ECHOSEVEN – Single Review: “EVERYTHING”

Echoseven Everything

ECHOSEVEN is a heavy alternative metal rap group based in New Brunswick, Canada. After a tentative start in 2016 as a music project of drummer Allon McCall and guitarist Justin Larracey, the guys got serious about their music in 2019 and began recruiting more members to form a legitimate band. By early this year, ECHOSEVEN’s lineup was complete, and in addition to McCall and Larracey, now includes Stefanie Roy (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Darrell Vautour (Rap Vocals), Andre Leblanc (Guitar) and Jamie Warren (Bass). They’ve just released their debut single “EVERYTHING“, and it kicks!

The band wastes no time getting right down to business, as the song blasts open with jagged riffs of gnarly guitars and smashing drums, anchored by a deep, chugging bass line, all of which creates an ominous vibe. Having three guitarists gives the music greater texture and depth, and when combined with the heavy bass and intense percussion, the result is an explosive wall of sound. But what I like most about the song is the presence of both a female vocalist and male rapper. The contrast between Stefanie’s haunting vocals and Darrell’s beautiful flow as he raps his verses creates a dramatic back and forth that makes for an exciting listen.

About the song, the band explains: “EVERYTHING is about going through hard times, being broken down to ground zero and finding out who your true and real friends, family, helpers and supporters are, and confronting them on their motives and intentions. When the smokes clears, who’s left standing next to you?

“EVERYTHING” is a fine debut by ECHOSEVEN,  and I look forward to hearing more music from this dynamic collective very soon.

Follow Echoseven: FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream on Soundcloud and purchase on Bandcamp

Song of the Day Challenge – Day One: EMINEM – “Lose Yourself”

Song A Day Challenge

I saw this Song of the Day Challenge on my friend Cathy’s blog Catherine Micqu, and thought I would give it a try. Cathy, who’s from Luxembourg, is a terrific and thoughtful writer, and shares a lot of great music too, so do check out her blog.

The song challenge was launched by Rockhal, the biggest musical venue in Luxembourg, on their Instagram account, but like Cathy, I think I will share my selections here instead. Day 1 is “a song that motivates you”, and my pick is the Eminem classic “Lose Yourself”.  He wrote the song for the 2002 film 8 Mile, which he also starred in, and chronicles the struggles of the character B-Rabbit, and how he overcomes his problems and obstacles to gain the respect of other rappers. But in a broader sense, the song speaks to zeroing in with a laser focus on one’s dreams, and not letting anything or anyone dissuade you from doing everything you can to realize those dreams. If music is your dream, then you need to ‘lose yourself’ in it to make it happen. Like Eminem says at the end of the song “You can do anything you set your mind to, man.”

“Lose Yourself” is considered by many to be the greatest rap song ever, and was a huge hit, spending 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and also reaching #1 in 19 other countries. It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Solo Performance. It’s one of my favorite songs of all time, and ranks #2 on my 100 Best Songs of the 2000s.

KROSST OUT – Single/Video Review: “Funerals”

Krosst Out Funerals

One of the things I most enjoy about being a music blogger is getting to know a lot of musicians and bands through social media, and following them on their musical journeys over time. An artist I’ve grown particularly fond of is Krosst Out, a singer-songwriter and rapper from Toronto, Canada. I first learned about him in early 2017, when he reached out to me about his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand. (I reviewed that EP, as well as one of his later singles, both of which you can find under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Born and raised in the small Ontario town of Campbellford, he first studied piano as a child, then took up the bass guitar in his teens. Influenced by the music of artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Vinnie Paz, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he developed a love for alternative rock, hip hop and rap. He played in various local bands, developing his rapping skills along the way, and eventually moved to Toronto, where he started writing his own songs. Drawing upon the aforementioned influences, he fuses hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique sound. Like a lot of hip hop artists, his songs draw heavily from his own life experiences, with honest, raw and introspective lyrics.

On March 13, he dropped his latest single “Funerals“, and followed up with a brilliant companion video for the song that was filmed and directed by Eric Soto. The track was produced by Adam Van Ameringen, recorded at Pink Distortion Music in Toronto, and mixed and mastered by Sean Savage.

“Funerals” is a deeply personal song for Krosst Out, and touches on how he’s changed and grown since leaving Campbellford. It’s often challenging when people leave home and move away to make a new life for themselves, and though we generally maintain a sense of love and fondness toward family and friends we left behind, the distance and passage of time can complicate or often diminish relationships. Krosst Out told me the song title “Funerals” is a metaphor for the death of his old self. “I feel like I’ve just grown so much that I’m unrecognizable now, but at the same time, if I wanted to go [back] home I couldn’t. Also, the more you grow, the more you have people that will hate you for that.”

The song opens with Krosst Out telling us who he is now, accompanied by resonant keyboard notes:

I’m not that kid that you used to know
Now I’m living life so unusual
Less weddings and more of these funerals

The tempo then abruptly shifts to a heavy dub step beat, as the music expands with a dramatic mix of spooky psychedelic synths, deep, throbbing bass, glittery keyboards and some of the sickest percussive synths I’ve heard in a while. The instrumentals are really superb, creating a dark and moody backdrop for Krosst Out’s impassioned free style rapping as he laments about the guilt trips foisted upon him by his mother and friends:

You’re always telling me that I don’t pick up that phone much anymore
And you don’t call home
Why are the people that you’ve got ignored
Saying that you’re one of us
But it’s pretty clear that you’re not
You think that you’re better
You think that you’re big now
Move from the small town
Go and get the big stuff
Now that your ego’s even bigger now
And you fucking forgot our names, wow

From that same town where nothing ever happened
But that was back then
Fuck those memories you can have em
I’m past it
I’m not that kid that you used to know
Want black roses at my funeral
And I’m sorry mom, but I’m not that kid that you used to know

He goes on to sing that his new life isn’t all a bed of roses either:

But if you have to know I hate this city
Cause I been here too long
And I know that I can’t go home
Cause I don’t belong
And no I don’t need no phone call
Hold on, spare me the sad song
I don’t need to hear about the old me
It should be quite clear that’s what I don’t need
I’m just a grown man who can’t afford these groceries
If you think the grass is greener on my side
It’s not really

The fascinating video was filmed mostly in a church, and shows Krosst Out singing the song as if addressing an imaginary congregation. He then goes into a restroom, where he cuts off all his hair, and is later shown as his new self singing the song in a gymnasium, as well as outside at night, digging a hole with a shovel, seemingly for the purpose of burying his old self.

Connect with Krosst Out:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on BandcampGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – THEMORETHANEVERS: “Stubborn Dreamer”

Themorethanevers

Themorethanevers is the music project of Santa Cruz, California-based electronic producer and composer Wayne Brown. Skillfully blending elements of atmospheric chill, trip hop, EDM and soulful R&B, the creative and imaginative young artist weaves lush and mesmerizing soundscapes. As an aside, when I asked Brown about his unusual moniker, he explained, “Themorethanevers is an idea that anyone can be more than they ever felt is possible. Believe it or not, it actually originated from a Daft Punk cover video [of their song ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’] called ‘Daft Hands’. When I was a kid I was obsessed with performing the daft hands video. I realized that if you held your hands a certain way, it’s spelled ‘morethanever’. I fell in love with the name.”

Last year he started releasing a series of singles, beginning with “Simple Things”, followed by the enchanting double single “Seascape/An Angel’s Dream of Sleep”. In early January, he dropped his brilliant little EP Bionic, and now returns with a wonderful new single “Stubborn Dreamer“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The song is a collaboration with Oakland-based vocalist and close friend Grace D, and features added vocals by South African rapper Killa-Stryder.

Grace D
Grace D

Themorethanevers explains that there’s a specific purpose behind the song: “In ‘Stubborn Dreamer’, we speak of the complex relationships new artists have with their loved ones. It’s often hard for the ones who are so protective of us to see us as the artists we are, refusing to believe in our visions as artists who can make a great impact on our communities. We are stubborn artists, resisting all obstacles that may come our way in order to pursue a dream. Our goal for this track is to encourage people to continue striving for their [own] interests and develop their sense of self. We all have dreams. We just want the ones around us to see our dreams the way we do. Encourage and support the artists you know and love.”

Against an enchanting backdrop of glittery synths, Themorethanevers layers a sensual trip hop beat, which serves to not only drive the song forward, but also pulls us quite willingly into a dreamy atmospheric soundscape. With a sultry vulnerability to her vocals, Grace D softly croons of breaking free of people who hold you back from realizing your dreams and full potential, and knowing that ultimately, one has to be able to make it on their own:

Temporary babies fucking with the fish and crazy
But my focus nearly hazy
But then let them go, unfaze me
Sadness never leaves your face
Dreaming happy endings
How long til you say
I got this on my own
Scared to think of ways to grow
Push me and direct me

Then Killa-Stryder enters, rapping his verses in response to those sung by Grace D. He expresses his regret for mistakes he made in their relationship, but also asks for her forgiveness and a second chance. While acknowledging that he misses the sex, he also states that he misses her on an emotional level, and asks whether she thinks he helped her reach some of her own goals:

Girl I really miss your vibe
I’m really hoping that the love is still alive
I’m really thinking about being in between your thighs but
Please don’t compare me to all the other guys
Cause your lovin’ was a blessing
I heard you got scared girl
I really got the message
If I was honest with you then you wouldn’t have left me
Your mind is what really I’m really obsessed with

Before we part ways, there’s a few things I gotta ask
Like was it worth it?
Did I help you reach your purpose?
Why does love with someone always hurt me?

The song ends with a flourish of harsh industrial synths, abruptly ending the dreamy vibe. It’s a superb track.

Follow Themorethanevers:  TwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon
Follow Grace D on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gracekobayashi/
Follow Killa-Stryder on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kamikaze_monsuta/

New Song of the Week: DEF STAR ft. J SLAY – “Bang Bang”

Bang Bang

Regular readers of this blog know I seldom feature rap or hip-hop music, but I have a good opportunity to remedy that situation by selecting the newly-released single “Bang Bang” as My New Song of the Week. The song is a collaboration by Chicago-based hip-hop artist Def Star and rapper J Slay, and if I was 20 years younger, I’d say it was pretty dope. Sadly, at my age, I’d feel like a dope using that word, so I’ll simply say it’s a great tune. The track was expertly produced by Chicago music producer and beat maker Clark Make Hits.

The song opens with an ominous keyboard synth, then once the beat kicks in, Def Star begins rapping the verses that speak to making it as a successful rap artist.

You’re gonna go, proceed with caution
You’ll probably get carsick
Grab a salad and toss it
We always on drip
Leaky faucet
Everywhere we go, we break the scene
We turnin’ that flow into dough, til we break the bank
Bang bang

But then he discusses the demons and self-doubt that can sometimes engulf you, hindering your path forward:

Not even psychiatrist can get in it inside my head
Isn’t this like a trip
Can anyone remind the kid
When did I buy the ticket to this ride again
I’ll be talkin’ to God again
All about my demons
And why did I invite ’em in
I was thinking it would be nice to see a little bit of light again
Take a deep breath, drink some water, take a multi vitamin
Givin’ it all I got
It’s all I got left
It’s my ticket outta here

J Slay joins in on the action in the second verse, rapping about resolving to keep on pushing forward against the odds, and issuing a warning to those who might dare to stand in the way:

Def and Jay got more to say
The more they hate
Our coordinates are set to destroy your day
No more hiding from the pain that I face
Embrace it
We break the bank
Explosives, detonate and cause wreckage
Important message
We drippin’ water torture methods are more than ready
You’ve done just stepped on a hornet’s nest
For more or less, rippin’ it apart until there’s no more left

Though fairly sparse, the moody music and languid beat are both excellent, providing a captivating backdrop for Def Star’s honest, introspective lyrics, beautifully expressed through his and J Slay’s rap verses. Def Star is a terrific rapper, and his flow and delivery are flawless. I like how his and J Slay’s vocals nicely complement each other. Good job guys!

Connect with Def Star on Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / Pandora / YouTube

iLLPHONiCS – Double-Single Review: “Dv8, Pt. 1”

illphonics dv8

As I’ve noted in other recent posts, I’ve been revisiting quite a lot of artists and bands this year that I’ve previously reviewed on this blog, as many of them are releasing new music in 2019. The very first full album I ever reviewed, way back in March 2016, was the superb Gone With the Trends by St. Louis, Missouri-based hip hop-fusion band iLLPHONiCS. Hard to believe it’s been three years! (You can read that review here.) They followed up a year later with Purple Piano Society, named one of St. Louis’ best albums of 2017 by The Riverfront Times, and released a digital 45 double single “X-Rated” in May 2018, which I premiered on this blog. They now return with a new double single “dv8, pt. 1“, which represents somewhat of a new direction in sound for the collective. 

iLLPHONiCS formed in 2006, and to this day all five founding members are still with the band, a rarity among acts with that long a track record. During that time, they’ve built quite a large and loyal following throughout the St. Louis region, if not the entire Midwest. Their infectious and eclectic sound incorporates elements of hip hop, rap, R&B, soul, pop, jazz and funk, which they deliver through high-energy, charismatic performances. The band members include lead singer/emcee Larry “Fallout” Morris, Keith Moore (keyboards, backing vocals), Kevin Koehler (lead guitar, backing vocals), Simon Chervitz (bass) and Chaz Brew (drums, backing vocals).

For their latest project, which they’ve dubbed “dv8” (for deviate), they’ve teamed up with famed producer Tony Visconti (who over the past 50 years has produced scores of albums for numerous artists, including many for David Bowie and T. Rex). The first phase of this project, entitled “dv8, pt. 1” includes two tracks – “Work” and “Make Your Move“. About the project, the band states “You have a choice. Do what’s already been done or dv8. Take the road less traveled with us.” Their new songs retain their soulful grooves and funky hip hop beats, but employ more pronounced synths, lending a more expansive vibe.

The first of the two tracks “Work” is darker and edgier than many of their previous tracks. Opening with spooky synths that set an ominous mood, a hard-driving trap beat soon kicks in, and this song is off and running. The variety and richness of the synth sounds, combined with the awesome beat, deep bass and sharp percussion, make for a dramatic and exciting listen. Morris’s rapid-fire melodic flow is flawless as he raps the verses, practically spitting out the pessimistic lyrics that speak to the struggle and drudgery of trying to earn a decent living: “Yeah, I’m on that clock. I put in that work. I’ll sleep when I’m dead, when I’m covered in dirt. Tryin’ to get to a meal.”

The guys change things up dramatically with “Make Your Move”, a languorous and sexy tune with an old-school R&B vibe, but delivered with a fresh, updated approach. Guest vocalist Lena Charlie, who’s previously collaborated with iLLPHONiCS on several of their songs, provides her silky vocals on this track, harmonizing beautifully with Morris’s smooth rap vocals as they sing about making plans to get together for some serious love action: “Girl it’s your move. Tell me what you gon’ do. / Hey boy it’s your move. Tell me what you gon’ do.” I love the slow beat and sultry synths, and the funky bass and tasty electric guitar are so fine, as are the guys’ backing harmonies.

I’m loving these two songs, and can’t wait to hear more from their forthcoming album. Have a listen:

Connect with iLLPHONiCS:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

ITHACA BOTTOM BOYS – Album Review: “Ithaca Bottom Boys”

Ithaca Bottom Boys album

Being EclecticMusicLover, I love discovering interesting new music, so it was my lucky day when I was contacted by Leo Maniscalco, a member of the band Ithaca Bottom Boys, about reviewing their album. Hailing from the bucolic college town of Ithaca, New York, the five-piece formed seven years ago while still in high school, and ever since have been honing their craft by playing together and writing songs. On September 1st, they dropped their eponymous debut album Ithaca Bottom Boys, and what a delight it is! Their infectious eclectic sound is refreshing, surprising and lots of fun as they weave stories about the travails of life, love, substance abuse and relationship hell.

Comprising the Ithaca Bottom Boys are Tenor Caso (drums, vocals, aux percussion, acoustic guitar), Tristan Ross (guitar, vocals, aux percussion, piano ), Leo Maniscalco (guitar), Joe Hayward (banjo, vocals) and Abel Bradshaw (bass). In introducing his band, Leo had this to say about their music:  “Its difficult for me to describe our sound in a concise way, and no one song fully gives a representation of it, but here’s a go: we have four singers and songwriters, do a lot of vocal harmonies, and the songs are very dynamic with many changing parts and moods. They are also highly textural, featuring five musicians (two guitars, banjo, bass, and drums) each with unique yet congruous playing styles. It’s kind of folk and country meets rock and punk meets funk and soul, with splashes of other things thrown in, like hip-hop, jazz, psych, and prog.”

After listening to the album, I’d say his description pretty well nails it, and I love their eclectic music. I always try to include a few lyrics in my reviews, but the Ithaca Bottom Boys’ lyrics are so colorful and hilarious that I’ll be quoting them a lot.

Ithaca Bottom Boys 2

The album kicks off with “Blues in a Bottle,” a bluesy Rockabilly romp that sets a light-hearted tone and plants a big smile on my face, even though the lyrics address the guy’s messed-up woman who’s into some bad shit: “Blues in a bottle, blues in a bottle. Where do you think you’re at pretty mama. You went and kicked my dog, and now you drown my cat.Goin’ to silly-putty, goin’ to silly-putty. Sorry I can’t take you pretty mama. I don’t abide no woman, who goes round sniffin’ glue.” The song immediately segues into “Gasoline n’ Kerosene,” a very catchy tune with very morbid lyrics about how he killed the woman who double-crossed him, burned down her house, and was hung for his crime: “When I went to that house you said that you’d be, you took one look into my eyes, and you began to flee. And I said gasoline n’ kerosene you owe me money for. You bad ol’ broad you shot me down, and now you’ll be no more. / Well… Just before that lever did let my gallows swing, I saw my aged mother a weepin’ after me. And I said gasoline n’ kerosene I can’t believe my sin, My soul shall burn as you have done and never…Will I see your sweet face again.”

Winter Biking” sees the singer riding his bike into town on icy roads, taking a spill, and wishing he’d listened to his momma about taking the bus instead – all metaphors for the risks we take in life. “Thirty bellow but I’m still sweatin’. The devil only knows what I am gettin’ into. Well up a hill down a hill the struggles that I’ve been through. The thing about life is the road always continues.” The guys’ vocal harmonies on this track are especially wonderful. The guys change gears (pun intended) to an R&B vibe with the delightfully soulful love song “Baby.” The opening bass riff that continues throughout the track reminds me a bit of The Temptations’ classic “My Girl.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Hail to Dale,” which humorously takes on the perils of heavy drinking with a rowdy mix of music styles ranging from blues to bluegrass to funk. The lyrics are both funny and poignant: “Well… if I don’t dale a beer tonight, I might as well start a rowdy bar fight. Cause I hate myself and I hate my life. Pain and pleasure’s the same to me, and that all started when I was three, ’cause my daddy switched the bottle.

Continuing with the theme of substance abuse, the guys veer off into psychedelic madness on the marvelously trippy “Salvia Apple.” The zany track sounds like what we’d expect from the bastard children of Frank Zappa and Dr. Demento, with all sorts of melodic change-ups, quirky instrumentals and crazed vocals. The lyrics are hilarious yet deeply poetic, as if from a fractured Shakespearean comedy: “Salvia apple and a bottle of jack. All I’ve had to eat or drink and that is a fact. Don’t care if I go hungry I’m just lookin’ to get smacked. Pass out in the jungle by the railroad tracks./ I’m a derelict, no one cares if I’m recked or sober. Grown colder, shouldered at the might of a globe wide society. So deprived of life yet so maniacally living. My state be so squalor I take whatever I’m given.”

Flip That Record Jhonny” is a rousing Bluegrass/Rockabilly mostly instrumental tune that makes you want to kick up your heels. The guitar work and vocal harmonies are really terrific. And speaking of Dr. Demento, the guys get downright scandalous on “Demented Family.” The highly provocative lyrics seem to poke fun of a certain demographic, calling out incest and religious fanaticism: “Well my family tree’s got lotsa knots, and I get a lot o’tention from the cops, Cause incest on the ranch is plain to see. Pappy loved his sister and that made my daddy. And my daddy loved his sister too and that made little ol’ me. Well I never had no sister so I just loved my niece. I lessend my genealogy by stickin’ my D in her crease.” Oh my! They turn mellow as they sing the virtues of toking up on “Reefer Makes Everything Better,” a funny ditty with an early Lovin’ Spoonful vibe.

Perhaps the wildest track is “Summer Beavers,” the title being a play on the leading lyrics “Some are beavers, some are people…and most don’t really understand.” This long track is a real tour de force, with a mix of genres that go from blues to punk to country to funk to rap – sometimes all in the same stanza, kinda like The Red Hot Chili Peppers have done on some of their songs. The guys go crazy with bizarre lyrics that sound like being on an acid trip: “Rippin’ and a skippin’ like a minnow in the river. Susquehanna wit’ yo mama, catchin’ tuna on a canoe. Hock at me I’ll lock you in a rock up in Chautauqua. Yo hablo con Jorgito, necesito mucha agua. Pappy’s down the road in a jalopy popin’ poppy seeds, cruisin’ past the stoppers, coppers crackin’ down on acid droppers. Baller all are things, some are beavers. Tall like cedars, small like skeevers. We be eaters, feeders, bleeders, breeders, breathers, and beasts like golden retrievers, whaddap? ha-ha-ha.”

The guys seem to channel The Red Hot Chili Peppers again on the languid “No Regrets,” with jangly guitars, funky bass and vocals that sound a bit like Anthony Kiedis. They then abruptly change things up again on “Surfer NY,” an exuberant tune with awesome surf-rock guitars and a frantic punk beat. The explicit lyrics speak for themselves: “Surfin’ New York, yes I’m surfin’ New York. Havin’ sex on the rocky beaches. I’ve got lotsa rocks in my breeches. No I don’t know how they got in the laundry. No I’m not doin’ the nasty momma. No mama no mama no mama no. No those aren’t crack rocks don’t be silly. That’s just some crusty jizz from my willy. No mama no I’m not abusin’ myself. No mama no don’t kick me outa the house.” It’s an insanely wild trip from start to finish!

I must say that Ithaca Bottom Boys is unquestionably one of the most unusual and enjoyable albums I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, and I love this crazy band! If you like unique, eclectic and unorthodox music, then this album should be in your collection!

Connect with the Ithaca Bottom Boys:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

DEF STAR – Artist Spotlight & Interview

I’ve mentioned it several times before, but it bears repeating that one of the things I love about Twitter is all the interesting people I’ve met and continue to meet. And since my account is primarily about music, I follow and am followed by several thousand musicians and bands. One that I’ve had the distinct pleasure of getting to know is a hard-working singer/songwriter who goes by the artistic name Def Star. Based in the Chicago area and born Mike Purcell, Def Star is an incredibly creative, talented and nice guy with seemingly boundless energy. In just the past couple of years, he’s recorded an impressive output of songs in a variety of genres, including hip hop, rap, rock, alternative rock, electronic, industrial, trap and pop. He’s also very supportive of other musicians, as well as his fans and followers, plus he has a wonderful sense of humor – all things I greatly admire in an artist.

Def Star 4

I recently sat down with Def Star (well, we were actually sitting at our respective computers 2,000 miles apart) to discuss his love for music, what inspires him, and his creative process. I was blown away by his thoughtful, articulate and deeply honest responses.

EclecticMusicLover: Hi Def Star. Thanks for agreeing to an interview! We’ve followed each other on Twitter for a while now, but I don’t really know a whole lot about you. Tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to be interested in making music.

Def Star:  First & foremost, thank you for taking an interest in my music! About me: both of my grandpas sang (one jazz/lounge & the other church songs).  I witnessed the power song has over women at a very young age when I saw U.S. Navy pilots perform a very well-choreographed lip sync of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”  In middle school, girls would call me and ask that I sing “If I Ever Fall in Love” by Shai – great song! My tastes were and are in complete & utter disarray – the only file left up there in my mental rolodex is labeled chaos and I think it’s empty.

Really though, I remember absolutely falling in love with whole eras of music and the two that stick out most are grunge rock and gangsta rap.  Comin’ up the outside of the track was always R&B. Regardless, ever since I can remember, there have always been songs that absolutely knock me over and latch their claws into my soul and leave these beautiful scars or bandage ones that were already there.  Anyway, what I’m intending to get at is this: it never mattered what genre these great works of art were labeled, or what style or culture or anything else anyone could say right here… to me, I’m thankful that I was exposed to an incredibly vast variety of music by people who genuinely loved the music they love and that I’ve been fortunate enough to have had experiences that later on change from mere memory into what is recalled as these moments.  I don’t know if they’re milestones so much as they are simply stars in the night sky we call our life; the point is they matter because the chords get struck and they run deep. Not only that but they’re like little shortcuts or portals straight to the heart – for better and worse. 

EML:  I can identify with how you developed a passion for music at an early age. My much older brother loved artists like Elvis, Fats Domino and Little Richard when he was in his teens, so I got exposed to that music as a baby and danced to those songs as soon as I could stand up on my own lol.

DS: I love the magic that is music and its effects on every single person it touches from inception on.  For some, that’s the name of this game, really: the best songs never die. In my experience, it can feed twisted delusions of grandeur not limited even to the absurd such as immortality.  Flipside of that? Oh, but all of the rest about it – any which way ya cut it – music is escape, hope, consolation, companionship, love, hate, nothing, everything. I love how some songs can plant themselves firmly in one specific moment in time and other songs are ethereal, transcendent, and timeless.

I’ve said this from the very beginning: “Music Speaks, I Translate.”  At the time that I first started saying that (whenever people would ask about how I write lyrics or develop melodies) I wasn’t trying to brand myself or come up with some sort of catch phrase.  Today, it’s mine & I own it. It began because that’s how I feel it happens most of the time for me. I get an instrumental from one of a few incredibly talented producers I’m blessed enough to be close, personal friends with; it may be one of a handful of different genres or a unique mix of two or more; I like to consider what the emotion of the beat’s describing or even “saying.”  Sometimes the producer says I hear this here or I kept thinking of that there, other times he or she says what they were thinking or feeling when they made it. Most often, I’ve been entrusted with free reign to build whatever I feel like building on the allotted real estate, whether only one verse for a collab or promo, or an entire track for a solo.

I started out rappin’ in 1999, singin’ in 2001, rockin’ in 2003 and from there, there have been mixtapes, groups, bands, shows, writing, recording and finally an artist who realized that if he doesn’t light the fire, no one will ever even have a chance to carry the torch.  So now, I have a catalog of recorded songs somewhere upwards of the mid-300’s, I may or may not be currently working on an official album or two right now as I type this, there is always new promo material popping up like my first actual music video that came outta nowhere just last week on YouTube:

I’m all over Twitter & InstaGram like a fool, lol! Cliché alert: I figure we have this one life to live, just one. That’s it! So, do I really, truly, genuinely, whole-heartedly, sincerely believe that there’s something going on with my music that’s worth at least giving it a little air and a little light? Yes, I do. If it grows, maybe give it a little more food, air, and light?  DEFinitely. Next question: what am I waiting for?!

EML: Well, shedding a little light on your music is my aim! You state that grunge and gangsta rap were the two genres you really felt passionate about – which makes sense as you came of age in the 90s – but I hated them back in the day. I’m much older than you, and in the early 90s I felt music quality had gone over a cliff. I absolutely hated all rap, and just didn’t get the appeal of grunge. I was in my 30s by then, and figured I was already too old and that music no longer mattered as much to me – something that seems to happen to a lot of people as they get older. Most of my friends are now in their 50s and 60s, and few of them have the slightest interest in hearing new music anymore. They think it’s great I have a music blog, but they’re not at all interested in reading it or learning about new music.

I’ve since come around about grunge, hip hop and rap, though I still don’t like gangsta rap. It’s just too much for me.

DS:  Re: grunge & gangsta rap… A couple things (& I completely relate to where you’re coming from)… I, too, (now in my late 30’s) have felt like “new” or newer music, style, content (especially rap) has just fallen off & it’s all garbage… I have felt like that at times. But, that’s typically before I’ve given any of which I’m judging an honest chance. There’s usually something about it I like, or I might shockingly end up loving it, or at least then I have legit reasons I don’t like it. But that’s me.

I have since fallen madly in love with other bands & even genres entirely! My journey has seen so many chapters or phases & most often, even if I move on to a new thing, chapter, or phase, I don’t just stop having this place in my heart that a previous love carved out. It’s still there & feels good when filled again with that old love. But I crave the new, too! So, yeah, I went through Emo, Screamo, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Post-Hardcore, Electronic Rock, EDM, Pop, Pop Punk, and more. It’s been a TON of fun & I’ve picked up a lotta things along the way that have positively influenced my approach on music and just my overall enjoyment of life. There’s a few artists that are like guilty little pleasures of mine that I don’t talk about often but I love their albums too. Never thought I’d see these particular artists albums in my personal iTunes but they’re there & I’m happy about it, lol.

Gangsta rap today? Not so much. Strangely enough, though I myself am a rapper of sorts, I don’t listen to rap often. I don’t listen to much Grunge today either. Maybe some “classics” here & there or the Temple of the Dog album I absolutely love, but it is the exception rather than the norm.

Last thing I’d love to touch on & it sounds like you’ve experienced a bit of this: your friends have less interest in reading your blog than you’d hoped or expected. I can absolutely relate – simply switch out the words “reading your blog” with the words “listening to my music”… lol! My buddy I make music with and I have discussed how funny it is that people I don’t know at all will oftentimes support my work and my social media sites more than my own friends & family – I’m crazy thankful for any & all interested & supportive, for certain! THANK YOU ALL!!! But some of the people I just kinda expected to pick up some balls and run with ’em just haven’t. And even the whole family thing… some have come around, most haven’t given it the time of day, and some ask from time to time but very few have listened let alone tell others about it. Oh well! Living & learning. It really does take a village though & I do have the greatest family, friends, followers, and supporters.

EML:  Your songs encompass an eclectic mix of genres, including hip hop, rap, alt-rock, metal, trap and even pop. Who are some of the artists who inspire or influence you to create the type of music you make?

DS:  Some of the artists that influence(d) me: Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Lane Staley, Scott Weiland, Corey Taylor, Method Man, Mos Def, Tupac, Twista, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Aaron Lewis, Craig Owens, Biggie, Hayley Williams, Do Or Die, Joan Jett, Lynn Gunn, Eminem, I.V., Pistol Pete, Bogus, Chavi, J-Slay, Koncept, Ace, Halsey, Alan Walker, 112, Boyz II Men, Wretched, Tool, Eyes Set to Kill … I could go on & on, and the current list doesn’t even begin to think about beginning to scratch the scratch of the surface!

Def Star (2)

EML:  When did you begin writing and recording songs? What is your process for creating new music?

DS:  I began writing lyrics way back when I was in elementary school. I loved wordplay, puns, and especially rhymes. My first song? Not 100% sure but one of the first that’s coming to mind in the moment is freshman year high school, History class.  Two of my classmates and I played a modified version of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” called “Bad History.” We shoulda just called it what it was: “Bad Song.” Ha! Seriously.  I did have a sweet Fender Squier – the bumper car of electric guitars – but I did not invest the effort early in high school to learn it nor take the time to truly appreciate it.

EML:  What, if any, instruments do you play?

DS:  I wanna say vocals but part of me feels like that sounds pretentious.  The other part of me feels that the first sentence of this response, along with this sentence, sound really pretentious already so we passed that point long ago.  Now that that’s been established, I do not play any instruments. Sit me down in front of a keyboard or piano and I can wing some cool shit but I’ve been lucky enough to have this sort of relatively steady flow of instrumentals or other opportunities for collabs in multiple genres which has kept me very busy and growing through the challenges of constantly pushing the borders of my envelope and testing the limits of my comfort zone.  I don’t know which it is but I either don’t have a comfort zone at all or my comfort zone is just that whatever-it-is to where I have yet to face a challenge musically that struck me as so uncomfortable or outside of any alleged comfort zone that I didn’t or couldn’t do it (and end up turning out something really cool in the process).

EML:  I see that quite a few of your songs are collaborations with other artists, which I think is great. In fact, it seems that a lot of hip hop artists tend to collaborate with other artists on their songs. What do you find appealing about the collaborative process?

To me, I have held this view since day one: any way the music can reach ears that it wouldn’t have otherwise reached of my own accord, I’m in.  Even if it means that I spend time or money of my own to get it out there, I’m in. I’m not currently in a position to demand nor expect money for my music.  I will be. And it will be soon.. Until then, I will continue to post FREE MUSIC on MY YouTube CHANNEL!!! My apologies, I digress (as per usual). To answer this question directly, my goal with collaborations is three-fold: A) to reach not just my audience with a new song but the other artist’s audience as well.  Then, sometimes, one plus one results in a sum greater than two. It’s funny what happens when a flash of excitement in the pan of good timing, for example, can ignite the whole skyscraper. And, B) the challenge of making an impression such that these new listeners want to find my stuff & hear more. Lastly, C) the ability to work with friends and have a damn good time along the way.  One of the countless things I love about music is that, generally, the people I’ve known that have anything to do with music and its creative process from A to Z are really great people with a lot to offer the world but they’re not on that mission. They’re not out to take over the world or clutch at status for the sake of status. They have beliefs. They don’t fall for shit. They can typically see through the bullshit or at least have reasons they believe what they believe even after examining both sides of a coin.  They’ve got their priorities straight. I need people like this in my tribe.

EML: What artists would you especially love to work with, and why?

DS:  I already work with the sickest buncha straight-up artisans so I will respectfully pass on answering this question with names of popular, mainstream artists and provide a glimpse at a few names that are already poppin’ or are right around the corner:  I.V. , WavRiders, J-Slay, Red Focus, Chavi, Koncept, Swilly.

EML:  Ah, Swilly’s awesome, and I love the collaboration you did with him and guitarist Kevin Campbell on “Right or Wrong.” And “Change Your Life” with J-Slay and Koncept is another fantastic collab.

EML:  What are your thoughts about the current state of music and/or the music industry?

I LOVE the state of music right now!  I feel like this: whether we recognize it or not, and as much as many may complain about the lack of anything original and a void of any artists aiming at a new paradigm or even daring to shake things up for fear of public opinion and sales quotas, there are so many talented, unique, incredible artists and bands that are out there killin’ shows, slayin’ audiences, rockin’ mics, sellin’ merch, packin’ venues, puttin’ out EP’s and albums, promotin’ it on multiple social media platforms like crazies just like me … that ARE making music that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard and moves me in new ways.  And that’s a big goal with my music is to create a truly genreless, timeless product that is a cohesive album yet plays like a playlist of your favorite songs over many years and genres of music, all in one, ready to go from the point of purchase & play. An instant classic. A soundtrack to the movie that is your life.

EML:  Have you performed live very much?

DS:  I have performed live and I love it!  I wish I could say I’ve done it a bunch of times or been on tour before but I can’t yet.  I’m that new – to the “scene.” As far as experience, the Romans would say I got a couple of X’s under my belt.  Specifically, live performances of mine I could count on my hands. More importantly, I got miles traveled beneath my feet and even if they high now, the message is still deep.  Plans to do more live performing? Absolutely. AB. SO. LUTELY!!! I made up this little diddy and I do believe it applies here: “Whatever lights your fire, rock it to infinity.”  So, HELL yeah!!! I’m taking this thing as far as life allows, much of it is outta my hands but I gotta keep trying to do whatever I can. Hmmm, lyrical… “much of it is outta my hands… but I gotta keep – try’na do – whatever I can”… sweet, lol.  Hashtag lit AF, am I right? rofl.

EML:  You’ve recorded quite an impressive output of tracks, but haven’t released a full album yet. Why not? Do you have plans to release an album anytime soon?

I have a secret.

But first, thank you!  I’ve said it before and I will happily repeat it ad infinitum: I appreciate that you have taken the time to even know enough to ask these great questions!  This has been a serious trip & thanks for humoring me, I hope my tangents aren’t unbearably obnoxious. I’ll wrap it up here now, sorry! LOL! (I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve had some days upon which to think about this thing and it’s finally coming out now, or if I’m just in a zone, OR if I just think this is SO cool because your platform – the Eclectic Music Lover – it’s the most comprehensive music review site with these exquisitely written pieces on songs, albums, artists, bands… it’s an honor to be a guest, as it were.)

Now for the secret, and now that I think about it, I touched on this earlier too but here it is again and it’s really working in my favor: over the years, I may not have been doing much self-promotion but I have been writing, recording, and amassing a killer library of songs that I have at my fingertips to release here & there while I’m currently, possibly, confidentially, secretly, hypothetically, theoretically, not really but maybe actually, recording two albums right now concurrently.  One or both of these maybe’s, if what I just wrote were true, will be out sometime during the Year of the Earth Pig.

EML:  You are hilarious, and I’m really touched by your kind words about my blog! Is there anything I’ve neglected to ask that you’d like to tell your fans & followers?

DS:  Great question, once again.  And thank you for offering the opportunity for the interviewee to chime in with somethin’ he might’ve hoped to have show up in the piece – very considerate, I like your style my friend!  I think we’ve really covered a good amount of ground here. I’m not sure if I’m ready for a full-blown commitment so we’ll just keep it casual for now, mmmkay?! LMAO jkjk!!! I have a broken machine in my head that plays with words, thinks it’s funny, and gets me in trouble cuz it never shuts off.  A constant stream of comic genius; can you imagine?! The HORROR!!!

Nah, but on a serious note, I suppose I would love to just know that anyone who comes across this article and wants to find out more about me or hear more music, knows where & how they can do that.  For me, I have my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCExzLvLnZIgpzZ2Gfa4cXDA and they can connect with me on Twitter and Instagram. (Some of his music can also be streamed on Soundcloud.)

Thank you, thank you, thank YOU!

EML:  And I thank YOU my friend for being such a great subject, and taking the time to share your detailed thoughts and perspectives with me and my readers. You’re awesome, Def Star, and I can’t wait to hear that album – or two!

Here are a few more of his songs I especially like that showcase the broad range of his music style:

 

St. Louis Band iLLPHONiCS Release New Digital 45: “X-Rated”

illphonics

St. Louis music innovators iLLPHONiCS are more than a band, they’re an identity. They’re also a rarity, in that all five individuals in the band are founding members, and since 2006, they’ve consistently made some of the most groundbreaking music to come out of the St. Louis music scene, if not the entire Midwest. Their infectious, high energy sound incorporates elements of hip hop, rap, R&B, soul, pop, jazz and funk, with stylish compositions and harmonic vocals that grab and hold listeners and audiences rapt attention. The five band members include lead singer/emcee Larry “Fallout” Morris, Keith Moore (keyboards, backing vocals), Kevin Koehler (lead guitar, backing vocals), Simon Chervitz (bass) and Chaz Brew (drums, backing vocals).

I had the pleasure of reviewing their superb fifth album Gone With the Trends in 2016 (which you can read here), and in 2017 they followed with Purple Piano Society,  which was named one of St. Louis’ best albums of 2017 by The Riverfront Times.  Now the band is set to release their first Digital 45 entitled “X-Rated” on Friday, May 25. “X-Rated” will include two songs, an A-side “Breathe Like” and a B-side “Green Note$.” The band calls the Digital 45 “a comfy middle ground between the paltry single and the increasingly trendy EP.” “X-Rated” will be available to stream on Spotify and Soundcloud, among other platforms. The band requests all downloads be purchased from their Bandcamp account.

A week later, on Saturday, June 2, iLLPHONiCS will celebrate the release with their first St. Louis live performance of 2018 – “A Sensory Experience,” to be held at the Stage at KDHX, starting at 8 pm. Tickets are $10 and available in advance through Ticketfly. The band will be collaborating with Captured Planet on visuals for the event, which will also serve as a kind of ‘unofficial’ release party for ‘X-Rated.

ILLPHONICS 45

iLLPHONiCS went on tour in 2017 to promote Purple Piano Society, performing in Detroit, New York and Boston, among other cities. Then they spent this past winter writing new songs, the first of which are the two now being released. Regarding these new songs, band frontman and emcee Larry “Fallout” Morris explains: “Musically we have melded many types of genres but the one genre we haven’t explored the most is Hip-Hop. It only makes sense that we go deeper into what’s at the core of our sound.”

“Breathe Like truly is what it is. We all have physical desires and fantasies, and they are even better when you’re engaging with someone who shares the same passion for you, as you for them. Being able to act upon those things and being open with your partner (and vice versa) is a beautiful thing and something worth celebrating. I appreciate love songs and the beauty of intimacy, but sometimes you got to kick it up a notch. This keeps things interesting!

“Green Note$ is inspired by my own experience but also by stories I’d get from my cousin and bandmate Chaz, who at one point used to frequent gentlemen’s clubs often. I know many regular people who attend strip clubs, and I feel that it’s awkward that society often looks down on the profession, especially when we are embracing sexuality in ways they didn’t when my parents were growing up. I also play on the power dynamic, because even though some unfortunately may see the profession of stripping as “lowly,” I see the power in a person being able to seduce an individual to come off some cash.”

“Breathe Like” has a slow and sexy hip-hop beat, with background breathy sounds that continue throughout the track. Cool synths and a crisp snare drum are the dominant instruments, but there’s smooth bass and terrific harmonic vocals holding it all together. Morris croons “I love when you bend down and let me feel some.” And “Green Note$” features sparkling synths and smooth guitar set to a mesmerizing beat. The harmonizing vocals are especially nice on this track, but then that can be said of all iLLPHONiCS songs. They’re both exceptional tracks, and fresh proof that, after 12 years of making music, this band is still at the top of their game.

Connect with iLLPHONiCS:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp

KROSST OUT – Single Review: “The Death of Me ft. Jor’del Downz”

krosst-out

Krosst Out is a talented young hip hop artist from Toronto, Canada. In March 2017, he released his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding effort that examined the darker aspects of the party life, and its attendant abuse of sex, drugs and alcohol (you can read my review here). He’s now releasing a new autobiographical single “The Death of Me featuring Jor’del Downz.” It drops February 26, which is also his birthday and will be available on all music streaming and purchase sites.

The track is fantastic, with a strong trap beat and mysterious wobbly synths creating a deep sense of foreboding. The production is flawless and tight, and Krosst Out’s performance shows how his vocals have matured since Life of the Party. He passionately sings of his anxiety and insecurities of trying to make it as a hip hop artist, and the frustration of having to spend much of his precious time working at dead-end jobs instead of devoting it to his music dream:

When I’m gone they’ll know they’re wrong
These words are all I got

They’ll never know what I go through
It’s the death of me
I’ve really been at my wits end lately
This back and forth between jobs got me going crazy
Now I don’t want to fight with my boss
It’s just that he don’t pay me
How do you expect me to not say these things?
Not pretend that I am not bleeding

Jor’del Downz enters 2/3 of the way through the track, rapping about the pressures of being a rapper and confirming the feelings expressed by Krosst Out:

I’m fed up and I’m stressed out
And I could care less about who’s opinion on who’s the next out
Probably cause you’re left out
But that’s expected when it’s rap I mess with
Or any other genre I might invest in

Since the song’s release, Krosst Out has dropped a cool new video that includes only his portion of the track.

See Krosst Out at one of these upcoming Cognitive Diss Eastern Canada Tour shows:

APR 13 FRI  –  Overtime Sports Bar, Kingston, Ontario
APR 14 SAT  –  The Diezel Room, Oshawa, Ontario
APR 18 WED  –  Lexi’s Lounge, Moncton, New Brunswick
APR 20 FRI  –  Menz & Mollyz Bar, Halifax Nova Scotia
APR 21 SAT  –  Baba’s Lounge, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
APR 27 FRI  –  Detour Music Hall, St Catharines, Ontario
APR 28 SAT  –  Cognitive Diss Tour/ Melotika EP Release Party @ The Cavern Bar, Toronto

Connect with Krosst Out:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp