JADED JANE – Artist Spotlight & Interview

I’ve commented previously on this blog about my continual amazement at the sheer magnitude of enormously talented musicians around today who are creating incredible music. In such a seemingly overcrowded industry, it’s inevitable that so many of these musicians and bands struggle to get their music heard, despite the ready availability of a staggering amount of it that’s free for the taking (which as we all know is another entire set of issues). That’s where music bloggers like myself come in, writing about indie artists we like and helping to spread the word about their music and hopefully gain them a few more followers and fans. With that in mind, today I have the pleasure of introducing to my readers the remarkably talented and undeniably charismatic Olsson brothers Axel and Adam who call themselves Jaded Jane.

Jaded Jane 2

Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Jaded Jane seeks to celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics. Drawing upon a wide range of influences such as pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip-hop, they create beautiful, piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. Since 2015 they’ve produced four excellent albums, and are now recording their fifth, due for release later this year. I reached out to Jaded Jane to talk about themselves and their music, and was happy Axel agreed to share some of their story.

EML:  Hello Axel. Thank you for agreeing to talk with me. First off, by way of introductions, tell me a little about Jaded Jane – when did you guys form the band, and how did you and your brother Adam decide on the name “Jaded Jane”?

Axel:  Thanks Jeff. I am super glad to be part of your music blog. Jaded Jane and the musical adventure of brothers Axel and Adam Jane Olsson began in our early youth, being the sons of musician Christer Olsson (Plums, Noll 31, Scandinavian 5) and a mother with a passion for music. Growing up to the sounds of Motown, The Beatles and Michael Jackson, to name a few, it was only natural for us to develop a keen sense of melody, harmony and originality. We grew up in the Gothenburg, Sweden suburb of Hammerhill, and our path eventually lead us to New York & Los Angeles, where we spent ten years back and forth immersing ourselves with some of the most inspiring musicians on Earth. The name Jaded Jane came to me in a dream in 2013, when I was living in New York. The name deals with the jaded aspect of the modern human being. Jaded Jane is also a song from our debut album Diversity, and is about life, death and meaning. The name ‘Jane’ has an androgynous quality that is inclusive and gender neutral.

EML:  What prompted you to make those moves from Sweden to Los Angeles and New York, and why did you choose to leave New York for Glasgow, rather than return to Sweden? Does Glasgow have a more thriving music scene?

Axel:  It’s been a long road moving back and forth to New York, Los Angeles and now Glasgow. We came home to Sweden for a few years after New York, and then we ended up collaborating with a few Scottish artists which led us to Glasgow. It is a vibrant music city, with areas that remind me of Brooklyn, NY.  When you are moving to a new city you are putting yourself in a whole new world, which sculpts you into another story and adventure, I have always been excited about learning and growing on all fields as a human being. So I am now in Glasgow, while Adam is still based in Gothenburg.

EML:  Your music is beautiful and uplifting, and your songs offer positive, life-affirming messages. What is the inspiration behind your music and sound?

Axel:  That means a lot to hear that the songs & music spread those messages. We feel that the music we create is greater than us and has the power to heal by touching people on a deeper level. By being brutally honest with ourselves, we allow others to feel that side of us. The things that are the most personal are ultimately the most universal. My inspiration comes from experiencing all of life’s challenges, both the highs and lows.  From a young age, me and Adam starting asking questions about our society, and felt an urge to share our musical stories with other people in hope that it will touch and lift someone who is low.

EML:  Do you both write the songs and lyrics together? And do you both play all the instruments and synths yourselves, or do you work with other session musicians to help create your music?

Axel:  I have written all the songs on the albums released thus far, and we do play all of the instruments. However, on the new album “117” we’re currently working on, Adam is featuring two of his new songs. Adam plays fretless bass, guitar and sings, and I play the piano, synthesizers and also recording and producing the tracks. We previously collaborated with guitarist Mike Stern on our first album Diversity, and L.A.-based soul singer Frank McComb on The Puzzle, an album we made prior to becoming Jaded Jane. But our journey really took off in a new direction while meeting our third member Åke Linton, a sound artist from Sweden who is now part of creating the soundscapes and sounds of Jaded Jane.

EML:  The track “Crystal Stair” on your latest album Salvation is an intriguing song. How did you discover that speech from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why did you choose to build a song around it?

Axel:  The whole Salvation album was recorded live in a studio in Gothenburg, on Queen’s old console and the song “Crystal Stair” was just a small improvised part that came from one of the sessions. Both me and Adam have always been inspired by Martin Luther King, and we thought it’d be cool to have his voice on top of the melodies and sounds of the improvised piece.

EML:  I was touched by your recent Instagram post about your struggles and frustrations with trying to make it in this very tough music business. Your music is so wonderful, and you guys need to be heard by a larger audience, which is why I’m happy to feature you on my little music blog. That said, one of the issues I think is that today, most people seem to prefer hip-hop, Country or rock music, rather than beautiful, piano-based easy listening compositions like yours. Yes, there is still a niche for your genre of music, and there are successful artists making music similar to yours such as James Blake and Sufjan Stevens, but they often collaborate with hip hop or other artists to appeal to a wider audience. You’ve stated that you would like to collaborate with other artists, and in fact have a couple of times, like you did with rapper Scope (Jake Lewis) on the track “Life” from your album “One Way”, but that it’s been a struggle getting more artists to collaborate. Any thoughts?

Axel:  You are very right, It is a big challenge to get people to listen to a full song nowadays, even though you spent your whole life building and working on your craft, The masses seem to react to the loudest playing songs. I am looking forward to writing and recording more with similar minded artists, The struggle in paying rent and earning money for food has and I am guessing will always be there when it comes to true artistry, I am a full time busker / street performer in Glasgow at the moment, and that has definitely made me humble in how hard it can be to earn money; it gives you a whole new respect for how to use them.

The music business is a tough field to be in, I have always felt and I know Adam felt it too. We are outside of the business, however, we the songwriters and artists are what makes it possible to make a business out of it, so I am determined to find out what’s going on.

EML:  Your press release states that you’re managed by Scirca Music Group. Some artists & bands choose to hire a management company or PR firm to help them, while others wish to do everything themselves. Have you found it helpful to work with a manager?

A year ago I reached out through social media in search for a music publisher and manager, which got me in contact with the newly started Scirca Music Group. It has been a learning experience for both me and Adam and for the management company, as they are just starting out. I would like to encourage other artists to learn about how it all works, and how it is built up, that is the key to understanding and hopefully knowing where you want to go from there.

EML:  What are you guys working on now? Any plans for another album?

Axel:  As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been recording a new album “117” to be released later this year. It’s being recorded and mixed by our Sound Artist Åke Linton. I’m singing & playing on an old upright piano, and Adam is playing a Spanish nylon guitar & also singing some vocals. The last pieces of the songs on ”117” are being recorded with string arranger & producer Mattias Bylund adding a cello to the songs by cellist David Bukovinszky. Last but not least, I am laying down the bass lines on a 1976 Moog Synthesizer and warm analog pads on a 1980s Korg Polysix. We just shot the first music video for our upcoming single ”Trapped”. It was exciting and it turned out great.

EML: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Jaded Jane that I’ve neglected to ask?

Axel:  Yes, we want to share our message of “Ignorance Separates, Music Unites”. We want to take a stand even more, making it clearer that we are for all human beings,  especially the ones without a voice. Equality, Humanism, and Reverence for the Beauty and Majesty of Nature are all subjects we care about.

We are from the “hood” of our hometown and we wish to display a different side [to that part of the Gothenburg area] than what is mainly portrayed in media with their car fires, etc. The growth of racist/nationalistic political parties such as SD* is something that we want to be an antidote for. We’ve always stayed clear of politics in our music but when it comes to these ethical & moral values we want to be very clear that we stand for diversity, equality and lifting positive stories about the “hood” which almost always have been a place of brotherhood and acceptance for us. Yes there are problems, but there need to be a more nuanced and balanced portrayal in media. We want to do our part as a counterweight to the negative.

* SD stands for Sweden Democrats, ironically, a socially conservative and far right-wing populist political party.

So lets dig a bit into Jaded Jane’s wonderful catalog and get a feel for their music. They released their debut album Diversity in 2015, a genre-bending work featuring eight tracks drawing upon pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip hop elements. As the title suggests, the songs address uplifting themes of embracing diversity and working together to make the world a better place. Every track on the album is superb, but my favorites are the lovely ballad “Jaded Jane”, the anthemic “After”, “Meaningful Destiny”, with its beautiful piano and shimmering guitar, the funky “The Cure”, with guest vocals from rapper KJ Denhert, and the soulful and fun “Walk the Walk”. Their musicianship and knack for writing infectious melodies that hook us in right from the start are impressive, and I love Axel’s casual vocal style that frequently breaks into a crooning falsetto.

In February 2017, they released their fantastic second album One Waywhich saw them branch out and further experiment with their sound by incorporating more complex and multi-textured synthesizers, deep bass lines and trap beats into their soulful mix. The highlights here are “Tell Me What”, with spacey synths and a funky bass line that’ll rock your world, “Breathing”, with colorful psychedelic synths and guitar chords that are fucking magical, and “Life”, a brilliant track featuring killer rap verses by British rapper Scope (Jake Lewis) that beautifully complement Axel’s falsetto vocals. The uplifting lyrics speak of not letting your past troubles define you or keep you from realizing your dreams: “Living life just watch me risk it, made mistakes but don’t regret ’em / I put on a happy face to hide where I come from / Put your knife down, listen to my rhyme / Everything’s gonna be alright.

Only eight months later, Jaded Jane dropped yet another album Always & Forever, once again going off in another direction with their sound. This time, Axel’s beautiful piano playing takes center stage, with the songs all featuring sublime piano-driven melodies that take their music toward an ambient, easy-listening vibe. In describing his inspiration for the album, Axel wrote as if speaking to his father: “When I sat down by the piano I could feel your presence. I let the songs happen the way they were meant to. Through music we can communicate with another world, here it is, and it is for you, in the here and now and in the hereafter.” The beautiful title track “Always & Forever” is a moving tribute to their father. “Hard to believe that you are gone this time. Oh give me strength to carry on. Easy to smile when you are by my side. You’ll live forever in my heart.” The video was filmed on a snowy night in Gothenburg.

The opening song “Serendipity” is a serene, 13-minute long piece of atmospheric heaven, with extended runs of delicate piano, guitar and whispery synths that are mesmerizing. The song begins as an instrumental-only track that seems to end at around 3:45 minutes, then starts back up at 4:00, this time with Axel’s tender vocals singing the praises of their father: “It was your light. It was your love, that shone through all of us.” This portion of the song ends with a gradual fade-out of reverb at around 8:45, only to start back up at 9:30 with sparse piano keys, accompanied by strummed guitar and whispery synths that throb until the end of the song.

Jaded Jane Salvation

Their fourth and most-recent album is the gorgeous Salvation. Released in November 2018, the album continues with what Jaded Jane refers to as their “exploration of soulful soundscapes of consciousness” that we loved on Always & Forever.  The entire album flows like an atmospheric river of mesmerizing piano-driven sound, enveloping and transporting us to a comforting place of love, peace and serenity. The beautiful title track “Salvation” has simple, spiritual lyrics that speak to finding peace of mind and salvation in the hereafter: “I’ll stay right here, through my last tears. Ain’t got nothing left to fear. Salvation. It’s the longest street, I will follow thee to another space and time. I will walk this road, never looking down, to the place that we’ll call home.”

Another standout track is “Ethereal”, which lives up to its name with breathtaking atmospheric music. Axel’s piano work is absolutely stunning, backed by sweeping glittery synths, gently thumping drumbeats and Adam’s subtle guitar notes.

“Orion” is a beautiful instrumental track, consisting of only delicate piano, gentle drumbeats and whispy ambient background synths. Though over five minutes long, it seems much shorter. The track segues uninterrupted into album closer “Crystal Stair”, with a continuation of the gentle drumbeats and whispy synths. At one minute, words from a famous 1960 speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Spelman College enter: “Your life’s blueprint must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice. Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them. Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice. However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live.

The track encapsulates the message of love, tolerance and social justice that Jaded Jane seeks to spread by Salvation, and with all their songs. I greatly admire these guys, both in terms of the wonderful music they make, and the positive vibes they spread through their kindness, love and joy. I cannot wait to hear their new album.

Connect with Jaded Jane:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

NAT “KING” COLE – “Nature Boy”

Nature Boy record

One of the most enchanting songs of all-time has to be “Nature Boy”, especially the original version recorded by the legendary Nat “King” Cole. I distinctly remember the first time I heard it as a young teenager, and being absolutely enthralled by its haunting beauty. I recognized the singer as Nat “King” Cole – arguably one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th Century – but was not familiar with the song. I asked my father “What is that song?!“, and he told me it was called “Nature Boy”. My father was himself still a teen when the song came out in March 1948. It was a massive hit, spending eight weeks at #1 on the Billboard number-one singles chart from May to July 1948.

The song has a rather interesting back story. It was written in 1947 by a man named eden ahbez. Originally born George Alexander Aberle in Brooklyn, NY in 1908, one of 13 children in a poor family, he spent his early childhood in an orphanage. He was eventually adopted at the age of nine by a family in Kansas and raised under the name George McGrew. During the 1930s, McGrew lived in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was a pianist and dance band leader. He moved to Los Angeles in 1941 and began playing piano at a small health food store/raw food restaurant on Laurel Canyon Boulevard owned by John and Vera Richter, who followed the German Naturmensch and Lebensreform philosophies of veganism and living with nature. Their followers, who came to be known as “nature boys”, wore long hair and beards and ate only raw fruits and vegetables, and were precursors to what would later be called hippies. McGrew changed his name to “eden ahbez”, spelling his name with lower-case letters because he believed only the words “God” and “Infinity” were worthy of capitalization.

Some years later, while living in a cave near Palm Springs, ahbez wrote “Nature Boy”. The song was semi-autobiographical, but also partly a tribute to his mentor Bill Pestor, another Naturmensch advocate who was known locally as “the Hermit of Palm Springs”. ahbez wanted Nat “King” Cole to record the song, and went to see him one night while Cole was performing at the Lincoln Theater in Los Angeles. Cole’s manager refused to talk with him, however, ahbez managed to leave his sheet music for “Nature Boy” with Cole’s valet, but neglected to include his contact information. Cole loved the song, and began performing it at shows, but couldn’t record it as a single without ahbez’s permission. ahbez was finally tracked down living in a shack under the Hollywood sign, and soon found himself at the center of a media frenzy after “Nature Boy” became a #1 hit. His curious story was covered simultaneously in Life, Time and Newsweek magazines during the summer of 1948, and he finally got the chance to meet Cole during the television show We The People. (Bryan Thomas, Night Flight)

eden ahbez nat king cole
ahbez and Cole in 1948 (source unknown)

The song was recorded by Cole in August 1947, backed by an orchestra conducted by Frank De Vol, the in-house arranger of Capitol Records. Also a legend in his own right, De Vol went on to write and conduct soundtracks for numerous films (Pillow Talk, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush…Hush…Sweet Charlotte, Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen) and TV shows (Family Affair, Gidget, The Brady Bunch, My Three Sons). For “Nature Boy”, De Vol used lush strings and flute to create the beautiful enchanting soundscape that makes the song so indelible. The gorgeous fluttering notes of the flute evoke sounds of birds singing in a Shangri-La setting. The track’s arrangement is absolute perfection, and the piano keys are stunning as well. And of course, Cole’s famed velvety-smooth vocals are captivating as he croons the poetic lyrics that are simple but profound:

There was a boy
A very strange, enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return

Cole eventually considered “Nature Boy” one of his favorite recordings, and the song helped give him crossover appeal to white audiences. In his book, The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire, author Ted Gioia noted that all the musicians “who had created the golden age of American popular song had their quirks and idiosyncrasies, but eden ahbez demands pride and place as the most eccentric of them all“. He added that, in addition to promoting the hippie culture, with “Nature Boy”, ahbez enabled Cole to be instrumental in introducing a new era of black artists in an industry dominated by white popular music. (Wikipedia)

The song was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, a special Grammy Award honoring recordings that are at least 25 years old and have “qualitative or historical significance”. I think it’s a masterpiece, and one of the greatest songs ever written.

THE COMMON VIEW – Artist Spotlight & Review

The Common View (2)

I continue to be amazed at the sheer volume of musical talent that exists today, with so many really fine musicians and bands making outstanding music. A recent find is a young four-piece from Leeds, England who call themselves The Common View. I liked their music at first listen, and as I learned about their social and political views and willingness to be outspoken advocates for social justice, being an unapologetic progressive liberal myself, I’ve also come to admire them and am proud to feature them on my blog today.

The band was formed in 2018 by three University of Leeds students with a shared love of music: Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar) and Jacob Lindsay (drums, vocals). Bassist Joe Sykes joined a bit later, filling out the band’s sound and completing their lineup.  Their indelible and dynamic style of alternative rock is influenced by indie pop-rock, post-punk revival and Rockabilly.

They released their self-titled debut EP The Common View, Vol. 1 in December 2018, featuring three outstanding tracks. The guys recorded, mixed and mastered the EP themselves, and I must say that the production values are first-rate, sounding very professional for a debut effort. They also have a terrific little blog on the website musicglue, where they share news about themselves, their music and coming events, so do check it out here. Dom has quite the sense of humour (I thought I’d be cheeky and use the British spelling), and provides entertaining insight into the creation and meaning of the songs, some of which I’ll quote below.

The first track, “I Can’t Get Your Face Out of My Mind” is a delightfully sultry affair, with pulsating riffs of swirling guitars, throbbing bass and snappy drums delivering moody vibes and a captivating melody. Dom describes the song’s genesis: “My memory is somewhat comparable to a goldfish, but if I recall correctly, the song started off with a vaguely similar chord progression and a completely different strumming pattern. It was admittedly a bit of a mess, but I distinctly remember the moment it all came together; For some unknown reason I started to try a bit of a Ska rhythm, akin to something The Specials would use in their hits, and it started to sound really good! After that, the rest of the song started to fall into place and we worked on the progression and the voicings (which usually consists of Jacob’s best whale impression to the sound of the song), with the solo and actual wording being sorted much later on.”

I confidently state that it all came together quite nicely. The tight instrumentation is a clear indication of this band’s impressive musicianship, and I really like Jacob’s sultry, yet heartfelt vocals that convey a sense of sad resignation as he laments to someone who broke his heart: “Oh, if you’re feeling low, don’t come running. I’m moving on now, you can’t keep me down. Got my head spinning round. Your words are poison. You’re killing all the boys, and I’m intoxicated, Hear me out. And you led me on, said I was the only one for you. But you were lying through your teeth. How could you do that to me.

The socially relevant “Ignorance” greets our eardrums with a rousing mix of jangly and fuzzy guitars, accompanied by a frantic punk-rock beat that makes for a exhilarating listen. About the track, Dom explains: “At the risk of sounding like a dickhead, I am actually quite proud to say I wrote the lyrics to ‘Ignorance’, even if it was at 3 am in a disgustingly dirty kitchen in student halls (This will become a trend). They draw from the general idea that there are so many things in the world that seem so obviously wrong (whether it be Global Warming, genocides, racism or terrorism to name a few) that to anyone who ignores, pretends or simply doesn’t understand the fundamental basics is so glaringly ignorant, I’ll never understand them. Ignorance may well be bliss, but we really should be better than this!

On “The Hollow“, Jose and Dom deliver a languid, soulful groove, with shimmery riffs of chiming guitar that are drop-dead fucking gorgeous! And if all that beauty wasn’t enough, Jacob and Dom’s vocal harmonies are positively sublime. Dom discusses their creative genius behind the song’s captivating melody: “‘The Hollow’, despite being the slower track of the EP, will always hold a special place in my heart. It came about as we were recording our music in Jose’s apartment in Manchester and were looking for another song to go on the EP. Jose and I picked up our guitars and were messing about with a few ideas and eventually one of us (I think it was me) started to use the 7th chords which sounded a little jazzy, and Jose immediately picked up on it. We worked together to form the verse, then he started to add a little bit of lead to it and Jacob worked his magic, moaning like a buffalo in the plains of the wild west in tune to the music, to find some voicings that worked, and then altering some of Jose’s proposed lyrics to fit the tune. Then all of a sudden we had it – a completed song, from start to finish, composed by all of us together, in the space of about 20 minutes. Then, in about half an hour we had it all recorded and had to rush to the coach station to head back home to Leeds. It truly was ‘made in the studio’!”

Shortly after the release of their EP, they dropped a provocative new single “Fuck Them“, where they call out the failure of British society and the government to adequately address the chronic issues of health care, poverty and homelessness: “We are sick of the way the NHS is so poorly funded and mismanaged. We are sick of the rising levels of homelessness and the complete neglect to do anything about it. We are sick of the glorification of food banks as a solution rather than proof of failing policy. We can’t change the government, but we can let them know that we don’t want them!” 

Musically, the track has an exuberant tempo that belies the scathing lyrics, with roiling riffs of jangly and gnarly guitars, sparkling synths, bouncy drumbeats and an abundance of crashing cymbals. Jacob coldly sings: “Everyone is in despair. Hard to find someone who cares. People dying in their beds, cause there’s no money for their meds. We’ve got to work and do it right. But all you ever do is fight. / We don’t, we don’t want you. We don’t, we don’t need you. We don’t, we don’t believe you. We don’t, we don’t need you here.”

This brilliant song was expertly mixed and mastered by Alexander Elegger, a young audio engineer and producer from Tula, Russia who began working in sound engineering at the tender age of 14! And the photo used for the video is by Matt Collamer for Unsplash, and was published on February 12, 2018.

Lastly, here’s a video of the band playing an acoustic version of their latest track, a love song called “A Perfect Bridge“. These guys are supremely talented songwriters and musicians and I’m helplessly hooked on their music. Even at their young ages, they’re already masters of their craft, and I expect we’ll be hearing even more incredible music from them in the future. There’s nothing common about The Common View, and I’m excited about following them on their musical journey.

Connect with The Common View on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / ReverbnationApple Music
Purchase on iTunes

Artist Spotlight/Review: DUNKIE

dunkie singles

Dunkie is the music project of Welsh singer/songwriter Anthony Price. Hailing from the town of Mountain Ash in the South Wales Valleys, Anthony has written and recorded songs for several years, and more recently, has been working on his forthcoming debut album Working to Design. It’s a concept album of sorts, with all the songs partially inspired by the books and works of Richard Matheson.  It’s also an ambitious labor of love, as Anthony has toiled countless long hours getting each track perfect, as well as making imaginative videos for some of the songs.  He’s released four tracks thus far, beginning with “Can a Song Save Your Life?” in May 2018, and subsequently dropping another single every two to three months. The songs were all written by Anthony and produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Wayne Bassett at Robot Recordings in Aberdare, Wales. Besides Anthony and Wayne, an assortment of other musicians and vocalists performed on each track, as will be noted below. Also, an interesting aspect of the creation of this album is the use of dramatic artwork by Welsh artist Michael Gustavius Payne for each single.

Can A Song Save Your Life?” is a lovely, optimistic song with a rich and eclectic mix of instruments that make for an interesting and enjoyable listen. For this track, dunkie consists of Anthony Price on vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass and keys, Wayne Bassett on keyboards, synth, EBow, electric guitar and percussion, Charlotte Jayne on violins and trumpets, and Lucy Athey and Mark Purnell on backing vocals. Anthony’s tenor vocals are heartfelt and pleasing.

Anthony describes the song’s meaning: “The concept behind this song is trying to find a little hope; when all really seems a little lost. When the deepest, darkest moment seems to smother over you, when it suffocates you. ‘You don’t know how IT began…’, but then the littlest gesture lifts, the smallest moment lifts, a piece of music, a film or song you love just lifts you. You step back that one little moment and look around. I hope this makes a little sense and someone understands. I hope you’ll find it in yourself as I thankfully have.”

About the fascinating and charming video, he explains: “Over some two years ago I had written a few video concepts for my songs. I knew I wanted people to be wearing masks. I loved the metaphor of hiding behind many a mask. Oscar Wilde once said ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth’. The ‘dunkie’ name and music is my mask. So I wanted to represent the mask in these videos. In particular I wanted to represent them by the use of Wintercroft Masks. Each mask is a downloadable PDF template, each mask has to be created individually, and each mask can take about 2-4 hours each to create (longer if you’re me!!). Added here was the decorative design I wanted to include by adding my own song lyrics, in multiple languages (and the entire pages of Crime and Punishment) upon each mask face.”

Sugar” is a sweet (no pun intended) love song of thanks to a partner who has stood by you through good times and bad, with unconditional love. Anthony’s gentle vocals and guitar work are sublime, and he’s assisted on this track by Wayne Bassett on keyboards, synth, percussion and programming, Dave Healey with additional electric guitar, and Lucy Athey, who provides lovely and ethereal backing vocals.

Thank you for whispering ‘I love you’ 
Thank you smiling when you are down 
Thank you for sharing your life with me 
I’m thankful dreams like these have come 
Thank you for today 
I’m thankful that you stayed 
I’m thankful sugar melts away

Rabbit Hole” is a poignant song that seems to be about coming to terms with loss. Anthony wistfully sings: “Tumble and fall, this rabbit-hole is funnel-webbed and soaring. I fear I’ll never reach this endless horror I fold upon myself…  Another pill dissolves; I’m crawling faster to the edge. To the edge for you.” The track has a serene, rather bittersweet melody with gentle guitar, synths and percussion, and the vocal harmonies are really nice. For this track, Anthony sang vocals and played acoustic guitar, Rob Lear sang backing vocals and played Moog, electric guitar and percussion, Dorian Richard Holmes played bass, and Jennifer Drew played drums.

The video shows an extended family coming together for a picnic to remember a loved one, a child perhaps? Anthony leaves the interpretation up to the listener: “I’d love to hear your thoughts on the concept/theme and what it evokes in you. Both lyrically and visually, ‘Rabbit Hole’ covers the same subject, so we’re not too far from the same page. I’ll leave it at that.”

(W.A.L.L.S.) Within a Little Love Song” is a beautiful love song with more of a rock feel than the other three tracks, thanks to a greater prominence of electric guitars. But it still has the pleasing qualities that all of dunkie’s songs possess, with rich instrumentation and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The lyrics are a reminder to a loved one that even though you may not say it as often as you used to, your love for them is as strong as ever:

(You know) yesterday I loved you 
(Don’t forget) I have and always will 
(But through) the years I spoke it lessened 
(Know this) my love’s never subdued 

So I’ve found these words to sing 
And they’re all for you, they’re all for you 
My need to show within a love song – within a love song

For this track, Anthony sang vocals, played acoustic and electric guitar, bass, harmonica and percussion, Wayne played electric guitar and synths, Paul Maskell played additional electric guitar, Karl James played drums, and Matt Williams sang backing choral vocals.

All four tracks are wonderful, and if the rest of them are even half as good, then Working to Design is going to be an incredible album. I love dunkie’s calm, lovely sound and could listen to their songs over and over.

Connect with dunkie on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google PlaySpotify / Soundcloud

Artist Spotlight: THE MAYAN FACTOR

mayan factor collage names

As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, one of the redeeming qualities of Twitter is the astounding number of musicians and bands I continue to discover, a great deal of whom are really talented. One such band I recently had the good fortune of learning about is The Mayan Factor, a five-piece alternative rock outfit based in Baltimore, Maryland. They’ve been around since 2002, and after listening to their music I was perplexed as to why I’d not previously heard of them, because they’re phenomenal.

Their first release, the 2003 EP In Lake’ Ch, is a veritable masterpiece, featuring the powerful and stunning tracks “Warflower” and “Beauty and the Beast”. They followed up two years later with an equally stellar album 44. Then tragedy struck a hammer blow in 2011 when the band’s lead singer Ray Schuler died suddenly, leaving a void that sent the band and their fans reeling. They’d been recording songs for a third album Yesterday’s Son, which they went ahead and released in 2012. I strongly urge my readers to check them all out, because they’re fucking fantastic, and you’ll literally be the poorer if you don’t!

Not quite sure what to do after Ray’s death, the band considered going their separate ways, but the love and dedication of their fans persuaded them to soldier on. They eventually found another musician to be the band’s lead vocalist in Lenny Cerzosie Jr. Besides Lenny, who also plays rhythm guitar, the band lineup consists of Brian Scott (guitar), Kevin Baker (bass), Dan Angermaier (drums), and Jason Sage (percussion, backing vocals). Dan told me that Lenny has worked out very well as the band’s lead singer, bringing his own style to the mix. “Ray was unique. Lenny doesn’t try to be him. I think that’s why he works so well. He makes Ray’s words work for him.

the mayan factor stage shot (2)

With their re-invigorated lineup, the band began writing new songs and in 2016, they released an epic single “Ascension“. Wow, this 7:13 minute-long song is a religious experience! Layer upon layer of gorgeous intricate guitars are combined with a strong bassline, exotic percussive synths and pounding drums to form an intense and lush soundscape, evoking the drama and color of an ancient Mayan ritual. Then there’s Lenny’s raw, passionate vocals, soaring to the heavens and adding to the chills already covering my body.

In January 2018, they released “Whispers“, a deeply moving song that was inspired by Lenny’s mother’s struggles of living with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or “Lou Gehrig’s disease”, which my mother-in-law also died from). Once again, the guitar work is stunning, and the bass, drums and synths are perfection, making for a formidable powerhouse track. Lenny’s fervent vocals at first remind me of Michael Stipe’s, but as the track progresses they grow more impassioned as he wails of the pain of watching a loved one gradually slip away: “I thought we had another day. Another day just passed away. Azaleas grow along the way. I thought we’d have another day. I’ll meet you in the other place. Heaven couldn’t stay away, Angels wouldn’t sing that day.”

Their most recent single “hOpe” was also inspired by Lenny’s mother’s battle with ALS. About the song’s title, the band explains “The definition of the word HOPE is ‘to cherish a desire with anticipation’, but the word truly takes on different meanings to each of us as individuals. However different the meaning of the word is to us, it all connects us together with the promise of change and the promise of light after darkness. Even though friends and family may not be with us, they remain as long as they are in our hearts. They speak to us but without words. We created this song as an anthem to those traveling through darkness of illness, grief and any type of difficult time.”

It’s a lovely, bittersweet song with beautiful jangly guitars, anchored by a sturdy humming bassline and pounding drums. Lenny’s passionate vocals have a raw vulnerability as he sings the poignant lyrics:

I remember the sound. 
Not the words but the sound of her voice 
trembling, trembling 
I remember the things she said to me 
All this life is lost into the night, too soon 

Tonight… 
I remember her eyes, so sweet so sweet 
Lovingly, so lovely 
Don’t let me fall, don’t let her fade

The beautiful animated video shows scenes of a young boy moving through a colorful dream-like landscape with what appears to be his grandmother and, in one scene, his grandfather.

They released a beautifully moving alternative video for “hOpe” that was shot in Mexico as a symbolic tribute to Lenny’s mother. It shows us the faces of #hOpe, of survivors who didn’t give up hope to keep living.

And so, dear readers, my hope is that you’ll give these songs a listen, and end up loving The Mayan Factor as much as I do. Not only do they make incredible music, but their resiliency and strong sense of humanity are admirable. They’re true survivors, and I hope they’ll continue making more great music for years to come.

Connect with The Mayan Factor on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

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

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

HEIST AT FIVE – Interview and Single Review: “Finish What You Started”

Heist At Five is a charismatic and multi-talented electro/hard rock band based in London, UK. Their aggressive, innovative sound borders on experimental rock, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions and brilliant electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation. This past February they released an impressive debut EP The Blacklist (which I reviewed), and now return with a wicked new single “Finish What You Started,” which officially drops on October 26.

Heist at Five finish what you started cover

Like many bands, Heist At Five has undergone a few personnel changes, but the current line-up consists of Oskar Abrahamsson (vocals), Jozef Veselsky (guitar), Marco “Fuzz” Paone (bass) and Josh Needham (drums), with assistance from production guru Kim Björnram. A special shout out goes to David Marvelly and former band guitarist Huw Roberts, who helped the song come together with production, and mixing. I sent the guys some questions about their band, creative process, and the new single, and received thoughtful – and sometimes cheeky – responses from four of these charming lads on every question.

EML: Hi guys, thanks for wanting to discuss your new single “Finish What You Started.” Before we get into the song and video, tell me how you came together to form Heist At Five, given your international origins. (Oskar is from Sweden, Jozef from Slovakia, Marco from Italy and Josh is English.)

Marco – The paths we chose individually took almost all of us to the same music uni in London. Oskar and I met in the very first week of uni and he soon invited me to jam with his new flatmate. There, I found Josh behind the kit! We clicked almost instantly; I remember our first feedback said that it felt like we had been playing together for years, and at that point we realised this could really go somewhere.

Josh – When we started playing together and eventually made it a band, we went through a fair few line-up changes, which I think is quite normal. Eventually, Jozef appeared, and Heist At Five was born!

Jozef – Yeah. I’d studied music in the UK, same as the rest of the band, just at a different institution. About a year ago I was simply on a lookout for a new project and among the ads, the selection was pitiful. So I just went for a lesser evil 😀  Kidding – the first part is true, but when I looked up these guys I knew it was it! The rest is history.

Oskar – It is really cool to have a group where every member is from a different country. It has really opened my eyes in a lot of ways.

EML: How do you go about creating new songs? Do you all share songwriting duties?

Jozef – We try to have songwriting sessions regularly and write together as a band. Sometimes one is inspired, sometimes other …sometimes no-one.

Oskar- If it’s good, its good. Then where or from when or what it comes from doesn’t matter.

Josh – Yeah, our songwriting sessions are completely random. The intro riff to “Finish What You Started,” for example, was accidentally written when we were just checking if our MIDI keyboard was working! But we always try and use different approaches to songwriting, we haven’t got a specific “process” (yet).

Marco – Initially we would write more independently, everyone bringing his own little song. Then we realised that, probably because of our different tastes, they would differ too much from each other. Since last year we started having sessions all together from start to finish of a song and it’s been really refreshing. Ideas come from everyone, we all motivate each other and we got to known ourselves much better since then.

EML: “Finish What You Started” has a bit more of a progressive metal vibe than the songs on your debut EP “The Blacklist.” Is this representative of the new musical direction you mention on your Spotify page?

Jozef – It definitely is! In this song we wanted to show that we’re not afraid of going heavily electronic. At the same time, with this song being the first one with me on the bill, I pioneer a slightly more modern approach to metal guitar playing within the band. In various forms and shapes, we hope to manifest these trends in our music going forward.

Josh – We definitely wanted to try and be a bit more ballsy, and make ‘Finish’a big “IN YOUR FACE” kind of statement. And I think that will continue to be our approach. We all have different influences but we all have the collective vision to take those and make something modern and massive.

Oskar – I’d say both yes and no. I want everyone to know that you never will be able to predict the next move from Heist At Five. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t…

Marco – While ”The Blacklist” already flirts quite a bit with the electronic edge, with ‘Finish’ we decided to be even bolder to the point of undermining the usual hierarchy you find in modern pop/rock song with a big chorus. I love the fact that it’s boiling hot but it never quite explodes, and always leaves you on the verge.

EML: It certainly does! I’ve listened to the song several times, but can’t quite figure out what it is that was started that needs to be finished. Is it perhaps a metaphor for the band’s music mission?

Jozef – I’ll leave this one for Oskar to answer.

Oskar – I’m going to break every songwriters golden rule to not explain the lyrics and ruin the magic, but please, keep on coming with your own interpretations – they are as true, if not truer, than ours. By following our mission statement of letting the audience make up their own minds about the world they live in, it’s written very open-mindedly on purpose. One layer in the song is about the fear and uncertainty of going through with ideas and things in life, as there is no guarantee they will turn out the way we envisioned. Is it worth finishing these things? Maybe it ends up in a place that is great! But if you are unlucky, it could be terrible, so maybe it’s better to never finish what you started.

Josh – Maybe you made a cup of tea and forgot about it, and it’s going to go cold soon. (You’re welcome by the way)

Marco – Josh’s right, I always forget to drink my tea!!

EML: In the video – which is very cool by the way – the mysterious person whose face we never see is shown at the beginning putting on a hoodie he finds laying on the pavement. He then walks around, almost stalking the different band members, but never actually threatening or accosting them. At the video’s end, he vanishes into the night as his hoodie returns to the ground. What or who does the mystery guy symbolize?

Oskar – We wanted to make a video that didn’t just show what we spoke about in the song, but added layers to the story and concept.  Maybe “hoodie man” is just a projection of our consciousness, seeing our actions from an outsiders point of view, a symbol of doubt or disbelief in if we are doing the right thing. In the twist at the end, in true M. Night Shyamalan spirit, it is maybe implied that ideas are bigger than the people and personalities behind them. As the idea is executed, the faces will be forgotten but the idea they finished will remain. But I’m not going to rant on for an eternity, go on and make up your mind about what it means to you 😉

Marco – Another potential interpretation is that the “Hoodie man”, as we like to call him, by restricting his view, only has the focus on what’s in front of him. He perseveres in whatever direction he wants, regardless of what happens around him. His goal? That’s for the viewer to decide.

EML: Are you guys currently writing and recording more songs? Any plans for a second EP or possible full-length album?

Jozef – With the trends in today’s music industry in mind, we decided that for a while we’ll continue with single releases until the time comes for something bigger. The next one is being recorded as we speak!

Oskar – Yeah, we think that by doing individual singles, we get the opportunity to take bolder creative decisions, and totally go in a new fresh direction for each release.

Marco – A lot is in the pot right now: Yes, we are recording and writing new material. Our plan at the moment is to keep the hype up with new single releases, although I wouldn’t exclude the possibility of including them in a new EP or an album in the near future. Only time will tell!

Josh – It’s actually exciting not knowing exactly what we’re going to do next. We’re not limiting ourselves musically, and I think that’s clear to see with “Finish What You Started”.

Thanks guys! So let’s check out the new single. The track opens with a buzzing riff, then Josh’s pounding drums enter the scene, accompanied by discordant spacey synths as Oskar sings in an almost sinister voice:

Is this how you imagined it? That work of art inside your head?
What you once saw in black and white is fading out.
Spinning round and round, and suddenly it’s harder to see what’s up and what’s down.
Swimming in the deep end now.
So take a deep breath, and finish what you started, started, started.

Marco lays down a heavy bass line that serves as a sturdy foundation for Jozef’s gnarly guitar and Josh’s power drums as the spacey industrial-sounding synths continue. I love how the the roiling riffs of distorted guitar and pummeling drums are so thoroughly in sync, punctuated here and there by frantic flourishes that seem to rip at the airwaves, making for a unsettling, yet mesmerizing song. Watch and listen:

Connect with Heist at Five: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp

VOX EAGLE – Interview & Album Review: “TriumAvium”

Vox Eagle2

Electro-psych pop music project Vox Eagle burst onto the music scene in 2017 with their infectious dance-pop EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. Previously comprised of Australian-born Andy Crosby and American Luke Hamel, Vox Eagle is now essentially Andy’s solo project (along with occasional collaborations with other musicians). Wanting an escape from the distractions and noise of Manhattan, in 2017 Andy made another life-changing move along with his new wife, this time to the Colorado Rockies. They purchased a piece of land with a cabin at 9,000 feet above sea level, and Andy quickly got to work building his own recording studio, which he dubbed “The Eagles Nest.” The pristine surroundings and new found freedom greatly expanded his creative energy, inspiring him to experiment with fresh sounds and take his music into exciting new directions. The result of all this is his brilliant genre-bending new album TriumAvium, which officially drops October 9th.

Vox Eagle album art

I’m chomping at the bit to talk about the album, but before getting into my review, I’ll share the recent insightful conversation I had with Andy about his career, life changes and the album. And now’s a good time to make special mention of the brilliant album art, which pays homage to Andy’s move from Manhattan to the mountains. The Manhattan skyline is shown upside down along the top edge of the cover, and a forest scene covers the bottom half, with a mountain-shaped outline intersecting its mirror image in the center.

EML:  Hi Andy, thanks for wanting to talk with me about your new album TriumAvium, which I absolutely love! First off, what’s the meaning behind the album title? I googled the words and found that trium is Latin for three, and avium is a solitary or lonely place. Am I close?

AC:  Hey Jeff, firstly thanks for checking out the album and doing the interview. Greatly appreciated as I know you’re getting drowned in submissions and new music these days with the writings of Eclectic Music Lover. Yes you were close with the title. Trium Avium is about a remote wilderness, perhaps with reference to my own new found remote wilderness in the Arapahoe Forest of Colorado. The Trium grew from my obsessions over the number three when writing and mixing the record and meditating on various frequencies and it just came out of that. It is Latin in origin.

EML:  You are Australian, and relocated to the U.S. in, when, the late-2000s? You settled in New York, and Luke lived in Los Angeles, but you guys would meet in various locations around the country to record songs for what would become your terrific debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. Eventually, you settled in the Colorado Rockies, where you built your own recording studio. What made you decide to settle in a such a beautiful but remote location?

AC:  I moved out here from Australia in mid 2012 after finishing a record with The Cracks and having a label deal gone wrong with the death of our A&R guy at the time. I was kinda in musical purgatory at the time so set my sites on the musical mecca of the United States.

I moved to Brooklyn, had a studio in Greenpoint, then lived in Manhattan for 6 years hunting down new sounds and production/mixing techniques. Luke always lived out in California. We had toured the East and West coast together in another band in 2014 (The Canyon Rays) so I got him in to do the Flamingo EP. I think Luke is a great writer/producer in his own right, however, in terms of work ethic and chemistry it was just never really there between us so we parted ways halfway through Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. The whole idea of VoxEagle in the beginning was to collaborate with various artists whilst settling into my new home in the USA. When I’m focusing on a project I need to immerse myself in 100% and that was impossible for us to do on separate coasts.

I decided to move out to the Colorado Rockies with my wife Paige, as we had just got some rescue puppies Prince and Charlie, and they needed space to run around bigger than our Manhattan studio apartment that was being torn up by Prince. So we ditched the concrete grind and decided to head for the Rockies, as we both had spent significant time there during college. We left NYC and got married in 2017 in Colorado, and settled in the little town of Evergreen on the top of Black Mountain where we border the Arapahoe state forest that’s just magical. We bought a piece of land at 9,000 feet above sea level so its real high up, with a cabin and a shed. I spent 3 months building the recording studio called ‘The Eagles Nest’. It has a 48-Channel Oram Analogue Console at the command and then I have a chain of guitars, drums, samplers, synthesizers, effects and outboard gear running through a sea of madness. We moved out for the space and it just magic out here, and less distractions than Manhattan. My studio in Manhattan was on 57th St. above the Late Show where Dave Letterman was in Times Square, so it’s a totally different vibe now. 9,000 feet above the clouds. It’s a totally different trip, which leads into the next question.

VoxEagle Studio 2

EML:  Flamingo Paradiso featured songs that were primarily electro-psych dance-pop, but many of the songs on TriumAvium have a more edgy, urban vibe, with quite a bit of hip-hop. I find that interesting, given the rural mountain-forest environment you now reside in. Where did the inspiration for the new songs come from?

AC:  I just wanted to do something completely new for this record. I could have easily spat out Flamingo 2; it’s sitting in a folder on the hard drive, however I just wanted to open the sound up a little more and give it a bit more breathing space. I wanted to make something completely new but also something people could go nuts to at a club gig or festival. Everyone out here is doing Americana, Jam band, folk or indie rock so I wanted to do something that was different to what everyone else was doing. I also wanted to learn a new talent and teach myself how to freestyle. I wanted to be able to battle anyone of any caliber.

So I spent several months (hard to say how many) testing various psychedelics in my garage basement learning to sing in freestyle by surrounding myself with white boards and vision boards hanging from the ceiling, with classic Nicolas Cage films rolling in the background and learning to rhyme from walking round the room with words and pictures everywhere and then getting ideas on whiteboards and reworking them. I also recorded most of those days/nights/session, so have loads of tape reels and hard drives I need to sift through some day… I was kind of all-out madness, but I think it worked.

If steve jobs was peering down the rabbit whole, this was more like burrowing out the warren, hanging some picture frames & getting a nice comfy sofa to call place home for a while.

I worked on TriumAvium when I was building the studio as well, so there are some recordings from all over the place that have made their way onto the record, or will be coming out soon in other material I am going to be releasing over the coming months. Some of it’s a bit more on the electro-psych/dance side. I’ve also been playing with some local Colorado musicians like guitarist Aaron Dixon to get the live show ready, so it’s all systems go at the moment. Firing up the engines. I have another 20 songs ready to go that were off cuts from this record, so am just compiling them into EPs at the moment and deciding what to release next.

EML:  One of my favorite tracks is the mesmerizing instrumental “Let’s Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F#minor.” Given the song has no lyrics other than some chanting, what’s the significance of its title? 

AC:   “Lets Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F# Minor” is a song about reminiscing and moving forward. Its about a race car driver recovering from a crash and getting back behind the wheel to race. My friends always called me Randy when I’d get out of control so that’s how it got to Randy Eagle. It’s kind of an alter ego I created. He’s a race car driver that’s a total dick and everyone hates, but he never gives up. As you may notice there’s a heavy racing theme that carries out through the album.

EML:  I also like the re-interpretation of “No Sleep” from the EP that’s now “No Sleep No Sleep” on the new album. Any story behind that one, or just having fun with a remix?

AC:  I wanted to have something from the original EP on this record as a nod, but was finding it really hard to get one of the old tracks to sit in with all the flow of this record. So I did a more upbeat version of “No Sleep” and played it to Aaron Dixon, and he was really vibing on it so we got his guitars down on the chorus and it was done. We kept it super simple. One vocal take, one bass line, so it was a very different approach to the original which was really a lot larger in production, like 6 Harmony per chorus, etc. So on this whole record I was really more jammin out with loop pedals, 808s, pianos synths. Everything on this record we can do 100% live with every part, so super pumped to get out and play it. I think our first show is in Arizona for MesaFestival on Saturday November 10th, so we’re super pumped to try the new stuff live and jam out the old stuff.

EML: I read on the website PopDust that you’ve landed deals with VW, Jim Beam, Toyota, Smirnoff, and Coca Cola, along with music production for Sony, Disney, and Universal. How did you manage to score those deals? Did those companies use your songs in their ads, or did you write new music for them?

AC:  Yes, I have been really fortunate to have a bunch of my songs licensed in TV, commercials and movies along the way. It definitely keeps the ship sailing, and helped me invest in some really awesome recording gear along the way. A lot of the projects have been solo specifically working with music supervisors, producers or directors to do a custom score or song. Sometimes a director/producer hears a tune previously recorded or in the works, and just has to have it in the film. So the dice can roll any way really, as long as you’re constantly working and connecting with people in the industry.

I’ve also been in a few other bands and projects – Soundcasino and The Cracks – and I write with a bunch of artists and still connect with those projects from time to time. My main focus now though is VoxEagle and smashing out a big live show this year. Am really stoked on those projects and happy to have been part of them and still create music with most of them, just have been taking a hiatus from everything else over the past year to focus on developing the new sound with VoxEagle, and trying to do something new and unique as an artist.

EML:  Since you and Luke have parted ways, is Vox Eagle basically you going forward, along with some collaborations like you did with Pierre Fontaine on the marvelous track “Wander”?

AC:  VoxEagle has always been my connection and collaborations with various artists across the US since I moved over here and now call it home. I’ve always enjoyed collaborating with new artists to get a new energy and vibe, and create something that’s unique and different. I bring some styles and flavors from my musical upbringings in Australia and can share that energy with a rapper from Brooklyn and create something totally unique.

For touring and playing live I use a bunch of loop pedals connected to my synths, drums and vocals so I can do the whole live show solo if I have to. I like sharing the stage with others though, so have got Aaron Dixon doing a bunch of live shows with me and have done a bunch of collaborations this year, my favorite of which has been “Wander” with Pierre Fontaine.

I heard Pierre Fontaine’s material through another artist I work with, Eman, and was blown away. We hung out and have since worked on a few tunes and beats together. He’s a really impressive writer, and his lyrics are always on point. He’s just one of those guys who has put the time in and knows every corner of the industry. He writes, sings, raps, plays killer drums, and he inspires an army of youngsters under him. He has a label FreshMind with a tonne of incredible artists on it so definitely check ’em out. Anyways, he’s a super impressive guy and I wanted him on a track, and then he heard me making the “Wander” beat on an Instagram story I put up and was like yoooo I want in on that! So I had kinda freestyled a melody and a rough first verse, sent it to him and then the whole thing was done super fast.

The whole record is kinda built around that track. I was so hyped on that song I was like its gotta be on the record, its gotta be on the record!! So it became the song that the whole record is built around. I must have scrapped 20-odd other tunes that were pumping coz “Wander” had to be on the record. That’s maybe why its such an eclectic record which I know scares a lot of people.

It goes from Electro to Dub, to Hip Hop to Indie psych to Rock, its like WTF. But at the end of the day it works for me and that was all I gave a shit about. Making a record I was happy with that was unique. It was the first record I have mixed, produced, engineered, and done everything solo for. It was a lot to take on for a first record doing all those things.. Maybe too much.. But fuck it, I like it, I learnt a tonne and have a swag of tunes ready to go with the studio now fully built and recording new material everyday and night. It’s all growing and building as an artist and I feel I now have a level of control over my material I have never had before through mixing and producing everything in-house.

The responsibility is all on me now, but better than having too many cooks and all that, which is what I felt on Flamingo. Must have had six different dudes mixing it, files everywhere… just an expensive nightmare coz Luke was never happy with the mixes.

The first incarnation of VoxEagle, before I’d even met Luke, had my friend Terence Conor on the drums. One night, October 1st 2012, after a rehearsal jam/recording session in Green Point we went to the Lucky Dog in Brooklyn for a few drinks to wind down. I tried to convince Terence to come back to our place as he usually did to chill and play some tunes, however he decided to ride his bike back to Bushwick, as he had an exam the next day. That was the last time I saw him, as he was tragically killed in a hit and run whilst cycling home down Metropolitan Avenue that night. I found out the next morning when my buddy Harald rang and was crushed to pieces. I am always thinking of him on this journey as he was such a talent on drums and in energy, and that needs to be carried forward. So VoxEagle is a musical energy; I hate to call it a band or whatnot. Its vibe I suppose is with me at the helm. Its just gotta have big melodies and be real energetic and vibey. Its ups and downs, highs and lows but a consistent, persistent energy that is going to get the crowd going at any gig. For 2018 its me Andy Crosby, and Aaron Dixon on guitars, heading out on the road. We got some vintage racing suits on ebay, so its gonna be wild. So hope to catch you somewhere for a show Jeff!

EML:  I would love to see you perform live! Anything else you’d like to add that I neglected to ask about?

AC:  I think we covered it all. Thanks for your time Jeff, love the blog and writings of the EclecticMusicLover. Look forward to chatting again soon.

EML: Thanks again Andy!

VoxEagle_Studio 1

Okay, let’s get to the music! The album kicks off with the sultry dance track “Stay A While,” instantly hooking us in with a throbbing deep-bass driven beat and dangerously sexy synths. Andy croons “Won’t you stay a while. Play those games a while. Imaginate a while. Fall over here,” and who could possibly resist? The track is a mere 2:11 minutes long, but man is it scorching hot!

As the next track “Wander” unfolds, it’s immediately clear Andy has somehow captured the magic of the forest surrounding his studio and transferred it into this enthralling song. The sparkling piano, xylophone and string synths are gorgeous, and paired with the dope hip hop beat, it all makes for a captivating soundscape. Andy freestyles about how communication has broken down in his relationship, his vocals going from sultry to falsetto as he sings: “We don’t talk no more, baby girl, we just wander.” Pierre Fontaine’s smooth rap vocals take over for the last third of the track, adding another element of texture to this marvelous number. It’s my favorite track on TriumAvium, and I can fully understand why Andy wanted to build the rest of the album around it.

Race Fever” is a great example of how Vox Eagle melds genres and styles to create incredibly dynamic and interesting songs that surprise and dazzle our senses. The track starts off with a trip hop beat and altered vocals, then alternates with an irresistible melodic hip hop dance beat, with sounds of speeding cars and screeching brakes thrown in. He freestyle raps about the thrill of driving fast and winning races: “Wheels keep spinning faster, they won’t catch us now.” “Salvation” is a trippy song, opening with a brief vintage piano riff, then settling into a slow hip hop dance beat with almost carnival-like psychedelic synths and gunshots from what sound like duck or pheasant hunting.

Another favorite of mine is “Let’s Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F#minor,” a mesmerizing instrumental track with fantastic exotic-sounding synths and chanted electronically-altered vocals. As Andy explained in our interview, it’s about his out of control alter ago ‘Randy Eagle.’ “The Change” delivers spacey industrial synths set to a hypnotic EDM beat as he sings about living a hedonistic life: “Run away to Paris, we’re living life lavish. Popping champagne we can’t afford but we got to have it / I feel it coming, the change.”

No Sleep No Sleep” is a stripped-down reimagining of “No Sleep,” and a nod to the first single released by Vox Eagle that Andy wanted to include on TriumAvium. I love the original, but really like this cool and stylish version too. The guitar and bass are terrific. “Too Damned Awesome” is another trippy and unusual track, with trip hop beats and otherworldly, industrial-sounding synths. Sampled spoken words of a man’s voice saying “Hell, you don’t know where I’m at. You couldn’t possibly know where I’m at. It’s too damned awesome.” are repeated throughout the track, as Andy croons “Just trying to touch the sky.” I love his vocals, which have an earnest vulnerability that’s really striking. He keeps with the racing theme on closing track “Fast Car Fast Bitch,” a one and a half minute-long trip and a half! Andy pulls out all the stops on this short track, throwing in funky riffs, thumping bass notes, pulsating techno synths, and copious amounts of revving engines and screeching brakes that make for a fun and exuberant listen.

One of the things that most stands out for me about TriumAvium is its incredible flow, how each track so beautifully and seamlessly follows the next, leaving me almost breathless in the process. It’s a relatively short album, running only around 22 minutes in length, but it packs a major punch. It’s really a remarkable work of music brilliance, and I love Vox Eagle even more than I did after Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. I cannot wait to hear more of his music.

Connect with Vox Eagle:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunes

SUM Releases Video For Their Uplifting New Single “It’s Alright to Be Me”

SUM2

SUM is a New York City-based band with an admirable philosophy and loads of talent. They’ve created their identity from the meaning of the Latin word “Sum” (pronounced “soom”), which means “to be” or “I am.” Their aim is to inspire us to accept who we are and to understand and embrace our own uniqueness.  Their exuberant music style, born from a fusion of jazz, soul, hip hop and pop, is beautifully showcased on their uplifting new single “It’s Alright to Be Me.” It’s the first single from their forthcoming self-titled debut album SUM, due for release in late September.

The band is lead by drummer, composer and arranger Steve Belvilus, and the lovely soulful vocals are courtesy of the engaging Patryce Williams, who’s also a professional actress. Rounding out the ensemble are Joel Desroches (Piano), Olivier R. (Keys), Andrew Gould (Sax), Gil “XL” Defay (Trumpet) and Francesco Beccaro (Bass). In an interview with VENTS Magazine, Steve explained their reasoning behind writing “It’s Alright to Be Me”:  “When we played shows, people kept messing up the name of our band and we always had to explain the meaning. So I decided to write a song that hopefully will become a hit so that we don’t have to explain ourselves anymore.

Lyrically, the track explains what the band is all about, and was created to be their defining song, and also an anthem of empowerment:

At a young age struggling to become all I can be
I was afraid to show the treasures inside of me
Many people wanted to make fun of me
But now I see the light that’s been in me

The light is the essence inside of me
The “I” you see is bright and shines all over me
SUM is the Latin word that defines me
It means the “I” that’s bright in me

I don’t care if you don’t like what’s within
I’d rather be myself cause that’s all I can be
SUM means I or to be the essence of me
It’s alright to be me, that’s what SUM means to me

The heartwarming and charming video skillfully captures the message expressed in the lyrics. It opens in a classroom, where Patryce plays both a teacher and a student who’s tormented by a classmate. Later on, the band is shown performing the song at a small party, and the boy who teased the childhood Patryce is now an adult. He approaches her adult self with a gift and an apology, and all is forgiven as they hug one another. Take a look:

Connect with SUM:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream or purchase “It’s Alright to Be Me” on Bandcamp