ANDY K LELAND – Single Review: “Ticking Madness”

Like most singer-songwriters, Italian folk artist Andy K Leland is a poet of sorts. He pens lyrics loaded with meaning and delivered with a droll sense of humor, and expresses them through only his acoustic guitar and sparse vocals. Though he hails from the Adriatic coast of Italy, he sounds like he’s from the English Midlands, especially given his artistic moniker. In his bio, Andy – who was born Andrea Marcellini – calls himself Andrea’s “shadow-self, and the two selves fear each other.” That dichotomy is clearly evident in his songs, where his often dark, depressing lyrics sharply contrast with his simple, catchy melodies and pleasing acoustic guitar.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Andy’s sound is his quirky, off-kilter vocal style, in which he clips his words, sometimes dropping a letter or two. It all sounds charming in an off-beat sort of way, and perfectly suited to his mellow lo-fi sound. Despite his cynical, often bleak lyrics about life and relationships, his songs seem to tell us to not take life so seriously after all, or at the very least resign ourselves to life’s inevitable travails without losing our minds in the process.

Andy K Leland2

In early 2017, Andy began issuing a series of singles that were ultimately featured on his debut EP Happy Daze, which he released that September.  (You can read my review of Happy Daze here.) Keeping with his penchant for dark themes set to only an acoustic guitar, Andy’s just released a charming new single “Ticking Madness“, which dropped on December 4. Andy had this to say about the recording of the song on his Facebook page: “I’m broke as fuck and can’t handle any music recording software. Luckily, a friend of mine got me an old Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. I instantly fell in love with that machine and started fiddling around with it straightaway! Here’s what I’ve come up with. Sound quality is pretty rough, but really… who cares?! That’s love at first sight.”

Andy explained to me that the song is about time, specifically how quickly it passes (don’t I know it!)  The lyrics are pretty surrealistic, with each verse like a snapshot coming from the subconscious. They were inspired by a couple of events which happened to him over the last nine months that made him aware of how time is passing by so fast. “They kind of changed my perspective about time and… life maybe. This song is some kind of a turning point. As an artist and as a human being. I can say it’s the first time I have ever happened to write down some lyrics and be totally aware of what I really wanted to say.” Andy said he’s quite fond of this song, and I have to say I am too.

At 6.20 in the morning 
I did hear nothing 
When later on he told 
He told me he’s dead 
Now back at 4.12 pm 
I was feeling cool 
Until those stripes they spoke 
They spoke the truth, they all said 

Now you’re a man 
You’re a man 
That’s kind of crazy 
Mate c’mon don’t be lazy 
But that’s alright 
Oh no it’s not 
I love you mum XO 

Well now you are crying on my shoulder 
Feels good as the clock tower with no hands is timing out 
The graveyard of my mind 
Now how, how, how does it feel? 
Now how, how, how do you feel? 
And what will, what will I feel for you? 

Now I’m a man 
I’m a man 
That’s kind of crazy 
Things have grown so hazy 
But that’s alright 
Oh no it’s not 
I love you mum, break 

Ha-ha ha-ha 

Now fuck you all she’s my lady 
But I’m cheeky cheesy I call her baby 
And what if time goes out of mind 
Out of sight? 
Well that’s alright, well that’s alright 
Oh yeah

Follow Andy:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / itunes

SARAH MAY – Single Review: “Nothing to You”

London-based singer-songwriter Sarah May has had music in her blood nearly all her life. She began writing songs at the age of nine, and taught herself to play guitar and keyboard. She recorded her first song when she was 14, and released her first CD of original songs at 17. Since then, she’s continued to write, play and release music, also managing to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice along the way. To date, she’s written over 100 songs that touch on many of life’s perplexing issues such as love and heartache, depression, addiction, politics, sexism, partying and financial hardship.

Sarah has just dropped a gorgeous and haunting new single “Nothing to You.” It’s a rather long track, clocking in at 5:22 minutes, but is so lovely and compelling I don’t want it to end. Opening with a somewhat mournful keyboard synth, the song gradually expands into a captivating soundscape of moody synths and gentle percussion as Sarah’s smooth vocals wash over our ears. Her voice is stunning and understated as she earnestly sings the lyrics addressing the pain of unrequited love, of being obsessed with someone who has no feelings for you:

Sittin’ here missing you knowing I’ve not crossed your mind
Things still remind me of you regardless of the passing time
Trying to find out what you’re doing without having to get in touch
Feeling like a stalker, Never knew I liked you this much

I wanna go wherever you are right now
Though I know it’s not a good idea
Or I could drink alone at home
Find someone else on Tinder

I want you to see me and fall in love with me
I want you to be near and sense that I am here
But dream is all I do, because I mean nothing to you

The backing choruses, which I’m guessing are Sarah’s own vocals layered over her main vocals, are sublime, giving the track a dreamy ethereal quality that beautifully emphasizes the sense of loneliness expressed in the lyrics. It’s a marvelous song.

Connect with Sarah May: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase “Nothing to You” on Spotify / Soundcloud / iTunes

TOBISONICS featuring FANS OF JIMMY CENTURY – Single Review: “Noirstar (Dark City Edition)”

Music producer Tobi (Toby Davis) has been using his creative vision and talents mixing, mastering or remixing other artists and bands’ music for a while now. And though he’s generally preferred to work behind the scenes in relative anonymity in the Luxembourg countryside where he resides, he’s also found it difficult to build momentum or a fan base in his own right. Consequently, he came to the realization that he needed to invent and control his own brand. In addition, he’s long thought of his collaborations as  ‘alternate versions’, rather than simply ‘remixes’, and that the term ‘remix’ did not serve him well. This has led him to create a new ‘Tobisonics’ brand as an opportunity to more properly reflect his alternate versions and the manner in which he approaches and feels about them.

For his first project as Tobisonics, he’s teamed up with the theatrical, genre-bending Las Vegas-based duo Fans of Jimmy Century to re-imagine their modwave neo-noir song “Noirstar (Memories of His City).” Fans of Jimmy Century consists of vocalist, lyricist, composer and voice-over artist Alicia Perrone & songwriter, producer and bassist Victor James. Tobisonics gives their song a cinematic synth-scape treatment, redubbed  “Noirstar (Dark City Edition)“.

Fans of Jimmy Century (2)
Fans of Jimmy Century

Living up to its title, the languid track is sexy and dark, with a slightly menacing vibe that conveys the sense of excitement, titillation and danger inherent in big city life. Starting with Victor James’s deep, pulsating bass line, Tobi recasts it as a modulated/phased sequencer bass, creating a hypnotic EDM beat over which he layers spacey, otherworldly synths. In her mysterious, sultry vocals, Alicia Perrone purrs: “Still have memories of the city. I wouldn’t wish ’em on anyone. Not anyone.” Exactly what she’s referring to isn’t clear, leaving it up to the listener to interpret as we wish. The tension gradually builds until the two-minute mark, at which point Tobi breaks down the track with eerie tribal chants and soaring synth chords. After about 20 seconds, the previous bass-driven tempo returns and continues through to the end, leaving us mesmerized by this captivating song.

Connect with Tobi:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Connect with Fans of Jimmy Century:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Download/purchase the track on  iTunes / Amazon / Google Play / Tidal

Top 30 Songs for December 9-15, 2018

This week I’m pleased to place the wonderfully moving song “In My Mind” by a young Chicago singer-songwriter who goes by the artistic name Draft Evader, at #1. I’ve followed him for a while and have watched him grow and mature as an artist. He’s a terrific songwriter and guitarist, and is also becoming a pretty good vocalist too. Panic! At the Disco’s celebratory “High Hopes” leaps 9 spots to #8. Though I’ve long been a fan of theirs, I did not initially like this song. But after reading fellow blogger MusiCommentator’s review, I listened with fresh ears and an open mind, and damn if it didn’t hook me in!

1. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (3)
2. MY BLOOD – twenty one pilots (2)
3. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons (4)
4. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile (1)
5. UH HUH – Jade Bird (6)
6. HAPPIER – Marshmello featuring Bastille (7)
7. HURT PEOPLE – Two Feet featuring Madison Love (8)
8. HIGH HOPES – Panic! At the Disco (17)
9. NINA CRIED POWER – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples (5)
10. BODY TALKS – The Struts (9)
11. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (10)
12. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (13)
13. UNREALITIES – Dying Habit (14)
14. YOU’RE SOMEBODY ELSE – flora cash (15)
15. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS – lovelytheband (16)
16. SHAME – Elle King (12)
17. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (11)
18. MAKE IT UP AS I GO – Mike Shinoda featuring K.Flay (20)
19. WANDER – Vox Eagle featuring Pierre Fontaine (22)
20. IN THE WATER – The Underground Vault (23)
21. “99” – Barns Courtney (21)
22. VISIONS – Dirty Heads featuring Kitten (19)
23. BACK DOWN – Bob Moses (26)
24. GHOST – Badflower (18) 18th week on list
25. THANK U, NEXT – Ariana Grande (28)
26. DELTA BLUES – Jetstream (30)
27. YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN – Billie Eilish (29)
28. NEW BIRTH IN NEW ENGLAND – Phosphorescent (N)
29. FAST TALK – Houses (N)
30. APOCALIPSTICK – Lazy Queen (N)

BRAIN APE to Release Live DVD “Brain Ape: Live at the Unicorn”

One of the joys of being a music blogger is being exposed to all kinds of music across a wide range of genres. More recently, it seems an increasing number of artists and bands are fusing together multiple influences and creating music that spans across numerous genres, rather than sticking to only one, which is making for some really unique and interesting sounds (I even heard a discussion of this the other day on my local National Public Radio station). A band who’s done this quite nicely is Brain Ape, a talented, inventive and slightly crazy London-based outfit who skillfully fuse punk, stoner rock, grunge, noise rock and shoegaze to create their unique sound they’ve dubbed “Scratch Rock.” As the band state in a recent YouTube interview: “Scratch Rock is an anti-genre. If you’re a punk band, then for your next record you’re not allowed to make a heavy metal record. It’s stupid that you’re not allowed to decide what you want to make if you’ve been labeled something. So why not label yourselves something that means nothing. And therefore, your next record could be jazz. It gives us freedom.

A self-described “Scratch Rock, spot popping, guitar smashing, headache inducing band from London, England,” Brain Ape was formed on New Year’s Day 2012 by front-man/guitarist Minky Très-vain and bassist Sol Alex Albret. They’d been friends since meeting in middle school when they both lived in Belgium. They soon released their first single “Cipramil,” and in 2014 released their debut album Dara O’. About that album, the band states they “established themselves as a group unafraid of releasing material very unsuited for mainstream radio. The record, with its lo-fi production, received no critical acclaim and went unnoticed by the world, much to the band’s delight.” Didn’t I say they were slightly crazy?

Brain Ape2
Photo by Nuri Moseinco

The band eventually added drummer Jacob Powell, and in August 2017, dropped their second album Auslander, which was released through Schlimbum Records, an independent record label started by Tres-vain and Dydy Haynes. Auslander is an ambitious work, containing 12 brilliant tracks with some of the best titles I’ve heard, and running nearly 55 minutes in length. You can read my review here. Powell eventually left the band due to other commitments, and Jamie Steenbergen joined the lineup in early 2018 as the new drummer. He quickly got up to speed learning to play the band’s repertoire of songs, as they embarked on a tour to promote Auslander, playing throughout Southern England and in Europe.

It was one of these concerts – at The Unicorn in Camden, England on the night of July 21st – that turned out to be an especially fateful show. They were opening for the band Ethyrfield, and excited to be performing at one of their favorite venues. Unbeknown to them, footage of the show was being simultaneously filmed by Galina Rin, Nuri Moseinco, and The Unicorn venue itself. Brain Ape played their set that night as they do every other, giving it their absolute all. After the show, they were approached by the promoter who told them they had footage of their performance, and it just so happened that a few videographers had filmed it too. So they obtained the footage, spliced the best pieces together to record their entire performance, and once they saw the edited version, they thought it was far too good just be used as a YouTube “throwaway.” It was then they decided to make it into an actual DVD release – “Brain Ape: Live at the Unicorn.”

Brain Ape Live at The Unicorn [Front Cover]

Brain Ape Live at The Unicorn [Back Cover]

The live video showcases the entirety of Brain Ape’s July 21, 2018 performance at The Unicorn. Both the sound and visual quality of the video are pretty outstanding, considering the footage was filmed by three different people. Furthermore, the video editing is seamless and near-perfect, and every bit as good as any other concert video I’ve seen. Brain Ape’s performance is tight and flawlessly executed, and they’re a joy to watch. Their live performances bring their songs to life, and it’s clear the guys greatly enjoy playing them for us. The physical DVD is scheduled to be released on the 13th of December, where the band will be performing a release show at The Dublin Castle in Camden. The DVD may be pre-ordered at http://www.schlimbumrecords.com/shop

Track-listing:
Information in square brackets indicate the timestamp where the relevant track can be found within the live video. Information in round brackets indicate which album the relevant track was originally released on.

1. Meanwhile    [00:00]   (Dara O’)
2. Blood Blister    [02:04]   (Auslander)
3. The Quick Brown Dog Jumps Over The Lazy Fox    [05:43]   (Auslander)
4. Respect Your Icons    [10:19]   (Auslander)
5. Give Me My P45    [13:43]   (Auslander)
6. Stop Sulking    [17:02]   (Auslander)
7. Das Krokodil Will Barfuß Sein    [21:04]   (Auslander)
8. Rig It    [23:13]   (Dara O’)

Here is a video clip from the DVD of the final song performed in their set – “Rig It,” which is the first track on Dara O’.


Interview with Brain Ape

I recently asked the band some questions to learn a bit more about their sound, creative process and love of performing, and all three happily provided some thorough and very entertaining responses. Enjoy:

EclecticMusicLover:  Hi guys. Thanks for wanting to discuss your music and new concert DVD. We’ve followed each other on social media for more than a year now, and I know a bit about you and how you formed as a band. But before we get started, I do have one question for you Minky. I love your name, and am wondering if Minky Très-vain is your actual given name, or is it your artistic name?

Minky: A bit of both, really. ‘Très-vain’ is my actual surname, but ’Minky’ has been my nickname since I first saw the light of day, so it’s almost my given name by this point. Nobody ever really calls me by the name on my birth certificate, so there’s no real point going by it.

Jamie: I didn’t even know his ‘real’ name until about six months ago.

Nuri Moseinco Photography - Minky Très-vain [Live in Luxembourg 11.18] (2)
Minky Très-vain – photo by Nuri Moseinco

EML:  You guys have a unique sound that really sets you apart from most other bands I’ve heard, partly due to your use of unorthodox melodies and song structures, but also because of your wonderful, distinctive voice Minky that sounds like no other singer. That’s a good thing, as it makes your songs instantly recognizable as Brain Ape, unlike some bands who, while putting out good music, can sound indistinguishable from a lot of other bands. Any thoughts about your uniqueness?

Minky: Sol and I have very, very similar voices when we sing, the only difference being that he impersonates Eddie Vedder, whereas I impersonate my inner turmoil. All jokes aside, whenever Sol does any backing vocals on Brain Ape material, or I’ve done backing vocals on A Twisted Carnival tracks, it’s very difficult to mix them in a way that they don’t blend in with each other to the point where we’re unsure of who’s singing what. It’s a really strange thing; when they’re soloed, they sound completely different and Sol’s quite recognisable in his own right. But for whatever reason, when we track them and lay them on top of each other they blend quite nicely.

Sol: When it comes down to “unorthodox melodies and song structures”, I think it’s because Minky and I never came from a formal music background. I’m shit. I dropped out of Music GCSE.

Minky: We get bored of ‘Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, End’. So we make our material interesting for us to play, and it just so happens that a lot of the time that means that the structure follows its own path.

Jamie: At first it did take me a while to get my head around the songs, but that’s perfectly normal when you join any new project and you’re filling in for someone else. You’ve got to do the other musician’s parts justice, but make them your own. Now all of the structures are second nature. I don’t really need to think, anymore.

Sol: We’ve kind of clicked together.

Jamie: Yeah, we’ve got good chemistry. The song structures make perfect sense now.

Minky: We never force our writing to be unorthodox. We write whatever comes naturally. It’s not as if we set out to write a tune, and we say “right, we’re going to do a verse, a chorus, and then change the key, and then upset the tempo, and then trick the listener into going somewhere completely different”. In fact some of our tunes, like ‘Give Me My P45’, have a far more conventional structure.

Sol: But even that tune switches it up slightly at the end, because as we were writing it felt right to have the outro change up the entire feel of the song.

Minky: We’re not completely against orthodoxy. But if we were to do a whole album of that, we’d get kind of bored. It would kind of feel like going from ‘Rubber Soul’ to ‘Beatles For Sale’. Not to say that dumbing down music is inherently a bad thing, because the whole reason things like the early Ramones kicked off was because the tunes were simple enough that they were relatable, but… I dunno… We don’t really think about it, in all honesty. We just kind of do what happens. And what happens we kind of stick to.

Jamie: You want to be different, but there’s a difference between wanting to be different and –

Minky: Forcing that difference.

Jamie: Yeah. “I have to create something new”. We’re not reinventing the wheel of music. We’re just taking our influences and putting them together.

Minky: We think our material sounds well-worn. We haven’t explored any new territory, I don’t think.

Jamie: The sound is kind of familiar.

Minky: We kind of feel like we’re just paying homage to sounds that came out twenty years ago, but people seem to think that it sounds…

Jamie: Fresh.

Minky: Yeah. Well we feel like we’re adding at least something to it, otherwise there’s no point in doing it. And people seem to think that we sound distinctive, which I guess is a good thing. If only we could market that, you know. We might have been millionaires by now.

Julian Newton Photography - Sol Alex Albret [Live at The Unicorn] (1)
Sol Alex Albret – photo by Julian Newton

EML:  You released your most recent album “Auslander” in August 2017. Tell me a little about your creative process for that album. Specifically, where did your inspiration come from for the creation of your songs, and how long did you spend writing and recording the album?

Sol: Recording the album, that’s the easy bit to answer. In studio time, it took us about two weeks to record. But we had to space that out because of various commitments we had.

Minky: Conflicts of calendars.

Sol: Exactly. But we were able to record it quickly because we rehearsed the material so much that we could literally go into the studio and bash it out.

Minky: We rehearsed incessantly. Every track, except ‘Blood Blister’, was either caught in one or two takes. In fact there were tracks that surprised us because we thought we were going to have to really work on them. ‘P45’ was one of those. We got that down in one take. ‘Blood Blister’ was the only one that, for whatever reason, we had to do eight or nine takes of. We just had a day in the studio where we got very frustrated and felt like we weren’t delivering. But then when listening back days later we ended up using take three or four, so it ended up not being that big of a deal and wasn’t that catastrophic. We just weren’t feeling it on the day of recording.

Sol: The feel of that song had to be done right.

Minky: But it wouldn’t be on the record if we’d felt like we hadn’t delivered the take that we actually wanted to etch into a CD.

Sol: The writing however… Minky writes the material at first, and then my process comes in a little bit later. It takes us a long time to write material that we want to put out.

Minky: We took a step back after our first album because we didn’t want to write the same record twice. So I went on to produce Sol’s record with his band A Twisted Carnival, which was a nice change of pace and kept things interesting for us. There were some strong similarities between that album and the first Brain Ape record, but it was different enough that we felt like we were still moving forwards rather than regressing. And then the year after that, I ended up doing an album with a duo I’m in called the oRaNGUtaNZ which was a complete change of scenery. It leans a lot closer to electronic music, which was really good fun to write. And at the same time I was also working on my sister’s first EP, which blends all sorts of genres. So by the time I’d started writing new Brain Ape material, I’d done so much different work that I felt comfortable that the material wasn’t just going to be a rehash of ‘Dara O’’. During that time, Sol had been travelling around the world and when he came back to England I was ready to show him what I’d come up with. So he moved in with me, and once you’re living under the same roof it’s a very easy and natural process to write music together. So we did that for about a year, and then we turned our attention to finding the right drummer for the job. Luckily for us it was around about that time that we were introduced to Jacob Powell. Once he’d joined the process it took maybe a further six months to just go over it again and again, which we did over one long summer in 2016. After that, we went up to Scotland and we recorded the album. There’s a ‘documentary’ about that bit, which you can watch here on YouTube.

EML:  I read in another interview you did with Teri Morris for her Music Matters blog that you guys have spent a good deal of this past year touring around Southern England and in Europe. I know that touring is important for bands to get their music heard and try to connect with fans, but it can also be a stressful experience. How was it for you guys? And did the connection with and reaction from fans make it worth your while?

Sol: Fuck yes.

Minky: I don’t think we’d be doing it again if it wasn’t worth our while. We’ve just been back out to Europe for the third time this year, which was hugely successful. A good friend of ours runs a booking agency out there called UphillBookings, so if you’re looking to play Europe hit him up. Nice bloke, treats bands well.

Sol: The connections and reactions from the fans this past year… For me at least I love just getting on stage and playing loud music, and having people enjoy that is one of the best experiences.

Jamie: You can play music for yourself, but it’s more important to do it for other people.

Sol: It adds a new level to it.

Jamie: Obviously, it’s good fun for us. We have good laughs going out on the road, but performing and sharing the music is the most important bit. People connect to that, and they enjoy the tunes. It’s great for us to see new places too, and that’s all part of the fun and games for us. But we wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for the people who enjoy our music.

Minky: It’s unanimous in this band that music did so much for us when we were growing up. It’s really, really lovely to be able to offer that same service to other kids.

Jamie: We’ll never know the true effect, really.

Minky: I’m going to repeat myself between interviews here, but it’s not just kids either. It’s people of all ages, and if we can help anybody through tough parts of life… I’m not going to go into specifics, but in this band we’ve had a rough couple of weeks and playing music has helped us through it. So if we can help other people through rough times then it’s worth it.

EML:  In addition to seeing and hearing you play your songs live, the thing I like most about your performance on the DVD is how you guys really get into your ‘zone’ and seem to have fun, not to mention your on-stage charisma. Do you find you get more energized performing your songs on stage as opposed to in a studio setting?

Sol: I like to try and make a studio setting feel like an on-stage performance. It helps translate the studio work to a live environment later on.

Minky: When we recorded our first album, I refused to let anybody sit down while they were tracking. You can hear the difference, especially with vocals, when someone’s going through the motions without particularly paying attention to it, compared to when they’re completely committing to what they’re doing. Posture changes how you play. We weren’t quite like that on ‘Auslander’, though, because we approached that album very differently than we did ‘Dara O’’. For our first record, we’d written it and rehearsed it and then went into the studio and only did one take for virtually everything. We had an ethos of “even if you make a mistake, that’s what happened at that point in time”. We treated that album almost like a photograph. It was supposed to be very spontaneous, regardless of ugly faults and flaws. But we didn’t have that approach at all for ‘Auslander’. We wanted to capture exactly what we thought we were about. Rather than take a picture of the band, we wanted to paint a painting. Which is why some of the song titles and lyrics reflect that.

Sol: To be more specific to your question, though, while we make both environments similar I definitely get more energised performing on stage. It’s a blast. You get feedback from an actual audience, and you get feedback from your fellow musicians. I’ll look over and I’ll see Minky going crazy and that makes me lose it, too. Then I’ll look over at Jamie and he’s not even looking at anything in particular because he’s lost in the music. It’s great.

Minky: When you’re playing with what the crowd are giving you, it makes a huge difference. It doesn’t matter if it’s thirty people or thirty-thousand people. Having someone lose themselves in the music, the moment, owning that. It’s fantastic. Life’s too short not to. You’ve got to never let that go, because you’ve only got one shot.

Sol: Do not miss your chance.

Minky: Spaghetti.

Jamie: But I think we’ve got good chemistry. Even in the rehearsal studio, we bounce off each other. That’s just what we do. It comes from playing together a lot, and rehearsing a bunch. There’re little things that Minky will do live that Sol and I have to deal with –

Sol: But we keep eye-contact and it works.

Minky: I must give you guys credit, to be fair, because I can sometimes be quite predictably unpredictable –

Jamie: We know.

Sol: Yes, we do.

Minky: But you guys keep the foundations rock solid. I couldn’t do it without you. It would just all fall apart.

Nuri Moseinco Photography - Jamie Steenbergen [Live in Luxembourg 11.18] (3)
Jamie Steenbergen – photo by Nuri Moseinco

EML:  Are there any challenges in getting your songs to sound their best when played live?

Jamie: Getting a good sound-man.

Sol: People shutting down our show for being too loud. It’s tough to get our songs sounding their best when people are turning down our music.

Minky: I’m enjoying playing stuff from the first album at the moment because we’re having to reappropriate four-piece material into a three-piece setting, so I’m having to take what two guitarists had written and make some sort of hybrid out of it. To me, it’s new and almost like rewriting material. Our first album turns five years old next year, so we’re so far removed from who we were as people when we wrote it that I’m really enjoying revisiting and rearranging stuff so that it’s still contextually relevant for us as musicians. But it’s a bit of a struggle sometimes. Some of the tracks from the first album, we still haven’t worked out how to do with our current line-up. But the more we get to play with Jamie, the easier that’ll become. The setlist that we’re taking on the road at the moment –

Jamie: Is a mystery.

Sol: Wrapped in an enigma.

Minky: But we’re playing quite a few old tunes which we haven’t visited for years. We’re opening our sets with one of them and it’s been a lovely surprise to breathe new life into that track. A track that means a lot to us, as well.

Jamie: Having a decent drum kit helps me play live, too. And it also helps to hear myself. The hilarious thing at The Unicorn was that you guys came up to me after the show and were like “That was sick”, and it was but I couldn’t really hear during the show. It wasn’t the ideal sound for me. I was struggling to hear during the show. When that happens you kind of just pretend like you can hear the band. You just go for it, but it’s tough sometimes. Sound at a venue plays a big factor as to how a show goes.

Minky: Gear surviving tours is also a huge challenge.

Jamie: Especially when you smash guitars.

Sol: That is a challenge. Keeping gear intact is very difficult for some.

Jamie: Especially if you’re a Mustang.

Sol: Those things are so fragile. You have to be very careful.

Jamie: Expensive as well.

Sol: Very.

Minky: I feel like this has turned into something quite focused in my direction. And to be fair to me, there’s stuff I can’t help breaking as well. Like my bloody gate pedal not working anymore, so now I have to play slightly differently in order to –

Jamie: Guitar straps?

Minky: Yeah, okay. Fine. My gear breaks… But regardless, I think if you watch the DVD it’s clear that we wouldn’t get up on stage if we didn’t feel like we were translating our studio material properly. When you watch the show on that shiny purple disc, you’ll see that the material sounds very close to how it sounded on record. In fact we played ‘Blood Blister’ as the second track during the set, and during the credits at the end of the DVD I think ‘Blood Blister’ was used as well. Yes they sound different obviously, because one’s a studio recording and the other is from a live environment, but it’s so close that it made me quite happy the first time I saw it. I think it just highlights how well the songs translate from recording to stage.

EML:  What dream band would you most like to open for or tour with?

Jamie: Queens of the Stone Age.

Sol: Foo Fighters.

Minky: You guys are shooting pretty high.

Sol: Massively.

Jamie: I would have loved to open for Soundgarden.

Sol: I love the old, golden grunge scene.

Jamie: Same.

Sol: But there’s a revival coming around that I’m loving, too. Mantra are great for example.

Minky: Yeah, I’d love to go on tour with mates of ours like Mantra. Or Sundrifter. They’re a band from Massachusetts and they’re fucking sick. I’d love to play with them.

Jamie: Black Stone Cherry. They’re pretty sweet.

Minky: You wanna tour with Black Stone Cherry? Again, you’re shooting pretty high.

Jamie: Yeah, mate. Why not?

Sol: We do have dreams to go on tour with the big bands of our generation, but that’s not to discount any of the smaller bands that we’re at the same level with.

Minky: There’s quite a few good bands around at the moment.

Sol: There’s a Belgian band called Raketkanon, for instance, who are awesome.

Minky: Going on tour with Raketkanon would be wicked. On a complete tangent, I caught a really good band the other day called Mice on Mars. They’re from Britain and they’re cracking. I don’t think we could ever share the stage just because we’re very different types of music, unless it was a festival setting or something, but they’re a great band. I really enjoyed their set. Fiende Fatale are another one. If you get a chance to catch them, they’re quite good.

EML:  Are you now working on new music for a possible future album? And are you contemplating any directional or stylistic changes for your music or sound?

Sol: As we’ve said in every single interview, there’s stuff bubbling but we’re not at the stage where we can start talking about it.

Minky: “We’re keeping the top on the pot”.

Sol: We’re keeping the top of the pops.

Jamie: Top of the pops brewing.

Sol: We’re still touring with our previous album.

Minky: There’s no point making any false promises. We’re not going to be ready to tell people until we think the material is ready.

Jamie: It doesn’t really happen until you have something worth having.

Minky: No matter what we do, though, it’s not going to sound like ‘Auslander’ because we’ve done that already and we don’t want to do the same thing twice. It won’t sound like the first album, either. It’s going to sound like its own thing.

Jamie: It’s going to be different.

Sol: Stay in the present. The future’s for another day.

EML:  Anything else you’d like your fans and followers to know that I’ve neglected to ask?

Jamie: We now have badges and stickers. Put a sticker on your skateboard, kids.

Minky: Fucking sick nosegrab, dude.

Sol: In all seriousness, thanks for your time and we hope you enjoyed the DVD.

EML: Thank you Minky, Sol and Jamie, and I surely did!

Minky: Cheers, Jeff.

Connect with Brain Ape:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

NOREiKA – EP Review: “Still Falling”

Peter Noreika

NOREiKA is Peter Noreika, a singer/songwriter from western New York state, near Buffalo. He started out his music career as a guitarist for a few heavy metal bands, but eventually quit the business to become gainfully employed, get married and start a family. He never lost his passion for music, though, and eventually picked up his guitar once again and returned to making music, this time as a solo artist. In 2015 he released his debut EP METACOUSTiFOLK, a three-track work in which he combined his love of heavy metal and acoustic guitar and interpreted it in a folk music style. As he describes in his bio, “I’m a blue collar guy in a white collar world. I’m a heavy metal shredder with an acoustic guitar. The music I write and play is not of the style I typically listen to. I stopped trying to be specific things, and instead started going where the wind would take me. I’m not bound by genre. I’m free to do what I want, and that’s what I’m going to do: Make “MY” music. 

He followed METACOUSTiFOLK a year later with Throw the Switch to Begin, featuring four acoustic and melodic rock songs. In 2017, he released his third EP BoXaRoX, on which he departed from the fuller sound of his previous EPs by stripping down the music to just acoustic guitar and vocals. I also reviewed that EP, which you can read here.

Keeping to his pattern of releasing a new EP each year, NOREiKA has just dropped his latest effort Still Falling. The new four-track EP sees a return to heavier instrumentation, with the addition of electric guitars and synthesizers, as well as more serious subject matter. As with his previous releases, he wrote and performed all music (guitar, bass and synths) with the exception of drums, which were played by the legendary Joe Goretti (who also played drums on the first two EPs).

Noreika EP

Finding My Way” kicks off the EP with layers of fast-paced intricate guitars, accompanied by just the right amount of percussion to keep the beat, while letting NOREiKA’s awesome guitar work shine. In his urgent vocal style, he sings about the struggles of being an aging rock musician. Not one to handle the routine of a 9 to 5 career, you’re living your dream of doing what you love and playing music, but time and the endless grind of touring and performing take their toll on the body and spirit too.

Living the dream, I never run out of steam. 
Get to pick and choose, I got nothing to lose. 
I can do no wrong when I’m rockin’ my song. 
Having a blast, when I’m playing fast. 
Then it’s off the stage to turn the page, 
on another day, in my own way. 

It faded away and left me in decay. 
There was nowhere to go, after the show. 
So I roamed for a while, mile after mile. 
Time passed by with no reason to fly. 
I never did jive with the 9 to 5, 
but it sucked me in and here I begin. 

How do I find my way back home? 
It’s been too long, and I’ve grown too old. 
How do I find my way, to where I belong? 

Tightrope” is a rather dark sounding song with chugging riffs of jangly and chiming guitars, spooky synths and a powerful thumping beat. The hopeful lyrics offer encouragement to a loved one to have faith, be honest, and not give up in their search for their own truth and path forward. “Moving on, facing fear, to soar you will defy. Speak your mind, say your truth, and never, ever lie. Closer to the other side, claim the prize that you can’t buy.”

The subject definitely turns darker on “Moment in Time,” a song about coming to terms with one’s self-destructive behavior and the damage it’s caused to his life and relationships. “Tried to tell me, but I walked on past, to one more day that could have been my last. You had enough, and taken all you could, so you gave up on me though I never thought you would.” The hard-driving beat and NOREiKA’s muscular, layered guitar riffs make this a real banger of a track.

On “View From the Heights,” NOREiKA sings of the rebelliousness of youth and the yearning to be free:

Hitting the streets, not sure where we’ll meet. 
I got a place in mind that’s hard to find. 
In the back of the park where it’s always dark. 
We can take a toke and share the smoke. 
I can see the lights coming. 
Got to run to be free. 
I can see the lights coming. 
Won’t they let us be. 

Once again, he dazzles our senses with his skillful guitar work, weaving together multiple textures to create a rich, guitar-driven soundscape that’s both dynamic and incredibly satisfying to lovers of guitar rock like me. I love Goretti’s aggressive drumming on this song, and the well-placed wobbly synths are terrific as well, lending a bit of a psychedelic vibe to the track. In fact, all four tracks are superb, and I think Still Falling is NOREiKA’s finest work yet.

Connect with Peter:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

Top 30 Songs for December 2-8, 2018

1. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile (1) 3rd week #1
2. MY BLOOD – twenty one pilots (3)
3. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (5)
4. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons (10)
5. NINA CRIED POWER – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples (2)
6. UH HUH – Jade Bird (8)
7. HAPPIER – Marshmello featuring Bastille (9)
8. HURT PEOPLE – Two Feet featuring Madison Love (13)
9. BODY TALKS – The Struts (6)
10. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (7)
11. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (4)
12. SHAME – Elle King (12)
13. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (14)
14. UNREALITIES – Dying Habit (15)
15. YOU’RE SOMEBODY ELSE – flora cash (16)
16. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS – lovelytheband (17)
17. HIGH HOPES – Panic! At the Disco (N)
18. GHOST – Badflower (11)
19. VISIONS – Dirty Heads featuring Kitten (20)
20. MAKE IT UP AS I GO – Mike Shinoda featuring K.Flay (21)
21. “99” – Barns Courtney (23)
22. WANDER – Vox Eagle featuring Pierre Fontaine (24)
23. IN THE WATER – The Underground Vault (25)
24. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (18)
25. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (19) 19th week on chart
26. BACK DOWN – Bob Moses (30)
27. FOREVER – Billy Raffoul (22)
28. THANK U, NEXT – Ariana Grande (N)
29. YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN – Billie Eilish (27)
30. DELTA BLUES – Jetstream (N)

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT – EVERY LOVELY THING

I’m always intrigued by the names musicians and bands come up with for themselves, especially when they’re interesting, clever or unusual. I recently ran across an act with a particularly nice moniker – Every Lovely Thing, an aptly-named music duo from Dayton, Ohio consisting of singer-songwriters Marianne Kesler and Kate Stanton. Long-time friends, the two share a passion for music, and one day in 2015 while having coffee together they decided to collaborate on writing a song. Marianne was already an established singer-songwriter, having written and recorded her own songs, but it was the first time she collaborated with another to write songs, and it was a totally new experience for Kate.

One song eventually turned into twenty and, now that they had a repertoire of songs, they decided they needed a name for their project. In an interview with Ohio-based webzine The Crazy Mind, the ladies explained the inspiration behind their name: “Our tagline is ‘songwriting duo creating beauty out of brokenness one note at a time’ and the name Every Lovely Thing is echoing that concept. It came to mind while reading lines from the Bible, “ … Whatsoever things are lovely … think on these things”.” Their pleasing sound can be best be described as ambient dream pop, characterized by beguiling melodies, delicate instrumentation and sublime, harmonizing vocals. Kate plays piano, keyboard, and synths, while Marianne plays acoustic guitar on most songs. Kate sings lead vocals on many of their songs, with Marianne providing the counter-parts and harmonies.

In August 2016, they headed to St. Louis to record their first single “Running” with producer Ben Kesler at Red Pill Studios. The song was released later than month, with the accompanying video released on October 1st. It’s an arresting song with a quiet intensity. The simple but hauntingly beautiful piano-driven melody, accompanied by gentle percussion and spare synths, create a somewhat somber, yet hopeful mood for the poignant lyrics. “Thinking of who I used to be. My brokenness is all I see. I keep pretending to be free. The past has made a fool of me. / How far? How long? I keep running.” They explain that the song is about toxic relationships, but rather than the term “running” meaning to flee from problems, it’s intended to represent “a healthy acceptance of ourselves, and of moving (or running) toward the freedom of positive life-affirming boundaries.”

Their follow-up single, “Not the Only One” was released in April 2018. About this track, the ladies state: “We feel the song is very accessible … probably everyone can relate to feeling like they are the only one in some situation during their life. One favorite line is ‘weighed down with sorrow so much deeper than our own’.” The enchanting song has a similar haunting quality as “Running,” with Kate’s delicate piano notes, but this time includes Marianne’s soothing acoustic guitar and pleasing drums played by Luke DeJaynes.  Kate’s vocals are soft and lovely, and when combined with Marianne’s backing harmonies, the result is an incredibly moving and beautiful song.

The ladies have recorded a number of songs, five of which are available for streaming or purchase on Bandcamp, and have been performing them and additional songs at gigs in and around Dayton. Here’s a video montage of a performance in Springfield, Ohio in October 2017:

They just released a new video of their latest single “Can You Show Me,” and strike gold once again with their compelling lyrics, sweet melodies and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Marianne’s acoustic guitar takes center stage on this song, accompanied by Kate’s delicate keyboard and other synth sounds. The song speaks of searching for  spiritual guidance to help overcome fear and self-doubt, and guide one’s path forward in life:

Black hole blinding vision obscured 
Panic rising terror incurred 

Fallen trembling shaken and stirred 
Waking wanting awaiting your word 

Watching wondering 
Longing listening 
Breathing, beholding everything that’s You … 

Where will I go? 
How will I know? 
Which way leads home? 
Can you show me? 

The lovely video for the track, which they produced, shows scenes of Marianne wandering around her town as if in search of something, discovering clues painted on rocks hidden in various spots.

Every Lovely Thing are two very talented singer-songwriter-musicians who together create beautiful, uplifting music that’s pleasing to the ear and soothing to the soul. I look forward to following Kate and Marianne on their musical journey, and hearing their new song creations.

Follow Every Lovely Thing on Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music  
Purchase on Bandcamp / cdbabyiTunes / Amazon

TRIPLE CREEK – Single Review: “Torn Down Whole”

Triple Creek

Triple Creek is a four-piece rock band based in Columbus, Ohio who play straight-up classic-sounding rock with just the right touch of the blues. Consisting of Brannon Criner (lead vocals), Tom “TC” Cummings (guitar), Brian Rellinger (bass) and Nick Brady (drums), all are seasoned musicians with experience playing with other bands and music projects in and around the Bowling Green, Ohio area. They formed in 2017 as a cover band, but have recently begun recording their own original songs. Brian told me the two singles they’ve recorded thus far were previously written by Brannon, but had never been recorded. The songs had been written for an acoustic guitar, but the band added a rock feel to them, and in August they released their first single, the bluesy “What’s Your Name.” On November 15, they followed up with a second single “Torn Down Whole,” which I’m reviewing today.

The dark song opens with Brian’s funky little bass riff, then TC’s gnarly guitars enter the scene, accompanied by Nick’s nimble drumming, which is quite impressive. As the track progresses, we hear TC’s bluesy and distorted guitars that add dramatic tension to the song. Brannon’s heartfelt vocals perfectly convey the sad sense of resignation and despair expressed in the lyrics. He explained that the song tells the sad story of a relationship gone bad, and the guy in the song is despondent at seeing the other person go on to flourish and prosper, while he remains torn down and depressed.

Angels fall down on me 
Sunrays pour on you 
Ashes burn in complicity 
Reconciled a drought by few 

Burn in hell and be replenished 
For the dead world to view 
Love is gone life almost finished 
My soul is pissed on you 

Torn down whole again 
All what we had was sin 
Questions scream never heard 
Emotions lifeless deep within 
Torn down dark and grey 
Pages burned and blown away 
Crippled by thoughts of discussion 
torn down torn down whole again 

Take a listen to this very fine song:

To learn more about Triple Creek, check out their Website
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Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Amazon

THE AUTUMN STONES – EP Review: “Into the Light”

Autumn Stones EP

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Another aspect of their music is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their signature gorgeous jangly guitars, creates a lush soundscape for their wonderful songs.

Autumn Stones

Formed in 2009, the band’s current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Dan Dervaitis (guitar, keys, piano), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards) and Raymond Cara (drums & percussion).  They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. In June of this year, they dropped their third album Emperor Twilight, a stunning work that I also reviewed. Now they’re back with a new four-track EP Into the Light, which dropped November 23. Like Emperor Twilight, the EP was co-produced by The Autumn Stones and Andy Magoffin, and is described by the band as a companion piece to the album.

First up is the title track “Into the Light.” Band frontman Megahey explains about its creation: “We were working on ‘Into the Light’ around the same time as the album sessions, but it wasn’t quite ready to record. Simultaneously, we all felt it was among our strongest songs and couldn’t wait to realize it fully. I’m glad we took the time to fine-tune it and now the track gets its own spotlight in this EP release.” The wait was certainly worthwhile, as “Into the Light” is magnificent. The gorgeous track features layers of exuberant jangly guitars, along with warm saxophone, both hallmarks of The Autumn Stones’ beguiling sound. Megahey’s smooth vocals are sublime, with a seductive quality that also manages to convey a sense of vulnerability. The lovely sax notes on this track were played by Paul White.

The second track “Hardwired” is a terrific pop-rock song with jazzy undertones, courtesy of Gary Butler’s wonderful strutting sax. The guitar work is great too, and the distorted flourishes at the end make for a nice finish. Megahey sings of his hedonism: “My dirty brain is like a slave. It’s like a beatnick. I’ve seen the light. I found the truth. It doesn’t hide. It doesn’t need to. I’m hardwired.” “Higher” soars with lots of soulful sax and fantastic jangly guitars, accompanied by Marcus Tamm’s deep bass and Ray Cara’s crisp percussion.

The Bigger They Fail” is an acoustic version of a song by the same name that appeared on Emperor Twilight, and was previously released as a B-side to that single. Like the original, it’s a hauntingly beautiful dreampop song that reminds me a bit of “Under the Milky Way’ by The Church. This stripped-down version features only acoustic guitar, piano and a bit of tambourine, but is still every bit as stunning and compelling as the original. And it goes without saying that Megahey’s vocals are bewitching as always.

Like all their releases, Into the Light is perfection from start to finish. I love the Autumn Stones’ music, and will likely continue to feature all of their future musical offerings. They will be launching Into the Light with a show at Toronto’s Monarch Tavern on December 8, with guests TBA.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp