Friday, July 3, 2015

Frank

Frank wouldn't want to be in the spotlight of this essay.

Frank would rather be on the edge of the stage of this blog, shouting along to every word of the essay as he bangs his head and pumps his fists (and likely jostles everyone else around him with a bit of collateral beer spillage). Because that's what Frank does... he reminds us all why we love what we do, he reignites that same, fresh inspiration to do that thing in the first place, whatever it may be that we do, be it singing, drumming, feather-bowling or writing...

When Frank is in the audience for that thing, you're no longer doubting yourself, you're suddenly charged up (because HE'S charged up...). Is he an angel, like this? Like Clarence, a guardian garage rock angel? What if... (continuing with that It's A Wonderful Life analogy)...Frank wasn't here, in this scene...? Imagine every show you've experienced, maybe something he performed or maybe something where he just stood (and jumped and wobbled) beside you... Take him out of that scenario and it's like the vibrant technicolor sunshine is drained and becomes pale, bleak...boring...



No one could pinpoint what it is that Frank gives this scene (and by extension, gives each of us) and yet...at the same time... his name could easily be a one word answer to the question: What do you love most about the Detroit scene, right now? Because whatever it is that you're getting at is probably embodied, heart & soul, by this four limbed, orange-haired, wild-eyed Tasmanian devil-tornado-fit of a human being... He could walk into any room (or even the boundless outdoors) and supernaturally emanate the enticing electric clangor of a guitar riffing outward and stimulating the ether... The man is a rock n' roll song onto himself... Egoless, without a mean bone in his body, and talented in his own right...he's essentially rough-hewn muse that this music scene needs ...

If we're all part of a parade, he's the Marshall... If we're a baseball team then he's somehow The Babe and the Phillie Phanatic at the same time! (Blasphemous that I didn't make a Tigers reference here... sorry, Frank...but I'm rolling....and if I'm rolling...then it's because you inspire me....)

Ray Thompson once called Frank "...a one-man audience..." There could be four or maybe five people there when you're set begins and maybe there's only six when the set ends...but if that sixth person wound up being Frank Woodman? It was a good set!

To Frank!



Thursday, July 2, 2015

Girls Rock Detroit & Seraphine Collective (Weekend Concerts)

We’re going to start with GIRLS ROCK DETROIT


Starting July 13th, this Detroit-based music education organization will offer its first week-long summer camp for girls and female-identifying youth (ages 8-16). The camp, covering band coaching, songwriting workshops and basic instrument lessons, will be hosted at the Michigan State University Community Music School.

The goal is to inspire creativity, build positive self-esteem and instill a sense of community for young girls interested in learning music or getting involved in a music scene. Each of the instrument instructors, band coaches and counselors are women or female-identifying volunteers (many of whom come with substantial experience in the Detroit-area music scene). There is no requirement of any formal music experience for the Girls Rock Detroit camp. The idea is to provide a safe, positive environment for campers, led by a group of supportive role models.

You can learn more about Girls Rock Detroit here: http://www.girlsrockdetroit.org/
They’re still working through the formal application process to become a 501©3 non-profit, but if you’d like to donate, click here:
http://givingto.msu.edu/crowdpower/girls-rock-detroit.cfm

One of the leaders of Girls Rock Detroit is Ypsi-based multi-instrumentalist/singer Melissa Coppola, who performs with Stefan Carr in JUNGLEFOWL. So let’s move onto some concerts to catch this weekend:

July 3 - JUNGLEFOWL performs at the Crossroads Bar & Grill (517 W. Cross, Ypsi) with The Sugar Bombs and Tesla’s Revenge (touring in from New York). Info:
http://on.fb.me/1QPUWex

There's a benefit concert next weekend (July 10). More info




Meanwhile, there’s the Seraphine Collective, a Detroit based music community that is comparably promoting a similar sense of openness, positivity and encouraged cooperation amid a music scene. 

They’re organizing/hosting two local concerts over in Detroit that feature Arbor/Ypsi talent.

July 2 – Best Exes (Jim Cherewick & Linda Ann Jordan’s new group) perform at the new Hybrid Moments space (2144 Bagley St in Detroit) with performances by Haunted, Double WinterK9 Sniffles and Blurb (touring in from Chicago. Info: http://on.fb.me/1LBxtHj

July 3 – Rebel Kind perform at Trumbullplex with Stef, Broken Water (from Washington) and Weed (from Vancouver). More info: http://on.fb.me/1GpW9Pq

Warhorses + VSTRS dual album release show July 10

July 10
Double Release Show: Warhorses Burning Desire 7”  &  VSTRS s/t
The Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave)
ft. Pewter Cub / Rogue Satellites / Night of the Night Bees / Phtalo Sky
$5 (21+)  /  9pm
INFO
 

“The whole trip becomes more interesting when your band is adventurous and takes the long view….”
Michael O’Connor, singer/bassist, VSTRS

“Our direction is only to go where the music takes us….We leave ourselves open to channeling the energy that surrounds us…”
Kristin Lyn, drummer, Warhorses



Two Detroit rock outfits found themselves wrapping up projects at the same time and decided to throw a dual release party… Both Warhorses and VSTRS occupy an indiscernible and vaporous nether-realm of rock, sparked with a pale supernatural glow to their tones and timbers, curtained with spooky distortions and dizzying echoes, propelled by an aggressive rhythmic arrangements and combustible guitar solos… You’d call Warhorses psychedelic if not for their more gothic and cinematic sensibilities… You’d call VSTRS prog, maybe, or even space-rock if not for it being more grounded by its hybrid blend of garage-stomp and post-alt-rock grind.

For Warhorses, there’s certainly a darkness, but something more dreamy or cerebral about it…
For VSTRS (Visitors), there’s not necessarily a concept… (again, not prog,) but it’s definitely aspiring (or journeying) toward something headier than just another rock trip…

Art by Camille Rose Garcia
“Our interest in the dark side is more to shed light on it,” said Warhorses’ drummer Kirstin Lyn. “That takes its power away. We can then harness that power and intensity into creating our heavy grooves. I mean, there’s so much chaos, death and destruction in this world…and although that’s part of life, we use our music as a way to channel those dark feelings and ideas and turn them into something positive.”





The concept for VSTRS, meanwhile, was to work toward building something more organic. Bassist Michael O’Connor and drummer Zach Pliska wanted to move away from the route of their last band, which followed built-in electronics and looping structures. “I was interested in movements of melodic space and aggression within the same piece…(but) without some of the more traditional psych-rock elements…I think that’s one of the concepts that everyone was attracted to (in VSTRS).”

Warhorses features Mike Alexander on lead vocals/guitar, with Lyn on drums, along with Eric “EZ” Myers on guitar and Nathan Miller on bass.

VSTRS has O’Connor and Pliska as its rhythm section, with DJ Sovey on synth, Katie Galazka on vocals and, again, Myers on guitar. Myers serves as guitarist and engineer for both bands.

Among Warhorses most prominent influences, the psychedelic styles are surely stitched into the sleeve, but it’s the grittier, dried-blood brooding energies of the Jesus & Mary Chain, BRMC or Grinderman that growl the loudest… With VSTRS, having started out, essentially, as a Pink Floyd cover band, that spacious, swaying epicness is forms the sonic umbrella for the tightened art-rock flickers of Radiohead and the erratic guitar ballets of Gish-era Pumpkins…

With both bands wrapping up material around the same time, the idea sprung to make a super-sized event out of it, invite as many bands as possible and split the sets between two stages to subtract any downtime.

“We just wanted to put together a fun show with as little pretense as possible,” O’Connor said. “Having been around the scene for a minute, it seems a release show is less about ascension or trying to garner one of the latest buzz-bands and much more about the people who’ve meant something along the way, whose musical and artistic pursuits have, at the same time, been impressive. “

“Camaraderie within the Detroit music scene is very important to us and we do our best to help boost that; most musicians in this town are very supportive of one another. We’re thrilled to have Night of the Night Bees, Pewter Cub, Pthalo Sky and Rogue Satellites join us,” said Lyn.

The Rogue Satellites, it should be noted, make an appearance in the Warhorses new music video for the single “Burning Desire.” The video was produced by Gold House Media (Kevin Eckert & Natasha Beste) and will premier the night of the show.


Stay tuned via the Warhorses Facebook for updates on the video’s premier as well as further info about the show: https://www.facebook.com/warhorses
Pre order the vinyl 7" (via Escape Velocity Records) here: warhorses.bandcamp.com 






Meanwhile, you can preview the tracks on VSTRS s/t via their bandcamp: https://visitorsarehere.bandcamp.com/track/traveling


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tart: These Are Not Love Songs


Tart is not (merely) a pop duo and these new tracks are not love songs...


Who wants their music pre-packaged into such a cramped categorical cube?

Despite their minimalist set up, the Detroit-based duo of singer/lyricist Zee Bricker and guitarist Adam Michael Lee Padden are showing a lot more breadth on their second EP These Are Not Love Songs, finding a way to fill out the sound with more samples, sleeker percussive arrangements, richer harmonic layers and an even stronger vocal delivery (by Bricker), crisply captured by producer John Smerek.

There's more punch (with opener "Buzz" revving with a clenched riff and a twitchy, quavering vocal delivery) and more pared back poignancy (somber, star-gazing slowdancer of a closer with "Stasis"). The cardio-kick-up of those techno-inclined dance-club drum samples have tightened up under Padden's acrobatics (some strange bridge between the celestial barrel-rolls of a Jonny Greenwood and the smooth, shimmying funk chording of Niles Rodgers).

Take, for instance, the interesting cycloning riffs that build up and then cascade downward through the chorus of "Hello..." showing a strengthened sense for song craft that builds (and releases) tension.



But then, they're not exactly dance songs, just like they aren't love songs... Call it electro-rock, if you really wanna hang something on it... But then you have the balladry of Bricker that joins the likes of Lykke...Florence...or Zola... able to belt something with so much power and presence and yet keep the vocal melody lithe enough to spring upon the buoyant beat arrangements, pairing a sense for the theatrical with the enticing abandon inherent to a flat-out fun kind of dance-pop jam. Which is so fitting for Tart, because in their first two years they've essentially established a proclivity for encouraging the scenesters to let their hair down a bit, get close, dance... The opposite of "stasis..."

https://tart.bandcamp.com/track/hello


Tart is releasing These Are Not Love Songs on Saturday, July 11 with a concert at The New Dodge Lounge (8850 Jos Camp, Hamtramck) INFOFeaturing: The Handgrenades / Belterra / Fluffer 




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Motor City Gear Gala: An Audible Arts & Crafts Fair (Sunday)

Gear adds vibrancy, provides augmentation, widens the scope...

Or it makes you louder. Gives a tone complexity. Allows your voice to echo-(co...co....co....) 

"...with (guitar) pedals..." said local musician Dustin Mclaughlin, "having multiple delays is like having 10 shades of green to choose from... Different colors in your crayon box..." 

"The unique thing about musical gear," said singer/guitarist Jason Stollsteimer (of PONYSHOW), "is that there's always something new and someone's always willing to push the envelope to see what sounds they can create and harness." 

Motor City Gear Gala
June 28 @ The Rust Belt Market (9 Mile & Woodward in Ferndale)
11 am - 6 pm (FREE)
Full line up and more information 
 
Stollsteimer and Mclaughlin are a pair of particular gearheads who have respectively accumulated considerable collections of equipment, either from certified addictions or just from the passing of time & different bands/tours... 

The Gear Gala they helped organize aims to engage the entire music scene of SE Michigan, not just the hip indie rock groups or the epic psych-rock ceiling shakers, but every musician out there, everyone with a guitar or a mic or a K-Oscillator or a drum machine or whatever...everyone interested in experimentation (or augmentation) of their sound and their songs. Tables are for rent for anyone interested in selling their gear. Professional retailers and repair services will also be at the Gala, equipment ranging from pedals, to cables, recording and guitars. There still might be some time to reserve a table if you email motorcitygeargala@gmail.com right now! 

"I've been paying for multiple storage units full of random pieces of musical gear for years," said Stollsteimer. "It was time to find new homes for said-gear. When I posted on Facebook that I was interested in parting with some of my collection, someone suggested I have a gear show. I immediately thought that my friend (Mclaughlin) might be interested, as he works with & loves pedals. So...we're both hoping, now, that this can be a yearly event." 

The Motor City Gear Gala can bring together not just the collectors but also innovators in new musical gear all based around the Michigan area. 

"Working for a local music retailer and effects-pedal company," said Mclaughlin, "the idea immediately sparked to gather up as many local music equipment manufacturers as possible and do a showcase instead of just a garage-sale type of gear swap (even though that's still part of it!) It's audible arts & crafts fair showcasing specifically local talent." 

The duo hopes to start building a community around gear and sound innovation. "(We'll) get together, share notes, techniques..." said Mclaughlin. "I think there are more than enough manufacturers doing exciting things locally to make an event out of it."

The other intention is to defy typical expectations of a 'guitar show...' "We want the guitar guy to come in and check out Renaud Audio's table and learn about synthesizers," said Mclaughlin. "Or, a young musician can talk with the folks at DIME (Detroit Institute of Music Education) about perusing a professional career in music." He points to Wallace Guitars as just one example for further insight and education, as the green-minded designers use reclaimed, old growth wood from historic buildings in Detroit to make the bodies of their guitars. "They're literally using the roots and foundation of our city to make something musical!" 

So get in touch (via email) or just be sure to swing by the Rust Belt Market this Sunday. The duo, we'll reiterate, are hoping that this can not only become a yearly event, but also build more bridges throughout the scene. 

"From the earliest recordings of putting razorblade slits in your speaker cone to create a distorted effect to recording a vocal track in your tile bathroom to emulate reverb..." Mclaughlin said, "...to the fuzz pedal, the Moog synths, rack gear, the effects pedal boom...all of it. Different shades of expression and the different colors musicians can use to get the sound in their head out onto the canvas is what keeps us inspired." 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Armed - Paradise Day (Release Show June 26)


The Armed
LP Release show (Future Drugs)
June 26
w/ Child Bite and Reverend
@ The Majestic Cafe (9 pm / $7)



Above^ ...dig the new video for Detroit-based punk collective The Armed's "Paradise Day," a single from their Untitled debut album. The Armed's songs are buzzsaw blurs that bludgeon together elements of early 80's hardcore, thrash, pure punk, extreme metal and whole other kind of unique mutation.

This short film showcases the acting chops of Trevor Naud (singer/guitarist from Zoos Of Berlin), embodying a wiry and weird office worker who apparently has a lot of steam to blow off...bwo a karaokee session in which he essentially channels the intense energy of The Armed's music upon a modest stage, forceful enough to fizz up the vigor of every attendee in the room...

You wanna check out more of Untitled's voracious cycloning conniptious cacophonies...? Just go over to their bandcamp. The group recorded with Kurt Ballou (Converge) at his God City Studios (with Baptists' drummer Nick Yacyshyn sitting in with them). The Armed's Untitled, via
No Rest Until Ruin records, will be thunderously celebrated with a release show in Detroit this Friday at The Majestic Cafe. 

More info: https://www.facebook.com/thearmed





Santiparro (VIDEO) "The Benefit Of Confrontation" featuring Will Oldham

Earlier in the year I interviewed singer/songwriter Alan Scheurman about his newest album, released under his recently adopted moniker Santiparro

It was posted in two parts (here and here) via The Ann Arbor Current, online. His journey, spiritually and musically, over the last 5-6 years is intriguing and insightful, particularly the moment where the iconic indie-folk mystic Will Oldham looks him in the eye and instills the last needed shunt of inspiration for him to eventually go off into the wilderness and begin recording inside a cabin... The results of which were True Prayer.

This week, Santiparro released the first music video from the album...

Santiparro "The Benefit Of Confrontation" featuring Will Oldham

In which...Will Oldham (Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) visits Santiparro's wintery cabin for an intimate healing ceremony. 



Director: Ben Dickinson

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Julian Paaige - The Right Kind Of Crazy


Friday June 19
Julian Paaige releases The Right Kind Of Crazy A Masquerade and an Album Release Show hosted at The UFO Factory
ft. an experimental set by Sienna Rise (with Marcie Bolan and Phil Skarich)
9 PM  -  $7  (gets you a mask and a CD) 

...creep folk...creep garage... creep pop... Julian Paaige has reclaimed that off-putting word, mixing it into a precious and enticing sort of decoupage to gloss upon a range of genres, and embodying its original essence... as something that was a bit weirder than weird, something you couldn't pin down, something that hooks you but you can't say why...

"Creep pop just means me, inside..." said Paaige. "The songs come straight from me. If people ask me to describe it I just say it's my insides coming out, trying to put the emotion almost three-dimensional into a song, so it's though you're right there."



 The Right Kind Of Crazy has the instrumentation (organs, pianos, acoustic guitars) of a folk record, but it's wonderfully wrung into an outlandish realm of punk-slung theater passionately belted by a half-crooning, half-yowling minstrel-type. "Duel For Two" has the reverb rumble of surf-rock shuffling in at its opening but it mutates into something more sinister sounding through its punching verses, eventually sweetening (in tone and tempo) into a buoyant throwback-pop ditty in its chorus (albeit with vocals that kiss you with strychnine-smudges on its lips). And so, why is it so enticing to listen to...? It's almost creepy...

"I guess I'm just a dark romantic..." Paaige said. Because, at the end of the day, however eccentric his vision might be, these are still love songs...pop songs, really...



And however strange his take, it still speaks to something primal inside of us...setting his songs to a catchy beat or swayed to an emotive melody, Paaige is rendering his only-slightly-twisted skew on the lovelorn singersongwriter trope.

Paaige recorded these songs with musician George Friend. "It was at his house in Southfield. My guitar amp was in his kids room and drums were in the living room... I'm proud and I do feel like I've grown from the last album. But, I still feel I have lots to improve upon..."

What's striking, what's so catchy...that is...is probably the purity of these songs. They're simple, to the point... What's so creep about that...?? It's just the right kind of crazy...

More info on the release show HERE

Julian Paaige on Facebook

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Landmarks: Aiming High

Friday, June 19
The Blind Pig presents:
Nigel & The Dropout / The Euphorics / Wych Elm / The Landmarks
9:30pm / $5 / (18+)
Info 
Been meaning to get an interview with The Landmarks up here... This seemed as good o' time as any; here goes:



Now...think back to the turn of the century… Indie rock was going through a strange new transformation. The cool tantrums and drawling croons of a garage revival were starting to fuse with the more complex phrasings and acrobatic percussion of space & math rock. Then, with synthesizers surging into the equation (and a tacit ingrained urge to find some cheer or, if not, some hope in those bleaker early years of the 21st century), a danceability began forging itself to the feet of this new hybrid sound…

So this new sound, a crashing and dynamic rock energy, catapulted by soaring guitars through glitzy clouds of synthesizers and sweetened with melodies that knew just when to hit those provocative minor keys, began hitting the ear of The Landmarks during their most formative listening years, just on the cusp of college. It wound up significantly influencing the music they'd eventually start writing in 2013. 

Guitarist Jack Uppling acknowledges those origins: “Yeah, the Strokes, Radiohead, Phoenix and Julian Casablancas’ solo stuff are all artists that we all liked. The Killers were definitely an early influence…”

The group came together two years ago in Ann Arbor. Uppling followed the same approach as The Killers and went with a Craigslist ad to get a group together. The urge, for Uppling, was to finally a legitimate, longterm rock band. Each member has been playing music for several years (or longer) but none of them committed those talents to a full time group such as they have with the Landmarks. Uppling, along with drummer Martin Maginity had at least been in a group before but this would be singer Laja Olaiya and bassist Colin Freeman’s first real go at it. The band formed at Freeman’s house on William St in Ann Arbor. Maginity and Freeman are Michiganders born and raised, while Olaiya and Uppling came here from Chicago.

So, listen closer to the rigid/smooth guitar interplay, the kinetic beat and the varyingly swaying and surging vocal delivery, and you can hear elements of new wave pop, digging back from the Phoenix influence and deeper into the roots of a rock sound with a bit more brio to it, ala The Smiths, or The Cure or even some New Order (with those dazzling synths). “It’s hard to choose who to list…” Uppling said.

Check out their latest music video for “Aim High” (from last December’s Schisms EP):

And Olaiya’s bringing a contemplative poet’s side to the verve of his melodic lyrics with Morrissey-esque musings like: “now...I’m struggling with my refracted truth / I’ve compacted subtle ties into a mine of diamonds…” Not bad, for his first band…

“We all kinda do our own thing when it comes to writing the songs,” said Olaiya. “But, when we all meet up and put it together it can be pretty special.”

Olaiya considers that period, early on, when they fell into a workable groove, in terms of collaboratively composing their songs, to be a particularly formative moment for the group.
But, Uppling recalls something else that helped them bond, the inherent energy from a crowd, an energy that they could stoke with their songs but then also feed off of, a primal kind of dialogue between performer and audience. And then, maybe the cops show up…? “We played a Co-Op’s house show in Ann Arbor for hundreds of kids. They were really into it. But, the cops came after we finished our last song… Still, that night was one of the first times we really thought we had something.”

Two years on, the band continues to challenge themselves to write a better, tighter song each time. “Every time we finish a new song,” said Freeman, “it seems to feel different or feel like it's from a whole new band, which is good. We’re always experimenting and trying to get the best out of every song.”

Uppling said that they’ll even play the music of one song and have (Maginity) play the beat for another song, just to try a mash up of their original music. That said, writing songs as a band succeeded in bringing them closer together as bandmates and friends and even fed into a new found confidence “and overall great vibe and timing…” Maginity said, that wasn’t there before.

The Landmarks recently recorded four new songs to follow up Schisms but they’re going to take their time a bit. The plan is to release each as a single, one at a time, streaming online. Then, later in the summer or fall, bring all seven songs together to compile a proper full length debut for an audience that, Uppling hopes, will have only grown over this forthcoming summer.

Though the group is based over in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area, they’ve said they often feel more at home here during their Detroit shows. “We have still never had someone be rude to us at a Detroit show,” Uppling said, “and…that’s not really always the case with Ann Arbor. We’re definitely not going to give up on the Ann Arbor/Ypsi scene and we think it has tons of potential.” But Detroit, they’ve found, tends to get a bit more amped for a Landmarks live set…that could be the heavier rock element or it could mean one city crowds have less self-restraint than another…? Who needs to start that old debate again…

One thing’s for sure… Detroit certainly has more (actual) landmarks… But let’s just listen to some music, eh?


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Appleseed Collective (Playing Ann Arbor Summer Fest Friday)

It’s one thing to play the string band jams of the folk and Americana traditions… The Appleseed Collective enlivens that music and gives it soul. 

The Ann Arbor quartet's percussion ranges from washboard clacks to stand-up bass slaps, hand claps and chiming desk bells, their backing vocals harmonize with a hearty heave under the lead singer’s honkytonk-ish warbling, while a splendid melody is lovingly sewn through an interweaving thread between the guitar, mandolin and violin.  It puts the waltzing spirit in you, makes you want to hike along a woodsy riverside, and incites you to sing along…




This Friday, you can catch The Appleseed Collective at the North University Stage for the 2015 Ann Arbor Summer Festival (8:30 pm).

While the Appleseed Collective’s signature style is exemplary of the swinging string-strumming folk music that embodies much of this annual musical celebration, they are just one of dozens of bands scheduled throughout the month of June, with performances hosted at a handful of stages at the Top Of The Park (N. University, between Fletcher & Thayer in Ann Arbor).

Other features of the AA Summer Fest include an all acoustic stage, a KidZone Tent and screenings of feature films like Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, E.T. and Ghostbusters. Other local folk favorites to catch include October Babies and Fangs and Twang (June 17), Timothy Monger (June 18), Misty Lyn and The Big Beautiful and The Ragbirds (June 23) and many many more. 

Here’s the full schedule: http://a2sf.org/desktop/#top-of-the-park And check out the big name headliners: http://a2sf.org/desktop/#mainstage

Earlier in the year, The Appleseed Collective released a definitive Live Album from a particularly spirited performance at The Ark in Ann Arbor. For more sonic samplings, follow: https://theappleseedcollective.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-the-ark



The Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Board, Management and Consultants have continued to present this community with an engaging multi-arts festival celebrating both local culture and artistic talent from around the world. The Summer Festival’s mission, a partnership between the city and the University of Michigan for more than 30 years, has always aimed towards enriching the cultural, economic and social vitality of the region. 

AmericaJR has an interview/festival preview for this year via YouTube: https://youtu.be/pEpR0PARjPc

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Good Things



Ryan Cox isn't a songwriter.

Here's a song he wrote:


Ryan Cox isn't a musician... Even though he plays guitar, piano, drums, bass and sings in multiple octaves, harmonizing with himself. And, he isn't a singer, either. Or, so he'll claim. He doesn't consider himself anything like the typical conception of a songwriter, producer, musician or singer...even though he's been honing those crafts for several years now.

"It's a Frankensteinian way of building songs..." Cox said. "It really is much more of a mad scientist tract...I patch things together, recording the parts live and then piecing them all together."

The Good Things is a band, or at least I suppose you could call it that. You'll likely never see them perform live. And by them, I technically am only implying Cox. The 28-year-old writer, teacher, jack-of-all-trades-type, grew up in Michigan and has been spending the last few years taking deep dives into his soul, digging through his past to mine some profound revelations that become rendered into pop songs.

It's a sense of irony that draws him to an ebullient pop song, bursting with its major keys and jaunty tempos. "A lot of the songs, textually, relate to things most often construed as 'downers.' Major keys are typically associated with happiness. Bringing them together is cathartic in a way; it offers perspective. Breaking up can feel like the greatest tragedy ever, but looking at the event from another perspective might lead to a happy sounding sing-a-long, like 'My Wife.'"


Though he's recorded (and re-recorded) a fair amount of songs that feature a complex overlay of vocals, guitars, drums and myriad homespun effects, he's never had any formal training, neither in instrumentation or sound engineering. And yet, these songs have become like his great life's work, a sonic sculpture that he could possibly whittle away at forever, if no one stops him (...if anyone could stop him).

"I have a very complex relationship with recording," Cox says, not specifically referring to his unique methods, but more to the emotional rigors it rolls him through. "A lot of it is driven just by the need to get stuff out of my head, so that they can stop haunting me. It's definitely a therapy. Every record is...like, if you were to dig into them deeper, you'd really just be reading my memoirs."

His methods manifest in extensive and exhaustive sessions, recording, re-recording, adding, subtracting, adding....adding.....adding....and, most of all, figuring it all out on his own, finishing up recordings in a basement, in a closet, in a bedroom, in a laundry room, with his own sound-proofing, his own mics, his own shitty drum kits and his own protools. He already has three albums imagined in his head. One a hallucinogenic Roald Dahlian-meets-David-vs-Goliath fantasy trip, another as a 1940's radio play about a character named Spooky Charlie. They aren't fully written yet or even recorded, but they're in there.

This album isn't a debut, but it still feels like an introduction. Unlike the next EP and full-length that he's currently working on, I Am The Good Things features contributions from Joel Hardin, John Morales, Joseph Krawczak, and Lisa Martin, with one track, "Wasting Time," recorded with Jim Diamond. 

I Am The Good Things has been in the works for a few years, now. The delay has not been entirely due to Cox's half-meticulous/half-haphazard process; it mostly ties directly into his atypical motivations for making music. You see, Cox isn't going to tour, he isn't going to play the Lager House or the Loving Touch and he isn't going to tweet about his music or make a music video. He doesn't want that idealized/coveted lifestyle of touring the country and living off his music for the rest of his life...

The goal, if you'll call it that, is to "quit doing all the other crap that I do that I don't wanna do...which is most things..." as he says.

Now, that sounds familiar, but it's a little more complex than that. Cox's real ambition is to apply to the University of Michigan Writing Program, a terminal Masters of Fine Arts degree. The hope is to sell enough  music online so that he can eventually pay off the rest of his student loans and forge ahead. Not that he has ulterior motives, so to speak, its just that, as I said, he wears a lot of hats. Those hats have caused the delay.

One of those hats Cox wears, from his various degrees, molded him into a writer, a storyteller... Cox has an associates degree in Liberal Arts and Cinematic Arts and a bachelor's in English with a minor in Film Studies. He's got his eye on being a professor, someday. But first things first: he wants a Masters in Creative Writing. Hence, this music...these therapeutic three-minute bursts of sunshine-soaked Brit-pop revivalism...could be a way to get closer to that academic achievement.

He's also a teacher. He tutors regularly and works with local colleges. He's also consistently writing and editing both his own work and the works of others, coordinating a fledgling writers community through monthly or bi-monthly short-story competitions.

Its just that lately, his storyteller-hat has been utilized to foster these vivid and wildly imaginative ideas, veiled metaphors for his own life experience, in song-form, spanning a blend of genres from fantasy, to sci-fi adventures and hard-boiled, film-noirish mysteries. These piano and guitar-centric, hand-clap heavy pop ballads that he's working on are intricately sutured into unconventional song structures with a dazzling, sometimes dizzying patchwork of polyharmonies, doubled drum tracks and detached, tempo-defiant bridges evoking an aural sense of a song within a song. (Or, sometimes, that you are hearing nine voices at once... Wrong, you might be hearing 18 or 19 voices...)

"The music thing is mostly therapeutic," said Cox. "I can't imagine ever making enough money to even make a dent in these student loans, let alone finance any academic future (through music). It would be nice to make enough money from each record to make the next record. Self-sufficient. Since I'm a garbage-popper, my records aren't very expensive to make. They're just time consuming. However, I have been thinking more and more of trying to monetize—or finding someone to try and monetize—my music. It'd be great to find a following of 10,000 people I could sell a $7 record to every other year. I just don't think that is realistic for me and what I do."
The hope is to focus on multiple projects. The conundrum is how to do that in a world where listeners are opting for a streaming-consumption of their music instead of direct support of independent artists. Cox's quirk, and he has many, is that he doesn't just want to do music; and it's not merely a springboard for his admittedly wider-eyed future plans, but just another form of creative expression. 

These songs are the movies in his head, made manifest as though his voice and his hand-claps and his strange scraping sounds of the guitar embodied the smoky gray light of a projector emanating the images and frames of his psychosis, his soul, his life story, his sense of humor...all of it, crammed together in awkward grace, in the form of exuberant pop music.
Because Cox wants to focus on several other projects, including workshops with young artists, young writers, young aspiring filmmakers. He wants to foster that writer's community that's taking root with the Drabble competitions. He just doesn't want to be bored. And, in a way, to only just play music, week to week, show to show, touring, recording...that would be less fulfilling or, rather...boring, to Cox.


Milo: Do you think storytellers are artists?

Cox: Yeah of course

Milo: Would you consider yourself one?

Cox: Nah, that's a trick question. That's fucked up! (laughs) Alright, I guess I have to use the A-word...I don't feel like one. I don't consider myself an artist in terms of what I'm doing...

Milo: And yet if you make an album, it's a work of art

Cox: It's got to be...and also, if it's listed on iTunes, it would say "Artist" as a category. But you know how I am about words and titles and classifications...I don't fit in that world. And I don't see it as a craft...Man, now that you've got me thinking about it, I feel existentially concerned...

Milo: Maybe don't question it. Maybe just go with what works best for you...

Cox: Still trying to figure out what that is...

Milo: What about performing or sharing these songs

Cox: I don't care about playing my own songs. I don't care about playing-songs!

Milo: Do you care about an audience?

Cox: To an extent, but more so, I care about people...

Milo But what is this work saying to someone...It will engage an audience.

Cox: I think I can be selfish about why I do this. It's therapeutic. It's haunting me.  I don't have a choice in some ways. I'm bothered by a melody or something that just has to come out. But I'm considering this financial perspective to music, lately, the need for a target audience...If I'm able to make a record every other year and sell it for $5 per record...that's still plenty then to upgrade toward the next record and still be able to teach in the summer and the fall. I have to consider an audience, now... As far as them getting what I'm intending? It's more just wanting to get it done for me, so it won't bother me....Who am I writing for? I'm not...looking to be commissioned for songs. I'm just looking to be not-bothered by them. Taking a noise and turning it into something you can enjoy for the rest of your life is a cool process!

Milo: What about sharing this enjoyable experience?

Cox: That's hard for me. It's weird...


It is weird. Because I think he might be a savant, a sure-fire pop-song virtuoso, albeit achieved through seemingly implausible, long-way-around implementations of both whimsy and wisdom... And yet, he isn't going to tour and...these songs won't be on your Satellite radio stations, despite how enjoyable they really are... Thankfully I Am The Good Things IS coming out, some way or another, and these songs can be enjoyed.