Saturday, April 30, 2016

(Introducing) Daniel Monk

Dan Gruszka’s got a lot of musical pans frying on the sonic stove. The skilled jazz-wizard guitarist and producer has been steadily suturing himself into the collective of artists operating inside AssembleSound, particularly through his tenure with the stylistically acrobatic LiquidMonk (with Mike Leonard, Eric Fillip, Omar Taji, and Brian Long). 

He has since gotten collaboratively involved with producer Eddie Logix (contributing to Mega Powers), along with singer/songwriter Kameryn Ogden (ISLA), who laid down a few vocal tracks along with Gruszka’s guitar lines. Gruszka also performs with the jazz-inflected GFK trio, which fuses some soul and funk into the groove stew.  

But what we’re really here to tell you about, is that Gruszka is pretty far along in production on his debut solo E.P, under the moniker Daniel Monk. Whereas Gruszka has been raised on jazz and rock, he recently began drifting toward the dreamier milieus ambient electronica and more downtempo electro-pop.

“I feel like music is all I know how to do,” said Gruszka, 32, who’s been dayjobbing it in software engineering for the last decade-plus, but only recently ignited onto the music scene. “I can be in my space, every night, working on production or jazz guitar for five hours straight. I basically taught myself jazz guitar from just working every night for hours. I never felt I could just do that, like, get in a trance, with anything else I’ve done. It’s a self-assigned thing. And, on top of that, I listen to music, pretty much non-stop.”

Gruszka’s work ethic, as well as his work load, can easily make me feel lazy. I don’t know about you.
“I started studying jazz about five years ago. I knew our drummer Eric (Fillip) through my dad; and we soon got together with (keyboardist Scott Kulik) and got GFK Trio going in 2012. We started experimenting early and we’d always had an aspect of funk to it, along with jazz and jam-band-ness, but I think it really solidified when I started bringing some of that (more synth-inflected) sound to the table.”

This was when Gruszka started really digging cerebral synth-inflected producers like Shigeto, Flying Lotus, Caribou and groups like Tycho. With Daniel Monk, he’s utilizing the sensibility for blending acoustic and organic terrain with the spacier and celestial electronic fogs of synth and pedal-wizardy.  
Liquid Monk scored a spot performing with Mega Powers during summer of 2015 and that’s where the creative lines between Logix and Gruszka started crossing.  Liquid Monk, meanwhile, started working on tracking a new E.P. at Assemble with Alex Kaye, and they have a show Saturday night in Lansing at the Loft.

But back to Daniel Monk. The debut solo E.P. is currently in the works inside Chris Koltay’s High Bias studio. Ogden is a featured vocalist. He’s been describing his own arrangements as heavily ambient trips, slower, sweeping, cinematic and somehow weaving spacey-synths with a bit of a folksy vibe.

But we don’t want to tell you too much…  Stay tuned. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Kickstand Band - Cutting Loose

Nobody likes talking about the “business” aspects of music. I typed that with quotation marks because it’s ludicrous to suggest any sense of order or reason, predictability or logic when it comes to casting ones line out into the rivers of labels with your recordings.

I’d much rather talk about how exhilarating it is just to listen to a Kickstand Band song, or see them perform with their modest-yet-dazzling domestic lamp light show. Now enjoy a video of the duo, recorded via cellphone...

But here’s the thing: singer/guitarist Gordon Smith and singer/bassist Allison Young had an album of songs ready to be released and they were sitting on it for more than a year, and I mean that figuratively, because they were in reality doing everything but sitting. (...Butt sitting? There’s a pun here, but I don’t have time…) No, the Kickstand Band are an inherently agile band: low-equipment quantities and only two members, both with markedly high enthusiasm rates for touring and performance in general. Smith/Young have been performing consistently around Michigan and even booking their own sporadic tour stints around the Midwest over the last two years. Still, they were sitting on songs…figuratively, not literally.

Smith took to Facebook to elucidate their personal experience “trying to make it…” in the “music industry.” (And of course, we advise you to raise an eyebrow at any word or phrase caught in those conspicuous quote marks). But I finally got a chance to chat with them about what the hell’s been going on…

“We were on Suburban Sprawl,” said Smith, looking back to late 2014, when they were finishing work on the songs. “It’s a great label, great folks…but it was also, at times, more or less a one-man operation run by Zach Curd and he decided, since he’d became a dad, recently, that it was way more fun to be a dad and just work on music rather than sending out millions of emails each day and getting told no… Which, that is the music industry, as it is, today.”

“Anyway…, we were left without any label to put out this music and that just kinda froze us…,” Smith explained. “Like, what should we do with this music? We…should send it out to labels, right? That’s what you do, right? But, who should we send it to? What would be a good deal for us, what would we want? Cuz, most label deals wind up seeming pretty shitty. And, this fear is kinda paralyzing as a band, so these songs have been around for two years. It was making us cry…and we didn’t want to cry anymore. We decided to just put them out there…

“And…,” said Young, “we’ve done this before. Every time we’ve just put songs out there, like with the two Summer Eps, things have happened. There’ve been cool opportunities…”

“Yeah, literally something just happened before this interview. This NY website powerpopaholic just posted a review about the songs. I had no idea this site exists but it seems like a pretty great website, and they have their own festival…so… That’s good. That’s the internet working in (our) favor…and you can’t plan that.”

“And even while we’d been waiting to release these songs,” says Young, “we released two other Eps that we completed on our own in just a couple weeks. So, (putting out the Cut Em Loose EP) feels refreshing.”

The Kickstand Band blend effervescent jangle-pop and sleek surf style with sunburst tones and orange-juice-sweet serenades; their harmonies coalesce like the excited cacophony of a playground’s pandemonium or a coolly amble like a late summer night’s destination-less adventure. This is just pure guitar-pop, potent stuff really…, and it’s kinda bewitching in a way. The same nostalgia-high you might get from finding your old favorite comic book stash in the attic or that surge of endorphins when spring starts blurring into summer and you run your lungs out on that first jacket-less afternoon.

“What’s the most impressive to me,” said Young, “is when a pop song can be so simplistic, yet it can rule your life. It’s maddening, when something is so good, can it be so simple? That’s where harmony comes in; listen to the Everly brothers, they almost don't even need instruments! When you have two voices like that, there are checks and balances, phrasing and intonation become really important. As opposed to a single singer, who could start one place and end up on another planet. You have to really trust the person you're singing with…”

“Yeah, I had a teacher, it was Prof. Gohn Guinn, who once blow my mind just by playing me the 'melody' from this Beethoven song:; Beethoven, Symphony 7, Allegretto, mvt 2… The second movement (Allegretto) of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Opus 92… And his point was that the melody is so simple and 'boring', but the harmonization of it made it achingly melancholy/beautiful. I took it to heart.”

The business model that works best for the Kickstand Band was staring them right in the face. Be fleet about it, be swift, be productive, keep moving, keep having fun. That’s what they’ve always been about; that, plus the DIY aspects of recording and mixing a lot of their own stuff and booking their own tours. Why wait for a label? Sure, a label brings prestige, brings support… But one can drive oneself mad by having to jump through hoops, to grovel, to pester, to turn oneself into a shell of a human who spends his and her hours emailing and following up and following up and following up….and….

“Why were we pretending we were….” Smith pauses. “Hold on, let me think of a band…K. Why were we pretending we were Guns N Roses? Like we gotta get all our eggs in one basket before a release? We need 6 months of buildup and then we’ll get a label and then do 6 more month so of pre-release-whatever-ness and then who knows how long more we’d have to wait for vinyl… It was nice to say: Who are we kidding? And just to put the thing out; let’s just do this thing that we like doing…”

Not to be a drag, but it is kind of a drag. If you read any article on the subject, i.e. “making it in the music industry…” then you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that this may very likely be one of the absolute worst times in human history to be a “mid-tier” band trying to get that extra level up… At least, if you’re trying to make a million dollars and live off your music. No way.

“Why even try to make money…” Smith said, “at the sacrifice of something that you love so much (music) and instead turning it into a job…a job that you actually lose more money at…”

“I think every band’s trying to figure it out right now,” Smith said. “But there is no ‘it...,’ there is no figuring, there’s no answer. So, it’s not like we figured ‘it’ out, it’s that we decided to take a certain path and….and that’s a nice feeling. There’s a lot of different ways to do it now and, honestly, that’s the exciting part. Actually…it’s a drag too. But it’s fun once you realize that there’s no right answer. We’ve realized that that’s the fun part…does that make sense?”

I tell him yes, and I hope you agree. If not, then just try figuring it out for yourself, that’s the point!

The Kickstand Band are going to head to Europe soon. That’s right; keep putting yourself out there on the Internet (through sites like Sonic Bids) and you’ll eventually catch something on your fishing line… The FOCUS Wales music festival kicks off May 12 and features acts like The Joy Formidable and Los Campesinos, along with Detroit's own Kickstand Band. They'll be heading to a show in Canada as well, during their forthcoming adventures. After that, it will be summertime and it'll be just about time for another regional show, but stay tuned...

You can hear more songs on Bandcamp and you'll find the Summer EP's on Spotify. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Minihorse - Video Premier for "FYea" + Interview

I ask Ben Collins some fairly rambling questions and, yet, he still apologizes when he has no recourse but to answer in the same route. But Ben’s great when he gets to rambling. In fact, I’ve been waiting to pick his brain like this for a while now…

Minihorse EP Release Show  -  Friday
Blind Pig
208 S. 1st St
Ann Arbor
with The High Strung, Haunted Summer, Cig Butts
9:30 pm

I interviewed Ben about a month ago, because it seemed like he was starting to make more of a go at it, when it came to nurturing his own personal music pursuits. Ben is an Ypsi-based producer who, with the help of drummer John Fossum and bassist Christian Anderson, began more actively cultivating his solo compositions (characteristically inclined toward fuzzed-out power-pop and ambient-haunted indie-rock).

Years back, Ben was the guitarist in Lightning Love, coming along for said trio’s adventures through two exceptional full length albums, consistent regional performances, sporadic tours and the fomenting of a surplus of local fans. Minihorse is just as charismatic as Lightning Love was…but it’s got its own nuanced nervous system and whimsically-pulsed meditations.

Long story short, Minihorse are shedding their air of apprehensiveness and cannonballing into the performance pool; right into the deep end. More than that, they have a new music video that they’ve been kind enough to permit me to premier for you… More info on the new "FYea" video HERE

Let's hear about the new EP...

 I can only ask my brain politely, and usually my brain is a dick.
So I have to trick it, and do something else for a while.
So tell me more about how you’re feeling, Ben… How are you feeling as a songwriter, as a producer, when it comes to the…uptick in initiative, as it were, to take this band from the back-burner of your work docket and give yourself some YouTime. To give John and Christian some Minihorse time! 

Let’s talk about the decision to put out this EP, More Time and, also, about all that you-time. Does it feel like you three are astronauts striding down that gated, girded walkway toward a rocketship…?

Ben Collins: First of all, I’m glad you said “Rocketship…,” cuz I love that band.

But to answer your question, I need to start out by talking about rap. And by the way, I credit Aaron Diehl (from Lightning Love) for 100% of the rap I listen to, he’s encyclopedic.

I spent years recording rap, starting at a studio called 40oz sound. 40oz was later bought by the great Jim Roll and converted into Backseat Studios, by the way. But I was recording all these guys, and they’d be on schedules. They’d book studio time and come in to record like they were punching in and out of a job. Crazy work ethic. And then you think about all the mix tapes, collaborations, etc. Rappers are putting out a huge volume of material on a consistent basis, and it starts to feel unsurprising that rap has so wholly taken over the music industry. It’s deserved.

To be fair, rappers are also more agile, for a number of reasons. The key element is the vocal, so recording and releasing a mix tape in short order isn’t impossible. I think Lil Wayne toured with a U87 or something and would record in hotel rooms. So the landscape is different now, and “bands” exist in that same landscape. We need to be able to work quickly, and with high output. That means learning to record yourself, developing every element of your own sound, and being solely responsible for the production, including a potentially fast schedule. It means knowing what kind of sound you’re after, everything from the song to the compression ratios. It’s a tall order.
Sorry for the long answer.

So it comes down to pushing yourself toward being prolific…
Ben Collins: Of course! Guys like Bob Pollard and R Stevie Moore have had this approach for years. But so many bands just completely stall…, taking multiple years between releases. I’m not interested in that. I’ll put out a traditional album like everyone else, but there’s no reason I can’t release a bunch of stuff in the meantime. I’m planning at least one more EP or maybe two before we put out our first LP.

Well, let’s talk about how this band’s changed… You had lots of songs worked out on your own, even though you kept them secret… But then you started this band more than a year ago. And yet, here we are, just now, letting the world officially hear a debut.

Ben Collins: Some of these are older songs. “More Time” and “FYea” are both on there. Those two songs are basically mission statements for this band, and they needed releasing first. But there’s new material on the EP, also.

John and I just went back through the old dropbox folder we shared and listened to a bunch of our old songs and it sounds completely different. I’m glad we waited a bit to find our footing before starting proper releases.

As a songwriter, I can only encourage the ideas to come. Try this: sit down. Sitting down? Good. Now: have an idea. GO! Did it work…?

So writing songs, put another way, is just “…having ideas.” I can only ask my brain politely, and usually my brain is a dick. So I have to trick it, and do something else for a while. Hey, you’re driving with no way to record sound? Here’s a great song idea. If my brain doesn’t respond to reverse psychology, I’ll deprive it of oxygen, or administer freezing water or electricity. [For more on that, see our previous interview.]

And, why does Ypsi work for you? I feel like you could easily thrive in a Brooklyn or a Portalnd or wherever else… Unless…Unless you need Ypsi!

Ben Collins: Ypsi works for me because it’s a great community. I just like all the people who live here. It’s great to walk down the street for coffee and see five different friends of mine. It’s also not prohibitively expensive, so I can have a decent living space with a studio in my home without needing to buy the Kroger brand yogurts.

What have you been working on lately…? Aside from the Minihorse EP, you also have lots of folks stop into your home studio to work on stuff. You’re also in another band or two…

Ben Collins: Minihorse has been working on a lot of new material. As I mentioned earlier, we’ll have at least one more EP before we release our record. We’re also working on a music video, which may or may not be done by the time you post this. (Side note, Jeff, maybe we should think about that.. when is this coming out?)
Outside of Minihorse, 

Starling Electric just released the record that we’ve been working on for years, which I’m really proud of. I also just finished recording Double Winter, who are great, and mixing Rebel Kind and Stef Chura’s stuff, also great. 

OH..., and The Boys Themselves did a fuzzy ELO cover last week, and I’m mixing that stuff with Christian. I’ve been doing some ambient / noise music stuff too, and composing for some documentaries, including a 360 degree Oculus Rift documentary on Sudan that was produced by Frontline last month.

Above, I alluded to your signature style of dread-pop. Taking the power-pop vibe of Lemonheads or Teenage Fan Club and channeling into more of a fever-dream/David-Lynch/cinematic state… Do you want to get poppier? Do you want to get riffy-er? What do you want?

Ben Collins: I wish I could design songs like that. I just try my best to replicate the initial thing that pops into my head. Beyond that, I can only hope that someone else responds well to it, or that it reminds someone of a breakup, or a crush, or a murder, or whatever.

Well…, what does the future hold? What are you looking forward to…?

Ben Collins: My future plans are as follows: write, record, release, tour, write, record, release, tour.

I notice he didn’t include sleep in that itinerary… 

Ben solo pic by Erick Buccholz
FYea video directed by Noah Elliott Morrison 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Megan Dooley: Made In Kalamazoo

Friday - - May 6  - - Megan Dooley, with Dragon Wagon The Magic Bag 22920 Woodward – Ferndale 248-544-1991$10

When I met Megan Dooley, I felt like I was kinda meeting a rock star. Or, at least…, there was something rock ‘n’ roll about her…

Here’s a song by the Kalamazoo-based singer/songwriter…

…and, so, yes, I know… not rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, it’s a banjulele! And it’s more of a gypsy-jazz, throw-back folk, torch-singer-style lullaby... But Dooley carries herself like a rock star. Call it charisma. Call it vim, or vigor; call it upbringing and outlook. Or call it her resolve…

“Well, you have to be able to be confident,” Dooley surmised. “It’s important in order to help people enjoy a performance, because if you’re not comfortable on stage, and if you’re not having a good time…, I mean, even if it’s sounding amazing, that unspoken vibe can still be felt by everyone there and it’s going to dim whatever it is that you’re doing. I was a chef for 13 years. This is something that I just try to do; to help people be more comfortable. Cuz life…life is already uncomfortable.”

This kind of down-to-earthness isn’t typically expected from a classically trained, operatically-talented jazz singer who often plays under glowing boomlights or reels off ritzy swing and soulful blues stylings.  “I really think it’s important to engage people,” Dooley said, “…that are why I still busk!”

More about Dooley
Dooley was declared the First Lady of Kalamazoo’s music scene in late 2013 (Revue Magazine). She’s a professional musician who tours regularly around the Great Lakes region. She’s been performing for almost 15 years and you can see the tattoo on her shoulder reading: “Made In Kalamazoo.” That’s also the title of the full length album she released last November…

She self-taught herself guitar and ukulele when she was 14 and was actually natural when it came to vocal talent. Even if she couldn’t read music, she still utilized an uncanny knack for memorization to help her through the years in which she actually had vocal lessons and training for opera singing. She still can’t read music. But she comes from a family of musicians, (“everyone sings…”) so it’s no surprise she’s got such profound pipes.

I guess some of the rock ‘n’ roll vibe comes from the rebellious dropping-out-of-school part of her story. “I knew I wanted to be a musician,” said Dooley. “I dropped out when I was 16 to pursue it. I started playing open mics, but it was more…indie-rock? I still really liked the blues; I wrote a lot of blues, but I’d always have this love for jazz and the great jazz vocalists from the prohibition era, Billie Holiday, for example: huge fan!”

But maybe the rock ‘n’ roll thing I’m getting at is just her presence…

“It’s an art,” she agrees. “It’s about being social (with an audience). When I was just six-years-old, my parents took me to South Haven for a music festival and I remember this street musician who was just wonderful. I got this feeling, then, from listening to him and watching him, it was realizing that music could be part of everyday life for people….that it could be experienced and appreciated live! I see those looks on people’s kids’ faces when I busk…I mean, with today when we’re seeing more arts and music pulled out of public education…."

"I think it’s so important now to get out there and engage people. You can see the wonder on their faces (when I’m busking), they’re excited; they don’t get to experience something like that on a regular basis. And, for me, that really shaped the way my life has turned out…just that small moment of seeing someone perform and engage through music. “

She also comes from a background in musical theater, as well as vocal training for opera. “Learning how to project was important,” recalls Dooley, “…if you wanted to sing on a real stage.” She studied lots of vocalists from the prohibition era, many of whom performed without microphones; she combined that with the theater training concerning breath control, and, voila… she’s got potency when it comes to vocal delivery. “That’s the only way you’re going to make money busking on a busy street,” she says. “You have to be able to catch people’s ear from a block away…”

It’s in her personality, her alacrity, her loyalty to her fellow musicians and, in a way, to her audience. Because she has this nuanced appreciation for the power of the experience of live music. There’s something kind of Freddie Mercury about that, about reaching and engaging with an audience. Yes. Rock ‘n’ roll.

Made in Kalamazoo
“I was born in the parking lot of Borgess Hospital, here in Kalamazoo… And I recorded (Made In Kalamazoo) just two blocks away from where I was born and just three blocks away from where I grew up. I love this place. We have a unique setting, filled with lots of beautiful people and beautiful artists and its supportive here, which, you can’t always say for a lot of cities. I’m passionate about this area; I’m passionate about Michigan!  I’m from Kalamazoo, so I’m starting here, but hopefully I can bring more attention to this state as I go along…”

…and go along, Dooley shall…

May 6
Megan Dooley, with Dragon Wagon The Magic Bag 22920 Woodward – Ferndale 248-544-1991

...Later on... Megan Dooley performs...
May 7, 2016
Dooley Live at Maude's Taphouse
Maude's Taphouse
May 11, 2016
Megan Dooley Trio at SpeakEz lounge for the Local Spins 4th Anniversary party
SpeakEZ Lounge
May 13, 2016
Dooley at Mighty Uke Day Festival in Lansing, MI
Old Town (Lansing, Michigan)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ill Itches Release Show - Next Saturday - 4/30 - SONG PREMIER: "Lucille"

Ill Itches
Record Release Party 
April 30 (Saturday)
w/ The Hentchmen, The Moonwalks, and The Idiot Kids
Marble Bar
(1501 Holden, Detroit)

The Ill Itches..., when I first heard them..., sparked a double take. It was sensational and gnarly garage-rock, something that demonstrated vibrant reverence to the Grande glory days. You know, Detroit rock 'n' roll... But there was some elusive element radiating in the wings of each song, some kind of frenetic sonic atom pulling or tweaking the frames of the arrangements, away from clear-cut "rock" and into the realms of punk-blues, or metal-folk, or psych-pop. Never purely one or the other, never sitting still...

Stephen Schmidt (guitar/vocals): "When we all sit down and write something its all very spastic and weird the first couple of takes, but when we get our feet wet with the song it all kinda comes together.  We stand out based on the idea of attempting to make our own genre while still trying to be rooted towards our influences."

The Ill Itches got rolling in early 2013, quickly solidifying a signature style of a rock that reliably ricochets around the genre compound, whilst also finding its live players, with Schmidt, Matt Livengood (drums), Josh Woodcock (guitar) and Matt Mruzek (bass/vocals) comparably ricocheting, themselves, around the performance space. It's always loud, it's often fast, and it consistently emanates passion, energy, guts & gusto...

Joshua Woodcock: "We went into the band wanting to play something loud and dynamic which wasn't cluttered with things that don't matter. I think we each have our own personalities, and we've each gone through things in our personal lives at some time that we used in the songwriting process. I think we each had a period where there was a lot of emotions bubbling out and we pushed that into the music. The sound itself formed very organically, we each came in playing how we felt, and I think it adds some depth to the songs. Outside of the initial goals we had, I don't think we've really set out and said "this is the type of music we should play." We each play to our own personalities, and I think that there's some realness to it because of that."

Next Saturday, they release their first proper full length (after a couple of EP's and singles). The self-titled record (on vinyl, released through Jett Plastic Recordings) gets a voluminous celebration at the Marble Bar. The inimitable Hentchmen are on the bill, along with The Moonwalks and The Idiot Kids. (Info).    

Matt Livengood: "Musically, we are 4 fundamentally different creatures. I’d always heard the hardest part of touring was playing show after show (after show). For us, it’s agreeing on what record to play on the van stereo. From Ohio to NYC to Vermont and back, we spent what seemed like half the time debating which album to listen to next. You’d think this would equal just about the worst formula for functioning as a band, ever. But I think it’s helped us write songs with a bunch of disparate parts that, somehow, end up as coherent & cohesive wholes."

photo by Erick Buccholz

     When you guys look back on leading up to this album, the work that went into it...everything, what were your biggest takeaways? What did you find most fulfilling about the experience, but what, more so, did you wind up learning about yourselves or each other, from the experience?

Josh Woodcock: Making a record is one of the most rewarding things I've ever been a part of. (Livengood) and I have recorded an album together before, and (Mruzek) has a lot of recording experience under his belt, so the process was fairly painless. We recorded with Zach Shipps and Dave Feeny, and really just played the songs out how we play them live. It's all about balance, though. In recording, you really feel the strengths of each member and their unique voices

Matt Livengood: We finished recording the last few tracks on the record just before Josh left. The entire collection of songs came from 4 recordings sessions spread out over summer 2013 (“Michigan Ave Meltdown,” “Lucille,” “My Sister’s Possessed”) to winter (“Hallelujah,” “Revolving Door”) and summer 2014 (“Bubbletape,” “Give It Up,” “No Way”) to January 2015 (“I Feel Good,” “Al Serpico,” “Heather.”)

     Right..., because Josh was in Japan for...what? More than a year? In 2014? Can you talk more about that absence and how that affected the band and its operation...? What were the band meetings like, when you talked about the future, 2 years ago, and how do you feel now, having gone through this recording?

Matt Livengood: We’d originally planned to put the album out sometime last year. But when Josh returning to Detroit became a real possibility, we decided to defer the release until after he got back. We still had some logistics to break down—art, distribution, all that fun stuff. And we wanted Josh to have a hand in it. So rather than having him reach around half the earth’s circumference, we figured it’d be easier to wait until he came back.

Stephen Schmidt: Josh’s exit to Japan did soften the overall mood of the band but it really didn’t stop us from playing.  I personally never looked 2 or 3 years ahead on just about anything, I like living day by day so I kept that approach with the band and we just focused on the next show not the next year.

Josh Woodcock: I kept in touch with the guys while I was gone, and always knew we'd have the release and I'd at least fly home for it. When I came back, it was very much "ok, now's the time to put this out."

Matt Livengood: It definitely wasn’t by design, but this full-length is pretty much the culmination of “Chapter 1” of our band’s development. All these songs came from before Josh left—and now that he’s back and we’re finally putting this record out, we’re moving on to Phase 2.

     Was there ever any doubt this band wouldn't continue? Whether there was, or if there wasn't, what were some of the deciding factors that assured it would continue?

Matt Livengood: We always intended to keep the band going after Josh left—in the abstract. But as far as how things would actually play out, once he moved to the Orient…well, we all knew we didn’t have much of a clue. So we took things pretty slowly. Other than a couple of shows we’d booked in advance, we flew below the radar during our initial run as a 3-piece. Mainly, we played around with our sound & tried to determine what our new “Sans-Josh” dynamic was going to be. There were some quandaries, for sure. But we all believed in what we were doing and thought we’d come too far together end it, so we duked it out....
      ...But it had a huge silver lining. Matt and Stephen hadn’t really landed on a steady approach to interacting onstage. When Josh left, rather than having 3 mics at 9-12-3o’clock, S&M started playing at 10-2 onstage. That REALLY improved their interplay. And it gave me a line of vision to the crowd, which I liked. So when Josh came back, he hangs back & keeps the rhythm with me, while the 2 up-front guys do their newfound thing.

    When you listen back, what stands out? And, where else did you guys work on the recording, besides with Shipps in Ferndale?

Matt Livengood: “Lucille,” “Michigan Ave Meltdown” and “My Sister’s Possessed” were originally recorded at the Tempermill with Dave Feeny, and the rest of the tracks were laid down at Rancho Verde Audio Lab, Zach Shipps’s studio.

Stephen Schmidt: The experience, itself, just of recording was something more fulfilling to me than it was, later, to eventually hold the hard copy of the album.  I just remember really trying to harness some raw and crazy energy for some of these songs that literally whatever came out (spontaneous lyrics) were fine by me.  Don’t get me wrong I’m excited to physically hold my hard work but I want to have that feeling recording again.

Josh Woodcock: The songwriting side of things really sticks out. Most of those songs are in the same form as when we first played them for each other. We tend to alternate songwriting tasks, and each person would bring in something and we'd all arrange them and feel them out together. Every time you work on a new song, it's like going on a date with someone new and feeling them out. Later on, though, it felt very comfortable and I could already feel where the others would take the songs beforehand.

   You guys have the Hentchmen on the bill, can you talk about what that band means to you...? And, about the energy from other newer bands that popped up on this scene right alongside you or just a year or two after you, like The Idiot Kids or the Moonwalks; we're seeing this ...well..., not resurgence? But this sort of re-imagining of rock or garage or whatever, can you talk about that and what its like being in the middle of it as one of the leading voices on reinventing something The Hentchmen started...

Matt Livengood: I like the term “reinventing” for our band. For sure, much of our sound is built on a foundation of old school garage/punk—but we’ve always keep in mind that anchoring ourselves to a throwback-ish kind of vibe might limit where all we could go, song-wise. I think that’s where Mruzek’s presence really resonates.

Josh Woodcock: The Hentchmen are great. We played with them at Blowout a few years ago and were just blown away by them, especially because they were able to remain friends for so long and still connect on that musical level. I think the Hentchmen still hold that torch, but we're happy to be here now and fan the flames a bit. Being a part of this scene is great, and especially with a band like The Idiot Kids...they're what punk rock is all about, and you can really feel their love and understanding of what they're doing when they get up and play.

Stephen Schmidt: The henchmen were a band I first heard of when I listened to The Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit compilation.  They had a track on there that I would literally listen to over and over again, "Accusatory."  It was kinda that song that made me try being crazier while writing and overall style of my playing.  To this day the Henchmen were and are a huge influence to me and I very excited to play with them for the second time.  The Idiot Kids are another one where I just had to see them once and instantly knew their fire was there. Anytime a man can play a guitar in 6 inch kiss army boots and smash on pedals effortlessly has my vote. As for all the other bands, I still get excited seeing any of my friends play, the style of music doesn’t matter to me I just love seeing good people get in the right place to preform. Its truly a beautiful thing.  And I hope that this certain style of Detroit rock n roll gets captured and harnessed for future band to get influences on.

     After this release show - what are your future plans? Beyond that, what are your future aspirations, what would you LIKE to do (or try) next?

Josh Woodcock: We just hope people like this album and connect with it in some way. From there, we just want to continue playing and enjoying our chance to be a part of this music scene.

Matt Livengood: Looking forward to hitting the road. And hitting Josh. Preferably upside the head.

April 30th - Release Party - Marble Bar 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Can't See Sh*t - a Michigan film

indie go go link: from Get Super Rad on Vimeo.

I can't imagine what it would be like to have my sight and then go blind. I know you can't, either. You're using those eyes to read this very paragraph...

But imagine your life, your day-to-day activities, your hobbies, passions and the wake of losing your vision...

Brendan Patrick is a local artist who lost his eyesight from complications of cystic fibrosis and other medical ailments. Brendan's perserverance is undoubtedly commendable, but his spirit, his outlook (for lack of a better word) on life, as well as his unquestionable talent as a painter and musician, are altogether inspiring. It makes me, personally, question what I may have been delusionally building up as real barriers in my own life...and whether I've just been psyching-myself out of knocking them down. Cuz even blindness isn't holding Brendan back...

Get Super Rad is a MIchigan-based production company, with Chris Rosik and Rob Cousineau. Rob & Brendan have been lifelong friends and the latter has witness the former battle through times of both illness and health, often casting off the illness as though it were just a minor inconvenience. From Cousineau:  "The effect Brendan has had on my life will resonate long after he is gone, and I want to share that sentiment with as many people as I can while he is still here to appreciate the end product...."

So Get Super Rad is producing a film on Brendan called "Can't See Sh*t" (...the title was suggested by the artist, himself).

You can learn more about Brendan, about Get Super Rad ...AND about the recently-launched indiegogo campaign calling on YOU, you appreciator of art, of humanity, of life and soulful enrichment, to conisder chipping in...

More info:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Soli: A Festival of Solo Guitar

Soli: A Festival of Solo Guitar
w/ Marisa Anderson, Peter Walker, Davey Williams, Shells & MORE
Friday 4/22
Saturday 4/23
1464 Gratiot - Detroit
INFO / lineup

Trinosophes inaugurates a new music festival celebrating the sense-stretching possibilities, the mind-expanding heights, the soul-undulating sound-quakes and the face-melting potential of.... The Guitar. Stylists from near and very far away will travel down to Eastern Market for artful improvisations in melody and noise, tenderness and fury, twang and vibratto, fingerpicking dances to heavy fuming drones. Particularly notable about this assemblage of talent is not merely that they come from all different genres, be it country, indie-punk, ambient, jazz, folk (or you name it...), but that Trinosophes is showcasing a substantial amount of women guitarists, more than you might otherwise see at a rock show or a more avant-garde-ist curation such as this...

Here's one of the headliners: Marissa Anderson

And another headliner, Peter Walker:



Peter Walker
Davey Williams
696 Blues Band
Tyler Hicks
Duminie DePorres

Marisa Anderson
Benjamin Miller
Warren Defever
Nicholle Brown
Haley Fohr 
Andrew Barrett

Nick Schillace


Dig Nicole "Nikki D" Brown...

And Detroit's own Shelley Salant (as Shells)

8pm - midnight both nights
$15 (or $25 for both nights)
More info  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ohana -by Eddie Logix (single + video premier)

Eddie Logix: The Ohana Tape Release

Friday, April 29 at 9 PM 

Elizabeth Theater At The Park Bar

2040 Park Ave, Detroit

Detroit-based producer extraordinaire Eddie Logix has a new tape of beats compiled as a manner of making a thankful soundtrack for his longlist of collaborators and local fans who have supported him over the years. Logix has been at it, now, for upwards to a decade, and this grouping of grooves and assembled rap beats is intentionally fun, laid back and nostalgic.

While Ohana certainly is continues to augment his sensibility for the atmospheric and ambient tropes, these 16 vignettes are each no longer than about 2 minutes, so they feel almost like photobook montages that breeze by and seep some sweet summertime serotonin over your inner spirit's soundscape. There's a just-barely tamed frenetic energy a sonic embodiment of a fighter bobbing-and-weaving his way into a rematch or a cyclist getting their second-wind.

Ohana is a Hawaiian word that resonates with the #CoOwnaz ethos, translating to "family..." While much of Ohana is endearing and illuminates the importance of friendship, it inevitably sprung, at least in part, from a dark period in Logix' creative/production life...

"The beats come from experimenting with new sounds, samples, and techniques after much of my gear and files were stolen in a studio break-in last year," said Logix. "(Ohana) is the product of starting over from scratch, working at a new space in Assemble Sound, and listening to/reading a lot of John Cage."

Logix wanted to release Ohana on tape because he, personally, prefers either cassette or vinyl exclusively when he's listening to music. "The length and sequence of this project was always designed for a 30 minute cassette release," said Logix.

It is digitally available this Monday, April 25. The release show is Saturday, April 29th. More info / / Tickets

Monday, April 18, 2016

Interview: Kameryn Ogden of Islá (...formerly Air Is The Arche)

Meet Islá: an Interview with singer/songwriter Kameryn Ogden

Kam’s got a voice that can freeze a room. I’m not implying temperatures, I’m just saying, things stop. If there are cars revving past the venue, outside, then that white noise is deadened away and even if the clamor back at the bar may continue to murmur, that voice of her still supplants it. Like some idyllic brook, the vocal melodies always careen gracefully over a naturally augmenting bedrock of rhythm (with bass and drums provided by Will Lorenz and Kyle Shelest respectively). 

Kameryn Ogden is the singer/guitarist of a band called Islá. And it’s assured that have never heard of that band until now, but it is still the same band you once knew as Air Is The Arche. The Detroit-based trio isn’t old enough to drink yet, but they’ve still made a considerable impression on the local rock scene, initially with their blend of pastoral folk and melodic indie-pop, but its since developed several more facets, including some flavors of jazz, ambient sweeps and some richer renderings of chamber-pop.

Air Is The Arche is now Isla. 

“The name doesn’t really represent our music, anymore,” said Ogden, who is just finishing up her first year at Wayne State (studying art). “We came up with it when we were younger, but nobody could really understand or say it properly; ‘arche’ means ‘origins…’

So here’s your origin story. Ogden has been writing songs since 7th grade, around the same time she started jamming with Lorenz. (They both went to Grosse Pointe North). She formed her first band, in fact, in 8th grade, but found she clicked best with Lorenz’s bass stylngs.

But let’s go further back. Ogden got into music when she started playing flute in 5th grade. In fact, it’s the flute that sort of ineffably influenced the way she began using her voice as a singer. “I’ve just always been drawn to singing. I was in choir, too. It’s weird, but I don’t really remember ever actually practicing (singing) when I was younger. It just built on itself. Flute helped a lot, though.”

The songs you can hear on Isla’s first EP …ya know, back when they were known as Air Is The Arche have been with Ogden for several years. Now that they’ve got enough ears on their music, the trio is synching the transition with this name change.

“What really inspired me to pursue music,” said Ogden, “was this tour that I went on, recently, with Olivia (Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe). That totally changed things. I was just new to it all, so I didn’t have that much exposure, until then. (Mainville) just opened my eyes and the tour itself was magical. I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather do, since then.”

Plus... Mainville got Ogden involved with Girls Rock Grand Rapids over the summer. "I was thrilled to learn that there's a sect in Detroit also," Ogden said. "The women who ran the Grand Rapids sect were fantastic and did a good job in creating a positive environment for the campers to experiment with music, which is a really beautiful thing to see. The women I've met who run the Detroit sect seem just as motivated to make the camp the best it can be so I'm really excited to be a part this year. I'm very new to this scene of musicians but all the ladies I've met have been extremely warm, inviting, and inspiring to me as I continue to grow as a human and musician."

Both Mainville and Ogden are part of a more amorphous band of singers and musicians known as The Industrial Ensemble. This group assembled during the auxiliary contributions to Jack & The Bear’s epic new quirk-popera, which started streaming a couple days ago (check it out: )

Mainville, Ogden and the quartet of Jack & The Bear each have respectively tricky times trying to fit in with a scene of majority-rock and garage-pop bands; each have unique takes on baroque-styled folk and imaginative psyche-pop. Naturally, they’ve bonded and, naturally, it’s served to substantially inspire Ogden with Isla. Oh, and, of course, the Industrial Ensemble features equally impressive singer/songwriter Libby DeCamp, but let’s save that for the next interview…

Back to Isla

Influences for Ogden include, of course, DeCamp, Mainville and Jack & The Bear, but also other folk-reinvention-ists like PHOX, Kimbra and spacier stuff like Highasakite and Tycho. Oh, and Detroit’s Liquid Monk!

“I’ve been working with Dan Gruszka from Liquid Monk, a lot lately… We recorded an EP together that’s coming out in mid summer; it’s really melodic and ambient stuff. I’ve been to ASSEMBLE SOUND a few times for their meetings and Dan was actually working on some of Eddie Logix’ stuff, recently. And then they just asked if I could throw some vocal parts on there, for Megapowers, so I’m kinda involved with that, now, too.”

So I tell Ogden that she seems to be handling all of this business quite well, considering its still her freshman year.

“It feels like such a worthy experience for me to have, every time I work with these musicians (in the 
Detroit scene). For me, I just aim to make music that’s coherent enough that anybody can listen, but make it something that pulls at you, makes you feel something, makes you think.”

Painting, just like singing (and lyric writing), relaxes her, provides catharsis, onsets meditation… The album art you see for their first release was painted by Ogden.

The new name was inspired by a very important cat, as well as folk singer Donovan. But Ogden can tell you all about it at their next show…

Until then, Isla, the trio, are eager for the summertime. That free time will provide Ogden an opportunity to finish up the next batch of songs for their next record. “I’m really starting to understand where my priorities lie. The biggest part is just getting to know more people and connecting with them, not just musically, but on a friendship level.”

Here’s to the end of the semester!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

An Introduction To Starling Electric's Electric Company

Tomorrow morning, I’ll have another of my weekly columns posted online at the Ann Arbor Current’s website, –featuring Ann Arbor based baroque-pop gurus Starling Electric, who are releasing their first album in eight years.

So I asked S.E. lead singer/songwriter Caleb Dillon the obvious question: What took so long?

“The reasons…are many, varied, and boring. I guess you could say that it can take a long time to get something right. It’s not finished until it feels finished…and, it finally feels that way to me.”

It…is the album titled Electric Company, 16 songs and 40 minutes of sordid splendors and gloom-exorcisms, the quintessence of jangle-pop and shambling sweetness, the most elegant reformations and re-mutations of Brit-pop influenced, orchestral-adorned guitar-rock.

Electric Company will start streaming at midnight (…or soon after), but you can sample some of the songs embedded into my column, again, over at
 –And, yes, I’m propping that column a lot, because, frankly, I have no idea how many of you actually check that on a weekly basis. But regardless, this week….THIS week…I’m exploring Starling Electric’s new album. Again, check the link^

Starling Electric released what felt like an instant classic, Clouded Staircase, back in 2008. Can you imagine completing a project that’s taken more than 7 years of your life? “Of course it feels freeing,” Dillon admitted, “it always does! I felt that 16 years ago when I put out my first album…” By “put out…” he means burning it to a CD-R, photocopying and hand-cutting out the artwork, shrinkwrapping it on the sly at his dayjob bookstore back then and then selling it on consignment at small town record stores.

These days, his band consists of adroit area-musicians from around Ann Arbor/Ypsi, like Christian Anderson, John Fossum, Ben Collins and Aaron Diehl.

 “It feels weird to think about (Electric Company) being accessible to "The World", because I don't know what that means anymore,” said Dillon, who reminds me how hard it may or may not be to get hold of him, because he’s 35 and does not get emails on his phone.. “Connectivity is at its peak, but more bands, plus cheaper technology, plus widely available resources, plus instant self-publishing…equals nothing but over saturation. Why try when there's virtually no competition? Anyway, these are all things I thought about 10 years ago when I was young and wild and it still mattered. But right now? Right now I'd just like to prove that we weren't bluffing all these years!”

The album is real. It streams this Friday. And I ask Dillon what, at the end, gave him the most fulfillment…

“…the fact that we didn’t give up and release a half-assed attempt at this album five years ago…or feel like we only had a few good finished songs at the time and just release a wildly popular EP. Not that that's a crime; it's just not for me; I think a lot of bands feel pressure to put out an EP when they have a handful of good songs and some filler, but they should just wait and finish the damn thing... …Or, ya know, figure out how to write better and complete the assignment! It's really not that hard, if you've done your homework.”

Your homework assignment is to give Electric Company a listen, this weekend. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Favorite 32 Albums

My favorite albums by Michigan Artists.....of the last 16 years... 
(highly subject to fluctuations, within the next 366 days, no doubt...) 

32. Terrible Twos - S/T  /   Dirtbombs - We Have You Surrounded
31. The Go Rounds - Don't Go Not Changin
30. Cold Men Young - You Should Be A Fan
29. Pewter Cub - If You Can Hold Your Breath
28. Johnny Ill Band - Ask All The Doctors  /  Doc Illingsworth - Only Rappers Will Like This
27. 800beloved - Everything Purple
26. Frontier Ruckus - Eternity of Dimming
25. ADULT. - Anxiety Always  /  Starling Electric - Clouded Staircase
24. Deadbeat Beat - When I Talk To You
23. Mexican Knives - S/T
22. Misty Lyn & The Big Beautiful - False Honey
21. OFFICE - Q&A
20. Black Lodge - Moon
19. Doc Waffles - Ambulance Chaser
18. Pink Lightning - Blue Skies
17. Tunde Olaniran - Transgressor
16. Saturday Looks Good To Me - Fill Up The Room 
15. Chris Bathgate - Salt Year
14. Zoos of Berlin - Taxis
13. The Go - Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride
12. Prussia - Poor English
11. Oscillating Fan Club - George Washington's Teeth
10. Duende - Murder Doesn't Hide The Truth
9. Johnny Headband - Who Cooks For You
8. Passalacqua - Zebahazey Summer
7. Matt Jones - Deep Enders
6. Rebel Kind - Today
5. Lightning Love - November Birthday 
4. Child Bite - Fantastic Gusts of Blood
3. Troy Gregory - Sybil
2. Bars of Gold - Wheels
1. The High Strung - Get The Guests

Expect titles to be added with each  new year of  life; these albums have to age a bit, like fine wine. I'm looking at you, Congress - Ugly Eye ...And, yes, I cheated and submitted to some ties. Tough list. Certainly not final. I love this state. I love its bands. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

An Outlier: Chris Dupont

Chris Dupont 
Performs Friday at ASSEMBLE SOUND
with Greater Alexander and FLA (Frances Luke Accord)
7 PM
$15 (suggested donation)

Chris Dupont is just about to move in to a new house in Ypsilanti, but before he started packing, he picked up a parcel delivered to his doorstep recently. His latest album, Outlier, was dropped off, only this was vinyl.

“It’s a totally different feeling than holding a CD,” said Dupont. “It’s huge! It’s real! I have to be careful with it…”

Chris Dupont rose to baroque-pop prominence just after contemporary luminaries out in Washtenaw such as Matt Jones, Misty Lyn, or Chris Bathgate, but building his own neo-folk framework for his weary words of stock-taking, mirror-gazing, soul-surveying catharsis, inhabiting a musical architecture enriched by pianos, upright bass, soft jazz drums, syrupy guitars and ineffably memory-cueing atmospherics. Dupont, on Outliers, isn’t afraid to exorcise some eye-watering emotions… Or, maybe he was, but quickly got over it once he heard some emotionally resonant feedback from audiences.

Dupont is performing this Friday with the comparably affecting/heart-rending/goosebump-conjuring folk-scapes of Greater Alexander, and the humanistic, life-affirming folk-pop of Chicago-based Frances Luke Accord.

Leading up to the show, I had a chat with Chris…

Chris Dupont is just about to move in to a new house in Ypsilanti, but before he started packing, he picked up a parcel delivered to his doorstep recently. His latest album, Outlier, was dropped off, only this was vinyl.

“It’s a totally different feeling than holding a CD,” said Dupont. “It’s huge! It’s real! I have to be careful with it…”

Chris Dupont rose to baroque-pop prominence just after contemporary luminaries out in Washtenaw such as Matt Jones, Misty Lyn, or Chris Bathgate, but building his own neo-folk framework for his weary words of stock-taking, mirror-gazing, soul-surveying catharsis, inhabiting a musical architecture enriched by pianos, upright bass, soft jazz drums, syrupy guitars and ineffably memory-cueing atmospherics. Dupont, on Outliers, isn’t afraid to exorcise some eye-watering emotions… Or, maybe he was, but quickly got over it once he heard some emotionally resonant feedback from audiences.

Dupont is performing this Friday with the comparably affecting/heart-rending/goosebump-conjuring folk-scapes of Greater Alexander, and the humanistic, life-affirming folk-pop of Chicago-based Frances Luke Accord.

Leading up to the show, I had a chat with Chris…

“When I put together these 10 songs, I treated each like they were their own thing. I wouldn’t decide if it was a good idea or bad idea or whether it fit together, a piano power ballad, or some dancier stuff, some ambient stuff, some really sad stuff… Almost every track, when I’d finish one, I’d say: “oh, this one is an outlier… Outlier all came by accident, and the common thread throughout the album, I felt, was more of a lyrical thing than a sound thing. Lots of people, you included, picked up on this theme of dealing with an abstract sense of stepping outside yourself, or this objective position, remote from yourself, of observing, rather than judging…”

Dupont’s always kind of teetered to, from, and around varying quadrants of folk, moving through different moods, tempos, timbres and motifs. I tell him to just consider himself an outlier of folk music, and he starts to relax and embrace it. “But, I can get envious of songwriters who are more prolific, like a Ryan Adams type, who must obviously just divorce himself from any nitpicking. When I write, whether a lyric or a guitar line, if it’s not memorable? If it doesn’t feel important or useful? I have a hard time sticking with it. I have a hard time creating art when I don’t have something to say that I feel is important.”

When he says “important,” you can read that as “…heavy.” Dupont often deals, musically, lyrically, poetically, with some tough emotional terrain that folks might not otherwise readily talk about, in any casual setting. Coming up from the west side of the state with a family history of clinical depression, he artfully engages with and unpacks stigmas of mental health through lyrical narratives. And, that said, anxiety is something he would know a lot about, considering he became in the late summer of 2014.

“It was terrifying,” said Dupont, about waiting for his son, Leo, to be born. “Cuz I know how badly I struggled with navigating the world around me, and things are even that much faster, today, rife with misinformation. But, still, from the moment he was born, he didn’t even come out crying, I just heard him start chattering…and I just sat there and smiled and cried. A lot of the record was about coming to grips with  myself as I prepared for him to show up and when he did show up, I realized that I didn’t need to be all that prepared, at all. We had this tight bond, from the beginning. It healed all the angst I had going into the writing of those songs…”

When Dupont was back in school, studying music, he recalled a class that explored audience and artist relationship, inviting discussions on avant-garde and experimental music and whether one should be cognizant of whether a listener is having a good time listening to a piece…

“ I remember the song I was most afraid about was “Ease The Blow” cuz it’s just a really sad song and a completely true story. But, almost every time I play that song, someone will walk up to me and tell me their story. It’s a song that helped them heal. So, it dawns on me, during those exchanges, that its moments like those tha tmak eme feel like this is really worthwhile, that these lyrics have to be sung, because it can be for somebody else. To see that third work of expressing something for you somehow give voice to someone else for something they’ve been through. It’s amazing. I’ve got to think of the listener…”

From here, Dupont heads out on the biggest tour of his life, with Frances Luke Accord. It starts at Assemble, with Greater Alexander. 

   More samplings:


Show info