Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Video premier: Emily Kempf's "Dynamite" (by The Right Brothers)

Andrew Miller saw Emily Kempf perform two years ago and told her he wanted to collaborate on a video with her the moment she got off the stage.

The Chicago based singer/songwriter was on her first ever solo tour and Detroit was the first stop. She'd never toured alone; this was an experiment "in walking through the fear of being alone," as Kempf put it. She felt she had a similar spirit and drive to Miller, who broke out on the Detroit scene with Jamin Townsley, via The Right Brothers.

They started texting back and forth different ideas for the video. "And one day," says Miller, "I get 'I Want To Ride A Horse!' I fucking love horses...when I was a kid, I'd pretend my bike was a horse. I love westerns, horse racing... But where the hell am I going to find a horse in Detroit??"

The song they chose was the opening track from last year's Loss Waves EP, "Dynamite."

 You can read an extensive interview with Miller and Kempf via PopMatters, in which they detail the surreal, stressful and somehow successful endeavor of wrangling some horses into the streets of Hamtramck... Interview: Emily Kempf – “Dynamite” (video) (Premiere)

Real Weird: Johnny Ill Band Returns

Johnny (Ill) Garcia says he's not "an uncomfortable frontman." But then, at the same time, he's not Mick Jagger. 

Then again, he could be "something like Joe Cocker, ...who knows?"

As frontman for The Johnny Ill Band, Garcia came to a point about a year ago where he was starting to even question if he should continue perusuing music. He played guitar (a lefty, to boot) and sang lead vocals in the group, even though he admits he's not a technically proficient guitarist, by any means. Even then, he hinted at taking singing lessons, at some point...but still sounded noncommittal. It doesn't matter. 'Cuz Garcia, as the frontman, Johnny Ill ..., IS musical, ...primarily through his writing, with his quirky outlook on life filtered through his freeverse-esque lyrics, with this Mitch Hedberg-esque plainspoken drollness, situational, surreal, sometimes snarky but often, sincere. 

And, yes, he has sung/spoken an entire song about a broken washing machines and the narrative of its proceeding repercussions. (Your hands wind up smelling like soap a lot and the whole thing makes you "feel real weird...real weird...")  But then, he can also conjure that plainspoke punch of anti-folkists like Kimya Dawson with post-millennial existentialist trips like "In The Wintertime..." 

The aesthetic was something like space-punk or noise-pop; a more acerbic indie rock induced with whirly keyboards, bent guitars and minimalist drum marches... 

"And now, I'm going towards a more different...something..." Garcia says. 

The group hasn't performed since last September, and even then their performances had tapered off during 2014. It was after that last show, nearly nine months ago, that the group, with Chris Campbell, Matt Larson, Pete Steffy and Paul McDerochie, finally ended what was, up until that point, an unintended hiatus. 

"Things were just getting stagnant," Garcia said, of that last year. "It wasn't anything we talked about. We just stopped playing. There wasn't any new songs. And, I even thought about it for a sec, thinking, ya know, whether I should even continue? Maybe I should just stop...?" 

"But, I just couldn't do that..." 

Garcia asked the group if they'd still be willing to come back together. The consensus was: ..well, sure...but only if it's all new material. So Garcia got to writing...

He admitted how endearing it was to have this talented band behind him; and that no matter how weird an idea he had for a song, whatever he brought to this group, they'd still always be up for working on it. 

"We're going to pare it down more," said Garcia , implying a lean towards a little tighter, gnarlier post-punk sound. "And I won't be playing guitar anymore... Just to create more sonic space."

And so, there he'll be, guitarless...a frontman. Neither Jagger, nor Cocker...nor Bono... but something else... And "that's gonna be weird. Watch out world! ....We'll see what happens..."

He's trying not to overthink that aspect. 

"I don't think I'm worried about being nervous" 

Johnny Ill Band returns (again,) on May 15, to play a show at the UFO Factory, with Frustrations, Sros Lords and DJ Timmy Vulgar.

Garcia said the band will perform an entire set of new songs, but that there's still several songs yet to be written to fill up a full album; the intention is to get into a studio an early summer and maybe...maybe... get something out by autumn. "But," says Garcia , "...we'll see..."

Regardless, he said he's feeling great to "be back" and feeling motivated again. It's particularly important for his band to be playing this show, since Frustrations have been a brother (or at least a cousin)-type band to them for a number of years, through X! Records. With members of Frustrations now spreading across the country this "...could be one of the last shows they play for a while," Garcia said. "Or, at least here in Detroit..."

Extra incentive....

9 PM  /  $5
More info:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Totally Awesome Fest 11

A short film by Adam Wright and Ian Sargent on the History of Totally Awesome Fest 

Just as Winter sets on, the Ann Arbor / Ypsi music scene gathers for four (or more) nights of live music called Mittenfest... 

Then we all hibernate. Dagger-chill temps and unforgiving gales of frosty winds... January snows, February deep freezes, March's tempestuous thaw...

We come back out and it's time for Totally Awesome Fest. 
April 24th through the 26. More info:

For eleven years, a dedicated collective of musicians, event organizers and venues, (spearheaded by the inimitable Patrick Elkins) come together for 2 ½ days of free live music spread across 10 venues (many of them atypical, yet altogether inviting spaces; certainly not your average bar with boomlights). The Dreamland Theatre and The Ugly Mug cafe might be the most traditional locales, but you'll be visiting actual Houses or a graphic design studio, or an historic river walk. 

There'll be 70 some odd bands and several DJ's, some from the Detroit region and other corners of the state, but majority representing the verdant crop of talent from around Washtenaw County. An open air echo-chamber of inspiration...

5:00 p.m. DJ HEE HAW
8:00 p.m. SEX POLICE
9:45 MINUS 9
2:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.
12:00 LISA
3:30 MAGIC
8:00 p.m. DJ HEE HAW
12:00 CREODE
1:00 a.m. DJ ONDEMAND
2:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.
8:00 p.m. BONEHEAD
11:45 p.m. BOBBI PALACE

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Interview: George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus

George Morris fronts a group called the Gypsy Chorus. The band formed around a modest bunch of minimalist pop tunes written out on electronic organ more than two years ago. These were understaed ballads hazed with contemplative fog of late night sollitude, belted over slower, folk-pop tempos, teasing playful melodies that happily made a home inside your brain for days after listening...

Organ Solos was set free into the digital realms about a year and a half ago, with subdued fanfare. Morris was already a known frontman around the scene from his days with the meteorite-ish Satin Peaches, so it was interesting to him transition from full-to-the-brim/in-the-red ROCK to electronica-dazzled folk-pop. Even then, it's turned into something entirely its own with the addition of a full backing band (Aaron Nelson--bass, Helena Kirby--keys, Zach Pliska--drums).

What started out as a somewhat-shrugged we'll-see-what-happens-exploration, by Morris, into the solo singer/songwriter territory, has turned into a full fledged pop-rock group with a growing fan base and their biggest cross-state tour coming up at the end of this month, with Sick Of Sarah.

This week, George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus released We We'll Go To Hell For This, for free, streaming online.

I met up with Morris recently. And, though we spent a third of the time talking about hockey, we eventually managed to cover some music-related topics.

When you first broke out on the scene, it was with a rock band. The lyrics could be more cryptic then, I think, because it was more about the energy, the aggression, the uplift…Hell, lyrics could even get buried under all the guitars…But with Gypsy Chorus, particularly this record and your last releases, it’s displaying a lot more emotion; there’s that confessional sort of style of a songwriter that shows vulnerability…unlike a rock singer.
It’s not personal emotions, though. I always want to convey emotion in a song. But, I think it helps me to disassociate myself from it when it’s not necessarily me talking about me or if it’s me saying these things…it’s not really me.

You don’t actually have a Maserati?
Right. But, singing these lyrics helps, the emotions underlying the expression is still me. I find some way else to say it that I’m more comfortable with.

There’s another kind of emotion, or vulnerability simply in evocativeness or… poignancy. The power of a tone, specifically your tone of voice or the way you wend it or belt it…the voice as an instrument…
Yeah. I do spend a lot of time on that. I like when my voice sounds dynamic. It’s an effort to get it like that. I think people either like my voice or can’t stand it. But, really, that was one of the biggest problems with The (Satin) Peaches was that I couldn’t really sing.

Now there’s more space… Not as crowded with guitar gusto. But are you writing these songs in a different way, or approaching them differently?

These songs with Gypsy Chorus are actually sounding more how my original demos for the Peaches were, back then. I like playing live and playing heavy rock n’ roll but I don’t really wanna listen to that or it might not be the music I want to make. I like making it more interesting, more listenable, more dynamic, something you can sit down with and sift through, analyze. But, then, also, I really like rhythms and something you can move to…

So now you’ve got to find a balance between the spacious, electronic/piano thing you’ve got now along with the rock side and the danceable side…
I guess that’s ongoing, yeah. I do really like playing live. It’s more fun to be in your face and play live rock ‘n roll…

You did this recording and the previous ones all by yourself. But you’ve had a group, now, for a while. Almost two years? So the next record will be less a George Morris record and more of a Gypsy Chorus record?
I think it will be more of a Gypsy Chorus record. Which is good. I have very talented people  in this band with me. We get along great. Everyone else had played in bands before. But, I think it takes about two years to get really tight together and really good. Now we’re doing this tour through April and I’m seeing us as, after that tour, being really ready to finish recording. I’m excited.

What’s it been like to spend the last two years working alone on recordings, though…
The frustrating thing is not being good enough at certain things that I know what I want, but can’t quite create, like a sound or a certain mix. It’s nice to have other people, but I also don’t like explaining something to someone and hope they have the same idea… But, more than anything, I don’t want to be waiting. I just want to be working in some capacity on some facet of music. Touring? Great. Recording? Great. Just…no down time!

No waiting. So you’re putting this record OUT.
Right. I decided to put it out, free. Everything’s gonna be free. There’s no point, it seems, in charging people for music anymore. Vinyl’s great. But, once people get something for free after a long while you can never charge them for it again. But, then, I stream music but still go buy it on iTunes. I think I bought St. Vincent’s record three times, actually. But, at this level, for me, it’s just about people hearing it…

And you’ve got a band behind you, now. That’s gotta bode confidence…
My idea from the start, in 2013, was to build a team; find the right people to make this work, not just musically but on all other facets. It’s going well with this group. I’m happy about it. And, frustrating or not, it’s still fun in the end. Still worth it…

Learned anything, after 10 years, now?

It’s weird being on the other side of it. But…I don’t know, if you learn anything, it’s just about trying to get better as a songwriter. Better at everything. A better performer, better singer. That’s all it is.

Chiseling away at it…

APRIL 24TH: George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus perform with Sick Of Sarah and The Sunburns

7 PM / $8adv/$10dos - The Crofoot

Friday, April 17, 2015

Kriss Gaynes (Premiering May 1 @Blowout)

This band is done trying to be just a band. 
They are releasing an album that needs to be more than an album. 
And, they are aspiring to a live show that is beyond just a live show... 

Kriss Gaynes comes to us with eloquence and darkness, allure and gloom, existential fuck-all and progressive optimism.

Rations paper and promise - I'm the Arch-rival's sonAncient echoes of progress - I'm the future undoneKriss Gaynes - "Horrordome"

Kriss Gaynes is a duo of electro-doom-dance composers inspired to alleviate (and also feed upon) the endemic frustrations of the modern artist, any of the underground churners who have awakened to how admittedly bleak the prospects expected from following the current crooked arc of the status quo...

Reaching back to the acerbic textures of protopunk and experimental electronica (think Silver Apples meets Suicide,) the duo of Aaron Saul and John Duffy splice distorted vocals, dissonant guitars and post-apocalyptic-affecting beats from the dastardly futuristic drum machines into cathartic song-ceremonies dazzled with gnarly grooves and throat-curdling crescendos.

This might almost be an even more aggressive evolution of DEVO's more message-oriented, satirical tirades... or if early Ministry did a fierce cover of Talking Heads' more raw and rhythmic burners like "Psycho Killer." There's palpable ferocity in the back-and-forth yowls tennis-balled between them on unwound-techno torrent "The Itch Incessant," while the intro, as anthemic and enlivening as any Dan Deacon jam with its rounding siren-like synthesizer, knee-to-chest running rhythms and roof-scraping vocal belts, states their case plain and simple, "We Believe In What We Know..."

But the other thing about Kriss Gaynes, they're the first Video Band. Will a full screen filling the background behind the "band," a projector spills a montage of stark, sublime and surreal images culled from the most iconic and esoteric of directors and cinematographers, completing a collage of experimental cinema augmenting an aural assault akin to poppy darkwave and funky krautrock, assured to blow the mind of both Jonas Mekas as much as Brian Eno...

That's where Kriss Gaynes begins... Monument River... Debuting this month, with two singles streaming here:


Experience Kriss Gaynes LIVE during the Metro Times Blowout

Friday, May 1 @ 7 Brothers (11831 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck)
w/ The Landmarks, VSTRS and Ex American

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Phantom Cats Reunion Show (Interview)

When the Phantom Cats broke up, guitarist Nik Landstrom was sure nobody cared, anymore. The shows were getting more sporadic and songwriter wasn’t getting out on the scene very much and there was this   “…weird, bitter feeling, like: ...what’s the point?”

Then he just called it, March of 2014... Another band breaking up before their brilliance could be fully recognized or realized…

Cut to a few months after....Landstrom finds himself at the periphery of conversations where friends wonder: “What’s going on with the Cats? Why aren't you guys playing anymore?”

OR…he meets perfect strangers who ask him: “Oh? You’re a musician? What band did you play in…? Phantom Cats??? Wow, I listen to that EP all the time…”

And since they decided to reunite for one epic night of music (Friday night), there’s since been an enormous amount of love coming their way, again. “That’s a lesson,” says Landstrom. “You can’t be a big baby…” He chuckles. “You just gotta trust that when you’re doing something that you care about, that other people care about it too…”

The Phantom Cats' rock was this rigid ballet, with gyroscopic shifts in time and key signatures, indelible melodies wafted and waltzed smoothly over wicked riffs and soulful bass grooves; the drums swung and the vocals soared. It was operatic and erratic and playful, the cascading guitars (from Landstrom) were a nifty, knotty tap dance across the frets, a classically-informed Stratocaster jousting into a tornado, while the rhythms (from bassist Adam James and drummers Max Daley/Matt Daher) were unleashed to embrace subtle sides of danceable forms, like amphetamized R&B. Liz Shar, meanwhile, was on lead vocals and she just about stole every show, with that breathtaking falsetto and charismatic stage presence.

“These songs started as completely-written guitar parts,” says Landstrom. “I’d write guitar parts out in their entirety, then go to the band and the song is…everyone’s personal response to it. I’d be boring for me if I was just playing conductor, and it’s kinda cool to see what people do with it, how they interpret it.”

“The music touches on all these different genres and there’s a lot of weird things that happen…”

When Landstrom says this I stop him. I ask him to repeat it. That phrase sums up Phantom Cats to a tee…

So after more than two years of seeing them perform and listening to their music, I name drop Deerhoof...

"Ohhh, yeah. One of my biggest influences..." Landstrom admits.

I ask for more (influences)...

"Dirty Projectors," he says, right away. "They're melding of these long classical forms arcing or adhering more to a pop structure, that's a very central thing to my writing, trying to meld those two, without losing your audience. The general audience doesn't want to sit through 10 minutes of motivic development, like listening to Bach. So, we shape it around a more simplified a-b-a-b-c-b form, yet still have those classical elements going on."

And so, with Landstrom being a professional music teacher, able to tackle Bach, Beethoven or even Bob Dylan's stuff, I ask about that whole classical vs. rock bridge that they've built.

He's already presented this "spectrum" of the Phantom Cats in a recent interview, but imagine:
Beethoven <<<------->>>> to R. Kelly

"Right in the middle, there, that's where the Phantom Cat's sound is... But, ya know, you really can trace a line between classical and rock."

A proceeding nerd-out/tangent builds towards christening Beethoven to be The Cobain of his era...the first true, iconic, mythologized "tortured artist," who suffered for his work and saw his popularity flourish as a result... "We talk about how tortured all artists are and like Cobain, too, he's right in line with that, with Beethoven, we revere them because they suffer for their art... I can nerd out about this all day if you like..."

So instead, I ask him about his players...

"Adam is like my personal James Jamerson; he's got such great licks and a great melodic ear, which is hard to find on the bass. And Max, I miss playing with Max, I loved his drumming so much, like drummers in the 60's where everything just swung. And then Matt is phenomenal, more of a jazz and R&B or even trip-hop style to it. It's a great compliment to the music..."

Because, again, the music winds up touching on everything. With gusto! And it's that gusto that we missed so much.

"And, I've been spoiled," says Landstrom, in regards to the vocal dynamo fronting the group. "Every song I've written has been written for her voice. I got to do whatever I want on guitar, no matter how weird it got, there was this phenomenal vocalist who I knew would find the perfect vocal melody to it."

Sadly, Liz Shar moves to D.C. in May for two years of school. That meant two things:
A.) a reunion was a "now or never" situation

B.) whatever Landstrom winds up doing for the rest of the year, it won't be under the Phantom Cats moniker. "Not if LIz isn't in the band, you can't call it Phantom Cats."

But, he assures that there are "a bunch of nebulous fragments floating around" his head that he'd like to get into song-form, soon. No clear vision, yet. "But, (music) is all I've done since I was 10, so I'm going to continue..."

The Phantom Cats, in this form, will not continue, however, at least for the foreseeable future. That's incentive to get your ass to this show. 

New Dodge Lounge
8850 Joseph Campau - Hamtramck
$5 / 21+

Phantom Cats
Pink Lightning
Black Shampoo
Alicia Walter 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New Voice / New Character: An Interview w/Chris Bathgate (April Tour)

Chris Bathgate has been on a journey. A couple of them, at least...

The neo-folk trailblazing singer/songwriter was thrown, emotionally, by all the acclaim bucketed upon his undeniably brilliant first batch of releases, epitomizing the overly-worn word-mash for music journalists, "hauntingly beautiful" with his A Cork Tale Wake and Wait, Skeleton... The voice could be as frail as a December oak leaf in the bridge yet as hardened and heavy as the tree, itself, timbering through the chorus, over a storm of bracing guitar strums.

He considers the stressful, self-shredding scrutiny of the following three years (2007-2010) to be a "journey," trying as it was, that led to the release of a vindicating and revitalizing album called Salt Year. Stark and somber, at points, with its spare and trundling percussion and that aching, elemental tone to his voice, and yet warming and propulsive at other points, with twanged-out guitar-rock riffs and driving rhythms.

Bathgate was back. But, not without a considerable wear and tear from that journey, where he scrapped the fledgling demos for Salt Year multiple times and nearly backed away from music entirely.

But there's a new journey, since....

"And it had a similar shape as the Salt Year journey," Bathgate said. "But, it swung into the deep extremes that Salt Year only grazed the surface of... Death, love, poverty, manipulation, deceit, chaos, isolation....were all exterior factors to that time or, rather, journey. "

Bathgate has been a bit of an itinerant troubador, lately. Ann Arbor, MI loved to claim him throughout the 2000's as he was attracting attention from NPR and PASTE Magazine, but he's since moved around the country several times, hoping to settle "back home" soon...

With new songs written, Bathgate is leaving for an east coast tour this week...

Bathgate had been filling his recent "hiatus" (through majority of 2012-2013) with day jobs, slowly chipping away at songs, primarily for SKULLS. He scored the soundtrack for a film called From This Day Forward while also taking some time to work in the production office for another film, earlier this year, down in Baton Rouge, LA. And every Spring, he's continued to return to a teaching job he's held for a few years out in New England.

"I've just started touring outside of the Mid-West, again," Bathgate said. "I haven't necessarily had a specific goal other than to recover financially from the past two years of bad luck." He's continued taking the best job he can find, often outside of Michigan. He's been home for only seven months out of the last 2+ years.

But, says Bathgate, what's more interesting than the "severe details" of this recent journey is the path that was blazed out of the struggle, towards a "new musical vision."

"The cathartic writing that came out of that time re-invigorated my love for music and composition. I've become way more appreciative because of that newly-overcome rough patch. I worked and wrote my way through it."

"The well-trodden path of struggle's influence on my music is paramount," Bathgate said. "Most of the new material I've been sharing with folks is of that journey, during that hiatus..."

"I get messages from fans that start like: "...Dear Chris, I connected with your music during a time of immense struggle." Often, this is followed by "...Thanks," and a short explanation of how the connection to my songs was helpful to them in that time, however abstract. It feels good to know that my struggles are putting good in the world, however small, through the vessel of song. It seems my own struggles are not without positive external impact."

To overcome said-span of financial misfortune and self-scrutinizing torment, Bathgate set out on a tour he deemed "The Curse Breaker." He may have been tempting fate since, with everything else, mechanical breakdowns for his touring vehicle have also been constant, lately. "My hope was to rid myself of this bad luck with ceremony and a stepping-back into performing. On that tour, the engine of my van threw a rod on my way to one of the final few shows. A wonderful fan picked me up at a rest area of I-96 so I could make the show."

Bathgate's recently toured with Kalamazoo-based Americana outfit The Go-Rounds. Before that, he was on the road with singer/songwriter Molly Sullivan, was free of vehicular troubles, though not without a few close calls.

Meanwhile, Bathgate and Sullivan collaborated on a few tunes in 2014 for their live sets together. Bathgate played lead-guitar in Sullivan's Cincinnati-based band during a midwinter tour, where they discovered their complimentary styles.

"Stylistically," Bathgate says, "(Sullivan and I) are both songwriters using loops and ethereal washes. We both have distinct and stylized voices. So, when we play for each others' fans, they get it. The crossover receptions have been more than warm for both of us. We're more mutual appreciators, rather than heavy collaborators at this point. We just have been having lots of conversations about arrangements and record-making in the van, on tour."

As expressive and vulnerable as his previous records could be, Bathgate said he feels bashful about revealing overly detailed experiences, lately, because the conditions of his life "could be so much worse."

"As it is for everyone, life can be tough. Real tough. The last two years were pretty strange and brutal, but I'm still here. Things can, and they may...get worse. But, I'm better prepared for those times. Regardless, it's all material, and I'm thankful for it."

Bathgate is bringing several new songs encompassing this new chapter in his creative life. "Songwise," he says, "I've been bringing things into extremes that reflect the emotions I've experienced... bringing those emotional poles of the live set way up, and way down, often in close proximity."

"Maybe you could say my recent solo sets have been...sonically manic..." says Bathgate.

"There are a number of very honest, raw, slow and vulnerable songs with lots of ambient and ethereal under-paintings...There are also a slew of uptempo barn-burners emerging..." 

Bathgate is currently putting the finishing touches on these new sonic extremes, honing them into something feasible for a full band arrangement. As a solo singer, the songs have a lighter touch, even if the emotional content could still be tremendous and soul-quaking for some... There's the balance, a subtly to the atmospherics, lightly fogging the dusky melancholy of the words from that evocative voice...

This new loop-centric, guitar-based set leads to base tones pulsing from a small tube amp, hollow body, DL4 slap back and an amp spring for optimal reverberations. Bathgate's creating an interplay between the tones from a low-presence, round, reverberated fretboard pickup and a thinner, dirty lead of a bridge pickup.

"The ambient and atmospheric additions to my onstage tone have come from Earthquaker Devices, and Eventide.  I’m into washed out, low presence, ambient chords right now. The nuanced swells those companies have created are a really exciting for me to play with.  Their pedals are highly adjustable, and I can use the combination to create a unique palette.  With an ambient wash it’s all about the changes, which is a big part of my writing now. I’m still concerned with melody, but in a different iteration...."

The instruments on Salt Year covered the most important melodies and functioned as a chorus would in other songs. With his new songs, the melodies are like "slow hooks" or recurring themes. His voice is being pushed into louder realms than before, as you can hear on the Le Cheneaux Sessions video streaming above ("Fogged Clarity").

"Creating subtle tone differences allows for the same guitar to be looped and remain discernible. The same is true for the secondary Wollensa microphone that I sing into. The tiny radio-esque vocal tone allows for a different mood, a different voice, perhaps a new character."

A new journey, a different voice...

Chris Bathgate - Spring 2015 tour dates
April 14 - Anabell's - Akron, OH
April 15 - The Bug Jar - Rochester, NY
April 16 - The Fire - Philadelphia, PA
April 18 - Rockwood Music Hall - New York, NY
April 19 - The Burren - Sommerville, MA**
April 24 - House Concert - Sommerville, MA**
April 25 - House Concert - Willaimston, MA**
April 26 - Dream Away Lodge - Beckett, MA**
April 27 - Lizard Lounge - Cambridge MA**

**w/ Samantha Farrell

Monday, April 6, 2015

Interview: Passalacqua / RAP ROUND ROBIN 2015 - April 11

Passalacqua performs at PJ’s Lager House on April 11, part of the Rap Round Robin 2015 Tour with Height and Eze Jackson

Performing on this special Detroit edition of the Rap Round Robin are Doc Waffles, EddieLogix, Cold Men Young and Gosh Pith.

Rap Round Robin, an idea born out of the fertile creative commons of Baltimore several years ago and spearheaded  by rapper Dan Keech (aka Height) is a much needed ego-extinguishing adrenaline boost to the typical rap party: three touring acts will come to a venue and meet up with that scene’s three respective local acts and set themselves up on stages in a circular perimeter around the crowd. No headliners, no dead air, no stop in the action. Keep it flowing and keep on your toes…

Passalacqua are coming home for a much needed pit-stop on what’s proven to be their most ambitious venture since they formed in 2011. To sweeten their homecoming, Mister (Bryan Lackner) and (Brent) Blaksmith (Smith) are releasing an EP called Banglatown, an enlivening entr’acte between albums (leading up to a full length expected in late summer). The duo released the sublime and satirical groover “At The Party” last month to whet our appetites.

April 11
Rap Round Robin 2015 at PJs Lager House
Height / Doc Waffles & Eddie Logix
Passalacqua / Gosh Pith
Eze Jackson / Cold Men Young
9 PM / $5
1254 Michigan Ave –

INTERVIEW: Mister (of Passalacqua) 

Been on the road for just over a month… How scraggly are your beards?
Oh, man. Pretty scraggly. Dan shaved. He’s clean shaven, now, not like the rest of us with our Playoff Beards. Pretty shaggy, though. That comes with the territory.

They’ll think you’re getting on the Action Bronson bandwagon…
Or, I might start getting those Matisyahu references, again…

How’s it going out there with this Round Robin tour? What’s it like introducing the concept to each respective scene?
Most of the people are cool with the concept. I mean, in some cities it’s been easy to tell that we’ve been on the road and we’ll come in and it’ll be lopsided with someone who might be having their first show in a few months, whereas we’re firing on all cylinders. But, we’re not about to dog ‘em for that. It’s not a thing like: Yo, fuck you, we’re gonna crush you…NO. We’re really supportive and we want the best out of the show, we’re not here to toot our own horns, we’re just here to rap and make sure everybody enjoys themselves. So, we’ve supported anyone who comes to the Round Robin.

What’s the response been to the format?
People have been saying: ‘Oh my god, I’m so glad I was on this show or at this show…it’s so good to see real hip-hop traveling together and doing this…’ And, it refreshes everyone involved. They’ve said: ‘Oh, I don’t even wanna perform any other way at this point.’ That’s such a refreshing take on what can be a dull show, sometimes, if it was set up in the typical fashion.

It seems to me that this format could invite the Battle mentality… Maybe edge up the competitiveness…But, hopefully toward a positive point…
The Battle mindset is always gonna be there. For what we’re doing, just trying to connect people, I feel like it’s been really successful. We’re bringing together people that want to be brought together, a lot of them with very similar viewpoints on hip-hop and, really, they want to build something as much as you do. We haven’t run into any scenario where a performer’s been super disrespectful in any fashion.

And with each circulation of the Robin…it’s like collaboratively building up or flowing the energy of the room… I mean, that can happen by just responding to each other’s sets…
Right. It’s more trying to one-up the other in a good way. Next round, you better be coming with some shit! So, yeah, it’s nice to have other people keeping us on our toes while we try to keep other performers on their’s…just for the betterment of the overall show.

Making set lists on the fly? This must be like figuring out a batting order…or which skaters going next in the shootout…
Kinda, yeah. For the most part it’s 30-seconds before our song starts, one of us will look at the other and say, Okay, what’s next? You can’t design the set early, you have to see what the people are reacting to. It’s about building the mood, but without catering to it entirely, ya know? Still doing what we truly want to do in that moment. We’re working well with Height and Eze (Jackson), we work well off each other and at this point, we go and hype each other for our songs so that adds to the camaraderie, too. You’re getting a surround sound vibe at that point and people react to that.

You’re like hip-hop diplomats out there, then, huh? Like, extending that hand of friendship, forge a link between scenes for the sake of the greater national hip-hop community?
Right. Nicely put.

You’re getting to view a montage of music scenes from across the states, what’s your take?
You do get a little micro-image of these scenes and the camaraderie there in each. You see a lot of locals that, if it wasn’t for our tour, we wouldn’t otherwise hear of them and they’re surprisingly good so we’ll be passing their music along to our friends…

Inevitably you might start feeling homesick and comparing these scenes to Detroit? What’s that like?
There’s been certain cities I feel are very similar to Detroit, with a similar energy. We don’t get too much time to explore but at the show I can feel a connection. Like, with San Francisco. We had done LA and that was fun, but there was an overall stiffness to it, but we went to San Francisco and it was so relaxed and everybody was just cool and inviting and it’s that atmosphere that reminds me of Detroit. It was also nice to play with Charles (Vann, aka SelfSays) out in LA and a group of people from Detroit that came out. Cool to look out at the crowd and see a Detroit Vs. Everybody t-shirt. Nice pieces of home greeting us as we’ve traveled which has been comforting.

You’re dropping an EP called Banglatown this month. What can you tell us about it?
It stemmed from wanting to add new songs to the arsenal. If I get down about music it’s because the output isn’t there. It was this impetus of: we’re on the road, let’s have something out that’s new and just have fun with the music again. We’re all doing everything outside of the music, we’re our own booking agent, manager and then songwriter, so we’re trying to juggle all this stuff and you can get stressed out or caught up with that…You forget the music’s supposed to be fun. You remember, then, the excitement of why you write songs in the first place and that’s what Banglatown is about. Not overthinking it We got back to the point of just writing songs to write, again. 

Touch The Clouds - EP Release Show Saturday

Indie-rock specialists Touch The Clouds have a built-in chemistry after years spent banding around the scene. Over the last three years, the quartet have turned their talents toward honing an impassioned indie-sound that's as layered as space-rock but also as amped and angular as post-hardcore, forging an uncanny bridge between a melodious pop and an urgent, edgy punk sound. That development, a blend of toughness and tightness, heavy yet uplifting, is on display with their new EP Baetyl. 

Darrin Hunt and Joe Phillips have continually collaborated on music, having served with Brian Galindo in the Detroit outfit Few & Far Between for several years. Brian and his wife Nikkie were looking to start something new just as Phillips was moving back to Michigan  in 2012 and BAM. Here we are.  Initial hangouts fused into jamming which fused into writing and then back to hangouts again. Eventually they found a complete electrifying spirit, together, finding their footing, sonically, and following their instincts, unified.
Their forthcoming EP (released on locally renowned Gangplank Records) takes its name from a meteorite or a roughly shaped stone, a celestial artifact of mystery fallen from the sky and held sacred by those who discover it.
"It's angry, it's paranoid, it didn't get enough sleep," said singer/guitarist Joe Phillips, of Baetyl. " drank too much coffee. It got up and did it again. It's a reflection."
Recorded with Adam Cox in the library of a decommissioned public school in Southwest Detroit, Baetyl, their third release, was recorded inside a 10-hour blur on a weird, wild, inspirational Saturday afternoon in mid-2014. Mixed by Derik Lee, Baetyl was recorded live with limited overdubs and several lyrics written on the spot. Phillips also credited Dan Coutant's "fastidious and accurate mastering...He provided a marvelous sanding and lacquer coat to (Lee)'s sculpture."

Gangplank Records presents the new Touch The Clouds EP Baetylwsg: LaSalle and Narco Debut
8:30 PM  / $5 / 21+
New Way Bar 
Limited edition poster by Mark Heggie & printed by Progress Custom Screen Printing available at the show.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sound & Silence Magazine Presents...

Sound And Silence spotlights the newest sounds from scenes all over the world, but the online music magazine's first showcase will take place right here, n Detroit, next Saturday, featuring local talents James Linck, Eddie Logix & Doc Waffles, Groove 8, Nigel & The Dropout and Ancient Language. 

April 18th at 7 PM  -  Northern Lights Lounge; info: 

S&S curated this line up specifically because it renders a wide range of genres. With finger-on-the-pulse Music News and regular features via interviews and album reviews, along with exclusive items like their flowpoetry section Mysteries Of Sound, and Staff Picks lists, S&S has spent the last year and a half solidifying its presence in the music industry and a distinctively down to Earth yet hip as hell digital publication that brings it all back to the music, dissuading against trends of overtly-provocative, hyperbolic headlines to hook you into reading some vapid new quibble about a band you stopped caring about long ago...

S&S set out to define music journalism on their own terms, in a way that paid respect to the craft of music while keeping an eye (and especially an ear) toward the more progressive developments and approaches that would be necessary in a 21st century of streamers. They've done a damn fine job of it, t'boot... This blogger's been keeping up with their daily updates and reviews throughout the last year and they've been a reliable source both for new releases as well as new insights into my favorite artists.

It's impossible to keep up with everything happening every day in the music industry...But S&S, with its passionately devoted staff spread between Chicago, Detroit, New York and Atlanta, is manifestly motivated to keep up with as much as they human possible - and cover it/digest it/present it...for you...


I caught up with S&S Assistant Editor Ryan Solecki to talk about their inception, their development, and their Detroit showcase...

Milo:   So, how did this blog come together... What made you want to join and contribute? Who started it?  
Ryan:  It came together due to the lack of freedom in working for other publications. Music news had become simply news and no longer about the music, but about the musicians. S&S founders just wanted a space to do music journalism their way. Chris Robie is a co-founder of S&S, with Kevin (Tshiamala). They've been friends for three years; Chris gave Kevin one of his first music journalism gigs and that was the start...Chris and Kevin typically make all of the decisions, but everyone's opinion is warranted; someone always steps up when necessary, so everyone gets a chance to be ringleader. 

Milo:   What sets Sound & Silence apart from the rest...what's your MO, your distinct style?
Ryan:   We've found a way to create efficient articles by trimming the fat and deleting PC verbiage. We're strictly reporting on the music. We also pride ourselves on covering a wide variety of music in terms of genre as well as tier level, national or local. We're working on combining the world of the creative writer with that of music through our Mysteries of Sound Page, while also working on a new series that will bring the public closer to the artist via video confessions....We're just in it for the music and are trying to carve out our space. We are never content at S and S. It's a daily mission to strive for the next biggest and best thing in the industry. 

Milo:   How did this show at Northern Lights come together, how'd you curate the specific talent on the lineup and what are you anticipating?
Ryan:  It 
came up as an idea to spread our name by hosting a show with a wide variety of talent to back it up with. All the acts in the lineup are people that we have worked with before  We'll have different electronic acts, hip hop, alt rock, funk and R & B. It is a night for any kind of music lover to enjoy. We anticipate a great crowd because why wouldn't there be. Detroit is a mecca of talent as well as people who are enthusiastic about seeing that talent. We feel that we put together a talented and diverse line up that will bring people flocking to Northern Lights 

Milo:   We're through the first third of 2015: what's the future hold for the rest of the year and beyond at S&S?
We'll be gearing up to cover some festivals throughout the summer and finally taking out the drone. We'll be launching a new Community Fan Video series, too. We're hoping to run some giveaway contests for fans and eventually start throwing bigger showcases starting in the fall. Locally, we'll be filming Riverside Groove by Dirty 313ctronic Presents later in August. Above all, as we go, we hope to continue expanding, refining and bringing people the music news they desire.

pril 18