Monday, December 26, 2016

"We Just: Still Exist..." - Johnny Headband - "Best" Interview of 2016

Sometimes, when December 31st starts creeping up, I entertain the idea of listing my favorite interviews of the passing year. Or, I don't know what to call it... "Best" interviews of the year? But I'm in no position to "review" conversations, I only transcribe them and tell a story around those conversations. So I won't ever compile a list like that. Besides, the consistent fulfillment I find is in meeting artists, talking about the creation of music, and arranging a comprehensive (and often concise) story about it.

But I digress. I'd rather just talk about the one interview from 2016 that I never got to share with you...

It was July, and Chad Thompson of Johnny Headband met me in the middle of a sunny, sweltering morning, so that we could drink too large cups of coffee, roam the suburbs and talk about the band's fourth (or was it fifth?) return, reboot, restart, call it what you will.

Johnny Headband arrived on the Detroit music scene more than 10 years ago, but their debut album's hybrid of post-disco, funk-pop and new-wave rock was just another in a lifetime of quirky creations between the brothers of Chad and Keith Thompson. Over the last decade, they've appeared, per se, to deliver another meticulous and energizing production of songs, a couple of EP's, another full-length, a few singles, with a few proceeding performances, maybe some mini-tours, and then...they'd go underground (again, per se...), all but disappearing from your news feeds. 

But they always came back. They always do come back. Chad can't stop working on music, and he's always thinking up new songs. His hands are in other projects too, of course, particularly graphic design and videography   

Anyway, I'm rambling. Johnny Headband (with drummer Robbie Saunders), released a 4-song EP earlier this year, and they played a show over in Toronto. They were back! I mean, even though they never really went away, they were back! And I was biding my time, hoping for them to book a big concert in the metro Detroit area and I was going to use this interview to promote it... But then they went away again...

I wanted to share a few of my favorite snippets from my "favorite interview of 2016--"--that no one got to see, until now.

My chat with Chad, from Johnny Headband. 

          Concentrated Concentration 
"I like to work... I like to be in the process. My brother loves nothing more than to get lost in it... But, it's the best. It's the best feeling. It's the best thing to do with your time. If you're writing something and you're lost in it? There isn't anything better than that..."

          Spinning legs on the social media hamster wheel of self-promotion
"...BUT..., to then have to have all these bases covered in terms of 'putting it out into the world...?' Not everybody can....or not everybody wants to..., or not everybody is able to. And quality doesn't always matter, (obviously), and ambition doesn't always matter. I think once you let that go, you can really do some dangerous stuff!"

          The actual humans that populate the "bands," these otherwise intangible composites of people with publicity photos and images and genre-labels... Who are they? 
"I'm just thinking about everything... I'm not thinking about that one thing, and I think that there are people that have that single-mindedness. That is not what I have. But if we're talking about Johnny Headband...?"
         (.....and here, I had already made a metaphor, prior to this quote, about the band appearing every so often, sometimes every 2-4 years, and it's akin to catching glimpse of a whale's majestic tailfin breaking the water's surface for this valiant splash....)
"As far as the whale appearing...and then going away? That's what we require!! Some people go away for four years and the only thing you know in context to them and their lives...let's say Radiohead... you only know them as musicians or music makers, you don't know what else they do. You might not care. They go away, they come back, play shows and they're "a band..." But I'm sure that those same people go through periods where they wonder to themselves, should I keep doing this? What else would I do if I didn't do this...? Who am I?"

          On expectations (...and lowering them) 
"I don't always classify us as 'a band.' I'm not even there. We're not there as a group. We have to go do other shit, because, ('being a band') is not a living."

          The point
"But I guess my point is, there's not much of a choice. You're drawn to it, you do it, you keep doing it, people ask you do do more of it... You keep doing it, you enjoy certain aspects of it. We're in a place that is healthy and the expectations for us are reasonable, but yet our quality and standards and growth and creative purges and all those things, are always going to want to be fulfilled in one way or another!"

        (He stops me towards the end, as I'm running out of questions)
"So anyways..., what could we talk about that is more 'relevant...' to something that someone would care about?"
         I tell him I think we already got there...

"Sometimes you have to burn down a forest, and what grows back is more verdant and beautiful. And there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with putting something to bed and moving on to another thing. It doesn't mean that initial thing was dysfunctional and I don't know when the time is to call it a day... We just: still exist!"

Johnny Headband still exist! And I'm relieved to finally share the interview with you! Social-media anxiety, self-imposed expectations, skewed perspectives, those can be killers for an artist. But, even if Johnny Headband are playing a show, even if their songs came out months ago, I wanted any other band out there to know that the existential dread of throwing your works out into the uncertain ether, it's universal in this age. But, as Chad put it, it "might depend on what phase of the journey you're in..." 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Javelins are a Detroit-area post-punk power pop trio that meld sweet spaced-out psychedelia with angular post-rock rhythms and lyrics heavy with dreamy imagery.

Javelins are:
Matt Howard--guitar, Julian Wettlin--bass, Matt Rickle--drums/vocals
Earlier this month, the lifelong friends were featured in a mini-documentary marking the 10th anniversary of their breakout album No Plants Just Animals. The video below is part live show, part interview, exploring their approach to making music, the chemistry between them, and the overall history of the band.

Robin Veresh

Camera Operators:
Al Dolega
Craig Davis

Created by:
Jonathan Lotoczky
Michael Majewski

Meanwhile, Javelins are one performing component of a 3-day music festival out in Ypsilanti raising funds for 826michigan's nonprofit education programs in local public schools. The coordinators of the 11th annual Mittenfest music festival have curated a mix-tape, of sorts, via bandcamp, featuring bands that span the 3-days worth of individual lineups. 

For more information on this year's Mittenfest, read my article via The Current Magazine (in Ann Arbor). 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

DD White - Digital 45" Release Parties

A chat with DD White, a New York-based/Michigan-raised kaliedo-pop band releasing their debut singles this week.

“Even A Girl” glides out with punk-burst haste and breakneck riffs, surfing into a smoother verse where soulful vocals emit a palpable urgency and empowering lyrics. This is one of a pair of singles DD White is releasing this week, with shows set in New York on Thursday and then in Detroit next Friday (Dec. 23rd).  At even just the halfway point of this song, you’ve already slalomed through a flurry of genres and sensibilities, from indie-pop to post-ska, from 70’s blues-rock to CBGB’s art/punk fury.

The next single, “Blame You,” ushers you into an entirely different arena, paring back those guitars for this gospel-tinged choir opening, as the rhythms temper to a pleasing toe-tapping beat and the guitars wend and wail with just the right amount of hummy reverb. While “Even A Girl” is a fitful and cathartic, swift-surge to the dancefloor, “Blame You” is more of a sway, more of a valiant climber that builds up the listener toward the poetic sense of compassion and cool exuded by the lyrics.

DD White
Performing Thursday  at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC
Digital 45” Release Party for “Even A Girl” / “Blame You”
Then on Friday, Dec., 23 at Majestic Café, Detroit, featuring an opening performance by singer/songwriter Elise McCoy (formerly of MPV).

So let’s meet DD White

Singer/ukuleleist Tiffany Wiesend hails from Taylor, MI and studied at the Boston Conservatory of Music. Bassist/backing-vocalist Chris Agar grew up in Oxford, MI and went to the University of Michigan. Guitarist Collin (Stanley ) Dwarzki’s hometown is Wyandotte and he went to Eastern Michigan University. Guitarist Tim Basom, meanwhile, came from Akron, OH, studying at the Manhattan School of Music. Then there’s drummer Zach Simao, who went to Yale and came from Kailua, Hawaii.

The common factor between each band member is that music has played an integral role throughout all of their lives. Their shared touchstones, influence-wise, include 60’s soul, Motown, classic rock, jazz, R&B, pop and hip-hop. That eclecticism, and a collaborative weaving together of the various flavors, is a point of pride for the band, and in 2017 they’re looking to expand their reach even further.

So who met who first…? How’d everyone get together? When was the band’s first show and how did it go?

Collin Dwarzski: Tiffany and I first met in 2011 through one of my family members. Growing up in the same area, it was as if we were friends for years and years.  We started working together almost immediately. I use to have a studio space at NextWave in Troy and a home studio in Hamtramck. She would come home from New York and we would cut demos. That was the beginning of our musical relationship.

Tiffany Wiesend: Yes… and then Collin called me one day saying he was going to move to LA, but I convinced him instead to move to NYC and be in my band.

Chris Agar: Tiffany and I met at a performance in Greenwich Village at famous New York City club, the Bitter End. I had a Michigan shirt on and it immediately drew Tiffany to me, (laughs).

Wiesend: And it just so happened that I was looking for a bass player… and Chris had the chops! 

Dwarzski: Our first official show as DDWhite was at Arlene’s Grocery in East Village in April 2016. We received incredible feedback and helped drive momentum for the rest of the year.

“Blame You” has this lithe, soaring pop vibe… “Even A Girl,” meanwhile, is aggressive, riffy, and fast-driving… There’s a considerable variation of style and genre that you guys venture through – it seems that if there’s one thing tying it all together, it’s just: energy! Could you talk about what you guys are all drawn to, stylistically, what kind of music has always turned you on –and how do you hone that into a single composition when you guys are working on new stuff….

Wiesend (vocals): My earliest influences were Motown, rockabilly…  Elvis Presley, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers.   I remember my dad had this Little Willie John album that we would listen to over and over again.  I have always performed and enjoyed many different styles of music perhaps because of my theatre background.

Dwarzski (guitar): I loved high energy music as a kid. AC/DC and Led Zeppelin were some of my earliest influences.  The over-the-top performances and show antics really drew me in. My mother was also a huge fan of David Bowie. I remember putting on some of her crazy clothes and dancing in front of the mirror with my guitar. My dad loved blues. George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” played every Sunday.

Agar (bass): Thanks to my dad, my early musical tastes varied from Yes to Tchaikovsky to the Beatles to Stephane Grapelli. I was obsessed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Flea, and later fell in love with jazz, which is what I spent years studying intensely.  Motown and other soul music are also huge influences on me.

Wiesend: We enjoy a great performance; an emotional journey. Chord progressions that pull at your heartstrings, minor chords that give us goosebumps, rawness, solid rhythm sections, and of course a good, old-fashioned hook.

Agar: In terms of how we hone a composition, our current format is simple: Tiff brings the goods, and then the goods get filtered through the rest of us!

You guys were/are a Michigan band. But talk about transferring to New York. What have you discovered or learned about band-life out there and what lessons from a Michigander-upbringing helped you get into a groove out there?

Wiesend: I moved to NYC in my early twenties and learned A LOT in those first few years.  I learned that you’ve got to be your own greatest creative advocate.  You have the power to do what you love to do but nobody is going to make it happen for you except you. You’ve gotta keep your priorities straight because in a place like New York City there are endless distractions.  I feel that my Midwest upbringing has helped keep me grounded and healthy.  The midwest taught me how to cook.  Haha.. You’ve got to feed your people.  Hungry musicians are not happy musicians. I love living in New York City… there is so much inspiration everywhere… consistent artistic fodder.  But I also love getting to go home to Detroit… nothing better than spending a quiet evening in with family and old friends, eating some Better Made potato chips and drinking a Vernors. 

Dwarzski: I came up in the Detroit scene and had the opportunity to play with many of Detroit’s finest musicians. It had a huge impact on my early artistic development. New York City, on the other hand, transcends industry. It’s a business town, a world town, a Broadway town.  It’s the most exciting and exhausting place at the same time. It forces you to become better. The standard for musicianship is extremely high. Any day of the week you have access to some of the greatest artists in the world.

Agar: I moved to NYC after four years on cruise ships, so I was mentally prepared for a big change of pace.  We’ll all agree that the biggest adjustment is the high cost of living. We all come from hard-working families; parents who had to build their own lives.  The you-must-work-for-it attitude is very helpful in NYC….Musically speaking, the Detroit scene is a rich well from which to draw where groove is king. 

And what do you consider to be the band’s most formative moment? What built the bond?

Agar: The recording session at Mission Sound in Brooklyn with Oliver Straus really brought the sound of the group into a sharp focus.  Something elusive became a concrete idea.  For me personally, I knew Tiffany was a talented singer, but to witness her in the studio was a defining moment.

Wiesend: Hearing our tracks played through the speakers at the studio at the end of that session made us all stop and realize that we were possibly sitting on something special.  It can be a scary thing, recording music.  Putting your creative passion in someone else’s hands.  We were lucky to have found our music in Ollie’s hands. 

Agar: Yeah. And I think our chemistry, both musical and personal, came instantly.  Our common backgrounds, being raised in metro-Detroit in working-class families, and our similar musical tastes made for a quick rapport.

Tell us more about recording the singles at Mission Sound…

Wiesend: We had an outstanding experience at Mission with (Strauss.)  John Horne (Electric Lady Studios) was also with us as a consultant in-studio and their combined extensive experience and wisdom brought great integrity to the project.  It’s a magical experience to get a bunch of passionate and skilled creatives in a room full of incredible tools all working toward the same goal.

Dwarzski:  We are all animated onstage and off and the recording of “Even a Girl,” which is a fun rock and roll tune, really captures that side of the band, while “Blame You” is emotional and uplifting.  The songs vary in mood and style just like our shows.. 

So you’ll do your two home crowds for the release parties…How are you feeling going in to this Rockwood Music Hall Show? And how do you feel about the upcoming Detroit show?

Dwarzski: Rockwood is a favorite venue in NYC. It’s a well-respected club and a great scene in general. They have a wide pallet of musical acts daily, and that fact fits our musical sensibilities like a glove.  That venue draws a crowd of music-appreciators more than any other at its price-point!

Wiesend: And It’s a dream to return home to Detroit for the holidays and showcase this project to friends and family, in addition to reaching a new audience.  We’ve been consistently working hard for a long time now and simply can’t wait to share the project.

What’s next?

Wiesend: We have a ton of great tunes that deserve a chance to be recorded. But it takes a lot more money than we realized; producing music.  It’s a hard financial climate for music artists right now.  But we’ve made it this far and can’t stop until we give our everything. 

Dwarzski:  We are working toward a crowdsourcing campaign.  The main goal with that is to record an EP and organize a tour.  We’re also going to shoot a music video in 2017…. and eat as many pierogies as humanly possible.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Michigan Music in 2016 (pt 2 of 2)

Click here to stream 4 hours worth of Michigan music from 2016

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Mythics - Australian ChalkAs

The Mythics were started by singer/percussionist Jessica VanAssche and bassist/guitarist/sound-wizard Chad Stocker in 2009 and almost instantly found this nice niche of dream-pop that was apt for the pre-departure, meditative wind-up toward a night of shenanigans at bars and clubs or the post-ruckus wind-down of calming contemplation and light-dimming descenders.

"Ascending into space / shadowplay..." 

As the band's progressed, they've kept the instrumentation to be relatively minimal, while assuring the more amorphous vibe, the ambiance, the mood..., to be maximal!

Saturday, The Mythics celebrate their first proper full length album, Australian Chalk. 

The Mythics
Saturday at The New Way Bar
Australian Chalk (on New Fortune Records)
Doors at 9pm
featuring visuals by Robin Veresh
and performances by The Belle Isles and The Rogue Satellites
More info

Bassist Jon Berz and keyboardist Tina Louise have joined the band recently, but former members that contributed to the songs on this new album include keyboardist Joshua Doolan and bassist Laura Shortt. The band completed the recordings for these songs at Woodshed Studios in Ferndale. Pictured below is a still from the band's performance of the album's title track, during episode 6 of The Milo Show. 

"Love Me Like You" feels like a bittersweet early 60's rock ballad with its striding beats it's steady-climbing/softly-falling vocal melodies throughout its choruses, while that organ augments that charming throwback feel. Then the guitar takes over...! It's a little Fripp-ian with its spacey soaring and cosmic tones, but like every Mythics song, each respective instrumental phrase has such a subtle touch or meticulous manner about it, like it's all serving to sculpt the musical mélange and, frankly, keep things kinda catchy. This isn't a pop band, but like any bewitching dream, you exit each song as though you've just woken up from some refreshing wander on the cerebral plains. Something sweet is stuck in your head! 

Should you Google the phrase: "L'Appel Du Vide," you'll find something pretty bleak, but yet the song by the Mythics is an enchanter, a kind of slightly-revved up slow dancer you could almost waltz to, where, we should  mention, VanAssche's exquisite voice, something that can ribbon and swoon from a softened lullaby to a soulful mid-high intonation weaving around the guitars and backing vocals with finespun harmonization. 

"Dreams are wishes come true..." My favorite is "Wish..." with the echo-y, reverb wrapped guitars almost pealing as they set that hypnotic riff over ambling rhythms and a theatrical vocal delivery that feels whimsical, like a broadway showtune almost, but vibrant with sincerity. And then....!! 

And then, as Stocker and VanAssche always do, they find this interesting (and graceful) swerve, to glide the listener into the bridge. The bridge of most Mythics songs will always feel nearly like it's an entirely different song altogether, only to bring it back to fine familiarity for the final choruses. But with "Wish" the guitars and the synthesized vibes start to merge their ominous/innocent sensations, and the drone settles over like a fog, as though you're not entirely certain, just as any of us are never certain, that this wish, that any wish, could come true... But all gets soothed by the closer, the title track (streaming below inside the Milo Show episode). 

You can watch The Mythics performing at the 2:37 mark of this episode...

You can watch The Mythics interview at the 16:24 mark of THIS episode

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Kelly Jean Caldwell Band (Interview) - Downriver LP Release Party Dec 9th

John Szymanski (of the Hentchmen) decided to start his own record label this year, operating out of his Outer Limits Lounge in Hamtramck. Singer/songwriter Kelly Jean Caldwell, who married Szymanski a couple summers ago, thought this was a great idea and wanted to start recording new songs she'd been working on with her band. But, after thinking about it, Caldwell and Szymanski decided that since she already had a whole full-length album recorded, why not release that one first... ?   Right…let’s get back to that!!

The Kelly Jean Caldwell Band celebrates their full length album
Downriver (to be released on the new Outer Limits Lounge Records), Dec 9th

Caldwell started writing her own songs when she was still in elementary school. She was born up in the Upper Peninsula, and eventually wound up moving down to Ann Arbor, where she formally started gigging and recording. From there, she came over to Detroit and has since been in a handful of bands and collaborated with several local artists over the last decade.

Throughout 2009-2011, she was performing regularly with a full band, invariably identified as the Kelly Jean Caldwell Band, Kelly Jean Caldwell & The Mountain Family Band…, or just Kelly Jean Caldwell. Those players included Craig Brown on lead guitar, Brian Blair on bass, Todd McNulty on drums, and Kevin Sullivan on rhythm guitar.

Just as 2010 became 2011, Caldwell released two divine and delightfully dark singles (“Outside Heart” & “Diamonds”), followed by an announcement that she and the band would begin recording soon with producer Derek Stanton (Molten Sound Studio). From there, most of us heard hide-nor-hair of this ostensible album until a couple months ago when Caldwell announced its re-excavation!

Caldwell spoke with me recently, and she told me about the modest-yet-workable recording space that Szymanski recently installed into an area of the Outer Limits Lounge. This is where he and Caldwell have been working on new recordings for the “stoner-rock/occult-band” The Wiccans (which features Szymanski and Caldwell, along with Aran Ruth, Jeff Fournier and Bill Hafer. So…, The Wiccans will be either Outer Limits Lounge Records 2nd or 3rd official vinyl album release (to be pressed, later, at Archer).

This Friday, the Kelly Jean Caldwell band kicks things off for Outer Limits’ new label with the long-awaited Downriver LP.

Dec 9th at Outer Limits Lounge
Kelly Jean Caldwell Band’s Downriver LP release party
with Michael Hurtt’s Haunted Hearts, the Drinkard Sisters, and DJ Eric AllenMore info

What I always loved (and love) about Kelly Jean Caldwell’s songs (and her overall vocal performance) is how spooky and sweet it is at the same time. She’s a charming balladeer who twists classic pop/rock struts, country twangs and Americana janglers just a bit askew into an ethereal, dreamlike realm, yes realm, where, if you close your eyes you might just picture fog machines and ambient moonglow.

I’m probably spellbound by Caldwell’s stylistic equation: she’d had a deep-seeded love of metal and hair metal when she was a tween and teen, then went on to filter those supernatural/sinister tones and vibes through the resplendent riggers of Ann Arbor’s sublime folk/roots/bluegrass scene of the early 2000’s. Her songs are the charming fusion of her early years’ coffee-shop mellow strums and throwback rock nostalgia as it barely tempers the nocturnal menace and theatrically eerie. That being said, her vision is comprehensively realized by the versatile players she’s got backing her up.

Enough from me, let’s chat with Kelly…

On the label and putting out Downriver
“John’s wanted to start a record label for a while, now. Meanwhile, I recorded this album about five years ago. It was in the prime of my band playing out and doing all sorts of stuff. We recorded with Derek Standon and then, just, one thing after another. Brian, the bass player, and I got divorced. I had a kid, then I got married (to Szymanski), and had another kid and it all went on the back burner. I wasn’t sure if everyone was even going to still want to play with me after the whole ‘mom thing…’ But as I reached out to all of them, they each individually said: ‘Hell yeah!’ So, then we started playing together again. John started this label. This album was already done. So, let’s just put it out!’

                Caldwell was approached by the Seraphine Collective for 2014’s Best Fest Forever-fest, to see if she had any new recordings. “Destroyer” is the third track on Downriver.

On returning to songs
“As a songwriter, you’re always looking forward. It can be easy to just write off your old stuff. But I revisited these songs and said… ‘Wow…’ These songs are about a very specific time in my life and I think it’s all kinda encapsulated in those songs, from my time I lived Downriver. It’s like putting on different outfits, I think; you might have an old shirt that you wore the first time you met your ex-boyfriend and you might think of him when you wear it, but….but it’s still a good shirt!” (Laugh) “But it feels good to play these songs with these guys cuz we really did hone them and they really are like a family to me.”

On the recording
“I think (Derek Stanton) really embraced the role of a producer and brought out a lot in the songs. While I hate that one song wound up keeping the title “Fucked Up,” it definitely sticks out in my mind because it is so much the essence of the record. Really spooky, with sort of random noises and this out-of-tune flute that we recorded at two in the morning. I have great memories of recording that song, but it’s a song we’ve never played live and probably won’t, ever…”

On Jeff’s favorite song, “Telepathy”
“That’s probably also my favorite one, because it’s sort of, to me, recalling the time I lived in Nashville. I had a band down there (with Brian) and we had a guitar player and a drummer who were from Nashville and they’d remarked something like: ‘Oh, this is the Detroit Twangasaurus,” or something… I do think there’s a certain soulful thing about the song. Definitely one of my favorites. And I think ‘Water’ is another one I like, where (Stanton) helped orchestrate this Pink-Floydy type of vibe, which is something I never would have thought our band could have....”

On growing up and getting into music
“I’ve always wanted to make music since I was a little girl. I was writing songs back when me and my childhood friends started a band. But, I really thought, at that time, that you had to be a man to be a led singer. Because it was all about Bret Michaels and Vince Neil and David Lee Roth… Ya know, there was Lita Ford and Doro Pesch, but there wasn’t many women. I figured I’d just be the editor of Metal Edge Magazine someday, because I thought a woman could only write about these men. But I think that stayed toward the back of my mind; cuz I got a guitar in 1998 and started writing songs. I moved to Ann Arbor shortly after that and it just sort of happened. There was a lot of house shows back then in Ann Arbor and I’d never even had to buy an amp; I could just show up. Then I transferred, I started doing shows over in Detroit and they were like: ‘Uhh…you need a pickup, an amp, and…a band.’

On The Seraphine Collective
“I don’t think there was anything like this (in the mid-2000’s) and they’ve definitely stepped it up in the last few years. They are a powerful group of women and individuals. I hold all of those girls in the highest respect, especially Shelley (Salant), whom I’ve known since…, I don’t know, she seemed like she was so young when she first showed up. But to see her now become this community leader; I just love it. I couldn’t be more excited about what they’ve got going on…”

On performing
“The first show was with this short-lived band I had called The Marigold Comedown.’ We practiced so much and I remember getting up there and standing on stage for the first song, feeling like: ‘I was wrong! This is terrible! I thought I wanted to do this, but I don’t…’ And all these thoughts are running through my head. But then, by the time we got done with our last song, and we only had about five songs, I felt it! I felt: ‘this was it!!’ And then I never really went back after that. I just realized: Okay, you need to power through that initial stage fright and nervousness. If you start crying in the middle of a song, just go with it; cuz everybody loves drama. Embrace the fear!”

On her band:
“I usually write a whole song and I might have a vibe in mind: like an early Kenny Rogers vibe…! Or I might get specific and ask Craig to play like a C.C. Deville guitar solo… My band are all stellar musicians. Brian is a very musical person. Craig is a phenomenal guitarist and a songwriter in his own right. And Todd is the most musical drummer I’ve ever played with. We really did work together on this album, which is the reason I wanted to call it: The Kelly Jean Caldwell Band…as opposed to just Kelly Jean Caldwell.”

After Wiccans' record, The Hentchmen have started working on new material. Later on in the new year, there's a new batch of material that Caldwell plans on recording with her band. It’s basically a five-album plan, for now; so they’ll see where there at in the middle of next year! Hopefully a year from now I’ll be writing about albums 6, 7, and 8, from Outer Limits. Until then…here's the info on this Friday's show! 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Dropout - "Let It go"

Andrew Ficker is still The Dropout. Crowds around here got to know him as one-half of Nigel & The Dropout. But there's something so fragmentary about that ampersand ("&"), almost looming too large in its suggestion of not being individually actualized without another separate half. Last July, Ficker officially set out to start finding and forging who he is as a solo songwriter and producer. 

And this month he's going to be dropping a few new singles, starting with "Let It Go," right here...


For further referential framing, you can listen to his first formal single, produced at Assemble Sound, here

With "Let It Go," he's blend in the surfy with the surreal; tighter percussion and finespun hooks harken to indie-rock, while the mobius-strip-winding synthesizers and ear-splashing reverb invite the escapism of an EDM's endless night into the blissed/blurred early morning hours. Just as he'd started with "Undone," earlier in the summer, the curtains and corners of the song's landscape have some softer, meditative intonations, but spurring down the center of it all is this revved-up and radiant percussive arrangement; the mind is mellowed but the body's unlocked to dance. It's a pretty smooth ride, but it's also nearly a rave! 

And Ficker's vocals, right around the 1:00-minute mark, soar to the top, with this mid-range half-spoken/half-melodic spill of poetry that's threaded with a dazzling amount of reverb that makes it sound like there's four of him talking, each succeeding voice just a millisecond-behind the other. And THEN... it all swells back, brightening, warming, accelerating...

Ficker will be releasing a new song every two weeks this month. His proper debut, live, will be January 27th at El Club. 

Let's chat

Talk about going "solo," as it were... This town had gotten to know you as one-half of another entity, but what are you doing with this project that you feel sets it apart from N&TD?

Nigel & The Dropout had a pretty calculated and dark aesthetic at times and I'm looking to really just let loose and have some fun with this project.  There will obviously be some inevitable similarities, and some unpredictable differences, but I definitely want to establish a more positive vibe, both melodically and lyrically, and then bring that energy to the live show

Have your specific tastes or influences changed notably over the last two years? Are there certain things that you can talk about that you think you've always been drawn to, like when it comes to production, or when it comes to a certain sound or feel…?
My musical taste has always been all over the place. I love and respect something from every genre, this year more than ever. I spent a month this last summer hopping music festivals in Europe and I was exposed to a remarkable amount of culture in a pretty short period of time.

On top of rediscovering my love of saxophone, and working with other talented Artists at Assemble Sound, it's been an inspiring year. My favorite thing about life in general has always been experiencing live music, and my favorite artists to see live are ones that put effort into being as much about the "show" aspect as they are about the music. So…, I’ll say I've got some pretty exciting stuff planned with my lights for the live show!

So tell me about "Let It Go..." What were you going for with this one... those brass sounds are so celebratory-feeling at the bridge. The beat is pretty danceable; the vocals are crisp and up top. How are ya feeling about it? What's the word?
I was going for a song that was uplifting and dreamy, with a little childlike nostalgia. I think its lo-fi toy-ish quality kinda adds to that. (It’s) almost like a song Mike Snow would write in middle school. And I actually had planned to revisit it before releasing it this week, but my computer crashed and I lost all my original files; I kinda had to accept where it was, and let it go, literally. The horns at the end were inspired by a great song by Cataldo called "In Now and Then.” It came out very differently but the horns in that song feel like a big warm hug to me, and I really wanted to emulate that.

What happens next? What are you working on, hoping to do, or looking forward to?

I'm making a challenge to myself to release a song every two weeks for the next six months. So, anyone  can subscribe to my email list to keep updated, or just check my website. I make a point to use a variety of instrumentation with every song and I don't plan on sticking to any one specific mood or genre throughout the process. So, I’m very much looking forward to my debut live performance on January 27th, in the new year, at El Club with some excellent DJ's and my good friends Humons. We're going to make a big party out of it and have a damn good time!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Michigan Music in 2016 (pt 1 of 2)

What a year! You've spent said year reading paragraphs of my thoughts on a lot of the music featured in this playlist. So rather than ramble at you any further, I'll just let the music do the talking. Today is a Saturday, hopefully you've got the day off and can just hang out here for a sec and stream some of the newest songs by artists all around Michigan (albeit mostly Detroit). By next Saturday (the 10th) I'll have "part 2" of the Michigan Music rundown uploaded into a Spotify. 

While it doesn't happen as much as it did more than five years ago, whenever anyone asked why I hadn't left Detroit yet for some other music mecca like a Nashville or an Austin or a Brooklyn, I would always point back to these year-end lists. Each year it blooms bigger, brighter; more vibrant. I'm already writing too many words... Let's get on with "Part One..."
More to come, next weekend.