Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Zoos of Berlin.... A return to...

Zoos of Berlin played their “last show” back in the late summer of 2011 and singer/guitarist Trevor Naud is quick to point out that it was never the intention to disappear. In fact, despite an absence from stages, the band, crucially, never went away...

Circumstances shifted after the release of Lucifer In The Rain (2013).... Zoos' drummer/engineer, Collin Dupuis, moved to Nashville for work a little more than a year after that "last" concert, and both Naud and keyboardist Will Yates would also leave the state soon after... Zoos of Berlin had scattered, but stayed as synchronized as possible. Essentially,  crucially..., “the band” never went away.

Bassist Dan Clark emphasized the preciousness of their time together, whenever they could reassemble back inside their personal studio in midtown. “No shows…,” Clark says with a slow nod, looking back. “Any time we could get together went entirely to writing and recording.”

There was no stopping point, as Clark said. The work was never abandoned, it was a well dug with as much patience as possible, cultivating more than 20 songs over that period of time; in their own world, almost…secluded, more or less, in their studio, to continue… To continue regardless of whether or not they could do a local show or even conceive a tour. The reason…was to continue…
“The reason you keep making music,” Clark said, “is because you believe that the best music that you could make is still something possible, something ahead of you…”

That sense of possibility sustains a band like Zoos of Berlin. And Naud says that it feels like they’ve only just now barely gotten started. That sensation of hitting one’s stride, of feeling fully realized, finally, within one’s sonic skin, as it were… 

For me, even suggesting that Zoos of Berlin could come back even better than ever is a scary-good prospect, an exciting notion… Because the group was already actively pushing itself outside of comfort zones, pursuing an Escherian set of stairwells winding their ways into implicitly indefinable genres, blending the elegance of art-pop to the propulsive of myriad dance modes, the static and spit of post-punk to the shimmering hew of surf-rock.

You can hear an illuminated eclecticism across their four main releases, two EP’s and two full length records. That orchestrally-swept, baroque-frilled, atmospherically-washed wonder charming their entire canon could translate into the live incarnations in interesting ways.

“The idea was that each song would have its own unique profile,” Clark said. “And the ‘style’ we had would be…just…the style of being able to pull off different styles…

But, as a live band, you can become tied to certain roles, or limited in how you can conceive a song. Whereas in a studio, one is set free to wander, as it were, or to try and to try again, to feel freed to incorporate weird textures, sweet timbres and ghostly tones without concerning yourself with future conversions inside concert venues. So, it’s vital that this band has their own Zoodio. It’s been the summit, the commons, the place of realignment, each time they’ve been able to have full attendance, or at least workable quorums, in Detroit.   

“We have more material than we may need,” said Clark, referring to their extended study hours of experimentation. “Better to take the time to pursue all of the different avenues… even if some of them wind up in blind alleys.” He pauses when he notices the smile on Naud’s face. “Get to know your way around town a little better, that way,” he concludes.

When Zoos of Berlin return to Detroit area stages this weekend, they’ll have almost two full albums of new material to draw upon. They don’t have a title for their album, but they’re enjoying the idea of calling it Instant Evening. That said, don’t expect a release this summer. The goal is to unveil it before wintertime, though.

So, that’s not to suggest you’re going to hear all of these new songs; I mean, some may be either too elaborate or too potently and ineffably phantasmagoric to pull off live….just yet…. But some of the songs you will hear are going to be on said new-album.

This will be their first album released since 2013’s Lucifer In The Rain, which SPIN so finely deemed “ornately cosmopolitan…” And Naud doesn’t know quite what to say about it. “I worry so much about sounding cliché…as I’m sure so many bands would say something like: ‘This is a combination of every phase of our musical makeup, heretofore…’ But… There are ‘electronic moments…’ There are ‘folk moments…’ No…wait… No. No. No.” No clichés.

Clark remarks upon the heightened amount of freedom they feel, as a band. “We’re not locked into playing a particular set…”

“…because,” Naud comes in quickly, “…no one’s heard these goddamned songs, yet!” I’ve heard it, and it is better than ever. Better than ever Zoos… But no one else has heard them…

And that’s just it, I tell them. That’s your angle…I say. No one knows what to expect from Zoos of Berlin, right now. And that’s exciting. That’s suspenseful.

“Ah, that’s our angle…” Naud says, looking relieved for a minute, but then quickly nervous. “I feel scared, now!”

Earlier this year, the band welcomed guitarist Matt Howard (also of Javelins), to augment the newly recorded songs. From here, it's only a matter of time before we hear new Zoos...Palpably stoked to have the quietly-impressive Howard on board, Naud said that, at this point, they wouldn't want to do anything, going forward, without these five core members, Howard included, who have contributed to the recordings over the last couple years. 

And as my interview-time winds down, inside the Zoodio, there is still an understated haze of excitement emanating from the band, but it’s a finely tuned, tempered excitement. It’s not cautious excitement, or squirrelly excitement, or even braggadocio…After three years since their last album and five years since their last show, it's all kind of wildcard-ish...

But they're even more comfortable, now, in their own skins (...morbid as that saying goes,) than ever... 

And they’re glad for the opportunity to perform, but the hope is that all of that positive energy only feeds back into their studio, to fuel future recordings, to propel proceeding album releases.

Did I use the word "...ever..." too much in this article? Or, hyperbolic conjunctions like "...than ever...?" I'm always at a loss for words when I listen to Zoos' music, so it likely gums up the overall articulation. ANYHOW....

ZOOS OF BERLINSunday, July 2Corktown Strut8pm at Batch Brewing Company

Saturday, July 8FAWNN Ultimate Oceans Release PartyThe Loving Touch

Daniel I. Clark and Trevor Naud began recording and writing music together
in 2000, as South South Million. 
Dig into SSM's first official release HERE
That duo met Collin Dupuis in 2002, crossing his path while working with engineer Norm Druce in Owosso.
Having contributed to some of SSM's recordings, he soon contacted Naud to let him know he was moving to
Detroit and that they should start making more music together; hence= Zoos of Berlin
Zach Curd (of Suburban Sprawl) was initially playing keys, before Will Yates jumped on board in the mid 2000's
Their debut EP came out Nov, 2007
Taxis -2009
Lucifer In The Rain - 2013
Add in the Zoodio in Midtown
Add in Matt Howard
Garnish with great appreciations for ambiance....

Monday, June 27, 2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Loose Teeth: Big, Cathartic Rock 'n' f**king Roll

Loose Teeth are an Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor based quartet and today's the day they release their debut EP, The Doppler Shift. If anything can sound elegant and guttural, beautiful and bruised, ragged yet reinforced... you find it here...

Gregory McIntosh has always been the secret weapon of Ypsilanti, contemplative wordsmith, subtly graceful guitarist, appreciator of dynamics and able to go from vulnerable sonnet singer to pugnacious fuck-this growler... Greg's songs... Loose Teeth songs.... can go from the low to the high in this invigorating way; from hunched on a stool or leaning heavily upon a fence to fucking jumping up onto the bar with a fist raised or outright kicking the whole fence down with one right round house kick.

McIntosh has contributed his guitar and backing vocal harmonies to Misty Lyn & The Big Beautiful, Matt Jones & The Reconstruction and wrote a few devastating beauties while in his memorable tenure in The Great Lakes Myth Society. But Loose Teeth, which slowly got rolling in early 2013 but picked up steam in 2015, are ready to release their first EP. These are McIntosh's most realized, most lively, most poignant songs to date... It's the hitting of a new stride, or a burst of fresh endorphins propelling the next 13 kilometers... Loose Teeth are a rock n roll band, but they're informed by traditional twangs and gritty kicks of folk and Americana. But, more than anything, it's informed by the human heart and reverberates with a humanistic yearning for a certain kind of tranquility...

But I'll let McIntosh tell you the rest, in our Q&A below...

Loose Teeth - Doppler Shift EP Release Party
Saturday (June 25)
w/ Misty Lyn & The Big Beautiful, and Shuttershop
Crossroads Pub
517 W. Cross St

How and when did Loose Teeth come together? And what can you tell me about these four songs?I always think of Loose Teeth as having been born in a house over in Corktown that Matt (Jones) and I were painting in the summer, three or four years ago... I played (Jones) a demo of "The Jagged Edges of Big Ideas" and he said, '...Let's go work on it after we're done here...!' So, we holed up in the basement of the house on River Street in Ypsilanti, which is now becoming famous as the place where (Jones) has recorded the bulk of the River Street Anthology. And, from there, we hammered out a very basic arrangement. It felt different than the older songs I'd been performing....

I asked Mary Fraser if she'd be interested in playing some songs with (Jones) and I. Then we found Tom (McCartan) to play bass, and the whole thing fell into place.

Poignant, yet defiant. Worn-down, but resolute. Hearts on the sleeve, but the sleeve's almost like steel wool.... There's dusky twangs, hearty vocals, vigorous crescendos. It's soulful stuff, Greg. Could you talk about your pull to the bittersweetness, and what kinds of intrigue or what kinds of power can you find in the stories of wounded spirits that rise to a recovery...
The bittersweet, for better or for worse, comes from me living in an anxious space for so long. Though in recent years, with the loss of both of my parents, being attacked by a pitbull, and dealing with the legal ramifications of both..., I've had to learn to manage my anxiety and depression in ways that I hadn't had to before. Because....the forms needed to be filed and death certificates needed to be presented in a timely manner, regardless of how scared or helpless I felt.

In the past, anxiety would cripple me, sometimes making it difficult to perform even the most mundane tasks. But reading about the vastness of the universe, the insane oceans we have here on earth, or watching Planet Earth all help sooth that part of my brain by forcing me to step way outside of myself and take a look at how small both me and my problems really are. But you know what else helps? Big, cathartic rock and fucking roll, which, when I attempt it, comes out with the hearty vocals and crescendos you asked about. Hopefully, those dynamics are meaningful and powerful when others listen to it too, but I'm just trying my best to keep my head from caving in on itself.

And about that lyric... "being a beacon for the broken hearts...?"
“...being a beacon for those battered hearts has more or less become my art...,” that was just a reference to a particular time when I had a few folks in my life who were roughed up by whatever psychic maladies with which they were dealing and they'd brought them to me, dumped them at my doorstep, and took off. It felt good to empathize with these folks about something other than the sadness that came with watching leukemia take my father out of the world. But the lyric is meant to be an admission to myself that focusing on other people at that time and not giving enough attention to my own brain probably wasn't the healthiest way for me to deal with what was going on in my family.

Your lyrics can be so literary sounding... More than that, it's often what resonates most for me about Loose Teeth, a narrator that's taking stock of so much shit, and seeking solace... That said, can you talk about your lyrical influences, other songwriters (or writers, in general) you've admired and that you feel have informed your own work.... I've heard a song of yours called 'Luke Haines...'
Luke Haines was the mastermind behind the early '90s group the Auteurs, among other projects. His songs are dark. They're mean. They're sardonic and witty and bizarre.

Excellent adjectives....
The critics at the time called the Auteurs “the new wave of new wave” and (Haines) is considered to be, in some circles, the father of Britpop, which he denounces and says he hates. Oasis, Blur, and Pulp, etc. Those bands never did anything for me either, but then none of those bands ever wrote about unsolved child murders, British wrestling in the '70s, terrorism, or made a children's concept record where all the heroes die in the end.

I was in New York City a few years ago in a self-imposed exile, and I started writing this song that felt, to me, to be a melody that Haines might have penned, so I decided to write the song about him. When I was 80%, or so, finished, he released the album Rock 'n' Roll Animals, the “children's” record I mentioned above wherein he imagines three of his own songwriting heroes (Gene Vincent as a cat, Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 as a fox, and Nick Lowe as a badger) fighting a giant mechanical bird, which seemed to me to be a sign that I was on the right path in writing about him.


I'm sure he'd hate my song.

What about other songwriters... I mean, particularly, you've collaborated, or at least become closely acquainted with so many songwriters around "town..." (or, Michigan, rather...)
There are so many songwriters that have influenced me, it's hard to keep concise about it..., but nearly all of them are lyrical dynamos on top of being pop masterminds. There's Andy Partridge of XTC, continually blows my mind. As do Randy Newman, Nina Nastasia, and Andy Prieboy.

Locally, we've got Great Lakes Myth Society... (I'll just check off a clipboard...) Matt Jones, Misty Lyn... Drunken Barn Dance...

I was lucky enough to spend so many years playing with Jamie and Tim Monger (Great Lakes Myth Society) and I cannot emphasize how much those two taught me about music and music appreciation and exploded my mind when they'd show up at rehearsals with a new song in tow. The three of us were in a friendly competition, in terms of songwriting, and I believe I'm only now beginning to catch up to the level they've been writing at for years.

Also, Leah Diehl of Lightning Love is another masterful songwriter I admire. I really think she's a genius; sometimes penning songs that seem very simple, but when they're dug into, all these layers come out and it's clear that she's operating on a different level than a lot of people out there. Let's see... There's Jim Roll, who helped engineer and mix the Loose Teeth stuff... He's always been someone I admired; I met him 20 years ago and was intrigued by his presence in the moment, both as a songwriter and a human, ever since.

Then playing alongside Matt Jones all these years and being able to pick his brain about his approach to songwriting and see, up close, his attention to detail and work ethic; that's been awe inspiring. I played with Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful many moons ago and watching her continually escalate as a songwriter is astonishing; she never seems to plateau, but continually  ascends in her construction of songs and every time that she blows my mind with a new song, it's eclipsed by the next.

Then there's Josh Malerman of the High Strung. Geez, that guy is amazing. His approach seems so fluid to me, like he just barfs up a great pop song then shouts, “Next!” and barfs up another great pop song. And Scott Sellwood of Drunken Barn Dance! The whole reason I play guitar in DBD is because I saw Sellwood perform solo at the Elbow Room and his songs slayed me so hard that I bee-lined to the stage after the set and asked to be a part of what he was doing, though we barely knew each other. His songs are so graceful and lyrically magnificent. I still can't believe he obliged me....

And it's just that humbleness that has made it all particularly moving when you do get to be 'in the spotlight...' as it were... If it's one of your own arrangements with GLMS, or if it's Loose Teeth. But rock 'n' roll...music biz-shit in general, requires one to shed subtlety, or sometimes even shed-modesty, and play the self-promotion game... That said, I'm excited for this record release, because you've been toward the side of the stage for so many shows with other bands, now...it's you! 

Yeah, I'm not very good at the self promotion, honestly, and there are definitely times I long to be back in a band as a guitarist who sings occasional backups... But what the hell?!! I'm proud of these new songs and I want them to be in the world! I'd like them to connect with other people, but I'm alright if no one digs them because I know I've done the best I could do at this moment. As for the performing aspects, it doesn't bother me at all. I'll get anxiety attacks before a show sometimes, and nearly always after the show is over, but all I've got is what I can give, so if it doesn't resonate, so be it.

What's the biggest takeaway, the life lesson learned..., after 15 years of playing, gigging, writing, recording...etc....Somehow, I've been able to play with a bevvy of smart, talented, compassionate, and brilliant people for so many years it rattles my brain in the greatest ways. If life is gonna kick your ass, and it will kick your ass, better to have a bunch of these thugs around to help you turn a bunch of songs into an army and push back for a while. I've been lucky and I'm grateful.

This might be an older one of Greg's songs, but I love it

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Timothy Monger's Amber Lantern

When you read Tim Monger’s name on the sleeve of his albums, it’s: Timothy Monger. But in the proceeding interview, I’m choosing to refer to him as Tim, for expedience.

Now when it comes to ideas, Tim is expedient. When it comes to albums…, well, he’s only just now readying the release of his 3rd proper solo album, Amber Lantern. The singer/songwriter is known around the state for his tenure with poignancy-cultivating, gothic-Americana conjuring, folk-rock dynamos in the Great Lakes Myth Society.

In 2004, Tim started unveiling his own signature tunes of a comparably understated rustbelt-tinged radiance. Whereas Great Lakes Myth Society’s songs emitted ghost-story vibes, folk hero valiance and campfire yarns out past the ol’ railroad tracks, Tim’s songs on Summer Cherry Ghosts had an eclectic blend, there was springier adrenaline and notably intricate arrangements, some spacey/regal baroque croons, waltzy troubadour trips and propulsive folk riffers.

Later, on 2011’s New Britton Sound, Tim got cinematic, ostensibly giving aural texture to the wistful fogs of nostalgia and the quieting exhilarations of deep contemplations. His lyrics often sound like the kind of words that have been ricocheting around in someone’s head for almost-too-long, ready to come out. His voice, even if recounting an episode of woe, crackles with a dulcet timbre that sounds like reprieved, the heavy sighed sound of healing.

So, the news here is that Tim Monger is going to be releasing his third album later this year, (hopefully around early autumn). But that all depends on a recently launched kickstarter campaign. 

And since we wound up really chopping it up over the course of this interview, I’m going to set aside my own purple-splashed adjectives about his music and go straight to the Q&A.

Tim, when you go to your own mind palace and sort of reflect on the way you’ve continually approached songwriting? Have there been some recent influences or experiences that have shifted that approach?
How did you know about my Mind Palace? Maybe you were simply making a classic Sherlock Holmes reference, but I actually have a tent set up in my basement that I refer to as my Mind Palace where I sometimes like to hang out, write, and contemplate.

My DNA skews me toward being a nostalgic and sentimental type of person which can make certain emotions enjoyably richer, but is also sometimes detrimental to my happiness. On past albums, I've admittedly leaned on a certain feeling of wistfulness which seems to flow easily into my music. If I'm being honest, it's probably my default setting as a songwriter and it can take a conscious effort for me to begin from a different starting point.

What did you want to do this time, though, with Amber Lantern?
I wanted Amber Lantern to include songs that were a bit more present. I wanted to better represent what I was feeling when I wrote the songs rather than looking back at past selves. I still tend to romanticize my subjects and there is a pretty diverse swath of song styles on the album, but overall I feel like I've grown quite a bit since my last release.

I seem to recall a heightened meticulousness to the way you were crafting each song during the production of New Britton Sound. Talk about what winds up dominating your attention most when it comes to finalizing a song. What’s the key…? Why toil so much…?
As meticulous as I may sometimes seem, I also rely very much on spontaneity. Songs have to begin somewhere and there's usually some sudden inspirational voltage that begins the process. Some people knock it out in an hour and call it done and there are millions of great songs that have been made that way. I truly wish I knew how to work faster, but my own process usually involves rallying around the initial spark, honing it through numerous revisions, making wrong turns, chasing new sparks generated by correcting wrong turns, and so on.

Every time I think about beginning an album I always tell myself this is going to be my "minimalist record" and by the time I've finished it…four or five years later…, it's something else entirely. Maybe someday I'll do something brutally sparse like Billy Bragg's first album or some sort of hairy, one-take psych album, but my instincts usually lead me toward more detailed pop music with an emphasis on arrangement. When it's all said and done,  I'm almost always happier with the results when I've let the songs decant and fully develop before releasing them. My process for recording hasn't changed a great deal since my last album. I have some nicer gear at home now and I was able to record most of the drum parts at a proper studio which has upped the production value considerably. But I still toil away at each part as I've always done.

You’re going the kickstarter route again to fund Amber Lantern’s completion, promising, if nothing else, tightly-crafted guitar pop with a warm glow… This album has been in the works for the past four years, out of your home studio. And, I could go into further detail about how the overall sound and shape of the album changed many times over the course of those four years, but I’d prefer they just click this link and check out thekickstarter page for themselves… …then, when they return, they can read your response to this question:
Have you gotten into any ethical, philosophical, existential conversations with other musicians about how one makes it work, as it were, in the "music biz"...as an artist without a label, or as an artist seeking a label, or as an artist who has that great work finished but has the big gap toward releasing it…
In regards getting an album over the finish line, there are so many ways to make, release, package, fund, and promote your music. The concern of all the musicians I talk to isn't necessarily about how to make it work in the music business but how to get anyone to hear what you've made. At this point I only know a very small handful of people who make their living as musicians and they work incredibly hard all the time. I have a lot of respect for their perseverance and stamina to stay above water in this ridiculously unforgiving business.

Everyone else (like me) has a day job, gigs on nights and weekends, usually has some sort of home studio set-up, and a ton of great under-promoted songs. You work passionately with the time, resources, and connections you have to try and make soulful, creative work and get it heard by others. Some people are on labels, some release independently, some figure out how to tour, some just play in their basements… everyone's situation is different and there's no wrong or right way to do it. Everyone who records a song generally wants the same thing: to have someone else listen to it and hopefully enjoy or at least appreciate it.

There are naysayers when it comes to crowdfunding, but, as we’ve covered… But that aside, what can you say, as a song-maker, when you see folks step up like this, in this nihilistic digital age of ours, and say, yes, sign-me-up, I want a Tim Monger album!
I wanted my last album to come out on a label, but when that didn't happen, I cautiously turned to crowdfunding. It ended up being a really positive and rewarding experience for me and now, with another album nearly finished, I'm again turning directly to the people who have enjoyed and supported my music in the past. As with every release, I will work hard to extend its reach far beyond my own neighborhood, but it makes sense for me to begin at the ground level with my core fan base. Some of the first people to help me with this funding campaign have been following my music since I was 16. I don't even have words for that kind of long term support. It makes me feel very proud and emotional. Now they're telling their friends where they live to support me and that's how I hope to grow my outreach and get this album released.

Some people have issues with crowdfunding and that's totally fine. I hope they'll still stream or download my album after my other fans have helped me get it released. I've contributed to other campaigns that weren't handled very well and that's just a risk you take in an honor-based model. All it takes is one bad experience to sour someone on crowdfunding. I've sadly seen people approach it with a sense of entitlement, but you have to put a lot of research and planning to make your project worthy of someone's hard-earned money. I get it. I rarely have $20 to throw at groceries, let alone someone else's art. As for my own campaign, all I can promise is that you will get the best album I know how to make and that I will treat anyone who backs my project with the respect and gratitude they deserve. I recognize that, like respect, support is hard to earn and easy to lose.

Tim, I don’t want to talk too much about the album yet. I mean, if they want more hints of what’s coming, they can click here… But in the meantime, let me ask: above all else, is there something, one thing about going on a stage that you've consistently found to be the most fulfilling?
When I have gigs on my calendar, I feel so much more like a complete person. I've been performing regularly since I was 16 and, whatever the venue, I'm genuinely happy to just be singing and playing my guitar somewhere. Maybe that doesn't sound so ambitious, but really, having a gig seems so much better to me than most other things I could be doing on a given night. At the most basic level, I literally just enjoy the physical and emotional sensation of singing for a couple of hours.

What about the songwriting part? The studio part?
As for being in the studio, it's a completely different kind of enjoyment for me. I look forward to the rush of creation, the search for the right arrangement, pushing myself to give the best or most unique performance, or to try something new. I love playing with gear, experimenting, trying wild ideas that will ultimately fail, but should be tried anyway. Recording at home, there's literally nothing to lose except time. You can try anything you want and no one will ever hear it unless you want them to. You can be as bizarre, over-the-top, understated, intense, goofy, or cathartic as you want to be and an amalgam of those things is what often leads to the desired end result.

Tim Monger wants to pour his heart out to you and maybe help reveal to you the common mysteries of the human experience, but he’s doing so without the financial backing of a label… If you feel like helping, then click here.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe

Olivia Mainville is in a basement filled with music and loud things.

The 20-year-old Grand Rapids/Holland-area singer/songwriter talks to me while packing up for a road trip up to Oscada County, and Andy Fettig, Bleu Quick and Ian Burke, the three steadiest members of her somewhat elastic band, The Aquatic Troupe, are audibly discussing the weekend ahead, closing up cases for trombones and a stand-up bass. Oh, and there will be an accordion on this tour...

Mainville wasn't taught the same rules as most academic musicians. As a teenager, she independently assigned herself her own curriculum, burrowing into her parents basement and surrounding herself with several unique instruments, proceeding to listen to music, experiment with music, or write her own music for long tracts of time. She admits she missed some actual school during these alternative study courses.

The Aquatic Troupe released their first full length album last December, which demonstrates a preternatural sensibility for gypsy-jazz, showtune-y balladry, Americana-twang-tappers, and zingy twists on Tin Pan Alley into melodic folk rock. The overarching components of their signature pop are buoyancy, intricate arrangements, and plenty of personality.

Mainville began weaving her way into the local music scene in Grand Rapids at a very young age. The well-established Beulah-born Americana outfit The Accidentals took Mainville "under their wing," when she was 14 and just learning how to write her own music. (She'd already been playing in the school orchestra at this point). "(The Accidentals) taught me a lot about touring and gigging, and basically everything that I would need to know, all the etiquette it required..."

“But, yeah, I never went to any kind of music school. I stopped traditional schooling and just stayed in my basement and played a bunch of music, just practicing all day. Before I went to my first actual music festival, in 8th grade, I had never been to any big festivals or listened to music all that much; it was really need, though, and it made me want to seriously pursue music.”

What drew Mainville to music was the energy she saw on those stages at that first festival, there was exuberance resonating between the players and feeding out into the crowd. It was an exchange of celebratory vibes, of subtly spry and coolly dynamic – that…is what you hear captured on Maybe The Saddest Thing and continually see during the Aquatic Troupe’s live performances.

I ask Mainville what some of her key influences were and she admits that she never had any of those all-time favorite bands or artists like most of us do. The Accidentals were integral in her development, as were the Toronto-based Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra, and she admits an affinity for Django Reinhardt’s jazz guitar styling. That said, I think what Mainville and her Troupe are adept at is infusing their inherently whimsical, soaring folk songs with a necessary liveliness. It’s magnificent spunk, it’s graceful boldness, it’s not worrying about what’s formal and finding what feels and sounds right. And that’s usually pretty damn rousing…

“I loved seeing the audience having fun, watching (live music at a festival),” Mainville says, recalling that inspirational moment. “And, I know how I feel when I watch a show that's really entertaining - it's the coolest thing. I’ve always loved the fact that you can just keep striving to get better and better on a stage, as a performer; it’s something that you can keep doing and keep getting better at it. It’s not like you reach your full potential with it at some point. You can only get better! The fact that you can keep making things differently through music, or making (a song) more interesting all the time is what's intriguing to me about it…” 

This band has been hitting the road on a regular monthly basis, roaming all around the state (and beyond). Here's a glimpse of their upcoming shows in June. If the Aquatic Troupe should ever come closer to the SE Michigan or Greater Metro Detroit area, you can anticipate guest appearances from our local young folk luminaries like Libby DeCamp, ISLÁ and/or Jack & The Bear, each of whom have been (and still continue to be, more or less) members of Mainville's band.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Young Punk - Something Like A Drug

It's been one of those days. I just need to clear my head... More than that, I almost need to get the whole mental motherboard back online. The hard reboot. Need to come down, need to be carried, need to come back drowning in fresher, sharper thoughts... 

Man, I'm glad for a band like Young Punk at a time like that... Not necessarily a pick-me-up, not particularly the walking-on-sunshine, me-time anthem. The Detroit trio are closer to space-rock or ambient-soul than they are straight-up trip-hop. You know what, they perfectly self-apply the term: "dream-hop..." And the overall affect is soothing, but the production weaves rewarding textures of several drum samples, coiling guitar reverberations and meditatively-funky basslines to the soundscape to keep you from drifting to far into the daydream's abstracted stratospheres....It's Nick Van Huis behind that vaporous guitar's hum and quiver, while Stephen Stewart has this expressive style of forming vibrant bass sounds that murmur and coolly clasp. But it's vocalist Taijah Johnson's starry-night serenades and breathy intonations that are glimmering brightest, here... 

I started off talking about how this new EP from Young Punk aided in a bit of escapism for me...But it was a natural response; I wasn't trying to tie it directly to the title of this new batch of songs. But, Something Like A Drug...fits perfectly. No side-effects. 

Something Like A Drug went live today on the streaming services like Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play and more! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Bevlove "Do What I Say"

I emailed Bevlove back in march, the morning our interview went live on the Detroit Free Press' website. I wanted to run that headline by her before things were finalized; I wanted to make sure it didn't sound too bold or too audacious. No, she said it was perfect... Bevlove does know "...what she wants...and how she's going to get it."  That is the case... It's a matter of propulsion, of velocity, of determination.

Bevlove (otherwise known as Beverly Johnson), has, over the last three years, established herself as one of the preeminent R&B artists in Detroit. Several attributes assure she stands out, from her powerful voice, to her stunning outfits, her dynamic choreography to the empowering lyrics, not to mention the exceptional string of producers with whom she's collaborated. But above it all, it's Bevlove's determination, that's gotten her this far... I mean, pure talent and a supportive family also helped. But Bevlove is dauntless. There's strength here...

And there's admirable daring in the energizing aesthetic of the Right Bros. new music video for "Do What I Say." This is the lead single off of Bevlove's forthcoming EP Talk That Shit. Johnson wrote and performed the track at Assemble Sound, collaborating with Antea Shelton; produced by SYBLING and mastered by Jon Zott.

Bevlove | Do What I Say from The Right Brothers on Vimeo.

Par for the course when it comes to the Detroit duo (Right Brothers), there's plenty of quick cuts, cinematic set-ups, fantastic imagery and atmospheric cinematography. But, as they've demonstrated with other outlets like The Detroit Journal, the filmmaker's specialty is augmenting the frame around the subject, i.e. the performers... (And there are more than a dozen, often on screen at the same time). The face, body, movements and the uncanny auras of each woman on screen, particularly Bev. But any fan of local hip-hop or R&B will likely recognize the comparably impressive artists behind her, amping things up).

Friday, June 10, 2016

Remnose - Yond The Hill

Remnose is folk music with dried sand caked under its feet and some dirt flakes fringed beneath its fingertips. It's psych-rock for the bleary dawn stagger, when there's just enough ambient sunrise lighting the path's forthcoming slope. It's a whirl-pooling ambient pop expedition that doesn't mind taking its time, or softening the center to spread outward some more cacophonous peripheries.

I mean, I don't really know what to call it... ...Cuz it sounds like this local quartet is following the woodland spirits to hard-to-find clearings and knolls where they convene some kind of refreshingly weird, genre-defiant sabbath. That being said, released some new recordings at the end of last year, so you could cease reading my ramblings and listen for yourself....

Next Friday at El Club, Remnose join two Ohio bands: Turtle Island (from Columbus), Moira (from Dayton), along with Detroit electro skew-wave duo Rogue Satellites. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Theosophics Resurrect Lost Gems of '66-'73

There's something supernatural about Theosophics, and I like it...

In a way, I feel like the Oak Park IL-based quartet are performing a bit of necromancy. Their specific sorcery involves resurrections of all-but-lost gems from a tremulously impressive era of inventive ret/cons of rock n roll music. They're excavating the b-sides that never saw the light of day from bands like The Kinks, The Creation, and Bad Finger, whilst reanimating the sublimity of thickly atmospheric ballads from art-pop pioneers like David Bowie, Scott Walker, and the gothic country warbles of Lee Hazelwood. 

At least..., that's a glimpse of their itinerary. They've only just gotten into this new creative vocation of rarity-renovation, specifically digging beneath the mantle of mainstream classic rock radio re-hash and over-played pop zombies and burrowing down to where the flipsides are hiding.

Theosophics is Craig Benedict Valentine Badynee, Alex Harris, Mike Sankowski, and Mark Vincent, and their intent is to capture the spirit of the original songs while also tapping into whatever it was about it, that ineffable essence, that first pricked up their ears in the first place. "So many of my very favorite songs are deeply tucked away on the other side of hit singles," Badynee says, "or they're far into an LP('s tracklist) after more recognizable works. As a songwriter who exclusively writes unintentionally obscure music, I'm naturally drawn to these neglected tracks." 

 You know those songs that feel like secrets? They're usually the seventh or eighth track on an LP. They feel like they were recorded at the end of a weird day, or were maybe surreptitiously sneaked in during a take when the producer wasn't around...They don't sound like the usual hits that sit higher up in that band's canon; their chromaticities feel inverted, their vibes feel enticingly bizarro...  THAT...to me, is the kind of spirit I feel Theosophics are trying to raise and re-render with their own voices and coolly skewed-views.  

Listen to Theosophics’ fully fleshed out, heartfelt harmony-filled take on the Velvet Underground’s “New Age” originally recorded for VU’s 1970 release, Loaded. 

I know this kind of endeavor could easily become a case of playing with fire. This isn't anything a band should try on a lark. Good thing these four gents are truly wizards, I'm telling ya... They know their way around a studio and their ears are mystically attuned; or rather, they wisely waited until they'd attained such  experience before attempting to dosey-doe with the ghosts of the Great's.

Let's see where this goes....

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Everyone I Owe

The Detroit area consistently hosts a substantial citizenry of musicians, but it’s really seen an even further flourish of rock, pop and electronic bands over the last five years. And on any given weekend, each are a consistent component of various stacked lineups at the dozen primary local music venues. But those glories can be fleeting…and rock ‘n’ roll bands aren’t typically known for heeding the virtues of documenting their own anthems and antics for posterity’s sake.

But when 23 bands crowd two stages at The Loving Touch on Friday and Saturday, they’ll be filmed and recorded, with the video and audio being professional mixed and mastered, then eventually edited into a proper film, with the individual segments divvied out directly to each artist free of charge for bands to distribute however they choose.

Read this article in this week's Detroit Free Press 

“Everyone I Owe” is essentially an inside-joke for the several bands on the bill, calling back to a prior (and still unfinished) documentary project called “Everyone I Know,” that filmed 18 bands in one night with aspirations to chronicle the then-contemporary collective of rock bands. While half of those bands from the original go round have since broken up, a few still enthusiastically reunited for this new event, which, says co-organizer Jesse Shepherd-Bates, aims to “close the karmic-loop,” or cultivate some catharsis for any left unsatisfied by the prior film’s indeterminate delay.

“We hit up every band that played the original show, and when so many said yes we decided to blow the event up as a two night gala,” said Bates. “We’ve got bands that haven't played in years, but also bands that have been hitting the pavement for a decade or more, and some bands that played their first shows only a little over a year ago.”

“Unfortunately, (the original ‘Everyone I Know’ filming) left a sour taste in people’s mouths,” said co-organizer Jo Champagne, “for the musicians involved and the contributors.” The clearing-the-air factor concerns how many local musicians contributed to a kickstarter campaign for the first film, and thus, this weekend’s concert title references a delayed reimbursement.

The original film’s director, artist/filmmaker Brandon Walley, said he regrets that he wasn’t more communicative in the months following the crash of an external hard drive storing the transferred film footage, along with a rough cut of the edited film, up to that point. Walley, the program director at Corktown Cinema, said he admits naivety in expanding the film’s initial scope, and documenting several more shows. Walley said that counting the hired camera operators and cost of added equipment, he exhausted the initial kickstarter-raised budget. He intends on completing the film as soon as he’s able to afford the needed retransferring onto another hard drive.

Champagne, meanwhile, said that she and Shepherd-Bates want to be careful, this time. “We aren’t making promises we aren’t 100% sure we can’t fulfill.”  Bands will be reimbursed for performances, she said, and receive their respective recordings.  Shepherd-Bates said he will be editing the footage but didn’t want to put a guaranteed date for the premier. But the exciting part is that you, just as an audience member, get the chance to be part of it all.

"I think ('Everyone I Owe') speaks to the fact that Detroit is still a place where you can set up crazy shit: no problemo," said Gordon Smith, singer/guitarist of The Kickstand Band. "The fact that everyone will just agree to this lineup with just (Shepherd-Bates/Champagne) doing most of the leg work is a good example of our being able to just do: whatever... Like WhateverFest, or shows by the Elijah's crew, or Hamtramck Music Fest...."

"I'm not aware of any other comparable documentation of so much of the local music scene here, so I'm excited for the ('Everyone I Owe'), and to be able to look back at it a few years from now," said Lianna Vanicelli, singer/percussionist of Valley Hush. Both Smith and Vanicelli were on the original lineup from five years ago. "To be honest, I was never anxiously awaiting the release of the original. I guess because I've just played a ton of shows where there have been things like photographers or people filming, but you never see footage surface. I don't even know what happened with the original one; I just remember playing in a very sweaty, crowded Lager House. It was a fun show!"

A lot has changed over five years, particularly concerning the experience of trying to get a band off the ground. "We love making music and performing more than anything, but there are definitely some frustrating obstacles," Vanicelli said. "With the way social media has impacted us over the last few years, it's made being a musician a lot harder. I still love it and do it for the same reason that I always have. Alex (Kaye, guitarist/producer) and I try to keep a positive outlook, but that's definitely gotten harder as we've spent more time in the industry. We constantly encourage each other."

"I honestly just said: 'yes...' to playing for ('Everyone I Owe') for the same reason I played it five years ago," said Lo-fi Bri, of the electro-punk trio Carjack. "That's what performing live is and will always be for me!"

The lineup features The Kickstand Band, The High Strung, Valley Hush, Carjack, FAWNN and many more, including bands that feature Shepherd-Bates (The HandGrenades) and Champagne (Siamese). Reunited acts include Illy Mack, Lightning Love, and The Satin Peaches.

Singer/bassist Liz Wittman isn’t reuniting Lettercamp, (on hiatus since 2013), but her debut of a new trio Arc Pelt feels like a comeback of sorts, having stepped away from the scene to raise her two children.

"Arc Pelt is very different from Lettercamp," Wittman said. "And, the timing felt right; I love the people and bands involved with this event, so this is a great venue to have our first show. It's sort of a farewell to a part of my past while also starting something new. Our friend Dean Tartaglia (Secret Space, Silent Lions) will be joining us for the show."

Wittman understandably took time away from the scene for a couple years to raise two children with producer Zach Shipps (who also plays in Arc Pelt). "Having kids forces you to take a step back from a lot of things, and that distance is really valuable," Wittman said. "Coming back into music now, feels like a freedom of sorts. My motivations are slightly different. I give less of a fuck about what anybody thinks. That said, it’s always been a good scene and there’s a ton of cool stuff happening right now. I see a lot of it coming through my backyard (Zach’s studio). So even though I haven’t been musically active, I’ve been pretty close to it..."

Leah Diehl, of Lightning Love (which has been on hiatus since late 2013), performed solo last March and when her brother (and former bandmate) heard the old songs, he encouraged her to do (at least) one more show.

"I've been feeling more and more positively lately about playing music, but the biggest motivator for this show was my brother," Diehl said. "After hearing our old songs again, he said he wanted to play the Everyone I Owe show. And I said ok - let's do it...!

"I think this is deeply based in nostalgia," she said, referring to the whole rehash of 2011's concert. "I can't believe it's been 5 years! I'm not sure the (2011) show in particular meant something, but that time, in general, certainly meant something to me. I think the only thing Jesse wants to do differently this time is not screw over the bands. I hated Kickstarter from the beginning; so many people abused it. It's pretty cool of Jesse to try to make it up to these bands, even though he's not the one who should be responsible for making anything up to anyone."

So, at the end of the day there's a lot of feelings and conversations that get re-stimulated by this whole event. It's a mix of nostalgia, a longing for closure, and a motivation to celebrate the Detroit music scene’s signature spirit and character.

For this writer, it brings back wistful pangs from a point in time I experienced that radiated with a bliss that's hard to specify. The same way you never forget the albums that were your favorite as an 18 year old, I don't think I'll ever feel such an affinity with another moment in local music, and not for any quantifiable reason, other than I think there was an uncanny amount of personality with that pack of bands. Or maybe the fact that half of them broke up within a couple years after that augmented the preciousness of it, not just of that one night, but of any given moment, or show, or album release, when it comes to this scene, this community.

......I'm rambling.

See you at the show!

Full lineup

Night One: June 10th, 2016. 7pm doors.
The High Strung
lettercamp/ARC PELT
The HandGrenades
The Savage Seven
George Morris & the Gypsy Chorus
Earth Engine
Jerry Dreams

Night Two: June 11th, 2016. 7pm doors.
The Satin Peaches
Lightning Love
Valley Hush
The Kickstand Band
Dutch pink
The Oscillating Fan Club
The Beggars
Rogue Satellites
Citizen Smile
The Messenger Birds

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dear Darkness - Get It Here

Dear Darkness have new music for you....

Over the last three years, guitarist/singer Stacey Macleod and drummer Samantha Linn have edged their way into nice, noisy niche of post-punk dissonance, no-wave eccentricity, gutsy glam and nostalgic-pop, with lots of shredding, howling and head-bangable beats. MacLeod said she's been working on these lyrics since she was 15; with an overarching theme that meditates upon the glamour of rock 'n' roll, like belting out ballads, wringing out riffs, dancing and daydreaming, making out and acting tough, spilling drinks in dark bars beside bright stages and smoking cigarettes out in the alley.

The band releases this new EP of songs in time for their show on Saturday with Double Winter, a Detroit-area quartet who also recently finished new recordings. Their new EP Watching Eye will be out sometime in early summer. Take a listen

Both Dear Darkness and Double Winter worked with Ypsi-based engineer Ben Collins (otherwise known as the frontman of Minihorse). Dear Darkness, meanwhile, had their latest songs mastered by Jim Diamond. Joining them for Saturday's performances at El Club is Blood Stone

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mango Lane's TV Feelings out June 9

Mango Lane releases TV Feelings June 9
The Loving Touch
Release Party with Cosmic Light Shapes, Shiver, & Jimmy OhioMore info

Detroit-based quintet Mango Lane stoke this mellow kinda mirth. Their's is a groove that glides....the kind of potentially-party-starting funk that you could also listen to over breakfast...

Take a track like "Miami Madness," from the upcoming TV Feelings.... 

Their percussive arrangements have this balls-of-the-feet buoyancy, it's all high-hat clasp and effervescent synth purrs, with elastic basslines and smooth falsetto/mid-range croons. These are dulcet, tuneful dance tracks that could also just play it cool and hang back in the lounge if you'd like them to, or maybe cut a bit of a rug when you're ready, otherwise, it's just sleek, tranquil tumblers.

Jack Engwall and Austin Carpenter both play guitar, keyboard and sing, while Ben Zaporski is on drums, Cameron Kowalke plays bass and Adam Gregersen provides sax and percussion. Engwall and Carpenter have been friends for a long time, and they started seeding the roots of Mango Lane six years ago. The words they used to describe their ardor for music and collaborative songwriting were: "...absolutely obsessed."

More than that, as I'd already indicated their pleasing sensibility for chill post-disco/serene-funk/outre-AM-pop vibes, they seem sincerely bent on spreading positivity and, yes, love, through their music and performances.

Mango Lane play next Thursday at the Loving Touch