Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Song Premiere: Ancient Language - "Fear For Love"

Ancient Language were at a tipping point last summer. And it seemed that Christopher Jarvis was too: Departing Detroit for the adventure of Arizona a year ago, the producer/keyboardist/electro-wizard and founding member of Ancient Language went off to follow his second (non-musical) passion of film/videography.

This summer, the band, with Zachary Jarvis and Matthew Beyer, are still at a tipping point--just, now, toward a different direction, than before...

Ancient Language:
left to right: Chris (Jarvis), Matthew Beyer, Zach (Jarvis) 

The band, which started out in 2011 as just Jarvis' own arrangements on keyboards/drum-machines and laptops, soon evolved into a solid live presentation cerebral/funk/dream-pop, as a duo, with his brother Zachary on a formidable electric bass. But not long after that, Matthew Beyer would join, adding his atmospheric skronk/jazz-saxophone, and Matthew Hofman would cast a dazzling auxiliary cloud of spacey intonations on guitar.

They were at that moment... The band, its sound, its signature, had seemed to congeal. They just about packed out the Marble Bar for a release party of 2016's EP everybody forgives everyone for everything with its keen hybridist's sensibility for spilling out chill, contemplative, danceable, and diverse pop/electronica vibes...

But then Jarvis moved out of town, and it seemed like a new career, or at least a second option (film, rather than music) was taking shape out in Arizona. Among a handful of projects, he composed the score for a film that screened at Sundance. I wondered when Jarvis might come back; I wondered when we might here some more music from Ancient Language....

I've delayed it WAY too long. But let's get RIGHT to it...
Ancient Language are BACK. They're performing next weekend at Corktown Strut.
AND, continuing our Thursday Singles Premiere series, I'm excited to share their latest:
"Fear For Love"

And so here is "Fear For Love..."
The ambient swell from those synths opens things up, until an otherworldly xylophone leads in before a furtive drum march. These urgent percussive elements harmonize over the calmer, breathing synthesizers before the most distinct aspect of "new Ancient Language" heaves in--that being the lead vocals of Beyer. His subtly soulful, airy voice seems so perfectly matched to the sonic landscapes that Jarvis has created that its almost a wonder they hadn't considered going this route from the beginning.

Beyer's delivery evokes a sense of being swept off with a gale, until that guitar crests in like a bracing wave, something not as pretty as the synths or bass, but more guttural; cathartic. The cinematic drama slices in at the second verse when synthetic-violin sounds saw into a strange harmony with a twinkling riff, before it settles down into this pocket in the bridge where the bass can bloom and the percussion starts weaving tighter, transforming what was once ambient and swooning, into a trancelike propulsion-- Something to dance to..., move to....

While we have an interview with Chris Jarvis below, we should note that the song you're streaming while visiting this site was written by the other two-thirds members of Ancient Language-- Beyer, and Zach Jarvis.

Interview w/ Christopher Jarvis

"Fear For Love" is such a departure from when you were on The Milo Show, where you did "Alive Tonight." What influenced this shift? Was it Arizona? Something else that had been bubbling up? 

Christopher Jarvis:    Playing your show was the first time we performed as a 4 piece but when I first started writing that album I didn't intend on playing it that way. Having Matt (Beyer) fully onboard from the beginning, for this album, it just sort of naturally shifted into the direction we're going in now. I do agree this single is unlike anything we've done before. I just thinks its a result of more collaboration happening. Matt and Zach (Jarvis) wrote Fear For Love. Zach and I wrote the rest of them together, which was new. I think with every album we're getting closer and closer to the music we want to be to be making.

When the new songs were coming together, what kinds of conversations were you, Matt, and Zach? What was weighing on your minds, or serving as your main muse, over this last year?

Jarvis:     Most of the conversations we had were about feeling and tone, conveying emotions, making something that hopefully people can connect with and relate to. What inspires me right now is collaborating. I love hearing what my friends come up with. It's always surprising and nothing like anything I'd ever think of. That's what really excites me right now. I used to be kind of a control freak and wanted to control every aspect of a song or production. Learning to let go and relinquish some of that control to people I trust has been incredibly rewarding.

That Corktown Strut set from last year was an interesting sorta time-stamp/marker. Now, one year later, with both you and singer James Linck, with whom you've collaborated, returning after both having left Detroit, what's that feel like? I mean..., talk about just the experience of being away, of working in another art form for a while, of being an a new environment and how influenced the way you were thinking about or approaching music...

Jarvis:    I was so isolated in Arizona (that) I'm not really sure how much of that environment made it into the album, I'm sure it must have in ways I can't quite see. But we wrote most of the music before I moved there and we've just been steadily chipping away, making changes, rewriting, adding and subtracting, getting the arrangements just right. We wrote 2 of the songs in Arizona. But: is music. We did approach writing differently this time, but I don't think it necessarily had anything to do with our environment. We knew we wanted to do something different with this album even before I moved there.

What about after Corktown Strut? What's up next for Ancient Language? 

Jarvis:    The rest of the year we'll just be finishing up the album. There's still a lot of work to do. There's quite a few musicians playing on it so it's taking some time but it's going to be worth it. Other than that we'll probably play a few shows and hopefully release the album before the end of the year.

Ancient Language

Monday, June 19, 2017

Epistolary Review with Audra Kubat: "Hide" -by Chris Bathgate

Hello again, and welcome to the 5th installment of our epistolary review of Chris Bathgate's Dizzy Seas.  Audra Kubat wrote a letter to me while in the passenger set of a car coming all the way down from Mackinac Island on one of the hottest days of Spring....

This song is called "Hide"


This is the big one. I mean, I knew, after my first two spins of this record that THIS would be the most affecting, the strongest stirring of the senses, of all of the songs on Dizzy Seas. It’s like I was trying to hide from “Hide.”

I feel my entire insides whirl, and I'm compelled to heave the heaviest and deepest sigh I've ever exhaled. I asked Chris about the time it took him to put this album together and I was so surprised that him admit it was only a year or less, and that surprise mostly sprung from this song. The slow drape of this song, the way it flourishes and evaporates, as much as it ebbs and flows, feels so elemental, feels so imposing, feels like such a swelling for the soul, that I hypothesized its inception to have occupied countless hours, months, and at least multiple years. We mentioned how he’d challenged himself in “Beg,” and how it had a bit of a dark-night-of-the-soul sort of self-revelation. Oh my… “Oh my…” That song doesn’t come close to the reckoning here.

I have to say it again. Reckoning. I want the word to catch in my throat like stunted thunder; I want it to sting as I say it…I want rest and meditation to follow the echo of it when I half-scream it… This song has just wrung me out…, and I feel its ambient billows and thrumming guitars are the epitome of the dizzying effect… It’s like I didn’t even fully understand the word, “reckoning,” until I was able to detach myself, while listening to this song, and glide around in a fog of deep(er) contemplation.

What hits me most about this song is its predominance of subtlety over a specificity... Whereas I can namedrop several singer/songwriters who have put out exemplary “sad songs” that tell very detailed, very personalized stories, with narrative arcs and final acts of tragedy, “Hide” has power in its emptier spaces. This song is the clearing in the middle of the album’s deeper woods, where the loud quiet, the almost-unsettling echoes of wilderness, create this droning symphony of varying woozy melodic clamors and soft swoons. There seems to be such a give and take between two guitars, one of them more of a steady purr, the other crying softly towards the top of the mix. And that just leaves me with Chris’ voice…

This song goes way past the five-minute mark and yet there are only 30 words in the lyrics. The most poignantly punched element of his singing, here, is the way he affects the chorus, with that subdued wail: I had to listen to it so many times before I realized he was articulating the word “Hide…” When all I thought I heard, all I wanted to hear, all I needed…to hear…was a human voice, heaving…

There’s regret, here. There’s confession. There’s penitence. The guilt isn’t for any mortal sin, at least as society would consider it, but he is certainly admitting a nuanced kind of, well, this is a strong word, but: shame. No, that’s too strong a word. It’s a disappointment with past behaviors, for sure. But I want to emphasize what really pulls me about this song—his vocal performance. The space that all these cicada-like guitars gives his voice allows for the feeling of it to burst in slow motion. I feel him leaning, tilting, lurching, forward, forward forward…aching to stretch himself towards the very next minute of this very present, towards tomorrow, towards anywhere that is far from the person he was when he was behaving in this way, when he was hiding… This song says: no more. It says very little, lyrically. And yet it says SO much to me

Dizzily yours



I don't know how to start, this track is a contradiction. It sits perfectly still in the smallest of spaces, between undefinable and defiant clarity. The time slows, viscous, the changes almost imperceptible. As if sleeping in a knotted fit of regret. As you suggested, and I echo, the flow builds to a fall – through a frozen cascade of bulbous swells – organic pads or auxiliary organs. They breathe so carefully, these lifts and falls - it's almost labored (like an old accordion with worn out reeds and holes in the bellows). The sound seems drawn through an impossibly narrow space and as I listen, I feel a tightness in my own chest. It translates to a weight. I wonder if this is Chris getting something off the chest. I wonder, is this Chris' redemption song?

You talked about a reckoning and I see that here. There are consequences for hiding, and those seem to be translated through memories. Are they haunting? He says that the past is coming back – 'every hour, broken and dour, returns'. The past comes back cleaved and stoney, and though this song tells that side, it also tell a redemptive tale. He didn't kill anyone, he just stepped aside. There is forgiveness here. I see all the steps of grieving in this lyrically-minimal song and that is why I hear it as a mantra. As history comes calling, you honor it, study it, and name it. Then you try and understand your role and how you disappointed or fulfilled. Finally, you give yourself a pardon (or not). I think there is a pardon being reached for here. This is the mantra – remember, understand, forgive.

I move to that voice, placed so purposely, each word and syllable waits for the exact moment when it can make the most impact. Gorgeous and lush, a confessional timbre, a sadness that reaches through the bone, into the marrow. What is most interesting is that the music is moving like molasses, yet the vocal delivery is so urgent. I think it is this tension that makes this song so captivating. It is impossible to shake, once you've let it in. I reminds me of how I feel after a long boat ride. I am on solid ground again, but I still feel the sway and bob, and yes, that dizziness.

The musical sounds on this track do the same thing for me, rise and quell, and stay. I still hear it long after the headphones are off. It's as if the sounds are made of the natural world, it shares the same key, and you just have to listen and the music will be there. I imagine it welling up around me. This womb-like soundscape surrounding and protecting. I feel that I can be vulnerable inside this. I can show myself.

The music, the 30 words, and that voice all work together to simulate a trudging heaviness, a solitary din, and the ultimate walk towards forgiveness. The music is heavy, but there is also something else. An ethereal lightness – the way the voice shimmers as if rising from a wide canyon. I said earlier that I wondered if this was Chris' redemption song, but as I have arrived at this point in writing, and having invited this song fully in, I see that it is 'a' redemption song and unknowingly I have added it to my list of things that help when I blame myself for past choices. As a songwriter I believe it is often the process of writing the song that does the work, holds the healing property. Then you cast it out to the world and hope (or not) that it will do something similar for others. I don't imagine Chris listening to 'Hide' again and again as a mantra, but nonetheless, it is one for me.

Until next time,


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Black Cactus

There's a new label in town....!

Black Cactus is a record label started by Stacey MacLeod and Samantha Linn of Dear Darkness. Their latest release features the sweetly snarly surf fuzz tumblers of indie rock wunderkinds Blood Stone! 

I love the way this band casts a sheen of eerie or precarious lyrics and gnarly guitars over melodies that evoke an innocent bubblegum pop shimmy. ("I want your heart..." ...but literally). Black Cactus premiered with a split single between Dear Darkness' gutsy glam-rock fervor and Sros Lords' surrealist raw-punk provocations.

And because this new venture is facilitated by Dear Darkness, I can already be assured that the artists they'll proceed to promote will be those of a similar vein, in that they blend a brave, experimental, even bellicose punk defiance onto familiar tropes or genres. Blood Stone bring some gothic haunts to happy pop vibes, while a Morgan Blank of Sros Lords is going to be featured on next week's release with a very percussive, trippy, sample-spooked ambient electronica. And then there's Jimmy Ohio's "Home," a brilliant 6-minute spoken word odyssey of satirical, subversive articulations over trippy guitars and oozing bass.

So check out Black Cactus this week. Follow on Facebook for updates about this Friday release, and future releases. Dig out the boomboxes; or just find yourself a perfect, and often eccentric 10 minute soundtrack for your car's stereo as you bop from one venue to the next on a weekend full o' shows.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Single Premier: Electric Honey - "The Science"

photo by Brian Rozman

There's immediate urgency to "The Science." There's this weight to those soft-toned opening vocals, and those building guitars that crest over the song's first cliff, until the drums tumble in with a forcefulness that's nicely offset by the tenderness of that violin. The tempo is a quick stride, just about on the edge of sprinting, until it fulminates toward that chorus and those hard, hurling hooks swing in with infectious energy.

This is first single off a forthcoming album by Detroit-based quintet Electric Honey
Part of my ongoing series of weekly premiers, (each Thursday).

There's just the right amount of distortion spewed through the amps of those guitars and bass, that gives a vibe of garage-rock coarseness. The drums, though, are more of a lissome cascade of a more intricate, post-rock-meets-punk-intensity... There's a lot of passion in these vocals, recalling the headier post-punk auteurs like Pixies or Talking Heads in the way the voice arcs to meet and match the intensity of the instrumentation. And then there's that violin, which finds an eerie and enticing melody that compliments the more stormier roil of the rest of the track with a more delicate glide.

Patrick Minjeur and Evan Gatny were both guitar students of the same music teacher, competing first before they were actually acquainted in the American Guild of Music. It wasn't until several years ago that they realized how compatible their musical tastes were, but life, jobs, family, and everything else kept them from finally fulfilling promises to start up a jam session until early 2014. John Labut and Matt Doppel wound up joining, as Labut had been in a band with Gatny's brother and Doppel had been acquainted with the rest of the group from tenures in other garage rock bands in the past. The violinist augmenting this track is Chris Righi.

Their forthcoming album is momentarily untitled, but is assuredly coming to a head... expect an official release later this summer. The album combines Minjeurs cryptic lyrics that conjure dreams, or portray fictional relationships and technology junkyism, with their dynamic dueling guitars, sweetening vocal harmonies, heavy drum swings, and energizing melodies.

They're performing Saturday at the Tangent Gallery

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dan John Miller @ Ferndale Library -July 11

The Ferndale Area District Library's much-loved Summer Concert Series is back! We've brought you six years of wonderful, weird and inspiring music and this year we plan on upping the ante. Thanks to the Friends of the Ferndale Library, our Summer Concert Series is better than ever.

Detroit-based singer/songwriter, Dan John Miller of the renowned Americana/rock outfits Blanche and Goober & The Peas will be playing July's event. Whether giving a nuanced performance as Johnny Cash’s good friend and guitarist Luther Perkins in the Oscar-winning biopic Walk the Line, exploding on stage singing and/or playing guitar while fronting acclaimed bands Blanche and Goober & the Peas, using his voice-acting skills for multiple national advertising campaigns, or bringing hundreds of characters to life as an Audie Award-winning audiobook narrator, Dan John Miller carves and shapes singular, exceptional performances and characters.

This event is free and all ages are welcome.

video by Front Row Detroit 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Track by Track: Letters with Audra Kubat about Chris Bathgate's Dizzy Seas

Dizzy Seas

photo by Adam Weber
Last month, Chris Bathgate released Dizzy Seas. Rather than give an overarching review, where everything is fleetingly addressed, or maybe just glossed over, we, that being singer/songwriter Audra Kubat and I, are writing epistolary reviews of EACH track... one by one. We dive into one piece and explore it extensively, mining everything we can, in terms of theme, vibe, message, and overall musicality...

This song, the fourth on Dizzy Seas, is called "Beg"

Hello once again, Audra

Summer is just about upon us... Does a season such as this impact you in any way, be it sentimentally, or perhaps creatively?

Obviously, the surplus of sunshine is understandably invigorating for me... I feel like I'm more productive than the more secluded, colder months. That has to do with the outside...Which, we should note, had a considerable impact on Chris' creation of this record. In fact, while he was writing these songs, he'd told me earlier, that he spent a good portion of a calendar year almost entirely out-of-doors, in terms of his day to day existence, sleeping, meals, work, etc...

And while the first three tracks were so much more atmospheric and ambient, this song is sort of the rock song, or the straight up blues song, at least in terms of structure/tone/timbre, and in its minimalist riffs. I feel like the oomph of those guitars and the clasp of the percussion COULD be cathartic, but the lyrics are disarmingly aggravated, at least somewhat.... This is, I think, the song that made me consider Chris was taking one of those deep stares into the mirror... I feel like its his suffering through his own dark night of the proverbial soul.

"Why's it always have to be heavy?" This is almost a self-satirical lyric for Chris Bathgate, singing about himself, on one of his own records. I remember the first time I interviewed him, for the 2011 album "Salt Year," I approached the hour leading up to our discussion with a very austere, fastidious, careful and extra-contemplative manner... Because his lyrics have always had a "heavy"-ness to them. I felt I was approaching a weary soul. ---But of course, he quickly lowered my guard with how laid back, affable and generous he can be with his conversational manner.

But this is Chris really challenging himself, I think. "Breathing of the night" makes me feel his tossing and turning in a tent, thinking too hard, or being too hard on himself... Then he asks for a sign, some kind of sign... And how he quivers in its sights.

Is he begging for illumination? Into himself? Is he anxious about what he'll find?

Eager for your thoughts... Especially since I didn't get too much into the texture of the instruments here, but just got caught up in his lyrics.

I'll listening again..., but what did this song say to you? ...Make you feel?

til next time,


I read back my letter and realize that I may have made it sound more grim than it actually sounds or feels... I'm very taken with the variation of a traditional blues riff that he's doing at the opening. And I didn't have time to get into what's repeated here, theme-wise, --that being, those wordless vocalizations. Six "Oh's" are melodically descended in the refrains. It may be one of the most powerful moments of the song!!



Here we go again. As I type this the heat of the morning comes in to steal my strength. Yes, it is one of those mornings. A cold shower and lots of water.

This song seems an attempt to be lighthearted. There is simplicity to the repeating riff and even the opening lyrics, 'Are you going to make me beg?' (kind of a traditional blues line, yes?). It does seem though, and you suggest this too, that Chris is talking to himself in this song. When one asks for a sign, it is usually a request that is cast out into the night’s air, left to wander. One hopes that this will work to unearth a response, yet one seems to know that that thing can only come from a self-reflection. When that sign does come (and maybe it's from within), it kind of shakes him. I wonder if that is why this song is structured like a rock ‘n’ roll song (shaken, rattled, and rolled)?

Your suggestion that Chris is tossing and turning in his tent trying to work these feelings out is strong: the night breathing, the moon moving from one part of the sky to another, and then finally requesting a sign. And when that sign comes, it overwhelms.

Why does it have to be so heavy? Again, I agree, maybe he is asking himself this. I am wondering: is the lightness of the music there to counter the viscous nature of the lyrics? These lyrics seem very plain, yet they carry a weight that is clear and you really feel that in the delivery of the lines, as if it is literally tricky to get them to come out of the mouth. The way he pushed each word at the end of each line in the chorus...there is a slow swoop up. He makes you feel that weight in this vocal and it works so well in part because the lyrics are simple and not messy. It gives us time to slip into the query with him and sit in that uncomfortable space as we to use this opportunity to question and ask for our own sign. I wondered if this is anywhere near the intention of this song…

What is so perfect about songs is that it doesn't really matter if the artist's intentions are felt as much as it matters that the one discovering the song can be allowed to step in and decided what it means for them.

The rock vibe of this song is just enough for me to tap my feet and sway my body, and even though I may not have known that until I got to this track, I was ready for that. I was ready to just let the music get me out of my head and let the groove do what grooves do.

I look forward to my next chance to listen and tell (a hope my play on, 'kiss and tell' is clear, if not I am making that happen in these here parentheses...ha ha).


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Passenger Recovery's Clean Green Room and Meeting Locator

This post isn't about music, it's about musicians.

There is this enduring stereotype of touring musicians, held over from the excess-days of the 70's and 80's: it is of a lifestyle that is, at its heart, self-destructive, and yet was morbidly glamorized as the epitome of rock 'n' roll glory. You picture two hour sets, late at night, four or five days out of a given week, in a new town each night that's not your home and where you may not likely have intimate acquaintances to support you..., while a green room is stacked with two buckets'-full of beer and who knows what else, substance-wise, maybe infiltrating the backstage, bathroom, or behind the club.

While that may be an exaggeration, the point is that that lifestyle, those circumstances, are not going to be conducive to an on-the-road artist who's recently gotten sober or recovering from addiction.

A year ago, local musicians Christopher Tait and Laura Rock began collaborating on The Passenger Recovery Program: a concerted effort to provide more regional options that could support musicians and crew on the road who may be in need of finding either directions to, or transportation to support meetings. This free service aims to make the city of Detroit a welcoming space, where they can better get their bearings and be able to then attend meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous.

The problem, as I am looking at it, from the perspective of a music fan, is that our relationship to an artist, the relationship of audience to artist, stops short after we hear their albums or see them live at the show. What goes unconsidered, what goes out of our sights and out of our minds, are the very real problems that many of these musicians are dealing with, or struggling to deal with - as their calendar to calendar lives thread ever onward across a staggered schedule of very long hauls out on the road, from stop to stop, hotel to hotel, floor to floor, bar to bar to bar to bar to bar.....

Passenger Recovery, with help from other local musicians like Richie Wohlfeil, Gabe Dodson, and many more volunteers, is actively spreading the word of opportunities for touring musicians to find the support they need.

The group got a significant boost when they coordinated a book signing, discussion and presentation with Lol Tolhurst of The Cure, back in February. But I wanted to catch you up on what Passenger's been working toward, lately. 

They're developing something similar to an app, that would utilize Google Maps, for incoming musicians to access (through Passenger's website), to help them find nearby meetings, or several more support groups that could treat depression and anxiety.

"Eventually, we'd like to start with (applying this mapping software) to the big cities in each state," said Tait. "Our hope is, basically, that it can catch on with enough people who want to volunteer that information or help us with that work outside of the cities, as well."

Tait has been a member of The Electric Six for more than 15 years. After a long struggle with substance abuse, he has been sober for five of those years. "Laura (Rock) was a huge part of my sobriety," Tait said, "because she got sober way before I did. And a little while ago I talked to her and some other friends in the program about being frustrated with not having enough updated or current information that I could access while out on the road to find these kinds of meetings in different cities."

The Meeting Locator, Tait said, was way beyond the scope of what he'd initially envisioned, but now that there is momentum for the group, that is the main focus.

To go back to that stereotype I'd described before, Tait puts it in his own words: "If you're sober, but you're also touring on a level that isn't a stadium tour, then you're likely not in a bus, but rather in a van and each band member is driving. You get your spot to park at whatever venue, and once you're at the gig, you're basically grounded. Maybe there's a Starbucks to go to? But otherwise you're stuck in the bar for hours..." Which is antithetical to easing the anxiety or stress of a sober musician out on the road...

Passenger comes in to be a hub, online and in person, advocating for the idea of The Clean Green Room. "We want to spread the word, now, that this exists in Detroit, and that people touring in can rely on it if they need something like this."

The Meeting Locator, if its able to expand soon in the coming year, would allow Passenger to branch out and help people outside of Detroit. For now, with wizardly coders like Matt Tompkins and software/information-sciences specialists, the Meeting Locator is coming to life to reliably map out these options in the Greater Metro Detroit area (and eventually, much of Michigan).

"There are bigger groups out there in the country doing really great work, like Recovery Unplugged, and MusiCares," Tait said. "There's much bigger nonprofits just doing amazing work for musicians for everything from health care to rehab... But we all just wanted to do something that was within our powers, that we can do with feet on the street, picking people up from gigs and taking them to meetings or bringing them here (into Hamtramck, for Clean Green Rooms).

The Meeting Locator is currently in development, and you can find updates about it at the Passenger main site, or on Facebook.

The crux of the Meeting Locator, as well as the overarching concerns of the work of Passenger, is drawing attention to how the search for support on the road can sometimes lead to more anxiety for touring musicians and crew. Variables and free windows of time will change daily, for any given touring musician. So the hope with the Meeting Locator is to provide people with legitimate support information in an efficient manner, starting with the metropolitan areas of Southeast Michigan.

What Passenger does is provide a haven from the anxiety that can arise in the long wait leading up to a gig. Structure is key; structure for mental wellness on the road can sometimes just be a matter of sharing feelings/experiences/stories in a room together with others who have the same struggles

"It's a tricky situation," Tait said, reflecting on the double-edged sword of touring life. "Because (the venue/bar/club) is where you make your money. But you shouldn't have to compromise your passions because of your environment. (Touring) is part of musician's livelihoods. You can be passionate about something and consider it your art, but until you take it to a level where you're making money at it, it will always be that, (pure passion), and if you wanna pursue it then you have to promote it..." In other words, the bar or club is sort of a necessary evil, or unavoidable sort of evil, where the band will, very positively, connect, engage, and say thanks to their supportive fans. But for someone who is sober, says Tait, they are going to be eager to get away from that anxiety.

Sometimes people just need a bit of quiet solace. And, I should note, that while I started this post by saying it was "about musicians...," Passenger is also, of course, accessible to any member of a touring crew, sound/lights/etc, who are on the road with a band, and in need of similar support. "We've helped a lot of people on different levels already," Tait said, "it's been really good."

It started small, it still is small, but doors are opening for Passenger to things like the Meeting Locator. "It's exciting to me to be able to let people know that there's something out there; a place they can go to, to talk, or just a place to relax..."

Tait said they are not "in the business of telling other people how to live..." All they're trying to do is spread awareness and put forward the support they offer, and discuss what's worked for them. Testimonies will be going up on their site soon, and you can hear more about Passenger every month, during their meetings at Lo & Behold Records & Books in Hamtramck.

Hopefully for younger musicians, this can be an eye opener. "It's another form of awareness to put forth these cautionary tales, in a way," said Tait. "Our primary purpose is to let people know that something exists that can help. It's been an incredible year, and that's not because of one individual or another, but because we work with some amazing people."

"And, because, as we've discovered, there's a real need for this!"

Passenger Recovery Main Site 
And follow on Facebook for more updates/info, or follow them on Twitter.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Song Premier: Kubat, Finaly & Rose "Demons" (Performing tonight at 20 Front Street)

The three of these singers were/are, already, singularly exceptional. So there is a considerable augmentation of elegance, now, to have their talents brought together as a collaborative known as Kubat, Finlay, & Rose. 

photo by Jean Mason

That's Audra Kubat, Tamara Finlay, and Emily Rose - the lyricists, vocalists, and guitarists who fuse their harmonies for five songs on a new debut self-titled EP.

This song is called "Demons"

The trio are performing a concert at 20 Front Street tonight at 7pm, which also features singer/songwriter Anthony Retka. INFO  (This is also a birthday celebration for Kubat, who, readers of this blog will find weekly contributions from, as she and I swap an epistolary review of new music by Chris Bathgate... But that's for another post...)

KFR's limited run EP features idyllic and evocative covers of CSNY's "Ohio" and Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love." Those two songs are already inherent show-stoppers, one for its amorous swoons and the other for its heartwrenching somberness.

Recorded at Rustbelt Studios, with Bob Ebeling and Al Sutton 

"Shadows and Light" trails a softly rustling guitar under the gracefully curling melody, which feels like a hymnal; a blessed little ballad for the soothe of an on-setting evening.

"Party Hat" brings a bitter-sweetness, with a furtively cadenced vocal delivery from Rose churning in a lower register of sing-speak delivery through the verses that blooms into a aching/cathartic chorus of unsparing vocals, all the while Finlay and Kubat add an angelic/ghostly augmentation to the song's chamber.

And then here is "Demons." This song's beauty springs from the interwoven texture of their unique timbres, with Rose and Finlay delicately weaving their voices just a thousandth of a second behind Kubat's lead...

The melody, chorus, even the refrains and throughout the bridge, are consistently energizing, or at least restorative. Not only in its lyrics, with reports of demons rendered powerless and longings for peace, but also just in the arrangement of those voices--especially at 3:35, when Kubat sings a final verse as Rose and Finlay whisper out a gliding bit of gossamer "oohs..." And the guitars, quietly brushing along underneath, seem to sound as though they build towards its modest crescendo, with the strumming sounding almost like victorious claps.

Already can't wait for whatever they record next!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Song Premier: JC Motorcade - "Damn You To Hell"

I started a draft of this special Song Premier post by revealing a bit too much back story about the band behind it. Now, I'm editing myself and embracing the obscurity of their alter-egos...

JC Motorcade is a freight train of a trio that blends garage and a bit of metal; a speedy/shreddy, psychedelic trip, with considerable volume and quirky swagger...

The guitarist and drummer here may be recognizable from previous projects, but they've been RESURRECTED here, with JC Motorcade's eccentric style of "Jesus Rock...!" The main players are credited as Isiah Thomas..., Thomas Thomas..., and Thaddeus Dayton Cruz III.

And so...
Continuing our Thursday premiers, here's "Damn You To Hell" by JC
Higher Than Heaven album comes out June 16

Now, this record isn't asking you to like Christian rock...  And, at the same time, I really don't think it's too overtly satirizing that notoriously cheesy genre, at least not with TOO much venom. I think, more than anything, it's a spinning-top of a metal-rock record just being let loose to knock all the fine china off the table of sensitivity.  

In "Damn You To Hell," the opening track off Higher Than Heaven, there's a recollection of Spinal Tap's "Druids" monologue through the bridge. Then there's that quick slewfooted tell-off in the chorus, "betta' get right wit Christ...!" Betta get right with Christ!! There's the condemnation of you, yeah you... "and your heathen friends..."

I had a blast with this song. "Can I get an amen???" "I'm riding shotgun with Jesus Christ!!" You just gotta sing it with that verve... That just slightly-snarky verve! 

But really, this is just pure turbo-charged, roller-coaster, tornado rock, with plenty of fire in the amps, pulse-raising cymbal rolls, and gutsy theatrics in the vocals.

The power of JC Motorcade compels you...

The team behind Sophisticated Professional Records have been quietly working on a couple projects over the last year, including a country-twang-out type of album that we showcased here earlier. JC Motorcade definitely has a lot more adrenaline, and a lot of that quasi-nihilistic/just-along-for-the-ride/yet-somewhat-also-thought-provoking kind of flaming-jet-plane-barrel-roll-into-a-trance-like-state-of-fuck-it-all-head-banging... so much head-banging!

And I think this song, and the record that's on the way, is certainly aggressive, gnarly, bombastic... But it's also finding them with evolved ears in their home studio, meticulously mixing down the chaos for optimal aural tremors to where those demolition drums and those comet-fire guitars can all blend together beautifully... Beautiful bombast.


JC Motorcade Features...
Isiah Thomas - Guitar/Vocal 
Thomas Thomas - Guitar/Vocal 
Solomon Burke - Guitar 
Miguel Rodriguez - Guitar 
Paul Stubbs - Bass Guitar 
Thaddeus Dayton-Cruz III - Drums 
Deacon Ron - Spiritual Advisor

You can hear the album in its entirety on June 16!  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


This week we're throwing a spotlight on an up-and-coming rock outfit born in Flint, MI-- Goldblum is lead by singer/songwriter Fernando Solis, weaving an energizing blend of crashing rock gusto, post-grunge drifters, indie-pop psychedelia and neo-Americana twang.

This is also an excellent opportunity to throw yet an extra spotlight up toward the thrumming music scene of Flint, an hour north of the realms where I'm usually writing about, i.e. Detroit. Goldblum are part of an exceptional lineup for this year's 2nd annual Vehicle City Fest -featuring Braidedveins, City Mouse, The Penske File, and MORE!

Goldblum has been together for three years. The band's drummer, Joseph Allsop, is a long time friend of Solis (who also performs as a solo singer/songwriter). Solis said that Allsop has been one of the biggest influences in regards to his own songwriting over the years, and meanwhile, the pair have played in many bands together over the years.

Vehicle City Fest goes on June 16th - 18th, in downtown Flint; an expansive and voluminous celebration of the history of the DIY punk community in Flint. The festival raises funds for children affected by the lead contamination, benefiting the Flint Child Health and Development Fund established by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint

Allsop and Solis had been in another band that steadily wound down into hibernation, (called 1876). But when Allsop told his friend he was eager to try something new and get back behind the drums, then it steadily came together, with bassist Marc Loiselle and lead guitarist Rick Coughlin.

"We still wanted to add to our sound beyond what your common rock arsenal puts forth (guitar, lead guitar, bass guitar, drums) so we invited our friend John Michael to come over and play whichever instrument we thought we could add to the songs," Solis said. "As of now, he plays keys that emulate an organ and it rounds out our sound pretty well I think."

Solis grew up playing bass in bands, setting in a foundation for all his future songwriting that would assure a solid backbone/rhythm. He started writing his own songs on acoustic guitar and teaching himself to sing, but admits that it was a rough road, starting out. "Not that I believe myself to be a great singer now, but definitely better than when I first started," he said. "I was trying to emulate my favorite acts at the time. Think At The Drive-In and Portugal. the Man, Cursive and Bright Eyes. It was weird but makes me laugh now. I eventually buckled down and focused most of my energy towards writing songs by myself on acoustic guitar and finding my own voice. I took a break from this when I was 25 to focus on a hardcore punk act and after a couple years of that, I kept my head down on songs that would become Goldblum songs."

And there's definitely punk in Goldblum's DNA. But Solis thinks that what distinguishes their new sound is that he's now had proper time to really study how to arrange a substantive rock song I can be proud of. I've had a lot of time to find out what doesn't work for a song. "As much as I wish I would have embarked on this project years before it began, I'm glad it took me this long to get here," Solis said. "These are songs I'm excited about and with the musicians I get to do this with in Goldblum, you can hear the life in them as everyone does their part."

What I personally dig about Golblum is their balance of emotion and aggression - with these poetic/pop confessions or commentaries gliding over this churning rock drive!

Solis said that what he responds to most, with songwriting, is its storytelling aspect; the power to endear a listener to the emotions and sentiments sung in verse. "Artists like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Conor Oberst, Tim Kasher, Eels, Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams, these guys are great at painting a perfect picture! However, I'm also a sucker for pop music. I love catchy choruses and verses that are easy for a listener to relate to. I try to push these through in my songwriting."

Lead guitarist Rick Coughlin: "...when I met Joe, he was engineering at Brandon Wiard's studio at the Orchard, after he left his Ann Arbor digs.  He recorded a single for the band I played in then, called The Afternoon Round, which to this day, is one of my favorite recordings from TAR. Joe was also fronting his own alt-country band on guitar and songwriting at the time with his band The Dirty Dives and TAR ended up doing The Dirty Dives' album release party, you know, so Joe and I were both playing in these sort of drunken Son-Volt, Wilco, Ryan Adams-esqe bands at the same time.!"

And Coughlin had his own insight as to what sets Goldblum apart...
"So, there's this post-hardcore-punk aesthetic to (Solis)' vocals and writing approach which is kind of hard to explain, but it reminds me of Bright Eyes/Connor Oberst stuff, but heavy in a way," Coughlin said. "I think that grew out of their years in 1876. I think we initially started out with a different songwriting style that was a bit more indie early on and more informed by those 1876 years, but as we've grown our sound over the last two years and added John Michael on electric B3 organ, the sound has morphed into this more classic sounding thing, and it's great, but it's really sad bastard music, which collectively we all love.  Like, it's our common thread I guess.  Although, I don't think Marc, our bass player is really into listening to those styles of music as he digs the heavier side of things, but we're slowly converting him into a sad bastard music lover too!!"

Solis said he feels very lucky to work with the guys in Goldblum. "These guys push me to try to write the best songs I can write for whatever it is that I'm trying to say. I want them to be proud of the songs they're playing to but I feel like to a certain degree they feel a similar way in regards to presenting their parts to the song; they want me to be proud of them as well. We pretty much want to get the most out of a song because ultimately we want to play songs that we enjoy hearing over and over again. I think one thing that makes it so much fun is everyone is able to play a different instrument besides the one they play in the band. So we can all experiment or lend a hand to whichever instrument might be having a hard time coming up with a part. This helps us out so much when we're trying to create our vision for a song.  At the end of the day these are some of my best friends, doing what I love most with the best people I know is super rewarding."

Goldblum are working on an album with Jim Roll over at Backseat Productions this summer. Besides Vehicle Cit Fest, they'll perform an acoustic set on June 4th at the neighborhood Porch Show (North Washington), and then June 30th at Mac's Bar in Lansing. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

David Bierman Overdrive's "Everything You Say"

David Bierman Overdrive have a new digital single out on Gangplank Records, celebrated by a release party this Saturday at Ant Hall. 

Bierman is a power-pop stylist with an excellent sensibility for the perfect, punchy guitar hook. The group he led here around town in the 90's, Junk Monkey, got plenty of praise for taking alt-rock into tighter, twistier territories where guitar solos could be exuberant, choruses could be catchy-as-hell, and everything didn't have to be so weighted down by the general grimness of that era's predominant grunge sounds.

Thing is, Bierman had been away from the music scene for almost 20 years, until a triumphant return back in 2014 on Gangplank Records, with the album Standard Skies. ("A voice from the past enlivens the present")  

He's keeping the momentum up, right here, with the latest single, "Everything You Say."

A straight-up toe-tapper...sometimes even a boot stomper; with plenty of fire in those guitars and that pedal steel, lots of aerobic kicks to the drums and augmenting bass booms. And I like the raspy/soulful timbre to Bierman's voice, launching into those infectious (and unabashedly pop-centric) "nah-nah-nah-nah-naah-NAH's"....

He's backed here by a veritable local super group: David Feeny, Kevin Perri, Stephen Palmer, Jim Faulkner. 

The release party this Saturday includes much more than the new Gangplank singles, but ALSO features a full length release from the band Your Gracious Host. 

Also on the lineup this Saturday, is Touch The Clouds
Find more info here.