Friday, July 29, 2016

Catching Back Up with Javelins

Aug 6 @ UFO Factory
with Congress
Vinny Moonshine
9pm  //  18+

Artwork by Jim Cherewick

Find out more info on the show, here

Drummer/singer Matt Rickle says that 10 years sort of crept up quickly on Javelins. Their momentum seems to be picking up since they commemorated that anniversary for their first release way back when… Meanwhile, the trio have spent most of the last five of those 10 years “…meticulously plotting” their next move. As Zach Curd wound down his locally beloved Suburban Sprawl Records in 2014, Javelins were actually credited with what was ultimately the final release of that label.

Javelins flung out of the metro Detroit area on that wave of post-hardcore+pop-punk hybridists of 2003-2004, ala Bears Vs Shark, or Les Savvy Fav or Thunderbirds Are Now, the latter of which actually featured Rickle on drums and Javs bassist Julian Wettlin. Guitarist Matt Howard brought in some spacier elements and the band soon expanded beyond the spazzed exuberance, rigid riffs and coarser exteriors of punk and wove a bit more emotion, a bit more poetry, and a lot more dizzying/dazzling effects onto their palette. In fact, you could dance to this…

Rickle and Wettlin have been playing music together since 1998. A previous band dissolved in 2002 and they hooked up with Howard to form Javelins. Their 9-song debut, No Plants Just Animals came out in 2005, but they took it to another level with 2008’s Heavy Meadows, where they invited baroque strings, cinematic ambient sounds, buoyant bass-fuzz waves and a blend of jangly guitars with meteor-show gosh-wow FX splashes. Rickle, meanwhile, handling both vocals and drums, was able to blend intricate percussive patterns under some of his most heartfelt and conceptual lyrics to date…

Then they went into that meticulous plotting period…

“We’ve been totally active as a band, but we haven’t really been playing shows,” shrugs Rickle. “Just writing, demo-ing, stockpiling, and scrapping ideas and songs. We toured on Heavy Meadow for a year and then got back to writing again. Our tastes have changed, individually, since we first got together all those years ago. So, coming up with something we all agree on is a little less easier than it once was, but when we do, it makes all the bickering worth it.”

And so, they threw a big 10-year-anniversary show for No Plants last autumn and Rickle says “it was cool to see people still interested to hear that record! Playing the show was different, and a bit nerve-wracking; there was an expectation there that usually wasn’t there… They wanted to hear it the way they remember it… But, yeah, people came from all over the country! I really don’t know what to say about that, it was just a humbling and unique feeling that I’m just gonna treasure.”

To assure you, longtime Javelins fans, these three are still the best of besties you could imagine and are still very much interested in continuing to write music together and “see what kind of weird stuff” they can come up with.

Another thing, there’s a positive side to having so much time pass between your releases. Rickle considers it freeing, in a way. “No pressure for something new, at this point, so we have time to get it right. So, why not take your time? We just do it because we still like to… I love my band.”

The band is currently housed in midtown, with Zoos of Berlin as their veritable dormitory neighbors, when it comes to practice spaces. (Howard recently joined that band). They’re currently, as we said, putting together a potential followup to Meadows. “We write pretty freely,” said Rickle. “I mean, there’s no single songwriter. So…., sometimes you knock-out tons of cool ideas out of nowhere, and sometimes you go nowhere for months.”

What can we anticipate? Interesting indulgences of their Krautrock influences, slow burners, motorik grooves, atmospherics that percolate the goosebumps…that kinda thing. “Been messing around with keyboards a lot more, too,” said Rickle. “I feel like this is some of our heaviest stuff yet, but some really pretty music, as well. (Producer Chris) Koltay is really on us to do something with him, so we’ll see… We’re hoping to get in the studio by the end of the year. We’ve said that before, though…hehe….so that depends…”

Meanwhile, you can see Javelins next Saturday at the UFO Factory, with Congress, Vinny Moonshine, and Yeesh (from Chicago). INFO 

But let’s get back to talking about “dance punk….”

“Yeah, that was a really fun time for music, I thought,” said Rickle. “At that time, (2004-Javelins,) we were all on the same page, Chicago and DC indie bands were our jam: Sea and Cake, Q and not U, Faraquet, The Rapture…that was No Plants Just Animals. Heavy Meadows was us listening to Flaming Lips, Talking Heads, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine… Now, we’re all over the damn map. The bands we've always agreed on and got us playing music together initially were Smashing Pumpkins and The Beatles, not a huge shocker. This Heat is one of those bands we discovered together. And we love Bowie. Bowie forever.”

So, going 14-years into this Javelins ride, Rickle looks back and says: “Well, being part of the Suburban Sprawl Music family is a real highlight; everyone in it is genuine and truly talented. We’ve played so many awesome shows….from Deerhoof, to Vampire Weekend. Had a run in with Stephen Baldwin. Covered the Smiths and the Strokes (for Halloween sets). But at the end of the day, I’m still doing what I always have since as long as I can remember…Making music with my best dudes…”


Okay, so you’ve made it this far into the interview, and we’re wrapping up. It’s as good a time as any to ask Rickle, being a drummer and a singer, whether he still has to field questions or comments involving Phil Collins or Levon Helm…

“I used to get Phil Collins questions a lot in the No Plants days! I'd be lying if I said I was a fan though, I've never really dug in to his catalogue. I used to love that Cadbury commercial of the gorilla playing the drums to In The Air Tonight though! And it would be cool to get a Levon Helm comparison, but that one doesn't really come up. Maybe just because sonically we aren't anything like The Band. Actually early on older dudes, like dads would see our band and ask us if we liked Television and Wire, so we started listening to them after that, heh….” 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Fluffer Release Show with Citizen Smile, Ill Itches and Rah The Son (Aug 6)

Saturday, Aug 6
The Ill Itches
Citizen Smile
Fluffer (Album Release Party)
Rah the Son (ft. Tart)
@ The Loving Touch (22634 Woodward Ave, Ferndale)
9 pm

I could choose any time to get nostalgic, I suppose… This mid/late summer’s evening of sounds and dancing is as good a’ time as any… I, like you, have probably been watching groups like Citizen Smile and the Ill Itches grow up on stages over the last 6 years. Older usually means wiser, but with this pair of bands it also means sharper, bolder, and more adept to experimentation. 

Whereas Citizen Smile got pegged for their power-pop early on, they’ve been venturing into realms of space-folk and baroque-rock in the last year or so. And while the Ill Itches are as loud as they’ve ever been, they’ve widened their gaze from garage-splatter to something more like psychedelic blues and a bit more of an atmospheric hard-rock tumble.

Citizen Smile pic by Erick Buchholz

Citizen Smile are working on a follow up to 2013’s Everything’s Changing and Nothing; look for it next March/April 2017.

The ILL Itches finally released their long awaited full length self titles album earlier this year on Jett Plastic Recordings/GRANDETROIT Records.

Then there’s Fluffer. I’ve seen this outfit’s name on a couple of showbills in Detroit over the last year, when they’ve toured up from their current homebase of Cincinnati. They could be not-too-distant-cousins of Jamaican Queens, as they similarly imbue a bit of Trap bluster and harsh-yet-exuberant electronica onto their beat-driven churnings. The operative word for this trio is “maximal…,” a rattled-up dance-rock set on instigating movement, be it rhythmic and graceful, or simply tremulous in nature. A commenter on the band’s soundcloud declared of one song: “…this fucked me up…”

Performance artist Rahbi Hammond (formerly of Coin Laundry) has been developing his new hip-hop project Rah The Son.

Sunny Detroit: the Story of + & * was released online recently, and it features contributions from Tart as well as Fluffer. Rah The Son will have some guest contributors coming up for cameos during his set, so that means that Tart is effectively on this lineup as well.

Saturday, Aug 6 @ 9 pm 
Click here for more info
Or visit the Loving Touch online

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Seraphine Collective: BFF Fest 3

Seraphine Collective Presents BFF Fest III
Fri at 7 pm
Sat at 2:30 pm
Sun Brunch 12pm
El Club
4114 Vernor Hwy, Detroit
More info

Pick up a Detroit Free Press this week to read more about Seraphine Collective's BFF Fest 3

The inaugural BFF Fest in 2014 was essentially the public’s first proper introduction to the Seraphine Collective. 

This metro-area nonprofit organization came out of a series of conversations that pondered the possibility and potential impact of an organized effort to set up something like a live music venue, or a record label, or a series of music education programs that would be run entirely by women. Two years later, as they kickoff the 3rd BFF lineup tomorrow night at El Club, Seraphine founder and President Lauren Rossi says that they’re “constantly in a state of gaining support and gaining momentum…”

Since their first meeting in March 2014, led by an eight-member board of women musicians, event-planners, activists and artists, the Seraphine Collective have been “pounding the pavement with programming and curating performances, concerts, workshops and printing a ‘Zine and releasing a mixtape four times a year,” said Rossi, who plays bass and sings in the indie-rock trio Casual Sweetheart. “We really are very much focused on building community. And our mission has expanded…”

BFF Fest springs from the familiar acronym of often scribbled into high school yearbooks (“Best Friends Forever”) but it officially stands for “Best Fest Forever…” As Rossi has demonstrated, along with SC co-founders like Vice President Dina Bankole and Workshop Committee Chair Rachel Thompson, there’s a necessity for a certain amount of boldness, or perhaps, positive defiance, when it comes to building and boosting the multifaceted causes of the Seraphine Collective. “So, we just decided to own it,” Rossi said, “let’s make this the Best Fest Forever…and ever…

Click here to read interviews with artists on this weekends lineup /

Click here for schedule and information 

Things kick off 7pm on Friday at El Club with a free art show (with the theme, “The Softer Side”), and DJ Uno Mas spinning until 9:30 pm. Detroit rock quartet Protomartyr are headlining the first night, with Rossi and Bankole’s band, Casual Sweetheart, playing at midnight. On Saturday, doors open at 2:30 pm, starting with workshops (on Hoop Dancing, Ending Street Harassment, and Zine Making and more), while 15 bands (including Britney Stoney, Deadbeat Beat, Stef Chura and more) split performances between an outdoor and indoor stage all day & night, leading up to DJ sets by Mother Cyborg and Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale. Sunday concludes with a pizza brunch and clothing swap, featuring the first performance of the DJ’s from Seraphine’s Beatmatch Brunch, their first workshop, back in April, for beginner DJs

While BFF Fest is a considerably sizeable undertaking for this team of volunteer organizers, the Seraphine Collective have also been organizing smaller weekend concert events throughout the last two years, each curated to prioritize the participation of women, people of color and LGBTQA performers, committed to establishing an inclusive space of mutual respect, non-violence, anti-oppression that aids to build a feminist community.

Casual Sweetheart
photo by C.J. Benninger

As Rossi said, the mission has expanded. The board is entirely female and the impetus for the Collective did grow out of Rossi’s run of interviews with women musicians and artists that explored ingrained stigmas and prejudices regarding gender in the rock music community. Seraphine Collective, said Rachel Thompson, is a music community of feminists. “However, we don’t exclude anyone who isn’t a woman or doesn’t identify as female. We believe anyone can be a feminist and we encourage everyone to come to the shows, we encourage everyone to contribute to our Zines, and now anyone can come to our meetings.”

Seven months ago, Serpahine officially made their monthly meetings open to the public. While they warily expected maybe one or two curious attendees, they have instead welcomed between 10 and 20 new visitors every month, reaching a range of women who have just started hearing about this feminism-inspired effort and want to learn more. “And they all have awesome new ideas,” Thompson said. “And then we’re able to link them with other people. So it’s blown up over the last six months…”

“It all just seems,” Thompson said, “that this is something a lot of women have been waiting for. And now it exists.”

Thompson contributed considerably to their 2015 application for a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, and beforehand she did her own research to see if there was any precedent, in local history, for something like Seraphine Collective. “As far as I could find, it hasn’t…” At least, she clarified, one hasn’t existed at such a coordinated and energized (and now, publicized) effort…until now.

Rossi said that the Internet has fostered faster means of networking with other likeminded collectives, and a contemporary pair of great examples can be found right here in Detroit, like jessica Care moore’s Black Women Rock and The Foundation of 5e Gallery Celebrating Women In Hip-Hop. Last year also saw the establishment of a Detroit chapter of Girls Rock, for educational summer camps facilitated by women musicians for those aspiring to learn an instrument, to sing, or to become acquainted with the music business.

Rossi is reaching out to similar music collectives around the world, like Mint (Berlin), Slut Island (Montreal), Discwoman (New York) and more, as well as joining Shesaid so, an international community for women working in a music industry. Thompson, meanwhile, said that while Rossi explores the globe’s potential for networking, she aims to further establish Seraphine’s local footprint and align with other grassroots organizations

Bankole, finally, is the lead BFF organizer and was integral in the curation of this weekend’s lineup at El Club. There are bands from Milwaukee, Montreal and Chicago, including the latter, the powerful garage-rock outfit White Mystery, touring in from the Windy City in a show of solidarity with Seraphine’s mission. “BFF 1 was put together from scratch and we were kinda scrambling,” Bankole recalls. She also remembers spending the night before 2014’s kickoff “frantically” finishing up what would become Seraphine’s first Zine edition.

Bankole has also aided large scale, multi-day fundraising concert events such as Mittenfest in Ann Arbor. “And it’s so good to see the bands from that first BFF’s lineup get out into the scene more and play shows and be in demand and put out their own records and grow and thrive. It’s been cool to see something that we organized could grow and bring us those results.” Bankole and Thompson both expressed excitement over year three’s lineup having expanded the breadth of genres represented, including techno, R&B and hip-hop.

But has there been a form of backlash, from any trolling haters out there? Not really, says Thompson, and if so, only over the Internet. “In terms of men, we’ve had way more positive experiences with male feminists supporting us than negative…which, we try not to think about those anyways, because they’re not who this community is being built for, this community is being built for us.”

Rossi started reaching out to find more women musicians five years ago through her blog, because she’d gone through her teens always wanting to be in bands but feeling as though it wasn’t something that was accessible for women. Now, strengthened with an “army of volunteers,” a state certified status as a nonprofit (and soon to be an official federal 501c3), supportive alliances with venues like El Club, UFO Factory and Lo & Behold Records and Books, and more workshops planned for the near future, she’s found an inclusive-focused community that welcomes “those who may feel excluded from, or underrepresented in Detroit’s independent music scenes.”

And everything from networking, to zine submissions, to mixtapes, to the workshops, gives her and the Seraphine board more and more encouragement. “It’s all making the time, effort, energy and love we’re putting in worth it,” said Rossi.

Moving forward, Seraphine’s biggest goal is, (once enough funds are raised,) to establish their own dedicated space, or building, to host future planned workshops, concerts and Zine printing. “If anyone reads this and wants to give us our own church within the city of Detroit…? We’d happily accept that…” For now, along with hopefully collaborating with Black Women Rock or The Foundation at some point, Seraphine is also getting ready to plan more workshops, noting that they’re always on the lookout for potential facilitators who want to share their skills with the SC community.


Seraphine Collective Presents BFF Fest III
Fri at 7 pm
Sat at 2:30 pm
Sun Brunch 12pm
El Club
4114 Vernor Hwy, Detroit
Limited $20 Two-Day Passes available
$14 per night ($12 if ordered advanced)
Featuring Protomartyr, White Mystery, Britney Stoney, Bevlove, Casual Sweetheart and more
Full lineup/schedule here
Get tickets here

Thursday, July 21, 2016

River Street Anthology Partnering with Archives of Michigan

All the excellent-looking photos are by Misty Lyn Bergeron
The ones in color are from my phone... 

After reading about the River Street Anthology in the Detroit Free Press, State Archivist Mark Harvey called up its facilitator, singer/songwriter Matt Jones, to see how he could help. Now, the staff at the Archives of Michigan has partnered with Jones to help him preserve local music history with its Preservica digital archives, and assist him in future recording sessions. And you can read an interview with Harvey on the Detroit Free Press' website, here.

Harvey said, future recorded songs and project information will be soon be available at the Archives website: This partnership between RSA and the Archives of Michigan not only means secure cataloging of Jones songs (he recently surpassed 200), but that the Archives could soon apply for a grant that could further support the RSA’s operational needs.

To catch up on the story of this blogger's journey out to a Kalamazoo-hosted session of the RSA back in February, click here.

Meanwhile, I caught back up with Jones to talk about the renewed vigor he's feeling after this new partnership was secured, but particularly to pick his brain on how the most recent session went, hosted at Assemble Sound back in June. 

If you aren't already familiar with the River Street Anthology, you can check out this Free Press article. Or you can scroll through their recent updates on Facebook.

Matt and I are gonna rap for a bit, here. You can read the condensed version via the FREEP.  

Matt, we thought Kalamazoo was a special day. Warm, fuzzy vibes prevailed... An interesting array of folks and eclectic talents. Lots of enthusiasm in the air. But that was five months ago.... What's your life been like since then? What's the status of the project been like since Kalamzoo & leading-up-to Assemble.....
 After Kalamazoo, I gotta admit- I was beat. I had been pressing the gas on the RSA steadily for a year straight by that point. We had been to every corner of the state, and while we hadn’t gone into the kind of depth that I would like to, and still will, I felt like the sort of introductory process (of RSA) had come to a close. I had had a chance over the first year to get an actual grip on just what the RSA is, what it means to people.  I realized that those two things- what it is and what it means to others- are completely entwined.

Other people’s belief in the project has come to define it, and that is as it should be: something historically, artistically, culturally/contextually important…

But even while coming closer to a full realization of just what this monster was, I was burnt out...from going to Kzoo, and Hamtramck, and Ypsi and Ypsi and Ypsi, and Houghton and Marquette and Mancelona and everywhere else, each places had their own incredible experiences, and man- I found out how exhausting it is to get your mind blown that much.

The real problem with that though, is that its gets harder to do each artist justice. I invest a lot in each band and musician. I treasure every single recording session, appreciate and take to heart the fact that each person took the time to be part of this.....

And you keep us updated with journal-y posts on the RSA Facebook page...
Yeah, and some friends tell me not to make it so personal- to employ a more disciplined eye, keep it simple and straight to the point and strictly observational.

But that isn’t who I am at all. Things eat at me, good and bad, and I respond. I know it sounds ridiculous, but when someone takes the time to practice, and travel, and sit down in unfamiliar circumstances and do what they love most in the world, and they do that for this unorganized, open-ended project that I probably didn’t explain very well…how the fuck am I supposed to just “keep it cool?” If I could pay them all, I would. If I was making any money from this, it would go to them. But I’m not.

Artist solidarity...
Yeah. And my father instilled in me a pretty firm aversion to debt, which plays a part in the amount that I feel I have to "pay" these people back- all of them, somehow.

"The soundtrack for an entire state isn’t just one speed, one style, one location, one age, one color, one gender... ...The River Street Anthology wants to do more than play music for you..."

So you burned yourself out...
Yeah and I was pretty embarrassed about it too. I kept thinking- “A project like this one, I have to floor it every day to keep momentum, to reach the end faster, and to give all these people, musicians and listeners, something to hear- something besides all these write-ups. I am TOTALLY FUCKING IT UP.” That exhaustion combined with final exams put the whole thing out of mind for about 3 months.

Yikes... But, yeah, that's right. We shouldn't forget that you've also been pushing yourself back through school at Eastern during this whole time..... But, after Kalamazoo, though, Mark Harvey (from Archives of Michigan) reaches out to you......
 Yeah, and this changed the direction of the project pretty substantially, and all of a sudden I was having meetings, and having to thinking about the project in a different, more efficient and scheduled way.

And last month, you wound up in Assemble... 
I had talked to Garrett months before about doing something, and knowing he was interested, I reached out again. OH, I just remembered.... one of the major factors was this one night, I was perusing a lot MC’s from Detroit, knowing that I was about to start scheduling for a possible Assemble date. I had talked to Bryan Lackner and Brent Smith, asking them who I should get a hold of, and they gave me a list. I also started combing through the Assemble website, reading reviews, listening to samples, and getting a feel for what was out there in a general sense. I wasn’t ready for it at all, turns out.

But eventually you....
 ....WAIT! Wait...

I remember now, that one of the other major reasons I burned out was that I felt there was a glaring lack of diversity on the collection.

You needed more emcees!
Every artist I'd recorded up to that point had been absolutely stellar, but I hadn’t ventured nearly enough away from folk musicians and bands- the two things that I have grown up doing in my own musical endeavors. I got down on it. Questioned what it was worth. The soundtrack for an entire state isn’t just one speed, one style, one location, one age, one color, one gender. In order to begin again fresh on the RSA, there had to be a wiping down, and a true starting over- meaning that I had to do some shit that I wasn’t at all used to. So I started emailing people who would turn out to be some of the most unforgettable artists of the project to date.

Mic Phelps

Sleepless Inn
How did Assemble's session effect the project or re-energize you?
 The Assemble session changed the RSA before we even set foot in the church that day. I’ve always said that this project is so amazing because I get to sit two feet from people, watching them do what they love. I understand singer-songwriter workings. I know how to love it, and how to make it, and how to talk about it, how to compliment it, and how to record it. I know how to write about it later....

Which you often do, via Facebook or Mostly Midwest...
Right, but with these artists, based predominantly in hip hop like Nolan the Ninja and Mic Phelps, or a more electronic-rooted pop like Sleepless Inn, I can’t say any of those above things are true. I mean- sure, how hard is it to love music?

It’s instinctual, comes natural. But the RSA is doing more than simply listening. It’s trying to do justice and doing justice to these artists is the hardest part of this whole fucking project because no matter what- my nature is to think that “it" could always have been done better. I could have said more, I could have hugged longer, I could have explained better, I could have gotten more people to listen, etc. Combine that with the need to preserve not only their sounds, but their significance- and they all have gargantuan significance, and you’ve got a pretty stressed out person.

So, at this point, what's your refurbished mission-statement, as it were? 
The RSA wants to do more than play music for you. It wants to put you into a place- it wants to show you the incredible and diverse sounds coming from these incredible and diverse people, and then to make sure you know that all of us are bound up together here by art, and by our love of it, no matter what the creator looks like, talks like, no matter where they live or what they do for a living, no matter how popular their band is or isn’t.

So this whole project underlines the camaraderie that we should be feeling, that we should be celebrating...
We’re all hanging onto one another whether we like it or not, and the artists who came into Assemble (back in June), while each bringing something different to the collection- new faces, new beats, new song structures, new rhymes, new experiences- they gave me, the RSA team, and everyone else a new hand to hang onto…a new reason to love being bound up here in this place, and in this particular soundtrack. Phelps was the culmination of that.

Microphone Phelps : River Street Anthology from Mostly Midwest on Vimeo.

Tell us what you dug the most about that day...
It was a moving, exciting day, like all the session days that we have when you insert yourself into a scene for a minute and soak it up all at once. We had seen Steve McCauley play my favorite song I’ve ever heard him play (and I’ve seen quite a few), and then The Erers came in and pummeled us harder than we’re used to at 11:30 am. We saw Eddie Logix and Laura Finlay perform as Sleepless Inn,, and that's like atmospheric, electronic pop.  James Linck came in and recorded a song he had written the night before,  and blew us away. Nolan the Ninja literally attacked the mic, making me totally change the way I recorded vocals. Nolan…that guy is special. A veritable tornado of a rapper, he was the most excited to be part of the RSA. The same energy he wrests out of himself in his raps was evident just talking via messenger. But if every song and performance that day were all gasp inducing in their greatness, Phelps’ was the exhalation. Sometimes I try to convince myself that the relationships and camaraderie existing inside RSA recording sessions is true of the greater, outside world. Phelps reminded me that it isn’t the case, but I didn’t mind. His gentle reminder, as I said above, gave me another reason to hang on- to him, to all the people from Assemble that day, and all the people, artists and listeners alike that have supported the RSA.

What happened in the room, for you..., the moment Mic Phelps was done singing
Mic Phelps floored us. the first thing that happened was silence. I always let the instrument/vocals fade completely before I press ‘stop,’ and during that fade-out, and the one or two seconds that come after before recording stops- those are always some tense moments. Everyone is wondering if it came out good, if that one mistake they made is going to be noticeable, etc…But Mic Phelps stopped and I think I was wondering how I was going to give him my usual “Nicely done,” without him seeing that my eyes were full of tears. Misty was perched up above me on a platform, taking photos of his performance, and I believe there were some tears in her eyes too. We were grateful to have gotten to be present for that performance.

Tell me about the plan you worked out with Mark. Tell me about Mark, too! There was a matter of getting a grant for this, but we needed the Archive to "own" or sort of "steward" the recordings in order for that? What's the story there?
By the time Mark had reached out to me and met with me, I think the RSA team had honed its game down to something as close as we’re going to get to an art-form. I had figured out how to get great sound with this tiny setup, and Steve Holmes and Charlie Steen, the videographers, were cranking out gold with pretty much every video they shot together or separate. I think it was the Breathe Owl Breathe film, shot entirely by Charlie, and the Passalacqua film, shot by both and edited all at once in a night by Steve, that sold Mark.

I don’t think he was prepared for all the workings of the RSA, as seemingly scattered as they are. It has become so much more than simply audio tracks; our shared appreciation for context in history was apparent as soon as the different branches of the project were explained to him.

State Archivist Mark Harvey
I didn’t think there was any way this guy was the chief archivist of Michigan, though.  He’s got this beard that Williamsburg hipsters could only dream of (pictured left), and it didn’t hurt my cause that he is already a huge fan of Michigan music, being familiar with many of the acts from the RSA already.  Mark was also real patient about the fact that I am suspicious of just about anyone who wants to help me with anything.  He drafted this agreement between the Archives and myself, one that definitely caters to every interest I expressed, and I STILL wouldn’t sign it. After him sending me drafts, and me sending them back with suggestions, him making the adjustments, sending it back…I still couldn’t make myself sign. Finally, there just wasn’t any other option. He had made every concession I asked for, and I had watched him make a similarly catering agreement with Charlie and Steve. Realizing there was just nothing left to be suspicious of, I signed. There is the possibility of grant money, yes, but that would be expressly for RSA operations- gas, lodging, setting up and promoting listening parties, etc. Making a living is a long way off, if its even an option at all.

I think "what we appreciate most about the River Street Anthology" changes from year 1 to year 2... I think there are half a dozen things that I personally "appreciate" about it... But can you talk about how it shows musicians that they, themselves, are appreciated! In a streaming world, in a low-turn-out-at-bars world, in a free download world... Here's you and Mark saying: 'Hey, you matter!'  
 While the RSA started off and remains a piece of preservation, the “you matter” effect is an unavoidable bonus. I just want to get artists feeling significant, because they all are. The ridiculously short attention span of the average music listener today turned out not to be a hill I particularly wanted to die on. I want something permanent for everyone, and with the help of the Archives, I think I found it.

Future plans? Gas money from the DNR? Kewenawe? Petoskey? This will go on for the foreseeable future, right? Or at least for a good 2-3 years more, right? Maybe 4-5? 
  It could very well go on for the rest of my life. The deal I have with the Archives includes the provision that I can continue adding to the collection at will, and I am never done with anything. As far as what the DNR is paying for, gas and whatnot- there isn’t any plan in sight just yet for thing like that. I’m still flying pretty much set of the pants for just about everything, meaning I’ve got a hell of a lot of assless pants in my possession. I did however get $1000 from the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundaiton, which, while it might not sound like a ton of money to some people, I can basically replace my entire setup with $1000. That’s the beauty of keeping things simple.

Can history lovers get a chance to hear these songs sometime in 2017, maybe? Via Preservica?
 I think its pretty safe to say that much of the material from the RSA will be available in the coming year, yes. It does, however, always depend on the degree to which I have my shit together. As long as I can keep everything in relative good order, and delegate authority with the Archives, there shouldn’t be a problem, besides the fact that I am usually horribly disorganized and delegating authority is the hardest thing in the world for me.

I love how our conversations often end on awkward, purposefully self-deprecating notes like that...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Evan Haywood's Ramshackles Release Show (Sunday)

I know it’d be hyperbolic if I said Evan Haywood was visionary. But look at the cover of his new album, Ramshackles…, you're drawn to those eyes. 

There’s psychedelic lattice fringing this dense forest like a blossoming nave behind his head, anthropomorphizing the thicket of his melodic thoughts. But it’s those eyes you’re drawn to…what’s he see? When he closes his eyes, what does he hear?

After spending nearly 20 of his 27 years on earth making research reconnaissance missions to the area’s various vinyl shops, Haywood got into producing, DJ-ing and developing an interesting vein of hip-hop and sample-strewn electronic with Man Vs. IndianMan. And he can drop bars as well, as 1/3 of the hip-hop trio Tree City. 

All the while, across ten years of working at Ann Arbor’s Encore Records, he was writing and recording music, some of which you’re hearing the finalized versions of…

Ramshackles on bandcamp 
Evan Haywood on soundcloud
Release show for Ramshackles is this Sunday The Getup Vintage  
215 S. State, Ann Arbor, MI. 
7 PM  /  $5-10 (suggested donation)
The show features Hydropark, Gardener (Richmond, VA), and Sister LakeINFO

The thing about Ramschackles is that it has so much presence. Like it’s radiating with the presence of myriad organisms. The ambient qualities of it are stirring softly, vibrating at the curtains of the soundscape continuously…Pulsing beneath the mossy growth are some gorgeous indie-rock shufflers, folk-pop lullabies and bendy harmonies, with splashing acoustic guitars, clasping drums and a dreamy amount of distortion. And then there’s those lyrics… So haunting, yet so relatable…surreal and very spiritual.

Let’s pick Evan’s brain…

Tell me about pluralizing ‘ramshackle…’
’... (that’s) indicating that these songs are haphazard little fragments, on the verge of falling apart.  I may have also drawn some inspiration from Marcel Duchamp and his “Readymades”, or Robert Rauschenberg and his “Combines”… works of art assembled from the trash of the world.

What’s the story of the recording process…
Most of the album was recorded in the basement of my old house, in downtown Ann Arbor.  My studio was called “The Lands”—a sprawling utopia where hundreds of songs were conceived.  The house itself was a creative but shady place, always a mess—I lived there for four years, until it gradually collapsed into a hellish maelstrom of heroin addicts, roaches, mice, burst pipes and rotting porches.  But for a while, it was a pretty nice place to live!  They converted it into a marijuana dispensary after I moved out.
I laid down the bulk of the album over the course of a few months, in early 2013.  I would write, record, and do a rough mix of one song per night, but only on the right nights.  It was all about capturing lightning in a bottle, during a turbulent time in my life.  After sitting on these songs for a couple years, I dug up all the scattered files and pieced them together into an album like a jigsaw puzzle.

Eventually, collaborators come in…?
Yes, a
fter assembling the core structure, I performed a lot of ‘audio surgery’ and called in a gang of talented musicians to fill out the arrangements.  But the majority of what you hear on the LP was recorded in those early sessions.  After I had personally mixed down all of the stems, I took them to High Bias Recordings in Detroit and worked with Chris Koltay on the final mixing.  Then we sent those mixes off to Heba Kadry at Timeless Mastering in Brooklyn.    

I want to talk about the spill of ambient sounds… Like the sounds or noises augment the emotions of a song, that the sounds almost have emotion…Can you talk about that, about what you were going for, about why the album needed the certain elements you chose…
For me, it’s all about trying to capture a nostalgic feeling or represent the essence of a memory.  I like to record environments as I travel and go about my life, as an auditory record of my experiences.  I try to hear the world as a child, and look for the wonder in each new sound.  Every sonic landscape on “Ramshackles” has a personal resonance for me, corresponding to an emotion or image being conveyed in the song.  I have always been interested in exploring sounds that are considered atonal, and how they can be incorporated into the context of a composition in such a way that they don’t seem out of place.  Many of my influences have dug into that concept, from Lee “Scratch” Perry to Brian Eno.

Over the last 10 years, what do you think has influenced your approach to songwriting…and your approach to production, most of all?
I’ve been heavily influenced by Surrealism and the concept of drawing inspiration from a well that is deeper and more mysterious than the conscious mind.  As a result, I often seek to create from a place of internal oblivion, complete nothingness… and later, I can sort through it all, analyze, and edit.  But it always starts from an instinct or a feeling, rather than a concrete thought.  This informs my writing process and helps to shape the collages of sound as well.  Generally, my intention is to pair a deep sense of discipline with a cosmic irreverence.  I am always experimenting.  And I am equally inspired by construction and destruction.  There is a great deal of controlled chaos in my process. 

Struggles with clinical depression have taught me about suffering and redemption, from my childhood to the present day.  I lost a lot of friends at a young age-- to suicide, gun violence, car accidents, etc…. and these losses have profoundly shaped my concepts of life and death.  Extensive studies of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism introduced me to many paths of self-reflection, and led me to travels in India, Japan, and China.  These are all factors that have worked their way deep into the fabric of my music. 

Among everything you’ve studied, read, listened to…what have been some of the most impactful or influential factors, overall…
Most crucially, I have always taken the time to listen to people—and sought to interact with those who seem to be the most different from me.  As a result, I have been blessed with a diverse community of friends, many of whom are brilliant artists.  Those bonds of kinship have inspired me to challenge myself and forge ahead, when the weight of the world is wearing me down.  Plus, a lot of ‘em are bad motherfuckers!  So they keep me on my toes.

What kind of music do you see yourself…or hear yourself making, in the near future? Or the far future?
I can’t say what type of music I will be making five years from now.  It’s difficult for me to slow down… I am always in motion, forever changing.  Lately, I’ve been extremely inspired by the techno and house I have been exposed to in Detroit.  Moodymann and Drexciya are probably my all-time favorites.  In the past few years, I have spent an equal amount of time with drum machines and synthesizers as I have with guitars and microphones.  In that realm: my group with Ian Finkelstein—MAN VS. INDIAN MAN—will be releasing a project on the Rocksteady Disco label this year, featuring remixes by Egyptian Lover, Pontchartrain, and Table Daddy.  

I’m excited to work on arrangements and spend the time crafting this next album (Wavecasting – working with Fred Thomas)… I feel that I am continuing to grow as a songwriter, storyteller, and musician.  I imagine I’ll just keep exploring ideas and doing my work until I drop dead one day.  And if the world catches on, that’s great--- but if not, I’ll still be following the call to create.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Erie Canal Theatre

Switchboard Infinity has been rejuvenating. Hilarious. Ridiculous. Clever. Imaginative. Facetious. Smart. Satirical.

Switchboard Infinity has been able to trigger genuine LOL's from me, audible and unrestrained bursts that could only be categorized as guffaw's, roars of revelry at the sounds of screwball scene setting.

"Switchboard Infinity," a production of Erie Canal Theatre, has been churning out of SW Detroit for the last 18+ months, creating two seasons worth (more than 20 podcast episodes) of sci-fi slapstick and sophisticated adventure serials. The team of voice actors, writers, producers, sound designers and audio wizards is known as Erie Canal Theatre. 

And, if you've been following this blog, (...which, ya know, it's cool if you haven't...maybe this is your first time reading this blog? Maybe you just stop in often? Maybe you're insensitive to my fragile and naive hopes that everyone is hanging on my every word...) BUT..... If you've been following this blog, then you'd possibly read this feature that introduced the creative minds behind this locally produced podcast.

The reason I'm writing this follow-up piece is two-fold. The first sentence of this blog post used the word "rejuvenating..." Well, the throwback jolt of nostalgia for radio theatre has renewed my otherwise cynical, social-media-frosted soul into a childlike... (but not too childlike) state of closing my eyes and utilizing a faculty of mine that had begun to rust from a slowed frequency of ignition: my imagination.

So, I'm writing this because I wound up falling in love with the whole thing. Setting aside the local pride I feel for Erie Canal, conceived and carried out right out of Corktown, it's, in my humble opinion, radiating with charisma, a goofy panache I can't find anywhere else outside of Christopher Guest films, or maybe a cross of Futurama and Monty Python...

Playspace Studios, where the Erie Canal Theatre cast/crew recorded the final episode 

The second part of my writing this is that the final episode just went live...

Erie Canal Theatre is an ensemble creating art in Detroit and you can expect new material from this later in the autumn.  You can subscribe to this two-season "audio cartoon" (based on improv and infused with filmic sound design) via iTunes HERE.

The show airs within "Dance With Me, Stanley" by Stashu on WFMU in Jersey City, NJ, and is concurrently presented here.

If you want to catch up, all the way to the final episode, then check them out via iTunes. Or find out more, here.
Erie Canal Theatre intends to produce future shows after "Switchboard" concludes. What will they be?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dirk Kroll Band

Dirk Kroll writes some punchy pop-rock music with just a good amount of grit and a charismatic swagger. The solo's are fast, flame-wreathed whips and the bass/drum combo sets a solid groove. The vocals can range from soft croon to high creaked crescendos, from sing-speak taunts and flirtations to heartfelt heaves of wavy melodies and dulcet intonations. But, when you get right down to it, The Dirk Kroll Band's Living Inside are some sure-fire toe-tappers, soulful rock 'n' roll riffers, and ideal midsummer night's celebratory theme songs.

What I dig about Kroll's band is that the ensemble imbues each of their parts, from every solo, to even the bouncing bass licks, with a lot of personality. "Reap What You Sow" almost turns itself into a jazz-like conversation between the arrangements of guitar, bass and drums, each tiding and cresting their sonic inflections together in this nice give-and-take rock readout that swells and surges. "I Like The Way" shows the sunburst sweetness and energizing strutability of these kinds of pop/rock exhibitions, evoking the no-frills twang and melodic magnetism of Big Star, with a bit of the razzle dazzle riffage of the Rolling Stones.

"Song For Rochelle" is the heart-weary slow dancer or the night owl's contemplative stroll, while "Third Row From The End" brings in the psychedelic smoke and shimmer of some 70's blues rock. "Blazing Red" is a set closer, for sure...full of rollicking hooks and soaring vocal melodies, it's got an energy that spreads its arms wide and hooks down all the curtains. Like I said, crowd pleasing toe tappers. Should be a great party next weekend.

Dirk Kroll Band
Friday July 15
New Way Bar
with The Stomp Rockets
23130 Woodward Ave (Ferndale)
More info

Find the Living Inside EP on iTunes
Preview tracks (and order copies) at: CD Baby 
More info: 

Monday, July 4, 2016

New music from May Erlewine & Seth Bernard

Michigan's most transcendent folk couple -performing two respective release shows at the Ark 
May Erlewine
Seth Bernard
In this month's issue of The Ann Arbor Current
May Erlewine and Seth Bernard Both Bring New Music To The Ark  

Part 1: May

Music’s supposed to make you feel good, feel better; renewed. I mean, there are no rules; you can use music however you like, as long as, for goodness’ sake, it isn’t just white noise at your periphery. Just remember that it can be utilized, that it can bring people together for a greater purpose.

I’ll never forget what music can do after listening to a song by May Erlewine. The Lake City-based singer/songwriter has this idyllic voice and a soft way with words, the kind of perfectly balanced pitch, cadence, and radiance evocative of the sunset’s rays upon a pond’s gossamer surface. If I ever feel down I could play her song “Shine On,” this twangy rolling hymn that heaves a healing breath fresh air into any room, and I’d feel better.

“Hearing people tell me that (one of my songs) helps is, for me, the biggest reward,” Erlewine said. “If I ever find myself in that moment of questioning: ‘Is this what I’m supposed to be doing…?’ It’s hearing people share with me how (my music) has been useful, that I then know for sure that what I’m doing is valuable.”

Erlewine is performing at the Ark on July 15, celebrating the release of her new EP, Lean Into The Wind. She has been playing music pretty much her whole life, but started becoming a prominent fixture in the middle/northern Michigan music scene in the early 2000’s. Sometimes recording under the name Daisy MayLean Into The Wind is her sixteenth studio project, and she’s already getting back to work this August.

Erlewine is a key component of the Earthworks Music collective, founded by Erlewine’s main creative collaborator (and husband), SethBernard, back in 2001. Named for the Bernard family farm in Missaukee County, the music label/event-coordinator/advocacy-group/community-organization has welcomed several equally talented artists who share the same heartfelt/humane sentiments as May andSeth, each dedicated to heightening awareness for issues concerning sustainability and social justice.

What Earthworks and Erlewine demonstrates to me is the power of encouragement. For those out there doubting the power of music, Erlewine’s songs destroy your cynicism.
Earthwork is “…rooted in the collaborative sharing of music, and music being for people to experience together, instead of being competitive or on a platform of being ‘…the best,’” said Erlewine. “This is about moving each other! The positivity here is really special.”

May Erlewine – Friday, July 15 – The Ark (316 S. Main St, Ann Arbor) – 8 pm - $15

Part 2: Seth

Music empowers Seth Bernard daily. “And, I’m very intentional about what I listen to…,” said Bernard. “I find everybody is. Everyone turns toward music when we’re having a challenging time, or just a bad day, and when it comes to the creative process; (music) is just a lifeline.”

Bernard and Erlewine married five years ago, having met in Ann Arbor in the early 2000’s. They’ve bonded over music’s ability to cultivate resilience for whoever’s listening. You’ll probably find their music heals something you hadn’t realized was stressing you. Perspective is thrown into sharp relief. Bernard is releasing Eggtones at the Ark on Saturday, July 2nd, part of a new three-part music series and “…a radical experiment in 8-bit rock, postmodern folk, playhouse primitive, and 21st century blues.”

“I always feel a responsibility as an artist to be able to respond to the times, to use the artistic process in a way that brings people in,” said Bernard. “There’s so much cynicism and fear right now that we’re forgetting how much work it takes to keep our community’s going every day, so I wanted (Eggtones) to acknowledge how much people are doing and remind them that their work is appreciated.”

Seth and May don’t just talk about the power of music; they demonstrate it through education and outreach. Erlewine is working with toddlers, teaching music-and-movement classes, utilizing it for mental stimulation, boosting self-esteem and social interaction. There’s also educational programming at the annual Earthworks Harvest Gathering, a family-friendly camping festival that celebrates local food, music and appreciation for community. Seth, meanwhile, teaches songwriting to high school students at Interlochen summer camps and serves as artistic director for the Quest program’s music tutorship, collaborating with the SEEDS organization in northern Michigan.  

We could tell you about so much more that SethMay and all of Earthworks are doing to reinforce community through music, but that’s a conversation we’d rather encourage you starting with them, in person.

Seth Bernard & Friends – July 2 – The Ark (316 S. Main St, Ann Arbor) – 8 pm - $20