Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Augusta Rose / Bigabite on the next Podcast Episode

Once a month, I invite a musician, artist, producer, or any kind of creative person into the recording space of my cohost, Chad Stocker, so that we can have a sort of atypical interview, one that's not tethered to the formulas commonly structuring "profiles" in newspapers, magazines, or blogs. I get that this is precisely what podcasts are for, but it's damned refreshing to select one member from a band..., say, Augusta Rose, from Double Winter..., and invite her on to talk about anything and everything, free of specifics and no pressure to promote a new release or plug an upcoming concert. I get to record me asking the kinds of questions that I usually serve up before and after my tape recorder is on for an ostensible freelance assignment.

Beyond that, it's a great chance to hear a musician (Chad) asking another musician (in this case, Augusta,) questions..., and those are questions that you're average "music journalist" won't always come up with. It's an opportunity for musicians to talk to each other beyond just the 2-3 minutes that they can squeeze in as they're passing each other on a stage, in a venue, swapping amps and pedal boards between sets during a loud, bustling weekend evening.

I'm looking forward to sharing this next episode, where Chad and I had a conversation with Augusta Rose. I would have never otherwise been able to get such an intimate portrait of her as a musician and as an advocate for social justice causes and an ever-more inclusive arts and music community. She plays violin in a rock band--so that, in itself, is a fun jumping off point. But in this forthcoming episode, you get to hear about how she's been trained in several forms of styles and disciplines, as well as the three of us getting philosophical on the mind-expanding depths of experimental/improvisational/drone-heavy music. We talk about stage fright, about the emotions that go into the experience of making music (as well as writing about it), and, inevitably, we talk about gear!

Stay tuned!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Remembrance of Lavell Williams

Angel in the back of a Record Store...

Lavell Williams was (and forever will be) sage-like, to me... 

I never got to tell him how much it meant to me, an awkward, shy, naive, self-doubting 15-year-old, to walk into a sanctuary of sounds, of hipness, of preserved-and-emerging culture, like Downtown Ferndale's now-12-years'-gone Record Time store..., ... and navigate my way past the tattoo'ed 20-something clerks who gave me the requisite dubious look-down-their-nose at this JC-Penny-fashioned kid who probably just wants a Red Hot Chili Peppers album or something else lame, to scurry past so as to avoid their gaze and not invite any judging comments...and find this affable, radiant, chill-voiced Saint in the back, behind a counter, shuffling through vinyl records...

He greets me, invites me, includes me...., asking me what I was looking for, what I was into, suggesting the local section..., the techno section..., opening my mind! Making me feel welcome. He instantly initiated me into the cool club with such subtlety and grace...and kindness. He was the manager of this store, so if I was in with him, I was definitely IN! Best of all, he spoke to me as though I were a fellow adult. Nay, a fellow student of music - a fellow disciple of recorded sounds. It was as if to say: "...you're here, aren't you? You must be passionate. You must be curious. You're arrival through the doors of my store demonstrates as thus--so let me show you around." 

And so, ...with music having become such an important and integral part of literally every single day of my life, 20 years later, I can't overstate the importance of him waving me into the store...I am heartbroken to hear of his passing this morning. Lavell taught me to never be closed to anyone...To invite those curious and help them discover more. We don't have to preach to them and we don't have to vent or be necessarily vulnerable. Just let them into your club. Admit that there shouldn't be clubs. Open up to them! 

If you are in a band, or if you work at a gallery, or if you paint, or if you take photographs, or if you teach Yoga..., you can just about change a life in the span of three minutes by engaging with someone--most likely someone younger than you--and encouraging them. You don't have to show them the ropes, per se, but--just like Lavell, you can gesture to the ropes and let that younger explorer go forward and start climbing. Thank you for being so bright, warm, kind, thoughtful and compassionate Lavell... RIP. 

An interview with Lavell, from the Detroit Sound Conservancy

Friday, October 26, 2018

Jonathan Franco - 'Swimming Alone Around the Room'

Jonathan Franco
‘Swimming Alone Around The Room’ will be out November 9
Next shows
***Monday, Oct 29
Deluxx Fluxx

*******Friday, Nov 2nd
Outer Limits Lounge

Franco's music can be found on Facebook

(New soundcloud single below)

He's also a member of Soviet Girls.

Local singer/songwriter/producer Jonathan Franco creates a sound that's chill, but heady... cerebral, but somnambulistic..., an aural evocation of it being somehow sunny and foggy out at the same time. On his new single, "Transition Lens," Franco's remaking the sonic capacity of the instruments he uses by measured manipulations of tone and timbre and splicing in field recordings from the natural world and reprocessing the otherwise mundane into something phantasmagoric.

The lyrical and instrumental motifs verge on something like a mental diary, or a transcribed timetable of conversations, errands, encounters and daily experiences with his friends or in solitude--be they remarkable or not--capturing the subtly surreal human experience of a nearly 2019-world. For inspiration, he channels other icons who have capably rendered quiet profundity into tapestries of equal sweetness and stark/haunting noise--like Mount Eerie, Yo La Tango, and Sparklehorse. But, as he was completing his forthcoming album, Swimming Alone Around The Room, he was also influenced by the visuals of films directors who create comparably odd-yet-everyday portraits that unpack the metaphysical nature of being.

Once you get your ears around the album, you'll find that his transfixing and garbled half-whisper/gliding falsetto vocals will also be detailing fictitious occurrences or give voice to characters other than himself. And, of course, it should also be said that Franco is a visual artist--and for as much detail as he's trying to weave into these post-modern shoegaze lullabies, he's also trying to give you the same kind of pause, the same kind of detachment from your daily disquiet and allow you to sort of fall into these songs the same way you'd fall in, for a stint, into a glossy stare deep into the canvas of a painting.

I remember a brief stint DJing for WCBN and digging through their stacked shelves--uncovering treasures like 1999's Don't Wake Me Up by the Microphones, or even older gems like Young Marble Giants. Brilliant but minimalist suites that were stitched up with love and an embrace of the strange, with poetic lyrics humming through distorted vocal effects. I'm feeling that same kind of eureka when I listen to Franco--albeit 20 years after the fact of those name drops in my anecdote. The sentiments are still as vibrant, the quirky-bliss and pensive swoon is still triggered...and I want those cymbals to get louder... "I hope this moment never ends..."

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

South South Million - 'Ain't Lines'

Ain't Lines is the third album from South South Million--an ambient recording project by co-composers (and singers) Daniel I. Clark and Trevor Naud. Singers is parenthetical only because this SSM album diverts from the previous two and goes all-instrumental.

photo by Dylan Reminder

If you've been following their Line(s) to date, though, it might not feel like too stark of a change, since their voices, however powerful and precious when fused in harmony, were often employed as extra layers, instruments adding extra (reverb-splashed) tones more so than purposefully highlighted lyrical statements that floated at the top of the mix, insisting upon full attention. SSM may make "ambient" music, but I feel like they effectively exemplify my own regard for the Eno-esque tradition, in that it is an arrangement of fleeting melodies, rhythmic patterns, and a trickily-discerned lattice of woven synthesizers, guitars, bass, live drums and sequenced beats, to where it is, by comparison to other forms, essentially unobtrusive--there are no catchy choruses to recapture your attention if it drifts, and there are several subtle motifs that trigger and coil and glide, but you might not hear them until you put headphones on. It's music that doesn't demand your focus, but rewards you for even a slightly deeper burrow into its 3-minute structures.

Like a proverbial 'rabbit hole' to go down, it shows you more, or allows you to feel more, the more you immerse yourself.

I found 'Ain't Lines' to be a perfect title for a South South Million ambient opera because, and I know I often talk about music as though I'm having altered experiences on controlled subjects BUT...it is the kind of "dreamy" music that lets illusions or lucid dreams materialize into your waking gaze--blurring the tangible world around you... These vaporous synthesizers, these atmospheric guitars, these brief harps and strange flutes, all these misty blankets of reverb, invites healthy daydreaming. These are soundtracks to the movies in your head, and they can change every time; each instrument is a character, each whole note draws a new landscape, each rest is a scene change.

And in that sense of allowing this music to take me somewhere, I have found, nevertheless, a recurring image, or at least a recurring sense. I have the sense, in each song, as though I'm nearing a precipice. I can see light over the next ledge; I'm climbing, and the surrounding natural world is starting to clear back, because trees can't take root at this incline. There is a dramatic energy, electricity-in-the-air as they might say, that we can all sense when we intuitively sense a shift, a change, a redefinition, a profundity, a reckoning, about to hit us... It's spider-sense, call it what you will..., or maybe any hiker can relate to the deep breath we would all take before turning one certain corner and discovering something--even if it's just taking in something of quiet majesty with our eyes--discovering...

And as I wind down, I'll say that there are "vocals" in the final track, "Ad Parnassum," but they are beyond coherency. You'll lean closer, you'll listen harder, but you won't be able to discern them...and you'll want to find a place where you can, not maybe hear them, but at least FEEL what they're saying. When the album returns to track 1, after a full spin-through, you come back to it's opener "Almost To The Well..." And that's how this album feels...Every song feels like the second-to-last music cue before the closing credits of your movie...the final five or so minutes before a single tear forms or a forgiving reconciliation is made with a hug between your main characters, or a car drives off into the sunset, or the lights are dimmed in a room beloved by your protagonist as she locks up one fleeting dream and walks off into the unknown to find another...

It's me, getting to the precipice and finding a well, a source, something I can draw from...nourishment! There won't be answers in that well, there are never strictly defined answers in ambient music, there ain't lines delineating any shape or charting any course. But you gotta give it one thing...it pulls you (or pushes you) somewhere. It gets you dreaming.

You can find more sounds made by Clark and Naud via the band Zoos of Berlin.
~~time no place records~~ 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Writer Steve Hughes' New Book: 'Stiff''

by Steve Hughes
WSU Press
What's stiff in Hamtramck-based author Steve Hughes' forthcoming collection of short stories is the resolve of several of his characters. What's stiff is the way they're grasping to hold on to a stability that's slipping away. What's stiff is the formidable circumstances that some find themselves stuck in... What's not stiff in these stories is a foundation of reality, as metaphors are admitted free manifestation into 'real life,' making the surreal seem right at home amid the otherwise mundane.

Hughes is a bit of a renaissance man around the local arts and culture scene of Detroit. He co-founded and helps facilitate the Public Pool art gallery, he oversees the Good Tyme Writers Buffet group, and he regularly creates new editions of Detroit's longest running zine, Stupor, an anthology of strange stories curated from patient bar-side/stool-set chats and interviews. Hughes has heard more strange stories than he's told--even though he's been managing to tell quite a few, especially with this book. But with his ears so attuned to astonishing, sublime, scary, or fever-dream-like anecdotes, it allows him to infuse refreshing strangeness into gruff but poignant 10-page portraits of otherwise-highly relatable underdogs, outcasts, anxiety-cases, ambitious dreamers, and affable working-class heroes who find small shreds of sanctuary or fleeting bliss.

I particularly like Hughes writing style--tending to keep sentences to a rhythmic 9-10 words. It feels like the way in which we would be talking if we were sitting at the bar with each other--in too much of a hurry to get to the good part or the weird part to indulge in floridly long ribbons of adjective-heavy sentences and instead sending you straight to the ID or the Ego of the character and letting them spill their rawest emotions in first-person narration. And there will be particular resonance for workaday artists, for folks who do give a damn about not just the art that they make but even more so the ones who give a damn about the artists, the dreamers, the musicians... Being an artist can be surreal, and it's fitting that Hughes applies his own signature flavor of magical realism to properly portray that. I don't want to give much away beyond saying that you'll find a weird familiarity in even the most fantastic moments of these (often Detroit-set) stories.
Upcoming Events:
October 27: The Good Tyme Writers Buffet
@ The Public Pool
3309 Caniff, Hamtramck
November 8: Book Release Party
@ Outer Limits Lounge
5507 Caniff, Hamtramck 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Savage Seven Album Release (INTERVIEW)

I Cut Loose In The Zone  by Savage Seven
Release Party: Sat,. Nov 10
at Sanctuary Detroit
featuring Teener, Breza, and Old Fire

photo by Erich Buchholz

The song starts and it's all thrill and alarm. I love the urgency of a Savage Seven song because it evokes the sense that you're breathlessly outrunning a fire that's following a spilt trail of gasoline after you down a dark empty desert highway. Oh, and the moon is blood red and reanimated/rotting hands are puncturing the gravel to lurch their way back up above ground.

Their live performance effectively communicates the throttling, slick, subversive nature of their composite of surf-punk, hard rock and psychobilly. But the LP they put out in early 2017 also makes the gritty-grim pastiche palpable with cover art depicting a faint moon being blacked out by encroaching gnarly branches. The songs on I Cut Loose In The Zone are angular, fast-tempo and fierce ballads that instill a bit of the mighty moxie you'd need to fight your way out of a nightmare in the astral plane and back to stable (or more stable) ground.

Nicholas Mancuso (vocals), Steve Thoel (guitar), Joe Sausser (bass) and Jon Stepnitz (drums) returned to Zach Shipps' R.V. Audio Lab to forge their latest album, and it comes out early next month. I remember the first time seeing Savage Seven...it was the kind of experience where you take five or six steps back as they surge through their first song. And with each successive song you make those six steps up by moving back closer...weirdly enticed by the frenetic energy and voluminous performance... If things get really out of hand (or go as planned?), then they're might even be some moshing...

I spoke with Mancuso and Sausser this week about that energy, and about the new album...

Let me ask a vague question... what is it that you appreciate most about rock n roll? There's always a primary element or character to certain genres, be it metal, druggy-psych, poppy-indie, new-wave, whatever... But what I love about Savage Seven is that it combines surf's slick reverb with hard-rock/metal's rhythms and psychobilly's dark theatricality... And I love the theatricality of Roadside Burial. Can you talk about that, about what the key ingredients are that go into your songs?
Nicholas Mancuso:   Rock n Roll - just the term itself conjures wild fire in my mind. It has those same primal qualities to me.  The fun part is containing that feeling within several minutes of music.  Key ingredients to our songs - insidious narrative, unhinged guitar, powerfully mean bass, thoughtful and tight drumming.   

The Savage Seven seem like the band that would come to your average attempt at a Halloween Party and kick everything up 10 notches to where it needs to be, ghoulishness-wise..., If Cut Loose has an overarching thesis statement or theme tying it together what would it be?
NM:   I Cut Loose in the Zone - is almost like a war cry for this band.  Unlike a lot of other horror-centric bands out there, we don’t sugar coat or oversaturate our tales of terror.  We want you to dance and feel wild and in the moment, but still feel the goosebumps.  To still feel in the midst of a supernatural calamity.  There is always an opportunity to find that balance, where your audience is partying and having a great time, but cant shake that tinge of the strange, dark, and uncertain.  I Cut Loose… is an homage to the wild open road, where all manner of creatures both stygian and surreal, may or may not grab hold of you.  

Key ingredients to our songs:... insidious narrative, unhinged guitar, powerfully mean bass, thoughtful and tight drumming. 

What is the song creation process like? I'm curious to hear how you guys find your ways toward tunes that sound sinister but cool...spooky (scary even) but slick...a song like Roadside Burial. I'm curious to know if the music inspires the lyrics or the lyrics inspire the music?
NM:  On this new record, Joe and Steve both brought riffs to the table, and songs were built around those riffs.  The three of them - Jon, Joe, and Steve - have arranged and performed music together since the early 2000s, under a variety of guises.

The Savage Seven was birthed in 2008 when Jon introduced me to the group.  The song creation process for us is very organic, which is simply indicative of our experience together and our personalities.  In general, I’d say the music inspires the lyrics.  Some songs just feel a certain way to me....
How about 'Roadside Burial...'?
  ... I knew Roadside Burial would be about a traffic stop gone wrong pretty much the first time I heard Joe’s riffs, however, the lyrics themselves did not appear until a few nights before we hit the studio.  The songs themselves seem to almost whisper to me.  My background is in storytelling; I graduated from Columbia College in 2005 with a major in Fiction Writing.  All my life I have told horror stories.  I was the five year old that wouldn’t shut up about Freddy Krueger.  Our last album centered around baddies doing bad things in the woods, and the things that go bump in the night - be it camp counselors or folkloric demons.  On this new record, we really wanted to take things out of the forest and onto the road - like a VW bus full of deranged devil cultists and hapless victims, burning rubber and waving across lanes of traffic with no regard for anything or anyone.  Having a strong theme really helped catapult my mind and the lyrics themselves into the space they needed to be.

Joe Sausser:  We talked about basic theme of the record when we really started pushing on the songwriting, and so in that way the lyrical themes definitely shaped the music. We all knew this one was going to shift in tone to the heavier side of the psychedelic influences, and the nastier/grittier side of the punk influence.

Anything memorable from the recording experience? Or specifics about the way you approached it? What was it like working with Shipps again?

Jon Stepnitz:  Besides Zach being an awesome guy and talented musician he is also a fantastic engineer and producer. He speaks his mind and gives great advice, but still lets you do your thing. I love the awesome drum sound I get from such a small space. I drool over all of the sweet vintage mics he uses too.
NM   Recording with Zach is a best case scenario situation for our band.  We recorded the last album at RV Audio Lab, and he has a keen sense of how each of us operates best in studio.  Working with Zach is very efficient but also still playful.  He remains open to on the fly ideas, and is comfortable giving us his immediate insight as well.  Zach has seen us perform live and has a strong grasp on who we are and what we do as the Savage Seven.

How did this experience compare with the last record? 
Joe  Our last record was the combination of 3 different 1-2 day sessions over a year or so. This time we booked a whole week at RV Audio lab to hopefully make it sound more cohesive. We tried to get as much of the instruments done live/together as possible. I think that’s a key to capturing the energy we’re trying to put into the songs. I think we were more successful this time around in those aspects.  We gave ourselves more time to get guitar/bass tones exactly how we wanted them. Jon nailed his parts in one day which was astounding because we finished writing one of the songs the day before. Oh, so did Nick. they both basically did each song in 1-2 takes.  And yeah, Zach is the best! He knows all his equipment so well, there’s almost no down time. Nicest dude and extremely talented recording engineer/producer.

Future plans after the album release?
NM  We will be booking locally through the Winter, and hitting the road in 2019 to promote the album.  We also plan to celebrate the ten year anniversary of our self released debut, a cassette single of the track ‘I Wanna Luv,’ which included a cover of Charles Manson’s ‘Ego’ on the B side.  



Monday, October 15, 2018

Theatre Bizarre Orchestra & Satori Circus - 'These Are My Friends'

The Theatre Bizarre Orchestra are a lively bunch that shine brightest around this time of year. The masterful ensemble of jazz specialists formed several years ago as the house band for the famous Masquerade that gave them their name, combining their talents in and proclivities toward big-band, swing, and Dixieland with a bit of a mabacre charm. Their latest album was released this past Friday, when they assembled for the astonishingly sleek and sublime Gala party to kick off the Theatre Bizarre festival of performances.

I'm sharing a sample of my personal favorite song, here. These Are My Friends unites the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra with another mainstay of this year's Halloween mega party, the inimitable performance artist (and singer) Satori Circus. The multifaceted Satori came from the worlds of rock, glam, punk and new-wave, but donned some provocative face makeup and several costumes in the 90s and again in the 2000s to transform into a bit of a neo-operatic vaudeville persona. The level of his theatricality fits perfectly with the atmospheric arrangements of TBO. It's a fantastic collaboration that springs from and flourishes out the potential of a previous recording (the title track) and slides into the vim and vigor of curly-swirly new material with a wow and a flutter.

They've chosen a few jazz covers for this album (Sheik of Araby, Let's Misbehave) that perfectly fit the red-eye-winking, slight-mustache-twirling character of the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra - a bit exotic, a bit dreamlike, a bit naughty, but ever eloquent in execution. Toe tappers, hip-shakers, head-swivelers and maybe even a bit of jumping, jiving and basket-whipping dance moves for good measure - this album awakens your fun loving spirit as well as tugging on your heartstrings for a few vocal ballads.

The album is available on CD as well as a digital download through iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. The Theatre Bizarre Orchestra will be back at the Theatre Bizarre Gala for weekend # 2--where you'll also likely encounter Satori!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Undefined: Libby DeCamp & The Deluxe Country Music Band w/DJ Craig Brown - Nov 8 @ Willis

Each month I tell myself I should slow down, take a break... Maybe even put this ol' blog on hiatus.

And yet, next month, things get even busier... I'll be hosting a monthly event at Willis Show Bar.

Hosted by ....me
November 8th
Libby DeCamp & The Deluxe Country Music Band
with DJ Craig Brown
at Willis Show Bar

Why "undefined...?" ....Because "defy description" was too clunky and "beyond words" sounded too Hallmark. I have spent nearly 15 of the last years of my life describing music. And I didn't want the artists to be featured in this series of performances to be reduced. They're just words.  When I listen as closely as I do, when I sit down and talk to these artists for as long and as often as I do, I get to hear and learn several nuances about them that defy easy definition. My naive hope is that people can start coming to these Thursday evening performances at Willis Show Bar with an open mind - or just a desire to hear good music! It's undefined.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Podcast - Episode 27 - TART

Dig the latest episode of the podcast...hosted by Jeff Milo & Chad Stocker. This week's guest is guitarist Adam Padden of TART. 

Interview with Extra Arms - Releasing Headacher Sat 13th @ Celllarmen's

photo by Jared Lew

This is from an article that appears in this week's Metro Times
Ryan Allen says that the idea of “Extra Arms” was that “…it was never ‘a band…,’ until it became a band.”
Sometime last year, the local singer/guitarist (and power-pop stalwart) shortened the band formerly ID’ed as “Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms.” What had once been a true solo project had transformed into the typical conception of a “band.” It was no longer a small revolving cast of live contributors around Allen’s first three batch of jangly indie-rock albums, but steadied, now, by permanent members: Sean Sommer on drums, Michael Gallacher on guitar, and Ryan Marshall on bass. Allen sketched out the lyrics and skeletons of the newest songs captured on the forthcoming LP Headacher (via Get Party Records) with each new member adding their own proverbial musical two cents.
“If you ask for my input,” Gallacher assures, “then I’m always going to default to bigger, louder music.” Headacher’s noticeable distinction is the sharper edges, its louder dynamics, its more aggressive riffs, and punchier drums. The vocals have more of a snarl and the lyrical substance moves from the personal to more of the political and ponderous. “I’m always going to default to bombastic shit,” Gallacher continued, looking back on the songs’ formation. “But I’m still down to play some sweet, softer ballads.”
“Our practice is the loudest band practice I’ve ever been part of,” said Marshall, one-half of local shoegaze duo Palaces. “I’ve typically never worn ear plugs, but after my first few practices (with Extra Arms) I was getting sick to my stomach an hour in, and didn’t realize it was just from the loudness. Every member’s kinda playing on 10 at all times.”
But Gallacher and Marshall both praise Allen’s efficient process. “(Allen)’s definitely prolific and when we rehearse—there’s no ‘jamming,’” said Marshall. “His music is cohesive” and “has a super-clear vision.” 
While each member has been playing music all their respective lives and tenured with previous bands, Allen’s been front (and mostly center) with bands that attained a high profile locally (and even made snagged the praise of national tastemakers like Pitchfork) like Thunderbirds Are Now, Friendly Foes, and Destroy This Place.
Destroy This Place still plans to churn out vigorous hybrids of indie/punk/metal, but Friendly Foes disbanded and Thunderbirds Are Now are essentially dormant. So ExtraArms, from 2014-2017, served as Allen’s outlet for something he’d never tried before: the memoir-esque, heart-on-the-sleeve musical blueprint of a solo singer/songwriter, albeit in the vein of the ruffled-up, post-hardcore troubadors like Ted Leo, Mac McCaughan or Bob Mould. It’s a new phase entirely now – Extra Arms is a band with a capital B. 
“My goal was to write a song that might be personal to me, but that the other guys could find at least something in it that they related to,” said Allen. “There are songs about addiction, or about how people don’t care as much about music, or just considering how fucked up the world is right now. I feel motivated to write these kind of songs, now, for our generation as we’re all going through this…” …at a point in our lives where “…we’re not old, we’re not young, but we’re in this limbo period.”
On that note, Allen’s been around the scene long enough (Thunderbirds formed in 2002) that we can call him a “fixture” or a “mainstay,” but he’s still too young, just yet, to indulge that loftier, age-suggestive ranking of “veteran.”  The weird thing about aging as a musician is “that in other vocations, the older you get—the better you get,” said Allen. “Yet there’s this notion that the older (musicians) get, the softer they get, or lamer, or shittier, but I don’t feel that way at all. I feel this is the best record I’ve been a part of. You just keep doing it, you figure out what you like and you hone that and then surround yourself with people who can challenge you and make you better.”
“I keep waiting to feel ‘embarrassed’ that I’m ‘in a band…,’” said Gallacher. “We’re part of a weird contingent of people that ‘still do this stuff.’ I’m waiting to feel like I’m over (playing music) but I never am. When you get older, if you’re not making a better record—than you’re not doing your job.”
Sommer said he also grapples with this, but he draws a more nuanced motivation than Gallacher or Marshall might, since he’s been the closest and most consistent collaborator of Allen’s these past few years. (Sommer was in Friendly Foes and is in Destroy This Place). “One reason I continue to want to be in a band and work with (Allen) is that it’s always just really good. The second we got bad I’d let (the band) know (that) we suck and we gotta stop. We all have a good internal gauge for that.”
Sommer than tosses a jibe over to Allen: “…we’re never afraid to tell you something sucks.” After a knowing grin recedes, Allen says “…and that’s the reason the record sounds the way it sounds! It’s a result of all four of us coming together! When I work on songs, I’m still alone at the beginning with melody and lyrics, but I’m now thinking of these guys and what each of them can do with their parts.”
One constant Headacher keeps with previous Extra Arms records are ruminative lyrics referencing the unique experience of being part of a band. “It’s fun to be in a band,” said Allen. “It’s also fun to make your own records, too. But when you’re working in a vacuum or a bubble, you don’t have anyone to give you direction. And (they) give me that direction, I can see where (a song) can go, knowing that these other guys are helping me get there.”
Extra Arms Release Party
with Touch The Clouds & Reuther
This Saturday, Oct 13th //  Cellarmen’s // 24310 John R. Road // 586-413-4206 // $5

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Willis Show Bar's La Femme (Featuring Scarlet Lies & Kate Hinote)

photo by Sean Patrick

“We want (women’s) voices and their art to be heard,” said Willa Rae Adamo. The local singer/songwriter said she’s always prioritized efforts to expand representation on local stages. “That’s not always going to naturally happen as much for women in our society, or for people of color, or queer folks.” Adamo leads the gothic baroque-rock outfit The Minor Arcana, but her day job (or night job) has been booking shows for venues like the newly refurbished/reopened Willis Show Bar in the Cass Corridor.

Over the summer and continuing into the Autumn, Adamo and Willis Show Bar co-owner Sean Patrick have curated exceptional showcases for women artists. The La Femme music series features solo singer/songwriters or metro area bands led by women.

Making sure those voices are heard has been a theme throughout Adamo’s work in the Detroit music scene. Patrick, meanwhile, is part of a group of L.A.-based bar/restaurant-owners with lots of experience in the hospitality business; they partnered with Dave Kwiatkowski (of the Sugar House) and started to reenergize the classy space at Third & Willis late last year. The Willis doors reopened in the Spring. 

While their weekly programming includes jazz and live burlesque performers, Patrick and Adamo’s La Femme series can tap into talented women from all genres, including the cinematic and gothic-Americana vibes of singer/songwriter Kate Hinote, and the glam-rock/power-pop of Scarlet Lies (led by singer Tamara Marla Laflin).

Click here for info on the next La Femme show

La Femme kicked off May 23rd and has been featuring shining performances from top tier local talents like Musiquie Noire (led by Michelle May) and jazz balladeer Nicole New. Adamo performed her own sets of stripped down jazz-style ballads on July 18. Previously featured artists include Ann Arbor based neo-soul singer Dani Darling, jazz vocalist Hannah Baiardi and then, tonight (Oct 10), they'll feature Motown-inspired ensemble Virginia Violet &The Rays.

The mission of La Femme is to not only feature artists like Laflin (of Scarlet Lies) or Hinote (lead singer of The Blueflowers), but to also have a cohost each night, expanding the spotlight to include a female business owner.  “I’ve had a lot of friends from L.A. tell me, in conversation, that they’re seeing some really badass women getting it done here in Detroit,” Patrick said. “I mean, we’ve got Jackie (Victor) of Avalon Bakery, Rachel (Lutz) from the Peacock Room, and even just the last time we were at the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard, there were eight pop-ups there, seven of which were run by women.” 

Patrick said he had the idea and intention for a female-focused showcase of local musicians “since before (Willis) even opened.” Similar to Adamo, much of his life’s endeavors have involved allying with activist and advocacy efforts for inclusion and equality. “I know women haven’t been equally represented within the nightlife and entertainment industries, so it was important for me to see (La Femme) be part of our structure. And while it was my idea and I’m still involved, I’m now pulling back a bit to allow it space to grow and be driven by the female staff, artists and cohosts.”

“Even if women are the ones up front, like we have so many female pop stars, it’s still always typically been men who have been pulling the strings,” said Adamo. “But that’s changing here in Detroit. We have women behind the scenes, we have Virginia (Benson) at Party Store Productions booking these amazing shows, we have Augusta (Rose from Double Winter) with her (NeueHaus Detroit) booking agency. And that’s really important, because that’s really where a lot of the decisions are made—behind the scenes!”

Scarlet Lies photo by Erin Brott Holtzman
“I think it’s magnificent that Willis is spotlighting female artists,” said Laflin. “Probably every woman (in the music scene) can attest that bills are often loaded with male artists, while we find ourselves almost a novelty to many people when we take the stages. It’s not unusual for Noel (Marie-Rivard, drummer of Scarlet Lies) and I to be the only women performing at a given show—and it’s certainly not uncommon for people to comment on that fact. Noel and I have been in bands for several years and had many sexist encounters. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard ‘…you play (insert instrument) really well for a girl!’ It’s like, no! I just play it well! Period!”

Laflin said that, nevertheless, she’s encouraged by the support and camaraderie she’s found with other women in the local music scene—and La Femme, she said, is a great extension of that. Scarlet Lies, meanwhile, are in the studio working on their sophomore album. The Blueflowers (which features the voice and lyrics of Hinote), just wrapped up their next album and are planning to release it in November.

Kate Hinote / The Blueflowers
Hinote is a veteran singer/songwriter with a showstopping voice—she’ll be at Willis next Wednesday, along with a unique acoustic set by Scarlet Lies. Hinote also leads a trio known as The Disasters, and she often appraises her anecdotes of encountering blockheaded behavior from condescending males as just that: brief disasters to laugh at later. “Those incidents are aggravating in the moment, but I refuse to give my time or energy to that because I know what I’m offering, and people will either like it or not, regardless of my ladyness. That said, I’m most certainly grateful for this special opportunity to share space and time with fellow women bosses and perform for the people who support us.”

La Femme is an antidote to some ugly encounters that Laflin can recall--and these anecdotes will likely be familiar to fellow women artists... "...Once," said Laflin, "a male television host was interviewing Noel and I and essentially asked us how we were able to be musicians AND have a vagina. It was cringeworthy. It was so bad that the producers decided to just cut the segment entirely. I remember feeling really weird about the whole situation, but I was glad to have Noel by my side. She basically did most of the talking during that interview, and she’s very intelligent and can be a little intimidating. I think the host could just feel the hole he was digging getting deeper and deeper the more he spoke."

But Laflin says not to get her wrong--because the good encounters definitely out weigh the bad. "One of the most encouraging things that I find is the support that female musicians have for one another. More and more female artists are seeking out other female artists to fill out the bills they’re on, and Willa who put together our La Femme night bill is the perfect example of that."

The Bearded Lady Barber & Beauty Shop will be cohosting next Wednesday (10/17), and DJ Nouveau will be spinning between sets.

Meanwhile, Adamo and Patrick said they look forward to continuing to spotlight talented women—not just singers, but also DJs, as well as members from the local business community.

La Femme
Featuring Scarlet Lies & Kate Hinote
Wed., Oct 17
Willis Show Bar
4156 Third Ave., Detroit
For more information, follow the Willis Show Bar on Facebook or check in to their main site.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Vazum - "Eyes Out"

photo by Colleen Conroy

You've likely seen Zach Pliska in the background of stages at several local rock shows. With Vazum, he steps out front as the main songwriter/vocalist and guitarist. He released a debut EP in the late winter of this year as a solo-project (with Zach Shipps recording), but now with Void, Vazum becomes a quaret, with Michael O'Connor on bass, Zachary Anderson on guitar, and Jake Woods on drums. Pliska's vocals, and his intense and precise drumming propel this lead single, "Eyes Out."

You can feel the energy on this track--as it was recorded live with his two collaborators. It digs into the angst, yearning and catharsis of post-grunge, Industrial, and an energetic strain of metal, and layers on the fuzz of shoegaze and ambient psychedlia. Maybe, considering its tempo as well as its decorous aesthetic, I'd say it fuses punk and shoegaze. But the album's lyrics touch on infatuation, rejection, and obsession, and distil those emotions into the kinetic energy of the drums and vocals, with frenetic bass and dazzlingly gnarly guitars.

Void, just like the previous EP, will be independently released by Pliska and the band--they're playing a release show on November 17th at Small's Bar.  For more info, follow Vazum on Facebook, and check out previous tunes via Bandcamp.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Drinkard Sisters' 'Enough Already' (Interview)

Drinkard Sisters - 'Enough Already' (on Tool & Die Records)

The thing about harmonizing is that it has a hint of the supernatural. Or that it might sound like a séance put to melody. I’m not saying it’s spooky—I’m saying it’s powerful! I’m saying it’s elemental! I’m saying that when the Drinkard Sisters perform, or if you’re even just listening to their songs via cassette—a luminescence manifests in whatever room you’re in…because fusing their two voices allows for an organic expansion and elevation of what was already a poignant arrangement. They have a new album out on Oct 12th—and it starts the conversation about exploring and utilizing genres beyond folk/bluegrass/roots as well as their potential for telepathic communication.

I first saw the Drinkard Sisters several years ago. The dynamics of their voices—this control of a tender, breathy lilt into a full-hearted flutter, the ability to create formidable ambiance with the minimalism of just their two voices—it was already there! 

I’m going to get into this later with their Q&A, so I’m not bashful or hesitant to say that their songs were like three-minute tickets to a happy place. These were affable, toe-tapping tunes to sway to, to swoon to, to smile upon crescendo…Or it was like I felt a burden lifted, some kind of burden, or that a general woe was diminished. I think that’s the true power of harmonization—a musical embodiment of an assurance that you’re never alone. Even you, listener, will have someone who can sing a similar life-song…but not with an empathy of limited dimensions but more of a restorative boost that gives you new buoyancy.

“…take me from this crowded street / in any direction / so I can hear your sweet voice when you / tell me / tell me a story / I long to be / caught inside the pretty whir of your mind…” This is from the title track, which you’ll be able to hear in a week, when they celebrate the new album Enough Already at the Outer LimitsLounge. That’s a powerful track about

Before I go on, I should say that The Drinkard Sisters are Caitlin and Bonnie. As a duo, they’ve been writing, performing and recording music over the last decade together around the local music scene—they’ve been sisters, of course, all their lives. Online, they’ve had singles, EPs, and even a delightful Christmas album. They also spent a good chunck of the last two years as part of the Craig Brown Band, singing on his album, hitting the road, and playing some seriously high profile venues.

But… their new album, Enough Already, essentially feels like a proper debut. Almost two years ago, they added Nick Landstrom on drums, Ryan Harroun on bass and Dan Clark on guitar—and that’s the ensemble you’ll hear on this album, recorded by Warren Defever of His Name Is Alive.
Let’s take a listen, and get in to some Q&A.

Let’s start with how a lot of these songs start to subtly steer away from impressions that listeners might have developed about you... that it was Folk/Americana/Roots-etc…. I just love how some of these tunes sound like weird rock or psychedelic or noisy! That's not a question, but maybe you could talk about what that was like to explore that and where you might go from here?
Caitlin: ...we became a rock band!! Playing with the band pushed us to play louder, sing louder, which is really fun. Who knew…?... deep down we love to rock! I love playing with this band so much. Warren's cache of fuzz pedals definitely added to the vibe on the record; when he would say ‘…what if we did this weird thing here…?’ … we were like YEAH MORE SPACESHIP SOUNDS! The new songs we have been working on are rockers; I think singing in the Craig Brown Band this long rubbed off on us.

Majority of siblings don't grow up performing and writing music together. Usually it's sports or video games or whatever... What's it like to have grown up bonding over music? Do you think anything about it made it a unique coming-of-age experience compared to me & my brother and our video games? Are you able to attain a whole other level of kinship/communication when you harmonize your voices together so intensely?
     Caitlin: We grew up in a house full of music. Early on we both loved whatever my parents put on whether it was Motown or CCR or Amy Grant or you know, like Mannheim Steamroller. Did a lot of interpretive dancing to Mannheim Steamroller. So the early formative stuff was all shared and we still dig a lot of it. Once we were old enough to buy our own music, Bonnie was always more into pop music: I remember her being into ABBA, Belle & Sebastian, and The Seekers when she was in high school and I've always leaned more into folk and country. We didn't start really making music together until we were in our 20s and making music together allowed us to find out where all that stuff overlaps. I think that's why we aren't really a straight folk-country band or psychedelic-pop band, the magic is in the synthesis. 
           Bonnie: For most of our lives my sister and I have listened to different types of music. I've always been drawn to disco and pop where my sister prefers more acoustic, singer songwriter music. I find melody and beat more important where she focuses more on lyrics. But it's these differences that I think sets our sound apart. Singing together as often as we do has definitely enhanced our weird sibling wavelength. I've noticed we often say the same thing at the same time using the same inflection more often than ever before!

               Caitlin: And…we do have a fairly weird level of telepathic communication when we sing together, especially when working out harmonies for the first time on a song. Neither of us have any formal music education so we rely mostly on ESP and kind of staring at each other and pointing in the air at imaginary notes. Working out harmonies together is the most fun part of the process for me.   

Can you talk about the trio of instrumentalists who joined the band a little while ago?
Damn, it’s almost been two years! Mittenfest-2017, on New Year’s Day was our first gig with the band. Thought it would be a one-off thing, but it was so much fun that we could not stop! The lineup has changed a little since then. Dan Clark played guitar on this record and played with us for the first year; he's a long time friend of ours and helped push the songs into more of a psych-rock territory. Nick Landstrom has played the drums since day one and is one of the most talented and versatile musicians I know in Detroit. Ryan Harroun plays bass and is a really intuitive player, he really helps us find the groove, find where the song feels good, find the magic. This summer we played a show with the scrappers at the lager house and we were down a guitar player at that point and somehow convinced Warren Defever and Pete Ballard to play the rest of our summer shows with us. I admire them both so much. Warren produced the record and played guitar and organ on it. Pete plays pedal steel on the record. They make the songs sound bigger and better than ever. This is my total dream band.

Can you talk about how you work together -when it comes to working out a song? And what you appreciate about each player and what they bring to your songs?

     Bonnie: My sister and I rarely write songs together. Usually we'll help each other out if the other gets stuck somewhere but that's about it! When we bring it to band practice, we jam on it for a bit until the song starts having a unique shape. Ryan Harroun has a way of coming up with the grooviest, breeziest baselines and Nick Landstrom, our drummer, is so talented and always whips up the most perfectly complicated beats that give our songs so much flavor. We are so damn lucky to have welcomed Pete Ballard and Warren Defever into Drinkard Sisters this past summer. What Warren plays on guitar adds so much power to our songs, that's really the best way I can describe it. I've never closed my eyes during a set as much as I have since Pete Ballard joined the band. The sound of the pedal steel really elevates the songs and adds so much color and passion to our songs. I feel so blessed to be making music with these incredibly talented, quality humans. 

Speaking of Defever, what did you appreciate most, or find most interesting about working with him? 
     Bonnie: I still can't believe HE wanted to join OUR band! He is a wizard. I'm not kidding. 
Warren has been a big supporter of our music. He invited our first band, Golden, to open for His Name Is Alive at the Magic Stick in 2011, which was the biggest show we'd ever played. We had never done any professional recording before we worked with Warren so we were pretty nervous. We recorded the Craig Brown Band album at his studio about six months before we made this one so we knew what we were in for. He's an amazing musician, a very patient and encouraging producer., a great person to have in your corner. I love working with Warren because he's really smart and funny, though I can almost never tell if he's joking or not… But most importantly he gets what we are trying to do even when we don't know how to communicate it.

I want to talk about what seems to be a direction towards creating songs that can soothe, or brighten, or have just a tenderness to them… What school of thought do you subscribe to when it comes to ‘the power’ of music… If punks wanna tear down the system, or folkies wanna send a message of love, or metal heads wanna implode with loud catharsis…what have YOU been drawn to, most of all, when you recall your fondest memories of music?
Caitlin: It's true, we aim to soothe... When I write songs, I'm not writing them to make other people feel better, I’m generally writing them to make myself feel better. Bonnie and I have both done a lot of healing work in the last seven years. We lost a family member to murder in 2011 and we spent six months living in the house where it happened and went through a lot of darkness and pain and when we finally came out on the other side of it, I suppose we wanted to share what we had figured out, which was that you never really figure it out. Nobody does. And that's the most beautiful and freeing thing in the world. 
          Bonnie: I think we definitely have the intention of sending a message of love and kindness through our music. ...getting through (2011) was obviously life changing for both of us. It taught us the same lessons, which is why our music is cathartic in a way.
               Caitlin: A lot of the songs I write are about just getting outside the little boxes we create for ourselves, in our own minds and lives that keep us from being fully alive. Jonathan Richman is a performer who makes every single person in whatever room he's singing in feel better about everything, without being cheesy or overly inspirational. I've never seen a room of typically disgruntled/hard to impress adults become so perceptibly uplifted by a performer. I want to spread that kind of feeling.

Click here for more info on the release party at Outer Limits Lounge

Tool & Die Records

Drinkard Sisters

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Double Winter's New Singles

There's always been a haunted vibe to Double Winter's first batch of tunes, like a sort of spell was being cast. The title of their debut EP Watching Eye might suggest a draw from the Tarot deck, but it's involves an augmentation of your own sense of self, in a way, as it refers to a psychological effect upon how you act differently when you're not in the sanctuary of privacy.  In this way, the spell is more like the unspoken thoughts that continue to swirl in your head... "You really WANT to..., but you're SCARED!"
....and the music, then, manifests that angst, beautifully. Minor keys, frenetic rhythms, spectral ambient violin saws, enchanting vocals, nimble and nervy guitar flourishes... "...you wouldn't DARE!"

Double Winter are Holly Johnson, Augusta Morrison, Morgan McPeak and Vittorio Vettraino. The flipside to their new 7" single, "Fall On Your Face," appeared as a slower, murkier demo back in late 2015. They've since been honing their sound into a sleek and agile miscellany of progressive post-punk...and it's perfect for accentuating the beautiful-eeriness awaiting in any gray autumn day or late night where the moon's glow burns through leaf-depleted branches.

Double Winter are releasing this new 7" on Crystal Palace Records
Don't miss their show, tonight, at the Marble Bar....

....but if you do (miss it), they'll be helping to celebrate the reopening of UFO Factory - Fri, Oct 27

Read more, via Metro Times....