels put into a box.  Rock music is not a gimmick for me.  My mother was punk rocker with a purple mohawk and wore safety pins as earrings and yes she was black!  I grew up listening to The Clash, Sex Pistols, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zepplin and many others.  It’s just who I am and I’ll be damned if anyone thinks they can tell me what kind of music I can enjoy or create because of the color of my skin.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

An Interview with Zilched's Chloë Drallos

Chloë guitar riffs are like a series of tiny explosions, a sustained roil that scintillates through the distortion to augment the rhythms of the drum and bass. It's like the grooved treads of a dirt-bike wheel, revved to near-dangerous velocities and grinding through the mud and soil and splaying it everywhere. It's the coiled foam of a wave that crests off a fiberglass surfboard that's turned at the last second from perilous rocks. It's driving. It instills the urge to stomp one's foot, to flex any muscle, to furrow your brow with a cool catharsis and shake your head to the beat...

Chloë Drallos is the guitarist and lead singer of Zilched, and she can do a much better job of describing her own proclivities toward a sheen of reverb.  Drallos formed the band in the summer of 2017, drawing from a blend of wavy shoegaze, punk, and lo-fi indie-rock. The band features Nick Russo on drums and Elliot Thomas on bass. They released their first single in Feb of 2018  and followed it up by an EP just last November.

I've had a hard time picking a favorite, but I'd like to share the first single, "From The Grave."


Let's talk about reverb, distortion and fuzz! What is it about effecting tones that you enjoy most and what can it add to a song that might be missing if everything was otherwise crisp and crystal clear? 
Chloë Drallos: There’s just so much to feel, in any wall of sound My first time hearing records like (Sonic Youth's) Goo or (Jesus & Mary Chain's) Psychocandy, when I was 16, my views on sound entirely flipped. I think I felt recognized and comforted by the like, flowing, and organized dissonance. If that makes sense...? I don’t necessarily feel anything is missing from a clean tone; many of my favorite songs are very clean and simple guitar songs. It’s all comes down to the means of expression.

Okay, here's just an overarching origin-kinda question: When and how did you start playing guitar.... like, when & what inspired you to start writing songs? And were you in anything before Zilched? 
Chloë  DrallosWell when I was about 12, Bob Dylan was God. Admittedly, It started with a ukulele. After inevitably exhausting that one out, I got an acoustic guitar for Christmas one year and later started a folk band with my cousin, Emily (she was also the original bassist for Zilched). Our songs were about running away, being on the road, and these like dramatic, apocalyptic...love stories... I had no experience on any of these subjects. I think Dylan and The Shins were the first to make me really care about writing, although my interest faded in and out until about mid high school, when my social life was at a low.

My first question was about the guitar, but what about lyrics? I think the effects and guitar phrasing adds to a feeling of on-edgeness that is countered by melodies, but the words in those melodies are also..., for lack of a better word, edgy...or they aren't about perfect love and sunshine and road-trips and parties...they tend to throw this refreshing shoulder-check into the listener... What kind of outlet does lyric writing provide..., is it confessional, cathartic, autobiographical, social commentary... 
CD: Haha..., I’d say it is a mix of both commentary and confession. I’ve always had a lot to say and twice as much on my mind, so I don’t really go in with any intentions other than to lay out my own feelings and make sense of them to myself. Artists like Pj Harvey, (early) Madonna, and Cat Power really opened my eyes to honest songwriting and just laying it all out on the table. I think the “edge” comes from within that honesty. Although I admit I have a much easier time being so blunt through the safety of a song. It’s all more an eye roll than a fist fight, even if the lyrics come off brash. As for the listeners, all I can hope is that they feel something in return.

What was the recording experience for Pulling Teeth like? 
Quick! We recorded and mixed it over the course of three different sessions in the basement of our friend, Bill (who is literally “The Dude”). Basically whenever he had time for us he’d text me and I’d drop everything and head over. Nick, our drummer, having just joined the band, had only known the 5 songs for about a week. We recorded all the drum tracks in just two hours and it was right before a gig one day; bad idea. Later we tracked bass, guitar and vocals in one late night. I’m not trained in any way but I’m still a huge perfectionist when it comes to hearing my own vocals, so that was definitely the longest, hardest part of it all. I had sat on the demos for about two weeks, taking notes on every little idea, before going back to mix and add some more melodies in the last long night. 

Future plans in 2019? 
....Tour! We’re going on our first tour (...starting at the Blockhouse in Bloomington, IN, Jan 26)... Doing a couple short legs, first hitting the Midwest in the end of January and then out to the East Coast early February. You can find all the dates for upcoming shows and festivals on our Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, all that jazz.... Aside from playing new places, (we're) just continually creating and exploring our sound as a band. Maybe we'll release a couple singles as the full length pieces itself together. Just have to wait and see 

Friday, January 4, 2019

An Interview with Jaye Prime

Trying out a new music series where I check in with a different local artist every Friday... It won't matter if they've got something new coming out, or if they do or don't have a show on the horizon. We're just gonna talk! And we're starting off with an artist who I think is going to have an amazing year/future..., Jaye Prime! 

There's no easy way to begin to describe Jaye Prime, because the artist defies alignment with any single specific blueprint, whether its wearing the different hats of singer, rapper, or producer, or alternating modes (or genres) from funk, soul, trip-hop, R&B, rap, or some vibrant Venn Diagram of each all at once.

That’s why I plan to let Jaye Prime do most of the talking here..., but not before we take a listen to her latest single, “Rollin”...

What I might have found unclassifiable in the first paragraph might be a natural reaction to an artist who has gone beyond defining her life by a type of music and has instead defined herself from a perch that poises her at the periphery of all music. She first caught my ear more than two years ago when Assemble Sound produced her single, “Lucid...,” and that’s an affecting title, apt to capture her multifaceted abilities for threading evocative melodies over beat arrangements that forge lyrics of a crystalline reflection, an aural echo of what she encounters, a contemplative cut to the bone expression to capture an experience..., like the lucid surface of water, mirroring back whatever moods, meetings or muses she encounters and coming to her own resolutions.

Jaye Prime grew up on the Westside of Detroit; her parents were both in the local entertainment industry. She followed up that aforementioned 2016 single with an album in 2017, Facing, a conceptual production of forthright confessionals and proclamations stemming from the experience of smoking alone. Along with several collaborations over the past two years, she released “Rollin’” in early December.

What would you consider one of your most formative moments as an artist? What made it clear that you’d be pursuing music, songwriting, lyricism...?
I didn’t grow up in a place where you saw people pursuing music as a real career or a true foundation for what your mark will be as a person in this life. So, for me it’s every interaction I have with supporters. Every conversation I have with stranger telling me my music got them through something or they can’t wait to see me blow up. I’ve always loved music. My parents love music. For lack of better words, I am music. But seeing something I can’t live without, something that I know in my soul I’m meant to do, be a light in someone else’s life, that pushes me to keep going as professional artist.

You’ve steadily carved out your own space over the last two years, blurring between any boundary of genre or categorization. What distinguishes your approach to songwriting, or just your whole creative process...?
Finding my “space” in the world of music is interesting - essentially it’s all vibrations..., so everything I put out is really just energy that’s been poured into me. I wouldn’t consider myself ‘a hip-hop artist’ at all..., i just like my drums banging. FACING is actually more of a reflection of me musically than anything else I’ve done so far & I’m getting better with portraying my mental state musically.

My creative process is still developing. I started out recording alone, in a closet; just doing everything in solitude. But my music is a part of me, so now I feel the need to be involved in all aspects, which makes it all more genuine, more personal. As far as being distinctive from any other traditional approach...? ... I really don’t believe that’s a real thing. Everyone has their freaky ways in the studio: it’s just about finding someone with waves that’s on the same frequency as you, at least for that moment.

I wouldn’t ask if there’s any formula, per se, but are there certain elements, certain moods/feels, or even a message/emotion in the lyrics..., that have to be there before it feels like a Jaye Prime song? Is it a complete openness to experimentation or following wherever a muse takes you?
I don’t usually think about my lyrics initially. I have to get comfortable in the session; almost wanna have some house shoes on & get everybody laughing, feeling like they’re at the crib. If I’m not comfortable, I struggle to not over think... But once I’m comfortable enough to get going, I focus heavy on having the right production before I get into actual “writing”. I’m more into melody first then the words kinda come on their own. I review after I record & see if it aligns with what I may want for the track.

I don’t set expectations for my songs anymore & I’ve made it a point to not worry about writing. If I can remember a song without writing it down, it’s because it feels good to me. That’s what I want & I want you to feel good as a listener. I just go with what feels good. I came up with “Nimbus” when I was driving to work. Wherever I feel it, whatever it’s coming from, I try to embrace it. Good music is just innovated energy.

Are there any artists, contemporaries around the Detroit music scene, that you’ve drawn inspiration from...?
Detroit’s music scene is outrageous - there’s so much that it’s low-key overwhelming sometimes. But recently, I’ve been putting in a lot of work to get back into my live instrumentation bag. I play the trumpet so the jazz scene has been giving me real good vibes lately. One specifically is Ian Fink. I’m really into jazz so seeing someone from my city, close to my age & freaking the genre in their own way like he does super hype.

2019 has only really just begun... What’s the future hold?
My plans really consist of becoming a better artist. Just educating myself in business, practicing theory, studying those that’s been doing this long before I knew what it was. As for music, I have a band called PPT & us playing live is a priority for me so I definitely plan on having more shows. I’ve also been sitting on a good amount of music for some time now so I may drop some grooves here & there.