Friday, November 28, 2014

Ill Itches' Record Release Show

The Ill Itches

-----------------------------------Record Release Show - 12/6 - PJ's Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave) w/ Caveman Woodman & Bam Bam Moss, YUM, and Prude Boys----------

Rhythm and ruckus, that's Ill Itches. Raspy howls lash and lurch over punchy beats and distortion storms, a local Detroit quartet of rockers following in what's already a long tradition but gnarlifying in their own way. There's hints of garage and some of the hearty heavier psychedelic, tightened and sped-up with a tremulous, clenched fist urgency that rocks the trajectory into stranger, noisier dips and dives. It has rawness and aerodynamic zip, yet furls with this fuller feedback growl behind it. 

Stephen Schmidt (vox, guitar), Matt Mruzek (vox, bass), Josh Woodcock (guitar) and Matt Livengood (drums) joined up in early 2013 and quickly established themselves as an incendiary, if uncouth, live act. They went out on tour last October after a sensational summer that saw them opening for punk icons like Dead Kennedys and The Buzzcocks. You can hear the rock n' roll in these creatures' hearts, that's the pulse, certainly....But its manner is something more of a melding of 80's indie-punk, 70's soul and 90's garage... in a blender, sparking.  

New 7" vinyl single comes out on Dec. 6 ("Hallelujah" b/w "Revolving Door") via Jett Plastic Records.  $7 at the Lager House door includes a copy of the regular version on solid red vinyl. But, special edition variations of the single are available via Jett Plastic. 

Interview: Frontier Ruckus' Sitcom Afterlife

Here’s the thing with Frontier Ruckus:
It’ll be heavy. It’ll be peppy. It’ll be provocative and it will be catchy. And, if you really wanna bend your ears in, you can parse all the particular instruments the Ann Arbor-born quartet deployed to renovate the alt-country rock archetype, (something that’s becoming part of their M.O. after 10 years). And, if you’re listening closer, still, you’ll fall under the waking-nightmare nostalgia-spell of the lyricist, with scribbled words of weary weight from pages of packed with potently evocative, potently wistful and potently symbolic imagery.

Now based between Detroit and Ann Arbor, with Mathew Milia on vocals/guitar, David Jones on banjo, Anna Burch on vocals and Zachary Nichols on trumpet, they’re set to wrap up a tour that supports their fourth full length album, Sitcom Afterlife, with a performance at The Loving Touch in Ferndale tomorrow night.

Jones and Milia have been writing music and performing together for well over a decade. Their haunting and heart-swooning debut album The Orion Songbook conjured the specific Frontier Ruckus spirit into a nearly full formed apparition, over atmospheric organs and prickled banjo, heavy booted bass trudges and cool autumn-stung gale guitars, with those ever-trilling nasal voice, quavering as though it’s always just about to break and breeze away like birch bark over a Great Lake, gutting itself with vulnerably confessional words of the sweetest poetry (that only an English Major could muster) that dazzlingly mythologizes the eerily universal nostalgia of Midwest coming-of-age-ness…

                LISTEN: Frontier Ruckus – “Crabapples In The Century’s Storm
And here we go, with Sitcom Afterlife. Listen:
Milo: How’s the autumn been going for you guys? How did the release show go at the start of the month?
Matthew Milia:
To be honest, playing these songs from the new album live is some of the most fun I've had onstage in a really long time. And they were, in a way, intentionally designed with that in mind; I wrote them two years ago when I was in a bit of a dark place. So, somehow the tunes and melodies and song structures that were coming out of me began to work in a sort of antithetical way to the bummed-out lyrics they were supporting. The songs sounded upbeat and classically pop. Poppier than anything I'd written prior. It was like I was allowing myself a sort of escapist vent to feel good vibes within all the grief. Coming up with catchy tunes really gave me something happy to cling to and rattle around in my brain.

Milo: This is your fourth record. I don’t know why, but, to me, that feels like a time when a band has really turned some kind of corner or made their mark, ya know? You’re establishing a canon, at this point, right? Are you getting there, does it feel that way and what’s been the key to keeping you together, keeping you going?
Four albums in, it definitely feels like we're riding a vehicle a bit more substantial at this point. We have a really diverse catalog to choose from each night when we perform. People who have been following us for a while seem to appreciate the different albums individually and the eras they represent within an overall project. It's very gratifying to have that sort of established mythology at play—everything new that we create enters that world and interacts with preexisting characters and places in contrasting or complementary ways. And on a personal basis—the fact that we've already been doing this together for so long, as best friends lumped together in cramped spaces in constant locomotion, whether physically on tour or creatively within the music, we've learned a lot about how to keep the thing on the rails. We all respect each other so much and believe in the overall concept of the band so dearly that all that typically wins out over inevitable petty daily grievances, etc.

                LISTEN: Frontier Ruckus – “Darling Anonymity”

Milo: Have you ever thought of or worried about maybe overwhelming your audience? Or, by now, is that maybe what you’re known for – all these montages of memories kinda swooning over the song? Can you talk about how a lot of your songs wind up going toward more epic scopes that paint these rather vast and rather vivid pictures…
The only consideration for that I've ever really had has been a result of external whispers into my ear. Not from anyone in the band, obviously, but from like, previous people we've known in the "music business" or whatever. People who thought we have an awesome thing going on, but that maybe we'd sell some more records or hook a more general fan base if I were to streamline things a bit. Left to my own devices though, as I think is pretty evident at this point, lyrical density and image-overload is pretty much my default setting as a writer.

Sitcom Afterlife, though, does deliberately rein it in a bit. It's the most to-the-point and direct I've attempted to write songs to date, if you can believe it. Still, I gave myself little indulgences like "Crabapples in the Century's Storm" and "A&W Orange and Brown".

Milo: We spoke before the release of 2013’s Eternity Of Dimming. You’d mentioned anticipating this next record (Sitcom Afterlife) being more of a college-rock throwback with 3-minute pop songs. And, yet, you’re still flirting with 50-minutes and a couple of six-minute jams. Tell us about how this album grew, as you made it, and how your vision for the lyrics came together.
It's very much a break-up album. Of our albums it's the most to be concerned with one specific catalyst or event. So the songs came very quickly and all sort of represent different approaches to one situation. What I like about it is that the tunes deal with something quite heavy or acute at the time with varying degrees of gravity or levity or humor or bitterness to help me cope and move on. When you're working through something harsh, you kind of fluctuate day to day on where you are with it, how you feel.

The various lyrical tones of expression reflect that temporarily fractured mental state—different aspects of my psyche vying for primacy: pride, compassion, guilt, love, jealousy, lust…. I wrote all the songs out of self-therapy, on long anxious walks feeling kind of desperate. It's been two years since I wrote them and I can't fully associate now with how I was feeling then—time works that way—but the songs remind me that it, at least then, at that time, felt quite dire.

Davey, Zach, and Anna were all instrumental in helping me turn these painful documents into more dynamic and well-rounded tunes. They helped me emphasize the intrinsic pop elements which transformed the confessional subject matter into bright melodic escapes, for me at least. Zach layered so many amazing counter-melodies on synths, horns, saw, etc. Davey introduced this new instrument that sounds like a shimmery Tele but has a banjo head that added great jangly texture. And bringing Anna's harmonies back to prominence on this record added such a needed feminine balance.

Milo: That must be part of the key to keep you going, back to a prior question, that collaboration, the friendship, the cohesion you find on stage and in a studio…
Having friends that can enhance your work so intuitively is a real blessing. We recorded it in Corktown at Chris Koltay's studio, a block from where Anna and I now live. It's the first record we've done outside of Ann Arbor and it really has a distinct sound from our other stuff.

Milo: Let’s just dive in. What is the “Sitcom Afterlife?”
Sitcoms to me represent these very safe, comforting eras of time and place—insulated, vacuumized capsules of extremely reliable if not taken for granted setting and company. A collection of seasons in which you always know who will be waiting for you on the proverbial oversized coffee shop couch when you walk through the double doors. And the finales of these worlds typically involve the dispersal of that cast, those friendships, those romances, and an abandonment of the place they all held communally identified with and revolved around.

The title refers to some vague emotional space we all inhabit post-evacuation of those lovely and tender situations. Whether it was due to a gradual distancing or abrupt divorce. Finding oneself in a strange present tense, very adult and alone. An afterlife that follows small accidental heavens we once stumbled into and thought would last forever.

LIVE: Frontier Ruckus perform Saturday night at The Loving Touch (22634 Woodward Ave, Ferndale) with Mexican Knives and The Kickstand Band  - 8PM - $12 / 18+ -

Scene Histories - Chapter 1: Carjack.

We all have that story of how, when or why we started considering ourselves as feeling...apart of a scene.
Into it. Part of it.
In the know. Running with a pack.
At that show and this show and the other show and jumping off tables and waking up hoarse and bleary eyed and counting down the next six days until you can go out and get weird again...

For some people, that story of the how, when and why... is another person. Someone who acted as adhoc gatekeeper, kicked it open for you, showed you around the place, gave some directions, gave some cues... An invitation; an initiation.

For me, I count myself lucky to have had that gatekeeper be such a magnificent weirdo as Carjack; a.k.a. Lo-Fi Bri... He had already been to every glory day's concert that I would could never dream of attending (... Pavement and Guided By Voices and Brainiac and Sebadoh and Nirvana and on and on...), he had already collected every vinyl record that I wanted and he had already written and recorded 200 or so of his own songs onto 4-tracks in blended the moods of Barlow-ian cloudy day art-gallery/coffee house folk troubador with DJ Shadow-styled breakbeats and scratch samples, It was a cool kind of coarseness that I was all-too-digging at that time; raw punk with a hint of pop, electro-laser effects with hip-hop's groove...

Photo by Mike Rozman

Carjack was about 30% performance art. When so many other formats, genres and songstyles had been tried-out and tired-out by the time he finally formally presented himself to the scene, his M.O. became more about engagement, something where people attending could be weirded-out and charmed-- at the same time. A similar response is often evoked from your prototypical cult film... Something that's astonishing in how subtly bizarre it can be, yet endearing in its clearly homemade props, costumes and spray-painted aesthetics.

Carjack was always about the crowd stepping back during the first minute of the first song with a raised eyebrow...then having each attendee close-up to the end of the stage (or maybe even climbing on the stage, with him) by the end of the last song. Like any great cult sci-fi film, you feel endeared into some awesome-weirdo club that's made cooler than anyone else by measure of it's own mutation.

But it all goes back to Lo-Fi Bri...and his tapes, his old recordings, his turntable experiments. The man, the songwriter, the performance artist, has evolved over the years, from producing E.P.'s for Carjack and his other band, The Electric Firebabies, to now having solidified a new stance in the arts community as one of the go-to concert photographers. Who better to capture the chaos of a rock show than a veteran of kinetic, here and then there, venue-sprawling performances... Somehow he wound up growing into the role of documentarian, the one who freezes the blur.

But Carjack LIVES....
New Way Bar - 23130 Woodward Ave, FerndaleVOYAG3R / Carjack. / WarhorsesDoors 9pm, $7, 21+Warhorses 10pm, Carjack 11pm, Voyag3r on at midnight

So, my chapter 1 would have to begin with Carjack. He took me to my first shows in early 2004, sneaking me into some of the sketchier places, if need-be... It was an education... And eventually, November 2005, he gets up on a stage and I, like young Arthur following Merlin, get up there with him to join in what could only be described as ... antics! But those antics built the archetype!

Cheers, Carjack.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Echo Fest V

Echo Fest – V

When I first interviewed Sisters  Of Your Sunshine Vapor, (more than five years ago,) they told me that, yes, they make “druggy”-sounding music, but that shouldn't imply that they don't get up and get to work in the morning!

They work their asses off, actually. Not only self-booking numerous interstate tours, establishing their own recording studio and producing their own albums, but this psyche/blues/shoegaze trio has also fostered a crucial spirit of community among those similarly “druggy”-sounding bands, i.e. the torchbearers of that tripped-out, artfully effected music that all roils together, in all its echoing/looping/dizzying-delayed glory, under the umbrella of “pscyh-rock” (…or “neo-psychedelia” if you really want to stir the word soup of the genre-obsessed bloggoids).

--Echo Fest – Nov 15th @ The Loving Touch (22634 Woodward Ave)
Main Stage
12:15 Elephant Stone (Montreal) 
11:00 Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor (Detroit)
10:00 King Buffalo (Rochester, NY)
09:00 Dead Leaf Echo (Brooklyn)
08:00 Siamese Detroit (Detroit)
07:00 Buffalo Coven Party (Ann Arbor)

Side Stage
01:00 The Witches (Detroit)
11:45 Heaven's Gateway Drugs (Ft. Wayne)
10:30 MOSS FOLK (Milwaukee)
09:30 Plastic Crimewave Syndicate (Chicago)
08:30 Rogue Satellites (Detroit)
07:30 Matthew Smith of Outrageous Cherry (Detroit)

Thankfully, SOYSV’s hard working MO has only amplified over the years, as they've grown the original  Echo Fest from five years ago into a two-stage / 12-band fest inside a sizeable capacity venue, with a theme of encouraging a cross-pollination of bands and niche-genres that builds bridges to other scenes, including Chicago (ft. Plastic Crimewave Syndicate), Montreal (ft. Elephant Stone) and Milwaukee (ft. Moss Folk), while nodding to the iconic “psychedelic” songwriters and bands of Detroit like The Witches and Outrageous Cherry’s Matt Smith.

SOYSV will also be on the bill, of course. But, as I was on assignment this week with a Washtenaw county culture zine, I wanted to draw some attention to an Ann Arbor based group on the bill. - Buffalo Coven Party, a blend of the bewitching and with some beautiful melodies waving under slight blankets of fuzz, some eerie atmospheric tones strike in under  blends of acoustic and electric, with a wicked organ’s ghostly haze adding essential blacklight ambiance, (take a listen below).
And find the full lineup here:

Listen: Buffalo Coven Party – “Pariah”

But, while you're here... This song has been on heavy rotation inside the Milo Dojo: 

Echo Fest Info/Links

Monday, November 10, 2014


Mic Phelps - Forthcoming album

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pink Lightning - Blue Skies

To inhabit a Pink Lightning song is to be flung…

…to be slung, bumped over that way...
to be sent
...flung up into every corner of the room until one of the walls give and you’re out into the mud.

And you keep dancing, dirt and all… Or is it more a graceful kind of contorting.

You’d almost mosh, if you could, but the drums are just as much push as they are pull, pulling, kicking... more toward tilt-o-whirl-terrain, where said-drums threaten to pull your proverbial rugs out from beneath your feet…

And those guitars, brilliant buzzsaw badassery, with their mean hooks dipping and twirling you in a clenched conniption waltz.

And if metal married jazz and their abominably groovy offspring spat its first words through fuzzed amplifiers, than you’d have their bass.

Then there’s that accordion, the chief of Pink Lightning’s effected ambiance, conjuring gaunt punk-ghosts of crazy carnivals, nervy ragtime and twisted gypsy folk.

What was that howling? What was that crooning? That sing-speak poetry in a half-honked raspy sort of theatricality? Your lead vocalist, a mad barker, freaked-himself up into agit-falsettos as though he were shouting the show-stopping lyric at every chorus, if only his cohorts weren’t so possessed to keep the tilt-o-whirl-whirling…the show might never stop…

Banjos? Mandolins? Ghostly piano jitterbug taps? Saxophones? Nightclub lounge-pop cycloned into mutated post-ska jigs… Listen closer. Press the headphones onto your ears. Bob and weave around the room a little more. You'll get the hang of it. 

And you get this album this December. 

Small Houses - New single / New Album on the way

Jeremy Quentin, a Flint, MI native, used to sing songs after supper in the big ol' neo-hippie-populated co-op house where I once resided ten years prior... 

I've never seen him without his guitar, either on his back, on his lap, around his chest or at least nearby him, in whatever room I found him. Quentin didn't live in this old house of mine...because he was ever on the move. He's constantly booking his own tours, he's lived in a dozen places (it seems) and, though he had settled in Atlanta GA for a while, he was most recently residing all the way out in Denver, plotting an ambitious tour that will bring him back eastward, all the way to Helsinki. 

His voice has a fragility to it, like the autumn wind, caustic with a bit of dust and splinters but resplendent with that high, honkish warble and it resonates so richly off those bell chimes at the chorus. This is a track for anyone still high on the War On Drugs from last summer... This is the new post-Americana, alt-country tinged, indie-folk refining JAM... 

Quentin, under the moniker Small Houses, will release his next full length, Still Talk, next February (with a tour starting next January). There are, according to Quentin, a handful of videos on the way, as well... (Expect to see them streaming here). 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Detroit Sound Machine

Local singer/songwriter Ryan Cox has organized a new Music Worskhop for young musicians (age 8-13), hosted in Clawson, MI (Hunter Community Center, 509 Fisher Ct.) More info. 

The Detroit Sound Machine will be held as two sessions, 5pm - 8pm on Thursday Nov 13 & Friday Nov 14. The workshop is titled "Song From Scratch" - aiming to introduce tweens and teens to the instruments and to the craft of songwriting. 

The Detroit Sound Machine appreciates music as a unique form of art and communication, activating,  the brain in a systemic/holistic way. 

Absolutely no experience necessary, just passion and patience.

Cox said that since he'd has his song when he was still a teenager, he's since spent most of his life working with children, coaching youth soccer, running soccer camps, tutoring and mentoring children and spending nearly two years writing a parenting column for AOL. 

As a musician, Cox developed his own unique method for writing and recording music, one that  anyone can participate in, regardless of musical/recording experience. This is how the idea came together. 

"I love working with kids, love making music, kids love music, etc, etc and here we are..." Cox said.

Cox recently obtained his 3rd major academic degree and afterwards felt inspired to create a unique, small business before he started preparing for graduate school. "Over the past year," Cox said, "I have created numerous programs in numerous fields—a new soccer camp, a new-type of tutoring program/curriculum, a writing tournament, along with working on an album as my musical incarnation/pseudonym, The Good Things." 

So what can Detroit Sound Machine attendees anticipate?

Participants will learn a little bit about a lot of things, as Cox puts it, along with some music-related science, some music history, some music appreciation, and some basics of performing, writing and recording music.

Young musicians will explore various writing and musical styles, along with a collection of very different instruments, while learning some basics of how to play whichever instrument that they choose.

All students will contribute to the writing and recording process, including performing with an instrument that they may or may not be familiar with—they get to choose.

All participants will also be given a small instrument to keep, which they will also get to record in our song.

After we've completed the song, all participants will then be sent a copy of the completed song one week later after I have mixed the tune and completed all necessary post-production (so the song will sound like a professionally produced, commercial, radio-sounding song.)

Cox said he has based all of his teaching techniques on child psychology and meta-cognitive concepts. "So, hopefully, all of the participants will leave feeling confident, accomplished and satisfied with officially being a creator of music! "

And of course, the song they created will stay with them forever—a great memory to listen to at any stage of life. 

"But above else," Cox said, "hopefully they leave the Detroit Sound Machine recording workshop with a smile, having had an enriching and fun time.

Youth "Song-From-Scratch" Recording Workshop
Ages 8-13
Hunter Community Center
509 Fisher Court
Clawson, Mich. 48017

Thursday/Friday, November 13/14, 2014
The two sessions will run from 5pm-8pm 
Registration is $50 per child

Sleepless Inn - Karol Simon

Detroit duo Sleepless Inn release new video...

Immediately, the visuals evoke a sense of being half-awake/half-alseep... 

A dream, like a vapor, its mesmeric mix of fantastically vibrant hues, blasting and blazing and cascading in front of your eyes, nearly obscuring the dancing figure at the microphone, Laura Finlay, her beautifuly wispy vocals wafting in melodic waves over the clackety percussion and throbbing heartbeat-bass of Eddie Logix' arrangement. Logix, the other half of Sleepless Inn, is the shadowed dude over Finlay's left shoulder, buoyant to his own beats, locked into his own little groove back there).

 Kudos to The Prince Of Darkness for the marvelous luminescent atmospherics; kudos to the song, a fine single for this Detroit dream-pop duo to release, kudos to Logix, showing evolution in his production as he expands from hip-hop into something a bit more akin to The XX or A Sunny Day In Glasgow...and kudos to Finlay, of course, singing with subtlety, vulnerability, sweetness and endearment - with those dance moves, blended under and over animation of a ballet routine, serving as a livening element to an otherwise airy/dreamy aesthetic, in sync with Logix' beats, it only entices any listener/viewer further into the color-splashed fog...further into this lucid dream...