Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nick Piunti - Beyond The Static (International Pop Overthrow Detroit April 2)

Power-pop embodies a youthful brio: a latch-lifting, door-kicking vitality that bulls its way into the late nights, heart on its sleeve, hungry for adventures, stepping on toes, falling hard, winning big and crystallizing a swirl of nostalgia and loyalty for places and friends...

Guitarist/singer Nick Piunti joined his first band (The Dwarfs,) when he was just 12-years-old and kept at it for another 13 years before it broke up. What better time, really, to cut one's teeth on an inherently angsty and energetic form of rock music than when you're right there in thick of the tumultuous and defiant throes of teenagerdom?

Piunti, who fronted another fine pop outfit called The Respectables through the mid-late 2000's, would finally make his mark as a solo singer/songwriter in 2013, releasing 13 In My Head under his own name.

Through it all, he's honed his sensibility for riffy resplendence and major-key bursting janglers affecting all that propulsive elation I've eluded to, already, but on Beyond The Static, the vocals are sharpened with a sagely offering of caustic cautions to the now-younger indie-punks and aspiring pop-crooners against the "traps" of "just-because" mentalities guiding your decisions and dissuading anyone from getting caught up in the make-believe rivalries of scenes.

"In the present tense / hard to make much sense..." Piunti sings on the vigorous opener "It's A Trap."

On the slower-tempo "Head In The Clouds," Piunti belts a shuffling ballad against the senseless and the self-centered, a bittersweet swaying number knocking down the know-it-alls and the braggadocio that comes with rock n' roll. It's one of the more interesting pop songs I've heard in a while, in fact, lyrically reading it out almost makes it sound like a archetypal hip-hop track, deflating all the windbags with his hard-earned wisdom.

Throughout Beyond The Static, Piunti also emits a lot of heart with that heaving, high-ish voice that wheezes this charismatic bit of rust at the most emotive crescendos, while the guitars go from soft breezy strums to strutting jangles, surfy spills to more ferocious growls. A wide range for sure; go from "Head In The Clouds" to "Something's Wrong" and it sounds like two different groups...

Beyond The Static was produced by Geoff Michael and Piunti at Big Sky Recordings in Ann Arbor. Fellow Michigan-scene power-poppers like Chris Richards and Ryan Allen show up for back-up vocals while pedal-steel wizard Dave Feeney contributes some Americana-soul to a track. Richards, with Donny Brown (who also contributed to the album's tracks) will join Piunti live on stage this week with Todd Holmes on drums. 

Just in time for the warming rays of springtime, Piunti's blend of throwback rock n' roll swagger, heartfelt indie ballads and cinematic power-pop kickers for the opening credits sequence of any of your forthcoming sunny days.

Nick Piunti released Beyond The Static online last month. See Piunti perform on April 2nd at PJs Lager House for The International Pop Overthrow Music Festival. INFO
The four-day music festival also features Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, Chris Richards & The Subtractions, The Static Dial, Le Voyage, The Rose Cult and many more. Full line up here...

Monday, March 30, 2015

The As-Of-Yet-Untitled Michigan Musicians Basement Tapes -by Matt Jones

Music Scene Therapy 

A conversation with Matt Jones & Jeff Milo 

Matt Jones
photo by: Doug Coombe

Matt Jones:    I was mixing some of these recordings. And, I've done a really bad thing…I mean, in terms of recording these things.
Jeff Milo:    What’s that? Did you erase them?
Matt Jones:    I haven’t backed anything up yet! And, I have all these things on the machine, and if something happens to the machine, if it gets jostled, if it comes unplugged unexpectedly, I lose everything.

Matt Jones: ….everything! Forty people have recorded here in my basement

Casual Sweetheart recording in Matt Jones' basement

Matt Jones is an Ypsilanti-based singer/songwriter who has distinguished himself with his august folk songs, steeped in history and dissecting darkness. His music blends into a baroque elegance that's haunted with bittersweet poetry of plainspoke chivalries soaring in this fragile falsetto like a frayed silk scarf billowing through a chilled autumn breeze, emoting words wrung with inspiration as much as frustration, self-deprecation (particularly for himself) and a reverence, (…particularly for the Civil War.)

But Jones is a particularly reverent guy, overall; at least he’s grown into one over the last ten years spent on the scene, with three albums under his belt and collaborations with fellow songwriters like Misty Lyn & The Big Beautiful.

Back in 2006, Fred Thomas organized a compilation to celebrate the local scene called Ypsilanti Folk Singers, inviting several regional songwriters down into his basement to record on a modest cassette 4-Track. Scene stalwarts such as Chris Bathgate, Actual Birds, Annie Palmer and Grey Ghosts came down to contribute to Thomas’ project, as did Jones.

Matt Jones:    It was very lo-fi and really seat-of-the pants. But, it was something to be totally proud of, and it made people around it listen to one another. These days, the music scene is there, but it struggles… We don’t have the kind of venue in Ypsi that we’d had in the past, like with Woodruffs shutting down. And, that vital connection between venue and artist has been lost. So, it doesn’t feel as inclusive, though there are people and groups trying to make something happen. I’ve never been one to go sit on a panel at a meeting and talk about how things can get better.
Jeff Milo:    I’ve been on one of those panels, once…
Matt Jones:    I know you have, I was there! You moderated…at Woodruffs, right? I’ve just always had an idea, maybe a good one…maybe a total shit one…and I try for it, whether it fails or not.

Prawnces Albatross recording in Matt Jones' basement
Jeff Milo:    So this is the idea for your compilation…with forty musicians coming into your basement just as they’d had before with Fred…
Matt Jones:    This was my attempt at making people listen to each other. If it never gets heard outside of Michigan…fine. This compilation is for the people making the music.
Jeff Milo:    That idea didn’t come up at my panel, sadly. I think it needed to come up. I think… and, I wanna know what you think here, but… I think a scene needs something like this, something tangible. They need to see what they’re building together, otherwise they only say it out loud, there’s talk of a scene “forming” or “coalescing” into something bigger…
Matt Jones:    Or they say “…the scene sucks.” I got tired of hearing that, or that the scene was dead. It drives me fucking bonkers. So…I do this, and everyone goes home and rehearses. People think it’s a big deal as they get ready for it and IT IS! And they want to shine at it!

Matt Jones is currently finishing up an ambitious project where he hopes to record up to 70 musicians and groups (if not, more) and release it in the late summer (or early autumn at the latest). What began as a desire to record his neighbors bands as a “register” of the soundtrack of a place and a time and of a community, has expanded into capturing the entire state, as far west as Grand Rapids and back over to SW Detroit. There’s no title for said-compilation yet, but you can anticipate something harkening to the Civil War, or something comparably noble and nostalgic… The Civil War, to be fair, continues to be on Jones mind as he recently returned to school, studying history, to attain his masters. When he isn’t working on his History major at EMU or preparing for a speech the EMU Research Symposium, he's regularly welcoming musicians from around the state down into his "...shitty basement" for an invigorating one-take session to capture a song on this forthcoming compilation...

Matt Jones calls this compilation “Music Scene Therapy…”

Mary Margaret Giroux recording in Matt Jones' basement 

Jeff Milo:    So, this comp of yours can be the boulder that you present, at the top of a hill, to roll down towards all the naysayers and topple them…
Matt Jones:    I would love the comp to be proof that people, even the naysayers-themselves, are still doing stuff. A lot of the naysayers are people who could make the biggest difference. I’ve been a naysayer.
Jeff Milo:   Reformed naysayer.

Matt Jones:   But here’s the thing. I got started and…a few people into it, I was like, “Wow, I’m having a blast, and I don’t know why!” And then I figured it out: You can’t have people sit two-feet away from you and have them do what they love most, and not come away from it loving it as well. It’s impossible.
Jeff Milo:   You’re right. Unless you’re heart’s empty or you’re cold and have no compassion. That’s an intense exchange, there, having their energies emanating, through a song, just two feet from you, in that intimate space.
Matt Jones:    So I’ve had all kinds of that. So many good people in here. I think every musician-dickhead should have to do this….

“Music Scene Therapy”

Matt Jones:  ….should have to spend an extraordinary amount of time sitting with other people, with no spotlight, and try to make the other person feel like what they have to say is the only important thing being said. Because down in my basement, it’s totally true. When they pour their song out, two feet away from me, there isn’t anything else that matters, anywhere.
Jeff Milo:   You’re kind of becoming a documentarian, here, not just a producer. Almost a journalist, something like, I dunno…an Ypsi-Alan-Lomax.
Matt Jones:   You must love it. Oh, man, though…you’ve been listening to me for years saying that I was sick of telling my own story. I think I was sick of it waaay before I started telling it, publicly.
Jeff Milo:   In your basement, you have to create a certain vibe for them to open up, to ask the right questions or no questions at all; to create the right ambiance and present this project in a tactful way.
Matt Jones:   There’s always 10 minutes or so where I just want people to talk. No playing. Let’s not worry about the mic or about the fact that I haven’t seen you play before. Just shoot the shit. I’ve had guys down here visibly shaking…But, I’ve always known people want to talk, they want to be comfortable, no matter how much people want to get their art out there, to get some fucking validation for their artistic efforts. They also want to talk and just feel comfortable. Some people sacrifice that and their art reflects that and it sucks.

“For the songs to be good…in the basement…people that come down have to be comfy…”

Matt Jones:   How much are you going to move anyone with your song if you can’t stop shaking and you’re worried about this chord or that chord or which song you play. Fuck that. You’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Misty (Lyn Bergeron) always says that and it makes total sense.
Jeff Milo:    Well, you approached this fully sensitive of the one thing that could have been its biggest downfall. Nerves. You musicians can be neurotic sometimes, eh?
Matt Jones:   Oh, god, I know! But, more than that, I was scared of just making another Cool Kids compilation. I wanted a whole slice of the scene. Everyone. All styles.

Jim Roll recording in Matt Jones' basement

Jeff Milo:   Even if you can’t quell the naysayers…you can at least re-spark something inside all of the musicians who are coming in to play for you, right?
Check up on Matt Jones facebook page for steady updates of each contributing musician/group’s session w/photos and info...
Matt Jones:   Yes. I’ve seen it happen! To see the pics online after coming in and playing and rocking out and having that positive reinforcement from people online.

Jeff Milo:     What have you got down there? Pro-tools? Couple of o’ mics?
Matt Jones:    No dude. The rules are very strict. Tascam digital 8-Track. No computers. Fuck computers. One $100 condenser mic. One take. One song. Even if it’s an electric band. They have to adjust their volume in order to get the sound they want and the sound that’s possible, out of this limited set up. And so far, everyone’s been impossibly cooperative and the sounds I’ve gotten have been absolutely stellar.
Jeff Milo:   It’s one thing to see a band on stage and the sort of pageantry involved with a great live show.
Matt Jones:   Right, but a band inside a studio, that’s where the real skill comes out. Not like I’m a real studio, but…still. I love seeing how bands adjust. I’ve been floored. I get to see how bands work, adapt, how they play when they’re not under the lights. I’ve always thought practice was a lot more fun than shows. I don’t care if it’s a new song, an old song, whatever. It’s going to be heard in a very different way than usual. Jim Roll wrote his song right there in my basement.
Jeff Milo:   Were you nervous, early on, or as the idea was gestating? Did you ever feel the urge to just say: “Aw, hell, it’d be easier and more fulfilling just to do another record of mine…”
Matt Jones:   I figured, I don’t have the money right now to start a new record, so maybe I can make one for everyone else…with EVERYONE ELSE on it…I’ve wanted to do it for years. That’s how things are for me, always. Everything is the end of the high dive board for me…

Jim Cherewick recording in Matt Jones' basement

Jeff Milo:   So, what’s your big takeaway, now? Having this intimate experience and composing a grand portrait or sonic collage of your neighbors…
Matt Jones:   Waking the artists up. Just letting them know that people want to hear. That they can do whatever the fuck they want to do.
Jeff Milo:   You’re also getting a profound observation of what makes the Ypsi scene or the Michigan music scene special…
Matt Jones:    Yeah, but I think if I did this in any community, I could get the same re-wiring. I think every community is special. All I’m saying is everyone has potential. Everyone, everywhere.
Jeff Milo:   This is each musicians opportunity to really contribute something to posterity… I mean, if it all pans out, right? This is their chapter, their monologue, their Oscar clip.
Matt Jones:   Right, and the experience of them coming down into this rather shitty basement, it’s not even close to being finished, it’s cold as hell and the lighting is terrible. But, you’re down here with just one other dude that you kind of know, and he is rocking out on his headphones to your song. I try to make it magic. It’s not easy. There is limited magic down there.

Jeff Milo:   I think, often, singers, musicians, working every week, trying to tour, putting out their own records, they just need a deeper or a different kind of acknowledgement, something beyond applause, of their song, of their efforts. Are you giving them something like that?
Matt Jones:   We all need acknowldgement. It’ll be hard nailing it down for the release show, though. Like, who plays and who headlines… Meanwhile I’ll be cackling in the back somewhere, like a fucking Skeksi…
Jeff Milo:   Wait, what?
Matt Jones:   You know…like from the Dark Crystal. The bad guys.
Jeff Milo:   Those things.
Matt Jones:   Yes, those things. The most evil fuckers.

"...history & memory..."

Jeff Milo:   What do you envision, going forward? 40 songs? 60?
Matt Jones:   More. It’s up to 75. The vision got way out ahead of me. At first it was something fun, to include Ypsi people in- to get this music scene looking at itself, listening to itself. then, as more people expressed interest, it extended to Michigan as a whole, to people who DO listen to themselves and each other...(Kalamazoo has a really strong scene right now...) I go back to my obsession with history- I've always wanted a register of things- I make lists, I draw maps on napkins, and white boards at school when no one is listening. I HAVE to have everyone recorded. It won't feel right unless I have a complete register of the current musical landscape. It has to be "put on the books," as the boys in The High Strung would say…
I also want this thing put into the library of congress. Immortalized
In me, something is always missing until the history is complete
I always want a complete story
Because real stories to me are better than any fiction
And everything is a story

Jeff Milo:   You once told me that there was only one thing you wanted out of "THIS" (be it music, the scene, touring, writing, performing, yadda yadda yadda) ...do you remember? It's stayed in my brain ever since…
Matt Jones:   Yes! That’s like these recordings. A register, rather. If I can make my mark by helping other people make theirs- that’s SO MUCH BETTER THAN MY OWN…

Jeff Milo:   Memorable sessions, so far?
Matt Jones:   Red Tail Ring blew me out of the fucking basement. Cash Harrison came in and played a song that was so raw and real that I played it around my house for days. Jenny Jones, someone I’ve never heard before. She works for other bands and asked if I could get one of her bands in, but I was like: Jenny, YOU have to come do this! Stunningly good. Ben Collins was phenomenal. Fiona Dickinson and Sam Cooper blew my fucking mind. Casual Sweetheart was so good. JT Garfield, Greater Alexander, Stef Chura, Jim Cherewick, Fangs and Twang. Pat Elkins was brilliant. Let's see, Chris Dupont and Betsy King are so pumped about this whole thing, they came and killed it! Michael Anne Erlewine was just in, last night, and was so goddamned good!
Soon…(Josh) Malerman will be here, Plus, Ryan Allen, Ryan Spencer, Jo Serrapere…35 more to go in two weeks.

Jeff Milo:   This is the history buff in you… Recording current events for posterity.
Matt Jones:    But, I should point out, much of the Civil War history is from memory and history and memory are two real different things. Generals wrote formal reports of every battle based on what they could see, and they admitted that what they “could see” was often not very much… I’m getting as many people from around Michigan as I can but…some of them I can’t see…The singers who have come in where I have no idea who they are, they’re still making an impact with listeners all their own, on their own front, so to speak. And if memory becomes history, so be it. This thing in my basement, it’s a document. Someday you’ll find it in the archives. But it’s also a story. I think you are responsible for that, really.
Jeff Milo:   Me?
Matt Jones:   Yeah. You always write the story.

Jeff Milo:   And, as a History Major, now, you're getting into a certain aspect of storytelling... By the way, how'd did your speech go, at the EMU symposium?
Matt Jones:   The presentation was good. I tend to go overboard on things. But, I was insanely nervous, couldn't sleep... Sarah Campbell, my squeeze, said: "Dude, talk about this stuff the way you talk about it with your friends, with all that enthusiasm!" She was absolutely right. It worked. I was standing there, staring down really, really smart people and I was having a blast. And thanks goes out to (Campbell,) too, especially for this comp, as she's had to work with me through all 40 contributors, so far!

Jeff Milo:   Okay... LAST QUESTION: Think back to your most jaded days. When you were pessimistic about the scene or just a naysayer yourself… And, now, after this great, rejuvenating experience, what would you tell your prior self?
Matt Jones:   Just like Misty always tells him: You’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. I just want everyone to listen to each other…

More info: 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jizzly Bear - April Fool's Day Premiere

Theatrical release at the Main Art

Hysterical, surreal, irreverent… These words get thrown around too willy nilly.
You have to experience this film... And man... It's a weird one. And a fun one... Well... there are a lot of adjectives you could throw at it...

But the first feature film from a local production company, A Casket Full Of RoughDrafts, is a tripped-out, horrorshow of a screwball comedy. It’s a fever-dream frolic into absurdity that almost dares you to laugh, with zaney lines delivers sa serious-as-a-heart-attack with our three wide-eyed heroes, in the middle, trying to fathom the terror(s) that they've unleashed

 Now, if I tell you that this film is titled Jizzly Bear, then your imagination is going to run more rampant than a greased-up, jet-pack-fired Tasmanian devil down an icy luge track. Is there a bear in this film? Yes. Are there certain bodily emissions?  Considerable amounts, yes. But what’s it about?

“I think it’s about friendship…, but there is A LOT of other stuff happening,” said Eric Kozlowski, who plays Burt. “I think you’d have to see it to understand it.”

Jizzly Bear is a vaudevillian fumble-dance through a beautifully nightmare-ish vision of the rural woods of Michigan where a lovable loser winds up unintentionally warping the laws of both biology and zoology, to one day let loose a murderous supernatural new species onto his unsuspecting neighbors (who all thought he was kind of a weirdo, anyway…)  

“It is a truly original comedy-adventure-abstract-real life-animation,” said Allison Laakko, who plays the lead role, Sam. The multifaceted actress, singer and artist donned a collared shirt, slacks and a mustache to transform into the socially-anxious Sam.

Imagine if the Marx Brothers were raised inside the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and met up with a script that was equal parts David Lynch - John Waters with the confetti giggle of Rip Taylor... or if David Cronenberg made a more saccharine Saturday Morning Cartoon... 
That's Jizzly Bear

The film was written and directed by Norman DePlume and produced by Lee Drexel and also stars Jason Glasgow. Jizzly Bear began filming in early summer of last year, in various locations around the state, as far north as the Upper Peninsula and as close by as the end of the street where Laakko lives in metro Detroit.

“I would describe this film as an endearing, comedic, artistic masterpiece…” said Glasgow, who plays Allan, the third friend and fellow hunter of the trio at the center of the film’s escapades. “It’s very easy to fall in love with Sam and Allan and Burt. It’s like the movie Easy Money but with extra inappropriate hilarious content.”

The trio embodies your everymen-type, blue-collar-ish, beer-drinking, heavy-rock music digging dudes who recreationally camp and hunt and fish and experiment with strange new fashion trends from time to time. Sam is the black sheep of the group, geeky yet endearing, just trying not to step on anyone’s toes, let alone an angry grizzly bear’s claws. Allan’s kinda the action-man of the group, the one who might just shoot first, keeping his ear to the ground with a ready-for-anything-intensity. Burt’s a bit more laid back, a little more swagger yet sagely at the same time. I bet he’s into meditation when he’s not hunting bears, but that’s for another movie…

The center of the film is Sam and his predicament with this “Jizzly Bear…”

To be blunt, it's a bit of a trip....  

There are a lot of breathtakingly beguiling sequences in this film, strange non-sequiturs and seemingly anarchic bits exuberantly take over a scene from time to time, with explosive, bawdy and just downright trippy results… But DePlume’s script and direction always brings it back to the focal points, that being the bond between our three main characters and, particularly, the rubber-faced, theatrics of Laako’s impressionistic performance.

As Laakko describes it, back in the spring of 2014, DePlume and fellow filmmaker James Hall were discussing “that age old question…” of what was one’s weirdest masturbation location they could recall? The pair of them started snickering and shouting “Jizz Bear” to everyone within earshot (…since, the film wound up centering around a character pleasuring oneself inside a deerblind out in the woods, with a precocious grizzly bear near the proverbial splash zone). “I was immediately thrilled at the notion of making a bear suit,” Laakko recalls.

Tell us more about the initial reactions you had to this script…
Well, once Norm has his hooks in a ripe idea there's no turning back-the very next night there came all at once a whirlwind of poo and jizz where he sat at his dining room table, and no more than three hours later- when the chaos finally settled down and the crazed laughter and shouts subsided - I knew then that he had really done it this time! A truly original potty humor masterpiece. We read it over and over- we laugh- we cried- we danced tribal dances around his house..it was a glorious sight to behold.

I hadn't originally planned on playing the main character- just peripherals, the bear, the role of prop-maker-art-department-extraordinaire, but after more than a month had gone by and they still hadn't found the main character, I was asked and happily took on the challenge to play Sam.

Glasgow: I’ve never read a book or story the first time and thought it was as funny as Jizzly Bear. Early on, I had no idea I’d be playing Allan and when Norm asked me if I would play him he said to me, “You’ll be playing Allan, the guy who wears the…….”   You’ll have to see the movie because I can’t give out the secret.   After that day, I read the script countless time trying to be the best Allan I could be.
Kozlowski: The script only took (DePlume) a few days to write. It started as a joke. I read it in one night and couldn’t stop laughing. I was blown away that (DePlume) took one drunken joke and turned it into an entire movie.

Tell us about the experience of making your own movie, your first movie? How DIY was it, actually?
Kozlowski: Shooting was insane! None of us had ever shot a movie before but that didn’t stop us; we were going to make a feature one way or another. Our good friend Scott West, who films events for a living, helped us a lot. He shot the first scene, which was the biggest help because we got to see him work. It was very DIY and (Laakko) was fantastic in that department. Nobody working on this movie only had one job.
Laakko: I was very excited at the challenge of making a bear suit, and a half-man half-bear-suit right from the start, but had absolutely no experience in the field of elaborate animal costume making.
[After some Googling, Laako was able to learn integral aspects from the works of “Furies,” passionate folk who create elaborate homemade animal costumes for quirky, communal conventions].

I was able to find a couple of tutorials that I loosely followed to make my suit, along with trial and error and a continuous viewing of the documentary, "Bears". I first figured out how to make a plaster cast of my head, to ensure the costume fit perfectly, (which took a whole month and a room covered with plaster to get right) and loosely formed the body around a mannequin we conveniently picked up on a whim many months back. All in all it took the duration of the summer to make the suit; using fake fur, upholstery foam, miles of hot glue, and various types of paint. After that I made another man-bear head with a latex cast of my face surrounded by fur…

I don't think there's a single work of art that I've put more time into and I fully intend to make more suits soon - strictly for movie making, not Furry conventions.

I also happily took on the roll of mad scientist in the kitchen until I had the perfect formulas for all of the prop bodily excretions (all vegan of course: mostly cocoa powder, flour and some other fun grains and such for texture). I made Allan's hairpiece with this chocolately dough- and painted Burt's portrait with brownie mix.

I had a lot of help making the cave in our basement. It's amazing how many unorthodox art supplies you can find at the hardware store

Glasgow: As far as the sets and the costumes and all of the accessories, we have to give a big thank you to Allison Lakko.  She made the bear, by hand!  The last scene of the movie, the cave- yea Allison did that too.  We helped obviously, but she did 90% of it- which when you see the movie, you would have no idea where it was shot.  A truly amazing experience, not only to do this, but it was all made by hand.  Check out the Psychic scene, all done by Allison as well.

Allison, can you talk about playing a boy?
It's extremely liberating playing a boy- to only think about being funny, not worrying at all about looking "Good" in front of a camera the way someone might when the character is more of a representation of their true self. I'm very comfortable in my own skin and virtually unaffected by the idea of "making a fool of myself" in daily life, but putting on the man-suit made it even easier to be utterly ridiculous in any scenario.

I've always been a character, I suppose you could say- head in clouds- recorded my own language on a cassette recorder when I was 7 and ran around singing pretend opera all day long, dress-up was a regular routine and the Lawrence Welk Show and Nick at Night were big influences on my childhood. (DePlume) likes to compare my antics to Lucile Ball, which is only fitting considering that she was an idol of mine growing up.

What was the strangest or funniest experience from making this film?
Kozlowski: Everything! …I have heard these jokes a thousand times and still laugh. One scene sticks out: we were in the forest. Our friends Theresa and Kristi came out to help. I never thought I would see my friends throwing fake poo at me while someone filmed it.

In the woods, we were approached by a park ranger asking what we were actually doing and luckily he happened to pop up on us before we were all covered in a …messy situation. The most fun scenes to film were the deerblind and then in the cave…

Have you been out in the woods with a group of your closest friends and all of a sudden, in broad daylight, decided to completely soak three of them in buckets and buckets of brown stuff? How about getting a huge bowl of white stuff dumped all over your body while donning balloons for boobs in a black, fog-filled room streaked with rainbow strobe-lights, while a life-sized penguin looked on from one corner of the room and an old man with a long white beard gazed from the other corner? Some would call that their worst nightmare, some the best dream they ever had and others, still, would compare it to their worst acid trip. For us, it was just another day on the set of Jizzly Bear!

This being everyone’s first film, what, then was the most fulfilling or rewarding moment for you? When did you realize that this was actually going to come together?
Kozlowski: I think some of our friends that knew we were doing this just thought it wasn’t going to happen. Just, something we were going to joke around with and not complete. (DePlume), Allison, Jay and myself knew from the beginning this was going to be made.

I never had any doubt that we would finish the thing, but Norm’s decision to do the editing himself was a wonderful surprise to us all that really quickened the pace and made it all the more exciting, surprising, and fulfilling to see what we had done, an actual movie we made together. Finishing an actual full length real, great, hilarious movie together. There has been nothing more rewarding and nothing more motivating for me than that. Finishing a real work of art as a team and having the time of our lives doing it.

I routinely examined and practiced every scene and every line at home in order to be ready for shooting.  I was super concerned with just not screwing up my lines, but I took this very seriously. 

The circumstances of the plot, the action, the dialogue, are crazy funny, yet everyone delivers their lines with such sincerity…
Laakko: First of all, when you take something like this at face value- I mean really believe and understand where Norm was going with the script - it becomes less of a challenge and more of an attempt to make the pages come to life-  it was all right there in this masterfully written script. It's really what fueled the whole project in my opinion. 

Secondly, I don't have years of theater experience under my belt, but the acting classes that I took at OCC were perhaps the most valuable, enlightening, and useful classes that I've ever taken. I would recommend that EVERYBODY take acting classes at some point in there lives whether or not they ever have a desire to act; not because you'll learned some technique on how to project your voice to a crowd, but because you will learn techniques that may help you to FEARLESSLY EMBRACE your voice, to be ok with it being heard in the first place.

Theater, acting, this type of make-believe, this type of "playing" - it's such a release: it is the most incredible therapy for anyone involved because it forces you to confront vulnerability, to express yourself in deeply emotional ways, big and small, to be the center of attention- all in front of a group of peers doing to same thing right after you.

The number one fear of all people is presenting in front of a group, and I overcame that in a huge way because of acting classes.  Also! Laughter is maybe the best reward of it all-I'll never forget a specific moment when I was acting out a made up scene in front of class. I was a (male) art teacher doing some exaggerated character work and my teacher laughed out loud at some faces I made. I'll never forget the feeling that gave me. Being the cause of laughter, creating that sound because you meant to-it's such a joyful feeling! I don't know if I ever said it, but (thank you Diane Hill! Your gift teaching theater has been invaluable to my life.)I hope she can make it to the movie!

I never once thought during the entire process of the movie that I was an actor or acted like an actor. I wanted to portray the vision in my head as I saw it from reading the script. Looking back on it now I equate it to a form of tunnel vision, such as your favorite guitarist taking you on a journey or a pitcher throwing a no hitter- autopilot to say. That's how ALLAN felt to me, a person with lines to deliver- put them all together and it tells a story. That story was written by Norm. I'm excited for what's next, and even if I only have 4 lines in the next one-  guaranteed it will deliver an awesome story. For the love of art.

Kozlowski: I think us being good friends in real life really helped the sincerity of these characters come across on screen.  I am very happy with the way the casting happened.

Laakko: I feel that if a person is passionate, committed, and serious about what they're creating, there's no way to fail at it short of giving up. BUT! the outcome may not always be what you expected. It's a natural progression for the artist- you have the idea: what you picture it looking like in the end, the execution of said Idea: actually making the damn thing, and the final outcome: the finished product.

The more time, effort, and attempts made towards that idea, A: the closer the finished product may mirror the initial idea, and B: the more that initial idea will morph into something greater than you ever expected it could become. I feel that that is exactly what happened with this movie for everyone involved- the final outcome could have never been predicted and was greater than any of us could have imagined. We had no idea what to expect, yet we pushed forward with progress fueled momentum until the last scene was filmed.

Norm taught us all about the importance of self propulsion through setting phantom deadlines. I don't think we would have ever finished without him making sure we stuck to timeline we originally planned on for the most part.

Then after we celebrated filming the final scene, Norm surprised us and saved the day once again by making the decision to blindly tackle editing the movie himself with nothing to go on but a natural knack for creating an amazing  rhythm with sound and vision; and a detail oriented precision that only years of creating in other fields could have taught him.

Laakko: None of us could have imagined the end result - funnier than we had even realized, yet also carrying with it an austerity and an earnestness that couldn't have been written in, even though the script was very precisely followed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Junglefowl (Debut EP)

Damn… Ya know, I could’ve caught Ypsi-duo JUNGLEFOWL two weeks ago during the Hamtramck Music Festival. Granted, there were more than a hundred bands to see in less than 48 hours… But still…

Check out this frenetic, fired up single they released earlier this month. Scintillating psyche-blues with pummeling garage-rocked drum slams, shifting tempos from a strutting pop-hook in its opening verses to a Sleater-Kinney-esque yowled-out, wall-punching chorus, only to slow it down for a bluesy, slithering solo.

As the lyrics suggest, the duo of Melissa Coppola on drums and Stefan Carr on guitar/bass, are certainly showing their teeth on this track, with the electrified-urgency implied when “…the show’s about to go, now!”

JUNGLEFOWL’s debut EP Strut, (produced by the essential Mr. Jim Roll,) comes out this Saturday (March 28th), with a release party at the Crossroads bar in Ypsilanti. (8 PM / $5) 

Tanager, The Eres and White Bee are opening the show. All proceeds will benefit a new non profit called Girls Rock Detroit, a community organization fostering girls’ creative expression, positive self-esteem and awareness through rock music education and performance: http://on.fb.me/1H5CN6I

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Crappy Future - "Internet Caché

Call it what you will: fuzz-gnarled electro-psyche and funkified space-rock...

Crappy Future - Internet Caché

I think it's form of a form of folk music, anthems for a people put upon by an exasperating, corrupted and idle system, transmitted to us from a not-so-far-off Future that we're just not ready to love, yet...or from a parallel dimension we're certainly not ready to understand... 

That doesn't mean you can't vibe with this:

The melodies are playful and wobbily, the choruses (once you decipher through the vocoders and reverb) are anthemic and easy to singalong-with, the guitars sound cool and have some hooky riffs and then there's those dazzling saxophones purring and synthesizers oscillating over hand-clappable drum beats. 

Crappy Future's a Detroit-based quartet (Ben Audette, Scotty Iulianelli, Jeff Spatafora, Justin Walsh) that are hear to wake you up to how crappy this supposedly advanced civilization we've couched ourselves into really is...and warn us, melodically with furious synth/guitar intonations, of how crappy the future could yet become if we don't start opening our eyes... 

Until then, "Keep Working..."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Passalacqua - At The Party

"At The Party"

That warbling synth slaloming over the beats and through the wheezy flutes, it clasps together in an aural evocation of all the busy background noises and half-deciphered/over-your-shoulder shushes, gasps and outbursts one traffics through when they wend their way through a smoky, loud, crowded house, creaky floors and chipped paint, records spinning under luminescence of a lava lamp and....hey, what's that smell?

With fine production from Dr. B, one of Detroit's premier hip-hop projects, the Passalacqua, come back to the stage with this single, a smooth, subtle and sinuous provocation that follows up the roof-raising soul-eruption of last summer's Church. 

MC's Blaksmith and Mister have mastered the art of introspective/observational raps, 1 part self-deprecating/charismatic humor and 3 parts soul-staring self-contemplation; the weary-eyed attendant whose in the mix and moving to the beats but stewing through the knottier worries on his  mind as he finds a quiet second to cut to the chase of: what are we doing here... The poetry that picks apart another wasted night and implores the thinkers and the writers and the doers and those who can still give a care to not just willfully lose yourself to the empty pageantry of "...the party..." Where we wear a mask, sometimes or where we don't even know majority of the attendees. Social stress, man... Modern day anxie-ty at the party.... "Go dumb...at the party..." To live your life for the party?

Passalacqua's Banglatown EP comes out on April 14th.
For more, check out Detroit Music Magazine's premier. 

photo by Mikel O.D. 

Maraj - Move On It

The multifaceted, genre-defiant collective from Kalamazoo, Maraj, are traveling to Detroit next weekend. Call it soul, funk and/or hip-hop, call it all of that all at once... Throw in some electronica and R&B...

Live bass, looped beats, sampler, synth, dual hook singers and dual MCs; a seven-piece out of Kzoo brandishing "Pine Desert Soul." Everything I've heard has had a freshness, a frenetic riff, a propulsive, intricately arranged beat and an enticing overall energy, a mini hip-hop orchestra with its own graceful, grooving flux.

Maraj joins Red Pill at The Majestic Cafe on Friday, March 27th. Nortroniks and MC Friendly, both from Grand Rapids, will also be performing. (Doors 8 PM / Music 9 PM / $5 - http://on.fb.me/1xeezUH) 

Red Pill, meanwhile, has had quite a 2015, so far, having signed onto Mello Music Group for the forthcoming release of Look What This World Did To Us (April 7). Red Pill (aka Chris Orrick) has spent the last five years distinguishing himself with his memoir-esque rap poetry pouring out confessional bars heavy with contemplative relays and gut-punched imagery. The lead single for his album is streaming below.

Joining Red Pill for this event is the exceptional DJ/producer Hir-O, with whom he released "The Kick" back in 2013. Check it out

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ancient Language - Totem

Detroit-based trip-hop/ambient house producer Chris Jarvis, a.k.a. Ancient Language started streaming his latest single, "Totem," this week via Soundcloud. Listeners can pick up a new record by Ancient Language (on 7" vinyl from New Fortune Records), later on in May.


Celestial synths sigh their way into the track, like a meditative exercise before the danceable beat kicks in... Not that this is any raging rave of a track; it feels more like a montage, or a poem that shifts into several stanzas (only, as an instrumental composition, its Jarvis wending and weaving of wintry-tones and and a cascade of spaced-out warbles and chimes from seraphic synths that sing for him). 

The mid-tempo beat, bolstered by an arched-shouldered, fuzzed-out bass, keeps something more akin to a pulse rather than an overt instigation to dance, its more a cerebral stride, a walk to nowhere or to anywhere under an uncannily luminescent night-sky... But the track continues to build, introducing three more looping synth arrangements onto the soundscape somehow finding a way to suture each added element into a new and balanced harmony every eighth measure, or so... 

The swell of tones and graceful dance of dueling melodies evokes that certain transcendence inherent to techno - that moment where it nearly overwhelms the ears and the beat takes you over and your only recourse is to close your eyes and let the music take your mind where it will... No, I'm not on drugs as I write this - I'm only listening to "Totem..."

More info: https://soundcloud.com/ancientlanguage/totem  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mac Starr - Teenage Dreams

Whether through previous collaborations like Nightbeast or Double Weirdo, Ypsi-based song maker Mac Starr has continually demonstrated a proclivity towards the nice and naïve-sounding melodies of bubblegum pop. But he’s not so much reviving or throwing-back to the early 60’s sound with that fx-shrouded shimmy-bop affectation to his excitable half-doo-wopped croon, so much as he’s applying his own signature mutation to a classic rock n’ roll sound, dousing a bit of distortion over the whole thing and keeping his riffs raw. 

It makes sense, then, that Mac would dub these keyed-up blemish-baring lo-fi boogies to be “Teenage Dreams,” since rock n’ roll itself was the voice of/for/and by the youth. It also makes sense that this album would be picked up by Wiener Records, since it’s a subsidiary of California-based Burger Records; this kind of caustic charisma is their bed & butter.

There’s passion, awkwardness, standoffishness, there’s enthusiasm, there’s angst and there’s heartbreak – all of the myriad emotions, notions and commotions we all experienced as a teenager slumping towards adulthood. These songs span steam-blowing throttlers like “Please Stop,” gritty, atonal-yowls and smoldering psychedelia like “Why Can’t It Be? (Are We?)” and surfy/soaring synth-enhanced grooves like “Specific Locations” (this writer’s particular favorite). 

Once you get through this EP, (his first as a solo artist,) you realize that Mac Starr’s take on pop/rock is similar to True Romance’s take on the boy-meets-girl genre… It’s a boy baring his heart and exorcising a few demons from his teenage days, days that aren’t so far away from him that he can’t tap back into their fun, fantastic fretfulness…  “Bin Diggers” might be the integral track; erratic time signatures, driving beats, howling chorus, expressing individuality through nostalgia for a certain kind of beautiful noise… And a xylophone. Why not?

Mac Starr