Matisyahu, The Dirty Heads
2135 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60647
Doors 6:30PM / Show 6:30PM
Matisyahu was born Matthew Miller on June 30, 1979, in West Chester, PA, although his family moved to Berkeley, CA, when he was a child before settling in White Plains, NY. He was given a traditional Jewish upbringing, against which he rebelled at first, considering himself a Deadhead and a hippie by his early teens. But at the age of 14, during a camping trip in Colorado, he reconciled himself to Judaism and soon after visited Israel. After returning to White Plains, he dropped out of high school and traveled the country to attend Phish concerts. Back at home again, he agreed to let his parents send him to a wilderness school in Bend, OR, where he became enamored of reggae and hip-hop, and began rapping at open-mike competitions. He returned to New York at 19 to attend the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, but also joined the Carlebach Shul, a synagogue where his musical interests were encouraged. Meeting a Lubavitch rabbi, he became interested in the strict Lubavitch Hasidic sect of Judaism and renamed himself Matisyahu.
Continuing to perform, Matisyahu assembled a backing band consisting of Aaron Dugan (guitar), Josh Werner (bass), and Jonah David (drums). They recorded Shake Off the Dust...Arise, released by JDub Records in 2004. A concert held in Austin, TX, on February 19, 2005, yielded the follow-up release, Live at Stubb's, which was released by Or Music on April 19, 2005, then picked up for national distribution by Epic Records, a division of major-label Sony BMG, which reissued it on August 23, 2005, as Matisyahu toured around the country and prepared a second studio album produced by Bill Laswell.
The Dirty Heads
"It starts with the title. No matter where you are or what's going on, when you hear this record, we want to transport you to this place, this 'Cabin by the Sea.'", says Heads front man Jared "Dirty J" Watson of the new album Cabin by the Sea.
For the SoCal rock/reggae/hip-hop band, Cabin represents more than just good vibes. It's the culmination of years of hard work and endless touring, and a chance to refine and improve on their breakthrough, 2008's Any Port in the Storm. That's not an easy act to follow – their debut album featured one of the decade's biggest rock singles, "Lay Me Down" (which spent eleven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, a record for an independent release and more than any single that year by anyone, including The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and 30 Seconds to Mars) and a shout-out in Rolling Stone as one of year's best new bands.
But the Heads knew better things lay ahead. "Last time was our first time in the studio, working with a producer," says Watson. "This time out, we nailed it. We trimmed the fat and got the sound we were always going for."
Cabin by the Sea maintains the diversity from their first album, roaming from sunny acoustic pop (the title track) to hip-hop with mariachi horns ("Disguise") and feel-good reggae ("Day by Day," "Your Love"). The album's defining trait? An insistence on positivity and good vibes (with an herbal assist), a philosophy summed up nicely by the single, "Spread Too Thin." "It's about having too much going on, work or whatever is stressing you out," says guitarist Dustin "Duddy B" Bushnell. "It's about needing a breather in life."
(The album's one outlier, "Smoke Rings," is a punk/hip-hop fueled rager. "We've matured, but we still have that side of us," says Bushnell. "It's talking shit for a couple of minutes, and we use a sample from an old movie called Satan's Satanists. It's fun, nothing more than that.")
While Port contained an expanded roster of guest stars, from M. Shadows to Billy Preston (best known for his work with the Beatles), Cabin keeps the guest list tight. Still, a few A-level names make an appearance, including a return engagement from Rome (from Sublime with Rome), Del the Funky Homosapien, Ky-Mani Marley and Hasidic hip-hop star Matisyahu. "He's awesome. We got to know him years ago on tour," says Bushnell. "We had built this great relationship, so we asked him to guest on a track. He came down to the studio and knocked it out of the park."
The recognizable guest stars, big tours and hit songs are a long way from the group's humble origins in Bushnell's garage. Back in 1996, school friends Watson and Bushnell started their musical career almost on accident. "It was hilarious: I was in a punk band, but Jared had no musical inclination," remembers the guitarist. "Then one day he started rapping over these cheesy hip-hop songs I'd make with Casio beats, and I'm like, wow, you're really good!" (Note to fans: Bushnell recently rediscovered tapes of those teenage sessions, but don't plan on hearing anything in the near future)
The group, later rounded out by percussionist Jon Olazabal, drummer Matt Ochoa and bassist David Foral, eventually outgrew the funny rap vibe and developed a local following as an acoustic hip-hop group. Surprisingly, the Heads grew to be very successful on a small label with little to no resources, an indication of their organic momentum and appeal. The Dirty Heads are now signed to a worldwide deal with Five Seven Music.
The group plans to spend the rest of the year on a number of different tours. For now, though, you can experience the band's sunny, good-time outlook on their new record. "Whatever has happened to us over the years, we've always kept a mindset about staying positive and squashing negativity," says Watson. "And that's the vibe we had making this album. I think that comes across to anyone who hears it."
Cabin By The Sea will be released on June 19, 2012.
Moon Taxi is one of those rare bands that unites musical ingenuity with thoughtful lyrics and still somehow manages to wildly entertain and thrill a crowd. Their new record, Cabaret, is a layered, multi-dimensional endeavor that displays the band's maturing sense of their own musical identity. A follow-up to their live album, Live Ride, Cabaret illustrates the challenges of defining yourself in a world that seems to be suffering from its own identity loss. Lead singer Trevor Terndrup says, "It's about juxtaposition—putting together seemingly opposite ideas and finding a strange harmony." Inspired by surrealist artwork and novelist Tom Robbins, Terndrup says, "I guess we are trying to say that things are not so black and white, or good or evil, but relative to your own perspective."
Evoking the musical revolution of the sixties and seventies, Moon Taxi ignites their eclectic sound with unique melodies and energetic shows. The band has already formed a loyal fan base across the Southeast, selling out clubs and creating a strong grassroots following. Keyboardist Wes Bailey says, "It's an incredible feeling to see people who we've never met before in a town we've never played before, dancing and singing our lyrics at the top of their lungs. That's what really gets us off."
The songs on Cabaret are stories in themselves, each contributing to the continuing narrative of ideals lost to youth and also newly discovered for the future—both of revelry and social-consciousness. On "Hideaway", an anti-war protest is heard in the background. The chant was recorded on the spur of the moment when Trevor and guitarist Spencer Thomson followed an anti-Middle Eastern occupation march during a trip to New York City. Spencer opened his laptop to capture the moment, and the use of the chant, he says, shows the band's hip-hop influences. Songs such as "Southern Trance", "Whiskey Sunset", and "Cabaret", perpetuate youthful visions of campfires, torn jeans, and a good roll in the hay with the cutest stranger at the party. Spencer says about the variety of their songs, "Moon Taxi is unique because we don't have preconceived notions about who we are supposed to be so there are no boundaries for what we are willing to do or try."
Inspired by artists who push the envelope, such as minimalist composer Phillip Glass, Director Quentin Tarintino, and bands like The Beatles and Radiohead, Moon Taxi's study of the greats is apparent on Cabaret. The record was recorded at Alex The Great in Nashville, where others such as Gomez, Yo La Tengo, and Be Your Own Pet have also sojourned. Cabaret was impressively guest-produced by Hank Sullivant (Whigs, MGMT, Kuroma), mixed by Grammy award winning sound engineer Vance Powell (Raconteurs), and features folk/hip-hop artist Matisyahu, who the band has also opened for, on the track "Square Circles".
The band has worked hard to develop their well-executed stage presence. Drummer Tyler Ritter says, "What's great about our touring resume is that we've been able to create an interactive dynamic between the five of us that doesn't take away from the songs, but ultimately adds to a more energetic and (dare I say) 'high octane' live show. We constantly keep our eyes and ears open onstage, so we can change direction if we need to. It's like a really intense conversation with your best friend at 2am, after several drinks, where every topic in the world is up for discussion, and you both have to be quick on your feet to follow each other's train of thought." Equally important as the practice of performing regularly, the guys have also shared life experiences that strengthen their sound and camaraderie. Tom Putnam (bassist) says, "Even experiences that weren't directly recorded, (like the rally in NYC, or the lobby hotel sounds in Mississippi), influence our writing, like riding in a Lamborghini at 150 miles an hour with a drug dealer in Memphis, or when we were en route to St. Louis and watched the sky turned dark brown with tornadic winds and hail. Everyone in the band thought for a second we would die, and if they tell you different, ask Tyler for the video. That stuff changes you and your art." It is the willingness to change and constantly evolve that will carry Moon Taxi through many records, and a long and successful career as a band.
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